Rabbinic Hunger Relief Systems

After the Biblical hunger relief systems (such as leket, peah, and shichichah) were no longer in place, the Rabbis created new structures to feed the hungry. This text study looks at their two main strategies - individual giving of money and food directly to the hungry and communal support of soup kitchens and welfare funds. As you read these texts, please consider the following questions:

1. How do these laws impact the hungry? How do they impact the individual or community who is giving?

2. In what ways would you imagine these systems would be sucessful - what are their strengths? What would be the problematic aspects of these systems - what are their weaknesses?

3. In what way are modern programs for combatting hunger similar or different from these? What could we learn from the insights of these texts that could improve our modern systems?

Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra, 8a
והתניא: שלשים יום - לתמחוי, שלשה חדשים - לקופה.
It was taught: [One must dwell in a place] thirty days [before giving] to the soup kitchen, three months for the charity fund. [Translation by Uri L’Tzedek. Edited for gender neutrality]