This book examines the origins of communal and institutional almsgiving in rabbinic Judaism. It undertakes a close reading of foundational rabbinic texts (Mishnah, Tosefta, Tannaitic Midrashim) and places their discourses on organized giving in their second to third century CE contexts. Gregg E. Gardner finds that Tannaim promoted giving through the soup kitchen (tamhui) and charity fund (quppa), which enabled anonymous and collective support for the poor. This protected the dignity of the poor and provided an alternative to begging, which benefited the community as a whole - poor and non-poor alike. By contrast, later Jewish and Christian writings (from the fourth to fifth centuries) would see organized charity as a means to promote their own religious authority. This book contributes to the study of Jews and Judaism, history of religions, biblical studies, and ethics.
Gregg E. Gardner is Assistant Professor and the Diamond Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at the University of British Columbia. Gardner held a Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation at Princeton University, New Jersey (2008-9). He has also served as a Starr Fellow at the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University, Massachusetts (2008-10), a Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities at Brown University, Rhode Island (2010-11), an Early Career Faculty Fellow at the American Academy for Jewish Research (2012-13), a Faculty Associate at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (2012-13), and a Mandel Fellow at Brandeis University, Massachusetts (2013-14). Gardner is the co-editor of Antiquity in Antiquity: Jewish and Christian Pasts in the Greco-Roman World (2008). His work has been published or will be published in such journals as the Hebrew Union College Annual, the Jewish Quarterly Review, the Journal for the Study of Judaism, and the Journal of Biblical Literature.
1. Introduction; 2. The poor and poverty in Roman Palestine; 3. From vessels to institutions; 4. Tamhui, the soup kitchen; 5. Quppa, the charity fund; 6. Charity with dignity; 7. The charity supervisor; 8. Conclusion: after the Tannaim.