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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra
He shall find life;1 'wealthy' as it is written, [He shall find] righteousness;2 'versed in the Aggadah' as it is written, And [he shall find] honour: and it is written elsewhere, The wise shall inherit honour.3
It has been taught: R. Meir used to say: The critic [of Judaism] may bring against you the argument, 'If your God loves the poor, why does he not support them?' If so, answer him, 'So that through them we may be saved from the punishment of Gehinnom.' This question was actually put by Turnus Rufus4 to R. Akiba: 'If your God loves the poor, why does He not support them?' He replied, 'So that we may be saved through them from the punishment of Gehinnom.' 'On the contrary,' said the other, 'it is this which condemns you to Gehinnom. I will illustrate by a parable. Suppose an earthly king was angry with his servant and put him in prison and ordered that he should be given no food or drink, and a man went and gave him food and drink. If the king heard, would he not be angry with him? And you are called "servants", as it is written, 'For unto me the children of Israel are servants.'5 R. Akiba answered him: 'I will illustrate by another parable. Suppose an earthly king was angry with his son, and put him in prison and ordered that no food or drink should be given to him, and someone went and gave him food and drink. If the king heard of it, would he not send him a present? And we are called "sons", as it is written, 'Sons are ye to the Lord your God.'6 He said to him: 'You are called both sons and servants. When you carry out the desires of the Omnipresent you are called "sons", and when you do not carry out the desires of the Omnipresent, you are called "servants". At the present time you are not carrying out the desires of the Omnipresent. R. Akiba replied: 'The Scripture says, Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry and bring the poor that are cast out to thy house. When "dost thou bring the poor who are cast out7 to thy house"? Now; and it says [at the same time], Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry?'
R. Judah son of R. Shalom preached as follows: In the same way as a man's earnings8 are determined for him from New Year,9 so his losses are determined for him from New Year. If he finds merit [in the sight of Heaven], then, 'deal out thy bread to the poor';10 but if not, then, he will 'bring the poor that are outcast to his house.'11 A case in point is that of the nephews of Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai. He saw in a dream that they were to lose seven hundred dinars in that year. He accordingly forced them to give him money for charity until only seventeen dinars were left [of the seven hundred]. On the eve of the Day of Atonement the Government sent and seized them. R. Johanan b. Zakkai said to them, 'Do not fear [that you will lose any more]; you had seventeen dinars and these they have taken.' They said to him, 'How did you know that this was going to happen?' He replied, 'I saw it in a dream.' 'Then why did you not tell us?'12 they asked. 'Because,' he said, 'I wanted you to perform the religious precept [of giving charity] quite disinterestedly.'
As R. Papa was climbing a ladder, his foot slipped and he narrowly escaped falling. Had that happened, he said, mine enemy13 had been punished like Sabbath breakers and idolaters.14 Hiyya b. Rab from Difti15 said to him: Perhaps a beggar appealed to you and you did not assist him; for so it has been taught: R. Joshua b. Korhah says, Whoever turns away his eyes from [one who appeals for] charity is considered as if he were serving idols. It is written In one place, Beware that there be not a base thought in thine heart,16 and in another place, Certain base fellows are gone out.17 Just as in the second case the sin is that of idolatry, so in the first case the sin is equivalent to that of idolatry.
It has been taught: R. Eliezer son of R. Jose said: All the charity and deeds of kindness which Israel perform in this world [help to promote] peace and good understanding between them and their Father in heaven, as it says, Thus saith the Lord, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament, neither bemoan them, for I have taken away my peace from this people … even lovingkindness and tender mercies, [where] 'lovingkindness' refers to acts of kindness, and 'tender mercies' to charity.18
It has been taught: R. Judah says: Great is charity, in that it brings the redemption nearer, as it says, Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment and do righteousness [zedakah], for my salvation is near to come and my righteousness to be revealed.19 He also used to say: Ten strong things have been created in the world. The rock is hard, but the iron cleaves it. The iron is hard, but the fire softens it. The fire is hard, but the water quenches it. The water is strong, but the clouds bear it. The clouds are strong, but the wind20 scatters them. The wind is strong, but the body bears it. The body is strong, but fright crushes it. Fright is strong, but wine banishes it. Wine is strong, but sleep works it off. Death is stronger than all, and charity saves from death, as it is written, Righteousness [zedakah] delivereth from death.21
R. Dosthai son of R. Jannai preached [as follows]: Observe that the ways of God are not like the ways of flesh and blood. How does flesh and blood act? If a man brings a present to a king, it may be accepted or it may not be accepted; and even if it is accepted, it is still doubtful whether he will be admitted to the presence of the king or not. Not so God. If a man gives but a farthing to a beggar, he is deemed worthy to receive the Divine Presence, as It is written, I shall behold thy face in righteousness [zedakah], I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.22 R. Eleazar used to give a coin to a poor man and straightway say a prayer, because, he said, it is written, I in righteousness shall behold thy face.23 What is the meaning of the words, I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness? R. Nahman b. Isaac said: This refers to the students of the Torah24 who banish sleep from their eyes in this world, and whom the Holy One, blessed be He, feasts with the resplendence of the Divine presence in the future world.
R Johanan said: What is the meaning of the verse, He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord.25 Were it not written in the Scripture, one would not dare to say it: as it were, the borrower is a servant to the lender.26
R. Hiyya b. Abin said: R. Johanan pointed out that it is written, Riches profit not in the day of wrath, but righteousness [zedakah] delivereth from death,27 and it is also written, Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness [zedakah] delivereth from death.28 Why this double mention of righteousness? — One that delivers him from an unnatural death and one that delivers him from the punishment of Gehinnom. Which is the one that delivers him from the punishment of Gehinnom? The one in connection with which the word 'wrath' is used, as it is written, A day of wrath is that day.29 What kind of charity is that which delivers a man from an unnatural death?
Baba Bathra 10b
When a man gives without knowing to whom he gives. and the beggar receives without knowing from whom he receives. 'He gives without knowing to whom he gives': this excludes the practice of Mar 'Ukba.1 'The beggar receives without knowing from whom he receives': this excludes the practice of R. Abba.2 How is a man then to do? — He should put his money into the charity box.
The following was adduced in objection to this: 'What is a man to do in order that he may have male offspring? R. Eliezer says that he should give generously to the poor; R. Joshua says that he should make his wife glad to perform the marital office. R. Eliezer b. Jacob says: A man should not put a farthing into the charity box unless it is under the supervision of a man like R. Hanina b. Teradion'?3 — In saying [that a man should put his money into the charity box] we mean, when it is under the supervision of a man like R. Hanina b. Teradion.
R. Abbahu said: Moses addressed himself to the Holy One, blessed be He, saying: 'Sovereign of the Universe, wherewith shall the horn of Israel be exalted?' He replied, 'Through taking their ransom.'4 R. Abbahu also said: Solomon the son of David was asked: How far does the power of charity extend? He replied: Go and see what my father David has stated on the matter: He hath dispersed, he hath given to the needy, his righteousness endureth for ever.5 R. Abba said: [The answer might be given] from here: He shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of the rocks; his bread is given him, his waters are sure.6 Why shall he dwell on high and his place be with the munitions of the rocks? Because his bread is given [to the poor], atid his waters are sure.
R. Abbahu also said: Solomon was asked: Who has a place in the future world? He answered: He to whom are applied the words, and before his elders shall be glory.7 A similar remark was made by Joseph the son of R. Joshua. He had been ill and fell in a trance. [After he recovered], his father said to him: 'What vision did you have?' He replied, 'I saw a world upside down, the upper below and the lower above.'8 He said to him: 'You saw a well regulated world.' [He asked further]: 'In what condition did you see us [students]?' He replied: 'As our esteem is here, so it is there. I also [he continued] heard them saying, Happy he who comes here in full possession of his learning. I also heard them saying, No creature can attain to the place [in heaven] assigned to the martyrs of the [Roman] Government.' Who are these? Shall I say R. Akiba and his comrades?9 Had they no other merit but this? Obviously even without this [they would have attained this rank]. What is meant therefore must be the martyrs of Lud.10
Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai said to his disciples: My sons, what is the meaning of the verse, Righteousness exalteth a nation, but the kindness of the peoples is sin?11 R. Eliezer answered and said: 'Righteousness exalteth a nation:' this refers to Israel of whom it is written, Who is like thy people Israel one nation in the earth?12 But 'the kindness of the peoples is sin': all the charity and kindness done by the heathen is counted to them as sin, because they only do it to magnify themselves, as it says, That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savour unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons.13 But is not an act of this kind charity in the full sense of the word, seeing that it has been taught: 'If a man says, — I give this sela for charity in order that my sons may live and that I may be found worthy of the future world, he may all the same be a righteous man in the full sense of the word'? — There is no contradiction; in the one case we speak of an Israelite, in the other of a heathen.14
R. Joshuah answered and said: 'Righteousness exalteth a nation,' this refers to Israel of whom it is written, Who is like thy people Israel, one nation on the earth? 'The kindness of peoples is sin': all the charity and kindness that the heathen do is counted sin to them, because they only do it in order that their dominion may be prolonged, as it says, Wherefore O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thy iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, if there may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.15 Rabban Gamaliel answered Saying: 'Righteousness exalteth a nation': this refers to Israel of whom it is written, Who is like thy people Israel etc. 'And the kindness of the peoples is sin:' all the charity and kindness that the heathen do is counted as sin to them, because they only do it to display haughtiness, and whoever displays haughtiness is cast into Gehinnom, as it says, The proud and haughty man, scorner is his name, he worketh in the wrath ['ebrah] of pride,16 and 'wrath' connotes Gehinnom, as it is written, A day of wrath is that day.17 Said Rabban Gamaliel: We have still to hear the opinion of the Modiite. R. Eliezer the Modiite18 says: 'Righteousness exalteth a nation': this refers to Israel of whom it is written, Who is like thy people Israel, one nation in the earth. 'The kindness of the peoples is sin': all the charity and kindness of the heathen is counted to them as sin, since they do it only to reproach us, as it says, The Lord hath brought it and done according as he spake, because ye have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you.19 R. Nehuniah b. ha-Kanah answered saying: 'Righteousness exalteth a nation, and there is kindness for Israel and a sin-offering for the peoples.' Said R. Johanan b. Zakkai to his disciples: 'The answer of R. Nehuniah b. ha-Kanah is superior to my answer and to yours, because he assigns charity and kindness to Israel and sin to the heathen.' This seems to show that he also gave an answer; what was it? — As it has been taught: R. Johanan b. Zakkai said to them: Just as the sin-offering makes atonement for Israel, so charity makes atonement for the heathen.20
Ifra Hormiz21 the mother of King Shapur sent four hundred dinarim to R. Ammi,22 a but he would not accept them. She23 then sent them to Raba, and he accepted them, in order not to offend24 the Government. When R. Ammi heard, he was indignant and said: Does he not hold with the verse, When the boughs thereof are withered they shall be broken off, the women shall come and set them on fire?25 Raba [defended himself] on the ground that he wished not to offend the Government. Was not R. Ammi also anxious not to offend the Government? — [He was angry] because he ought to have distributed the money to the non-Jewish poor. But Raba did distribute it to the non-Jewish poor? — The reason R. Ammi was indignant was
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