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National charity in the teachings of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel

National charity in the teachings of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel

Beit HaOtzar and national responsibility: this abstract deals with Rabbi Yaakov Ariel’s teachings on national charity.

Rabbi Azriel Ariel / Emunat Itecha 118, Shevat 118

There are two views regarding society and economics. One view emphasizes the country's responsibility for the financial distress of its citizens, while the other view emphasizes the responsibility each individual has towards his or her own financial stability. Our Torah cannot conform to worldview that abandons communal responsibility. For this reason, the Jewish People were given the commandments of charity and gifts for the poor (matnat aniyim, which are agricultural gifts). This communal responsibility, however, is not only incumbent on the individual, but also on the community.

For example, in the Beit Hamikdash there was a place called Beit HaOtzar (storehouse). This site served as tithe distribution center to the country’s poor. This shows that there was a communal charity in a central location, the Beit Hamikdash.

Additionally, one of the roles of the Jewish king is to do “justice and righteousness to all the nation.” Rabbi Ariel argues that a king would not be able to sustain all of the poor people in the country from his personal funds alone. Instead, the king would need to distribute charity from some sort of communal fund.