ג׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ז (January 30, 2017)

Bava Batra 8a-b: Collecting for Charity

Following the Mishna’s discussion (daf 7b) of communal responsibilities, the Gemara on our daf teaches laws regarding the community’s obligation to ensure that the needy were taken care of by collecting charity.

According to the baraita:

  • Money for the charity fund – kupat tzedaka – is collected by two people and distributed by three, one time per week specifically to poor members of the community
  • Food for the charity platter – tamḥuy – is collected by three and distributed by three on a daily basis to whoever is in need.
  • The community can switch monies between the kupat tzedaka and the tamḥuy, and, in fact, can choose to use the money that was collected for any community purpose.

The rishonim argue about how to understand the ruling that collected charity money can be used for any purpose based on a decision made by the community. Rabbeinu Ḥananel, the Ramah and others suggest that this allows the community to switch the money from one charitable need to another, but that they cannot use it for any other purpose. The Ramban and Rabbeinu Yonah understand that the community has the ability to decide to use the money for any purpose, although the Ramban permits use only as a loan that will be returned to the poor at a later date. Tosafot and other rishonim allow great latitude for the community to use charity money for any community need.

The tamḥuy – the charity platter – that is mentioned appears to have been a large, deep plate that was used to hold food. A tamḥuy could be made out of any material – metal, wood, glass – although most of them appear to have been made of earthenware. Some of the tamḥuys were very large and could hold a large amount of food, some even had sections in them so that different types of food could be placed inside without getting mixed together. It appears that the tamḥuy mentioned in our Gemara was a simple one where people placed food for the poor according to their generosity.

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