, Senior Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, has published On Jewish Giving in Comparative Perspectives
, a trilogy of books that constitute a grand, in-depth review of Jewish narratives of giving to needy people ranging from their classical roots to the modern era.
These manifold traditions of giving are viewed in dialogue with their classical contemporaries – Greek and Roman philanthropy and various forms of Christian charity and Muslim zakat
. Then, in the modern era, tzedakah
is compared and contrasted with 20th century notions of the social welfare state and with contemporary notions of human rights. The texts marshaled for mapping these approaches are legal, sermonic, theological, historical, anthropological, psychological and cultural. Read excerpts
from these books on the Hartman website.
Each volume identifies and explores a unique Jewish contribution to the discourse on aiding the needy: the social welfare state invented by the rabbis, sensitivity to vulnerability of the poor to indignity, especially the degrading effect of tzedakah itself, and the rejection of altruism as the motive force of tzedakah.
Volume 1, From Each According to Ane’s Ability: Duties to Poor People, is devoted to societal policies toward the needy.
Volume 2, To Each According to One’s Social Needs: The Dignity of the Needy from Talmudic Tzedakah to Human Rights is about the recipient of tzedakah and the preservation of his or her dignity.
Volume 3, For the Love of God: Comparative Religious Motivations for Giving– Christian Charity, Maimonidean Tzedakah and Loving-kindness, explores the donors and their motivations.
Each book can be ordered
either as a printed book or as a PDF, or at Amazon for Kindle. Each volume stands alone and may be ordered separately.
The print edition is a limited run of 175 copies and will serve as a resource for a library, as it is a uniquely encyclopedic work on Jewish giving in comparative perspectives, as well as a work of original research. For all questions and sample chapters contact the author, Noam Zion
Each printed volume costs $38.95, and the whole trilogy is $93 (a 20% discount is available to libraries and individuals who order the whole trilogy). In addition one receives a free PDF of the trilogy with each order. For ordering digital copies only visit the publisher’s website
From Each According to One’s Ability: Duties to Poor People
Providing just and generous treatment of the poor is evidenced in the Bible’s unique variety of laws of social welfare. Yet each set of laws embodies a different theology, a different view of Jewish identity and brotherhood, a different conception of economic blessings; in short, a different narrative. Each narrative gives coherence to the details of these laws. Municipal tzedakah funds, invented by the Rabbis, provide the first model of the welfare state. The rights of the poor are institutionalized, but while both are concerned only to maintain poor individuals in their status quo, a pro-active and systemic approach to social justice is associated with the modern Jewish notion of tikkun olam. (811 pages)
To Each According to One’s Social Needs: The Dignity of the Needy
Here the focus shifts to the needs of the recipients of aid for self-respect and honor. Even the best-intentioned donors may damage the one whose needs they aim to satisfy. The artfulness of rabbinic tzedakah which this book explores is how to be artfully subversive and find a way to help without causing indignity.
The book opens with an in-depth analysis of the Talmudic debate about the legitimate needs of the applicants for aid – food, clothing, shelter, economic rehabilitation, love and marriage, and self-respect. Then it explores the origins of Maimonides ‘ prefef ence for providing work opportunities using business loans and jobs. In the modern period Jewish giving, like contemporary Western philanthropy, has often rejected traditional tzedakah as a form of undesirable alms and has preferred various systemic solutions that rehabilitate the needy completely. (994 pages)
Volume Three: For the Love of God: Comparative Religious Motivations for Giving
This volume explores the donors and their motivations – altruistic love, social glory, duty, gratitude repaid, stewardship or investment in one’s future merits. After reviewing the common opposition of Maimonidean Judaism and Pauline Christianity to Greek philanthropy, the book concentrates on their diverging religious narratives of mercy versus justice and altruism versus self-centeredness, love of the enemy versus love of the family, love of the sinner versus love of "one’s brother in mitzvot." Rabbinic Judaism’s tzedakah has its own understanding of love’s relationship to generosity (gemilut hasadim) and its own ideal religious hero of lovingkindness – the hasid. (710 pages)