Charity, Charitable Institutions and Societies in the Medieval Period
(1,633 words)

The fundamental constellation of Jewish ideas about poverty—that the poor are to be viewed with compassion, assisted, and not oppressed—is firmly rooted in the Bible. The classic poor are the orphan, the widow, and the stranger.  Charity, called righteousness (ṣedaqa) in the Bible, a word often paired with the term mishpaṭ in the sense of  (social) justice, is a duty (miṣva) commanded by God. Biblical charity is agricultural and almost entirely a private matter. Farmers, for instance, were supposed to leave some of their crops in the field at harvest time to be gathered by the needy.

In the…

Cite this page
Mark R. Cohen, “Charity, Charitable Institutions and Societies in the Medieval Period”, in: Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Consulted online on 22 September 2017
First published online: 2010



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