A Jewish Approach to Food Justice


-------- ARUCH HASHULCHAN, LAWS OF TZEDAKAH, 251:10 -------------------------- Translation Original If two poor people approach you, and one is hungry for bread and one needs clothing, you first feed the hungry person and then clothe the naked one. If a man and woman both come seeking food, you first feed the woman. If a man and a woman both come seeking clothing, you first clothe the woman because it is more embarrassing for her than for the man. But if a man is seeking food and the woman clothing, we first feed the man because physical pain is worse than shame. Similarly, if a male and female orphan approach you and both need money to wed, we first pay for the woman to get married even though the man is commanded to reproduce (and not the woman.) And in my humble opinion, it seems that the man should precede the woman because he is commanded to have children and she is not, and we cannot apply the principle of who we feed first to this situation... [Translation by AJWS] אם באו שני עניים אחד רעב ללחם ואחד צריך לבגד מקדימין להאכיל הרעב ואח"כ מכסין הערום ואיש ואשה שבאו לבקש לחם מקדימין האשה לאיש וכן כשבאו לבקש כסות משום דחרפת האשה מרובה משל איש אבל כשהאיש מבקש לחם והיא מבקשת כסות האיש קודם דצערא דגופה גריע מבזיון [עי' סנהדרין מ"ה. ואפילו לאידך לא דמי לכאן ודו"ק]. וכן אם באו יתום ויתומה להנשא מקדימין להשיא היתומה ואע"ג שהאיש מצוה על פריה ורביה והאשה אינה מצווה כמ"ש באה"ע סי' א' מ"מ לעניין להקדים היא קודם. ונלע"ד דאם אין בכיס על שניהם הוא קודם מפני שהוא מצווה על פו"ר ולא היא ואין לשאול על מ"ש דאשה קודמת לאיש למזון והא בסוף הוריות [י"ג א] תנן האיש קודם לאשה להחיות וכו' ע"ש דלהחיות דשם אין פירושו מזון אלא להצילן ממות כדמוכח שם .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. How does not having food affect someone? How is this different than the effect of lacking clothing? How does the Aruch HaShulchan weigh these needs? 2. Why does the Aruch HaShulchan address priorities of giving when the two parties have different levels of obligations to others or themselves? Should this be a concern? 3. Do we address similar conflicts today? How do we address conflicting needs?

-------- TUR, YOREH DE'AH 251 ------------------------------------------------ Translation Original One who comes and says, "Feed me," we don't investigate to see if they are deceiving, rather we feed them immediately. If they were naked and came and said, "Clothe me," we investigate to see if they are deceiving. [AJWS translation] מי שבא ואומר האכילוני אין בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי אלא מאכילים אותו מיד היה ערום ובא ואמר כסוני בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי. .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. Why are requests for clothing different than requests for food?   2. Why do requests for food require investigation?

-------- SHULCHAN ARUCH, YOREH DE'AH 250:1 ----------------------------------- Translation Original How much is it appropriate to give to the poor? ‘Sufficient for his needs in that which he lacks.’ If he is hungry, one must feed him. If he needs clothing, one must clothe him. If he lacks housing utensils, one must provide him with housing utensils… To each person according to what he needs. [AJWS translation] כמה נותנין לעני, די מחסורו אשר יחסר לו. כיצד, אם היה רעב, יאכילוהו. היה צריך לכסות, יכסוהו. אין לו כלי בית, קונה לו כלי בית...וכן לכל אחד ואחד לפי מה שצריך. .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. How do we determine what someone needs? 2. What is the minimum amount we are to give? 3. Looking globally, how are we doing?

-------- AVOT D'RABBI NATAN 1:11 --------------------------------------------- Translation Original Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: “Even Adam did not taste food until he had performed work, as it is said, ‘Adonai God took the human and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and preserve it’ (Gen. 2:15). Only then do we read, ‘From every tree of the Garden you may eat’ (Gen. 2:16).” [This text was compiled by Rabbis J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, NY, for Rabbi Matalon’s teaching on the American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Student Delegation. Their work was based on and inspired by The Dignity of Difference by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.] רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר אף אדם הראשון לא טעם כלום עד שעשה מלאכה שנאמר ויניחהו בגן עדן לעבדה ולשמרה וגו' מכל עץ הגן אכול תאכל (בראשית ב' ט"ו וט"ז .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. Why did Adam have to work before he could eat? How can we put that value into our everyday lives? 2. Does everyone in the world receive food in proportion to the work that they do? What might this text teach us about our responsibility towards those people? 3. What does Adam's command to "preserve it" teach us about our relationship to the earth and the food we eat?