Poverty in Rabbinic Midrash

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This study attempts to provide access to the thinking about poverty and the poor reflected in classic rabbinic literature, focusing on a single passage in Leviticus Rabbah that addresses the verse (Lev. 25:25) beginning “should your brother come to ruin.” This passage affords us an opportunity to take a penetrating look into the meaning of poverty, and into its theological and metaphysical contexts, which lie beyond the social and economic issue of poverty. Rabbinic literature comes to us in a variety of genres, which address matters of law, of exegesis, and of midrashic interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. Traditionally we distinguish between halakhic and aggadic midrash, between those midrashic interpretations that seek to reveal biblical law (as the halakhah of Judaism) and those that seek to probe the biblical narrative and reveal the thinking and philosophy behind them. The midrash we will study and examine in this article is part of the collection known as Leviticus Rabbah, an anthology of sermons from the Land of Israel, in Hebrew and Galilean Aramaic, on the book of Leviticus. It appears that the version of Leviticus Rabbah now extant includes an ancient collection from the third century CE, to which were added Amoraic sermons from the fourth and fifth centuries
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Poor People of God for the Poor in the World
Subtitle of host publicationThe Challenge of Pope Francis
EditorsLudwig Weimer, Achim Buckenmaier
Place of PublicationRome
PublisherLatern University Press
StatePublished - 2014


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