Economic Justice and Jewish Values
Hebrew scripture details for us one of the world's earliest social welfare systems. We are taught to leave the corners of our fields and the gleanings of our harvest to the poor (Leviticus 19:9), and to open our hands and lend to people whatever it is they need (Deuteronomy 7-11). We learn that helping fellow human beings in need, tzedakah, is not simply a matter of charity, but of responsibility, righteousness, and justice. The Bible does not merely command us to give to the poor, but to advocate on their behalf. We are told in Proverbs 31:9, to "speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy."
Jewish history also provides us with an example for helping the needy. During Talmudic times, much of tzedakah was done though tax-financed, community-run programs that provided form the poor, the hungry, the ill, and the children - a close parallel to the entitlement security we fought, and continue to fight, to preserve in our society today.