In the Torah, charity is a private matter. Each person has an obligation to help the poor in various ways, for example, by leaving some wheat on the ground, leaving some fruits on the trees, giving interest-free loans, etc. However, there is no public system of helping the poor.

In contrast, in the Talmud there is are public institutes called "Tamchui" (food for the needy) and "Kupat Tzedaka" (money for the needy), to which every town member is obligated to contribute a certain part of his/her income.

Since the "Tamchui" and "Kupa" were not mentioned in the Torah, they were probably enacted in a later date. So my question is: when exactly did they start? Who started them? And for what reason?

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    I suspect that this might be related to Malachi 3:10. The Torah says to give tithes to people, but Malachi says to bring it to a storage house
    – b a
    Dec 13, 2019 at 12:21
  • Does the Machatzis Hashekel count? Dec 13, 2019 at 13:52
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    @salmononius2 that's for korbanos, not poor people
    – Heshy
    Dec 13, 2019 at 14:31
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    I don’t have time at the moment, but can someone fact-check this article to see how accurately it represents the creation and history of the תמחוי and קופה?
    – DonielF
    Dec 13, 2019 at 16:31
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    @b a this is a very interesting link. The "otzar" in Malachi clearly relates to donations and tithes given to the priests and Levites, as in Nechemia 13. But, it may have developed later to an "otzar" for the poor. Dec 15, 2019 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


It doesn't seem to have been started by any one person and it seems like the system was in effect right from when they entered Eretz Yisroel based on general Torah principles of tzedaka, communal living and communal responsibly. The Gemora in Sanhedrin lists a Kupa as being among the ten things that a city must have or a Talmid Chochom may not live there.

The Mishnios in Mesacthos Peah which discuss who may take from the Tamchuy or Kuppa give no explanation as to what they are so clearly they were well-known concepts that needed no explanation when the Mishnyios were written.

When discussing the concept the Gemorah brings many Pesukim from Nach that it explains as referring to the Tamchuy and Kuppah.

The Gemorah in Yershulmi relates that Rav Yosi came to a city that had no Tamchuy. (Apparently, because no one wanted the job of nightly collecting that it required) He spoke to them about the tremendous zchus of heading a Tamchuy is but made no reference to any pre existing Takkana to have one.

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