Maimonides rejected the notion that Jews must help financially other Jews to study Torah:

All this is wrong. There is not a single word, either in the Torah or in what the Sages said, to lend credence to it... As we look into the sayings of the Talmudic sages, we do not find that they ask people for money, nor did they collect money for the honorable and cherished academies. [On Avot 4:5]

But that claim is not quite true. In the Talmud [Pesachim 53b], we read:

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Anyone who casts merchandise into the purse of Torah scholars is rewarded and sits in the Heavenly Academy, as it it said: "For in the shadow of wisdom is the shadow of money." [Ecclesiastes 7:12]

While this is not a request for money, it is certainly strong encouragement to donate, powered by a promise of rewards in the World to Come. Did the Rambam not know that and are there other ancient sources of funding scholars?

  • God forbid that I should suspect those generations of not being doers of kindness and givers of charity. As if such a poor man had extended his hand to receive it, they would have filled his house with gold and pearls; but he did not want [it]. Rather he sufficed with [the earnings from] the work in which he engaged - whether comfortably or with duress - and he was loath of what [came from] the hand of people, since the Torah prevented him from it.
    – shmosel
    Commented Jul 10 at 20:50
  • You could make a stronger case by quoting just before: And they established rules for themselves upon individuals and upon communities, and they brought people to think in their total foolishness that it is mandatory and fitting that they help the sages and their students and the people involved in Torah, and for whom their Torah [study] is their craft (Sefaria's translation). Though I still think his point is that it's wrong to support a system in which Torah scholars depend on charity, not that it's wrong to donate.
    – shmosel
    Commented Jul 10 at 20:57
  • Did you mean to contrast Rambam's Hil. Talmud Torah 3.10 with sefaria.org.il/….? Methodologically speaking your question is problematic, as you compare Rambam's ethics with Talmudic saying.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 10 at 21:39
  • @shmosel the Rambam said the sages did not collect money for scholars. Rabbi Yohanan implied they did. Commented Jul 11 at 1:39

1 Answer 1


The Rambam quotes that Gemara word for word in later in that comment. He explains it as "That you allow them to sell their products first in the market" not giving them cash. The Rambam also codifies this in Talmud Torah 6:10.

The Meiri explains that Gemara that one should become a business partner with the sage (and written by the Rambam in this comment). Note that the Rambam did this himself early in his life where he sat and studied all day and invested his money with his brother.

  • +1 for pointing out that the Rambam addresses this gemara, although it's a slight misquote. I think the Rambam explains it as investing money with someone else for full profit. The 'selling products first in the market' is Baba Basra 21a.
    – chortkov2
    Commented Jul 10 at 21:23
  • 1
    ואמנם הדברים אשר התירה אותם התורה לת"ח הוא שיתנו ממונם לאדם לעשות בו סחורה בבחירתו ויהיה השכר כולו להם אם ירצה והעושה זה יש לו שכר גדול עליו וזהו מטיל מלאי לכיס של ת"ח, ושתמכר סחורתם לפני כל סחורה
    – chortkov2
    Commented Jul 10 at 21:23
  • thank you edited
    – Mordechai
    Commented Jul 10 at 21:31
  • "Allow them to sell their products". Whose products? Let's start with the assumption that a scholar owns nothing. Where does he go from there? Is this a suggestion the scholar should act as a salesman for someone else? Commented Jul 11 at 1:45
  • obviously the assumption is the opposite. if as the rambam writes, the scholars all had jobs then they have their own products to sell.
    – Mordechai
    Commented Jul 11 at 14:57

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