There's a debate between Turnus Rufus and Rabbi Akiva if one should give charity.

Turnus Rufus claims that one shouldn't, since one shouldn't feed those who the king hates, so if The King refuses to support someone, it's a sign that he should stay hungry.

Rabbi Akiva answers that it's only true by servants, but Jews are children.

This implies that the debate is philosophical, not legal

Then Turnus Rufus turns around and says that it's no longer true, as after Jews sin we're slaves and not children.

Good answer.

Now, Rabbi Akiva answered " הלא פרוס לרעב לחמך ועניים מרודים תביא בית" - Won't you give your bread to the hungry and bring the desperate poor to your house?.

When [do] the desperate poor [need to be] brought home? In exile, and nonetheless, the verse says "Won't you give your bread to the poor?"

So Rabbi Akiva gave a legal answer.

This doesn't answer the original question - if Hashem decreed that people suffer, who gives us the right to free them?

And if you want to go technical, there's lots of verses which stress the importance of Tzedakah?

  • Maybe that תביא ביתך is like adoption i. e. despite they are no more sons of HaShem he adopt them. If He said you to adopt this is a proof that he also adopted them
    – kouty
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 11:18
  • So Rabbi Akiva gave a legal answer. Why do you think that this is a legal answer?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 21:01
  • And if you want to go technical, there's lots of verses which stress the importance of Tzedakah? Why is that a problem?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


The entire conversation can be stated in legal terms.

The first question relies on the assumption that when a king hates someone you should not feed him. Why not? Where is this assumption coming from? It is saying that this is the law.

Says Rabbi Akiva, your application of the law is misplaced, because we are children.

Says Turnus Rufus, but now it is like you aren't.

Says Rabbi Akiva, I do not necessarily agree with that proposition, but be it as you say, the law you rely on is not even a real law, because God himself violates it and God is the king whose law is in question.

עניים מרודים = rebellious paupers; non-family members who rebel against you you still bring home


My understanding of Rabbi Akiva's answer is that it is indeed philosophical: If God Himself commands us to give charity, then He is in essence not 'decreeing' that people suffer by making them poor - for He is revealing His will that they be helped.

Regarding your second point that there are many verses which stress Tzedakah, those verses would not be sufficient to counter T.R.'s argument, because he could retort that they refer only to a time when the Jews are עושין רצונו של מקום, as per his original argument. Rabbi Akiva chose this particular verse because he understood it to be referring specifically to 'האידנא' - the time of the Roman Empire. See R"S Midessau (found in the back of many Gemaras) who points out that Rashi on page 9a writes that עניים מרודים תביא בית refers to the Roman era specifically.


I think the point was that TurnusRuffus assumed the state of the destitute proved that Hashem wants them to stay that way. Rabbi Akiva's response was that is untrue as Hashem commanded us to feed them.

This is in line with the original statement in the gemara that led us into this discussion:

תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר יש לו לבעל הדין להשיבך ולומר לך אם אלהיכם אוהב עניים הוא מפני מה אינו מפרנסן אמור לו כדי שניצול אנו בהן מדינה של גיהנם וזו שאלה שאל טורנוסרופוס הרשע את ר''ע אם אלהיכם אוהב עניים הוא מפני מה אינו מפרנסם א''ל כדי שניצול אנו בהן מדינה של גיהנם וכו׳.

The reason this verse was chosen is that it specifically refers to the poor as wayward. That was part of Rabbi Akiva's response, when we keep the Torah we are children, when we are wayward we are slaves who still deserve to be supported.

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