I've always wondered if there was a minimum standard of living mandated by the Torah. If there is, what is it? And if not, how does the Torah relate to this matter? Is it according to the individual's emotional/mental needs or is it universal?

In other words, what's the ideal level of material comfort the Torah requires or endorses? If there is such a thing.

  • 1
    – Heshy
    Nov 12, 2018 at 19:30
  • 1
    – Loewian
    Nov 12, 2018 at 22:25
  • @Heshy Those mishnayot can be interpreted as essentially determining ‘how much a person needs to get on his feet’. They’re certainly not commenting on lifestyle.
    – Oliver
    Nov 13, 2018 at 4:24
  • @Loewian Proof for an ordinary person of the modern world from the (relatively late) chapter in Avot devoted to ‘kinyan Torah’ is arguable, IMO.
    – Oliver
    Nov 13, 2018 at 4:31
  • @Heshy Poor people who come to the granary have a different standard than those who come to the door. If someone knocks on your door for tzedakah (and can be confirmed to actually be needy), the obligation is to give him whatever he needs, however much that may be.
    – DonielF
    Jan 28, 2019 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


For the average person, I think the answer’s going to be “everyone is different.” But conveniently you ask for the ideal, and to that I have an explicit Braisa for you (quoted as Avos 6:4):

כַּךְ הִיא דַּרְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, פַּת בְּמֶלַח תֹּאכַל, וּמַיִם בִּמְשׂוּרָה תִשְׁתֶּה, וְעַל הָאָרֶץ תִּישַׁן, וְחַיֵּי צַעַר תִּחְיֶה, וּבַתּוֹרָה אַתָּה עָמֵל, אִם אַתָּה עֹשֶׂה כֵן, (תהלים קכח) אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ. אַשְׁרֶיךָ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְטוֹב לָךְ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא:

This is the way of the Torah: Bread with salt will you eat, water in a small measure will you drink, on the ground will you sleep, a life of pain will you live, and in Torah will you toil. If you do this, “You are fortunate, and there is good for you” - you are fortunate in this world and there is good for you in the World to Come.

  • But how about your wife and children, I think they require more,that Mishna is referring to am individual who wants to acquire Torah,but if one is married with kids they have an obligation to support their family in a normal fashion
    – sam
    Jan 28, 2019 at 17:04
  • @sam The average person requires more, too. We’re talking about ideals here. If the family agreed, surely they would abide by this Braisa. If the family disagreed, then perhaps the one in the family who’s holding by this would still eat salty bread and drink minimal water, while the rest of the family gets more pleasure.
    – DonielF
    Jan 28, 2019 at 17:07
  • Someone please explain to me the reasoning for "a life of pain will you live." Is that what Hashem truly wants for us? I have great trouble accepting such a notion.
    – Ephraim77
    Feb 28, 2019 at 16:58
  • @Ephraim77 Why don’t you ask that separately?
    – DonielF
    Feb 28, 2019 at 17:00

The Torah does not prescribe a standard of living. It seems to take for granted that a man may be rich, or be poor. Therefore if he is rich there are rules limiting his ability to become richer at the loss of others. If he is poor, he is given protections and options to try and improve his condition.

Here are some examples of the restrictions against the rich. A rich man cannot monopolize land and create many of the situations we find now in our modern capitalist times. In ancient Israel, one could only purchase land for 49 years, after the 50th year the land would default back to its owners who sold it to help them in their poverty. Also, a rich man must always leave the corners of his field for the poor, as well as not go back for a second gleaning. He is also encouraged to lend to the poor, and give to the needy.

A poor person is given certain protections, and certain options to give him upward mobility. Protections would be the land reverting back to him as mentioned above, or not needing to give pledges if his pledge would be something he needs to live. Options for upward mobility include getting interest free loans or being able to sell oneself into slavery in order to have your needs be taken care of, or even selling your children if you cannot afford to take care of them. These last "options" ring terrible to our modern ears, but this was a very real option and often beneficial option for people. Especially considering the rules the Torah put on slavery (freedom after 7 years, payment at the end of your term, being set free if injured by your master) etc.

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