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The Development of Charity: Ancient Jewish Framework and Jurisprudence

Posted by William Byrnes on February 6, 2014

This > article < by Professor William Byrnes describes the ancient legal practices, codified in Biblical law and later rabbinical commentary, to protect the needy.

The ancient Hebrews were the first civilization to establish a charitable framework for the caretaking of the populace. The Hebrews developed a complex and comprehensive system of charity to protect the needy and vulnerable. These anti-poverty measures – including regulation of agriculture, loans, working conditions, and customs for sharing at feasts – were a significant development in the jurisprudence of charity.

The first half begins with a brief history of ancient civilization, providing context for the development of charity by exploring the living conditions of the poor.  The second half concludes with a searching analysis of the rabbinic jurisprudence that established the jurisprudence of charity.

This ancient jurisprudence is the root of the American modern philanthropic idea of charitable giving exemplified by modern equivalent provisions in the United States Tax Code.

However, the author normatively concludes that American law has in recent times deviated from these practices to the detriment of modern charitable jurisprudence. A return to the wisdom of ancient jurisprudence will improve the effectiveness of modern charity and philanthropy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41 (link is http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2304517)

Keywords: charity, charitable tax deduction, charitable tax exemption, history of charity, Jewish history, Jewish law, Israel

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