Contact Us

The Child and the Slave

The Child and the Slave


Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva: “If your G‑d loves the poor, why doesn’t He feed them?”

Said Rabbi Akiva to him: “So that we should be saved from purgatory (in the merit of the charity we give).”

Said he to him: “On the contrary: for this you deserve to be punished.

“I’ll give you an analogy. This is like a king who got angry at his slave and locked him away in a dungeon, and commanded If your G‑d loves the poor, why doesn’t He feed them? that he not be given to eat or to drink—and a person came along and gave him to eat and to drink. When the king hears of this, is he not angry at that person? And you are called slaves, as it is written (Leviticus 25:55), ‘The children of Israel are My slaves.’”

Said Rabbi Akiva to him: “I’ll give you an analogy.

“This is like a king who got angry at his child and locked him away in a dungeon, and commanded that he not be given to eat or to drink—and a person came along and gave him to eat and to drink. When the king hears of this, does he not reward that person?

“And we are G‑d’s children, as it is written (Deuteronomy 14:1), ‘You are children of the L‑rd your G‑d.’”

Talmud, Bava Batra 10a
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
Aaron November 14, 2017

What I interpreted from this is that you can go either way. There is a source for each side. Reply

Roz Busch Studio City, CA/USA via August 29, 2014

Rabbi AKiva When I was growing up in Williams-burg Brooklyn NY on every Shabbos in Shul; where I went to the Young Israel with my Dad...Aaron Bezalel Provda....& the first born daughter of Fraydal Cohen, my Mom aka Frieda Provda...I suspect I was quite a difficult child..I guess......always thinking about things in my own peculiar ways...but my Mom always could bring to me, rethink and learn more based on a Special Reality My MOM spent a lot of time.. JUST QUOTING RABBI AKIVA...he was like a person who almost lived in our kitchen....and his words always made the most sense on all topics. So for me...I am grateful to Rabbi Akiva and to Hashem who gave us life...B'H' best blessings to all who read my post...Amen Reply

Jorge Qro. Mexico November 15, 2017
in response to Roz Busch :

I thank you for the blessing Roz, Your post moved my feelings. Mothers are always great. Reply

Billy Levin Benoni August 27, 2014

Why are there poor and hungry people? As long as we believe Ha'shem is all knowing and we are not, we must accept that in his wisdom there is a "master plan". While living in the so called valley, we cannot see over the hill! Reply

Michael Rudmin Portsmouth Va August 26, 2014

He Feeds ... with food and more Let me add something else. Not only does He feed the poor with food, but with rest. Thus he was specific that on the seventh day you shall not work, not you, nor your manservant, nor maid, nor animals. Thus, the Shabbat, on top of all, is G-d's gift to the poor. Moreover, he says (Is 28) ... to whom he said, this is rest, let the weary rest. Again, the focus was on the weary, who are poor in a slightly different way. Reply

Anonymous Qr January 26, 2014

I think Rashi is The real McCoy in this story Obviously -for me- the crux of this story is a question: What am I, G-d's slave or G-d's child. If it not were for Rashi I wouldn't have known what the answer could be. Anyone can surprise me saying I'm a slave to G-d. But Rashi has come into my help: " for as long as a Jew is enslaved to another human being, he is not free to do the holy service of God Above" which I've taken from Rashi's commentary on Leviticus 25:55 Reply

Jack Yolinsky Windham, Ny via August 2, 2013

the poor who are we to question or understand why Hashem created poor or wealthy people. But wealth is seen in many ways. Giving away money only creates a wealthier person. Besides it's easier to give than to receive. I for one always feel rewarded after giving. Thanks for reading this. Reply

Iury London London April 11, 2013

Bnei Israel Arevim ze la ze As Jews we should not make a separation between us and "The Poor". As human beings and Jews we should remember that "they" are a part of us as much as our limbs are, and if "they" are poor, a part of us is poor. If "they" are hungry, a part of us is hungry.

Would you deny yourself food if you had the means to provide it?

Giving charity and feeding the hungry is an integral part of Jewsih survival, and Hashem designed the world in this codependent way from the start, if you analyse ecosystems, food chains etc. As Jews we are lucky that this was explained to us, so that we may be active in creation too. Reply

Anonymous Fresno, Ca May 3, 2012

i don't understand Ha'Shem put some people into this world just to make others feel good? I do not think this is true or wise or even Jewish...but then again who am I compared to Rabbi Akiva ( if these are really his words) If someone understands better please explain Reply

Louis Stoll October 23, 2010

A different view I feel that G-d does feed the poor. In the Torah He made specific provisions for us to always remember the widow and the fatherless. Even our fasts are an opportunity to feed those in need (something I would like my family and I to start doing).

In my opinion, the problem lies not with our Creator but in the fact that most people choose to ignore the solution the Creator provided for us.

Torah is an owners manual for our lives. Sure, we can choose to ignore the warning lights in our life and eventually we will break down or we could listen to the One that actually created us and maintain our life by following the required maintenance schedule given us. Reply

Alexander Braverman Westfield, NJ October 22, 2010

to tora I think you're right, but I don't think that the purpose of the poor here is to suffer since their suffering can be alleviated by the kindness and charity of others. Reply

Rivka Avitan Vancouver, canada via March 5, 2006

tora I belive that we need to help each other, i do believe that God reason for not feeding the poor is due to him giving the pooor or the pepole who suffer in this life an easier life in their next lives or upon thier departure.
i also think that we all need to do many good things in our lives as doing good gets us all closer to each other and closer to God Reply

Related Topics
This page in other languages