One of our students is a social worker who spends lunch breaks with her tutor to sharpen her Gemara skills. They learned in a mishnah on Pesachim 99b:
“They should not give a poor person fewer than four cups of wine, even if he takes from the public fund.”
The student asked, at whom is this law directed?
Together, they explored the commentaries on the page. The Rashbam explains that this is an instruction to the gabbai who distributes charity in the town. Rashi defines the extreme poverty of the recipient – only one who lacks food for two meals takes from this public fund.
The student brought her work-life experience to appreciate the sugya. She pointed out how interesting it is to see a system of social welfare developed in the times of the mishnah: who gets to take from public funds, and what these funds may be used for.
We are told that these funds may help the poor person fulfill his obligation in the four cups of wine on seder night. On Seder night, we all celebrate our freedom regardless of our social standing, and those in charge of the public funds must see to it that even the poorest people may partake in the experience.
A Tuesday TorahTutors tidbit: real Torah, from real TorahTutors sessions.