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Hilchos Choshen Mishpat

Volume III : Number 11a

Maaser *Special Issue*


I received an unprecedented number of questions about the last class entitled "Maaser: The Torah Prescription For Wealth" and other Maaser related issues. We will be delving further into this topic in the next few classes, but I would like to answer a few of the questions that I've received in this forum, as I think that they are of general interest.


Question #1:

In the class we state that to fulfill the Maaser obligation and receive the guarantee of wealth, Maaser must be separated with an exact accounting. Why should this be? Is it fair that someone who gives more than Maaser to Tzedakah should not get this reward, whereas someone who gives exactly what he is supposed to should receive this guarantee?!


Answer:

Thank you for your question. To explain this I would first like to quote from another class on this topic from about 1 1/2 years ago (posted below in Question 3):

"Before answering this question, we must acquaint ourselves with one of the basic underlying principles of our Maaser obligation. To quote Rabbi David Oppenheim (1664-1736, Author of Shaalos U'Teshuvos Nishal L'Dovid) 'Regarding financial Maaser, a person is a 9/10 partner with Hashem in his income. When it comes to deducting expenses, a person may deduct any expenses or losses that occur in his business as long as they are not due to his negligence, for there is a mutual liability (between the business and Maaser) ...therefore any expenses incurred in earning the income, including any clothing that must be purchased for a business related journey, may be deducted'. (This quote can be found in Sefer Maaser Kesafim, edited by Dr. Cyril Domb, page 61.)

This concept of a person being a partner with Hashem has direct ramifications on what expenses may be deducted from our income before setting aside Maaser, and on the distribution of Maaser funds.

I think that this explains why the accounting of Maaser must be exact. The wealth that a person is promised is not a reward for the Mitzvah that he performed, but rather since Hashem is a 10% partner in his income producing enterprise, obviously his "minority partner" is going to make sure that the business is successful, so that His causes should also benefit. Therefore an accounting of the partners share is required, just like any partner. But if a person just gives a large amount without an accounting "out of the goodness of his heart", although he certainly is doing a wonderful Mitzvah, this is not making Hashem a partner in your business, rather you are fulfilling the Mitzvah to give Tzedakah, and are deserving of a reward like any other Mitzvah, but not the guarantee of someone who actually makes Hashem into a partner.

There is also a major difference in attitude. When separating the exact amount of Maaser off the top, you show that you recognize that this money is not and never was yours - it is Hashem's share. Whereas if you give large amounts without an exact accounting, you are not showing at all that this money was never yours, only that you consider yourself a generous person by giving "your" money to Tzedakah. There is no indication of any partnership involved. The obligation of Maaser is to take Hashem on as a partner in your income producing activities.


Question #2:

If the custom today is to use Maaser funds for other causes besides the needs of the poor, why do we say that if a person takes advantage of this he does not receive the guarantee of wealth reserved for people who perform the Mitzvah of Maaser properly?


Answer:

We did not say that a person who gives his Maaser to other causes does not receive wealth. A number of people have actually sent in "testimonials" that they gave Maaser to other causes and money actually started appearing in their bank accounts out of nowhere!! What we did say was that since Maaser Kesafim was actually instituted for the benefit of the poor, a person can not "test Hashem" if he has given his Maaser to other causes. In other words, it is most certainly possible that a person who gives his Maaser to other causes will become wealthy, but if he does not become wealthy, he can not come with complaints that "I did not get what I was promised!".


Question #3:

Is the 10% that is required for Maaser from my salary, before or after taxes?


Answer:

Maaser is figured based on 10% of the take home salary, after income taxes and any business related expenses are deducted.

Please read Business Halacha Volume I : Number 37 that deals with this topic.

Feedback is appreciated! It can be sent toatendler@torah.org.


This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av Bais Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His Column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his permission and approval.

We hope you find this class informative and stimulating! If you do not see a subscription form to the left of the screen, access the Advanced Learning Network to subscribe to Business-Halacha.

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Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the presence of all parties involved!

 






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