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Hilchos Choshen Mishpat

Volume III : Number 14a

Maaser *Special Issue* II


I have received a request to publicize some of the dialogue regarding Maaser that is of general interest. Here are some of the questions and answers:

1. Question:

I would like to know whether one can use Maaser funds to pay for the tuition of one's own children.

Answer:

Generally speaking, the consensus of most Poskim is not to use Maaser funds for your own child's education. The Chofetz Chaim in Sefer Ahavas Chessed (Ch. 19) writes that it is prohibited because "it is like paying one's own debts from Maaser funds". The issue over here is whether tuition is a Halachic obligation, which is the person's own expense, in which case he has no right to use the 10% that is Hashem's portion for this purpose (just as he may not use Maaser funds to purchase an Esrog), or is he voluntarily paying money to educate children in Torah and secular studies which is "Hashem's work". However, it may most definitely be used for the education of other children who may not be able to afford the cost of education. Although in Halacha there is no obligation to educate girls, and even boys past a certain level, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah Vol. 5, Siman 113) states that this should not be relied on, since today one's obligation is much more than what it used to be when Jewish society was much more insular. Rav Yitzchok Blazer Zatzal (Shaalos U'Teshuvos Pri Yitzchok Vol. 2 Siman 27) states that if a person is in financial need, he may deduct tuition for his daughters, and for sons that are over 6 years old.

< 2. Question:

Is there any Halachic allowance for a professional with a high hourly billing rate to meet his Maaser obligations at least partially by donating his time by performing services within his professional expertise to a worthy organization?

Answer:

I quote from Sefer Maaser Kesafim pg. 130:

"If a professionally qualified person furnishes his service gratuitously to a Torah institution or for a poor person, can he deduct his fee from Maaser? Rabbi S. Z. Auerbach says that this is legitimate, provided that he remembers to include the fee in the Maaser accounting. If he has no overhead expenses, he may deduct 9/10 of his professional fee. For example a member of a profession with an income of L2700 could do professional work for which he would have received a fee of L300 (10/9 of L270) and would then have fully discharged his Maaser obligation."*

*Rabbi A. Carmell has drawn attention to the Gemara in Kiddushin 63a "You are betrothed to me on condition that I speak to the government on your behalf" as evidence that professional services have the Halachic status of money.

3. Question:

If I were to use Ma'aser money to purchase raffle tickets for a Torah institution (or other similar fund) - and I won money from that raffle, is the money I originally put in still counted as having been given away for Ma'aser? In other words, if I received money by virtue of having given money, have I really given away that initial money? Must I regive it, or just give Maaser from my win?

Answer:

Thanks for your interesting question. Technically, if you would take Maaser money and purchase a raffle ticket, any money or prize won would belong to "Maaser", i.e. to Tzedakah. What you should do is use Maaser funds but stipulate that the ticket wins, this is actually personal money, and you will reimburse Maaser for the amount of the ticket (besides the Maaser obligation on any prize money).

If you failed to do this, it can be assumed that you intended to have it work in a manner in which you could keep the winning money, and it is as if you had stipulated this. So, yes, if you are keeping the prize money for yourself, Maaser should be reimbursed the cost of the ticket.

4. Question:

Does the first of Tishre mark the beginning of the "fiscal" year so far as annually calculating Maaser and deducting expenses is concerned?

Answer:

Thanks for your question. Most Poskim indicate that Erev Rosh Hashana is a suitable date to begin the fiscal year, as it is customary to distribute charity funds on this day. However, a person may actually choose for himself when it is most convenient for him to start his fiscal year. The Chofetz Chaim actually says that it is preferable that a person work in 6 month units, figuring out the Maaser obligation every 6 months, but doing it by the year is acceptable.

It is preferable that Maaser accounting not be carried from one year to the other. Just as we find regarding the Maaser of produce and animals, Maaser may not be separated from one year's produce and animals on that of another year. (Nodeh BiYehuda, Mahadura Tinyana 198).

Optimally, Maaser should be separated immediately from the paycheck or whenever possible, upon receiving the income. This can be done in one of two ways. Many people open a separate Maaser account and immediately deposit the Maaser funds into that account for later disbursement. I have heard testimony from people who are meticulous to do this, that they feel this brings them much financial blessing. Alternatively, an area in the back of the check register may be designated for a Maaser accounting, and as income comes in, 10% is written down as owed to charity, and as checks are written to charity, the amount is deducted from the obligation.

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This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av Bet 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. His columns have recently been compiled and published in a three volume work called Mishpetei HaTorah, which should be available from your local Sefarim store.

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.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Project Genesis classes, send mail to learn@torah.org for an automated reply. For subscription assistance, send mail to gabbai@torah.org.

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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