May one pay for an Aliyah using Maaser money?

May one pay for an Aliyah, or other Kibud, using Maaser money:[1]

It is permitted to use Maaser money to pay for a Kibbud [i.e. Aliya, Pesicha, Hagba, etc] that was purchased in Shul, if one had intent to do so upon purchasing it.[2] If, however one did not have intent to do so upon purchasing it, then it is forbidden to use Maaser money to pay for it.[3] [Furthermore, some Poskim[4] rule that if the Mitzvah is being auctioned, one may only give from Maaser the amount of money that surpassed the previous bidder. For example, if he bought an Aliya for $50 and outbid the second closest bidder who said $40, then only $10 may be deducted from Maaser. Other Poskim[5] however negate this opinion, and rule that the entire amount may be given from Maaser.  

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[1] Taz 249/1; Elya Raba 156:2; So applies according to all Poskim who allow using Maaser money for Mitzvos, which includes: Shach 249/3; Maharshal; Derisha 249/1; Maharam Menachem 459; Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 1/7 regarding using Maaser to pay tuition of Talmud Torah; Admur Seder Birchas Hanehnin 12/9 “The Maaser of the son may be used for other Mitzvos”; Likkutei Sichos 9/346; Toras Menachem 34/272 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 5/110] based on Admur ibid; See Tzedaka Umishpat 6:12

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is forbidden to use Maaser money for the sake of a Mitzvah, and rather it must be given as charity to paupers. [Rama Y.D. 249/1; Maharil Rosh Hashanah and Teshuvah 56; Kneses Hagedola 249; Beis Dino Shel Shlomo Y.D. 1; See Beir Goleh ibid who explains that the Rama refers to a Mitzvah that one already obligated himself to pay, and on this he can’t use Maaser money, however in general he agrees with the Maharam that Maaser may be used for a Mitzvah, and hence there is no dispute. [Pischeiy Teshuvah 249/2] So can also be implied from Taz 249/1 that there is no dispute. [See Tzedaka Umishpat 6 footnote 7] However, see Chasam Sofer 231[brought in Pischeiy Teshuva ibid and Ahavas Chesed 18/2] who negates this explanation and states that according to Rama/Maharil it is always forbidden to use it for a Mitzvah, and so explains Rebbe in Toras Menachem 34/272. Accordingly, these opinions would rule that it is forbidden to use Maaser money to purchase an Aliya. However, in truth, perhaps one can suggest that money which goes to Shul is considered pure Tzedaka, even though it does not go to a pauper, and only regarding those Mitzvos that remain within one’s possession, [such as Sefarim], do we say that the dispute applies. [So is implied from Taz ibid who says regarding purchasing an Aliya “As the money is going to Tzedaka”, and only later doe she bring the opinion of the Maharam] However, in truth there is no way to coincide this with the Rama ibid who explicitly states that “even candles of a Shul” cannot be donated from Maaser, and hence we see that only actual paupers may receive Maaser according to the Rama.

If the money is going towards the poor: Whenever the donated money for the Aliya or Kibud will be going towards funding the needs of the poor and not towards the Shul, it is permitted according to all for one to use Maaser money to pay for the Aliya. [Kneses Hagedola 249; Beis Dino Shel Shlomo Y.D. 1; Ahavas Chesed 19:2]

If one can afford to pay for the Aliya without Maaser funds: The Taz ibid does not condition the above ruling that one may only purchase the Aliya with Maaser funds if he does not have other funds available. However, based on the ruling of the Maharam, it would seem that here too one may only use Maaser for an Aliyah, if he cannot afford it otherwise. Vetzaruch Iyun.

[2] The reason: As although one benefits from the Kibbud, nonetheless, this does not invalidate its Tzedaka status, being that all Tzedakah has some benefit. [Taz ibid]

[3] The reason: As the money has already become a personal debt, and it is forbidden to use Maaser money to pay for a debt. [Taz ibid]

[4] Shlah Miseches Megillah p. 262, brought in Elya Raba 156:2; Reb Akiva Eiger 249:1; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim 14:32

[5] Elya Raba ibid negates the opinion of Shlah

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