Using Maaser money for the sake of a Mitzva

May one use Maaser money for the sake of a Mitzva?

Some Poskim[1] rule it is forbidden to use Maaser money for the sake of a Mitzvah, and rather it must be given as charity to paupers.[2] Other Poskim[3] however rule that under certain conditions it is permitted to use Maaser money for the sake of a Mitzvah.[4] These conditions are as follows: a) The Mitzvah is not an obligation for one to fulfill, and rather is voluntary[5]; b) One is unable to afford the voluntary Mitzvah and hence would abstain from doing so unless he uses his Maaser funds.[6] Practically, we rule like the latter opinion, and one may thus use Maaser money to purchase voluntary Mitzvos that he can’t afford.[7] [Nonetheless, some Poskim[8] rule that this allowance only applies prior to one separating the Maaser money. If, however one already separated the money’s, then it must be used for charity for paupers, unless he preconditioned the separation that he will use the money for whatever he chooses. Furthermore, some Poskim[9] rule one is to precondition prior to beginning his first separation of Maaser that he can use the money for whatever charities he chooses, and by doing so he may according to all opinions use it for Mitzvah purposes, and hence avoid the dispute. Practically, one may use Maaser money for Mitzvos even if he already separated it without a precondition, and already separated three times to pauper.[10] Nonetheless, it is proper for each person to push himself to not need to use Maaser money for Mitzvah purposes, and rather he is to use his own money for purchasing Mitzvos, while saving the Maaser money to support paupers.[11] Certainly, one is to save the bulk of his Maaser for giving to actual paupers.[12]]

 

Summary:

It is permitted to use Maaser money for the sake of a Mitzvah if the following conditions are met:

a)       The Mitzvah is not an obligation for one to fulfill, and rather is voluntary.

b)       One is unable to afford the voluntary Mitzvah and hence would abstain from doing so unless he uses his Maaser funds.

[1] Rama Y.D. 249/1 “One is not to use his Maaser money for a Mitzvah, such as to donate candles to a Shul or other Devar Mitzvah, and rather the money is to be given to paupers”; Maharil Rosh Hashanah and Teshuvah 56; 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 sue it for a Mitzvah, and so explains Rebbe in Toras Menachem 34/272.

[2] The reason: As the money of Maaser belongs to the paupers and it is considered stealing to use it for other purposes. This is because the Mitzvah of Maaser is Biblical, and the Torah itself already merited these money’s to the paupers. [Toras Menachem 34/272]

[3] Shach 249/3; Taz 249/1; 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”

[4] The reason: This is because the Mitzvah of Maaser is Rabbinical, and hence one can choose to use it for other matters. [Toras Menachem 34/272]

[5] Beir Hagoleh ibid [in explanation of opinion of Rama ibid]; Chasam Sofer 231, Pischeiy Teshuvah 249/2

[6] Shach 249/3; Taz 249/1; Maharshal; Derisha 249/1; Maharam Menachem 459; Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 1/7 regarding using Maaser to pay tuition; Toras Menachem 34/272 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 5/110]

[7] 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]

[8] See Chasam Sofer 231, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah; Toras Menachem 34/272 who mentions such a differentiation even according to the lenient opinion; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim 14/1

[9] Chasam Sofer 231, brought in Pischeiy Tehsuvah ibid that when one preconditions his start of Maaser separation with this condition then even the Maharil/Rama agree it may be used for Mitzvos, and only when the Maaser was already separated three times for paupers is the Maharil/Rama stringent to prohibit its use for Mitzvos; Birkeiy Yosef 249/4; Beis Din Shel Shlomo Y.D. 1

[10] Toras Menachem 34/272 based on Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 1/7 regarding using Maaser to pay tuition who does not differentiate in this matter

Other opinions: Some Poskim are stringent like the former opinion mentioned, and rule one is not to use Maaser money or Mitzvos unless he preconditioned its use prior to beginning separating for the first time in his life, as rules Chasam Sofer 231 that in such a case all Poskim agree. [Kaneh Bosem 3/84]

[11] Likkutei Sichos 9/346; Toras Menachem 34/272 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 5/110]

[12] See Chasam Sofer ibid; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim 14/7 in name of Rav SZ”A

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