Using Maaser money to pay tuition

Using Maaser money to pay tuition for school/Yeshiva/seminary or another Torah education:[1]

The letter of the law:[2] If one cannot afford[3] to pay the tuition for Torah education from non-Maaser or non-Chomesh funds, it is permitted for him to use his Maaser or Chomesh money [which he separated], for the sake of paying for the tuition of his older sons [Torah education].[4] [If, however, one can afford to pay tuition from his regular income, then he is not use Maaser or Chomesh money to pay tuition.[5] Furthermore, some Poskim[6] learn that in locations where sending one’s children to a school of education is compulsory according to law, one may not use any Maaser money towards paying tuition, whether of a son or daughter.[7] However, once the child graduates from compulsory education, one may use Maaser money to pay for their education, even according to this opinion.]

The ideal practice:[8] Despite the above allowance, one who does not deduct these payments from his Maaser or Chomesh funds [and instead minimizes his expenses so he can afford to pay tuition from his regular income] is considered clever[9] and is rewarded. This is in light of the teaching of the Sages[10] who state that all the [annual] income of an individual is decided from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. Whatever income he will make that year, from which he can sustain himself with, is already pre-decided in an exact amount. For this reason, one is to be careful not to overspend, as he will not have more money added to his predetermined annual budget. This however is with exception to the expenses endured in celebrating Shabbos and Yom Tov and educating his sons in Torah learning, of which we rule that whoever adds [in expenses] Hashem adds to his annual budget, and allocates to him extra funds at that time, or later on.

How much of the tuition may be deducted from Maaser/Chomesh:[11] All the expenses necessary for facilitating the Torah education of one’s older son may be deducted from Maaser or Chomesh if one cannot afford it otherwise. However, the actual payment for the Rebbe teaching him Torah may not be deducted from the Maaser or Chomesh. [Thus, one may deduct the part of tuition that covers room and board, and any other expense associated with facilitating the son’s presence in the Torah education. However, the amount of the tuition that is given to the son’s Rebbe may not be deducted. Furthermore, some[12] learn that one must deduct the amount of money he would have in any event spent on supporting his son at home. This, however, is not the implication of Admur. The above limitation is only regarding an older son, however, for the Torah education of an older daughter, one may deduct the entire tuition from Maaser.[13]]

Son versus daughter and child versus adult: One may only deduct the tuition of Yeshiva for his older children from Maaser [if he cannot afford it otherwise].[14] However, he may not deduct the tuition from Maaser for his younger children. A young child is defined as below age six while an older child is defined as above the age of six.[15] [However, some[16] learn that a young child is below the age Bar or Bas Mitzvah, and older child must be above this age. One may deduct the tuition for his older daughter’s [i.e. six years and up] Torah education, from Maaser, just as is permitted to be done for a son.[17] [Furthermore, by a daughter, one may deduct even the salary of the Rebbe/teacher from Maaser, as stated above.[18] This amount may be deducted even prior to the daughter reaching six years of age.[19]]

If one is poor and cannot pay tuition even of his younger children, or of the Rebbe:[20] If one is a truth pauper and cannot afford to pay tuition even if he cuts back on all expenses to the utmost, then he may use his Maaser money to pay for all the tuition, just as any poor person may receive Tzedaka.   

 

 

Summary:

One may only use Maaser/Chomesh money to pay for a child’s Torah education if the following is fulfilled:

1.       One cannot afford to pay otherwise, [unless he cuts back on expenses].

2.       The child is above age six.

3.       By a son: One does not pay the part of tuition that goes to pay the salary of the teachers from Maaser.

By a daughter: One may even pay the part of tuition that goes to pay the salary of the teachers from Maaser.

4.       One who is poor: One who is poor and cannot afford to pay tuition even if he cuts back on all possible expenses, may use Maaser money to pay the entire tuition.

Q&A

Can travel expenses to the Torah institution be deducted from the Maaser or Chomesh?

Seemingly the travel expenses may be deducted just as all other learning expenses. However, some[21] learn that the travel expenses of a son to learn Torah is an actual obligation upon the father and hence cannot be paid using Maaser/Chomesh money [unless the person is poor and will be unable to pay otherwise]. However, even in their opinion, the traveling expenses for the Torah education of daughters may be deducted from Maaser/Chomesh.

What is the meaning of “if one cannot afford” which allows him to use Maaser/Chomehs funds for tuition?

This means that if one does not make enough income to live the lifestyle he desires and also pay tuition, then he may deduct the above mention tuition expenses from Maaser/Chomesh. He is not required to cut back on expenses that he desires to have and live a very poor lifestyle in order to not use his Maaser funds for tuition. If, however, the person is in truth a real pauper and cannot afford to pay tuition even if he cuts back on all expenses to his utmost, then he may use his Maaser money to pay for all the tuition, just as is the law by any poor person.   

May one use Maaser money to pay for also the secular education department of tuition?

This matter requires further analysis.

May a single mother use Maaser or Chomesh money to pay tuition of her children who are above age six?[22]

Yes. She may even use Maaser money to pay for the part of the tuition that goes to pay the teacher’s salary.[23]

 

If one received a discount from tuition, may he use Maaser money to pay the amount of the discount?[24]  

Yes.

If there are two Torah institutions available for educating one’s children and one sends his child to the better and more expensive institution, may he deduct the difference from Maaser?[25]

Yes.

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[1] Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:7; See Glosses of Rav Ashkenazi volume 2 p. 482-506; Tzedaka Umishpat 6:14; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim chapter 16

[2] Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:7; 3:4; Michaber 251:3 “One who gives money to his older sons and daughters which he is not obligated to support, in order to teach them Torah and direct the daughters in a straight path is considered Tzedaka”; Rambam Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 10:16; Peas Sadcha 118; Tzedaka Umishpat 6:14

[3] So writes Admur in 1:7 based on Shach 249:3 in name of Maharam regarding using Maaser money for a Mitzvah that it may only be used if one cannot afford it otherwise, however, no mention of this condition is made in Admur 3:4 or Michaber 251:3 or Rambam ibid, and on the contrary, from Shach 251:5 it is clearly evident that one may pay for their education even if he can afford it. See Chasam Sofer Y.D. 231; Glosses of Rav Ashkenazi ibid 46a and 49a

[4] The reason: As any matter which is a Mitzvah, but is not an obligation, one may use Maaser money to pay with, and one cannot afford it otherwise. [Shach 249/3; Taz 249/1; Maharshal; Derisha 249/1; Maharam Menachem 459; Toras Menachem 34/272 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 5/110]

[5] Implication of Admur ibid who makes the entire allowance contingent on “If he cannot afford”; See Poskim in previous footnotes

[6] Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:113; See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:560

[7] The reason: As one may not use Maaser money to pay for things that are considered an obligation, and since sending him to an educational institution is an obligation, one may not deduct tuition from those funds. [ibid]

[8] Admur ibid 1:7; See also Likkutei Sichos 9:346; Toras Menachem 34:272 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 5:110] that 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.

[9] Literally “Zariz”

[10] Beitza 16a

[11] Admur ibid “All the expenses of the education of his older son, in contrast to the tuition paid for the actual learning” [To note however that in the new printing of the Shulchan Aruch there is a “Lamed” in parentheses added to the word “Atzmo” which word completely change the understanding of this statement of Admur, and it would be interpreted to mean that he cannot deduct from Maaser/Chomesh tuition for his personal Torah education, however for his older son, he may deduct the entire tuition, including the money’s given to the teachers. This extra Lamed can be found in the printing of Hilchos Talmud Torah in the year 1799 in Levov, which was one of the earliest editions. Rav Mordechai Ashkenazi learns like the former approach and does not include the extra Lamed in his Nussach of Admur. See Hilchos Talmud Torah of Rav Ashkenazi ibid p. 497] Beir Sheva 41; Elya Raba 156:2; Tuv Taam Vadaas Telisa 2:96; Ahavas Chesed 2:19; See Orchos Rabbeinu 1:301; Tzedaka Umishpat 6:14 footnote 36

The reason: As one is obligated to teach his son the entire Torah, both the written and oral [Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:4 and Kuntrus Achron 1:1], and any matter which is an obligation may not be deducted from Maaser. [Poskim ibid] Furthermore, some Poskim rule it is forbidden, being one may not use Maaser money towards Mitzvos. [Rama Y.D. 249:1]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that one may deduct even the salary of the Rebbe from Maaser. [Leket Yosheer Y.D. p. 76; Rishon Letziyon 249; Meishiv Devarim Y.D. 137 in name of Sefer Hagan; Peri Yitzchak 2:27; Tzedaka Umishpat 6:14; Yabia Omer Y.D. 58:1; See Orchos Rabbeinu 1:298; Shevet Halevi 5:133 permits in a time of need; See Divrei Malkiel 5:115] The reason for this is because one is only obligated to teach his child the written Torah and not the oral Torah. [Michaber Y.D. 245:6; Poskim ibid]

[12] Tzedaka Umishpat 6 footnote 35

[13] Minchas Yitzchak 10:85

The reason: As one is not obligated to teach his daughter Torah. [ibid]

[14] Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:7; 3:4; Michaber 251:3; Rambam Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 10:16; Peas Sadcha 118; Tzedaka Umishpat 6:14

[15] Shach 251:5

The reason: As a father is obligated to provide all his children below age six with all their needs and one cannot deduct an obligatory payment from Maaer. [Shach ibid]

[16] See Hilchos Talmud Torah of Rav Ashkenazi p. 488 who states that older children is defined as above Bar and Bas Mitzvah, as the Sages obligated the father to support his children until that age. [See Rambam Ishus 12:14]

[17] Michaber Y.D. 251:3; Minchas Yitzchak 10:85; See Tzedaka Umishpat 6:14 footnote 35

[18] Minchas Yitzchak 10:85; Artcile of Rav Ashkenazi

[19] See article of Rav Ashkenazi who says that even by a boy, if he is below age 6 the tuition for the actual teacher may be deducted from Maaser, as one is not obligated to hire a teacher before age 6, even for a boy.

[20] Rama 251:3 “Supporting himself comes prior to supporting others”; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim 16:16

[21] Rav Mordechai Ashkenazi OBM in a written reply

[22] See Orchos Rabbeinu 1:302

[23] The reason: As she is not obligated to teach her children Torah.

[24] Orchos Rabbeinu 1:301; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim 16:4

[25] Orchos Rabbeinu 1:302; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim 16:6

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