- Question: [Monday, 2nd Nissan, 5781]
As I’m sure you know Matzos are extremely expensive. My question is whether I can use my Maaser money to pay for the Matzos?
This depends on your income and how short of money you are. If indeed you do not have enough money to cover even basic living expenses [i.e. food, electricity, utilities, rent, mortgage etc.], or if you were to buy the matzos then you will not have money to cover basic living expenses then you may use your maaser money to purchase matzos for yourself. In such a case, it is proper for you to document how much maaser money was used and reimburse it when Hashem blesses you with a greater income. If, however, you would still have enough money for your basic living expenses even if you were to use your regular money to buy the matzos, then it is forbidden for you to use your Maaser money to purchase it. This certainly applies for the Matzos on the night of the Seder which are absolute obligation, and even applies to the Matzos eaten on the remaining days of Pesach where it is a mere voluntary matter.
Explanation: It is forbidden for one to use his Maaser money for the sake of an obligatory mitzvah and since eating Matzah on the night of the 15th is an absolute obligation therefore Maaser money is forbidden to be used towards its purchase. Furthermore, even the matzos eaten the rest of the days of Pesach, in which eating Matzah is merely voluntary, may not be purchased using Maaser money [even according to the lenient opinion which allows using Maaser money for mitzvahs that are not an obligation which one will not do otherwise] being that it is merely voluntary to eat it and not considered a mitzvah. Now, although it is written that there is also a slight mitzvah involved in eating matzoh on the remaining days, this is more from a Kabbalistic perspective, and it is unclear if this can be used as a justification to elevate its eating to a mitzvah status even regarding the laws of Maaser money, in face of the fact it is clearly written that it is merely voluntary. Nonetheless, in the event that one cannot afford to both cover his basic living expenses and buy matzoh, then certainly he may use his maaser money towards his own expenses as he is defined as a pauper in the law states that relatives received precidence and receiving maaser money, and there is no greater relative to oneself than oneself, and therefore if he himself as a pauper he comes first to receive his own maaser money. It certainly makes no sense for him to donate his maaser money to an institution and then need to knock on the door of the institution to receive money to buy his Matzos when he could’ve simply used his own maaser money to do so.
Sources: Regarding the prohibition of using maaser money for the sake of a obligatory mitzvah or non mitzvah purpose: 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]; Chasam Sofer 231, Pischeiy Teshuvah 249/2; Regarding the allowance for one to use his own maaser money if he himself is poor, see: Rama 251:3 “Supporting himself comes prior to supporting others”; Radbaz on Rambam Matanos Aniyim 7:13 in name of Rav Sadya Gaon; Glosses of Maharik 251; Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:75; 113; Minchas Yitzchak 6:101; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim 10:1-2; 16:16; Kuntrus Am Torah 5742 2:2 [article of Rav Moshe Shturnbuch]; Igros Moshe 2:113