May one use Maaser money to purchase Kaparos?
Background: It is disputed in Poskim as to whether one may use Maaser money for the sake of a Mitzvah, or if it must be given as charity to paupers. Practically, it is permitted to use Maaser money for the sake of a Mitzvah under certain conditions. These conditions are as follows: 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. Now, although Kaparos is merely a custom rather than a Biblical or Rabbinical institution, nonetheless, this custom receives an obligatory status. Thus, ideally Maaaser money cannot be used for the fulfillment of this custom of Kaparos. However, it is disputed amongst the Poskim as to whether one must to take a single chicken per family member or if a single male chicken suffices for all the male family members, and a single female chicken for all female family members. The final ruling follows that one is to take one chicken per family member, although if one is unable to afford to do so, then one male chicken may be used for all the male members of one’s household and one female chicken may be used for all the female members of one’s household. Based on this, the following is the final ruling regarding using Maaser money to purchase Kaparos:
The law: One may not use Maaser money to perform the Mitzvah of Kaparos. If, however, one cannot afford to buy one chicken per family member, then he may use Maaser money to do so. However, even in such a case, at least one male and female chicken is not to come from the Maaser funds.
 Stringent opinion-Must give to pauper: 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.
Lenient opinion-May use for Mitzvah: 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”
 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]
 Beir Hagoleh ibid [in explanation of opinion of Rama ibid]; Chasam Sofer 231, Pischeiy Teshuvah 249:2
 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]
 In the Shulchan Aruch 605:3 Admur records a difference in custom and rules as follows: Some [Levush brought in M”A 605:2] are accustomed to take a single male chicken on behalf of all the male members of the family and a single female chicken on behalf of all the female members of the family. Others [Poskim ibid] however are accustomed to take a Kapara chicken for each individual family member.
 Siddur Admur; Second custom in Admur 605:3; Custom of the Arizal brought in Shaar Hakavanos and Peri Eitz Chaim Shaar Yom Kippurim; M”A 605:2; Shelah Yuma 235; Elya Zuta 605:4; Tashbatz 125; Bach in name of Mordechaiy Katan; Mateh Efraim 605:2; see Piskeiy Teshuvos 605:1
 Mateh Efraim 605:2; M”B 605:3
 Elya Raba 605:6 in name of Shlah; Mateh Efraim 605:10; M”B 605:6 that one should not use Maaser money to redeem the chickens
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 605 footnote 4; See regarding Matanos Laevyonim: M”A 694:1 from Shlah 260b; Mahril 56; Elya Raba 686:4; M”B 694:3; Aruch Hashulchan 694:2