ASK THE RABBI
Ma'aser From Net GainsParshat Matot-Masei Tamuz 5766 If one buys a home for $100,000 and sells it 25 years later for $250,000, should he pay ma’aser kesafim on the net gain of $150,000 or can he subtract from the net gain for inflation, mortgage payments, improvements, or other matters?
Making Change from Tzedakah BoxLech Lecha 10 Cheshvan 5766 Often one who wants to give tzedakah (charity) to collectors but lacks sufficient small change “makes change” from the synagogue’s tzedakah box. Many people are careful not to take full change but to leave a donation in the box. Is this required?
Dividing Ma'aser MoneyWhen disbursing the funds I give as ma’aser kesafim (the laudable practice of giving 10% of one’s net earnings to tzedaka), I am torn between giving smaller amounts to all who send requests and giving larger donations to fewer institutions.
What's Included in Ma'aserWhen I give tzedakah for miscellaneous purposes (e.g. kaparot, before Shabbat, matanot la'evyonim, etc.), is that included in the requirement of ma’aser kesafim? I ask, because I heard one shouldn’t give more than 10% of his net income to tzedaka.
Post Dated Tzedakah CollectionsSome people from Eretz Yisrael came to our door collecting for important causes with the blessings of a reputed Rav. My compassionate wife wrote them checks based on expected, future ma’aser money. Since our account was quite depleted, she post-dated the checks. Unfortunately, the checks were cashed before the date and accepted by our bank, putting our account in the negative and causing $120 in bank fees. Can these costs, incurred by giving ma’aser, count toward future ma’aser or is it a personal loss? Right now, I am not even sure we are obligated in ma‘aser due to our financial situation, but I have always preferred to extend myself and put aside 10% in any case.
Charity Collections and Recipient ChangesAs a gabbai who deals with various tzedakah collections, a few questions have arisen regarding changes in the recipient. 1. May one who intended to give to a certain institution but put the money in the wrong box take out the money and switch it? 2. Money was collected for a certain need (i.e. Maot Chittim for Russian Jews) but was not distributed on time. Can it be used for other needs or do you have to find a way to return it to the donors? 3. What happens if an institution put out a tzedakah box but never came to pick it up?
Donations as Ma'aser MoneyIf you give someone a present in the form of a donation to charity in his name, can it be taken from ma’aser money?
Enforcing a Promised DonationSomeone promised to make a donation to a school, but he has not yet fulfilled his promise? Can this be enforced? Can I cite retribution if he does not agree to keep his promise?
Considering employment as a form of tzedakaThe Rambam teaches that giving someone a job is the highest form of tzedaka. Does this mean that if a person, who does not ordinarily have, e.g., a housecleaner, pays someone in financial straits to clean his/her house, then s/he can count the entire amount paid towards tzedaka/ma'aser ksafim? And what if a person does regularly have a housecleaner, but specifically hires a poor person for this job - can that person count the entire amount paid toward tzedaka?
What sources of income are subject to maaserMy wife and I try to tithe our money, but sometimes we are unclear about which incomes count and which do not. Here are a few specific cases 1. Gifts. Do we have to give maaser on gifts that our parents give us, either cash, stocks/bonds, or something like a car. 2. Reinvested dividends. Some of our stocks pay out dividends. Instead of taking the cash, we have these automatically reinvested, so we get more shares instead of money. The government does tax this, but it seems different from normal income since I never have the money to spend. 3. Retirement accounts. American law provides for retirement accounts with tax advantages. You put money in to invest and are not supposed to access it until retirement. The growth in thee accounts is either untaxed or not taxed until you take the money out. Would I have to continuously tithe interest, dividends, and gains accumulated in this account even though the money is set aside until retirement? Questions 2 and 3 are similar. As I see it, the core of the issue is that money is not really mine to spend, but is set aside to build the investment. So how should this be treated? If I owned a bar of gold and the price went up, I would not have to give maaser until I actually sold it, so are these cases similar or different because there has been a payout (even though I just reinvested it)?
Calculating maaser when one benefits from the contributionAm I allowed to buy concert tickets with maaser money?
Calculating maaser when donating through a website that deducts a feeIf you choose to donate maaser money to an online campaign on a website, and they deduct a fee, are you still using the whole amount for a tzedaka purpose? I assume this is like the running costs of a regular charity, especially as people usually use these because they are not a big organization, and this is the best way for them to raise the money, but I just wanted to check.
Can financial assistance provided to son be considered maaserCan financial assistance provided to one's son, who learns in kollel full-time, be considered as ma'aser kesafim?
Question re Maaser KesafimSomeone who works evenings decides to spend an evening each week volunteering in a hatzalah ambulance. He finds a replacement for the office, and the $50 salary goes to the replacement instead of him. Can he deduct the $50 from his maaser obligation?
Paying a Poor Person’s Guaranteed Loan from Ma’aser MoneyMy shul has a gemach, which gives loans only with an arev (guarantor). One borrower (Reuven) came into serious financial and medical problems some time after the loan. Realizing that he was not going be able to pay, some friends decided to pay the loan for him, and they want to use for this purpose their ma’aser kesafim money (a personal tzedaka fund, consisting of a tenth of one’s income). The question arose: since the arev (Shimon) will have to pay, given that the borrower cannot, and the arev is not poor, the donors are actually not sparing the poor but the “rich,” and therefore can ma’aser money be used?
How to treat tax benefits from previous charitable contributions in regards to maaserI have been giving Maaser on my earnings to individuals and to various institutions which have issued receipts. My accountant included these receipts in my income tax return form and the authorities have given me back a third of the amount of my contributions. I wish to know if the amount I have received from the tax authorities is considered income in which case I will have to give Maaser or, as the amount was originally meant for charity, do I have to give the entire amount I received to additional charities?
Ma’aser Kesafim from Proceeds of a Damage Suit SettlementI was injured in a car accident a few years. I had and will have large, related medical expenses. I just received a large damages payment. Should I give ma’aser kesafim from it?
Using Tzedaka Funds for Grandchildren’s EducationCan one use ma’aser money to pay for their grandchildren’s education? Is there a distinction between grandsons and granddaughters or Judaic studies and general studies? If it is permitted, may I putting money in a 529 fund (which earmarks savings for education, primarily post-secondary in return for tax breaks for the donor in the US)?
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