Bechukosai: Vows & Pledges

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The Journal of Talmudic Law & Finance


Vows & Pledges 


At the end of this week’s Parsha the Torah discusses various types of tithes, known as hekdesh and ma’aser. The Torah tells us which ones areFeature Shiur Parshas Bechukosai: Vows & Pledges. Tzedakah: Changing its Use redeemable, which ones aren’t, and how any such redemption is to be performed. Although with the exception of ma’aser on produce that is grown in Eretz Yisrael, most other tithes are no longer applicable today. Nevertheless, the concept of transferring charitable allocations from one charity to another does apply today in many instances.


In this week’s Journal we will discuss numerous Halachos relating to one who makes a vow, or even a pledge,  to give charity. 

 Click here for this week’s Featured Audio Shiur by Rav Yosef Greenwald:

Tzedakah: Changing its Use

Tzedakah & Maaser Audio Series by Rav Dov Kahan, Av Bais Din Maysharim, Dayan Bais Din Tzedek U'Mishpat

Choshen Mishpat Chiddush

Teshuvos Imrei Yosher rules that the principle that one cannot transfer his pledge from one cause to another only applies if the money would otherwise not have gone to charity at all. However if the money was already designated to be given to charity, and subsequently the donor designated a specific cause to be the recipient of that money, he is permitted to change that designation. Since the money was to have gone to some form of charity anyway, the act of designating a cause is not considered a Mitzvah. Therefore that designation is not considered nidrei mitzvah, a vow of mitzvah, and it’s not binding.

Meshanim M'Tzdaka L'Tzdaka:  Transferring Money Pledged to Tzedaka From one Cause to Another

Meshanim M’Tzedaka L’Tzedaka:

Transferring Money Pledged to Tzedaka From one Cause to Another


This article discusses the issue of one who pledged to donate to one form of charity, and wants to transfer his pledge to a different type of worthy cause. As we shall see, there are a number of Halachic considerations that must be taken into account when faced with this issue.


1)      The Gemara (Eruchin 6a-b) states: [One who declares that] this coin shall be [a donation toward] Tzedaka, if it has not reached the hands of the gabbai (Tzedaka administrator) then he may transfer it (to a different type of Tzedaka). Once it has reached the hands of the gabbai he can no longer transfer it (to a different type of Tzedaka).


2)      Tosafos(ad loc ד”ה עד שבאת) quotes Rabbeinu Boruch as explaining the Gemara as permitting one to transfer monies pledged to the poor, and donate to any type of worthy cause, even though he is thereby withholding this money from the poor.

In this Issue:

Tzedakah & Maaser Audio Series


Choshen Mishpat Chiddush


Feature Article: Meshanim M’Tzedakah L’Tzedakah


Ask the Dayan: Surplus Charity Funds

The Bais HaVaad Sefiras HaOmer Project- Click here for this week's source material
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3)      Ketzos Hachoshen (212:4) quotes Hagahos Maimoni (Hilchos Zechiya 11:4) that discusses the case of a couple that pledged a given amount to be given as charity to their needy relatives. They agreed that half would go to the husband’s relatives, and half to the wife’s. Before the money was actually given one of them passed on. The surviving spouse wanted to give the entire amount to their own relatives. Hagahos Maimoni rules that the money must be divided equally between the two sets of relatives, as originally agreed. The Ketzos understands the Hagahos Maimoni to be disagreeing with the position of Rabbeinu Boruch. He explains the underlying dispute by referencing the Talmudic dictum (Nedorim 29) that “declaring [a donation] to [the service of] the One Above (i.e. the needs of the Bais Hamikdash) is akin to transferring (property) to an ordinary person (i.e. upon verbally declaring that an item belongs to hekdesh it immediately leaves his domain and becomes the property of hekdesh)”. Heexplains that Rabbeinu Boruch holds that this principle is limited to actual hekdesh; mere Tzedaka is still retained by the donor until it is actually transferred. However, Hagahos Maimoni holds that all Tzedaka immediately leaves the domain of the owner, and belongs to the needy. Therefore, once he has pledged to a specific poor person he cannot give it to another. The Ketzos states that most authorities agree with the opinion of Rabbeinu Boruch.


4)      Based on above, Ketzos (212:4)rules that if a father pledges money to Tzedaka, his son strictly speaking is not required to honor that obligation. Since the money that was pledged remained in the father’s domain, upon his passing it is inherited by the son. Since the son did not personally pledge the money, he is not obligated to donate it to charity (although it’s proper to honor the father’s wishes, we cannot compel him to do so).


5)      Machaneh Efraim (Tzedaka7) disagrees with the Ketzos. He holds that there is no dispute between Rabbeinu Boruch and Hagahos Maimoni. He understands Rabbeinu Boruch’s ruling to be limited to a case that no actual needy person was specified as being the intended recipient of this pledge. In such a case the donor may transfer his pledge to an alternative worthy cause. However Hagahos Maimoni refers to the case that the intended recipients have been specified; in that case everyone agrees that a verbal commitment effects an immediate transfer.   


6)      Rav Yaakov Blau (Tzedaka Umishpat pg. 219)rules in accordance with the Machaneh Efraim.


7)      Nesivos Hamishpat(matnas Shchiv mera) agrees with the Machane Efraim that if the money was designated for a specific needy person, it may not be transferred to another cause. However, he adds that this is only true if specific money (i.e. a specific coin or bill) was designated as having been pledged toward that person. If the donor merely said that he will give a specified sum of money to Tzedaka, without referring to specific money, then the pledge may still be transferred to another cause.    


Mar’eh Mekomos

1)      Gemara Eruchin 6a     ת”ר סלע זו וכו’ עד ו: ת”ר ישראל

2)      שם (ע”ב) תוד”ה עד שבאת

3)      Ketzos Hachoshen (212:4)  בא”ד (ו)בשו”ת רדב”ז וכו’ עד ולדעת הרא”ש     

4)      Machaneh Efraim (Tzedaka 7)

5)       Ketzos 252 – 5 from beginning until ואי משום מתנת שכ”מ

6)       Tzdaka Umishpat ch.9 se’if 1.

7)      Nesivos 250-4  


Ask the Dayan 

Surplus Charity Funds




A member of Reuven’s community became ill, and required highly specialized medical treatment in another country that was only available at a very high cost. Reuven decided to organize a campaign to raise funds for this cause. Everyone responded very generously, and more funds came in than were actually needed. Reuven is now asking what should be done with the additional funds.


  1. If the cause for the surplus was because the sick person did not actually require the treatments that had been originally anticipated, or if money was collected for this cause and ultimately, for whatever reason, the sick person did not undergo the treatments, Reuven must return the money to those who had donated it. If he is no longer able to identify who the original donors were, or if it would be a very large expense to identify and return the money to them, the unused money should be used to help defray the medical expenses of another needy, sick, person. They should not be diverted to a different type of charity.
  2. If the patient did receive all or some of the treatments necessary, but more money came in than was actually needed, the surplus funds belong to the sick person and his family. This is true even if the patient passed away during the course of the treatment or afterward.
  3. In the above case (B), if Reuven is a well known charity collector for various causes, if he would require these funds for another cause he would be permitted to divert these funds for that cause (if there is a pressing necessity, see footnote). If, however, he is just a friend who took the initiative this one time for this one cause, he would be obligated to give the surplus to the patient or his family.
  4. If Reuven ran his campaign on behalf of a recognized public charity fund or medical assistance program, he would be permitted to use the surplus funds for another charitable purpose, even if this is the only time that he has tried to raise money for charity. This is true even though the money had been collected for a specific needy or sick person (if there is a pressing necessity, see footnote).




The Mishna in Shekalim (2:5) states “Surplus of the poor – to the poor. Surplus of a specific poor person – to that person.” The Raav (HaRav Ovadiah MiBartenura) there explains this Mishna as follows: If funds were collected for a specific poor person, and there was a surplus, these funds should be given to that person anyway even if he is presently not needy. [The reason for this is very interesting. The Yerushalmi on this Mishna states that in exchange for the embarrassment suffered by the poor person due to the fact that a collection had to be made specifically for him, he and his estate acquire any surplus that may come in due to this collection]. However, if a general collection was made for the poor but not for one specific individual, if it was for a specific cause for the poor, such as clothing or medical expenses, and there is a surplus, the funds should not be given to the poor for other purposes. They should only be used for the purpose that it was expressly collected for. This is stated as the Halacha in Shulchan Oruch (Yoreh Deah 253:6-7). The Yerushalmi there states, however, that if at the time of the collection we thought that this person was needy, and after the collection we find that he really was not needy, he has no right to these funds at all. The Rosh (Teshuvos HaRosh Klal 32 Siman 6) adds that the same would apply in the case of a collection for an individual’s medical expenses, if the patient would be cured, or (R”L) die before the treatment started, or if the doctors decided that the proposed treatment that they had collected for was not appropriate after all. The donors intended to donate their funds for the express purpose of providing this individual the treatment that he could not afford, and this treatment was never rendered. The Shulchan Oruch (ibid.) and the Gr’a (ibid. 14) agree with the Rosh regarding this. Therefore, prescribes the Rosh, preferably, the money must be returned to the donors. If they cannot be identified, or if the expense would be too great, the money may be used for a different individual but for the same cause for which it was originally intended. The Yerushalmi there adds, that if money was collected for a specific needy person by officers of a charity fund or any other person who is known in the community to collect for various charities and, there are surplus funds, they may be used for other charitable purposes. However, the Rosh, the Raav, and the Shach (Yoreh Deah 256:7) all state that this should only be done if absolutely necessary at this time (Tzorech Sha’ah). But in the case of an individual collecting for a friend, everyone agrees that the collector may not divert surplus funds for other purposes, and we remain with the Halacha as stated in the above mentioned Mishna – “Surplus of a specific poor person – to that poor person”.


This article was written originally in Hebrew by Rabbi Tzvi Spitz, and later presented to the public in English by It is now brought to you by Bais Havaad with permission from the copyright holders. To see more of such articles you can visit

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