Vayakhel: Couples & Contributions

The Journal of Talmudic Law & Finance


Couples & Contributions

In this week’s Parsha the Torah relates that when the women brought donations for the construction of the Mishkan, their husbands accompanied them. The Sifsei Chachamim (35:22, quoting the Nachlas Yaakov) explains that since as a matter of Halachah, married women may not give donations to Tzedaka without their husbands’ permission, it was necessary for the husbands to accompany the women who brought donations. This would confirm that they were aware of the gifts 

Feature Shiur: Spousal Financials in Halachaand had given their consent.


This week we will explore some Halachic considerations that relate to the monetary aspects of typical spousal relationships.


  Click here for this week’s Featured Audio Shiur by Rav Yehonoson Dovid Hool, Shlit”a:

Spousal Financials in Halacha

feature_articleChoshen Mishpat Chiddush

 by: Rav Doniel Dombroff

As a general rule, any object that married woman finds, or purchase that she acquires, belongs to her husband. However, in the event that the wife is not being supported by her husband there is a difference of opinion regarding to whom such items belong.


click here for an in-depth analysis

Feature Article: Couples & Contributions


Couples and Contributions

By: Rabbi Yitzchok Basser


“ויעש את הכיור נחושת וכו’ במראות הצובאות אשר צבאו פתח אוהל מועד” (שמות לח’ ח’)

And he made the Kiyor of copper… from the mirrors of the legions that gathered at the entrance of the Ohel Moed”


The Torah describes the generosity of the women of the Dor Hamidbar, who were imbued with the enthusiastic spirit of giving that pervaded the Jewish nation at the time that the Mishkan was built.

The Torah relates (Shmos 35:22) ויבואו האנשים על הנשים “the men came with the women”. The Sforno explains that the men accompanied their wives to the places of collection, in order to express their consent to whatever their spouses donated.  


However, this gives rise to a discussion ofwhat would happen if the husband does not consent to his wife’s magnanimity. Is she permitted to give a portion of the household income to charity if her husband is miserly and does not wish to do so?


A Woman Donating Her Husband’s Money


The Rosh (Teshuvos HaRosh 13:11) was asked the following question: a woman was appointed by her husband to be in charge of the household finances. This woman had pledged a certain amount of money to Tzedaka. However, the husband does not want her to honor her pledge. Is she permitted to donate the money against her husband’s wishes?


The Rosh responded that although the Gemara (Bava Kama 119a) states that we are permitted to take from a (married) woman a minor donation on behalf of Tzedaka, this is only if the husband did not specifically indicate whether or not he consents to the donation. In such a case we may assume that the husband would consent. However, says the Rosh, if the husband protests then we certainly may not accept any money from a woman. Although the husband has placed her in charge of the household finances, he has the right to revoke this at any time. One who accepts such money has violated the prohibition of theft.


This response of the Rosh is codified in Shulchan Aruch (YD 248:4).


The Miserly Husband


The Noda B’Yehuda (Mahadura Tenyana YD 158) was asked about a woman whose husband was a miser, yet she gave to charity in an amount befitting their wealth. The question was whether the Gabo’ey Tzedaka (administrators of charity) were permitted to accept her generous gifts.


In his response, the Noda B’Yehuda emphatically prohibits taking such money. Although we find that Bais Din, a rabbinic court, may compel someone to fulfill their obligation to give Tzedaka in an amount commensurate to his wealth, that law applies only to a qualified tribunal. A woman may not of her own accord perform the duties assigned to Dayanim. Furthermore, even a qualified Bais Din does not have the authority to take money from a miser without his knowledge. Rather, they may inform him that they are taking his property against his will on behalf of charity. Certainly a woman has no right to donate her husband’s money without his knowledge.


The Ruling for Contemporary Times


The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 248: 11, 13) limits the ruling of the Noda B’Yehuda to the time when Bais Din had the ability to compel someone to give their fair share of Tzedaka. However, in contemporary times, when Bais Din lacks the wherewithal to do so, a woman is permitted to be the one to force her husband to give, by doing so without his knowledge. However, he emphasizes that this is only permitted based on the directive of the local Rav, who can determine that according to this person’s wealth we would force him to donate a given amount.   

In this Issue:

Feature Article:  

Couples & Contributions 


Anecdotes of the Ethics: Short Story; A Letter From America 

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The Shevet Halevi (Vol.5 132:7) disagrees with this ruling. He references the Halacha (YD 148:1)that even when Bais Din forces a person to give Tzedaka, they may only take his property in his presence, with his knowledge. Surely a woman, even if she is acting on the directive of the Rav, has no more authority than a Bais Din.   


If the Woman is the Breadwinner


The above discussion is in the case that the husband earns the household money, and the wife wishes to donate some of it to Tzedaka. Another issue discussed by the Poskim is when the woman isthe primary breadwinner. Does she then have the right to give whatever money she chooses to Tzedaka?  


The Halacha is that a man is obligated to support his wife financially. In exchange for this support, Chazal decreed that whatever money the woman earns belongs to her husband (However, a woman has the option to waive her right to be supported by her husband, in which case she retains whatever she earns). The question is if the husband does not actually support her, does he nonetheless acquire his wife’s earnings?


This question is addressed by the Maharit (Vol. 2 CM 67). He distinguishes between whether the woman supports her husband from the outset of the marriage, and where the husband initially supports his wife, and only later she becomes the breadwinner. In the former case, the wife definitely retains the money she earns. In the latter case, there is a debate among the Acharonim as to the Maharit’s intention. Some explain that he is unsure who the money belongs to, while others understand him to mean that it belongs to the husband (see Pischei Choshen vol. 9 Ch 10, note 21).


The Chazon Ish (EH 70:6) rules that even if the husband supported his wife only at the very beginning of the marriage, he still retains ownership of all her subsequent income. Since he was providing for her when she earned her first paycheck, he acquired that paycheck. When he uses that money to continue supporting her, he has provided her from money that belongs to him. That entitles him to acquire the next paycheck. This cycle repeats itself, causing the husband to perpetually acquire his wife’s income.


It is noteworthy that there is some debate among the Acharonim in the event that the woman’s parents support the couple. The Shu”t Giva’as Shaul (Siman 33) considers any parental support as discharging the husband’s obligation, enabling him to acquire his wife’s earnings.  


However, the Maharsham (vol. 4, 92) disagrees. He says that support given to the couple by the wife’s parents is intended solely to be for the wife’s benefit, and does not constitute support by the husband. However, money received by the couple as wedding gifts definitely belongs to the husband.


Another consideration is that even if the money does belong to her, there is further disagreement among the Acharonim whether she may keep it outright, or whether it must be invested in a manner that enables the husband to benefit from the profits that accrue (see Igros Moshe EH Vol 1:106 per Gilyon Rabbi Akiva Eiger EH 80:1; cf Bais Meir ad loc who questions this premise). According to this opinion she would not be permitted to donate the money without her husband’s consent.  


In summary, if the wife is the primary breadwinner, there is debate as to the status of the household money, and according to some it depends on exactly what happened at the outset of the marriage.


On a final note, the Shevet Halevi (vol. 2, 118) brings from the Maharshal that although a woman is generally only permitted to make a minor donation to Tzedaka, if she is the breadwinner she can assume that her husband gives her permission to make any donation she wants. Even if technically the money is his, since if he were to protest his wife’s generosity she may discontinue earning money, we assume that he gives her permission to donate as she sees fit.      


Anecdotes of the EthicsA Letter from America


One morning, Rebbetzin Resha Yudelevitch (wife of Rav Shmuel Aharon Yudelevitch ZT”L) sent one of the children to buy a few things at the local grocery store. But this time, the grocer re­fused to allow the children to buy on credit. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but your family already has a huge debt, and I can’t allow it to grow any larger.”


The children returned home with tears in their eyes. When Rav Shmuel Aharon heard their story, he  quietly put on his coat and left the house.


“Where is Tattie going?” the children asked.


“I don’t know for sure,” replied Rebbetzin Resha, “but I would assume that he is going to pour out his heart before his Creator and ask Him to provide us with a proper livelihood.”


Shortly after Rav Shmuel Aharon walked out of the house, the mailman arrived with a registered letter from America. The chil­dren were positive that their father’s prayers had already been an­swered.


When Rav Shmuel Aharon returned home a few hours later, he was surprised to find that his family, wreathed in smiles, was waiting impatiently for him to arrive.


“Tattie!” the children cried in excitement. “Your prayers have already been answered!”


Rav Shmuel Aharon opened the letter, and his family almost danced around the room when he removed several bills of Ameri­can currency from the envelope. Now their financial problems were solved! There was enough money to pay for their groceries and perhaps even to buy new shoes for the children.


While the children clapped and sang, Rav Shmuel Aharon qui­etly read the accompanying letter. He immediately asked one of the children to baring him a piece of paper so that he could compose an answer.


“Are you writing back a thank-you note?” asked Shabsai, Rav Shmuel Aharon’s oldest son.


Rav Shmuel Aharon laughed. “If only we were wealthy enough to buy stamps for thank-you letters! No, children, unfortunately I am writing a letter explaining why I am returning this money to America.”


“But why?” asked all the children, disappointed at the dramatic reversal of events.


Rav Shmuel Aharon explained, “The money was sent by a woman whose son has been drafted into the American army. She is asking me to pray at the holy sites for the safe return of her son. I am going to write that I will, of course, pray for her son, but that I cannot accept the money she sent-for it may have been sent without her husband’s express permission.”


Several weeks later, the family received another registered envelope from America, enclosing the money again. This time there was a letter from the woman’s husband, saying that his wife originally sent the money with his full agreement because he had heard that Rav Shmuel Aharon was a Tzaddik. Moreover, his wife was a distant relative of Rav Shmuel Aharon and her mother had told her about the promise that was made many years ago by the hidden Tzaddik, Reb Shmuel:


…And because you returned the money that my wife sent you, and promised nevertheless to pray for our son, I am even more certain that my wife was correct in her view that you are a tzaddik. And in fact your prayers have been answered. Shortly af­ter you received my wife’s letter, our son was released from his military service….


This time Rav Shmuel Aharon was willing to accept what they had sent.


This story was taken from the book In Every Generation : The Life and Legacy of the Gaon and Tzaddik Rav Shmuel Aharon Yudelevitch, zt”l, with permission from Feldheim Publishers.


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