Archive for February, 2011

A Woman Donating Tzedaka

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

By: Rabbi Yitzchok Basser

I was at a Melava Malka for woman for a certain organization and heard an inspiring Drosha. I would like to make a generous contribution.

Q: Must I consult my husband before I donate? What if I know that my husband generally is not so generous and falls short of the amount of Tzedaka that a person of his financial standing is obligated to donate. May I compensate for this by giving Tzedaka without his knowledge?


The Halacha is that a married woman may give a small amount of her husband’s money to Tzedaka without his knowledge. We can assume that the husband allows her to do so. The size of this donation depends on the financial standing of the household.

However, if the husband specifically said that he does not want her to make any donations, then she can’t give any money to Tzedaka. (Shulchan Aruch 248:4)

The Miserly Husband

Aruch Hashulchan (YD 248: 11, 13) rules that in a society where Bais Din is unable to compel people to give an appropriate amount of Tzedaka, a woman is permitted to be the one to force her husband to give by doing so without his knowledge. However, Aruch Hashulchan emphasizes that this can only be done based on the directive of the local Rav, who determines that according to this person’s wealth we would force him to donate this amount.

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 the wife, even if she is acting on the directive of the Rav, has no more authority than Bais Din.

If the Woman is the Breadwinner

It’s important to note that 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 is the 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, 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 was addressed by the Maharit (Vol. 2 CM 67). He distinguishes between if the wife supported her husband from the outset of the marriage, and when the husband initially supported his wife. 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 support her, he has provided her needs with his own money. 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. 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, 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.

On a final note, Shevet Halevi (vol. 2, 118) quotes the Maharshal that although a woman generally is 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 donations she wants. Even if technically the money is his, since if he were to protest his wife’s generosity she might discontinue earning money, we assume that he gives her permission to donate as she sees fit.

In Conclusion

As far as a woman who is inspired to make a donation (without consulting her husband), it depends on the circumstances. If the family is well off, and a donation of this size is not considered a significant amount of money, she is permitted to assume that she has her husband’s permission to do so. However, if he has stated that he does not want her to donate to Tzedaka without consulting him, she may not do so even if he does not give an appropriate amount to Tzedaka.

If she is the breadwinner she may give as much as she sees fit, as we assume that her husband consents. If he specifically denies consent, there is a machlokes Acharonim as to who really owns the household money and it may depend on what happened at the outset of the marriage.

Ma’aser on Debt Settlement

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

By: Rabbi Yitzchok Rosedale, Rosh Chabura of the Bais HaVa’ad Cincinatti Morning Kollel

In 2002 I bought a property for $240,000. At the time I put down $40,000 as a down payment. In 2006, the property was appraised for $440,000 whereupon I decided to refinance the property and borrow an additional $200,000. I have since spent that money and did not pay maaser on those funds at the time. Unfortunately, as the real estate market crashed in 2009, I was not able to maintain the monthly mortgage payment and it became evident to the bank that the loan would default. I was able to negotiate a short sale so that the bank would accept a sale of $240,000 and forgive the remaining $200,000 of the loan. I indeed managed to sell the property for $240,000 and the bank forgave the rest of the loan.

Q. Is there any obligation to give Ma’aser on the money that I received from the refinance? In any event, do I have an obligation to give maaser now that the debt was absolved?



The basic requirement to pay maaser applies to net income that one earns[1]. All business related expenses that are needed to generate this profit are deducted from the revenue and the remaining net income is subject to maaser[2]. Therefore, if one borrows money from a bank to invest in a business that will generate net income at some point, there is no obligation to pay maaser on the funds that are borrowed from the bank since these funds must be paid back. Only once net income is generated, then there is an obligation to pay maaser on the net income.

In your case, when you borrowed the additional $200,000, you were still required to pay that money back to the bank and were therefore not obligated to pay maaser at that time[3]. Furthermore, even when the bank forgave the debt of $200,000, that $200,000 is not considered new revenue and is therefore not subject to the requirement of maaser[4].


In a similar vein, R’ Moshe Feinstein[5] maintains that when your property was appraised at $440,000, there was no immediate requirement to pay maaser on that capital gain even if you had not borrowed an additional $200,000 from the bank; only once the property is sold and would have yielded a net gain, then the obligation of maaser would apply. This is because a capital gain is only considered a gain once the actual money is realized.


This is applicable to someone who invests money in stocks. If the value of one’s stock portfolio rises, there is no immediate requirement to pay maaser until the stocks are sold and a net gain is realized. It is also interesting to note that when calculating a capital gain, a rise in value due to inflation does not create a maaser obligation. The gain is considered artificial in nature because the value of currency has decreased[6].


If a person accumulated a large credit card debt of say $30,000 and the credit card company later agrees to settle the debt for $15,000, there is no obligation to pay maaser on the funds that were forgiven by the credit card company. [The reason for this is the same as above with regards to the forgiven bank debt. ]


A complication arises when a business generates a profit, but the owner decides to reinvest those profits into the business. Is there an obligation to pay maaser on those gains, or since they are being invested into the business and not spent on personal use, it is not subject to maaser until the owner takes a distribution from the business? Many Poskim are of the opinion that there is no obligation to pay maaser until the business entity distributes money into one’s personal spending account[7]. Others are of the opinion that if the profits are reinvested in order to maintain the viability of the existing size of the business, there is no obligation to pay maaser. If however the money is being used to expand the size of the business, maaser would be required to be paid on the profit[8]. Finally, there are other Poskim who maintain that as long as the business generated a profit, even if the profits were not distributed, those profits are subject to maaser. However, one is not required to sell any assets to pay this debt to maaser and one can defer this payment until monies are available[9].

[1] שו"ת חות יאיר (סי’ רכ"ד) וכן פסק הערוה"ש (סי’ רמ"ט סע’ ז’) ואהבת חסד (ח"ב פי"ח סק"ב) ושו"ת מנחת יצחק (ח"ה סי’ ל"ד אות ו’).

[2] שו"ת חות יאיר (הובא בפתחי תשובה סי’ רמ"ט סק"א). ובשו"ת שאילת יעב"ץ פקפק בזהה ודעתו דאין מנכה ההוצאות. והערוה"ש (שם) מיקל בזה, וכן פסקו באהבת חסד (שם) ובמנח"י (שם).

[3] כן פסק בחוט שני (הל’ יו"ט עמ’ שנ"א) דבתים או קרקעות וחפצים שעלה ערכן, א"צ לתת מעשר מתוספת ערכן שהרי אין רגילין ליתן מעשר מחפצים. ואפי’ אם בגלל תוספת ערכן מקבל בעל החפצים זכויות שונות, כגון קבלת הלואות גדולות וכיו"ב, הרי הוא נותן מעשר כספים רק מן הרווחים שבפועל יצא לו מן העסקים. וכל עוד שלא מכרן ומקבל דמים בעד שוויין, הרי הם כחפץ ולא כממון, עכת"ד. אולם, הגרש"ז אויערבאך זצ"ל (הובא בקול התורה חוברת ל"ט שנת תשנ"ו עמ’ צ"א) יש לו שיטה אחרת בדבר. וז"ל השאלה מי שלוה מעות מבנק ולקח עמו בנין לעסק, ואח"כ עלה הבנין בשוויות, והלך ולוה עוד הפעם מהבנק על סמך בנין זה, ושעבד רק הבנין להלואתו ולא שעבד שום בנין אחר, וגם לא שעבד גופו בכלום, והקרן והרבית של ההלואה החדשה משתלמים כל חודש ממעות השכירות שיוצא מהבנין. תשובה, מעצם התיקרות הבנין יש לתת מעשר. ובמקרה דידן שההלואה ניתנה על סמך השכר דירה שעתיד לקבל ורק זה משועבד, חשיב כאילו גבה השכר דירה מראש, ודינו לתת מעשר מיד בקבלת ההלואה, עכ"ל. הרי דעתו דחייב לעשר בכה"ג על התיקרות הבנין אפי’ לפני שמכרו.

[4] כן פסק הגרי"ש אלישיב שליט"א, וביאר הטעם דפטור ממעשר מאחר ואינו בעין. והגר"נ קרליץ שליט"א ג"כ פסק דפטור ממעשר ומטעם אחר, דהוי כמתנת מטלטלין שהמנהג שאין מעשרים ממנו (הובא בספר באורח צדקה פ"ט הע’ כ"ד). וכן שמעתי מהג"ר חיים כהן שליט"א דפטור בכה"ג משום דלא חשיב ריוח.

[5] הגר"מ פיינשטיין זצ"ל מובא בספר אהלי ישורון.

[6] שו"ת אג"מ (יו"ד ח"ב סי’ קי"ד), הגרש"ז אויערבאך זצ"ל (קונטרס קול התורה חוברת ל"ט עמ’ פ"ז), שו"ת שבט הלוי (ח"ט סי’ ר"א), שו"ת וישב משה (ח"א סי’ ט"ז), וצדקה ומשפט (פ"ה הע’ ל"א).

[7] כן שמעתי מהגר"ח כהן שליט"א ומהג’ ר’ שמאול פירסט שליט"א (דיין דאגודת ישראל דאילנוי).

[8] כן שמעתי מהג"ר שמואל פעלדער שליט"א.

[9] הגרש"ז אויערבאך זצ"ל (הובא בספר באורח צדקה בתשובתיו בסוף הספר ס"ק ל"ג) וז"ל השאלה, חברה שיש לה ג’ שותפין ומחלקים רק חמשים אחוז של הריוח בסוף השנה, אכן השאר נשאר בהחברה כדי שירוויחו יותר ממנה, האם מחוייב הוא לעשר חלקו הנשאר בה"חברה". תשובה: יש לתת מעשר מזה שהעסק הוגדל שוויו ע"י ההשקעה, ודינו כמו במקבל מתנה שאינו חייב למכור בשביל המעשר. והוא הדין אם העסק התייקר בגלל איזה סיבה שהיא כגון שהסביבה התייקר, יש לת מזה מעשר.