The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bitterness Tempered

Although, as I wrote in my previous post, it's hard to stay involved in communal affairs without becoming bitter or cynical, there is also a side to it that can be very inspiring.

At the same hilulah where "Yankel" busted my chops for not publicizing the fact that there was a $10 suggested donation, the following incident happened that still puts a smile on my face when I think about it.

A young woman, probably in college or just out, handed over her $10 bill and asked sweetly, "do you think this is eligible for maiser?"

I was not expecting such a question. Frankly, I make more than enough money that a $10 cash contribution doesn't even come into my maiser equation.

A few things immediately struck me. First, this young woman clearly does not make a lot of money if she has to consider this question in the first place. Second, I was impressed with the seriousness of her question. She took this maiser stuff very seriously. Third, if she only knew that I am an am haaretz totally unqualified to answer her question.

Nevertheless, I put my best maikel hat on and thought about it. Since there was no admission charge, she could have gone in for free, so it was a donation. And, while it's true that she was getting value commensurate with her donation (and therefore would not be eligible for a charitable contribution under US tax law), I didn't think that issue was dispositive in halacha. So I told her I thought it would be eligible for maiser.

I hope that was the right answer. In any event, I put an extra $10 into the pushka this morning in her zchus; if, at the end of the year she is actually short of maiser by $10, the Aibishter should please apply that sawbuck to her account.



  • At 10:25 AM, Blogger uberimma said…

    You don't have to be that poor to be figuring maiser in increments of $10. If you hold that you maiser what you have after life essentials such as food, rent, and health care, and you're living in an expensive area, it's not hard to come out with a monthly maiser amount in the low hundreds.

    My guess is that she probably asked her rav the shaila after the concert anyway, so her maiser tab will now be overpaid. :)

  • At 10:42 AM, Blogger Ezzie said…

    That's a really nice story. :)

    I know from past shailos that even being a part of raffles for yeshivos/shuls, etc. constitute ma'aser; I'd assume this would fall into the same category. But an extra $10 to tzedaka is never a bad thing!

  • At 12:09 PM, Blogger nyfunnyman said…

    thats very nice. i am also very impressed with your understanding- although hashem has blessed you with a nice parnasa- you do realize that not everyone is as blessed. i wish some people, who are blessed with parnasa would stop asking me why i "still live" where i live and why i haven't moved out. hmmm- maybe i haven't been blessed with the right parnasa yet (and yes, i do my hishtadlus). this goes back to your post about filling up 2 cars with gas. i dread going to the gas station b/c i know $40 will be coming out of my meager monthly budget.

  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger rescue37 said…

    Why wouldn't yoy get a tax deduction? The point of the concert is for a yartzheit in which you wish to uplift everyones neshoma. The uplifting if a neshoma would be intangible religious benefit and therefore tax deductible.

  • At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Maiser Kasafim is a Minhag bazman hazeh. She's better off paying back her debts mdioraisa like a college loan.

  • At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Maiser Kasafim is a Minhag bazman hazeh. She's better off paying back her debts mdioraisa like a college loan."

    Tyhat makes no sense. One has no obligation to pay more than the monthly minimum. This isn't a loan past due. They are making money on the interest. If one owed money due and it was past due it would be a different story.

  • At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like that you took such an optimistic approach to the question. Lately I've become incredibly cynical. After hearing friends tell me that they help pay their nieces' and nephews' tuition bills by giving "donations" to the yeshiva which are then tax-deductable for the donor, as well as "relieving them of that amount for their maaser obligation" . . . It seems that too many people have taken this minhag and made it into a halacha that they are now trying to figure out ways to subvert, much as happens with so many other halachos.

    But I like your approach. Let's be dan l'kaf z'chus. I hope the sincerity you saw in this young lady was actual.

  • At 11:36 AM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    Anon 11:29

    no one is more cynical than I but this young lady seemed very sincere and timiimisdik.

  • At 8:57 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    that they are now trying to figure out ways to subvert,

    With certain conditions, paying tuitions with maaser is not "subverting" the obligation. Why don't you talk to a rav before tossing around accusations?

  • At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    kishke, you've just proven my point. Thanks!


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