May 18, 2024
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May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

 

This week we learned Shavuot 46. These are some highlights.

Shavuot 46: May I use maaser monies to buy holy books I intend to lend out?

Our gemara teaches that if a person is holding onto an object that is normally lent or rented out, he is not believed when he claims that he bought the object—if the original owner is claiming that he lent the object to him. The fact that the object is in his hands is not indicative of a purchase. The object is usually lent out and therefore the claim of the original owner that he got the object by borrowing it is very reasonable. The Gemara then relates that Rava ruled this way. Rava once took away books of Aggadah from the hands of orphans. Someone else had come with witnesses who testified that the books had been his. The orphans did not know how the books had come into their domain. Even if their father had been alive he would not have been believed had he claimed that he purchased the books—because books of Aggadah are normally lent out. Since the original owner had witnesses that the books were once his, he was entitled to get the books back when he claimed he had lent them to the father of the orphans. Rava took the books from the orphans—even though normally we are extra careful with claims against orphans.

Tosafot (s.v. Vesifra) teach that this law would certainly apply to orphans who are holding books of Halacha. Books of Halacha are items that are normally lent out—even more than books of Aggadah. Possession of a book of Halacha is not a proof that a person purchased the book; he may have merely borrowed it. Gemara Ketubot (50a) teaches that the verse in Psalms (112:13) “Vetzidkato omedet la’ad, And his virtue stands forever” refers to a man who writes books of Torah and then lends them out. This is a reference to a book of Halacha. It is a great mitzvah to write books of Halacha and then to lend them to others and spread the knowledge of Hashem’s laws.

Shu”t Rabbi Menachem of Rizburg (Siman 459) was asked about using maaser funds. Is a person allowed to use his maaser funds to purchase Torah books if he intends to lend the books out and enable others to also benefit from the works? He answered that it is permitted. In fact, he added that he rules that any mitzvah that comes to you and you do not have enough funds to be able to fulfill it, you may use maaser monies in order to be able to fulfill the mitzvah. Therefore, if you are invited to serve as a sandak at a bris in the other town and you do not have the funds to pay for the transportation, or if you need money to help someone get married, or to purchase Torah books—you can use maaser monies to fulfill these mitzvot. Derisha (Yoreh Dei’ah 249:1), Shach (Yoreh Dei’ah 249:3) Taz (Yoreh Dei’ah 249:1) and Elya Rabbah (Orach Chaim 156:2) all rule like Rabbi Menachem of Rizburg. They add that you should write in the books you purchased with maaser funds that they were acquired with maaser monies, and in thus ensure that future generations will know to keep lending them out.

Shu”t Be’eir Sheva (Siman 41) disagrees. He rules that maaser kesafim is like the tithe of agricultural produce, which was supposed to be given to the poor, maaser ani. Maaser funds cannot be used to acquire a Torah library. The funds belong to the poor. Rama (Yoreh Dei’ah Siman 249:1) rules that maaser funds should not be used for mitzvot like buying candles for the shul; they should be given to the poor. The Maharil is also quoted by Be’eir Sheva as ruling that maaser funds need to be given to the poor. Be’eir Sheva advances another argument against using maaser funds to buy a collection of Torah books. According to the Rosh (Hilchot Ketanot, Hilchot Sefer Torah s.v. Amar), the mitzvah on each Jew to write a Torah scroll is really a mitzvah on each person to write books of Torah through which he will be able to learn Torah. A person who writes a scroll of Mishnah or Gemara also fulfills the mitzvah of “Ve-atah kitvu lachem et hashira hazot.” It is therefore incumbent on each Jew to have a Torah library. Acquiring a collection of texts that will help you study Torah is the mitzvah of “Ve-atah kitvu lachem et hashira hazot.” I may not use the funds of the poor to fulfill my personal mitzvah obligations.

Shu”t Minchat Yitzchak (Chelek Yud Siman 85) argues that even according to Be’eir Sheva there is a scenario in which you can use maaser funds to buy holy books. If you already possess enough books to enable you to learn Torah and you wish to buy more books so that you will be able to lend them out, you can certainly buy those added books from maaser funds. You will then not be using the money of the poor for your personal obligation. You have already fulfilled your personal obligation. You are using maaser to help the community. The poor will be helped when they borrow these books. According to Minchat Yitzchak, you can then certainly use maaser funds for the books (Mesivta).

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

 

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