Achisomoch Blog

An extract from Easy Giving (Part 2)

September 03 2021

In keeping with Achisomoch’s focus on making it easy for the Jewish public to give Tzedokoh, we thought it would be useful to present in our regular newsletters, a series of excerpts from a halachic sefer on Tzedokoh & Ma’aser Kesofim entitled “Easy Giving”, co-authored by one of our own trustees, Eli Katz, together with Emanuel Meyer. The sefer has approbations from Rav YM Greenberg, Rav SF Zimmerman and Rav Y Flieschman (Head of the Choshen Mishpot Kollel, Yerushalyim), and is available from seforim shops in NW London.

Last newsletter, we identified the source of the obligation for every member of a community to support the essential communal infrastructure and the strength of this obligation. You can read Easy Giving Part 1 extract here.

Section A – Communal Obligations

Chapter 1 – The Communal Obligations of the individual

B. A list of essential communal institutions.

  1. A list of essential communal infrastructure includes the following:
    a Shul.
    b Mikvah.
    c School.
    d Sefer Torah and Tenach.
    e Communal welfare fund.
    f  Rov.
    g Chazan.
    h Beis Din.

C. Definition of ‘community’.

1. The definition of a community or city, for the purposes of these laws, depends to some degree on self-perception. Thus, although the people of North-West London for example, live in London, since they do not consider those living in other distinct parts of London, for example, in Ilford, Stamford Hill or Kingsbury, as belonging to the same community, therefore the communal obligations incumbent upon those living in North-West London would not apply to those living in the other aforementioned areas.

2. This ruling would certainly apply to those areas which are not within easy walking distance, or do not share a common communal infrastructure.

3. In addition, each particular community can also be classified as a separate ‘town’. Thus a specific community can obligate its members to contribute to its own essential infrastructure, even if another local community fills an identical need.

D. Precedence of communal obligations relative to tzedokoh & ma’aser kesofim.

1. Since the community tax is a financial obligation of each individual, therefore it fully precedes any tzedokoh cause.

2. Further, the community tax is a debt which can be enforced in beis din, the same way as a regular financial obligation.

3. As regards ma’aser kesofim, the issue is even clearer. For since according to most authorities (see future article – Section C), the allocation of ten percent of one’s income for tzedokoh or similar, is based on a widely accepted minhag rather than a mitzvoh, it is clear that the community tax which is a firm obligation, has clear precedence.

4. Even according to those who hold that nowadays the community tax is not enforceable by beis din, however, since this obligation is a personal debt it would take precedence over any mitzvoh.

5. In conclusion, all community obligations take precedence over any tzedokoh.

E. Using ma’aser kesofim funds for the communal obligations

1. Ma’aser kesofim is a well accepted practice, where one donates ten percent of one’s earnings to tzedokoh, (see future article – Section C). In general, one may not use ma’aser kesofim monies for any debts or obligatory payments. Thus, since the communal obligations are standard financial obligations, as explained previously, many poskim hold that they should not be paid out of ma’aser kesofim funds.

2. This restriction applies only in those communities, such as Basle or Zurich, where the community tax is formally instituted, invoiced and the collection can be enforced. However, in nearly all communities today your communal obligations can be included in your ma’aser kesofim allocation. There are a number of reasons for this:

a. According to some opinions, it is permitted to use ma’aser kesofim funds for communal obligations.

b. A number of contemporary sources state – frequently basing themselves on the above quoted opinion – that where the obligation is not implemented as a communal tax imposed by the community, then ma’aser kesofim funds can be used. This is especially the case when taking into account that Jewish communities today are no longer independent and self-governing as they were in earlier times, and therefore communal commitments are less rigid.

c. Even, for example, the proposed North-West London Schools Takonoh 5774 (as will be described in a future article and which recommends that 20% of one’s total tzedokah donations should be allocated to local schools) is not structured as a compulsory obligation. Rather, it is expressed, deliberately, as a strong recommendation as to how you should distribute your tzedokoh and ma’aser kesofim. It is not invoiced and is not claimable in beis din, and would not be considered obligatory and therefore could constitute part of your tzedokoh or ma’aser kesofim payments.

To Be Continued …

This article was featured in the Rosh Hashonoh 2021 newsletter. Click here to download the full newsletter.