Sunday, October 21, 2007

Spending More than a Fifth

Rabbi Ila said: It was decreed in Usha that one who gives liberally to charity should not give more than a fifth of his wealth (for then, he will be forced to beg for support himself).

A braisa is cited to support this ruling: One who gives liberally to charity should not give more than a fifth of his money, for then, he will be forced to beg for support himself. There was an incident with a fellow who wished to give to charity more than a fifth of his wealth and his friend did not allow him to. Who was this friend? Rabbi Yesheivav. Others say: Rabbi Yesheivav wished to give to charity more than a fifth of his wealth and his friend did not allow him to. Who was this friend? Rabbi Akiva.

The Rosh writes that this halacha applies by all mitzvos; one should not spend more than a fifth of his wealth on any specific mitzva, such as esrog or lulav. The Rambam and Rema seem to rule accordingly.

The Rishonim ask: Why would someone be exempt from performing a mitzvah just because it costs more than a fifth of his wealth? The Ra’avad answers that this is similar to halacha that one should make his Shabbos like an ordinary weekday, and not be forced to be supported from charity. This is because poverty is regarded as death, and one is not obligated to give up his life for an ordinary mitzvah.

The Ra’avad adds that this halacha applies only to a positive commandment; however, one would be required to spend his entire wealth in order not to transgress a negative precept.

The Gemora stated that one should not spend more than a fifth of his wealth to fulfill a mitzvah; is one halachically required to spend up to that amount, or is it only regarded as a mitzvah?

The Beis Yosef (Y”D; 249) writes that it is considered a mitzvah in the preferable manner if one spends up to a fifth of his wealth in order to perform a mitzvah. The Beis Yosef adds that although one can imply from the Gemora that it is not even a mitzvah to spend that amount because the Gemora states: One who spends liberally should not give more than a fifth of his wealth; however, even less than that would be regarded as spending liberally, and there would be no mitzvah whatsoever to spend that amount. Nevertheless, there is a Yerushalmi in Pe’ah that seems to indicate that there is a mitzvah to spend up to one-fifth of his wealth for a mitzvah.

In the sefer Ahavas Chesed, the Chafetz Chaim cites a Rambam in his explanation to the Mishnayos, who writes that there is a halachic obligation to spend up to one-fifth of one’s wealth for charity. He asks form our Gemora, which would seem to indicate that there is no such obligation. He answers that our Gemora is discussing a case where the poor people are not present and someone is searching to find them in order to give them charity. In such a situation, there is not even a mitzvah to give up to one-fifth. However, the Yerushalmi and the Rambam are speaking about a case where the poor person is in front of you; then, there would be a halachic obligation to give up to one-fifth.

WHEN CAN ONE SPEND
MORE THAN A FIFTH ?

What if one wants to spend more than a fifth? Is he allowed to? It is evident from the Rambam in his explanation to the Mishnayos that it is regarded as virtuous (midas chassidus) for one to spend more than a fifth. However, it can be inferred from the Rambam in halachos that one should not spend more than a fifth of his wealth on a mitzvah.

The Chafetz Chaim reconciles the two rulings of the Rambam in the same manner as before. If the poor person is present, it would be regarded as midas chassidus to spend more than a fifth, and that is what the Rambam in his explanation to the Mishnayos is discussing. However, when the poor people are not present and one is chasing after them, he should not spend more than a fifth.

The Shitah Mekubetzes writes that one is permitted to spend more than a fifth of his wealth if it is to support the studying of Torah. The Ahavas Chesed explains the reasoning for this. One who supports another fellow to learn Torah is creating a partnership with him; the supporter receives a reward together with the one who is learning the Torah. One is permitted to purchase this reward for himself even if it will cost him more than a fifth.

Reb Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe (Y”D, 4:37) rules that this is correct only if the supporter specifically negotiates with the one studying Torah to create a partnership of Yissochar and Zevulun. However, if the provider is just donating money to support Torah, he is not permitted to give more than a fifth.

The Ibn Ezra in Mishlei (4:7) writes that one is permitted to spend more than a fifth of his wealth in order to study Torah himself. The Chafetz Chaim in Likutei Halachos (Yoma 12a) also rules like that. However, the Netziv in the Shiltos states that this is a matter of dispute between two Amoraim. The Gemora in Eruvin cites the verse that Torah is not in the Heavens. Rav Avdimi says: If it would be in the heavens, one would be obligated to go there and learn. It is evident that one would be forced to spend more than a fifth of his wealth to study Torah, for otherwise, he could claim that it costs too much to travel to the Heaven. However, Rava disagrees regarding the interpretation of that verse, and according to him, one would not be allowed to spend more than a fifth in order to study Torah.

The Rema (Y”D, 249:1) seems to hold that one can give away more than one-fifth of his wealth to charity right before he dies. It is brought in the name of Rabbeinu Yonah that even then, he should not.

It is written in Ahavas Chesed that one who is a free-spender in regards to himself and his family, i.e., he splurges on expensive clothing, builds for himself a fancy mansion and generally leads a luxurious lifestyle; it is permitted for him to give to charity more than a fifth of his wealth.

Some say that if one finds himself in dire straits, he is permitted to spend more than a fifth with the intention that it should be on account of this deed that he will merit a salvation. It is brought in the name of the Bnei Yissoschar that one who requires atonement on a specific sin is also permitted to give away more than a fifth.

3 comments:

Rivka Leah said...

So, if it's a mitzva to educate your children, but you should not spent more than 1/5 on a mitzva - how is this reconciled? Say, a year of tuition per child is only $10,000 (let's keep the number simple - even if it is less than tuition) - so a family's income would have to be $50,000. However, most people have more than one child - now multiplying that tuition - say by 4 kids - then your total income would have to be $200,000 - and that is still only tuition. How many families have that type of income? is that realisitc? How is it possible to spend that much money?

Avromi said...

Well, I can't answer the thrust of your question completely, but in regards to the halachos that we were mentioning, you should not spend more than a fifth of your wealth for one mitzvah. You are not being charged for each child in a manner that is more than a fifth.

Furthermore, in the Medrash that the Ibn Ezra cites, it is written: "See how dear the studying of Torah is in the eyes of Hashem that there is an obligation for one to spend all his money in order for him to learn Torah and for his children.

ben said...

why can't you just answer that expenditures for children to learn Torah are not included in the cheshbon of mezonosav shel adam ketzuvos lo?