Question:

Dear Rabbi,

On entering certain ‘kiruv’ yeshivot one is sometimes asked to sign a pledge to compensate an institution financially in the future for time spent – when payment is not possible or the participant is unwilling to pay at the time.

If a pledge/document was signed whilst a participant was not really a practising Jew, with the yeshiva acknowledging the unlikelihood of the pledge being fulfiled, and with the participant being (in my mind) not in the position to sign as an equal party and possibly vulnerable (see concept of undue influence in contract law) – would such a pledge be valid?

Does it matter if the institution displayed problematic outlooks, and/or used questionable kiruv tactics to persuade/manipulate participants to join in the first place (some tactics resembling more those used by missionaries than Jewish values)

Thank you in advance

Answer:

It sounds like you are not too happy with this institution.

When a person pledges money to a torah institution or another tzedakah, it is considered like a neder to give the tzedakah and it should be given. In your case, where you actually signed that you would give compensation, it is even more applicable. Besides, even if you are not happy with the yeshiva, you still ate and sleep there, and this did cost them money, to which they would be entitled to compensation.

The fact that you were not religious at the time doesn’t really change the halacha, as irreligious people have the same obligations as religious people do.  Also the fact that you don’t like the hashkafic outlooks or the tactics that they use, while you do not have to make donations to them in the future, monetary obligations that you may have to them should be kept.

At the end of the day, the money that you would be giving them will be helping other people become closer to torah, and that zechus will be yours.

Tags: Tzedaka

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2 Responses to “Financial Pledge”

  1. Thank you for your answer but I feel it did not really satisfy my question.

    The question was part of a debate between a group of people all in learning to some degree and yes most of us who went through said institution well over a decade ago are not so favourably inclined towards it, to differing degrees.

    I do understand the aspect of ‘paying ones way’ and agree that it seems reasonable to compensate for expenses undertaken.

    However, the answer given overlooks both the fact that in secular contract law the signing would likely be invalid given the differing bargaining powers of the parties at the time – I believe that halacha follows secular contract law in monetary matters and having young persons promise large sums of money (that would certainly be beyond their means) at particularly vulnerable times of their lives seems unreasonable.
    In addition the fact that in my opinion (with some first-hand knowledge), said institution uses manipulative methods/techniques to influence young persons, some of which aim to break rather than build a person – which in my mind in antithetical to kiruv rehokim – would translate to in some way being tricked/duped into making a neder – If one is coerced/manipulated into taking a neder would that invalidate a neder?

    Just to put this into perspective we have all supported numerous yeshivot and torah institutions in the past and will continue to in the future, but from my view-point I would deem any money given to said institution as neither tzedakah or money that would entitle me any zechus.

    If the points above are not valid in halacha – would the fact that shemittah has fallen a few times in between, or the fact that I do not recall how much was agreed to or have a copy of the letter, or the fact that no one has attempted to collect mitigate having to pay?

    Thank you

    • The point here is not if they can take you to court and force you to give them the money. Whether that is true or not I don’t know, and I am not coming to discuss the civil legalities of it, as I don’t know the legal laws, nor what it says in the paper that was signed. Halacha does follow the secular law in many instances that are solely monetary issues. The point I am making is that there is neder to tzedakah here, in the fact that you gave more than just your word that you would give compensation.
      I don’t understand why you say that you were duped into making a neder, when you also write that you understand that it is reasonable to compensate for expenses undertaken.
      To say, “any money given to said institution as neither tzedakah nor money that would entitle me any zechus”, to me sounds a bit harsh. If it an institution that does teach torah, especially if you and your friends learnt torah there. It seems that giving money to such a place would be a zechus, and would be considered tzedakah.

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