Last week we left unanswered the question of whether one may use ma’aser money to purchase tzedoko raffle tickets that were sold at a tzedoko banquet.
Since your situation is a general question we will discuss the general issue of whether one may use ma’aser money to buy raffle tickets if the proceeds from the sale of the raffle tickets go to a tsedoko cause.
The question is discussed by modern day poskim and there are varying opinions about this matter.
The Iggros Moshe (Orach Chaim 4, 76) differentiates between two types of raffles. There are raffles where the organization publicizes that they will sell a fixed amount of raffles for prizes that have a certain value. In this case the Iggros Moshe does not allow use of ma’aser money because people who are not interested in giving tsedoko also purchase such raffles because of the chance of winning the prize. For example, there are many people who buy government issued lottery tickets even though the cause does not interest them. This proves that this type of raffle ticket has independent financial value.
However, often institutions sell as many raffles as they can and it is obvious that anyone who buys a raffle does so in order to support the organization. In this case, the Iggros Moshe permits using ma’aser money to purchase a ticket. He adds that in case one wins the prize, he should refund the cost of the raffle to his ma’ser account.
The rationale of Rav Moshe is the same as the principle we mentioned last week. One may derive from his ma’aser money an incidental benefit such as the good will which one receives from buying his friend an aliya to the Torah. (This was the case which the Taz discussed.) However, one may not derive a monetary benefit such as a free meal (the case discussed by Rav Moshe) from his ma’aser.
Similarly, with raffle tickets. If there is a limited amount of raffle tickets then the ticket is worth money and one would be deriving a monetary benefit from his ma’aser by buying the ticket. It is not as if one donated money to the organization and received a free raffle ticket. However, if there is an unlimited amount, then the raffle ticket is essentially worthless and the benefit given by the tsedoko organization – the raffle ticket – is incidental to the donation.
The Even Yisroel (vol. 8 res. 64) agrees with the Iggros Moshe that one may not use ma’aser money to buy raffles that have value. He deals with another issue. He was asked by someone who did use his ma’aser money to purchase a raffle ticket and won the prize. He rules that the prize belongs to his ma’aser. His argument is that when a person sets aside money as ma’aser he is removing the money from his possession and into ma’aser’s possession. Therefore, if ma’aser money was used to purchase the raffle, ma’aser earned the prize.
It is quite possible that the Even Yisroel would agree that in the situation where Rav Moshe permitted use of ma’aser money the prize could be kept by the purchaser of the raffle. The reason is because when the benefit is incidental one can view the raffle ticket as a free present given by the organization to those who donate money to the organization, since as we mentioned earlier people who buy tickets in this situation really intend primarily to donate and the raffle ticket is basically an incidental free gift. The position of the Even Yisroel in this case is not certain because he does not deal with this explicitly. He writes that he disagrees with the Iggros Moshe but it is not certain what this implies because he was told only partial information of what Rav Moshe wrote.
Rav Chaim Kanievsky essentially agrees with the above. He writes (Derech Emuno: Matnos Aniyim Chapter 7) that the prize received by the raffle purchaser belongs to ma’aser unless the price of the raffle is higher than anyone uninterested in donating would pay for the tickets. If that is the case, one may use his ma’aser money to pay the excess over the fair price for such tickets. This is similar to the psak of Rav Moshe to the rabbei’im who attended the yeshiva banquet. Rav Moshe disagrees with the last point because he views the raffle ticket as a free gift. Thus it is similar to the ruling of the Taz that one may buy an Aliya and pay the entire cost of the Aliya from ma’aser, according to many poskim.
Rav Moshe Sternbuch (3, 289) expresses a different view on this matter. He says that one can view the cost of the raffle as an expense the organization has in order to raise funds. Just like one who donates money to an institution can write his entire donation off from ma’aser even though part of his donation is used to pay the salary of an executive director, so too one who purchases a raffle ticket can say that all the money he gave the institution is a donation and the cost of the prizes is an expense the institution bears in order to raise funds. However, this approach is quite difficult because the comparison with the costs of raising funds is not correct. The reason is because the issue is not that the organization has to spend money, but whether the donor may receive something of monetary value from his donation if he uses ma’aser.
Returning to the original question, it would seem that one will have to judge each situation individually and use the criteria of the Iggros Moshe to determine whether he may use ma’aser money.