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Bo-Using Ma’aseir Money to Publish a Sefer



I found someone who agreed to sponsor the publication of my forthcoming sefer about Jewish Philosophy that is directed to kiruv of non-observant Jews. Our agreement is that in return for sponsoring the sefer the sponsor may place an advertisement for his company in the sefer. Our question is whether he can use his ma’aseir money to pay for the sefer.


In order to answer your question we must study two issues. The first issue is whether one may use ma’aseir money in order to sponsor a sefer even if the sponsor does not advertise. The second issue is whether the fact that he will gain a free advertisement changes the answer. In this article, we will study the first question and Be’zras Hashem we will clarify the second issue in the next article.

We find in the early poskim two primary purposes to which one should direct his ma’aseir money. One is to support the poor, and the second is to support those who study Torah, either by giving his money directly to them or by giving to an institution where Torah scholars study or are produced.

The source for the first use is the mitzvah in the Torah to give tsedokoh to poor people. When one gives his ma’aseir money to poor people he is at the same time fulfilling the mitzvah of tsedokoh.

The primary source that one may use his ma’aseir money to support those who study Torah is the Midrash Tanchumo (Re’ei  section 18) that interprets the words in the Torah (Devorim 14, 22), “aseir te’aseir, you shall tithe,” as teaching that when one earns money he must set aside a tenth to support those who dedicate themselves to Torah study. The Chafetz Chaim (Ahavas Chessed 2, 19) explains that this is parallel to the mitzvah to tithe one’s crop. When one harvests his crop he is enjoined by the Torah to set aside a tenth of his crop for the Levi’im and Kohanim because they were set apart by Hashem to study and teach Torah to the Jewish nation. Similarly, when one earns money from non-agricultural sources he should use the tithe of his profits to support those who engage in the same pursuit as the Kohanim and Levi’im in the time of the Beis Hamikdash, i.e. people who dedicate themselves to Torah study.

The Chafetz Chaim resolves the issue of precedence between these two as follows. If one has close relatives who are poor he should first use his ma’aseir money to fill their needs since he is responsible for their support (and he is not supposed to ask others to support them if he is capable of doing so). If he doesn’t have such relatives or if their immediate needs have been met, then his next priority is the support of Torah scholars. He shows that when one uses his funds to support Torah scholars he is promised that Hashem will bring blessing to his possessions.

The Rishonim discuss whether one may use his ma’aseir money to support other important causes like building shuls and mikvahs or to cause people to do teshuvah (e.g. a weekend retreat for non-religious people). The Ramo (YD 249, 1) follows the opinion of the Maharil that one may not use his ma’aseir money for these purposes. Some (e.g. Chasam Sofer (res. YD 231)) understand the Maharil and Rama literally to maintain that one may not use his ma’aseir money to support these causes. Others (Arugas Habosem res. YD 220, Sha’arei Tsedek page 312) understand that even they only meant that this was the custom in their time and one may not deviate from the custom (when and where that is the custom).

Many poskim disagree and maintain that one may use his ma’aseir money to support other mitzvah causes provided that he has no prior obligation to support them. The custom nowadays is to follow this latter opinion. Thus, in practice one may use his ma’aseir funds to help build a mikvah, shul, support the local hachnosas orchim fund, chevra kadisho and the like.

We should note that the dispute has nothing to do with the relative value of the various uses. The issue is only the proper use of one’s ma’aseir money.

Having established that nowadays one may use his ma’aseir money to support all mitzvah causes we have to consider whether sponsoring the publication of seforim falls into this category.

The Omar Shmuel (res YD 4) was asked by a poor talmid chochom who didn’t have enough extra money to publish his chiddushei Torah, if he could use his personal ma’aseir money to cover the cost.

The Omar Shmuel replied that for several reasons he is permitted to use ma’aseir money. The reasons are very important because they enable us to determine when his ruling applies.

His reasons are based on the Gemoro’s explanation (Kesubos 50A) of the virtue that is described in Tehillim: “Happy is the one… whose tsedokoh is everlasting.” The question is that when one gives a poor person money (the usual act of tsedokoh) the act is transitory. He gives tsedokoh and the tsedokoh is finished. The pasuk is obviously describing something that is different.

The Gemoro lists two acts of tsedokoh where the tsedokoh is everlasting, and the Omar Shmuel says that both apply to one who publishes his chiddushei Torah. The first is one who studies Torah subjects and then teaches them to others. Rashi explains that the tsedokoh action is that he toiled in order to teach students. One who pays for publishing chiddushei Torah is performing this act since he is helping to impart Torah knowledge to others.

The second act that is classified as everlasting tsedokoh is one who lends his seforim to others. The Omar Shmuel reasons that one who pays to publish chiddushei Torah is performing this act as well since he is using his money to make seforim of Torah available to others. Since the Gemoro describes these as being acts of tsedokoh he reasons that one may use his ma’aseir money to enable these acts to take place just like he may use his ma’aseir money to enable him to give money to a poor person, the classic act of tsedokoh.

He adds that whereas the second reason is only valid according to those who maintain that one may use ma’aseir money in order to perform all mitzvos (here the mitzvah is to lend to others) the first reason is valid according to all opinions since it is supporting Torah study. However, this last statement may not apply to your sefer if its purpose is not Torah study but to return Jews to Torah practice. If your sefer also includes Torah content then it would apply to your sefer.

We should note that the argument that an act that is described as being an act of tsedokoh qualifies as a ma’aseir expense is not a new argument of the Omar Shmuel. It was first advanced by the Maram Matz and the Sefer Chassidim, two very early sources, in order to permit use of one’s ma’aseir money to buy seforim in order to lend to the public. This is cited by many including the Maharshal, Taz (249, 1) and Shach (249, 1). What is new is the Omar Shmuel’s application to one who pays for publishing seforim.

We should note further that the consensus of modern poskim (Chazon Ish (cited by Orchos Rabbeinu (vol 3 page 138), Shevet Halevi (7, 195) and others) is that the particular application to one who buys seforim and lends to others applies nowadays only to one who actually places the seforim that he purchases with his ma’aseir money in places that are used by the public to study Torah since nowadays people don’t usually borrow seforim from private homes.

Similar to the Omar Shmuel, the Orchos Rabbeinu (1, page 300) testifies that the Steipler (he was his chavrusa) would use money that others gave him to distribute to tsedokoh to help people to publish their seforim.

Two conditions apply to this ruling. One, which is stipulated by the Omar Shmuel himself, is that when the author sells the sefer the profits must be used for expenses that also qualify as ma’aseir expenses because otherwise the ma’aseir money was used to generate income for the author. If the author is poor and needs the money to live then he can keep the money since in any case people can use their ma’aseir money to support him. However, if not then he must use the money either to help publish more seforim or give it to a tsedokoh cause.

The second condition follows from the rationale that was cited above. Since the reason use of ma’aseir money is permitted is because it is being used to disseminate Torah knowledge, the sefer must serve this purpose. For example, sometimes people publish seforim about Judaism that do not impart Torah knowledge e.g. Jewish history, culture, biographies. Based on the above, worthwhile as they may be, one could not use his ma’aseir money to help publish these seforim. Also sometimes people publish seforim that don’t fill a public need e.g. an obscure deceased relative’s Torah notes that will not be studied by the public. Again, helping publish these seforim would not qualify as a ma’aseir expense since they will not impart Torah knowledge to the public at large.

In the Derech Emuno (1, Matnos Aniyim 7, Tziyun Halocho 60) R. Chaim Kanievsky says that the Chazon Ish ruled similarly, that the only seforim that one may use ma’aseir money to help publish are those that contain Torah knowledge that is needed by the public. The Chazon Ish derived his ruling from the halocho that one may use ma’aseir money to purchase a sefer Torah that is needed by the public. He adds that even if a sefer does not meet this qualification, if the author is poor and he will use the money that he will earn from sale of the seforim to help support himself, one may use his ma’aseir money to help publish the sefer since the donor is helping a poor person to earn a livelihood, one of the highest forms of tsedokoh.

In conclusion: If there is a public need for your sefer, then the sponsor can certainly use his ma’aseir money to help pay for its publication if he does not advertise. Be’ezras Hashem next week we will deal with the advertising issue.



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