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Beshalach-Using Ma’aseir Money to Get an Advertisement

 

Question

In the previous article we learned that generally one may use his ma’aseir money to sponsor the publication of a Torah sefer. We left open the question whether the sponsor may still use his ma’aseir money to pay for the sponsorship if in return for the sponsorship he is granted free advertisement for his business in the sefer.

Answer

In order to answer the question it is important to clarify the issue.

The Sifrei derives from a pasuk (Bamidbar 5, 10), that even though a kohein is entitled to receive terumah, he may not take the terumah from the one who set it aside, without his permission. The one who separates the terumah has the right to select the kohein to whom he will give his terumah. Thus, a farmer who set aside terumah may refuse to give it to kohanim who approach him because he wishes to dispense his terumah to his grandson who is a kohein. This right is known as tovas hano’o. The Gemoro (Bechoros 27A) even rules that a farmer may accept money from a non-kohein so that the farmer will give his terumah to the non-kohein’s grandson who is a kohein.

Thus we see that even though a non-kohein farmer does not own his terumah and cannot do whatever he wishes with his terumah since he must give it for free to a kohein, nevertheless he may derive benefits from his terumah even if they are worth money. It is these benefits that the Gemoro calls tovas hano’o.

There are other gifts to kohanim where the one who set it aside does not have this right. When one sets aside the portion which in the third and sixth year of the seven year shmitah cycle is given to a poor person, known as ma’aseir onei, he does not have the right to refuse any poor person who comes to him and asks for it. The Mishna in fact specifies exactly how much he must distribute to each poor person who approaches him. Thus, for this gift to others the owner of the field does not have tovas hano’o.

When it comes to tsedoko, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 257, 10) rules that an individual has the right to select the individual or cause he wishes to assist with his tsedoko. Thus, for example, while one should not turn anyone away empty-handed, nevertheless, he may and should support his poor relatives before others. One who collects funds from others must be fair and may not favor his relatives since it is not his money. However an individual has the right to decide how to spend the money he has set aside to fulfill the mitzvah of tsedoko i.e. he may derive tovas hano’o.

A very pertinent illustration of what is included in the category of tovas hano’o can be derived from a ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein (YD 1, 143). In many countries, including the U.S., when one donates to a qualifying charitable organization it reduces his tax-burden. Thus, suppose a person donated ten thousand dollars and since it lowered his taxable income he saved fifteen hundred dollars. The question is may the donor keep the savings for himself (and he will just need to give ma’aseir on the money he saved since his income increased) or do we say that, since the savings resulted from use of one’s ma’aseir, the entire savings bear the status of ma’aseir money.

Rav Moshe ruled that since the money that the tax-payer saved by giving tsedoko is only incidental to the donation, the money belongs to the tax-payer just like any other income that he earned.

Another example of tovas hano’o is discussed by the Taz (YD 249, 1). He rules that one may use his ma’aseir money in order to purchase an aliya to the Torah for his friend. If one purchases an aliya for himself he may use his ma’aseir money since one may use his ma’aseir money to enable himself to perform a mitzvah that he is not obligated to perform and otherwise could not perform. What the Taz derives from the rule that one has the right to derive tovas hano’o from his ma’aseir money is that one may even use the money to buy an aliya for another person even though the purchaser himself will not perform a mitzvah thereby and he will just improve his relationship with the one whom he will honor with the aliya. Since improving his relationship is viewed as an incidental benefit of the expense, one may use his ma’aseir money to pay for the aliya.

Another common question, which sheds light on what is considered tovas hano’o, concerns use of ma’aseir money to attend a yeshiva banquet. Both Rav Moshe Feinstein (CM 2, 58) and Rav Yacov Kamenetsky (Emes Leya’acov YD 249) ruled that one may use his ma’aseir money to pay for a ticket but he must exclude the amount he would have spent to eat this type of meal (which may be more than he spends on his regular supper). The reason is because receiving a meal is not an incidental benefit to the expense since people pay money to eat out.

The responsum of Rav Moshe Feinstein (OC 4, 76, 2) concerning the issue of use of ma’aseir money to pay for raffles where the proceeds will help support a tsedoko organization is very enlightening. Rav Moshe writes that one must differentiate between two types of raffles. If there is no limit on the amount of tickets that may be sold, then a raffle ticket is basically worthless and one may use his ma’aseir money to cover the entire cost of a ticket. The reason is because it is clear that the only reason he is buying the ticket is because he wishes to help the organization and the raffle ticket is an incidental benefit. However, if the organizers cap the amount of raffles that they will sell then a ticket has value. (We should note that this commitment is binding and the organization may not renege on its commitment.)

Rav Moshe compares it to any purchase of a debt obligation (including bonds). The value of the obligation is not the same as the face-value of the obligation, but, nevertheless it has value. Therefore, in this case one may not use his ma’aseir money to pay for the ticket just like he may not use his ma’aseir money to buy milk from a yeshiva even if the yeshiva makes a profit from the sale of the milk. The critical factor is not what the yeshiva earns but what one is giving. Therefore, if, based on the value of the prizes, the cost of a ticket and the amount of tickets that will be sold, people would sometimes buy such a ticket even if it was just a lottery and not sponsored by a worthwhile organization, then one may not use any of his ma’aseir money to pay for the ticket since it is not clear-cut that the money is being given as a contribution and not as an investment.

We should note that this ruling applies even for individuals who never buy lottery tickets since it suffices that some people would buy such tickets.

We should note that Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emuna, Matnas Aniyim 7, 5 in BH) independently rules basically the same as Rav Moshe and just adds (and Rav Moshe almost certainly agrees) that in case there is a cap on the amount of tickets even if the price is clearly higher than the amount anyone would normally pay, one may only use his ma’aseir money to pay for the clearly extra amount since up to a certain amount people would spend even if the seller was not a worthwhile cause. This is similar to the ruling of Rav Moshe and Rav Yacov concerning a yeshiva banquet.

Another illustration of this principle is a ruling of the Chazon Ish (Orchos Rabbeinu 1, 303). He ruled that if it is clear that the only reason one is purchasing a sefer from a poor author is because he wants to support the author then he may use his ma’aser money to pay for the sefer. He adds that the customer may afterwards keep the sefer for himself. Again the rationale is that the sefer is an incidental benefit of the charitable purchase.

Based on the above, we can answer your question. If it is clear that people would not spend money to advertise in your sefer then, since it is obvious that the only reason the sponsor is giving you money is because he wants to help publish the sefer, he can write off the entire amount he gave you as a ma’aseir expense and we classify the advertisement that he will receive as tovas hano’o. However, if people would pay money to advertise in your sefer motivated solely by business considerations, then he could only write off the amount that is clearly more than the amount anyone would spend to advertise in this publication.

 

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