In order to help me learn in a kollel in Eretz Yisroel my parents give us four thousand dollars a month. The reason why they give this amount is because our rent costs two thousand dollars, and, since my wife is still studying, we need about two thousand dollars to live. My parents are always careful to give ma’aseir on their income so I wanted to know if I have to give ma’aseir again and if yes, do I have to give ma’aseir on the entire amount?
Let us begin with your final point that your parents already gave ma’aseir from this money. The basis for your question is that you are comparing ma’aseir on a person’s money to ma’aseir from one’s crop where once ma’aseir has been given, one need not and cannot give again. While there is an opinion (Maharil Hachadoshos 109) that ma’aseir on one’s money is similar to ma’aseir on one’s crop, this is not the consensus opinion and not the custom.
For example the Taz (YD 331, 32) discusses dowries that are received by the chosson. He says that it is a misconception that a chosson does not have to tithe the dowry that he receives from his parents since ma’aseir on one’s money is not like ma’aseir on one’s crop. The crop that grows on ground in Eretz Yisroel is initially forbidden to be eaten because it has the status of tevel and one must tithe it in order to render it fit for consumption. However, money has no special status. It is just that when one receives money he has to give ten percent to proper causes. It is similar in that sense to taxes. An employee is required to pay tax on income he receives from his employer even though the employer paid corporate taxes. The rationale is that each body needs to pay tax on its income. Similarly, each person who receives money, whether he earns it or receives it as a present or even if he finds it, must give ma’aseir on his income. This is also the ruling of other early poskim like the Rosh (Takonos Ma’aseir) and the Shelo (Gemoro Megillah) and modern poskim like Rav Moshe Feinstein (YD 2, 112).
We should note that, according to some opinions, it is even possible for a person to have to give ma’aseir twice on the same money. This happens if a person lost money and gave up hope of having it returned and later on it was returned. Some maintain (Haflo’o Kesubos 50A) that since when the owner gave up hope it is as if he lost the money, therefore, when he gets it back it is like he had new income. While this argument is correct others argue that since one had to lose money in order to “earn” this money, he does not have to give ma’aseir since his gain is offset by his loss.
This was the ruling of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Kol Torah 39) concerning restitution for property that was taken away during the holocaust. He ruled that one need not give ma’aseir on the money he receives as compensation for the loss of his own money. If it was his parents’ property he needs to give ma’aseir since it is no different from any other inheritance on which one must give ma’aseir. However, if it was his own he need not give ma’aseir because one can look at it as a forced sale where payment was made decades later.
In any case, the point is that one must give ma’aseir on money that previously had ma’aseir given on it, unlike a crop in Eretz Yisroel that only can be tithed once.
We should note further that actually your parents are probably gaining against their own ma’aseir by helping you since if they give you on their own volition and you are needy they can count the money they give you as a ma’aseir donation and deduct the entire amount from their ma’aseir obligation.
Before considering whether you have to give ma’aseir on the money that is earmarked for your rent it is necessary to consider whether one has to give ma’aseir on goods he receives. This is a very common issue since many couples receive an apartment that was paid for by their parents and the question arises whether the couple needs to donate a tenth of the value of the apartment as ma’aseir.
This issue is the subject of a three way dispute among modern poskim. One approach is the opinion of Rav S.Z. Auerbach (ibid) and Rav Y. Y. Fisher (Even Yisro’eil 9, 92) who ruled that one has to give ma’aseir even on goods that he receives. Rav Auerbach agreed that one does not have to sell his apartment in order to give ma’aseir but over time as funds become available he should give the ma’aseir.
The second opinion was advanced by the Chazon Ish, as explained by the Steipler, who maintained that one is not required to give ma’aseir from objects. The Steipler (Orchos Rabbeinu 1, 296) explained that the Chazon Ish’s rationale was that when one gives ma’aseir he is doing so in order to fulfill the mitzvah of tsedoko and one is not required to sell his property in order to fulfill the mitzvah of tsedoko. Following this line of reasoning, it would seem that when one does sell his apartment he will have to give ma’aseir since, according to the Steipler, the Chazon Ish does not say that one does not have to give ma’aseir from goods. He merely says that one needn’t give ma’aseir when it requires selling the goods.
However, the Chut Shoni (Shabbos 2, page 331) of Rav Nissim Karelitz rules that one does not have to give ma’aseir even after he sells the goods and has money. His rationale is (explained in Yom Tov page 351) that ma’aseir kesofim is a minhag and there is no minhag to give ma’aseir from objects. Therefore, he maintains that when one sells the apartment he does not need to give ma’aseir either because at that stage he is just exchanging his object for money but not earning any more money. This was also the opinion of Rav Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5, 133, 7) that since there is no minhag to give ma’aseir on objects, one does need to give ma’aseir when he receives an object as a present.
This issue pertains to your question as well. For example, the Chut Shoni writes that if one’s parents give him exactly the amount he needs for his rent and if there is extra money he needs to return it, then he does not need to give ma’aseir on the rental money. This is a logical consequence of his opinion that one does not need to give ma’aseir when he receives a good since a rental is just a short term purchase. Just like if one’s parents give him exactly the amount he needs to purchase an apartment, according to this approach, the son does not need to give ma’aseir on the money because essentially the parents gave him the apartment, so too if one’s parents give him exactly the rental money the son would not need to give ma’aseir on the rental money since it is as if the parents rented the apartment.
Even if one follows the opinion that one needs to give ma’aseir even when he receives goods there is a way to avoid giving ma’aseir on the rental money. Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emuno vol 1, chapter 7 Tzi’yun Hahalocho 67) writes in the name of the Chazon Ish, that if parents pay directly to the owner of a rental on behalf of their children the children do not need to take off ma’aseir because they never receive money. Even if the parents give the money to their children on behalf of the owner of the apartment the children do not need to set aside ma’aseir because the children can have in mind not to acquire the money for themselves but rather to accept it on behalf of the owner.
We should note that this tactic would work even according to Rav S.Z. Auerbach since when one rents his net value doesn’t increase so he hasn’t acquired anything.
There is one final issue that pertains to the entire amount that your parents give. Rav Mosh Feinstein (YD 2, 112) was asked by an avreich whose father-in-law gave him ten thousand dollars in order to live off the profit and continue learning. (This was in 1967 when that was reasonable.) The son-in-law wanted to give ma’aseir on the ten thousand dollars but his father-in-law objected since it would cause him to have to give an additional amount in order to enable his son-in-law to continue learning.
Rav Moshe ruled that if the father-in-law objects, the son-in-law may not give ma’aseir. The reason is because one may place conditions on his presents, which is what the father-in-law did. We should note that the Chazon Ish agrees (Derech Emuno ibid) since he specifically addresses this issue when he discusses whether a child who receives money to buy something needs to give ma’aseir and he comments that the child must give ma’aseir because his parents would not mind. This implies that if they do mind the child is not allowed to give ma’aseir.
In conclusion: If your parents expressly mind, you may not give ma’aseir. However, if they do not expressly object you have to give ma’aseir on the two thousand dollars that you can spend as you please. On the two thousand dollars that your parents give to pay for your rent you should have in mind that you are accepting the money on behalf of the owner if you do not wish to give ma’aseir on that amount. If you can arrange that your parents pay the owner directly, that would be even better.