Laws of Ma’aser Ksofim and Tzedakah

  1. It is permitted for a person to use ma’aser money to pay
    the wedding expenses of his child (especially if he is a talmid chochom), but
    only if he intended to do so from the moment he incurred the expense. It is
    also permitted to invest ma’aser money in a closed savings account for one’s
    children because they will certainly need the money when they grow up.
    Nevertheless, a person shouldn’t give all his ma’aser money to his
    children. He should divide it and give as much to needy strangers as to his
    relatives.

  2. There is an opinion that a person who is burdened by many
    debts may use his ma’aser money to defray them when he has no other way of
    paying them off.

  3. The purchase with ma’aser money of sifrei kodesh
    for oneself and to lend to others (the seforim should be inscribed with
    the words: purchased with ma’aser money) is permitted, but only in
    circumstances of great financial difficulty.

  4. Ma’aser money may be lent to the poor or to a person who
    is well off but in financial straits. It is permitted to forgo repayment of
    the loan so that he will not be ashamed to receive assistance.

  5. A person who accepts the obligation to support his married
    children may do so from ma’aser money if he intended to use his ma’aser
    money when he accepted the obligation. Nevertheless, it is best that he divide
    his ma’aser money and give half to his children and half to the poor.

  6. Ma’aser money may not be used to defray the expense of
    obligations to give to the poor (e.g., matanos li-evionim) or to cover
    other charity expenses, such as promises to contribute to the synagogue
    unless, at the time of obligating himself, a person intended to use his ma’aser
    money.

  7. It is permitted to use ma’aser money for the public
    welfare. It may be used, for example, to build a synagogue, a beis midrash, a
    mikveh, to set up an eruv etc. and to pay for their upkeep.

  8. A person can use his ma’aser money to finance another person’s
    medical care unless he is, for whatever reason, obligated to pay for it.
    Therefore, ma’aser money may not used to pay for the medical care of
    children under the age of six or for the medical care of his wife. The
    halachah requires him to provide for their medical needs.

  9. If a person is in doubt as to whether he took ma’aser
    from his income, or whether a certain sum of money is ma’aser or not, he
    should consult with his Rav, for the laws pertaining to these issues are
    detailed and complex. Rebbe Chaim of Vilozhin reports (in sefer Shaarei
    Rachamim
    ) that once he was in doubt weather he had taken ma’aser
    (one-fifth) of his income. He decided that he could be lenient and assume that
    he did. Shortly after that, his servant lost a pail in the well, and then an
    axe. Rebbe Chaim calculated that they were worth exactly the sum of the ma’aser
    money which he had exempted himself from paying. He promptly designated that
    sum for ma’aser and both the pail and the axe were recovered.