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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.