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If a Child Loses Tzedakah Money, Is He Liable to Pay?

Rav Baruch Fried

Question: Somebody arranges a neighborhood carnival to raise funds for tzedakah. One boy is given the job to take the money and give out the tickets. After a while, he gets bored and walks off, and some of the money goes missing. Is he obligated to pay for the lost money?

Answer: The simple answer is no; you cannot obligate him to pay. A katan is not a bar shemirah – he cannot become a custodian. Therefore, one shouldn’t use a minor as a shomer unless he is willing to take the risk.

Whether or not the organizer is liable for the money that the child lost would be another question. Perhaps he had no choice, but otherwise, he should not have entrusted a child with tzedakah money. Children cannot be expected to always act responsibly; especially at a carnival where there is a lot going on and you know that a child will get distracted.

In general, it’s important to know that you cannot give maaser money to a katan, [unless the child is an ani and is collecting for himself]. If a child comes collecting to your door, it is considered a peshia to give him your maaser money. You can give him your own money if you want, but don’t entrust him with tzedakah money as he cannot be expected to keep track of it.

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