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Prepaying Ma’aser

Rav Baruch Fried

Case: Reuven has a business and usually takes off ma’aser at the end of each year. This year, he made a very profitable deal that netted him a large profit.

Question: He wants to designate all this money as ma’aser, thereby “prepaying” his ma’aser for the profits he hopes to make in the next few years. Is that okay?

Answer: While paying ma’aser in advance sounds like a wonderful thing to do, the Nodah B’Yehuda actually takes issue with the practice. He says that the source of ma’aser kesafim is ma’aser tevuah, and, of course, one cannot take ma’aser from his crops until they grow. Therefore, he discourages the idea of taking ma’aser kesafim before the money is earned.

B’dieved, he says that the practice of prepaying ma’aser can work, as we find that the Mishnah says that one can lend money to a Kohen, Levi or poor person, and pay back the loan to himself from his terumos and ma’asros that grow later on. So too, one can prepay his ma’aser kesafim by, in effect, lending the money to ma’aser and then paying it back to himself when he earns it. L’chatchilah, however, the Noda B’Yehuda does not encourage this practice.

The Chofetz Chaim does allow for ma’aser to be prepaid, provided this was the intention of the donor when he began the practice of giving ma’aser.

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