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Using Ma’aser Money For Raffle Tickets

Rav Baruch fried

Question: Many organizations hold raffle campaigns as fundraisers. May one use ma’aser money to purchase raffle tickets?

Answer: The Taz says that one can use ma’aser money to buy an aliyah. Since the money is going to tzedakah, he rules that it is permissible to use one’s ma’aser money, even though one derives some personal benefit from it. (The Pischei Teshuva adds that if one wins an auction for an aliyah, he can only deduct from ma’aser the amount his bid  outbid the previous top bidder, as that is the only profit tzedakah received from his purchase.) Similarly, Rav Moshe Feinstein says that one can count a charitable donation he made towards ma’aser, even though he received a tax deduction for it. Again, since the money went to tzedakah, it doesn’t matter that the giver received some form of personal benefit as well.

On the other hand, Rav Chaim Kanievsky says that if someone purchases a raffle ticket using ma’aser money, the ticket now belongs to ma’aser; therefore, if he were to win the raffle, the winnings must all be given to tzedakah.

Rav Moshe writes that there are two distinct kinds of raffle campaigns. In some raffles, the ticket has a real value and the purchaser buys it with the belief that he has a genuine chance of winning. Since this raffle ticket has real value, one should not use ma’aser money to purchase it. If he does, presumably Rav Moshe would rule like Rav Chaim Kanievsky, that any winnings would belong to ma’aser.

The second type of raffle is where there is not a large chance of winning and the ticket itself is not really worth anything. In such raffles, it can be assumed that the purchaser would have given his donation in any case, and the raffle ticket is just an added perk the organization throws in as an enticement. This case is comparable to the Taz’s case where the individual is really giving a donation to the shul, and the aliyah is just a fringe benefit. Such a ticket can be purchased with ma’aser money. If the donor does end up winning, Rav Moshe says that he should give the cost of the ticket back to ma’aser. He also suggests that the winner should give the ma’aser from his prize to the organization he bought the ticket from.   

The same rule can be applied to other forms of fundraising. For example, if an organization arranges a concert and sells tickets as a fundraiser, if the tickets have real value, one should not use ma’aser money to purchase them. If they don’t have any real value and the price of the ticket is merely a “suggested donation”, one could buy them with ma’aser money, although he should deduct any actual benefit he receives. If, for example, he eats at a school dinner and pays the couvert fee from ma’aser, he should deduct the value of supper at home from the amount he is taking out of ma’aser.

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