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Business Weekly: A Generous Pledge

The following is from Business Weekly

A project of the Business Halacha Institute

Under the auspices of HaRav Chaim Kohn

by Rabbi Meir Orlian, Yerushalayim

“Please make sure you’re home early tonight,” Mrs. Hyman said to her husband. “We have an affair to attend at 8:00. It’s the annual dinner of American Friends of Refuah Hospital in Israel.”

“Refuah Hospital…” Bernard Hyman said thoughtfully. “Isn’t that the hospital we gave $36,000 to last year?”

“That’s right,” answered Mrs. Hyman. “They’ve embarked on a major campaign this year to renovate the hospital.”

“Unfortunately, something urgent came up at the office,” Mr. Hyman apologized. “I must make phone calls overseas this evening, so I won’t be able to attend. You go.”

Mrs. Hyman headed off to the dinner, which was attended by many philanthropists. Pledge cards began with $1,800 for small equipment and reached $2,500,000 for naming a renovated hospital wing.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the number of pediatric patients at Refuah during the recent years,” announced the hospital director. “We have attracted top-notch pediatric specialists, and the department is operating way beyond its intended capacity. We are also planning a new, state-of-the-art pediatric surgical and rehab center.

“Tonight’s dinner,” he concluded, “is earmarked for the renovation and expansion of the pediatric department. We ask you to open your hearts – and your checkbooks – generously to enable us to heal more Jewish children and help them resume healthy functioning.”

Mrs. Hyman looked at the pledge card. $36,000 barely covered a doctor’s office; a treatment room cost $100K.

Each year the Hymans made some very substantial donations to worthy causes. “This seems a very worthy cause for this year,” Mrs. Hyman thought. She checked the box to dedicate a treatment room.

When she came home, Bernard asked, “What happened at the dinner?”

“They’re renovating the pediatrics department and also opening a pediatric surgical and rehab center,” responded his wife. “I decided to dedicate a treatment room: The Bernard and Shirley Hyman Treatment Room.”

“How much did you pledge for the room?” asked her husband.

“$100,000,” she said. “It’s more than we gave last year, but it’s really a cause that deserves support.”

“You can’t make such a large pledge!” gulped Mr. Hyman. “I planned to endow a scholarship fund at the yeshiva where the boys learned.”

“But I already agreed to finance the treatment room,” said Mrs. Hyman. “I thought you would agree. We can’t back out now.”

“I’ll have to talk this over with Rabbi Tzedek,” said Bernard.

He went over to Rabbi Tzedek’s house and asked him, “Can my wife obligate me in such a large sum of tzedakah?”

Rabbi Tzedek said, “Nowadays, a woman can usually pledge a significant amount to tzedakah without the husband’s explicit permission. However, this applies only to a reasonable amount that the husband might authorize her to pledge, which varies from couple to couple, but not to such a large sum.

“The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is permissible to accept small donations from a woman, but not large ones, since we suspect that she is giving money that belongs to her husband (Y.D. 248:4),” Rabbi Tzedek continued. “Later authorities note, though, that if the woman manages household finances, as is typical nowadays, she would be entitled to make significant donations if the husband is not known to object (Yad Avraham ibid.; Pischei Teshuva E.H. 91:1). However, this depends on the degree of authority that the husband grants his wife in the couple’s assets. When it comes to such a large sum, she is not empowered to pledge unilaterally. If the husband protests her actions, she certainly cannot pledge on his behalf (Shevet Halevi II:118; Igros Moshe E.H. I:103; Responsa Rosh 13:11).”

“What about the fact that my wife promised to donate this money?” asked Bernard.

“A husband is able to annul his wife’s vow if it impinges upon the marriage, provided that he annuls the vow on the day he hears of it (Y.D. 234:55,21). Since this pledge causes the husband a loss, it is considered by many poskim as one that impinges upon the marriage (Minchat Shlomo II:110). Therefore, your wife’s generous pledge does not obligate you,” concluded Rabbi Tzedek. “However, you might consider whether you would like to honor it anyway out of respect for your wife.”

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Please be advised: These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision.

(YWN Desk – NYC)

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