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Business Weekly: Robbed!

The following is from Business Weekly

A project of the Business Halacha Institute Hotline

Under the auspices of HaRav Chaim Kohn

Submitted by A. Dahan

Robbed!Unfortunately, I was robbed recently. As I was thinking about all the different things that were taken, it occurred to me that ma’aser money that I had put aside was also stolen.

Q: Am I responsible to “repay” the stolen maaser money?

A: At first glance, it would seem that you are responsible to replace the stolen ma’aser money. The Mishnah in Bikkurim (2:4) contrasts bikkurim with terumah and ma’aser. One difference is: if something happens to one’s bikkurim, he is responsible to replace the loss; when it comes to terumah and ma’aser, once they were set aside, he isn’t responsible to replace the loss. The basic explanation for this distinction is that the primary mitzvah of terumah and ma’aser is to set aside the produce and declare it as terumah and ma’aser. Once it is set aside, the produce belongs to the shevet. All that remains is the obligation to deliver it to a worthy person. If it is stolen at that point, one does not have to replace it, since the product had already become property of the shevet. The mitzvah of bikkurim, in contrast, is not fulfilled by merely setting aside produce as bikkurim, but by bringing the bikkurim to the Bais Hamikdash. Consequently, if one’s bikkurim was stolen before it was brought to the Bais Hamikdash, it must be replaced. Seemingly, although the root obligation of ma’aser money is derived from the mitzvah of separating teruma and ma’aser, it is similar to bikkurim in that the mitzvah is not to separate the money, but to deliver it to the poor. Therefore, if it was stolen before it reached a poor person, it would seem that the mitzvah was not fulfilled and the money must be replaced.

However, Pischei Teshuvah (Yoreh Deah 249:1) cites Teshuvas Arba’ah Turei Even who addresses a case where ma’aser money was stolen. He writes that as long as you did not cause damage to the money or use the money for yourself before it was stolen, you aren’t responsible to replace it.

Teshuvas Shevet HaLevi (vol. 5 siman 139) also rules that one is not responsible to replace ma’aser money that no longer exists: Even though the mitzvah is modeled after the mitzvah of tithing one’s produce, we are not stricter with ma’aser money, which according to most opinions is a minhag, than we are with ma’aser produce.

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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)

3 Responses

  1. I know this may sound like a silly question, but once you separate ma’aser, don’t you become, in essence, a shomer chinam?

    The Wolf

  2. >I know this may sound like a silly question, but once you separate ma’aser, don’t you become, in essence, a shomer chinam?

    … who is *exempt* in the case of theft.

  3. It would seem that the issue at hand is whether one has fulfilled his obligation of giving maaser by simply seperating it, (and thus his only responsibility is that of a shomer chinam who is not liable for theft) or perhaps so long as he has not handed the money to the appropriate recepient he has not fulfilled his obligation. As such, his liability is not due to theft but rather because he still has not given his maaser.

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