Story LineVirtual AcquisitionRabbi Meir Orlean
A new year is under way. Rabbi Dayan wishes all his readers a happy and healthy year, one of spiritual growth and material success.
Unnoticed to many is the transition from the second to third year of the Shemittah cycle. Of what consequence is that?
“Many people will be in Eretz Yisrael during the year,” Rabbi Dayan told his congregation. “In years 1-2 and 4-5 of the Shemittah cycle, we designate maaser sheini, which is redeemed on a coin. However, in years 3 and 6, in place of maaser sheini we designate maaser ani, which is given to a poor person or a tzedakah organization that distributes to poor people.
“Fruits and vegetables are different in this regard,” Rabbi Dayan pointed out. “Vegetables picked during 5778 are obligated in maaser ani. However, only fruits that begin growing after Tu BiShvat 5778 are liable in maaser ani, even if picked after next Rosh Hashanah” (Y.D. 331:125-126).
“If I buy in a store in Eretz Yisrael, do I need to give maaser ani?” asked Yisrael.
“If the store has hashgachah (rabbinic supervision), terumos and maasros were already taken,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The issue is for produce straight from the field.”
“I can see giving maaser ani on a commercial level,” said Yisrael. “However, how does this work on a small, home-garden level? If I pick five tomatoes, I don’t see myself knocking on my poor neighbor’s door and saying, ‘I heard that you’re struggling financially. Here’s half a tomato of maaser ani to help you along’!”
“I agree!” laughed Rabbi Dayan. “That would not be an appropriate thing to do.”
“Then how can I give the maaser ani?” asked Yisrael. “Must I give the produce itself, or can I just give equivalent money to tzedakah instead?”
“There are three basic options to allow giving the equivalent to tzedakah,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “But you must still declare the maaser ani, as printed in the text for separation of terumah and maaser.” (See Mishpetei Eretz, Terumos Umaasros 17:5 ff.; Halichos Sadeh, vol. 185, pp. 5-15.)
“After the declaration, some permit simply giving the value of the maaser ani to tzedakah,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “Although the produce of maaser ani is never given in this manner, since the average poor person would certainly prefer money to a small quantity of produce, consent to exchange the produce for money is implicit” (Radbaz 1:340).
“A preferred option is through zochin l’adam shelo b’fanav — acquisition on behalf of another person,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “Someone who is not a member of the household should pick up the produce of maaser ani and acquire it on behalf of the gabbai tzedakah or administrator of the tzedakah organization. In this way the gabbai acquires the maaser ani and you fulfill the mitzvah of giving the maaser ani itself. Then you can give the maaser equivalent to that tzedakah, as if buying the maaser produce back from them with their explicit or implicit consent” (C.M. 243:1; 359:2; Shach 359:4; Machaneh Ephraim, Gezeilah #5).
“The third option, especially useful for someone who tithes often, utilizes the concept of ‘makirei kehunah,’” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “The Gemara (Gittin 30a) teaches that if a person always gives his tithes to a certain Kohen or Levi, Chazal awarded it to him automatically, even without a formal act of kinyan! Many apply this also to a poor person or gabbai tzedakah. Thus, some organizations offer an arrangement whereby you give a small sum of money ahead of time as a loan, to be repaid from the maaser ani, and you commit to give all your maaser ani to that organization throughout the year. Each time you tithe, they virtually acquire the maaser ani automatically. You can then retain it as repayment of the loan and deduct its estimated value from the remaining balance” (Rambam, Hil. Maaser 7:6; Rema, Y.D. 257:5; Shach, Y.D. 257:13).
From the BHI HotlinePaying Someone Else’s Ribbis
My son needed a credit card, and due to his poor credit rating, I arranged that a friend of mine should lend him his credit card. My son recently discovered that this violates the prohibition of ribbis. The credit-card company loaned money to my friend (credit-card holder), who in turn loaned the money to my son. When my son committed to make interest payments to the credit-card company, he was committing to pay more than he borrowed (ribbis). I feel terrible that my friend will now be stuck with making interest payments for my son’s purchases.
Q: Is there anything that we can do to prevent my friend from suffering a financial loss for the favor he did?
A: If you, the borrower’s father, wish to make the interest payments at your expense to the credit-card company, you may do so.
The Torah’s ribbis prohibition is violated when ribbis is paid to the lender by the borrower. Therefore one is permitted to approach a potential lender and commit to make interest payments if he extends an interest-free loan to the borrower (Y.D. 160:13) and provided that he doesn’t obligate himself to make accruing payments for the duration of the loan (Taz 160:6).
It is prohibited for the borrower to furnish or commit to reimburse the third party. The reason is that it makes it appear that the third party is the borrower’s agent.
According to some authorities, it is prohibited for the borrower to convince a third party to make his interest payment since it makes it appear as though the third party is acting as an agent of the borrower. Many others disagree and permit a borrower to ask a third party to pay ribbis to his lender so that he will be willing to lend him money. Asking a third party to make this payment is irrelevant provided that the third party uses his own money, since the interest did not go from the borrower to the lender (Shach, Y.D. 160:18; S.A. Harav, Ribbis 60).
Some contend that all opinions concur that the borrower may not inform the lender that a third party will give him money to ensure that the lender will issue a loan, since doing so makes it appear as though the third party is acting as an agent (Y.D. 160:13; S.A Harav ibid.). Others maintain that according to the lenient opinion, even this is permitted (see Chavas Daas 6; Pischei Teshuvah 9).
The above applies when the original loan was not an interest-bearing loan. There is a debate whether it applies when the original loan was an interest-bearing loan, as in your situation. Some authorities permit a third party to make interest payments provided that the borrower does not reimburse the third party nor ask someone to make the interest payments on his behalf (Bris Yehudah, Ikrei Dinim 6:1; Kuntres Acharon to Kitzur Dinei Ribbis 12:7, citing Rav Elyashiv and Rav Sternbuch).
Others contend that it is prohibited when the original loan was an interest-bearing loan (see Nesivos Shalom 160:13:[13-15]). In order to comply with all opinions, you should inform your friend that you are not paying the interest your son committed to pay him; rather, you are giving him a gift so that he will forgo the money that your son owes him (Chelkas Binyamin 160:13, d.h. “v’gam.” He also considers that in a situation where the original loan was interest-bearing, the borrower may be permitted to reimburse the third party at a later time, after the loan is repaid).
Please note that the likely breach of contract with the credit company is a separate issue not dealt with in this article.
Money mattersAdditional Examples of Ra’ui#380
Q: Are common forms of investment, e.g., bank accounts and stocks, considered ra’ui?
A: Money deposited in the bank is considered ra’ui, since the bank uses it and returns other money; it is like a loan. This is true even of a Jewish bank that has a heter iska, in which half of the money is formally defined as a pikadon (Pischei Teshuvah, C.M. 278:6; Pischei Choshen, Yerushah 2:36).
Similarly, most stocks are considered ra’ui, since their value is determined primarily by market trends or intangible assets of the company, not by its tangible assets (See Pischei Choshen, Yerushah 2:72; Responsa Etz Chaim (Kohn), C.M. #11).
If a tangible asset owned by the father increased in value after his death, before the estate was divided, if it increased through natural growth or appreciated due to external market forces, the bechor receives a double share in the increase. However, if the heirs invested effort to develop the asset, he does not receive double in the increase (C.M. 278:6; Shach 115:32).