Question: If you use maaser k’safim funds to purchase raffle tickets from a tz’dakah fundraiser raffle or Chinese auction, who owns the prize?
Short Answer: There is no short answer. The contemporary poskim dispute whether the organization owns the prize or the purchaser of the ticket does. Therefore, it is appropriate to end our learning of the laws of tz’dakah with a reminder that we should all strive to give as much as we can, without needing incentives and prizes to encourage our giving.
I. Prize Is Owned by Tz’dakah
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (cited in Shalmei Simchah, Vol. 6, 9:1) holds that if one uses maaser k’safim funds to purchase a raffle ticket from a tz’dakah fundraiser or Chinese auction, then the prize (if he wins) goes back to the tz’dakah organization. He reasons that even if one makes a t’nai (stipulation) that if he wins then he wants the cost of the ticket to be from his non-maaser funds, this does not work. Indeed, it is comparable to someone who makes a “deal” with his partner, that if the partnership wins, he gets the prize, but if the partnership loses, then the partner pays the ticket. Because this deal is nonsensical for the partner, no one would make this deal, and therefore “maaser” would not make this deal either. The sefer Hilchos Tz’dakah (8:11) notes that this was also the opinion of Rav Elyashiv zt”l.
Rav Nissim Karelitz shlita (Chut Shani 2, p. 331) agrees with Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l that the tz’dakah organization owns the prize, but suggests that while one may perform the above-mentioned t’nai, it is not the proper thing to do.
Likewise, Rav Y.Y. Fischer (Even Yisrael 8:64) rules that the tz’dakah organization owns the prize, since essentially the purchaser used the object of his friend (i.e., here, the maaser k’safim funds) to make a profit, and the Gemara (in Bava M’tzia 34a) rules that the profit belongs to the friend.
Additionally, Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita (Derech Emunah 7:4) rules that the tz’dakah organization owns the prize, because the ticket has inherent monetary value (because it is worth X percent of winning), and that value was purchased using maaser k’safim funds.
II. You Completely Own the Prize
On the other end of the halachah spectrum is the opinion of the Sheivet HaLevi (9:200) who holds that the purchaser of the ticket owns the prize that he purchased using maaser k’safim funds. [Note, though, that he must give maaser from the winnings.] He reasons that since the tz’dakah organization benefits from the cost of the ticket, there is no fear that the impoverished will not benefit. Furthermore, because we do not analyze how the impoverished spend their tz’dakah proceeds, we do not care if the tz’dakah organization decides to reward winners with prizes. [As an aside, the Even Yisrael (ibid) challenges this Sheivet HaLevi, that even if the impoverished benefit from the proceeds of the cost of the ticket, who says that the purchaser can keep the prize, which came from the cost of the ticket!]
The Eimek HaT’shuvah (2:83) likewise rules that the purchaser of the ticket owns the prize. He likens this case to a situation where a person designates maaser k’safim funds on condition that he can borrow some of the funds for personal use before he gives it to the impoverished. If the purchaser wins the prize, all he is simply doing is retaining the proceeds from his “borrowed” funds, which is permissible. See also sefer Y’vakeish Torah (Yoreh Dei’ah 96).
Similarly, the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (3:289) rules that the purchaser of the ticket owns the prize. The logic is simple: The tz’dakah organization can use its funds however it wants for the betterment of the organization. Because people will not donate if they have to return the prize to the organization, the organization chooses to award prizes as part of the uses of the maaser k’safim funds. However, the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos concludes that one should ideally not purchase tickets using maaser k’safim funds, and certainly not more than 20 percent of maaser k’safim funds should be used in this manner.
III. The Middle Ground
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Orach Chayim 4:76:2) suggests a middle approach. If there is a cap on the amount of ticket purchases – e.g., the organization caps the tickets at 360 – then maaser k’safim funds cannot be used in this raffle because each ticket has a set value, here 1/360 of the prize winnings. However, if there is no cap on the ticket purchases, then maaser k’safim funds may be used and the prize belongs to the purchaser for the same reason given by the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos above, that the prize is a present from the organization.
The sefer Tz’dakah U’Mishpat (1, n. 85) appears to adopt the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l but adds that ideally the winner should deduct the cost of the ticket from his maaser k’safim funds.
IV. A Fourth Approach
Interestingly, the Shalmei Simchah cites from the Birkas HaBayis a fourth approach. The purchaser should assess before the raffle the percentage of the cost of the ticket that is being used to purchase the prize, and deduct that amount from the maaser k’safim funds. In other words, if 30 percent of the ticket is being used to purchase prizes, the purchaser may only use maaser k’safim funds for the remaining 70 percent of the cost of the ticket.
New Series Next Week: Kaddish
First Topic: What is the origin of Kaddish Yasom – the Mourner’s Kaddish?