*Question**: When giving maaser k’safim, may a
person estimate the ten percent (or five percent) he plans on giving to
tz’dakah, or must he give an exact ten percent (or five percent)?*

*Short Answer**: The poskim debate whether one must give
an exact ten percent (or five percent) of maaser k’safim. The best practice is
to stipulate that the first ten percent you give constitutes the mitzvah of
maaser k’safim, and any extra is just general tz’dakah.*

*Explanation:*

**I.
The Lesson From Avos**

The Mishnah (in *Avos*
1:16) states that “*Al tarbeh laaser omdos* (Do not frequently tithe by
estimation).” While the simple explanation of the *mishnah* refers to
tithing crops, the *Chavos Yair* (224) applies this *mishnah* to *maaser
k’safim*,as well. In other words, do not estimate your *maaser
k’safim*, but rather give an exact amount (i.e., exactly ten or five
percent). Indeed, the *Chavos Yair* cites the *Tosafos Yom Tov* (on *Avos*
ibid) who understands the *mishnah’s *requirement as not limited to
“frequently” giving based on estimation, but rather a requirement for an
individual to give an exact amount *every* time. This *Chavos Yair*
is cited as well by the *Pischei T’shuvah* (*Yoreh Dei’ah* 249:2).

**II.
Reasons and Further Support**

The *Meiri*
(on *Avos* ibid.) likewise states that a person should make a calculation
of his earnings and give an exact amount of *maaser k’safim*, because if
he merely estimates, he will end up giving less than the proper amount. This
reason is also found in the *Tosafos Yom Tov*, cited by the *Chavos Yair*
mentioned above.

However, other *Acharonim
*suggest different reasons for why *maaser k’safim* should be
calculated and given exactly. Specifically, the *K’neses HaG’dolah* (*Yoreh
Dei’ah* 249) rules that *maaser k’safim* should be calculated and given
exactly, because *maaser k’safim* has a “*sod*” – deep secret to the *mitzvah*.
The *Pele Yoetz*, cited by the *sefer Leket T’shuvah U’Tz’dakah* (p.
384), appears to agree to such reasoning. The *sefer* *Y’shuas Daniel*
(144:11) also suggests that the *Hafla’ah* agrees with this opinion and
reasoning. Similarly, the *sefer* *Shaarei Avraham* (p. 518) cites
Rav Shimshon Mei’Ostrepoli, that since *maaser k’safim *pushes off the “*klipos*”
– the impurities, according to *Kabalah* it must be given exactly.

The *Avkas
Rachel* (Siman 3), as well as the Chidah (*Birkei Yosef*, 249:8), give
a slightly different reason why *maaser k’safim* should be calculated
exactly. Since the Gemara in *Taanis* (9a) allows you to test Hashem by *maaser
k’safim, *i.e., give ten percent and expect that Hashem will repay you, it
is important that you give a precise amount, so that the “test” works.

**III.
Estimation is Okay**

The *Pischei
T’shuvah* (*Yoreh Dei’ah* 249:2), after citing the *Chavos Yair*,
brings the *Mishnas Chachamim* (on *Avos* ibid.) who disagrees and
holds that *maaser k’safim* can be estimated. Indeed, one can, of course,
give more than the ten percent (or five percent). The *sefer Y’shuas Daniel*
(144:11) notes that the Maharil and the *sefer Yosef Ometz* agree to this
opinion.

**IV.
In Practice**

The Chofetz Chaim
(*Ahavas Chesed* 2:19:3, footnote) cites both opinions, but concludes that
ideally one should give the precise ten percent as *maaser k’safim. *If
one wants to give more than ten percent, but not exactly 15 percent, the
Chofetz Chaim suggests that he should first give ten percent as *maaser
k’safim*, and then give any extra as general *tz’dakah*. Notably, Rav
Chaim Kanievsky, cited by the *sefer Shaarei Avraham* (p. 518), states
that one only needs to make such a stipulation once, as opposed to each time he
gives *tz’dakah*.

Similarly, the *sefer*
*Tz’dakah U’Mishpat* (5:10) holds that ideally one should give the precise
ten percent as *maaser k’safim*, and cites a ruling from the *Noda
BiYehudah* that one should scrupulously record his income in order to
properly give *maaser k’safim.*

On the other hand, the *Sheivet HaLevi*
(5:133:3) also notes both opinions, but concludes that there is no problem if a
person wants to estimate, as long as he surely gives ten percent. Indeed, the *Sheivet
HaLevi* acknowledges that nowadays it is very hard to calculate the exact
amount of *maaser k’safim*.

**V.
Reasoning**

The *sefer* *Chavatzeles
HaSharon* (*Toldos*, p. 409-410) suggests the reasoning behind this
debate (whether exactly ten percent needs to be given or whether estimation is
allowed). The issue is whether *maaser k’safim *is considered a subset of
regular *maaser *on crops or whether it is a subset of *tz’dakah*. If
it is part of *maaser*, then an exact ten percent must be given, as
opposed to if it is a part of *tz’dakah*, where the exact amount is not as
important, and an estimate can be given.

Based on this
understanding, the *Chavatzeles HaSharon* explains why the Rambam (*Hilchos
M’lachim* 9:1) writes that Yitzchak Avinu, as opposed to Avraham Avinu,
instituted *maaser*. Indeed, the Raavad queries on the Rambam from
Avraham, who the *pasuk* says gave *maaser*. But, the *Chavatzeles
HaSharon* answers that while Avraham may have given *tz’dakah*
generally, Yitzchak was the first one to give “*mei’ah sh’arim*” – i.e.,
an exact amount.

*Next
Week’s Topic:* Must
you give *maaser k’safim* from (i) a gift, (ii) an inheritance, or (iii)
insurance payout/litigation damages?

**Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. ***is Assistant to the Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email EphraimGlatt@gmail.com.*