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Shabbat Parashat Shelach | 5768

Removing a Distributor of Tzedaka Funds

P'ninat Mishpat

Removing a Distributor of Tzedaka Funds

(based on Halacha Psuka, vol. 44 - a condensation of  Piskei Din Rabbaniim vol. I, pp. 353-361)



Case: A man died, leaving significant funds to charity. He placed an institution (the defendant = def) in charge of distributing the funds and a committee (the plaintiff = pl) in charge of overseeing its function. Pl claims that def is not handling the money in the manner that the deceased instructed in writing. Def denies the charges.

Ruling: Throughout the course of the hearings period, def acted in a manner that demonstrated that it was not interested in cooperating with the proceedings, including by pushing off hearings based on bizarre excuses. Its behavior raised questions about its reliability and was one of several indications of the veracity of pl’s claims of mismanagement of the funds.

The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 290:5) says that if beit din appointed a guardian and heard, based on circumstantial evidence, that he was taking for himself from the property, they are to replace him. However, if he was appointed by the father of the orphans, then they are not to remove him without real proof. The Rama adds that even if beit din appointed him, he is not to be removed without real evidence. Beit din, though, determined that def’s behavior was such that it went beyond simple circumstantial evidence and since it was of a similar level to that of testimony, everyone should agree that they be removed. 

In this case, beit din also received testimony that def was not following the instructions that the deceased left. The Rashba (Shut VII, 449) dealt with a parallel case, of a community that was in charge of tzedaka funds left by an individual and wanted to change the purpose of the funds without permission from the donor. The Rashba acknowledged the halacha that if those in charge of distributing tzedaka decide that its recipients should be changed from that which was announced, they may do so. However, one has to distinguish between different circumstances. The above is true if they determine that the original need has been taken care of and they want to give to a different type of need. We say that the community donates with the intention that those who are in charge will make decisions of this type. However, when a single individual gives money for a certain cause, says the Rashba, the people in charge may not change the recipient without authorization, as this would be considered stealing from the poor person.

Therefore, it is clear that def was required to follow the deceased’s instructions and that since it failed to do so, it lost the trustworthiness necessary to continue, and it must be removed.


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R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


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