We have finished siman 2, in which the Chayei Adam listed some examples of the proper age to begin chinuch in specific mitzvos. We have discussed the example of lulav, and have begun discussing talmud torah. Today, we will discuss the use of maaser money for this chiyuv.
We left off with the question of whether one may use maaser money to pay for the cost of talmud torah for their child. The Gemara states that one may not use maaser to pay for their obligations. Although the Gemara is referring to maaser of produce, the assumption in halacha is that the Gemara applies to maaser of money as well. Meaning, if a chiyuv already exists, one cannot apply maaser funds to pay for it, but if the chiyuv is built around maaser money, they may use maaser. For example, if one decides to buy an aliyah in shul with maaser money, they may use maaser money to pay for the purchase. However, if one buys the aliyah without any thoughts of using maaser money to pay for it, once they have obligated themselves to the donation, they cannot use maaser money to pay their donation. The same concept would apply to a mi shebeirach. Thus, insofar as the chiyuv of talmud torah exists already, one cannot use maaser money to pay for it.
Rav Moshe writes in a teshuva about using maaser money for education. He writes that since children in America are obligated to remain in school for a certain amount of years, if one does not send their child to a Jewish school, they will end up in a public school. Since that is not an acceptable option, we are obligated to pay to send our children to a Jewish school, and thus one cannot use maaser money to dispense of his obligation. However, if one has the option of two Jewish schools, one which has better Torah learning than the other but is also more expensive than the other, one can use maaser money to pay for the difference in cost between the two schools, because there is no chiyuv per se to send to the better school.
Regarding tuition, if a person is paying full tuition, arguably part of the cost of full tuition is to help offset the cost of those who cannot afford full tuition. If this is true, if one is able to find out from the school the amount which they are paying to offset others’ tuition, they could pay that amount from maaser. However, this thought process would only apply if offsetting others’ tuition is actually a factor in the cost of full tuition.
The Chafetz Chaim also writes that one may not use maaser money to pay for a chiyuv he has to his child, as we learned above. However, he points out that once the child has reached proficiency in knowing how to learn Torah shebaal peh and Torah shebichsav, since the father is no longer obligated to pay for the child’s learning, if he wishes to continue to support him, he may deduct it from maaser.
Based off the Chafetz Chaim, Rav Moshe writes, in a different teshuva, that if a person wishes to put away maaser money for when their children are in kollel (at which point he is no longer obligated to support them, because they are proficient in learning), they may do so, even for many years in the future. However, he cautions against putting more than 50 percent of their maaser away for this purpose, because one should use at least 50 percent for the current needs of his community.
One may not use maaser money to pay for a chiyuv; thus, one may not use maaser money to pay for their child’s talmud torah. However, anything which is beyond a chiyuv may be paid for through maaser. Thus, tuition costs which go toward offsetting other childrens’ tuition (if applicable), or supporting children in kollel could be paid for through maaser.