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I have recently started a Ma'aser account - a separate bank account that I transfer 10% of any income into and is readily available for giving to Tzedaka and I now use to give instead of coming direct from my main account. The idea is that I want to be more exacting with Ma'aser and this will help me keep track so I don't give too little.

Being more exacting, I also want to ensure that I don't give too much as well so I am now questioning some smaller "donations". One in particular is that our Mikveh charges 2 dollars per use. The money goes either to upkeep of the Mikveh or the shul in general, but is technically something that I'm paying for the service of using the Mikveh.

Is that something I could deduct from my Ma'aser account? I would appreciate if somebody could cite a source that says whether Tzedaka can be counted towards Ma'aser if somebody receives a benefit - and further what if that benefit is the performance of a Mitzvah (i.e. going to a Mikveh).

Thank you, Chaim

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The first thing that should be investigated is whether a community is allowed to charge for use of its mikveh. I need to ask my father who, but I remember that a posek of the previous generation told him that all a shul may do is suggest a donation. I do not know if this is a unanimous or not, but definitely worth investigating. –  Yahu Sep 19 '10 at 15:20
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For women, no they cannot technically insist upon receiving a certain fee. However for a men's mikvah where there is not so much of an obligation but rather it is a midat hasiddut they can charge a fee for upkeep and expenses of the mikvah. Especially in communities where many men use it as their daily shower/bath. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Sep 20 '10 at 21:27
    
This p'sak my father received was definitely regarding men's mikvah charges as well. Mekubal, I will bl"n track down my sources and you do the same! –  Yahu Sep 21 '10 at 2:01
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1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If a person is obligated to pay money for a service, or creates the obligation on himself, he may not use maaser (Taz 249:1)

Also, it would seem that only Tovas Hana'a would be OK, but not actual benefit, even if there is no obligation (e.g. shul membership)

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If I recall from Rabbi Breitowitz, if there's only one shul in your neighborhood, you might be obligated to join it (and thus dues would be non-maaserable). If there's more than one shul, you can't be obligated at any given shul, and thus all dues count from maaser. –  Shalom Sep 20 '10 at 13:56
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The first statement makes a lot of sense. I think the second statement is questionable. The Taz asks about buying an aliya for another. He asks- "but he benifits from the tovas hana'a?" The Taz answers that tovas hana'a doesn't ruin the ability to take maaser as all tzedaka has tovas hana'a. So a) the Taz is worried about benefit and the only benifit he OKs is tovas hana'a and b) why didn't the Taz say a bigger chidush that you can buy an aliya for yourself with ma'aser?! –  YDK Sep 20 '10 at 16:47
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