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If someone does a mitsva like writing a sefer or providing a building for Jewish activities like a shul or school. Should he put his name on it and have it called after him? I am not referring to giving charity to poor people because that is better done in private but to giving a building. Even though some hold it may deduct from the mitsva, on the other hand because of his generosity it causes others to do the same, which when they do, he has a share in their mitsva since they do it through his instigation and the community profits more by it.

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    There is no prohibition in making a donation in one's own name. However there is a greater degree of perfection in the one who chooses to do so anonymously (H. Matnoth Aniyim 10:8). – Deuteronomy May 30 '13 at 20:56
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    Rabbi Yosef Mizrahi Shalit"a says if one is going to donate he shouldn't have his name on it as it deduces from his reward in Olam Haba. – Hacham Gabriel May 30 '13 at 22:51
  • @HachamGabriel: Intriguing. (Did you mean "deduces", or did you mean "deducts"?) – unforgettableid May 30 '13 at 22:54
  • @unforgettableid I was never good with English... – Hacham Gabriel May 30 '13 at 23:02
  • expern: I haven't upvoted your question yet. It still needs copyediting. 1. I wonder if you could please edit your question so that it includes a question mark? 2. I wonder if you could please edit the title so that it forms a valid question ending in a question mark? Thank you! – unforgettableid May 30 '13 at 23:03
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The major advantage of attaching your name to something is that if your name is attached to it, the community can't exchange it for a new one so long as the writing/engraving of your name is still present (pseudo-Rama YD 259:3). This is a good thing to want as it maximizes the benefit you get as the donor. On the other hand, attaching your name as a way of boasting about your wealth in public is obviously not a good thing. One should CYLOR about each case. (Something to consider is attaching some other name to the object, so that it can't be replaced but you don't have to fear feeling boastful, though CYLOR about this too.)

  • My question wasnt only about 'wealth' where what you say applies. It was also about other mitsvot like writing a sefer. For instance the Mishne berura didnt call it by his name whereas the Chazon Ish did. Although in their earliest seforim they never wrote who the mechaber was but remained anonymous. – expern May 31 '13 at 9:20
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Although you assume that charity is best performed privately, R. Nathaniel Beirav al-Fayyumi (12th cent.) writes in The Garden of Wisdom (ed. Levine p. 58) that the primary form of charity depends on circumstances, and his distinction ought to apply to this case as well. He writes that the advantage of public charity is that it inspires others to act similarly. The advantage of private charity is that it spares the recipient embarrassment. Accordingly, he writes that in a case where there is less shame, such as where the recipient is a well know mendicant, and suffers no additional shame from your donation, it is preferable to give publicly. Accordingly, when it comes to something like donating a building, where there is no shame to the recipient, publicising the donation, by for example, putting your name on it would be preferable.

Of course as with many non-halakhic questions, there isn't necessarily one right answer, as each circumstance is different. Factors such as the likelihood ones name will inspire others, and the like may vary.

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The Rema in Yoreh Deah 249:13 writes

מי מקדיש דבר לצדקה, מותר לו שיכתב שמו עליו שיהא לו לזכרון, וראוי לעשות כן (שו"ת הרשב"א ח"א סימן תקפ"א) י

Someone who donates something to charity, it is permissible for him to write his name on it so that it'll be for him a memento; in fact it is fitting to do this (Teshuvas HaRashbah Volume 1 Simman 581)

The Mishnah Berurah (Simman 154 Seif Katan 59) also brings the Rashbah.

What does the Rashbah write? (taken from http://shtaygen.co.il/?CategoryID=1626&ArticleID=6480)

זו מדת חכמים היא ומדת וותיקין כדי ליתן שכר לעשות מצוה, ומדת התורה הוא שהיא כותבת ומפרסמת עושה מצוה. ואם התורה עשתה כן צריכין אנו להלך אחר מדותיה של תורה שהן דרכי נועם. הנה בהצלת יוסף שהצילו ראובן מיד אחיו כתב עליו הכתוב (בראשית לז) "וישמע ראובן ויצילהו מידם". וכן בבועז שויתר פת וחומץ הכתיבו הכתוב. וכן כמה גדולה מעשה הצדקה ועשיית המצוות שכתבו הנביאים בספר הנבואה

This is the trait of Sages and the trait of the Elderly Scholars in order to give reward to those who do mitzvos. It's also the trait of the Torah, which writes and publicizes those who do mitzvos. If the Torah did so, we must also, in order to follow after the traits of the Torah, since all of its ways are pleasant. You see by Reuven saving Yosef from his brothers, the verse writes what he did. Similarly with Boaz, who gave up wine and vinegar, the verse writes this. Same with many acts of charity and mitzvah acts that the Prophets wrote in their books.

He brings a source for this idea from the Midrash Rabbah Rus (Chapter 2)

י"ויצבט לה קלי קלול בשתי אצבעותיו". אמר רבי יצחק בר מריון בא הכתוב ללמדך שאם יהיה אדם עושה מצוה יעשנה בלב שלם. שאילו היה יודע ראובן שהקב"ה מכתיב "וישמע ראובן ויצילהו מידם" בכתיפו היה מוליכו אל אביו. ואילו היה יודע אהרן שהקב"ה מכתיב עליו (שמות ד') "והנה הוא יוצא לקראתך וראך ושמח בלבו" בתופים ובמחולות היה יוצא לקראתו. ואילו היה יודע בועז שהקב"ה מכתיב עליו "ויצבט לה קלי ותאכל ותשבע ותותר" עגלות פטומות היה מאכילה. אמרו רבי כהן ורבי יהושע דסכנין בשם רבי לוי לשעבר היה אדם עושה מצוה והנביא היה כותבה. עכשיו מי כותבה? אליהו כותבה ומלך משיח והקב"ה חותם על ידיהם. הדא הוא דכתיב (מלאכי ג, טז) "אז נדברו יראי ה' איש אל רעהו. ויקשב ה' וישמע ויכתב ספר זכרון לפניו ליראי ה' ולחושבי שמו".

Essentially it says that if those who's acts were written in the Torah had known it would have been written for posterity, they would have done so much more. Even today, all of our acts are written by Eliyahu and Moshiach, and Hashem signs it.

He also brings proof from the Gemarra Bava Basra 133b

ובגמרא בבא בתרא (קלג, ב) אמרו ביוסי בן יועזר כשהקדיש עליתא דדינרי, וכשמכר בנו מרגלית למקדש בי"ג עליות דדינרי ונתנו הגזברים שבעה והקדיש ששה הנותרים ועמדו שם וכתבו "יוסי בן יועזר הקדיש אחת, בנו הקדיש שש". מכאן אתה למד שהיו נוהגין לכתוב כן שמות המקדישין לשמים להיות להם לזכרון טוב על מצוות ולפתוח דלת לעושה מצוות

It brings an example of an Amora who donated something, and they wrote down that he had donated it. He says you see this is an ancient custom.

  • It should be noted that there is a difference in emphasis and context in the Rashba, and those who quote him. Rashba is discussing whether the congregation can prevent him from putting up his name, and says they cannot and that the idea even has some merit. That doesn't mean that in a vacuum he would necessarily encourage that person to put up his name. There could be other reasons why that isn't so wise. Furthermore, it might well vary with circumstances. | Accordingly, Rashba's proofs all relate to publicising others good deeds. The OP's question isn't really addressed, [cont.] – mevaqesh Jun 16 '17 at 13:59
  • [cont.] As it is the individual; not the congregants, who should be thinking about the advantages of himself keeping a low profile. – mevaqesh Jun 16 '17 at 14:00
  • So really, the only part of this post that answers the question is the three words in Rema וראוי לעשות כן, which (if in indeed in reference to Rashba) would be taking Rashba out of context, since the question, the proofs, and the answer of Rashba were all related to others acting on behalf of the individual, which is totally different from the individual acting on his own behalf, which the OP asked about, and which opens the door to the OP's question; (since the donor should perhaps strive to keep a low profile). – mevaqesh Jun 16 '17 at 14:06
  • The OP asked if a person should put their name on a mitzvah. Someone asked the Rashba if a kehila can stop someone who wants to put their name on a mitzvah. He answers no, and then writes ואם התורה עשתה כן צריכין אנו להלך אחר מדותיה של תורה, I don't see the disconnect. I don't know what you mean others acting on behalf of the individual. – robev Jun 16 '17 at 14:57
  • I guess our point of contention is when he says we should is that to the exclusion of the individual themself. – robev Jun 16 '17 at 15:14

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