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Many Jewish organizations distribute tzedaka (charity) boxes. A few that I know tell people, "collect the money and at some point, empty the money and mail us a check."

Let's say someone leaves this tzedaka box in a shul, and people place coins and bills in the box.

  • Is there a maximum time, halachically, when the box owner should send a check to the organization, if the org, never specified a schedule? In some cases, the org. said "when full, mail us a check". That could be quickly or could be a year depending on how often people donate.
  • The org. says, "send us a check". Meaning, you empty the box, keep the money and mail them a check in the amount that was in the box. Is there a halachic "time limit" between your emptying the box and mailing the check?
  • +1, but I get the sense I have seen this question before on Mi Yodeya. – Fred Jan 7 '16 at 1:32
  • @Fred Nohing popped up as a related question, while I typed this. If you find it, VTC, by all means. – DanF Jan 7 '16 at 1:37
  • I would say that since the money in the box belongs to the tzedaka, you would be required to send the check as soon as yo take the money out of the box. However, I do not have a source for this so I am leaving it a comment. – sabbahillel Jan 7 '16 at 1:40
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/2959 – msh210 Jan 7 '16 at 3:18
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    @Dude What do you mean by "usually"? Tzedaka is talked about in terms of time on RH 4a and 6a. – Double AA Feb 3 '16 at 5:19
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+100

The Talmud (RH 4a) tells us that Tzedaka, like any other Neder, is included in the Biblical prohibition of Bal Te'acher (don't delay paying up your vows). However, unlike ordinary vows for sacrifices for which one does not violate unless they don't bring the sacrifice before 3 consecutive festivals have passed (Rambam Maaseh Korbanot 14:13), the Talmud tells us (RH 6a) that for Tzedaka one needs to pay immediately for there are always poor people available. Rambam codifies this in Matnot Aniyim 8:1, noting that if there is no poor person available, one seperates the money and awaits a poor person. Tosfot (RH 4a) explains that while the 3-festival rule doesn't apply when there are needy people available, if there are no needy people then you have to seek them out before 3 festivals have elapsed. Rambam (ibid.) mentions no such distinction. The Tur (YD 257) quotes his father, Rosh, as arguing on the Rambam and ruling that if one were to stipulate at the time of the Neder that one should be allowed to distribute the money slowly to different people, that would avoid any of these limits.

Shulchan Arukh YD 257:3 rules like the Rambam against Tosfot (see Shakh 5, Gra 6), and like the Rosh against the Rambam. However, in your case we need not worry about any of that, as the Rama there notes (my translation; bolding added):

הגה: וכל זה בצדקה שיש בידו לחלקה בעצמו אבל כשנודרין צדקה בבית הכנסת ליתנה ליד גבאי או שאר צדקה שיש לו ליתן לגבאי אינו עובר עליה אע"ג דעניים מצויים אא"כ תבעו הגבאי ואז עובר עליה מיד אי קיימי עניים והגבאי היה מחלק להם מיד ואם אין ידוע לגבאי צריך הוא להודיע לגבאי מה שנדר כדי שיוכל לתבעו ... ואם אמר אתן סלע לצדקה לפלוני אינו עובר עד שיבא אותו עני אע"ג דשאר עניים מצויים:‏
GLOSS: All this is by Tzedaka which is in his capability to distribute, but when they vow Tzedaka in synagogue to give to the hands of the Gabbai or other Tzedaka which one needs to give to the Gabbai [for distribution], he does not violate even if poor people are present unless the Gabbai sought [the money from] him, and then he violates it immediately if the poor people are present and the Gabbai would distribute to them immediately. If [his vow] was not known to the Gabbai, he must notify him so that he can seek [the money from] him. ... And if he says "I will give a Sela to [a specific poor person" he does not violate until that specific person comes, even if there are other poor people present.

It seems from this that not only are the people who put money in the box not bound by time limits, but the box manager too is not bound by any limit as it is not up to him to distribute the money. If the organization requests the money (the Shakh there states that until otherwise known we assume they need it for immediate use) then he must (a biblical obligation!) send it to them immediately. If they haven't requested the money (and he doesn't want to send it yet), he should notify them that the money is available so they can request it if they want. Seemingly, he can assume they don't want to be bothered with notifications for each coin dropped in.

  • +1. But re "The Tur (YD 257) quotes his father, Rosh, as arguing on the Rambam and ruling that if one were to stipulate at the time of the Neder that one should be allowed to distribute the money slowly to different people, that would avoid any of these limits.": Likely, putting money in a box in one's home carries with it such a stipulation implicitly, no? – msh210 Feb 3 '16 at 7:18
  • @msh210 Perhaps? It might also be that the implicit stipulation is that you will distribute the money when it's full. Or when you get a chance. Or before Purim. But that's only relevant if you are the distributor of the funds in the box to the needy. Or are you suggesting that one can even stipulate such that a request from the organization whose box it is can be ignored? I'm not sure if such a stipulation would work, and I strongly suspect such a stipulation would not be implicit even in one's own home. – Double AA Feb 3 '16 at 7:23
  • Interesting thorough research. I may have to ask a follow-up question on this. In this specific area, there are no "poor" people. The tzedaka goes to an organization that creates programs for Jewish deaf. The recipients are not monetarily "poor" and they are not begging money. Though, as the org, requests money, do you think this falls into the same category? – DanF Feb 3 '16 at 14:46
  • @DanF In what specific area? The question wasn't about you. – Double AA Feb 3 '16 at 16:03
  • @DoubleAA I'm curious if your answer would have the same status if someone (me) were managing a tzedaka box for an org. such as the one I described in my previous comment. – DanF Feb 3 '16 at 16:07
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Tsedaka and maaser should ideally be given as one receives income. Nevertheless in a related answer I referred to two sefarim on the laws of tsedaka which allow for yearly clearing of your maaser debts at the longest.

Both R Avrohom Chaim Feuer in The tsedakka treasury and R Shimon Taub's in The laws of tsedakah and maaser) allow yearly accounting of once's maaser, i.e., you do not need to give maaser as income arrives as long as you "clear the account" regularly. This is also the allowance of The Chofetz Chaim (in Ahavas Chesed 18:2).

To relate this to your question, for the donor it might be that putting money in the tsedaka box clears them of their maaser obligation, but for the box owner it might be lifnei iver-like to hold the money longer than a year.

In summary there is on whom to hold to wait up to a year to write the organization a check but no more.

  • lifnei iver?? Why? – Danny Schoemann Jan 31 '16 at 13:58
  • @DannySchoemann Lifnei iver-like because the person putting money in the tsedaka box assumes it will be delivered to the tsedaka organization in a reasonable time. Holding on to it "cancels" the tsedaka in a way. I wrote -like because it is not stricto sensu lifnei iver – mbloch Jan 31 '16 at 14:36
  • Holding on to it "cancels" the tsedaka in a way - I see why you're saying that, but don't fully agree. – Danny Schoemann Feb 1 '16 at 8:48
  • @DannySchoemann "canceling" is not the right word - you are right - what I mean is that not sending the money to the tzedaka organization defeats the purpose of the tzedaka box. It is also clear that the person putting in money counts on the tsedaka-box-owner to regularly send the money to the tzedaka organization otherwise he wouldn't donate money – mbloch Feb 1 '16 at 11:51
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    Too start applying Lifnei Iveir and worrying about when the Ani makes a Kinyan on the money would require a real Din of Bal Teacher or something like that. This is all just reasonable recommendations for staying on top of things, not Formalized Halakha. Hence I find your application and extension of those recommendations to the matter at hand here highly tenuous. – Double AA Feb 3 '16 at 21:10

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