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There is a tradition of Maaser Kesafim, to give 1/10th of ones salary to charity. Is there a particular set time when the obligation to set aside this money for charity begins? For instance, is one obligated to set aside Maaser right away upon receiving a pay check, or does the tradition have no exact set time of obligation and as long as once a year or once in a while one checks to see how much Maaser is owed it is sufficient for the obligation?

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  • vimeo.com/142972789
    – hazoriz
    Jan 17 '16 at 19:19
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    Just a guess. Since we do not know what tomorrow will bring--if we did, we'd be prophets I suppose--masser should be given on a day-to-day basis. The reasoning behind my statement is that we should not delay performing a mitzvah. If we wait for a full-year to pass to assess our maaser obligation and pay it, we might have an inclination to engage in creative accounting. On the other hand, I am not sure if masser is a time-specific obligation like putting on teffilin or wearing a talit on a daily basis.
    – JJLL
    Jan 17 '16 at 19:29
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As I explain in More Maaser and Tax Math and as can be seen in Maaser Kesafim: Giving a Tenth to Charity this is the equivalent of having made a neder to give a minimum percentage to tzedakah. Thus, one is obligated as soon as the income is received. However, one can maintain a ledger of income as it comes in and tzedakah as it is distributed so that one can be sure that one has not missed giving sufficient tzedakah. It is obvious that one cannot sent out tzedakah at the instant the income is deposited in the bank, so it is only the ledger that needs to be kept up to date so that one knows how much is "owed" to tzedakah at any time. One should answer tzedakah mailings as soon as possible or give checks to meshulachim whenever they come to the door.

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  • Does the book you quoted have a source that it quotes? Jan 17 '16 at 23:05
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The title of your question speaks of obligation while the text of your question speaks of tradition. There is indeed a significant discussion amongst poskim about the exact status of maaser. R Avrohom Chaim Feuer explains in "The tsedakka treasury" that some believe it is a Torah obligation (e.g., Yoreh Deah 232, Maharil as cited in Responsa Chatam Sofer), some believe it is a rabbinical mitzva while the majority of poskim (e.g., Bach, Yoreh Deah 331, Chatam Sofer) sees it as time-honored minhag which should be adopted by all.

The rulings I found (in R Feuer's book as well as in R Shimon Taub's 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.

The Chofetz Chaim (in Ahavas Chesed 18:2) offers the following guidance on setting up a maaser system (with personal additions to make it practical to the 21st century)

  1. Set up a separate ledger (or a spreadsheet) to track earnings, any business expenses, taxes and donations
  2. Designate a specific date (e.g., Rosh Hashana) to mark the end of an accounting period where you "close the books" - should be at least once a year - can be more frequent
  3. At the time of the closing period, calculate profits, deduct losses and acceptable expenses and the amount of maaser
  4. Deduct all donations already made and distribute immediately whatever you owe (i.e., the difference between maaser and previous donations)
  5. If you have given more than your planned maaser, some authorities allow to carry over to the next accounting period. Even those that are strict allow it if you stipulate (orally) that you may deduct from your maaser obligations at all times any donations you make at any time you desire

I have now (May 2021) seen R Daniel Mann (here) supports the yearly accounting with further sources

Poskim discuss making maaser ksafim calculations at given intervals, which is important according to our ruling that expenses and losses are deducted from profits (Chavot Yair 224). So one needs a cutoff point to know which losses can be deducted from which profits (ibid.). The Noda B’yehuda (II, YD 198) demonstrates that the relevant pasuk and the halacha we cited from the Shulchan Aruch (YD 249:1) hint at a year as a likely maaser ksafim calculation period, and the Chavot Yair (ibid.) posits that erev Rosh Hashana is a logical time to do so.

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  • Can you use a specific secular date (eg. Jan 1) even though it's usually more than a full Jewish year apart? Why if "one year" is a Jewish Halacha?
    – Double AA
    Feb 3 '16 at 21:02
  • @DoubleAA If you have to pick a date, there is a logic to pick Rosh Hashana, or between Rosh Hashana - YK, to close the accounts before the new year, or in the spirit of tfila, tsedaka, tshuva between RH-YK
    – mbloch
    Feb 3 '16 at 21:06
  • Those dates would be in good taste, but I'm asking what's permitted accd to Halacha.
    – Double AA
    Feb 3 '16 at 21:07
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    Exactly. That's why I encourage you not to treat this recommendation with too much respect. Treat it with respect, but know it's not a 'real' Din.
    – Double AA
    Feb 3 '16 at 21:09
  • @DoubleAA FYI see last para which I saw today and made me think of our discussion
    – mbloch
    May 5 at 5:58
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According to Reb Binyamin Zilber there is no chalos in maaser kesafim and therefore maaser can be given before the income is acquired as long as you know it's coming.

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