Thursday, September 24, 2009

sefer torah fundraiser problem

See bottom for update

Disclaimer: I have not consulted with any rabbinic people about my issue, so don't take this the wrong way.

I recently received a fund-raising request from my yeshiva high school alumni association. They are writing a sefer torah and dedicating it to the rabbeim. It is being marketed as a way to give back to the school and show appreciation for the hard work and dedication that they had put into your education and life. As it is a dormitory school, the rabbis are a very big part of your life and teenage-hood.

After I got the first mail from the alumni association, I got another email from a former classmate asking me to participate in buying a parsha with our class.

I really liked my high school and I liked the rabbis, not all of them obviously, but I got along well enough with most of them, which is not something most of my contemporaries from other high schools can say. I am still in contact with the high school and see one of the rabbis once a year, generally. I have donated in the past and I will continue to donate in the future, may God continue sending me parnasa.

I have a small problem with this particular fund-raiser though. I haven't ruled out participating in my class parsha, and I most probably will participate.

Here's my problem -
They are selling:
Entire Torah: Already Sold
Individual parshas: a bunch of them already sold
Special parshas within the individual parshas: A bunch already sold

If someone already bought the entire Torah, then he gets credit for writing a sefer Torah. The guy who donates a parsha is really not donating a parsha, because the guy who bought the entire torah already got that parsha. The guy who buys a special parsha or a pasuk is not really donating them either.

In other words, if someone buys a pasuk in a special parsha, that pasuk has already been sold to 3 other people, The Torah donor, the parsha donor, the special parsha donor and finally to the pasuk donor. I would think (and I could be wrong) that all of the donors aside from the original Torah donor are going to get credit for giving tzedaka, but not for writing a Torah.

I would like to hear from my readers what they think of this situation. As I mentioned above, I have not consulted with any rabbis about my issue with this yet and it is very possible that I am wrong and that everyone involved does get Torah writing points and not just regular tzedaka points (which are nothing to sneeze at).

I got a response from the yeshiva and I'm happy to tell you that my issue was unfounded. The head of the alumni association sent are sponsa to the exact same question from R' Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. The question asked went much farther then the question I asked and included the question, do you need to make a kinyan on the letter in the sefer somehow. The question indicated that most of the time when you purchase a letter in a sefer torah you do not make a kinyan on it. However, I have seen where the person sponsoring a letter has given the pen to the sofer and made him a shaliach in the writing. They also asked if someone who is not allowed to write a torah donates, does that pasul the entire torah.

If anyone wants to read the responsa themselves, please let me know and I'll forward it over (in Hebrew).
The answer is that when someone buys a parsha, they are not in actuality buying a parsha. The parsha is dedicated to them. However the way that it technically works is that you take all the money collected for the sefer torah project and combine it into one pot. If one person spends $1000 and another person spends $200 then the person with the $200 donation gets 1/5 of the amount of Torah writing credit then the $1000 donor. So if you want to know how much sefer torah writing credit you actually get, you add up the sum total of donations and divide the amount of your donation by it and that percentage is what you take with you as torah writing credit and the rest of the donation goes with you as tzedaka and harbatzas torah credit.

A groiseh yasher koach to the hanhala of the yeshiva, I recommend all of my readers donate to a sefer torah project.


Shlomo said...

I think the issue is that the school shouldn't be double-selling things. I would assume that "the whole torah" doesn't really pay the entire cost, it's just a large chunk.

Critically Observant Jew said...

It's a fundraiser. Just take it at that. My shul did it. You don't really buy a torah - you "dedicate" it. Same goes for the chapter, sentence, and letter. All it is is a fundraiser. In my shul's case, it was a fitting cause because til then, the shul only had 1 borrowed Sefer Torah. However, I don't understand such fundraisers for shuls that already have quite a few sifrei torah - because of the costs involved - i.e. new sefer torah, party, etc.

Anonymous said...

I have had the same questions after seeing the plaque on the wall in some shul. I would be willing to bet that since G-d loves to bestow benefit and good on His people, then each person will get his reward (even if it appear duplicate).

There may be a finite amount of letters, but the reward(s) are infinite!

rockofgalilee said...

I would assume that the whole Torah actually pays for the whole thing, if not more.

The problem with just taking it as a fundraiser is the Godly point system. It says in pirkei avos that we don't know how the point system works, so we shouldn't let it bog us down. That being said, we know that there are different points for different mitzvos and you should get the points you are trying for

Anonymous said...

I have the same question. I would advise you to politely and sincerely ask the Rosh Yeshiva about it -- and then PLEASE post his response so we can all understand it.


yoni r. said...

I don't have it in front of me, but check the first daf of Makkos, where (I believe) Rabbi Akiva makes a point about people joining others who are doing a mitzvah. Even though the additional people are not necessary, they get full credit.

I don't know if it qualifies as a full answer to your question, but I think it's a reasonable starting point.

Shmuel Y said...


rockofgalilee said...

I updated the post with the yeshivas response.

shalom said...

hi i read your post on the sefer torah fundraiser. I would very much alike to read the teshuva from Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg
Shalom Waldman