Rabbi Dayan always led the kinnos in his shul on Tisha B’Av, but one year he went away for the entire summer. The shul president and board decided to hire an outside speaker to lead the kinnos. They arranged with Rabbi Darshan to lead the kinnos and agreed on a fee of $1,500 for the day.
“How should we fund the speaker?” the president asked.
“Congregants will gladly sponsor the speaker,” replied the treasurer. “They will miss Rabbi Dayan’s inspirational words and will look forward to hearing Rabbi Darshan.”
“I think you’re right,” said the president, and an appeal was sent out to the community. It responded generously. Within a few days, the necessary amount was raised.
“We should notify the congregants that we reached the goal,” said a board member. “There is no need for additional sponsors.”
“Why stop people from donating?” said the treasurer. “We can use the additional amount for general shul expenditures.”
“Then we have to notify them that the additional money will be used for general shul expenses,” countered the board member.
“What’s the difference?” said the treasurer. “Let each person think he is a sponsor. No one knows who donated first!”
“But that would be misleading,” countered the board member. “If they wanted to donate for general shul expenses, they would have done so. Clearly, they want to donate for this speaker.”
“I suggest we ask Rabbi Dayan,” said the president. “I’ll call him.”
“Do we need to alert the congregants that we reached the goal?” asked the president. “Can we retain the additional money for general shul functions?”
“This question relates to the issue of geneivas da’as, which is prohibited [C.M. 208:6],” replied Rabbi Dayan.
“The Minchas Yitzchak [6:167] discusses whether a gabbai tzedakah may tell donors that he is collecting for a cause for which they are likely to donate generously, when, in truth, he is collecting for another cause. He prohibits doing so if the donor would not give the same amount if he knew the true cause. Moreover, he writes that if a donor should find out and request that the additional amount be returned, the gabbai must do so.” [Tzedakah U’misphat 7]
“The same question was posed to Shevet Halevi [2:119],” continued Rabbi Dayan. “He writes that doing so is not actual stealing since the money will go to tzedakah in any event. We can also assume, he writes, that the donor would consent to the money going to a different cause. Nonetheless, he raises the issue of it possibly being geneivas da’as.” [Pischei Chosen, Geneivah 15; see also Beis Yosef, Y.D. 259:3]
“Where does this leave us?” asked the president.
“We cannot collect for the shul under the guise of sponsoring Rabbi Darshan’s lectures,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Nonetheless, if additional people respond to the initial request, each person who contributes has a share in sponsoring the speaker. The excess amount should be used to fund similar Torah speakers.” [Y.D. 253:6]