The school year was winding down. The parent representatives of each class began collecting money for end-of-year gifts for the teachers. Mr. Weiss collected for the eighth-grade class of Yeshiva Derech Mishpat.
He sent a message to all the parents of the class: “We are collecting money to give the rebbe and subject teachers. Each family is asked to donate $36 to the cause.”
When the collection was completed, Mr. Weiss brought the money to the principal, Rabbi Handel, and said: “This is money we collected for the rebbe and for the subject teachers. Please distribute it to them.”
“Thank you very much,” replied Rabbi Handel.
After Mr. Weiss left, Rabbi Handel wondered how he should divide the money. The rebbe taught for three hours, and there were five subject teachers, each of whom taught one hour.
“Should I give each teacher the same amount, including the rebbe?” wondered Rabbi Handel. “Or perhaps I should give double to the rebbe who teaches the class on a regular basis. Or perhaps I should divide the money into eighths and give each teacher according to the time he teaches. Or perhaps I should give the bulk to the rebbe who is responsible for the class and just a token amount to each subject teacher.”
Rabbi Handel called Mr. Weiss and asked how the money should be divided.
“According to your discretion,” replied Mr. Weiss. “We rely on you.”
Rabbi Handel tried to decide the most proper way to divide the money. “Why don’t you consult Rabbi Dayan,” suggested the assistant principal.
“Good idea,” said Rabbi Handel.
Rabbi Handel called Rabbi Dayan. “I was given money to distribute to the rebbe and subject teachers,” he said. “How should I best divide the money?
“The Torah states about the division of the lechem hapanim: ‘It should be for Aharon and for his children’ (Vayikra 24:9),” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Chazal interpret these words to mean that Aharon receives half the bread and his children, as a group, receive half the bread.
“The Gemara [Bava Basra 143a, Avodah Zarah 10b] extends this principle to gifts and wills,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “If a person gives a gift or bequeaths his assets to so-and-so and his children, the individual mentioned receives half and the children receive half. Therefore, you should give the rebbe half the money, and divide the other half between the subject teachers.” [Choshen Minshpat 247:5; 253:24]
“What if there are multiple individuals or multiple groups?” asked Mr. Weiss.
“The Rema writes that if there are two groups, each group is entitled to half, even though one group may have more members than the other,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “For example, if a couple bequeathed their assets to their relatives, the assumption is that half the amount is intended for the husband’s relatives and half for the wife’s, even if one spouse has a larger family.”
“If there were numerous individuals and a group, such as: ‘Reuven and Shimon and the children of Levi,’ added Rabbi Dayan, “there is a dispute among the Rishonim whether the group gets half or a share equal to one of the individuals.” [See Rambam, Ra’avad and Maggid Mishneh, Hil. Zechiya 11:6]
“Nonetheless, the Maharsham [3:191] indicates that if the clear assumption is that the person’s intention was that everyone should share evenly, we follow his intention,” concluded Rabbi Dayan.
“Furthermore, some suggest that the rule to divide half and half applies only when there is a logic to give half to the individual, such as a kohen gadol, whom we are required to honor and raise. However, if there was a collection for orphans and one was mentioned by name, there is no logic to give him half at the expense of his siblings. [Pischei Choshen, Kinyanim 15:61; Chashukei Chemed, Bava Basra 143b]