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Chaim frequently came with his father to shul for Shacharis. When they reached Vayeverach David, Chaim’s father would give him money to put in the tzedakah box.

The shul had two tzedakah boxes on the bimah. One was for the shul and the other was for needy people in the community. Sometimes Chaim would put the money in one box and sometimes in the other.


One morning, when Chaim came to put money in the tzedakah box, he saw a coin sitting on the bimah, close to the tzedakah box for the shul. It seemed to have fallen out of one of the two tzedakah boxes.

After putting his own coin in, Chaim returned to his father.

“There is a coin on the bimah, presumably from one of the tzedakah boxes,” said Chaim. “It’s likely from the box for the shul, since it was near it, but I can’t say for sure. What should I do with the coin?”

Chaim’s father walked over to the bimah. Indeed, he saw the coin near the tzedakah box for the shul. He looked in the each of the tzedakah boxes and saw that there was more money in the box for needy people than in the box for the shul.

After Shemoneh Esrei, Chaim’s father said to him: “That’s an interesting question you asked. On the one hand, the coin was close to the box for the shul; on the other hand, there was more money in the box for needy people.”

“I remember learning something in Mishnayos about this,” Chaim said. “It’s about the collection boxes in the Beis HaMikdash, but I don’t remember exactly what it said.”

“That’s fascinating!” replied Chaim’s father. “Let’s ask Rabbi Dayan.”

“In which box should we place the stray coin?”

“The Mishna (Shekalim 6:13) teaches that there were 13 collection boxes in the Beis HaMikdash for various offerings,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Among them was one for the machatzis hashekel of the current year (taklin chadetin) and one for past years (taklin atikin).”

“It further teaches (Shekalim 7:1) that if money was found between two boxes, it should be placed in the closer one; if equidistant, it should be placed in the more stringent one, i.e., the offering of greater sanctity. Rambam (Hil. Shekalim 3:15) cites this halacha simply.

“However, the Gemara (B.B. 23b) teaches regarding eglah arufah that although we follow proximity (karov), the factor of majority (rov) – a larger city – takes priority. This halacha is expressed also in the laws of hashavas aveidah regarding a fledgling found between two dovecotes. We presume that the fledgling belongs to the closer dovecote, but if one is larger, we attribute the fledgling to it (C.M. 260:8).

“Based on this, HaRav Ovadia Bartenura explains that the Mishna in Shekalim refers to a case in which both boxes contain the same amount of money, but if one contains more – we follow the majority and attribute the money to it.

“However, several commentators explain that rov does not apply here, like the simple reading of the Rambam.

“Radvaz (Hil. Ma’aser 6:12) suggests that rov applies only to live beings like fledglings that move. However, this is seemingly contradicted by the sugya in Bava Basra that discusses barrels.

Derech Emunah (Beiur Halacha, Maaser Sheini 6:12) suggests that the logic of rov applies when ascertaining from which group something departed and came. However, regarding money between the boxes, one box was shaken and the money fell out; there is no logic to say that the box containing more coins was shaken.

“Alternatively, Chasdei David (Maaser Sheini 2) and Tiferes Yisrael (Boaz, Shekalim 7:1) explain that since the amount of money in each box is subject to change, and we do not know when the money fell out, we cannot necessarily decide based on which one currently contains more (see Chashukei Chemed B.B. 23b).”

Verdict: Money found between two tzedakah boxes should be attributed to the closer one. Some write that if one contains more, the money should be attributed to it.


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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to [email protected]. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail [email protected].