May I use Maaser Money to buy a Ticket at an Auction?

May I use my Maaser Money for Raffle Tickets at a Chinese Auction?

People often ask whether it’s permissible to use their maaser money (a tenth of one’s earnings donated to charity) to purchase raffle tickets, such as at a Chinese auction, where the money benefits a tzedakah (charity) organization, but the ticket holder also stands the chance to win a prize. The answer is that maaser money may be used to purchase the raffle tickets, since the money is ultimately benefitting a proper tzedakah

However, were a ticket purchased with maaser money to win, it would be problematic to consider the prize the property of the ‘winner’. Since the maaser money already belonged to tzedakah regardless, it isn’t logical that the caretaker of the tzedakah funds should be able to profit from money which isn’t his. Although some say that the prize is simply a side benefit, and not a direct return on the maaser ‘investment’, that is not the consensus among poskim. Nor does stipulating that, in the event that the ticket actually wins a prize, the money used to purchase the ticket will be no longer be deemed to have been maaser, but rather money out of pocket—fully stand up to halachic scrutiny. Rather, the prize would become the property of the tzedakah organization, and the holder of the winning ticket may claim at most a 15% to 20% commission for being instrumental in winning the prize for the organization. 

A creative approach has been suggested to satisfy all opinions: one could fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah by giving the maaser money to a poor person (such as a relative learning in kollel), and then that individual could go ahead and use what is now his money to purchase the raffle tickets with the understanding that if one of those tickets wins, the poor person will sell the prize back to us at a low price. In this manner, everyone gains something. #485

Practical Halacha: One minute a day. By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, shlita, Mara D'asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights.