Saturday, June 1, 2013

Spending large amounts of money for a mitzvah


Aside from the rule that one should not spend more than 1/5 of his assets to fulfill a commandment, one also should not spend "large sums" [הון רב] even where they are less than 1/5, for this will prevent fulfillment of other commandments. This is why many pious Jews, through the ages, did not fulfill the mitzvah of writing a sefer torah.

[Note: This only refers to fulfillment of מצוות עשה, commandments; one must spend far more to avoid violation of a prohibition.]

(Rav Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 1:163 and Dibrot Moshe Bava Kama (II) 89:21)

Have a great day,


  1. I hope this doesn't seem like a silly question but how does this work in terms of repaying a loan. If I borrow a million dollars from Reuvain, 30 days later when he comes to collect can I say, "sorry, but the amount you are coming to collect is in excess of 1/5th of my total assets. As such I don't have an obligation to repay the loan [mitzvat asseh]"?

  2. Anonymous-
    Not a silly question, but no - there is a prohibition against failing to re-pay a debt.

  3. is that prohibition [biblicly] time bound? If not I would return to the original question, can the borrower continue to push off payment because it exceeds 1/5th his assets?

  4. I believe that the borrower is required to adhere to the timetable set at the time the loan was extended.