Responsibility for a Lost Pushka

By Rabbi Chaim Chazzan

 

We recently moved houses, and somehow during the move several tzedakah pushkas were misplaced. Are we responsible to reimburse the estimated amount in each of the pushkas to the organizations for which the pushkas were designated?

 

When someone accepts the responsibility to watch over an object belonging to another, the Torah assigns various degrees of liability for loss or damage, depending on whether he is being paid to safeguard it, if he is borrowing it, or is just doing a favor. A shomer chinam, one who is not being paid to guard, is only responsible if the object was lost or stolen as a result of his negligence.

In our case of the lost pushkas, it is not clear whether the person is even a shomer chinam for the pushkas. One only attains the status of a shomer chinam if he accepts the responsibility to guard the object. But if one merely says, “My house is available for you to place your object,” one does not become a shomer chinam[1].

Hence, allowing an organization to place a pushka in one’s home is not necessarily equivalent to accepting responsibility at all. Furthermore, even if he were to be a shomer chinam, he would still be exempt from payment in a situation where the pushka was lost not as a result of negligence.

However, if one pledged money to tzedakah it becomes a neder, and he is responsible to insure that his neder is carried out. If the amount of the pledge was set aside and then lost, one is obligated to use other money to fulfill the pledge.

If one placed his pledge in this lost pushka, we face the question: Is placing money in a pushka considered as if he has given it to the organization and he has fulfilled his neder, or is the pushka only considered a temporary place to set aside the money until it reaches the organization and he is still responsible. The consensus of poskim[2] is that giving to a pushka is considered as if it has reached the organization, accordingly there are those who say[3] that no further obligation exists to carry out the neder, and one would be exempt from reimbursing the organizations to which the pushkas belonged. Obviously, the above is for educational purposes only and when such a question arises practically, one should consult a competent rov.

 

Reprinted with permission from  Lmaan Yishmeu – a project of Mercaz Anash. To see more articles visit Mercazanash.com


[1] שו”ע חו”מ סי’ רצ”א סעי’ ב

[2] שו”ת מאמר מרדכי סי’ טו; שו”ת בית יצחק חאו”ח סי’ כא, שו”ת מהרש”ם ח”ד סי’ קז, קמז ובספרו דעת תורה הל’ צדקה סי’ רנח סעי’ ב; שו”ת מספר הסופר סי’ מב; אבל יש חולקים ע”ז עי’ שו”ת אבני נזר חיו”ד ח”ב סי’ רצג. וע”ע בספר צדקה ומשפט (בלאו) פ”ח הע’ כה.

[3] שו”ת ציץ אליעזר חט”ז סי’ כט, וצל”ע בדבריו דפסק כן מטעם שיכול לומר קים לי כהני פוסקים דבא לקופת הצדקה הו”ל כבא לידי הגבאי, ולא הבנתי הא הספק אם לחייבו הוא אם קיים נדרו או לא א”כ מה שייך לומר קים לי בדיני שמים?

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