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    Accepting Government Programs for Summer Camps

    The U.S. government offers many programs. One such program provides free food for children from low-income homes who attend a sleepaway camp or day camp in the summer months. Can we accept money from non-Jews?

    Rashi and others say that one who accepts tzedakah in a public manner is disqualified from being a witness.

    The halachah says that we may not accept money from non-Jews in a public manner. If not enough money is available from Jewish sources and one cannot accept the money from a non-Jew in private, then it is permitted to take from a non-Jew in public. The Gemara does not seem to make the distinction between private and public acceptance of money from non-Jews. Rather, one may only accept the money to avoid insulting people, and it must be distributed to non-Jews. The commentators offer numerous approaches to this issue. The Drishah explains that the Gemara is discussing a case where the recipient oversees the charity fund (gabbai tzedakah), and only permits it in certain cases, even if it is in private.

    The Taz says that the Gemara is referring to a situation when the giver’s intent is to only benefit Jews. In addition, if the giver is giving because he has pity on the recipient it is permitted.

    The reason why we may not take money from a non-Jew in public is because it is a disgrace to Hashem that Jews cannot support each other and we must rely on non-Jews. Some are lenient with this today since non-Jews do not worship idols and the concern was taking from an idol-worshipping non-Jew. However, this is not the accepted practice.

    The Aruch Hashulchan says that those who take from non-Jews do so because there is no other choice (even in public).

    Some frown upon people who learn in kollel and have their income subsidized by non-Jewish government programs. This is considered accepting money in public from a non-Jew. Therefore, one should avoid taking the money if he can live without it. If not, then it is permitted.

    In reality, if we do not accept the different programs the government has to offer, it would be very difficult for Jewish institutions to survive on tuition or camp fees alone. Therefore, the practice is that it is permitted. This is especially so since these programs are not created only for Jews. In addition, we pay taxes to the government and are benefiting from the money we give to them.

    Some yeshivos publish directories with listings of local businesses, and distribute them as a fundraiser. Even though many of the businesses are owned by non-Jews, this is not considered taking charity from them, as the owners simply view this as an advertising expense.

    Accepting Tzedakah from Women

    Many people collect tzedakah in the bungalows throughout the week and on weekends, since they know that they can approach many bungalows at one time. The question which needs to be addressed is if a woman may give tzedakah when her husband is absent.

    The Gemara says that a gabbai tzedakah may only take a small amount from a woman (or a young child). This is brought in halachah as well. The amount is dependent on each person’s wealth. In America, twenty dollars is considered a small amount for a rich person.

    The woman is believed if she says she is giving on behalf of her husband. Many husbands do not mind if their wives give even large amounts of tzedakah. If a married woman has her own bank account and her husband gives her free rein, then she may give large amounts of money to tzedakah.

    The Aruch Hashulchan says that if women work they can give even more than a small amount. Others say that this is only if the woman is supporting her husband. One should be sure to clarify his desires with his wife to avoid any problems.

    Some say that if the woman is in charge of paying the bills, she may give as she pleases.

    Ma’aser from Spending Money

    Parents give their children spending money before they leave for camp. The child does not have to take off ma’aser from this money before he spends it.

    Leaving Eretz Yisrael for Joy or Sight-seeing

    One who lives in Eretz Yisrael should not leave in order to tour other countries. However, it is permitted to visit a friend since it is a mitzvah. If one wishes to leave Eretz Yisrael to see the wonders of the world it may be permitted, as it is a mitzvah to see Hashem’s world. Others are not convinced about leaving Eretz Yisrael for tours.

    Gedolim of all generations would leave Eretz Yisrael for vacation. Any trip for business or to simply unwind is permitted.

    Mezuzah Cover

    In the intense heat of summer, some wrap the mezuzah klaf in plastic to avoid damage from the sun. The Gra is quoted as mentioning this to be an issue of chatzitzah, but this is not the overwhelming custom. The plastic need not be placed into sheimos.

    Shiluach Hakan

    Birds mate and have chicks in the spring and summer. There is a mitzvah related to birds that people may not have done even once in their life, namely shiluach hakan – sending away the mother bird from her nest. There are many opportunities to do this mitzvah during the summer, especially in the country. Because these halachos are not well studied we will discuss them in depth.

    If a bird’s nest happens to be before you…young birds or eggs, and the mother is roosting…you should not take the mother with the young. You should surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself. So that it will be good for you and will prolong your days.

    The mitzvah can be done by men or women, but not children.

    There are many who offer reasons for this mitzvah. The Rambam says that the mother should not have pain when we take the eggs so we send her away.

    The Ramban explains that the reason behind the mitzvah is to have compassion on the mother, but one should not do the mitzvah for this purpose alone.

    This mitzvah involves very little hardship or cost but the reward for this mitzvah is great. Some say that this mitzvah is a segulah to have children, get married, and build a home. It says that performing the mitzvah of shiluach hakan brings about Eliyahu Hanavi and Mashiach quickly.

    One who passes by and sees a bird should make sure to send the mother away, although this may not be required according to the letter of the law.

    The mother should not be sent away if she is not sitting on the eggs. If the father is sitting on the eggs there is no mitzvah to send him away. The mother usually sits on the nest at night (from sunset until sunrise), and the father sits on the nest during the day. The mitzvah does not apply to unfertilized eggs. However, one can assume that the eggs are fertilized.

    The mitzvah applies even if there is only one egg. However, if there is more than one egg another person can do the mitzvah with the other egg. There is no need for one person to take the eggs. Therefore, if one did the mitzvah and then the mother returned, someone else can take the other egg.

    If the eggs hatched and the chicks can fly there is no mitzvah to send away the mother and take the chicks. If the eggs are broken there is no mitzvah to send away the mother. In order to fulfill the mitzvah, the eggs have to be fit to eat (usually a few days after they were laid). There is no need to lift the eggs three tefachim in order to acquire them; it is sufficient to simply hold them in the hand. If the eggs are large and go beyond the palm of the hand, they should be lifted three tefachim.

    The mitzvah only applies if the nest is in a public area, and one simply came upon it. Therefore, it would not apply in a secure field. Since one’s property acquires whatever is on it this can be a challenge if the nest is on private property. A private yard would preclude one from the mitzvah. Some suggest that the owner should make the nest hefker before the eggs are laid. Some argue that no one wants a nest on his property at all, and the yard never acquired the nest; therefore, one can do the mitzvah. Others say that if the nest is not on the porch of his home but rather on the roof or window, the property does not acquire the nest.