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Beit Midrash Family and Society Contracts and Agreements

At the Shabbat Table

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The board members of Yeshivat Or HaTorah weren’t entirely surprised that they were being called to yet another meeting. The last gathering hadn’t left them in a particularly cheerful mood, then again, neither had the session before that. The amount of back pay owed to the teachers was appalling, the electric company had sent numerous threatening notices, and varying the boys’ lunch menu meant serving rotini instead of elbows.
The board members sat around the table, fidgeting in their seats, uncomfortably aware that the yeshiva was somehow depending on them to address its financial woes, despite the fact that the board had tried every viable option, and hadn’t come up with any real solutions.
The president sat upright in his chair, and cleared his throat. "Let’s face the facts. We don’t have much of a solid donor base. Despite the publicity and extensive planning, the Chinese auction didn’t draw much of a crowd, the promotional CD almost brought in enough to cover the production costs, and the attempt at a lemonade stand proved that sometimes it’s better not to make anything out of lemons. We have to try a new tactic."
The audible grumbling heard around the table gave the president just enough time to fish in his pocket and withdraw a business card. "You see this" the president pointed to the elegant card in his hand. "It seems this is our only answer. His name is Shlomo. He’s a big name in the fundraising business. He has great leads, and he draws in money wherever he goes. There’s just one catch. He takes a 51% cut."
The board members would have liked to protest, but they knew it was useless. 51% sounded more like extortion than a commission, but it was painfully obvious that it was that or send the students packing. Within minutes, the president had Shlomo on the phone.
The board members went to sleep that night a little more easily, anticipating the sack of money that Shlomo would bring back after he had concluded his travels. Finally, the day came. As the president sat with Shlomo, debriefing him about his successful fundraising outing, a smile began to spread over the president’s face. Until he got to the price tag.
"51% plus travel expenses! Who ever heard of such a thing? How could you possibly charge that?!" the president thundered.
"What do you mean?" Shlomo responded evenly. "I said that I charge 51%. We agreed on that. I don’t derive any personal benefit from the travel expenses. Why should that have to come out of my pocket?"
Who is right? Is Shlomo allowed to charge travel expenses in addition to a 51% commission?
Answer of former Rishon Letzion, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, zt"l:
It is shocking that people are not embarrassed to charge such a high commission, and demand travel expenses on top of that! It is clear that, had the donors known that such an amount was being reduced from their donations, they wouldn’t have donated at all to this yeshiva.
It is very important to be careful with the money belonging to a yeshiva! A person who exemplified this behavior was my father in law Rabbi Nissim David Azran, zt"l, founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Beit Shmuel. Rabbi Azran was so careful with the yeshiva’s money that he would always travel by bus, so that he would never have take a taxi on the yeshiva’s account. Similarly, he would never make a personal call at the expense of the yeshiva.
In summary:
The yeshiva should not pay Shlomo for his travel expenses.
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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