Who is Entitled to the Remainder?

Question

Raphy collected money to help a sick person who had been told by the doctors that
he needed several rare operations. Fortunately, after one operation he recovered
completely. Raphy finds himself with a large surplus on his hands. What should he do with
the money?


Answer

The Mishnah in Tractate Shekolim (2:5) informs us: The funds that are left from
a collection on behalf of needy persons, even if they were intended for a specific purpose
such as clothing, are used for the needs for other poor people. The reason for this is
that the original collection was made on behalf of the needy in general. All the funds
collected should therefore be used for this (general) purpose. Those needy persons who
have already benefited from the funds do not have a greater entitlement to the surplus
that any other poor people. However, if funds were collected on behalf of a particular
poor person, this poor person himself is entitled to any surplus. If this needy person is
no longer alive, his inheritors receive the money. In this case, whoever donated money had
this specific needy person in mind. He has therefore acquired the money and it is passed
on to his inheritors. These rulings are quoted in the Shulchan Oruch (Yoreh
De’ah
256:6).

What happens if the funds were never used for their intended purpose (e.g. the
operation was no longer necessary)? The Talmud Yerushalmi to Shekolim (as above)
discusses a case where funds were collected to pay for the funeral of a deceased person
who was thought to have passed away destitute. He was later found to have left a sum which
was adequate to pay for his burial. What should be done with the money? The Yerushalmi
rules that the money should be returned to the donors. Since the funds were never used for
their original purpose, the deceased never acquired them. They therefore do not form part
of his estate for inheritance purposes. The Rosh (Responsa 32:6) explains that
funds which were collected for a specific purpose do not leave the donors’ possession
until such time that they are used for the intended purpose. If this purpose is not
achieved, it turns out that they never left the donors’ ownership. What happens if
the donors can not be located (or if locating them would entail great effort and expense)?
The Rosh rules that the funds should be used for the public good, preferably for the same
type of purpose for which they were originally collected. The Gra (No. 14) agrees with
this ruling.

Where funds were collected on behalf of a specific needy person, is there any way one
is permitted to use any surplus for a different purpose? The Yerushalmi states that
those who are recognised charity collectors are permitted to divert the surplus funds to
other public needs at their discretion. For example, if funds were collected to redeem
captives, the remaining funds may be used for the needs of the poor if the charity
collectors feel this is correct. The reason is that those who deposit charitable funds
with a recognised charity collector are assumed to allow him this latitude (Rosh, as
above). This ruling is also quoted by the Shulchan Oruch (as above – see also
commentary of the Rambam to the Mishna in Shekolim). However, one who is not an
established charity collector but just decided to take the initiative on this occasion
does not have such permission. He must give any surplus to the individual on whose behalf
he made the collection, this being the intention of the donors.

THEREFORE, if Raphy is an established charity collector, he may use
any surplus to cover the medical expenses of other needy persons. If he has not attained
this status, he must give the remaining sum to the person on whose behalf he collected the
money.
THEREFORE, if Raphy is an established charity collector, he may use
any surplus to cover the medical expenses of other needy persons. If he has not attained
this status, he must give the remaining sum to the person on whose behalf he collected the
money.