Section: Halacha   Category: Tshuvos
Chelkas Yaakov: Special Discount for "Rabbis"

There are certain stores and utility companies, such as the telephone company, that had a policy to give discounts to “Rabbis”.  Since it is forbidden for a talmid chochom to use his Torah for his own benefit, would it be permissible for him to take advantage of these discounts?

The Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah (3:10) speaks very strongly against a Talmud Chochom that receives money and other gifts from the public as a means to support himself.  He calls it a Chilul Hashem among other terrible things.  The Kesef Mishneh, Bach, and others disagree and they hold that taking presents is permissible.  Although in principle they agree with the Rambam, they hold that it has become an “Es Laasos L’ashem”; the times require a talmid chochom to live off the public in order to be able to learn without financial worries.  If talmidei chachomim were required to work, torah would be lost.  The Rema (YD 246:21) paskens that it is permissible to accept small gifts and the Shach says even large ones.  Therefore taking the discount should be permitted.

Besides for all these lenient opinions, adds the Chelkas Yaakov, there is another reason for a talmid chochom to be able to take advantage of the discounts offered to him.  There are halachos of “Kavod HaTorah” which among other things allow a talmid chochom to be the first one to sell his produce in the market.  Talmidei Chachomim are also exempt from certain taxes.  These halachos apply even according to the Rambam.  Discounts may fall into the category of Kavod HaTorah.

However warns the Chelkas Yaakov one should be careful not to pretend to be a talmid chochom in order to get the discount as is all too common.

Important Note: We try to convey the Tshuva to the best of our ability. We admit that our understanding may not be accurate. Please also understand that this Tshuva may not be the final word on this topic. One should consult a Rav before drawing any conclusions.