Reneging on Pledge
Is it permissible to withdraw a donation pledge to a Law School because of an event that occurred after the pledge? E.X. the pledge donor learned that the institution permits activities he objects to. Would this be considered “mechusar amana,”by reneging on the pledge, or can you say that it is a taus and had he known such an event would be held at the school he never would had made the pledge? Or does taus only work by buying and selling? I am asking because I plan to give shiur on this topic.
Thank you very much.
Generally a pledge to give charity is more binding than an agreement to make a purchase. Mechusar Amana refers to someone who orally made a commitment to purchase something, but in fact made no binding legal acquisition. Hence, backing out from this commitment is only an issue of a person not standing by his word. A pledge to give charity however is a form of an oath, which is legally binding even when made orally.
Nevertheless, in this situation, you may still be absolved from fulfilling your pledge, for a number of reasons. One, the concept of “nidrei shgagos”, one who makes an oath based on faulty assumption, which he never would have made had he known the truth [Shulchan Aruch Y:D 232:6]. Even without this, in fact you never took an oath to give a donation. Generally, one who pledged to charity is bound as if he made an oath, but this refers to a pledge to a poor person. One who pledges to give a present to a friend is not bound by this rule, and his pledge does not get the status of an oath [Y:D 258:12]. In addition, many are lenient that one who did hatars nedarim on Erev Rosh Hashana is also not bound to a regular pledge as an oath [Minchas Shlomo Vol. 1, 91:20].
Although there is no issue of violating an oath, there still would be the issue of “mechusar amanah”, which also applies to one who committed to giving a present in a non binding way [Shulchan Aruch C:M 243:2, 204:8]. However, with mechusar amanah as well, if there was information not known to you which would have changed your decision there is no violation of mechusar amanah as well.
Sorry for the delayed response, as the Rav has been abroad for an extended stay.