Sunday, January 12, 2014

Yisro, Shemos 20:7. Mitzvos According to the Ramban, Ahava and Yir'ah.

The Magen Avraham (658 sk 12 quoting Mateh Moshe, and in 671 sk 1 without attribution,) says that a person should forego his own Hiddur Mitzva in order to enable another person to do the basic Mitzva.  Here is the case:
Reuven has the means to fulfill a Mitzva with Hiddur, with glory and beauty.  There is another town where nobody can fulfill the mitzva at all.  If he were to take some of the money he set aside for the mitzvah and send it to the other another town, he would still be able to fulfill the mitzvah adequately, but without hiddur.  The Magen Avraham says מוטב, it is better that he choose the second option.  It is clear from the Magen Avraham in 658 that this chiddush is not limited to helping a tzibbur; the same is true for helping another individual to do his mitzva. This is also mentioned by the Shaarei Teshuva in 671 sk 12.  (The Ben Ish Chai in his Tshuvos Torah Lishma argues and holds that this is only true when you are being mezakeh a community, for מצוה דרבים, but you can not give up your hiddur for another individual's mitzva.  Othersמחנה חיים 29whittle the Magen Avraham's rule down to a toothpick because they basically don't agree with him.)  The cases where the Magen Avraham tells us this rule are as follows:

In 658 the case is that you have enough oil to light the Chanuka menora with hiddur, increasing the number every night, but there is someone who can't afford oil, or has no access to candles, then you should- not must, should- split the oil with him, and you will each light just one candle every night.

In 671 the case is that he has two hundred dollars.  Option One: He can buy a splendid esrog, but his friend, who lives many miles away, will have no esrog at all.  Option Two: He can spend one hundred for an adequate esrog for himself and give the other hundred to his friend to buy an esrog.  The Magen Avraham says he should choose Option Two.

If the Magen Avraham only quoted the Mateh Moshe in the case of Chanuka, I would say it's a rule in Pirsum Haneis, publicizing the miracle of Chanuka, so paying for someone else's candle is your way of doing Pirsum, through the other person.   But he extrapolates from Chanuka to an individual who doesn't have an Esrog, so the Magen Avraham takes it to be a rule of general application.

There is a discussion in the Shaarei Teshuva that is somewhat related.  In OC 482, the Shaarei Teshuva brings the Beis Yehuda's question: two people, each has a half zayis of matza shmura, what should they do.  The Beis Yehuda says they should fight it out- כל דאלים גבר, which the Shaarei Teshuva finds very difficult to understand.  First of all, it's immoral (the Igeres Shmuel brought there is a topic for another day.) Second, it would be ineffective, because of Matza Gezula, even if it is less than a kezayis.  (I think that the Beis Yehuda, when he says כל דאלים גבר, is not using the phrase in its usual sense.  He means they should agree to a fight, winner take all.)  So the Shaarei Teshuva offers two possible resolutions: that each eat what he has, assuming that half a kezayis is also a mitzva (even though it is not a complete fulfillment, it is called a mitzva, which is the subject of a very broad machlokes among the achronim and perhaps the rishonim) or that they should flip a coin, winner take all.  (Actually, he says Gorel.  Maybe he was worried about Asmachta.)  He says that it is pashut that the loser, by enabling a complete fulfillment of a mitzva, is better off than had he personally done a half mitzva, along the lines of Yessachar/Zevulun.  Also, since there was a gorel, it's not like he threw away his mitzva.  Here, too, you see the idea that enabling someone else's full mitzva outweighs your own partial mitzva.  In the Magen Avraham's case, the partial mitzva was Hiddur.  Here, it is a half zayis.

The connection to our parsha is the Ramban.  The Ramban (in 20:7, quoted below) presents a concept of Mitzvos which, he says, has application in practical halacha (in the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה.)  He says that the essence of positive commandments is to show love of G-d: I do what He wants done because I love Him. The motive to avoid aveiros is not love, but fear and the duty of obedience. The connection to the Magen Avraham now becomes obvious.  According to the Ramban, the primary motive for doing mitzvos is to see to it that Hashem's will is done, and it should make no difference whether I do the mitzva myself or I enable someone else to do it.  If, on the other hand, mitzvos are primarily a matter of personal obligation, then it would be hard to see why I should give up the opportunity to do my duty optimally just so that someone else should fulfill his basic obligation.  Certainly, if Mitzvos are motivated by yir'ah, my interest is to protect myself and ensure my own survival and safety.  Whether or not other people do mitzvos is irrelevant to me.

There are some issues here that are beyond resolution.  For example:  In financial matters, we have rules of tzedaka; that we give maaser, or a chomesh; and the tithe or fifth are only if a person can cover his own basic needs.  If not, his obligation is שלישית השקל בשנה (Rambam 7 Matnos Aniyim 5).  The Tur brings from Rav Saadiah Gaon that  חייב אדם להקדים פרנסתו לכל אדם ואינו חייב לתת צדקה עד שיהיה לו פרנסתו שנאמר וחי אחיך עמך חייך קודמין לחיי אחיך, but the Beis Yosef says that there is some kind of error in that quote; the Baal HaTanyah distinguishes between basic life needs and "mosros:"
ולא אמרו חייך קודמין אלא כשביד אחד קיתון של מים וכו' שהוא דבר השוה לשניהם בשוה לשתות להשיב נפשם בצמא, אבל אם העני צריך לחם לפי הטף ועצים וכסות בקרה וכהאי גוונא, כל הדברים האלו קודמין לכל מלבושי כבוד וזבח משפחה בשר ודגים וכל מטעמים של האדם וכל בני ביתו, ולא שייך בזה חייך קודמין מאחר שאינן חיי נפש ממש כמו של העני שוה בשוה ממש.
Instead of approaching it as if it were a new topic, why doesn't the Magen Avraham and all those that follow apply the rules of Tzedaka to this question?  The Baal Hatanya's rule would be a perfect model for the Magen Avraham.  If it's my mitzva against his I do mine.   If it's my hiddur against his,  That's like my mosros against his basic needs and I ought to help him. 
And of course, the basic issue is a matter of hashkafa, a matter that has no ultimate answer.  The issue for Mitzvos is really the same as it is in the philosophy of politics.  How do the rights and needs of the individual relate to those of society in mitzvos- Utilitarianism or Objectivism?  Capitalism, Socialism, or Communism?

Coming back to questions that might have a clear answer, here are the some discussions that might clarify the shittos here.

1.  Does the Magen Avraham depend on whether hiddur is de'oraysa or derabannan?  (Also here and here.)  I am not sure.

2.  Does the Magen Avraham depend on whether hiddur is part of the mitzva or a separate mitzva?  It seems to me that if hiddur is a separate mitzva, then it is no different than any other mitzva kiyumis, and I highly doubt that the Magen Avraham would say that given a choice between fulfilling your own mitzva kiyumis or funding someone else's mitzva chiyuvis, that is is good to fund the other person.  Somehow, I think that he's only talking about hiddur.  And so the Magen Avraham has to hold that Hiddur is part of the mitzva, not a separate mitzva.
(As I mentioned above, the Ben Ish Chai in his Teshuvos Torah Lishmah is not convinced by the Magen Avraham.  He holds that one should not give up his mitzva of hiddur to enable someone else to do his.
מיהו הלכה זו שחדש המג״א ז״ל בהלכות חנוכה הנז׳ עדיין לא פסיקא לי די״ל מאחר דאין כאן מצוה דרבים ורק עבד כן בשביל יחיד אין לו לעזוב הדור מצותו בשביל יחיד ומצוה דדיה קדים. 
My feeling is that he is assuming that Hiddur is a separate mitzva.  Given that assumption, he is right to disagree with the Magen Avraham.)

3.  Since the achronim talk about the din of Arvus, that not only do we have a din Arvus on each other, but it's even a din of Areiv Kablan (here and here), what's the hava amina not like the Magen Avraham?  And even without that, what about the din of אע"פ שיצא מוציא which is based on the rule that the regular din of ערבות makes it that I'm still a מחוייב בדבר as long as the other person wasn't yotzei yet?  So of course I can't patchke with hiddur when, from the perspective of Arvus, I haven't yet been yotzei the basic mitzva!

4.  Does this only apply where the other mitzva is the same?  Or is it true in general, for example, where I could buy a super esrog, but it would be better to buy a regular esrog and give the extra money to someone who can then buy a tallis or tefillin?  The Ksav Sofer understands the Magen Avraham as being based on the din of arvus, so even though you are giving up on your hiddur, you gain a share in your friend's mitzva.  But maybe that only applies where the two mitzvos are the same, but you have no right to take money from your mitzva A and give it away for someone elses mitzva B, because of the din of עוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה, osek b'mitzva, that you should do the current mitzva as well as you can and not diminish it by doing other mitzvos at the same time?  Especially according to the Ritva (Sukka 25a) that an osek is not just pattur, but even assur to do the other mitzvah and the Ran (Sukkah 11a) that osek is pattur even if there's no tircha .

5.  According to the Ramban, since mitzvos Asei are based on ahava, is the Magen Avraham (and the Shaarei Teshuva's gorel) not indisputable?  In other words, if it was yir'ah, then all I care is to protect myself.  If it's ahava, what difference does it make if I do the mitzva or someone else does the mitzva- if my motive is to do Hashem's will because I love Him, all that should matter is whether Hashem is pleased, not whether I get a bigger mitzva reward.  Or am I making a mistake by conflating the Ramban and Shimon Hatzadik in Pirkei Avos 1:3,
 אנטיגנוס איש סוכו קיבל משמעון הצדיק.  הוא היה אומר, אל תהיו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב, על מנת לקבל פרס, אלא הוו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב, על מנת שלא לקבל פרס; ויהי מורא שמים עליכם
R Micha Berger made a very good point.  I knew something was wrong with what I had written, and I couldn't put my finger on it (therefore, ☛,) and R Micha showed me what I had missed.    I have been defining יראה as fear, and that is simplistic and misleading.  In fact, the word can include either יראת העונש OR  יראת הרוממות.  The latter would provide a perfect underpinning for the Magen Avraham, perhaps even more than אהבה.  

Here are the Ramban's words.
ובמדרשו של רבי נחוניא בן הקנה (ספר הבהיר אות קפב) הזכירו עוד סוד גדול בזכור ושמור, ועל הכלל תהיה הזכירה ביום והשמירה בלילה, וזהו מאמר החכמים (ב''ק לב:) שאומרים בערב שבת באי כלה באי כלה, באו ונצא לקראת שבת מלכה כלה, ויקראו לברכת היום קדושא רבא (פסחים קו.) שהוא הקדוש הגדול, ותבין זה. ואמת הוא ג''כ כי מדת זכור רמזו במצות עשה, והוא היוצא ממדת האהבה והוא למדת הרחמים, כי העושה מצות אדוניו אהוב לו ואדוניו מרחם עליו, ומדת שמור במצות לא תעשה, והוא למדת הדין ויוצא ממדת היראה, כי הנשמר מעשות דבר הרע בעיני אדוניו ירא אותו, ולכן מצות עשה גדולה ממצות לא תעשה, כמו שהאהבה גדולה מהיראה, כי המקיים ועושה בגופו ובממונו רצון אדוניו הוא גדול מהנשמר מעשות הרע בעיניו, ולכך אמרו דאתי עשה ודחי לא תעשה, ומפני זה יהיה העונש במצות לא תעשה גדול ועושין בו דין כגון מלקות ומיתה, ואין עושין בו דין במצות עשה כלל אלא במורדין, כמו לולב וציצית איני עושה, סוכה איני עושה, שסנהדרין היו מכין אותו עד שיקבל עליו לעשות או עד שתצא נפשו: 

6.  Does the din of the Magen Avraham follow from the rule of חטא בשביל שיזכה חבירך,  that Reuven may do a relatively minor sin to save his innocent friend from doing a major sin?

      A.  Is the Magen Avraham a simple restatement, an exact match to that rule?  To illustrate:
 חטא בשביל שיזכה חבירך means "Saving X from a major sin justifies (perhaps requires) that Y do a minor sin," 
and here, that would mean one of two things, either a or b:
                 a.  "Enabling X to do a major mitzva justifies (perhaps requires)  that Y relinquish a minor mitzva."  
                 b. To state it more strongly, let's not talk about enabling X to do a mitzva; let's talk about bittul asei, the transgressive failure to do a mitzva:  
"Saving X from failing to do a major mitzva justifies (perhaps requires)  that Y relinquish a minor mitzva."  

Or is there a difference between saving a person from sin and helping him fulfill a mitzva, because an Aveira, albeit oneis, is a פגם, a stain, whereas failure to do a mitzva is just a missed opportunity?

      B.  Is the Magen Avraham even stronger than that case, based on the Ramban that says that fulfilling mitzvos is a stronger show of our relationship with Hashem than avoiding aveiros?  Or is the Ramban a poor example, because he's talking about the reward for fulfilling, not the punishment for not fulfilling.

Since I mention that sugya in Shabbos 4a, here's the relevant Tosfos, with the interesting parts in bold:
וכיאומרים לו לאדם חטא בשביל שיזכה חבירך. והא דאמר בבכל מערבין (עירובין לב: ושם) רבי סבר ניחא ליה לחבר דליעבד איסורא קלילא ולא ליעבד עם הארץ איסורא רבה התם כדי שלא יאכל ע"ה טבל על ידו דאמר לי' מלא לך כלכלה של תאנים מתאנתי אבל הכא שלא נעשה האיסור על ידו אין אומרים לו חטא אפי' איסור קל שלא יבא חבירו לידי איסור חמור ואומר ריב"א דאפי' למדביק עצמו אין לפשוט משם להתיר דהתם עדיין לא נעשה האיסור ומוטב שיעשה איסור קל ולא יעשה איסור חמור על ידו אבל הכא המעשה של איסור כבר נעשה וממילא יגמור לא יעשה אפי' איסור קל בידים והא דתנן בהשולח (גיטין דף מא: ושם) מי שחציו עבד וחציו בן חורין כופין את רבו ועושה אותו בן חורין ואע"ג דבהאי פירקא (דף לח:) א"ר יהודה כל המשחרר עבדו עובר בעשה דלעולם בהם תעבודו שאני פריה ורביה דמצוה רבה היא כדמשני התם בר"א שנכנס לבה"מ ולא מצא שם י' ושחרר את עבדו להשלימו לי' מצוה דרבים שאני ועוד י"ל דדוקא היכא דפשע קאמר וכי אומרים לו לאדם חטא כדי כו' ואתי שפיר הא דאמרי' בריש תמיד נשחט (פסחים דף נט. ושם) דאתי עשה דפסח שיש בו כרת ודחי עשה דהשלמה וקא עברי כהנים בעשה דהשלמה ומקריבין למחוסר כפורים כפרתו כדי שיביא פסחו וכן בפרק בתרא דעירובין (דף קג: ושם) כהן שנמצא בו יבלת חבירו חותכה לו לו בשיניו אע"ג דהוי שבות וגבי חציה שפחה וחציה בת חורין שנהגו בה מנהג הפקר וכפו את רבה בהשולח (גיטין דף לח:) משום שהיתה מחזרת וממציאה עצמה לזנות ודומי' לאנוסין והוי נמי כמצוה דרבים
I'm also taking into consideration the Magen Avraham 306 sk 29, who brings the shittos about sinning to save others from more serious sins, so we can't say that he doesn't pasken like the Gemara in Shabbos.

7.  Now that we've introduced a comparison to חטא בשביל שיזכה חבירך, I don't know why I should only look at the Ramban to support the Magen Avraham.  After all, the Maharik says that Asei is docheh Lo Sa'aseh because the Asei is more important/chamur.  See here in middle of the first column.  If Asei is more chamur, then, as we said in the previous paragraph, the rule of חטא בשביל שיזכה חבירך should apply to mitzvos asei as well.

8.  When Reb Shlomo Zalman said that Reuven has no obligation to spend a dime to prevent Shimon's need to be mechallel Shabbos for Piku'ach nefesh, (If Reuven would give Shimon his candle and sit in the dark, Shimon, who is sick, won't need to light a candle on Shabbos for piku'ach nefesh), why doesn't he bring the Magen Avraham (because I think that if the Magen Avraham holds it is mutav by kiyum mitzvos, where there's a din of עד חומש, wouldn't he hold it was obligatory where you can prevent dechiyas Shabbos, where it's כל ממונו ובלבד שלא יעבור על המצווה)?

9.  What would the Magen Avraham say in a case where you have the ability to do a Mitzva Kiyumis, but you could use the money to enable your friend to do a Mitzva Chiyuvis?  What would you say?


  1. Somewhat related - GRA Mishley 22:9

  2. what of the mitzva to love your fellow as yourself? how would (wealthy) Reuven feel to
    see Shimon's added candle night after night, if he hadn't even the one? not so good, despite himself (despite his required 'happiness' for Shimon)

    "the partial mitzva was Hiddur"
    how so? wasn't Hiddur either a full embellishment, or a full mitzva? if it were but a
    partial mitzva, then linguistically/logically speaking, the basic mitzva must be the other
    part, & not in itself "a complete fulfillment of a mitzva"

    it's easy to hear Shemos 15:2, which teaches the individual's beautification of his
    mitzvas, as rather teaching collective beautification, since all of Israel sang zeh keli
    v'anveihu as one; in other words, any personal move toward hiddur would need, by
    application of arvus, to extend to others

    ~thank you for the posting of many intervolving parts

    1. Even if the mitzva to love your fellow applied to spiritual needs, the Gemara in Bava Metzia does say that when there is only enough for one, our duty to be stewards to what God has given us personally outweighs our duty to others. Here, the assistance to the other is at the cost of ones' own hiddur.

      "the partial mitzva was hiddur" means that after one fulfills the basic mitzva, doing hiddur is an enhancement; it is secondary. Hiddur is akin to a partial mitzva in the sense that it is corollary and ancillary to the basic mitzva.

      You're right. The source for hiddur was enunciated by the people singing as one. But why would you say the rule of hiddur for the tzibbur outweighs that of individuals?

      You're welcome. Thank you for taking the time to comment more clearly and constructively. In line with that, I encourage you to adopt a personal identifier.

  3. it's hard to hear arvus working alone here, given that we vowed/swore at Yam Suf to beautify our service, & its's a mitzva d'oraisa to keep one's word (Bam. 30:3); even more
    terrible (yir'ah) than the direct command to fulfill one's vow/oath in general, was Hashem's
    very Own Witness to the utterance at 15:2! could there be any question then of Reuven
    failing to keep his mitzva (keep his vow to heautify, not beautification itself) so that Shimon
    might keep his? it's basic mitzva vs basic mitzva (& even d'oraisa vs d'rabbanan
    in the case of Chanuka), not luxury vs basic;

    but then when we combine arvus with 'don't pass up a mitzva', a strange thing happens--
    on night one of Chanuka, Reuven would only light one candle anyway (on his way to adding
    a candle each night thereafter); but by arvus for Shimon, Reuven would on night one, by
    keeping his candles to himself, have passed over a mitzva (Shimon's lighting of a single
    candle)! so Reuven on night one must help then & there (would that commit him to
    Shimon's lighting on future nights, or would R.'s ancestral neder to beautify his service overtake events, resulting in a hybridized outcome when all is said & done?)

  4. All mitzvos involved an oath- the oath we all took to keep the mitzvos at Har Sinai. The Gemara in Nedarim calls mitzvos "mushba v'omeid," an obligation engendered by oath. Hiddur, whatever the source is, is a lesser obligation. The fulfillment of a mitzva mandates giving up a chomesh - either a fifth or a quarter of one's assets, while hiddur is limited to one third of the value of the mitzva as done without hiddur.

    1. hiddur, at comment 1:49pm, wiould be a lesser obligation (as you
      point out, just follow the money) -- our oath at Sinai was to do what He
      said (kol hadevarim asher diber Hashem, na'aseh, 24:3), while our oath
      at Yam Suf was to do what we said (we will exalt Him, that is, beautify
      the mitzvos both individual [vow spoken by eachJew with his own mouth
      & breath] & communal [vow spoken b'kol echad]) -- surely the former neder
      takes precedence over the later

  5. with reference to item "9."

    let Kiyumis give to Chiyuvis: 'two are better than one, for they get a better return for their
    labor'* (Koheles 4:9)

    let Kiyumis give to Chiyuvis, for 'where one can be overpowered**, two can resist
    attack' (4:12)

    let Kiyumis give to Chiyuvis, for 'a three-ply*** cord is not easily severed' (4:12)

    * more sachar for their teamwork; 2 are serving Hashem, rather than 1
    ** Chiyuvis, by the yetzer ha'ra
    *** Kiyumis, Chiyuvis, Hashem
    [Artscroll translations]