Monday, March 16, 2015

The Purloined Letter

This past Shabbos, the minyan at which I daven gave seventeen aliyos.  This was because when we were almost finished with Vayakhel, reading from a six month old sefer Torah, the baal korei found an Aleph that had never been finished.  Writing an Aleph is done in three strokes, and the sofer had done two and moved on.  It was clear that it was never written- the parchment was pristine.  Somehow, it slipped through the vetting process.  (We later saw that someone, probably the sofer had written in pencil in the margin that the Aleph was incomplete!  He apparently intended to to come back later and fix it, but never did.  Why he left the repair for later is a mystery.)

So we relied, bedieved, on the Rambam (and the Mordechai, Kol Bo, Avudraham, Orchos Chaim, Agur, Ohr Zarua, and Mizrachi, who are all mattir lechatchila to read from a sefer passul,) to not start from the beginning again.  But since it was relatively easy, we called up six more aliyos in the next sefer.  (This psak is based on a great deal of shimush in Litvishe Yeshivos and is consistent with the MB 143.)  No problem- it was Vayakhel-Pekudei, and we could just read Pekudei as if it were separate.

Towards the end of Pekudei, in the old sefer, the Baal Korei found that the ink in a Daled had fallen off, and that sefer was passul, too.

We took out yet another sefer, and there were just enough pesukim left to squeeze in six more aliyos.  And then, of course, parshas Parah.

It occurred to me that if some unscrupulous tzadik were to sneak into shul after Shabbos and write in the last leg of the Aleph, he would have the Mitzva DeOraysa of writing a Sefer Torah.  It's not a case of just restoring a sefer that was once kosher and later became passul.  This sefer had never been completed, and this would be the makeh be'patish that gave it kedushas sefer Torah.  With one stroke, a not-sefer would become a sefer.

Of course, the owner of the sefer, who had paid fifty thousand dollars to have it written, would be miffed.   But what could he do?  Take me to Beis Din for repairing his possuleh Sefer Torah?

The answer is that he could demand ten Zehuvim from me, which the Gemara says is the payment for snatching away someone's mitzvah.   Repairing his possuleh sefer is basically the same as being mahl his son.

Even if he is entitled to ten Zehuvim, there's a big difference between fifty thousand dollars and Asarah Zehuvim.  According to the Encyclopedia Talmudis, ten zehuvim adds up to 82 grams of pure gold, slightly less than three ounces.  As of 3/16/15, that would be three thousand dollars for chapping someone's mitzvah.  (The ratio between precious metals and other commodities is a far smaller percentage than it was in the ancient world.  Silver that would buy breakfast now would buy a cow then.)   Considering that Kesuvas Besula is around 25 ounces of silver, worth around $400 (before the hosafos of two hundred zekukin, which adds around one hundred pounds of silver,) that's a lot, but it's a lot less than $50,000.

The only problem is that once we've established that the sneak would be obligated to pay asara zehuvim, that means that he's guilty of some kind of wrongdoing.  A mitzvah enabled by means of a wrongdoing is a mitzvah haba'ah be'aveira, and there would be no kiyum of a mitzvah.

Assuming that to be the case, we have to say that all the cases of asarah zehuvim the malefactor did not fulfill any mitzvah, but the proper owner cannot do the mitzva any more because the opportunity is gone- the child is no longer an areil, the blood is covered, and so forth.  It's not worse than Kisahu haru'ach, or nolad mahul without arla kevusha.  But where the challos depends on kiyum hamitzvah, not merely eliminating the need for the mitzvah, then a man who grabs the mitzvah would not be mekayeim anything because of ba'ah be'aveirah.

There are several mehalchim about what the payment of Asarah Zehuvim is for.  Is it payment for value received, zeh neheneh vezeh chasar (Ramban and Rif in Chulin, and see Rosh BK eighth perek #15,) or is it a din of mazik, or is it a knas (R"T and brought in the Rif.)  The Chasam Sofer in Chulin 87a says it is for the anguish caused.  We are going with the Chasam Sofer, that הענישו ר"ג עשרה זהובים לפי שיעור צערא דגופא

וחייבו ר"ג עשרה זהובים 
לכאורה נראה לא שכר שיווי המצוה או הברכה חלילה, מי יכול לשער אורח חיים פן תפלס וכל חפצים לא ישוו בה, ותו מה צריך לשלם לו הפסדו הלא חשב לעשות מצוה ונאנס ולא עשאו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו עשאו, נמצא זה שחטף ממנו מצותו לאו מידי חסרי', אך הפרש יש בין העושה מצוה ומקבל שכר או נאנס ולא עשאו ומקבל שכר, כי זה העושה עובד ה' בשמחה ובטוב לבב ונשכר על זה וזה שנאנס מצטער על שלא זכה לעבוד ה' ומקבל שכר שמים על צערו נמצא אעפ"י שלענין שכר שמים אין הפרש מ"מ בצערא בגופא איכא הפרש והענישו ר"ג עשרה זהובים לפי שיעור צערא דגופא

וביש׳׳ש פ׳ החובל ס״ס כ׳ ששיעור יוד זהובים הי׳ מקובל עפ״י סוד הגנוז ע״ש וקצת ע״ד דרוש יש להסביר הקנס היותר חמור הוא שור ושה וטבחו ומכרו משלם ה׳ בקר תחת השור ה״נ יש לו לשלם פעמיים ה׳ פעמים שיווי המצוה היינו עשרה פעמים כדאמרינן בעלמא ק״ו לשכינה ׳״ד יום . ובאלעזר כתיב שני צמידים על יד׳ עשרה זהב משקלה פירש״׳ כנגד ב׳ לוחוח שבהם יוד דברות נמצא שיעור כל דבר בזהב א׳ וזה הגונב ישלם עשרה זהב עפ״י הנ"ל

הנה רש״י בפי משפטים מייתי מכילתא פלוגתא דתנאי ר״מ ורחב״ג לחד מ״ד עיקר תשלומ׳ ה׳ ורק בצאן היקל הקב״ה משום שנתבזה הגכב לישאו על כתפו וא״ש הנ״ל והכא ס״ל לרשב״ג שקנו עשרה זהב אך למ״ד דהעיקר ד׳ תחת הצאן ושור שביטלו ממלאכה צריך לשלם א׳ יותר משום ביטול מלאכה א״כ הוי סגי הכא בשמנה זהב וק׳ על הבת קול שאמר ברהמ״ז שוה ארבעים זהב והלא אינו שוה אלא ל״ב זהובים . וגם הש״ך ק״ שפ״ב בח״מ הקשה אהתוט שתירלו דאת״ כמ״ד לא מברכיך אכקא דברכתא וכף לאידך ט ד מהב״ק ה״ל למימר חמשים זהב. וי״לק׳ מתורלח בחברתה רבת קול יוצאה ואמרה בהמ״ז שוה מ׳ זהב ולא ידעיכן א׳ ברכת בפה״ג בכלל דמברטן אכקא דברכתא וה״ל ה׳ ברטת אלא lip כמ״ד חשלומי ד׳ עיקר וכל ברכה איככה קוה אלא ח׳ זהובים וה׳ פעמים הוא ארבעים או לא מברטן אכקא דברכסא ומה רק ד ברטח אלא הלכה כמ״ד חשלומי ה׳ עיקר ומגיע עבור כל ברכה עשרה זהב דה״ל מ׳ ומיושב הכל בעזה״׳

As I said above, if it really is called "stealing," then the gazlan's bracha should be a bracha levatala, both because of ba'ah be'aveira and because of אין זה מברך אלא מנאץ, and he would not fulfil the mitzva at all.  But the Taz YD 28:8 says that it's not a bracha le'vatala, because every mitzva belongs to all Klal Yisrael, even where particular individuals have precedence.  He has greater rights, compared to your lesser rights, and that's why you have to pay him, but it's not a "stolen" mitzvah.  (I believe Reb Moshe in a teshuva paskens like the Taz.) I am not sure whether the Taz shtims with the Chasam Sofer. Maybe it does, and causing someone צערא דגופא does not make it a מצוה הבאה בעבירה or מנאץ.

Still, according to the Taz, and the Igros, if I would sneak in and fix the sefer, I would have gotten a bargain.

But, you say, "Trickery to fulfill a Mitzva????  Shame on you!  It's immoral!  Who would think of doing a mitzvah by tricking someone else out of it!!"

The answer is, the Shaarei Teshuva about Boaz, that's who.

And the Titen Emes L'Yaakov, and Toras HaMitzvos, and Zera Avraham, and Pardes Yosef and Minchas Chaim.  And Achilas Matzos b'Yisrael.

(This post was originally titled "The Purloined Mitzvah. You see, Edgar Allan Poe once wrote a short detective story, "The Purloined Letter."  What we're dealing with here is truly The Purloined Letter, the letter Aleph. It was hard to decide whether to label this piece "The Purloined Letter" or "The Purloined Mitzvah.  I decided to favor subtlety and chose the latter.  But as Poe quotes from Seneca in that very story, ""Nothing is more hateful to wisdom than excessive cleverness," and it was not the right choice, so I changed the title.  Most importantly, I should always bear in mind that since this is not Sheva Brachos Torah, only forty or so people will read it, and I could call it Yunkin Purkin and it wouldn't make much difference.)

Mr. Poe, purloining the letter.

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