June 17, 2024
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May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Meira Chaya Nechama Bracha, aleha hashalom, bat Reb David Mordechai, sheyichyeh.

 Brachot 9: A Jew was offered a medal of honor. Independence Day is on Shabbos; may he attend the award ceremony?

A Jew living in a foreign land performed a great civic feat. He received a letter from the government informing him that he was the recipient of a medal of honor. The ceremony would take place on Independence Day, coinciding with Shabbat that year. What should he do? Should he attend the ceremony and accept the honor? Were he to attend the ceremony, Shabbat would most likely be violated, as elevator buttons would be pushed and an electric gate would be opened for him. Is he allowed to attend, despite the Shabbat desecrations?

Kovetz Kol Torah (Tishrei 5765 page 162) deals with this question. He suggests that our Gemara provides guidance in regard to this dilemma with a lesson from Rav Yochanan about the importance of honoring kings. Rav Yochanan taught that one should always run to honor a king. This is true about a Jewish king and even a gentile king. One should run to honor him and hopefully will merit to see the future redemption and the great honor bestowed onto Jewish kings at the time of the redemption. Appreciating the honor placed on a gentile king, one will be able to better understand the blessing Hashem will grant to the Jewish kings in the future. In addition to the importance of seeing a king and honoring him, we have the fear of aivah in regard to a gentile ruler. We need to be careful and refrain from doing, saying or neglecting to do things that will engender hatred and animosity from the gentiles against us. Due to aivah concerns, an observant Jew should attend the award ceremony and receive his medal, even though it is taking place on Shabbat. A similar question was dealt with by the Ketav Sofer.

Ketav Sofer (Orach Chaim Siman 33) was asked by his brother about a visit from the emperor who was planning to visit on a Yom Kippur that fell out on Shabbat. The Jews in that region lived in an area without an eruv. Were they allowed to carry out Torah scrolls on that Yom Kippur in order to honor the emperor? Ketav Sofer ruled that they were permitted to do so. Were they not to go out and greet the regent with scrolls, anti-Semitism would be aroused as it would be rumored that the Jews do not respect the emperor. Carrying in a place without an eruv is typically only a rabbinic prohibition. It is the sin of carrying in a carmelit. The rabbis did not institute their laws for situations where keeping their laws would create aivah.

Rav Zilberstein rules that in our scenario, the man should accept the award on Shabbat, as not doing so would create aivah. In order to prevent anti-Semitism, the rabbis allowed the honoring of kings even with actions that would otherwise be rabbinically prohibited. Our award-recipient will not violate any biblical commands. Rabbinic guidelines of Sabbath observance, such as amirah le’akum, will be violated. So as to avoid aivah, the rabbis waived their laws. Even though our governments are not run by kings, prime ministers and presidents have considerable power. If he would not attend, it would create aivah. He is therefore encouraged to accept the award and help avoid engendering aivah. (Chashukei Chemed)

Brachot 11: A Jew is about to light his Chanukah candles. A poor man comes to the door to collect charity; does he need to interrupt and give tzedakah?

Our daf introduces the principle of ha’osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah, if you are preoccupied with one mitzvah you do not need to interrupt to fulfill a second mitzvah. If one was in the midst of performing a mitzvah and the time to read Shema arrives, he is exempt from reading Shema. “Beshivtecha beveisecha uvelechtecha vaderech,” (Devarim 6:7) you are obligated in Shema if you are sitting in your home, performing secular matters, or when you are on your walk; but if you are preoccupied with Hashem’s matters, you are exempt from Shema. Based on this concept, Rav Yosef in Bava Kamma (56b) teaches that one who is watching a lost object would be exempt from giving charity. If he was occupied with the lost object when the poor collector arrived, he need not interrupt the mitzvah of caring for the lost property of a friend in order to fulfill the mitzvah of giving charity to the poor. What is the law if you are busy with a mere rabbinic mitzvah? If one is lighting his Chanukah candles and a poor individual knocks on the door, is he exempt from charity? Can involvement in a rabbinic mitzvah exempt one from fulfilling a biblical obligation? Shu”t Yehudah Ya’aleh (Chelek Aleph Yoreh Dei’ah Siman 310) deals with this question and he resolves it from our Gemara.

Shu”t Yehudah Ya’aleh argues that one who is engaged in a rabbinic mitzvah is not exempt from a biblical command that has arisen. Our Gemara teaches that the source for osek b’mitzvah patur min hamitzvah is the verse about Krias Shema. Hashem commanded to read Shema “beshivtecha beveisecha uvelechtecha vaderech,” when you are “belechtecha”; on your own walk, you have to read Shema. When one is taking a walk per Hashem’s orders, one need not read Shema. In our instance, from a biblical point of view, you are on your own walk. Hashem never stated in the Torah that we are to light Chanukah candles. He did, however, state in the Torah that we are to give charity to the poor. Preoccupation with Chanukah candles cannot exempt one from fulfilling the biblical obligation of helping the poor. Shu”t Yehudah Ya’aleh offers other proofs to substantiate his point of view. It is not universally accepted. Ritva (Sukkah 25) states explicitly that one who is in the midst of a rabbinic mitzvah is exempt from fulfilling biblical obligations because ha’osek bamitzvah patur min hamitzvah (Sdei Tzofim).


Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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