Friday, October 27, 2006

placing oneself in a situation of 'b'dieved' or 'ones'

Returning to the Brisker Rav's chiddush that Adam did nothing wrong in covering himself once he became aware of his nakedness, but was responsible for creating the circumstance that led to that behavior, we find this idea reflected in two chiddushim of the Ba'al haMaor. 1) The gemara in Shabbos (19a) tells us that it is prohibited to embark on a sea journey within three days before Shabbos. The Ba’al haMaor writes that the reason for the prohibition is that the dangers of the voyage may lead to an emergency with recourse other than to violate shabbos. Once in a situation of life or death one is halachically justified in being mechalel Shabbos, but one must avoid creating such a circumstance where it could be avoided. 2) The Ba’al HaMaor writes that if the warm water needed to wash a baby post-milah spills on Shabbos before the bris is done, the bris is postponed. The Ramban disagrees, arguing that the Torah permits the act of bris milah on Shabbos, and once done, the child has a status of choleh which permits heating the water. The Ba’al HaMaor might hold here too that since the water can be prepared beforehand, one cannot knowingly create a situation that requires more chilul Shabbos than is necessary. These halachos have very real practical ramifications. What if one can choose to schedule elective surgery or a hospital stay so that it does not fall over Shabbos, thereby avoiding relying on heteirim of chilul Shabbos for a choleh? Can one volunteer for the Army without being drafted when one knows that such service will call for numerous kulos (this was asked to R' Soloveitchik)? I recently read on someone's blog (sorry, I forgot where) that various people were stuck driving late Friday in a snowstorm and were calling poskim for advice on what to do. One posek gave the instructions he felt appropriate, but noted that the people involved need to do a 'din v'cheshbon' on having gotten themselves into this situation. This is exactly the 'din v'cheshbon' the Brisker Rav referred to - 'din' to analyze the halachos that govern the situation, but 'cheshbon' on whether one bears culpability for creating that b'dieved circumstance to begin with.
(In actuality, the Ba’al haMaor’s position seems self contradictory, as the gemara in Shabbos 19 allows embarking on a boat trip for the purpose of a mitzvah despite the fact that it might lead to violating shabbos b’ones. If so, why for the sake of the mitzvah of milah should we not allow creating a situation that would warrant violating shabbos? See Perach Mateh Ahron (R’ Ahron Soloveitchik), Sefer Mada, p226.)


  1. You must have seen the sign in some offices that reads "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." However, the cocept of ones does allow one to be considered in an emergency sitution even if it was due to poor planning on his/her part. So the cheshbon would be on the planning.

    Society today is rather too forgiving of poor planning. That is why the student who waited until the end of the semester to begin the research paper he knew about from the beginning of the semester, then cries out for an extension because his wife gave birth. And it is the professor who is castigted in that situation. In certain college programs that will remain nameless, girls get the message that it is OK to schedule their weddings for the middle of a semester, miss over a week, and then get an extension because, of course, they have a lot to do with getting married. We seem to forget the point that taking into account the effects of one's timing is part of individual responsibility.

  2. Bill Selliger9:38 AM

    Isn't this a gemara in Menachos? One who rounds the corner of his garment in order to absolve himself from the obligation of wearing tzitzis is punished "b'eedan rischa". It's the same idea that the Brisker Rav is dealing with - without the linguistics. He has orchestrated a situation in which he is not required to perform an otherwise obligatory act.

    As an aside, I believe that there's a Gr"a in Mishlei that has a different approach to "din v'cheshbon".

  3. Working backwards...
    1) The GR"A in Avos has a different pshat in din v'cheshbon, also see the Bais haLevi around P' VaYigash (I think)
    2) That gemara in Menachos is not a formal issur like the cases the Ba'al haMaor raises. And there it is avoiding a kiyum mitzva as opposed to creating a heter.
    3) The Ketzos takes up the issue of ones b'yom acharon, e.g. one is given a year to redeem a house of batei arei chomah and after waiting until the last day one finds oneself in a situation of ones on that day. Seperate discussion, maybe for another time...
    4) Just for the record, it seems to me that one can perhaps offer an alternate hesber of the Ba'al haMaor if one assumes that a heter of ones or pikuach nefesh is still a ma'aseh aveira - the liability is not for creating the circumstance, but the act itself is the problem.