Wednesday, August 01, 2007

can doing a mitzvah lead to chilul Hashem? - the Chinuch on tefillin

The Sefer haChinuch on last week’s parsha raises an interesting issue in his discussion of the mitzvah of tefillin. He cites a view that the idea of “guf naki” means that a person who does aveiros should not don tefillin as that would lead to a greater chilul Hashem than simply not doing the mitzvah. For example, the Yerushalmi relates that a person gave money for safekeeping to someone who was wearing tefillin on the assumption that such a person could be trusted; unfortunately, the money was stolen by the person who was entrusted with it. Such behavior disgraces the mitzvah of tefillin, and it would be better for the criminal to simply not perform the mitzvah. The Sefer haChinuch disagrees with this view, and argues that every good deed has merit even if the person performing it might in other ways be a sinner. Who knows if this one mitzvah of tefillin might not one day trigger the person to reform his behavior in other areas?

What came to mind in reading this piece is the image of Chabad shluchim standing near the subway grabbing anyone who admits to being Jewish and trying to get them to put on tefillin. hough those grabbed may be otherwise very distant from religious observance of any type, the good deed of tefillin, as the Chinuch writes, is still theirs to observe given the opportunity. On a more cynical note, the example of the Yerushalmi is also often all too real as we read newspaper stories of Jews superficially “religious” who are led off to prison for assorted crimes. Again, while we should condemn their wrong actions, should we necessarily discourage the good deeds that these people may do? Somehow the latter case seems more objectionable than the former…


  1. Tal Benschar11:02 PM

    I don't think it is fair to read the Yerushalmi as saying that the mitzvah of tefillin lead to a chillul Hashem. What the mitzvah did was lend the person an aura of piety, which then magnified the Chillul Hashem caused by his thievery. That does not mean the person was not rewarded for puttinng on tefillin; it may simply mean that the extra punishment for a magnified Chillul Hashem outweighed the reward of the mitzvah -- i.e. yatza secharo be hefsedo. In that case, the person would have been better of not having put on tefillin.

  2. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Sad thing is here a lot of the older chabad shluchim stop putting tefillin on people in public because the younger generation is making a chillul hashem out of it. These days the younger generation is getting arrested for harassment.

    I should point out the older generation in this city are mostly from pre-MMS chabad while the new generation are all recent joints to chabad and most of them are messainic.

    I am calling the children of the older generation to be part of the same generation as I am not talking about geological generations but rather chabad generations.

  3. Bill Selliger8:25 AM

    RMF has a tshuva about going into a theatre wearing a yamulka. I think he says to keep it on; ulai the theatregoer/wearer will become embarassed and refrain from going. Different cheshbon, but similar idea.

  4. >>>it may simply mean that the extra punishment for a magnified Chillul Hashem outweighed the reward of the mitzvah

    Acc to this approach it is assur to put on the tefillin because being an avaryan is a lack of "guf naki". Not only is there no mitzvah of tefillin, it is an added aveira to put them on.

  5. Mike S.1:44 PM

    In a Tshuvah on cheating on Regents' exams (CM III either 29 or 30), Rav Moshe points out that a yeshivah bochur who cheats on the exam can cause additional aveiros in several ways. One of which is that a future employer, assuming the yeshivah bochur is honest when he is in fact a cheater, may unfairly suspect other employees and ignore the bachur if a theft is later discovered.

    Chazal tell us always to act toward our fellows in a way that causes others to say "Happy is the one who taught him Torah."

    On the other hand, I think even those who hold like the opinion brought by the Chinuch would not object to the shluchim, as there would seem to be no Chillul Hashem involved, as it is apparent that those having t'fillin put on them by the shluchim are not religious.

  6. I think I did not make this clear enough. Forget chilul Hashem - the problem is a lack of "guf naki" which means being a ba'al aveira. Causing chilul Hashem by gneiva is just one manifestation of the above.

  7. Tal Benschar10:38 PM

    Chaim, what is the source for this guf naki sevara -- i.e. that a baal aveira does not have a guf naki? Is that in the Yerushalmi or from meforshim?

    In any event, as you articulate it it is unique to tefillin, not mitzvos in general.

  8. It is not in the Y-lmi. The Chinuch does not name who holds it, but the footnotes point to a Meiri.
    The practical upshot applies only to tefillin, but the philosophical idea behind it is what the Chinuch takes issue with.

  9. Anonymous5:00 PM

    While this isn't the norm. Some shluchim are causing a CH.

    What is to be said about them?