Monday, October 15, 2007

why no bracha on mitzvas tzedaka and aseh doche lo ta'aseh

The Maharatz Chiyus has a long series of essays on the sevaros the Avudraham advances to explain why there are brachos on certain mitzvos but not others. The Avudraham quotes from other Rishonim that there is no bracha on the mitzvah of tzedaka because it remains in the hands of the recipient, not the giver, whether to accept the tzedakah and bring about the kiyum mitzvah. The potential to decline tzedaka distinguishes it from all other mitzvos.

The Maharatz Chiyus points out that this sevara depends on a recent sugya in daf yomi (Kesubos 40). The gemara questions why a rapist cannot marry an anusa if there is an issuer involved in the marriage – why not say aseh doche lo ta’aseh? The gemara answers that classically aseh doche lo ta’aseh applies where there is an unavoidable need to perform the aseh; in this case, if the anusa declines to marry her attacker there is no mitzvah on him to marry her. Rashi explains that we therefore encourage the women to decline marriage. However, the Rashba learns that the woman does not actually have to voice her decision to decline – the fact that the mitzvah potentially can be voided if she declines categorically distinguishes the mitzvah from other mitzvos.

The Avudraham’s approach parallels the Rashba – the potential of the ani to decline tzedaka categorically distinguishes the mitzvah of tzedaka. Whether any particular ani chooses to do so is irrevelant. According to Rashi, potential or categorical distinctions carry no weight – we look only at whether there is an actual mitzvah or not.


  1. anon13:49 PM

    I heard that reason before for no bracha on tzedaka and had understood it differently. I though the pashtus was that since it is not be-yad the giver of the tzedaka to ensure that he can be mekayem the mitzvah because the ani can always refuse the tzedsaka, you have a practical shaylah of bracha le-vatalah and therefore no brahca before. Granted I never saw the abudraham inside and maybe it is more along the lines that you say. But I remember hearing this shitah quoted be-chadah machtah with the rishonm who say that the birchas eirusin are after the kidushin because the woman can always say no. (Of course there are the other explanations for why no bracha on tzedaka -- we rarely make a bracha on bein adam lachaveiro, as the Aruch ha-shulchan explains at length by kibud av va-em, another one being we don't want to make a bracha on someone else's misfortune).

    As for the machlokes Rashi and Rashba, I am wondering whether their machlokes gets to how you understand asey docheh lo taaseh -- either as the kiyum asey being docheh the lo taaseh in which case, if, bottom line, she says yes then the meanes is mekayem the mitzvah and the asey would be docheh. Vs. the more "hutra" than dechuyah type of approach, taken by the Or Sameach and the Rav in the yarzheit shiurim -- a longer mehalech than for the comments and haven't fully thought it through yet.

  2. The Avudraham quotes the sevara by bracha from the Rashba who brings Kesubos 40 as a ra'aya, so those cases have to be parallel. The Avudraham himself asks on the RAshba from birchas eirusin - see the Mahartz Chiyus who offers his own answer that birchas eirusin is a birchas hashevach and not a birchas hamitzvah, which is another discussion.
    Re: the second point, yes that is a longer mehalaich to discuss, but this machlokes is a good yediya for that topic which was an ulterior motive to mentioning it.

  3. anon15:29 PM

    Thanks - didnt realize that was the context of the avudraham. Re: the birchas eirusin -- the birchas shevach approach -- I always assumed that the rishonim who said that the woman could refuse the eirusin took for granted that it was a birchas hamitzvah. Would love to see you develop the Rashi/Rashba machlokes more. THanks

  4. >>>Re: the birchas eirusin -- the birchas shevach approach

    Just to clarify: this is the Maharzt Chiyus's idea. Actually the Avudram does not say it but gives a different answer which the M.C. says is unsatisfying.