Friday, March 28, 2008

tzedaka: the Bais haLevi's two models and reward for effort

Yesterday we discussed two possible models for how bitul chameitz works: 1) Rashi – bitul fulfills the mitzvah of tashbisu; 2) Tosfos – bitul creates the circumstance (not owning chameitz) under which the mitzvah of tashbisu does not apply. Earlier in the week we had a discussion about charging for communal services which elicited a comment from Barzilai mentioning the Bais haLevi’s derush on tzedaka. By coincidence, that derasha (derush #1 in vol 2 of the Shu”T) proposes a similar lomdus regarding the mitzvah of tzedaka. The Bh”L distinguishes between two levels of giving: 1) Charity given lishma, which fulfills the mitzvah of tzedaka; 2) Charity given for ulterior motives, which removes the ani from poverty, creating a circumstance under which the mitzvah of tzedaka does not apply, but which itself is not a true fulfillment of the mitzvah. Make of it what you will: concidence, hashgacha, or Barzilai having ruach hakodesh and anticipating that these topics relate : )

Getting back to the topic of tzedaka for a moment, I wrote in the comments there that a poor person who gives $18 to tzedaka at great personal sacrifice gets far more reward than a millionaire who donates a lot of money which requires little sacrifice – l’fum tza’ara agra. The concept of “ain tzedaka mishtalemes elah l’fi chessed she’bah” (Sukkah 49b) is a proof to this very idea, as Rashi explains the chessed is the effort exerted in carrying out the tzedaka, e.g. if someone cooks food an gives it to a poor person, the cost of the food is the tzedaka, but the reward really stems from the chessed of expending effort in the shopping and cooking of the meal. In other words, putting a poor person’s restaurant tab on your credit card or cooking him a meal may accomplish the same end result, but the latter generates more reward than the former.

Here is the monkeywrench: Rashi (VaYikra 5:17) quotes a Toras Kohanim which says that if change falls from your pocket and a poor person picks it up, you get the reward for having fulfilled the mitzvah of tzedaka. Where is the l’fum tza’ara here – you didn’t even realize what happened!?

I think the simplest answer is that l’fum tza’ara agra means that reward is proportional to the effort expended, but there is certainly some level of reward even for an effortless kiyum mitzvah. Another possibility is that reward is accrued after the loss of money is discovered and the person does not try to recover it, but this seems to be a forced reading of Rashi (see R” Yosef Engel in Esvan D’Oraysa #23 for more on this topic). Any other ideas?


  1. Synchronicity, hashgacha pratis, or the Gemara in BB 12b? And assuming the latter, which of the alternatives?

    Very nice tzushtell, and thanks for reading the Beis Halevi. I don't have an Asvon De'orayso handy, but I will keep my eyes open, although knowing your blog you probably won't be able to not write about it sooner or later.

    Speaking of the tzushtell: it seems to me that eliminating a mitzvah can be a form of form of kiyum hamitzvah. Where the mitzvah is for the purpose of rectifying a problem, then there are two dinim. You can do it in the prescribed way, and that is a kiyum gomur. Or you can eliminate the problem that created the need for the mitzvah. That, too, is retzon Hashem. It's like the difference between nikborim and nisrofim. Nisrofim, afron muttar. Nikborim, afron assur. But I think everyone would agree that most things that are 'nisrofim' have that mitzvah because of the need to get rid of them, like orloh, plus a mitzvah of sreifah.

    For example: nobody in his right mind would say that the guy who lost the money is mevateil the assei of tzedokoh by making the ani a non-ani. I would say the same is true by chomeitz and orloh; hashboso by other means is not a mitzvah if you hold "bisreifah," but it's not a bittul asei. Why? Because at least one of the tachleisim of the mitzvah has been acheived. On the other hand, if you destroy kodshim without burning them, that's a bittul asei.

  2. >>>the guy who lost the money is mevateil the assei of tzedokoh by making the ani a non-ani.

    But, as the Beis haLevi explains, there is a big difference between just not being mevateil an aseh and actually being mekaeim one. If you never wear a 4 cornered garment you will never be mevateil the mitzvah of tzitzis, but is that the same as fulfilling the mitzvah? He has some nafka minos there...

  3. Your pointof “ain tzedaka mishtalemes elah l’fi chessed she’bah” is well illustrated by the account in Ketubot 67b:
    As soon as [the poor man] saw them moving the door-socket he went out after them. They fled from him and ran into a furnace from which the fire had just been swept. Mar When Mar Ukkba and his wife both jumped into the furnace to avoid being seen by the poor man they supported, his feet felt the heat while his wife's did not. His wife said to him: Raise your feet and put them on mine. As he was upset [that his feet burned while his wife’s did not] she explained that she offers the poor what they need directly rather than just the means with which to buy them.

  4. Tzedaka question raised here:

  5. Not the same as not wearing a daled kanfos. I'm talking about fulfilling the 'tachlis hamitzva' without 'kiyum hamitzva.' Assuming the tachlis of tzedakah is to relieve poverty, then unintentional giving is not a kiyum hamitzva, but it does acheive the tachlis hamitzva. By tzitzis, the tachlis is to HAVE TZITZIS on your daled kanfos. If you don't wear daled kanfos, then you're not in the parsha at all.