Wednesday, September 30, 2009

bal tosif: adding a new mitzvah vs. modifying an existing mitzvah

A few years ago in honor of the occasion of my MIL's donation of a sefer torah, my wife’s uncle edited and published a small collection of the correspondence and writings of my wife’s grandfather, HaRav Dov Yehudah Shochet, who was among the talmidim muvhakim of Telz (see my BIL's article on Telz) and a Rav in Basel, the Hague, and Toronto, and in whose memory (along with others) the sefer was written. By coincidence, one of the few full length shiurim (I only recently got my hands on the kuntres) is devoted to the topic of bal tosif which we have been discussing as of late. I am sorry I can only write up a smattering of an idea from this brilliant shiur (and I am adapting the idea, so the errors are mine); the small amount printed is rav b'eichus on many levels despite being miyut b'kamus, and I hope bl"n to share more.

The shiur draws a distinction between two types of bal tosif: changing the tzurah of an existing mitzvah vs. fabricating a new mitzvah. (This is similar to the distinction I cited from Avi Ezri between adding a chiyuv vs. changing the kiyum mitzvah.) As we learned, the Rashba writes that takanos of Chazal do not violate bal tosif because they are justified by the need for legislation. The Turei Even asks: the gemara (R”H 28) writes that R’ Eliezer holds if the blood of a korban requiring the sprinkling of dam 4 times gets mixed with the blood of a korban that requires sprinkling only once, sprinkling the blood 4 times is prohibited because of bal tosif. Why doesn't the need to perform zerikas hadam 4 times not override the issur of bal tosif just like the need to enact a takanah overrides bal tosif? Based on the distinction between the two types of bal tosif, this question is easily answered: given the need for legislation, creating new takanos does not violate bal tosif; however, no matter what the need, the parameters of an existing mitzvah cannot be altered. Because one of the korbanos demands zerika no more than one time, the mitzvah of zerika cannot be modified and done four times.

Is adding tekiyos d’meyushav an addition of a new mitzvah or a change to the existing mitzvah of tekiyas shofar? That essentially is the difference between Rashba, who justifies tekiyos d’meyushav as a takanah and therefore excluded from bal tosif, and Tosfos, who suggests a different sevara and explains that doing a mitzvah 2 times is allowed. The question I ended my last discussion of this topic with (see this post) -- why does the Rashba's sevara not answer Tos' question -- does not get off the ground. Tosfos could not use the Rashba’s sevara because changing the parameter of an existing mitzvah, as opposed to adding a new takanah, would be a kum v’aseh violation of bal tosif which Chazal have no license to do.

We can explain the debate on a deeper level by returning R’ Akiva Eiger’s question (which we discussed here) on Tos’ comparison of tekiyos d’meyushav to a kohein doing birchas kohanim for a second time in one day. R’ AK”E argues that there is an obvious difference: the kohein has a new chiyuv of birchas kohanim every time he enters a shul that is up to duchaning; the ba’al tokeya has no new chiyuv to blow shofar once he has fulfilled his mitzvah d’oraysa. Chasam Sofer answers that the ba’al tokeya’s obligation of shofar is in fact incomplete by dint of arvus so long as others still have not heard shofar.

Tosfos may have held like the Chasam Sofer and viewed tekiyos d’meyushav as an extension of the mitzvah of tekiyos already in progress. The Rashba, however, may have sided with R’ Akiva Eiger and viewed tekiyos d’meyushav as a new mitzvah, the old mitzvah of tekiyos already having been completed with the conclusion of one round of tekiyos.


  1. Eliyahu1:27 AM

    HaRav Dov Yehudah Shochet, was my Gemorah teacher for several years when I attended the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. He maintained some old-world formality appropriate to his position but had a good sense of humour. I also recall a photo of his classmates of Telz (dressed in mordern clothing of the late twenties) that he had on the wall in his basement where a minyan davened on Shabbas.

    Where can his sefer be acquired?


  2. >>>Where can his sefer be acquired?

    I think it was just a handout for the occassion, but not otherwise available. It would take a lot of work to scan the whole thing in and put it online...

    Any memories of RDY"S you can share?

  3. Eliyahu12:30 PM

    The Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto used Ivrit be-Ivrit and therefore the Gemorah shiurim were conducted in Hebrew. A few of the teachers were rabbanim and they had no problem speaking fluent Hebrew. My friend, Daniel who now lives in Beit El and works as an engineer for Israel Aerospace was a classmate of mine.I recall that Danny told me that Rav Schochet was of the opinion that instant hot coffee could be made on Shabbas while Rav Gedaliah Felder, z"l, who also taught at the school, IIRC and was considered the posek of most of Toronto held differently. Danny thought it interesting that the bearded and traditional looking Rav Schochet who would wear a Rabbinical cloak, was meikel for that halachah and the then unbearded Rav Felder who dressed in a conventional suit and looked more modern would be machmir. For Gemorah two grades doubled-up. Thus Gemorah classes for boys in Grades 10 and 11 and for boys in Grades 12 and 13(in those days there was a Grade 13 in Ontario) were combined. Jack,who has lived in Israel for many years and is a close talmid of Rav Rakeffet-Rothkoff at Gruss was one year ahead of me in the school and our Gemorah classes were combined when I was in Grade Twelve. Jack would, IIRC, sometimes trade quips with Rav Schochet. Jack once drew the "Mission Impossible" T.V. show's logo on a paper bookjacket that he made for a volume of Mishnah and wrote "Mishnah Impossible." Rav Schochet does not appear to have minded such gentle humour. Rav Schochet despite his stern looking demeanor was beloved and I never recall him having to raise his voice. I also recall that he was fond of the cheese danishes sold by Hermes kosher bakery and he would refer to them as "cheese buns" and would sometimes send out a student with the required amount of money and say "kenei li 'cheese bun'. (That bakery still makes the best cheese danishes in the city.) The kids in our school were great pranksters but they never dared to pull a prank on Rav Schochet, AFAIK. Rav Schochet became a Lubavitcher Chassid, as you also probably may have heard, when his youngest daughter as a young girl was severy scalded after knocking over a pot of boiling water on the stove. The doctors apparently despaired if she would survive and he went to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for advice and a bracha and he attributed her recovery to the assistance of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. Interestingly enough in this small Jewish world, my wife later knew her years before my wife and I met.

    In his final illness Rav Schochet had difficulty speaking, but I am told he could clearly say Shema.

    There is a large impressive-looking monument over his grave-site although I don't recall the inscription.


  4. Anonymous4:04 PM

    Just to bring it into the Season. In Lulav there is A Machlokes The Yeshouas Yackov and the Sharay Teshuvah in the Hadar of a Lulav.The Yeshouas Yackov sas if you paint a Lulav Yavesh (meaning It Became White) Green it is a good Lulav,the Sharay Teshuvah says it is Posul because of Baal Tosef.

  5. Anonymous3:13 PM

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    "The e-mails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus . . . that tells us the Earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity," Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told a House committee. She said that the e-mails don't cover data from NOAA and NASA, whose independent climate records show dramatic warming.

  6. Anonymous4:20 AM

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