Pesachim 25-26 Benefit by force- הנאה הבאה לאדם בעל כרחיה

1. Sugya synopsis

2. Semantic matters

3. פסיק רישיה and הנאה הבאה לאדן בעל כרחיה

4. הנאה as a liability

5. Entering situations of sexual temptation

Sugya Synopsis

Given that the prohibition of chametz on pesach is included in the list of איסורי הנאה  (prohibitions that one is not allowed to derive any benefit from,) our perek spends considerable time discussing the scope of such prohibitions.

Whereas when it comes to most forbidden foods, the prohibition is limited to the act of eating and when it comes to shabbos and forbidden relationships, specific actions are forbidden, when it comes to this category of prohibitions, benefit itself is prohibited, and this might apply even to benefits that do not involve a specific action (לאו שאין בו נעשה)  such as just smelling the fragrant aroma of incense offered for idolatrous purposes.

The central topic of the end of daf 25 and most of daf 26 is the status of הנאה הבאה לאדם בעל כרחיה, benefit which comes to a person “by force.”

Although the Gemara itself does not initially give an example of this, Rashi cites the case mentioned above of a person who walks past a place where incense is being offered for idolatrous purposes and cannot help smelling the fragrant aroma.

Abaya holds that this is permitted, whereas Rava holds that it is forbidden.

Seeing as we are dealing with benefit which is unavoidable, debating whether it is permitted or forbidden seems rather spurious, and it is thus obvious that the debate does not center around someone already in the situation, but whether one is permitted to willingly enter into a situation where  one knows that this will or might happen.

Alternatively, the debate could center upon whether a person is required to immediately move away from such a situation the moment he encounters it, even if it means retracing his steps and taking an alternative or possibly longer route to avoid further benefit, or whether one may carry on and pass the area, seeing as the benefit he gets from the smell is forced upon him.

Either way, the Gemara divides the discussion up into 4 different scenarios, which depend on whether it is אפשר (possible) to avoid the benefit or not, and whether one is מתכוין  (intends) to derive benefit or not.

The 4 permutations are as follows:

  1. When it is both impossible to avoid the prohibition and one has no intention to derive benefit from it (2 factors in one’s favor)
  2. When it is impossible to avoid the prohibition, but one has intention to derive benefit from it. (1 factor in one’s favor and 1 against)
  3. When it is possible to avoid the prohibition, but one has no intention to derive benefit from it. (1 factor against and one fact in favor)
  4. When it is possible to avoid the prohibition and one has intention to benefit from it. (2 factors against)

The Gemara first claims that everyone would be lenient in the first case, and stringent in the second and fourth cases- in other words, if one has intention to benefit, it is forbidden, whether it is possible to avoid the situation or not, and if one has no intention to benefit AND it is impossible to avoid the situation, they both agree  that it is permitted.

The debate is solely focussed on the third case, where it is possible to avoid the situation but one does not intend to derive benefit from the prohibition, and centers around the famous view of Rabbi Shimon (see our various posts on this back in Shabbos) who holds that דבר שאין מתכוין מותר (one is permitted to perform a permitted action even if there is a significant concern that it will be accompanied by a secondary forbidden action.)

The classic example of this principle is his permission for a person to drag a bed, chair, or bench along the ground even though he might dig a ditch while doing so, as long as this is not his intention.

However, as we have seen, it is clear from various sources ( see  post on Shabbos 133) that this leniency of Rabbi Shimon’s applies not only to the laws of shabbos but to all areas of halacha.

As such, Abaya argues that seeing as the act of walking to wherever one is going is a permitted action, it remains permitted even though one might transgress the prohibition of benefitting from עבודה זרה  (idol-worship) along the way.

Rava, on the other hand, claims that the leniency of Rabbi Shimon is limited to cases where it is impossible to achieve one’s goal without taking the risk, for example if the above-mentioned furniture is too large or heavy to lift.

However, if it is possible to avoid the risk, such as in the case of smaller/less heavy  furniture which one can lift, one is required to avoid the risk altogether.

It should be noted that this limitation to Rabbi Shimon’s leniency was suggested elsewhere (Shabbos 29b) and rejected, as it will be later in this sugya, but it is of course important to understand this הוה אמינא  (initial thought) as well.

The Gemara immediately brings an איכא דאמרי  (alternative version) whereby everyone (in this case   both Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda [who normally forbids דבר שאין מתכוין ] ) agrees that in the first case, where the situation is unavoidable and one has no intention to benefit, it is permitted, and that in the fourth situation where the situation is avoidable and one has intention to benefit, it is forbidden. 

The third scenario where it is possible to avoid the situation, but one has no intention to benefit, is the classic dispute between Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda.

According to this version, It is the second scenario, where it is impossible to avoid the situation but one DOES intend to benefit once one is in the situation, which is subject to debate between Abaya and Rava.

According to this version, the debate between Abaya and Rava centers not on the view of Rabbi Shimon, for whom intention is the critical factor and for whom it would thus be clearly forbidden (see Rashi) but on the view of Rabbi Yehuda who seems less concerned with intention and more concerned with whether it is possible to avoid the situation or not.

Abaya claims that just like Rabbi Yehuda makes no distinction in a case where it is possible to avoid the situation between a case when one  intends to benefit and a case when one does not, forbidding דבר שאין מתכוין regardless, so also in a case where it is impossible to avoid the situation, he does not care whether one intends to  derive an otherwise forbidden side benefit from it, or not, and permits it either way. If this is correct, it would follow that once a person is in an unavoidable situation in which he is forced to derive a forbidden benefit, having conscious intent to enjoy the situation might be permitted, something which seems like a tremendous novelty.

Rava, in contrast, counters that Rabbi Yehuda’s lack of concern for whether one has intention for the forbidden action or benefit or not only applies לחומרה (stringently) to forbid an otherwise permitted act if it could involve a forbidden secondary action or benefit.

However, he certainly does not disregard intention in order to be lenient and permit one to have specific intention to perform a forbidden action or derive a forbidden benefit if one is already in a situation where some benefit is “forced on him.”  Although one might not be required to leave the situation, one is certainly not permitted to have intention to derive benefit from it.

After bringing various proof texts for the views of Abaya and Rava (with it being important for us to take note of which version of the debate the proofs seem to assume to be correct,) the Gemara brings a  Mishna  (Kil’ayim 9/5  ) which permits one to “wear” כלאים  (forbidden garments which contain a mixture of wool and linen, also known as שעטנז ) in order to display it to would be non-Jewish buyers, so long as one does not intend to derive warmth or protection from it.

This is despite the fact that one could rather display it from behind, as the צנועים  (more “modest” or careful people) would do.

This proves without a doubt that the view that permits דבר שאין מתכוין, namely Rabbi Shimon, permits it even when it is possible to avoid the situation and achieve one’s objective without risking the secondary forbidden action, thus disproving the first version of Rava’s opinion.

Although this case and the proof from it requires its own analysis, it follows that we would either rule like Abaya in the first version, despite the rule that we follow Rava in all but 6 disputes against him (Bava Metzia  22b) or more likely, in order to keep with this rule, that we follow the second version of Rava’s opinion.

Either way, as following the second version of Abaya’s view would unnecessarily go against this rule, this seems like an unlikely possibility.

As such, it seems to be the conclusion of the sugya that scenarios 1 and 3 are clearly permitted (at least according to Rabbi Shimon whom later Amoraim have clearly deemed authoritative )- so long as one has no intention to derive forbidden benefit, even if the situation is avoidable, there is no obligation to avoid it.

On the other hand, in cases 2 and 4, where one has intention to derive forbidden benefit, entering the situation is forbidden, irrespective of whether it is avoidable or not.

Now that we have summarized the flow of the sugya, according to Rashi and the consensus of most Rishonim, it is time to focus on some of the difficulties raised by this sugya.

Semantic Matters

As we have seen, the case of הנאה הבאה לאדם בעל כרחיה  (benefit which is forced upon a person) has been divided into 4 scenarios, based on 2 critical factors, namely whether is it possible to avoid the situation and whether one intends to derive the forbidden benefit.

However, the very term בעל כרחיה (by force) seems to exclude a situation where it is possible to avoid the situation, as well as a case where one has intention to derive forbidden benefit.

If one is able to avoid the situation, how can any subsequent benefit be considered “by force?”

Similarly, if when faced with the situation, one consciously has intention to enjoy it, how can that be considered “by force?”

It seems that Rashi and most Rishonim understand that

  1.  when referring to אפשר  ( the possibility to avoid the situation,) the Gemara means that it is possible to achieve the intended permitted goal (such as reaching one’s destination) by taking an alternative route

Whereas

  1. ii.                    לא אפשר  refers to a situation where it is impossible to achieve one’s otherwise permitted goal without taking the problematic route.

Tosfos and other Rishonim  (see for example Ritva in the name of the רא”ה) add that it is also considered לא אפשר  (impossible to avoid) if the alternative route or method is longer or requires more effort, time, or money.

“אפשר” , in contrast, is  understand to refer to a situation where it is possible to perform one’s intended otherwise permitted task in an equally convenient way that  avoids the risk.

Yet even such a case, while forbidden according to the first version of Rava’s view, seems to still be referred to by the Gemara as “by force,” seeing as if he goes on his chosen route, he is forced into encountering the forbidden benefit, an extremely broad definition of “by force” to say the least.

Furthermore, it seems according to Rashi and most other Rishonim (see for example Meiri, though see Ritva for a different view) that קא מכוין  refers to one who consciously intends to enjoy the forbidden benefit, and it requires some serious  analysis to understand how this could ever be considered “by force.”

One could possibly explain that once a person is forced into a situation where he cannot avoid enjoying a forbidden pleasure, then “giving in” and consciously enjoying it, while probably not permitted, is to a certain extent, still considered to be “forced.”

This could perhaps be compared to a person who is raped but at a certain point, once feeling the pleasure of physical stimulation, gives in and “enjoys it.” (obviously, the plausibility of this depends on the individual and precise circumstances, but such cases certainly seem to exist -a thorough analysis if the sugya in Yevamos 53b of אין אונס לערוה  is recommended at this point.)

Whereas the victim might be obligated to try his best to mentally detach himself and avoid deriving pleasure from the physical sensation, it might be harder to condemn him for succumbing and doing so, given that the combination of being forced into the situation and biology make it close to impossible to avoid- even if he is punished for this, as in the case of אונס לערוה  (Yevamos 53b,) it might still be called “by force.”- he was simply required to resist the force.

The Ran, however, simply explains that even though one intends to derive benefit, if the benefit is not intended for him (or brought about by him)  but comes automatically, it is still called in this  context “by force.”

As mentioned above, the Ritva goes to the opposite extreme and says that whenever a person benefits, it is considered intentional, and that לא קא מכוין  refers to when the person himself does not (or perhaps believes he will not ) derive pleasure from the forbidden entity, even if many or most people would (why the phrase הנאה  is used to describe someone who does not have הנאה  requires explanation according to this view.)

These various explanations could have major practical ramifications, but more on that at a later stage hopefully.

פסיק רישיה  and הנאה הבאה לאדם בעל כרחיה

One of the issues that bothers the Rishonim is the fact that in our sugya, it seems clear that according to Rabbi Shimon who permits דבר שאין מתכוין, there is no problem walking past a place where there is a pleasant forbidden fragrance.

Likewise, examples are given of sitting in the shade of the Temple’s walls for a derasha and  lowering workers into the קדש הקדשים  for maintenance even though they will derive forbidden benefit from seeing the inside.

Yet it is made clear in many places that even Rabbi Shimon forbids פסיק רישיה , a situation where the secondary forbidden action (in this case benefit) is inevitable, and it seems pretty much inevitable that a person in these situations will derive some benefit from them.

Whereas the Tosfos choose to assume that all these cases do not involve inevitable benefit (perhaps as different people react differently to certain scents and sights etc) the מהר”ם חאלאוה distinguishes between a forbidden action such as a melacha on shabbos whose completion is not affected by one’s lack of intention, and benefit, which is not considered complete when one lacks intention to benefit.

The latter’s חידוש  (novel idea) seems to be that unintended pleasure is not considered complete pleasure at all, and even if such pleasure is inevitable, the stringency of פסיק רישיה  does not apply to it, something which of course requires further explanation.

Of course, according to the view of the Ritva in the name of the רא”ה quoted above, the leniency of דבר שאין מתכוין  only applies where a person does not derive pleasure from the problematic situation, but if he does derive pleasure, it is considered intentional, and the question does not begin.

הנאה  as a stringency

We have seen in our sugya that Rabbi Shimon’s leniency of דבר שאין מתכוין מותר  is extended to forbidden benefits occurred during otherwise permitted actions.

However, we have dealt before with another related leniency, namely מתעסק, where one intends to perform a permitted action and lands up doing something that is forbidden (see posts on shabbos 72 and 92  for background.)

Regarding מתעסק, we have seen that when benefit is derived from the unintended forbidden action (such as eating forbidden fats thinking that it is permitted fat or sleeping with a woman who is forbidden to him, thinking she is permitted to him,) one is still liable to bring a korban (sacrifice) for one’s actions.

We see a similar idea regarding נזיקין  (damages- B.K. 19b) that although an ox is sometimes exempt from damages it does with its mouth in public property, the owner is liable up to the value of the benefit that it derived from doing so (such as the cost of the food it ate.)

It seems from the above that whenever a person (or his animal) derives pleasure from something, his lack of intent or warning is irrelevant to his liability for any transgression derived thereby.

It seems, at least on the face of it, that there must be a strong distinction between מתעסק  and דבר שאין מתכוין when it comes to benefit and that the latter is conceptually so different that הנאה  does not affect it at all.

 Perhaps this because whereas in מתעסק, the primary action one lands up doing, albeit unintentionally, is forbidden, in the case of דבר שאין מתכוין, the primary action remains permitted and the forbidden action is merely a secondary by-product of that action- secondary benefit that is only a by-product of a permitted action  might not be enough to create liability or even to forbid the permitted action in the first place.

OF course, once again, if we were to adopt the approach of the Ritva quoted above, then any benefit is treated as intentional (even though possibly still called “by force”) and there is no need for any such distinction.

Entering situations of sexual temptation for the sake of permitted activities

It follows from the conclusion of our sugya, at least according to most Rishonim, that it is permitted to enter a situation where one might derive forbidden but unintended benefit, if one needs to for some otherwise permitted purpose, even if there is an equally convenient alternative route or way of achieving that objective (אפשר ולא קא מכוין)

Yet we are told (Bava Basra 57b) that a man who intentionally walks past a place where women are washing clothes (and thus not fully covered) where another path exists to where he is going, is called a רשע  (wicked person.)- Only if there is no alternative path, may he walk past and turn his eyes away.

It is not immediately clear from that sugya whether the alternative path needs to be as convenient as the problematic one or not, but If intentionally walking past a place where he will derive pleasure from the forbidden fragrance of idolatrous incense is permitted, even if there is an equally convenient alternative route, why should walking past this immodest situation even if an EQUALLY convenient alternative route exists, be not only forbidden but bad enough to be called a רשע ? (see though Rashbam on the sugya, as opposed to Rabbeinu Gershom, regarding what exactly this means.)

Once again, if we accept the Ritva’s explanation above, the question might not even begin.

Although it is indeed possible for a person to know in advance (or at least think)  that he does not derive pleasure from incense, the principle of אין אפוטרופוס לעריות  might teach us that it is impossible for any man to know or assume in advance that he will not derive pleasure from immodestly dressed women.

Similarly, according to the Tosfos who say that הנאה הבאה לאדם בעל כרחיה  is only permitted in cases where דבר שאין מתכוין  itself is permitted, namely when the benefit is not inevitable, perhaps the strength of the sexual urge is such that such benefit is inevitable.

However, according to the מהר”ם  חאלאוה quoted above, who explains that benefit one is “forced into” is not subject to the stringency of פסיק רישיה, neither of these explanations hold water.

Pinning an explanation on the severe status of forbidden relations in things related to them is also not sufficient, seeing as idolatry and things related to it are treated equally strictly.

Perhaps a combination of the severity of the transgression and likelihood thereof due to its overpowering attraction sets entering a situation of sexual temptation apart and even the מהרם חאלואה would agree that the leniency of הנאה הבאה לאדם בעל כרחיה  does not apply to it.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

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