Pesachim 58-59 When one mitzva clashes with another: עשה דוחה עשה

In loving memory of our dear friends, Judith Ginsburg and Ian Shapiro of blessed memory, who were both recently taken by the cursed COVID-19 plagues, as well as that pillar of the South Africa and world Jewish community, the great philanthropist and איש חסד, Eric Samson of blessed memory, who passed away yesterday in Los Angeles.

In an all-encompassing field such as halacha, it is inevitable that at times, one value will clash with another, and it is reasonable to assume that the halacha itself provides solutions for such a clash.

One of the rules we have seen is the principle of עשה דוחה לא תעשה  – a positive mitzva pushes aside a negative one  (Yevamos from 3a.)

Although the basis behind this rule requires much analysis, one approach seems to be that when one action involves both a prohibition and a positive mitzva, we define the act based on the positive mitzva and not based on the prohibition.

For example, the act of circumcision when the 8’th day falls on shabbos involves a prohibition against melacha on Shabbos, as well as the mitzva of circumcision, and this rule tells us that the positive mitzva of circumcision pushes aside the prohibition of melacha on shabbos, and the act is performed.

Where a garment is made out of linen and the tzitzit are made out of wool, the same principle tells us that the act of wearing is defined by the positive mitzva of tzitzit and not by the prohibition of wearing shaatnez.

On the other hand, a different principle tells us that the ends does not always  justify the means- for example, one may not fulfil the mitzva of the 4 species on Sukkot if they have been stolen- this would be considered a מצוה הבאה בעבירה  (a mitzva that comes/came   with/through a sin), another rule requiring more precise definition.

On our dapim, we encounter another principle that relates to clashes between mitzvos, this time when one positive mitzva clashes with another.

There is a positive mitzva, known as עשה דהשלמה , which states that the תמיד של בין הערביים  (regular afternoon sacrifice) should be the last sacrifice of the day, with the notable exceptions of the נרות  (evening candles)  the evening קטורת  (incense), and the קרבן פסח  (pesach offering.)

Yet there are times when someone might need to offer a different sacrifice after the afternoon offering has already been made, in order to be declared fit again to eat the קרבן פסח .

For example, a מצורע  (leper) might need to still bring his final offerings that afternoon, without which he would not be permitted to eat his קרבן פסח .

The same might apply to one who needs to eat a קרבן שלמים  (peace offering) that he has brought.

Here, there is no blanket permission to actively be מבטל מצות עשה  (nullify a positive mitzva) in order to actively fulfill another.

Yet there are cases where due to the greater status of the one commandment, the other will take priority.

The Gemara on 59a brings a Beraisa which tells us that a מצורע  (leper) who needs to bring his final sacrifices to clear him to fulfill the command of eating the korban pesach, one of the only two positive mitzvot that one incurs the severe punishment of כרת  for neglecting to perform, the more severe commandment to eat the korban pesach pushes aside the requirement for the regular afternoon sacrifice to be the last non-Pesach sacrifice of the day!

The same Beraisa, however, also gave permission any time to a regular impure person on any evening of the year to bring his outstanding sacrifice after the   תמיד של בין-הערביים in order to be able to eat his קרבן שלמים that needs to be eaten that night!

The Gemara notes that seeing as refraining from eating these sacrifices is not subject to the same severe terms, they should not in and of themselves be enough to push away the עשה דהשלמה.

The Gemara thus qualifies the later permission to be referring to situations where the אסור עשה does not apply, seemingly concluding that only a positive mitzva that involves כרת  if not performed may push aside another positive mitzva (or its related אסור עשה.)

Yet, as mentioned above, there are other times when a positive mitzva pushes aside another one, among them:

  1. The laws of mourning (even the biblical ones on the first day) do not apply on Chol-hamoed, as the obligation to mourn is pushed off by the obligation to rejoice on the festivals, which is an  עשה דרבים  (positive command on the public-Moed Katan 14b.)
  2. The prohibition against freeing an עבד כנעני  (Caananite slave [in the days when slavery was acceptable]) is derived from the positive mitzva of לעולם בהם תעבודו  (you shall work them forever.)   Yet, the Gemara (Brachos 47b) tells us how Rabbi Eliezer freed his slave to make a minyan (Brachos 47b), and that it was not considered a מצוה הבאה בעבירה  because it was for the sake of a מצוה דרבים  (public mitzva.)

We should note that the term עשה דרבים  is not used there, probably because making a minyan is only a rabbinical mitzva, but that we see that even a rabbinical mitzva of the public, however that is defined, might push aside an אסור עשה , at least this particular one.

3. There is a similar case of the חצי עבד חצי בן חורין  (half slave half free person whose owner is compelled to free him so that he can fulfill the mitzva of פרו ורבו  (having children- Gittin 41a) Seeing as the mitzva of פרו ורבו  is based on the idea that the world should not become desolate of people, perhaps this is also considered a מצוה דרבים- see Tosfos and other Rishonim on the above sugyos for further discussion.

There is much to discuss about the rule that a more serious mitzva can push aside a less serious one, but I would like to focus on one issue brought up by the Tosfos.

One of the limitations of the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה is that one has to perform the לא תעשה  at the same time as the עשה .

If the לא תעשה  is done before the עשה, then the rule does not apply, its is forbidden, and might also be a מצוה הבאה בעבירה.

This makes sense according to the explanation we brought regarding the dynamics of עשה דוחה לא תעשה.

One can only define an action based on its mitzva component as opposed to its aveira component when they are both components of the same action, forcing one to choose how to define it. In such a case, the Torah teaches us that the mitzva component prevails.

If however,  two different actions are involved, then there is no need to choose, and the initial forbidden action cannot become permitted because of a later different “mitzva” action- here we say that the ends do not justify the means.

Assuming the mechanism whereby a more serious positive mitzva pushes aside a less serious one is similar to that of עשה דוחה לא תעשה, one would expect the same limitation to apply, and in the case of mourning on chol hamoed, it indeed could- one is pushing aside one’s obligation to mourn at precisely the same time that he is fulfilling the mitzva of rejoicing on the festival.

Yet in our case, we see that one may bring a sacrifice after the תמיד של בין בערביים in order that one will later be able to fulfill the mitzva of קרבן פסח, even though these do actions are clearly not at the same time!

Tosfos points out that the same applies in the case of freeing the slave in order to make the minyan (as it does while freeing a slave in order for him to be able to have children.)

In truth, one could have explained the case of the slave differently, saying that the very prohibition of freeing a slave only applies if it is not done for the sake of a mitzva, making it different from other אסורי עשה .

From the fact that Tosfos does not do this, we see that he sees the case of the slave not as an exception but as a precedent for any public mitzva pushing aside an אסור עשה, possibly even a rabbinical one, which would be a tremendous חדוש  requiring further discussion.

In any case, in our case, there is no possibility of such an explanation, and Tosfos concludes that when it comes to situations where we do apply the rule of עשה דוחה עשה, the limitation that the two need to take place simultaneously does not apply. This is because unlike its “sister” principle where a positive mitzva pushes off a negative mitzva which is generally treated as more severe than a positive mitzva, in this case it is the more serious mitzva which is pushing off the less serious one.

It is clear that even if Tosfos would accept the “lomdus” in עשה דוחה לא תעשה  that we have discussed, this same mechanism could not explain the principle of עשה דוחה עשה , making them two unrelated principles, rather than “sister principles” as we assumed!

It remains for us to suggest an alternative explanation for the dynamics of at least this second principle!

Hopefully we shall have a chance in the future to do precisely that.

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.

Pesachim 37-38 Must the matza you eat on seder night belong to you?

In loving memory of my dear father, Moreinu haRav Avraham Benzion ben Azriel Hertz Isaacson zt’l, whose love of Torah, passion for justice, and acts of kindness inspire everything I do.

There is a well-known dispute between Rabbi Akiva and Chachamim regarding מעשר שני  (the second tithe that is supposed to be eaten in Jerusalem.)

Rabbi Akiva holds that this tithe is ממון גבוה  (the property of Hashem, so to speak) which the owners have the right to eat under certain conditions.

The Chachamim hold, in contrast, that it is ממון בעלים, the property of the owners, albeit with certain restrictions that apply to where it may be eaten.

At the bottom of daf 37b, Rav Asi lists 3 ramifications of this debate:

  1. A loaf of maaser sheini –  according to Rabbi Meir, חלה  need not be separated, whereas according to Chachamim, it must be.
  2. Matza of maaser sheini- according to Rabbi Meir, one may not fulfil one’s obligation with it on pesach night, whereas according to the Chachamim, one may.
  3. An esrog of maaser sheini- according to Rabbi Meir, one may not fulfil one’s obligation on the first day of sukkot with it, whereas according to Chachamim, one may.

The implication of Rav Asi’s words are that both Rabbi Meir and Chachamim agree that one needs to own the matza one uses on pesach night, just like with esrog and the dough which challah is separated from, the only debate is to whether a person is the owner of his maaser sheini or not.

Rav Papa immediately questions this ruling :

When it comes to the obligation of  separating challah, the passuk specifically refers to “עריסותיכם”  (your loaves), and regarding estrog (and the other 4 species) it specifically says “ולקחתם לכם”  (and you shall take for yourselves)- yet we do not see any such requirement regarding מצה!

Rava answers that we learnt his requirement from a   גזירה שוה  (comparison based on similar usage of language.)

Both מצה  and the dough which requires challah to be taken are referred to as  “לחם”  (bread) and both thus have to belong to the person.

Given that this is derived from one of the 13 principles used to interpret the Torah, it would seem that this is a biblical requirement without which one might not fulfil his obligation.

The Gemara then brings a beraisa to support the ruling of Rav Asi:

This beraisa says explicitly that maaser sheini is exempt from challah according to Rabbi Meir and liable to challah according to Chachamim.

The wording of the beraisa is so similar to Rav Asi’s first law that the Gemara wonders what is being taught by this.

It answers that the Amora meant to bring this beraisa as a support for ALL 3 rulings of Rav Asi- This is not a foregone conclusion for  we might have thought that Rav Asi’s נפקא מינה (practical ramification) was limited to challah where the word “עריסותיכם” is mentioned twice , but that when it comes to matza and esrog, even Rabbi Meir would agree that one can use maaser sheini, despite the גזירה שוה  and word “לכם”.

The obvious difficulty with this suggestion is that it does not seem to make sense ממה נפשך (whatever you say.)

If maaser sheini is ממון בעלים, then it  belongs to the owner of the produce and all 3 should be valid.

If on the other hand it is ממון גבוה, it does NOT belong to him and the fact that the requirement for ownership is mentioned once and not twice doesn’t change that!

Anticipating this issue, Rashi explains that we might have thought that the single mention of the requirement for ownership is coming to exclude a stolen or borrowed item, not מעשר שני  which one is at least permitted to eat , and that only in the case of challah (and possibly מצה  via ג”ש  but this is another subtlety in the text that requires study) where it is mentioned twice, is מעשר שני  also excluded.

The essence of Rashi’s explanation is that there are two different levels of lack of ownership:

  1. In the case of something that one has stolen or borrowed, one is not permitted to eat the item but must return it (one who is שואל  (borrows) an item is permitted to make use of it as is but not to eat or destroy it.) 

It is thus considered completely detached from him ownership-wise .

  1. In the case of מעשר שני , even Rabbi Meir agrees that although it is not one’s property, one is permitted to eat it. This gives a person a certain level of ownership in it, which we might have thought would be enough for the mitzva of esrog (and possible matza.)

The fact that the Gemara brought the Beraisa as a proof for all 3 rulings of Rav Asi, however, shows that there it holds that there is no distinction in practise, and that all 3 mitzvos require full ownership. (see in contrast Sukkah 35a where Rabbi Chiya bar Aba indeed holds that permission to eat the esrog is enough to make it fit for the mitzva!)

If we have read the sugya correctly, it seems to follow that just like the esrog has to belong to the person using it for the mitzva on the first day of sukkos, so also the matza has to belong to the person eating it for the mitzva on the first night of Pesach!

Not only would stolen matza not do the trick, but neither would borrowed matza!

This could have various ramifications:

  1. If many people put their matza in the same oven to bake, it would be necessary to ensure that everyone gets his own matza back, or at least make some form of valid transaction among one another that transfers ownership of each matza to whomever gets it back from the oven.  We have indeed seen a similar idea regarding lulavim left in shul over shabbos. (Sukkah  42b)
  2. If one borrows matza from one’s neighbor, one might need to take full ownership of it before using it for the mitzva.
  3. If one eats at someone’s else’s home and eats from HIS matzos, one might need to ensure that the owner legally (either implicitly or explicitly ) gives the matza to him as a gift before eating it, something that does not appear to be widespread practise.

The Tosfos seem to take the requirement for matza to belong to the eater seriously enough that they ask why the Gemara earlier brought other reasons for invalidating מצה של טבל  (matza that has not been tithed.)- it should be unsuitable simply because it does not fully belong to the eater! (see Tosfos on 38a for the two different answers he gives.)

Yet the Rambam (Chametz uMatza 6/  7 ),  while ruling that stolen matza may not be used,  groups it together with other things that one is not permitted to eat, such as טבל  and  מעשר ראשון from which תרומת מעשר  has not been separated.

He rules that anything which one does not say ברכת המזון ( grace after meals) for due to the act of eating it having been a sin, may not be used for matza, but that anything on which one does say it may indeed be used.  

It seems clear that the Rambam is only concerned about the aveira aspect and not the lack of ownership.

This reason is also backed by the Yerushalmi  (quoted by the Rosh and others) that specifically brings this reason.

Consistent with the above, the Rambam also allows one to use maaser sheini for matza, despite the fact he rules like Rabbi Meir that maaser sheini is ממון גבוה ! (Maaser Sheini 3/24)

The simple explanation of this Rambam seems to be that he does not rule like Rav Asi who requires the matza to belong to the eater, but followers the Yerushalmi that simply requires it to be something that one is halachically permitted to eat, due to the concern of מצוה הבאה בעבירה.

As normal practise is to follow the Bavli in a dispute with the Yerushalmi, this is unusual, but not entirely unprecedented for the Rambam, and in this case, it could be because Rav Asi’s ruling is subject to dispute by Rabbi Chiya bar Aba in the parallel sugya (Sukkah 35a.)

As such, the Rambam might hold that so longer as the person eating matza has permission from the owner to do so, and no sin is being committed by so doing, he fulfills his obligation, irrespective of whether he has full ownership of it or not.

In the case of the multiple people who put their matza in the oven and receive different matzos back, the fact that people implicitly give permission to others to eat their matza in exchange for them reciprocating might be sufficient according to the Rambam to remove any concern of מצוה הבאה בעבירה  even if ownership itself is not transferred, and the same would apply to borrowed matza.

On the other hand, according to Tosfot and other Rishonim who seem to see Rav Asi’s ruling as authoritative (see מהר”ם חלואה  who specifically rules this way regarding someone else’s matza) it seems that explicitly having in mind to transfer ownership might be required.

When it comes to eating matza given out by one’s host, it is necessary to determine what the halachik status of the host’s action is:

  1. He could be giving it as a complete gift to the guest
  2. He could simply be giving permission to the guest to eat HIS food without giving him ownership over it. This certainly seems to be the situation at a simcha buffet where one is permitted to eat whatever one wishes but may not take anything home with him, even once put on his plate.

If the former is correct, one would have to deal with the prohibition against acquiring things on   shabbos or Yom-Tov, but if a solution were found for this issue, one would fulfill one’s obligation according to all opinions.

However, if the second option his correct, then whereas according to the Rambam, permission to eat the matza might indeed be enough, according to the opinions that require complete ownership, one would need to ensure that he acquires the matza legally, assuming this is in fact possible on Yom-Tov.

When it comes to matza which one has borrowed from a neighbor, it seems that just like one may not use a borrowed esrog or lulav for the mitzva on sukkos, one may not used borrowed matza for the mitzva on pesach either.

However, the consensus of the poskim (Taz O.C. 454/4 , Mishna Berura 454/16) seems to be to follow the reasoning of the Ritva (Sukkah 35a)  who claims that borrowing matza is intrinsically different to borrowing an esrog.

When one borrows a consumable item like matza, the lender knows that the borrower is going to eat it and will not be returning the very same piece of matza that he received.

This  gives the transaction the status of a הלואה  (monetary loan,) where we apply the rule of מלוה להוצאה נתנה (a loan Is given to be spent.)

Unlike when one borrows an item for use and eventual return, borrowed money (or in this case food) automatically became the property of the  לוה (borrower) and a debt is created whereby the borrower owes the lender the equivalent amount.

In short, while there is reasoning to allow one to fulfill one’s obligation with one host’s matza, given that we are dealing with a biblical obligation, one would do well to consider all the above issues and it might indeed be preferable to bring one’s own matza with or make a valid transaction on the matza one is going to eat before Yom-Tov.

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

Shabbos 132 עשה דוחה לא תעשה and מצוה הבאה בעבירה- Does the end justify the means?

On this daf, we discuss the reason why one is permitted to perform a bris on Shabbos, despite the fact that the forbidden melacha of making a wound is an inevitable part of the removal of the foreskin.
We also discuss why it is permitted to perform a bris on someone who has a leprous lesion on the site of the bris.
Various reasons are given for the former, but the most accepted view seems to be that   of Rabbi Yochanan who learns it from the passuk וביום השמיני ימול, (on the eight’s day he shall be circumcised), the derasha being “even on shabbos.”
The later is also derived from a similar דרשה- “בשר אע”פ שיש שם בהרת ” but there is also a view that it is because the positive command of performing a bris pushes aside the negative command of cutting off a leprous lesion,  
This in turn, together with the permission to wear linen tzitzit on a woolen garment or vice versa, seems to serve as examples of  a general rule by which a positive mitzva pushes aside a negative one – עשה דוחה לא תעשה (see the  long sugya in the beginning of Yevamos for a more detailed discussion regarding the source for and parameters of this rule.)
There is, however, another commonly applied rule, which seems to state the complete opposite, and that is the rule of מצוה הבאה בעבירה (A mitzva that comes in/with/from a sin.)
The most famous example of this is found in the Mishna (Sukkah 29b) where we are told that a stolen Lulav is not fit for fulfilling the Mitzva.
Not only does one get punished for stealing the Lulav, but one also does not get the reward for taking the Lulav- not only do the ends NOT justify the means, the means invalidate the end!
Why does one simply not apply the former principle of עשה דוחה לא תעשה  and say that the positive commandment to take the Lulav pushes aside the prohibition of stealing, not only validating the ends (the mitzva of Lulav,) but also the means (stealing it.)
The most obvious distinction can also be found on our daf.
The Gemara is dealing with a case where a person wants to perform service in the Temple but is impure due to a leprous lesion.
It wants to know why the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה cannot be applied to allow him to remove the relevant lesion in order to fulfil the mitzva of the divine service.
  Rav Ashi answers that the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה only applies when one transgresses the prohibition at the SAME time as one performs the Mitzva.
The logic might be that an action needs to be defined one way or another as either something positive or something negative.
The Chidush (novelty) of this rule is that when ONE action contains both a Mitzva and an aveira, the action is defined as positive, based on the mitzva, rather than negative, based on the aveira.
However, where two separate actions are involved and the prohibition does not take place simultaneously with the mitzva but rather beforehand, like in this case where a person first removes a lesion in order to later be able to perform the service, this reasoning does not apply, and the original prohibition cannot be permitted.
It thus follows from the chiddush of מצוה הבאה בעבירה  that seeing as the original prohibition was not permitted at all, the mitzva that is fulfilled later as a result of the prohibition is also not considered a mitzva at all.
Similarly in our case, seeing as the Lulav is first stolen and only used afterwards for the mitzva, the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה  does not apply, and the rule of מצוה הבאה בעבירה  then comes and invalidates even the mitzva.
The problem with this approach is that it could technically be possible to perform the mitzva of lulav at the same time as he steals it.
If one grabs a Lulav from someone on Sukkot and at the same time as  he makes the קנין גזילה   (symbolic act that affects the transaction, in this case giving it the status of a stolen object,) he has intention to fulfil the mitzva of taking it, the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה  should surely apply?
Perhaps the answer lies in another rule we have learnt on our daf, namely the reason the Gemara itself has issues with deriving the permission to perform a bris on the site of a leprous lesion: אין עשה דוחה לא תעשה ועשה – a positive commandment can not push aside a prohibition which also involves a positive commandment.
In the case of stealing, there is not only the negative commandment against stealing, there is also the positive command to return whatever one has stolen.
So long as one is still in possession of stolen property, one has not only transgressed the prohibition of stealing, but has avoided the command to return it.
If a person steals a lulav and simultaneously takes it, he is not only transgressing the prohibition of stealing the Lulav- he is also avoiding the Mitzva of returning it.
Thus the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה cannot possibly apply, and the rule of מצוה הבאה בעבירה prevents one from fulfilling the Mitzva.
In truth, The rule of מצוה הבאה בעבירה also seems to be found in other cases where the prohibition is performed at the same time as the Mitzva.
For example, one who eats מצה של טבל (matza from untithed produce) on Pesach, one  does not fulfill the Mitzva of eating matza, even though the prohibition of eating untithed produce has been performed simultaneously with the mitzva )Pesachim 35a)
However, the Gemara brings a separate passuk to prove this, and although our argument could possibly also be applied to the case of  טבל too, seeing as there is also a positive mitzva to separate the various tithes, we will leave that till Pesachim bli neder.
All this is on the level of technical halachik pilpul.
Yet on an ethical level, the fact that we clearly do not apply the rule of עשה דוחה לא תעשה to stealing, or as far as I am aware, other מצות בין אדם לחבירו can easily be understood.
It is one thing to trade-off one mitzva with another when both are between man and Hashem.
However, if your mitzva will be at the expense of someone else, this goes against the very idea of what mitzvot are supposed to accomplish and is also a tremendous Chillul Hashem.
On such things, Hashem says “”חדשיכם ומועדיכם שנאה נפשי (my soul has hated your new-moons and your festivals- Yeshayahu 1/14/)
Going into the 9 days, this message is more relevant than ever.
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.