Tuesday, May 08, 2007


The Gemora states that a positive commandment can override a prohibition that carries with it a standard punishment.

The question is asked: Why is it that a positive commandment overrides a prohibition and yet the punishment for transgressing a prohibition is much more severe than the punishment for not fulfilling a positive commandment?

Reb Yossie Schonkopf said over a parable from his Rebbe: A trucker is hired to transport a load across the country and the owner warns him not to go beyond the speed limit, not to crash the vehicle and to follow all the road instructions. If the trucker does everything perfectly but doesn't unload the goods at his destination; rather, he arrives at the destined location and immediately turns around carrying the same load, what is accomplished by the fact that the trucker obeyed the speed limit and followed all the rules?

The meaning is as follows: Our mission in life is to accomplish in this world and 'build the love towards HaShem,’ therefore, this building overrides the transgressions. The prohibitions are only there to protect what has been built and not to suffocate the building.

This concept is elucidated by the Ramban in Parshas Yisro. He states that the fulfillment of a positive commandment is based on ahavas HaShem, loving HaShem and refraining from committing a transgression is based on yiras HaShem fearing HaShem. It is a higher level to serve HaShem through love, but it is worse to violate a prohibition, which is based upon fearing HaShem.

My brother, Reb Ben asked a similar question: The Gemora states that a positive commandment will override a negative commandment when both commandments are performed simultaneously. It is noteworthy that the Gemora in Sota states that a mitzvah cannot extinguish an aveira, a sin, yet an aveira can extinguish a mitzvah. Apparently, the principle that a positive commandment can override a negative commandment is not a contradiction to this Gemora. Perhaps the idea is that when one performs an aveira intentionally, he has rebelled against HaShem, and it is not possible for one to appease HaShem with a mitzvah when he has just committed an act of rebellion. When one is simultaneously overriding the negative commandment by performing a positive commandment, however, he is demonstrating that he is fully aware that he is performing a negative commandment, yet he is permitted by the Torah to override the negative commandment. This principle allows him to perform the positive commandment and be rewarded for its performance.


Bas Melech said...

The last part made sense to me, and answered my problem with the first part.

The first mashal, though... I'd always looked at it differently. If we stick with your example of bringing things someplace, let's say doing the positive is what brings you closer while transgressing distances you. I'd rather stay put than get bumped back... and go with the lesser punishment of failing to do the positive.
There is no better time for a mitzva than NOW.
Basmelech Blogs: Half Baked Torah Thoughts

Avromi said...

Thanks for the thoughtful response. The problem with that logic would be that you're not getting anywhere and that is our life mission. Also, you will not be pushed back if the positive commandment overrides the prohibition - there will be no setback for that.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Irons did not agree with the mashal either.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Irons quoted Rabbeinu Nissim Gaon (Shabbos Perek Rabbi Elazar D'Milah)who writes that eseih docheh lo saseih is a tenai in the lo saseih, that if there is an aseih, the aseih overrides the lo saseih.

Bas Melech said...

Well, you would be getting anywhere -- only not when it contradicts. Not always does performing a positive mitzva exclude obeying a negative commandment. Usually it doesn't at all and you can do both at the same time.

As for the second part, yes, the end of your original post explained that very well.

Aryeh Lebovitz said...

In terms of why the less severe "aseh" can push off the more severe "lo sa'aseh", I recently saw in a manuscript of an unpublished volume on klalei hamitzvos that Rav Nissim Gaon explains that each lav is built in with the tenai that the issur does not apply b'makom mitzvah. Thus the aseh is not really being docheh the lav. The lav simply doesn't exist b'makom the aseh.

Avi Lebovitz said...

this idea is printed in rabbeinu nissim goan on the side of maseches shabbos 132 - it is a big chiddush and follows along the lines of mitzvaso bechach, but goes further and says that even though the aseh can be fulfilled without the lav, there is still an automatic stipulation that the lav was never said when an aseh stands against it.

Anonymous said...

sounds like Rabbi Nissim Gaon understands it to be a chok, no?