Sunday, July 04, 2010

Poor Man

The Bartenura asks, why did the Tanna use the example of the poor man and not merely state, “the person standing in the public domain?”

1. The Bartenura answers that the Tanna is teaching us that although the householder is giving the poor man charity, he has still violated the Shabbos, because this is what is known as a “mitzvah haba’ah b’aveirah, a positive commandment that was fulfilled by committing a sin.

2. The Tosfos Yom Tov, however, contends that this idea only holds true according to the opinion in the Gemora that one who erred in assuming that he is performing a mitzvah is liable. This would not be reconciled, however, with the opinion that posits that one who erred in assuming that he did a mitzvah is not liable. The Tosfos Yom Tov therefore writes that only regarding mitzvos that one is allowed to perform on Shabbos, such as bris milah, can one suggest that if he performs the mitzvah through the means of a sin, he is not liable. Concerning the mitzvah of tzedakah, however, one is not allowed to give tzedakah on Shabbos, and therefore he is certainly deemed punishable for giving charity to the poor person. [Rabbi Akiva Eiger, questions this, however, as we see that one is not allowed to fulfill the mitzvah of lulav on Shabbos, and yet there is an opinion that maintains that one who was involved in handling a lulav on Shabbos would not be liable a punishment.]

3. The Chemdas Shlomo writes that the only case where we say that one may be exempt from punishment is when he is obligated to perform some act for the mitzvah. In such a situation we can seek leniency for someone who was involved in performing the mitzvah even at a time when he was prohibited to do so. Regarding charity, though, one is not obligated to hand the poor man the article. The householder can leave the article for the poor man, without having to transfer the article from the private domain to the public domain. By transferring the article from one domain to another, the householder has incurred a sin that is liable a punishment.

4. Reb Aharon Leib Shteinman answers that we only say that one who erred in performing a mitzvah is not liable when the involvement in the mitzvah led the person to sin. In the case of the Mishna however, the mitzvah of giving charity did not distract the householder. Rather, the householder erred in not remembering that it was Shabbos or not being cognizant that this was a forbidden act of labor. In such circumstances one is not exempt from the punishment of having committed a sin.