Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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To What Degree Is One Obligated to Perform the Mitzvoth?- Part VI

By: Rav Noam Koenigsberg

Summary of previous installments: An individual is not permitted to spend more than a fifth of his financial resources to fulfill a positive commandment. The halacha recognizes issues of health and physical discomfort (if one is willing to spend more than a fifth to cure an illness that is generated by a mitzvah, the person is exempt from that mitzvah). What other areas of discomfort generate exemptions from mitzvoth?

The Shulchan Aruch rules that although an individual may suffer from a wound on his arm (on the location where tefillin are to be donned), he is required to don the tefillin, for there is sufficient space on the arm to place two boxes of tefillin (Orach Chayim, 27:7). The Magen Avraham deduces from this terminology that if the wound is large, the individual would be exempt from placing the tefillin on his hand.

Most people are not willing to spend more than a fifth of their financial assets to cure a wound on the arm. Why is the individual not required to endure the physical pain and to don the tefillin (or to pay for the necessary treatment to alleviate the discomfort)?

The Magen Avraham was aware of this difficulty and refers us to Sima 38, sectin 9 where the Shulchan Aruch rules that an individual who is in a state of physical discomfort (such as from cold weather) is exempt from donning tefillin because it is forbidden to stray from awareness of the tefillin (hesech hada’at). In that case the pain does not emanate from wearing the tefillin. Nevertheless, the necessity of avoiding hesech hada’at serves as a common denominator to generate an exemption form wearing tefillin in both cases. Thus, in the case of tefillin, even physical discomfort that is less than a fifth generates an exemption (however, in purchasing tefillin the standard of a fifth would apply, as there is no issue of hesech hada’at).

The Shulchan Aruch rules that an individual in physical discomfort is exempt from sleeping in a sukkah (Orach Chaim, 640:4). Causes of this discomfort are the wind and flies that one is exposed to in a sukkah. Most people are not willing to spend more than a fifth of their financial assets to avoid such distractions. Why is this individual exempt from sleeping in the sukkah?

The Poskim refer to the halachic principle of “tashvu ke’in taduru”- an individual is required to dwell in the sukkah in a fashion similar as to how he resides in his permanent home. A person will not reside in a permanent home that is uncomfortable for him. Therefore he is exempt from a sukkah that will yield discomfort.

Indeed, the Torah expects a lot from us. In order to fulfill the will of Hashem, at times we must sacrifice our needs and desires. However, the halacha is very sensitive to the basic needs of man. In many mitzvoth, we are not required to spend a large percentage of our financial assets, or to incur upon ourselves illness and pain. A person who contemplates acting in a stringent manner is well advised to remember the words of the Rambam concerning an individual who spends in excess of the halachic guidelines. “Such behavior is not exemplary (chasidut); rather it is classified as lunacy, for this person will lose his money and become dependent of others- one should not have mercy on him.”

In relation to many mitzvoth, the Holy One Bless Be He, expects us to initially tend to our basic needs. Afterwards, or to be more precise- therefore- we can fulfill His will.



Categorized under: 1: Halacha > General
Uploaded: 2/28/2006 1:15:01 PM