ו׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״ד (October 10, 2013)

Pesaḥim 112a-b: Accepting Charity to Fulfill the Mitzva of the Four Cups

In the Mishna (99b) we learned that even a poor person should be sure to have four cups of wine to drink, even if it means accepting it from the charity kitchen.

The Gemara on our daf asks why the Mishna needs to teach us that someone should take money from charity to fulfill the mitzva of drinking four cups. Isn’t it obvious that if someone needs to fulfill a mitzva that he should accept money from charity?

The Gemara answers: The mishna is necessary only to teach that this halakha applies even according to the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, who said: Make your Shabbat like an ordinary weekday and do not be beholden to other beings. If one is unable to honor Shabbat without financial help from others, it is better for him to save money and eat his Shabbat meals as he would on a weekday rather than rely on other people. Here, in the case of the four cups, Rabbi Akiva concedes that it is appropriate for a poor person to request assistance from the community, due to the obligation to publicize the miracle.

Having presented Rabbi Akiva’s opinion, the Gemara quotes a series of statements that Rabbi Akiva taught his son Rabbi Yehoshua, the final one being the rule of avoiding charity even if it affects your Shabbat. Among them are:

Do not sit at the high point of a city when you are learning Torah
The Seder ha-Dorot interprets this as an admonition to avoid learning Torah in a place where there are throngs of people. Torah should be studied in the quiet and privacy of home or the Bet Midrash (house of study).

Do not live in a city whose leaders are Torah scholars –
The ben Yehoyada explains that the leader of the city is obligated to constantly remind the townsfolk of their misdemeanors, so they generally do not like him. Were he a Talmid Hakham, the people would likely share the hatred that they had for him to other Torah scholars, as well.

Do not enter your home suddenly, and certainly you should not enter a neighbor’s home without warning –
In Massekhet Derekh Eretz this rule is supported by the passage in Sefer Bereshit (3:9) in which we find that God Himself “stood” at the entrance to the Garden of Eden and called out to Adam when he needed to admonish him about having eaten from the Etz ha-Da’at (Tree of Knowledge).

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