ג׳ באדר ב׳ ה׳תשע״ד (March 5, 2014)

Sukka 30a-b: A Mitzva Fulfilled By Means of a Transgression

The third perek, Lulav ha-Gazul, which began on yesterday’s daf (29b), focuses on the mitzva of taking the four species (see Vayikra 23:40). Based on the explanation of this commandment in the Torah, many details remain unclear:

  • To what plants is the Torah referring – it offers more in the way of a description than a specific tree or shrub?
  • Are there requirements about the condition of the plants that are to be used for this mitzva?
  • Do all of the plants need to be taken together?
  • Is the commandment a mitzva on all Jews, or is it connected to the Temple service?
  • Does the mitzva apply on just the first day of Sukkot, or on every day of the holiday?

These very issues are the ones dealt with in our perek.

The title of the perekLulav ha-Gazul – refers to the first rule in the Mishna, which prohibits using a stolen lulav to fulfill the mitzva. Rabbi Yohanan quotes Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai as explaining the basis for this prohibition as being a mitzva ha-ba’ah ba-aveirah – a commandment that is fulfilled by means of a sinful act. The source for this concept is a passage in Tanakh (Malakhi 1:13) in which the prophet pointedly states that God rejects the offering of a stolen sacrifice, just as He rejects offerings that are physically blemished.

Another pasuk quoted in this context refers to God’s love of justice and His hatred of a stolen olah offering (see Yeshayahu 61:8). The Ri”af points out that the pasuk chooses to emphasize an olah because it is a sacrifice that it totally burned up for God. While we can well understand that sacrifices where part of the korban is given to its owner cannot come from stolen property, we may have thought that if it all is given to God, there is less of a problem since the entire universe belongs to Him. Thus it is important to emphasize God’s total rejection of such a suggestion.

The commentaries discuss the concept of mitzva ha-ba’ah ba-aveirah at great length. The general conclusion is that not every sinful act connected to a commandment negates the mitzva. When the aveira (transgression) is what allows the mitzva to be performed – as in our case where the lulav would not have been available for use had it not been stolen – then it cannot be used for performance of a mitzva.

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