[Avodah] A question for the Chevre

Chana Luntz Chana at kolsassoon.org.uk
Mon Feb 18 01:42:06 PST 2013

RMZ writes:
>> You have a secular Jew who's on his way to Africa for the rest of his 
>> life, and you have an opportunity to teach him one mitzva that he'll 
>> keep until he dies. ... Do you teach him: a) to love Hashem, or b) not 
>> to take bones out of a fish on Shabbos?

>> To emphasize, the question here is not a kiruv/chinuch strategy 
>> question
>> -- it won't lead to more mitzvos. It's a question of priorities in 
>> halacha. To this Rav, it was pashut that you teach him about borer. 
>> Thoughts?

And then:

>I also thought that "osei docheh lo taase" would be a good raya. But he
pointed out that there are exceptions >to that klal. For example, it doesn't
apply when the Lo Taaseh is a chiyuv kares. Which seems to suggest that, >if
we make the decision of which mitzvah is more important based on their
kadima in halacha, then shmiras >Shabbos outweighs Ahavas Hashem. That was
the Rav's sevara altogether. He even went so far as to say that the >mitzva
of not taking a bone out of a fish ONCE in a lifetime would outweigh a
lifetime of Ahavas Hashem.
>It seems that in purely halachic terms, he's correct. But I have a chush
that there's something wrong with >this approach.

Why is this right in purely halachic terms?

Taking bones out of fish is one single case of performing the melacha of
borer.  Even if you teach him this, there are hundreds of other ways in
which he can, and may well, perform borer on any given shabbas (we are
assuming here that he is not able to extrapolate, otherwise you will have
him growing in Torah, which he is apparently not able to do).

Boreh is only one of the 39 melachos of shabbas, for which one is chayav
kares.  And if you broke them down individually, there must be at least
thousands if not hundreds of thousands of other actions which he could and
may well do which would constitute issurei d'orisa.

So even if you teach him not to take bones out of fish, the chances that he
will, on any given shabbas, perform not just one, but hundreds of issurei
d'orisa seems very high.  The chances that he will keep shabbas in its
entirety seems miniscule.

So what have you achieved by teaching him about taking bones out of fish?

If you regard him as a mezid, then he is a mezid regarding chillul shabbas
anyway, and your teaching has achieved nothing, he is still chayav kares.
If you regard him as a shogeg, then he is chayav as many korbanos as you
deem him to be chayav for his shogeg (either one for all of shabbasos he
will violate, one for each shabbas, or one for each melacha, depending, but
most likely the former), since he will do borer anyway, the fact that he
will do one less bit of borer would seem to have achieved nothing.  If he is
a tinuk shenishba and you hold that makes him patur from any korban, then
that is his status and having taught him about bones in fish you have
achieved nothing - unless you hold that by teaching him this small amount,
you have turned him from a tinuk shenishba to a mazid or shogeg, in which
case you have made the situation significantly worse.  From that point of
view the phrase mutav shehayu shogegin comes to mind.

Thus having taught him about taking bones out of fish would seem to have
achieved absolutely nothing halachically but might possibly have made things

I do agree, if you were able to teach him about *all* of the melachos (even
let's say the d'orisa melachos) of shabbas, you would have achieved
something, and maybe it could be weighed against the opportunity to teach
him about Ahavas HaShem or some other such kneged kol haTorah mitzvah (such
as Talmud torah).

But I am also puzzled why no reference has been made to the various attempts
in our sources to condense the whole of the Torah down to one teaching.  I
can understand perhaps that Hillel's - dalach s'nei lchavrecha lo ta'avid
[Shabbat 31a] has not been brought - on the grounds that this is followed by
zil gamor - and in the artificial case before us, no further learning is
possible.  But then Makos 24a (which is after all about yeridos hadoros, and
the fact that the 613 needed increasingly to be condensed into fewer and
fewer) concludes with the one principle of Habakuk - v'tzadik bemunato yiyeh
[2:4] - which would seem to point very strongly towards emunas HaShem as
being the gemora mandated single mitzvah that would be required to be taught
in such highly artificial circumstances.



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