Monday, May 18, 2009

What Do You Choose? One of "You" Or Two of "Someone Else"?

Here is another question. Let's say you have a choice. You could do some mitzvah/avodah that would help bring you greater Deveikus, If you do not take advantage of the opportunity to do it, it will give two other people the chance to do it, though you would misss out. Or, if you do take advantage of the opportunity, then it would be only you, one person, who would be able to do it.

Do you say that really one can only take responsibility for himself and its in Hashem's hands what other people do so it's not your cheshbon (not your place to calculate) whether one "you" or two "others" get to do the mitzvah?

Or do you say the purpose of the world is to be marbeh k'vod Shomayim and to give Hashem nachas. So whatever I can do to bring more Deveikus/k'vod Shomayim into the world, I should do. And l'mai nafkah li minah (what difference does it make to me) who gets closer to Hashem? Two people is more k'vod shomayim than one so let me allow two other people to do it rather than only one "me"?

What do you think and why?

Picture courtesy of Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.


Anonymous said...

Generally we say 'vichay acheecha imach' - your life before your brother's. Many views understand that to refer to mitzvot too. I understand there is a shita of the Chatam Sofer that says that this does not apply to mitzvot and that one may give the opportunity to do a mitzvah to someone else.

A Simple Jew said...

If we are given a chance to do a mitzvah, doesn't the inclination to fulfill it come from the yetzer tov and the questions we ask ourselves analyzing it from all angles come from the yetzer hara?

If it wasn't our mitzvah to do in the first place, why would we be given the opportunity to fulfil it?

Neil Harris said...

"If you do not take advantage of the opportunity to do it, it will give two other people the chance to do it"- why TWO OTHER people? Couldn't just ONE other person do it?

This reminded me of the issue of being yotzai someone's kiddush at a Shabbos meal vs making your own kiddush where you a guest at someone's home. Which is really the great way to praise Hashem?

(Yes, I answered the question w/ a question)

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Yes, you are certainly right that there is a sevara of "mi yomar dameich someich tfei midami," who says that your blood is redder than mine, that I should give up my life or my mitzva to you. Since I cannot presume to know that your asiyas mitzva would be more valuable than mine, I shouldn't give up my mitzva so that you could do it.

But my scenario was specifically in a case of giving up a chance to do some avodas Hashem for "two" people.


That makes sense but I guess that I am asking about someone trying to attain a level of avodas Hashem "lishmah." The Bilvavi seforim describe lishma as doing everything for the sake of giving nachas ruach to Hashem. On that level, I do not serve Hashem so that *I* should get closer to Him, but simply in order to give *HIM* nachas ruach.

If all that I want is to give nachas ruach to Hashem, why should it matter to me whether *I* am the one who can do this mitzva? While it may be true that if it is a choice between me doing the mitzva and someone else doing the mitzva, why should I think that my asiyas mitzva will be any less than the other person's. But if I would have reason to believe that Hashem will get *more* nachas ruach if I would let others do the mitzvah, and I want to serve Hashem lishmah, shouldn't I let the other people have the mitzvah?


the whole reason I gave the case of "two" other people doing the mitzva was because the point of the question was where I could choose between taking a mitzva and bringing, let's say "10 Deveikus points" into the world or letting a couple of other people do the mitzva and allowing "20 Deveikus points" come into the world? In that case, wouldn't someone who wants to do avodas Hashem lishmah prefer the 2nd option because he would think that Hashem would have more nachas ruach that way?

Or do we say that even when one is trying to attain avodas Hashem lishmah, that these matters should never enter one's cheshbon because they are beyond human understanding anyway?


Neil Harris said...

OK, I think that in the end regarding Hashem's "Nachas Ruach" there probably is a way for you to do the mitzvah and still involved another in the mitzvah, thus allowing for "20 Deveikus Points" instead of just the "10". For example...
a) Giving Tzedaka- you can give and then tell someone else about the Tzedaka opportunity

b) Learning- you can learn and then teach what you learned to another person (then they can teach it to another and so on)

c) A bracha over drinking an iced coffee on a hot afternoon- Instead of being the only person drinking, offer some to a friend, then you get the mitzvah and he/she gets the mitzvah also

In all of these cases you (the initial person performing the mitzvah) gets the Deveikus points, the person you share the mitzvah with gets points, and beyond that there is the zchar attached for being the one who gave another the opportunity.

Thanks for commenting back to me.

Yirmiahu said...

Who says it's muter to pass over the opprotunity to do a mitzvah?

Menashe said...

It's not only mutar; it's a chiyuv to "pass over" the opportunity to do a mitzvah if it will anyway get done by someone else if you were not to do it. The rationale is that it is only mutar to be mvatel talmud torah when the mitzvah would not otherwise be done.

I suspect your "passing away" the opportunity will probably accomplish more "dveikus" than you would have accomplished were you to choose the opposite.

yitz said...

The situation is entirely imaginary and could never actually exist.

These conditions do not exist in the real world.

Any actual situation would have clear boundaries and the answer would readily present itself.

Any example I could bring to fulfill your initial definitions, I could bring another satisfactory example that would contradict the first one absolutely.

yitz said...


regarding dveykut:
i think it's problematic to ever assume anyone (aside from oneself) isn't ALWAYS giving HaShem complete nachat ruach.

dveykut is something entirely subjective, how could you try to measure someone else's objectively?

as long as you are viewing those other two people as separate from HaShem, isn't that damaging your dveykut?

please explain in the event that i'm oversimplifying.

yitz said...

@DY re: dveykut,

sorry if i'm thinking out loud.

perhaps the answer to your real question is this:

as long as you see a difference between yourself and someone else, you have a responsibility to yourself to perform the mitzwah and reach a higher level of dveykut.

once you reach the level where that person is an integral part of you, of course they can perform the mitzwah, there's no difference anymore.

This might be a high concept, but I think it becomes immediately apparent to any parent: (no pun intended) When you let your children perform a mitzwah instead of you, do you really feel like you _aren't_ performing the mitzwah? isn't it obvious that it's sweeter to you, AND to HaShem when you encourage your child to perform the mitzwah with excitement and dveykut?

I think I can bring a proof from the Zohar: When a person performs a brit milah for their son, HaShem calls out to everyone in Shamayim and says: come see what my son is doing!!! HaShem gets tremendous personal hana'ah and kavod from His children's actions. [if you think about it, he could have created man with a brit milah already, but apparently He prefers to have His children perform the mitzwah themselves--as with all mitwoth obviously] So too, with our children we get even greater Hana'ah then we could if we did the mitzwah ourselves.

From this we can draw the conclusion that when we are able to gain more dveykut from seeing our fellow Jew perform the mitzwah, then it is permissible to 'pass on' the mitzwah, from the dveykut perspective.

Until then, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

This is all in theory, when it comes to practice however, what I said first still stands, kol mikreh l'gufo, if Halachah teaches you anything it's that a particular situation can turn the klal on its head very very quickly.

Yirmiahu said...

"It's not only mutar; it's a chiyuv to "pass over" the opportunity to do a mitzvah if it will anyway get done by someone else if you were not to do it."

Granted, but the question wasn't qualified by noting that skipping would allow one to continue learning Torah.

Neil Harris said...

FWIW, I think Yitz has the right idea!

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

ASJ, Yirmiyahu, Yitz, Neil, and Menashe,

Neil suggested that I post this example. Perhaps it helps make the question more concrete. I hadn't been able to think of a specific example before, otherwise I would have put it in the post itself. Here goes:

***Let's say someone needs to raise $10,000 for tzedaka. The first person he goes to is a rich guy to whom $10,000 is nothing. He could donate the $10,000 for an "easy" mitzvah with "little" schar because "l'fum tzara agra." Or he could only donate $1,000 and allow more people to get more schar by being mishtateif with the $10,000, probably at more personal sacrifice.***

What should he do in light of the the question as phrased in the main post?

Neil Harris said...

I say "$1000".

Menashe said...

He should definitely give the $10,000 himself. Not for his own schar but because money is a limited thing and there are unfortunately unlimited worthy causes for it to go to so he can be assured that others with money will certainly have another opportunity.

If you want to put another limit on this hypothetical and say that this is the only moisod that needs help or something then that changes the game.

Ech I know you weren't looking for us to punch holes in your moshol but after all you're dealing with bnei yisroel here.

yitz said...

You couldn't have picked a more straightforward example, imho.

The Nesi'im did exactly what you suggested when the mishkan was built -- and they were punished for it.

They waited till the end so as to let other people be involved in the mitzwah, and lo and behold their contribution was not needed at all.. And they were rebuked for it.

Maybe you could try and say that if they had given a small sum in the beginning, then they wouldn't have been rebuked -- but on the other hand, if they had given a small sum, perhaps everyone would have followed their lead and also given a small sum, rather than everyone giving in excess, beyond even the needs of the project.

You forget human nature, and if people see a wealthy person, for whom $10,000 is nothing, and yet they only gave $1,000 dollars, people will wonder if there's something wrong with the charity -- just like an average person will give a dollar to a charity, even if it is suspect. But, if you see an average person shell out $100 dollars to a charity, you are more inclined to believe it is a worthy institution.

There is no question, you should give $10,000 (if you can of course) right at the beginning -- so that the next time people see a righteous charity they will jump on the opportunity because they know just how fleeting it is.

Yes, this time, they lost the opportunity to perform the mitzwah of tzeddaka, but they will perform it next time with zrizut by following your example. isn't that worth it?

--- i know people in marketing would say don't oversell, but i'm not a marketer so here's more:

For another example, Rav Darmoni (a Rav at Netiv Aryeh in the old city) told a story about how he once saw someone starting to pray mincha after the zman and he stopped him telling him it was too late to pray, an argument ensued and it turned out that the zman actually ended right after the argument had begun, R' Darmoni said he felt terrible that he had prevented a Jew from praying.. He went to Rav Nebezahl (his Rav, and Rav of the Old city) and asked him about it: Rav Nebenzahl said: You don't have anything to feel bad about, you might have made him miss out on that tefillah, but from now on he will always be careful to pray within the zman. (think about how many tefillot he might actually miss over the rest of his life if he doesn't worry about praying on time)

I hope you can see how (i think) this story applies here as well.

Anonymous said...

You must hear Rav Moshe Weinberger's Oros HaTorah shiur from 5/22/09. Among many other things he was on fire about, he spoke extensively of this issue from the Chasam Sofer that the goal is reach and teach many even at the expense of one's own growth.