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Thought for the Day: Oseik b'Mitzvah Patur Min ha'Mitzvah

I called Rabbi Fuerst a few years ago to ask about giving tzedaka during davening.  My question was motivated by the principle of "oseik b'mitzvah, patur min ha'mitzvah" -- one who is actively busy fulfilling a mitzvah is exempt from another mitzvah.  I was not trying to be stingy about giving tzedaka; chas v'shalom!  That was not even a teensy part of my motivation.  (Hmm.... methinks the gentleman doth protest too much... hmmm).

We usually read "patur" as "you don't have to, but you can if you want to".  That is very often not the case in halacha.  For example, if one is preparing to eat an apple, accidentally says a "sh'hakol" instead of a "borei pri ha'eitz", then takes a bite, he is patur from having to make another bracha because the "sh'hakol" works b'di'avad.  That being the case, the person is actually forbidden from making a "borei pri ha'eitz" on that apple because of the issur of bracha l'vatala.  So in my case, if I would be patur from the mitzvah of giving tzedaka while davening, then it would actually be assur for me to interrupt my davening in order to give said tzedaka.  Which is what motivated my question.  Really.

R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z'tzal, was asking (based on oseik b'mitzvah, patur min ha'mitzvah), why someone in the middle of shmone esrei when the congregation gets to k'dusha needs to stop and silently listen with intent to be yotzei with the responses from the shatz.  He answered (as I understand it) that when one is davening in a congregation, he is already involved with the mitzvah of t'fila b'tzibur, which includes his private shmone esrei.  That being the case, "oseik b'mitzvah, patur min ha'mitzvah" is not really relevant to the situation, because the responses to k'dushah are part and parcel of mitzvah in which you are oseik.  I thought that was a really cool angle on how my private obligation to daven fits in and complements the mitzvah of t'fila b'tzibur.

Regarding my question to R' Fuerst: Apparently he has seen me daven, because he said, "Who says you are really being oseik b'mitzvah?"  (Go for a simple p'sak, get mussar.  That's why you have to have a relationship with your Rav; he's not just a lookup service.)  Bottom line, though, he told me that up through p'sukei d'zimra and after tachanun, I should give tzedaka.  From barchu through tachanun (and during the k'riah of k'rias hatorah), I should really be oseik b'mitzvah and so I shouldn't give then.


jonnydegani said…
I am not sure what your shul is like, but davening the in shteibelach in New Square, it is just as much of an interruption to ignore the guy asking as it is to give. In fact giving usually turns out to be less of an interruption. I found the best thing was to have the money ready so when the guy cam buy I could quickly toss in the coins and go on with davening.

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