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Thought for the Day: G'milus Chasadim is D'Oraisa

I suppose this should be obvious.  After all, I say every morning that g'milus chasadim is among those things that on the one hand no matter how much you do the Torah would like you to try for more; while on the other hand no kindness is considered insignificant.  Moreover, I also daily declare each morning that the principle reward for g'milus chasadim remains intact for us when we arrive to olam haba, while we benefit from interest earned while still in this world.  With all that, I was still struck by two points that Mishna Brura makes about the importance of g'milus chasadim.

Siman 72 of the Shulchan Aruch, O. Ch. discusses the obligation to say k'ri'as sh'ma and daven when someone is involved in a funeral procession; be it carrying the coffin, comforting the mourners, or simply accompanying the deceased.  The p'sak of the Shulchan Aruch is that those who are accompanying the deceased are obligated in k'ri'as sh'ma and exempt from t'fila.  The Mishna Brura explains (s.k. 3) that even though escorting the deceased is included in g'milus chasadim and g'milus chasadim is from the a Torah,  none the less, they can certainly stop to say at least the first verse with appropriate concentration.  (As always, the expression "first verse" of sh'ma means both "sh'ma yisrael..." and "baruch sheim k'vod...".)  That means that except for the fact that saying sh'ma does not interfere with the g'milus chasadim of escorting the deceased, one would not be obligated (nor even allowed) to say k'ri'as sh'ma.  Moreover, the escorters are still exempt from t'filla because that would interfere.

Now, those who are actually carrying the coffin (whether actually carrying or waiting to spell those who are carrying) are exempt from k'ri'as sh'ma (and certainly from t'fila).  Here the Mishna Brura (s.k. 2) points out that if there is a group that takes care of Jewish funeral arrangements, so the carriers are all volunteers, then everyone in that group who is helping with the carrying is exempt.  Since they want the z'chus of carrying the deceased, they are exempt.  In other words, we don't say that there is a mitzvah of k'ri'as sh'ma and so the group has to choose the minimum to be involved because it would interfere with the important mitzvah d'oraisa of k'ri'as sh'ma.  Instead, HaShem says, "You want to do a chesed?  Let Me clear the path for you."  There is one condition on that last bit.  The Mishna Brura (siman 38, s.k. 24) has already noted that to be considered oseik b'mitzvah, one's intention should not be primarily to reap a profit.  I don't know anyone who went into the chevra kadisha to become rich, so we are probably safe on that one.

I found this topic very comforting, because I am very concerned about causing bitul z'man.  Now I know that since anyone who reads these TftD's is being a gomel chesed to me and no one is getting paid to read them, so they are actually oseik b'mitzvah. Whew!


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