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Thought for the Day: You Can Be A Thief and Without

The Halichos Shlomo makes an interesting p'sak: If you eat matzah at the seder, but forget to make the bracha of "ha'motzi", you are still yotzi.  My first reaction was, "why wouldn't he be?"  After glancing at the footnote, my reaction was "whoa! why is he yotzi?"  Then I read the rest of the note and was awash with soothing feelings of being at one with the universe.  Vicariously experiencing the clarity of a posek's thought processes will do that for you.  (No... my first reaction was not "how could you forget ha'motzi?!?"... sadly, I've I learned how easily it to forget almost anything...)

What's the question?  We need two bits of information.  First, as described before (Integrity and Brachos), Chazal have revealed to us that eating food without making a bracha is tantamount to stealing.  Second, you can not be yotzi the mitzvah or achilas matzah with stolen matzah.  Ah ha!  So if  someone eats matzah without making the bracha of ha'motzi, then he is a stealer and (apparently) eating stolen matzah.  That's why I would have thought he's not yotzi.  That answers my first reaction.  Now what about my second: how the heck is he yotzi, anyway?

The answer lies in understanding precisely what Chazal mean by labeling the bracha forgetting scoundrel as a robber.  What follows is my understanding of the footnote in Halichos Shlomo.  Your mileage may vary.

When a person steals an object, two things happen.  One, he is now in possession of stolen property.  Two, he has damaged his neshama with a ma'aseh aveira (a sinful action).  When Chazal say that eating food without making a bracha is tantamount to stealing, they mean that the damage done to one's neshama is similar to the damage done by stealing.  On the other hand, since the person didn't actually steal something, he is not in possession of stolen good.  Case in point, that matzah that Ploni wantonly ate without thanking his creator is not stolen; it's still Ploni's matzah and so Ploni is still yotzi the mitzvah of eating matzah.

You see something like that and the world just feels a little brighter.

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