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Thought for the Day: Better to Passively Let Opportunity for Mitzvah to Pass Than to Actively Violate a Prohibition

Here's the scenario.  Shmerel is running (literally) to shacharis (late again, I am afraid), when he is suddenly surrounded by a group of ruffians.  You know the types... scars from old fights on their faces, big tattoos that say "Mom" on biceps as big as small trees, one old lady ("Mom", apparently) missing teeth and chewing on a cheap cigar.  They grab his t'fillin and hand it to an Orthodox rabbi they have also captured to be sure the t'fillin is given proper treatment.  Then they bring out government food inspector (whom they also captured to make sure all food was handled properly) holding a perfectly broiled pork chop (USDA Prime; it's really pork).  Mom tells Shmerel, "You don't get your t'fillin back before tomorrow after sunrise (in order to be yotzei all shitos) unless you eat that pork chop.  In other words, either you violate an issur d'oraisa via a kum asei (getting up and do) or m'vatel a mitzvah d'oraisa via shev v'lo sa'asei (sit tight and don't do anything)."  Thanks, Mom.

Shmerel's not the biggest lamdan in the world, but remembers a machlokes Reish Lakish and R' Yochanan about whether chatzi shiur assur m'd'oraisa.  Baruch HaShem, this is a pork chop and not fresh broccoli!  He can just eat the pork chop pakos pakus min ha'shiur and rely on Reish Laskish that chatzi shiur is only assur m'd'rababan.  Does that help?

You know it doesn't help; and so does Shmerel, after a little thought.  Think about the last time the first day of Rosh HaShana was on Shabbos.  We didn't blow shofar.  Why not?  Everyone knows why not... because Chazal were worried that someone would carry a shofar in a r'shus harabbim to learn how to blow it properly, thus violating Shabbos; so Chazal said just don't blow shofar on Rosh HaShana when it falls out on Shabbos.  Well said.  However... the Torah still says to blow the shofar; why do Chazal win?

Here's the principle: if you blow shofar, you are fulfilling a mitzvah but also actively violating an issur (remember that every d'rabanan is built on the d'oraisa to listen to Chazal), while if you do not blow shofar, you are only passively not fulfilling a mitzvah, while actively respecting the issur.  Hence the catchy title of today's TftD, "Better to Passively Let Opportunity for Mitzvah to Pass Than to Actively Violate a Prohibition."

That answers Shmerel's question and he is unfortunately stuck there till tomorrow morning.  Moral of the story: Don't be late for minyan.

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