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Thought for the Day: Fulfilling Mitzvos is Avodas HaShem and D'varim Sh'b'k'dusha

Until you have children and experience babies running around the house in diapers, you could feel that the Shulchan Aruch spends entirely too much time on the topic of davening, k'ri'as sh'ma, mikra megilla, and saying brachos in the neighborhood of excrement and urine.  How far in front of you, when is to the side does it have to be before it's not longer in front of you, in another room, behind glass, under snow... I mean, how often does this happen?  Us rich, pampered Americans all have indoor plumbing, after all.  Then you have a baby running around the house... that section of Mishna Brura becomes very well worn, indeed.

Now here's a halacha that really, really is not very common: if the shofar blasts are spread out even over the whole day and each one by a different person, you are still good to go (OC 588:2, as explained by the Mishna Brura).  The Biur Halacha there (d.h. shama tisha t'ki'os) notes that the Magen Avraham amends that this only works if the gaps between were not due to either the person or his environment being in an unfit state.  That is, the same issues we run into with t'fila, brachos, k'ri'as sh'ma, etc... as noted above.  That is a cause for wonder to the Biur Halacha.  After all, the issue in those cases is that it is assur to say d'varim sh'b'k'dusha or even think in divrei torah when either one himself or his environment is unfit.  Mitzvah observance, on the other hand doesn't depend on environment.  "Is it forbidden to wear a garment of four corners when one's body or environment is not clean?!  We find no such thing anywhere!  This requires further investigation."

The Biur Halacha then goes on to give two basic approaches to this Magen Avraham.  First, we hold that mitzvos tzricha kavana (one must have intent that he is performing a mitzvah to actually fulfill the mitzvah).  That required kavana is essentially divrei torah and therefore is forbidden in the same situations that thinking divrei torah is forbidden.  Second, he says, one can say simply that fulfilling a mitzvah is avoda and one may not perform any avodas HaShem in a disgraceful manner.  See there for more details.  One detail you won't find is an answer to the original question: how is that we don't find any discussion to indicate that wearing a four cornered garment requires a clean body and environment?

The Dirshu Mishna Brura brings a few approaches to answer this question.  One is due to R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who distinguishes between mitzvos for which one would suffer a loss (spiritual, that is) every moment that one is prevented from doing the mitzvah, and mitzvos for which one can choose a time and place.  Tzitzis is in the first category, lulav in the second.  Sukkah would seem to also be in the first category, yet one is not permitted to build a sukkah in a dirty environment.  Then there is the Darchei Tshuva, who distinguishes between "mitzvos kiyumis" which have a beneficial side effect, and "mitzvos chiyuvis" that exist only to give us the opportunity to serve HaShem by fulfilling His Will.  Sh'chita is in the first category, while lulav is in the second.  In this approach, though, sukkah is also in the second category.

How to resolve all this?  Hey... maybe that's why the Biur Halacha decided to stay with a "tzarich iyun"...


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