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Thought for the Day: Fine for Taking a Mitzvah is 10 Gold Dinarim (~ $792.00 on Jan 17, 2014 CE)

S'char mitzvah b'hai alma leicha!  The reward for even the smallest mitzvah is so unimaginably huge that it can't be fit into this world.  Wow!  Holy Amazing Olam HaBah, Batman!  Take, for example, the mitzvah of tzedaka; a real, live, Torah mandated mitzvah.  Let's keep this "small", say... giving a dollar to the m'shulach who is trudging though this freezing winter in Chicago.  He walks by during chazaras ha'shatz and you absent-mindedly (except to make darn sure he isn't trying for a second dollar this year) hand him a dollar.  We all know and believe that the reward for that mitzvah is greater than all the wealth in this world.

Theoretically, that is.  I haven't tried this experiment, but I am confident of my prediction as to the outcome.  The experiment is to have two different collectors going through beis medrashim... which collector goes to which beis medrashim chosen at random.  One collector goes with a green card and gives a the mitzvah of tzedaka for each dollar he collects.  The other collector gives a diamond for each dollar he collects and has a notarized note attesting to the diamond's authenticity.  My prediction: No one is going to turn away the collector with diamonds; in fact, people will be borrowing money to exchange as many dollars as possible for those diamonds.

The problem is that "unimaginable reward" is just that -- unimaginable, and therefore essentially irrelevant to our daily lives.  Let's see if we can't make this more real.

The gemara (Bava Kama 91b) recounts that someone covered the blood of a bird that had been slaughtered by another Jew.  The Torah gives that mitzvah of kisu'i ha'dahm to the one who spilled the blood, so the shochet took the case to beis din.  Rabban Gamliel levied a fine of 10 gold dinarim.  According to Rashi (Bava Kamma 36a, dh dinar zahav), a gold dinar is worth 25 zuz.  According to R' Chaim Naeh  (Shiurey Torah 3:42), a zuz is 4.8 grams of silver.  That means that Rabban Gamliel levied a fine of $792 (price of silver on Jan 17, 2014 CE).  Oh, and we pasken that way; see Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 382:1 (there's only one syef, this p'sak is near the end).

The G"ra says that when speaking in learning, the saying of each and every word fulfills a mitzvah.  Suppose Shmendrick walks into a beis medrash with 10 people learning and he announces the score of some sports match.  Let's just say that stops everyone from learning for 10 seconds.  According to Yahoo, the average speaking rate is 120 - 150 words per minute.  Using the small number, that mean that Shmendrick just took away 200 mitzvos (10 people * 120 words/minute * 1 minute/60 seconds * 10 seconds).  That means he just incurred a fine of $158,400.

I don't know about you, but I can't afford that.  So if I don't discuss sports (or current events, or physics) with you in beis medrash, it's not because I am rude and anti-social (I mean, I am rude and anti-social, but that's just not the reason I don't have those discussions in beis medrash).  It's just because I can't afford it.


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