Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: אין שליח לדבר עבירה -- Why not?

And now for another in the "obviously because it's bad! oh yeah, sez who?!" series.  (The rest of the series -- all one of them -- is אין לבטל איסור לכתחילה -- Why Not?)

Clearly it just seem wrong to designate a  שליח לדבר עבירה/agent to sin for you.  None the less, Chazal (TB Bava Metzia 10b) were interested enough to explore the issue.  To understand the discussion, we need to be more precise about what Chazal intended when the told us not to do that.  Moreover, just being a bad idea is no reason to enact a rabbinic decree.  It must be something that people would otherwise want to do and would also rationalize it is "ok, even though it smells bad".

In fact, is is a mistranslation of אין שליח לדבר עבירה to render: one is not allowed to assign an agent to transgress a sin.  An accurate translation is just what it says, "there is no such thing as an agent to commit a sin".  In the vernacular, "I was only following orders" is not a valid defence.  If B. Bunny asks D. Duck to rob a bank for him, for example; payment for damages and return of any stolen objects would rest solely on Mr. Duck.  Why?

The gemara gives two explanations.  First: since both the שולח/sender and the שליח/delegate are both under the same set of rules.  As Chazal say pointedly: דברי הרב ודברי התלמיד מי שומעים/when the rav says one thing and the student says another; to whom do you listen?  Second: both the שולח/sender and the שליח/delegate have free will, so each is culpable for his own actions.

I was really tickled by this gemara because as soon as I read the first (which the usually quoted reason), I said to myself, "Ah.... of course, since they both have free will."  Then I saw the second explanation and realized that I had missed an important point, since I had always thought of them as saying the same thing.

So what's the difference?  The gemara gives two examples: (1) a kohein assigns a non-kohein to act as his agent for a marriage to a divorced lady.  (2) a man assigns a woman to cut the פאות/sidelocks off a minor boy.  In both cases the sendee is not transgressing a sin; hence, if the reason is דברי הרב ודברי התלמיד מי שומעים, then the agent hasn't done anything wrong and it is the sender who will have to do תשובה/repent.  However, if the reason is that both the sender and sendee have free will, then the sendee will have to do תשובה/repent.  Also note, that according to both opinions that if the agent is forced, the the sender is always culpable.

I tell my grandchildren that I am not ticklish, which is actually true regarding their attempts to tickle me.  They, however, are all quite ticklish and young enough to still like that game.  But I really am tickled when a gemara smashes another one of my preconceived -- and often wrong -- notions.  Which explains why you'll often see me chuckling while learning.  I don't expect to ever get old enough to not enjoy that game.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…