We are continuing in siman 19, discussing the halachos of spending money on mitzvos. The Shulchan Aruch, in Yoreh Deah siman 157, paskens that one may refrain from performing a mitzvah (shev v’al taaseh) when the mitzvah will cost more than a fifth of their money, and must give up all of their money in order to avoid an aveirah, as we have learned until now.
The Shach discusses losing a limb in order to avoid an aveirah. Do we consider losing a limb akin to money, and a person would be chayav to give up the limb even if it affects body function, or do we consider it akin to giving up one’s life, and just as one does not give up their life to avoid an aveirah, one does not have to give up a limb either. The Shach writes that it appears to him akin to giving up one’s life, and just as one would not have to give up their life in order to avoid an aveirah, they do not have to give up a limb either.
We will discuss a practical example of this halacha. We learned that the Minchas Chinuch (shiur 1438) holds that the one fifth exemption only applies to a one-time mitzvah, but if one will be mevatel a mitzvah multiple times they would have a chiyuv to spend all of their money to perform the mitzvah, as he equates being mevatel a mitzvah multiple times to a lav. With the Minchas Chinuch in mind, a situation occurred in which a person has an impediment to their mouth, and the doctors suggested breaking the jaw and resetting it. The recovery would require the mouth being completely shut for three months (besides a straw for drinking), during which time the patient would be unable to speak. There would be many mitzvos the person would be unable to perform during that time, chiefly kriyas shema. However, if the surgery is not done, the person will not have proper function of their limb. Using this psak of the Shach, although one is being mevatel many mitzvos, so issue is the equivalent of a lav, one is not chayav to give up a limb to avoid transgressing a lav, only their money. Therefore, the surgery could be performed.
A similar question arises regarding a situation in which a person will become a choleh she’ein bo sakanah from performing a mitzvah. For example, if they sit in the sukkah, they will catch a cold and be bedridden, in a non-life threatening manner, for the next two weeks. The Teshuvas Binyan Shlomo raises this question regarding a person eating matzah or maror if it will make them sick. He writes that sickness is the equivalent of giving more than one fifth of a person’s money for a mitzvah, so they are exempt from the mitzvah. Based on the ideas we learned behind the idea of one fifth (shiur 1442), it is difficult to understand why the exemption could be applied here. One could possibly explain that being sick affects one’s ability to work, which could create a kavod habriyos or life-threatening issue.
Nevertheless, the minhag haposkim is to be meikil, but one should ask their rav for specific guidance.
- A person must spend up to one fifth of their money in order to fulfill a mitzvah. A person must give up all of their money to avoid performing an aveirah.
- One is not chayav to give up loss of a limb to avoid an aveirah, as losing a limb is considered equivalent to giving up one’s life.
- One is not chayav to get sick in order to perform a mitzvah, but one should ask any practical applications to their rav.