Latest update: January 15th, 2015
The Bach seems to imply that even someone who has made a substantial change in a stolen item, causing him to acquire it, blasphemes Hashem by making a blessing. We may be able to apply this concept to a Sabbath desecrator who leads the services.
The rule regarding blessings over a stolen item is found in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 25:12), where the Mechaber states that one may not recite the blessings on tefillin if they were stolen. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 25:35-36) quotes the very same verse (Psalms 10:3) that we quoted above and states that wearing stolen tefillin is a “mitzvah haba’ah be’averah” (a precept discharged through the violation of a prohibition). In such a circumstance, there is no mitzvah at all, as the verse implies.
This same teaching applies to the mitzvah of lulav. The first mishnah in Perek Lulav Hagazul (Sukkah 29b) states that one may not use a stolen lulav for the mitzvah; it is disqualified. Rashi (ad loc. s.v. “Gazul”) explains that Leviticus 24:3 states, “U’lekachtem lachem… – You shall take for yourselves…” This verse teaches us that a person must own the lulav he uses for the mitzvah.
The Gemara (29b-30a) specifies that this is the halacha for the first day of Sukkot because the verse continues, “…bayom harishon – …on the first day [of Sukkot].” However, on the second day of Sukkot (and all the remaining days as well) – when the obligation to shake a lulav is only rabbinic – the only reason one may not use a stolen lulav is because of the reason we mentioned earlier: it is a mitzvah haba’ah be’averah.
(Shmuel disagrees, arguing it is not a mitzvah haba’ah be’averah on the remaining days of Sukkot; one can use a stolen mitzvah just as one can use a borrowed one.)
Thus if the shliach tzibbur desecrates the Sabbath, he is not blessing Hashem by leading the services but blaspheming Him. We might classify such a tefillah as a mitzvah haba’ah be’averah.
(To be continued)
About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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