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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.

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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)

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