Lulav Or Shofar On Shabbos
‘It Refers To Tithing In Our Days‘
Rabbi Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, zt”l, an outstanding talmid chacham, sparked a great halachic furor 100 years ago when he announced that, based on his investigations, one should blow shofar in Yerushalayim on Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbos (Sefer Mikra’ei Kodesh: Yomim Noraim 32).
Till today, some Jerusalemites say Rabbi Schlesinger never actually made this statement, but it raises some interesting incidental halachic questions nonetheless. For example, suppose someone living at the time knew that Rabbi Schlesinger was about to blow shofar on Shabbos Rosh Hashanah: Should he make sure to listen to it? The Sages ruled that one shouldn’t blow shofar on Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbos, but this person would only be listening to shofar, not blowing it.
An Invalid Shehecheyanu?
Before we answer this question, let’s ask another one: Should a person say Shehecheyanu on shaking lulav on the second day of yom tov if he accidentally already shook it the day before, not realizing that it was Shabbos?
According to the Torah, a person is supposed to shake lulav on the first day of Sukkos, even if it’s Shabbos. The Sages, however, forbade doing so lest a person accidentally move it from a private domain to a public domain, which is a Torah prohibition (Sukkah 42b). A person must never violate this decree of the Sages, but if he did, is he considered to have done a mitzvah (in which case he wouldn’t say Shehecheyanu the next day)? Or was his act worthless (in which case he would)?
Timing is Everything
Leading halachic authorities struggle with this question, which comes up in various contexts. According to many Acharonim, most prominently Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Drush Ve’chidush, ma’arachah ches, s.v. Vehineh HaMagen Avraham, and Chiddushei Rabbi Akiva Eiger on Pesachim 69a), the Sages never completely nullified mitzvos of the Torah. They simply forbade doing them in certain situations. Therefore, someone who did them nonetheless has fulfilled a mitzvah (see Responsa Maharshag, Orach Chayim 36, and Pri Megadim, Orach Chayim 634).
Others, however, disagree and maintain that the Sages totally negated the possibility of fulfilling these mitzvos. Thus, someone who violates the Sages’ decree and does them nonetheless has done nothing (see Chelkas Yoav, Kaba Dekushyasa, kushya 99; Kovetz Shiurim, II, Kuntres Divrei Soferim; and Encyclopedia Talmudis, “Yesh koach beyad chachamim,” note 85).
What does all this have to do with tithing animals, the topic of our sugya? Among the topics at the center of this dispute is the mitzvah of tithing animals. This mitzvah applies in our era (Bechoros 53a), but the Sages forbade doing it since the Temple is destroyed and they were concerned that someone might accidentally use a ma’aser animal that is supposed to be offered as a korban for mundane purposes.
The Gemara (61a) says that if a person separated ma’aser beheimah in our era, the sanctified animals should be left to die to prevent it from being used for mundane purposes. Tosafos (s.v. “Bema’aser“) writes that although a person should not tithe animals in our era, “if he did so, ma’aser takes effect on the animal.”
Rashi, however (s.v. “Bazeman hazeh“), writes that the Gemara’s statement only accords with the opinion that the Sages did not forbid tithing animals in our era. (The implication is that according to the opinion that they did, the animal need not be left to die to prevent it being used for mundane purposes.)
Rashi and Tosafos Disagree
Apparently, we have an explicit disagreement between Rashi and Tosafos about the value of an act that violates a rabbinic decree. (Chasdei David on the Tosefta, here, Ch. 7, Baraisa 7). The Chasdei David points out a great chiddush in Rashi’s opinion: Not only does a decree by the Sages obviate the need to do a mitzvah; it prevents the Torah sanctity of ma’aser beheimah from taking effect.
(We should note that Rashi may have explained the Gemara as he did to avoid the explanation that the Gemara is referring to someone who transgressed the Sages’ decree.