Shabbat Parashat Terumah| 5763
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l
Financial Sacrifice to live in Eretz Israel - Part II - Based on Eretz Hemdah I,I,7
We saw last time that according to significant sources, one need not subjugate himself or his family to poverty in order to live in Eretz Yisrael. We raised the possibility that as long as one can make a reasonable living, there may be an obligation to live in Eretz Yisrael, even if it requires outlays of money greater than required for other mitzvot, because of the centrality of the mitzva. However, it is possible that financial sacrifice for this positive mitzva should be the same as for other mitzvot, and so, we should determine the extent of one’s obligation to spend money on positive mitzvot, in general.
The Rama, in discussing the maximum amount of money one needs to spend on an etrog, says the following. “One who does not have an etrog or other object for a mitzvah whose time passes does not need to spend a great sum of money (äåï øá), as the Rabbi’s said, ‘He who spends, should not spend more than a fifth [of his net worth]’” (Orach Chayim 656:1). The Rosh (Bava Kamma 1:7), who is the Rama’s source, bases himself on three gemarot which can be instructive for our study. The gemara in Bava Kamma 9b tries to figure out a cryptic statement that one pays a third for mitzvot. The gemara claims that it cannot be referring to spending a third of one’s wealth for a given mitzva, because then a person would use up all his money with three mitzvot. The gemara in Sukka 41b tells of Rabban Gamliel’s great love of mitzvot which caused him to spend 1,000 zuz for an etrog. The gemara implies that he went beyond his obligation by paying such a sum. A third gemara (Ketuvot 50a) brings a rabbinical injunction that people giving tzedakah in a generous manner should not exceed one fifth of their wealth.
If one re-examines the Rama’s statement, he will notice that only the maximum sum to spend is mentioned, not a required or suggested amount. Rabbeinu Yerucham, a talmid of the Rosh, continues the comparision to tzedakah and says that one is expected to spend a tenth of his wealth for a mitzvah (quoted by Beit Yosef OC 656). The Biur Halacha (on siman 656) assumes that the obligation by mitzvot whose time passes and are personal obligations is greater than by tzedakah. He says, therefore, that it is possible that the tenth Rabbeinu Yerucham refers to is an absolute least, and it is possible that the maximum of a fifth of wealth is also the expected amount. The Biur Halacha wonders why the gemara (Bava Kamma, ibid.) doesn’t prove that one doesn’t spend a third on a mitzvah from the limit of a fifth on tzedakah.
The truth is that the gemara cannot use the limit on tzedakah as a limit for other mitzvot, because they are very different. By tzedakah, every p’ruta is a mitzva, and Chazal instruct us what the normal range is for giving the tzedakah. In contrast, regarding mitzvot, we are discussing a situation where one will not be able to fulfill the mitzva at all if he does not spend a large sum of money. Therefore, the gemara proves not to spend a third of ones wealth from independent logic. The question is where the boundary of this logic is. Since, in the context of mitzvot, no measure is given, the Rosh assumes that we can apply the precedent that giving a fifth (for tzedakah)could cause poverty and is forbidden. But since a fifth is only a maximum amount and is not required by tzedakah, it is not logical that it is required by mitzvot without giving a person the ability to monitor the situation. Therefore the Rosh introduces the limit of äåï øá [which we will discuss next week].
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