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The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Halakha: A Weekly Shiur In Halakhic Topics
Yeshivat Har Etzion


 

shiur #15: Regarding a blind person's

obligation IN MITZVOT

(Part II)

 

HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein

 

 

(In part one, we ended with the question regarding the nature of a blind person's exemption from mitzvot, whether it is based on a leniency or on a deficiency in da'at.)

 

            Now, if indeed a blind person is disqualified from serving as a witness because of a weakness in his da'at – and this is certainly a reasonable assumption – we can answer the question raised by the Tosafot in Ha-Chovel, why don't we exclude robbers and slaves from liability for shame according to Rabbi Yehuda, just as a blind person is excluded. We may simply say that a blind person is exempted from liability based on the analogy to testimony, because his disqualification from serving as a witness is rooted in a deficiency in da'at, and this factor can exempt him from liability for shame as well. But as for robbers and slaves, who are disqualified from giving testimony irrespective of the level of their da'at, there is no reason to exempt them from liability for shame. The fact that the Tosafot did not offer this answer implies that they understood a blind person's exemption from liability for shame, or his disqualification from serving as a witness, or perhaps both of them, as being unconnected to a deficiency in da'at.

 

            See, however, Shitah Mekubetzet, ad loc., who brings the Tosafot Shantz, who raise the same question as our Tosafot. After raising the possibility that perhaps, in fact, a slave is exempt from liability for shame, they conclude: "Even if you say that he is liable for shame, there is no logical reason to be lenient regarding a slave or others who are disqualified from giving testimony more than regarding a Jew who is qualified to testify, even though we are lenient regarding a blind person." While our Tosafot discuss the scope of the scriptural decree based on the wording "your eyes," the Tosafot Shantz focus on the possibility of excluding certain people based on logical reasoning. Their initial position – that even a slave is exempt from liability for shame – certainly does not posit that the exemption regarding shame is based on a deficiency of da'at. It would seem, however, that their conclusion may be understood as we explained above, that the exemption is limited to a blind person because it is based on a deficiency of da'at with respect to shame and with respect to testimony.

 

            This is stated explicitly by the Ra'avad in his chiddushim (ad loc.): "Just as there, a blind person is exempt because he lacks da'at, so too here a blind person is exempt, and excluded altogether from the law of shame, not to pay and not to receive." At the end of his comment, the Ra'avad explicitly states that, according to R. Yehuda, a blind person is excluded from the law of shame, both when is the shaming party and when he is the shamed party. This, indeed, is implied by the plain sense of the Gemara, for the Mishna merely establishes that one who shames a blind person is liable, without making any mention whatsoever of the law regarding a blind person who shames another person. And on this the Gemara comments: "Our Mishna is not in accordance with R. Yehuda," who speaks of a blind person who is the shaming party.

 

The Ra'avad's assertion is in accordance with his own position, for it is clear that if the exclusion from the law of shame is merely a leniency for the blind person that is unconnected to his level of da'at, then there is no room to apply the exclusion in the reverse case where the blind person is the shamed party. If, however, it is connected to a deficiency in da'at, there is room to suggest that a blind person is excluded even when he is the shamed party. This assertion, however, is not simple, in light of the fact that we maintain (Bava Kama 86b) that one who shames an idiot is exempt from liability, but one who shames a deaf person is liable.

 

The Tosafot (ad loc., s.v. suma), however, write with respect to R. Yehuda: "A blind person who shames another person is exempt, but one who shames a blind person is liable, for 'your eyes' does not imply that he is exempt." They too are in accordance with their own position that the exemption is based on a scriptural decree that is unconnected to da'at, and so there is certainly no reason to exempt one who shames a blind person. It is, of course, possible that even if the Tosafot would see the exemption granted to a blind person who shamed another person as based on a deficiency in da'at, they could still impose liability upon one who shames a blind person, he not being inferior to a deaf person. But in light of their position regarding the nature of the exemption, it clearly would have been inconceivable that a blind person should be excluded from the law of shame, "not to pay, and not to receive."

 

            The Ra'avad's understanding is, however, reflected in another novel position. For the second Baraita in the continuation of the passage in Ha-Chovel reads: "R. Yehuda says: A blind person is not liable for shame. Similarly, R. Yehuda exempted him from all judgments in the Torah." The Baraita seems to be saying that no type of monetary claim can be brought against a blind person – parallel to the blind person's exclusion from exile, lashes, and judicial execution mentioned in the Baraita in the first part of the passage. Thus the Gemara connects the various exemptions: "What is the reason of R. Yehuda? The verse states: 'Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments' (Bamidbar 35:24) – whoever is included in slaying and blood revenge is included in judgments; whoever is not included in slaying and blood revenge is not included in judgments." The Ra'avad, however, explains: "And similarly, [R. Yehuda] exempted him from all judgments in the Torah, so that he does not judge, nor is he judged, and the court is not obligated to hear his claims." The implication is that just as a claim cannot be brought against the blind person, so that he should become liable, so too he cannot bring claims against others, according to R. Yehuda. This also follows from the words of the author of the Sefer ha-Terumot – who often relies on the Ra'avad – for after establishing that a blind person can present a claim, take an oath, and require an oath, he adds: "If so [If you should say?] that an oath is not taken for his claim, nor does he take an oath for the claim of others, if so, we should not testify against him or judge him, for it is like out of his presence, and he is regarded like an idiot. Yet we maintain that a blind person is liable for shame, and the law is not in accordance with R. Yehuda who exempts him from all judgments in the Torah." We see then that, according to R. Yehuda, a blind person is in fact excluded from all civil suits, and the reason is, as is more or less stated explicitly, that according to R. Yehuda, a blind person "is regarded like an idiot." This follows the position of the Ra'avad above.

 

            The Rashba, on the other hand, clearly understood that a blind person's exemption is not based on a deficiency in his da'at, at least with respect to rabbinic mitzvot. For we have already noted his position above that "according to R. Yehuda, [a blind person] is entirely exempt from all the mitzvot, even by rabbinic decree, and it is only on the level of pious conduct that he is obligated. And the matter of Rav Yosef and perisat Shema, since it is only by rabbinic decree, even a blind person who once saw the luminaries, and he became blind - so that if he came to say the 'yotzer or' blessing, he is permitted and pious since he had already derived benefit - he can even discharge the obligation of others." This position, that even one who is only obligated on the level of pious conduct can discharge the obligation of others, is certainly novel. And it too applies only to rabbinic mitzvot. This is not the place to discuss the position further, but however we understand it, we must assume that the Rashba understood that while a blind person is exempt from mitzvot, his fulfillment of them – again, at least with respect to rabbinic mitzvot – is not inferior to that of a seeing person. Clearly, were there a qualitative difference between them even with respect to the fulfillment, the blind person could not possibly discharge the obligation of others. This assumption, however, is only understandable if the blind person's exemption is anchored in some side reason. If it derives from a deficiency in da'at, it is reasonable to say that this affects not only his obligation, but also his fulfillment, and he would then be unable to discharge the obligation of others.

 

EXEMPTION FROM NEGATIVE MITZVOT

 

            The question regarding the nature of a blind person's exemption from mitzvot, whether it is based on a leniency or on a deficiency in da'at, may possibly depend on another controversy. A Baraita, both in the passage in Bava Kama (87a) and in the Yerushalmi (Sota 2:5), states that R. Yehuda "exempts him from all the mitzvot stated in the Torah." It is not clear, however, whether we are dealing here only with positive precepts or also negative precepts, namely, prohibitions. We find a similar formulation (Sukka 26a) regarding "all those who occupy themselves in the work of heaven" who "are exempt from the reading of Shema, from prayer, from tefilin, and from all the mitzvot stated in the Torah, to fulfill the words of R. Yose ha-Gelili. For R. Yose ha-Gelili would say: Whoever is occupied in a mitzva is exempt from a mitzva." Here it is absolutely clear that one who is occupied in a mitzva is exempt from positive commandments, but nevertheless forbidden to transgress prohibitions. And similarly it is stated regarding an onen (Berakhot 18a): "He is exempt from the reading of Shema, from prayer, from tefilin, and from all the mitzvot stated in the Torah." Nevertheless, the Chakham Tzevi rules (no. 1) "that regarding punishments and prohibitions there is certainly no difference between an onen and others."[12] This being the case, it may be suggested that the same applies to a blind person, that R. Yehuda only exempted him from positive precepts, but not from prohibitions. So in fact have ruled R. Eliyahu Mizrachi, the Peri Megaddim, and several other Acharonim.[13]

 

It is clear, however, from the words of Rabbenu Yeshaya that a blind person is exempt even from negative precepts. For in his Sefer ha-Makhri'a (no. 78), after accepting the position of Rashi (Rosh ha-Shana 33a) that a woman is forbidden to fulfill time-bound positive commandments, because that would involve a violation of the prohibition of bal tosif, adding to the mitzvot, he writes: "And proof cannot be brought [against Rashi] from blind people, that while R. Yehuda exempted a blind person from all the mitzvot stated in the Torah, by rabbinic law he is obligated. For he does not violate the prohibition of bal tosif, for he is not bound by the prohibition of bal tosif." This is also implied by Rabbenu Peretz in his Tosafot (Bava Kama 87a, s.v. ve-chen), who explains that a woman is exempt from time-bound positive commandments even by rabbinic law, but a blind person, according to R. Yehuda, is obligated in mitzvot by rabbinic law, "because the Rabbis wished to distinguish him from a non-Jew, for were he exempt even by rabbinic law, then there would be nothing to distinguish him from a non-Jew. But a woman, even if she is exempt from positive commandments even by rabbinic law, nevertheless, there are many differences between her and a non-Jewess, such as menstrual blood and many other mitzvot." He seems to be implying that a blind person is not bound by the prohibition of nidda, for were he bound, surely there would be a distinction, as in the case of a woman. And the same may be said about all the other prohibitions.[14]

 

            As for explaining this controversy, it may be dependent upon the nature of a blind person's exemption from mitzvot. If he was only granted a leniency on account of the great efforts that obligation would demand, it is reasonable to say that he was released from the positive fulfillment of mitzvot, but prohibitions were not permitted to him. If, however, his exemption stems from a deficiency in da'at, it stands to reason that it applies to all commandments. This, of course, is not necessary, for it is possible that the level of da'at required for the fulfillment of mitzvot is greater than that which is necessary in order to take precautions not to violate prohibitions.

 

            Returning to the issue itself, it seems that a distinction may be made between different types of blind people. For it follows from the words of Tosafot that R. Yehuda exempts not only one who is blind from birth, but even a seeing person who became blind.[15] For they raise the objection (Megila 24a, s.v. mi): How could R. Yehuda say that "anyone who has never in his life seen the [heavenly] luminaries may not read the parts of the prayer preceding Shema [pores al Shema]," implying that someone who had once seen the luminaries may in fact read those sections? Surely he exempts a blind person from all the mitzvot in the Torah! Nevertheless, it seems that the exemption of the two types of blind people is not the same. For someone who was blind from birth may indeed be defined as one with a deficiency in da'at, for it may be presumed that his handicap effected his development and horizons. But someone who was born with sight and afterwards became blind – at least in the case where he became blind after his capabilities and personality had already been fashioned and established – may be seen as having da'at for all matters. His exemption, then, stems from the efforts that he would have to invest in order to fulfill mitzvot, these efforts relating, of course, to the present and not to the past.[16]

 

RETURN TO CHANUKA LIGHTING

 

            Let us now return to our original issue. In light of our uncertainty regarding a blind person's exemption from mitzvot, we can discuss the possibility of obligating a blind person in the mitzva of lighting Chanuka candles according to R. Yehuda, based on the argument that he too was in the miracle. For the Gemara states (Shabbat 23a) that a woman lights Chanuka candles for this reason, but "if a deaf person, an idiot, or a minor lit, he has not accomplished anything." According to Rashi, the difference is clear, for he understands that "they too were in the miracle" relates to women's participation in and bringing about of the miracle. And the miracle was performed through women, but not through deaf people, idiots or minors. According to the Tosafot and most Rishonim, however, "they too were in the miracle" relates to women's exposure to the danger, and this should apply to deaf people, idiots and minors, as well. Thus, we are forced to the conclusion that the reason that the latter are not obligated in Chanuka candles and parallel mitzvot is that the argument "they too were in the miracle" suffices only to remove an exemption based on a leniency. For regarding a mitzva that involves the publicizing of a miracle, which stems from the obligation to offer praise and thanksgiving in the wake of rescue and salvation, we do not take into account the efforts that will be required for its fulfillment. But an exemption connected to a deficiency in da'at – which may exclude a person not only from obligation but even from the possibility of fulfilling the mitzva[17] – should be valid even with respect to a mitzva of praise and thanksgiving. Thus, according to the Tosafot, the question of a blind person's obligation in Chanuka candles according to R. Yehuda must depend upon the nature of his exemption, as was explained above. If we assume that there is a difference between the various types of blind people, then a person who was blind from birth should be exempt from Chanuka candles, but a person who once saw but was later blinded should be obligated.[18]

 

            However, even though the aforementioned argument stands to reason, it is not irrefutable. For regarding megila reading, the Riva in fact raises a question from the law applying to women to the law applying to minors, according to the Tosafot, and offers a different answer: "You might say that even minors should be obligated in megila reading for surely the verse states 'children and women'! … It may be suggested that women, since they are bound by the negative precepts and by the positive precepts that are not time-bound, the Rabbis imposed upon them the mitzva of megila reading, even though it is a time-bound positive precept, since they too were in the miracle. But minors who are not bound by mitzvot whatsoever they did not obligate, even though they too were in the miracle." We see that the Riva does not make a distinction based on the factor of da'at, but between overall exemption and exemption from a particular mitzva. Accordingly, however we understand a blind person's exemption according to R. Yehuda, he may possibly be exempt from lighting Chanuka candles, because he does not have a framework of obligation into which this mitzva can be integrated.

 

In the other direction, even if a blind person's exemption from mitzvot is based on a deficiency in da'at, it may be possible to obligate him in Chanuka candles, based on the argument that he too was in the miracle. For without a doubt, even if his exemption is similar to that of a deaf person, they are not necessarily to be equated. Surely, a deaf person, an idiot and a minor are mentioned in many places as a threesome sharing the same standing and laws. Nevertheless, the Ramban writes that even Torah law may distinguish between them. See his Chiddushim to Yevamot 104b mentioned earlier, where he proposes a certain explanation – different than the one discussed above – that the Gemara is referring to a deaf person who neither hears nor speaks. He explains: "It may be suggested that even though a deaf person is treated like an idiot, that is with respect to mitzvot. Nevertheless, he has a little intention when others stand over him… And a deaf person can indicate this intention through hinting, for he has weak da'at, and therefore the only hindrance is the reading. But an idiot has no intention whatsoever." And on the rabbinic level, surely there are striking differences, for regarding a deaf person the Sages instituted betrothal and marriage, whereas an idiot who betrothed a woman has accomplished nothing. While the Gemara (Yevamot 112b) explains the distinction in another manner – "regarding a deaf man or woman who can fulfill the rabbinic enactment, the Rabbis instituted marriage; regarding an idiotic man or woman who cannot fulfill the rabbinic enactment, because a person cannot be expected to live in a cage with a serpent, the Rabbis did not institute marriage" – it may be suggested that the two explanations are the same, and the difference regarding the possibility of married life stems also from the difference in level of da'at. Similarly, regarding acquisition, we learned (Gittin 59a): "A deaf person may transact business by gesticulating and by being spoken to by gestures. Ben Betera says: By motions with closed lips and by being spoken to in the same way." But regarding an idiot, the Rambam rules (Hilkhot Mekhira 29:4): "An idiot – his purchase is not a purchase and his sale is not a sale and his gifts are invalid."[19] And furthermore, the Rambam's formulation (Hilkhot Gerushin 13:8) suggests that we may rely on a deaf person for testimony regarding a woman. For regarding second-hand testimony (ed mi-pi ed), he writes: "But if he heard from an idiot or from a minor, he may not testify, and we don't rely on their words," omitting mention of a deaf person, even though practically speaking it is possible to hear from him in writing.[20] One should not wonder then if we distinguish between a blind person and a deaf person, and say that even if both are exempt from mitzvot by Torah law because of a deficiency in da'at, there is, nevertheless, a significant difference between their respective levels of da'at, even if they are both defined as having "weak da'at." Thus, it is possible to argue that regarding obligation based on the argument that "they too were in the miracle," a blind person may be obligated, even though a deaf person is exempt.

 

FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE SAGES

 

Thus far we have dealt with the position of R. Yehuda, and we have examined the possibility of obligating him in Chanuka candles, even if he is exempt from other mitzvot. According to the Sages, we must examine the reverse possibility. From the perspective of the obligation in mitzvot falling upon his person, a blind person should be obligated in Chanuka candles as well. It is, however, possible that it is precisely with respect to Chanuka candles that a blind person is exempt, for the reason mentioned in the question posed in the Maharshal's responsum: "Since he is not included in the publicizing of the miracle, for he does not see, he is also not obligated to publicize it for others." There is room to consider this possibility on two levels: First, is a blind person in and of himself obligated and fit to fulfill the mitzva; second, can he discharge the obligation of others living with him in the same house.

 

As for the first question – whether or not a blind person is obligated in and of himself – it is possible to exempt him for two reasons. It may be suggested that from the outset, when Chazal instituted the mitzva of lighting Chanuka candles, they related explicitly and directly to a blind person and exempted him. Alternatively, it may be proposed that in fact he was never explicitly exempted, but nevertheless he is not included in the mitzva, since he is unable to fulfill it, inasmuch as the mitzva involves both lighting and seeing. A similar question arises regarding a sick person with respect to the four minor public fasts: Was he included in the enactment, but he is exempt because of his sickness, or – as has been reported in the name of R. Chayyim of Brisk, ztz"l – perhaps he was never included in the enactment, so that even if he fasts, he does not fulfill the mitzva of a public fast, he being excluded from the parameters of the enactment.

 

The first reason is fundamentally a question of fact – was such an exemption ever established. Surely, this would require a source, and since we find no support in Chazal or the Rishonim for such a theory, it is reasonable to assume that such a step was never taken and such a limitation was never formulated. The second reason depends upon the nature and essence of the mitzva, and thus it requires us to define the mitzva with all its components. Primarily, we must establish the relationship between seeing and lighting; and we must get down to the root of the matter.

 

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SEEING AND LIGHTING

 

The source of the law regarding one who sees Chanuka candles is a passage in Bameh Madlikin (Shabbat 23a): "R. Chiyya bar Ashi said in the name of Rav: One who lights a Chanuka candle must recite a blessing. And R. Yirmiya said: One who sees a Chanuka candle must recite a blessing. Rav Yehuda said: On the first day, one who sees recites two blessings, and one who lights, recites three blessings. Afterwards, one who lights recites two blessings and one who sees recites one blessing." The Rishonim disagree about the meaning of this passage. Rashi (ad loc.) comments: "I found in the name of R. Yitzchak ben Yehuda who said in the name of Rabbenu Ya'akov that this blessing is only necessary for one who has not yet lit in his house or for one who is sitting in a boat." Rashi implies that if a person has not yet lit Chanuka candles, he recites a blessing when he sees such candles, even if he intends to light his own candles afterwards. This also follows from what the Rambam writes regarding the first night (Hilkhot Chanukah 3:4): "Whoever sees it [= a Chanuka candle] and has not yet recited a blessing, recites two blessings, 'She'asa nissim' ('Who performed miracles for our forefathers') and 'Shehecheyanu' ('Who has granted us life')." Other Rishonim – the Ra'avya (no. 843), the Mordekhai (no. 267),[21] the Rashba (Shabbat 23a) and others – write, however, that if a person intends to light Chanuka candles, even if he has not yet done so, he does not recite a blessing over seeing them.

 

We find two explanations of the second opinion in the Rishonim. The author of the Manhig (no. 149) writes: "And where he did not yet light in his house. And if he wishes to arrange them over his own lighting, and not recite a blessing until he lights in his own house, he is permitted to do so, in order to endear it to him, as it is stated: I saw Rav Kahana arrange over his cup of kiddush the blessing of Shehecheyanu relating to the sukka and the blessing 'to sit in a sukka.'"[22] According to him, we are dealing here with endearment of the blessing – or perhaps endearment of the mitzva – and the relationship between the two. It would seem that, in his opinion, there is no essential connection between seeing and lighting; either there are two separate fulfillments, each one with its own blessing, or else there is only one fulfillment of lighting, and the She'asa nissim blessing is over the phenomenon of the miracle and not over the mitzva of publicizing it. Thus, if a person wishes to recite a blessing over the seeing prior to his own lighting, he is permitted to do so, but if he wishes to push off the blessing over seeing until he lights, he may do that as well.

 

The Ritva, however, explains (Shabbat 23a, ed. R. Reichman): "And some say that since he intends to light in his own house, he is not required now to recite a blessing over his seeing. This does not involve 'passing over mitzvot,' because it is preferable [to recite the blessing] through lighting." The Ritva implies that by combining seeing and lighting, a qualitative dimension is added to the one or the other, or perhaps to both, and therefore it is "preferable" to join them. And while he too is apparently of the opinion that it is possible to recite the blessing over seeing prior to lighting, though he is not required to do so, nevertheless it seems that we are dealing with a different level of fulfillment and not merely with endearment.

 

The Orchot Chayyim (Hilkhot Chanuka, no. 9) writes: "But one who has lit in his own house or intends to light [there] or has [already] heard the blessings does not recite any blessings when he sees others who have lit," i.e., one is obligated to delay the blessing of seeing until the time of lighting. According to this, it is certainly reasonable to assume that the mitzva has two components and that a dimension is added when the two are combined.

 

Now, according to the Rambam, it is not clear how a person should act when he lights Chanuka candles after having already recited a blessing over seeing them: should he recite the She'asa nissim blessing a second time, or should he only recite the Le-hadlik ner shel Chanuka blessing. The fact that the Rambam makes no distinctions between different lighters suggests that even in such a case both blessings are recited. Thus, we are forced to assume one of two things: We must either define the She'asa nissim blessing as both a blessing over seeing and a blessing over a mitzva, and so both blessings relate to the lighting itself; or we must say that there are two levels of seeing, one as a separate phenomenon and one as a component in the framework of publicizing the miracle through the lighting, and it is over this component that the blessing is recited the second time. If we adopt the second understanding, then the relationship between the seeing and the lighting is even deeper than what we had seen in the other Rishonim.

 

Thus, we have seen that there are two views among the Rishonim regarding seeing the Chanuka candles and the blessing recited thereon. Some have defined it as a separate phenomenon and some have seen it as integrated in the framework of the lighting. There is yet a third position. For the Mordekhai writes (no. 267) that the blessing recited by one who sees Chanuka candles was instituted, among other things, for the sake of a lodger for whom Chanuka candles are being lit at home, but he does not see them: "Nevertheless, he must see [the candles], as it is stated below: 'On the first day, one who sees recites two blessings, and afterwards he recited one blessing.' Similarly, Ri said that people who are visiting at a fair, and there is no Jew in that city, are accustomed to light in the house of a non-Jew."[23] We see then that seeing involves a fulfillment of a mitzva and it is not merely a phenomenon that obligates a blessing like the ocean or thunder. It is a fulfillment that obligates a blessing over its unique publicizing of the miracle even for one who has already fulfilled his obligation of publicizing the miracle through lighting. A person who lights Chanuka candles does not recite a blessing over seeing candles after he already lit because he already achieved both fulfillments when he saw the candles while he was lighting them. See however the Rashba (Shabbat 23a) who writes: "Some of the Rabbis of blessed memory explain that even when others are lighting for a person in his home, he must recite a blessing over seeing, but they have nothing to rely upon." It is clear from what he says that there is no blessing over the fulfillment of seeing – and it seems that there is no fulfillment of seeing – over and beyond the lighting. The blessing for one who sees was instituted for those who do not fulfill the obligation of publicizing the miracle through lighting, and as a substitute for it. Whenever a fulfillment of lighting can be related to a person, there is no need for seeing and no recitation of a blessing over it, for the seeing is included in the lighting. We cannot say that the Rashba fundamentally agrees that there is a fulfillment in the seeing, but he disagrees with the Mordekhai because he thinks that there is no reason to obligate a lodger to light candles in order to see them, because what he sees are not Chanuka candles since he doesn't fulfill his obligation of lighting through them. For the Rashba exempts a person from reciting a blessing over seeing, even when he sees the candles that were lit on his behalf so that he may fulfill his obligation of lighting. We are forced then to say that according to the Rashba, there is no obligation to recite a blessing over a separate fulfillment of seeing, and thus it stands to reason that there is no such obligation or fulfillment for one who has lit Chanuka candles.

 

To be continued.

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[12] According to Rashi (Berakhot 17b, s.v. mi), who understands that an onen is exempt from mitzvot because he is occupied in the mitzva of burial, there is nothing new in the words of the Chakham Tzevi. But the Chakham Tzevi is talking even according to the position of Tosafot (ibid., s.v. patur) that an onen's exemption has a different basis.

 

[13] See the summary found in Sedei Chemed (ma'arekhet samekh, no. 66). The Sedei Chemed writes there that it is stated explicitly in the Yerushalmi (Sota 2:5) that there is no difference between positive and negative precepts. He is referring to what is stated there that not only when the husband is blind do we not give his suspected wife to drink from the bitter waters – for he is excluded by the verse, "And it be hid from the eyes of her husband," to the exclusion of a blind person who has no eyes – but even when the wife is blind, we do not give her to drink, based on R. Yehuda. The Korban ha-Edah explains: "It goes like R. Yehuda who exempts a blind person from all the mitzvot stated in the Torah, even negative precepts, and so she does not drink." According to him, it would appear that she does not drink because she is not bound by the prohibition against adultery. This, however, is not necessary – and according to those who maintain that in any event a blind person is bound by the seven Noachide laws (see Sedei Chemed, ibid.) it is groundless. It is more reasonable to explain that she is in fact bound by the prohibition against adultery, but exempt from participating in the sota process. This, however, is only possible if we assume that the suspected wife drinks the bitter waters as a mitzva, and not as a requirement set down by the court. The matter requires further study.

 

[14] See Arukh ha-Shulchan 53, no. 5, who rejects both proofs, though his arguments are highly unpersuasive.

 

[15] It seems obvious that the Sages who disagree with R. Yehuda obligate both types of blind people, and by Torah law. R. Ya'akov Emden (Resp. She'eilat Ya'avetz, no. 75), however, is in doubt about the matter: "Perhaps [the Sages] only disagree about a seeing person who became blind; since he had been obligated, he remains so. But a person who is blind from birth, even the Sages may agree that he is exempt from all the mitzvot." His explanation, "since he had been obligated, he remains so," seems to be difficult on the level of Torah law. If we wish to make such a distinction, it seems more reasonable to base it on different levels of da'at. R. Emden's proofs can be refuted.

 

[16] See Tosafot, Megila 19b, s.v. ve-Rabbi (end), who apparently also distinguish between a person who was born blind and a seeing person who became blind, but for a different reason altogether. The Tosafot ask why can't a minor discharge the obligations of others even in a rabbinic mitzvah, based on the argument of two rabbinic factors, if a blind person can. They answer: "It may be suggested that a blind person is better than a minor, for he was already obligated by Torah law, which is not the case with a minor." The distinction does not relate to da'at, but to the nature of the rabbinic obligation. According to this answer, it is not the number of rabbinic factors alone that determines the quality of the obligation. Therefore, they argue that regarding a blind person who had already been obligated by Torah law, the Rabbis extended his obligation, and disregarded his exemption; whereas regarding a minor, they had to create a new obligation. Thus, the quality of a blind person's obligation is like one who is obligated by Torah law, whereas the minor's obligation is inferior, and so the former can discharge the obligation of others, whereas the latter cannot.

 

[17] On this point, there is, of course, room to discuss each of the three separately and to distinguish between them, but this is not the place to enter into such a discussion

 

[18] A parallel question arises regarding a blind person's obligation in prayer according to R. Yehuda, if we understand, following the plain sense of the Gemara before us (Berakhot 20b) and the Yerushalmi (Berakhot 2:3) that a woman is obligated in rachami, "beseeching for mercy," even though it is a time-bound positive commandment, and not like the Rambam (Hilkhot Tefila, 1:2) that a woman is obligated in rachami, because it is not a time-bound positive commandment. For if a blind person is exempt from mitzvot because he was granted a leniency, it stands to reason that it is not valid regarding rachami. But if his exemption stems from a deficiency in da'at, it is possible that a blind person is exempt, even if a woman is obligated. See Tosefta, Berakhot (3:16), which brings the law of a blind person regarding prayer in an anonymous Baraita. R. Yehuda may disagree, and in any event the Baraita is not dealing with the obligation to pray, but rather with the fulfillment of prayer if he comes to pray.

 

[19] See, however, Shita Mekubetzet on Ketubot 20a, which brings the position of the Ri Migash and Talmidei Rabbenu Yona that even an idiot buys and sells by rabbinic law.

 

[20] See Arukh ha-Shulchan, Even ha-Ezer 17, no. 74, who suggests that a deaf person may be qualified to give testimony regarding a married woman through an examination, just like a mute, though he hesitates to issue a lenient ruling on the matter.

 

[21] Some have understood that this is the Mordekhai's understanding of Rashi himself, and that he had a different reading of Rashi. However, in Siddur Rashi, no. 317, and its parallels, the reading is like Rashi before us. See also Rashi, Sukka 46a, s.v. ha-ro'e, and see also the note of R. Meir Yona to Sefer ha-Ittur, Hilkhot Chanuka, 117b, note 41. 

 

[22] In Hagahot Maimuniyot, Hilkhot Chanuka, chap. 3, letter 1, this position is attributed also to the Ra'avya. But the Ra'avya writes (no. 843): "But if he will eventually recite the blessing, he is not required to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing when he sees Chanuka candles, as is the case with a sukka, where all the blessings are arranged over the cup." The fact that he refers specifically to the Shehecheyanu blessing implies that it is only that blessing that can be pushed off, but the She'asa nissim blessing must be recited by the seer immediately, in accordance with the view of Rashi and the Rambam, and against the Manhig. Aptowitzer in his notes (ad loc.) understood differently.

 

[23] See Piskei Ri'az, Shabbat, chap. 2, no. 17, who also obligates one who lodges among non-Jews to light candles, but it is not clear whether the lodger must light with a blessing, as is implied by the Mordekhai. For the practical halakha, see Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayyim 676:3 and 677:3.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 

 
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