The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit
Yeshivat Har Etzion
GEMARA KIDDUSHIN – PEREK BET
Shiur #17: "Mitzva Bo Yeter Mi-beshlucho"
by Rav Amnon Bazak
will be continuing this series of shiurim with Perek Bet. Sources for this week's
Kiddushin 41a "Ha-ish...armelu," Shabbat 119a "Rav
Rashi Kiddushin s.v. mitzva bo, Tosafot Ri
Ha-zaken mitzva bo... shaliach."
Rambam Hilkhot Ishut 3:19, Hilkhot Shabbat 30:6.
Shulchan Arukh Orach Chayim 250:1, Magen Avraham ibid.
Regarding what specific cases does the gemara explicitly prefer personal
Should this preference be applied to mitzvot in general?
The Yad David limits the preference of personal involvement to those cases
mentioned explicitly. What might be
the reason for this?
gemara at the beginning of the second chapter of Kiddushin (41a) discusses the
statement of the mishna: "A man betroths (a woman) either himself or through an
agent; a woman is betrothed either herself or through her agent." The gemara
one can betroth through an agent, do I need [the mishna to tell me that one can
do so] himself?"
Yosef answers that the mishna here alludes to the principle of, "mitzva bo yoter
mi-beshlucho" - there is an extra mitzva for one to personally perform the act,
rather than assigning an agent. Rav
Yosef cites as examples the practice of two amoraim to personally involve
themselves in shabbat preparations, rather than leaving all the work for others.
gemara brings an additional opinion, according to which this principle is not to
be derived from the beginning of the mishna. In the case of betrothal through an
agent, this view argues, if the man does not know the woman there is even a
prohibition involved: "A man is prohibited to betroth a woman until he has seen
her, in case (when he meets her later on) he will see in her something that is
distasteful to him and she will be repugnant to him...." It is for this reason
that the mishna employs the word "himself." However, we may still derive this
principle from the end of the mishna: "A woman is betrothed either herself or
through her agent." The word "herself" teaches that "the mitzva is greater if
she performs it herself rather than through an agent."
this article we shall examine the nature and scope of the principle that "it is
a greater mitzva if he performs it himself rather than through an agent" -
"mitzva bo yoter mi-beshlucho."
Reason and scope of this Provision
comments as follows:
one who performs the mitzvot himself receives a greater reward."
significance of physically engaging in mitzvot oneself may be understood in two
As pertaining to the person who performs the mitzvot: i.e., if a person engages
physically and exerts himself in the performance of mitzvot, then he is
fulfilling them in the best possible way: "the reward is in accordance with the
effort." The Rambam comments as follows, in his Perush Ha-mishnayot:
'herself' is mentioned before 'through her agent,' because a person's
involvement in a mitzva is more complete when he performs it himself than when
he has someone else perform it for him."
The second possibility is that this principle pertains to the mitzva: a person
who takes the trouble to personally perform the mitzva shows greater honor to
two possibilities have ramifications with regard to the range of instances in
which this principle will apply. This principle is mentioned only in our sugya,
and relates to only two mitzvot explicitly - kiddushin (betrothal) and Shabbat.
(The scope of this article does not allow for a full treatment of the debate
among the Rishonim as to whether or not kiddushin is actually a mitzva.)
are three basic opinions in this regard:
1. The Ri Ha-zaken states at the beginning
of the second chapter of Kiddushin: "'It is a greater mitzva if he performs it
himself' - ANY MITZVA that applies to him should be performed by him personally,
and not by an agent."
approach seems to be the most widely accepted among the poskim, and the halakha
is codified accordingly by the Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 250:2), who writes:
"This principle applies to every mitzva - it is a greater mitzva if he performs
it himself than through an agent."
2. The Pitchei Teshuva (Even HaEzer 35:2)
brings the opinion of the Yad David on the Rambam (Hilkhot Shabbat 4:6),
maintaining that the principle applies specifically to the two mitzvot
explicitly mentioned in the gemara: kiddushin and Shabbat.
debate seems to revolve around the nature of the reason behind this
principle. According to the view
that the reason relates to the personal involvement of the person in fulfilling
the mitzva, there appears to be no reason to differentiate between different
types of mitzvot. Since the basis
of the principle rests on the process of the fulfillment of the given mitzva,
its specific character is of no consequence. But for those who maintain that the
reason relates to the honor shown to the mitzva, there may be room to argue that
the principle pertains only to specific mitzvot.
to the view of the Yad David, which is based on our sugya, the principle is
relevant specifically to the mitzvot of kiddushin and Shabbat. Concerning Shabbat, the reason is
clear. The command to "honor
Shabbat" is one of the "four things that are said of Shabbat" (Rambam, Hilkhot
Shabbat 30:1), and it includes all the preparations for Shabbat (ibid., halakhot
2-6). In the words of the Rambam in
halakha 6: "Even if a person holds a very important title and is not accustomed
to bringing things from the market or engaging in housework, he is obligated to
personally perform himself, such activities as are necessary for Shabbat, for
this is his honor." (Although the language here is slightly ambiguous, we may
understand the Rambam in light of the parallel passage in Shulchan Arukh - Orach
Chayim 250:1: "this is his honor, that he honors Shabbat.")
is therefore understandable why specifically in the case of Shabbat, where there
is a special mitzva of 'honor,' the principle of "mitzva bo yoter mi-beshlucho"
the case of kiddushin, too, we can understand why it is particularly important
that the mitzva be performed by the man himself. Although the sugya does not, at first
glance, point to any clear connection between the two halakhot, it nevertheless
appears that they have their source in the same concept, that just as "a man may
not betroth a woman until he has seen her, in case (when he meets her later on)
he will see in her something that is distasteful to him and she will be
repugnant to him,' and Hashem has commanded, 'You shall love your neighbor as
yourself," likewise, the mitzva of betrothing a woman should be performed by the
person himself, for this is an integral part of the nature of kiddushin.
arises explicitly from the words of the Maharshdam (Yoreh De'ah 95; the question
under discussion is whether a person must obey his father's command not to marry
a certain woman):
(even) a lenient rabbinical prohibition overrides the mitzva of honoring one's
parents, and all the more so the mitzva of marriage (overrides the mitzva to
obey his parents), which is exceedingly great - to marry the woman who is
suitable in his eyes. After all, for what reason did the Sages say of this
mitzva (of kiddushin) that 'it is a greater mitzva if he performs it himself
rather than through an agent'?!"
Maharshdam clearly sees this principle as inherently connected to the mitzva of
marriage: "to marry the woman who is suitable in his eyes." (The same idea as
applying to women is found in a revolutionary statement of the Ran (teshuvat,
32) asserting that "the crux of the mitzva of marriage for a woman is that it
should be to the person whom she desires.") In light of this approach we may
understand why this principle applies specifically to marriage. (According to
this approach, the gemara's comparison between kiddushin and Shabbat should be
understood as comparing only the actual halakha, whereas the reasons for its
application are completely different in each case.)
A unique, "in-between approach" is to be found in the Or Zaru'a (siman
128), who contends that theoretically, the principle of "mitzva bo yoter
mi-beshlucho" applies to all the mitzvot. But then he asks, if this is so, then
why do we not make a point with regard to shechita (ritual slaughter of
animals), separation of 'challa,' circumcision, etc., to perform them ourselves
rather than through an agent? He answers as follows:
concerning kiddushin our Sages taught that 'it is a greater mitzva if he
performs it himself,' for the agent derives no benefit at all from the
betrothal; to the contrary, it is to his detriment, in that the woman is now
forbidden to him. But in the cases of shechita, challa, etc., the mitzva will be
no greater if he performs it himself rather than through an agent, as indeed our
Sages and all the nation, although they were proficient in the laws pertaining
to shechita, they customarily allowed the appointed one (the 'shochet') to
slaughter... and the same applies to circumcision, where even if the father is
trained [as a mohel], he may, as a first preference, ask someone else to perform
the circumcision. Even though the mohel derives no benefit from the act of
circumcision, neither does the child's father derive benefit, and so they are
explain his approach, it appears that he, too, believes that the principle
pertains to the honor shown to mitzvot, but in his view the principle arises not
from the unique character of the mitzva, but rather from the PROCESS OF ITS
PERFORMANCE. Thus, the principle applies only when there is a discrepancy in
motivation between the dispatcher and his agent, when the dispatcher stands to
benefit (such as in kiddushin) and the agent does not (in kiddushin, the agent
actually loses). In such a case, the mitzva will be performed with less
enthusiasm by the agent than it would be by the dispatcher himself, and the
honor shown towards the mitzva is thereby undermined. But when there is no
discrepancy in terms of motivation (even if the respective parties are driven by
completely different motives), then there is no difference in the way the mitzva
is performed - e.g. shechita, where the dispatcher benefits (from the results)
as does the agent (from payment) - and so the principle does not apply.
The Nature of the Principle
we mentioned Rashi's comment that "a person who engages in it personally
receives a greater reward." This would seem to show that the mitzva for a person
to perform the given act personally rather than through an agent belongs more in
the philosophical realm: he "receives a greater reward," suggesting that this
principle makes no practical difference and has no practical ramifications.
The Ra'avad introduces a novel idea in this regard, as quoted in the
responsa of the Rivash (siman 82):
have asked further: Suppose that Reuven appoints an agent to betroth a certain
woman to him in a different city, and the agent betroths her to Reuven as he
should - for an agent generally carries out his mission - and the berakha over
the betrothal is recited. Then the woman arrives with the agent to Reuven's
place to marry him. The woman and the agent declare that she was betrothed to
Reuven through the agent; must the prospective groom then betroth her once again
himself and recite the berakha over the betrothal a second time before entering
the 'chupa,' or not? You say that this very situation came before you in Majorca
and you wanted to recite the blessing for the marriage, but the sage Rabbi Vidal
Ephraim zt"l would not let you do so until the groom betrothed her once again
himself. You said to him, 'Hasn't the agent already betrothed her to him? If the
groom betroths her once again, then you are casting doubt and aspersions on the
original betrothal that was executed by the agent, and people will say that
betrothal through an agent is not a valid betrothal.' And (you say that) he
replied that the Ra'avad zt"l wrote in his halakhot that a person who betroths a
woman through an agent must betroth her once again himself, based on what our
Sages taught. 'mitzva bo yoter mi-beshlucho' – it is a greater mitzva if he
performs it himself rather than through an agent. Nevertheless, in order not to pronounce
Hashem's Name in vain, for a person who recites an unnecessary berakha violates
the prohibition against invoking Hashem's Name in vain, he (ordered that
Hashem's Name should not be mentioned in the blessing; he should say only,
'Blessed are You, Hashem' rather than mentioning His Name."
Ra'avad's novel theory - that a person who betroths a woman through an agent
must then betroth her himself (albeit without mentioning a berakha) is at first
very difficult to understand. Indeed, the Rivash expresses his astonishment:
R. Vidal z"l, of blessed memory, told you - that the Ra'avad wrote that someone
who betroths through an agent must betroth again himself at the time of the
marriage, based on what is written "mitzva bo yoter mi-beshlucho" - I wonder how
such a holy person as the Ra'avad could say such a thing. For (the gemara) there
says only that when he initially comes to betroth her, it is a greater mitzva if
he does so himself than if he does so through an agent. But once the woman has already been
betrothed to him through his agent in front of witnesses, then what mitzva can
there be in betrothing her again; she is already betrothed to him and the
betrothal is valid. This is wasteful activity and futile effort. We may compare this to that which the
gemara brings in this context, that Rav Safra would roast a head [of an animal]
and Rava would salt a fish [before Shabbat, to personally involve themselves in
the mitzva]: if it were roasted or salted by someone else, he would not have
roasted or salted it again."
Rivash raises two difficulties:
The principle of "mitzva bo yoter mi-beshlucho,"
applies only "le-khatchila" when first performing the act, but not after the
Once a man has already betrothed a woman through an
agent, she is betrothed to him and the betrothal is valid. The second betrothal
is meaningless - it is no more than "wasteful activity and futile effort." The question becomes even more pointed
with regard to kiddushin itself: what turns the simple action of giving a sum of
money to a woman into an act of betrothal is the halakhic effect that is created
thereby: the woman is thus forbidden to anyone else. But if the woman is already
halakhically betrothed, then the act of "kiddushin" a second time is merely a
meaningless act of giving, for what can now turn that act of giving into a
halakhic act of kiddushin?
order to understand the Ra'avad's comments, we must address two questions:
It appears that according to the Ra'avad, the halakhic principle of "mitzva bo
yoter mi-beshlucho" is defined as "hiddur mitzva" (a way of fulfilling the
mitzva in the best possible way) or, in the words of R. Chaim ben Shemuel, a
"mitzva min ha-muvchar" - mitzva of a higher quality. In light of this we may evaluate the
question of the function served by the second betrothal, based on the famous
discussion of the Beit Ha-Levi (part 2, siman 47) concerning 'hiddur
some time I have had a doubt concerning someone who held a qualified lulav on
the first day of Sukkot, and then later on comes upon a more beautiful lulav -
is he obligated to take the nicer lulav? For we may say that even though if, in
the beginning, he had both of them together then he would have been obligated to
take the nicer one, now that he has already performed the mitzva properly with
the first one - such that he no longer has the obligation of performing the
mitzva - then in what way is the second one to be considered an enhancement or
beautification, if there is no mitzva?"
Beit Ha-Levi claims that this question hinges on the debate among the Rishonim
in the sugya in Masekhet Shabbat 133b concerning 'hiddur mitzva' in the case of
circumcision. The gemara brings the
person who circumcises: so long as he is involved with the circumcision he
should cut again (if there are some remaining shreds of the foreskin), whether
[to remove] shreds that invalidate the circumcision [if they are not removed] or
for shreds that do not invalidate it. After he has finished (the act of
circumcision), he should cut again for remaining shreds that invalidate the
circumcision, but for those that do not invalidate it, he should not cut
Rishonim are divided as to how the beraita is to be understood. The Tur (Y.D.
264) argues that this entire halakha was stated only with regard to Shabbat, for
since the mohel has finished his work, and has removed the critical pieces of
the foreskin, he may not desecrate Shabbat again in order to remove remaining
pieces which are not critical (i.e., their presence does not invalidate the
circumcision). But during the week, clearly he should circumcise again even
after he has already finished, even if the shreds that remain do not invalidate
the circumcision, because of the principle of 'hiddur mitzva' - "this is my God
and I shall glorify Him."
The Rambam (Hilkhot Mila 2, par. 4,6), by contrast, applies this halakha
not only to Shabbat, but generally, as well. He maintains that even during the
week one does not go back to complete the circumcision after he has stopped.
Beit Ha-Levi claims that this debate hinges on the aforementioned question
concerning 'hiddur mitzva.'
According to the Rambam, the principle of 'hiddur mitzva' applies only at
the time of the actual performance of the mitzva; once the action is completed,
the concept of 'hiddur' will no longer apply. Therefore, even on a weekday there is no
significance to the act the second time. But the Tur argues that even after the
completion of the mitzva it is possible to beautify it further, so long as the
time frame for the mitzva has not passed.
In the case of circumcision, the mitzva is fulfilled for the entire
duration of the person's life.
Therefore, to this view, on a weekday the mohel must afterwards cut away
even those shreds that do not invalidate the circumcision.
so, then the Rivash's question against the Ra'avad - that "mitzva bo yoter
mi-beshlucho" applies only le-khatechila but not after the fact - would hinge on
this debate among the Rishonim. We
contend that the Ra'avad follows the line of the Tur, maintaining that 'hiddur
mitzva' applies even after the act of performing the mitzva is completed.
However, even the Tur says this only concerning circumcision, a
mitzva which - as noted - is fulfilled continuously throughout one's life, and
is not a one-time mitzva. It thus
does not resemble kiddushin, a mitzva that is fulfilled through a one-time act
of betrothal. But this relates to
the Rivash's second question on the Ra'avad - the significance of the act of
giving once the woman is already betrothed.
response to this question it would appear that in the opinion of the Ra'avad,
the act of kiddushin is actually not a one-time act, but rather represents the
relationship of dependence that lasts from the act of betrothal until the
marriage (clearly, even according to the Ra'avad, after the woman is fully
married there is no significance to the performance of kiddushin), similarly to
circumcision, in the opinion of the Tur. Proof for this argument is to be found
in the words of the Meiri on our sugya, quoting in the name of "some of the
Geonim" an opinion that the agent does not recite a blessing over the kiddushin:
"Even though an agent for the purposes of the mitzva of 'teruma' recites the
blessing, for the mitzva has been completed by him, in the case of kiddushin the
mitzva is not complete until they enter under the huppah, and only at that time
should he (the groom) recite the blessing, for the kiddushin as well, since the
chupa is a remnant of the mitzva."
Further support for this approach is to be found in the Hagahot on Sefer
HaTashbetz, siman 450 (quoted by the Beit Yosef here in siman 35):
the original kiddushin was carried out in the absence of a minyan, he may
betroth her again at the time of the marriage in order to be able to recite the
blessing of the betrothal before a minyan."
halakha, too, can only be understood if we regard the process of betrothal as
lasting until the time of the marriage.
may therefore summarize as follows: according to the Ra'avad, the principle that
"the mitzva is greater if he performs it himself rather than through an agent":
is not only abstract, in the sense that "he receives a greater reward," but
rather is included within the scope of the principle of 'hiddur mitzva' -
performance of the mitzva in the best possible way. The practical ramification
of this is that the groom should betroth the woman himself personally at the
time of the marriage, if she was previously betrothed to him through an agent,
in accordance with the perception that the act of kiddushin is actually a
process that lasts until the chupa.
for Shiur #2
1. Kiddushin 41a "shlichut minalan ...
2. Ketubot 74a "kol tnai ... lo havei
tnai." Tosafot s.v. tnai till
"limirmi bei tna-ah."
3. Mordechai Kiddushin 505, Ktzot 188:2
4. Tosafot Gittin 66a s.v. kol, Ramban ibid