Stealing a Mitzvah


By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

We learn about the mitzvah of “Kissui Hadam” (covering of the blood) in VayikraPerek Yud Zayin, posuk yud gimmel. When a person slaughters a bird or a chaya (wild animal, not cattle) he has to cover the blood. The Gemara in Meseches Chullin, daf peh zayin, amud alef learns from the above posuk that the mitzvahobligation of Kissui Hadam falls on the one who does the slaughtering. The Gemara tells a story of a person who slaughtered an animal and a second person came along and covered the blood without permission of the person who did the slaughtering. Rabban Gamliel paskened that the second person is obligated to pay ten gold coins to the first person for stealing the mitzvah. The Gemara elaborates that the payment is for stealing the mitzvah of saying the brachaTosfos in Bava Kama, daf tzaddik alef, amud bais s.v. vechaivo brings down Rabbeinu Tam who asked the following question based on the fact that one who answers amein to a bracha is greater than one who makes the bracha. Why should the person who stole the bracha be chayev ten gold pieces if the first person could answer amein, which is an even greater mitzvah than making the bracha? The Shach in Choshen Mishpatsiman shin peh bais, seif koton daled says that we are dealing with a case where the person from whom the bracha was stolen did not hear the bracha being recited.

The Panim Yafos answers differently.  In the above case the person would not be allowed to answer amein. This is so since the person making the bracha stole it and would therefore fall under the category of “botzei berach nietz Hashem” (one who steals and makes a bracha angers Hashem). When Rabbeinu Tam asks his question why he would not be able to say amein, he is dealing with a case where one was called up to the Torah and another person came and took his place without permission. In that case it is not considered stealing from the tzibbur because the whole reason for the bracha is to be motzi the tzibbur, and the tzibbur doesn’t really care who is motzi them.

The question on the Panim Yafos is as follows; the truth is that there is nothing here that is a physical thing that was actually stolen and in such a case we would not say the concept of “mitzvah haba be’avira.” This is similar to the Yerushalmi in ShabbosPerek Haoreg, halacha gimmel which states if one rips his clothing for the death of a loved one on Shabbos, it is still considered that he did the mitzvah of kryiyah for a meis despite the fact that he committed the sin of Shabbos desecration. We can differentiate that even in the case where there is no direct mitzvah haba be’aveira, one would not be able to make a bracha in such a scenario. We find this concept in Mishna Berurah, Siman Taf Resh Mem Tes, seif koton vov that discusses a stolen lulav even after the owner has given up hope of finding it and the lulav has changed ownership. The lulav is now considered the property of the person doing the mitzvah; nevertheless, one cannot make a bracha on such a lulav. This concept requires more thought process and this column would not do justice to the depth of discussion.

One thing we do learn from the Panim Yafos is that the fact that one has to pay ten gold coins for stealing someone else’s mitzvah / bracha is not just limited to a case where one steals someone else’s mitzvah and actually does the mitzvah, but rather even in a case where the second person takes away the mitzvah from the first person even if the person stealing the mitzvah doesn’t either carry out the mitzvah. He would still be responsible to pay ten gold coins, as mentioned earlier that when the second person actually makes the bracha one cannot answer amein to that bracha since he is not a mevareich, but rather a menaetz (angering) Hashem. We find this concept in the Yam Shel Shlomo in Bava Kama, siman samech that one who takes away the ability for someone else to answer amein is responsible to pay ten gold coins. Why doesn’t the first person forgive the second person and thereby make the bracha a legitimate bracha, which then gives the first person the ability to answer amein? We must say that that would be a noble thing to do, but cannot be expected.

From this discussion we see how important it is to answer amein. One should be in the habit of making brachos out loud so as not to steal the opportunity for people to answer amein.

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