Responsible Jews

Since parshas Netzavim alludes to the agreed covenant of one Jew being responsible for others, it is an appropriate time to discuss the laws and rules of what we call areivus.

Responsible Jews

Question #1: Making Kiddush Twice

When might I be required to recite the two brochos of the Friday night Kiddush a second time on Shabbos morning?

Question #2: A Halachic Conundrum

Can a situation exist whereby someone is halachically required to observe a mitzvah, but cannot fulfill it without someone else performing it on his behalf?

Introduction

Answering both of our opening questions requires that we spend some time understanding a halachic concept called areivus. In the midst of the discussion of the tochachah in parshas Bechukosai, the harsh admonition for not observing the mitzvos, the Torah mentions Vechoshlu ish be’achiv, “Each man will stumble over his friend” (Vayikra 26:37). Rashi suggests a different understanding of the letter beis – not “Each man will stumble over his friend,” but “Each man will stumble because of his friend.” A midrash that may have served as Rashi’s source reads more explicitly: “Vechoshlu ish be’achiv — Do not explain this as over his friend, but because of the sins of his friend.” The midrash continues: “From this we see the concept she’Yisroel areivin eilu la’eilu,that Jews are accountable for one another (Eichah Rabbah, Parashah 3). This idea is popularly referred to as kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh, an expression that I have not found in Chazal, although it is used frequently by rishonim and acharonim. The closest use I found in Chazal is in a passage of Gemara, where it says “Vechoshlu ish be’achivmelameid shekulan areivim zeh bazeh” (Sanhedrin 27b).

Different halachic ramifications

There are numerous halachic ramifications of this general concept, including:

(1) The mitzvah of tochachah, which requires that one Jew reprove another Jew who is disobeying the laws of the Torah (see Vayikra 19:17).

(2) The prohibition called chanufah, usually translated as “flattering,” that prohibits complimenting or honoring someone, either implicitly or explicitly, who violates the Torah (Sifrei, Bamidbar 35:33).

(3) A requirement to protest when we see someone breaching the Torah (see Shabbos 54b).

(4) A legal concept called areivus. Although we usually think of areivus as a social responsibility, it also includes a legal concept with very specific halachic ramifications.

We will leave the details of the first three mitzvos for another time. This article will explore some of the concepts of the fourth, the law of areivus.

Areivus explains why someone who has already fulfilled a mitzvah can perform it again to assist someone else fulfill their obligation. To understand this properly, I will first introduce an overview of how areivus works and what it accomplishes. We will then study some Talmudic passages that explain the principles of areivus.

How areivus operates

Here is a very common example of how areivus operates: Reuven has not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of reciting Kiddush, but he is unable to read the text himself. There are people available who can recite Kiddush on Reuven’s behalf, but they have already fulfilled the mitzvah. Does Reuven fulfill the mitzvah if they recite Kiddush on his behalf?

The answer is that he does, because of the concept of areivus. Since Reuven is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah, and the other people are also commanded to observe it, they may recite Kiddush on his behalf, notwithstanding that they are not fulfilling the mitzvah at the moment. (The person performing the act of the mitzvah is called the motzi, because he is enabling someone else to fulfill the mitzvah. The word motzi can be used either as a noun, defining the person performing the mitzvah, or as a verb, when it describes the performance of a mitzvah on behalf of someone else. In the course of this article, I will be using the word both ways, so stay alert!)

The three requirements:

For areivus to work, three requirements must be met:

  1. The motzi must be obligated

The motzi must be someone who is obligated to observe this mitzvah.

As we mentioned above, the motzi does not need to be fulfilling the mitzvah at the moment — he may have fulfilled the mitzvah already, or, for that matter, plan to observe the mitzvah later.

  1. Have in mind to be motzi

The motzi must have in mind that he is performing the mitzvah on behalf of someone else, who will now be fulfilling the mitzvah. He can have in mind that whoever hears the words or sounds of the mitzvah, even if the motzi is unaware that the other person is listening, thereby fulfills the mitzvah.

  1. Have in mind to fulfill the mitzvah

The person for whom the motzi is performing the mitzvah must have in mind that by hearing the words or sounds of the mitzvah, he (or she) is fulfilling the mitzvah.

Some Talmudic background

Before we discuss some practical examples of these laws, we will explore some of the Talmudic sources that demonstrate these rules. The first passage we will study requires an introduction.

The Torah recognizes a halachic status called an eved kena’ani, a gentile slave, which is someone non-Jewish who is owned by a Jew. An eved is not required to observe all the mitzvos of a Jew – after all, he is not Jewish — yet he must observe many of the mitzvos. The eved accepts the obligation to fulfill these mitzvos in a procedure that is similar to that of geirus, conversion. After circumcision, he immerses in a mikveh and accepts the mitzvos that an eved is obligated to keep.

As just mentioned, an eved is not obligated to observe all the mitzvos. For example, he is exempt from such mitzvos as shofar, sukkah, tefillin, and studying Torah. However, when an eved is freed, he achieves the status of a Jew and becomes obligated to observe all the mitzvos, like any other Jew.

A blasting slave!

Since an eved is not obligated to observe the mitzvah of shofar, a Jew does not fulfill the mitzvah if an eved blows the shofar on the Jew’s behalf. As I mentioned above, the first rule of areivus is that the motzi must be someone who is obligated to observe this mitzvah.

The half slave

What happens if a slave was purchased by two people in equal partnership, and then one of the owners frees him? That owner can only free the half that he himself owns. That half of the slave is now free, which means that he is obligated to observe mitzvos. On the other hand, half is still owned by the other master. This means that the eved now has the nebulous status of being half-Jewish and half-eved. The halachah calls him very literally chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin, “half slave, half freedman.”

Here is where this half-slave now trods new halachic ground. His half that is free is duty-bound to observe all the mitzvos, whereas the other half is obliged to observe only those mitzvos compulsory for an eved. Regarding most mitzvos, this means that he now observes them. He will be obligated to observe, for example, the mitzvah of sukkah.

What does he do in regard to fulfilling the mitzvah of shofar, since half of him is obligated to observe the mitzvah, and the other half is not? Can he blow shofar to fulfill the mitzvah, or must he hear the shofar from someone else?

The Gemara quotes a beraisa that rules that a half-eved is required to hear shofar, but cannot blow shofar on behalf of other people, even on behalf of other half-eveds. The Gemara then explains that he does not fulfill the mitzvah if he blows shofar even to fulfill the mitzvah for himself. Why not? How can he be required to observe the mitzvah of shofar and not be able to fulfill it himself?

The answer is that his eved part is not required to observe the mitzvah, and his non-eved half cannot blow the shofar by itself. As a result, the shofar is being blown by someone who is not fully obligated in the mitzvah (Rosh Hashanah 29a). Even if the chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin happens to be a master blaster, he has no other way to fulfill the mitzvah other than to hear the shofar blown by someone else, that is, a Jewish adult male who is fully obligated in the mitzvah! (Since a fully freed man has the halachic status of a Jewish adult male, he can be motzi others in the mitzvah, including a chatzi eved chatzi ben chorin.) Thus, we have an anomalous situation — he is required to observe the mitzvah, yet someone else must be motzi him! We now have the answer to one of our opening questions: “Can a situation exist whereby someone is halachically required to observe a mitzvah, but cannot fulfill it without someone else performing it on his behalf?”

Areivus and brochos

The Gemara discusses whether areivus will allow someone to recite a brocha for you before you eat, even  when the one reciting the brocha is not eating. Why should this case be halachically any different from what we have already discussed? Allow me to explain.

Of the conditions mentioned above for areivus to work, one was that both the motzi and the person fulfilling the mitzvah must be required to observe the mitzvah. The reason for these requirements takes us back to our Biblical sources for the concept of areivus — one Jew is responsible for another. Since one Jew is responsible for the mitzvah observance of another, the inability of one Jew to fulfill a mitzvah devolves onto other Jews. They become required to fulfill his mitzvah for him.

However, this concept holds true only regarding a mitzvah that the motzi is required to perform. Since no one is required to eat specific foods or to smell pleasant fragrances, these brochos hanehenin, blessings of benefit, are not required unless one is, himself, benefiting. Consequently, the rule of areivus does not apply. The Gemara explains that although areivus allows a motzi to recite a birchas hamitzvah on behalf of someone else, one cannot recite a brocha of benefit, unless the motzi is also enjoying the benefit.

Exception

The Gemara subsequently concludes that there are two instances in which one may use areivus and recite the brocha, even though the motzi is not presently fulfilling the mitzvah. These two exceptions are the brocha of hamotzi, recited prior to eating matzoh at the Pesach seder, and the brocha of hagafen, recited as part of Kiddush. In these two instances, although the brocha appears to be a regular brocha of benefit, since one is required to partake in this benefit in order to fulfill these mitzvos, one is therefore required to recite these brochos. Consequently, they have the halachic status of birchos hamitzvah. Thus, in these two instances, one person can be motzi another in the brochos, although the motzi is not fulfilling the mitzvah.

King Yannai

A difference passage of Gemara (Brochos 48a) relates an interesting story that reflects a different context of the law of areivus. To quote the entire passage of Gemara:

King Yannai and his queen had concluded a banquet, and, since he had killed all the rabbis, there was no one to bensch on their behalf.

Yannai said to his wife, “Who will provide us with someone to recite the brochos for us?”

She answered him, “If you swear to me that you will not give him any trouble, I’ll bring you such a man.” He swore to her. She then brought her brother, Shimon ben Shetach, and had him sit between them at the head of the table. Yannai then said to Shimon ben Shetach, “See how much honor we give you!” to which Shimon ben Shetach responded, “It is not you who provide us with this honor, but the Torah.” Yannai then turned to his wife, “I see that he does not accept my rule.”

They then brought Shimon ben Shetach a cup of wine upon which to recite the brochos of bensching. He now wondered aloud. “How should I recite the zimun (since he had not eaten with them)? Should I say, ‘Blessed is He from Whose [bounty] Yannai and his friends have partaken’?” He then drank the cup of wine, because he held that this would require him to recite birchas hamazon (see Tosafos ad loc.). They then brought him another cup of wine, which he used for the bensching.

The Gemara concludes that Shimon ben Shetach followed his own opinion here, which is not accepted by the other authorities, in that he held that one could recite birchas hamazon to be motzi others, even if all that he had consumed was a cup of wine. The accepted halachah is that one must eat bread to recite birchas hamazon and to be motzi others in zimun.

There are several fascinating historical, sociological and halachic conclusions to be drawn from this passage of Gemara.

  1. Although King Yannai had assassinated almost all of the rabbonim and gedolei Yisrael, he was still interested in having birchas hamazon recited at his banquet.
  2. No member of King Yannai’s entourage knew birchas hamazon by heart, yet they wanted it to be said correctly.
  3. None of the assembled had a written copy of birchas hamazon. (Based on a passage of Gemara in Mesechta Shabbos [115b], this is probably accurate. However, we will leave this topic for a different article.) Alternatively, none of them knew how to read.
  4. Although Yannai’s wife suspected that, given the opportunity, Yannai would kill Shimon ben Shetach, she knew that if he swore an oath, he would abide by it. Thus, he was more concerned about violating his oath than eliminating someone whom he felt challenged his authority.
  5. Notwithstanding King Yannai’s personal history, Shimon ben Shetach was unafraid of talking to him in a direct, blunt way. (See a similar story about Shimon ben Shetach and King Yannai in Sanhedrin 19).
  6. Although Shimon ben Shetach was the head of the Sanhedrin (see Chagigah 16b), there are areas of halachah in which we do not rule as he does.
  7. Shimon ben Shetach assumed that the wine was kosher.

Women leading zimun

Another passage of Gemara (Brochos 20b) applies the above-quoted rules of areivus to a different situation. The Gemara there discusses whether the requirement that a woman recite birchas hamazon is min haTorah or only miderabbanan. The Gemara notes that a practical difference in halachah that will result is whether women may lead the bensching – what we call the zimun. In earlier days, the person who led the zimun also bensched on behalf of the assembled. Thus, a requirement is that he be someone obligated to fulfill the mitzvah on the same level as they are. Only someone who is required to bensch min haTorah may lead the zimun if it includes men, who are required to bensch min haTorah. Therefore, if women are required to bensch min haTorah, they may lead the bensching of a group that includes men. On the other hand, if women are not required, they may not lead such a bensching.

Since the question whether women are obligated to bensch min haTorah or not remains unresolved, women do not lead a zimun when men are part of the zimun. However, when there are only women in attendance, they may create their own zimun (Brochos 45b; Arachin 3).

Areivus in action!

Here are some less common applications of the mitzvah of areivus. Mr. Goldberg is, unfortunately, hospitalized, and no one else in his family is able to recite Kiddush. On his way home from shul, Mr. Berkowitz can stop off at the Goldberg house and recite Kiddush on their behalf, although he is not fulfilling the mitzvah now, but intends to fulfill the mitzvah only when he gets to his own home. This is because the Goldbergs are required to recite Kiddush, and the law of areivus allows another Jew obligated in the mitzvah to perform the mitzvah on their behalf. (According to some authorities, the ladies of the house should daven maariv before Mr. Berkowitz can recite Kiddush for them. This is a topic that we will leave for a future article.)

Havdalah and not Kiddush

One of my daughters was born when I was a rav in a small Jewish community. Since it has become common custom that one celebrates the birth of a daughter with a Kiddush, I was now faced with an interesting conundrum. Some of the people who would attend the Kiddush might drive on Shabbos to attend, so I could not consider the standard Kiddush as an option. My wife and I decided to avoid this problem by making a melaveh malkah on a Saturday night instead.

What does this have to do with areivus?

Although I had already made havdalah that night, at the melaveh malkah, I recited havdalah another time, on behalf of those individuals who had not yet performed the mitzvah. This could be done, because of the concept of areivus. Of course, this should be done only when there are individuals who have not as yet performed the mitzvah and would have in mind to fulfill the mitzvah of havdalah when it is performed for them.

Kiddush Shabbos morning

Sometimes, one has guests Shabbos morning who did not yet recite or hear the Friday night Kiddush. Since that Kiddush can be recited the entire Shabbos, these guests are required to hear both brochos of Kiddush during the daytime of Shabbos. Therefore, one should recite that Kiddush on their behalf at the Shabbos morning meal. However, bear in mind that, since they will be yotzei only if they intend to be, they must be sufficiently interested in Judaism to understand that they are thereby fulfilling a mitzvah. I suggest discussing this with your own rav or posek for guidance what to do.

Conclusion

The mitzvos of the Torah were given not to the Jewish people as individuals, but as a community, and to each individual Jew as a member of that community. This affects many areas of halachah, one of which is the mitzvah of areivus that we have just introduced. My fellow Jew’s obligation to observe mitzvos transfers to me in a way that I can now enable him to perform them.