Question (From last week)
When I was studying the parsha this week I was troubled by Leah’s actions when marrying Yaacov. It would seem that she was an accomplice to her father’s plan to fool Yaacov. Wouldn’t even her passive role in Lavan’s chicanery constitute geneivas da’as-deceiving someone, and therefore be forbidden?
Before we answer the actual question it is important to clarify whether Leah’s behavior is classified as geneivas da’as. Actually she didn’t say anything. Rather she allowed Yaacov to be misled by being silent. The question is whether failure to inform is geneivas da’as.
This is a dispute between Rashi, who rules that one only violates the prohibition of geneivas da’as if he says something, and Tosafos who rule that one violates the prohibition of geneivas da’as even if he just acts in a manner that causes a normal person to err and he does not prevent the error.
Tosafos proves his position that this is geneivas da’as from the beraiso (Chulin 94A) that rules that a host who opens a barrel in order to serve wine to his guest, must inform the guest if he already has a customer for the rest of the barrel. Even though the host does not say that he opened the barrel especially for his guest, nevertheless he must explicitly inform his guest that he has a customer since a normal person would think that he has no customer. In the time of the Gemoro, wine spoiled a shortly after the barrel was opened. Thus, since a normal guest would think that the host was risking the loss of a barrel of wine in order to serve him, when actually he was not doing such a thing, the host must inform his guest. Similarly Leah, who knew that Yaacov thought she was Rochel, was guilty of geneivas da’as according to Tosafos – whose opinion is authoritative.
Having clarified that you are correct that Leah’s behavior would be prohibited as geneivas da’as, we must consider whether her goal justified her behavior. We saw in the previous article that if the immediate goal is to acquire Torah knowledge or to convey Torah knowledge to others, deceiving is permitted. In this article, we will clarify whether this leniency is limited to Torah knowledge or extends to fulfilling other mitzvahs as well.
Before addressing this issue it is important to understand the background for the leniency to deceive in order to acquire Torah knowledge. We saw in the previous article that the Zohar derives the leniency from the implication of the cantillation notes on the Torah prohibition to steal, that there is some exception to the prohibition to steal. Note that there is nothing in this derivation that indicates that the leniency is limited to Torah knowledge. Nonetheless the Zohar applies the Torah’s exception to cases where the immediate goal is to acquire Torah. Our question is whether the reason the Zohar mentions acquiring Torah knowledge is just because it is a mitzvah like other mitzvahs or is there something special about acquiring Torah knowledge that is not present in other mitzvahs.
We do find in the halachah another leniency related to theft when the objective is acquiring Torah knowledge, and this leniency is limited to the effort to acquire Torah knowledge.
Normally, one who is charged with watching another person’s object may not use the object for personal use without permission from the owner. If he does use it, the Torah (Shemos 22, 7) considers it as if he stole the object. However, the Shach (292, 35) understands that the Rama grants some leniency when the object is a sefer and the one who is entrusted to watch the object wishes to use the sefer to acquire Torah knowledge.
There are various opinions about what exactly the Shach permits. The Magen Avrohom (14, 10) understands that the Shach permits one who wishes to learn and doesn’t otherwise have access to this sefer to use the sefer even though its owner did not permit him to use the sefer. The source is the Midrash that explains the verse in Mishlei (6, 30) that says, “Do not despise the thief for stealing for he is satiating his hungry heart,” as referring to one who deceives someone in order to acquire Torah knowledge.
The Shach’s explanation as understood by the Magen Avrohom is also the interpretation of the Gra (292, 46) who writes that one may use another person’s sefer if otherwise he will be idled from Torah study. This is supported by a ruling of the Rosh (res. 93, 3), that is cited by the Rama (292, 20), that if someone needs a sefer to learn and someone else has the sefer, beis din forces the owner to lend it to the one who needs it. Thus we see that there is a special leniency that is limited to Torah study and we do not have a basis to generalize to all mitzvahs.
However, even though one cannot infer a leniency when the goal is general mitzvah performance from the leniency to acquire Torah knowledge, nevertheless there is another independent source for such a leniency. This is found in the commentary of the Iggeres Shmuel on Rus. He notes two statements that were made by Boaz when he offered Rus to Tov who had precedence over Boaz to wed Rus. One is that Boaz seemingly unnecessarily underscored the fact that Rus’s previous husband died. The second is that Boaz only informed Tov that when he marries Rus he must also redeem the fields that she had sold. However later, after Tov waived his opportunity to wed Rus and Boaz seized the opportunity, Boaz mentions that besides marrying Rus he is also redeeming all the fields that once belonged to Rus’s father-in-law and brother-in-law as well.
The Iggeres Shmuel says that both of Boaz’s statements had one purpose. Boaz was a prophet and he knew that from Rus will emanate the Davidic dynasty and he felt that he was more qualified to do this. He compares this with Yaacov’s efforts to acquire the status of the firstborn from Esau. In both cases someone wished to fulfill a mitzvah and he also felt that the person who had precedence was less suited.
The explanation of the Iggeres Shmuel is cited by the Sha’arei Teshuva (OC 482) who derives from it a general rule that even though one is not allowed to fulfill a mitzvah that belongs to someone else, however, one may employ deception to cause the owner to willingly part with the mitzvah.
For example, the ruling of the Torah is that one who slaughters a bird automatically has the right to perform the mitzvah to cover its blood. Another person may not cover the blood without permission from the one who slaughtered the bird, but, according to the Sha’arei Teshuva he may use deception to cause the one who slaughtered the bird to willingly part with the opportunity to perform the mitzvah.
This ruling of the Sha’arei Teshuvo is the source for various leniencies when it comes to the opportunity to perform a mitzvah. For example, the Bris Ovos (cited in Sefer Habris page 170) rules that one may attempt to persuade the father of a child to choose him to be the mohel or sandek at the bris of his son even though the father was already talking to someone else to perform the mitzvah. If the goal was to acquire a monetary possession such an action would have been forbidden since it constitutes oni hamehapeich becharoro. But where the goal is to perform a mitzvah the Bris Ovos permits the action. While others do not agree (See our sefer, Mishpatei Yosher pages 145-150) that the prohibition of oni hamehapeich becharo is waived when one wishes to perform a mitzvah, nevertheless, this illustrates the fact that there are leniencies when the goal is to perform a mitzvah.
An interesting illustration is a ruling of the Chashukei Chemed. A few years ago there was a huge Tefillah demonstration at the entrance of Jerusalem in which over six-hundred-thousand people participated. A volunteer for Hatzalah was slated to be assigned to a place that was near, but not at, the actual demonstration. He asked if he was allowed to arrange with the one who assigned positions to switch him with someone else who was slated to be positioned at the actual demonstration, since he wanted to be able to say the brocho, chacham harozim that one can only recite if he sees six-hundred-thousand Jews in one location. The Chashukei Chemed writes that he asked his brother-in-law, R. Chaim Kaniefsky who, based on this ruling of the Sha’arei Teshuvo, ruled that he was permitted to do so.
However, not everything is permitted. Titein Emess Leya’acov (page 78) wanted to apply the ruling of the Sha’ari Teshuvo to three students who wished to fulfill the mitzvah of hosting their Rebbi, who planned to spend Shabbos in their community and needed a place to stay. One student invited the rebbi but the rebbi turned down his invitation. One of the remaining two asked if he could tell the other remaining student misleadingly that the rebbi was already invited by the first student so that the other remaining student would not invite the rebbi since he would think that the rebbi accepted the first student’s invitation and, as a result, he would ensure that the rebbi would accept his invitation. Rav Eliashev replied that it was not permitted since this statement constituted a lie and one may not lie in order to perform a mitzvah. We should recall that when the goal was to acquire Torah knowledge the Yerushalmi explicitly permitted a questioner to lie and say that he needed to know the answer to his question because he had a practical application when in fact he did not.
Thus, we see that there is a leniency according to the poskim in order to fulfill mitzvahs but it is not as broad as the leniency where the goal is to acquire Torah knowledge.
We recall from the previous article that the Ramban says Hashem had mercy on Leah because she craved to marry Yaacov because he was a tzaddik. Based upon what we have learned now it could very well be that the Ramban means that her goal justified her behavior and she did not violate any prohibition at all. This is especially true in light of the fact that the alternative, according to Rashi, is that she would have to wed Essau, a nightmare that had caused her to cry her heart out for many years.