BAVA BASRA 9 - Dedicated for a speedy Refu'ah Sheleimah for Gittel bas Esther Chayah Reizel, by her nephew and family.


QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that in certain instances, when a poor person asks for assistance his need for help must be verified before he is given what he requests. Rav Huna and Rav Yehudah argue about what type of needs must be verified. Rav Huna says that when a poor person asks for food, his situation should be investigated to determine if he really needs it, but when a poor person asks for clothing, his need does not have to be verified. This is because a person without clothes suffers embarrassment, while a person without food does not suffer embarrassment. Rav Yehudah argues and says that a poor person who asks for clothing must be investigated, but there is no need to investigate a poor person who asks for food. He reasons that a person who is in need of food suffers physical pain, while a person who has no clothing does not suffer pain.

Why do the Amora'im argue about what form of distress is greater, the distress of hunger or the distress of being unclothed? The Gemara in Sanhedrin (44b-45a) records a dispute among Tana'im about this very issue. The Tana'im there argue about whether Beis Din removes the clothes of a person who is punished with Sekilah. Their dispute revolves around the question of whether the person will suffer more from the physical pain of receiving Sekilah while he is clothed or from the emotional distress of being disgraced when his clothes are removed. Why, then, do the Amora'im here argue about a point which is already discussed by Tana'im?

Moreover, the Gemara here makes it clear that the Halachah follows Rebbi Yehudah (that a person suffers more from the physical pain of hunger than from the disgrace of being unclothed), since a Beraisa supports his view. However, the RAMBAM (Hilchos Sanhedrin 15:1) rules that when a woman is punished with Sekilah, her clothes are not removed. This ruling of the Rambam seems to be in accordance with the opinion that a person suffers more from the disgrace of being unclothed than from physical pain, which is contrary to the ruling of Rebbi Yehudah!

Also, the Gemara in Berachos (20a) teaches that one may transgress Isurim d'Rabanan to maintain the honor of a person ("Kavod ha'Beriyos"), and one may even transgress Isurim d'Oraisa which are done passively ("Shev v'Al Ta'aseh"). There is no Halachah, however, that permits a person to transgress an Isur d'Rabanan or an Isur d'Oraisa of "Shev v'Al Ta'aseh" in order to avoid physical pain. This clearly implies that it is considered worse for a person to suffer embarrassment than to suffer physical pain. (OR SAME'ACH, Hilchos Sanhedrin 15:1)


(a) The OR SAME'ACH explains that, in essence, Rav Yehudah agrees with Rav Huna that a person suffers more from embarrassment than from physical pain. What, then, is Rav Yehudah's reasoning in his ruling here?

Rav Yehudah reasons that a person suffering from a lack of food certainly experiences physical pain, while a person suffering from a lack of clothing may not be suffering at all. Even if a person is not genuinely poor but starves himself in order to get money from the charity fund, he experiences the physical pain of hunger even though he caused himself to suffer. Therefore, there is no requirement to check if he is really poor, because he definitely is suffering as a result of his hunger, even if it is self-inflicted. If, however, a person removes his own clothes so that he can pretend to be poor and receive money from the charity fund, he does not experience any embarrassment at all. The sense of embarrassment is an internal feeling, and a person who values money more than he values his own honor does not experience any shame when he removes his clothes to create the image of poverty. Since it is possible that this person is not truly in need of clothing -- because he may not be suffering at all -- it is necessary to investigate if he is really poor before he can receive money from the charity fund.

(b) The KOVETZ SHI'URIM answers that when the Gemara teaches that "Kavod ha'Beriyos" overrides certain types of Isurim, it does not mean that a specific person's honor overrides Isurim. The Torah would not permit a person to transgress an Isur in order to save himself from embarrassment. Rather, the Torah allows the transgression of certain Isurim in order to uphold the honor of people in general. The Kovetz Shi'urim proves this from the fact that the obligation to bury a Mes Mitzvah, due to Kavod ha'Beriyos, overrides almost all other Mitzvos and Isurim, even though the deceased person himself does not experience shame (since he is dead). The requirement to bury a Mes Mitzvah cannot be intended to protect the honor of the deceased; rather, it is to protect the honor of the living. Similarly, the importance of Kavod ha'Beriyos in general does not relate exclusively to the individual who may suffer the disgrace; rather, it relates to all people. This is also why the person who is punished with Sekilah must be dressed; it is to protect and uphold the honor of people in general (and not necessarily the honor of this particular person). This form of honor -- the honor of mankind -- certainly is more of a concern than the physical pain suffered by an individual.

In contrast, the obligation to give Tzedakah is not intended to uphold the general honor of mankind. Rather, people are obligated to give Tzedakah in order to help individuals in need. The Gemara questions whether an individual suffers more from his own physical pain or from his own embarrassment. Thus, the dispute between Rav Yehudah and Rav Huna is unrelated to the general issue of Kavod ha'Beriyos. The Halachah follows the view of Rebbi Yehudah, who says that a person suffers more from his own physical pain than from the pain of his own disgrace. (I. Alsheich)



QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that if a person is worthy, Hash-m causes people who deserve charity to come to him for Tzedakah. If a person is not worthy, people who do not deserve charity will come to him. Rabah derives this from the verse, "May they be caused to stumble before You; at the time of Your anger, act against them" (Yirmeyahu 18:23), in which Yirmeyahu asked Hash-m to cause the sinners of the people to stumble. Rabah explains that Yirmeyahu asked Hash-m that even at a time when the people would overcome their evil inclinations and seek to do charity, Hash-m should send them recipients who do not deserve charity so that they will not receive reward for their acts of charity.

The Acharonim ask that the Gemara in Berachos (6a) and in Kidushin (40a) teaches that when a person intends to do a Mitzvah but is prevented from doing it (due to an Ones, a circumstance beyond his control), he is rewarded as if he had done the Mitzvah. Why, then, would it help Yirmeyahu's purpose if the people gave charity to those who were undeserving of charity? The givers still had intention to do the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, and therefore they should receive reward for that intention. (SUKAS DAVID, DEVAR MOSHE)


(a) The DEVAR MOSHE suggests that the sins of the givers themselves would make them unfit to give charity to deserving causes. Consequently, when undeserving people come to them for charity, it would not be considered an Ones, for it would be a result of the givers' own sins that they would not be able to give charity to worthy causes.

(b) The NIMUKEI YOSEF in Bava Kama (6b of the pages of the Rif) cites the RAMAH who explains that a person who gives charity to an undeserving recipient receives reward only when he is not aware that the recipient is undeserving. When the giver is aware that the recipient is undeserving, then he does not receive any reward for his act. (I. Alsheich)