Tzav: Choshen Mishpat & Purim

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The Journal of Talmudic Law & Finance


Choshen Mishpat & Purim

Ve’na’hapoch Hu, the term used by the Megilla to describe the remarkable reversal of fortune that enabled the Jews to overcome their enemies, has become a favorite theme of Purim. In an interesting twist, it can even be used to describe a halacha of Choshen Mishpat, the laws dealing with monetary obligations and duties, that concerns Purim.

Let us pose the following question:Feature Audio: Choshen Mishpat & Purim

Chaim was a guest at Shimon’s Purim seuda.  During the party, Chaim, somewhat inebriated, began dancing and jumping on a table. Due to the fact that he was not in full control of his faculties, he slipped and fell on the table causing it damage.


Click here for this week’s Featured Audio Shiur by Rav Yitzchok Rappaport:

Choshen MIshpat & Purim 

Purim in Halacha & Hashkafa

Special Purim Audio: Purim in Halacha & Hashkafa

By: Rav Pinchos Fuhrer, Rosh Kollel Cincinnati Morning Kollel

Parsha Perspectives

The Imaginary Fish

by: Rabbi Tzvi Price 


There once were two friends who went on a fishing trip together. The trip was very successful with each of them catching a number of fish. Moreover, each of them had made a prize catch of a beautiful fifteen pound bass.


When the two returned home from their trip, they were asked by a friend of theirs how the trip went. “Great!” said one of them happily. “Okay, I guess,” said the other one sadly.


The friend of theirs was puzzled. “I don’t get it,” he said to the sad friend. “Both of you came back with the same prize catch, and yet your friend says ‘Great!’ and you just say ‘Okay.’ Maybe you can explain the difference to me.”


“Simple,” the man answered. “My friend didn’t have a twenty-five pound bass get away.”


At one time or another we all have been guilty of focusing on ‘the one that got away.’ When a businessman passes up what turns out to be a great investment and instead invests in something which brings him only an average return, it is easy for him to somehow feel that he lost money. Have you ever bought something for a decent price only to find out that a different store is running a super sale on the same item? If you are like most people, you probably felt that you took a loss on what you bought. A lesson from Parshas Tzav will show us that the Torah, being quite aware of this aspect of human nature, urges us to see things with a different perspective – a perspective we can use to acquire the true wealth of happiness in our portion.


The first subject discussed in Parshas Tzav is the burnt-offering sacrifice, the korban olah. The Torah outlines a number of laws that the kohanim must follow when they perform the olah sacrifice. But before doing so, the Torah commands the kohanim not be lax specifically regarding this type of korban. The pasuk states, “Command (tzav) Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the law of the burnt-offering.” Typically Hashem doesn’t tell Moshe to directly command the people in a mitzvah. Rather, Hashem tells Moshe to simply inform the people of the mitzvah. Why does Hashem feel it necessary in the case of the olah to introduce the kohanim to their obligations in such a forceful way?


Rashi, quoting Rebbi Shimon, answers this question. He explains that an olah involves a financial loss (literally, ‘a loss in the pocket’) for the kohen. Somehow when a kohen agrees to officiate at an olah sacrifice, he knows that as a result he will incur a loss of money. Therefore, Hashem directly commands the kohanim to eagerly accept to perform the olah service despite the financial loss that will occur.


One piece of information is glaringly absent from Rashi’s commentary. What is the financial loss to which Rebbi Shimon is referring? The most obvious answer to this question is based on a fundamental difference between the olah and the other korbanos. In contrast to all other korbanos, the animal which is sacrificed as an olah is totally burnt on the altar. None of its meat is eaten. Thus, while a kohen receives a portion of the meat from the other kinds of korbanos, he does not get any meat from an olah. He does, however, receive the hide that was skinned from the olah-animal, but this he would have gotten anyway had he done any other korban. Possibly, the financial loss that we are discussing is the loss of meat which the kohen would have received had he brought a different korban.

In this Issue:


Special Puirm Audio: 

Purim in Halacha & Hashkafa

Parsha Perspective: 

The Imaginary Fish  


Choshen Mishpat Chiddush: 

Mitzvos While Intoxicated  


Ask the Dayan:  


Related Article: Matanos L’Evyonim 

NEW RELEASE: Bais HaVaad on the Parsha
Yerushalayim Second Seder : The Hilchos Purim Audio Series

The Hilchos Purim Audio Series 

See Shiurim Below:  

Hilchos Megillah & Matanos L'Evyonim

  Hilchos Megillah &

Matanos L’Evyonim 

Halachos of Drinking on Purim
Halachos of Drinking on Purim 

The Ramban does not accept this answer. He argues that the kohen does not lose anything when he brings an olah. In fact, he gains the animal’s hide. The fact that he could have gained more (namely, the meat) had he brought a different korban cannot be called a monetary loss. The words of Rebbi Shimon were ‘a loss to the pocket.’ Not profiting more cannot be described as a loss. It could not be what Rebbi Shimon meant. Having dismissed the simpler alternative, the Ramban is forced to offer a more novel approach to understanding Rebbi Shimon’s words.


The Taz, in his commentary on Chumash, Divrei Dovid, defends our answer against the Ramban’s criticism. The kohen being prevented from realizing a gain of meat can be described as a kind of financial loss. In fact, many halachic authorities consider someone who prevented his friend from making a clear and certain profit as having caused him a kind of damage, albeit indirectly (see Pischei Choshen, Nezikin, 3:29, for a lengthy discussion regarding manee’as revech, preventing someone from a financial gain, and mivotel kiso shel chaveiro, causing someone’s capital to remain dormant). When and why a person is obligated to pay for this form of indirect damage is a matter of great Halachic debate.


It would seem, then, that according to these authorities the Torah is telling the kohen to take what can legitimately be considered a hit in his pocket by commanding him to perform the olah service. Maybe the kohen is right to feel that he is losing out by accepted to do an olah?


Such thinking would be gravely mistaken. A person cannot be considered to have lost a profit if he never had the right to make that profit in the first place. Hashem gave the kohanim certain benefits in exchange for the service He commanded them, and that service included performing olah sacrifices. The kohen who thinks that he will lose some meat from the other korbanos by fulfilling his duty to perform an oleh sacrifice does not understand that Hashem never intended to give him that extra meat in the first place.


But wait a minute! If the kohen does not experience a legitimate loss of profit by performing an oleh, how can the Taz explain Rebbi Shimon to be referring to a loss of profit? Have we not returned to the Ramban’s original argument against our answer?


Yes, the Ramban is right[1]. There is no legitimate loss to the kohen, not even a loss of an expected gain. However, a kohen who shies away from an oleh is probably not seeing it that way. Deluding himself into thinking that he is having a legitimate loss, he justifies his laxity. According to the Taz, Rebbi Shimon is saying that Hashem is especially forceful in his command when the mitzvah involves a perceived monetary loss, though, in truth, no loss exists. In essence, Hashem is commanding the kohen not to fall into the trap of thinking that he lost a chance at a profit when he never really was meant to have that profit in the first place.


We all fall into this trap. The forceful way Hashem delivered hiscommand to the kohanim isa lesson for all of us. At times, we all feel that somehow things could have been different. The fisherman thinks, “I could have had the one that got away.” The businessman thinks, “That deal could have been mine.” Such thoughts are dreadfully wrong and destructive. Everything that happens to us, everything we have, and everything we don’t have is in every detail what Hashem had decided for us from the start. It could not have been different and it was never meant to be otherwise[2]. Just like the kohen who’s lax in his obligations to the oleh, we perceive a loss, but none is there. The ‘one that got away’ exists only in the imagination.


[1] And according to those authorities that consider the loss of a probable gain to be a kind of damage, the Ramban’s words must be understood as making this argument.

[2] Of course, this does not mean that someone who damages a person by ruining a potential business deal or someone who causes the fisherman not to catch the fish can claim innocence because ‘that is what Hashem wanted to happen all along.’ A person is punished for the evil choices he makes despite the fact that Hashem has absolute prior knowledge and complete control of every event that occurs in the world. Both principles, that of Human Independence and that of Divine Control, operate simultaneously and at all times. It is our task to embrace both Truths and focus on the appropriate one for the given situation. See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah, 5:5, and Hasagas haRava”d there, and 6:5, and Hasagas haRava”d there. See Chovos Halevavos, Sha’ar Avodas ha’Elokim, chapter 8. See Chazon Ish‘s Emunah u’Betachon, 3:15.

Choshen Mispat ChiddushMitzvos While Intoxicated


One who is completely intoxicated is exempt from performing all mitzvos.[1] In fact, one who performs a mitzva while in such a state does not discharge one’s obligation and the mitzva must be repeated when one is sober. For example, one who becomes completely intoxicated in the course of a meal may not recite the Birkas Hamazon. So too, any agreements and transactions one makes while completely drunk are null and void.[2] Nevertheless, one is obligated to pay for any damages that one causes while intoxicated.[3] This is because he is deemed to be negligent for having allowed himself to reach such a state. As such, one is forbidden to knowingly intoxicate oneself to the point where one will be unable to perform mitzvos and be oblivious to one’s actions.


This may not be true on Purim as will be analyzed in this subsequent responsa.

[1] Mishna Berura 185:6.

[2] Choshen Mishpat 235:22.

[3] Maharshal to Bava Kama3:3, quoted in R’ Akiva Eiger, CM 235:22




Ask the Dayan


Although, at first glance, one is inclined to hold Chaim accountable for his actions, and as a result, would obligate him to compensate Shimon for the damage, remarkably, in this case there are grounds to release him from his responsibility.


The halachic issue that needs to be considered falls into the category of nezikin, damages. Chaim was a mazik which means that he, in person, damaged someone else’s property. Normally, a mazik must pay for the damage he does even if it was unintentional.

The Shulchan Aruch (CM 235) states that a person is not considered in control of himself while drunk (This has various implications, e.g. his transactions are invalid. The reason is that he is compared to someone who is mentally disabled). In Chaim’s case, this argument, that he is not responsible for his actions would not be valid for two reasons. A. Chaim was not “drunk as Lot”, which is the Talmudic benchmark for not being in control of oneself. Anyone less drunk than Lot (Avrohom’s nephew whose drunken state is recorded in the Torah) is considered fully responsible for all actions. B. The Yam shel Shlomo (BK 3.3) rules that even if one is as drunk as Lot he must pay for damages he does. Being as drunk as Lot only releases one from obligations to Hashem, but not for damages to people or property. Moreover, even on Purim one needs to pay for damages, because, one is not permitted to get so drunk. (The obligation to drink on Purim is limited to the quantity necessary to cause one to fall asleep.) Therefore the mere fact that Chaim was drunk would not release him from his status as mazik.

However there is a different reason why Chaim is not classified as a mazik and he isn’t liable for his damages. The Mishna (Succah 45a) mentions that the custom in the Beis Hamikdash  on Hoshana Raba was that people, ecstatic with joy, would grab etrogim from children and eat them. Rashi explains that there was no issue of stealing, because, this was the custom. Tosafot adds that this custom likewise applies when people damage other people’s property as a result of frivolous behavior that frequently takes place during weddings. One may deduce from the Mishna that the perpetrators are not held responsible.

Some authorities rule that even in this situation one is liable for serious and extensive damages.

The Bet Yosef (OC 695) quotes a Trumat Hadeshen that the Bet Din had a custom of not hearing any complaints regarding the stealing of food on Purim. The Bet Yosef himself, qualifies this custom and rules that the custom no longer applies, and therefore there is no difference between Purim and other times. The Rema (OC 695) disagrees and rules that “one who causes damage to his friend on Purim is patur” i.e. he does not have to pay. The Magen Avraham, limits this rule to damage done while celebrating. Other authorities limit it to unintentional damages.

Applying this to our story would seem to indicate that Chaim is not liable for his damages.  The damage was neither large nor extensive, he didn’t do it intentionally, and it happened in the course of Purim festivities.

It is worth noting that the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 695) has a dissenting opinion. He maintains that the custom is no longer applicable, since we are not accustomed to reach such a level of joy.


Related Article 

Matanos La’evyonim

by Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Megillas Esther teaches that one of the mitzvos established by Mordechai and Esther was “matanos la’evyonim,” giving gifts to the poor. Since the megillah states one should give gifts “La’evyonim,” which is plural, we derive that one must give gifts to at least two poor people (Gemara Megillah 7b).


There are several opinions regarding the minimum gift needed to fulfill the mitzvah. The Maharasha contends that one must give each person an amount significant enough to be respectable (Chiddushei Agados, Megillah 7a s.v. shadar). Some contemporary poskim rule this way.



This was written by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Kaganoff Shlit”a and is being reprinted with his permission. To see more of his articles or for any questions you can visit his website

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