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Kesuvos, 67


The Gemara explains that Nakdimon's daughter suffered a terrible loss of fortune even though her father gave tremendous amounts of Tzedakah. The Gemara asks how such a fate could befall the offspring of such a righteous man, who used to spread out carpets of expensive wool upon which he walked and then distributed to poor people. The Gemara answers that "he did it for his honor." (Perhaps he had the poor people roll out the carpets for him in return for taking the carpets when he was finished.) Because of this, the merit of his acts of Tzedakah was not able to help his descendants in the difficult times that ensued.

Why did Nakdimon's merit fail to protect his offspring? The Gemara in Pesachim (8a; see Insights there) says that a person who gives a Sela to Tzedakah and says, "I am giving this Sela to Tzedakah in order that my [ill] son should recuperate and live," is considered a "Tzadik Gamur." Even though the giver has personal motives, his act of Tzedakah is considered to have been fulfilled in a full and complete manner! How, then, could Nakdimon's acts of Tzedakah not have been considered complete acts of Tzedakah to protect his children? (MAHARSHA)


(a) The MAHARSHA answers that although an act of Tzedakah that is done for personal motives is considered a full Mitzvah, if it is done for the sake of *personal honor* the act is indeed flawed. Personal honor detracts from the Mitzvah of Tzekadah and makes the Mitzvah incomplete. Why, though, should this be so?
1. The CHAFETZ CHAIM (cited in Chafetz Chaim Al ha'Torah) writes that honor is not a physical experience, but a spiritual experience. Even though no physical pleasure can replace the spiritual pleasure that Hashem gives to a person as reward in Olam ha'Ba for his performance of Mitzvos, nevertheless experiencing the spiritual pleasure of honor in this world can reduce the reward that a person would otherwise receive for his performance of Mitzvos. Accordingly, the words of the Maharsha are easily understood. The honor that Nakdimon received from his performance of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah replaced the reward that he and his descendants would have otherwise received, which includes the Peros (fruits) of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah that they would have received in this world.

2. The HAFLA'AH and BEN YEHOYADA explain that the honor Nakdimon received from his acts of Tzedakah was not a byproduct of the Mitzvah, but it was as if the money that he gave for Tzedakah was being used to *purchase* him that honor by his giving it in such a public manner. As such, it was as if he was conducting a business deal -- he was paying money to the poor in order to purchase honor. He was effectively buying honor.

It is true that when a person gives away his money with intention that Hashem do for him a particular favor in return, his act of Tzedakah is still considered a full Mitzvah. However, since Nakdimon's money was given away to purchase honor directly (and not in order to merit compensation through Divine intervention, like the person who gave Tzedakah in order to merit the recuperation of his child), his Mitzvah of Tzedakah was lacking. This cannot even be compared to a person who does Mitzvos so that he should be honored by others as a righteous person. In such a case his act is not purchasing for himself honor; the honor comes as a byproduct at a later time. Here, though, the act itself was an act of acquiring honor.

(b) The CHAFETZ CHAIM, cited by the KOVETZ SHI'URIM, explains that Nakdimon lived at the time of the Churban of the Beis ha'Mikdash, like the Gemara says in Gitin (56a). That was a time of divine wrath (what the Gemara calls "Idan Rischa"). The Gemara in Menachos (41a) says that although, normally, a person is not held accountable for not doing more Mitzvos than he does (as long as he does not transgress any Aveiros), during a time of Divine anger Hashem does punish a person for not trying to do more Mitzvos. Similarly, at the time of the Churban, which was certainly a time of Divine anger, Nakdimon was punished for not giving Tzedakah in an even better manner, although he fulfilled the Mitzvah of Tzedakah in an acceptable manner. That is why his descendants were not protected.

(c) The HAFLA'AH suggests that the fate of poverty does not always come as a punishment. Rather, it is part of the nature of the world for some families to become wealthy and some to become poor, based on their particular Mazal, as the Gemara says in Shabbos (151b; see also Ta'anis 25a).

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah can save a person from punishment, but it cannot save a person from enduring the fate that he was destined to receive. In order to change his destiny, he has to be perfect in every way and he must have very great merits, like Tosfos says in Shabbos (156a; DH Ein Mazal), and one must give Tzedakah entirely Lishmah with no ulterior motives.


The Gemara teaches that it is better for a person to jump into a fiery furnace than to embarrass another person in public. The Gemara records a number of incidents that demonstrate this precept.

The Gemara tells us in many places (such as Kesuvos 19a) that there are three Aveiros for which a person must give up his life and not transgress: Avodah Zarah (idolatry), Giluy Arayos (immorality), and Shefichus Damim (murder). If, as our Gemara says, a person is required to jump into a furnace in order to avoid embarrassing someone, why is the Aveirah of embarrassing someone not included in that list?


(a) TOSFOS in Sotah (10b) explains that the list includes only those Aveiros that are mentioned explicitly in the Torah. The Aveirah of embarrassing someone and the requirement to avoid it at all costs -- although it is derived from the incident with Tamar and Yehudah -- is not an explicitly written Mitzvah in the Torah, and thus it is not included in the list.

(b) RABEINU YONAH (Sha'arei Teshuvah 3:139) explains that the three Aveiros are *general categories*, each of which includes Toldos, or subcategories of Aveiros for which one must also give up one's life. For example, a subcategory of Avodah Zarah is using leafs of a tree of Avodah Zarah in order to heal oneself. (See also RAMBAN in Milchamos to Sanhedrin 74a, end of chapter 9, and Pesachim 25a and Insights to Pesachim 25:1.) Rabeinu Yonah explains that embarrassing one's friend is a subcategory of Shefichus Damim, like the Gemara says in Bava Metzia (58b). Therefore, it *is* included in the list, as a subcategory of Shefichus Damim.

(c) The ME'IRI (Sotah 10b, Berachos 43b) implies that although the Gemara compares embarrassing one's friend to killing him and says that one must jump into a furnace and not embarrass one's friend, the Gemara is not to be understood literally. Rather, the Gemara is emphasizing to us the severity of embarrassing another person ("Derech Tzachus v'He'arah"). According to the Me'iri, the Gemara might mean that a person should subject himself to discomfort rather than embarrass another person, like Mar Ukva and his wife did. It is not required, though, to actually give up one's life in order to avoid embarrassing someone. (Whether or not it is *permitted* to give up one's life in order to avoid embarrassing someone, if one is not required to do so, is subject to a Machlokes; see Insights to Kesuvos 3:3(c)).

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