Concepts in Halacha: Mitzvot

A frequently performed commandment generally takes precedence over a less frequently performed commandment, but ONLY:

Regarding the order in which they are to be performed, and If there is no specific reason to do the less frequent one.

If you are only able to do one of several commandments, do the most important one.

Example: If you can only put on either talit or tefilin, you would put on the tefilin since that is the more important commandment, even though putting on a talit is the more frequently performed one.

Another Example: Friday before sunset when Chanuka will be on Shabbat--lighting Shabbat candles is done more frequently, but we light the Chanuka candles first since if we lit the Shabbat candles first, it would already be Shabbat and we could not light the Chanuka candles at all.

You are never required to spend more than 1/5 of your liquid assets on any positive mitzva.

There is no need to go to different town in order to fulfill a mitzva (a different town can be defined as out of your local business district).

Follow national law as enforced. Halacha requires that national and secular law be obeyed.

However: If a law exists but is not enforced, it is not considered by halacha to be a valid law.

If a law states one condition but is enforced only in a different condition, the actual enforced law is the valid one.

Example: If a posted speed limit is 60 mph, but drivers are actually allowed to drive up to 70 mph, then 70 mph is the valid speed limit.

Psik reisha d'la nicha lei (a halacha whose violation you don't intend and from which you receive no benefit) is not permitted.

Example: You open the refrigerator door on Shabbat and the light comes on. This is forbidden on Shabbat and Jewish festivals, even if you don't want or need the light.

However, you may ask a non-Jew to do an action for you that will be psik reisha d'la nicha lei.

Example: You may ask a non-Jew to get your jacket from the car on Shabbat or a Jewish festival, even though a light will go on, but only during the daytime; if it is night and the light would be needed to find the jacket, you may not ask.

Making a “fence” (“syag”) around the Torah means to avoid activities and situations that might lead to actions that are improper or not allowed by Torah law.

Preparation for Doing Mitzvot

Mitzvot that are from the Torah (tzitzit, tefilin, sukka, etc.) require having the intention (kavana) to fulfill that commandment. But with many such mitzvot, it is inherent in doing the mitzva that you are doing it for the mitzva and therefore you do not need to have a special intention (for example, you would not put on tefilin to keep yourself warm).

You do not need to say Va'yehi noam, L'Shem yichud, or Yehi ratzon before doing commandments.

A mitzva is a commandment. A halacha is how to do the mitzva.

Commandments/mitzvot (plural of mitzva) have three main purposes:

Most importantly, to do what we are commanded by God to do;

To bring us close to God;

To earn reward for us in the future world (olam ha’ba).

Copyright 2015 Richard B. Aiken. Halacha L'Maaseh appears courtesy of Visit their web site for more information.

This material is provided for informational purposes only - not a substitute for the consultation of a competent rabbi.