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Burning Question - Answer

Burning a mezuza is not only a lo ta'aseh of "lo ta'asun ken lashem Elokechem" but also a transgression of the additional aseh of "Es Hashem Elokecha tira" - One must fear Hashem [this is the source of the prohibition against uttering a G-d's name in vain]. So if we burn the mezuza to fulfill the mitzva of burning the Ir Nidachas we will have to transgress not only a negative commandment but a positive commandment as well. A positive commandment may override ONE negative prohibition but not a negative and a positive commandment. In the vernacular we would say "aseh doche lo ta'aseh vi'lo lo ta'aseh vi'aseh." That is why the gemara does not allow us to burn the mezuza. [Minchas Chinuch, Maharam Schick and Shu"t Toras Chesed]

However Rav Naftali Nussbaum Shlita [Rosh Yeshiva of Chaye Moshe in Yerushalayim] points out that if it is permitted to burn the mezuza because of the rule of aseh doche lo ta'aseh then there is no lack of fear of Hashem if one does so. So we cannot say that the mitzva is overriding a positive and a negative commandment. It overrides the negative commandment in which case the positive commandment to fear Hashem [prohibiting us from burning it] would not apply.

So we're back to the drawing board.....

[Last year an audio shiur was given on this topic that can be found in the halacha and gemara section entitledמזוזה ועיר הנדחת: תירוץ נפלא לקושייתו של רבי עקיבא איגר זצ"ל.]

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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