By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

By R’ Yair Hoffman

It is the era of Marie Kondo, and you have clothing pieces that you just don’t wear anymore. Can you throw them out, or must you drop them off at the thrift shop? What if it takes a while to drop them off at the thrift shop? This author would like to suggest that one must still drop them off even though it may be time-consuming or lead to bittul Torah.

What about leftover food from a simcha? It seems that the same parameters would apply as well. (Shout-out to Reb Benny who has made this his mitzvah!)

Along these lines, virtually everyone has heard someone use the expression, “Hey, that’s ‘bal tashchis!’”

That line is rather famous. But the expression has a lesser-known cousin found in the beginning of maseches Yevamos (11b). Very few people have ever heard anyone use the expression, “Hey, that’s ‘lo yishpoch!’”

The expression comes from a statement of Rav Yosef: “A person should not pour the water from his well when others need it—Lo yishpoch adam mei boro v’acheirim tzrichim lahem.”

Although the context of the quote in the Gemara is referring to the best candidate in a chalitzah ceremony, there seems to be a number of poskim who applied the expression broadly, implying that “lo yishpoch” may even override bittul Torah in some cases.

Rav Aharon Kotler And The Cab

There is a famous story of Rav Aharon Kotler, zt’l, in which he hired a cab driver to take him somewhere. However, he hired the cab driver on one condition: The cab driver had to pick up anyone on the road who was also travelling to his destination. When asked why he had made that stipulation, Rav Aharon, zt’l, answered, “I am concerned for the Gemara in Yevamos of ‘lo yishpoch’ and do not wish to waste the other seats in the taxi.”

There is no question that Rav Aharon Kotler was concerned about bittul Torah. Yet, surely he calculated that each stop to inquire whether the person needed a ride, as well as getting in and out, most certainly added an extra three minutes to the trip. Multiply that by four (the extra seats in the cab) for a total of 12 minutes sacrificed.

The Mishnah Berurah And The Tzitzis

The Chofetz Chaim himself in the Mishnah Berurah (Hilchos Tzitzis 15:2) writes about a person who wishes to replace the tzitzis strings on his beged with cleaner, nicer-looking tzitzis. The Chofetz Chaim writes that when replacing them, he should not cut off the strings and thereby destroy them; rather, he should untie them. This is so that someone else may use them and one would not be conducting himself in a manner that contradicts “lo yishpoch.”

Untying tzitzis from a tallis or tallis katan takes at least three minutes for each corner. If we multiply that by four, that’s also at least 12 minutes.

The Little Girl And The Ohr Sameach

There was once a little girl who was sent to Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, zt’l, the author of the Ohr Sameach, to ask a question about a plate that possibly became treif. The plate was sent along with the girl who posed the question. The Ohr Sameach ruled that the plate was, in fact, treif and could not be kashered. The Ohr Sameach asked the girl what she planned to do with the plate. She responded, “I will save it for the tena’im of my wedding.”

The Ohr Sameach immediately recognized from her response that this young girl must be someone extraordinary. Later research showed that indeed she was. She was the younger sister of HaGaon HaRav Eliezer Pletchinsky, zt’l.

A Question To The Talmidei Chachamim

All of this brings up a question about the original context of the quote. The Gemara in Yevamos uses the quote regarding chalitzah in a case where the deceased brother had more than one wife. One of the wives was someone whom the deceased person had divorced and remarried. The other wife (or wives) was just a regular widow. The divorced and remarried wife, even though she is now widowed, is prohibited to marry a kohen. Giving her the chalitzah will not make her more ineligible to a kohen, because she is already ineligible. But a regular widow who was never divorced is, in fact, eligible to marry a kohen. The halachah is that the chalitzah should be given to the divorced and remarried wife so as not to lessen the market out there for kohanim.

There are a number of readers out there who are outstanding talmidei chachamim. To them I pose the following question.

There are a number of people who, unfortunately, have not given a get to their wife, even though they have not lived under the same roof for many years. Indeed, a recent addition to the ORA website of such husbands shows that he has not granted his wife a get since May of 2009. Is this also a violation of “lo yishpoch” based on the Gemara in Yevamos? In other words, what difference does it make whether the market one is affecting is limited to kohanim or encompasses the general public?

One could theoretically argue that the cases are different in that regarding someone who needs a chalitzah it makes no difference to the chalitzah-performer, but in regard to withholding a get, one can use it as a bargaining chip (even though some may question the morality of doing so) to get something from the agunah. But does this make a difference? The poskim in Eretz Yisrael seem to put a time limit on the get issue of no more than 18 months.

Regardless, the Gemara in Yevamos seems not to have been discussed in the complex issues of agunos. Perhaps that’s because there is some other distinction, or perhaps because the poskim who discuss cases of agunos do not feel that a husband who refuses to give his wife a get would care about following this Gemara in Yevamos. What do the talmidei chachamim out there say?

The author can be reached at Read more of Rabbi Hoffman’s articles at

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