Mitzva: A Powerful Tool

Rabbi Israel Chait

There are several types of tzedaka in this week’s parsha Ki Tetzei:

When you reap the harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the orphan and the widow—in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings (Devarim 24:19).

Rashi explains that even though the sheaves came into the hands of the poor without the owners’ intent, the owner still receives God’s blessing. The mitzva of shikcha (sheaves overlooked in the field) came to the poor accidentally because the owner forgot them. The owner did not intend to give the stalks to the poor; he left them behind accidentally and the poor came in and took them.

Rashi gives a kal v’chomer: 

If you didn’t intend to give the wheat and you fulfill a mitzva, one who gives intentionally will surely be rewarded.

Rashi adds another case of a man who accidentally drops money from his pocket. He is unaware that it dropped, and a poor man finds it and uses it. The owner of the money is credited with a mitzva, even though it wasn’t his intention to give the money. It was an accident.

In both cases—the forgotten sheaves and the lost money—for a careless act, we are credited for the mitzva of tzedaka. If we fulfill a mitzva for an unintentional act, a person may not be aware of all the mitzvot he has performed because many were accidental and without intent.

This is a novel idea in the performance of mitzvot, where we are usually concerned with all the details of the performance. The Torah teaches us that we benefit from these mitzvot, even if they weren’t performed perfectly or without full intent.

There is a very good reason for this: mitzva is such a powerful tool in perfecting a person, that even if it wasn’t done 100 percent properly, we still gain from it.