Ketubot page 49: A New Understanding of “Mitzva”

Ketubot page 49 presents a rather harsh mishna. The mishna says that a father is not obligated to feed or provide for his minor daughter while he is alive. If he dies, the daughter is supported from the assets of the estate.

The Talmud quickly offers the following:. There is no “obligation” (chieuv) to provide for her but it is a” mitzva.” What does that mean? How can you have a mitzva that does not arise out of an obligation? The mechanism for a fulfilling a mitzva is first being obligated either on a torah level or rabbinic level and then doing the act. What is a mitzva without an obligation?

The magid shiur said the following: This”mitzva” is a “good Jewish act.” It arises not our of obligations, statute, rabbinic enactment- rather it arises from our soul- our heart. The mitzva is what we are moved to do out of love, compassion.

The SD would like to weigh in. A Jew is moved to act and respond because the Torah tells him to do certain acts of kindness, but also because the Torah enhances or sensitivity and compassion to the needs of others. We see pain, we see need and despite not technically being “obligated” we are moved to act. The SD thinks that a “Jewish heart” feels everyone’s pain . A mitzva is not limited to obligation. AvJewish heart transcends obligation.

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