In this week's parsha we learn of the erection of the mishkan. The passuk says (הוקם המשכן (40:17 the mishkan was erected, implying that it was erected by itself. Rashi (39: 33) explains that the mishkan was too difficult for any human to erect, therefore Moshe was told to try but in fact it will erect itself. Interestingly, the next passuk says ויקם משה את המשכן , - implying that Moshe actually did erect the mishkan. In order to reconcile these two pissukim, perhaps we can say that although the mishkan erected itself, nonetheless the Torah attributes the mitzvah to Moshe Rabeinu. This is based on the gemarah in Kiddushin (40a) that if one attempts to perform a mitzvah, but, as a result of an אונס he was unable to do so, the Torah considers it as if he had performed the mitzvah. Therefore the Torah attributes the erection of the mishkan to Moshe, who put in all the effort possible, even though he was unable to do it.
There is an interesting machlokes regarding this concept.
The gemarah in Baba Kama (16b) tells us that Yirmiyahu asked Hashem to arrange that when the inhabitants of Anasos (who were seeking to kill him) give tzedakah, their money should go to people who are not worthy of receiving it. This way they would not have the merit of tzedakah.
Reb Elchonon Wasserman zt'l Hy"d (dugmaos libiurai agados 3:5) asks, based on the concept we mentioned, even if Hashem would arrange that the recipients of the tzedaka be unworthy, nonetheless the people giving the tzedaka tried their best and it should be considered as if they performed the mitzvah?!
Reb Elchonon answers that the RamChal in his sefer sefer Derech Hashem writes that when one performs any of the mitzvos besides for fulfilling the commandment and listening to Hashem, he also accomplishes a certain purpose, tikun, and sh'laimus. When one tries to perform a mitzvah and is unavoidably prevented from doing so, he can only receive reward for the first aspect of a mitzvah -fulfilling that which was commanded of him. However that which is accomplished by having performed a mitzvah will not be accomplished when he actually does not fulfill the mitzvah. Yirmiyahu knew that the people of Anasos were resha'im and would certainly not have kavana to do the mitzvah for the sake of the mitzvah in which case they would not receive reward for listening to Hashem's commandment. However if the money would end up by a poor person they would have accomplished the purpose of the mitzvah and would attain the tikun and shilaimus of that mitzvah. Therefore Yirmiyahu asked that the money should not end up by poor people that way they would not even have accomplished the purpose of the mitzvah.
My rebbi, Reb Shmuel Berenbaum zt"l had a different answer as to what Yirmiyahu would accomplish by asking Hashem to arrange that the recipients of the tzedakah from the people of Anasos be unfit to receive tzedakah. The Gemarah that says "one who tries to perform a mitzvah and is unavoidably prevented is considered as if he performed it" cannot be applied to the case of Yirmiyahu. Because the p'shat in that Gemarah is that we consider the action you were attempting to complete as if it was completed. Therefore the Gemarah only applies in a scenario in which one attempts to do a certain action which if completed would perform a mitzvah and is prevented from completing that action, it is considered as if he completed that specific action that he was trying to do. However we do not apply the rule to one who merely thinks that he wants to do a mitzvah and does an action unrelated to the mitzvah. Therefore if the specific action upon completion would not perform a mitzvah we do not apply the Gemarah, because he was not trying to do a mitzvah he was trying to do this specific action which was not a mitzvah. He does have good kavana and he will be rewarded accordingly, however it is not considered as if he performed the mitzvah. For example if one dons teffilin but is unaware that they are indeed passul, in fact he was trying to don passul teffilin and it will not be considered as if he donned kosher ones.
Now we can understand why Yirmiyahu asked Hashem to arrange that the recipients of the tzedakah not be poor people. Giving money to one who is not a pauper is not an act of a mitzvah. If one tries to do that act he is not trying to do an action of a mitzvah, and we will not apply the gemarah to this case.
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Posted By Dovi milstein to KollelH blog at 3/04/2011 05:02:00 PM