When I was in Yeshiva, someone somewhere in Klal Yisrael played a practical joke. Sometime during the week of Parshas Vayeishev, a text message went around saying something to the effect of "a 17 year old boy was kidnapped by Arabs. Please daven for Yosef ben Rachel." Someone in my Yeshiva received the text message, and showed it to the Gabbai at the end of seder, who proceeded to go to the bima and lead recitation of Tehillim on behalf of this boy. The "joke" was that no one was kidnapped, and Parshas Vayeishev is when Yosef (ben Rachel) was sold through Yishmaelim down to Mitzrayim.

The inappropriateness of it notwithstanding, does this jokester get schar (reward) for having been the catalyst of the sincere recitation of many people? All of those reciting Tehillim were doing it sincerely, and they were reciting verses (so it doesn't seem to be tefillas shav). Does he get credit for having caused something positive?

We find in midrashim that there is a concept of reward even for positive acts done with negative intentions, for example Moshe was afraid to confront Og because he had the merit of having informed Avraham that Lot was kidnapped, and this despite the midrash which says that Og's intention was that Avraham should be killed in battle.

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    What would the yeshiva have been doing otherwise? Studying Torah? If recitation of extra T'hillim is a good thing, why isn't it done every day? This question requires an examination of a number of underlying issues, such as whether reciting extra T'hillim is always "something positive."
    – Fred
    May 21, 2014 at 4:00
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    I agree with Fred, since when does reciting extra tehillim count as a mitzvah? You're not commanded to do so.
    – rosenjcb
    May 21, 2014 at 4:06
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    @Fred It was at the end of seder, as noted. But you can forget the example - I'm more interested in the principle, not in the specific practical jokester in the question. Assume it meant 5 minutes less of lunch time. And that this Yeshiva says Tehillim every morning after Shacharis and seems to think it's not a waste of time. May 21, 2014 at 4:09
  • @YEZ I'm not saying that reciting T'hillim is a waste of time, but I'm questioning the assumption that the extra T'hillim at the end of seder is automatically a good thing. Perhaps the routine schedule is already designed to be spiritually optimal. Perhaps the extra T'hillim interfered with those masmidim that wanted to continue learning at the end of seder. I understand that you're interested in the principle; I'm just questioning the example.
    – Fred
    May 21, 2014 at 4:28
  • @rosenjcb Sure you are! והגית בו יומם ולילה
    – Double AA
    May 21, 2014 at 4:37

4 Answers 4


It seems that the question is: Is it the intention that gets schar or the result (action)?

For example, when a person does teshuva from ahava, all of their transgressions turn to mitzvos. Seemingly implying that it is not the intention but the end result (in which case in your scenario the jokester would receive schar).

It is known that Chabad is considers the action to be paramount, therefore even when someone has no kavvana for wearing teffilin, the action itself is enough.

Perhaps one can connect this to the greater discussion of "mitzvos tzrichos kavana"?

Rosh HaShana 28a They wrote to Shmuel's father: One who was compelled to eat matza has fulfilled his obligation…. Rav Ashi said: He was compelled by the Persians.Rava said: This implies that one who sounds (the shofar) for song has fulfilled his obligation.This is obvious - they are both the same! [EB: i.e.; there is no difference in principle between eating matza without intention and blowing shofar without intention.] I would have thought that there, the Torah says, "eat matza," and he has eaten; but here "a remembrance of sounding" ("zikhron teru'a") is written, and he is merely "mit'asek" - (and so, rejecting this possibility, Rava informs us that this distinction is not correct). Tosfos Pesachim 115a- distinguishes between different forms of mitzvos ( some requiring kavvana and others not) Rif-mitzvos require intention Baal Hamaor- Mitzvos do not require intention Raavad- Mitzvos do require intention, with the exception of eating (because he enjoys) does not require intention


Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi did a lecture on this and he showed in the Gemara where a Man who did something purposely evil and good still came out of it not only does not get a reward but we must publish to all that the person who lied is a liar.

According to the Gemara, in your case the person who sent the text should be publicly denounced as a liar with no reward.

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    If you could provide some of R' Mizrachi's sources, that would greatly improve this answer. Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Sep 21, 2014 at 2:06

The importance and relevance of reciting tehilim is a moot point to the scenario. Not deceiving others has to take precedence over all else whenever possible. "Sheker ain lo raglayim". There is nothing beloved to Hashem about a boy bringing others to daven extra through deceit. Judaism is not Machiavellian- it's not only the end that matters but the means as well.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya! Providing sources would improve your answer. Halacha seems to assume shalom overrides sheker in some circumstances, so I don't know how true your absolute statement is. (I'm not disagreeing, just pointing out you could use some reinforcement.) I hope to see you around! Jul 3, 2014 at 22:51

One does not get s'char for a mitzvah habah biaveirah, a mitzvah which would not have happened without an aveirah happening. In this case, the aveirah of embarrassing the Gabbai would prevent any s'char from saying tehillim.

  • source for claim about mitzvah habaah b'aveirah? source that this is included in that category?
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 16, 2016 at 7:16

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