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Would borrowing a torah book (without permission) from a shul be considered mitzvah haba b'averah if you use it to learn from ?

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  • what is the shul's policy?
    – ray
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 20:32
  • Did the person remove the book from the shul's premises, or are they using the book on-site? Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 8:51

3 Answers 3

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There are a number of different circumstances that would occur that would allow someone to use a sefer in shul without explicitly asking permission. The question however, seems to imply that someone has taken the sefer from the shul without first asking permission. Thus, using a sefer (that belongs to someone) in the shul is different than taking a sefer home from the shul without asking permission or notifying someone (such as the rav or the gabbai) who has the authority to allow it.

If this is done, you have prevented someone else from being able to use it. That is why someone who uses a sefer in shul should return it to the shelf where it belongs.

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The Mishna Berura in siman 14 sif 4 talks about borrowing a talis in a shul without permission. He brings down a number of reasons to limit the heter to do so (the Pri Megadim says that we don't rely on the chazaka of "nicha lei" when the owner is around and you could ask him; you can't take it out of the shul; there is a tumult in the poskim about how you must put it back). In the last sif katan in this sif he talks about borrowing seforim but does not talk about any of these reasons because the Rama himself asurs it based on the fact that seforim in those days were more fragile.

The Piskei Teshuvos (great sefer, highly recommended) brings down a list of four other reasons not to rely on the heter (by a talis):

A) The Mishna Berura says it's only mutar to rely on this heter "b'akrai (happenstancially)", but the geder of this is unclear.

B) Some poskim say that this heter of nicha lei only applies by a mitzvah chiyuvis (unconditionally obligatory, think of tefillin), but not by a mitzvah kiyumis (is a mitzvah only under certain conditions, think of tzitzis). And in all likelihood, it's possible to accomplish talmud Torah (assuming it's a mitzvah chiyuvis, which is not pashut) in some other way than taking your friends sefer.

C) Lots of people are makpid today on their property not to be borrowed. (See the reason he gives, lechorah it doesn't apply to seforim.)

D) The risk is high, if you don't return it properly, or if you take it out of the building, it's gzeila.

The Magen Avraham is metzayen a Rama in C"M siman 163 sif 6, at the very end of this very long Rama he brings down that he found in old takanos that it was made asur to remove seforim from the beis medresh without the permission of the owner. Also, the Shulchan Aruch Harav says outright that this heter of nicha lei doesn't apply to situations of taking the item from one house to another, as there is no chazaka that a person is okay with this.

I try to be extremely cautious about this because the isur is one of gzeila (shoel she'lo mida'as gazlan, see Bava Metzia 41a). If you don't know with certainty that the person would be okay with you borrowing their sefer, you probably shouldn't. But, (to address your question directly) it should be noted that if the sefer is in a shul it would be mutar to learn from it there (like the Rama in C"M says outright).

The following was added in an edit

I have since found in the תשובות הרי"ף (סי' קלג) that he discusses a similar case to yours.

שאלה. אחד מן התלמידים גנב ספרי פרושין לחבירו וכשתבעו ממנו נשבע שבועה חמורה שלא יחזירם לו עד שיעתיק אותם ויש מי שהורה שמותר לגנבן.

תשובה הגונב והמורה כלם טעו שלא כדין עשו שזה שהורה שמותר לעשות כן דומה לו משום שמתלמד דברי תורה שהיא מצוה היא וטעה משום שאמר לולב הגזול והיבש פסול ואתמר עלה משום דמצוה הבאה בעבירה המקום שונאה שנאמר כי ה' אוהב משפט שונא גזל בעולה וגו' הילכך הורה ליה זה בהוראותו חוטא ומחטיא והגונב יש עליו ג' לאוין אחד משום גונב ואחד משום שנשבע שלא יחזיר אותם והו"ל על דברי תורה נשבע שהיא גזלה ואחד משום גזל לפי שהוא גוזל שלא מדעת ואף על פי שהגזלה בכלל הגניבה היא אלא שנסתר בלקיחתן משום שאמר אל תגנוב את שלך מאחרי הגנב שלא תראה עליו כגנב ואם אסור בשלו כל שכן באחרים ואף אותה מצוה שנתכון לה לא עלתה בידו כמו שכתבו לולב הגזול והיבש פסול שלא עלתה בידו מצותו.

B'kitzur, the case he's dealing with is someone took another person's seforim in accordance with what he was told by a certain rabbi. When the victim of the robbery claimed his seforim back, the one who took them took a shvuah that he won't return them until he's done using them. The רי"ף said in response to this case that the one who paskened that it was mutar to take the seforim was חוטא ומחטיא and the person who took them violated three aveiros, 1) gneiva, 2) swearing against the Torah, 3) gzeila (btw, this רי"ף is a very good מראה מקום for whenever you're learning gneiva and gzeila, because he says outright that every ganav is also a gazlan, which is a very lomdish point in Perek Meruba, ואכמ"ל, ודו"ק), and another point that the רי"ף makes is that this person doesn't get שכר for the learning he may have done with these seforim (again, this is a very lomdish point in the sugya of מצוה הבאה בעבירה, see תוספות בבא קמא דף בז. ד"ה אמר עולא and the other rishonim over there).

This case may be different to the one in your question, however, because this person had no intention of giving it back when the owner asked for it, he was only going to give it back when he was done with it. In you case, in all likelihood, if the shul asked for it back you would give it back and not stomp your foot on the ground and say "but I"m still using it."

I hope this addition was helpful.

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  • It seems the OP was asking about taking the shul owned sefer home
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 13:46
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I would like to add to the above answers what Aruch HaShulchan (CM 292:34) has to say about lending out seforim:

במקום ביטול תורה, שאין ספרים נמצאים, יכולין ב"ד לכוף למי שיש לו ספרים להשאילם, ללמוד בהם, ולשלם לו בעד מה שיתקלקלו. וכן מותר מטעם זה להעתיק ספר, אף שהבעלים מקפידים. וכתיב (משלי ו:ל) "לא יבוזו לגנב כי יגנוב" זה שגונב ד"ת ומעתיקן [מדרש משלי ותוספתא ב"ק פ"ז], דבכגון זה כופין על מדת סדום. ובימינו שהספרים מצוים בדפוס לא שייך זה. ומ"מ עני ת"ח שאין לו במה ללמוד, ובעל הספר אינו רוצה להשאיל לו ספריו, גדול עונו מנשוא, ויכולין ב"ד לכופו להשאילו.

Loosely translated: In a case of Bitul Torah, where there are no seforim to be found, Beis Din can force those who have seforimto lend them, to people who will study them, and pay him if they damage. It is also permissible for this reason to copy a sefer, even though the owners strictly don't allow it. The Pasuk says (Proverbs 6:30) "A thief is not held in contempt" This is reffering to one who steals and copies Torah [Midrash of Proverbs and Tosefta 2K 16]. In such a situation, we force people not to act like Sedom (when a person does not agree to do his friend a favor that does not involve any hassle, loss or sorrow). Nowadays, that we have printed Seforim, this isn't common. However, a great scholar who is a poor man, and has nothing to study, and the owner of the sefer does not want to lend him his seforim, his punishment is too great to bear, and Bes Din can force him to lend it.

I will also add that there is a Tshuva from The Ri'eim (brought in Shu"t Maharsham, She'arim Mitzuyanim Bihalacha, Yad Malachi and Mishna Achrona) that holds that since the gemara paskens "נִיחָא לֵיהּ לְאִינִישׁ לְקַיּוֹמֵי מִצְוָה בְּמָמוֹנֵי" (Psachim 4b) that a person truly desires that mitzvos be done with his money, even if someone is standing and screaming that he doesn't let, we don't listen to him.

I hope this opens up a new perspective to how one must go about lending his seforim and all other klei kodesh, like tefiin, talis etc.

Hatzlacha!

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