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I assume that an adult with the general mental capacity of a child of around 6 months is free from mitzvos. Would there be any benefit to (the neshomo of) this adult in getting his body to do mitzvos like tzitzis or tefillin asuming that his body was clean for the requisite period ?

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    The question that you've asked is not really answerable. If there are particular reasons that you've heard why he "shouldn't" that you'd like to find rebuttals for, please include those here. As it is, you're simply asking us to cherry-pick arguments that probably don't hold much weight on their own. I have voted to close this question for now. Assuming it does get closed, you can still edit the question to be clearer and then the question can be re-opened. – Daniel Dec 21 '15 at 14:26
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    related judaism.stackexchange.com/a/61864/1362 for why not. – rosends Dec 21 '15 at 14:28
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    @LN6595 Our job isn't to provide kulot. In any case, even if it was, we need to understand what the issue is in the first place. What are we trying to prove? The Torah says "וקשרתם לאות על ידך והיו לטטפת בין עיניך". That sounds like a reason why someone "should" put tefillin on. Is that a good enough reason for the OP? If not, why not? It doesn't address any potential issues with that person wearing tefillin but the OP specifically says he/she doesn't care to hear about those issues. – Daniel Dec 21 '15 at 17:56
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    I am not so sure it should be closed so quickly. I was looking into the discussion that Danno quoted. There is a conversation there about whether Mitzvos Tzrichos Kavvana. There may also be the concept of the Neshomo and that even someone who is both physcially unable to put on Tefilin and mentally unable to understand what he is doing nevertheless his Neshomo may benefit from the activity. I was wondering if anyone had some insight or source material to clarify this. I was't looking for a P'sak but rather insight and "reid". – user2817 Dec 21 '15 at 18:08
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    This depends on whether one view the mitzvos as theurgic rituals (as per the kabbalah) or as acts designed to improve man and society ethically and intellectually. (Rambam) if one adopts the latter view then it s certainly pointless to perform the act of a mitzva when it is not required and the performer is not aware. On the other hand, if one adopts the former view then it is conceivable that the act itself has supernatural implication. In this realm it is not inconceivable that the act of one who is not required to perform a mitzvah, or aware of its performance, would achieve results. – mevaqesh Dec 22 '15 at 15:19
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What you're describing sounds like the halachos category known as a "shoteh," a mentally disabled person, who, as you correctly assumed, is not obligated in mitzvos.

At first glance, you might point out that one still gains reward for doing mitzvos in which he or she is not obligated in, albeit less than that which a sane person gets (Kiddushin 31).

However, this isn't entirely true. The reason a deaf-mute, minor, and crazy person are not obligated in mitzvos is because of their lack of da'as, knowledge of what they're doing. It's for this reason that if they were to light Menorah, they wouldn't be accomplishing anything (Shabbos 23a), that they can't take Terumah (Mishnah Terumos 1:1), that one who sends a fire in their hand is only morally responsible but can't be held liable in Beis Din (BK 59b), etc. Thus, it would seem that they wouldn't be accomplishing anything by putting on Tefillin and Tzitzis.

This Halacha is said more explicitly in Erchin (2b):

הכל חייבין בציצית לאיתויי מאי לאיתויי קטן היודע להתעטף דתניא קטן היודע להתעטף חייב בציצית הכל חייבין בתפילין לאיתויי מאי לאיתויי קטן היודע לשמור תפלין דתניא קטן היודע לשמור תפלין אביו לוקח לו תפלין

"All are obligated in Tzitzis" - ["all"] comes to include what? To include a minor who is able to wrap ... "All are obligated in Tefillin" - ["all"] comes to include what? To include a minor who is able to guard his Tefillin ...

We see from here that there's a certain level of da'as required for your particular examples. If your crazy person is able to wrap himself in a Tallis, go for it. But if he has the mentality of a 6-month old, he's more likely to choke himself on the strings.

  • Thus, it would seem that they wouldn't be accomplishing anything by putting on Tefillin and Tzitzis. How does one follow from the other? The OP seems to be asking about some mystical benefit to their soul. – mevaqesh Aug 5 '16 at 18:07
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    I thought I made that clear at the end. Since a shoteh doesn't have da'as, he can't fulfill mitzvos, and so even if he does the action, he won't get any schar for it. (Reading "mystical benefit" as "schar in Olam HaBa.") – DonielF Aug 5 '16 at 18:12
  • The end does not answer the question either. Arachin, just says that one is not mechuyav in the mitzvah. It does not address, whether there is a kiyyum mitzvah nonetheless, it certainly does not address whether there is heavenly reward, and it certainly certainly does not address whether there is any mystical benefit to the soul. – mevaqesh Aug 5 '16 at 18:16
  • But it makes clear that you need a certain level of da'as to perform the mitzvah; otherwise, why should any Katan be mechuyav? – DonielF Aug 5 '16 at 18:45
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Arachin 2b:

הכל חייבין בציצית לאיתויי מאי לאיתויי קטן היודע להתעטף דתניא קטן היודע להתעטף חייב בציצית הכל חייבין בתפילין לאיתויי מאי לאיתויי קטן היודע לשמור תפלין דתניא קטן היודע לשמור תפלין אביו לוקח לו תפלין

"All are obligated in Tzitzis" - ["all"] comes to include what? To include a minor who is able to wrap ... "All are obligated in Tefillin" - ["all"] comes to include what? To include a minor who is able to guard his Tefillin ...

I realise that my learning is not on the same level as the responders here. It seems to me that if the Torah gives an unqualified ALL then the question is answered and doesn't require further discussion.

  • You should explain where your quotation came from by specific citation. – Yaacov Deane May 8 '18 at 14:58
  • The Gemara you quote says that the word “all” is extra and so it comes to include a specific type of person - a child who’s able to wrap. “All” is not intended to be taken as literally as you intend it to. See my answer for more information. – DonielF May 8 '18 at 16:13
  • I’ve gone ahead and reformatted the block quotes, so that the quotes are actually in the block and so that the word “blockquote” doesn’t actually appear in this post. – DonielF May 8 '18 at 16:14
  • I am merely taking the quotation cited by @DanielF above. – Yerucham David ben Mordecai May 9 '18 at 17:55
  • There in nothing in the Halacha quoted that even remotely refers to da'as. I would think that you would give the benefit of the doubt positively and NOT negatively. – Yerucham David ben Mordecai May 9 '18 at 17:58

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