Someone asked me a riddle: what mitzva can be done without kavana? Answer: Shikcha.

I contended that the mitzva is the act of seeing what was forgotten and not going back to collect it, therefore it is done with kavana.

Do you have any proof either way?

Would the act of forgetting fall under the categor of 'misasek' (edit - maybe misasek is not the correct term? I was taught that if you are walking indoors and by mistake your body or clothing flips a light switch, there is no sin, and this is called misasek. Your main action was walking, an unintended 'side action' was flipping the switch. That's what I was referring to - here also, your main action is to collect the wheat, the unintended act of forgetting would be considered misasek, if what I've been taught is true)? Actions that are considered 'misasek' are normally not attributed to the one who did them. Perhaps this is proof that the mitzva is the act of not going back, for if it were the act of forgetting it would be misasek and there would be no kiyum mitzva.

  • Is it a mitzva or a lav? What would the Mitzva be: to forget it? Why should anyone think this joke riddle is based in an authentic position or is at all defensible? You're asking for defense of a position which not only seems laughable but was actually presented as a joke!
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 22:26
  • @DoubleAA As someone said in another answer, there is both a mitzva and a lav. The riddle was not at all a joke (in fact see the other answers that provide several sources that the riddle is indeed correct). I was using the riddle to demonstrate the two possibilities, and the question was if there is proof either way. So I am not asking for defense of any position, just if there is any proof one way or another. You seem to believe that one position doesn't make sense and must be wrong, but like I said, other answers have provided sources that that position is correct. Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 6:06
  • @DoubleAA If you would like to know the source of the riddle, someone told it to me from a sefer called Kuntres Hayedios that they found online. Whether or not that counts as a source..... Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 6:09
  • No source was brought supporting the riddle. Just people misunderstanding things unfortunately. I'm sorry they confused you.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 12:19

3 Answers 3


The Tosefta (Peah 3:8) seems to support the person who asked you the riddle:

מעשה בחסיד אחד ששכח עומר בתוך שדהו ואמ' לבנו צא והקריב עלי פר לעולה ופר לשלמים אמ' לו אבא מה ראית לשמוח במצוה זו מכל מצות האמורות בתורה אמ' לו כל מצות שבתורה נתן לנו המקום לדעתנו זו שלא לדעתנו שאילו עשינוה ברצון לפני המקום לא באת מצוה זו לידינו אמ' לו הרי הוא או' כי תקצור קצירך וגו' קבע לו הכת' ברכה והלא דברים קל וחומר מה אם מי שלא נתכוון לזכות וזכה מעלין עליו כאילו זכה המתכוין לזכות וזכה על אחת כמה וכמה כיוצא בו ואם נפש כי תחטא ועשתה וג' והביא איל תמים וג' והלא דברים קל וחומר מה אם מי שלא נתכוון לחטוא ולא חטא מעלין עליו כאילו חטא המתכון לחטוא וחטא על אחת כמה וכמה

Basically, there was a guy who was exceedingly happy when he fulfilled the mitzvah of Shikcha. He explained that his happiness was on account of the fact that this is the only mitzvah that can only be done unintentionally.

The riddle form of this (which may or may not be what the question here was referring to) is mentioned by R. Ezekiel Feivel, where he tells how there was a gathering of great scholars at which one of them mentioned that a scholar once told him that there is one mitzvah that the more you chase it the more it eludes you, and only when you stop trying to fulfill it can you possibly attain it. All the scholars present were unable to come up with the answer, until R. Zalman of Vilna told them that it is an explicit Tosefta.

Toldos Adam Chapter 5

פעם אחת ישבו מסיבה של תלמידי חכמים מובהקים ובתוכם התייר הגדול ההולך לפני מחנה העבריים הצדיק ר' זלמן ענה אחד מהם ואמר הנה שמעתי בימי חרפי מחכם אחד שאמר מצוה אחת יש בתורה בכל עת שמתעמץ האדם לעשותה היא בורחת ממנו ואינו משיגה לעולם אולם כאשר יסיח דעתו ממנה ישיגנה לפעמים לקיים אותה ועד זקנה ועד שיבה כוונת החכם ההוא היא כמו אוצר נעלם ממני ויחרישו כולם כי לא מצאו מענה ויען ר' זלמן ויאמר כנים דברי החכם הזה ותוספתא מפורשת היא וזה לשונה

R. Yechiel Michel Epstein also notes the uniqueness of this mitzvah, and goes so far as to imply that the fulfillment of this mitzvah is entirely a gift from God.

Aruch Hashulchan H'asid Hilchos Peah 9:1

ומשונה מצוה זו מכל מצות שבתורה שכל מצות שבתורה אין באים אלא על ידי זכירה כדכתיב וזכרתם את כל מצות ד' ועשיתם אותם ואם נשכח לא נעשה המצוה ומצוה זו היא להיפך שא"א לקיים המצוה רק ע"י שכחה והקב"ה זיכהו במצוה זו

Perhaps somewhat relevant, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach implies a possibility that mitzvos bein adam l'chaveiro do not require kavanah in the first place.

Shu"t Minchas Shlomo siman 1

והוא דומה קצת למי שהחזיר אבידה אי נתן שכר שכיר בזמנו ואמר בפירוש שאין כוונתו למצוה דאע"ג דלמ"ד מצות צריכות כוונה לא קעביד שום מצוה – אם נאמר הכי גם במצות שכליות שבין אדם לחבירו – מ"מ גם ביטול עשה אין כאן וה"נ בנד"ד

Though even if this is true, it might be only talking about not having kavanah to fulfill the mitzvah, but there at least must be kavanah to do the action.

However, there is another source that indicates that the mitzvah is fulfilled even if the person doesn't realize that anything happened.

Sifrei Deuteronomy 283

א"ר אלעזר בן עזריה מניי' למאבד סלע מתוך ידו ומצא' עני והלך ונתפרנס בה מעלה עליו הכתו' כאילו זכה ת"ל לגר ליתום ולאלמנה יהיה והרי דברים קל וחומר מי שלא נתכוון לזכות מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו זכה מי שנתכוון לזכות על אחת כמה וכמה

The Midrash apparently derives this from the very verse about Shikcha.

  • I don't see how that supports the riddle. The Mitzva still only applies when he notices that he forgot and chooses not to go back. He's just happy that he now has that opportunity. Where do you see that he fulfills something before remembering? Don't confuse amazement and the prerequisite of forgetting with it being a Mitzva.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 12:23
  • The AhSh is just saying the opportunity to fulfill it is a gift from God. That doesn't seem relevant...
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 13:00
  • @DoubleAA The way the riddle was formulated and answered in the Toldos Adam does not rely on the premise that you fulfilled it before you realize anything. It is possible that the person in the question here also meant it this way, and it is just not written precisely (or the person didn't say it precisely). However, I do think that the Tosefta does actually indicate that there is some sort of fulfillment (and reward) even without realizing, based on the kal v'chomer it makes at the end.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 13:02
  • @DoubleAA The relevance of the Aruch Hashulchan is that it is basically the same as the riddle as formulated in the Toldos Adam.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 13:04
  • The Tosefta is indeed interesting. It's not clear it implies fulfillment of anything and reward-wise it perhaps is only in cases where you knew about it and let it remain. What if you accidentally forgot money in the field and a poor person found it? Would there be reward then? What if you never knew you lost it? (The Choshen Mishpat aspect of not needing Yiush is also intriguing) In general the issue of what constitutes "fulfilling" a Lav and by extension a Isur Aseh (/passive Aseh) is interesting. Remember in any case where you never found out about forgetting there is no active Aseh to do
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 21:06

You and your friend are both correct that there are 2 Mitzvos, Lo saase - to not return to collect the forgotten sheafs (which is liable to lashes should you burn your field and not be able to replace) , and Asei - they should be (devarim 24,19) for the poor. Either by being passive to not pick up the sheaf or replace them if you have already gone back, taken them, and can still recover them.

Rambam Matnos aniyim 1,5: וכן המעמר ושכח אלומה אחת בשדה הרי זה לא יקחנה שנאמר ושכחת עומר בשדה לא תשוב לקחתו עבר ולקטו אפילו טחנו ואפאו הרי זה נותנו לעניים שנאמר לגר ליתום ולאלמנה יהיה זו מצות עשה הא למדת שכולן מצות לא תעשה הניתק לעשה הן ואם לא קיים עשה שבהן לוקה.

Rashi in Parshas Ki seitze 24, 19 says that Leket and Shikcha you fulfill the Mitzvah even without realising I. e your still oblivious even after the poor man picked it up : למען יברכך" - (ספרי) ואע"פ שבאת לידו שלא במתכוין ק"ו לעושה במתכוין אמור מעתה נפלה סלע מידו ומצאה עני ונתפרנס בה הרי הוא מתברך עליה rav Dovid Pardo's peirush on the Sifri which rashi quotes (18 century) here http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=24650&st=&pgnum=572&hilite= says that there is no need for the baal habayis to remember at all, the mere picking up of the poor man is a mitzva.

This is different from a regular Mitzvah where you do an action purposefully but don't have kavana like putting on Tephilin and not thinking about the sign of our subordination to Hashem and on this we pasken Mitzvah don't need kavana (intention). This is the basic conclusion of a complicated subject discussed here http://etzion.org.il/en/role-kavana-performance-mitzva

Misasek is completely irrelevant here, as it is applies where you aim a stone to kill one guy and kill another guy instead, the action and intent are there, you just misfired. See kesubos tosfos 35a.

  • Rambams second mitzva isn't what the friend was talking about. You seem to be misunderstanding what is going on. The second mitzva applies after you remember that you had forgotten one.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 12:26
  • The Torah says Veshachachta omer basadeh the Mitzvah is to forget that's why the Rambam calls it Shikcha because there is no Mitzvah if you didn't forget. But if you do go back you can still fulfil the Asei by replacing the sheaf.
    – user15464
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 14:02
  • "There is no mitzva if you don't forget" is not the same as "the mitzva is to forget". Again I think you're misunderstanding things greatly. The Rambam just says if you forget then don't go back for it and leave it there. There is no mitzva to forget. There is a mitzva to leave the bundle that was forgotten where it is. It's more of an Issur Aseh, unless you already took it which is obviously only after you forgot about it.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 17:10
  • Forgetting completely to pick up the sheaf is definitely a Mitzvah as the poor man gets his sheaf, it's only when you remember that you shouldn't go back but the common denominator is that an Asei is fulfilled when it will be for the poor @Double AA
    – user15464
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 21:22
  • @user15464 "Forgetting completely to pick up the sheaf is definitely a Mitzvah" You seem to have made this up out of thin air with no basis at all. No source you have brought suggests such a thing. The verses don't say it. The Rambam doesn't say it. No one says it. The Rambam just says that if you forgot it there you can't take it and if you took it you have to give it. Who said anything about if you never knew you left it there? What Mitzva did you do? If the Asei applied before the Lav, then why is the Lav Nitak Lah? What Rashi are you referencing here?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 21:28

[I am aware that this answer argues the opposite of my other answer.]

If the person who asked you this riddle meant that the guy can fulfill the mitzvah simply by forgetting (i.e. if he never realizes that he left anything and does not even know that someone took it), it would seem to be contradicted by the Talmud elsewhere.

The Mishna in Kiddushin 39b states:

כל העושה מצוה אחת מטיבין לו ומאריכין לו ימיו ונוחל את הארץ וכל שאינו עושה מצוה אחת אין מטיבין לו ואין מאריכין לו ימיו ואינו נוחל את הארץ


The Talmud there analyzes this:

רמי רב טובי בר רב קיסנא לרבא תנן כל העושה מצוה אחת מטיבין לו עשה אין לא עשה לא ורמינהי ישב ולא עבר עבירה נותנים לו שכר כעושה מצוה אמר ליה התם כגון שבא דבר עבירה לידו וניצול הימנה

R. Tobi son of R. Kisna pointed out a contradiction to Raba: We learnt: HE WHO PERFORMS ONE PRECEPT IS WELL REWARDED; hence, only if he [actively] performs it, but not otherwise. But the following contradicts this: If he sits and commits no transgression he is rewarded as though he has fulfilled a precept! — Said he to him: There it means, e.g., that he was tempted and successfully resisted. (Soncino translation)

Rashi there explains that you get rewarded for not doing an aveira when an opportunity to do one is presented to you and you overcome the temptation to do it:

התם שבא דבר עבירה לידו. ההוא ישב ולא עבר עבירה דקאמר נוטל עליה שכר בעבירה שבא לידו וכפה יצרו ולא עבר אין מצוה יתירה מזו

In the case of one who does not know that he left sheaves behind, how is it any better than anyone else who was ישב ולא עבר עבירה, for which the Talmud concludes there is no reward? Only if the person knows that he forgot the sheaves and he still does not go back to retrieve them, would he then be in the category of בא דבר עבירה לידו וניצול הימנה for which the Talmud states that he would receive reward.

Additionally, the Sefer Hachinuch states (mitzvah # 592) explicitly that the positive commandment is to leave the sheaves once you are made aware that you forgot them:

שנצטוינו כשנשכח עומר בשדה להניחו שם ולא נשוב לקחתו כשיודע אלינו הדבר

  • The difference is that here this is a mitzvas aseh, the gemara you reference is talking about where there is no positive mitzva, only an aveira. Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 3:16
  • @user3148057 There is a לא תעשה here as well so the Gemara in Kiddushin should certainly apply to that. And is there any reason to think that an עשה would be different? This is a pretty unique case in that you fulfill an עשה by not doing something. And was the riddle referring to the לא תעשה or the עשה? If the לא תעשה, then Kiddushin is certainly relevant; if the עשה, the Sefer Hachinuch explicitly states that the mitzvah is once you find out about it.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 3:32
  • did you mention the Sefer Hachinuch in any of your answers? It would seem to be very relevant to the question. Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 4:44
  • @user3148057 I just edited into this one.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 4:51
  • 1
    "Its anyway an exception to the way a 'normal' mitzva is performed in that you do it without knowing" That is the very question under discussion. I am arguing that we see from Kiddushin that simply not doing something should not count as anything, unless the person had a specific challenge to do something.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 4:57

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