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Lo Tachmod

Author: Rabbi Josh Flug
Article Date: Tuesday February 13, 2007

 
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Lo Tachmod is the last of the Ten Commandments. In the recounting of the Ten Commandments in Parshat Va'etchanan, the prohibition is formulated as lo titaveh, do not desire. This article will focus on the parameters of the prohibition of lo tachmod as well as the differences between lo tachmod and lo titaveh.

The Parameters of the Prohibition of Lo Tachmod
The Midrash, Mechilta, Yitro, Parsha no. 8, notes that one does not violate lo tachmod unless there is an action on the part of the coveter. There are three opinions among the Rishonim as to what type of action is necessary. Tosafot, Sanhedrin 25b, s.v. Me'ikara, rule that one would not violate lo tachmod if a person covets an item of another individual and acquires it by paying for it. According to Tosafot (see Tosafot, Baba Metzia 5b, s.v. B'lo Dami) the prohibition of lo tachmod is merely an additional violation that one violates if one steals an item that he covets. Rambam, Hilchot Gezeilah, 1:9, states if someone uses high-pressure tactics to convince someone else to sell him an object, he violates the prohibition of lo tachmod, even if he pays for the item. Ra'avad, ad loc., agrees with Rambam that one violates lo tachmod even if he pays for the item. However, he maintains that if the seller explicitly states that he desires to perform the sale after being pressured, there is no violation. Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 359:10, codifies the opinion of Rambam.

Rabbeinu Yonah, Sha'arei Teshuva, 3:43, notes that the prohibition of lo tachmod applies if someone pressures someone else into giving him a gift. He further states that an influential person may not ask for something from someone else (unless he knows that the giver would give wholeheartedly), because a person feels pressured to comply when an influential person asks him for something.

Rambam does not mention any prohibition with regards to coercing someone to give a gift. R. Aryeh T. Fromer, Eretz Tzvi no. 3, claims that Rambam does not mention such a prohibition because it is obvious that pressuring someone to give up an item and not compensating him for it is a violation of lo tachmod. R. Fromer's responsum is addressed to the Gerrer Rebbe (Imrei Emet), who is of the opinion that most Rishonim do not assume that there is a prohibition of lo tachmod when asking for a gift. The prohibition only applies when someone coerces someone else to sell something.

Lo Titaveh
Rambam, Hilchot Gezeilah 1:10, writes that the prohibition of lo titaveh applies if one simply calculates how he is going to coerce someone else into selling him an item. R. Betzalel Stern, B'Tzel HaChochma 3:43, explains that although lo titaveh is more stringent than lo tachmod in that no action is required and one can violate lo titaveh by thoughts alone, nevertheless one does not violate the prohibition of lo titaveh by merely desiring someone else's property and requesting to buy it. One only violates the prohibition of lo titaveh by plotting how he is going to coerce his fellow friend into selling the item.

R. Noach C. Berlin, Ma'ayan HaChocma (pg. 12a, note 76) suggests that there is an instance where one can violate lo tachmod without violating lo titaveh. If one covets an item not for himself, but for a friend or relative, and uses high-pressure tactics to acquire the item, R. Berlin suggests that he does not violate the prohibition of lo titaveh because he does not desire the item himself. However, he does violate the prohibition of lo tachmod because the prohibition of lo tachmod is focused on the action rather than the intent.

Another Man's Wife
The Torah, both in Parshat Yitro and in Parshat Va'etchanan, mentions the prohibition of lo tachmod in reference to coveting another man's wife (eshet rei'ehu). Rambam, however, lists eshet rei'ehu in the context of lo titaveh and not lo tachmod (see Hilchot Gezeilah 1:9-10). Why does Rambam assign eshet rei'ehu to lo titaveh when the Torah specifically assigns eshet rei'ehu to lo tachmod?

Minchat Chinuch no. 39, suggests that since the prohibition of eshet rei'ehu is listed explicitly in the verse regarding lo tachmod and it is only inferred regarding lo titaveh, Rambam only found it necessary to list eshet rei'ehu regarding lo titaveh. S'ma 359:19, suggests that the reason why Rambam lists eshet rei'ehu in the context of lo titaveh is that in order to violate lo tachmod on eshet rei'ehu, one would have to coerce someone else to divorce his wife and then marry her. In order to violate lo titaveh for eshet rei'ehu one would merely have to plot how to coerce someone to divorce his wife. Since the lo titaveh scenario is much more likely, Rambam only codified that scenario. However, if a person were successful in coercing someone to divorce his wife in order to marry her, he would certainly violate the prohibition of lo tachmod as well.

Does Lo Tachmod Apply to a Tzedakah Collector?

Those who collect tzedakah often use high-pressure tactics in order to convince people to give money. Do these collectors violate the prohibition of lo tachmod? The Gerrer Rebbe, op. cit., assumes that there is no prohibition and states that the absence of a prohibition against a tzedakah collector using high-pressure tactics proves that there is no prohibition of lo tachmod for pressuring someone else to give a gift. R. Fromer, op. cit., who disagrees with the Gerrer Rebbe on the issue of gifts, responds that the reason why it is permissible for a tzedakah collector to use high-pressure tactics is that there is an obligation to give tzedakah. Therefore, anyone who gives tzedakah, even if they are pressured into giving, really gives wholeheartedly. [R. Fromer's logic would only apply to forms of charity that beit din can force someone to give. If beit din would not be able to force someone to give, that form of tzedakah is not obligatory and one cannot apply this logic.]

R. Zalman N. Goldberg, Kovetz Beit Aharon V'Yisrael Vol. 82, suggests that the reason why it is permissible for a tzedakah collector to use high pressure tactics is that the tzedakah collector is not asking for a specific item. Rather, he is asking for money. The prohibition of lo tachmod only applies when one desires a specific item and uses high-pressure tactics to procure that item from its owner. R. Goldberg further states that if lo tachmod would apply to money, it would be prohibited for a salesman to try to convince someone to buy his product since doing so would also entail trying to procure the buyer's money. Since we find no mention of lo tachmod in the context of selling an item, one must conclude that lo tachmod does not apply to one who attempts to procure money from someone else. [See R. Meir Zitzman, Kovetz Beit Aharon V'Yisrael Vol. 81, who claims that Rabbeinu Asher, Teshuvot HaRosh 95:1, is of the opinion that one violates the prohibition of lo titaveh by plotting to procure someone else's money. In the opinion of this author, R. Zitzman's inference from the comments of Rabbeinu Asher is not compelling. R. Shaul Berlin, in his controversial work Besamim Rosh, no. 362, does espouse the view that one can violate lo tachmod by pressuring someone to sell something, even if it is not a specific item.]