Bal Tosif

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There is a negative mitzvah not to add onto the mitzvot of the Torah as it says in the pasuk "אֵת כָּל־הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם אֹתוֹ תִשְׁמְרוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת לֹא־תֹסֵף עָלָיו וְלֹא תִגְרַע מִמֶּנּוּ". [1]

Nature of the Prohibition

  1. Some say that the prohibition means that one may not permanently establish a new mitzvah.[2] Some say that it a Bet Din declares that a rabbinic prohibition is actually a biblical one they are in violation of Baal Tosif.[3] Others disagree.[4]
    1. Similarly, some say that doing a mitzvah that one is exempt from is bal tosif.[5] Others disagree.[6]
  2. Some say that the prohibition includes fulfilling a mitzvah in an expanded or enlarged manner.[7]
    1. For example, fulfilling the mitzvah of Daled Minim with five minim or wearing tzitzit with more than 8 strings is an issue of Bal Tosif.[8]
    2. For example, sprinkling a korban's blood more times than necessary can be a violation of Bal Tosif.[9]

Repeating a Mitzvah

  1. Some say that there's no prohibition of Baal Tosif to repeat a mitzvah several times.[10] Some disagree.[11]
    1. Some say that saying Shema at night before its time with intent to fulfill the mitzvah is Baal Tosif while others argue that there can't be Baal Tosif to say Shema since it is learning Torah.[12]
    2. The Sephardic minhag to say Sefirat Haomer in the morning besides the night is an example of this.[13]
    3. Saying Kedusha multiple times a day isn't Baal Tosif.[14]

There Is a Doubt to Do Something

  1. Some say that there is no bal tosif when one is doing an action to avoid a safek.[15] Others disagree.[16]
  2. Some say that if there is a mixture of items and for some doing something would be a mitzvah and for others it would be a sin of bal tosif there is no prohibition of bal tosif whenever there is a mixture.[17]

Following the Rabbis

  1. There is no issue of Baal Tosif when one's intention is to follow the Rabbis such as by keeping a second day of Yom Tov.[18]

Intention Not to Fulfill the Mitzvah

  1. If it isn't the time of the mitzvah there's no way to violate Baal Tosif unless one has intention to fulfill the mitzvah then.[19]
    1. For example, sleeping or eating in the Sukkah before Sukkot isn't an issue of Baal Tosif if one doesn't have intention to fulfill the mitzvah. Additionally there is no appearance to adding onto the mitzvah since the mitzvah didn't start yet.[20]
  2. Similarly, eating Matzah the night before Pesach is not baal tosif if one doesn't intend to add to the mitzvah.[21]
    1. Sleeping in the Sukkah any day of the year besides Sukkot, if one intends to fulfill the mitzvah could be bal tosif according to some rishonim. However, if one doesn't intend to fulfill the mitzvah it isn't bal tosif.[22]


  1. Devarim 13:1, Rambam (Sefer HaMtizvot Lavin n. 313), Sefer HaChinuch 454
  2. Ramban Devarim 4:2, Rambam (Mamrim 2:9)
  3. Rambam Mamrim 2:9, Ramban Dvarim 4:2
  4. Raavad Mamrim 2:9
  5. Rashi Rosh Hashana 33a s.v. ha nashim
  6. Maharsha Rosh Hashana 33a disagrees with Rashi since doing an mitzvah one is exempt from isn't adding onto any mitzvah. Also, Tosfot Eruvin 96a s.v. michal write in opposition to Rashi that woman wearing tefillin isn't bal tosif. Rav Zalman Sender in Haghot Turei Even Rosh Hashana 16a writes that perhaps the Maharsha and Tosfot held like the Turei Even Rosh Hashana 16a that there is only bal tigra for doing a mitzvah in an incomplete fashion and not neglecting a mitzvah entirely. Rashi could agree with the Rashba Rosh Hashana that there is bal tigra for neglecting a mitzvah entirely.
  7. See examples below and Encyclopedia Talmudit "Bal Tosif"
  8. Sifrei Devarim 13:1
  9. Zevachim 80a, Eruvin 100a, Rosh Hashana 28b
  10. Tosfot Rosh Hashana 16b says it in reference to blowing extra shofar blowings on Rosh Hashana or picking up the Lulav several times in a day. Tosfot Rosh Hashana 28b and Tosfot Harosh Rosh Hashana 28b agree.
  11. Rashba Rosh Hashana 16a, Turei Even Rosh Hashana 16b
  12. Igrot Moshe 2:60 s.v. umah writes the Mishna Brurah implies that there's Baal Tosif if one says Shema too early with intent to fulfill the mitzvah therefore one should have intent not to fulfill the mitzvah. Rav Moshe argues that Shema is essentially a piece of Torah and there's prohibition to relearn Torah multiple times. See Chavot Daat Bet Hasafek Safek Safeka n. 20 who writes that saying Shema twice even within the obligated time is prohibited.
  13. Yalkut Yosef 489:25. See however, Teshuvot Vehanhagot 2:247 who says it is Baal Tosif.
  14. Rashba Teshuva 1:249, Rama O.C. 125:2
  15. Tosfot Yeshanim Yoma 58b and Shitah Mikubeset Zevachim 80a learn from Rabbi Yehoshua who says that there is no bal tosif for blood in a mixture since there is a doubt if one needs to sprinkle it. Their language is very general and seems to permit bal tosif for any case of a doubt. Meiri Rosh Hashana 28b echoes this idea.
  16. Turei Even Rosh Hashana 28b argues with Tosfot considering that if there was no bal tosif anytime there was a doubt why would there have been a question of bal tosif to sleep in the sukkah on the 8th of sukkot outside Israel. Taharat Hakodesh Zevachim 80a distinguishes that in a case of a doubt because of a mixture it is acceptable to do an action because of a doubt. That is because each action one is doing can be justified. [Note that the Gemara Zevachim 81a accepts that the Mishna could even be speaking about a case of individual cups of blood that are mixed and not just if the blood mixed together in one cup.] However, if there is no mixture such as a case of sleeping in the sukkah on the eighth of sukkot that is forbidden because of bal tosif even though there is a doubt.
  17. Rabbi Eliezer in Zevachim 80a states that there is no question of bal tosif when there is a mixture. Rabbi Yehoshua responds that there is no bal tigra in a mixture. Considering that we follow Rabbi Yehoshua (Rambam Psulei Mukdashin 2:11), did Rabbi Yehoshua accept Rabbi Eliezer's argument?
    • Why would Rabbi Yehoshua think that you shouldn't sprinkle the last three sprinklings if there is no bal tosif in a mixture?
    • Perhaps he didn't really hold of that idea and indeed there is bal tosif with blood in the mixture. That is the position of the Or Same'ach Psulei Mukdashin 2:11. He explains that It isn’t even bal tigra when it is in a tarovet since there’s a reason you’re not doing anything here since you can’t in fear of violating bal tigra. However, for bal tosif what justification do you have to do an action that can violate bal tosif just because of the other mitzvah.
    • However, the Tosfot Harosh Rosh Hashana 28b argues that Rabbi Yehoshua held of the first reason and merely suggested another reason to be passive even if one didn’t accept the first argument. Tosfot Rosh Hashana 28b too take this approach and explain that Rabbi Yehoshua held that there is no bal tosif when the blood is in the mixture but nonetheless he held it is better to be passive. Also, Tosfot Yeshanim Yoma 58b and Ritva there quote this first reason of Rabbi Yehoshua as conclusive. Why would he advise being passive if there is no prohibition at stake and there is an opportunity for a mitzvah? The Taharat Hakodesh Zevachim 80a s.v. matniten explains that once the blood of the korban is mixed with other blood there is no more mitzvah to sprinkle the other sprinklings after he did the first one. That is why there is no more of a reason to do them after we establish that there is no bal tigra when the blood in a mixture.
    • Therefore, it seems that most rishonim including Tosfot, Tosfot Harosh, Tosfot Yeshanim, and Ritva hold that in fact Rabbi Yehoshua held that there is no bal tosif when there is a mixture.
  18. Rashba Rosh Hashana 16a, Ritva Rosh Hashana 28b, Igrot Moshe 2:60 s.v. umah. However, the Turei Even Rosh Hashana 16a disagrees. He asks how a rabbinic enactment can permit a biblical prohibition. See Bal Tigra page where the Imrei Baruch's answer is discussed.
  19. Rosh Hashana 28b. Abaye says that if you need kavana for mitzvot then you can’t violate bal tosif without kavana to add a mitzvah. If you don’t need kavana for mitzvot then you can violate bal tosif even without kavana at the time of the mitzvah; but if it isn’t the time of the mitzvah you need kavana to violate bal tosif. Rava agrees to the end of what Abaye said. Ritva Yoma 57a accepts this gemara that if it isn’t the time of the mitzvah if one doesn’t have kavana one doesn’t violate bal tosif and if it is the time of the mitzvah if one doesn’t have kavana, if mitzvot need kavana one doesn’t violate bal tosif but if mitzvot don’t need kavana one does violate bal tosif. Tosfot Yeshanim Yoma 58b and Ramban (Milchamot Hashem Rosh Hashana 7a) agree.
  20. Chazon Ovadia Sukkot p. 481 citing Shalmat Yosef 12, Shem Chadash 22b
  21. Igrot Moshe OC 1:155 based on Rosh Hashana 28b, Chazon Ovadia Pesach p. 187, Chazon Ovadia Sukkot p. 481. Rav Moshe argues that there is no bal tosif eating matzah before pesach since one doesn't intend to fulfill the mitzvah and it isn't the time of the mitzvah. Rav Ovadia adds that before the mitzvah begins, even on Erev Pesach, is not considered the time of the mitzvah. See Yabia Omer OC 9:62.
  22. Kuntres Bal Tosif by Rav Zachrish p. 48 writes that seemingly there would be bal tosif when sleeping in a sukkah any day of the year if they have intent to add to the mitzvah. Otherwise there is no bal tosif. Rama 666:1 writes that there's no derabbanan marit ayin of bal tosif except on Shemini Aseret. Ritva Sukkah 31b holds that there's no bal tosif unless the days are consecutive otherwise it doesn't add on to a mitzvah. However, that is a dispute among the rishonim (Kovetz Shiurim 2:33). Rogachover in Shalmat Yosef 12 writes that before Sukkot it isn't any derabbanan question of bal tosif either way since the mitzvah didn't happen yet so you can't be adding on to it. However, the Kuntres Bal Tosif questioned the Rogachover since there is bal tosif on a Sukkah after Sukkot even if one didn't sit in the Sukkah for all of Sukkot, so too before Sukkot the Sukkah is designated for the mitzvah.