The Ends Do Not Justify the Means

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Korach 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Must the Mitzvot of the Torah be fulfilled at any price? Even at the cost of committing sins along the way?
Answer: The Master of the Universe does not desire that we perform Mitzvot if to do so we must commit wrongful deeds. If it is impossible for us to perform a Mitzvah without first performing a sin, G-d foregoes that Mitzvah.
Fortunate is he who performs the Mitzvah of Lulav, but not with a stolen Lulav. “For I am Hashem who loves justice and hates burnt offerings involving theft” (Yeshayahu 61:8). Our Sages comment, “Even for the sake of bringing G-d a burnt offering one must not steal” (Sukkah
30). The Talmud there adds: “A mortal king was once passing by the tax offices. He said to his servants, ‘Give this money to the tax collectors,’ and they replied, ‘Surely all the tax money is yours.’ The king then said, ‘From me all passersby will learn not to evade taxes.’ G-d likewise said, ‘I am Hashem who hates burnt offerings involving theft.’ My children will learn from Me and they will make themselves flee from theft.”
Even for a Mitzvah performed for the Supreme King of Kings one must not steal -- neither in order to construct Shuls and study houses, nor to support Yeshivot and Jewish day schools. If we maintain such standards, then everyone will learn to view as obvious the fact that one must not steal for any other reason.
The Jerusalem Talmud contains a still sharper parable: “A person brought a gift to the king, yet it became clear to the king that the gift was an object that had been stolen from the king himself. Woe to the one whose defender became his accuser!” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkah, Ch. 3). Not only is a good deed that is achieved through a sin not a good deed, but it is itself transformed into a sin.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato stresses that when an employee does Mitzvot on his work time, that is likewise considered theft and it is not acceptable before G-d: “Even if someone performed a Mitzvah during his work time, it will not be attributed to him as a righteous act, but as a sin, for no sin can be a Mitzvah. Scripture states, ‘I am Hashem who hates burnt offerings involving theft.’ In the same regard our Sages said: If someone stole a bushel of wheat, ground it up and baked bread, and he recited a blessing over it, he is not blessing G-d but cursing Him, as it says, ‘When the greedy wretch blesses G-d, he curses Him’ (Tehilim 10:3.  Baba Kamma 94).
Of such instances it is said, ‘Woe to this person whose defender has become his accuser.’ Moreover, we have our Sages’ ruling regarding use of a stolen Lulav.  What I said about doing Mitzvot on work time makes sense. After all, if stealing an object is considered theft, then stealing time is as well. Just as when one steals an object and performs a Mitzvah, his defender becomes his accuser, so too, when one steals time and uses it to perform a Mitzvah, his defender becomes his accuser. G-d desires nothing more than trustworthiness” (Mesilat Yesharim, Chapter 11).
Whenever we are about to eat bread, or pray, we must wash our hands ritually. In the same way, before any act of holiness we must make certain that our hands are clean. Maran Ha-Rav Kook writes: “A person must always make sure that his goals are pure and holy, and that his means of achieving those goals are pure and holy as well” (Olat Re’eiyah 2, 257).
He further writes: “There are good and holy entities in the world whose foundations of support are unseemly. For example, weakness, falsehood and wickedness can sometimes lend support to such fine principles as shyness, modesty and faith. Yet, just as favors performed by the wicked for the righteous only harm the righteous (Yevamot 103), so too, goodness bolstered by evil and impurity is actually profaned greatly by them.
The light of Redemption cannot be actualized until all the evil foundations are destroyed, even those that support goodness and holiness.
And even though, as a result, goodness, holiness and faith suffer, and they decline and seem to become impoverished, this descent and impoverishment really represent ascent and revitalization. This is because after these evil foundations decay, light and luster and holiness will immediately begin to spring forth upon healthy foundations of knowledge, wisdom, courage, splendor, eternity and majesty.
It is by such means that an everlasting kingdom illuminated by G-d’s goodness and light will be established in the End of Days. This will be the fulfillment of G-d’s faithful and everlasting covenant with David -- never to be annulled: ‘For He said: Surely they are My people, children who will not lie. So He was their deliverer. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old’” (Orot, Orot Ha-Techiyah, 52).