Yossi looked at his watch. Ten minutes 'til
mincha. Quickly, he put the pungent baby on the
table mat near the sink, whipped off its cotton pants
and plastic underpants and threw them into the garbage
bin. Then he unstuck the soiled diaper and threw it
into the washing machine. Picking up the screaming
baby, Yossi washed him clean under the tap, forgetting
to add warm water. Then, holding down the squirming,
slippery bundle, he feverishly wiped the area dry with
baby-wipes and threw them into the washing machine.
Noticing a reddish hue to the delicate skin, he grabbed
a nearby tube of cream and spread its toothpaste onto
the raw flesh. Yossi glanced at his watch again.
Five minutes gone and five minutes left. Approaching
panic level, he hurried his son into a fresh diaper,
followed with a new pair of underpants and a clean pink
dress two sizes too big. Buckling the baby into a
stroller, he threw on his hat and jacket, ran out of
his apartment and rushed the stroller through slow-
moving pedestrians and traffic to the minyan down
the road, finally bursting into the beis
hamidrash to catch the end of the pre-amida
Kaddish. "Phew!" thought Yossi, "I made it just on
Perhaps Yossi should have caught an earlier
minyan. Perhaps he should have arranged for
someone else to be there when he had to go to
tefilla. Perhaps he was caught in a situation he
could not have foreseen.
We do not know all the facts. But, apparently, Yossi
found himself in the situation in which no one else was
there to diaper the baby. So Yossi won the
mitzva. Yossi was now privileged to perform one
of the greatest acts of kindness a person can perform,
emulating Hakodosh Boruch Hu by caring for,
helping and dressing a helpless human being.
But Yossi did not enjoy the mitzva, neither did
he fulfill it as required. Instead of being relaxed and
tending his son with loving care, Yossi reduced himself
to a reckless, nervous wreck.
Men tend to find this sort of situation more
challenging than women because they are programmed to
daven with a minyan and therefore, need to
deal with strong guilt feelings.
Of course, the principle of "One who is engaged in a
mitzva is exempt from performing another
mitzva" is a halachic issue which cannot be
discussed in an article of this nature. We need to
become familiar with its parameters, seek guidance from
an authority and learn how to balance priorities.
However, whenever we are faced with a situation of
having to perform two conflicting mitzvos
simultaneously, we need to accept the resolution with
If that is what you have to do, relax and do it