Can We Identify the Techeiles?

Parshas Shelach includes the mitzvah of wearing techeiles on our tzitzis. Rashi, in the beginning of Parshas Korach, mentions that the followers of Korach donned garments that were completely techeiles. Therefore, whether we are in a place that reads Shelach this week or one that reads Korach, it is appropriate to read about:

Can We Identify the Techeiles?

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When we are commanded about wearing tzitzis, the Torah includes two mitzvos. In addition to the mitzvah of wearing tzitzis threads on the corners of the garment, there is an additional mitzvah that some of the tzitzis threads should be dyed with a special dye called techeiles. (There is a dispute among the Rishonim how many of the tzitzis threads are to be dyed techeiles.) This dye must be made from a species called chilazon (Tosefta Menachos 9:6).

Although the use of techeiles stopped over a thousand years ago, there have been a few attempts within the last 140 years to reintroduce the practice of wearing techeiles threads alongside the white threads. This article will present the differing opinions on this question and some of the issues that have been raised.

At the time of the Gemara, the nature of chilazon and its manufacture was still known and practiced (see Menachos 42b). However, some time after the period of the Gemara, the use of techeiles ended. By all indications, techeiles fell into disuse sometime between the end of the period of the Rabbonim Sabora’im, who completed the editing of the Gemara around the year 4330 (570), and the time of Rav Ahai Gaon, the author of the She’iltos, around 4520 (760).

It is unclear why the Jewish people stopped using techeiles. Numerous theories have been suggested why wearing techeiles ended. The wording used by the midrashim is “now we have only white tzitzis, since the techeiles was concealed” (Medrash Tanchuma, Shelach 15; Medrash Rabbah, Shelach 17:5). Some poskim understand that there are halachic or kabbalistic reasons why techeiles should not be worn until moshiach comes (Shu”t Yeshuos Malko #1-3). According to this opinion, the Medrash means that the source of the techeiles was concealed and it is only to be revealed in the future at a time when Hashem again wants us to wear it.

Other poskim disagree and contend that we should still attempt to fulfill the mitzvah of wearing techeiles on the tzitzis. They explain that the Medrash means that techeiles became unavailable. Rav Herzog zt”l, who followed this approach, speculated that persecution by anti-Semitic governments ended the production of techeiles. Still another possibility is that the knowledge how to produce the techeiles was lost, or that there was no longer availability or access to the chilazon, the source of the techeiles.

The Radziner Rebbe’s research

In 5647 (1887), the Radziner Rebbe, Rav Gershon Henoch Leiner, zt”l, published a small sefer, Sefunei Temunei Chol, wherein he discusses the importance of fulfilling the mitzvah of wearing techeiles even today. In his opinion, the Medrash quoted above means that techeiles became unavailable. The Radziner encouraged wearing something that might be techeiles even if it is uncertain that one is fulfilling the mitzvah. In his opinion, one who is wearing questionable techeiles should do so, because he may be fulfilling a mitzvah min hatorah. Thus, he contended that if he could identify a species that might be the chilazon, and he could extract a dye from it, one should wear tzitzis that are dyed with this product.

The Radziner himself analyzed every place in the Gemara where the word chilazon is mentioned, and defined what characteristics would help us identify the chilazon. Based on his analysis, he drew up a list of eleven requirements by which the chilazon used for techeiles can be identified. Among other requirements, these included that the chilazon would be located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea; that it is a marine animal and not a fish; that it must be able to live on land, at least for a brief period of time; that it produces a black ink and that it must have fins, bones, and sinews. The Radziner concluded that if one located a marine animal that meets all eleven requirements, one can assume that it is the chilazon.

Having completed his halachic research, the Radziner then began his scientific research to identify the chilazon. He traveled to Naples, Italy, the location of a major aquarium and marine research institute, to study marine animals that would meet all the requirements of techeiles. In Italy, he decided that the cuttlefish, which in many languages is called an inkfish, is indeed the chilazon from which one produces techeiles. The cuttlefish meets every one of the Radziner’s requirements for chilazon, including that it emits a dark dye, which is the reason why it is called an inkfish. The cuttlefish is not a true fish and is capable of living on land for brief periods of time.

The Radziner then published his second volume on the subject, Pesil Techeiles, in which he announced his discovery of the chilazon and his proofs why the cuttlefish meets all the requirements of the chilazon. Subsequently, the Radziner published a third volume, Ein Hatecheiles, whose purpose was to respond to all the questions he had been asked concerning what he had written in his previous volumes.

Reaction to the Radziner’s proposal

Although the Radziner had presented his case in an extremely convincing manner, most of the Gedolei Yisroel did not support his theory. The Radziner attempted to convince the poskim of his era of the validity of his approach, particularly, Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector of Kovno, the Beis Halevi (then the rav of Brisk), Rav Yehoshua Kutno (author of Yeshuos Malko), the Maharil Diskin (who had been rav of Brisk and was living in official retirement in Yerushalayim), and Rav Shmuel Salant (the rav of Yerushalayim). None of these rabbonim accepted the Radziner’s proposal. Their reasons for rejecting his proposal are significant.

Rav Yehoshua Kutno and Rav Yitzchok Elchonon disagreed with the Radziner because they both held that the Medrash quoted above should be understood literally — techeiles has been placed in genizah until Hashem again wants us to observe this mitzvah. Rav Yehoshua Kutno suggests several reasons why this happened, which are beyond the scope of this article.

Others were opposed to wearing techeiles because of sources in the writings of the Ari and other mekubalim that we are not to use techeiles until the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, bimheira beyameinu. The Radziner did not agree with their interpretation of these sources.

An additional objection was raised against the Radziner’s position that one should wear questionable techeiles since one might be fulfilling the mitzvah. This is based on the poskim who contend that one who places on a white garment blue tzitzis that are dyed with a dye other than techeiles is not yotzei the mitzvah of tzitzis. Therefore, it is preferable to wear white tzitzis if one is uncertain (see Rema, Orach Chayim 9:5).

There were also objections to the Radziner’s conclusions on other grounds. Some objected to his choosing a non-kosher species as the source of the techeiles, since there are early poskim who contend that the techeiles must come from a kosher species. This subject is an old dispute, which can be traced back to the time of the rishonim and early acharonim.

Others contended that the color of the Radziner’s techeiles was wrong, since Rashi seems to indicate that the color of techeiles is green. However, it should be noted that the word yarok that Rashi uses can also mean gold, yellow or blue, as indicated by numerous sources in Chazal and rishonim. (Many of the sources as to whether the correct color of techeiles is green, blue or black are discussed in the article by Dr. Zvi Koren, which I refer to later in this article.)

The Beis Halevi’s approach

The Beis Halevi took issue with the Radziner on the basis of mesorah, but there is a dispute as to exactly what was his objection. The way the Radziner quotes the Beis Halevi, his concern was that the species identified by the Radziner was well-known, and, if it indeed was the correct source, this mesorah should not have been lost.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichek of Boston, himself named for the Beis Halevi, wrote a different understanding of the Beis Halevi’s opinion. He contends that we cannot identify the chilazon on the basis of research. When the Torah requires a specific type or species to fulfill a mitzvah, one cannot fulfill this mitzvah without a mesorah that this is the correct object with which to perform the mitzvah. Attempting to identify the type or species on the basis of research, analysis, or proofs will not help; nothing can be substituted for mesorah. Thus, no matter how compelling the evidence is that a specific species is the chilazon of techeiles, one will not fulfill the mitzvah of wearing threads dyed with this color. When Eliyahu Hanavi returns as the precursor to the mashiach, he will identify for us the mesorah he received from his rabbei’im and thereby we will be able to identify the proper techeiles.

The Maharsham

There was one gadol who considered the merits of the Radziner’s position. The Maharsham, Rav Shalom Mordechai Schvadron, rav of Bruzan, wore a talis with the Radziner’s techeiles, although apparently he did so only in private. However, in the final result, only the Radziner’s own chassidim and some Breslever chassidim wore the techeiles that the Radziner introduced.

Rav Herzog’s research

More than twenty years after the Radziner’s passing, Rav Yitzchak Isaac Herzog (who became the first Chief Rabbi of Israel several decades later) researched the source for the techeiles. He wrote up this research as his doctoral dissertation.

In his analysis of the halachic issues involved, Rav Herzog accepted most of the Radziner’s opinions and interpretations. However, there are some aspects of the Radziner’s approach with which Rav Herzog took issue. Whereas the Radziner assumed that every place in the Gemara where it refers to chilazon, it means the chilazon that was used in making techeiles, Rav Herzog assumes that chilazon means a sea snail, and not necessarily the snail used in making the techeiles. (By the way, in Modern Hebrew, Ben Yehudah decided to use the word chilazon for snail, rather than the original Hebrew word, shavlul.) Thus, in Rav Herzog’s opinion, not all of the Radziner’s requirements in determining the species for the techeiles are accurate. Therefore, Rav Herzog focused on analyzing the numerous species of sea snails for the most likely candidate to produce techeiles.

Rav Herzog took issue on one major point of the Radziner’s research. Rav Herzog took samples of the dye recommended by the Radziner as techeiles and had them chemically tested. Based on results that he received from the laboratories, Rav Herzog concluded that the blue color that results from the Radziner’s method of producing techeiles is not caused by anything in the cuttlefish ink. The chemists he consulted contended that the color is an artificial dye named Prussian blue, which is created by the chemicals added as part of the processing. In Rav Herzog’s opinion, since he could not discern anything in the cuttlefish that causes the blue coloring, he reached the conclusion that the cuttlefish is not the source of the techeiles. There are answers how the Radziner might have responded to this concern, but it is inappropriate for others to speak on his behalf.

In his dissertation, Rav Herzog analyzed various sea snails, concluding that none of them fit as sources for the techeiles. Apparently, decades later, Rav Herzog was still grappling with which species might be the correct source.

It should be noted that all the poskim who disagreed with the Radziner’s proposal would disagree with Rav Herzog’s proposals – the reasons that they rejected the inkfish would also apply to a sea snail.

Many scientific researchers have suggested that the species of sea snail currently called Hexaplex trunculus might indeed be the source for techeiles. (Since most people who write on this topic usually refer to this species by its earlier name, Murex trunculus, I will use the latter term.) It is curious that this is one of the species of sea snail that Rav Herzog considered. Most people who today have their tzitzis dyed blue are using an indigo color derived from Murex trunculus.

Nevertheless, there are strong technical objections to this. Some of these arguments might be resolved based on a brilliant article published recently by Professor Zvi Koren in Tradition. However, in Professor Koren’s opinion, both the method used to extract dye from Murex trunculus and the color used is erroneous, and is certainly not the proper color of techeiles.

We note that the method currently used to process the dye from the Murex trunculus cannot be the correct method of dyeing techeiles threads, as performed by our ancestors, for the following reasons:

  1. The current method of extracting dye from Murex trunculus involves removing a gland from the snail, which would involve the melacha of gozeiz, removing part of a living creature. (According to many poskim, one violates this also by removing part of a creature that has died.) Clearly, this could not have been the method of removing the dye from chilazon in earlier days, as can be proved from the Gemara (Shabbos 75a), since no mention is made of this prohibition in the Gemara, although it mentions other prohibitions that are transgressed in the capture and processing of the chilazon on Shabbos.
  2. Another objection is based on the fact that it can be demonstrated from the Gemara that the removing of the dye liquid from the chilazon kills it, although one would prefer that the chilazon remain alive for as long as possible. However, in the process used to remove the dye from Murex, the snail can remain alive for several hours after the process is complete.
  3. A third problem with the current method of using Murex trunculus dye requires an introduction. At the time of the Gemara, there were unscrupulous individuals who sold threads dyed with a coloring called kla ilan. This coloring is not kosher as techeiles, and someone wearing it on his tzitzis would not fulfill the mitzvah of wearing techeiles. According to the Aruch, kla ilan is indigo, a vegetable dye that has a blue color. Thus, the Gemara was concerned about someone selling indigo-colored threads as techeiles threads to an unsuspecting buyer. The Gemara describes a test that can be used to check whether the threads are kla ilan or techeiles, by testing the threads for colorfastness: kla ilan would fade, whereas techeiles would remain fast. However, the dye used currently by Murex trunculus enthusiasts is chemically identical to indigo. How, then, can a chemical test for colorfastness be used to determine what was the source of the indigo?
  4. The Rambam describes that the “blood” that is the source of the techeiles is black when removed from the chilazon. The gland extract removed from Murex trunculus is clear when it is removed and changes color afterwards.

Obviously, I am not the first one to note these difficulties with the process of extracting dye from Murex trunculus. However, the responses I have seen to answer these questions are very tenuous.

We see that there has been a significant amount of research about the source of techeiles and the possibility of fulfilling this mitzvah in our day. Due to the above mentioned considerations, those who follow the approach of the majority of the poskim of earlier generations and wear only white tzitzis have a substantive basis in halacha.

The Mitzvah of ViKidashto – To Treat a Kohen with Respect

Since the kohen’s role is significant in parshas Naso, read this week in chutz la’aretz, I present…

The Mitzvah of ViKidashto – To Treat a Kohen with Respect

Question: I know the Torah teaches that we are to treat a kohen with honor, yet I always see people asking kohanim to do them favors. Am I permitted to ask a kohen to do a favor for me?

Answer:

You are asking a very excellent and interesting question. It is correct that a look at the early poskim implies that one should not ask a kohen to do him a favor, yet the prevalent custom is to be lenient. Let us explore the subject to see whether this practice is correct.

In Parshas Emor, after listing many specific mitzvos that apply uniquely to the Kohen, the Torah states: “And you shall make him (the kohen) holy, because he offers the bread of your G-d. He shall be holy to you because I, Hashem, Who make you holy, am Holy” (VaYikra 21:8). We are commanded by the Torah to treat a kohen differently, since he is charged with bringing the offerings in the Beis HaMikdash (Gittin 59b; Rambam, Hilchos Klei HaMikdash 4:2).

There are both positive and negative aspects to this mitzvah. On the negative side, a kohen who violates his kedushah by marrying a divorcee or other woman prohibited to him must divorce his prohibited wife. The Gemara states that “you shall make him holy,” even against the kohen’s will. Thus, when the Jewish community and its beis din have control over Jewish affairs, they are required to force a kohen to divorce his wife under these circumstances and to physically remove him from the household if necessary (Yevamos 82b).

There is also the positive aspect of this mitzvah, which is to treat the kohen with honor. According to the Rambam, this responsibility is considered a mitzvah min hatorah (Sefer HaMitzvos Aseh 32; Hilchos Klei HaMikdash 4:2), whereas other rishonim contend that this aspect of the mitzvah is only midarabanan (Tosafos, Chullin 87a end of s.v. vichiyivu; Tur, Yoreh Deah 28: Bach ad loc.). Later poskim rule that the mitzvah to treat a kohen with respect is indeed min hatorah (see Magen Avraham 201:4 and Mishnah Berurah op. cit.).

How should the kohen be honored?

The Gemara explains that this respect manifests itself in several ways: “The kohen should open first (liftoach rishon), he should bless first, and he should take a nice portion first” (Gittin 59b, Moed Katan 28b). Similarly, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachos 5:4) teaches that when a yisroel walks alongside a kohen, the kohen should be given the more honorary place, which is on the right.

What is intended by the Gemara when it states that “the kohen should open first”? Some commentaries explain that this means that the kohen should be the first speaker, whether in divrei Torah or at a meeting (Rashi, Gittin 59b). Others explain it to mean that the kohen should receive the first aliyah, when the Torah is read (Rambam, Hilchos Klei HaMikdash 4:2 and Rashi in Moed Katan 28b).

The kohen should make the brocha on the meal first (Rashi, Gittin 59b), make kiddush for everyone (Mishnah Berurah 201:12) and lead the benching (Rashi, Moed Katan 28b; Ran and other Rishonim, Nedarim 62b). If he is poor, he is entitled to choose the best portion of tzedokoh available or of the maaser given to the poor (Tosafos, Gittin 59b). According to some opinions, when dissolving a partnership, after dividing the property into two portions of equal value, the kohen should be offered the choice between the two portions (Rashi, Gittin 59b). However, the accepted approach is that this is not included in the mitzvah, and it is also not in the kohen’s best interest (Tosafos ad loc.). However, when a group of friends are together, they should offer the kohen to take the best portion.

Similarly, poskim rule that a kohen should be chosen ahead of a levi or a yisroel to be chazan (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 53:14). Presumably, he should also be given preference for a position to be a Rav, Rosh Yeshiva, or Magid Shiur in a yeshiva, if he is qualified for the position.

It should be noted that the kohen deserves special respect only when he is at least a peer to the yisroel in learning. However, if the yisroel is a Torah scholar and the kohen is not, the Torah scholar receives the greater honor.

There is one exception to this ruling. In order to establish peace and harmony in the Jewish community, the first aliyah to the Torah is always given to a kohen, even when there is a Torah scholar in attendance (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 135:4). As far as other honors go, the Torah scholar should always be given honor ahead of the kohen. (It is interesting to note that, at the time of the Gemara, the gadol hador was given the first aliyah, even if he was not a kohen.)

If the yisroel is a greater talmid chochom than the kohen, but the kohen is also a talmid chochom, some rule that one is required to give the kohen the greater honor (Shach, Yoreh Deah 246:14). Others rule that it is preferred to give the kohen the greater honor, but it is not required (Rema, Orach Chayim 167:14 and Mishnah Berurah 201:12).

According to the Gemara, the kohen should be seated in a place of honor at the head of the table. The Gemara that teaches us this halacha is very instructive. “Rav Chama bar Chanina said: ‘How do we know that a choson sits at the head of the table, because the verse states: ‘kichoson yechahen pe’er, like a choson receives the glory of a kohen (Yeshaya 61:10)’. Just like the kohen sits at the head of the table, so, too, the choson sits at the head of the table” (Moed Katan 28b). Contemporary poskim contemplate why we do not follow this halacha in practice (Rav Sholom Shvadron in his footnotes to Daas Torah of Maharsham 201:2). Although our custom is to seat the choson in the most important place at the wedding and sheva berachos, we do not place the kohanim in seats that demonstrate their importance!

Asking a favor

From the above discussion, we see that I am required to treat a kohen with honor and respect, but we have not discussed whether I may ask him to do me a favor. Perhaps I can treat the kohen with honor and respect, and yet ask him to do things for me. However, the Talmud Yerushalmi states that it is forbidden to have personal benefit from a kohen, just as it is forbidden to have personal benefit from the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash (Berachos 8:5). This Yerushalmi is quoted as halacha (Rema, Orach Chayim 128:44).

However, many authorities note that there appears to be evidence that conflicts with the position of the Yerushalmi. Specifically, the Gemara Bavli refers to a Hebrew slave (eved ivri) who is a kohen. How could someone own a Hebrew slave, if one is not permitted to have personal benefit from a kohen (Hagahos Maimonis, Hilchos Avadim 3:8)?

Several approaches are presented to resolve this difficulty. Some early poskim contend that there is no prohibition in having personal benefit from a kohen, provided that he does not mind. These authorities contend that a kohen may be mocheil on his honor (Mordechai, Gittin #461). On the other hand, many authorities rule explicitly that it is forbidden to use a kohen, even if he is mocheil (Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvos Aseh #32; Smag, Mitzvas Aseh #83).

Other poskim explain that although it is forbidden to use a kohen without paying him, one is permitted to hire a kohen (Smag, Mitzvas Aseh # 83). According to this approach, it is prohibited to use a kohen only when the kohen receives no benefit from his work. In a situation where the kohen gains from his work, one may benefit from him. Thus, the kohen is permitted to sell himself as a slave, since he gains material benefit from the arrangement.

This dispute, whether a kohen has the ability to be mocheil his kovod, is discussed by later poskim also. Rema (128:44), Magen Avraham (ad loc.), and Pri Chodosh (in his commentary Mayim Chayim on Gemara Gittin 59b) rule that a kohen can be mocheil on his honor, whereas Taz (Orach Chayim 128:39) disagrees. However, Taz also accepts that the kohen can be mocheil when he has benefit from the arrangement, as in the case of the Hebrew servant.

Thus, as a practical halacha, the majority opinion permits having a kohen do a favor, provided he is mocheil on his honor. According to the minority opinion, it is permitted only if he is paid for his work.

There is another line of reasoning that can be used in the contemporary world to permit asking a kohen for a favor. The Torah requires giving a kohen honor because he performs the service in the Beis HaMikdash, and, therefore, he has a halachic status similar to that of the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash, which have sanctity. However, only a kohen who can prove the pedigree of his lineage may perform the service in the Beis HaMikdash. Such kohanim are called kohanim meyuchasim. Kohanim who cannot prove their lineage are called kohanei chazakah, kohanim because of traditional practice. These kohanim fulfill the roles of kohanim because they have a family tradition to perform mitzvos, like a kohen does. However, they cannot prove that they are kohanim.

Since today’s kohanim are not meyuchasim, they would not be permitted to perform the service in the Beis HaMikdash and they do not have sanctity similar to the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash. Therefore, some poskim contend that one may have personal benefit from today’s kohanim (Mishneh LaMelech, Hilchos Avadim 3:8, quoting Yefei Mareh).

In this context, the Mordechai records an interesting story (Gittin #461). Once, a kohen washed Rabbeinu Tam’s hands.  A student of Rabbeinu Tam asked him how he could benefit from the kohen, when the Yerushalmi prohibits this. Rabbeinu Tam responded that a kohen has kedushah only when he is wearing the vestments that the kohen wears in the Beis HaMikdash. The students present then asked Rabbeinu Tam: if his answer is accurate, why do we give the kohen the first aliyah even when he is not wearing the kohen’s vestments? Unfortunately, the Mordechai does not report what Rabbeinu Tam answered. The Mordechai does cite R’ Peter as explaining that a kohen can be mocheil on his kovod, something this kohen had clearly done. Thus, we have explained why it is permitted to have a kohen do a favor for a yisroel.

The unresolved question is: why don’t we demonstrate honor to a kohen whenever we see him? This question is raised by the Magen Avraham (201:4), who explains that the custom to be lenient is because our kohanim are not meyuchasim. However, he is clearly not comfortable with relying on this heter. Similarly, the Mishnah Berurah (201:13) rules that one should not rely on this heter. On the contrary, one should go out of one’s way to show honor to a kohen.

A kohen who is blemished (a baal mum)

Does the mitzvah of treating a kohen with kedushah apply to a kohen who is blemished (a baal mum) and thus cannot perform the avodah in the Beis HaMikdash?

After all, the Torah states: “And you shall make him (the kohen) holy, because he offers the bread of your G-d” (VaYikra 21:8). Thus, one might think that only a kohen who can offer the “bread of Hashem” has this status. Nonetheless, we derive that these laws apply even to a kohen who is blemished (Toras Kohanim to VaYikra 21:8). Apparently, the other special laws of being a kohen are sufficient reason that he should be accorded honor.

Is there any mitzvah to give honor to a kohen who is a minor?

This matter is disputed by early poskim. Some poskim feel that, since a child is not obligated to observe mitzvos and furthermore cannot perform the service in the Beis HaMikdash, there is no requirement to give him honor. On the other hand, there are poskim who contend that the Torah wanted all of Aaron’s descendants to be treated with special honor, even a minor.

This dispute has very interesting and commonly encountered ramifications. What happens if there is no adult kohen in shul, but there is a kohen who is a minor? If the mitzvah of vikidashto applies to a minor, then the kohen who is under bar mitzvah should be called to the Torah for the first aliyah! This is indeed the opinion of an early posek (Shu”t Maharit #145). However, the prevalent practice is that there is no mitzvah of vikidashto on a kohen who is under bar mitzvah, since he cannot bring the korbanos in the Beis HaMikdash (Magen Avraham 282:6)

A very interesting minhag

A fascinating discussion about the mitzvah of calling the kohen for the first aliyah is found in the responsa of the Maharik (#9). Apparently, there was a custom in his day (the fifteenth century) in many shullen in France and Germany that on Shabbos Breishis they would auction off the first aliyah in order to help pay for community needs. This was considered a major demonstration of kovod hatorah, to demonstrate that people value the first aliyah of the year by paying a large sum of money for it. Maharik compares this practice to a custom we are more familiar with: The selling of Choson Torah on Simchas Torah for a large sum of money.

If a non-kohen bought the first aliyah of the year, the custom was that the kohanim would either daven in a different shul or they would walk outside the shul, so that the non-kohen donor could be called up to the Torah for the aliyah.

In one congregation with this custom, a kohen refused to leave the shul and also refused to bid on the donation. Instead, he insisted that he be given the aliyah gratis. The members of the shul called upon the city government authorities to remove the recalcitrant kohen from the premises, so that they could call up the donor for the aliyah.

The issue was referred to the Maharik, as one of the greatest poskim of his generation. The Maharik ruled that the congregation is permitted to continue their practice of auctioning off this aliyah and calling the donor to the Torah, and they may ignore the presence of the recalcitrant kohen. Since this is their well-established minhag, and it was established to demonstrate kovod hatorah, in such a case a minhag can override the halacha; specifically, the requirement to call the kohen to the Torah as the first aliyah.

In the same tshuvah, Maharik mentions another related minhag that was well-accepted in his day. Apparently, during this period and place, most people fasted on bahav, the three days of fasting and saying selichos that take place during the months of MarCheshvan and Iyar. In addition, the custom on these fast days was to call up for an aliyah only people who were fasting, similar to the practice we have on our fast days. Maharik reports that if all the kohanim who were in shul were not fasting, the kohanim would exit the shul to allow them to call up a non-kohen who was fasting. He rules that this custom is halachically acceptable, since it is a kovod hatorah to call to the Torah on a community-accepted fast only people who are fasting.

Thus, we see from the Maharik’s responsum that, although it is a mitzvah to honor the kohen, there is a greater mitzvah to safeguard the community’s minhag. Nevertheless, the conclusion of the Mishnah Berurah and other late poskim is that one should, in general, try to show at least some honor to a kohen, following the literal interpretation of the statement of Chazal.

 

The Contemporary Kosher Bakery and Its Halachic Issues, II

Separating Challah

bakeryIn a previous week, I sent out an article that dealt briefly with many of the issues germane to providing kosher supervision at a bakery. This article will discuss in more detail a very common problem: the necessity and difficulty of separating challah in a commercial enterprise.

The Torah describes the mitzvah of challah in the following passage:

Upon your entering the land to which I am bringing you, when you eat from the bread of the land, you shall separate a terumah offering for G-d. The first dough of your kneading troughs shall be separated as challah, like the terumah of your grain shall you separate it (Bamidbar 15:18-20).

According to Torah law, any dough kneaded in Israel made from the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats) in an era when most Jews reside there must have the challah portion separated and given to a kohen. Today this portion is burned, as I will explain. If the dough mixed has less than an “omer” of flour, equal to the amount of manna each Jew received as his daily portion in the desert, there is no requirement to separate challah. Contemporary authorities estimate an omer to be equal to somewhere between three and five pounds of flour. Accepted practice is to separate challah without a bracha from a dough of between three and five pounds of flour, and with a bracha from a dough that is larger. We treat the former case as a situation of a safek – a doubt as to whether there exists any requirement to separate challah. Therefore, we separate challah, but omit the bracha, a principle called safek brachos lehakeil, because we are uncertain whether there is a requirement to fulfill the mitzvah.

The Torah does not establish a minimum size portion that one separates for challah. The Mishnah records a rabbinically introduced minimum: If the dough is prepared for commercial sale, one should separate 1/48 of it, and if it is meant for private consumption, one should separate 1/24 of the dough. This challah portion is given to the kohen, to be eaten by him and his family in purity. Many opinions state that the sages established a minimum portion only for an era when the challah would be eaten by the kohen and his family. Since today we cannot achieve the status of taharah, purity, that would allow the eating of challah, the challah portion is burned and not eaten, and therefore, according to these opinions, the law reverts back to the Torah requirements, and no minimum size portion is required. Rema states that the Ashkenazic practice is to follow these opinions, but adds that the custom, according to the Maharil, is to separate a kezayis, the size of an olive, as a minimal portion.

There is a requirement to separate challah from dough that is kneaded outside of Israel. Halachic authorities are explicit that this requirement is if the dough is owned by a Jew, but not if it is owned by a non-Jew. Therefore, if a Jewish-owned business has non-Jewish employees handling production, there is still a responsibility to separate challah. Conversely, if a non-Jewish-owned business has Jewish employees handling production, there is no requirement to separate challah.

The obligation to separate challah often creates difficulties for a kosher bakery. If the bakery employs Shomer Shabbos staff, the responsibility to separate challah can be delegated to those employees. However, a bakery that has no Shomer Shabbos individuals on the premises presents a predicament. Granted that any Jew can actually separate the challah portion, the halacha stipulates that a Shomer Shabbos must ascertain that challah was, in fact, separated. In many communities, hiring a Shomer Shabbos for this task would make the cost of kosher supervision prohibitive, and other solutions must be found.

Jewish communal leaders have sought a variety of solutions to this problem. Many rabbonim assume responsibility only for the ingredients, but advise the consumers to separate challah themselves, after purchase. Although this practice is very widespread, the stumbling block for people who do not realize that challah must be separated is a serious concern, since people often do not remember or realize that they must separate challah every time they purchase.

Another approach that I have seen is for the non-Shomer Shabbos staff to separate challah from each dough. These challah portions are set aside and periodically checked by the mashgiach. Personally, I find this approach less than satisfactory. There is much room for error, as it is impossible to ascertain that challah is, indeed, always being separated.

Still another approach sometimes used is to arrange a “sale,” whereby a non-Jew owns the flour, and the Jewish-owned company acts as a contractor to process the flour into baked goods. The method for such a contract would be similar to the selling of chometz for Pesach. However, many authorities do not approve this use of heter mechirah. Granted that usage of such a sale has become accepted among Jewry to avoid the prohibition of owning chometz on Pesach and for a few other halachic issues, it is difficult to extend this leniency into an area that poskim have never recommended or advised.

Another solution that might come to mind is to separate challah once from each shipment of flour. However, the Mishnah in Challah states, “If one attempts to separate his challah portion while it is still flour, the challah does not take effect, and it would be considered stolen property in the hands of the kohen.” Since there is no requirement to separate challah before the flour is mixed with water, it is meaningless to take challah before making the dough, and the portion given to the kohen is not his property and must be returned.

However, there is a solution, based on the writings of the Tur and the Smag, who quote the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer of Metz that although challah cannot take effect when separated from flour when one intends it to take effect immediately, challah can be separated from flour with the intention that it take effect when the flour becomes dough. The rationale for this opinion is as follows: There is a halachic principle that a contract of procedure can be set up to take effect later, if conditions exist whereby the procedure could already be implemented. For example, A can sell an item to B and delay the sale to a future date, provided that A already owns the item. Since A has the legal right to sell the item now, he is able to delay the day of sale. Similarly, one could separate the challah from flour, intending it to take effect when it becomes dough, since he is already able to mix the flour with water and create the responsibility of challah-separating. Of course, the challah would not take effect until the dough is mixed. For this procedure to work, certain circumstances need to be met.

The Gemara that serves as the basis for Rabbi Eliezer’s reasoning expounds on how terumah can be separated in this fashion.

The Mishnah says that since there is no requirement to separate terumah before harvesting, one cannot separate the terumah portion from grain that has been cut, with the intention of fulfilling the requirement of separating terumah for grain that is still connected to the ground. If he attempted to do so, the terumah-separating has no effect. Rav Asi (post-Mishnah era) asked Rav Yochanan, “Is the separating of terumah valid if one makes the following declaration: ‘The unharvested fruits of this furrow should be terumah when cut, for the cut fruits of the next furrow?’”

Rav Yochanan responded, “As long as a person can create the responsibility for terumah, he would be able to set that procedure in motion.”

Rav Asi’s uncertainty was based on the following question: Ordinarily, one cannot set up a procedure to take effect later unless he is able to perform that procedure now. In this instance, one cannot separate terumah on produce still connected to the ground.

However, one could cut the grain and then separate terumah. Is this considered having the ability to perform the procedure immediately? To this question, Rav Yochanan responded literally, “Anything that a person can perform himself is not considered as lacking that action.” Whenever a person can create the responsibility to perform a certain action, we can treat it as if the situation already existed.

Based on this discussion, Rabbi Eliezer of Metz reasons that the same principles apply to the separating of challah. If one separates challah from flour, intending for the challah to take effect when the flour is mixed into dough, the challah-separating would be valid.

This opinion of R Eliezer is codified in the Shulchan Aruch as follows:

If one attempts to separate his challah portion while it is still flour, the challah does not take effect, and it would be considered stolen property in the hands of the kohen… All this is true when he wants the challah to take effect immediately. However, if he separated flour and said that challah should take effect when the flour is mixed into dough, then the challah does take effect

The principle of Rabbi Eliezer of Metz can now be applied to a moderately different set of circumstances. If one were to remove a kezayis from a dough that still bears the responsibility for challah-separating and specifies that this kezayis will become challah for a different, as yet unmixed, dough, the challah-separating will become valid when the second dough is kneaded. Since one could knead the second dough immediately and create the requirement to separate challah, he can set in motion a procedure that will cause the challah to take effect automatically.

Let us further extend the circumstances. If one were to remove a sampling from a dough that still required challah-taking and specify that an additional kezayis of this sampling become challah for every dough that will be mixed in the course of the day, the challah will automatically be considered as being separated as each dough is prepared, provided that following six criteria are met:

Challah must be taken min hachiyuv, from that which bears the responsibility of challah-taking, i.e., the sample of dough being designated as challah must have an as-yet-unfulfilled responsibility (chiyuv) at the time. Challah cannot be taken min hapatur, from dough that does not bear (or no longer bears) the responsibility of challah-taking.

This principle has the following specific applications.

  1. The dough from which the challah sample is separated must contain sufficient flour for it to be definitely chayov in challah; i.e., it must contain at least five pounds of flour.
  2. The requirement to separate challah from that dough must still be unfulfilled. If challah was already separated from this dough, then the dough now has the status of patur – that which is not currently obligated in challah-separating — and a challah sample separated from it would have the status of min hapatur.
  3. The challah sample must contain a kezayis of dough for each dough to be kneaded later. Each mixing of dough creates another automatic challah-taking, and each challah-taking requires another kezayis, according to the Rema mentioned above.
  4. All dough whose challah requirements are being met by this challah sample must be kneaded before the sample of challah is burned. Since the challah-taking takes effect when the dough is mixed, the sample must still be extant for the challah to take effect.
  5. This challah-taking will be valid only for flour already owned by the bakery at the time that the challah portion is separated. Since the owner cannot create the chiyuv of challah on that which he does not own, arranging an automatic challah-taking for flour he does not possess is the same, halachically, as creating a contract for something not in one’s possession.
  6. If the bakery bakes any breads from pure rye, barley or oat flour, or from dough that is made mostly of rye, barley or oat flour, separate challah samples must be taken from wheat dough and from rye dough. Although a challah sample taken from a wheat dough can remove the requirements for challah from all varieties of wheat or spelt, it cannot accomplish the mitzvah of challah for rye, barley or oats. (Similarly, a challah sample taken from rye dough cannot accomplish the mitzvah of challah for wheat dough.)
  7. The challah being taken should be adjacent (mukaf) to the rest of the dough for which the challah is being taken. The definition and basis for mukaf is explained below.

 

In several places, the Mishnah mentions the requirement to take terumah and challah min hamukaf, from an adjacent area. Although lechatchilah one is required to take challah and terumah from adjacent areas (which Rashi, Sotah 30, says is based on a Torah verse), be’dieved one fulfills the mitzvah also when taking from non-adjacent areas, and there is no need to take challah or terumah a second time.

What are the criteria of mukaf? The Rambam states:

One can take terumah only from adjacent areas. For example: if there were 50 measures in one house, and 50 measures in a different house, one cannot take two measures of the production in one house as terumah on the entire 100 measures, because that is considered taking terumah from non-adjacent areas. If one did take from non-adjacent areas, the terumah is still valid… Fruits that are scattered throughout a house or two piles of produce in one house, can have terumah taken from one group on the entirety. Sacks of grain or of dried figs or barrels of dates that were piled in a circle can have terumah taken from one sack for all the produce. Terumah may be taken from one barrel of wine to include several unsealed barrels. If the lids are sealed, terumah must be taken from each barrel, independently.

The exact definition of adjacent areas remains ambiguous. The Vilna Gaon explains that there are three separate sets of conditions that can constitute adjacency:

  1. Produce that is not in any vessel is considered mukaf if all of it is located in the same building.
  2. Produce in a container that is open on top requires that the containers be near one another to be considered mukaf.
  3. If the containers holding the produce are completely closed, mukaf is limited to the produce held in each container. Produce in different containers are not mukaf, even if the containers are near one another.

It should be noted that many halachic authorities are of the opinion that the requirements of mukaf for challah are more stringent than those delineated by the Rambam for terumah. However, it is evident that the Shulchan Aruch and the later commentaries are of the opinion that challah and terumah have the same criteria for mukaf. Therefore, the above criteria used by the Rambam for terumah would also be valid for challah. We have quoted the Shulchan Aruch that concludes that a portion of dough can be made into challah for other flour, when that flour is mixed into dough. Rabbi Akiva Eiger poses an intriguing query. Is the criterion of mukaf met if, at the time that the dough is mixed, the challah is no longer adjacent to it? Rabbi Akiva Eiger explains the requirement for mukaf exists at the time that challah is separated and not that at the time that it takes effect. Since the flour and dough were adjacent at the time that the challah was separated, the qualifications for mukaf have been met.

The solution that Rabbi Akiva Eiger offers will not satisfy our application of the principle of Rabbi Eliezer of Metz. When challah is set aside for many doughs that will be mixed later, it will be mukaf only if all the flour is adjacent at the time the challah is separated. An alternate way to accomplish mukaf would be to have both the challah portion and the newly-made dough adjacent at the time of kneading. A more practical recommendation is to have the challah take effect when the dough is cut and shaped, rather than when it is mixed. The reason for this is that since the mixing takes place inside a vessel, the above-mentioned criteria for mukaf require that the vessels be adjacent to one another. Since the shaping takes place on flat surfaces, it would be similar to the third category of the Vilna Gaon mentioned above, and the mukaf would merely require that the challah be located in the same building as the dough.

Conclusions for Challah Taking

According to what we have explained above, challah can be taken by separating a piece of dough from a mix that contains at least five pounds of flour and declaring that a kezayis of this portion should become challah for every dough that will be mixed, to take effect at the time the dough is cut. The following conditions must exist:

  1. Both the flour used for the challah portion and the flour which is having its challah requirement fulfilled must already be in the possession of the owner of the bakery.
  2. A kezayis (size of an olive) of dough must be separated for each dough to be included later.
  3. The challah taken must not be burned until the last dough is mixed.
  4. Challah must be taken separately for wheat and rye flour.

A study of the halachic source material indicates that methods do exist whereby challah can be taken in a practical and effective manner. Hopefully, this research will be of practical usefulness to Rabbis faced with these circumstances.

Conclusion

This article and its predecessor were written to serve two purposes. Firstly, to present the multi-faceted issues of kashrus and halacha pertaining to a “commonplace” hashgacha, which heightens awareness of the complexity involved in responsible supervision. Hopefully this increases appreciation of the efforts made to ensure proper kashrus standards. Secondly, this article explores avenues that can improve the standards in smaller Jewish communities. I have hopefully shed some light and suggested some possible solutions. Perhaps this will enable others to upgrade standards in less than ideal situations.

 

Making Dairy Bread II

breadQuestion #1: The Whey to Celebrate Shavuos!

“May I add dairy ingredients to bread that I intend to serve with a milchig meal on Shavuos?

Question #2: English Danish

“Is one permitted to make pastry with butter when it will not be noticeable that the product is dairy?”

Question #3: Sour Cream Kugel

“As my daughter was preparing a kugel for seudah shlishis, she added sour cream to the dough. The kugel is too large to consume at one meal, even for our large family. Once it is removed from its oven tray, there will be no indication that it is dairy. May we eat it?”

Answer:

Each of the above questions is a shaylah that I have been actually asked, and each involves our understanding the prohibition created by Chazal against making dairy or meaty bread. In a previous article, we learned that it is prohibited to use milk as an ingredient in dough, and that if one added milk to dough, the bread produced is prohibited from being eaten at all, even with a dairy meal, because of concern that one may mistakenly eat the dairy bread together with meat. The Gemara rules the same regarding baking bread that contains meat ingredients or baking on a hearth that was greased with beef fat – it is prohibited to eat this bread, even as a corned beef sandwich (Pesachim 30a, 36a; Bava Metzia 91a; Zevachim 95b). If one greased a hearth with beef fat, one must kasher it properly before one uses it to bake bread.

Is one ever permitted to make dairy bread?

How much is a small amount?

In the previous article, I noted that Chazal did not prohibit producing small quantities of milchig or fleishig bread. What was not discussed was: how much milchig or fleishig bread is considered a “small quantity” that one may produce? One early authority, the Hagahos Shaarei Dura, rules that one may bake rolls that have absorbed meat for Shabbos meals, since they will certainly be eaten in the course of Shabbos.

Although both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama quote this ruling of the Hagahos Shaarei Dura, a careful reading of their comments shows that these two authorities dispute exactly how much one may make. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 97:1) writes that a small amount is the amount that one would eat at one time, which implies that it is permitted to make only what one would eat at one sitting and not leave any leftovers (Pri Megadim, Sifsei Daas 97:1; Ben Ish Chai, II Shlach 17; Darchei Teshuvah 97:17; Badei HaShulchan, Tziyunim #49). Thus, when preparing dairy or meat bread, one may make only as much as one is certain that his family and guests will completely devour at the time the bread is served.

Take it a day at a time

On the other hand, the Rama rules that one may make milchig bread for Shavuos or fleishig bread for Shabbos, since this is called a “small amount.” When preparing bread for Shavuos or Shabbos, one is preparing more than what will be eaten at one sitting, but what will be eaten for a whole day. In another venue, the Rama states explicitly that it is permitted to make dairy or meat bread for a day at a time (Toras Chatas, 60:2). For this reason, the Aruch HaShulchan concludes that one may knead dough that is no more than what one’s family and guests will eat within 24 hours.

Some authorities expressly prohibit baking dairy bread for both days of Shavuos in advance of the Yom Tov (Darchei Teshuvah 97:33). They reason that baking for two days at a time is no longer considered a “small amount.”

We should note that although several authorities mention explicitly that the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama dispute whether one may make bread for only one sitting or for one entire day, other authorities imply that the Shulchan Aruch accepts the Rama’s more lenient understanding of a small amount (see Chavos Da’as, Biurim #4; Aruch HaShulchan 97:4).

All opinions agree that one must be careful not to produce so much that one expects there to be leftovers, unless one makes a heker in the bread (Bach; Darchei Teshuvah 97:34).

The whey to celebrate Shavuos!

At this point, we can address the first question asked above: “May I add dairy ingredients to bread that I intend to serve with a milchig meal on Shavuos?

The answer is that, according to the Rama, one may prepare milchig bread in honor of the day, but only as much as will definitely be eaten in one day’s time. According to the way most authorities understand the Shulchan Aruch, a Sefardi should not prepare more than will definitely be eaten in one meal.

Dairy bread during “the Nine Days”

During the Nine Days, am I permitted to make dairy bread, since we are not eating meat anyway?”

I have not found any halachic authority who states that the custom not to eat meat during the Nine Days permits us to make dairy bread during these days. Perhaps the reason why no one mentions such a heter is because there are numerous situations when one may eat meat, such as when a person is ill, at a seudas mitzvah, or on Shabbos, and we still need to be concerned that one may mistakenly eat the dairy bread on one of these occasions.

However, the two general heterim mentioned above, either of preparing a small amount of bread or of making bread with an unusual shape, both apply. Therefore, if the questioner is a Sefardi who follows the Shulchan Aruch, he may make (without a heker) as much dairy bread as his family and guests would eat at one meal without any leftovers. If the questioner is an Ashkenazi, he may make as much dairy bread as his family and guests would eat in a 24 hour day, without having any leftovers.

What about pastry?

At this point, we can address the two remaining questions I quoted above:

“Is one permitted to make pastry with butter, when it will not be noticeable that the product is dairy?”

“As my daughter was preparing a kugel for seudah shlishis, she added sour cream to the dough. The kugel is too large to consume at one meal, even for our large family. Once it is removed from its oven tray, there will be no indication that it is dairy. May we eat it?”

The halachic authorities discuss whether the prohibition against bread containing dairy or meat applies also to items such as spices and pastry. The consensus is that one may add dairy ingredients to pastry that is ordinarily not eaten with meat, but is usually eaten either as dessert or together with coffee, but that one may not add dairy ingredients to foods, such as crackers or zwieback, that sometimes are eaten to accompany meat (Shu’t Maharit 2:18; Chachmas Adam 50:3). Others are lenient even regarding crackers and zwieback, contending that Chazal prohibited only regular bread (She’eilas Yaavetz #62; see Pri Chodosh, Yoreh Deah 97:1). According to both of these opinions, one may produce dairy cakes, cookies or doughnuts, even if they do not obviously look dairy.

There is a minority, late opinion that disagrees with the above and contends that one may not make dairy products that one may mistakenly eat for dessert after a meat meal (Yad Yehudah, Peirush HaKatzar 97:3). Following this approach, all dairy cakes, cookies or doughnuts must either be obviously dairy or be marked in a unique way that calls attention to their dairy status.

Distinguished bourekas

Based on this latter approach, common custom in Eretz Yisrael today is to make cheese bourekas in a triangular shape and pareve bourekas in square shapes. One could argue that since bourekas occasionally accompany meat, they should be prohibited from being dairy, even according to the opinions of the Shu’t Maharit and the Chachmas Adam, whom I quoted above. Since many authorities consider the Chachmas Adam to be the final authority in kashrus and other yoreh deah topics, this forms the basis for the current custom in Eretz Yisrael.

What if it happened by mistake?

What is the law if someone is in the process of making dough, and some milk spills into the dough? Is there a basis to be lenient, since the person was not trying to violate Chazal’s rules?

Crying over spilled milk

The answer is that the prohibition against eating dairy bread is not a penalty that Chazal imposed on someone who violated their ruling. It is a takkanah that they instituted to ascertain that no one err and mistakenly violate the laws of eating meat and milk together. Thus, the prohibition is in effect, whether or not the milk (or meat) was added intentionally or in error. When there was an unintended spill of meat or dairy and a major loss will result, the Chachmas Adam (50:5) permits giving many families one loaf of bread each for immediate consumption (see also Aruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deah 97:8; Yad Yehudah, Peirush HaKatzar 97:4). This is permitted, because each person receives an amount that he will finish in one day.

Commercial bakery

There are authorities who permit a commercial bakery to manufacture a large quantity of dairy bread, as long as it is careful to sell to each individual or household only a small amount that he would be permitted to make for himself (Shu’t Kesav Sofer, Yoreh Deah #61). This logic would permit a kashrus agency to certify a company that makes dairy bread (under permitted conditions), even though they are making a large dough. However, an earlier authority, the Maharit, rejects this heter, as he is concerned that the baker may forget to tell customers that the bread is dairy (Shu’t Maharit 2:18).

Non-Jewish bakery

Does the prohibition apply only to a Jewish bakery, or even to a non-Jewish bakery? Chazal have the ability to prohibit only Jews from specific activities, but there is no mitzvah binding on a gentile to obey a ruling of Chazal. Thus, the question is as follows: If a gentile-owned bakery produces commercial quantities of dairy bread, may a Jew purchase small amounts of this bread — that is, enough for one meal or for one day? The Yad Yehudah (Peirush HaKatzar 97:7) discusses this issue, and prohibits it, only because of the problem of chalav akum, milk that was not supervised by an observant Jew. (I have written several articles on this topic in the past, and they can be accessed on RabbiKaganoff.com under the headings “milk” or “cheese.” Alternatively, I can send it to you in an e-mail.) According to those who permit contemporary produced milk, it would appear that one would be permitted to buy a small quantity of dairy bread – enough that one would consume either at one meal or in the course of one day, without any leftovers.

Conclusion:

The Gemara teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer to Hashem than are the Torah laws. In this context, we understand the importance of this prohibition created by Chazal to protect the Jewish people from eating dairy and meat together. We should always hope and pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

 

Post-Shmittah Awareness for the Eretz Yisroel and Chutz La’Aretz Consumer

If you are in Eretz Yisroel, you should be receiving this article on Parshas Behar. If you are in chutz la’aretz, you are receiving it the same week, but a parshah earlier.

 

How can we pass Parshas Behar immediately following a shmittah year without discussing the laws of shmittah? Yet many chutz la’aretz residents see no need to learn these laws, assuming that locally available produce is never affected.

Well — guess again. Although, according to the halacha, one may not export shmittah produce outside Israel (Mishnah Shvi’is 6:5), much produce finds its way there. And, even in chutz la’aretz, we must treat fruit of Eretz Yisroel with kedushas shvi’is, according to all of the laws we will now discuss.

Situation #1: WHAT A ROAST!!

Traditional English Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding and summer vegetables macro close up isolated on white

When I was a rav in America, a knowledgeable housewife cooked a delectable roast, using wine whose label indicated that it had kedushas shvi’is. Although she had no idea what this term meant, her son pointed out that they needed to ask a shaylah what to do with the roast. To make a long story short, the entire roast had to be treated with kedushas shvi’is; I will soon explain what this means.

Situation #2: WHAT ARE SEFICHIN?

“I noticed a sign in shul that the fruits and vegetables in the local supermarket are from Israel and must be treated appropriately. Someone told me that the vegetables are prohibited because they are sefichin. What does that mean?”

Situation #3: WHAT WOULD YOU RULE?

Several shmittah cycles ago, I was working as a mashgiach for a properly-run American hechsher. One factory that I supervised manufactured breading and muffin mixes. This company was extremely careful about checking its incoming ingredients: George, the receiving clerk who also managed the warehouse, kept a careful list of what products he was to allow into the plant and what kosher symbols were acceptable.

On one visit to the plant, I noticed a problem, due to no fault of the company. For years, the company had been purchasing Israeli produced freeze-dried carrots with a reliable hechsher. The carrots always arrived in bulk boxes with the Israeli hechsher prominently stamped in Hebrew and the word KOSHER prominently displayed in English. George, who always supervised incoming raw materials, proudly showed me through “his warehouse” and noted how he carefully marked the arrival date of each new shipment. I saw crates of the newest shipment of Israeli carrots, from the same manufacturer, and the same prominently displayed English word KOSHER on the box. However, the Hebrew stamp on the box was from a different supervisory agency, one without the same sterling reputation. The reason for the sudden change in supervisory agency was rather obvious, when I noted that the Hebrew label stated very clearly “Heter Mechirah.”

First, let us discuss the basics:

LAWS OF THE LAND

In this week’s parsha, the Torah (VaYikra 25:1-7) teaches that every seventh year is shmittah; we are prohibited from working the land of Eretz Yisroel and must leave our land fallow (Avodah Zarah 15b). Just as observing the seventh day, Shabbos, demonstrates our belief in the Creator, so too, observing every seventh year as shmittah demonstrates this faith. The landowner must treat whatever grows as ownerless, allowing others to enter his field or orchard to pick and take its produce. The picker may take as much as his family will eat, and the landowner himself also may take this amount (see Rambam, Hil. Shmittah 4:1).

LAWS OF THE FRUIT

Although shmittah observance today is mandated only miderabbanan (see Moed Katan 2b; Chazon Ish, Shvi’is 3:8), nevertheless, most of its laws are the same as they will be when observing shmittah will again become a mitzvah min hatorah. The Torah imbues shmittah produce with special sanctity, called kedushas shvi’is, declaring vihaysa shabbas ha’aretz lochem le’ochlah, “the produce of the shmittah should be used only for food” (VaYikra 25:6). According to accepted opinion, one is not obligated to eat shmittah food – rather, the Torah grants us permission to eat it, and we must treat it accordingly (Chazon Ish, Hil. Shvi’is 14:10). There is much halachic detail involved in correct use of shmittah produce. For example:

  1. One may not sell shmittah produce in a business manner (Rambam, Hil. Shmittah 6:1). Although one may pick shmittah produce for one’s personal consumption, one may not harvest it to sell commercially (Tosefta, Shvi’is 5:7).
  2. One may not export shmittah produce outside Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Shvi’is 6:5). There are opinions that allow exporting shmittah wine and esrogim; however, the rationales permitting this are beyond the scope of this article (Beis Ridbaz 5:18; Tzitz HaKodesh, Volume 1 #15:4).

III. Shmittah produce is intended for Jewish consumption; you may not give or sell kedushas shvi’is produce to a gentile, although you may allow him to join you for your meal (Rambam, Hil. Shmittah 5:13 and Mahari Korkos ad loc.).

  1. If one trades or sells the shmittah produce, the food or money received in exchange also has kedushas shvi’is (Sukkah 40b). (Because of space constraints, I will leave details of these halachos for another time.)
  2. One may not ruin shmittah produce (Gemara Pesachim 52b).

What types of “ruining” did the Torah prohibit? One may not cook foods that are usually eaten raw, nor may one eat raw produce that is usually cooked (Yerushalmi, Shvi’is 8:2; Rambam, Hil. Shvi’is 5:3). Therefore, one may not eat raw shmittah potatoes, nor may one cook shmittah cucumbers or oranges. Contemporary authorities dispute whether one may add shmittah orange or apricot to a recipe for roast or cake. Even though the roast or cake is delicious because of the added fruit, many poskim prohibit this cooking or baking, since these fruit are usually eaten raw (Shu”t Mishpat Cohen #85). Others permit this, if it is a usual way of eating these fruits (Mishpetei Aretz page 172, footnote 10).

One may feed shmittah produce to animals only if it is not considered fit for human consumption. This includes varieties grown for fodder, as well as peels and seeds that people do not usually eat (Rambam, Hilchos Shmittah 5:5). A neighbor of mine, whose finicky pet turtle prefers to eat lettuce, had a problem what to feed it. Before shmittah he was trying to get it to eat grass, but the turtle preferred lettuce. Oi, is shver tzu zein a turtle!

Similarly, juicing vegetables and most kinds of fruit is considered “ruining” the shmittah produce and prohibited, although one may press grapes, olives and lemons, since the juice and oil of these fruits are considered improvements. Many contemporary authorities permit pressing oranges and grapefruits, provided one treats the remaining pulp with kedushas shvi’is. Even these authorities prohibit juicing most other fruit, such as apples and pears (Minchas Shelomoh, Shvi’is pg. 185).

RUINING VERSUS EATING

How do we determine whether processing a food “ruins” it or not? Many poskim contend that if the processing changes the food’s preferred bracha, one may not perform such processing on shvi’is produce (Shu”t Mishpat Cohen #85, based on Gemara Brachos 38a and Rambam, Hilchos Shvi’is 5:3). Since turning apples to juice reduces their bracha from ha’eitz to shehakol, this would be considered “ruining” the apples. Similarly, the fact that one recites the bracha of shehakol prior to eating a raw potato or cooked cucumbers or oranges demonstrates that treating them this way ruins the produce. According to this approach, one may not press oranges or grapefruits either, since one recites shehakol and not ha’eitz on the juice (Shu”t Mishpat Cohen #85).

Those who permit squeezing oranges and grapefruits apply a different criterion, contending that since this is the most common use of these fruit, it is permitted (Minchas Shelomoh, Shvi’is pg. 185).

One must certainly be careful not to actively destroy shmittah produce. Therefore, one who has excess shvi’is produce may not trash it in the usual way. Similarly, peels that are commonly eaten, such as cucumber or apple, still have shmittah kedusha and may not simply be discarded. Instead, contemporary practice is to place these peels in a plastic bag and then place the bag in a small bin or box called a pach shvi’is, where it remains until the food is inedible. When it decomposes to this extent, one may dispose of the shmittah produce in the regular garbage.

When eating shmittah food, one need not be concerned about the remaining bits stuck to a pot or an adult’s plate that one usually just washes off; one may wash these pots and plates without concern that one is destroying shmittah produce. However, the larger amounts left behind by children, or leftovers that people might save should not be disposed in the garbage, but should be scraped into the shmittah bin.

WHY DECOMPOSE?

This leads us to a question: If indeed one may not throw shmittah produce in the garbage because it has sanctity, why may one do so after the produce decomposes? Does decomposition remove kedusha?

Indeed it does. Kedushas shvi’is means that as long as the food is still edible, one may not make it inedible or use it atypically. This is because shmittah food is meant to be eaten, even though there is no requirement to do so. However, once the shmittah food is inedible, it loses its special status, and may be disposed of as trash.

SANCTITY UNTIL SPOILAGE

This sounds very strange. Where do we find that something holy loses its special status when it becomes inedible?

Although the concept that decay eliminates sanctity seems unusual, this is only because we are unfamiliar with the mitzvos where this principle applies. Other mitzvos where this concept exists are terumah, challah, bikkurim, revai’i and maaser sheini, all cases where, in today’s world, we, unfortunately, cannot consume the produce because we are tamei (Rambam, Hilchos Terumos Chapter 11; Hilchos Maaser Sheini 3:11). Of these types of produce that are holy, but meant to be eaten, only shvi’is may be eaten by someone tamei. Even though someone tamei may not consume tahor terumah, challah, or maaser sheini, in these cases, as well, one may not dispose of or burn them. Instead, one must place them in a secure place until they decay and only then dispose of them (Tur, Yoreh Deah 331). (We burn the special challah portion after separating it only because it has become tamei. If it did not become tamei, we could not destroy the challah portion, but we would place it somewhere until it decays on its own, just as we do with unused shvi’is produce.)

A SHMITTAH ROAST IN AMERICA

We can now explore the first question I mentioned:

1a: May one use shmittah wine to season a roast?

Although one improves the roast by adding the wine, the wine itself is ruined. Thus, some poskim prohibit using the wine in this way, whereas others permit it, since this is a normal use for wine (see commentaries to Yerushalmi, Terumos 11:1).

1b: What does our American housewife do with her shmittah wine-flavored roast?

If one uses shmittah food as an ingredient, one must treat everything that absorbs its taste according to the laws of kedushas shvi’is (see Mishnah Shvi’is 7:7). Therefore, one who used shmittah potatoes in cholent or shmittah onions or bay leaves in soup must treat the entire cholent or soup according to shvi’is rules. One may not actively waste this food, nor may one feed any of it to animals, until the food is spoiled to the point that people would not eat it.

Therefore, our housewife who added shmittah wine to her roast must now consider the entire roast, even the gravy and vegetables cooked with it, to have kedushas shvi’is. One serves the roast in the regular way. As mentioned above, the small scrapings left on an adult’s plate may be washed off; but the larger amounts left behind by children should not be disposed of in the garbage, nor should the leftovers in the pot or on the platter.

Although one may not dispose of the leftover kedushas shvi’is roast in the garbage, it is unclear whether one may remove these leftovers from the refrigerator in order to hasten their decay, even to place them in a shmittah bin (see Chazon Ish, Shvi’is 14:10). However, if one removed leftover roast to serve, one is not required to return the leftovers to the refrigerator. Instead, one may simply place the leftovers somewhere until they have spoiled. To avoid the malodor that this may cause, one may place them in a plastic bag until they decay and then dispose of them.

SEFICHIN

At this point, we should address the second question I mentioned:

“I noticed a sign in shul that the some fruits and vegetables in the local supermarket are from Israel and must be treated appropriately. Someone told me that the vegetables are prohibited, because they are sefichin. What does that mean?”

The Torah permits the use of any produce that grew during shmittah by itself, without anyone working the field. However, an unfortunate fact is that, even in the days of Chazal, one could find Jews who deceitfully ignored shmittah laws. One practice of unscrupulous farmers was to plant grain or vegetables, and then market them as produce that grew on its own. To make certain that these farmers did not benefit from their misdeeds, Chazal forbade all grains and vegetables, even those that grew by themselves, a prohibition called sefichin, or plants that sprouted. Sefichin are treated as non-kosher food and forbidden to eat, even requiring one to kasher the equipment if they were cooked!

Chazal made several exceptions to this rule, including that produce of a non-Jew’s field is not prohibited as sefichin.

Since Shmittah fruits and vegetables may be sold only to someone who will properly observe the laws, and, also, there is a prohibition of shipping this produce outside Eretz Yisroel, the growers of the Shmittah produce being sold in an American grocery presumably ignored the prohibition of Shmittah. There is also the possibility that they relied on heter mechirah, a topic that I dealt with extensively in a different article.

As a practical matter, few contemporary chareidi poskim permit heter mechirah, and, even among non-chareidi authorities, support for its use is waning. Thus, if the heter mechirah is considered a charade and not a valid sale, the grain and vegetables growing in a heter mechirah field are prohibited as sefichin.

WHY NOT FRUIT?

Chazal included in the prohibition of sefichin only crops that could be planted and yield a harvest in one year. They did not extend the prohibition of sefichin to tree fruits and other perennial crops, such as bananas and strawberries, because there was less incentive for a cheating farmer. Although trees definitely thrive when pruned and cared for, they will produce, even if left unattended for a year. Thus, the farmer has less incentive to tend his trees.

“GUARDED PRODUCE”

I mentioned above that a farmer must allow others free access to help themselves to any produce that grows on his trees and fields during shmittah. What is the halacha if a farmer treats this produce as his own and refuses access to it during shmittah?

The Rishonim dispute whether this will make the fruit forbidden. Some late poskim permit the fruit, because they rule that the forbidden working of an orchard or treating it as private property does not prohibit its fruit (see Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:186). Others rule that one should prohibit “guarded fruit.”

What about our carrot muffins? If we remember our original story, the company had unwittingly purchased heter mechirah carrots. The hechsher required the company to return all unopened boxes of carrots to the supplier and to find an alternative source. However, by the time the problem was discovered, muffin mix using these carrots had already been produced and distributed, bearing the hechsher’s kashrus symbol. The hechsher referred the shaylah to its posek, asking whether they were required to recall the product from the stores as non-kosher, or whether it was sufficient to advertise that an error had occurred, advising the customer to ask his individual rav for halachic guidance. The posek asked permitted them to follow the latter procedure.

For someone living in Eretz Yisroel, observing shmittah properly involves assuming much halachic responsibility, education and often great commitment, since shmittah-permitted produce is often many times more expensive than its alternative. Those living in chutz la’aretz should be aware of the halachos of shvi’is and identify with this demonstration that the Ribbono Shel Olam created the world in seven days, and that the seventh year is holy.

 

Mixed Breeds

muleQuestion: Mule Inventors

“Who invented, or should I say ‘discovered,’ the mule?”

Question: The Hybrid or the Hybridization?

“Is it permitted to use the product of a prohibited hybridization (crossbreeding) of animals?”

Question: Buy me a Mule!

“May I purchase a mule from a gentile? May I hire him to produce it for me?”

Question: Crossbreeding Pro

“Before I became frum, I was well experienced at hybridizing and raising crossbred birds. Is there any way that I can use this skill to earn a livelihood, now that I have become a baal teshuvah?”

Question: Roommates

“Is the zoo permitted to house different species together?”

Introduction:

Two mitzvos of the Torah deal with the mixing of animal species. In parshas Kedoshim, the Torah teaches: Behemtecha lo sarbia kil’ayim, “Do not crossbreed your animal” (Vayikra 19:19). This prohibition applies to beheimah, usually translated as domesticated species; chayah, usually but somewhat inaccurately translated as wild or non-domesticated* species; birds; and sea chayos, such as sea mammals (Mishnah, Baba Kama 54b and Gemara 55a). Violating this proscription is punishable by malkus, as is true for most lo saaseh violations of the Torah, but only if one mates them physically. Encouraging the mating process less directly is prohibited and is the source of a dispute between early authorities whether it is prohibited min haTorah (Drishah, Yoreh Deah 297:1) or only miderabbanan (Taz, ad locum). It is permitted to house two species together, and one has no requirement to separate them if they mate on their own (Yerushalmi Kelayim 8:2, quoted by Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 297:3). (Those checking the references should note that there are two chapters in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah numbered 297, and the laws we are discussing are in the second of those chapters.)

Lo Sacharosh

There is also another mitzvah of the Torah, mentioned in the context of Kelayim prohibitions in parshas Ki Seitzei: Lo sacharosh beshor uvachamor yachdav, You may not plough with an ox and a donkey together (Devorim 22:10). This mitzvah prohibits working two species of animals together. According to the opinion of the Rambam, the Torah prohibition of this law is violated only when one species is kosher and the other is non-kosher – other circumstances are prohibited, only because of a rabbinic injunction. Other authorities dispute this ruling of the Rambam, contending that working two species together is prohibited min haTorah, even when both are kosher or both are non-kosher. There is much to discuss about this topic, but we will leave it for a different article.

Which species?

The Mishnah (Kelayim 1:6) lists several combinations of species that one may not crossbreed, such as wolves and dogs, or mules and donkeys, and the Gemara (Bava Kama 55a) notes several other examples, including two varieties of geese where some physical differences determine that they are different species for halachic purposes. On the other hand, the Gemara (Bava Kama 55a) mentions that Persian camels and Arabian camels are not Kelayim together, even though the length of the neck of the two breeds are noticeably different. Furthermore, the Rambam rules that a species with wild and domesticated varieties, such as wild and domesticated oxen or horses, may be crossbred, even when the domesticated variety has some obvious differences from the wild variety (Rambam, Hilchos Kelayim 9:5).

We are left with a question: how does halachah define what is considered a variety of a species versus what is considered a different species? One may crossbreed or work together two animals that are considered two different varieties, but one may not crossbreed or work together two animals that halachah considers different species. However, the Mishnah never provides defining characteristics that we can use. It is also interesting to note that the Gemara (Bava Kama 55a) states that even two species that freely mate together in the wild may not be hybridized. Thus, an animal’s social life, also, does not determine what is considered its species.

Rashi on the mule

At the end of parshas Vayishlach, the Torah recounts how Anah, Sei’ir Hachori’s grandson, shepherded donkeys for his father, and, while doing so, discovered yeimim (Bereishis 36:24), which Rav Saadia Gaon, Rashi and others translate as mules. Rashi and the Ibn Ezra explain that Anah’s “discovery” means he developed the science of crossbreeding a male donkey (called a jackass) and a mare (a female horse) which produces a mule. (See the Targum Onkelos and the Ramban, who explain the verse very differently.) Rashi explains that Anah, who himself descended from a scandalous relationship, was the first to crossbreed two different species, also a scandalous act.

This statement of Rashi presents two questions:

  1. What is wrong with Anah having crossbred donkeys and horses? This is not one of the seven Noahide laws.
  2. Rashi’s comment that Anah was the first to create a mule implies that this was a newfangled “invention” and not yet commonly used. Yet Rashi himself, in parshas Tolados, mentions that when Yitzchak became well respected, people said that “the manure of Yitzchak’s mules is more valuable than Avimelech’s gold and silver” (Bereishis 26:13). Obviously, this means that mules were commonplace in the days of Yitzchak. Can both of these statements of Rashi be accurate?

Furthermore, the statement of Rashi in parshas Tolados presents yet another question, since it implies that it is not considered unbecoming to mention that Yitzchak owned mules, notwithstanding the fact that the Torah prohibits a Jew from producing them. Why, then, are Anah’s mules considered to be so scandalous?

To answer the question why Rashi criticizes Anah for creating mules, when a ben Noach is permitted to crossbreed animals, we need some broader Talmudic background.

Bnei Noach and crossbreeding

Although the seven mitzvos are the most basic mitzvah requirements that apply to bnei Noach, there are other mitzvos that apply to them, at least according to some opinions. Some tanna’im rule that the laws prohibiting sorcery apply to them, and others understand that they are prohibited from grafting one species onto the rootstock of a different species.

There is a tanna, Rabbi Elazar, who contends that bnei Noach are forbidden to crossbreed animals of different species, even though this prohibition is not treated as severely as are the seven mitzvos (Sanhedrin 56b). The Gemara (Sanhedrin 60a) explains that Rabbi Elazar derives that bnei Noach are forbidden to crossbreed animals from  the pasuk (partially quoted above), Es chukosai tishmoru behemtecha lo sarbia kil’ayim (Vayikra 19:19), which Rabbi Elazar interprets to mean, “You should be careful to observe the laws that I previously prohibited: Do not breed your animals — one species with another!” However, there is no previous place in the Torah where we are commanded not to crossbreed animals. Rabbi Elazar reasons that this must mean that when Noach left the teivah and was commanded concerning other laws, he was also told that he may not crossbreed animals. Thus, it would appear that when Rashi, in our parshah, bemoans Anah’s activities, he is assuming the halachah is as understood by Rabbi Elazar that all of mankind is prohibited from crossbreeding two species.

Halachic conclusion

The Rambam rules that a ben Noach is prohibited from crossbreeding animals (Hilchos Melachim 10:6). According to his approach, Rashi’s comments about Anah introducing something forbidden into the world are halachically accurate.

Asking a gentile

May one ask or hire a gentile to create hybrid animals? According to the Rambam, who rules according to Rabbi Elazar, this is certainly prohibited, because one is thereby causing a gentile to violate the Torah (Drishah).

The authorities conclude that asking or hiring a non-Jew to crossbreed is prohibited, even according to those who disagree with Rabbi Elazar and contend that a gentile is permitted to crossbreed. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 297:4), as understood by most authorities, prohibits having a gentile crossbreed for a Jew, because of the prohibition of having a gentile perform something that a Jew is not permitted to do myself, which is called amirah lenachri (Rema, Shach and others, based on Bava Metzia 90a).

There is a difference in halachah that results from the dispute why one may not hire a gentile to crossbreed for you. May one teach a gentile how to crossbreed animals for the gentile’s benefit (see Shach, Yoreh Deah 297:4)? According to the Rambam, this is prohibited, since one will be teaching him to do something that he may not do. However, according to those who contend that a gentile may crossbreed animals, it is permitted to advise or instruct the gentile how to do so, even if he uses a Jew’s animals, since he is not doing so in order to benefit a Jew.

Crossbreeding pro

At this point, we can address another one of our opening questions: “Before I became frum, I was well experienced at hybridizing and raising crossbred birds. Is there any way that I can use this skill to earn a livelihood, now that I have become a baal teshuvah?”

The answer is that one can practice breeding of the same species, assuming one can figure out what is considered the same species according to halachah. Whether one can be paid to train a gentile how to crossbreed two different species will depend on the above-quoted dispute. It would appear that the Shach rules that one may, whereas the Derishah and others prohibit. I refer an individual with this question to his own rav or posek.

Using a hybrid

Whether we rule according to Rabbi Elazar or the differing tanna, the halachah remains that even when an animal is created by prohibited hybridization, one may benefit from the crossbred animal (Taz, Yoreh Deah 297:2). Even according to Rabbi Elazar, one may purchase a mule, once it has been produced, and use it, and even a person who violated the halachah and created a mule may use it. Thus, Yitzchak may have purchased many mules to assist him, and the fact that people praised the quality of Yitzchak’s mules is not disturbing.

The beefalo

Relatively recently, a new hybrid was developed, which is a cross between the ordinary beef cattle and a North American bison, which Americans colloquially call a buffalo. Is it permitted to make this crossbreed? One major authority contends that whether one may crossbreed buffalo and cattle depends on whether one is required to perform kisuy hadam, the mitzvah of covering the blood of shechitah, after slaughtering a buffalo. Kisuy hadam is required only on fowl and chayos but not on beheimos, such as cattle. If there is no requirement to perform kisuy hadam on buffalo, this demonstrates that it is considered a beheimah. Since there are only three species of beheimah — sheep, goats, and cattle, then ruling that a buffalo does not require kisuy hadam means that halachah considers it to be a beheimah, and, if it is a beheimah, the process of elimination proves that it must be considered a variety of cattle, since it is certainly not a sheep or a goat.

Sefardim, Ashkenazim and buffalos

Is kisuy hadam required on a buffalo? This is a dispute between the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 28:4) concluding that there is no requirement to perform kisuy hadam, whereas the Rema rules that one should do so without a brocha  since we are uncertain whether it is considered a chayah. The Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 297:8) notes that this dispute between the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema will also affect whether one is permitted to crossbreed buffalo with ordinary cattle, since the Shulchan Aruch, by concluding that it is a beheimah, must hold that they are halachically considered to be the same species. On the other hand, since the Rema is concerned that buffalo might be a variety of chayah, one would not be permitted to crossbreed it with cattle.

Halachic conclusion: According to the Aruch Hashulchan, a Sefardi would be permitted to crossbreed buffalo with cattle, and an Ashkenazi would not.

Who invented the mule?

Was Anah the first one to create a mule, or did it precede him?

The Gemara (Pesachim 54a) cites a dispute among three tanna’im regarding who created the first mule. According to Rabbi Yosi, Adam created the first mule on the first motza’ei Shabbos of Creation. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel disagrees, contending that Anah created the first mule. In a different beraisa, the Gemara quotes Rabbi Nechemiah, who contended that mules were created by Hashem at the very end of the Six Days of Creation. The passage Rashi quotes in parshas Vayishlach is indeed originally from Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, in the Gemara. However, when Rashi in parshas Tolados quotes the Bereishis Rabbah about Yitzchok’s mules, presumably that passage accords with one of the other opinions among the tanna’im, who date the creation of the mule much earlier.

By the way, it is possible that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel accepts the essence of the statement about Yitzchok, but simply does not include the word mules in his version. Tosafos (Bava Metzia 85a) quotes the Midrash Rabbah that Rashi quotes in parshas Tolados, but with one change: In his version, people complimented the manure of Yitzchok’s animals, rather than specifically his mules. This approach would reflect the opinion of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel.

Meet the mule

Although most people use the term mule to refer both to the offspring of a stallion (male horse) and a jenny (female donkey) and to the offspring of a jackass (male donkey) and a mare (female horse), this is technically inaccurate. A mule is the offspring of a jackass and a mare. The offspring of a stallion and a jenny is called a hinny. However, Chazal use the word pered to describe either a mule or a hinny; a mule is called pered ben susya, the offspring of a mare (see Chullin 114b) and a hinny is called pered ben chamorah, the offspring of a jenny. (The word pered, itself, is of Tanachic origin — for example, Avshalom rode on a pered — but there is no indication in Tanach regarding its specific parental origin.)

There are visible differences between a mule and a hinny, particularly in the appearance of their ears, tail and voice (Chullin 79a). Mankind has found mules useful, because they are very strong and often easier to train and work with than horses, and withstand difficult hardships better than do horses.

On the other hand, hinnies are sometimes no more useful than donkeys, and sometimes have a reputation for being of difficult temperament. In size and strength, they usually approximate donkeys. Since they are usually no more useful than donkeys, and they are virtually always sterile, it is far less common for farmers to breed them. In general, neither mules nor hinnies produce offspring, although there are anecdotal instances of female mules reproducing after mating with stallions or jackasses.

One is permitted to mate a male mule with a female one (Rambam, Hilchos Kelayim 9:6). However, whether one may mate a mule and a hinny is the subject of a dispute among tanna’im (Chullin 79a). The Rambam (Hilchos Kelayim 9:6) and the Shulchan Aruch rule that this is prohibited, just as it is prohibited to breed animals of different species. This is prohibited, even though it is almost certain that this match will not produce offspring.

Difference between pered and mule

Now that we are well educated about the difference between a mule and a hinny, we can answer another of our opening questions: “What is the difference between the Hebrew pered and the mule?” The answer is that the word pered is used by Chazal to mean either a mule or a hinny. Rashi, on the verse in parshas Vayishlach, says clearly that Anah crossbred a male donkey with a female horse, which means that he created a mule.

Conclusion

Speaking of mules reminds me of the passage of Gemara (Bechoros 8b) that recounts a puzzling conversation that transpired between the scholars of Athens and the tanna Rabbi Yehoshua. The Athenians asked Rabbi Yehoshua: “When salt spoils, with what do you salt it?” To this, Rabbi Yehoshua answered, “With the afterbirth of a mule.” They then asked him, “Does a mule have an afterbirth?” To this he replied, “Does salt spoil?”

What is meant by this short but very enigmatic debate?

The Athenian scholars were challenging the fact that the Jews maintain that we will eventually be redeemed. The scholars claimed: “You Jews did not keep your end of the deal with G-d, and therefore your deal is abrogated. Indeed, it was to have been a covenant forever, like salt, but your salt spoiled!”

To this, Rabbi Yehoshua replied: “Our children (our afterbirth) continue to study Torah, and that is our guarantee.”

The Athenians retorted: “But you are a mule. You do not have a future that will have a relationship with G-d.”

Rabbi Yehoshua responded: “You are mistaken. You claim that our covenant with Hashem is abrogated. This is not true. Salt does not spoil, and our covenant with Hashem is forever!” (See Commentary of the Vilna Geon to Aggados Hashas.)

* The Gemara (Chullin 59b) mentions several characteristics that distinguish beheimos from chayos, mostly dependent on the animal’s horns. Reindeer, although domesticated, are clearly chayos since they have branched antlers, whereas there are non-domesticated species that are almost certainly categorized as beheimah.

 

Parshah Insights: The Case of the Missing Haftarah

This week I am presenting an article by a guest author, Rabbi Yehuda Spitz. The original article was written for a common year. I have modified the article to make it appropriate for a leap year.

Parshah Insights: The Case of the Missing Haftarah

By Rabbi Yehuda Spitz

Because this Shabbos, Parshas Acharei Mos in chutz la’aretz and Parshas Kedoshim in Eretz Yisroel, falls on erev Rosh Chodesh, the accepted reading in most communities is from the book of Shemuel, because the words at the beginning of the haftarah are Mochor Chodesh, “Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh.” However, as we will soon see, whether this is the correct haftarah for this Shabbos is a subject of dispute. There is also a dispute regarding what haftarah is read next Shabbos.

It is fairly common that the Haftarah on parshas Kedoshim is not the one listed in the Chumash. I have even seen times when the haftarah reading commenced in the shul, while a concurrent dispute was carrying on with some congregants arguing that the Ba’al Koreh was reading the wrong haftarah!

To understand properly whether the “wrong haftarah” was read, some background is needed.

Haftarah History

According to the Abudraham and Tosafos Yom Tov, the haftaros were established when the wicked Antiochus (infamous from the Chanukah miracle) outlawed public reading of the Torah. The Chachamim of the time therefore established the custom of reading a topic from the Nevi’im similar to what was supposed to be read from the Torah.[1] Even after the decree was nullified, this became minhag Yisrael.

Most haftaros share similarity with at least some concept presented in the Torah reading. For example, the Gemara (Megillah 29b-31a) discusses the proper haftarah readings for the various holidays throughout the year.

An interesting halachah germane to us is which haftarah is read when there is a double parshah. The Abudraham cites two minhagim which are based on a dispute in halachah: one, to read the first parshah’s haftarah; two, the “Rambam’s minhag” to read the second. Most Rishonim, including the Sefer Haminhagim, Mordechai, Ramban, Hagahos Maimoniyos, Shibbolei Haleket, and Tur rule that one should read the second parshah’s haftarah.[2] This second approach is codified as the proper psak by both the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 284; 7) and the Rema (Orach Chaim 428: 8), and, as far as this author knows, this is accepted by all of Klal Yisrael.[3] The main reason to do so is to enable reading a haftarah that is related to what was just concluded in the Torah leining, which is the second parshah, not the first one.

Acharei Exclusion

Yet, when it comes to the parshiyos of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim, it seems that it is not so simple. Although the Shulchan Aruch does not mention any difference between these and other double parshiyos, the Rema, citing the Sefer Haminhagim and the Mordechai, writes that the haftarah of the first parshah, Acharei Mos, is the proper one to read.

The reason for the uncharacteristic change is that the haftarah of Parshas Kedoshim, “Hasishpot,” from sefer Yechezkel, includes what is known as “Toavas Yerushalayim,” a revealing prophecy of the woeful spiritual state of the Jewish communities and the terrible things that will occur to the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael for not following the word of G-d. The Gemara (Megillah 25b) relates a story of one who read such a haftarah in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer, and whose own family’s indiscretions subsequently exposed. It was suggested that this passage not be read as a haftarah. Ultimately, though, the Gemara concludes that Hasishpot can be read as a haftarah.

Despite this halachic conclusion, it seems that the custom developed that, whenever possible, we avoid reading this condemning passage as the haftarah, whenever there is an easy alternative. Additionally, the content of Acharei Mos’ haftarah, “Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim” (from Amos in Trei Asar, Ch. 9) relates to Parshas Kedoshim, as well. Therefore, the Rema rules that when the Torah reading is the double parshiyos of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim, the haftarah of Acharei Mos is read, as opposed to every other double parshah, where the haftarah of the second parshah is read.

The Levush argued vehemently against such a switch, and suggested that the earlier authorities, who are quoted in support of the Rema’s position, never held this way. The Levush contends that it was a printing mistake to suggest such a switch.[4] Nevertheless, the Rema’s rule is followed by virtually all later poskim and Ashkenazic Kehillos.[5]

It should be noted that the Rema’s ruling here was not accepted by the Sefardic authorities. When Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, they do indeed read Kedoshim’s haftarah, Hasishpot.[6]

Hazardous Haftarah?

Let us now take this question to the next step. How far do Ashkenazim go to avoid reading Hasishpot (Kedoshim’s usual haftarah) when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are read on separate weeks?

This is where it gets interesting. The Gemara (Megillah 31a) states that whenever Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos, a special haftarah is read: “Hashamayim Kis’i,” as it mentions the concepts of both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh.[7] If Rosh Chodesh falls out on Sunday, then on the preceding Shabbos, the haftarah of ‘Machar Chodesh’ is read, as it mentions the following day being Rosh Chodesh.

Rav Akiva Eiger[8] mentions that when Parshas Acharei Mos falls on Erev Rosh Chodesh and its haftarah gets pushed off for ‘Machar Chodesh’, then the proper haftarah for Parshas Kedoshim the next week is… Acharei Mos’s haftarah, and not Kedoshim’s! Rav Eiger’s reasoning is that since we find precedent not to read Kedoshim’s haftarah when the two parshiyos are read together, due to its explicit content, the same should apply for any other time Acharei Mos’s haftarah was not read; it should replace Kedoshim’s haftarah! Indeed, although not the common custom elsewhere, there is even an old Yerushalmi minhag not to ever read the haftarah of Kedoshim; and even when the Parshiyos are separate, Acharei Mos’s haftarah is read two weeks in a row.[9]

Although not universally accepted,[10] Rav Akiva Eiger’s rule is cited as the halachah by the Mishnah Berurah, and the proper Ashkenazic minhag by the Kaf Hachaim.[11] The Chazon Ish, as well as Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky,[12] rule this way as well. That is why in 5774/2014, when Acharei Mos was Shabbos Hagadol and its usual haftarah was not read, but replaced by the special haftarah for Shabbos Hagadol, many shuls read Acharei Mos’ haftarah on Parshas Kedoshim, instead of Kedoshim’s usual one. The same question will occur next week in chutz la’aretz: which haftarah do we read?

In fact, that is how both Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin’s authoritative Ezras Torah Luach and Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s essential Luach Eretz Yisrael rule as the proper minhag.[13]

To sum up, the next time you are trying to figure out what happened to the missing haftarah of Kedoshim, be aware – you may have to go back to Acharei Mos!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: yspitz@ohr.edu.

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U’Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim.

 

[1] As per the Tosafos Yom Tov (Megillah, Perek Bnei Ha’Ir, Mishnah 4 s.v. l’chisidran), citing the Sefer Hatishbi (Shoresh Petter). A similar background is provided by the Abudraham (Seder Parshiyos V’Haftaros).

[2] Abudraham (Seder Parshiyos V’Haftaros), Sefer Haminhagim (Minhag Shel Shabbos), Mordechai (end Maseches Megillah, 831; and not like the Ravyah citing the Ri Halevi), Ramban (Seder Hatefillos Kol Hashana, end par. Hamaftir B’Navi; ‘v’zu haminhag b’rov hamekomos’), Hagahos Maimoniyos (Hilchos Tefillah, Ch. 13: 20), Shibbolei Haleket (80), and Tur (Orach Chaim 428).

[3] See, for example, Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 118: 17), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79: 6), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 428: 7), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 51), and Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 484: 6).

[4] Levush (Orach Chaim 428: 8 and 493 s.v. l’Parshas Kedoshim; at length). He adds that that haftarah, although discussing To’avas Yerushalayim is not the actual one discussed in the Gemara that Rabbi Eliezer held should not be read (which is found in Yechezkel Ch. 16). Additionally, Hasishpot is mentioned by several early authorities as being the proper haftarah for several other parshiyos (some Sefardim and Yemenites, in fact, read it for Parshas Shemos). Therefore, he maintains, how can we now say that it should not be read? Moreover, if the reason we read the second parshah’s haftarah is because the haftarah should be similar to the Torah reading just concluded, why should that change because of a specific haftarah’s content? He concludes that several other important authorities, including the Tikun Yissachar (Minhagos Haftaros pg. 84), hold not to switch, and when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, Kedoshim’s haftarah should still be read.

[5] Including the Agudah (cited by the Magen Avrohom, Orach Chaim 428: 10), Bach (ad loc. s.v. u’mah shekasav), Matteh Moshe (424), Magen Avrohom (ibid.), Elyah Rabbah (493: 17; and Elyah Zuta 16, following his ‘Zikno HaGaon  z”l’ — citing it as the minhag of Prague), Tosafos Yom Tov (Malbushei Yom Tov ad loc. 3; citing it as the minhag of the Maharash), Ba’er Heitiv (Orach Chaim 428: 9), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 118: 17), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79: 6), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 428: 7), Mishnah Berurah (428, 26), and Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s Shoneh Halachos (ad loc. 22). The Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 52) cites this as the prevalent Ashkenazic minhag.

[6] Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 428: 52) rules that Sefardic minhag is to follow the Kenesses Hagedolah (ad loc.) and Tikkun Yissachar (ibid.), and read Hasishpot, the haftarah of Kedoshim. This approach is also implied by the Shulchan Aruch, since he makes no mention of reading a different haftarah. Yalkut Yosef (ibid.) and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halachah glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79: 3) state this as well.

It is interesting to note that there are actually two different haftaros from Yechezkel known as ‘Hasishpot,’ (Ch. 20 and Ch. 22) and that both discuss Toavas Yerushalayim. When Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, Sefardim generally read Hasishpot from Yechezkel Ch. 20, which is also Kedoshim’s regular haftarah for Sefardim. The remarkably similar Hasishpot that Ashkenazim read for Parshas Kedoshim is from Yechezkel Ch. 22, which Sefardim generally read on Parshas Acharei Mos, rather than Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim that Ashkenazim read.

[7] See also Shu”t Noda B’Yehuda (Tinyana, Orach Chaim 11).

[8] Hagahos Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Orach Chaim 428, on Magen Avrohom 10).

[9] See Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer’s Shu”t Even Yisrael (vol. 8: 38). He even mentions years and places where this was actually the practice!

[10] The Sefer Haminhagim (ibid.), who rules that when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, one reads the haftarah of Acharei Mos, explicitly writes that when Acharei Mos’s haftarah is not read due to Rosh Chodesh, on the next week, Kedoshim’s haftarah should be read and not that of Acharei Mos. This author has since heard that the Belzer minhag is to follow the Sefer Haminhagim and not Rav Akiva Eiger.

[11] Mishnah Berurah (ibid.) and Kaf Hachaim (ibid.). It is also cited lemaaseh by several other sefarim including the Shulchan Hakeriah (28), Leket Kemach Hachodosh (vol. 3, Tomer Devorah 85), Shu”t Beis Yisrael (Taussig; vol. 8: pg. 206), and Zer HaTorah (Ch. 10: 133, haghah 176). See also the excellent maamar by Rabbi Moshe Eliezer Blum in Kovetz Ohr Yisroel (vol. 52: Sivan 5768) citing several proofs that the halacha follows Rav Akiva Eiger.

[12] See Shoneh Halachos (ad loc. 22); Rav Kanievsky adds that this was also the Chazon Ish’s psak. See also Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 1: 36), where, although dealing with what to do if one already made a brachah on the wrong haftarah for Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim [if reading from a Navi, Rav Moshe rules that Hasishpot should be read instead of making a new brachah; however if from a Chumash then one should read just  Acharei Mos’ haftarah], Rav Moshe mentions that, generally speaking, the haftarah for Kedoshim is rarely read, and cites as a davar pashut that anytime there is a conflict of haftaros, Acharei Mos’s haftarah is read instead. According to Rabbi Dovid Heber, author of Shaarei Zemanim, most Ashkenazic Kehillos read the haftarah of Hasishpot only 14 times in the Tur’s (Orach Chaim end 428) 247 year cycle, making it practically the rarest of all haftaros. In contrast, and as mentioned above in the footnotes above, many Sefardim read Hasishpot three times in some years (Shemos, Acharei Mos, and Kedoshim).

[13] Luach Ezras Torah (5774, Parshas Kedoshim) and Luach Eretz Yisrael (5774, Minhagei Hashana, Nisan, s.v. Kedoshim).

Medicines for Pesach

medicineQuestion #1: The Ubiquitous Lists

“Why do we have lists of acceptable medicines for Pesach? Aren’t they all inedible?”

Question #2: Leavening Forever!

“Is leavened dough always chometz?”

Question #3: The Spoiler

“Do prohibited foods remain so after they spoil?”

Introduction

As we all know, the Torah prohibits eating, using or even owning chometz on Pesach. But do these laws apply to something that is no longer edible? May I swallow it as medicine? Understanding properly the source material is our topic for this week’s article.

We should first note that many of these issues are germane not only to chometz, but also in regard to all foods that the Torah prohibits (issurei achilah): Does the Torah ban them even after they have become inedible? Can this be considered eating? And, assuming that the Torah does not prohibit them, are they perhaps forbidden because of a rabbinic injunction? Furthermore, if they were proscribed due to a rabbinic decree, perchance some exemption was provided for a medical reason, even when it is not pikuach nefesh, a life-threatening emergency.

Pikuach nefesh

It is important to point out that most of our discussion is not about instances of medicines necessary because of pikuach nefesh. With very few exceptions, an emergency that might endanger someone’s life, even if the possibility is remote, requires one to take whatever action is necessary, including consuming non-kosher food and benefiting from prohibited substances. We will return to this discussion later in this article, but only after we understand the basic principles.

Unusual benefits

A question similar to what was raised above — whether non-kosher foods that are now inedible remain prohibited — relates to items from which the Torah prohibited benefit (issurei hana’ah), such as the mitzvah of orlah. Does this prohibition apply only if one benefits from orlah fruit the way people typically utilize the forbidden item, such as by selling it or by polishing furniture with orlah lemon juice, or does the prohibition apply even to using the item in an unusual way, such as by taking edible fruit and using it as an ointment?

Unusual eats

Let us begin our search with the original Gemara sources of this discussion, which provides the following statement: One does not get punished for violating any prohibitions of the Torah unless he consumes them the way they are usually eaten (Pesachim 24b). It is not prohibited min hatorah to eat or drink a prohibited substance that is now inedible either because it became spoiled or because a bitter ingredient was introduced (Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah 5:8). We will discuss shortly whether there is a rabbinic prohibition involved in eating this food.

The same rule applies regarding eating on Yom Kippur. For example, someone who drank salad dressing on Yom Kippur is not punished for violating the Torah’s law requiring one to fast, because this is not a typical way to eat (Yoma 81a). However, someone who dipped food into salad dressing and ate it violates the Torah laws of Yom Kippur also for the dressing, since this is a normal way of consuming it.

Bad benefits

Similarly, when the Torah prohibits issurei hana’ah, they were usually prohibited min hatorah only when used the way the substance is typically used. However, using the material in an abnormal way, such as by smearing an orlah fruit on his body as an ointment, is not proscribed by the Torah, but only because of an injunction introduced by the Sages, an issur derabbanan. Such an atypical benefit is called: shelo kederech hana’asah.

Rubs me the wrong way

Since the prohibition of benefiting in an unusual way is rabbinic, it is relaxed when there is a medical reason to do so, even when no life-threatening emergency exists. These principles are reflected by the following Talmudic passage:

Mar the son of Rav Ashi found Ravina rubbing undeveloped orlah olives onto his daughter, who was ill. Whereupon Rav Ashi asked Ravina why he did this since the disease was not life threatening? Ravina responded that using the fruit this way is considered unusual because people typically wait until the olives ripen before extracting their oil. Since this is not the normal way to use the olives, the prohibition to use orlah fruit this way is only miderabbanan, and in the case of medical need Chazal were lenient (second version of Pesachim 25b, see Rashi ad locum and Tosafos, Shavuos 22b s.v. aheitera and 23b s.v. demuki).

To sum up: We have established that both issurei achilah and issurei hana’ah are prohibited min hatorah only when they are eaten or used in the way that someone would typically consume them or benefit from them. Benefiting from issurei hana’ah in an atypical way is prohibited miderabbanan; however, the Sages permitted this to be done when a medical need exists. We do not yet know whether this ruling holds true also regarding someone who needs to eat something that is not typically eaten.

Now that we have established some of the basic principles, let us examine some rules specific to the prohibition of chometz that will help us answer our original questions.

When is it no longer chometz?

Can chometz change its stripes so that it is no longer considered chometz? The answer is that it can lose its status as chometz – when it is decomposed or otherwise ruined to a point that it is nifsal mei’achilas kelev, a dog will no longer eat it (see Pesachim 45b). Since it no longer can be used for either food or feed, it loses its status as chometz that one is prohibited from owning and using on Pesach (Tosafos ad locum; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 442:9; cf. Rashi, Pesachim op cit., whose position is more lenient).

This is true only when the chometz was rendered inedible before Pesach. The Gemara (21b) states that if chometz became burnt before the time on Erev Pesach when one is prohibited from owning it, one may benefit from it even on Pesach. If it was still chometz when Pesach arrived, and it was destroyed or rendered inedible in the course of Yom Tov, it is prohibited from benefit on Pesach (Pesachim 21b).

We will see shortly that there are instances when it is permitted to own and use chometz on Pesach even though it is still edible. But first, we need to explain an important principle.

What is sourdough?

The Torah explicitly prohibits possessing on Pesach not only chometz, but also sourdough (Shemos 12:15, 19; 13:7; Devarim 16:4). What is sourdough? It is dough left to rise until it has become inedible. However, it can be used as a leavening agent added to other dough to cause or hasten fermentation. Since sourdough originates as chometz and can produce more chometz it shares the same fate as chometz – one may not consume, use, or even own it on Pesach. (By the way, although yeast has replaced sourdough as the commonly used fermentation agent, sourdough is often used today in rye breads and other products to impart a certain desired flavor.) This halachah implies that something may no longer be edible and yet still be prohibited as chometz.

Can sourdough go sour?

I mentioned above that once chometz is no longer edible for a dog, it loses its status as a prohibited substance. Does this law apply also to sourdough? Although a Jew may not own or use inedible sourdough on Pesach, does this prohibition apply only to what a dog would eat? May one own and use sourdough on Pesach that decomposed to the point that a dog would not eat it?

These questions are the subject of a disagreement among the rishonim. Many authorities permit owning sourdough that would no longer be eaten by a dog, whereas others, such as the Raavad (Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 1:2), proscribe owning over-soured dough on Pesach. Those who forbid it do so because sourdough is never considered an edible product, yet the Torah banned it because of its facility as a leavening agent, which is not harmed by its becoming inedible. Edibility, whether for man or beast, is only a factor when we are defining prohibited foods, but not when the Torah forbade an item that was never a food to begin with.

The later authorities dispute which way we should rule in this last matter. See the Biur Halachah 442:9 s.v. Chometz who quotes much of the dispute.

When is edible chometz permitted?

We have so far established that although chometz that a dog would not eat is no longer forbidden as chometz, sourdough that a dog would not eat might still be prohibited. However, there is a major exception to this rule – that is, there are instances when chometz may not have reached the level of nifsal mei’achilas kelev, and yet one may own it and even use it on Pesach. This exception is when the chometz is no longer considered to have any food use, notwithstanding that it is technically still edible. Here is the germane passage of Gemara:

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says one must destroy chometz only as long as the bread or the sourdough still exists as a food. However, a block of sourdough that was designated to use for sitting is no longer considered chometz,  even when it is still edible (Pesachim 45b and Tosafos ad loc.).

How can one possibly own this sourdough on Pesach if a dog would still eat it?

When presenting this case as a halachic rule, the Rambam (Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 4:10, 11) introduces us to a new term: nifsad tzuras hachametz, literally, its appearance as chometz is lost. The Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 116:8) explains this to mean that since people are now repulsed to eat it or to use it in a food product, it is no longer halachically chometz since people no longer regard it as food. The same ruling applies to similar items whose use is not for food, such as chometz used in ointments or to starch clothes (Rambam, Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 4:10; Rosh, Pesachim 3:5).

A sourdough cover-up

Although the Gemara concludes that we are not quite as lenient as is Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar, this is a question of degree, but not of basic principle. Whereas Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar permitted sourdough that one intends to use as a seat, the Gemara permits it only when the surface of the block is coated with a layer of dried mud. This demonstrates that it is now viewed as a piece of furniture (Rashi). The halachic authorities dispute to what extent one must coat the sourdough block, some ruling that it must be covered on all sides whereas others rule that it is sufficient if the top, the part that will be sat upon, is coated with mud (see discussion in Mishnah Berurah 442:42 and Shaar Hatziyun ad loc.).

Notwithstanding this dispute concerning how much of the block needs to be coated, all agree that the sourdough beneath the dried mud surface is still theoretically edible, yet one may own and use it on Pesach (Shaar Hatziyun 442:69). Since people no longer view this sourdough as food, it loses its status. As the Mishnah Berurah (442:41) emphasizes, our conclusion is that two steps must have occurred to this block before Pesach to permit owning and using it on Pesach:

  • The owner must have designated the sourdough as a seat.
  • Its surface was overlaid with mud.

The dispute among tanna’im regards only whether we require the second step, which Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar did not require.

At this point we can answer one of our opening questions:

“Is leavened dough always chometz?”

The answer is that there are two instances when it is not considered chometz anymore:

  • When it was rendered before Pesach so inedible that a dog would not eat it.
  • When it is being used for a non-food purpose and something has been done to it that makes people repulsed by the idea of eating it.

Eating spoiled chometz

We mentioned above the Gemara’s statement that chometz burnt before Pesach may be used on Pesach (Pesachim 21b). The wording of the Gemara causes the rishonim to raise the following question: Why does the Gemara say that one may benefit from the burnt chometz, rather than permit even eating it, since it is no longer considered food and therefore not included under the prohibition of chometz?

There are two major approaches to answer this question, which result in a dispute in practical halachah. According to the Ran, since the burning rendered the chometz inedible even by an animal, one may even eat it, but the Gemara does not mention this. This approach seems to have the support of the Rambam (Yesodei Hatorah 5:8), who permits consuming a prohibited beverage after a bitter ingredient was added to it.

However, the Rosh contends that the rabbis prohibited one from eating the inedible chometz because of a principle called achshevei, which means that by eating it one is treating it as food. Most later authorities (e.g., Terumas Hadeshen #129; Taz, Orach Chayim 442:8; Magen Avraham 442:15; Shaagas Aryeh #75) follow the Rosh’s approach, prohibiting someone from ingesting inedible chometz because of this rabbinic prohibition.

Is chometz medicine prohibited?

With this lengthy introduction, we are now able to discuss the original question posed above: “Why do we have lists of acceptable medicines for Pesach? Aren’t they all inedible?”

I will now rephrase the question: Does oral intake of a chometz-based medicine qualify as achshevei? If it does, then it is prohibited to ingest inedible chometz, even as medicine, unless the situation is life-threatening.

We find a dispute among later authorities whether ingesting medicine is prohibited because of achshevei. We can categorize the positions into three basic approaches:

  1. Taking medicine is considered achshevei.

The Shaagas Aryeh (#75) rules that ingesting medicine is prohibited miderabbanan because of the rule of achshevei.

  1. Taking medicine is not considered achshevei.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:92) maintains that medicine never qualifies as achshevei. His reason is that people take even very bitter items for their medicinal value; thus taking something as a medicine does not demonstrate that one views it as food. (See also Shu”t Yechaveh Daas 2:60.)

  1. It depends on why the chometz is an ingredient.

The Chazon Ish advocates a compromise position. Although he agrees with the Shaagas Aryeh that consuming something as a medicine qualifies as achshevei, he contends that achshevei applies only to the active ingredient – the item for which one is taking the medicine. However, he maintains that achshevei does not apply to the excipient ingredients, those added so that the medicine can be made into a tablet.

According to Rav Moshe, as long as the medicine is foul-tasting, there is no need to check if it contains chometz. The chometz is nifsal mei’achilas kelev, and the consumption of medicine does not qualify as achshevei. The only need for a medicine list is when the medicine is pleasant tasting.

On the other hand, according to the Shaagas Aryeh, barring a situation of pikuach nefesh, one may not ingest a medicine containing chometz on Pesach, and it is important to research whether it contains chometz. There are also some authorities who contend that when a prohibited substance has a bitter ingredient added, it remains prohibited. I leave it for each individual to ask his or her own halachic authority to decide which approach they should follow. A lay person should not decide on his or her own not to take a necessary medicine without consulting with a rav or posek.

Even according to the Shaagas Aryeh, there is nothing wrong with owning or even benefiting from these medicines on Pesach – the only prohibition would be to ingest them. Thus, a Jewish owned pharmacy is not required to remove from its shelves foul-tasting medicines that are on the prohibited chometz lists.

Regardless as to which approach one follows, one must be absolutely careful not to look down on someone who follows the other approach. In any situation such as this, this attitude will unfortunately cause great harm, since it can lead to feelings of conceit.

Pikuach nefesh medicine lists

There can be another situation in which it is important for a rav or posek to know whether a product contains chometz, but, personally, I would discourage making such a list available to lay people. The case is: Someone who is taking a pleasant-tasting food supplement containing chometz for a pikuach nefashos condition in which the chometz is not a necessary ingredient. Halachically, we should try to find for this person a non-chometz substitute. For example, many years ago, someone I knew used a medicine where the active ingredient required being dissolved in alcohol, which could be chometz. We arranged to have a knowledgeable pharmacist make a special preparation for Pesach using alcohol that was kosher lepesach. (It is humorous to note that the pharmacist used his home supply of kosher lepesach Slivovitz since it was the easiest available Pesach-dik alcohol, and the preparation did not require pure alcohol.)

Is it a good idea to make a medicine list available to the general public? We know of situations when lay people thought that a product may contain chometz and therefore refused to use it, which led to a safek or definite pikuach nefashos situation, itself a serious violation of halachah. Many rabbonim feel that these lists should be restricted to the people who understand what to do with the information – the rabbonim and the poskim.

Conclusion

According to Kabbalah, chometz is symbolic of our own arrogant selves. We should spend at least as much time working on these midos as we do making sure that we observe a kosher Pesach!

 

Megillas Esther and the Hard of Hearing

Question #1: Congregation Shomei’a Kol

gragger“Our long-standing baal keri’ah for the Megillah has unfortunately become very hard-of-hearing, yet he still insists on reading the Megillah. Do we fulfill the mitzvah if he cannot hear his own reading?”

Question #2: Mrs. Senior Citizen

“At my age, I no longer hear every word of the Megillah. What should I do?”

Answer:

How clearly must one hear the Megillah to fulfill the mitzvah? Do I fulfill the mitzvah if the reader is hard of hearing? These are the first questions we will discuss. As we will see, answering them impacts on the laws of several other mitzvos.

We will start our discussion with the Mishnah (Megillah 19b), which states: Everyone is kosher to read the Megillah, except for someone who is deaf, deranged, or a minor. This seems to provide Congregation Shomei’a Kol with an answer: A deaf person may not read the Megillah.

However, further examination makes this less obvious. The Gemara, expounding upon this Mishnah, discusses a dispute (Mishnah, Berachos 15a) concerning a person who read Shema so softly that he could not hear himself. Has he fulfilled the mitzvah? The Gemara equates the law of one who reads Shema softly to the issue of listening to the Megillah read by a deaf person.

Tanna’ic opinion

The Gemara concludes with four opinions:

  1. Must hear

Rabbi Yosi contends that fulfilling the mitzvos of Shema, Birchas Hamazon, berachos, or the Megillah requires that one hear one’s voice. (As we will see shortly, this understanding of Rabbi Yosi is not universal.) One who recited any of these so softly that he did not hear himself has not performed the mitzvah. Consequently, someone whose hearing is impaired to the extent that he cannot hear himself is absolved from observing these mitzvos, since there is no way for him to perform them. Furthermore, due to the halachic principle that only one commanded to perform a particular mitzvah may be motzi (discharge) others from their responsibility, he cannot read these mitzvos for anyone else. Thus, according to Rabbi Yosi, such a person may also not recite Kiddush or be the sheliach tzibur for others.

  1. Rav Yosef’s understanding of Rabbi Yosi

The Gemara mentions an alternative interpretation of Rabbi Yosi’s position, that only Shema requires one to hear his own words, since there the Torah states Shema Yisrael.  According to this opinion, even a completely deaf person is commanded to read the Megillah and recite all berachos, and someone who recites the Megillah and berachos very softly has fulfilled the mitzvah.

  1. The better to hear you, my dear

The tanna Rabbi Yehudah agrees that one is required to recite Shema, Birchas Hamazon, berachos and the Megillah loudly enough to hear them, yet he maintains that saying them in a softer voice fulfills the mitzvah bedei’evid, after the fact. One who cannot hear is still required to observe all of these mitzvos, including Shema. The Gemara concludes that, according to Rabbi Yehudah, although it is preferable that a deaf person not be motzi others, if he did so, they have fulfilled the obligation.

  1. No need to hear

The most lenient position is that of Rabbi Meir. He maintains that there is nothing wrong, even lechatchilah, with reciting any of these passages so softly that one cannot hear what he said, and he fulfills the mitzvah. A deaf person is obligated in all of these mitzvos and can be motzi others.

The halacha

The Gemara (Berachos) concludes that the halacha follows Rabbi Yehudah.  Preferably, one should read loudly enough to hear, but if one read softly, one fulfilled the mitzvah. This conclusion implies that a deaf person is obligated in all of these mitzvos and that he may be motzi others, at least after the fact.

At this point of our discussion, it would seem that Congregation Shomei’a Kol should determine whether the baal keri’ah can still hear himself speak. If he can, he may read the Megillah for the tzibur. If he cannot hear himself speak, he should not lechatchilah be the reader, but those who hear him have performed the mitzvah bedi’eved. This is indeed the halachic conclusion of several authorities (Bach; Magen Avraham; Gra).

However, the Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 689) notes a problem: According to his interpretation of the Rif and the Rosh, and the standard text of the Rambam, all three of these major halachic authorities rule that someone who is deaf cannot be motzi others in reading the Megillah, for all three cite the Mishnah we mentioned earlier: Everyone is kosher for reading the Megillah, except for someone who is deaf, deranged, or a minor. This conflicts with the Gemara ruling that reading without hearing fulfills the mitzvah. This conundrum is even more challenging in light of the Beis Yosef’s policy to generally rule according to these three authorities.

(The Beis Yosef notes that there are alternative readings of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah on this topic. According to some of the readings, the question we just raised will not be difficult according to the Rambam, but only according to the Rif and the Rosh.)

Position of the Bach

For reasons beyond the scope of this article, the Bach disputes the Beis Yosef’s analysis of the Rif’s position on this matter. However, he agrees with the Beis Yosef’s understanding that the Rosh held that a deaf person cannot be motzi others in reading the Megillah. Thus, he is also faced with the Beis Yosef‘s conundrum that this ruling contradicts the conclusion of the Gemara. How one resolves this contradiction will affect several halachic issues, and will impact the questions mentioned in the beginning of our article.

I am aware of two approaches presented by the early poskim to resolve the problem. The Beis Yosef himself suggests that, because reading Megillah is a mitzvah that requires pirsumei nisa, publicizing the miracle, this quality is lacking when the Megillah is read by a deaf person. Therefore, hearing the Megillah read by a deaf person does not fulfill the mitzvah.

Incapable of hearing himself

Other authorities explain the ruling of the Rosh by drawing a distinction between a deaf person and someone who spoke very softly. They explain that someone who is absolutely deaf cannot fulfill the mitzvos of Shema, Birchas Hamazon, berachos or hearing the Megillah (Bach; Taz). But someone who read them softly fulfills the mitzvah, provided that he is capable of hearing these words were he to recite them louder.

Based on these answers, the Shulchan Aruch and the Taz conclude that someone who heard the Megillah from a deaf person did not fulfill his mitzvah. Other authorities disagree, concluding that those who heard the Megillah from a deaf person have fulfilled their obligation (Bach; Magen Avraham; Gra).

Let us now examine one of our opening questions: “Our long-standing baal keri’ah for the Megillah has, unfortunately, become very hard-of-hearing, yet he still insists on reading the Megillah. Do we fulfill the mitzvah when he reads it?”

As long as he can still hear what he reads, he can be motzi people in Megillah reading. If his hearing is so impaired that he cannot hear himself, the Shulchan Aruch rules that those who hear his Megillah reading have not fulfilled the mitzvah. Although there are authorities who are more lenient bedei’evid, they agree that lechatchilah he should not read the Megillah for others.

Must a deaf person read the Megillah?

Is a deaf person obligated to read the Megillah? (Obviously, he is incapable of hearing it from others.) Most authorities conclude that he must read the Megillah, unlike the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch. The Mishnah Berurah notes that several rishonim rule that a deaf person is required to read the Megillah, and that this approach should be treated as the primary halachic opinion.

With this background, we can now discuss another of our opening questions:

Mrs. Senior Citizen

“At my age, I no longer hear every word of the Megillah. What should I do?”

We should note that women are obligated to hear Megillah to the same degree that men are. Many elderly people share the problem raised by Mrs. Citizen. Technically, they must hear every word of the Megillah read by someone else, or they must read it themselves. Another option is to read along with someone who knows how to read it correctly. If this person whose hearing is impaired is following this last option, he or she must be careful to read from a kosher Megillah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 490:4, 7). However, reading from a kosher Megillah is a daunting task for people who never learned to read the Megillah in their youth.

What to do?

Here is a lucrative, and very useful, suggestion for sofrim. Halacha prohibits adding anything unnecessary to a sefer Torah. But a Megillah is kosher, even if it contains vowel signs (nikud) and/or taamei hamikra (often called trop) to instruct how to chant it correctly. (One fulfills the mitzvah even if one cannot read the taamei hamikra at all, as long as one is able to read the words.)

One should note, however, that some early authorities maintain that one should not place nikud in a Megillah, although they agree that a Megillah with added nikud is still kosher (Levush, Orach Chayim 691:5). Other authorities rule that if there is no proficient Megillah reader available, one may add nikud to a Megillah and use it for public reading (Elyah Rabbah 691:6, quoting Be’er Sheva). Thus, we have a halachic basis for this niche market.

Suggestion for an enterprising sofer

Here is a suggestion that should be acceptable according to all opinions – to prepare transparencies with nikud and trop to place directly over the Megillah. Thus, nothing has been written into the Megillah itself, accomodating the Levush’s position, yet anyone able to read Hebrew can read the Megillah with the transparency on it, enabling the hard-of-hearing to fulfill the mitzvah. If a sofer prepares standard-sized megillos, he can mass-produce the corresponding transparencies. People would be forced to purchase his megillos, since other megillos would be out of sync with his transparencies.

Conclusive hearing

In conclusion, most authorities require even completely deaf people to read the Megillah (see Biur Halacha 689:2 s.v. Cheiresh). Since they cannot hear it from someone else, they must obviously read it themselves from a kosher Megillah. We suggested that people who find this difficult can overcome the challenge by having nikud and trop written in a kosher Megillah or by using a transparency that includes them.

 

Bensching in the Dark on Rosh Chodesh

In honor of Rosh Chodesh later this week, and Purim in two more weeks, I present:

Bensching in the Dark on Rosh Chodesh

sunsetQuestion #1: Rosh Chodesh arrival

“I began eating dinner before Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Question #2: Rosh Chodesh departure

“I began eating dinner on Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Introduction

When we recite birchas hamazon on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Purim, we include special prayers to commemorate the holiday: On Shabbos, a passage beginning with the word Retzei; on Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, and Rosh Chodesh, the prayer Yaaleh Veyavo; and on Chanukah and Purim, Al Hanissim. However, it is inappropriate to recite these prayers on an ordinary weekday. What does one do when the date changes between the beginning of the eating of the meal and the bensching? Do we recite the bensching appropriate to the day on which the meal began or appropriate to when the meal ended?

Weekly seudah shelishis

Let us start this discussion with a very common application. Many people eat the last meal of Shabbos, colloquially but not accurately called shalosh seudos, late in the afternoon, finish after dark, and then recite Retzei in bensching. (The correct way to refer to this meal is seudah shelishis or seudah shelishit.) Most of us are unaware that this practice is disputed by early authorities. The Rosh (Shu’t HaRosh 22:6; Pesachim 10:7) asserts that once Shabbos is over, one cannot say Retzei. He compares this to davening a Shabbos prayer after the conclusion of Shabbos, which is certainly inappropriate. Just as the fitting prayer is determined by when one is praying, so, too, the correct text of bensching is determined by when one is reciting it. Similarly, in the Rosh’s opinion, a meal begun on Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah or Purim that continues into the night following the holiday should not include mention of the special day on which the meal began. This position is followed by the Rosh’s son in the Tur (Orach Chayim 695). According to this approach, the common practice of completing the Purim seudah after the day is over and including Al Hanissim in the bensching is incorrect.

A disputing opinion is quoted in the name of the Maharam (see Hagahos Maimaniyos, Megillah 2:14:1), which states that a meal begun on a holiday maintains its special mention, even when one bensches after the day is over. Thus, when one bensches on seudah shelishis after it is dark, one still recites Retzei. Similarly, if one’s Purim seudah extends into the night, one still recites Al Hanissim in the bensching. These laws apply, as well, on Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 188:10). The practice, already cited in earlier authorities, of completing the Purim seudah after the day is over and then reciting Al Hanissim is based on this position of the Maharam (Rema, Orach Chayim 695:3).

What is the Maharam’s rationale? According to one approach, his position is based on the concept that one can extend the sanctity of Shabbos, even after the day is technically over (Dagul Mei’revavah, end of Orach Chayim 188).

Of course, the question is how this affects Purim. The Maharam is quoted as ruling that one who began his meal on Purim, and completed it after the holiday is over, should still recite Al Hanissim in bensching. However, there is no Talmudic source to say that Purim has a concept of tosefes kedusha. According to the Dagul Mei’revavah’s approach to understanding the Maharam, one must assume that there is tosefes kedusha on Purim, Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh to the extent that one then recites the appropriate addition to the bensching.

Ending Shabbos before bensching

As we just explained, the Maharam rules that one recites Retzei on motza’ei Shabbos for a meal that began on Shabbos. However, if someone recited havdalah and has not yet bensched for seudah shelishis, he must omit Retzei, since recital of havdalah ends Shabbos. The same is true not only regarding havdalah, which clearly ends Shabbos, but even when one does anything implying that Shabbos is over – such as davening maariv or even simply answering Borchu, since these activities occur only after the conclusion of Shabbos (Shu’t Maharil #56). The Magen Avraham (188:17) notes that someone who davened maariv before Shabbos is over (which is halachically permitted under extenuating circumstances) does not say Retzei when he subsequently bensches, even though he is still required to observe Shabbos (since it is before nightfall). This ruling is followed by the Mishnah Berurah (188:32) and other authorities. The Magen Avraham (263:33) and other authorities are uncertain whether one who said hamavdil bein kodesh lechol after Shabbos is over, but has as yet not bensched after seudah shelishis, may still say retzei.

Halachic deciders

How do the halachic authorities decide regarding the dispute between the Maharam and the Rosh?

The Rema consistently follows the position of the Maharam (Orach Chayim 271:6; 695:3). However, it is a bit unclear how the Shulchan Aruch rules. He discusses these laws in three different places in Orach Chayim. In the laws of bensching (188:10), he concludes according to the Maharam that the structure of the bensching follows the beginning of the meal, whether it is Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, Purim or Chanukah. When discussing a Purim seudah that continues into the night, the Shulchan Aruch (695:3) cites as the main opinion the position of the Maharam that one recites Al Hanissim in bensching, yet he quotes the Rosh as an alternative opinion that one omits Al Hanissim once Purim is over. However, regarding someone who concludes a meal on Friday afternoon immediately before Shabbos and who will be bensching on Shabbos, the Shulchan Aruch requires the person to include Retzei (271:6), even if he did not eat anything on Shabbos.

The Bach (188 and 695) views the Shulchan Aruch as being inconsistent, arguing that this last decision contradicts the position of the Maharam, which the Shulchan Aruch himself follows in 188 and 695. The Bach understands, as do other authorities (e.g., the Aruch Hashulchan 188:23), that, according, to the Maharam, the essential factor is when the meal began, whereas, according to the Rosh, the determining factor is what day it is at the moment of bensching. According to the Bach’s understanding of the Maharam, someone who began a meal before Shabbos and continued it into Shabbos should omit Retzei, which contradicts the conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch. The Bach’s approach is consistent with the ruling of the Rema.

There are other approaches how to resolve the conflicting rulings of the Shulchan Aruch. The Magen Avraham (271:14) explains that when a ruling is contingent on the dispute between the Maharam and the Rosh, one should say Retzei. That is, someone who eats Friday afternoon and is bensching on Shabbos should say Retzei, following the approach of the Rosh, whereas someone who eats on Shabbos and is bensching after Shabbos should recite Retzei, in accordance with the opinion of the Maharam.

However, other authorities contend that the Shulchan Aruch is following the Maharam consistently, but they understand the Maharam’s position differently from the way the Bach did. Whereas the Bach understood the Maharam to be saying that the sole determinant is when the meal began, they understand that either the beginning of the meal or the time of bensching determines whether we recite the special holiday prayer. In their opinion, if one began a meal on a holiday but bensched only after the holiday was over, one recites the appropriate holiday passage (Taz 188:7; Elyah Rabbah 188:20).

Tosefta

A compromise position

Until now, we have cited two early authorities, the Rosh and the Maharam, as the basic positions on this topic. There are later authorities who present a middle ground that clearly disagrees with both the Maharam and the Rosh (Magen Avraham 188:18, quoting Maharash, quoted by the Shelah and the Eimek Beracha; see also Shu’t Rema 132:5). This approach draws a distinction between a Shabbos meal extending after Shabbos and those of Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah extending after the respective holiday. Since there is a concept of tosefes Shabbos, i.e., the mitzvah to extend the day of Shabbos, the extension of the day retains sanctity, and therefore the meal is still considered a Shabbos meal warranting the recital of Retzei. However, since neither Rosh Chodesh nor Chanukah have a concept of tosefes kedusha, and, in addition, they have no requirement to eat special meals, the special prayer associated with them should not be recited once the day has passed.

Rosh Chodesh arrival

At this point, we can discuss our opening question:

“I began eating dinner before Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

We need to ask a few questions: Did he eat on Rosh Chodesh? If he did, then according to Magen Avraham, Taz, Elyah Rabbah and Mishnah Berurah he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo, whereas according to the Aruch Hashulchan, and probably several other authorities, he should not. I would personally rule that he should follow the majority opinion and recite Yaaleh Veyavo in this situation.

If he did not eat on Rosh Chodesh, according to the Rosh and Magen Avraham, he should recite Yaaleh Veyavo. I refer our reader to his own posek for an answer what to do under these circumstances.

Rosh Chodesh departure

As far as our second question is concerned: “I began eating dinner on Rosh Chodesh, but when I finished, it was dark. Do I recite Yaaleh Veyavo?”

Assuming that he did not yet daven maariv, according to the Magen Avraham, Taz, Elyah Rabbah, Aruch Hashulchan and Mishnah Berurah, he should say Yaaleh Veyavo, whereas according to the Rosh, Tur, Maharash and Shelah he does not. It would seem to me that, in this instance, the halachah should not be affected by whether he ate after it became dark.

Conclusion

When we show how careful we are to honor Hashem with the appropriate wording of our bensching, we demonstrate our concern and our priorities. Whatever conclusion we reach regarding whether we recite these special inserts, we should certainly pay careful attention to the meaning of the words of one’s bensching at all times.

 

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