Second Zachor Readings

Question #1: Birchos haTorah min haTorah

Is birchos haTorah min haTorah?

Question #2: Parshas Zachor

Should a second parshas Zachor reading have a minyan?

Question #3: America, America

Is there an American angle to this halachic discussion?

Foreword

The halachic authorities dispute whether women are obligated to hear parshas Zachor, the Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah #603) ruling that they are exempt, whereas Rav Yaakov Ettlinger (author of Aruch Laneir and posek hador of western and central Europe during his lifetime), obligates them (Shu”t Binyan Tzion 2:8). A third opinion is that, although women are definitely required to observe the mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us, they are not required to hear parshas Zachor because it is a time-bound mitzvah miderabbanan (Shu”t Toras Chayim, Orach Chayim #37; Kaf Hachayim 685:30).

There is a second dispute, whether an individual is required min haTorah to hear the reading of parshas Zachor with a minyan, annually, which some rishonim require (Rosh, Berachos 7:20; Terumas Hadeshen 1:108) and others exempt (Sefer Hachinuch). If we combine the strictest interpretation of both rulings, we would conclude that women are obligated min haTorah to hear parshas Zachor annually with a minyan, although I am unaware of any early halachic authorities who rule this way.

In contemporary practice, women strive to hear parshas Zachor. To enable those taking care of children during the morning reading, many shullen schedule an additional reading some time later that day, to facilitate the hearing of parshas Zachor.

Some contemporary authorities have questioned this practice because of the following observation: There are poskim who forbid reading from a sefer Torah in public without reciting a berocha before and after the reading (Toras Raphael, Hilchos Keri’as HaTorah #2). This is based on the ruling of earlier prominent authorities who contend that such readings require the recital of a berocha min haTorah (Be’er Sheva, Sotah 41a; Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov, Orach Chayim #63). Several early authorities attribute this position to the Talmud Yerushalmi (Shu”t Meishiv Davar 1:16; cf., however, Toras Raphael who disagrees) or other very early sources.

On the other hand, when there is no obligation to read from the Torah, many authorities forbid reciting a berocha when reading from a sefer Torah, considering it a berocha levatalah, one recited in vain (Elyah Rabbah 566:3; Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav Orach Chayim 566:7; Chayei Adam 31:11; Meishiv Davar 1:16; Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim #52, #69, #70). This may potentially create a conundrum: It would be forbidden to recite berochos for an extra reading of parshas Zachor because of concerns about berocha levatalah. Yet, some authorities prohibit reading from the Torah in public without a berocha. Thus, we have a predicament whose obvious solution is to avoid extra public reading from a sefer Torah. On the other hand, we want to have an extra reading to facilitate fulfilling the mitzvah for those who cannot be in shul for the regular reading.

Other readings

A similar, but not identical, shaylah occurs on several other occasions, depending on various local customs. Many have the minhag to read sefer Devarim, or sections thereof, from a sefer Torah on the night of Hoshana Rabba. Similarly, many Chassidic kehillos read, on the first twelve days of Nisan, the passage in parshas Naso describing the dedication of the Mishkan, called parshas hanesi’im. There was also a custom that, upon completing the writing of a new sefer Torah, the sofer read from the brand new sefer Torah in front of the assembled (Toras Raphael). Other customs of reading from a sefer Torah on various occasions are recorded in different halachic sources (e.g., Shu”t Tashbeitz 2:39; Levush; Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak 8:84). Explaining the sources for this discussion and suggesting resolutions is the topic of this article.

Introduction

After the Rambam wrote his Sefer Hamitzvos, in which he listed his opinion of the count of the 613 mitzvos, the Ramban wrote an extensive commentary disputing dozens of points made by the Rambam. The Ramban also listed 34 mitzvos, 17 mitzvos aseih and 17 mitzvos lo saaseh, which he felt should be included in the count of the mitzvos according to the Rambam’s rules, but were omitted. In the Ramban’s listing of the “missing” mitzvos aseih, he includes the mitzvah (#15) to recite a berocha prior to reading the Torah.

Although it is unclear whether the Ramban here is counting a mitzvah to recite birkas haTorah prior to studying Torah, or a mitzvah to recite it prior to reading from a sefer Torah, several authorities assume that he meant the latter. In other words, although reading the Torah in public is not required min haTorah, when doing so, the requirement to recite a berocha is. All halachic authorities agree that the berocha after an aliyah is only a mitzvah miderabbanan.

Berocha before leining

The major discussion on this topic stems from the writings of three prominent acharonim, the Be’er Sheva (commentary to Sotah 41a), the Mishkenos Yaakov (Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov, Orach Chayim #63) and the Toras Raphael (Hilchos Birchos haTorah #2).

These acharonim base themselves on a careful analysis of a passage of Gemara:

Rav Yehudah said, “What is the source from which we know that there is a requirement min haTorah to recite birkas hamazon after eating: ‘When you have eaten and been satisfied, you shall bless Hashem, your G-d, for the wonderful land that He gave you’ (Devarim 8:10). What is the source from which we know that there is a requirement min haTorah to recite birkas haTorah before Torah: ki sheim Hashem ekra, havu godel lei’lokeinu (Berachos 21a, based on Devarim 32:3), in which Moshe told the Jewish people, ‘I am about to sing praise to Hashem. Prior to my doing so, I will recite a berocha (ki sheim Hashem ekra) to which you should answer amen’” (havu godel lei’lokeinu) [Rashi, Berachos 21a s.v. Ki].

(1) What did Rav Yehudah mean when he required a “berocha before Torah?” Was he referring to:

            (a) What we usually call talmud Torah or limud Torah,or

            (b) Before reading from a sefer Torah, what we usually call keri’as haTorah?

(2) If he meant what we usually call limud Torah, what type of limud Torah is included?

The Gemara (Berachos 11b) cites a four-way dispute among amora’im what type of limud Torah requires birkas haTorah:

            (a) Only the written Torah.

            (b) The written Torah and the halachic midrashim on the written Torah.

            (c) In addition to the above, also before studying Mishnah.

            (d) In addition to everything mentioned above, also before studying Gemara.

The Gemara concludes that we recite birkas haTorah prior to any type of Torah learning. However, this does not teach us whether this is required min haTorah or only miderabbanan.

Let us return to the passage of Gemara quoting Rav Yehudah’s ruling that birkas haTorah is min haTorah and is derived from the pasuk in parshas Ha’azinu.

Rabbi Yochanan then adds to, and somewhat disagrees with, Rav Yehudah’s statement by claiming that, with the use of two applications of the principle of kal vechomer, we can derive that reciting a berocha before eating is min haTorah, as well as a berocha recited after learning. The Gemara ultimately refutes the applications of kal vechomer and, therefore, Rabbi Yochanan’s two rulings. Thus, recital of a berocha before eating and after learning are not required min haTorah.

The question that concerns the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Ya’akov is:

To which berocha after Torah is Rabbi Yochanan referring? The only time we ever recite a berocha after Torah is the berocha recited after keri’as haTorah. This implies that the “berocha before Torah,” which both Rav Yehudah and Rabbi Yochanan agree is min haTorah, means the berocha recited before reading the Torah in public. The Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Ya’akov, therefore, conclude that the requirement min haTorah of birkas haTorah applies when reading the Torah in public. This includes:

(A) What we call keri’as haTorah on Shabbos, Mondays, Thursdays and holidays.

(B) The mitzvah of hakheil, when the Jewish king reads selections of sefer Devarim to the entire Jewish people on chol hamo’ed Sukkos in the year following shemittah (Mishnah Sotah 40b).

(C) When the Yisraelim who were on ma’amados, “Temple Duty,” read the Torah daily, during their rotation at the Beis Hamikdash (Mishnah Ta’anis 26a).

These acharonim conclude that the mitzvah of reciting birkas haTorah before we begin studying Torah every day is only miderabbanan.

Because the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov conclude that both Rav Yehudah and Rabbi Yochanan agree that there is a requirement min haTorah to recite a berocha prior to any public reading of the Torah, this applies even if someone already recited birkas haTorah earlier in the day. The earlier recitation fulfilled only a mitzvah miderabbana, while the subsequent reading of the Torah in public requires recital of a berocha min haTorah.

However, as mentioned above, many authorities prohibit reciting birkas haTorah on a reading of the Torah that was not instituted either by the Torah or by Chazal. An interesting historical example is when the Netziv was asked, in the 1880’s, by a rav in Cincinnati the following shaylah: The community was dedicating a new sefer Torah, and the convenient day to schedule the dedication was Sunday, when people were off from work. In honor of the auspicious occasion, one of the organizers included a reading of the Torah, complete with berachos. The rav in Cincinnati strongly opposed this, contending that the berachos would constitute berachos levatalah, since Chazal never established reading the Torah on a Sunday that is not a Jewish holiday. The Netziv agreed with the rav’s ruling, commenting that it is permitted to read from the Torah, providing that no berachos were recited. However, according to the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov, it is prohibited min haTorah to read from the Torah in public without reciting birkas haTorah.

Family feud

On the other hand, in response to a similar shaylah, Rav Raphael Shapiro, the Netziv’s son-in-law, author of Toras Raphael, ruled that it is prohibited to read from the Torah altogether. This is because some authorities prohibit reciting a berocha on this reading, and others, the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov, rule that it is prohibited min haTorah to read the Torah without first reciting a berocha. The Toras Raphael concludes that the only solution is not to read from the Torah in public when it is not required.

Birchos haTorah min haTorah

At this point, we can address our opening question: Is birchos haTorah min haTorah?

The answer is somewhat complicated. According to the Ramban, there is definitely a requirement min haTorah, at times, to recite birchos haTorah. However, it is uncertain whether this means before studying Torah every day, or before reading the Torah in public. Among the rishonim,we find a dispute whether birchos haTorah before studying Torah every day is required min haTorah, a dispute that the Toras Raphael analyzes at great length. And we have two very prominent acharonim, the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov, who contend that the requirement to recite birchos haTorah is min haTorah only before reading the Torah in public, but not when studying the Torah, in which case the requirement is only miderabbanan.

Later authorities

The question concerning whether we may read from the Torah in public to fulfill a custom without reciting birchos haTorah is discussed in some more recent teshuvos and articles. For example, Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak (8:84) discusses the custom, particularly but not exclusively, among Chassidim, of reading from a sefer Torah on the first twelve days of Nisan the portion of parshas Naso that describes the offerings that the nesi’im brought when the Mishkan was dedicated. Those who observe this custom do not recite a berocha before reading the Torah, nor should they, since most authorities rule that such a berocha would be levatalah, since no takkanas chachamim is observed. However, according to the Toras Raphael, it would seem that this should not be read with a minyan present, in order not to violate (according to the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Yaakov) the mitzvas aseih of reading from a sefer Torah without a berocha.

Disputing the analysis of the Toras Raphael, the Minchas Yitzchak explains that, although these early poskim ruled that the requirement to recite birkas haTorah before keri’as haTorah is min haTorah, they never stated that it is required to recite a berocha prior to a reading that is optional. The Minchas Yitzchak concludes that since many great talmidei chachamim read from the Torah parshas nesi’im in the month of Nisan without reciting a berocha, this is the accepted halacha, not the ruling of the Toras Raphael.

Another, similar reason why these practices do not conflict with the ruling of the early acharonim is that, in these instances, each individual would like to read the Torah by himself, and the public reading is simply because of efficiency. Therefore, this is not considered a public reading of the Torah and there is no requirement to recite birchos haTorah (Shu”t Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:380). Rav Moishe Shternbuch, who suggested this last approach, was referring to the custom of reading the book of Devarim on the night of Hoshanah Rabbah, which is also performed without a berocha.

Parshas Zachor

At this point, we can address the second of our opening questions: Should a second parshas Zachor reading have a minyan?

Now we can understand our conundrum: If a second parshas Zachor reading is scheduled and there is a minyan in attendance, the Toras Raphael would certainly require the recital of a berocha. According to the Be’er Sheva and the Mishkenos Ya’akov, it would seem that it is prohibited to read the additional reading of parshas Zachor without first reciting a berocha, because this violates the mitzvas aseih of the Torah. On the other hand, if no one is required to still hear the reading of parshas Zachor, many authorities would rule that reciting a berocha is a berocha levatalah. According to the Netziv, there would be nothing wrong with reading from the Torah when Chazal did not require it, as long as no berocha is recited. Thus, in his opinion, the second reading may take place as long as no berocha is recited. However, according to the Toras Raphael, we should, perhaps, not read the Torah in public at all, to avoid getting involved in the dispute. A simple solution might be not to have a minyan when the second reading takes place.

America, America

Is there an American angle to this halachic discussion?

Surprising as this might be, there are several angles to this discussion that involve American Jewish individuals and communities. I mentioned above that the responsum of the Netziv was addressed to a rav in Cincinnati, although I have no idea as to the identity of the rav. By doing some research, I was able to determine that the responsum of his son-in-law, the Toras Raphael, was addressed to Rav Yehudah Eliezer Anixter, a talmid of the Volozhin yeshivah who immigrated to the United States in 1871, eventually becoming a prominent rav in Rochester and Chicago, and the author of a sefer titled Chiddushei Avi. The Toras Raphael read one of the responsa in Chiddushei Avi and wrote the author his own responsum, in partial disagreement with Rav Anixter’s conclusion. And the above quoted Minchas Yitzchak was penned in reference to Chassidim from America visiting Eretz Yisroel who noted that the method of reading the parshas ha’nesi’im was done differently in Eretz Yisroel from the way it is done in chutz la’aretz, and asked the Minchas Yitzchak which approach is preferred.

Conclusion

In the introduction to Sefer HaChinuch, the author writes that the main mitzvah upon which all the other mitzvos rest is that of Talmud Torah. Through Torah learning, a person will know how to fulfill all of the other mitzvos. That is why Chazal instituted a public reading of a portion of the Torah every Shabbos, twice, and on Mondays and Thursdays. Knowing that the proper observance of all the mitzvos is contingent on Torah learning, our attention to keri’as haTorah will be increased, as well as our sensitivity to the recital of its berachos and our kavanah when reciting and listening to those berachos. This should lead to greater respect and attentiveness to the observance of all the mitzvos.

Only New Chometz Apply

Since parshas Bo includes the prohibitions about chometz on Pesach

Question #1: First Fruits

Which korbanos are offered only from “first fruits”?

Question #2: New Grains

Which korbanos are offered only from the new grain?

Question #3: Wheat from Heaven!

May korbanos be offered from heavenly-dropped wheat?

Foreword

Virtually all grain korbanos, called menachos (singular: mincha), are wheat, mankind’s most common basic sustenance. However, on the second day of Pesach, the korban omer is offered in the Beis Hamikdash from the new crop of barley. Indeed, it is the only barley-flour korban offered by the tzibur, the community. In general, barley is viewed as animal feed, rather than “people food” (see Pesachim 3b). (The only other korban from barley was the minchas sotah, a privately offered korban for which there is an obvious reason why it is from a feed grain, as Rashi [Bamidbar 5:15] and the midrashim [Midrash Agadah and Yalkut Shimoni ad loc.] elaborate.) Presumably, the reason that the korban omer was from barley is because barley ripens earlier than wheat and the korban omer permits the consumption of the new grain crop; the Torah did not delay until the wheat is ready for harvest.

In honor of Shavuos

Seven weeks later, on Shavuos, special korbanos, called the shetei halechem, are offered from the new wheat crop. Although this korban is kosher if made from the previous year’s wheat crop, there is a mitzvah min haTorah to bring it from the new crop. The offering of the shetei halechem permits the new crop to be used for menachos.

Introduction

Immediately after describing the korban omer, the Torah teaches: “And you shall each count seven complete weeks, from the morrow after that day of rest [the first day of Pesach], beginning on the day of your bringing the omer, which is waved. You shall count fifty days, until the morrow after the seventh week, at which time you shall offer a new grain offering to Hashem. From your dwelling places (Hebrew: ‘mimoshevoseichem’) you shall bring two loaves of bread. They (the two loaves together) shall comprise two tenths of an omer of fine flour. They shall be baked leavened (Hebrew: ‘chometz’) and be the first fruits unto Hashem (Hebrew: ‘bikkurim’). Together with the bread, you shall bring a group of seven yearling sheep and, also, one young bull and two rams. These (ten animals) will be olah offerings for Hashem, offered together with their appropriate grain offerings and libations. This is a fire offering, to show Hashem the fragrance of compliance” (Vayikra 23, 15-18; the translation of the word ניחוח follows that of Rav Hirsch). The Torah then completes the description, including that three more korbanos accompanied the shetei halechem, a male goat as a chatas and two yearling sheep as publically-owned korbanos shelamim, for a total of thirteen animal korbanos.

The Torah passage that I just quoted includes several interesting observations:

Receiving the Torah?

(1) Although calculation demonstrates that the holiday of Shavuos coincides with the giving of the Torah, neither here nor any other place does the Torah make any association between the two. This article will not discuss this famous question, to which there are many answers.

Imported grain

(2) We are told that the shetei halechem must be brought “from your dwelling places.” But grain is never grown in dwellings, but open fields!

The Gemara (Menachos 83b) explains that “dwelling place” here means Eretz Yisrael, and that, whereas other mincha offerings may use grain imported from outside Eretz Yisrael, shetei halechem may use only grain that grew in Eretz Yisrael (Mishnah Menachos 83b; Keilim 1:6; Parah 2:1).

Alef emphasis

(3) The word immediately after mimoshevoseichem in the Torah is תביאו, “you shall bring,” but the letter alef in that word contains a dagesh. However, an alef never otherwise has a dagesh. Why this anomaly? Rav Hirsch suggests that this is to emphasize the uniqueness of the shetei halechem as the only mincha in which the animal offerings are brought only as an accompaniment to the grain offering.

Chometz

(4) The Torah reports that the shetei halechem “shall be baked leavened.” This is very unusual. All grain offerings in the Beis Hamikdash must be unleavened – they all halachically qualify as matzah. Even the “leftovers” from all mincha offerings may not be allowed to become chometz (Vayikra 6:9-10)! A kohein who violates this last instruction intentionally could receive malkus, lashes, and would no longer be accepted as a witness!

There are only two exceptions – two instances of a grain offering in the Beis Hamikdash which is made from chometz: one of the four types of “bread” that accompanied the korban todah was chometz (Vayikra 7:13) and the shetei halechem of Shavuos (Mishnah, Menachos 52b). In both of these instances, the Torah states that they must be chometz.

The shetei halechem are the only public korbanos that are chometz, since the korban todah is an individual’s thanksgiving offering for surviving travail (Tehillim 100, 107 and Berachos 54b). Since the Torah states that no mincha “offered to Hashem” may be chometz (Vayikra 2:11), the chometz parts of these menachos are never placed on the mizbeiach, but are eaten in Yerushalayim while completely tahor, either by the kohanim and their families or by the owners of the korban.

Who is first?

(5) Furthermore, the Torah states that the shetei halechem must be bikkurim. Yet bikkurim usually means the fruits that a farmer grows in his field and brings to the Beis Hamikdash as his own thanks offering (see Devarim 26:1-11 and Mishnah, Mesechta Bikkurim). The Gemara explains that the word bikkurim, here, means that this year’s grain crops cannot be used for menachos before the shetei halechem has been offered. In addition, the Mishnah teaches that, what we usually call the bikkurim, the special, first-ripening fruits for which Eretz Yisrael is renowned, are not brought to the Beis Hamikdash until the shetei halechem korban is offered (Menachos 68b; see also Bikkurim 1:10).

Meat with bread

(6) The Torah states: “Together with the bread, you shall bring a group of seven yearling sheep and, also, one young bull and two rams.” These are not the korbanos musaf offered on Shavuos, which are mentioned in parshas Pinchas and are offered on Shavuos, even if no shetei halechem mincha is brought.

Virtually all grain offerings in the Beis Hamikdash are brought either without any animal korbanos, or to accompany the animal offerings. It is unusual that the main korban is one made from flour, and the animal offerings accompany the grain offerings; but that is the law regarding the shetei halechem. This is truly unique in the instance of the shetei halechem, since it is the only mincha that causes thirteen animal korbanos to be brought as a result. If the shetei halechem is not offered, these korbanos cannot be brought, but if these korbanos are not brought, the shetei halechem is kosher by itself.

The only other mincha that is the cause of the bringing of a korban is the korban omer, but in that case, only one korban is offered, a sheep. Shetei halechem are completely unique in that it is the only instance in which a grain offering causes the offering of a large group of korbanos.

Details, details:

In addition to these observations that lie directly in the pesukim themselves, there are a host of other unusual features that apply to the shetei halechem, such as:

1. The Mishnah (Menachos 59a) notes that the mincha of the shetei halechem is not accompanied by either oil or frankincense, unlike most mincha offerings. Why not?

To answer this question, I refer you to read, in detail, the commentary of Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 23:17).

2. The shetei halechem must be brought from grain that had not yet taken root prior to this year’s crop season (Mishnah, Menachos 83b; Parah 2:1; we should note the Rambam does not rule according to this Mishnah, a position that engenders much discussion). The shetei halechem permitted use of new grain in the Beis Hamikdash (Mishnah Menachos 68b). Menachos offered from the new grain before the korban omer was offered were invalid, whereas those offered before the shetei halechem were brought were kosher, although a Torah violation was involved in bringing them (Menachos 68b). I will return to this halacha shortly.

3. Although you may bake bread, challah, cake or cookies on Yom Tov to serve on that day, and the korbanos to be brought on that day (such as korbanos musaf and korban pesach) are shechted, butchered and burnt on the mizbeiach on Shabbos and certainly on Yom Tov, the shetei halechem could not be baked on Shavuos (Menachos 95b and 100b). The reason they could not be baked on Yom Tov is because baking and cooking on Yom Tov are permitted only to benefit Jews who will be celebrating Yom Tov, but it is prohibited to bake a korban on Yom Tov. Although korbanos are brought on Yom Tov, this applies only to the processing of the korban necessary to be performed that day. The baking of the menachos, similar to the baking of the twelve loaves of the lechem hapanim (the showbread) for Shabbos, could be performed before Shabbos or Yom Tov, and therefore the two loaves of the shetei halechem must be baked before Yom Tov.

Many halachic authorities raise the following question: Why can’t you bake your own private bread on Yom Tov for Yom Tov use, and, while doing do, bake the shetei halechem? There is much discussion among acharonim regarding this question, without any specifically accepted answer.

4. The shetei halechem and the two shelamim sheep offered with it were held up by the kohein and waved in six directions – upwards and downwards and in four directions of the globe, similar to the way the lulav and esrog are waved on Sukkos (Mishnah Menachos 61a).

5. The Mishnah teaches that ten miracles occurred in the Beis Hamikdash, one of which was that the korban omer and the shetei halechem were never invalidated by a pesul in which something unplanned went wrong (Pirkei Avos 5:5).

Heavenly wheat!

In this context, we have the following unusual passage of Gemara: “What is the halacha regarding wheat that fell from the clouds? Can it be used for the shetei halechem offering?”

Rashi and his grandson, Rabbeinu Tam, disagreed regarding what case is being described here. Rabbeinu Tam understands that the Gemara is discussing wheat that miraculously fell from heaven, similar to the way the mann in the desert arrived every morning. As traditionally explained, the berocha recited before eating the mann was “Hamamtir lechem min hashamayim,” “Blessed are You, Hashem… Who rains bread from the sky” (quoted by Shu’t Torah Lishmah #63, in the name of the Rama MiFano).

The Radbaz (Hilchos Temidim Umusafim, 8:3) is dissatisfied with Rabbeinu Tam’s approach, noting that Hashem brings miracles only when a major reason exists for them.

Stormy wheat

For these and other reasons, most late authorities prefer Rashi’s approach that the Gemara is discussing wheat that was blown by gale-force winds off a ship in the Mediterranean, or perhaps were on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, and then landed in Eretz Yisrael. We do not necessarily know the origin of the wheat; just that it landed in Eretz Yisrael.

Following either Rashi’s approach or that of his grandson, the Torah states that the shetei halechem must be offered from grain that grew mimoshevoseichem, from your dwelling places, and we learned above that this requires that shetei halechem must use wheat that grew in Eretz Yisrael. The question is whether this wheat, either the miraculous variety of Rabbeinu Tam’s version, or the windswept variety of Rashi’s, qualifies as wheat that grew mimoshevoseichem. (Our intrepid readers are referred to the commentary of the Mahari Kurkus on the Rambam, Hilchos Temidim Umusafim, 8:3, who analyses this issue.)

Brought too early

Regarding the shetei halechem offering, the Gemara presents the following intriguing anecdote. As I mentioned above, the Mishnah states that both the korban omer and the shetei halechem must be offered from the new crop (the korban omer from the new barley crop, and shetei halechem from the new wheat crop). The Mishnah also states that it was forbidden to eat from the new grain crop before the korban omer was offered, which is the prohibition of chodosh, and it is forbidden to offer a grain korban from the new crop until after the shetei halechem are offered. But, regarding a mincha from the new grain crop that is brought before the shetei halechem, the Mishnah makes the following distinction: If the new grain mincha was brought before the korban omer was offered on the second day of Pesach, the mincha is invalid, whereas if such a korban was brought after the korban omer was offered but before the shetei halechem, the mincha is kosher, notwithstanding that it is prohibited min haTorah to offer such a korban mincha.

Rabbi Tarfon, an older contemporary of Rabbi Akiva and one of the greatest Torah scholars of all time, queried why the offering of the korban omer, whose purpose was to permit the new grain to be eaten, should affect whether a mincha offered in the Beis Hamikdash is kosher or not?

A budding young scholar named Yehudah bar Nechemiah (besides this passage of Gemara, his name appears in several midrashim, mostly Midrash Rabbah and Midrash Tanchuma) answered Rabbi Tarfon with a brilliant insight: Prior to the bringing of the korban omer, the new grain qualifies as ma’achalos asuros, foods that a Jew is prohibited from eating – and there is a halacha that one cannot offer korbanos from products that a Jew may not consume. On the other hand, once the korban omer is offered, it is permitted to eat the new grain. It cannot be used for menachos because of a different law — the Torah refers to the shetei halechem as mincha chadasha, meaning that they should be the first korbanos offered from the new wheat crop. Should a different mincha be brought first from the new wheat crop, the shetei halechem are no longer mincha chadasha.

Yehudah bar Nechemiah argued that prior to the offering of the korban omer, the new grain has the status of ma’achalos asuros, which are never acceptable as korbanos, even after the fact (be’dei’evid). However, once the korban omer is offered, although it is still prohibited to use the new grain for menachos, we find many instances in which it is not proper to offer a korban a certain way, but be’dei’evid, after the fact, the korban is still kosher. Rabbi Tarfon was silent, implying that he accepted Yehudah bar Nechemiah’s response.

Rabbi Akiva, who, among other great luminaries of the era, was in attendance during this discussion, noted that Yehudah bar Nechemiah was smiling – demonstrating that he was personally satisfied to have bested a gadol beYisrael in a Torah discussion. Rabbi Akiva realized that Yehudah bar Nechemiah was afflicted with a very bad shortcoming – misplaced personal pride. Rabbi Akiva then forecast, within Yehudah bar Nechemiah’s earshot.

“Yehudah, I will be surprised if you’ll live a long time!” This was not intended as a curse, but a prediction.

The Gemara then quotes from the famous tanna, Rabbi Yehudah (the son of Rav Ila’ii), who was also present during this exchange. Rabbi Yehudah shared that the discussion between Rabbi Tarfon and Yehudah bar Nechemiah took place two weeks before Pesach, and that when he, Rabbi Yehudah (who lived in the southern part of Eretz Yisrael) returned for Shavuos to the beis hamedrash of the Sanhedrin, he did not find Yehudah bar Nechemiah. When Rabbi Yehudah inquired about Yehudah bar Nechemiah’s wellbeing, he was told that Yehudah bar Nechemiah had passed away suddenly in the interim.

This very tragic turn of events brings to mind both the deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 disciples (which occurred shortly after the sudden passing of Yehudah bar Nechemiah) and the much earlier tragedy of the sudden deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the two oldest sons of Aharon. In all of these instances, young, brilliant Torah scholars were suddenly taken because of personal character flaws. As implied by the midrash, had these young, great scholars become the leaders of the Jewish people, this would have caused irreparable damage to our mesorah. Klal Yisrael survives only when those who carry on the mesorah do so solely because of their obligation to Hashem, not because of personal interest.

Conclusion

Do we live with a burning desire to see the Beis Hamikdash rebuilt speedily in our days? Studying the halachos of the korbanos should help us develop our sensitivity and desire to see the Beis Hamikdash again in all its glory. May we soon merit seeing the kohanim offering all the korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash in purity and sanctity and Klal Yisrael in our rightful place in Eretz Yisrael, as a light unto the nations!

Appreciating Tashlich

Question #1: As a child, I remember being told that tashlich was our annual opportunity to throw away all our sins into the water. What is behind this custom?

Question #2: Someone once told me that tashlich alludes to the 13 middos of Hashem’s mercy. How do these middos correspond?

Answer:

The answers to both of these questions revolve around developing a deeper understanding of the custom of reciting tashlich on Rosh Hashanah. Let us research the sources and halachos of this minhag, and comprehend the lessons that we should learn while observing it.

The earliest surviving mention of tashlich of which I am aware is in the writings of the Maharil, who lived in Germany during the late Fourteenth Century, and others of his generation (Minhagei Rosh Hashanah #9). He mentions the custom of going on Rosh Hashanah to the ocean or rivers that contain fish in order to “throw our sins into the depths of the sea,” vesashlich bimtzulos yam kol chatosom.

We should note that in the verse upon which this is based (Micha 7:19), it is Hashem, and not ourselves, Who is casting our iniquities into the sea. This is important, because tashlich does not mean that we have now successfully thrown away our sins. It is the realization that only by doing teshuvah will Hashem throw away our sins.

Others cite a different biblical source, from Nechemiah (8:1), for tashlich: “On the first day of the seventh month [which is, of course, Rosh Hashanah] all the people gathered together as one, to the street that was before the gate of the water” (Rav Reuven Margulies, cited in Piskei Teshuvos 583: footnote 48). Tashlich is recorded by the Rema and the Arizal, and has become standard practice.

It is interesting to note that the earliest sources for tashlich are all Ashkenazic authors, and only later did the custom spread to Sefardic communities. For example, Rav Chaim Vital (Sha’ar Hakavanos, quoted by Kaf Hachayim 583:30) writes, “The custom practiced by the Ashkenazim, which they call ‘tashlich,’ to go on the first day of Rosh Hashanah after Mincha, slightly before sunset, to the Mediterranean Sea or to a spring is a proper custom. It is preferable to do this outside the city, stand on the seashore or alongside the spring and recite three times, ‘Mi Keil Kamocha…’ (Micha 7:18-20).”

Is it a Good Omen?

The Rema, both in Darkei Moshe and in his glosses to Shulchan Aruch, cites the custom of tashlich in what appears to be an unusual place. We would have expected that he mention tashlich as part of the discussion concerning what to do after Rosh Hashanah morning davening, which is found in Chapter 596 of Orach Chayim, or, alternatively, together with the laws of Rosh Hashanah Mincha, which are found in Chapter 598. Indeed, we find other authorities who discuss the rules of tashlich in both of these places. However, the Rema mentions the custom of tashlich earlier, in Chapter 583, where the Tur and Shulchan Aruch record the custom, mentioned in the Gemara, of eating special foods on the night of Rosh Hashanah as a good omen, a siman tov, for the coming year. Why did the Rema insert the practice of tashlich in the wrong place chronologically?

It appears that the Rema includes tashlich in the chapter of good omens for the New Year because the main reason for the custom of tashlich is its powerful symbolism.  One can certainly explain why, according to the Rema, there is a preference to recite tashlich near a river, ocean, or other source that contains fish, since they are a sign of prosperity without ayin hora.

A Different Reason

The Gr”a, in his notes to this Rema, presents a different reason for the custom. He quotes the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni #99):

If Avraham could see the place of the Akeidah, why did it take him three days to get there? The answer is that the Satan first attempted to dissuade Avraham from going. When the Satan realized that this plan would not be successful, the Satan tried a different tactic, and made himself into a large river that would be impossible to pass… Avraham continued on [accompanied by Yitzchak and the two lads] until the river was up to their necks. Avraham then lifted his eyes heavenward, saying, “Master of all worlds, You revealed Yourself to me and said, ‘I am the only One, and you are the only one. Make the entire world know about My name and bring your son as an olah.’ I did not question your words, nor did I delay fulfilling them. Now we are drowning. If my son Yitzchak drowns, how will I guarantee that Your unity be known?” Immediately, Hashem scolded the Satan, who left.

According to this approach, tashlich is a reminder of the tremendous mesiras nefesh of Avraham Avinu. This should make us internalize the message repeated daily in Shema — to love Hashem with all our being, even to sacrifice our lives for Him because we love Him so. Developing this quality of Ahavas Hashem is certainly one of the main goals of Rosh Hashanah. Thus, according to the Gr”a, tashlich is primarily an educational lesson.

A Fishy Place

However, according to the Gr”a’s approach, there is no apparent reason for reciting tashlich near a water source containing fish, a preference mentioned in most early sources. We may also note that the first reason I mentioned, that we want Hashem to wash away our sins as we do teshuvah, should also not require that the water contain fish.

The answer is that there are many other reasons for reciting tashlich at a water source that contains fish. For example, the Levush explains that we should see ourselves as fish caught in a net – this symbolizes how we have gotten caught in the traps laid for us by the yeitzer hora. This comparison should encourage us to do teshuvah and to take the Yomim Nora’im more seriously.

Here is another reason why tashlich should preferably be recited at a water source containing fish. Fish, living their lives concealed under water, are not exposed to ayin hora; we, also, hope not to be exposed to ayin hora (Elyah Zuta).

Must it be Fishy?

Notwithstanding the various reasons to explain saying tashlich at a place populated by fish, the Magen Avraham (583:5) emphasizes that whereas the Maharil advised reciting tashlich at a river with live fish, the Arizal implies that it is equally acceptable to say tashlich at a well, notwithstanding that it contains no fish. I will explain more about this shortly.

Outside the City

The Arizal (quoted by Magen Avraham 583:5) emphasizes that it is preferable to go to a water source outside the city. Based on the Midrashic source cited above, we can well understand that our traveling is an attempt to reenact, in our own small way, the tribulations that Avraham Avinu underwent on his way to performing the incredible mitzvah of akeida.

I quoted earlier Rav Chaim Vital, the main disciple of the Arizal, who writes that one should recite tashlich at the seashore or next to a spring. Going to the Mediterranean or some other sea is certainly hinted at in the verse asking Hashem to throw all one’s sins into the depths of the sea, implying that one is close enough to throw something into the water. Not all gedolei Yisrael were stringent about being next to the body of water when they recited tashlich, but they were satisfied with having the water in sight. For example, it is recorded that the Chasam Sofer went to a high place from where he could see the Danube River running through Pressburg (today known as Bratislava).

Anyone who has been in Yerushalayim for Rosh Hashanah has probably noted that, because there is no flowing river near the city, tashlich is recited in interesting places, such as near mikvaos and alongside buckets of water. For much time, Yerushalayim has been without any significant natural source of water, something unusual for any old city. The custom of reciting tashlich alongside a mikvah or a water cistern in Yerushalayim is mentioned by the Kaf Hachayim (583:30), who permits reciting tashlich even next to an empty water cistern! He explains that tashlich is only an allusion, and the main “water” to which we are referring is the “yam ha’elyon.” Obviously, he is alluding to a kabbalistic reason for tashlich.

In contemporary Yerushalayim, the most common practice is to recite tashlich alongside small backyard fish ponds stocked with a few inexpensive fish from a pet store. I assume that in the time of the Kaf Hachayim, there were few pet stores in Yerushalayim, and the scarcity of both potable water and tolerable living quarters did not allow for backyard fish ponds.

Feeding the Fish

The Maharil is emphatic that one should not take bread to tashlich on Rosh Hashanah to feed the fish. Apparently, this custom of feeding crumbs to the fish was observed over six hundred years ago, despite the opposition of most halachic authorities.

What is wrong with feeding the fish?

It is forbidden to feed any animals, birds or fish on Yom Tov, if they are not dependent on you for their nourishment.

Crumb Carrying

Some authorities quote an additional reason for prohibiting putting bread into the river on Yom Tov. Carrying is permitted on Yom Tov only for items that fulfill some Yom Tov need. Since fish in the sea are not dependent on us for nourishment, carrying in a public domain to feed them desecrates Yom Tov (Mateh Efrayim 598:5).

Instead of Feeding the Fish

Some authorities describe a different practice that does not desecrate Yom Tov: While reciting the word “tashlich,” one should empty out the dirt that one finds in the hems of one’s garment into the water, hinting at casting away our sins. With this act, we should accept doing teshuvah wholeheartedly (Likkutei Mahariach; Kaf Hachayim; see Mateh Efrayim 598:4).

Some sources quote, in the name of the Arizal, that one should only shake out the dust on the tzitzis of one’s talis koton (Likkutei Mahariach, cited by Piskei Teshuvos 583:footnote 50). Obviously, according to this Arizal, women cannot fulfill this part of the custom.

Women and Tashlich

Many authorities are strongly opposed to women going to tashlich altogether (Elef Hamagein 598:7). On the holy day of Rosh Hashanah, there should be no intermingling of the genders, and better that the men not see women altogether. If women want to go to tashlich, the best approach to avoid this problem is that introduced by my Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Ruderman, that women go to tashlich before Mincha and men after.

The Structure of Tashlich

The main part of tashlich is to recite three verses from Micha that allude to the thirteen attributes of Hashem’s kindness. Thus, to understand tashlich well, we should understand the concept of the thirteen attributes.

After the Jewish People sinned by worshiping the Eigel Hazahav, the Golden Calf, Hashem taught Moshe to use these thirteen attributes of His kindness to achieve absolution.

Rabbi Yochanan said: Were it not for the fact that the Torah itself wrote this, it would be impossible to say it. The Torah teaches that Hashem wrapped Himself in a talis like a chazzan and demonstrated to Moshe the order of prayer. Hashem told Moshe: “Whenever the Jews sin, they should perform this order and I will forgive them” (Rosh Hashanah 17b).

Rabbi Yochanan noted that the anthropomorphism of his own statement is rather shocking, and, without scriptural proof, we would refrain from repeating it. Nevertheless, the Torah compelled us to say that Hashem revealed to Moshe a means for pardoning our iniquities. According to the Maharal, Moshe asked Hashem to elucidate, to the extent that a human can comprehend, how Hashem deals with the world in mercy. Hashem did, indeed, enlighten Moshe, enabling him to implore for forgiveness for the Jewish people and teaching him how to lead the Jews in prayer (Chiddushei Agados, Rosh Hashanah 17b s.v. Melameid).

A Word about Attributes

What exactly are the thirteen attributes? For that matter, can we attribute personality characteristics to Hashem?

To quote Rabbeinu Bachyei: Although we no longer know how to beseech, nor do we properly understand the power of the Thirteen Attributes and how they connect to Hashem’s mercy, we still know that the attributes of mercy plead on our behalf, since this is what Hashem promised. Today, when we are without a kohein gadol to atone for our sins and without a mizbei’ach on which to offer korbanos and no Beis Hamikdash in which to pray, we have left only our prayers and these thirteen attributes (Kad Hakemach, Kippurim 2).

Who Knows Thirteen?

The Torah says: Hashem, Hashem, who is a merciful and gracious G-d, slow to anger, full of kindness and truth. He preserves kindness for thousands of generations by forgiving sins, whether they are intentional, rebellious or negligent; and He forgives (Shemos 34:6-7).

There are many opinions among the halachic authorities exactly how to calculate the thirteen merciful attributes of Hashem. The most commonly quoted approach is that of Rabbeinu Tam, who counts each of the three mentions of Hashem’s name at the beginning of the passage, Hashem, Hashem, and Keil, as a separate attribute.

However, it is important to note that the Arizal counted the thirteen merciful attributes in a different way. Whereas Rabbeinu Tam counted Hashem, Hashem, Keil as three difference attributes, the Arizal does not count the first two Names (Hashem, Hashem). Thus, the first attribute mentioned by the verse is Keil. To compensate for the loss of two attributes in the count of thirteen, the Arizal reaches thirteen by dividing the two phrases, erech apayim and notzeir chesed laalafim, each into two different attributes, whereas, according to Rabbeinu Tam’s count, each of these phrases counts only as one.

Micha’s Thirteen Attributes

The kabbalistic sources explain that the three verses of Micha that form the basic structure of tashlich also allude to the thirteen attributes of Hashem. For many years, I tried to figure out how the verses in Micha correspond to the thirteen attributes, until I discovered that this allusion follows the Arizal’s approach to the thirteen attributes. Many machzorim note this method of counting the thirteen attributes by placing the word from Moshe’s original prayer above the verse in Micha to which this attribute corresponds.

What do I do?

At this point, I want to return to the above-quoted Talmudic source that explains the power of the thirteen attributes, and note a very important point:

Hashem told Moshe: “Whenever the Jews sin, they should perform this order and I will forgive them.” The Hebrew word that I have translated as “perform” is ya’asu, which means that the Jews must do something, definitely more than just reading the words. If all that is required is to read these words, the Gemara should have said simply: They should read these words. Obviously, action, which always speaks louder than words, is required to fulfill these instructions and accomplish automatic atonement.

What did the Gemara mean?

Emulate Hashem

The commandment to emulate Hashem is the most important of the 613 mitzvos. To quote the Gemara: Just as Hashem is gracious and merciful, so should you become gracious and merciful (Shabbos 133b). When Hashem told Moshe: Whenever the Jews perform this order, I will forgive them. He meant that when we act towards one another with the same qualities of rachamim as does Hashem, He forgives us. Reciting the thirteen attributes of Hashem’s mercy is the first step towards making ourselves merciful, emulating Hashem’s ways. Ya’asu means that by emulating Hashem’s kindness and His tolerance, by accepting people who annoy and harm us, we become His G-dly People!

This sounds great in theory. What does it mean in practice?

Here are several examples, all taken from the sefer Tomer Devorah, to help us comprehend what our job is:

1. Whenever someone does something wrong (i.e., acts against Hashem’s wishes), at that very moment Hashem is providing all the needs of the offender. This is a tremendous amount of forbearance that Hashem demonstrates. Our mitzvah is to train ourselves to be equally accepting of those who annoy and wrong us.

2. We should appreciate the extent to which Hashem considers the Jews to be His People, and identify with the needs of each Jew on a corresponding level.

3. Hashem waits with infinite patience for the sinner to do teshuvah, always confident in a person’s ability to repent and change. While Hashem is waiting, He continues to provide the sinner with all his needs. Similarly, we should not stand on ceremony, waiting for someone who wronged us to apologize.

4. When a person does teshuvah after sinning, Hashem loves him more than He loved him before he sinned. As the Gemara states: In a place where ba’alei teshuvah stand, complete tzadikim are unable to stand. Therefore, if someone who has wronged me now wants to makes amends, I must befriend him and accept him at a greater level than I had previously.

All of these ideas are included when we observe the mitzvah of tashlich. We should read the verses and think how we can emulate Hashem’s kindness, by demonstrating the same degree of kindness to His creations.

Conclusion

There are so many beautiful lessons to learn from observing the ancient minhag of tashlich. We should be careful to observe this practice in the spirit of the day, and, by internalizing these lessons, may we and all Klal Yisrael merit a kesivah vachasimah tovah.

Eruv Tavshilin

Since Yom Tov begins on Friday, a rare occurrence, we must prepare an eruv tavshilin, whether we live in Eretz Yisrael or in Chutz La’Aretz.

Question #1: Where?

“Is it true that eruv tavshilin is more common in chutz la’aretz than in Eretz Yisroel?”

Question #2: What?

“In what way is the halacha of eruv tavshilin different on Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach from other Yomim Tovim?”

Question #3: Why?

“What is the reason that many people use a hard-boiled egg for eruv tavshilin?”

Foreword

With Shavuos beginning on Thursday evening, the laws of eruv tavshilin are germane both to those living in Eretz Yisroel and to those living in chutz la’aretz. In order to reply accurately to the above inquiries, we must first examine several aspects of this mitzvah that Chazal implemented – particularly, the whys, hows, and whats of eruv tavshilin. Because of space considerations, this article will not be able to address all the issues of eruv tavshilin, but will answer the opening questions that were posed. However, there are other articles on the topic, as well as on the laws of Yom Tov, that may be read on RabbiKaganoff.com.

First, the basics: When Yom Tov falls on Friday, an eruv tavshilin must be made on erev Yom Tov to permit cooking and other preparations on Yom Tov for Shabbos. As it turns out, making an eruv tavshilin is much more common in chutz la’aretz than it is in Eretz Yisroel. Since, in our calendar devised by Hillel Hanasi, the beginning of Sukkos, Pesach and Shmini Atzeres never falls on Friday, the only time there is a need for an eruv tavshilin in Eretz Yisroel is when Shavuos or the seventh day of Pesach falls on Friday, or when Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday. On the other hand, in chutz la’aretz, in additional to these instances, often the two days of Yom Tov fall on Thursday and Friday.

Introduction

When discussing the laws of Yom Tov, the Torah teaches kol melacha lo yei’aseh bahem, ach asher yei’acheil lechol nefesh hu levado yei’aseh lachem,“No work should be performed on these days; however, that which is eaten by everyone (kol nefesh), only that may be prepared for yourselves” (Shemos 12:16). We see from the posuk that, although most melachos are forbidden on Yom Tov, cooking and most other food preparations are permitted. However, cooking is permitted on Yom Tov only when it is for consumption on that day. It is forbidden to cook on Yom Tov for the day after, and at times this is prohibited min haTorah. There is, however, one exception – when Yom Tov falls on Friday and an eruv tavshilin is made, it is permitted to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

To quote the Mishnah (Beitzah 15b), “When Yom Tov falls on erev Shabbos, it is prohibited to begin cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos. However, it is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, and, if there are leftovers, plan them to be for Shabbos. Furthermore (there is a way in which it is permitted to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos), by preparing a cooked food from before Yom Tov which he leaves for Shabbos. According to Beis Shamai, this must be two cooked items, and, according to Beis Hillel, one cooked item suffices.” (As we are aware, we also set aside a baked item for the eruv tavshilin, but this is not essential.)

Prior to quoting the dispute between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel, the Mishnah has expressed three distinct concepts:

No cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos

1. It is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos (without making the eruv tavshilin).

Plan-overs

2. It is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, planning to have leftovers for Shabbos.

Eruv tavshilin

3. Making an eruv tavshilin permits cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Each of these concepts requires clarification:

1. No cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos

It is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Let me explain a question that is implicit here. If it is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, why does an eruv tavshilin permit it? Or, in other terms, there are three types of eruv that Chazal instituted, eruv techumim, eruv chatzeiros and eruv tavshilin. All three of these mitzvos have the status of a takanas chachamim, which means that they were instituted by Chazal to permit something that is otherwise prohibited because of a rabbinic injunction. An eruv techumim permits walking on Shabbos and Yom Tov beyond the techum Shabbos, the distance outside the city or other “Shabbos residence;” an eruv chatzeiros permits carrying on Shabbos from one individual’s jurisdiction to that of another. Both of these prohibitions permitted by their respective eruvin are rabbinic injunctions. An eruv, which is a rabbinic introduction, cannot permit something that is prohibited min haTorah, as the Gemara asks, “Can an eruv tavshilin permit a Torah prohibition” (Pesachim 45b)?

If cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is permitted min haTorah, and it is prohibited only because of a rabbinic injunction, we can understand how Chazal could create a rabbinic innovation called eruv tavshilin and thereby permit this cooking. To paraphrase this expression of the Gemara, since Chazal created the prohibition, they can also reverse it (ibid.). However, if cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is prohibited min haTorah, how do Chazal have the authority to permit that which the Torah forbade?

Two differing approaches

How we answer this conundrum is dependent on a debate between two amora’im, Rabbah and Rav Chisda (Pesachim 46b), which has major ramifications specifically for this coming Yom Tov, when Shavuos falls on Friday.

Rav Chisda contends that, min haTorah, it is always permitted to cook on a Friday Yom Tov for Shabbos. This is called tzorchei Shabbos na’asin beYom Tov, literally, “Shabbos needs may be performed on Yom Tov.” Since Shabbos and Yom Tov both have kedusha, and are both sometimes called “Shabbos” by the Torah, cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is permitted min haTorah, just as cooking on Yom Tov is permitted for the same day (Rashi ad loc.). The prohibition not to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos is a rabbinic injunction; Chazal prohibited this in order to make sure that people do not cook on Yom Tov for a weekday, or on the first day of Yom Tov for the second, both of which might be prohibited min haTorah. Making an eruv tavshilin permits cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos, since a person thereby realizes that, without an eruv tavshilin, he cannot cook on Yom Tov even for Shabbos — therefore, he understands that he certainly cannot cook on Yom Tov for any other day.

The other position — ho’il

Rabbah contends that it is often prohibited min haTorah to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos. In other words, he maintains that tzorchei Shabbos einam na’asin beYom Tov – notwithstanding that Yom Tov is sometimes called Shabbos, it is still prohibited min haTorah to cook on Yom Tov for any other day, including Shabbos!

If that is true, how can an eruv tavshilin, which is a rabbinic solution, permit that which is prohibited min haTorah?

The answer is a halachic concept called ho’il, which permits cooking on Yom Tov min haTorah whenever you might have a need for extra cooked food on Yom Tov itself, even when you are not expecting to need the extra food and it is unlikely that such a situation will arise. For example, after finishing the Yom Tov day seudah, min haTorah it is permitted to cook another meal, provided it will be ready to eat before the Yom Tov day is over. This is because unexpected guests may arrive at your door, and you now have a meal ready to serve them. The idea that perhaps something will happen is expressed as the word ho’il; this word is now used as a brief way of referring to a complicated legal concept.

Therefore, whenever it is possible that guests may yet arrive on Yom Tov, it is permitted to cook for them min haTorah. Although miderabbanan it is not permitted to rely on ho’il to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, since this is only a rabbinic injunction, eruv tavshilin can permit the cooking.

However, this heter applies only as long as the meal will be ready to be eaten while it is still Yom Tov. There is no heter to begin cooking a meal on Yom Tov that will not be ready until Yom Tov is over g . In other words, according to Rabbah, when ho’il does not apply, it is prohibited min haTorah to cook. Under these circumstances, an eruv tavshilin will not permit someone to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Thus, there is a halachic difference between Rabbah and Rav Chisda that affects us! According to Rabbah, it is not permitted to put a cholent on the fire on Friday that will not be ready to eat until sometime on Shabbos. Usually, it is perfectly fine to cook food on Friday that will be left on a properly covered fire when Shabbos starts and not ready to eat until the Friday night seudah. However, this Yom Tov it is not permitted to do this, according to Rabbah. Since this food will not be ready to eat on Yom Tov, the law of ho’il does not apply. Since the rule of ho’il does not apply, there is no heter to cook the cholent on Yom Tov for Shabbos, even if one makes an eruv tavshilin! Thus, the menu for Shabbos may have to depend on what one is planning to cook, or, more accurately, on whether it will be cooked in a way that it can be eaten on Yom Tov.

How do we rule?

The Mishnah Berurah, in Biur Halacha (527:1), notes that it is unclear whether we rule according to Rabbah or according to Rav Chisda. He concludes, therefore, that it is preferred to be machmir and have the food cooked for Shabbos in a way that ho’il applies, particularly when we are dealing with a potential question of a Torah law, such as when the first day of Yom Tov falls on Friday, as it does on Shavuos. This means that all food cooked for Shabbos should be edible before Shabbos arrives. The Biur Halacha rules that, under extenuating circumstances, it is permitted to rely on the rishonim who rule according to Rav Chisda’s opinion, but it is preferable lechatchilah to have the food for Shabbos cooked in a way that it will be already edible on Friday.

When the the first day of Yom Tov falls on Thursday, and, therefore, Friday Yom Tov is miderabbanan, there is more latitude to be lenient.

At this point, we can answer the second of our opening questions: “In what way is the halacha of eruv tavshilin different on Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach from other Yomim Tovim?”

In the calendar we currently use, the first day of Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach never fall on Thursday, although they both often fall on Friday. When this happens, Friday is Yom Tov min haTorah, and it is important to plan the menu such that the meals cooked on Friday for Shabbos will be ready to eat when there is still time to eat them on Yom Tov.

Plan-overs

At this point, we will examine the second point that we derived from the Mishnah, which stated, “It is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, and, if there are leftovers, plan them to be for Shabbos.” In other words, even without having made an eruv tavshilin, there is a way to cook more than you need on Yom Tov in order to have plenty of leftovers, or, shall we call them, “plan-overs.” One may cook amply for the Yom Tov meal, knowing that there will certainly be leftovers that can be served on Shabbos. As a matter of fact, if one follows the halacha correctly here, it is even permitted to cook on the first day of Yom Tov planning to have enough leftover to serve on the second day, or even on a weekday. This is provided that each dish is, or could be, served at a Yom Tov meal on the day that it was prepared.

This plan-over preparation is called marbeh beshiurim, literally, “increasing the quantities,”which means that, while preparing food on Yom Tov, it is permitted to include a greater quantity while cooking, provided no additional melacha act is performed. For example, if you need to heat a small amount of water for a cup of tea, you may place a large pot of water on the fire, since only one act of heating water — placing a pot on the fire — is being performed.

However, it is prohibited if an additional melacha action is performed. For example, if the pot is already on the fire, you may not add extra water to it, since this involves a new melacha action.

Adding more

Here are other examples. You are making a cholent or cooking soup — you may add greater quantities of meat, beans or other ingredients than you will need for your Yom Tov meal into the pot before it is placed on the stove, because you place the entire pot onto the fire at one time, or turn up the fire only once, regardless as to how much is thereby being cooked.You may fill a pot with meat on the first day of Yom Tov, even though you need only one piece for the first day.

However, it is prohibited to prepare individual units of a food item, knowing that you are preparing more than can possibly be eaten on Yom Tov. For this reason, you may not fry more schnitzel or similar items than you will possibly need for a Yom Tov meal, since these involve separate melacha actions. Similarly, it is forbidden to bake more than what you will possibly need for the day (Beitzah 17a). Adding water or meat before putting the pot on the fire simply increases the quantity cooked, but does not increase the number of melacha acts, whereas shaping each loaf or roll is done separately, thus increasing the number of acts performed.

Why is this permitted?

Why is it permitted to cook extra on Yom Tov by use of marbeh beshiurim? We would think that cooking extra on Yom Tov is forbidden, just as in a situation of pikuach nefesh, where it is forbidden to cook more than what is necessary for the needs of the ill person. Why, then, is it permitted to cook extra on Yom Tov, as long as no extra melacha actions are performed?

The Ran (Beitzah 9b in Rif pages, s.v. Umiha) explains that there is a qualitative difference between the performance of melacha actions on Shabbos (or Yom Tov) to save someone’s life, and cooking on Yom Tov. Although saving lives is a huge mitzvah and supersedes Shabbos, the act performed is still an act of melacha. On the other hand, prohibited activities on Yom Tov are defined as melachos that are not food preparatory. Preparing food on Yom Tov involves no melacha activity whatsoever, and is as permitted on Yom Tov as it is to set the table on Shabbos. Since no melacha activity is performed, there is nothing wrong with adding more to cook while the Yom Tov meal is prepared, provided that no additional melacha action is done.

Hard-boiled eruv?

At this point, let us examine the third of our opening questions: “Why do many people use a hard-boiled egg for eruv tavshilin?”

It is permitted to continue cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos only as long as the eruv tavshilin, or at least a kezayis of the cooked part of the eruv tavshilin, still exists. In the days before refrigeration, someone who prepared meat or a different food on Wednesday or Thursday for eating on Shabbos was faced with a practical problem. Once you cook food, it begins to spoil very quickly, if it is not refrigerated. Therefore, notes the Aruch Hashulchan, it was not uncommon that the eruv tavshilin was no longer edible when people were cooking on Wednesday for Shabbos, and an inedible eruv tavshilin no longer permits you to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Using a hard-boiled egg for the eruv tavshilin resolved this problem, since an egg cooked before Yom Tov and kept without refrigeration will still be edible on Shabbos.

However, in today’s world, when you can place the cooked part of your eruv tavshilin in the refrigerator and it will last until Shabbos, it is preferred to use as eruv tavshilin a cooked delicacy that you intend to serve at the Shabbos meal. For this reason, I for the eruv tavshilin the gefilte fish that will be served on Shabbos.

Conclusion

The Torah refers to the Yomim Tovim as mo’ed. Just as the word ohel mo’ed refers to the tent in the desert which served as a meeting place between Hashemand the Jewish people, so, too, a mo’ed is a meeting time between Hashemand the Jewish people (Hirsch, Vayikra 23:3 and Horeb). Unlike Shabbos,when we refrain from all melacha activity, on Yom Tov the Torah permits melacha activity that enhances the celebration of the Yom Tov as a mo’ed. Permitting us to cook delicious, fresh meals allows an even greater celebration of this unique meeting time with Hashem.

It’s Hip to Dip

The Charoses Saga

Question #1: How Deep a Dip?

How deep into the charoses am I supposed to dip the maror?

Question #2: Only Lettuce!

What do you serve for karpas, if you realize that the only vegetable you have in the house is the lettuce you were planning to use for maror?

Introduction

Much Pesach and pre-Pesach discussion focuses on the vast preparation necessary for the holiday and, also, on the mitzvos of the Seder. Because of the importance of the mitzvos of hagadah and matzoh, some of the less vital aspects of the Seder sometimes get shunted to the side. One of these observances is that of the charoses, which actually has considerable discussion in the Gemara. We will be discussing some of the questions germane to charoses, such as:

Is charoses a mitzvah of its own, or just a garnish to the maror?

If it is a mitzvah, how do we fulfill its observance?

Does it require eating a kezayis within a specific timeframe?

Let us begin our discussion from the earliest halachic source that mentions charoses, the Mishnah (Pesachim 114a) that states, “They brought in front of him [the person leading the Seder] matzoh, lettuce, charoses and two cooked items [these correspond to the zeroa and the beitzah that we have at our Seder], even though charoses is not a mitzvah. Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok says that it is a mitzvah. [We will soon explain the two sides in this dispute.] During the era of the Beis Hamikdash, they also brought the roasted korban Pesach at this time.”

We see that this Mishnah is of a relatively later date, after the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed and there was no longer a korban Pesach, and the two “cooked items” at the Seder are to remind us of the korban Pesach and the korban chagigah. This is interesting, because the very next Mishnah (Pesachim 116a) dates back to the era of the Beis Hamikdash, since its discussion of the four questions includes a question that assumes that there is a korban Pesach at the Seder: She’bechol haleilos anu ochlin basar shaluk, tzeli umevushal, halailah hazeh kulo tzeli, “On all other nights we eat meat that is either boiled, roasted or cooked; this night, we eat only roasted [meat].” Obviously, this Mishnah dates to the time of the Beis Hamikdash and refers to the eating of the roasted korbanos Pesach and chagigah. The Gemara (Pesachim 70a) explains that the text of this Mishnah follows the opinion of a tanna, Ben Teima, who contends that the korban chagigah eaten Pesach night at the time of the Beis Hamikdash was also required to be roasted. Thus, in his opinion, all meat eaten at the Seder was roasted.

The structure of this chapter of the Mishnah implies that there was an earlier edition of this Mishnah dating to the time of the Beis Hamikdash, and that when Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi edited it after the churban, he rewrote certain parts to accommodate the new reality, but he left other parts in their original format.

A mitzvah or a garnish?

We asked, above, whether charoses is a mitzvah on its own, or just a garnish to the maror. This appears to be the dispute between the Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok in the Mishnah that I quoted. Let us see the passage of the Gemara (116a) that examines this dispute: First, the Gemara devotes itself to explaining the opinion of the Tanna Kamma, asking: Since this tanna insists that there is no mitzvah in using charoses, why prepare it and serve it at the Seder? The Gemara answers that charoses is brought to the Seder because of kafa, which is some type of toxin. Rashi and Rabbeinu Chananel disagree as to what kafa is. According to Rashi, it is in the sap of the maror, whereas Rabbeinu Chananel explains it to be an insect that is in the maror.

Tosafos (Pesachim 115b s.v. Kafa), in explaining Rabbeinu Chananel’s approach to kafa, asks the following: If kafa is an insect, then eating lettuce any time should be prohibited, because of a kashrus concern. Tosafos answers that most of the time, maror does not contain kafa. Since it is rare for maror to contain kafa, there is no kashrus concern when eating lettuce or other maror vegetables that you may be eating non-kosher kafa. (There may be a concern that you will eat thrips, aphids, leaf miners or other insects, but that is not the topic for today’s article. I recommend that our concerned readers contact their rav, posek or local vaad hakashrus for direction.)

However, there is a general halachic ruling of chamira sakanta mei’isura (see Chullin 10a), we are required to be more careful about safety concerns than about prohibitions. In other words, although there is no kashrus concern about possibly consuming kafa, there is still a safety concern, and for this reason, we eat the maror with charoses, which will prevent the toxin in the kafa from harming anyone.

According to both Rashi and Rabbeinu Chananel, we are faced with a question: When lettuce is eaten as karpas, most poskim (with the exception of Rashi and Tosafos, 114a s.v. Metabeil), do not require that it be dipped in charoses. What happened to the concern about kafa? The same question can be asked regarding eating lettuce or the other species of maror at any other time of the year. The halacha does not require that we eat these species with charoses – why not? Since we rule that chamira sakanta mei’isura, shouldn’t we always be required to eat charoses with our lettuce?

Rabbeinu Yonah asks this question and provides the following observation: “All year long, we eat lettuce without charoses, without being concerned about the ill effects that kafa causes… We are concerned only when we fulfill the mitzvah of maror – then the chachamim were careful that this [mitzvah] should not cause any possibility of danger.” In other words, the danger of kafa is not significant enough for us to show concern. However, in the opinion of the Sages, we should be careful to not let a mitzvah act cause even the remotest possibility of danger, and therefore we should eat the maror of the mitzvah with charoses (quoted by Rosh, Pesachim 10:25).

Tasting the maror

When the lettuce is eaten as maror, and you dip it deep into the charoses, you can hardly taste the lettuce, and you certainly don’t notice any bitterness. Have you fulfilled the mitzvah of maror this way?

The Gemara (Pesachim 115b) quotes the following: “Rav Papa said, ‘Don’t leave the maror sitting in the charoses, out of concern that the acid of the spices will overwhelm the bitterness, and we require the taste of maror, which you will not have.”

How deep a dip?

How deep into the charoses am I to dip the maror?

The answer to this question, which involves a dispute among the poskim, depends on the following discussion in the Gemara.

How does charoses work? The Gemara (Pesachim 115b) quotes a dispute whether it is contact with the charoses that overcomes the kafa, or whether it is the fragrance of the charoses that does the job. The difference in practical halacha is whether it is required to submerge the maror into the charoses, or if it is sufficient to dip the maror into the charoses. This difference of opinion in the Gemara manifests itself in a dispute between the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 475:1) and the Pri Chodosh.

The Shulchan Aruch rules that the maror should be submerged in the charoses, but you should not leave the maror in the charoses for long, and you should shake off the charoses. The Pri Chodosh notes that the prevalent custom is to simply dip the maror into the charoses, and he explains why this is sufficient. Both of these approaches are in order that the taste of the charoses not overwhelm that of the maror. The Mishnah Berurah mentions the opinion of the Pri Chodosh that disagrees with the Shulchan Aruch, and the custom in most places accords with the Pri Chodosh.

Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok

Until this point, we have been explaining the position of the Tanna Kamma. The Mishnah (Pesachim 114a) quotes Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok as saying that charoses is a mitzvah. The Gemara (ad locum 116a) asks, “What is the mitzvah? Rabbi Levi said, ‘In commemoration of the tapuach [usually translated as “apple” or “apple tree”].’ Rabbi Yochanan said, ‘To remember the clay [from which the bricks were baked in Mitzrayim].’”

Rashi explains the opinion of Rabbi Levi by quoting the verse in Shir Hashirim (8:5), tachas hatapuach o’rar’tich, “I roused you under the tapuach,” and the Midrash that the Jewish women encouraged their disheartened husbands to continue with married life, and thereby succeeded in creating the large Jewish nation that left Mitzrayim.

To quote the passage of Gemara that retells this miracle, “Because of the merit of the righteous women of that generation, Yisroel was redeemed from Egypt. When they went to draw water, Hashem prepared small fish in their buckets, such that what they drew was half water and half fish. The women then took two pots, one of hot water and one of cooked fish, and went to their husbands in the field. They washed their husbands, anointed them, fed them and gave them to drink… When the women became pregnant, they returned home. When it came time for them to give birth, they went out to the fields and gave birth under the tapuach, as the posuk says, ‘I roused you under the tapuach.’ Hashem sent from his upper heavens someone to make the children good-looking… When the Egyptians realized what had happened, they came to kill them [the Jewish women and the babies], but they were miraculously absorbed into the earth. At that point, they [the Jewish men] brought oxen who plowed above them” (Sotah 11b).

The Gemara in Pesachim, germane to the discussion about the charoses, continues: “Abaya said, ‘Therefore, you should make the charoses acidic [by adding apples, other fruits or vinegar], to remember the miracle of tapuach, and you should thicken the charoses, similar to the way clay functions.’ We found a beraisa supporting Rabbi Yochanan’s opinion [that charoses should contain spices] as a commemoration of the straw, and that the charoses should be ground up well, to commemorate the clay. Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok said: ‘The merchants of Yerushalayim used to advertise from the windows of their stores, “Come and purchase spices for the mitzvah.”’”

There is also a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi that states that the charoses should be of a thin consistency, so that it reminds us of makas dam.

Charoses recipe

What types of spices should be included in the charoses? The Rif and the Rosh both mention that charoses should contain spices such as cinnamon and ginger. This is in accordance with the description of Rabbi Yochanan, that it should have spices that have a physical appearance somewhat similar to that of straw.

The Rambam (Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 7:11) adds to the recipe that it should include something like mashed dates, mashed dried figs or mashed raisins.

What is the dispute?

Above, I quoted the dispute between the Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok whether charoses is a mitzvah or not. What practical application results from this dispute?

It seems from the discussion in the Gemara that the two tanna’im disagree regarding the recipe that we should use for charoses. According to the Tanna Kamma, the requirement is that charoses contain some ingredient that will mitigate the toxicity of the kafa. However, Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok rules that it should contain something acidic, like wine, apples or vinegar, and spices that bear a physical resemblance to straw; and that it should have a consistency that reminds us of clay. And, according to the Yerushalmi, the final product should have the viscosity of a thick liquid.

The position of the Rambam on this topic seems to have changed from what he held initially. In his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam seems to understand that the dispute between the Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok is that, according to Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok, charoses is a mitzvah on the night of the Seder that requires the recital of a brocha prior to eating it, whereas according to the Tanna Kamma charoses in not a mitzvah and does not require a brocha. The Rambam writes that the halacha is not like Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok. However, in the Mishneh Torah the Rambam seems to have had a change of opinion, as he rules that charoses is a mitzvah (Lechem Mishneh). He also seems to understand that the dispute between the Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok is as explained above, regarding which ingredients are required in the charoses (see Magid Mishnah, Hilchos Chometz Umatzoh 7:11).

Dip the matzoh in charoses?

There is also another interesting dispute among the very early poskim. Most people today have the custom that when they eat the matzoh the first night of Pesach to fulfill the mitzvah, they do not dip the matzoh in salt or anything else. There are some who dip it in salt. However, several very early authorities, including Rav Amram Gaon, Rabbeinu Yosef, Rashi, Rabbeinu Shmayah (quoted by Tosafos, Pesachim 114a s.v. Metabeil) and the Rambam rule that when eating the very first matzoh, you should dip the matzoh into charoses! What is the Talmudic source for this ruling?

Some explain that when the Mishnah states that you should bring out the charoses together with the matzoh, it is implying that just as we dip our hamotzi into salt or something similar the rest of the year, at the Seder the matzoh should also be dipped into something to make it tastier – in this case, charoses.

Others explain that Rav Amram and the Rambam understood that this is part of the machlokes between the Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok.

Only lettuce!

At this point, let us explain the third of our opening questions: “What do you serve for karpas, if you realize that the only vegetable you have in the house is the lettuce you were planning to use for maror?”

This situation is found in the following Mishnah (Pesachim 114a), which describes someone who had only one vegetable available for the Seder: the lettuce that he will be using for the mitzvah of eating maror. Since this is his only vegetable, it will have to serve also as his karpas.  The Mishnah says, “They brought in front of him and he dips the lettuce, prior to the lettuce that he will be eating after the matzoh.” There is a dispute between Rashi and his grandson, the Rashbam, as to how he dipped this lettuce. Rashi explains that he dips it into the charoses, presumably for the same reasons why the maror is dipped into the charoses. According to the Rashbam, when the lettuce is eaten for karpas, it is not dipped into the charoses, but into something else. Most of us are familiar with a custom of dipping the karpas into saltwater. I have also seen references to customs of dipping the karpas into vinegar or wine. The Rashbam’s opinion is that, notwithstanding that lettuce will also be used for maror, when being used as karpas, it is treated like karpas and dipped into something other than charoses.

The Gemara (114b) raises a question here: If for karpas you are eating lettuce, with which you can fulfill the mitzvah of maror, when do you recite the brocha of al achilas maror? How can you recite this brocha later, after you have already eaten maror? The Gemara concludes that you do not fulfill the mitzvah of maror when you eat the lettuce as karpas, a concept called mitzvos tzerichos kavanah, fulfilling a mitzvah requires that you have in mind to perform it (Tosafos ad locum).

Still, although the rule is that mitzvos tzerichos kavanah, there is a dispute as to when you recite the brocha of al achilas maror. Rav Huna rules that you recite it prior to eating the lettuce for maror, whereas Rav Chisda rules that you recite it prior to eating the lettuce for karpas, even though the main mitzvah of eating maror will be fulfilled later. The Gemara then describes how later amora’im ruled, some following Rav Huna and others Rav Chisda. The Gemara concludes that the halacha follows Rav Chisda. Despite this conclusion, an amora, Rav Acha the son of Rava, went out of his way to make sure that he had other vegetables in the house, so that he could avoid the entire question by serving something else for karpas.

Conclusion

The Seder is a very special time for us to transmit our mesorah and some of the most basic of our Jewish beliefs to our children and future generations. Chazal added to the beautiful Torah mitzvos of hagadah, matzoh, and maror many other mitzvos that broaden the entire experience. We should also note the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 35a) that teaches that the rabbinic laws are dearer than the Torah laws, since they demonstrate how much the Jewish people, as a nation, value our special relationship with Hashem.

Mizmor Lesodah, Parshas Tzav and Erev Pesach

Question #1: Korban Todah or Bensching Gomeil?

“Which is the better way to thank Hashem for a personal salvation, by reciting birchas hagomeil, or by offering a korban todah?”

Question #2: The Breadwinner!

“Why is the korban todah accompanied by so many loaves of bread and so much matzoh?”

Question #3: Mizmor Lesodah and Pesach

“I recently assumed a position teaching in a small-town day school. Before Pesach, I mentioned that we do not recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev and Chol Hamoed Pesach. One of the students afterwards told me that this is not his family minhag, but only Ashkenazi practice. Is he correct?”

Answer:

Although Chapter 100 of Tehillim is known by its opening words as Mizmor Lesodah, there actually are two different chapters of Tehillim, #100 and #107, that devote themselves to the thanksgiving acknowledgement of someone who has survived a major physical challenge. In Psalm 107, Dovid Hamelech describes four different types of treacherous predicaments — traveling through the desert, traveling overseas, illness, and imprisonment — in which a person would pray to Hashem for salvation. When the person survives the travails and thanks Hashem, this thanks is reflected in the passage , Yodu lashem chasdo venifle’osav livnei adam, “they acknowledge thanks to Hashem for His kindness and His wondrous deeds for mankind.”These words are repeated four times, once after each of the four situations is described.

The Gemara cites this Psalm as the source for many of the laws of birchas hagomeil, the brocha we recite when surviving these calamities. To quote the Gemara: Four people need to acknowledge thanks to Hashem.

Actually, someone who survived these predicaments should offer a korban todah, which is described in parshas Tzav. The birchas hagomeil is recited in place of the korban todah that we cannot bring, since, unfortunately, our Beis Hamikdash lies in ruin (Rosh, Brachos 9:3; Tur, Orach Chayim 219).

What are the unusual features of the korban todah?

The korban todah is a specialized variety of shelamim, whose name means, according to the Toras Kohanim, that it creates peace in the world, since the owner, the kohen and the mizbeiach (the altar) all share in consuming it (quoted by Rashi, Vayikra 3:1). A shelamim, which was perhaps the most common korban in the Beis Hamikdash, was offered to express the desire to draw closer to Hashem from a sense that he lacks nothing in his physical life (see Commentary of Rav Hirsch, Vayikra 3:1).

The korban todah is offered following the general procedures and rules of a shelamim; however, it has several unique features. The first is that the korban is accompanied by a huge amount of bread, called korbanos mincha (plural, menachos), a total of forty loaves. Thirty of these comprise ten loaves each of three varieties of matzoh. However, the remaining ten loaves are highly unusual: first of all they are chometz, and this is the only instance of a private korban that includes chometz. (There is only one other korban that is chometz, and that is the two loaves offered by the community on Shavuos.) As a result, the korban todah could not be offered on Erev Pesach or on Pesach itself.

The chometz loaves are unusual in another way, in that each of them is three times the volume of the matzoh loaves (see Menachos 76b). Thus, the ten chometz loaves were, together, of equal size to the thirty matzohs.

Of the four varieties of mincha that accompany the korban todah, one of each type of loaf is given to the kohen to take home and consume together with his family and friends. The other 36 loaves are given to the offerer of the korban.

There is another unusual facet of the korban todah offering. Whereas a korban shelamim may be eaten until nightfall of the next day after it is offered, the korban todah must be eaten before the morning after it was offered, a much shorter period of time. Chazal further shortened the time it may be eaten — permitting it to be eaten only until halachic midnight — to assure that no one eat the korban when it is forbidden to do so.

Thus, there are three ways in which the korban todah is treated differently from an ordinary shelamim: 1) the todah is accompanied by an absolutely huge amount of bread, made from a total of twenty isronim of flour, which is twenty times the amount of flour that requires one to separate challah; 2) half of this bread is chometz and half matzoh; and 3) the korban and its bread must be consumed within a very short period of time.

Why would the Torah “impose” these additional requirements on the offerer of the korban? Well, let us figure out what is he going to do. He has a significant amount of holy meat that must be eaten by midnight, and a huge amount of accompanying bread with the same restrictions. What will he do?

Presumably, he will invite a large crowd to join him in his feast and will thereby explain to them the reason for his repast. Thus, we increase the appreciation of others forthe salvation that Hashem has provided him, which is the cause of this thanksgiving. This now leads us directly into our discussion of the chapter of Tehillim that begins with the words Mizmor Lesodah.

Mizmor Lesodah

Whereas the above-mentioned Chapter 107 of Tehillim describes the background behind korban todah and birchas hagomeil, the 100th chapter of Tehillim, Mizmor Lesodah, is a sample praise that the saved person recites. Although only five verses long, this psalm, one of the eleven written by Moshe Rabbeinu (see Rashi ad locum), captivates the emotion of a person who has just survived a major ordeal. The first verse expresses the need for everyone on Earth to recognize Hashem, certainly something that conveys the emotions of someone very recently saved from a major tribulation. The second verse shares the same passion, since it calls upon everyone to serve Hashem in gladness and to appear before Him in jubilation. The third sentence continues this idea. In it, the thankful person calls on everyone to recognize that Hashem is the personal G-d of every individual, that we are His people and the sheep of his pasture. He then calls on all to enter into Hashem’s gates and His courts, so that we can thank and bless Him. We should note that the gates of the Beis Hamikdash were meant for all of mankind, not only the Jewish people, as mankind is specifically included in Shlomoh Hamelech’s prayer while inaugurating the Beis Hamikdash (Melachim I 8:41-43).

The closing sentence of Mizmor Lesodah is also very significant: “For Hashem is good, His kindness is forever, and our trust should be placed in Him in every future generation.” (We should note that the word olam in Tanach means “forever” and never means “world,” which is a meaning given to this word by Chazal. The most common Tanach word for “world” is teiveil; see, for example, Tehillim 19:5; 33:8; and 90:2 — all of which are recited during the Pesukei Dezimra of Shabbos and 96:10, 13; 97:4; 98:7, which are part of kabbalas Shabbos.) The celebrant calls upon those he has assembled to spread the message that Hashem is the only Source of all good, and that we should recognize this at all times, not only in the extraordinary situations where we see the manifestation of His presence!

We can now understand better why the Mizmor Lesodah chapter of Tehillim is structured as it is. It provides the beneficiary of Hashem’s miracle with a drosha to present at the seudas hodaah that he makes with all the bread and meat that he does not want to go to waste — complete with encouragement to others to internalize our thanks to Hashem.

Clearly, then, this psalm was meant to be recited by the thankful person prior to offering his korban, and this is his invitation to others to join him as he thanks Hashem. The Avudraham notes thatHashem’s name appears four times in the psalm, corresponding to the four people who need to thank Him for their salvation.

Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos

We find a dispute among early authorities whether one should recite Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos (Shibbolei Haleket, quoted by Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 281). Why should this be?

Since the korban todah is a voluntary offering, it cannot be offered on Shabbos. The Tur mentions that established custom is to omit Mizmor Lesodah on Shabbos and Yom Tov, out of concern that when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, someone may mistakenly offer the korban todah on these days. On Shabbos, of course, it is prohibited to offer any korban other than the required daily tamid and the special Shabbos korbanos, whereas on Yom Tov one may offer only voluntary korbanos that are brought because of the Yom Tov (Beitzah 19b).

The Tur does not agree that this is a valid reason to omit reciting Mizmor Lesodah on these days, contending that we need not be concerned that people will mistakenly offer a korban todah on Shabbos or Yom Tov (Orach Chayim, Chapter 51 and Chapter 281). Others explain that we recite Mizmor Lesodah to remind us of the korban todah, and since it was not offered on these days, there is no point in reciting it (see Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 51:11). Perhaps this is done as an aspect of u’neshalma parim sefaseinu (Hoshea 14:3), “may our lips replace the bulls (of offerings),” which is interpreted to mean that when we have no Beis Hamikdash, we recite passages that commemorate those offerings. For this reason, the custom developed among Ashkenazim to omit Mizmor Lesodah on days that the offering could not be brought in the Beis Hamikdash.

Mizmor Lesodah on Chol Hamoed Pesach

For the same reason that Mizmor Lesodah is omitted on Shabbos, Ashkenazim omit reciting it on Chol Hamoed Pesach. Since the korban todah contained chometz, it could not be offered on Pesach; therefore Ashkenazim refrain from saying Mizmor Lesodah.

Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Pesach

Ashkenazic custom is to omit Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur and on Erev Pesach. The korban todah and its breads can usually be eaten until the midnight after the day it was offered. However, were one to offer a korban todah early on Erev Yom Kippur or on Erev Pesach, one would be restricted to eating its chometz for only a few hours. Since one may not offer a korban whose time limit is curtailed, one may not offer a korban todah on these days, and, following Ashkenazic practice, Mizmor Lesodah is omitted then, also. The common custom among Sefardim is to recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev Yom Kippur, Erev Pesach and Chol Hamoed Pesach (Pri Chodosh 429:2; Kaf Hachayim 51:51-52).

With this background, I can now return to the third question raised above.

“I recently assumed a position teaching in a small town day school. Before Pesach, I mentioned that we do not recite Mizmor Lesodah on Erev and Chol Hamoed Pesach. One of the students afterwards told me that this is not his family minhag, but only Ashkenazi practice. Is he correct?”

Indeed, in this instance, the student is correct. Hopefully, the rebbe was not that badly embarrassed.

Mizmor Lesodah and our daily davening

In order to make sure that this thanks to Hashem takes place daily, the chapter of Mizmor Lesodah was introduced into our daily pesukei dezimra. We should remember that miracles happen to us daily, even when we do not realize it (quoted in name of Sefer Nehora; see also Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 281). Although Mizmor Lesodah was not part of the original structure of the daily prayers established by the Anshei Keneses Hagedolah, long before the time of the Rishonim, it was already common practice to include it as part of the daily recital of pesukei dezimra and to say it almost at the beginning. The importance of reciting this psalm should not be underestimated. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 51:9), states: One should recite Mizmor Lesodah with song, since eventually all songs will cease, except for Mizmor Lesodah. This statement of Chazal is explained by Rav Hirsch (Commentary to Psalm 100) in the following manner: One day in the future, everything on Earth will be so ideal that there will be no reason to supplicate Hashem for changes. Even then, prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving will still be appropriate.

Now I Have It, Now I Don’t

Question #1: Snail Mail

I mailed some hamantashen to a non-frum relative, well before Purim, as a “kiruv” gesture of friendship. The efficient post office has not yet delivered it. I am concerned that (1) as a result, my relative may eat chometz on Pesach; (2) I will be in violation of owning chometz on Pesach.

Question #2: Moonshine in the First Month!

The police confiscated some contraband moonshine in the beginning of April, issuing a criminal citation for the violation. Subsequently, the criminal charges were dropped. On Pesach, the police appeared at the door of the moonshine vendor to return the liquor, who told them that he could not receive the merchandise on his Jewish holiday. They came back to return it after Pesach. May he sell the liquor?

Question #3: Whiskey She’avar Alav haPesach

A non-Jewish business contact was shipped a gift of expensive whiskey, which never arrived. Instead, the shipping company returned it to the Jewish sender, and it arrived shortly after Pesach. Is this prohibited because of chometz she’avar alav haPesach?

Foreword

The above questions are all based on responsa in prominent late poskim, specifically, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Meir Arik, and the Sochatchover, Rav Avraham Bornstein, often referred to by the names of his most famous two seforim, the Avnei Neizer and the Eglei Tal. Each of our openings questions relates to a serious halachic shaylah involving two different issues:

(1) A legal circumstance referred to as shelo ve’eino birshuso,which means property that you own but is not under your control (Bava Kama 68b-70a and many other places).

(2) The specific ramifications that shelo ve’eino birshuso has regarding owning chometz on Pesach.

Shelo ve’eino birshuso

The concept of shelo ve’eino birshuso translates, literally, as “your property, but not in your jurisdiction.” The Gemara explains that when an item is stolen, neither the original owner nor the thief has the halachic ability to declare the stolen property as hekdesh, the property of the Beis Hamikdash, as long as the original owner has not lost hope that he might retrieve it. The thief cannot make it hekdesh, because it is not his property, and only an owner can declare an item hekdesh. But the original owner, also, cannot make it hekdesh, because it is outside his control, and only an item within your control can be declared hekdesh. Thus, the stolen item flounders in a twilight zone, in which no one has full legal control over it – it is in a no man’s land.

More important for our purposes, just as neither the thief nor the owner can declare the item hekdesh, they also cannot sell it. This creates an intriguing conundrum, when we need to make sure that no Jew owns chometz on Pesach. The owner certainly does not want to own chometz on Pesach and would like to include it with the chometz that he sells to a non-Jew, if he can. A self-respecting Jewish thief may, also, not want to violate bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei. He may be a gonif, and his gelt is earned in a non-kosher way, but he wouldn’t dream of owning chometz on Pesach! So, what does he do with the cases of Chivas Regal that he lifted and for which he has not yet found a fence? (For some interesting reason, in all of the teshuvos I found, the question was asked by the original owner, and not from the perspective of the thief! Maybe thieves are reticent to ask their shaylos from prominent rabbonim?)

Introduction

The Torah prohibits a Jew from owning chometz on Pesach. This is included in the two lo sa’aseh proscriptions of bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei, one of which prohibits a Jew from owning chometz that may be seen, but does not prohibit owning buried chometz that cannot be seen; and the other prohibits owning chometz, even when it has been buried. In other words, owning buried chometz violates one lo sa’aseh, that of bal yimatzei; owning unburied chometz violates two lo sa’aseh, bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei. Because of this distinction, the Rambam counts bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei as two separate lo sa’aseh prohibitions among the 365 lo sa’aseh mitzvos of the Torah. Most authorities contend that these two prohibitions apply both to chometz gamur (pure chometz) and to ta’aroves chometz (chometz mixed into another product). (See, however, the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, quoted in Tosafos, Pesachim 42a s.v. ve’eilu.)

To enforce these Torah mitzvos, Chazal penalized a Jew who owned chometz during Pesach by barring benefiting from it. Chometz prohibited because of this penalty is called chometz she’avar alav haPesach.

Tashbisu

There is also a positive mitzvah to destroy chometz, tashbisu, which requires a Jew to rid himself of his chometz before Pesach. Since the Torah uses an unusual term, tashbisu, the rishonim explain that there are actually two ways to avoid violating bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei, and both involve the mitzvah of tashbisu.

Biur chometz: One is by physically destroying the chometz, either by burning it or disposing of in a different, equally effective way (Mishnah, Pesachim 21a and numerous places in the Gemara).

Bitul chometz: Alternatively, I can rid myself of owning my chometz by making a declaration of bitul, which states that I view all chometz in my possession to be like dust of the earth. This declaration, assuming that it is sincere, removes the chometz from my ownership, so that I do not violate bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei.

The preceding analysis reflects the halacha as explained by Targum Onkelos, Rashi, the Ran and many other rishonim. There is an alternative approach, that of Tosafos, who explains that bitul chometz is declaring the chometz to be ownerless, hefker. According to either approach, someone who performed bitul chometz and does not want to own their chometz will not violate the prohibitions of bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei. However, for reasons beyond the scope of this article, the halachic conclusion is that the penalty of chometz she’avar alav haPesach applies to chometz on which someone performed bitul, but not to chometz that was properly sold to a non-Jew.

Selling chometz

Although a Jew may not own chometz on Pesach, there is nothing wrong with selling chometz to a non-Jew before it becomes prohibited. In contemporary times, people usually do not undertake to sell their chometz themselves, but, instead, appoint a rav to sell the chometz for them. The reason for this is that the non-Jew does not take the chometz with him; he leaves it in our houses. Since this may have the appearance of a charade, the sale must be performed in a way that halacha recognizes as valid. Since the laws of selling are very complicated, it is better that a lay person not handle the arrangements for mechiras chometz by himself, which is why it is common to use a rav as one’s agent to sell the chometz.

Snail mail

At this point, we are prepared to discuss the halachic background to our opening question. Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses the following case: Someone wants to ship several products, including some chometz items, to a relative in Eretz Yisroel, and wants to include this chometz with his standard mechiras chometz that he does before Pesach. The rav who sent Rav Moshe the shaylah felt that there may be legitimate halachic grounds to do this, but Rav Moshe proves that such a sale cannot be done. This is because once the chometz is delivered to or picked up by the shipping company, the chometz is beyond the owner’s jurisdiction (shelo ve’eino birshuso), and there is no simple way to regain control over it. Even should the package be refused by the receiving party and returned to the sender, until and unless that happens and the item is indeed returned, it is eino birshuso.

Moonshine in Nissan!

The next shaylah is discussed by the Av Beis Din of Sochatchov (1839-1910), known as the first Sochatchover rebbe, whose halachic works are used by all talmidei chachamim. He was the son-in-law of Rav Menahem Mendel of Kotsk (known by all, very simply, as “The Kotzker”). The Sochatchover was a highly respected gaon in learning when he married the daughter of the Kotzker, even though he had just turned bar mitzvah!

To review the case: the police confiscated some contraband moonshine in the beginning of April, issuing a criminal citation for the violation. Subsequently, the criminal charges were dropped. On Pesach, the police appeared at the door of the moonshine vendor to return the liquor, who told them that he could not receive the merchandise on his Jewish holiday. They came back to return it after Pesach. May he sell the liquor?

It is interesting to read the actual shaylah as it appears in the teshuvos of the Sochatchover, from which we can appreciate the mesiras nefesh of the Jew involved. In czarist Russia, where this case occurred, the whiskey business was a government monopoly, and the czar and his agents did not take kindly to those who ignored this, particularly if they were Jews. The czar’s police investigated this Jew’s premises, and located both legal, government distilled liquor and privately made product, moonshine. All the liquor was confiscated, and the accused knew that his future as a client of the czar’s legal and penal system was far from envious. However, with great difficulty, much mazel, and an appropriate transfer of rubles, the police concluded that they had not discovered anything. The vendor assumed that the police had utilized the contraband or sold it, for some additional profit on their part of the venture.

Surprise of surprises: During Pesach, the cops showed up on his doorstep with the schnapps, insisting that if they held onto it any longer, they would be forced to reopen the “protocol” against the vendor. In my opinion, this would qualify as pikuach nefesh, a life-threatening emergency, permitting him to receive the chometz, and then immediately destroy it in honor of Pesach, thus fulfilling the mitzvah of tashbisu in an extremely exemplary fashion. (Note that, according to Tosafos, Pesachim, 29b s.v. Rav, there is no violation of bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei in this situation.) This worthy Jew did not ask me a shaylah, but simply told the czar’s finest that he could not receive the chometz during the holiday.

To complete our surprise, after Pesach, the police returned with the chometz. The vendor then asked his local rav, Rav Chanoch, whether the chometz was prohibited as chometz she’avar alav haPesach. Although the vendor had indeed sold all his chometz before Pesach, it qualified as eino birshuso, and he could not halachically sell it; and, now, it may be prohibited as chometz she’avar alav haPesach.

The Sochatchover contends that the whiskey is not prohibited as chometz she’avar alav haPesach, because of the following reasons:

The Sochatchover weighs whether, according to halacha, the vendor owns the chometz in a way that he can still sell it. If, indeed, it is still considered to be his chometz, it was sold. However, we previously demonstrated that this is not true, because of the principle of shelo ve’eino birshuso. The Sochatchover quotes the opinion of the Maharam and the Rosh, quoted by the Shitah Mekubetzes, Bava Kama 33a, that when the property is returned to the owner, the hekdesh that he declared will take effect. (Note that many authorities do not agree with this conclusion, including Tosafos s.v ika and Penei Yehoshua ad loc.; Nachal Yitzchak, end of chapter 73.) Similarly, rules the Sochatchover, should the gift not take place and the chometz return to his hands, it is considered to have been under his control the entire time, and is included in the sale retroactively.

On the other hand, if we assume that having the whiskey confiscated is a reason why he cannot sell it, he also did not violate bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei, since the chometz was not his during the entire Pesach period. Rav Chanoch, the rav who sent the Sochatchover the question, noted that, according to Russian law of the time, when the police seized the contraband, it automatically became property of the czar. Since none of the czars were ever Jewish, this also means that it is not chometz she’avar alav haPesach. When the vendor received the liquor after Pesach, it was a new acquisition of chometz that had been owned by non-Jews over Pesach. As a result, no prohibition of chometz she’avar alav haPesach applies to this whiskey (Shu’t Avnei Neizer, Orach Chayim #339).

Whiskey she’avar alav haPesach

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions: “A non-Jewish business contact was shipped a gift of expensive whiskey, which never reached him. Instead, the shipper returned it to the Jewish sender, and it arrived shortly after Pesach. Is this prohibited because of chometz she’avar alav haPesach?”

This question is based on a case discussed in Shu’t Imrei Yosher (1:32), authored by Rav Meir Arik (1855–1925), who was viewed as the posek hador of his era in Galicia. Among his most famous talmidim were Rav Meir Shapiro, Rav Reuven Margolies (author of Margoliyos Hayam on Sanhedrin and many other seforim), and Rav Zev Wolf Leiter, who later was the av beis din of Pittsburgh. The situation which the Imrei Yosher discusses was when a Jew sent a barrel of local spirits, by train, to a government official. The barrel, indeed, arrived before Pesach, but the official refused to accept it, so it was shipped back, arriving at the Jew’s house after Pesach. At this point, the Jew sees himself a loser on both scores – he did not successfully curry any favor with the official, and he is also out of the expensive barrel of liquor, which he fears is prohibited as chometz she’avar alav haPesach because he did not sell it.

Rav Arik discusses several possible angles whereby the chometz might be permitted. First of all, he notes that, in their day in Russia, the primary ingredient in the mash that was fermented and distilled was potatoes, which are not chometz. However, all whiskey had a small amount of barley malt added, which is chometz. Nevertheless, the liquor manufactured this way was predominantly not chometz, and would have a status of chometz only miderabbanan, since the percentage of chometz in the final product is below the threshold to qualify as ta’aroves chometz min haTorah. Thus, the questioner did not violate bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei min haTorah.

A second reason to permit this liquor is that the owner had fulfilled bitul chometz before Pesach, in which he declared all of his chometz null, void and ownerless. In this instance, he would not have violated bal yeira’eh and bal yimatzei, even without the bitul, and, therefore, it may be possible to permit the liquor.

This heter is not obvious, for two reasons:

The Shulchan Aruch rules that you cannot rely on bitul to permit chometz she’avar alav haPesach (Orach Chayim 448:5).

Some authorities reject relying on bitul when the owner would certainly have sold the chometz, rather than trash it.

The conclusion of the Imrei Yosher is that a Jew should not drink this liquor after Pesach, but that the owner can sell the liquor to a non-Jew for a price that subtracts the amount of chometz-malt in the finished product. If this is done, the Jew is neither drinking nor benefiting from the chometz. (He discusses concerns that the non-Jew may sell it, afterward, to a Jew who is not permitted to drink it, and suggests a couple of ways to make sure that this does not happen.)

I will share with you one last case, which happened to friends of mine. They had shipped their belongings on a lift while making aliyah, and realized that they had included chometz on their lift. The question was whether they could include the chometz in the sale that they made. This case is different from all those we have discussed because, although they have no access to the chometz at the moment, it is being shipped to themselves. The question is whether this qualifies as birshuso. They received a psak that it was permitted for them to do so, although I do not know who ruled this way and certainly recommend anyone with a similar shaylah ask his own rav or posek.

Conclusion

According to kabbalah, searching for chometz is symbolic of searching, internally, to locate and remove our own arrogant selves. As we go through the mitzvos of cleaning the house, searching, burning, and selling the chometz, we should also try to focus on the spiritual side of this search-and-destroy mission.

Women and Reading Megillah

Question #1: Ba’alas Korei

May a woman be the ba’alas keri’ah of the megillah?

Question #2: Kiddush and Arba Kosos

The elderly Mr. Klein is fully alert, but, unfortunately, he has difficulty enunciating. May Mrs. Klein recite kiddush and the other brachos of the seder for him?

Foreword

Although there is a general rule exempting women from mitzvos aseih shehazeman grama, (time-bound requirements involving positive action), such as tefillin, sukkah and tzitzis, there are numerous exceptions to this rule. For example, women are required to observe mitzvos related to Shabbos and Pesach and to hear Megillas Esther on Purim, all topics that we will discuss.

Part of the miracle

In three places, the Gemara quotes an early amora, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who ruled that women are obligated to fulfill the mitzvos of megillah, ner Chanukah and the four kosos of seder night. Although these are all time-bound mitzvos aseih, women are obligated to observe these specific mitzvos because of a different rule, af hein hayu be’oso haneis, “they were also included in the miracle.” This rule means that, when Chazal created the mitzvos of kindling Chanukah lights, reading megillah on Purim or consuming the four cups on the first night of Pesach, they included women in the obligation, notwithstanding that they are usually exempt from mitzvos aseih shehazeman grama.

The rishonim dispute what the term af hein hayu be’oso haneis means. Is this emphasizing that they were saved by the miracle, or does it mean that they were involved in bringing about the miracle?

Rashi and the Rashbam (Pesachim 108b) explain that af hein hayu be’oso haneis means that women were involved in causing the miracle (think of Esther declaring that the Jews fast and do teshuvah, approaching Achashveirosh and setting Haman up for his execution). On the other hand, Tosafos (Megillah 4a s. v. She’af; Pesachim 108b s. v. Hayu) contends that it means that women, also, were saved by the miracle of survival, either physical or spiritual, that we celebrate in each of these observances.

Mitzvos min haTorah?

Note that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi applied his principle to three mitzvos, each of which is a requirement only miderabbanan. Is this coincidental, or is the principle of af hein hayu be’oso haneis a principle that Chazal created that does not apply min haTorah? This issue is disputed by two Ba’alei Tosafos. The first opinion cited by Tosafos contends that af hein hayu be’oso haneis is a rabbinic principle and will not create a Torah requirement (Tosafos, Megillah 4a s. v. She’af; Mordechai, Megillah #780). The disputant, Rabbeinu Yosef of Eretz Yisrael, rules that af hein hayu be’oso haneis applies even to mitzvos that are min haTorah.

Shomei’a ke’oneh

Prior to answering our opening questions, we need to understand a halachic principle called shomei’a ke’oneh, which translates, literally, as “hearing is like responding.” This principle means that when I hear someone recite a prayer, the megillah, kiddush or havdalah, it is considered as if I, myself, recited it.

I will explain this principle with an example that we utilize regularly: Except for heads of household, most of us fulfill the mitzvos of kiddush and havdalah by hearing someone else recite them. But the mitzvah is to recite kiddush and havdalah, not merely to hear them. So, how do we fulfill these mitzvos when we are only hearing them? The answer is that, because of shomei’a ke’oneh, it is deemed that we recited kiddush and havdalah ourselves.

Three conditions

For shomei’a ke’oneh to work, three conditions must be met:

(1) The individual performing the mitzvah must have in mind to be motzi the other people, meaning that he knows that he is acting on behalf of those listening.

(2) The individual performing the mitzvah must be required to observe this mitzvah. In other words, if a child (under bar or bas mitzvah) recites kiddush or havdalah on behalf of an adult, the adult does not fulfill the mitzvah, since the child is not obligated in this mitzvah min haTorah (see Brachos 20b).

(3) The listeners must have in mind that they are discharging their obligation to perform the mitzvah by hearing this recital.

Parshas Zachor

It is for this last reason that, immediately prior to Parshas Zachor, the gabbai announces that everyone should have in mind with the reading of the ba’al keri’ah to fulfill the mitzvah of remembering Amaleik’s dastardly deeds. Only the ba’al keri’ah actually reads the appropriate Torah portion. The rest of us discharge our obligation to observe this mitzvah by hearing the ba’al keri’ah, which, because of shomei’a ke’oneh, is considered as if we read it ourselves. In addition to Parshas Zachor, brachos, reading the Torah and the megillah, kiddush and havdalah, there are numerous other applications of shomei’a ke’oneh.

Not now!

We should note that, although the person being motzi others must be obligated by the Torah to fulfill the mitzvah, this does not require him to fulfill the mitzvah with this reading, by which he is being motzi others. He may recite kiddush or havdalah for someone else, even if he, himself, has already fulfilled the mitzvah, or if he intends to fulfill the mitzvah later with a different recital of kiddush or havdalah. That is why a ba’al keri’ah can read megillah many different times to be motzi other people, even though he has already fulfilled the mitzvah. This is also the reason why kiddush and havdalah are recited in shul, notwithstanding that the person reciting them plans to recite them again at home.

Ba’alas korei

At this point, I can present the halachic background behind our opening question: May a woman be the ba’alas korei or ba’alas keri’ah of the megillah?

Whether a woman may assume the role of ba’alas keri’ah is the subject of a fascinating dispute among rishonim, as we will soon see.

The Mishnah (Megillah 19b) states: Everyone is qualified to read the megillah except for a minor and someone who is not halachically responsible for his actions. The Gemara (Arachin 2b) asks: what is being added by emphasizing that “everyone” is qualified to read the megillah? The Gemara replies that women, who are usually not obligated in time-bound mitzvos, are obligated to read the megillah, to the extent that they may read the megillah to be motzi others. Rashi explains, explicitly, that this means that a woman may read the megillah to be motzi a man in his obligation. Thus, according to Rashi, a woman may be the ba’alas keri’ah of the megillah.

However, the Ba’al Halachos Gedolos (usually abbreviated as Bahag, the author of a halachic work from the era of the geonim) notes that the Tosefta, a halachic work dating back to the era of the Mishnah, disagrees. The salient part of the Tosefta (Megillah 2:4), as we have its text, reads: “All are obligated in the reading of the megillah… . Women… are exempt and cannot be motzi the public (rabbim) from their responsibility.”

Is there any way to resolve this contradiction between the Mishnah, as understood by the Gemara, and the Tosefta?

The Bahag presents an approach to explain the Mishnah and the Tosefta such that there is no conflict between the two positions. When the Mishnah implies, and the Gemara states explicitly, that a woman can be motziah (the feminine of motzi; plural motzios) someone else, it means that she can be motziah a woman, but not a man.

Why should this be true? The Bahag explains that there are two levels of mitzvah regarding the megillah:

(1) To read the megillah.

(2) To hear the megillah.

Ordinarily, a man fulfills both requirements when he hears the megillah from another man, since the person reading the megillah, who has both obligations, reads it for the purpose that the listeners fulfill all their megillah-related obligations. However, since a woman’s obligation is only to hear the megillah, but not to read it, it is not within her ability to be motzi someone who is obligated to read the megillah (Rosh, Megillah 1:4; note that Shu”t Avnei Neizer [Orach Chayim #511:4-5] and the Brisker Rav [Al Hashas, Inyanim #15] explain the Bahag’s approach slightly differently).

With this approach, the Bahag explains that the Mishnah refers to a woman reading the megillah for other women, which she can do, and the Tosefta refers to a woman reading the megillah for men, which is why it states that a woman cannot be motziah the public, which includes men.

The Tosefta according to Rashi

According to Rashi, either the text of this Tosefta is in error (as is not uncommon in our texts of the Tosefta) or it disagrees with the Mishnah as understood by the Gemara, in which case we rule according to the Mishnah and Gemara (both of these approaches are mentioned, in different places, by the Bach, Orach Chayim 689). We should point out that the texts that we have received of the Tosefta are notoriously unreliable, since copyists often made errors and, as a result, texts that were studied less frequently are often inaccurate. As an example, the rishonim who quote this Tosefta cite it with at least three significantly different texts.

Also, if, indeed, there is a dispute between the tanna who authored the Mishnah and the one who authored the Tosefta, the halacha follows the author of the Mishnah. Thus, either approach used to explain Rashi’s position is highly satisfactory.

Other rishonim?

Several authorities infer from the Rambam that he agreed with Rashi’s halachic conclusion (Magid Mishnah, Hilchos Megillah 1:2; Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 689). The Beis Yosef and the Darkei Moshe quote other rishonim on both sides of fence: The Or Zarua rules like Rashi, whereas the Ra’avyah and the Mordechai (Megillah #779) rule like the Bahag. The Shulchan Aruch’s conclusion is unclear (Orach Chayim 689:2), whereas the Rema rules like the Bahag.

According to the Bahag’s opinion, some authorities contend that a woman hearing megillah when no male is fulfilling the mitzvah should not recite the brocha al mikra megillah, since she is not required to read the megillah, but to hear it. The Rema records that she should recite lishmo’a megillah, but others prefer that she should recite lishmo’a mikra megillah (Mishnah Berurah 689:8).

Getting a third opinion

Are there any other opinions? We actually find a few other opinions among rishonim, who present alternative ways of resolving the contradiction between the Mishnah and the Tosefta, with halachic results unlike either Rashi or the Bahag. Rabbi Moshe of Coucy (France), a ba’al Tosafos who wrote a halachic work based on the 613 mitzvos, usually called Sefer Hamitzvos Hagadol (abbreviated as Semag), agrees with the Bahag that a woman cannot be motziah a man, but disagrees with the reason why. In his opinion, just as Chazal ruled that a woman cannot fulfill the mitzvah of keri’as haTorah, because it is not kavod hatzibur for her to read for the community (Megillah 23a), she may also not read to be motzi a man in megillah (towards the beginning of Hilchos Megillah in the Semag). Tosafos (Sukkah 38a s. v. Be’emes at end) may agree with this opinion of the Semag.

With this approach, the Semag answers the contradiction between the Mishnah and the Gemara, on one hand, and the Tosefta, on the other, in a way similar to that of the Bahag. The Mishnah and Gemara teach that a woman may read the megillah for someone else; the Tosefta is ruling that she may not be the ba’alas keri’ah for a community.

There is yet a fourth approach to the issue, that of the Ba’al Ha’itur (Hilchos Megillah, page 110, column 1), but the details of his opinion are somewhat unclear (see Ran [Megillah 19b, 6b in the Rif’s pages]; Tur and Bach, Orach Chayim 689).

Three is a crowd

There is yet another opinion, contending that the Tosefta means that a woman should not read the megillah for more than one other woman (Korban Nesanel, Megillah 1:4:60, in explanation of Tosafos, Sukkah 38a s. v. Be’emes). According to this position, the Tosefta meant this when it said that a woman she should not read for the “public” (“rabbim” in the words of the Tosefta). The Mishnah Berurah quotes this approach as authoritative halacha (Shaar Hatziyun, 689:15). This opinion actually ends up with a stricter ruling, since, according to both Rashi and the Bahag, a woman may read megillah to be motziah other women, regardless as to how many there are, whereas this opinion allows her to be motziah only one other woman, not any more.

Kiddush

Does this principle of the Bahag apply to kiddush just as it applies to the reading of the megillah? Let us explore the halachic data on the subject.

The Gemara (Brachos 20b) states, unequivocally, that women are obligated in the mitzvah of reciting kiddush. Does this mean that a woman may recite kiddush to be motzi a man? Or, is this dependent on the dispute between Rashi and the Bahag?

Several early acharonim understand that the same dispute that exists between Rashi and the Bahag regarding women reading the megillah for men applies to women reciting kiddush for men (Maharshal and Bach, in their commentaries to Tur Orach Chayim 271). They conclude that a woman may recite kiddush for other women, but may not recite kiddush to be motzi a man in kiddush.

However, the Taz, who was the son-in-law of the Bach, disputes his father-in-law’s conclusion, contending that the Bahag’s opinion is limited to reading the Megillah, and does not apply to reciting kiddush. Since the Gemara concludes that women are obligated in kiddush min haTorah, it appears that they can be motzi men in kiddush. (This approach appears to be implied by the Gemara, Brachos 20b).

Kiddush according to the Semag

We noted above the opinion of the Semag that women cannot be motzios men in reading the megillah, just as they cannot be called up to read the Torah. This position should apply only to a woman reading the megillah, but not to reciting kiddush, which is usually not performed publicly, but recited at home.

Arba Kosos

At this point, let us explore one of our opening questions: The elderly Mr. Klein is fully alert, but, unfortunately, he has difficulty enunciating. May Mrs. Klein recite kiddush and the other brachos of the seder for him?

Chazal required that men and women have four kosos at the seder. It is difficult to imagine that someone can be motzi someone else in this requirement – drinking the four cups of wine it a mitzvah degufei, a mitzvah that is performed with one’s body, similar to matzoh, lulav and tefillin, which preclude one person performing the mitzvah for another. However, someone can recite the brachos that pertain to these kosos for someone else.

The Gemara states that each of the four kosos is associated with a different mitzvah of the seder, and, in fact, each of these mitzvos includes at least one brocha. We hold the kos while we recite these brachos.

1. The first kos is kiddush.

2. Over the second kos, we recite the brocha of Asher Ge’alanu, which completes the mitzvah of magid.

3. The third kos is used for birkas hamazon.

4. The fourth kos is the brocha upon the completion of Hallel.

Women are obligated in all the laws of the seder, which includes reciting the brachos associated with its four kosos. Does it say whether they can be motzios a man in these brachos? Would the Bahag’s opinion that they should not be motziah a man in megillah apply to these brachos? I did not find anyone who discusses this issue.

How do we pasken?

Having explained the understanding and ramifications of all these issues, let us present the halachic conclusions:

Most late authorities conclude that, regarding the reading of the megillah, we should follow the approach of the Bahag that women should not read megillah for men, and, also, we should follow the approach of the Semag that women should not read in public for a group of women. If no man is available who can read the megillah for her, a woman may read the megillah for herself, and she may also read the megillah for another woman.

Regarding the halachos of women being motzios men in kiddush, the later authorities do not accept the approach of the Maharshal and the Bach that the same ruling applies to kiddush. Instead, they contend that when there is a valid reason for a woman to make kiddush for her family, she should do so and be motziah the male members (Magen Avraham, 271:2 and later acharonim). Regarding the bracha of Asher Ge’alanu at the seder, my halachic conclusion is that Mrs. Klein may recite these brachos and be motziah Mr. Klein with them.

Conclusion

Why are women exempt from mitzvos aseih shehazeman grama? Most people, and certainly several commentaries, assume that this is because a woman’s family responsibilities should not be subject to other mitzvos that may conflict with them. However, not everyone agrees with this idea. Some note that there already is a halachic principle of oseik bemitzvah patur min hamitzvah, someone occupied with fulfilling one mitzvah is exempt from performing a different mitzvah, until the first mitzvah is completed. Thus, it would seem superfluous for the Torah to have established yet another rule, to exempt women from mitzvos aseih shehazeman grama, because of the exact same rationale.

Other authorities contend that Hashem, Who created all of our neshamos, knows which mitzvos our particular soul needs in order to thrive, and each individual’s neshamah needs different mitzvos. Following this idea, it is obvious that kohanim need certain mitzvos, but are excluded from others; men require certain mitzvos and cannot fulfill others, and so, also, with women. Each person’s neshamah has its own Divinely created formula for what it needs.

Some Light Chanukah Questions

Question #1: My sister invited our family for Shabbos Chanukah, and we will be sleeping at her neighbor’s house. Where do we set up the menorahs, particularly since I do not even know the neighbor?

Question #2: My husband has a meeting at work tonight and will not be home until very late. What should we do about kindling Chanukah lights?

Question #3: I will be attending a wedding during Chanukah that requires me to leave my house well before lighting time, and I will not return until very late. Can I kindle at the wedding, just like the lighting that takes place in shul?

Question #4: I will be spending part of Chanukah in a hotel. Where should I kindle my menorah?

Some Basics

Each individual has a requirement to light Chanukah lights, or to have an agent kindle the lights for him (see Rambam, Hilchos Chanukah 3:4). In places where the custom is that the entire household lights only one menorah, which is the predominant practice among Sefardim, the person who kindles functions as an agent for the rest of the family and the guests. (However, cf. Minchas Shelomoh 2:58:41 and 42, who understands this halacha differently.) Even in places where the custom is that each individual kindles his own menorah, as is common Ashkenazic practice, married women do not usually light, and most people have the custom that single girls also do not light (see Chasam Sofer, Shabbos 21b s.v. vehamehadrin, Elyah Rabbah 671:3,and Mikra’ei Kodesh #14 who explain reasons for this practice). In these instances, the male head of household kindles on behalf of his wife and daughters. A guest visiting a family for Chanukah can fulfill his or her obligation by contributing a token amount to purchase part of the candles or oil. By doing this, the guest becomes a partner in the Chanukah lights and fulfills his mitzvah when the host kindles them. An alternative way to become a partial owner of the Chanukah lights is for the host to direct the guest to pick up some of the oil or candles and thereby become a partial owner.

Eating in One House and Sleeping in Another

If someone is a guest and is eating at one house during Chanukah but sleeping in a different house, where should he light the menorah?

One should kindle where he is eating (Rema, Orach Chayim 677:1). In this situation, the place where one eats his meals is his primary “home.”

Many poskim contend that in Eretz Yisroel, the answer to this question depends on additional factors, including whether anyone else is staying in the house where the guest is sleeping. In their opinion, if no one else is kindling a menorah where the guest is sleeping, he should kindle the menorah there. Otherwise, he should kindle where he is eating.

The reason for this difference is that, in Eretz Yisroel, where the custom is to light outdoors when practical, someone walking through the street expects to find a menorah lit at every house. Thus, there is a responsibility to be certain that a menorah is kindled in every house that is occupied. In chutz la’aretz, since the menorah does not need to be visible outdoors to fulfill the mitzvah, a person walking outside the house and not seeing a lit menorah will simply assume that someone kindled indoors. Therefore, one does not need to make sure that every house has a lit menorah.

Similarly, someone in Eretz Yisroel who is using two houses should light a menorah in each of them, although he should recite only one bracha; in chutz la’aretz he does not need to kindle a menorah in each house.

I can now answer the first question I asked above: If someone will be eating in one house and sleeping in another, where should he kindle the menorah? The answer is that, in chutz la’aretz, he should kindle where he will be eating. In Eretz Yisroel, other factors may be involved, and one should ask a shaylah.

Many poskim contend that a guest who is spending Shabbos at someone else’s home and is leaving after Shabbos may kindle the menorah at his host’s house on Motza’ei Shabbos (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:391). Some poskim suggest that someone who follows this approach should spend some time, preferably a half-hour, appreciating his lights at the host’s house before leaving (see Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:394).

At this point, let us discuss the second of our opening questions: My husband has a meeting at work tonight and will not be home until very late. What should we do about kindling Chanukah lights?

To answer this question, we need to discuss two issues. The first is:

When Should I Kindle the Menorah?

Early poskim dispute concerning when is the optimal time to kindle the Chanukah lights. According to the Gra, the best time is immediately after sunset, whereas most Rishonim rule that it is preferable to kindle at nightfall or shortly before nightfall.

The usually accepted approaches are to kindle sometime after sunset but before it is fully dark. Thus, Rav Moshe Feinstein kindled the menorah ten minutes after sunset, the Chazon Ish lit his menorah twenty minutes after sunset, while others contend that the optimal time to light the menorah is twenty-five minutes after sunset.

Until When May I Kindle the Menorah?

At the time of the Gemara, one fulfilled the mitzvah of lighting menorah only if one lit within a half-hour of the earliest time for lighting (Shabbos 21b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 672:2). This was because the focus of lighting the menorah was to publicize the miracle to people in the street. Since, in the days of Chazal, the streets were empty shortly after dark, there was no longer any mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lights half an hour later.

Today, the pirsumei nisa (publicizing the miracle) is primarily for the members of the household, and therefore many poskim hold that it is not essential to kindle the menorah immediately when it begins to get dark (see Tosafos, Shabbos 21b s.v. de’ei). Nevertheless, because this halacha is disputed, one should strive to kindle at the optimal time, which is close to twilight, as we mentioned above. In addition, there is also a halachic problem with working before one performs the mitzvah, similar to other mitzvos, such as bedikas chometz or hearing megillah, where it is prohibited to work or eat before fulfilling the mitzvah (Shu’t Maharshal #85; Mishnah Berurah 672:10; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:395:4). Someone who missed lighting menorah at the proper time because of extenuating circumstances should kindle his menorah as soon as his family is assembled at home (Rema Orach Chayim 672:2and Mishnah Berurah ad loc.).

An alternative method can be followed when a husband is delayed. The husband can arrange to have a member of the household, such as his wife, act as his agent and light at the optimal time (Mishnah Berurah 675:9; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:170). If he follows this approach, he does not need to light when he arrives home later, and if he does light, he should not recite the brachos. Alternatively, the wife can light at the proper time for herself, and the husband can light when he gets home. If one follows the latter approach, the husband and wife are no longer functioning as agents for one another, as they usually do germane to mitzvos such as ner Chanukah and ner Shabbos. Rather, each is fulfilling the mitzvah of ner Chanukah separately.

Whether to follow this approach depends on the sensitivities of the people involved. My Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Y. Ruderman zt”l, frequently lectured us on the importance of being concerned about others’ feelings. He often repeated the story of the Chofetz Chayim’s rebbe, Rav Nachumke, who waited several hours until his rebbetzin returned home before lighting the Chanukah lights. Therefore, if kindling the menorah early via an agent will create friction between family members, one should wait and kindle at a time that creates more shalom bayis (see Shabbos 23b). It is important to discuss the matter in advance and decide on an approach that keeps everyone happy.

At this point, let us examine the third of our opening questions: I will be attending a wedding during Chanukah that requires me to leave my house well before lighting time, and I will not return until very late. Can I kindle at the wedding, just like the lighting that takes place in shul?

Answer: Let us ask this question about the baalei simcha themselves! If a wedding takes place during Chanukah, where should the baalei simcha light the menorah?

I have attended weddings during Chanukah where the baalei simcha brought their menorahs to the hall and kindled them there. However, this seems incorrect, because the baalei simcha are required to kindle Chanukah lights at their own homes (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:398). Therefore, they should light the menorah at their homes sometime during the evening. If this is not convenient, they should arrange for someone to act as their agent and kindle their menorah for them at their house (see Mishnah Berurah 677:12). Guests attending the wedding who cannot kindle their menorah at home should also arrange for someone to light their menorah at their house. If they are concerned about leaving unattended lights burning, they should have someone remain with the lights for half an hour, and then the “menorah sitter” may extinguish the lights. If someone wishes to light an additional menorah at the hall without a bracha, in order to make pirsumei nisa, he may do so. However, this lighting does not fulfill the mitzvah (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:398).

Why Is This Different from Lighting in Shul?

Since one fulfills the mitzvah only by kindling the menorah in or near one’s residence, why do we kindle a menorah in shul?

Lighting the Chanukah menorah in shul does not fulfill the mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lights, but is a centuries-old minhag that we perform to make pirsumei nisa.

This practice prompts an interesting question. If lighting a menorah in shul is only a minhag, why do we recite a bracha on it? Do we ever recite brachos on minhagim?

The poskim explain that we recite a bracha because it is an accepted minhag, just as we recite a bracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, even though Chazal did not obligate this recital of Hallel and it, too, is technically a minhag (Shu’t Rivash #111; for other reasons see Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 671, s.v. uma shekasav shemeinichin).

There Is a Concert in School on Chanukah. Should We Light the Menorah with a Bracha to Perform Pirsumei Nisa?

Although lighting a menorah at the assembly will also be an act of pirsumei nisa, one fulfills no mitzvah or minhag by doing so. Therefore, one should not recite a bracha on this lighting (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:398).

Why Is the Concert Different from Lighting in Shul?

Lighting in shul is a specific, established minhag. We cannot randomly extend this minhag to another situation and permit reciting a bracha (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:398).

Lighting in a Hotel

And now, let us analyze the last of our opening questions: I will be spending part of Chanukah in a hotel. Where should I kindle my menorah?

Answer: One should light the menorah in one’s room (Chovas Hador, Ner Chanukah 2:9;see Shu’t Maharsham 4:146,who requires one to kindle Chanukah lights even while riding the train). If there is concern about a fire hazard, one should remain with the menorah until a half-hour after nightfall, or at least for a half-hour after kindling, and then extinguish the lights. On Shabbos, place only enough oil to burn the required amount of time, which is until a half-hour after nightfall.

Menorah in the Window?

May one place the menorah near the window of his hotel room? This depends. If someone will be able to see the lit menorah from outside, then it is preferable to light in a window. If no one will be able to see the menorah from outside, he should simply kindle the menorah on a table in his room.

If a hotel forbids lighting flames in its bedrooms, and one is eating regularly in the hotel’s dining room, one may light in the hotel dining room. Although frum hotels often set up menorahs in the hotel lobby, many poskim contend that one does not fulfill the mitzvah by placing a menorah there, since one is required to kindle Chanukah lights at one’s “home,” which is where one regularly eats or sleeps, and not in a lobby. Other poskim are lenient, and contend that the entire hotel lobby is considered one’s living area — just as one’s entire house is considered one’s living area. Therefore, according to these authorities, one may fulfill the mitzvah by lighting in the hotel lobby.

Visiting during Chanukah

Where do I light menorah if I visit a friend for Chanukah dinner, but I am not staying overnight?

Many people err and think that one may fulfill the mitzvah by kindling the menorah at someone else’s house while visiting. I know of people who invite guests to their house for menorah kindling and dinner. The problem with this is that one is required to kindle Chanukah lights at one’s own house. Therefore, the guest must kindle the Chanukah lights at his own house and then go to his friend’s house for the festive meal (Taz 677:2; Mishnah Berurah 677:12).

Yeshivah Bachur

Where should a bachur in yeshivah kindle his menorah? This is a dispute among contemporary poskim. Some contend that he should light in the yeshivah dining room, since it is preferable to kindle where one eats, as we mentioned above. Others contend that his dormitory room is considered more his “dwelling” than the dining room, and that he should light there (Shu’t Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah III 14:5; Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 7:48; Chovas Hador pg. 106). To resolve this issue, some bachurim have the practice of eating one meal each day of Chanukah in their dormitory room and kindling the menorah there.

What about a yeshivah bachur who spends his entire day in the yeshivah, but sleeps at home?

It is unclear whether his main obligation to light is at home or in yeshivah. Some poskim suggest that he fulfill the mitzvah by relying on the people kindling at each place — his family lighting at his home and his fellow students lighting in the yeshivah.

Reward for Lighting Ner Chanukah

The Gemara teaches that someone who kindles Ner Chanukah will merit having sons who are talmidei chachomim (Shabbos 23b, see Rashi). This is puzzling; since all observant Jews kindle Ner Chanukah, why aren’t all our sons talmidei chachomim? The Rishonim explain that this bracha applies only to someone who observes the mitzvah carefully, in all its details (Sod Hadlakas Ner Chanukah, authored by Rabbi Yitzchok, the son of the Raavad). It is, therefore, in our best interest to be thoroughly familiar with all the halachos of kindling the Chanukah lights. May we all be blessed with a happy and healthy Chanukah!!

Kosher Hadasim

Question #1: “Stupid myrtle”

Why is one type of myrtle considered less intelligent than others? Did this variety get a poorer SAT score?

Question #2: Seven at a Time!

“Why should a three-leafed plant suddenly sprout seven leaves?”

Question #3: “Grafted Hadas

May a hadas be grafted?

Answer

In Parshas Emor, the Torah teaches: “And on the first day, you shall take for yourselves the fruit of a beautiful tree, branches of date palms, branches of a thickly leaved tree and river willows, and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d seven days” (Vayikra 23:40). Of the four species that we take on Sukkos, two, the lulav and the aravah, are described quite clearly in the Torah, whereas the other two are described in the Torah in an unclear way and require the Torah shebe’al peh to identify them. The Hebrew term used to describe the third of these species is anaf eitz avos, which I translated above as “branches of a thickly leaved tree,” although at times in this article I will call it a “twig” rather than a “branch.”

The Written Torah does not provide any more indication as to what we are to take, but the Oral Torah’s mesorah from Sinai is that it is what we call a hadas. As the Rambam teaches in the Introduction to his Commentary on the Mishnah, there is an oral tradition from teacher to disciple, going all the way back to Moshe at Har Sinai, to identify anaf eitz avos as hadas. In contemporary parlance, the species that we call hadas is the “common myrtle” or the “true myrtle,” scientifically identified as Myrtus commonis, as opposed to the “crape myrtle” and other shrubs that are called myrtle, but with a descriptive adjective.

Nevertheless, we are left with two questions:

(1) How do we know that anaf eitz avos of the Written Torah means a myrtle?

(2) Why doesn’t the Torah use the word hadas? Unlike the word esrog, which shows up nowhere in Tanach and is terminology used by Chazal (see Ramban, Vayikra, 23:40), the word hadas appears many times in Tanach (see, for example, Yeshayahu 41:19; 55:13; Zecharyah 1: 8, 10, 11; Nechemiah 8:15). The word hadas is much shorter than the description anaf eitz avos that the Torah uses. And, the Torah taught that we should use a shorter term to teach whenever possible (Pesachim 3b).

To quote the Gemara, “anaf eitz avos refers to a species whose leaves cover the wood of the branch,” which is an unusual feature. Look at the branches of most trees and shrubs and you will notice that this feature is atypical.

The Gemara (Sukkah 32b) asks how we know that anaf eitz avos is a hadas; perhaps it is a different species. The Gemara analyzes several options, including whether anaf eitz avos refer to the branches of an olive, or of either of two other types of trees, called in Aramaic dulba and hirduf. Based on careful analysis of the Torah, the Gemara eliminates all these options and concludes that anaf eitz avos is hadas.

Perpendicular leaf

Even some varieties of common myrtle grow with the leaves sticking out perpendicular to the branch, and, in these varieties, the wood of the branch can be easily seen. There is discussion among halachic authorities whether such myrtles may be used on Sukkos to fulfill the mitzvah, since they do not fulfill the Torah’s description of anaf eitz avos (see Mor Uketziah and Graz, Orach Chayim 646:1; Rashash, Sukkah 32b; Eimek Brocha, Lulav #11).

How long?

How long must a hadas be? The branch of the hadas must be at least three tefachim, not including leaves that extend beyond the wood of the branch. How long is three tefachim? We usually assume this to be about 9 and a half inches (according to Rav Chayim Na’eh) or about 11 and a half inches (according to the Chazon Ish).

“Stupid myrtle”

The Gemara discusses whether any branch of a hadas bush qualifies for fulfilling the mitzvah. Rav Yehudah says that a hadas is kosher only when three leaves grow alongside one another around the width of the twig, what we call meshulash. Rav Kahana disagrees, ruling that a hadas is kosher even if two leaves are at the same height and a third is a bit lower, but it overlaps the other two. Rav Acha deliberately chose those that Rav Kahana had ruled kosher, since he wanted to fulfill Rav Kahana’s words. However, Ameimar used to refer to those hadasim as “hadas shoteh,” which most authorities assume means that one does not fulfill the mitzvah with this variety.

The word “shoteh,” when referring to a person, means someone not legally responsible for his actions, the equivalent of an insanity defense. The term kelev shoteh (Shabbos 121b; Yoma 83a-84a), means a rabid dog. Does this mean that Ameimar called this type of myrtle branch a “stupid hadas,” an “insane hadas or a “rabid hadas?”

No. Although the word “shoteh” has a similar meaning in the expressions chassid shoteh (Sotah 20a; 21b), and bechor shoteh (midrashim in parshas Mikeitz), the word shoteh is also used in other contexts, such as “luf shoteh,” which does not mean a “stupid luf” or a “rabid luf,but an uncultivated, usually not eaten, variety of the vegetable called “luf.” The Ritva (Sukkah 32b) explains that the word shoteh means “imperfect” or “not in proper order.” If you are familiar with the Modern Hebrew usage of something/someone being shelo beseider, it is easy to understand the term shoteh as used in every one of the above contexts.

The rishonim (Rambam, Hilchos Lulav 8:1; Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 646:3) conclude that a hadas shoteh is not kosher. Although some places had a custom to use them, as reported by the Terumas Hadeshen (2:259) and Rema (Orach Chayim 646:3), the halachic conclusion is not to, even when no other hadasim are available (Mishnah Berurah 646:15).

Two by two

The Rema (Orach Chayim 646:2) writes that if there are only two leaves at each point and no single leaves, the hadas is kosher for fulfilling the mitzvah. Evidently, he held that the term shoteh refers to a myrtle having one leaf sitting by itself (Yevakesh Torah). However, this approach is not accepted by other halachic authorities, who accept only a hadas with three leaves growing alongside one another.

How much?

How much of the hadas must be meshulash to be kosher? There are many opinions among the rishonim. Some contend that the entire twig must be meshulash, or at least the top three tefachim (Tur, Orach Chayim 646, quotingthe geonim; Ritva, quoting his rebbe, the Re’ah; Magid Mishnah, Hilchos Sukkah 7:2). The Ra’avad, in his work on the laws of lulav and esrog, and the Rosh conclude that it is best if the entire hadas is meshulash, but it is kosher if it is meshulash most of the way. Another approach rules that although the entire hadas must be three tefachim long, it is kosher if it contains three places where the leaves are meshulashim (Sefer Hamichtam, quoting Ba’al Ha’itur). And yet another opinion is much more lenient, contending that it is kosher for Sukkos-use even when it is meshulash in only one place (Tur, quoting Ba’al Ha’itur). The accepted halacha is that the majority of the twig must be meshulash, but it is preferred for it to be meshulash the entire length.

The Eimek Beracha (#11) explains the dispute among the rishonim as follows: The opinions that contend that it is sufficient if the hadas is meshulash in only one place, or in only three places, contend that this requirement identifies the hadas as the correct variety called anaf eitz avos. A minimal amount of meshulash suffices to identify it as such.

Those that require that the hadas be entirely meshulash, or at least most of its length, contend that anaf eitz avos is a gezeiras hakasuv defining what the Torah requires for the mitzvah, just as it requires that the hadas not be extremely dried out or that the esrog have proper color.

Leaves or stem?

Is meshulash determined by the leaves or by their stem? In other words, if three leaves begin and end at the same height, but the stems from which the leaves grow are not at the same height, or vice versa, is the hadas considered meshulash?

Numerous poskim describe meshulash as three leaves lying side by side, and I know of no authorities who state that the stems of the three must be at the same height.

Nechemiah

I once read that someone asked how anaf eitz avos of the Torah can be identified as hadas, when the same posuk in Nechemiah mentions both, implying that they are not the same. However, reading the verse carefully resolves any difficulty:

“On the second day, the heads of all the families, the kohanim, the levi’im and the rest of the people came to Ezra to learn the words of the Torah. They discovered that the Torah had written that Hashem commanded, via Moshe, that the Bnei Yisrael dwell in sukkos during the festival of the seventh month. They then sent an announcement through all the cities and Yerushalayim, instructing everyone to go to the mountain and bring olive branches, olive lumber, hadasim branches, date branches, and anaf eitz avos to make Sukkos, as written. The people went out and brought; they manufactured sukkos for themselves, each man on his rooftop and in his courtyard… and the entire community that had returned from captivity observed Sukkos and they dwelled in sukkos” (Nechemiah 8:13-17).

It is quite clear from the verse that the “olive branches, olive lumber, hadasim branches” were used as construction material to make the walls and schach of the sukkos, and not used for the four species. (Note that the word Sukkos referring to the festival was capitalized, whereas when referring to the huts, it is lower case.)

Seven at a time!

We asked above: “Why should a three-leafed plant suddenly sprout seven leaves?” The Gemara (Sukkah 33a) refers to a hadas mitzra’ah that grows seven leaves at one height, rather than just three (Sukkah 33a). In other ways, this looks like a regular hadas. Rashi mentions two opinions as to what the term hadas mitzra’ah means. His first approach is that mitzra’ah means “on the border;” a hadas mitzra’ah grew on the edge of a field and had no competition for nutrients. As a result, it grew with many extra leaves. Even if most of its leaves fell out at each point, as long as three leaves remain at every point, we have a hadas that lost most of its leaves and is still fully kosher.

Rashi’s second opinion is that the word mitzra’ah is from the word Mitzrayim, Egypt, and means a variety of hadas, common in Egypt, that usually grew seven leaves at each point. The hadas of either interpretation of the Gemara is kosher, notwithstanding that this variety was usually identified as a hadas mitzra’ah, and not simply “hadas” (see Tosafos and Ritva, Sukkah 33a).

Grafted hadas

Reference to grafted species on Sukkos usually calls to mind esrogim produced by grafting esrog branches onto rootstocks of other species. Most poskim prohibit using these esrogim to fulfill the mitzvah, because the fruit is considered to be partly esrog and partly the species of the rootstock (Shu’t Rema #117; Shu’t Alshich #110; Magen Avraham; Taz). Others prohibit their use because the Torah bans grafting different species together (Levush, Orach Chayim 649:4).

Later poskim discuss whether an esrog of unknown lineage may be used based on appearance: If it looks like an esrog (both inside and out), grows seeds like an esrog does, and has the shape of an esrog, the Beis Efrayim (Shu’t Orach Chayim #56) rules that it is a kosher esrog. Others contend that we may use the esrog only when we have a tradition that the growers in that area did not graft esrogim onto other species.

However, our discussion is about the use of a grafted myrtle as a hadas. In the early eighteenth century, a shaylah was raised in Prague whether a variety of myrtle growing locally was kosher as a hadas. At that time, hadasim were imported from warmer areas, and they often arrived very dried out. The question was asked of Rav Yaakov Breisch, the author of Shevus Yaakov, Chok Yaakov, Toras Hashelamim and many other classic halachic works, whether these Prague myrtles were kosher as hadasim. If they were kosher, they would be much more mehudar to use, since they were available fresh. If they were not, the dry, imported hadasim should be used.

The Shevus Yaakov first reviews the literature germane to the use of grafted esrogim. He notes that if the reason not to use grafted esrogim is because they were used for an aveirah, grafted hadasim will be kosher. This is because the prohibition of cross-grafting species exists only regarding trees bearing edible fruit, not for trees and shrubs that do not bear edible fruit. Although the hadas does produce a berry, it is never cultivated for its berry, and it is therefore excluded from the prohibition of grafting trees.

However, the Shevus Yaakov notes that this is not the primary reason cited to prohibit grafted esrogim. The main reason is that the fruit of a graft is considered a mixed species. Thus, if the Prague hadas is grafted onto a different species, it will not be considered a pure hadas, and cannot be used to fulfill the mitzvah.

The Shevus Yaakov notes that the Prague myrtle grows with three leaves at each point, like a hadas meshulash grows, and its leaves and twigs are indistinguishable from the traditional regular hadas in every way. However, the berry that grew on the new variety looked very different from the berry found on the traditional hadas, both in terms of its shape and its inside. He thereby surmises that this new myrtle is either a species different from the hadas, or, more likely, grew from a graft that caused its fruit to be different from a typical hadas.

The Shevus Yaakov then suggests that this new myrtle might be kosher anyway, based on the logic written by the Rema in answer to a question regarding the hadas that has seven leaves at each point, which is called by its own unique name, hadas mitzra’ah. The Rema questioned why this hadas is kosher for the mitzvah when it is called hadas mitzra’ah and not just hadas, implying that it is a variety. The Rema answered that the Torah never told us to use a hadas, but anaf eitz avos; therefore any species that is anaf eitz avos is kosher. Thus, the Prague hadas should be fine, notwithstanding its unusual berry. (However, note that the Kapos Temarim disagrees both with this assumption and the ruling.)

The Shevus Yaakov then wonders whether the Prague hadas might have been grown on a stock that was not a myrtle at all, and therefore it is not kosher for Sukkos use. He notes that he then discovered that he was not the first one to be asked about using this particular myrtle on Sukkos, but it had been asked of the great Maharash (the rebbe of the Shelah Hakadosh), who had been the posek of Prague in the 16th century. A talmid chacham wanted to use these new myrtles as hadasim, contending that they were preferred, since they would be fresh. The Maharash, however, concluded that the new myrtles should not be used, unless there are no hadasim of the traditional variety available, and this is the way the Shevus Yaakov concludes (Shu’t Shevus Yaakov 1:36). The Shaarei Teshuvah (646:4) suggests that these myrtles are not kosher as hadasim for Sukkos, even according to the Levush, because the rootstock that they are grown from might be of a tree that produces edible fruit, unlike the assumption of the Shevus Yaakov.

Notwithstanding the conclusion of the Shevus Yaakov and the Shaarei Teshuvah not to use the Prague hadasim, several later authorities ruled that they are kosher (Shu’t Chacham Tzvi #161; Shu’t Panim Meiros, Orach Chayim #9; Bikkurei Yaakov, 646:12; Biur Halacha 646:3 s.v. ho’il).

Conclusion

Our halachic literature is replete with shaylos regarding howcommunities fulfilled the mitzvah of arba’ah minim, under less than ideal circumstances. Looking around shul on Sukkos and seeing everyoneholding his own set of arba’ah minim, we should praise Hashemfor making it so easy today to fulfill these mitzvos.

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