Some of the Basics of Kashering

Question #1: Sandwich Maker

“Can I kasher my sandwich maker for Pesach in order to toast vegetables with it?”

Question #2: Better than Boil?

“Is there a way to kasher things that is safer than placing them in boiling water in an open pot?”

Introduction:

Halachah assumes that when cooking food, taste residue remains in the utensil that was used. When this flavor residue, which is called ta’am, comes from something prohibited, it must be removed to allow the utensil to be used again to prepare food. When the flavor is from meat, one must extract it before using the utensil for a dairy product,* if the flavor is from chometz, the utensil must be kashered before it can be used for Pesachdik products.

Although modern appliances are not mentioned in the Torah, the basic rules for kashering all appliances lie within a careful study of the passages of the Torah, the Gemara and the early authorities on this topic. The Chumash, itself, alludes to the halachic process used to kosher a utensil when it commands, kol davar asher yavo vo’eish ta’aviru vo’eish, “Any item that entered fire, shall be passed through fire” (Bamidbar 31:23), thereby implying that kashering an appliance that became non-kosher through direct contact with a flame requires burning the appliance in a flame — no other cleaning process will sufficiently kosher this appliance.

Shabbos Hagadol

One of our responsibilities prior to Pesach is to ascertain that we know how to kasher our homes correctly. The piyutim that were traditionally added to the prayers on Shabbos Hagadol include very detailed instructions on proper kashering techniques, and we find that the baalei Tosafos discuss and correct the texts of the piyutim to accommodate the correct procedures. This week’s article will provide some introductory information to this topic, as we explore how the Gemara explains correct kashering procedures.

Let us begin by examining a passage of the Gemara that discusses kashering one’s house for Pesach. The Gemara (Pesachim 30b) quotes a beraisa (halachic source dating from the era of the Mishnah) that if beef fat was smeared onto the walls of an oven, kashering the oven to be pareve again requires firing up the oven, which means building a fire inside the oven. This heating of the oven burns out the residue of the meat fat that is absorbed into the oven walls. The Gemara then recounts that Ravina noted to Rav Ashi that the earlier amora, Rav, had declared that there is no way to kasher chometz-dik pots for Pesach-dik use. Ravina asked Rav Ashi why this was so: Why not simply fire up the pots to make them Pesachdik, just as one kashers an oven? Rav Ashi provided two answers to the question:

Metal vs. earthenware

(1) The beraisa that permits kashering an oven is referring to one made of metal, whereas Rav was discussing pots made of earthenware. Earthenware pots cannot be kashered, because once food flavor is absorbed into them, normal procedures will not physically remove the ta’am from the vessel. To quote the Gemara (Pesachim 30b, Avodah Zarah 34a), “The Torah testified that one will never be able to extract the flavor from the walls of an earthenware vessel.”

Ovens vs. pots

(2) Rav Ashi’s second answer is that an earthenware oven can be kashered by building a fire inside it, but not an earthenware pot. In those days, cooking was done by building a fire inside the oven and placing the pot inside or on top of the oven. This fire does not provide enough heat in the pot to remove the flavor (ta’am) that is absorbed inside it. Furthermore, building a fire inside the pot is also not a satisfactory method of kashering it. Chazal did not permit this method of kashering, because it may not be performed properly — the owner may be afraid that the pot might crack if it is heated long enough to kasher it (Rosh and Rabbeinu Chananel ad locum; cf. Rashi, who explains the Gemara somewhat differently.) This concern does not exist regarding an oven, presumably because this is the usual way of heating it.

Some basic rules

From this short passage of Gemara, we can derive some basic rules of kashering:

  1. When a concern exists that a particular method of kashering may break an appliance, Chazal prohibited using that method. There are many, many instances where this halachah is put into practice.

One example of this is our opening question. “Can I kasher my sandwich maker for Pesach in order to toast vegetables with it?”

Any method that might kasher the sandwich maker would very possibly ruin the machine. Therefore, it is not possible to kasher it for Pesach use.

  1. Earthenware has different properties from those of metal items, resulting in differences in halachah. Regarding metal and other types of items, there is a principle of kebol’o kach polto, that one extracts from a utensil prohibited flavor the same way the flavor was absorbed into the appliance. From the passage of Gemara quoted above, we see that there are exceptional cases when this principle does not apply. Materials such as earthenware can absorb substances that will not be removable afterwards. Rather than becoming completely extracted when one kashers them, some of the absorbed taste remains and gradually leaches out afterwards with each use, thus spreading prohibited flavor into all subsequent cooking (Tosafos, Chullin 8a s.v. Shelivna).

Exception – kiln kashering

Although the above-quoted passage of Gemara implies that earthenware pots cannot be kashered, Tosafos notes that this rule is not absolute — there is an acceptable way to kosher them. The Gemara (Zevachim 96a) implies that all earthenware vessels, even pots, can be kashered by firing them inside a kiln used for manufacturing earthenware (Tosafos, Pesachim 30b s.v. Hatorah). The intensity of heat in a kiln, which is far greater than the temperature used when baking or cooking in an earthenware oven, will remove the non-kosher or chometz-dik absorption from the walls. Furthermore, we are not afraid that someone will not kasher the utensil adequately out of concern that it will crack, because heating in a kiln is consistent on all sides and will not cause the utensils to crack (Rosh). It is uneven heating that damages the vessel.

There is an alternative explanation for why there is no concern that the owner will not kasher his pot adequately inside the kiln for fear that it will crack. In this instance, we feel that the owner will allow the pot to remain inside long enough to kasher properly because once the owner has placed the pot inside a kiln, this demonstrates that he has no concern about the pot breaking. This halachic conclusion is followed by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 451:1).

Purchase from gentile

We will now examine a different passage of Gemara to learn more about the rules of the kashering procedure.

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 75b) teaches that upon purchasing used kitchen equipment from a gentile, one kashers the equipment via one of the following procedures:

1) That which is usually used for cooking in liquid medium must be kashered in hot water, which is called hag’alah.

2) That which is used to broil or roast food directly in fire must be kashered directly in fire, called libun. As examples of the latter rule, the Mishnah chooses a barbecue spit and a grate used for roasting. Since these appliances absorbed non-kosher ta’am directly through fire, they must be kashered by burning them in fire.

Kebol’o kach polto

From this Mishnah, we learn a new rule – that there is a hierarchy in kashering. If an appliance absorbed flavor directly through fire, boiling it will not remove the residues of prohibited substance sufficiently to kasher it. This explains in more detail the rule I mentioned above, called kebol’o kach polto, which teaches that extracting food residue requires the same method that caused the absorption initially, or a method that is more intense, as I will explain shortly. Therefore, if a prohibited food was cooked in a pot, it can be kashered by hag’alah, which is a method of boiling out what was absorbed. However, if a spit or rack absorbed prohibited food directly through fire and not through a liquid medium, hag’alah will not suffice to kosher it.

Libun versus hag’alah

It is axiomatic that a stronger method of kashering will work for vessels requiring a lower level of kashering (for items other than earthenware). Thus, a metal pot used to cook non-kosher can be kashered by libun, although it is not necessary to use this method.

Iruy, miluy ve’iruy

There are other methods of kashering, such as iruy, which means pouring boiling water onto an item or surface, and miluy ve’iruy¸ which means submerging an appliance in water for three 24 hours periods. In this article, we will not discuss these methods of kashering.

How long?

At this point, we are ready to go to the next step in understanding how to kasher properly. The first question we will explore is germane to kashering directly by fire, which is called libun. The question is: How long must the spit or rack be held in a fire for it to be kashered? At what point can we assume that all the prohibited absorption will be removed?

We find two statements of the Gemara answering this question, one in the Talmud Yerushalmi and the other in the Talmud Bavli. The Talmud Yerushalmi (end of Avodah Zarah) states that one must heat it until sparks begin to shoot off. The Talmud Bavli (Avodah Zarah 76a) explains that you must keep it in the fire “until you remove the surface.” In practice, the halachah is that one needs to heat it until sparks shoot off (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 451:4).

Summing up

To sum up: From these two passages of Gemara, we have learned three basic rules of kashering:

  1. Removing the residue of a prohibited substance from an appliance requires performing on it a procedure that is similar to or stronger than what caused the absorption in the first place.
  2. When a concern exists that a particular method of kashering may break an appliance, one may not kasher it that way.
  3. One cannot kasher earthenware items through conventional household methods.

Contradiction

However, a different Mishnah seems to dispute one of the principles that we have just explained. The Torah teaches that there is a mitzvah to eat parts of the korbanos offered in the Beis Hamikdash, but that there is a time limit within which they may be eaten. After the korban’s time limit has passed, the leftover meat is called nosar, literally, leftover, and must be burnt. Eating it after this time violates a serious prohibition of the Torah.

What happens to the equipment used to cook the korban? The leftover flavoring remaining in the equipment becomes nosar and the equipment must be kashered. This means, essentially, that equipment used to prepare kodoshim must constantly be kashered.

How does one kasher the equipment? One would think that we would apply the same rules presented by the above-mentioned Mishnah in Avodah Zarah. However, the Mishnah states that a grill used to barbecue a korban requires only hag’alah (Zevachim 97a). This suggests that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to kashering – and that hag’alah can be used to kasher anything, even that which absorbed the food directly via fire. This approach does not fit the rule of kebol’o kach polto discussed above.

As you can imagine, we are not the first ones to raise this question. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 76a) does, and provides several answers. The conclusion of the Gemara is that when the prohibited substance was permitted at the time of absorption, a concept that the Gemara calls heteira bala, hag’alah is sufficient to kasher it. The absorption of korban meat in equipment qualifies as heteira bala because, until the time that it becomes nosar, it is permitted to eat the meat; therefore, hag’alah suffices.

The opposite of heteira bala is issura bala, which means that the food was prohibited at the time that the absorption took place. The Mishnah in Avodah Zarah discussing used equipment purchased from a gentile is teaching the laws regarding issura bala.

Heteira bala

Why does heteira bala create a basis to be more lenient?

Some explain this phenomenon as follows: When prohibited substance is absorbed through a medium, such as by cooking in water, hag’alah, boiling out the non-kosher vessel, will remove all of the prohibited substance. However, when the substance absorbed directly by fire, boiling it will not remove all of the prohibited substance. Nevertheless, it does remove most of the substance. When the vessel initially cooked non-kosher, non-kosher food absorbed into it and must be fully removed. But when the absorbed substance was kosher at the time that it absorbed, the residue left over after the pot was boiled is not enough to be considered non-kosher.

Kashering from fleishig

The Gemara mentions the concept of heteira bala relative to the absorption of permitted kodoshim, which will later become prohibited nosar. It is obvious that if one has equipment that absorbed fleishig residues and one wants to make it pareve, this is a case of heteira bala and will require only hag’alah. Here is an actual example:

In a food service operation, some pareve baking trays had mistakenly been used to bake chicken. Assuming that the chicken was placed directly onto the trays, one might think that kashering these trays would require libun, since the absorption was direct from the meat into the tray, without any liquid medium. However, because of the principle of heteira bala, only hag’alah was required.

Is chometz considered heteira bala?

Since chometz is permitted to be eaten anytime but Pesach, it would seem that chometz should be considered heteira bala. This would mean that kashering chometz equipment for Pesach use would never require more than hag’alah. However, we find that there is a dispute among halachic authorities whether chometz is considered heteira bala or issura bala. Those who follow the stringent approach rule that at the time of its use, chometz is what was absorbed into the walls of the pot, and chometz may not be used on Pesach. The concept of heteira bala is applicable, in their opinion, to kodoshim products since, at the time that the grills were used, they were not nosar. They could not become nosar afterwards since the small remnant remaining after the hag’alah will not be considered nosar.

Whether chometz is considered heteira bala or not is very germane in practical halachic terms. If it is considered heteira bala, then hag’alah will suffice to kasher all items for Pesach, and one is never required to kosher items with libun to make them Pesachdik.

How do we rule?

Both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema (451:4) conclude that chometz is considered issura bala. Therefore, one cannot kosher a grill used for chometz through hag’alah, but it requires libun. However, in case of major financial loss (hefsed merubeh), one may rely on the opinion that chometz is heteira bala (Mishnah Berurah 451:32, citing Elya Rabbah and Gra).

Libun kal

So far we have discussed kashering through libun, by means of a high temperature of direct fire. We have also discussed hag’alah, which is kashering through boiling in water. The rishonim discuss an in-between method of kashering, which is called libun kal, easier libun. Libun kal also uses direct heat to kasher, but it does not reach as high a temperature as does the libun we have been referring to until now, which is sometimes called libun chamur, strict libun, to avoid confusion. Libun kal is defined as heating metal hot enough that one sees that the heat has permeated through the metal fully (Mordechai, Avodah Zarah, end of 860). An alternative definition is that it is hot enough to burn straw. The poskim rule that when hag’alah would be sufficient to kasher, one may use libun kal as an alternative, but that it should not be used when there is a requirement to kasher via libun chamur (Mordechai, Avodah Zarah, end of 860).

How hot is libun kal?

At what temperature does straw burn? Based on experiments that he himself conducted, Rav Yisroel Belsky concluded that this is accomplished by a combination of temperature and time. His conclusion was that an oven heated to 550° F takes an hour to burn paper, at 450° it takes 1½ hours and at 375° it takes 2 hours. Thus, kashering with libun kal would require a longer amount of time at lower temperatures. We can thus answer another of our opening questions:

“Is there a way to kasher things that is safer than placing them in boiling water in an open pot?”

The answer is that since libun kal can be used whenever hag’alah suffices, one could kasher any items that require hag’alah by libun kal in a household oven, if one keeps the item in the oven long enough.

Conclusion

This article has provided a small introduction to some of the ideas of kashering, particularly to the concepts of libun and hag’alah. We have not yet dealt with several other types of kashering, including iruy, kli rishon, and miluy ve’iruy, all of which we will need to leave for a future time. We should always hope and pray that the food we prepare fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands us.

* There is discussion among the halachic authorities whether one may kasher an appliance that is fleishig to use with dairy and vice versa. We will leave the discussion of that topic for a different time.

 

Many other articles germane to Pesach are available on this website. You can find them using the search words matzoh; chol hamoed; chometz; ga’al yisroel; hallel; omer.

Missing the Reading

Question #1: The Missing Speaker

The audience waited patiently for the guest speaker from America who never arrived, notwithstanding that he had marked it carefully on his calendar and was planning to be there. What went wrong?

Question #2: The Missing Reading

“I will be traveling to Eretz Yisroel this spring, and will miss one of the parshiyos. Can I make up the missing kerias haTorah?”

Question #3: The Missing Parshah

“I will be traveling from Eretz Yisroel to the United States after Pesach. Do I need to review the parshah twice?”

Question #4: The Missing Aliyah

“May I accept an aliyah for a parshah that is not the one I will be reading on Shabbos?”

Introduction:

The Jerusalem audience is waiting for the special guest speaker. The scheduled time comes and goes, and the organizer is also wondering why the speaker did not apprise him of a delay. Finally, he begins making phone calls and discovers that the speaker — is still in Brooklyn!

What happened? Well… arrangements had been made for the speaker to speak on Wednesday of parshas Behar. Both sides confirmed the date on their calendars — but neither side realized that they were not talking about the same date!

This year we have a very interesting phenomenon that affects baalei keriyah, calendar makers, those travelling to or from Eretz Yisroel, and authors whose articles are published in Torah publications worldwide. When Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos in a leap year, there is a difference in the weekly Torah reading between what is read in Eretz Yisroel and what is read in chutz la’aretz – for a very long period of time – over three months  – until the Shabbos of Matos/Masei, during the Three Weeks and immediately before Shabbos Chazon. Although Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos fairly frequently, most of the time this is in a common year, and the difference between the observances of chutz la’aretz and of Eretz Yisroel last for only a few weeks. The last time Acharon shel Pesach fell on Shabbos in a leap year was back in 5755.

Why the different reading?

When the Eighth Day of Pesach, Acharon shel Pesach, falls on Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz, where this day is Yom Tov, we read a special Torah reading in honor of Yom Tov that begins with the words Aseir te’aseir. In Eretz Yisroel, where Pesach is only seven days long, this Shabbos is after Pesach (although the house is still chometz-free), and the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, which is always the first reading after Pesach in a leap year (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 428:4). On the subsequent Shabbos, the Jews of Eretz Yisroel already read parshas Kedoshim, whereas outside Eretz Yisroel the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, since for them it is the first Shabbos after Pesach. Until mid-summer, chutz la’aretz will consistently be a week “behind” Eretz Yisroel. Thus, in Jerusalem, the Wednesday of parshas Behar is the 10th of Iyar or May 18th. However, in chutz la’aretz, the Wednesday of parshas Behar is a week later, on the 17th of Iyar or May 25th.

This phenomenon, whereby the readings of Eretz Yisroel and chutz la’aretz are a week apart, continues until the Shabbos that falls on August 6th. On that Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz parshiyos Matos and Masei are read together, whereas in Eretz Yisroel that week is parshas Masei, parshas Matos having been read the Shabbos before.

The ramifications of these practices affect not only speakers missing their engagements, and writers, such as myself, who live in Eretz Yisroel but write parshah columns that are published in chutz la’aretz. Anyone traveling to Eretz Yisroel during these three months will miss a parshah on his trip there, and anyone traveling from Eretz Yisroel to chutz la’aretz will hear the same parshah on two consecutive Shabbosos. Those from Eretz Yisroel who spent Pesach in chutz la’aretz discover that they have missed a parshah. Unless, of course, they decide to stay in Eretz Yisroel until the Nine Days. But this latter solution will not help someone who is living temporarily in Eretz Yisroel and therefore observing two days of Yom Tov. Assuming that he attends a chutz la’aretz minyan on Acharon shel Pesach, he will miss hearing parshas Acharei Mos.

Several halachic questions result from this phenomenon: Is a traveler or someone who attended a chutz la’aretz minyan on Acharon shel Pesach required to make up the missed parshah, and, if so, how? During which week does he review the parshah shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum? If he will be hearing a repeated parshah, is he required to review the parshah again on the consecutive week? Can he receive an aliyah or “lein” on a Torah reading that is not “his” parshah?

Why doesn’t chutz la’aretz catch up earlier?

First, let us understand why this phenomenon lasts for such a long time! After all, there are numerous weeks when chutz la’aretz could “double up” two parshiyos and thereby “catch up” to Eretz Yisroel. Why don’t they double up Acharei Mos/Kedoshim the week after Pesach, or Behar/Bechukosei, which is only a few weeks later, rather than reading five weeks of sefer Vayikra and virtually all of sefer Bamidbar before straightening out the problem?

As you can imagine, we are not the first to raise this question. The question is discussed by one of the great sixteenth-century halachic authorities, the Maharit (Shu”t Maharit, Volume II, Orach Chayim #4). He answers that the reason why chutz la’aretz does not double the parshah earlier is because this would make Shavuos fall earlier than it should, relative to the parshiyos. Ideally, Shavuos should be observed between Bamidbar and Naso, and combining either Acharei Mos with Kedoshim, or Behar with Bechokosai pushes Shavuos until after parshas Naso.

Shavuos after Bamidbar

Why should Shavuos be after Bamidbar? The Gemara establishes certain rules how the parshiyos should be spaced through the year. The Gemara (Megillah 31b) explains: Ezra decreed that the Jews should read the curses of the tochacha in Vayikra before Shavuos and those of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah. Why? In order to end the year together with its curses! [The Gemara then comments:] We well understand why we read the tochacha of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah, because the year is ending, but why is that of Vayikra read before Shavuos? Is Shavuos the beginning of a year? Yes, Shavuos is the beginning of a new year, as the Mishnah explains that the world is judged on Shavuos for its fruit”.

We see from this Gemara that we should plan the parshiyos in such a way that we read from the beginning of Bereishis, which we begin on Simchas Torah, until parshas Bechukosai at the end of Vayikra before Shavuos. We then space our parshiyos so that we complete the second tochacha in parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashanah.

One week or two?

However, this Gemara does not seem to explain our practice. Neither of these parshiyos, Bechukosai or Ki Savo, is ever read immediately before Shavuos or Rosh Hashanah. There is always at least one other Shabbos wedged between. This practice is already noted by Tosafos (Megillah 31b s.v. Kelalos). The Levush (Orach Chayim 428:4) explains that without the intervening Shabbos as a shield, the Satan could use the tochacha as a means of accusing us on the judgment day. The intervening Shabbos, when we read a different parshah, prevents the Satan from his attempt at prosecuting, and, as a result, we can declare: End the year together with its curses!

The Maharit explains that not only should we have one intervening Shabbos between the reading of the tochacha and the judgment day, we should preferably have only one Shabbos between the two. That is why chutz la’aretz postpones doubling a parshah until after Shavuos. (Indeed, parshas Naso is read in Eretz Yisroel before Shavuos in these years, but that is because there is no better option. In chutz la’aretz, since one can have the readings occur on the preferred weeks, Shavuos is observed on its optimal Shabbos reading.)

Why not Chukas/Balak?

However, the Maharit points out that this does not explain why the parshiyos of Chukas and Balak are not combined, although he notes that, in his day, some communities indeed did read the two together when Acharon shel Pesach of a leap year fell on Shabbos. The Syrian communities followed this practice and in these years combined parshiyos Chukas and Balak together, and read Matos and Masei on separate weeks. There is no Jewish community in Syria anymore today that reads kerias haTorah according to this custom – for that matter, there is unfortunately no longer any Jewish community in Syria that reads kerias haTorah according to any custom. I am under the impression that the communities of Aleppo Jews currently living in Flatbush and in Deal, New Jersey, do not follow this approach, notwithstanding their strict adherence to the customs that they have practiced for centuries. I am not familiar with the custom of other Syrian communities.

To explain the common custom that does not combine the parshiyos of Chukas and Balak, the Maharit concludes that, once most of the summer has passed and the difference is only what to read on three Shabbosos, we combine Matos with Masei which are usually combined, rather than Chukas and Balak, which are usually separate. The two parshiyos, Matos and Masei, are almost always read together, and are separated only when the year requires an extra Shabbos reading, as it does this year in Eretz Yisroel. Truthfully, we should view Matos and Masei as one long parshah (making the combination the largest parshah in the Torah) that occasionally needs to be divided, rather than as two parshiyos that are usually combined.

One could explain the phenomenon more simply: Matos and Masei are read on separate weeks only when there simply are otherwise not enough readings for every Shabbos of the year.

In these occasional years when Matos and Masei are read separately, parshas Pinchas falls out before the Three Weeks — and we actually get to read the haftarah that is printed in the chumashim for parshas Pinchas, Ve’yad Hashem, from the book of Melachim. In all other years, parshas Pinchas is the first Shabbos of the Three Weeks, and the haftarah is Divrei Yirmiyahu, the opening words of the book of Yirmiyahu, which is appropriate to the season. The printers of chumashim usually elect to print Divrei Yirmiyahu as if it is the haftarah for parshas Matos, and then instruct you to read it, on most years, instead as the haftarah for Pinchas. It is actually more logical to label Divrei Yirmiyahu as the hatarah appropriate for the first of the Three Weeks, and to print both Ve’yad Hashem and Divrei Yirmiyahu after Pinchas; Ve’yad Hashem for the occasional year when Pinchas falls before the 17th of Tamuz, and Divrei Yirmiyahu for the far more frequent year when it falls after, and instruct people that when there is a haftarah to be read just for parshas Matos, they should read Divrei Yirmiyahu which is located as the second haftarah printed after parshas Pinchas. But, then, the printers do not usually ask me what to do, electing instead to mimic what previous printers have done. This phenomenon affects practical halachah, but that is a topic for a different time. However, the printers’ insistence to call Ve’yad Hashem the “regular” haftarah for parshas Pinchas has led to interesting questions.

This article will be continued next week.

 

Medicines for Pesach

medicineQuestion #1: The Ubiquitous Lists

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

Question #2: Leavening Forever!

“Is leavened dough always chometz?”

Question #3: The Spoiler

“Do prohibited foods remain so after they spoil?”

Introduction

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

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

Pikuach nefesh

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

Unusual benefits

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

Unusual eats

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

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

Bad benefits

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

Rubs me the wrong way

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

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

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

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

When is it no longer chometz?

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

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

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

What is sourdough?

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

Can sourdough go sour?

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

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

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

When is edible chometz permitted?

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

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

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

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

A sourdough cover-up

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

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

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

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

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

“Is leavened dough always chometz?”

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

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

Eating spoiled chometz

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

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

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

Is chometz medicine prohibited?

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

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

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

  1. Taking medicine is considered achshevei.

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

  1. Taking medicine is not considered achshevei.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pikuach nefesh medicine lists

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

Magen Avos on Seder Night — Which Bracha Is First?

Many articles on various Pesach-related topics can be read or downloaded from the website RabbiKaganoff.com

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With my best wishes to all for a chag kosher vesomayach!

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Magen Avos on Seder Night — Which Bracha Is First?

Question:

The gabbai of a local minyan calls with the following question: “I do not remember what we did the last time that Pesach began on Shabbos, but I need to know whether at night we say Hallel first or the bracha Magen Avos?”

Answer:

No doubt, many of our readers will assume that the gabbai is making a mistake — that we do not recite the bracha Magen Avos, also known as the bracha mei’ein sheva, when the first night of Pesach falls on Shabbos. However, as we will soon see, our gabbai may be well informed about the minhag in his community. A quiz question for the detectives among our readership is to figure out which community this is.

Seder on Shabbos?

The first day of Pesach falls on Shabbos on three of the fourteen schedules that our calendar year follows. It happens this year, and again in the years 5776, 5778, 5779 and 5782. After 5782, there will be a break for seven years until our Seder returns to Shabbos, but it will occur again three times in the subsequent eight years. (Our calendar does not allow the second day of Pesach to fall on Shabbos because this would cause the succeeding Hoshanah Rabbah to fall on Shabbos.)

The question raised by our gabbai reflects two different practices:  reciting the bracha mei’ein sheva on Seder night, which is not a common practice today, and reciting Hallel in shul on Seder night, which is practiced by Sefardim, Chassidim, and is almost universally followed in Eretz Yisrael. Before answering his question as to which one should be recited first, we need to study the sources of both practices.

What is the Bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

The bracha mei’ein sheva, literally, an abbreviation of the seven brachos, is recited after we conclude the Friday night Shemoneh Esrei, immediately after the congregation recites together the pesukim of Vayechulu. (Although, technically, the term Shemoneh Esrei is an inaccurate description of the Shabbos davening, since it has only seven, and not eighteen, brachos, I will still use the common term Shemoneh Esrei.) This bracha is called mei’ein sheva because it is a synopsis of the seven brachos that comprise the Shabbos tefillah. The gabbai above referred to the bracha as Magen Avos, which is a common colloquial way of referring to this bracha, based on its opening words.

Why did Chazal institute the Bracha Mei’ein Sheva?

In ancient times, the shullen were often located outside the towns in which people lived, and walking home from shul alone at night was dangerous. Chazal, therefore, instituted this bracha after davening, so that someone who arrived late and was lagging behind the tzibur in davening would not be left to walk home unescorted (Rashi, Shabbos 24b). The recital of the extra bracha delayed everyone’s departure, thus allowing time for the latecomer to complete davening (Mordechai, Shabbos #407; Ran; Meiri).

According to an alternative approach, the bracha mei’ein sheva is a form of repetition of the prayer. The individual who arrived late could listen to the chazzan’s recital of this bracha and thereby fulfill his responsibility to pray, even though the chazzan recited only one bracha, and the regular Shabbos tefillah is seven (Rav Natrunai Gaon, as explained by Gra, Orach Chayim 269:13).

Although our shullen are no longer located outside our cities, once Chazal established this bracha, we continue with the practice, just as, in the time of the Gemara, the bracha was recited even in places where a person could safely walk home from shul unaccompanied (Meiri, Pesachim 100b; Ran [on Rif, Pesachim 20a]; Ohr Zarua, Hilchos Erev Shabbos #20; Kolbo #11, 35).

Mei’ein Sheva instead of Kiddush

Yet another reason is presented why Chazal introduced mei’ein sheva. In ancient times, there were occasions when it was difficult to obtain wine, and mei’ein sheva was instituted as a substitute for reciting Kiddush Friday night over wine (Yerushalmi, Brachos 8:1 and Pesachim 10:2; this passage of Talmud Yerushalmi is quoted by Tosafos, Pesachim 106b s.v. Mekadeish).

Why do we not recite mei’ein sheva on weekdays?

If reciting mei’ein sheva was because of concern that returning from shul alone was unsafe, why did Chazal not introduce a similar prayer after weeknight maariv, so that a delayed individual was not placed in danger?

Some Rishonim explain that in the era when the shullen were located outside the cities, someone who was delayed on a weekday would not have attended shul, but would have come home directly and davened there. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, however, he would not have wanted to miss the davening in shul. On the other hand, other Rishonim (Rosh, Berachos 1:5; Tur, Orach Chayim 236) explain that the bracha of Yiru Eineinu, recited during weekday Maariv by Ashkenazim in chutz la’aretz, was instituted so that someone delayed for maariv not be left alone in shul.

Do we recite mei’ein sheva on Yom Tov?

The Gemara states that the prayer mei’ein sheva was instituted only on Friday evening, and not on Yom Tov evenings that did not fall on Fridays (Shabbos 24b). Why was mei’ein sheva not said on Yom Tov?

In the writings of the Rishonim, I found several answers to this question. One approach is that although the concern that someone may be left behind may have equally existed on Yom Tov, since the more common situation was on Shabbos, Chazal did not include Yom Tov in the takkanah (see Meiri, Shabbos 24b).

Another approach is that on Yom Tov eve, people arrived punctually for davening, and there was no concern about individuals remaining alone (Mordechai, Pesachim #611).

Based on the Yerushalmi that the reason for mei’ein sheva was because of the inavailability of wine, some later commentaries present a third reason why the takkanah was established only for Shabbos and not for Yom Tov. Since most authorities hold that Kiddush on Yom Tov is not required min haTorah (Maggid Mishnah, Hilchos Shabbos 29:18), Chazal did not create a takkanah to make sure that someone fulfill a mitzvah that is miderabbanan (Marei Kohen, Pesachim 117b).

Reciting mei’ein sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday

Do we recite the bracha mei’ein sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday? (This case actually happens at the end of this coming Yom Tov, since the Seventh Day of Pesach falls on Friday.) The reason for reciting mei’ein sheva on a regular Shabbos was because people would work late on Friday afternoon, and as a result would arrive late to shul Friday evening. However, when Friday was Yom Tov, there would be no reason for someone to be delayed. Nevertheless, the poskim rule that we should recite mei’ein sheva, even when Yom Tov falls on Friday, notwithstanding that the reason for the takkanah does not apply (Kolbo #52).

Thirteenth century zeal

Actually, the question regarding recital of mei’ein sheva when Yom Tov falls on Friday resulted in a very heated dispute during the era of the Rishonim. In the time of the Rivash, Rabbi Amram ben Meroam, a frequent correspondent of the Rivash, wrote him the following shaylah:

Reuven was the chazzan for the Friday night davening on a Shabbos that immediately followed Yom Tov. He began reciting mei’ein sheva, when Shimon reprimanded him, contending that one should not recite this bracha when Shabbos follows Yom Tov — since no one was working on Friday, the reason for the takkanah did not apply. Levi then got involved, saying that it is accepted that one does recite mei’ein sheva on Friday night following a Yom Tov. The shul then burst into a cacophony of voices, with Shimon’s and Reuven’s backers screaming at one another. Finally, Shimon shouted that Reuven was desecrating Hashem’s holy Name, since he was willing to recite a bracha in vain, and that if he did, Shimon would declare him to be in cherem, excommunicated! Reuven did recite the bracha mei’ein sheva, and a day later, opened his door to find Shimon and twenty of his backers there to notify him that he had been excommunicated! The Rivash was asked to rule whether Reuven was indeed in cherem because of Shimon’s declaration that he recited a bracha in vain, or, perhaps, Shimon should be placed in cherem for excommunicating someone without proper cause.

The Rivash ruled that Shimon was mistaken, and that one should recite mei’ein sheva when Shabbos follows Yom Tov. Therefore, he concluded that Reuven, who followed the correct halachah, could completely ignore the cherem placed on him. However, he also concluded that since Shimon thought he was acting correctly, we do not excommunicate Shimon for his actions (Shu’t HaRivash #34).

Yom Tov falls on Shabbos

When Yom Tov falls on Shabbos and we recite the bracha mei’ein sheva on Friday night, do we mention Yom Tov in the bracha mei’ein sheva?

The Gemara rules that when Yom Tov falls on Shabbos, the chazzan makes no mention of Yom Tov, since on Yom Tov we do not recite this bracha (Shabbos 24b).

Reciting mei’ein sheva on Shabbos Yom Kippur

Do we recite mei’ein sheva when Shabbos falls on Yom Kippur? Logically, there is a strong reason that we should not, since no one arrives that late to shul on Kol Nidrei night, and, furthermore, the many piyutim recited allow for ample time for someone to finish davening and not be left behind. Nevertheless, the poskim rule that we recite mei’ein sheva when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos (Kolbo #70).

Mei’ein Sheva and Seder night

What is the halachah regarding reciting mei’ein sheva when Seder night falls on Shabbos?

In the context of a different issue, the Gemara (Pesachim 109b) refers to Pesach night as leil shimurim, the night in which we are protected from harm (see Maharsha ad loc.). This is based on the pasuk that concludes: He [Hashem] will not permit the destroyer to enter your homes (Shemos 12:42). For this reason, many Rishonim rule that there is no reason to recite the mei’ein sheva on Seder night, since even in the era when the shullen were located outside the cities, the individual who arrived late was not in any danger, since Hashem guards us this night (Tur, Orach Chayim 487, quoting Rabbeinu Nissim and the Baal HaItur; Shu’t HaRivash #34; Ritva, Rosh Hashanah 11b; Kolbo #35, 50; Meiri, Pesachim 109b and many others). (The Rabbeinu Nissim quoted here is Rabbeinu Nissim ben Yaakov of Kairouan, North Africa, who was a contemporary and correspondent of Rav Hai Gaon and is sometimes called Rav Nissim Gaon, and should not be confused with the much later Rabbeinu Nissim ben Reuven of Gerona and Barcelona, Spain, known predominantly as one of the main commentators on the Rif.)

The Tur cites no disputing opinion to this statement of Rabbeinu Nissim, although when the Beis Yosef discusses this halachah, he quotes the Abudraham, who cites a dispute about the practice and concludes that common practice is to recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night. This is curious, because the Abudraham lived in Spain, whereas his contemporary, the Tur, who lived in Spain at the same time, mentions only the practice of omitting mei’ein sheva on Seder night. Another early authority who reports that one should recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night is the Shibbolei HaLeket (#219).

Other reasons to omit mei’ein sheva

In addition to the reason mentioned by Rabbeinu Nissim to omit mei’ein sheva on Seder night, I also found several other reasons to explain why one should not recite it then:

(1) According to the opinion of the Yerushalmi that mei’ein sheva was instituted to guarantee that everyone fulfilled the mitzvah of Kiddush Friday night, some authorities note that on Seder night, everyone would have wine for Kiddush and the arba kosos, thus rendering the bracha unnececessary (Mar’ei Kohen, Pesachim 117b).

(2) Since no one is permitted to work erev Pesach afternoon, there is no reason to assume that someone would come to shul late on Seder night.

(3) Everyone comes to shul early on Seder night so that they can get home early and begin the Seder in a timely fashion.

(4) The prayer is delayed anyway Seder night, because of Hallel. (I found all three of these last reasons in the anthology Sefer HaTodaah.)

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 487:1), mentions only the practice of omitting mei’ein sheva on Seder night, which became the most common accepted practice. However, there are many places that do say mei’ein sheva on the first night of Pesach. For example, the old custom in many German communities was to recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night. Similarly, the Kaf HaChayim (487:22) quotes several prominent Sefardic authorities, including the Rashash and Rav Chayim Palachi, who recited mei’ein sheva on Seder night. The Kaf HaChayim furthermore quotes that the Sefardic minhag in Yerushalayim follows the practice of the Arizal, who recited mei’ein sheva on Seder night, although I found other sources quoting the Arizal as holding that one should not recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night (Shiyurei Bracha, Orach Chayim 642; Chazon Ovadiah, Pesach pages 231 and 235). The Kaf HaChayim quotes the Rashash as contending that, since the Gemara does not mention that Pesach should be treated differently because it is leil shimurim, one should recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night.

The question raised by these authorities is that there are several other occasions when the reasons for reciting mei’ein sheva do not apply, such as when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, or when Yom Tov fell on Friday, and yet universal accepted practice is to recite mei’ein sheva on these occasions.

This last argument is countered by the Radbaz, who contends that when the original takkanah was made concerning mei’ein sheva, Chazal specifically exempted Seder night because it is leil shimurim, but they did not exempt any of the other dates mentioned (Shu’t HaRadbaz 4:16).

As a matter of practice, many congregations that follow the old German customs indeed recite the bracha of mei’ein sheva on Seder night, but other Ashkenazi communities do not. Among Sefardi authorities, Rav Ovadyah Yosef (Shu’t Yabia Omer 2:OC:25; 4:OC:21; Chazon Ovadyah) feels very strongly that one should not recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night, whereas Rav Ben Zion Abba Shaul ruled that each congregation should follow its custom (Shu’t Or LaTzion, Volume 3 page 174).

Thus, we see that, although the prevalent practice is to omit mei’ein sheva on Seder night, there are communities that do recite it. Now let us explain the other part of the question: “Which comes first, Hallel or the bracha mei’ein sheva?

Hallel in shul on Seder night

In several places, Chazal mention reciting Hallel in shul on the first night of Pesach. Why recite Hallel in shul, if we are going to recite it anyway, as part of the Seder? Several explanations are presented for this practice:

(1) In Chazal’s times, there were no siddurim, and therefore the common people davened together with the chazzan or by listening to the chazzan’s prayer. (This is one reason why the chazzan is called a shaliach tzibur, which literally translates as the emissary of the community, since he indeed prayed on behalf of many individuals.) On the days that we are required to recite Hallel, these people listened and responded to the chazzan’s Hallel, thereby fulfilling their mitzvah. However, how could they fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Hallel on Seder night when they were home? They did so by reciting Hallel together with the chazzan in shul, before coming home (see Gra, Orach Chayim 487).

(2) A different approach contends that the community recited Hallel in shul the first night of Pesach in order to fulfill the mitzvah with a large group. Although one may recite Hallel by oneself, reciting it communally is a greater observance of the mitzvah.

Hallel in shul without a bracha

Neither of these two approaches necessarily assumes that Hallel on Seder night requires a bracha. Indeed, the Chazon Ish recited Hallel in shul Seder night without reciting a bracha beforehand, and there are congregations in Bnei Braq that follow this approach.

Hallel Seder night with a bracha

(3) A third approach contends that the primary reason for reciting Hallel in shul is to recite a bracha beforehand. These poskim contend that Hallel at the Seder would require a bracha, if it were not interrupted by the meal. To resolve this predicament, Hallel is recited twice, once in shul with a bracha and without interruption, and then a second time, during the Seder. This is the prevalent practice by Sefardim, Chassidim, and the most common approach followed in Eretz Yisrael today (see Gra, Orach Chayim 487).

Now, the quiz question: Of what type of community is our gabbai a member? One finds the practice of reciting mei’ein sheva Seder night only among two communities: some Sefardim and some German kehillos. The German kehillos do not recite Hallel in shul Seder night, but the Sefardim universally do. Thus, our gabbai‘s community is a Sefardic congregation that has the practice of reciting mei’ein sheva Seder night.

Halachic conclusion

Someone creating a new kehillah and establishing new customs should certainly not recite mei’ein sheva on Seder night, since this is the opinion of most Rishonim, and is followed by the Tur, the Shulchan Aruch and the vast majority of later authorities. In addition, the rules of safek bracha lehakeil imply not to recite a bracha when there is a question whether one should do so or not. Nevertheless, in a congregation or community where the practice is to recite mei’ein sheva Seder night, one should do so before Hallel.

Mizmor Lesodah, Parshas Tzav and Erev Pesach

 

Admin note: We apologize for the delay in sending out this article. We are having a small problem with our server. However, it is still relevant for the remainder of this week.

IFQuestion #1: Korban Todah or bensching Goimel?

“Which is the better way to thank Hashem for a personal salvation, by reciting birchas hagomeil, or by making a seudas hodaah?”

Question #2: Bringing home the bread!

“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, the following passage reflects this thanks, 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 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. 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 one 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 itself 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 any time 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.

Thus, there are two ways in which the korban todah is treated differently from an ordinary shelamim: 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. Half of this bread is chometz and half matzoh, and it 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 invites a large crowd to join him in his feast and thereby explains to them the reason for his repast. Thus, we increase the appreciation of others for the thanksgiving that Hashem has provided him. 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, represents the actual 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 who has been saved calls on everyone to recognize that Hashem is the personal G-d of every individual, and 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 specifically included in Shlomoh Hamelech’s  prayer while inaugurating it (Melachim I 8:41-43).

The closing sentence 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, and this is his invitation to others to join him as he thanks Hashem. The Avudraham notes that Hashem’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 korbanos that are brought because of 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 uneshalma 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

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

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, its chometz may be eaten for only a few hours. Since one may not offer a korban whose time limit is curtailed, one may not offer 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 begin to address 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 it 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.

Hallel in Shul on Seder Night

Question #1: When I visit Eretz Yisroel, I notice that even Nusach Ashkenaz shullen recite Hallel on the first night of Pesach. Should I be reciting Hallel with them when my family custom is not to?

Question #2: Should a woman whose husband recites Hallel in shul on Seder night recite Hallel with a bracha before the Seder?

Question #3: When I was in Eretz Yisroel for Pesach, I davened maariv the second day of Pesach with a chutz la’aretz Nusach Ashkenaz minyan, but none of us knew whether to recite Hallel. What should we have done?

Hallel is our unique praise to Hashem that is reserved for special occasions. Whenever the Jews survived a crisis, they responded by singing Hallel. Thus we sang Hallel after crossing the Yam Suf and again after Yehoshua defeated the allied kings of Canaan. Devorah and Barak sang Hallel when their small force defeated the mighty army of Sisra; the Jews sang this praise when the huge army of Sancheiriv fled from Yerushalayim and when Hashem saved them from Haman’s evil decrees. Chananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah sang Hallel after surviving Nevuchadnetzar’s fiery furnace. After each of these events, Jews recited Hallel to thank Hashem for their miraculous salvation (Pesachim 117a, as explained by Rashi; cf. Rashbam ad loc.).

Before addressing the above questions, let us clarify the five different ways we recite Hallel during Pesach.

THE FIVE TYPES OF PESACH HALLEL

I. Thanking Hashem while performing mitzvos

In the Beis HaMikdash, the Jews sang Hallel while offering the korban pesach on Erev Pesach (Mishnah Pesachim 64a, 95a; Gemara 117a) and then again during the festive meal when they ate it that night. To quote the immortal words of the Gemara, “Could it possibly be that the Jews would offer their korban pesach without reciting Hallel?”

The Jews sang Hallel at the Seder with such fervor that a new expression was coined, “The kezayis of Pesach and the Hallel split the roof.” It is unlikely that people needed to hire roofers to repair the damage after Pesach; this statement reflects the zeal of the experience. As Chazal teach, we should sing every Hallel with ecstatic feeling and melody (Mesechta Sofrim 20:9).

The Hallel recited while offering and consuming the korban pesach is inspired by the fervor of the event. Similarly, some have the custom of reciting Hallel while baking matzos on Erev Pesach to remember the arousing passion of singing Hallel while offering korban pesach. Unfortunately, as we have no korban pesach with which to ignite this enthusiasm, we substitute the experience of baking the matzos.

II. Part of the evening davening

In the times of Chazal (Mesechta Sofrim 20:9; Yerushalmi Berachos 1:5), the Jews recited Hallel immediately after maariv in shul on Seder night, a practice continued by Nusach Sefard and in Eretz Yisroel. I will soon discuss the different reasons for this practice.

III. During the Seder

We sing Hallel as part of the Seder. This Hallel is different from the regular Hallel in the following ways:

We divide this Hallel into two parts, separating the two parts with the festive Yom Tov meal. We sing the first part as the conclusion of the Maggid part of the Seder, as we describe the ecstasy of the Exodus while holding a cup of wine in celebration. The bracha, Asher Ga’alanu, is recited after these preliminary paragraphs of the Hallel, immediately followed by a bracha upon the second cup of wine. (Sefardim do not recite a bracha on this cup of wine.)

Following the birchas hamazon after the meal, which concludes with the third cup of wine, we pour a fourth cup of wine and hold it while reciting the rest of Hallel. Upon completing Hallel, we recite Chapter 136 of Tehillim, Nishmas, a bracha to conclude the Hallel (there are different opinions which bracha to recite), a bracha upon the wine (Sefardim do not recite a bracha on this cup of wine either), and then drink the cup of wine as the last of the four kosos.

Another difference between Hallel on Seder night and Hallel during the year is that we sit for Hallel at the Seder. Halacha requires that one give testimony standing, and when we recite Hallel we testify that Hashem performed wonders for us. Furthermore, the pasuk in Hallel declares, “Sing praise, servants of Hashem who are standing” (Tehillim 135:1-2), implying that this is the appropriate way to praise. However, at the Seder we sit because the Hallel is part of the meal and is recited while holding a cup of wine, which is not conducive to standing; furthermore, sitting demonstrates that we are free from bondage (Shibbolei HaLeket #173).

Reciting Hallel during the Seder commemorates singing Hallel while eating the korban pesach (Mishnah Pesachim 95a). Unfortunately, we have no korban pesach, so we must substitute the Yom Tov meal and the matzos.

IV. After Shacharis on the first day(s) of Pesach

We recite the full Hallel immediately following shmoneh esrei on the first day(s) of Pesach to fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Hallel on days that are either Yom Tov or commemorate a miracle. These days include Chanukah, Sukkos, Shavuos, and the first day(s) of Pesach (Arachin 10a). This Hallel can only be recited during daytime hours, which the Gemara (Megillah 20b) derives from the verse, from the rising of the sun until it sets, Hashem’s name shall be praised (Tehillim 113:3).

V. After Shacharis on the other days of Pesach

We recite Hallel with parts deleted (colloquially referred to as half Hallel) immediately following shmoneh esrei on the other days of Pesach. This reading is not part of the original takanah to recite Hallel on Yomim Tovim, but is a custom introduced later, similar to the recitation of Hallel on Rosh Chodesh. Thus the poskim dispute whether one recites a bracha prior to reciting this Hallel. Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 3:7) rules that one does not recite a bracha, and this is the prevalent custom among the Sefardim and Edot HaMizrach in Eretz Yisrael (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 422:2). Tosafos (Taanis 28b), however, rules that one may recite a bracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh and the last days of Pesach, and this is the universal practice among Ashkenazim.

Why do we recite the full Hallel every day of Sukkos, bur only on the first day of Pesach? The Gemara gives a surprising answer to this question. We recite full Hallel every day of Sukkos since each has different korban requirements in the Beis HaMikdash; on Pesach, we do not recite full Hallel every day because the same korban was offered every day. The fact that a day is Yom Tov is insufficient reason to recite Hallel; there must also be something original about that particular day’s celebration. Thus, although the Seventh (and Eighth) day of Pesach is Yom Tov, full Hallel is omitted.

The Midrash presents a different explanation why full Hallel is not recited on Pesach — we should not recite it at a time that commemorates human suffering, even of the evil, since this was the day that the Egyptians drowned in the Yam Suf (quoted by Shibbolei HaLeket #174).

Now that we have a basic background to the five types of Hallel, we can now discuss the Hallel we recite at the Seder. The Gemara’s list of dates that we recite Hallel only mentions reciting Hallel in the daytime. However, other sources in Chazal (Mesechta Sofrim 20:9; Tosefta Sukkah 3:2; Yerushalmi Sukkah 4:5) include Hallel of Seder night when mentioning the different days when we are required to recite Hallel. This leads us to an obvious question:

DO WE RECITE A BRACHA ON HALLEL AT THE SEDER?

Since we recite Hallel at the Seder, should we not introduce it with a bracha? Although the universal practice today is to not recite a bracha before this Hallel, whether one recites a bracha on this Hallel is actually disputed. Here are three opinions:

1. One should recite a bracha twice; once before reciting the first part of Hallel before the meal and once before resuming Hallel after bensching (Tur Orach Chayim 473, quoting Ritzba and several others).

2. One should recite a bracha before beginning the first part of Hallel, notwithstanding the interruption in the middle of Hallel (Ran; Maharal).

3. One should not recite any bracha on Hallel at the Seder (Shu’t Ri MiGash #44; Rama; Bach).

Of course, this last opinion presents us with an interesting difficulty: If Chazal instituted reciting Hallel on Seder night, why does it not require a bracha beforehand?

I found three very different approaches to answer this question:

A. Some contend that, despite inferences to the contrary, Hallel on Seder night is not a mitzvah but only expresses our rejoicing (Shu’t Ri MiGash #44).

B. Alternatively, although there is a mitzvah Seder night to praise Hashem, this praise could be spontaneous and unstructured which would not technically require reciting the structured Hallel. Since no specific song or praise is required, Chazal did not require a bracha before singing Hallel (see Rav Hai Gaon’s opinion, as quoted by Ran, Pesachim Chapter 10).

C. Although Hallel Seder night should require a bracha, we cannot do so because we interrupt the recital of the Hallel with the meal (Tur Orach Chayim 473). This approach leads us to our next discussion:

HALLEL SEDER NIGHT IN SHUL

In several places Chazal mention reciting Hallel in shul on the first night of Pesach. Why recite Hallel in shul, if we are going to recite it anyway as part of the Seder?

The Rishonim present us with several approaches to explain this practice.

A. In Chazal’s times, there were no siddurim and therefore the common people davened together with the chazzan or by listening to the chazzan’s prayer. (This is why the chazzan is called a shaliach tzibur, the emissary of the community, since he indeed prayed on behalf of many individuals.) On the days that we are required to recite Hallel, these people listened to the chazzan’s Hallel and responded appropriately and thereby fulfilled their mitzvah. However, how could they recite Hallel Seder night? They did so by reciting Hallel together with the chazzan in shul before coming home (see Gra, Orach Chayim 487).

B. A different approach contends that the community recited Hallel in shul the first night of Pesach in order to fulfill the mitzvah with a large group. Although one may recite Hallel by oneself, reciting it communally is a greater observance of the mitzvah.

Neither of these two approaches necessarily assumes that Hallel on Seder night requires a bracha. Indeed, the Chazon Ish recited Hallel in shul Seder night without reciting a bracha beforehand. There are congregations in Bnei Braq that follow this approach.

C. A third approach contends that the primary reason for reciting Hallel in shul is to recite a bracha beforehand. These poskim contend that Hallel at the Seder would require a bracha if it was not interrupted by the meal; to resolve this, Hallel is recited twice, once in shul with a bracha without interruption, and then a second time during the Seder. According to this opinion, Hallel Seder night fulfills two different purposes:

(1) We sing Hallel to Hashem as we do on all Yomim Tovim because of his miracles; on Seder night we sing Hallel at night because that is when we were redeemed.

(2) We praise Hashem while performing the mitzvos of Seder night – haggadah, matzah etc.

Although one could fulfill both of these mitzvos by reciting Hallel one time during the Seder, one would miss making a bracha. Therefore, Hallel is recited during davening so that it can be introduced with a bracha, and is sung again during the Seder so that it surrounds the mitzvos of the night. This is the prevalent practice of Sefardim, Chassidim, and the most common approach followed in Eretz Yisroel today (see Gra, Orach Chayim 487).

At this point, we can begin to discuss the questions we raised above:

Question #1: When I visit Eretz Yisroel, I notice that even the Nusach Ashkenaz shullen recite Hallel on the first night of Pesach. Should I be reciting Hallel with them when my family custom it not to?

Your custom follows the poskim that reciting Hallel Seder night does not require a bracha. You should preferably follow your own practice and not recite a bracha on the Hallel, but there is no reason why you cannot recite Hallel with them. Since you do not lose anything, have in mind to fulfill the bracha by listening to the chazzan’s bracha.

However, there is another halachic issue, which is that one should not do things in a way that could cause strife. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:94) discusses a situation of someone in chutz la’aretz who does not recite Hallel in shul on Seder night, but davens in a Nusach Ashkenaz shul that does. The person asking the shaylah, a certain Reb Yitzchak, was apparently upset that his shul recited Hallel with a bracha on Seder night and wanted to create a commotion to change the practice. Rav Moshe forbids this and emphasizes that one should follow a path of shalom. Rav Moshe further demonstrates that if it is noticeable that Reb Yitzchak is omitting the bracha on Hallel, he must recite the bracha with them so that no machlokes results.

Question #2: Should a woman whose husband recites a bracha on Hallel in shul Seder night recite Hallel with a bracha before the Seder?

This takes us to a new question. Assuming that one’s husband recites Hallel with a bracha on the night of Pesach, should his wife also recite Hallel before the Seder with a bracha?

WOMEN AND HALLEL

Are women required to recite Hallel?

Although Hallel is usually a time-bound mitzvah from which women are absolved (Mishnah Sukkah 38a), some poskim rule that women are obligated to recite Hallel on Chanukah and Pesach since this Hallel is recited because of miracles that benefited women (see Tosafos, Sukkah 38a s.v. Mi; Toras Refael, Orach Chayim #75). All agree that women are required to recite Hallel Seder night because women were also redeemed from Mitzrayim. Rav Ovadiah Yosef reasons that the wife or daughter of someone who recites a bracha before Hallel in shul on Seder night should also recite Hallel with a bracha before the Seder (Shu’t Yechavah Daas 5:34). However, the prevalent custom is not to.

Question #3: When I was in Eretz Yisroel for Pesach, I davened the second day of Pesach with a chutz la’aretz Nusach Ashkenaz minyan, but none of us knew whether we should recite Hallel. What should we have done?

Assuming that this minyan consisted of people who do not usually recite Hallel in shul on Pesach night, they did not need to recite Hallel, and certainly not a bracha on Hallel, in their minyan. Since they are only visiting Israel, and have not yet assumed residence there, they follow their own custom in their own minyan, and their custom is to not recite a bracha on Hallel Seder night.

Reciting Hallel with tremendous emotion and reliving Hashem’s miracles rekindles the cognizance of Hashem’s presence. The moments that we recite Hallel can encapsulate the most fervent experience of His closeness.

In the merit of joyously reciting Hallel, may we see the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim and the rededication of the Beis HaMikdash, speedily in our days.

Spilling the Beans

Question #1: Is Cottonseed Oil Kitniyos?

I know that, in America, everyone uses cottonseed oil on Pesach. However, when I was in Israel for Pesach I was told that they don’t use cottonseed oil because it is kitniyos. Why is there a difference in practice?

Question #2: Lecithin in Pesach Products

When I was a child, it was common to find Pesachdik chocolates containing an ingredient called lecithin. Now I am told that lecithin is not Pesachdik. Do I need to do tshuva on all the lecithin that I consumed?

Question #3: Ascorbic Acid from Kitniyos

I have been told that there are reliable kosher-certifying agencies that allow the use of products that have a kitniyos base. I thought that all forms of kitniyos are prohibited on Pesach. Am I making a mistake?

Knows His Beans

Although the Torah’s prohibition against eating, benefiting from, and owning chometz on Pesach applies only to foods made from the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye), Ashkenazic Jews and most North African and some other Sefardim have accepted the practice not to eat rice and other grain-like and leguminous foods on Pesach. This is referred to as the prohibition against eating kitniyos. Among the reason given for this custom are:

The possibility that chometz grains could easily become mixed into the kitniyos (Tur 453, see Taz 453:1 and Mishna Berura 453:6).

Kitniyos varieties could be ground into flour and baked into a type of bread, which can create confusion (Taz 453:1, quoting Smak).

There is no requirement to sell kitniyos and no prohibition in deriving benefit from them (Rama 453:1), as long as one does not eat the kitniyos. Therefore one may use soap or lotion made of kitniyos.

Spilled the Beans

Furthermore, if kitniyos became mixed into Pesachdik food, one is permitted to eat the food (Rama 453:1) provided that the kitniyos is not noticeable and it is less than half of the food item (Chayei Odom 127:1). If the kitniyos is noticeable, one should remove the kitniyos and may eat the rest (Chayei Odom 127:1). However, some authorities prohibit the product when the kitniyos was added for taste (Shu’t Avnei Nezer 373).

The prohibition against eating kitniyos is based on custom. In addition to keeping commandments of the Torah and the prohibitions instituted at the times of the Mishna and the Gemara, we are also required to observe those restrictions that were accepted by communities of the Jewish people. This is included in the concept of Al titosh toras imecha, “Do not forsake the Torah taught you by your mother” — that is, the customs accepted by the Jewish people. Thus, we find that some of the details of the rules of kitniyos vary from community to community, and what is prohibited as kitniyos in one community is permitted in another. In these situations, an item that is prohibited in one community because of kitniyos is permitted in a different community.

The Bean Counter

If someone placed kitniyos on my Pesachdik counter, may I still use it on Pesach?

Although I have read responsa from contemporary Rabbonim requiring Ashkenazim to kasher pots used to cook kitniyos, this is by no means obvious. As I mentioned above, kitniyos that fell by mistake into other Pesachdik food becomes bateil as long as the non-kitniyos food is the majority. Based on this, many authorities contend that Ashkenazim may cook in pots previously used for kitniyos since whatever kitniyos flavor transferred to food cooked in the pots will certainly be nullified (Shu’t Zera Emes 3:48). Others prohibit using pots that absorbed kitniyos, stating that the minhag is to not use either the kitniyos food or the pots (Shu’t Rav Pe’alim 3:30; Shu’t Maharam Shick, Orach Chayim #241). Still others follow a compromise position, ruling that one should not use the pots within 24 hours of cooking kitniyos, but permitting use of the pots after 24 hours without kashering (Kaf HaChayim 453:27).

By the way, many Sefardim do not eat kitniyos on Pesach, and many follow an approach that prohibits some kitniyos species. For example, most North African Sefardim (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, and Egyptian) do not eat any kitniyos on Pesach, following the same custom as Ashkenazim; this was also the practice of many Turkish communities (Shu’t Lev Chayim 2:33). Although Iraqi communities usually ate kitniyos on Pesach, many families in Baghdad did not eat rice and most did not eat chickpeas (Rav Pe’alim 3:30). Similarly, the Chida reports that the Sefardim in Yerushalayim in his day did not eat rice.

Full of Beans

What species are included in the prohibition of kitniyos?

Rama (Chapter 464) prohibits the use of mustard on Pesach, although he states that anise and coriander are not kitniyos varieties (453:1). Taz (453:1) asks why mustard is treated more stringently than anise and coriander, since mustard is also not very similar to a grain. Taz explains that mustard is prohibited because its seeds grow on a stalk similar to the way grain grows. Thus, the prohibition of kitniyos includes items that grow similarly to the way grain grows. For this reason, Shu’t Avnei Nezer (#373) prohibits the use of rapeseed oil (canola oil is a variety of rapeseed oil) on Pesach, even though the raw rapeseed is not edible. However, Maharsham (1:183) ruled that rapeseed oil is not necessarily included in the prohibition of kitniyos and may be used in places where the custom is to permit its use. (Today, most communities treat canola oil as kitniyos. However, the predominant custom in South Africa is to not consider canola oil kitniyos on Pesach and permit it.)

It is interesting to note that several other items that we would consider staples for Pesach, such as coffee and potatoes, were involved in kitniyos controversies.

Coffee Beans

Although coffee is the product of a roasted bean, accepted practice is that it is not considered kitniyos since it is the product of a tree, and does not grow directly from the ground. Thus, it does not grow in a way at all similar to grains. Nevertheless, there were places where the custom was to prohibit the use of coffee on Pesach since the average person is not aware of the source of the coffee bean (Shaarei Tshuvah 453:1). Incidentally, one should be aware that coffee now requires proper kosher certification for Pesach. Although in the past, there were no chometz concerns involved in the production of coffee, because of changes in the mass production of coffee one should not use coffee that is not kosher for Passover by a reliable hashgacha.)

Potatoes

Why is potato starch not included in the prohibition of kitniyos?

Indeed, many poskim felt that potatoes and potato starch should be included in the prohibition of kitniyos on Pesach, and there were places where the accepted practice was to prohibit their use (Nishmas Odom Hilchos Pesach #20; Pri Megadim 453:1). Nevertheless, the prevalent custom is to permit the use of potatoes on Pesach (Igros Moshe 3:63). Rav Moshe explains that although some of the reasons that apply to kitniyos apply to potatoes, the prohibition was never extended onto potatoes, probably because it would have created tremendous difficulty.

Popcorn

Some have advocated the production of “shmura popcorn” for Pesach. Although corn is generally assumed to be a variety of kitniyos, the rationale to permit “Pesachdik” popcorn is that one need not treat kitniyos more strictly than one would treat wheat and the other potentially-chometz grains themselves. Thus, since we all eat wheat products on Pesach in the form of shmura matzoh, why can’t one produce “Pesachdik” popcorn? One would carefully check the kernels that they are not accompanied by grain, and then pop the kernels within eighteen minutes from the time that they come in contact with water. This is very easy to do since popcorn does not usually come into contact with water.

Indeed, according to most poskim there would be no problem with making kosher for Pesach popcorn (Chayei Odom 127:1; Rav Shulchan Aruch 453:5). However, the custom is to follow the opinions that prohibit producing products for Pesach consumption out of kitniyos in this fashion. The reason we are stringent is that since people know that kitniyos is not chometz, once people begin making a kitniyos product of any type for Pesach, the standards will not be maintained. Thus, some poskim contend that the prohibition against eating kitniyos on Pesach includes producing kitniyos in any method whatsoever (Shu’t Maamar Mordechai #32).

Cottonseed Oil

Rav Pesach Frank (Sefer Mikrai Kodesh, Hilchos Pesach vol. 2 pg. 206) permits the use of cottonseed oil on Pesach, and quotes that Rav Chayim Brisker permitted its use. Cottonseed is not a food at all and also does not grow in any way similar to grains, unlike canola that grows similar to the way grains grow. However, Dayan Weiss writes that he is uncertain whether cottonseed oil may be used on Pesach. He cites sources that the prohibition against kitniyos includes any item stored the way grain is stored and forbids eating any seeds, grains, or anything derived from them (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 3:138:2 and 4:114:3). As a result, many hechsherim in Eretz Yisroel, for example, the Eidah HaChareidis, treat cottonseed oil as kitniyos.

Lecithin and Vegetable Oils

There were poskim who permitted the use of oils derived from kitniyos sources (Shu’t Maharsham 1:183; Marcheshes). Upon this basis, many communities permitted the use of vegetable oils, lecithin (usually a soy-based product) and other items on Pesach. However, today the accepted practice is not to use these items on Pesach.

A contemporary shaylah is the usage of products that are grown on a medium of soybeans or other kitniyos. Some modern poskim refer to these products as “kitniyos shenishtaneh” or kitniyos that has undergone a transformation. The discussion revolves around a dispute among early poskim whether a prohibited substance that has completely transformed is still considered non-kosher (see Rosh to Berachos=). Based on the ruling of Mishna Berura (216:7), some halachic organizations permit the use of enzymes and other raw materials that are grown on products that are considered kitniyos. Other poskim contend that although these products may be considered kosher lePesach after the fact, one should not arrange a hechsher upon this basis.

Thus, we see that many of the details of the halachos of observance of kitniyos are dependent on local custom. Indeed, one will find discrepancy in practice even among communities that are following halacha fully.

Sheva Berachos at the Seder

Although most people grimace at the thought of attending a wedding the week before Pesach, much less making one, scheduling a wedding that week also includes the possibility of making sheva brachos at the Seder. Certainly for those who relish long, drawn-out sheva brachos, what could be more exciting than combining sheva brachos with the Seder! And, in addition to the time-honored question whether a choson wears a kittel at the Seder, this Seder has an additional question: Over which kos does one recite the first six brachos of the sheva brachos? Although this question may seem trite, many responsa and dozens of pages of halachic dialogue discuss it. In order to explain what the commotion is about, we need to understand its halachic basis.

Ordinarily, after a sheva brachos meal we take out three cups and fill two of them with wine. The person leading the bensching holds one of the full cups, while the second cup remains on the table until bensching is completed. The second cup is then handed consecutively to six honorees who recite the first six sheva brachos. (Although many authorities oppose dividing the blessings among six different honorees, this approach is commonly followed.) The person who led bensching then recites the last of the sheva brachos, borei pri hagafen while holding the first cup. He then drinks from his cup, the wine in the two cups is mixed together (using the third cup for this purpose), and finally the wine of the second and this cups are presented to the choson and the kallah.

(This is the prevalent custom, the basis of which is recorded by Derisha [Even HaEzer 62:4] and Nishmas Odom [68:2]. Some poskim recommend that the honoree leading the bensching hold the kos to be used for the sheva brachos while reciting the prayer dvei hoseir [which is inserted before bensching at a sheva brachos meal] and then put that kos down and pick up the first kos for bensching [Taz, Even HaEzer 62:7]. I have never seen anyone follow this practice. According to a third opinion, the second kos should not be filled until after bensching is completed [Magen Avraham 147:11 and Be’er Heiteiv, Even HaEzer 62:11].)

Why do we use two different kosos? Why not use the same cup for both bensching and sheva brachos? Actually, the poskim dispute this issue, as I will explain.

The Gemara (Pesachim 102b) teaches that if (for some unusual reason) someone bensches and recites Kiddush at the same time, he should not recite both of them over the same cup. Rather, he should recite Kiddush while holding one cup of wine and bensch while holding a different one. The Gemara then queries why it is necessary to take two different cups, to which it answers: “We do not recite two kedushos over the same cup. Why not? Because we do not bundle together several mitzvos, ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos.” Using the same kos for both mitzvos gives the impression that we view these mitzvos as a burden, rather than treating each mitzvah with due respect by designating for it its own cup of wine. This concept of ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos is often simply referred to as the problem of “chavilos chavilos.”

BUT DON’T WE RECITE KIDDUSH AND HAVDALAH OVER ONE CUP?

When Yom Tov falls on a Sunday, we recite Kiddush for Yom Tov and Havdalah for Shabbos as part of the same ceremony, all while holding the same cup. Why is this not a problem of chavilos chavilos, since it “bundles together” the two mitzvos of Kiddush and Havdalah?

The Gemara (Pesachim 102b) explains that Kiddush and Havdalah are considered one mitzvah – thus, reciting them over one cup is not considered bundling mitzvos together.

I can now explain why we recite bensching and sheva brachos over separate cups. Tosafos quotes a dispute whether one recites sheva brachos on the same cup that one recites bensching or over a different cup. Rabbeinu Meshulam maintains that reciting sheva brachos and bensching over the same cup of wine is not a problem of chavilos chavilos, since we do not recite the sheva brachos without bensching. Thus, since bensching causes the recital of the sheva brachos, this is not bundling separate mitzvos together. According to Rabbeinu Meshulam, we fill one cup with wine and hand it to the person leading the bensching. When he finishes bensching, he hands that kos to the honoree who recites the first of the sheva brachos, who then hands it to the next honoree and so on until the kos returns to the person who led the bensching, so that he may hold the kos while reciting the borei pri hagafen. However, Tosafos quotes a differing opinion that contends that one should recite bensching and sheva brachos over separate cups, since they are, essentially, two separate mitzvos.

HOW DO WE PASKIN?

The Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 62:9) quotes both opinions in this dispute, and mentions that the custom is to use only one cup for both bensching and sheva brachos, following Rabbeinu Meshulam. (One should note that Sefardim recite all seven of the sheva brachos only when the meal is celebrated in the hall at which the wedding took place. The reason for this practice is beyond the scope of our current discussion, but see Tosafos Sukkah 25b s.v. ein simcha and Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 62:10.) The Rama notes that the custom among Ashkenazim is to use two different cups. The Chida (Shu’t Yosef Ometz #47), who was the posek hador of his generation among the Sefardim, notes that, although at the time of the Shulchan Aruch the custom among the Edot Hamizrach (the Sefardim) was to recite the sheva brachos on the same cup as the bensching, in his day (the Chida’s) a separate cup was used for sheva brachos. Thus, the minhag had changed among the Sefardim. It is also worthwhile to note that the Chida, who lived most of his life in Eretz Yisroel, traveled extensively through Northern Africa and Europe and was very familiar with the customs of many places. (As an aside, wherever the Chida visited he researched whatever seforim, both published and in manuscript, were available and recorded his findings. He later published his discoveries in an encyclopedic work, Shem HaGedolim, which is a monumental bibliography of seforim and authors.) Other Sefardic authors of the last several hundred years record two customs, some following Rabbeinu Meshulam (like the Shulchan Aruch recorded) and others using separate cups for the two mitzvos (like the Chida) (Otzar HaPoskim 62:9:53). The predominant custom today is to use two separate kosos.

WHY IS THIS NIGHT DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER NIGHTS?

If, on all other nights, we use separate cups for bensching and sheva brachos, why should we entertain the thought that on this night of Pesach we should use only one cup?

The background behind this question requires an additional introduction:

Chazal instituted that every individual should drink four cups of wine at the Seder in order to commemorate the four terms used by Hashem in the Torah to prophesy the redemption from Egypt: vihotzeisi, I will take you out of Mitzrayim; vihitzalti, I will save you; viga’alti, I will redeem you; vilakachti, I will take you to me as a nation (Rashi and Rashbam, Pesachim 99b, quoting Midrash Rabbah; cf. Rashi ibid. 108a, who provides a different reason). “The Rabbis instituted four cups as a means of demonstrating that we gained freedom – each one of them should be used for a mitzvah” (Pesachim 117b). Therefore, we use the first cup for Kiddush; on the second we recite the bracha, asher ga’alanu; we recite the bensching while holding the third cup of wine, and Hallel while reciting the fourth.

When celebrating a sheva brachos at a Seder, we are faced with the following dilemma:

If we drink an extra cup of wine at the Seder for sheva brachos, it gives the impression that we are drinking five cups of wine at the Seder, when Chazal instituted that one should drink only four special cups. This is referred to as “adding to the cups,” mosif al hakosos, which is a rabbinic violation. On the other hand, if we do not add a cup, we are bundling together the mitzvah of sheva brachos with the mitzvah of bensching. Thus, the principle of ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos, which is the reason why we use separate cups for bensching and for sheva brachos; has now become the basis for a difficulty.

Furthermore, there is another problem, in that once one drinks the third cup of wine one is prohibited from drinking another cup until after the fourth cup has been drunk (Mishnah Pesachim 117b).

The shaylah what to do in this predicament is discussed by many prominent poskim, with the earliest published discussion on the issue going back six hundred years and responsa on the question continuing up to our time.

I am aware of at least five different approaches mentioned by poskim to resolve this issue.

(1) The Chida (Shu’t Yosef Ometz #47) quotes a very creative approach to resolve this problem, although he does not approve of it: Prior to bensching, one should fill two minimum-shiur cups. The person leading the bensching holds one of these cups, while the other is held by the honorees while they recite the sheva brachos. Following the completion of the sheva brachos, one pours the two cups into one large cup, and one of the participants drinks the large kos as the third kos. Thus, since each kos was initially separate, one used two cups for the two mitzvos and did not violate the precept of ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos, while at the same time one did not add an extra kos, since only one cup was drunk.

The Chida disapproves of this solution, although he does not explain why. Presumably, he contends that one violates the prohibition of adding to the kosos by using a separate cup for the sheva brachos, even if it is later poured together with the bensching cup. Thus, there is no advantage to this approach.

(2) Another approach to resolve this problem is to recite the sheva brachos on a cup that is then set aside for someone to use for the fourth kos. (The Yaavetz, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah, Even HaEzer 62:18, mentions this approach.) This opinion holds that since this kos is ultimately used for one of the four cups of the Seder, one cannot say that it is “adding to the cups.” And to avoid violating the prohibition against drinking between the third kos and the fourth, the cup is drunk as the fourth kos.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 1:95) writes that he does not understand this opinion. Simply put, the cup of sheva brachos in this case is serving two different purposes, the sheva brachos and the fourth cup. Thus, it is directly violating the prohibition of making mitzvos into bundles (ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos), without the advantage of Rabbeinu Meshulam’s opinion that the sheva brachos cup and the bensching cup may overlap. Thus, one is doing mitzvos chavilos chavilos in a worse way than if he had simply used the sheva brachos kos for bensching. (Shu’t Igros Moshe suggests an approach how this opinion may have addressed this question.) Presumably because of this criticism, the later poskim abandon this suggestion.

(3) The Chida cites another approach, which is to leave everyone’s cup a bit empty, and then fill each one with the wine from the sheva brachos kos. He does not like this approach, because he says it makes the mitzvah look like a joke, although he does not explain why. Presumably, the concern is that this approach does not treat the kos of sheva brachos with proper kavod.

(4) Other solutions are suggested. Many contend that one should recite both the sheva brachos and the bensching over the same kos (Yaavetz; Chida). Their reason is that, although we usually assume that this violates ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos, Rabbeinu Meshulam held that reciting sheva brachos and bensching over one cup does not violate this rule. Therefore, on Seder night, when the alternative is to create a problem of adding an extra kos to the Seder, it is preferable to combine the two kosos of sheva brachos and bensching together. According to this opinion, one should recite the sheva brachos over the cup used by the person leading the bensching, and then each individual should drink from his own kos.

(5) The Rama (Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 473:4) cites a different resolution to this dilemma. He rules that the person leading the bensching should hold his kos while reciting the bensching, and that those reciting the sheva brachos should hold the kos of the choson while reciting these brachos. Rama does not discuss who drinks the respective kosos, but I presume that the person who led the bensching drinks the first kos and the choson drinks the second.

There is an obvious problem with this approach. Since each person holds his kos for bensching at the Seder, the kos of the choson is also a kos of bensching. Therefore, what have we gained by having the sheva brachos recited over a different kos from the bensching? There are still two mitzvos being performed over this kos — bensching and sheva brachos — and we have the problem of ein osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos. This is why several of the above-mentioned poskim reject this approach.

Evidently, this opinion contends that, although all of the assembled hold their cups during the bensching, their cups are not considered the bensching cup. Only the kos of the person who leads the bensching has the halachic status of performing this mitzvah. The other cups are in fulfillment of Chazal’s having instituted the four kosos, preferring that we use each cup for a mitzvah. Therefore, it is not osin mitzvos chavilos chavilos when one uses this cup for sheva brachos. (As noted before, in this instance the choson and kallah do not drink from that cup, but drink from their own cups.)

Those who disagree with this approach contend that, at the Seder, each person’s kos is indeed a kos of bensching. Thus, there is no advantage to reciting the sheva brachos over the choson’s kos.

There is a historical curiosity about this debate. Two very prominent early poskim, the Yaavetz and the Chida, discuss this issue and conclude (#4, above) that one should rely on Rabbeinu Meshulam when celebrating sheva brachos at the Seder, and recite the sheva brachos and bensching over the same cup. The Chida published two different responsa on this shaylah, reaching the same conclusion both times; but, in his earlier responsum, he does not mention that the Rama cites the opposite conclusion. In his later responsum, the Chida mentions that someone had criticized him for having previously written a responsum on the subject and ignoring the Rama’s comments on the subject. In his later responsum, he explains that since he had quoted Rav Yaakov Emden, who in turn quoted the Rama’s source and disagreed with it, he saw no need to point out that the Rama had quoted these comments.

It is also interesting that Rav Moshe also disagreed with the Rama, yet felt bound to follow Rama’s approach because of the Rama’s greatness, whereas both Rav Yaakov Emden (the Yaavetz) and the Chida decided not to follow Rama’s approach, but to rule that one should use one kos for both bensching and sheva brachos.

In conclusion, those privileged to celebrate a sheva brachos for a newlywed couple at their Seder could either have all the brachos recited over one kos, or have the sheva brachos recited over the kos of one of the other celebrants. In any case, the practice of mixing wine from the two kosos together should not be followed at the Seder.

Some Kitniyos Curiosities

Question #1: A certain rav told me that he was unhappy that some kosher for Pesach apple sauce products contain vitamin C, which he claims is kitniyos. But I see some reliable Ashkenazic hechsherim containing vitamin C. Does that rav have his facts wrong?

Question #2: My sister married a Sefardi, who eats rice on Pesach. Does this mean that I will be unable to eat in their house on Pesach, even if I avoid eating the kitniyos?

Question #3: I grew up in a Sefardi home where we ate kitniyos, but have kept the practice not to eat kitniyos since I married an Ashkenazi man. We will be visiting my parents for Pesach, who now have two sets of Pesach pots, one set that they keep kitniyos free to accommodate the Ashkenazi family members. May I help my mother cook kitniyos food on Yom Tov that I may not eat?

Although the Torah’s prohibition against eating, benefiting from, and owning chometz on Pesach applies only to leavened foods made from the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye), Ashkenazic Jews and many Sefardim have accepted the practice of not eating rice and other grain-like products on Pesach, even when these foods are not one of the five grains. We refer to this as the prohibition against eating kitniyos.

The poskim provide several reasons for this custom, including:

(1) Chometz grains often are mixed into the kitniyos (Tur Orach Chayim 453; see Taz 453:1 and Mishnah Berurah 453:6).

(2) One can bake kitniyos varieties into a type of bread, or cook them into cereal, that might confuse unlettered people, leading them to think that one may eat chometz on Pesach (Taz 453:1, quoting Smak).

(3) Kitniyos varieties bear a physical resemblance to the five grains (Gra ad loc.).

Contemporary Kitniyos Question

A contemporary application that is germane to large-scale food production is the question whether products grown on a medium of soybeans, corn, or other kitniyos are prohibited as kitniyos or not. Some modern poskim refer to these products as “kitniyos shenishtanu, kitniyos that have undergone a transformation, and therefore permit their use. According to this opinion, Vitamin C, sweeteners, enzymes, thickening agents such as xanthan gum, and a variety of other modern food production aids may be used in Pesach products, even though their major source is kitniyos.

The basis for this shaylah is a dispute among early poskim whether a prohibited substance that has completely transformed remains non-kosher. The Rosh (Berachos 6:35) quotes a dispute whether musk, a fragrance and spice derived from the gland of several different animals, is kosher or not. He cites Rabbeinu Yonah as permitting musk, even if it originated as a non-kosher item, because it has become a new substance and thus becomes permitted. Rabbeinu Yonah rallied support for his thesis from the halacha that, if meat or some other prohibited substance lands in honey, it eventually metamorphosizes into honey and becomes permitted. Rosh, after quoting Rabbeinu Yonah’s opinion, concludes by saying, “I think even his proof needs to be proved,” implying that, if the source of honey was a non-kosher item, the Rosh would consider it non-kosher. Nevertheless, the Rosh in a responsum (24:6) quotes Rabbeinu Yonah approvingly. Because this teshuvah is an interesting insight in the laws of Pesach, I quote it verbatim:

“I never saw anyone who prohibited using honey on Pesach out of concern that flour may be mixed in, because this is uncommon, and, if some mixed in before Pesach, it would be permitted. Furthermore, if we began prohibiting honey because of prohibited admixtures, then we must prohibit honey all year round, since some say that they add non-kosher meat that turns to honey. However, Rabbeinu Yonah wrote that, even if they added non-kosher meat, it is permitted to consume the honey, since the meat dissolves and becomes honey — we look at what it became.”

In this responsum, we see the Rosh favorably quoting Rabbeinu Yonah’s position that prohibited substances become permitted when they metamorphosize. Rabbeinu Yonah assumed that although honey has meat added to it, halachic practice still permits it. Thus, custom demonstrates that a transformed product is no longer viewed as its original source.

Although Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 467:8) permits honey purchased from a non-Jew on Pesach, he states that it is permitted, “because we do not assume that any problems occurred,” implying that he disagrees with Rabbeinu Yonah’s reason (Gra; Chok Yaakov). The Rama there prohibits this honey, so he certainly disputes Rabbeinu Yonah’s reason. This is further borne out by a ruling elsewhere in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 114:12) where the Rama prohibits the use of saffron in places where wine or meat is added to it, even though it appears as pure saffron.

The Magen Avraham (216:3) cites proof against Rabbeinu Yonah from the Gemara (Bechoros 6b) that says it is a chiddush that the Torah permits milk, since it is formed from animal blood. Thus we see that had the Torah never permitted milk, we would consider it prohibited blood, despite its obvious physical change. Similarly, reasons Magen Avraham, musk should remain non-kosher despite its physical change, and also honey, or any other forbidden material that underwent a transformation.

Nevertheless, some poskim, including the Taz (Orach Chayim 216:2) and Elyah Rabbah (216:4), rule like Rabbeinu Yonah. How do they respond to Magen Avraham’s proof that milk would be prohibited as blood, despite its radical change, had the Torah not expressly permitted it?

Chok Yaakov (467:16) answers Magen Avraham’s question by pointing out that the Gemara’s question is whether the substance called “milk” is always non-kosher because milk originates as blood. Rabbeinu Yonah’s point is that a non-kosher substance that has transformed to a kosher substance is now treated as kosher.

As we mentioned before, although Shulchan Aruch, Rama, and Magen Avraham reject Rabbeinu Yonah’s approach permitting transformed substances, we find other later authorities permitting them. For example, Chasam Sofer (Shu’t Yoreh Deah #117) permits oil extracted from grape seeds retrieved from non-kosher wine because he considers the oil a new product. He bases his approach on the above-quoted Chok Yaakov, who permitted honey made from non-kosher substances.

Does this mean that the Chasam Sofer followed the analysis of the Chok Yaakov and completely rejected the decisions of Shulchan Aruch, Rama, and Magen Avraham? Not necessarily! Perhaps, he contends that Shulchan Aruch, Rama, and Magen Avraham reject Rabbeinu Yonah’s approach only when it comes to permitting something prohibited by the Torah, but would rely on it when it comes to rabbinic prohibitions, like stam yeinam.

This compromise position would diverge from the Taz and Chok Yaakov, who accepted Rabbeinu Yonah’s approach completely and permitted transformed substances, even when the potential prohibition was min haTorah (as did the Rosh in his Teshuvah).

Two later substantive halachic sources also permitted foods that transformed from rabbinically prohibited substances:

1. Rav Meir Arik permits drinking a coffee-type drink made from roasted dried grape seeds that were the byproducts of prohibited wine (Shu’t Imrei Yosher 2:140).

2. The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav 216:2) implies that he would rely on Rabbeinu Yonah’s position when we are dealing with an issur derabbanan (although in Eishel Avraham [ad loc.] he implies that such a transformed substance is bateil in a mixture, but will maintain its prohibited identity if it was not bateil). The Mishnah Berurah (216:7) quotes the dispute among the poskim as to whether a transformed, prohibited substance becomes permitted. He then concludes that one may use musk as a flavoring agent, when it is less than one part in sixty in the final product. This demonstrates that he accepts the concept of “transformed food,” nishtanu, at least in regard to a rabbinic prohibition.

Many hechsherim permit use of kitniyos shenishtanu, reasoning that since the Mishnah Berurah permitted even a prohibited substance that has changed when its bitul is questionable, he would certainly permit kitniyos that changed, as this is a case that does not qualify even as a rabbinic prohibition. Upon this basis, many responsible hechsherim permit the use of enzymes, sweeteners, xanthan gum, and citric, ascorbic and erythorbic acid made from kitniyos.

Other contemporary poskim contend that although these products are kosher lepesach bedei’evid (after the fact), one should not lechatchilah arrange a hechsher upon this basis. Thus, the rav mentioned at the beginning of the article was upset that they relied lichatchilah on this lenience, feeling that it should be applied only bedei’evid.

BITUL OF KITNIYOS

There is another reason why these products may be eaten, even if one does not want to accept that kitniyos shenishtanu is permitted, or to permit it lichatchilah. The poskim dispute whether kitniyos prohibits other food in which it became mixed. Terumas HaDeshen (#113) prohibits eating food in which kitniyos became mixed. However, accepted practice is to follow the Rama (453:1) who permits it, even if the kitniyos percentage is substantive, as long as it is less than 50% (Chok Yaakov 453:6). Thus, even if we assume that a hechsher that permits kitniyos shenishtanu is mistaken, if one added kitniyos to one’s food by mistake, one may eat the resultant product. Many authorities rule that one may eat the finished product even if the kitniyos was added for flavor and even if added intentionally, provided it was added before Pesach (Shu’t Be’er Yitzchak #11). According to this approach, a sweetener made of kitniyos will not prohibit the final product, even if we assume that kitniyos shenishtanu is prohibited. Therefore, although the rav may be unhappy with Vitamin C derived originally from a kitniyos base as an ingredient in a Pesach product, one may certainly eat the final product.

This leads us directly to our second question above:

My sister married a Sefardi, who eats rice on Pesach. Does this mean that I will be unable to eat in their house on Pesach?

Although I have read responsa from contemporary Rabbonim requiring Ashkenazim to kasher pots used to cook kitniyos, this is by no means without question. As I mentioned above, kitniyos that fell by mistake into other Pesach-dik food becomes bateil, as long as the non-kitniyos food is the majority. Based on this, many authorities contend that Ashkenazim may cook in pots previously used for kitniyos, since whatever kitniyos flavor transferred to food cooked in the pots will certainly be nullified (Shu’t Zera Emes 3:48). Others prohibit using pots that absorbed kitniyos, stating that the minhag is to not use either the kitniyos food or the pots in which such food had been cooked (Shu’t Rav Pe’alim 3:30; Shu’t Maharam Shick, Orach Chayim #241). Still others follow a compromise position, ruling that one should not use the pots within 24 hours of cooking kitniyos, but permitting use of the pots after 24 hours without kashering (Kaf HaChayim 453:27).

By the way, many Sefardim do not eat kitniyos on Pesach, and many follow an approach that prohibits some kitniyos species. For example, most North African Sefardim (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, and Egyptian) do not eat any kitniyos on Pesach, following the same custom as Ashkenazim; this was also the practice of many Turkish communities (Shu’t Lev Chayim 2:33). Although Iraqi communities usually ate kitniyos on Pesach, many families in Baghdad did not eat rice, and most did not eat chickpeas (Rav Pe’alim 3:30). Similarly, the Chida reports that the Sefardim in Yerushalayim, in his day, did not eat rice.

The last question raised above is:

“I grew up in a Sefardi home where we ate kitniyos, but have kept kitniyos, since I married an Ashkenazi man. We will be with my parents for Pesach, who now have two sets of Pesach pots, one set that they keep kitniyos free to accommodate the Ashkenazi family members. May I help my mother cook kitniyos food on Yom Tov that I may not eat?”

Although it should appear that there is no halachic issue here, there is indeed a discussion among poskim whether she may help her mother cook. Shu’t Zera Emes, authored by Rav Yishmael Cohen, an eighteenth century Italian posek of a community that did observe the prohibition of kitniyos, prohibits members of his community from cooking kitniyos for Sefardim who did not observe the custom. His reasoning is very instructive.

The Rama (527:20) quotes an early Ashkenazi posek, the Mahari Weil, who ruled that a person fasting on Yom Tov, perhaps because he had a bad dream, may not cook, either for himself or for someone else. The reasoning of the Mahari Weil is that cooking is actually prohibited on Yom Tov, just like every other melacha, and the Torah permits cooking and other food preparation only because Yom Tov is meant for enjoyment. But someone who is not eating on Yom Tov is treating the day as an other worldly day and therefore may not cook either for himself or for others.

Similarly, the Zera Emes reasons that someone who has accepted not to eat kitniyos may not cook them on Yom Tov, because as far as he is concerned, one may not eat these foods on Yom Tov. Once we have established that one may cook only if one may eat, the same logic dictates that one may cook only what one may eat. According to this line of reasoning, a cook who does not eat gebrochts may not cook gebrochst for a household that does.

However, there are grounds to be lenient and allow this woman to help her mother on Yom Tov, even with the kitniyos food. The Mishnah Berurah quotes several prominent poskim who dispute with Mahari Weil’s line of reasoning, contending that not being able to eat does not prohibit one from cooking on Yom Tov. Thus, a person who is fasting may cook, and certainly someone may cook food for other people, even if she does not eat it herself.

ARE WE FRUMMER?

One question often raised about kitniyos is:

If rice was kosher for Pesach in the days of Chazal, why must we be frumer than Chazal and prohibit what they permitted?

The Mordechai (Pesachim #588) raised this excellent question. He explains that in the days of Chazal, the general public was more knowledgeable and careful, and therefore there was no concern that someone would confuse kitniyos with chometz. Nowadays, however, we cannot allow room for error, since permitting rice and other kitniyos varieties may lead someone to a serious transgression.

CONCLUSION

The continuing prohibition against eating kitniyos applies because of the rule of al titosh Toras imecha, “do not forsake the teaching of your mother” (Mishlei 1:8); that is, customs accepted by the Jewish People (see Berachos 35b). In addition to keeping commandments of the Torah and the prohibitions instituted at the times of the Mishnah and Gemara, we are also required to observe those restrictions that Jewish communities accepted (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 214:2).

The Gemara (Berachos 35b) teaches that the pasuk (Mishlei 1:8) Listen my son …to the teaching of your mother refers to the practices accepted by the Jewish People. Just as a mother has an emotional, instinctive understanding of what is best for her children, Klal Yisroel inherently understands what is best for transmitting to its future generations the spirit of our mission in this world. Therefore, when Klal Yisroel, or a community of Klal Yisroel, adopts a minhag such as kitniyos, there is an inherent understanding of the need and value for this practice that transcends the more obvious reasons for customs. This is why practices such as kitniyos remain binding on the descendants of every member of a community who accepted it, even if its original rationale seems out of date. Wishing all a chag kosher vesomayach!

The Literary Legacy of Horav Shlomoh Wolbe

The seventh yahrzeit of Rav Shlomoh Wolbe, the most published mussar and hashkafah author of our generation, falls on the 17th of Nissan. I would like to share with our readers what I wrote at the time:

Rav Shlomoh Wolbe passed on to the yeshiva shel maalah during Chol HaMoed Pesach, leaving the following tzavaah:

“I request and command that I not be eulogized in any format whatsoever. Furthermore, I should not be described by any title or honor, not as a “gaon,” and not as a “tzadik,” not even by initials such as zt”l.”

In keeping with the Rav’s wishes, we are providing a brief sketch of his life, followed by a description of part of the rich legacy of writings he left behind, but we are omitting the appropriate hesped.

Born in Berlin shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Rav Wolbe’s early education was in Berlin, in the Frankfurt Yeshiva, and then in Rav Botchko’s yeshiva in Montreux, Switzerland. In the 1930’s, he decided to attend Yeshiva in Eastern Europe, spending several years in Mir, Poland, where he became a close talmid of the mashgiach Rav Yerucham Levovitz, and, after Rav Yerucham’s passing, of Rav Chatzkal Levenstein, his successor. Throughout Rav Wolbe’s life, he viewed himself as a talmid muvhak, a disciple, of Rav Yerucham, and as a transmitter of the mussar tradition that traces back to Rav Yisroel Salanter.

THE WAR YEARS

When the Soviet armies overran the town of Mir in the opening weeks of World War II, the Yeshiva fled to Lithuania. Rav Wolbe, who was a German national, was forced to separate from the Yeshiva and spent the war years in neutral Sweden. While in Sweden, Rav Wolbe lectured to the local Jewish population, in essence creating what was possibly the first kiruv rechokim program in the modern world. He and Rav Wolf Jacobson, the local Rav, became the Swedish contacts for the Vaad Hatzalah and also created a seminary for young women who had survived the inferno of Europe, usually without any surviving family members. During this period of his life, Rav Wolbe authored hashkafah seforim in both Swedish and German for outreach purposes.

After the war, Rav Wolbe moved to Petach Tikvah, Eretz Yisroel, where he married his rebbitzen, tichyi, who is a daughter of Rav Avraham Grodzinsky, Hy”d, the last mashgiach of Slobodka. Through his rebbitzen, Rav Wolbe was a nephew of HaRav Yaakov Kaminetzky, zt”l, and a brother-in-law of HaRav Chayim Kreiswurth, zt”l.

AS A MASHGIACH

In 5708\1948, Rav Wolbe joined Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, shlit”a, in opening the Yeshivah Gedolah of Be’er Yaakov. Rav Shapiro became the Rosh Yeshiva, and Rav Wolbe, mashgiach, a position he held for over 35 years. Later, he served as mashgiach in the Lakewood Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel and he opened Yeshivas Givat Shaul. Rav Wolbe gave “mussar shmoozen,” “vaadin” (more informal lectures, usually to smaller groups), and lectures in many yeshivos and other public and private forums. He also created batei mussar, where he delivered shmoozen and vaadin to long-standing talmidim, seasoned talmidei chachomim who developed into great gedolim and mussar experts themselves.

Rav Wolbe published the substance of many of his lectures in several seforim on a wide variety of topics. In each volume, he wrote a forward explaining the purpose for that particular sefer and the place and context where he had delivered the original lectures, shmoozen, or vaadin. His name does not appear in any of his seforim.

DERECH HALIMUD- LEARNING STYLE

Rav Wolbe himself points out a key component to much of his teaching: “One must learn how to approach a statement of Chazal – to study the depths of its pshat and to experience it until the hidden light of Chazal’s statement illuminates you” (Alei Shur, pg. 9).

What did he mean? This sounds a bit like confusing rhetoric.

Often, the simple meaning of Chazal’s statement is unclear. Yet, if we review the statement over and over, suddenly we realize a deeper and truer understanding of what Chazal meant. At this point, the meaning of the statement illuminates us –whereas before, it had eluded us.

ALEI SHUR

Rav Wolbe published his first Hebrew work, Alei Shur, to provide today’s Yeshiva student with a basic guide to assist him to become a ben Torah. This book, which the author spent thirteen years writing and revising, clarifies the basic areas to concentrate working on in order for a person to ascend to higher levels in his personal service of Hashem. It swiftly became a classic and is a standard studied text.

Alei Shur defines a yeshiva as a place where one learns to live, not just to learn (pg. 31). Based on sources in Chazal, Rav Wolbe contends that learning Torah with bad midos such as hate, competition, or jealousy, is not considered learning Torah. Learning Torah must assist in the development of one’s midos, or it is without value.

In the same context, Rav Wolbe quotes the Rambam who notes that the word “chaver” carries two different meanings. It means a close friend, but it also means a talmid chacham (see Rambam, Peirush HaMishnayos, D’mai 2:3). This is because talmidei chachamim become the only true close friends, since their bond to others is based on their essence as giving people. Thus, someone intensely involved in learning Torah will be extremely careful that all interactions he has with people are pleasant.

WHY DO WE KEEP MITZVOS

Rav Wolbe points out the following anomalous problem that sometimes afflicts Torah Jews. Many people observe mitzvos because of habit – that is how they grew up – but not because they enjoy observing the mitzvos. If you ask them, “Why do you keep mitzvos?” their true answer is, “Because that’s how I was brought up.”

Rav Wolbe notes that this answer is equivalent to asking someone, “Why are you eating lunch?”, and he answers, “Because that’s how I was educated.” This answer is obviously ridiculous. We eat because we are hungry.

Similarly, we should be observing mitzvos because we are hungry for these mitzvos. Therefore, we should perform mitzvos with enthusiasm, because we enjoy them (Alei Shur, Pg. 51).

ALEI SHUR AS A GUIDE

Rav Wolbe felt a yeshiva bachur must develop expertise in four basic areas aside from the regular Gemara curriculum of the Yeshiva.

1. He must know the halacha that affects him. In Rav Wolbe’s interpretation, this means he should learn all of Mishnah Berurah.

2. He should know Chumash with Rashi and Ramban. This forms the basis for one’s hashkafah on Yiddishkeit.

3. He should know Pirkei Avos, with the commentary of Rabbeinu Yonah. Chazal gave us Mesechta Avos as a basic primer in midos, and Rabbeinu Yonah’s commentary on Avos is the best method for internalizing this primer.

4. He should be conversant in Mesilas Yesharim, which Rav Wolbe calls “the dictionary for midos.”

Rav Wolbe contends that one who devotes a small amount of his Yeshiva learning to each of these pursuits consistently will complete all four projects within four years.

This assumes, of course, that the person is highly organized. Rav Wolbe believed strongly in being structured. In his own words, “The greater the person is, the more organized is his life” (Alei Shur, Pg. 68).

TEFILLAH

In the Second Chapter of Alei Shur, Rav Wolbe discusses the importance of tefillah to a human being. “The ability to pray defines a human being. Animals also wage war, construct homes, and live social lives. But only mankind can relate to the Ribono shel Olam and daven” (Alei Shur, Pg. 27). Thus, someone who does not pray properly does not perform any daily activities different from an animal. Only one devoted to tefillah demonstrates the uniqueness of the human being.

“Each davening performed with understanding is a qualitatively different experience and has its own unique feeling and quality. It is indeed impossible that two tefillos should be identical — even though the words are identical. One can compare this to riding a train watching a beautiful landscape. Although the scenery may appear the same, the experience is different from moment to moment. At each moment, one sees the scenery from a different perspective.

Similarly, someone davening should constantly see himself and his relationship with Hashem from a different perspective — just as the traveler is looking at the scenery with a different, fresh perspective.”

UPS AND DOWNS

Alei Shur even addresses the emotional ups and downs of the typical yeshiva bachur.

Chapter 6 consists of a correspondence with a yeshiva bachur going through a difficult time, where he sees no success in his learning — he is not remembering what he learned, nor is he focusing enough to understand the shiur or the sugya.

Rav Wolbe points out that a person goes through cycles. There are times when one is not learning well, and one’s davening and midos also suffer. Rav Wolbe notes that the source of this difficulty is usually to be found in comparing oneself to others and coming up short. Instead, acknowledging one’s skills and qualities, and recognizing one’s shortcomings helps one realize that comparing one’s share in learning and avodas Hashem to another’s is counterproductive. Although I may not remember a sugya as well as others do — if I need to review it many times to retain it, I will have a much greater kinyan on the information than do those who absorb the information quickly. (Apparently, Rav Wolbe wrote thousands of such chizuk letters during his lifetime!)

Rav Wolbe focused on his talmidim’s needs, both individually and as a group. He directed his topic and the intensity of his delivery to his audience. One talmid related that he returned to Yeshiva Be’er Yaakov many years after he had studied there in the ‘50s and noted that Rav Wolbe’s shmooze was less intense. When he asked the mashgiach about this, Rav Wolbe answered: “You belong to a different generation. The generation born before the war received shmoozen that were very intensive experiences. Today’s generation cannot tolerate this type of shmooze.”

Yet, when Rav Wolbe published the second volume of “Alei Shur,” thirty years after the first, he notes that the style of the second volume is more intense — since the audience for these shmoozen were his older, more seasoned talmidim. Thus, there is a vast difference between Volume 1 of Alei Shur, which is general hadracha for a ben Torah, and volume 2, which reflects the result of “workshop vaadin” for developing elevated midos.

A talmid once asked Rav Wolbe how long it takes to prepare a shmooze. He answered: “It takes five years to learn how to give a schmooze, five years to learn how to give a vaad, and five years to learn how to talk to someone.”

This was indeed another facet to Rav Wolbe’s personality – the ability to empathize with the suffering of another. Someone bringing him a problem could see the intensity and anguish on his face as he identified with the questioner’s difficulty. Recently, someone related that he was unable to discuss a personal matter with Rav Wolbe because of the latter’s weak condition, and instead discussed the matter with one of Rav Wolbe’s talmidim. He described how he witnessed the same intensity and anguish on the talmid’s face that he was familiar with seeing on Rav Wolbe’s. Thus, Rav Wolbe has successfully trained a new generation of leaders of mussar for Klal Yisroel.

EDUCATING A GENERATION

Among his many works, Rav Wolbe authored two very important guidebooks, one which is now used everywhere to teach chassanim how to be good husbands, and the other, “Zeriya Ubinyan Bechinuch,” on the Torah’s fundamentals of childrearing. In both instances, the purpose of publishing the sefarim is to spread the principles that he taught to a larger audience.

Rav Wolbe noted that sometimes people think they are giving their children proper chinuch, but in reality just the opposite is happening.

He provides the following examples:

Insisting that a child remain at the Shabbos table when he is too young. In this instance, although the parents feel that this is important for the child’s chinuch, it is totally counter-productive to force a child to do what he is not ready for. The expectations for a child must always be appropriate to his age.

Parents who grew up in impoverished homes often raise their children by spoiling them- to “make up” for their own impoverished origins. However, this is counterproductive for the child’s needs.

Often parents say, or imply, that their child should achieve what the parents accomplished, or what the parents aspired to accomplish – even when this may not be within the child’s capabilities or inclinations. The parents may want their son to be a Rosh Yeshiva or at least to be involved in full-time learning, but the child’s personality is more appropriate to being an elementary school rebbe, an outreach professional, or a frum businessman!

The result is that the child never learns to serve Hashem in his own unique way. He is being forced to be what he cannot be, and therefore will not be successful at it — while at the same time, he is being hampered from developing to his own greatest potential. In the end, he ends up becoming a non-success.

Timing is everything in child-rearing. One should neither start too early nor wait until too late. Also, there must be a tremendous balance between too much involvement in the child’s growth and too little.

Rav Wolbe was opposed to hitting children, both by parents and by mechanchim. He had his own original way of explaining the passage from Mishlei “Chosech shivto soneh bno,” “One who withholds the rod, hates his child.” To fully appreciate Rav Wolbe’s explanation of this passage and his approach, I refer you to read what he writes himself. (The book is available in English translation.)

OUTREACH MANUALS

Possibly the most unusual of Rav Wolbe’s writings are his books “Bein Sheishes Le’asor,” and “Ohr LaShav” which are based on lectures he gave to non-observant audiences after the Six Day War.

During the Six Day War a new teshuvah movement began, as many secular people recognized the miracle of the war. Rav Wolbe asked a shaylah from Rav Chatzkal Levenstein, who was at the time the mashgiach in Yeshivas Ponevitz, whether he should become involved in outreach in addition to his other responsibilities. Rav Chatzkal ruled that whoever is capable of being involved in kiruv rechokim is obligated to do so, and that Rav Wolbe should be involved to the extent that it did not disturb his responsibilities in the yeshiva.

As a result, Rav Wolbe gave lectures on the basics of Jewish belief at army bases, in secular Kibbutzim, and to academic audiences. Rav Wolbe began his first lecture with these words, “You invited me to tell you about Judaism, and why the religious parties often create problems for the general public.” (Bear in mind that non-observant audiences in Israel are, unfortunately, often hostile to Torah and observant Jews.) Another lecture began, “Many ask, is it possible to change halacha to accommodate the modern world, and how can a modern world be run according to halacha?”

Notice that he was unafraid to deal with controversy and felt that he could convince his hostile audience of the beauty of Torah. As a well-known mechanech once told me “I doubt that there is a baal teshuvah today who is not influenced by his teachings.”

In these lectures, Rav Wolbe blended halacha and hashkafah in such a way that someone who was totally non-observant would be drawn to the beauty of Yiddishkeit, while, at the same time, someone halachically committed would suddenly gain new insights into his observance of mitzvos. A secondary purpose in publishing these lectures was to teach frum people how they could influence others and be mekareiv rechokim.

Rav Wolbe’s scientific knowledge of the world shows through in these lectures, as well as the importance he placed on being able to communicate the beauty of Torah in a sophisticated way. Indeed, a talmid told me that he once gave a vaad in the Yeshiva on the correct way to write a letter!

BECOMING A “BAR DAAS”

Personally, I have found one of Rav Wolbe’s smaller seforim to be even more powerful. A few years ago, he published a volume entitled “Pirkei Kinyan Daas,” “Chapters on Acquiring Daas.” (I have intentionally not translated the word “daas,” because I think translating it here defeats the purpose of Rav Wolbe’s work.) This book is based on seventeen lectures (shmoozen) given over a period of 40 years.

Rav Wolbe notes the following:

To grow as a Torah Jew, a person must have daas.

Most individuals do not have a natural sense of daas and need to be taught. Our generation is particularly short on daas. This can be demonstrated by the following:

1. The rampant problem today of lack of self-confidence, which he contends is a modern phenomenon.

2. People being frozen into indecision by their “feelings.”

3. Accepting certain realities that we should endeavor to change, while at the same time attempting to change things that we should accept.

4. Overreaction to frustration.

5. Lack of marital stability.

What is daas and how does one achieve it? This is the subject of the sefer, which is a “must read.” But then, all of Rav Wolbe’s writings are “Must Reads!”

Much of Rav Wolbe’s thought was never published, and we hope to see further dissemination of his machshava in the near future, so his works can impact a wider audience. Tehei Nafsho Tzerura Bitzror HaChayim. May he be a meilitz Yosher for Klal Yisroel, a People he truly loved, collectively and individually.