Must I Immerse a Candy Dish?

Question: A Sweet Saga

Avraham Sweet, the proprietor of Candy Andy, wants to know:

“I have a gift business in which I sell glass candy bowls filled with candies, fruits, and nuts. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

Introduction:

In Parshas Matos, the Torah teaches: Regarding the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become kosher, yet it must also be purified in mikveh water. In addition, that which was not used in fire must pass through water” (Bamidbar 31:22-23). From these verses we derive the mitzvah of tevilas keilim, the mitzvah to immerse metal implements in a kosher mikveh or spring prior to using them for food. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) notes that this immersion is required even if the vessel has never been used. In other words, this mitzvah is unrelated to the requirement to kasher equipment that was used for non-kosher food and to the laws related to purifying implements that became tamei.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) further states that in addition to metal items intended for food use, we are also required to immerse glass dishes, because both metal and glass share a similarity – they are repairable by melting and reconstructing. This renders them different from vessels made of stone, bone, wood or earthenware, all of which cannot be repaired this way.

What Types of Dishes must be Immersed?

The Gemara cites a dialogue about the mitzvah of immersing new vessels that is highly instructive:

“Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabbah bar Avuha: ‘One can derive from the verse that one must immerse even brand new items, because used vessels that were purged in fire are as kosher as those that are brand-new, and yet they require immersion.’

“Rav Sheishes then asked him: ‘If it is true that the mitzvah of immersing vessels is not because of kashrus concerns, then maybe one is required to immerse even clothing shears?’

“Rav Nachman responded: ‘The Torah only mentions vessels that are used for meals (klei seudah)'” (Avodah Zarah 75b).

Rav Sheishes suggested that if the immersion of utensils is not a means of kosherizing a non-kosher vessel, then perhaps we have many more opportunities to fulfill this mitzvah, and it applies to any type of paraphernalia — even cameras, cell phones and clothing shears!

To this, Rav Nachman retorted that the Torah only includes items used for klei seudah — literally, implements used for a meal. Thus, the mitzvah of tevilas keilim applies only to utensils used for preparing food, and not those intended for other purposes.

Klei Seudah – Appliances Used for Meals

We should note that Rav Nachman did not require immersion for all food preparation utensils, but only required immersion of klei seudah, items used for meals. We will soon see how this detail affects many of the halachos of tevilas keilim. But, alas, what exactly are considered klei seudah, and how is this different from simply saying that all food implements must be immersed?

Klei Sechorah — “Merchandise”

The halachic authorities note that a storekeeper does not toivel vessels he is planning to sell, since for him they are not klei seudah, utensils that he intends to prepare food with or eat with, but items he intends to sell. Later authorities therefore coined a term “klei sechorah,” utensils used as merchandise, ruling that these items do not require immersion until they are purchased by the person intending to use them (based on Taz, Yoreh Deah 120:10). Furthermore, several halachic authorities contend that the storekeeper cannot immerse the vessels prior to sale since there is as yet no requirement to immerse them (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 8:70). This is based on a comment of the Rama which implies that tevilah performed before one is obligated to immerse a utensil, such as while it is still owned by a gentile, does not fulfill the mitzvah and must be repeated after the utensil becomes the property of a Jew (Rama, Yoreh Deah 120:9). Thus, reciting a beracha on this precipitative tevilah would be a beracha levatalah.

Based on this discussion, we can now address our above-mentioned question:

“I have a gift business in which I sell glass candy bowls filled with candies, fruits, and nuts. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

I was actually involved in the situation that precipitated this question. We received a filled glass candy bowl as a gift, including a note from the proprietor that the bowl had already been toiveled. I called the owner of the business to inform him that, in my opinion, not only is he not required to toivel the dish, but I suspect that the tevilah is premature and therefore does not help. My reasoning is that, although the proprietor fills his dishes with nuts and candies, from his perspective the bowl is merchandise. The dish therefore qualifies as klei sechorah which one need not immerse, and therefore immersing them does not fulfill the mitzvah. As a result, not only is the proprietor not obligated to immerse the dishes, but doing so fulfills no mitzvah, and it is a beracha levatalah for him to recite a beracha on this tevilah. Including a note that the dish was toiveled is detrimental, since the recipient will assume that he has no requirement to toivel this dish, whereas in fact the end user is required to immerse it. For these reasons, I felt it incumbent on myself to bring this to the attention of the owner of the business.

The proprietor was very appreciative. He told me that in truth it was a big hassle for him to toivel the dishes, but he had been assuming that halacha required him to do so before he could fill them with nuts and candy.

Shortly after writing these words, I received the following shaylah:

“I wanted to ask you whether one must toivel an item that one is giving away as a present. When I studied the topic, I concluded that even if I purchase a utensil that requires tevilah, but I am planning on giving it to someone, it does not have a chiyuv tevilah until it reaches the recipient’s hands. Only then does it become kli seudah. This would also apply, for example, if someone gave a shalach manos bowl filled with candy, etc.; the utensil wouldn’t require tevilah until the person receives it. What do you think?”

To which I answered:

“It seems to me that since one is purchasing the item for someone’s personal use, and not to sell, that it should have a chiyuv tevilah at this point. Only items meant to be merchandise are absolved from tevilah.”

And then I received the following response:

“Who says that the recipient is going to use the utensil at his table? Indeed, I had the very same shaylah tonight. My wife took a small receptacle that was holding a plant, filled it with nuts and dried fruit, and brought it to someone as a present. Who said that the recipient will use it afterwards for food? Maybe it will be a candleholder, a decorative piece, etc. It doesn´t become kli seudah until she decides what she will use it for.”

The point the correspondent is making is that it may indeed be that this item will never be a food utensil, and therefore never be required to be immersed. Only the end user determines whether the item is indeed a food utensil, and therefore until he decides what to do with it, there is no requirement to immerse it.

Conclusion

According to Rav Hirsch, metal vessels, which require mankind’s mining, extracting and processing, represent man’s mastery over the earth and its materials. Whereas vessels made of earthenware or wood only involve man shaping the world’s materials to fit his needs, the manufacture of metal demonstrates man’s creative abilities to utilize natural mineral resources to fashion matter into a usable form. Consuming food, on the other hand, serves man’s most basic physical nature. Use of metal food vessels, then, represents the intellectual aspect of man serving his physical self, which, in a sense, is the opposite of why we were created — which was to use our physical self to assist our intellect to do Hashem’s will. Specifically in this instance, the Torah requires that the items produced be immersed in a mikveh before we use them, to endow them with increased kedusha before they are used for food. This demonstrates that although one may use one’s intellect for physical purposes, when doing so one must focus on the spiritual aspect that is served by the physical.

*Name has been changed to protect the confidence of the individuals involved.

When There Is a Will, the Relatives May Complain

Yonasan, who was originally adopted by non-observant parents, called me with the following shaylah:

“My parents, meaning the couple who adopted me, eventually divorced, and later my father remarried, although there was a halachic problem with his second marriage. My adoptive father was a kohen, and his second wife, Martha, was a divorcee. Recently, my father passed away. My father’s final will, which was drafted when he was ill and very dependent on Martha, was completely different from his previous will, and left virtually all his property to her. Uncle Jack, my adoptive father’s brother, is very upset about the will, believing that this was certainly not my father’s intention, and that it can be overturned in court. This would make me the legal heir to my father’s estate, although halachically, I am not his son. Uncle Jack wants to file a lawsuit over the matter; however, he has no legal recourse to do so, since the civil law does not consider him my father’s heir. May I file a lawsuit to overturn the will?”

This shaylah is indeed as complicated halachically as it sounds, and actually involves three different areas of halacha:

I. Who is the heir?

II. What is the halachic status of a will?

III. May one file the lawsuit in secular court?

In addition, there is a fourth halachic issue that must be addressed, a question of yibum, which I will discuss later.

I will explain each area of halacha mentioned above in order to explain the procedure that I suggested that Yonasan follow.

I. Who is the heir?

Although civil law considers Yonasan the child of his adoptive parents for all matters, including his being their legal heir, the adoption did not make him their biological son. Indeed, the Gemara states that someone who raises a child is considered as if he had given birth to him;[1] however, the adopted child does not inherit, unless he receives the property as some form of gift, as I will explain.

Thus, although Yonasan is his father’s legal heir (from a civil law perspective, if we ignore the will), halacha does not consider him an heir automatically, unless his father gave him the property in a halachically correct will. Since the existing will made other accommodations, Yonasan receives nothing from his father’s estate halachically, neither as an automatic heir nor as the receiver of gifts through his father’s will. Thus, Yonasan cannot make a financial claim against his stepmother for his father’s estate, since it does not belong to him. If the will is valid, then the property belongs to Martha, his stepmother. If the will is invalid, the property belongs to Uncle Jack.

Why Uncle Jack?

If a man dies without biological children and makes no halachic provisions for his estate, then his closest heir is his father, who, in this case, is already deceased. The next closest relative is any surviving brother. In this case, there is one biological brother of the deceased, Uncle Jack. Thus, he is the halachic heir of Yonasan’s father, and if indeed the will is halachically invalid, the property halachically belongs to him, although he may not be able to take possession of it according to civil law.

Halachically, a woman does not inherit from her husband as next of kin. Instead, the Torah gives her the rights of the kesubah, provides that she may live in her late husband’s house and guarantees her income and support from his property. Martha is entitled to these financial rights if she was halachically married to Yonasan’s father, even if the marriage fell into the category of a halachically prohibited marriage. (One method whereby Martha and Yonasan’s father could have been halachically married in a prohibited marriage would be if they had deceived an Orthodox rabbi, dishonestly getting his agreement to perform their ceremony. There are others.) Thus, if Martha proves that she was halachically married to Yonasan’s father, she will be entitled to this support, even though she was a divorcee and he was a kohen.[2]

II. Is the will valid?

According to civil law, a person has the right to choose his heirs and thereby to choose to whom he distributes his earthly wealth after passing on. However, according to the Torah, a person does not have the ability to choose his heirs, nor can he arrange to give away property after death. When a man dies, the Torah instructs us how to distribute his assets, through the laws of yerusha.

How can someone leave his property to his adopted child?

There are methods whereby one can transfer his property to his adopted child, or to anyone else, for that matter, who is not a halachic heir. One method is to draw up a will, and then make a kinyan that transfers possession of the bequeathed property to the beneficiary of the will. (I mention this method as a possible illustration, since it does not work in all situations.) This can be done in a way that the person wishing to bequeath his property maintains ownership over it in the meantime and leaves him the right to change his bequest later. Some poskim, albeit a minority, contend that a legally valid will alone constitutes a kinyan. These authorities reason that arranging a legally valid will, knowing that the government will transfer property as a result, is halachically equivalent to making a kinyan.[3] However, most poskim maintain that a standard civil will is not halachically valid.

Yonasan’s father was not observant and did not have his lawyer make the will halachically valid. (Unfortunately, many observant Jews do not attend to this important matter either. Just as it is important for a person to have a will drawn up, it is important to make sure that it is halachically valid.) Therefore, many poskim would consider Uncle Jack to be the halachic heir of the estate, yet he cannot file a civil suit concerning the property, since he is not an interested party according to civil law. But before we even get to this step in the discussion, we need to discuss whether the Torah permits Yonasan or Uncle Jack to sue in civil court.

III. Arka’os, the prohibition against filing a suit in a secular court.

A Jew may not litigate against a fellow Jew in civil court,[4] even if both parties agree.[5] This is known as the prohibition against using arka’os. Someone who uses court systems not sanctioned by the Torah performs a chillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s Name, because he demonstrates that he feels that G-d’s Torah cannot resolve his financial matters.[6] In the words of the Rambam,[7] “Whoever has his case judged by non-Jewish laws or courts, even if their laws are the same (as the Torah), is a rasha. It is as if he blasphemed and raised his hand against the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu.”[8] Someone who brought litigation to a secular court is invalidated from being a chazzan for Yomim Nora’im.[9] In addition, he will probably transgress the violation of stealing (gezel), since the property he receives is not his according to halacha.

What if the Other Party Refuses to Go to Beis Din?

This problem is, unfortunately, neither uncommon nor recent, and apparently occurred even at the time of the Gemara.[10] If this happens, the halachically correct procedure is for the plaintiff to have beis din summon the defendant. If the defendant fails to appear in beis din or indicates that he will not appear, the beis din authorizes the plaintiff to sue in civil court.[11] Under these circumstances, the plaintiff has not violated the prohibition of going to arka’os, since he acted according to halacha.

(It should be noted that even if someone is authorized to sue in civil court, he is only entitled to receive what halacha entitles him. It could happen that the civil court awards him more money than he is entitled to according to halacha. Therefore, he should ask a posek after winning the litigation how much of the award he may keep. The balance he would be required to return to the other party.)

Applying these rules to our case means that Uncle Jack may file a suit in beis din against Martha. Although Uncle Jack would like Yonasan to sue in civil courts, Yonasan may not sue according to halacha for two different reasons:

(1) One may not sue in civil court without permission from beis din.

(2) Yonasan has no halachic grounds to claim his adopted father’s estate since he is halachically not an heir.

Does this mean that this was the end of the case?

No. Yonasan explained to Uncle Jack the halachic background to the shaylah. Uncle Jack feels strongly that Martha took unfair advantage of his ill brother, which is the reason why he and his attorney feel that the will can be easily overturned in civil court. Uncle Jack then asked Yonasan if there is any way that Yonasan could proceed with the claim.

Harsha’ah

Enter harsha’ah, which is the halachic equivalent of a power of attorney, into the picture. A harsha’ah allows someone who is not an interested party in the litigation to sue as if he is an interested party. In this instance, Uncle Jack, as the halachic heir, can authorize Yonasan by means of a harsha’ah to sue Martha in beis din. If Martha ignores the summons or indicates that she will not respond to it, the beis din authorizes Yonasan and Uncle Jack to pursue the matter in civil court. The court will not accept Uncle Jack as a plaintiff against the will, since they do not recognize him as the heir. Although the court does not recognize Uncle Jack’s claim, Yonasan may now sue in civil court, based on the beis din’s authorization. Halachically, the basis of the civil suit is to save Uncle Jack the money that is his, even though neither the civil court nor Uncle Jack himself accepts that the money is his.

At this point in the discussion, Yonasan e-mailed me a further question:

“Dear Rav Kaganoff,

“In the event that my uncle does choose, with permission from a beis din, to sue my father’s widow in civil court, *should* I or merely *may* I act on his behalf?”

Indeed, this is a difficult question. In general, saving someone’s money is a mitzvah, and therefore, if someone sued in beis din and was ignored, it is a mitzvah to help him save his money in civil court, providing that this approach was properly authorized by beis din. This act of chesed is included under the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah, returning a lost object to its proper owner.

In our instance, I was less certain if this is considered hashavas aveidah, since Uncle Jack does not consider the money his and is only planning to give it to Yonasan. Is Yonasan required to assist in helping Uncle Jack claim the money, knowing that Uncle Jack will probably assume that it is Yonasan’s and give it to him? Furthermore, since there might be poskim who feel that the money is legitimately Martha’s, one could certainly rely on their opinions to rule that it is not a requirement for him to be involved in the litigation. Thus, there are two different considerations as to why he may not be considered “saving someone’s money”:

(1) Can you say that he is saving someone else’s money, when that person intends to give it to him?

(2) According to some opinions, the money may not be Uncle Jack’s, but Martha’s. Although he is permitted to follow the opinion that the money is Uncle Jack’s, is he required to?

Another consideration: Chalitzah

At this point in the discussion, I introduced a new topic to Yonasan, that of the mitzvah of chalitzah. This requires some explanation. If a man dies without having biological children, there is a mitzvah for his brother to perform a procedure called chalitzah, which permits the widow to remarry. In addition, the chalitzah is a tremendous tikun neshamah for the departed. The mitzvah applies even if the widow is no longer of child-bearing age, and even if the couple married after she was beyond child-bearing age.

Many people do not realize that, if a couple has adopted children, but no biological children, the mitzvah of chalitzah still applies. Since Yonasan’s father had no biological children, his widow (assuming that they were halachically married, as she claims) is a yevamah, who requires chalitzah from Yonasan’s uncle to permit her to remarry.

I quote my letter to Yonasan:

“If your father’s marriage to his last wife was halachically valid, then there is a requirement/mitzvah for your uncle to perform chalitzah,[12] even if your father’s widow has no intention of remarrying and is not observant.”

Yonasan replied:

“I’m surprised it didn’t occur to me.  Question, though — even if they did get married with chuppah and kiddushin, she was a grusha, and he a kohen, so the marriage was forbidden.  He claimed to have asked a rabbi, who permitted the marriage on the basis that since he was disabled, he would not be allowed to perform the avodah, even if the Beis HaMikdash was standing. I did not think this is correct [indeed it is not], but I didn’t see any point in making an issue of it.  Was he right?  Assuming that his marriage was halachically unacceptable. Would that in any way impact on chalitzah?”

To which I replied:

“There is absolutely no halachic basis to any of the reasons he told you to permit this marriage. I presume that he mentioned these reasons to relieve his own conscience, and that he never asked a shaylah; halachically, he was prohibited from marrying a divorcee.

“A halacha-abiding rabbi would not perform such a ceremony, unless he was unaware either that your father was a kohen or that his wife was a grusha. However, even if there had been no proper halachic ceremony, they might have been considered married according to halacha, particularly since they considered themselves married. Thus, although this marriage was forbidden, there may be a requirement to perform chalitzah. The mitzvah of chalitzah applies even in the case of a kohen who marries a divorcee.[13] Is there anyone where they live knowledgeable enough to arrange this for them?”

Yonasan responded to my inquiry:

“There are some very prominent talmidei chachomim living near where both my uncle and my stepmother live.  However, they live a considerable distance from one another. I doubt that the widow is aware of the need for a chalitzah; I also doubt that she’ll object to it if it’s made easy for her. My uncle is, however, totally irreligious. How would I get him to agree to it and to travel the distance involved? He is unlikely to drop everything and fly to where she is to perform what he would see as an unimportant religious ceremony to help out a woman with whom he is upset.  What if he were to appoint someone else as a shaliach over the phone?  Would that be acceptable?”

To which I responded,

“Unfortunately, chalitzah cannot be performed through shelichus (agency). It sounds as if the most likely way for this to happen is to wait until a time that you know that they will be near one another  and then plan carefully how to present it to them. Alternatively, simply mention to them that chalitzah is a big tikun neshamah for your father, whom they both liked (I presume), and ask if they can keep it in mind in future travel plans.

“By the way, the mitzvah is your uncle’s mitzvah to perform, not hers.”

As of this writing, I do not know if Yonasan decided to proceed with the litigation over the will, and I presume that no action has resulted concerning the chalitzah. However, this situation affords us the opportunity to discuss halachos with which many people are unfamiliar, and it provides a tremendous opportunity to make people aware of a number of different mitzvos.

It is important to realize that legal rights and responsibilities are never governed by secular law. A Torah Jew realizes that Hashem’s Torah is all-encompassing, and that halacha directs every aspect of one’s life. Thus, halacha governs all financial aspects of our lives, and one should be careful to ask shaylos about one’s business dealings.

Indeed, through this entire halachic conversation, I was exceedingly impressed by Yonasan’s ability not to be swayed by financial considerations, but to be certain that what he did would be the perfectly correct approach halachically. In fact, he was shortly thereafter awarded a tremendous financial windfall – no doubt, for his adherence to halacha, despite whatever financial temptation existed.


[1] Megillah 13a; Sanhedrin 19b

[2] Mishnah Kesubos 100b

[3] Shu’t Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 1:104

[4] Gittin 88b

[5] Ramban, beginning of Parshas Mishpatim

[6] Midrash Tanchuma, Mishpatim #3

[7] Hilchos Sanhedrin 26:7

[8] See also Rashi’s comments on Shemos 21:1

[9] Mishnah Berurah 53:82

[10] Bava Kama 92b, as explained by Rosh

[11] Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 26:2

[12] Mishnah Yevamos 20a

[13] Mishnah Yevamos 20a

What Will the Neighbors Think? – Understanding the Halachos of Maris Ayin

When Yehudah’s friend the Adulami was unable to locate Tamar, Yehudah reacts: “What can I do? This will lead to an embarrassing situation.”

This sounds like a good week (parshas Va’Yeshev) to study the halachos of maris ayin.

Question # 1:  My boss asked me to attend a lunch meeting with a new client in a non-kosher restaurant. May I attend the meeting, or do I violate maris ayin if I am seen in a treif restaurant? If it is permissible to attend the meeting, may I order a cup of coffee or a fruit plate?

Question # 2: When I serve coffee after a fleishig meal, I like to put non-dairy creamer on the table in a small pitcher because the original container is unsightly. Recently, someone told me that I may not place the creamer on the fleishig table unless it is in its original container. Is this true?

Question # 3: Hyman Goldman would like to retire and sell his business, Hymie Goldman’s Bakery, to a non-Jew who will keep it open on Shabbos. Must he require the gentile to change the shop’s name?

Question #4: My not-yet-observant cousin is making a bar mitzvah in a Reform temple. We have a good relationship, and he is very curious about exploring authentic Judaism. May I attend the bar mitzvah?

Answer: Most of us are familiar with the prohibition of maris ayin, avoiding doing something that may raise suspicion that one violated halacha. However, most of us are uncertain when this rule applies, and when it does not.

Here are some examples of maris ayin mentioned by the Mishnah and Gemara:

A. One may not hang out wet clothes on Shabbos because neighbors might think that he washed them on Shabbos.[1] This is true even when all the neighbors realize that he is a meticulously observant individual.

B. Officials who entered the Beis HaMikdash treasury did so barefoot and wearing garments that contained no hemmed parts or wide sleeves, and certainly no pockets or cuffs, so that it would be impossible for them to hide any coins.[2] The Mishnah states that this practice is derived from the pasuk vihiyisem nekiyim meiHashem umiyisroel,[3] — Do things in a way that is as obviously clean in the eyes of people as it is viewed by Hashem. Rav Moshe Feinstein contends that some types of maris ayin are prohibited min haTorah![4]

C. Tzedakah collectors should get other people to convert their currency for them and not convert it themselves, because people might think that they gave themselves a more favorable exchange rate.[5]

A Curious Contradiction

The concept of it being a mitzvah to avoid a situation of maris ayin is a fascinating curiosity, because it contradicts another important Torah mitzvah – to judge people favorably. This mitzvah requires us to judge a Torah Jew favorably when we see him act in a questionable way.[6] If everyone were to judge others favorably at all times, there would never be a reason for the law of maris ayin. Yet we see that the Torah is concerned that someone might judge a person unfavorably and suspect him of violating a mitzvah.

Indeed, a person’s actions must be above suspicion; at the same time, people observing him act in a suspicious way are required to judge him favorably.

Entering a Treif Restaurant

May I enter a non-kosher restaurant to use the bathroom, to eat a permitted item, or to attend a professional meeting?

A prominent rav once gleaned insight on this shaylah from early poskim, who discussed the kashrus issues of Jewish travelers. In the sixteenth century, there was a dispute between the Rama and the Maharshal whether a Jewish traveler may eat herring and pickles prepared and served in non-kosher inns.[7] The Rama ruled that, under the circumstances, a traveler could eat these items on the inn’s non-kosher plates, whereas the Maharshal prohibited using the inn’s plates. However, neither sage prohibited either eating or entering the inn because of maris ayin; from this, the rav inferred that entering a non-kosher eating establishment does not violate maris ayin.

However, Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that entering a non-kosher eatery is a violation of maris ayin.[8] Why does he not compare this law to the inn of the earlier poskim?

The answer is that in the sixteenth century, the inn functioned as a place of shelter and lodging, not only as a place providing food. Therefore, someone seeing you enter the inn would have assumed that you were looking for a place to sleep, and that you had no intention of eating non-kosher food there. Thus, the sixteenth-century inn is comparable to a twenty-first century hotel that contains non-kosher restaurants. There is certainly no maris ayin prohibition to visit a hotel, since a passerby would assume that you are entering the hotel for reasons other than eating non-kosher food. However, the primary reason people enter a non-kosher restaurant is to eat treif food. Therefore, Rav Moshe rules that it is prohibited to enter a treif restaurant because of maris ayin.

Likely? Or almost likely?

This leads us to a practical question. May one do something that could be interpreted in different ways, one of which involves violating the Torah and the other not? Is this activity prohibited because of maris ayin? For example, someone hanging up wet clothes on Shabbos may have just washed them, or he may have just accidentally dropped them into a basin of water or used them to mop up a spill. Yet the halacha is that this is prohibited because of maris ayin. This implies that since the most common reason for hanging out clothes is that they were recently washed, the activity is prohibited because of maris ayin.

Similarly, there are many reasons why one might enter a treif restaurant: to attend a meeting, to use the comfort facilities, or to drink a cup of water. On the other hand, the most common reason people enter a non-kosher restaurant is to eat non-kosher food. This is why Rav Moshe prohibits entering a treif restaurant.

However, Rav Moshe rules that under highly extenuating circumstances, such as when one is famished and there is nowhere else to eat, one may enter a treif restaurant. This is based on another principle of Chazal that when one suffers a great deal, one may override a rabbinic prohibition to alleviate the pain.[9] For this reason, Rav Moshe permits someone who is famished to eat kosher food in a non-kosher restaurant. Based on his ruling, one could presumably permit entering a treif restaurant to use the restroom, if it is the only one readily available.

The Company Cafeteria

Many workplaces provide a cafeteria where one can purchase (non-kosher) food or bring in one’s own food. Alternatively, some cafeterias have packaged kosher food available. In either of these situations, there is no concern for maris ayin, since people enter the cafeteria to eat kosher food also.

May I Attend a Meeting where they will serve Non-Kosher food?

Rabbonim rule differently on this issue; therefore, one should ask a shaylah of his own rav. Personally, I believe that the answer depends on how secure one is at one’s employment. If you feel that skipping the meeting might jeopardize your employment, then you may attend, since losing your job entails a great amount of suffering. However, if you feel that it will not jeopardize your employment, you may not attend.

Are there new Maris Ayin cases?

If a situation exists that could be a case of maris ayin, but is not mentioned by Chazal, is it prohibited because of maris ayin? There is actually an early dispute about this question, between the Rashba and the Pri Chodosh. A little explanation is necessary before we present this case: Chazal prohibited placing fish blood, which is perfectly kosher, in a serving bowl since someone might confuse it with animal blood.[10] Based on this Gemara, the Rashba prohibited cooking meat in human milk, even though human milk is halachically pareve.[11] Similarly, the Rama prohibits cooking meat in “almond milk” — a white, milk-like liquid made from almonds that probably looked similar to our non-dairy creamer or soy milk — because of its similar appearance to cow’s milk. One may cook meat in almond milk and serve it only if one leaves pieces of almond in the “milk” to call attention to its non-dairy origin.[12] The Pri Chadash disagrees with the Rama, contending that we should not create our own cases of maris ayin and one should prohibit only those items that were prohibited by Chazal.[13] The consensus of poskim is to prohibit these new maris ayin cases, following the position of Rashba and Rama.

Based on this ruling, some contemporary authorities contend that one should not serve pareve, non-dairy creamer after a fleishig meal, since someone might think that something milchig is being served after a fleishig meal. They permit serving the “creamer” in the original container that clearly identifies it as a pareve product, similar to serving the meat cooked with almond milk, provided there are some almonds in the “milk.”

However, other poskim contend that today no maris ayin issue exists germane to these products, since the average person knows about the ready availability of pareve creamers, cheeses, ice creams, margarines, soy and rice milk, and the like.[14]

This leads us to a new discussion —

Maybe this is no longer Maris Ayin?

If something was prohibited as maris ayin in earlier generations, does it become permitted if there is no longer a maris ayin issue? Can we prove that the prohibition against maris ayin disappears if the issue is no longer a concern? Is it correct that although, at one time, one could not cook meat in almond milk, today one may cook meat in soy milk, since pareve milk substitutes are readily available? Similarly, may one serve margarine at a fleishig meal?

We can gather proof for answering this shaylah from the following case:

One may not hire a gentile to perform work on Shabbos that a Jew may not do. However, a non-Jew may operate his own business on Shabbos, even if he rents his facility from a Jew.

The Gemara rules that a Jew may rent his field to a non-Jewish sharecropper, since the gentile is not his employee. However, a Jew may not rent his bathhouse to a gentile, since the non-Jew may operate the bathhouse on Shabbos.[15]

How is a Bathhouse different from a Field?

Why may I rent the non-Jew my field, but not my bathhouse? What is the difference between the two?

At the time of the Gemara, it was common to rent fields, and thus someone seeing a gentile work a Jewish-owned field on Shabbos would assume that the gentile rented it. He would not think that the Jew hired the gentile to work for him, which would constitute a violation of the laws of Shabbos.

However in antiquity, it was uncommon to rent out a bathhouse. The person who owned the bathhouse hired employees to operate the business for him. Therefore, someone seeing a gentile operate a Jewish-owned bathhouse on Shabbos might assume that the Jew hired gentiles to operate his bathhouse on Shabbos, which violates halacha. Because of this, Chazal prohibited renting a bathhouse to a gentile, because it would result in maris ayin when people see the gentile operating the Jew’s bathhouse on Shabbos.[16]

Shulchan Aruch[17] rules that if it is common in a certain city for people to rent out their bathhouses, one may rent one’s bathhouse to a gentile, despite the Gemara’s ruling. There is no maris ayin, since people in this city will assume that the gentile rented the bathhouse from its owner. Thus, the maris ayin prohibition of the Gemara is rescinded in places and times when the concern of suspicion no longer exists. Similarly, we can conclude that nowadays, someone seeing non-dairy creamer served at a fleishig meal will assume that it is a pareve milk substitute, and that there is no issue of maris ayin.

Question # 3: Hyman Goldman would like to retire and sell his business, Hymie Goldman’s Bakery, to a non-Jew, who will keep the business open on Shabbos. Must he require the non-Jew to change the name of the shop?

First, some background to this shaylah.

Rama permits renting a business that people do not associate with a Jewish owner to a gentile.[18] Thus, a Jew may buy the regional franchise of a non-Jewish company and rent or franchise out the individual stores to gentiles. Acharonim dispute whether he may do this even where the Jew is sometimes involved in the management of the stores.[19] Similarly, a Jew who owns a shopping mall may rent the stores to gentiles, since people assume that each business is owned individually. However, if the rent includes a percentage of sales, he might thereby be receiving sechar Shabbos, profits from work performed on Shabbos. One should ask a shaylah, since the halacha in this case depends on the specific circumstances involved.

However, although a Jew may rent his facility to a gentile tenant, it is unclear whether he may sell the business to a gentile who will keep the Jew’s name on the business and have it open on Shabbos. Even if passersby realize that there are now exclusively non-Jews staffing Hymie’s, they may think that Hyman still owns the shop and is hiring gentiles to operate the business for him. I discussed this shaylah with several different rabbonim and received different answers.

Here is another interesting maris ayin shaylah:

“I will be working in a town with very few observant people. There is an observant woman in town who lives alone, who will be away the entire time I am there. She is very willing to let me use her house while she is away. Is there a problem that people may not realize that she is away, and they might think that we are violating the prohibition of yichud – being secluded with someone of the other gender to whom one is not closely related?”

Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses this almost identical shaylah. Someone wants to sleep and eat at a widow’s house when she is out of town. Is there a concern of maris ayin, because people will think that he is staying at her house when she is home, and that they are violating the prohibition of yichud? Rav Moshe rules that it is permitted, reasoning that since there are many ways to avoid yichud, we need not assume that people will think that he is violating the halacha.[20]

This is not Maris Ayin

Rav Moshe Feinstein notes that maris ayin does not include doing something permitted that people might mistakenly think is forbidden. Maris ayin means that someone thinks I violated something – he thinks that I misappropriated someone else’s money, washed clothes on Shabbos, ate something non-kosher, etc. However, it does not include doing something permitted that people might mistakenly think is forbidden.

Thus, Rav Moshe discusses whether there is any prohibition in traveling a short distance by car on Friday evening after candle lighting time, when you will certainly not come to desecration of Shabbos. He rules that one may do this, since there is no prohibition against doing work after candle lighting time, even if ignorant people think that there is.

Question # 4: My not-yet-observant cousin is making a bar mitzvah in a Reform temple. We have a good relationship, and he is very curious about exploring authentic Judaism. May I attend the bar mitzvah?

Rav Moshe rules that one may not enter a reform temple at the time people are praying there, because someone might think one prayed there, which is prohibited according to halacha. Alternatively, someone might erroneously learn from this person’s example that it is permitted to pray with them. Someone faced with the above predicament should discuss the issue with his rav, how to develop the relationship with his cousin, without entangling himself in any halachic issues.

Conclusion:

By examining the parameters of maris ayin, we become aware of the importance of the impression that our actions make. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that it does not matter what others think of us. Our behavior must not only be correct, but also appear correct. In general, our lives should be a model of appropriate behavior and kiddush Hashem. Let others look at us and say, “He is a frum Jew – he lives his life on a higher plane of honesty, of dignity, and of caring for others.” — As Chazal say in Pirkei Avos: “Kol she’ruach habrios nocha heimenu ruach hamakom nocha heimenu, One who is pleasing to his fellowman is pleasing to his Creator.


[1] Mishnah and Gemara Shabbos 146b

[2] Shekalim 3:2

[3] Bamidbar 32:22

[4] Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:82

[5] Bava Basra 8b; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 257:2

[6] For further information on the mitzvah of judging people favorably, see Shaarei Teshuvah of Rabbeinu Yonah, 3:218.

[7] Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin 8:44; quoted by Taz, Yoreh Deah 91:2

[8] Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:40

[9] see Kesubos 60a

[10] Kereisos 21b

[11] Shu’t HaRashba 3:257

[12] Rama, Yoreh Deah 87:3

[13] Yoreh Deah 87:6

[14] Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 3:59

[15] Mishnah Avodah Zarah 21a

[16] Avodah Zarah 21b

[17] Orach Chayim 243:2

[18] 243:2

[19] see Mishnah Berurah 243:14

[20] Shu’t Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 3:19

How Are Tefillin Retzuos Made?

Iclip_image002n this week’s parsha, Avraham tells the King of Sodom that he (Avraham) will not keep "even a thread or even a shoelace" from the booty of Sodom, although all of Sodom and its populace are rightfully his property as spoils of war. The Gemara teaches that as a reward for this, Avraham’s descendents were given two mitzvos, the techeiles thread of tzitzis and the strap of the tefillin. As I have written several articles on the topic of techeiles in the past, this article will discuss the halachos of tefillin straps, and what one should ask about when purchasing them.

Although a good quality pair of tefillin should last a lifetime, the straps on the tefillin do wear out and need replacement periodically.

Of what are Tefillin made?

All parts of tefillin and all other devarim she’bi’kedusha (holy items) must come from kosher species, although not necessarily from an animal that was slaughtered in a kosher way (Shabbos 108a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:12). The different parts of tefillin come from dissimilar parts of the hide of the animal, the variation being the thickness of the hide and how it is processed.

Tefillin have three major components:

1. The Parshiyos (singular, parsha). These are the parchments, which are the processed skin on which the sofer carefully writes the four sections of the Torah that are inserted into Tefillin. For the tefillin shel yad (arm tefillin), all four parshiyos are written on one piece of parchment, whereas for the tefillin shel rosh (head tefillin), each parsha is written on a separate piece of parchment.

2. The Batim (singular, bayis). These are the housing of the parshiyos and are made from thick hide. The bayis itself has three subcomponents. (a) The Ketzitzah, the cube-shaped box inside which the parshiyos are placed. (Note that it is perfectly kosher and sometimes preferred for the height of the ketzitzah to be greater than its other two dimensions; however, most pairs of tefillin are made with a cubic ketzitzah. I have written another article in which I explained this issue more thoroughly.)  (b) The Titura, the square base on which the ketzitzah rests. (c) The Ma’avarta (Aramaic for “bridge”), the extension of the titura through which the straps are inserted. In good quality tefillin, the entire bayis, that is the ketzitzah, titura, and ma’avarta, are all made from one piece of hide.

3.  The Retzuos (singular, retzua), the straps, which are made from softer leather than that used for the batim.

For the sake of Tefillin!

Tefillin must be manufactured “lishma,” for the sake of the mitzvah. In practical terms, this means that an observant Jew begins each process and declares that the production is for the sake of the mitzvah of tefillin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:8).

The contemporary process of tanning hide for parchment, batim and straps is a multi-stage process, similar to the method used to tan leather for mundane uses, such as belts, shoes and handbags. However, as I mentioned above, the parchment, batim and straps for tefillin must be tanned lishmah, for the sake of the mitzvah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:37 and 33:3). For this reason, it is preferable that each step be performed, or at least begun, by an observant Jew lishma. Because of this, one of the questions to be ascertained when purchasing tefillin is to what extent an observant Jew was involved in the processing of the hide. This issue impacts on the question of machine-made vs. handmade retzuos, which I will discuss shortly, and on many other important questions of tefillin manufacture.

Painting

After the tanning of the retzuos is completed, they are painted jet-black to fulfill a halacha le’Moshe mi’Sinai (Menachos 35a). The paint used may contain only kosher ingredients, and the painting of the retzuos must also be performed lishmah (Mishnah Berurah 33:18).

Is there a halachic preference for handmade retzuos?

In earlier days, tanning retzuos and other leather items involved salting the hide and then soaking it in lime wash. Today, although both salt and lime are used in the tanning process, most of the tanning of retzuos is usually accomplished by the gradual, automatic adding of other chemicals to the soaking leather after the salt and lime have been rinsed out. Thus, although early poskim ruled that placing the lime into the water lishmah is sufficient to make retzuos lishmah, this may not be true today. For this reason, most contemporary poskim rule that one should use “avodas yad” retzuos, meaning that the extra chemicals added to the water were done lishmah by a Torah-observant person (Zichron Eliyahu). However, most retzuos sold for tefillin are not avodas yad.

According to my information, most retzuos are painted by transporting them on a conveyor belt through a large, electrically powered paint sprayer. This provides an additional reason to use only avodas yad retzuos. Most Torah-observant Jews use hand matzos for the seder because of concern that machine matzos are not considered lishmah. (I am not ruling that machine matzohs are a problem for Seder use. Most poskim contend that they are fine.) In all likelihood, the manufacture and painting of machine made retzuos has greater halachic concerns than the shaylos involved in machine matzos, because of several facts, including that the processing of retzuos is not one continuous process, as I explained above. (In addition, there are and were halachic authorities who preferred use of machine matzohs because they are baked much faster, and therefore might reduce the chance of chometz. This is not a factor in the manufacture of tefillin retzuos – there is only an advantage to use of handmade retzuos, and, to the best of my knowledge, no disadvantage.) When one realizes that the mitzvah of eating matzah is only once a year, yet most people use only hand matzohs rather than machine-made, whereas the tefillin will IY”H be worn daily for decades, I believe the choice is obvious.

Checking one’s retzuos

It is important to check periodically that the retzuos on one’s tefillin are still completely black and are not cracked or faded. The Mishnah Berurah, whom many people consider the final halachic authority in these areas of halacha, rules that the entire length of the retzua must always be black (Biur Halacha 33:3 s.v. retzuos). (There are authorities who disagree, most notably Rav Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, who contend that it is adequate if most of the retzuah is black.) Also check that the retzuos are black all the way to their tip. Be particular to check that they are black near where the knot is tightened, because at that point the paint often rubs out. One should also check that the retzua is still wide enough near the knot and that the knot of the shel yad is touching the ketzitzah of the tefillin. If it is not, this can be corrected by a knowledgeable sofer.

While checking the retzuos, check that the batim, titura, and stitches are all perfectly square. This means that the width and the length appear to be the same length to the naked eye, and that there are no dents, nicks, or projections along the sides or in the corners of the bayis. The back corners of the batim often become rounded because of hats or taleisim that are constantly rubbing against them.  By the way, the edges of the Ma’avarta do not need to be square.

If the stitch of the titura is not taut or it loops in the middle, it is not kosher, and you should contact your batim expert. With time or damage, the stitches often loosen or move, or the batim get banged or nicked and are no longer properly square. Your local batim expert has the equipment and know-how to repair them.

Know a batim macher or batim repair expert. Every major Jewish community should have at least one person who is trained and has the equipment to repair batim. Just as the community has shatnez testers, a mohel, a butcher, a mikvah for dishes, sefarim stores, and talmidei chachamim who are trained to check mezuzos, a community must have a talmid chacham who is trained properly in the repair of batim.

If the retzuos are no longer fully black, blacken them with kosher tefillin paint. Everyone who wears tefillin should have access to kosher tefillin paint or markers.

Depending on where you live, this might be an easy item to purchase and usually comes either in a pen looking like a marker or in a small container reminiscent of correction fluid.

If someone’s retzuos are cracking in several places, he should consider replacing them.

Before painting the retzuos, one must state that he is doing it l’sheim kedushas tefillin. I once wrote a halachic teshuvah (in Hebrew) in which I concluded that someone who painted the faded parts of their retzuos, but forgot to say that they were doing it lishma, has not invalidated the tefillin and they may be worn as they are. Still, one should lechatchilah (the preferred way) be careful to say that one is blackening them l’sheim kedushas tefillin.

Must the side of the retzua be black?

The side of the retzua that lies on the skin need not be dyed at all. There is an opinion that the edges of the retzuos should also be painted black (Keses HaSofer 23:2). However, this opinion is not accepted in halachic practice (see, for example, Mishnah Berurah 33:24 quoting Pri Megadim in Eishel Avraham 33:7).

Thoroughly black

Some manufacturers of tefillin retzuos soak the entire leather in a kosher black solution so that the entire thickness of the strap is now black. From my own observation, how black the inner part of the retzua gets when this is done varies tremendously from batch to batch. Although I see no halachic requirement in this additional process, there is a practical advantage that is up to the consumer to decide. As the retzuos age, they develop more cracks. If the retzua was originally soaked in black solution, then when the leather cracks, the retzua still appears black and does not require painting. However, if the retzua is not soaked, the cracked area now appears light colored and requires painting. I have found constantly checking to see whether my retzuos are still black to be annoying, and therefore, when I purchase retzuos, I ask for those that have been soaked black to avoid this issue. From a consumer perspective, I think the added price is worthwhile, because it is probable that these retzuos can be used for a longer period of time before they become so difficult to paint constantly that one replaces them.

How wide are my retzuos?

The retzuos should be about ½ inch wide. When purchasing new retzuos, they should be wider, so that they remain the proper width even after they become stretched out.

Where should I buy my tefillin?

The individual selling tefillin and tefillin accessories (such as replacement retzuos) should be a halachically reliable person, and preferably a talmid chacham. Furthermore, he should be fully familiar not only with the halachos of tefillin, but also with the details of tefillin manufacture. From my personal experience, it is not uncommon that a person selling tefillin, although extremely ehrlich, is totally unfamiliar with the halachic issues and concerns involved. Unfortunately, many sofrim and rabbanim lack sufficient training in the practical details of tefillin manufacture.

Where not to buy your tefillin!

I’ll share with you one frightening story of my personal experience. I was once "tipped off" by someone about a manufacturer of tefillin batim who was personally not observant. Shortly thereafter, I realized that an errand would require me to be in the same city in which this manufacturer was located. I presented myself to the owner, who was clearly not observant, as a rabbi from America looking for a supplier for tefillin for his congregation, but who would like to familiarize himself with the process of how tefillin are made. One might think that the manufacturer might be interested in the possibility of making some sales, but, indeed, he would not even let me past his front door! When one realizes the myriad details involved in tefillin manufacture that require yiras shamayim, one grasps how unlikely it is that these tefillin were kosher. Yet, lots of people are purchasing these tefillin.

Ask for what you want

Assuming that one is purchasing tefillin from someone familiar with the halachos and practical aspects of tefillin manufacture, be specific what level of tefillin kashrus you are looking for. If you don’t tell him that you want tefillin that are kosher lechatchilah, you might receive tefillin that only meet the very minimum standards of kashrus. A person who discriminately buys food with high kashrus standards should not settle for less when purchasing tefillin. Such a person should order “kosher mehudar tefillin,” or “kosher tefillin with extra hiddurim.” These descriptions may also affect other questions that we have not discussed in this article, such as the quality of the writing of the parshiyos or the source of the batim.

How to maintain your tefillin

Maintaining your tefillin is fairly easy. Never leave your tefillin in direct sunlight, in a very hot place, or inside your car during the daytime. As much as possible, your hair should be dry while wearing your tefillin. Protect the corners of the batim by leaving the cover on the shel yad. (It should be noted that some poskim contend that one should not place these covers on the shel yad while one is wearing them or while making the bracha. However, since most poskim permit leaving these covers on, one may be lenient.)

Tefillin are one of the special signs that Hashem gave the Jewish people, and we should certainly excel in treating this mitzvah with the appropriate dignity. When Yidden request that their tefillin be mehadrin only, they demonstrate their reverence for the sign that bonds us to Hashem.

Mezuzah Mysteries — or Is this really a doorway?

Within the last few months, I was sent the following e-mail shaylos complete with accompanying diagrams and photos.

Question #1:

Raphael* sent me an e-mail which included an attachment with the layout of his new apartment (see attachment entitled "map"). He wants to know whether he needs to place a mezuzah at the doorway out of the lounge marked "Sofek 1", and also whether the entrance to the kitchen requires a mezuzah. Both instances are not architecturally proper doorways, but entrances formed by walls.

Click to download Apt map pdf

*Although all questions mentioned here are authentic, names have been changed to protect each individual’s privacy.

Question #2:

Yisroel sent me photographs of his hallway to determine whether he needs to place a mezuzah at its entrance (see attachment entitled "is this a mashkof").is this a mashkof

Answer:

In modern residences, many rooms are not entered via doors, but through entranceways. Do these entrances require a mezuzah? In order to answer, we need to explain when a doorway requires a mezuzah.

The "Ten Commandments" of Mezuzah

The laws governing when one must place a mezuzah are indeed complicated. The Rambam establishes ten rules that must be met to require a mezuzah, of which the following three issues are germane to answer the above questions.

LSD

Is there a lintel?

Are there sideposts?

Is there a door?

Lintel

According to all halachic authorities, a doorway does not require a mezuzah unless there is a mashkof, a lintel that comes down from the ceiling to form the appearance of a doorway. Let me explain.

What is a mashkof?

When building a house, one must be certain that the part of the building above a door or a window is properly supported so that the building does not tumble down on its inhabitants, something that will ruin the contractor’s reputation and potentially could hurt someone. A lintel is the architectural piece that provides this support. The lintel rests its own weight and that which it supports on sideposts.

The laws of mezuzah do not require that the sideposts or the lintel actually carry the weight of the area above the door. It is adequate if the mashkof, or lintel, merely provides an aesthetic function of giving the entrance the appearance of a doorway. However, when there is no mashkof at all, that is, nothing comes down vertically to give the appearance of a lintel, there is no requirement to install a mezuzah, even when there are two proper sideposts and even when there is a door.

In modern construction, most doorways to kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and dens do have a piece of wall that protrudes down from the ceiling to give the appearance of a mashkof. This is for aesthetic reasons – to provide more of a sense that this is a separate room. However, when the ceiling above the room’s entrance is a horizontal plane without anything protruding downward to form a mashkof, there is no requirement to install a mezuzah even when the entrance has all the other appurtenances of a door.

At this point, I suggest you look carefully at the other attachment, the one that Yisroel sent. Is this considered a mashkof?

What happened here is that air conditioning ducts were installed in the hallway thus giving the entrance to the hallway somewhat of an appearance of being a doorway. However, in my opinion, there is no real mashkof here since it does not come down vertically to create an entranceway. The ducts have become the ceiling of the hallway, which therefore has a lower ceiling than the larger room in front. I do not consider this a proper mashkof and therefore ruled that they do not need to place a mezuzah here.

The map that Raphael sent bears no indication whether either questionable doorway contains a mashkof. Thus, on the basis of the map alone I could not provide an answer.

Is this considered a sidepost?

Assuming the there is some form of mashkof on each questionable entranceway, our next question is whether the walls that form each of Raphael’s "sofek" qualify as sideposts.

To understand whether this is considered a sidepost for the purposes of requiring a mezuzah, I will quote a passage of the Gemara:

"Ameimar said: an entranceway formed by a corner (in Aramaic de’ikarna) requires a mezuzah. Rav Ashi said to Ameimar: ‘But it has no sidepost!’ To which Ameimar retorted, ‘these [that is, the corners of the wall] are its sideposts’" (Menachos 34a).

What is meant by "an entranceway formed by a corner"?

A Sidepost Created by the End of a Wall

The Rosh (Hilchos Mezuzah #14) explains that the case is where one entire wall of the room or house is missing, and thus the entranceway is created by the wall ending, rather than the existence of an actual door. This is exactly what we find in modern construction, where the entrances to kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, dens, and hallways are often created without a proper entranceway, but simply by a wall. In our apartment map diagram, both entrances that Raphael labeled as "sofek" are graced with this phenomenon.

Rav Ashi rules that these rooms have no sideposts, and therefore no requirement to place a mezuzah. Ameimar disagreed, contending that the "ends" of the walls qualify as sideposts. Both scholars agree that if one side of the entrance does not have the end of a wall, but is a continuing wall, that there is no sidepost on that side. We have exactly such a phenomenon in Raphael’s sofek 1 where there is no sidepost on the left side. Does this automatically remove the requirement of mezuzah? For this we need to examine a different passage of Gemara.

"Rav Papa went to Shmuel’s house and saw a doorway that had a sidepost only on its left side on which there was a mezuzah. Rav Papa said to him: ‘Were you intending to follow Rabbi Meir’s opinion (who required a mezuzah even if there is only one sidepost)? Rabbi Meir required a mezuzah on a doorway with one sidepost only when its sidepost is on the right side, but not when there is only a sidepost on the left side.’"

Right, Left…

Thus, Rav Papa notes that when the only sidepost is on the left side, there is no requirement to place a mezuzah according to all opinions. When the solitary sidepost is on the right side (entering the room), then whether there is a requirement to install a mezuzah is dependent on a dispute between Rabbi Meir and the Sages.

Let us now return to the Gemara’s discussion:

"To what comment of Rabbi Meir are we referring? To the following teaching: A house with only one sidepost, Rabbi Meir requires it to have a mezuzah and the Sages exempt it. What is the reason of the Sages? The Torah says mezuzos, which is plural," or a minimum of two (Menachos 34a).

Do we rule like the Sages or like Rabbi Meir?

The Rambam concludes like the Sages and therefore in his opinion one needs a mezuzah only when there are two sideposts. This is how the Shulchan Aruch concludes. According to this approach, there is no requirement to place a mezuzah unless the entrance has two sideposts. This approach would exempt the doorway labeled "sofek 1" from the mitzvah of mezuzah.

However, most authorities rule that if there is a right sidepost one should place a mezuzah there, albeit without a beracha. Thus, according to most opinions, the entrance leading towards the bedroom of Raphael’s apartment would require a mezuzah (assuming that is has a mashkof) but without a beracha.

Is there a door?

In the Rambam’s opinion, a mezuzah is required only when the house or room’s entrance has a door.

In this instance, the Rambam’s position is a minority opinion, since most other Rishonim contend that the lack of a door does not absolve the requirement of a mezuzah. The accepted conclusion is to install a mezuzah in a doorway that has no door, but not to recite a beracha when doing so out of deference to the Rambam (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 286:15).

So now Raphael has his answer: The rooms where there is a right sidepost upon entering require a mezuzah without a beracha, provided that they have some type of mashkof. One would not recite a beracha on placing the mezuzah unless there is an actual door and also sideposts on both sides of the door.

Mezuzah Rewards

Aside from fulfilling a mitzvah commanded by Hashem, the mitzvah of mezuzah serves to remind us constantly of His presence, every time we enter and exit our houses. We touch the mezuzah whenever we enter or exit a building to remind ourselves of Hashem’s constant presence, and it is a physical and spiritual protective shield. Whenever passing it, we should remind ourselves of Hashem’s constant protection.

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Important Eating – The Halachos of Ikar and Tafeil

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Question #1: You made a bracha on a cup of tea and sipped it, and then decided it needed more sugar. Do you need to make a bracha on the extra sugar?

Question #2: You cooked a delicious vegetable-barley soup. What bracha do you recite before eating it? Does it make any difference whether you want to eat the barley?

Question #3: I eat my potato latkes with apple sauce. How many brachos and which ones do I recite before eating them? Does it make a difference if I finish the latkes but am still eating the apple sauce?

The main theme of this week’s parsha, Balak, is mankind’s ability to recite berachos, and the opposite, and creating proper priorities in how we use this ability. This is certainly an opportune time to examine the complicated rules governing how we prioritize the brachos on what we eat.

We apply the rules governing ikar and tafeil, literally the “primary” item and the “secondary” one, numerous times throughout the day. Whether we are eating cereal, fruit and milk for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch, chicken with rice for supper, or snacking on an ice cream cone, these halachos apply. It definitely behooves us to be sure we are applying the halachos correctly.

First an introduction:

The Mishnah (Berachos 44a) which discuss brachos recited before eating states, “This is the rule: Whatever is primary and is accompanied by something secondary, one recites the bracha on the primary and absolves the secondary item.” Thus, the secondary item does not receive its own bracha, but is included in the bracha of the primary item.

WHAT CONSTITUTES AN IKAR-TAFEIL SITUATION?

There are two general categories of situations included in the halachos of ikar and tafeil; (1) when the ikar is an enhancer and (2) when the two items are combined in a mixture.

(1) Enhancers: This category includes food items where the tafeil food makes the ikar food tastier. Some common examples include: Cereal with fruit and milk; eating latkes with apple sauce; stirring herbal tea with a cinnamon stick; breading fish or meat (schnitzel).

In all of these cases, one recites the bracha for the ikar; that is, the cereal, latkes, tea, or meat; and the tafeil is included – that is, the tafeil item loses its bracha.

The category of enhancers also includes cases where the ikar is too spicy or sharp to eat alone. Thus, eating a cracker or piece of bread with a very sharp food to make it edible is a case of ikar and tafeil and one recites the bracha only on the sharp food (Mishnah Berachos 44a).

We should note, however, that the tafeil item loses its bracha only when one eats it together with the ikar or afterwards. But if one eats the tafeil before one eats the ikar, one does recite a bracha on the tafeil. Thus, food eaten before schnapps to soften its “bite” requires a bracha since one is eating it before the schnapps. When this situation occurs, the poskim debate what bracha one recites on the tafeil.

(2) Mixtures: This category includes cases where one food is not specifically enhancing the other, but both foods are important. For example, someone eating macaroni and cheese, blintzes (they always contain a filling), cholent, kugel, or stew is interested in eating all the different foods that comprise the dish. The same halacha applies when eating soups, which may contain vegetables, meat, noodles, barley, or flour. In these cases, all the food items eaten are important and none of these ingredients serve only to enhance the rest. However, the food in these cases are mixtures they are considered one complete food item and therefore only recites one bracha for the entire food, although it contains items that eaten separately would require separate brachos. Thus, the concept of ikar and tafeil is very different here – it is the rule used to determine which bracha we recite on this food. In this case, the bracha of the ikar is the bracha on the entire item.

WHAT DETERMINES THE BRACHA ON A MIXTURE?

There are three rules that determine which bracha to recite on a mixture.

1. If one of the items in the mixture is clearly the most important, then that item determines the bracha (Pri Megadim, Pesicha Koleles, Hilchos Brachos s.v. HaTenai; Mishnah Berurah 212:1). For example, the bracha on chicken soup with vegetables is shehakol since the chicken is the most important flavor component in the soup. However, if it is a vegetable soup with some meat added for flavor, the bracha would be ha’adamah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 205:2 and commentaries).

2. When there is no most important ingredient, the bracha is usually determined by the majority item in the product. Thus, the bracha on a peanut bar containing peanuts, honey, and sugar is ha’adamah since peanuts are the major ingredient, and the bracha on a tzimmes consisting of prunes and sweet potatoes depends on which item is the major ingredient.

3. However, when the mixture contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye) then the bracha is usually mezonos, unless the flour or grain product is included only to hold the food together (Shulchan Aruch 204:12; 208:2,3). Because these grains are important, they are the ikar of the mixture even if they are a minority component.

However, when the flour’s purpose is only to hold the item together or to provide texture, then it is not the ikar of the food because its purpose is clearly to function is a subsidiary. (In this instance, the flour is being used to enhance the other food item, and thus it categorically becomes a tafeil.)

Therefore, the bracha on a trifle containing cakes and ice cream is mezonos even if there is more ice cream than cake, since the cake is a grain product; whereas the bracha on potato kugel that contains flour, bread crumbs, and/or matzoh meal to provide texture is ha’adamah. Since the grain product here functions only to hold the kugel together, it is tafeil and does not affect the bracha. Similarly, flour added to thicken soup is tafeil (Mishnah Berurah 212:1). When the flour provides taste or makes the product satisfying, then the flour is the ikar and the bracha is mezonos (Shulchan Aruch 204:12; 208:3).

Similarly, the bracha on vegetable-barley soup is mezonos. However, if the barley is completely dissolved, the bracha on the soup is usually ha’adamah. Similarly, if you do not want to eat the barley but a few pieces ended up in your portion anyway, the bracha is ha’adamah.

The same rules apply in the case of licorice candy whose bracha is shehakol even though it contains a significant amount of flour, since the flour is there only to give it a stiff texture. On the other hand, the bracha on kishka is mezonos, since the main ingredient is the flour.

BEFORE AND AFTER

Until now we have been discussing situations when you are eating the ikar and tafeil together. What do you do if you are eating the tafeil item either before or after you eat the ikar?

A TAFEIL EATEN BEFORE

A tafeil loses a bracha only when it is eaten together with the ikar or afterwards, but not when it is eaten before. Again, the reason for this becomes fairly clear once we think about it. A tafeil’s bracha is subsumed by the bracha on the ikar. This helps us as long as one has already recited the bracha on the ikar. However, if one has not yet recited the bracha on the ikar, how can one eat the tafeil without reciting any bracha at all since we are forbidden to benefit from the world without first reciting a bracha? Thus, it must be that we recite a bracha on the tafeil when eating it before the ikar.

However, this does not tell us whether the bracha on the tafeil is the same bracha one would usually recite on it, or whether it is automatically reduced to a shehakol. Let us say that someone is going to drink a powerful beverage or a very spicy pepper, and in order to tolerate it, he is first going to eat some bread or crackers. What bracha does he recite on the bread or cracker?

The Rama (212:1) rules that one recites a shehakol on the bread or cracker!

WHY DOES THE CRACKER LOSE ITS BRACHA?

The Rama’s ruling is based on an earlier psak of the Terumas HaDeshen, who discusses a case of someone who wants to drink wine, but can not drink the wine on an empty stomach. Therefore he eats some seeds whose bracha is usually ha’eitz before imbibing the wine. The Terumas HaDeshen rules that he recites a shehakol on the seeds since he is not getting his primary benefit from the fruit (Darchei Moshe 212:2). However, the Beis Yosef disagrees and rules that he should make ha’eitz on the seeds.

On what concept is this dispute dependent? One could explain that this dispute reflects two different ways of explaining why one does not recite a bracha on a tafeil. The Terumas HaDeshen contends that a tafeil is unimportant and therefore does not warrant a bracha, however, one cannot benefit from this world without a bracha — therefore one recites shehakol. On the other hand, the Beis Yosef holds that the bracha on the ikar counts as the bracha on the tafeil and therefore one does not need to make a bracha on it- but if the tafeil were to require a bracha, it does not lose its status or its bracha.

EATING A TAFEIL AFTER THE IKAR

What do you do if you finished eating the ikar, but you have not yet completed the tafeil. Do you recite a bracha on the tafeil since you are no longer eating the ikar, or do we say that the bracha on the ikar still suffices? For example, you finished your cereal, but there is still some milk left, or you finished the barley of the soup, but there is still more soup to eat. Do you recite a new bracha on the rest of the soup?

The halacha is that if you finished the ikar first, and a small amount of tafeil remains, one does not recite a bracha on the remaining tafeil. However, if a large amount remains, one does recite a bracha (Mishnah Berurah 168:46).

At the beginning of the article I asked the following shaylah, “You made a bracha on a cup of tea and sipped it and then decided it needed more sugar. Do you need to make a bracha on the extra sugar?”

The question here is that the sugar is tafeil to the tea, but can it be a tafeil when it was not in front of you when you made the bracha?

The halacha is that if you begin eating something and afterwards decide to eat a tafeil food alongside, the tafeil requires a bracha- but only shehakol (Mishnah Berurah 212:4). This is true only if the tafeil is an enhancer (see our category above). However, if it is a tafeil because it is a mixture, it receives its regular bracha. Thus, if after making a bracha on cereal, someone decided to add milk and fruit, he recites ha’eitz on the fruit and shehakol on the milk. On the other hand, if he knew he would add fruit and milk when he recited the bracha on the cereal, then they are tafeil to the cereal and he does not recite a bracha on them even though they were not present when he recited the bracha.

What should you do if someone brought you a cup of tea and you then decided to add sugar? Do you need to recite a bracha on the sugar?

If you usually add sugar to your tea, you do not need to recite a new bracha. However, if you do not, then you will need to recite a bracha on the sugar.

Not everything we do in life qualifies as our ikar purpose in life- often we must do things that are tafeil to the more important things in life. However, paying attention to the halachos of ikar and tafeil should encourage us to focus on our priorities in life- and not allow the tafeil things we must do become more important than they are.

Shabbos Emergencies

clip_image002The last sentence of the haftarah we read this Shabbos is the basis for our daily beracha Refa’einu. This provides us with the opportunity to review the laws that we need to know about Shabbos emergencies.

I once received the following communication:

“As an active member of Hatzalah, but not speaking on behalf of any specific Hatzalah organization, I suggest that you cover a topic that would benefit many frum communities, especially those where, Boruch Hashem, new branches of Hatzalah have recently been established. In many instances of our responding to Shabbos emergencies, we discover that the patient, family, and bystanders do not know the basic halachos of pikuach nefesh; thus, they do not understand why we do certain things, such as using our radios or driving to and from an emergency. Although occasionally different branches follow different protocols (such as whether we drive back from a call) depending on different piskei halacha that each branch received, the basic rules are the same, and the differences in psak halacha among the different branches rarely affect what the patient does.

“Another phenomenon that I see is simply baffling. People call Hatzalah on Shabbos, with no intention of allowing us to transport the patient to a hospital if we deem it necessary. They tell us, ‘We can’t go to the hospital; it’s Shabbos.’ Guess what? You called us and it’s Shabbos for us too. People need to be taught that if Chas V’Shalom they need to call Hatzalah on Shabbos (or any other day), they MUST listen to our advice.

“We are trained to recognize problems that are not obvious to the untrained individual. If we say the patient needs to be transported to the hospital on Shabbos, please don’t argue with us!

“My understanding of the halacha is that it is the responsibility of the Rabbonim of a community to educate people what to do on Shabbos if someone is endangered.

“Thanking you in advance,”

The Hatzalah volunteer who addressed this letter requested that we withhold his name, and we are honoring his request.

Although I have never been involved in Hatzalah’s holy work, I would like to introduce my comments with the following tragic story: Yuddie, a hard working, mid-fifties, proud Jew, was feeling unwell on a Shabbos afternoon. His concerned children called the local ambulance service, who felt he should go to the hospital immediately. Yuddie refused to go on Shabbos. To bring the story to its abrupt end, Yuddie died a few hours later from coronary arrest.

This is only part of the tragedy. Imagine what probably happened when Yuddie arrived for final judgment in the court of the Olam HaEmes. Certainly the Satan charged him with manslaughter for bringing about his own demise by violating the halachos of pikuach nefesh. Maybe the Beis Din shel Maalah had rachmonus to mitigate his crime and judge him as a shogeg, someone negligent in his violation because he was unaware of the halachos. Certainly, Yuddie will receive some punishment for his serious breach of halacha since he should have studied the halacha.

To make sure such tragedies don’t reoccur, we will review the basics of these halachos.

The Gemara (Yerushalmi, Yoma 8:5) teaches: “Someone who was asked a shaylah (whether to desecrate Shabbos in the case of a life-threatening emergency) is disgraced and the one who asks is guilty of bloodshed.” We understand the second part of this statement — that someone busying himself with asking whether he can save someone’s life is wasting precious minutes that literally may be the difference between life and death, but why is the rav who was asked the shaylah considered disgraced?

The answer is because he is responsible to teach these halachos publicly so that people should always know these laws thoroughly. If people are asking what to do it this indicates that the rav has not adequately taught them, which is negligence on his part (Korban HaEidah ad loc.).

Let us quote the words of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 328:2): “It is a mitzvah to desecrate Shabbos for a dangerous illness. He who does so swiftly is praised; the person who goes to ask what to do is a shedder of blood!” and again: “Whoever is swift in desecrating Shabbos in a matter that involves danger is praised!! (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 328:13)

By the way, this rule obviously applies equally on weekdays! If someone is uncertain whether a particular situation is life threatening or not, he/she is required to immediately seek proper medical attention. Delaying might be shedding blood!

IS THIS AN EMERGENCY?

But what if I do not know whether this is a life threatening emergency? Am I required to be a doctor to know what is and what is not? After all, only a life-threatening emergency supersedes Shabbos!

No, there is no halacha requirement to be a physician. However, this is the rule that one should follow:

“One must desecrate Shabbos even if there is only a slight possibility that the situation is dangerous. One does not need a professional opinion or an expert physician. Whenever one is uncertain whether the situation is dangerous, he is required to desecrate Shabbos (Shu’t Tashbeitz 1:54).”

Thus, Yuddie’s children were absolutely correct in calling the emergency service and certainly could have driven him to the hospital themselves, even if it would have turned out to have been nothing but indigestion from too much cholent. Certainly, I have only praise for the Hatzalah volunteers who drive on Shabbos to attend emergencies.

The source for this halacha is the following statement: “An uncertainty whether the situation is life-threatening supersedes Shabbos. Not only if it is uncertain whether the situation is immediately dangerous, but even if there is no danger now and the situation may create a danger for the future (Gemara Yoma 84b).” The last clause teaches that we supersede Shabbos for someone when inferior care received now may affect his future health, such as a person suffering from an apnea condition which, left untreated, may eventually cause permanent heart damage. The same applies to kidney conditions or diabetes.

In short, the Torah demands that when you are uncertain whether a situation is dangerous or not, be mechaleil Shabbos first to get proper medical care, and ask questions later.

Years ago, I was visiting a physician friend of mine when a well respected member of the frum community, who lived quite a distance from the house, arrived on Shabbos afternoon to determine whether his child’s illness was life-threatening. They had just walked with the child forty minutes to have a frum physician evaluate whether the situation warranted chillul Shabbos! To this day I am astonished at how little this yeshiva-educated man knew about pikuach nefesh. When uncertain whether a situation is life threatening or not, assume that it is until someone knowledgeable informs you that it is not.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED MEDICALLY KNOWLEDGEABLE?

The halachic definition of a physician for these purposes certainly includes a trained Hatzalah emergency medical technician. I can prove this from an anecdote concerning Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky, zt”l. Rav Yaakov’s first rabbinic position was in a small Lithuanian village that had no physician. Thus, living there violated the psak of the Rambam (Hilchos Dayos 4:23) that a talmid chacham may live only in a town that has a physician. Rav Yaakov needed a solution to accept this position and move into the community. He resolved the problem by reading through medical books until he felt he met the halachic requirements of being a local doctor (Reb Yaakov, page 106). Thus we see that someone who knows enough to treat commonplace medical problems is halachically qualified as a physician.

One can conclude that a Hatzalah volunteer has sufficient training to be considered halachically a physician for the emergencies with which he deals. Therefore, a lay person who disobeys the instructions of a Hatzalah volunteer to desecrate Shabbos is a shofeich domim!

WHAT IF THE SITUATION IS NOT LIFE THREATENING?

If a medical authority, such as a Hatzalah volunteer, tells you that the situation is not life-threatening, a Jew may not perform any activity that involves violating a Torah prohibition, although depending on circumstances, rabbinic takanos may often be set aside.

It is beyond the scope of this article to detail what one may do under these circumstances, but I will supply two rules of thumb that one should usually follow under these circumstances:

1. If the person is ill (even not seriously) or uncomfortable, one may ask a gentile to do whatever is necessary (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 307:5).

2. If the patient and his family do not include any talmidei chachamim, and the Hatzalah volunteer tells you that based on his experience of asking shaylos from Rabbonim, you should be able to do something yourself, you may rely on this information until one has the opportunity to ask a shaylah what to do.

May we always merit that to perform mitzvos in good health and in the way that Hashem wants us to.

Some Shatnez Basics

clip_image002Question #1:

I keep reading about shatnez showing up in strange places: ladies sweaters, children’s clothes, and even baseball gloves. Am I required to take my family’s entire wardrobe to a shatnez laboratory to have everything checked?

Question #2:

“What does a shatnez tester look for?”

Question #3:

“The importer told me that the garment was made from a blend of hemp and wool, which should involve no shatnez concern. As there was no authorized shatnez tester in town, I did what I thought was the next-best thing – I brought the garment to a local observant tailor, to have him check it. He carefully checked the threads and guaranteed me that the garment contained no linen. Only after I wore the garment many times did I meet a great Torah scholar and mention this incident in passing. The talmid chacham told me that I should not be so certain, and he offered to compare the material in my garment to linen threads he had available. And indeed, it was clear that he was correct. The threads in my garment were made from wool and linen, not hemp, and I had been violating a Torah prohibition the entire time!”

Does this story sound contemporary and familiar? As a matter of fact, this story happened in 1650 in the city of Vilna — twenty years before the Dutchman van Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope. In those days, the only “scientific” means of checking whether a material was linen or hemp was to take a sample and see if a candle would get it to burn, since hemp is more flammable than linen (Rama, Yoreh Deah 302:2). Others opposed the reliability of this test (Piskei Teshuvah 302:1, quoting Shu”t Penei Yehoshua).

Thus, we see that shatnez problems are not exclusively a result of modern manufacture. However, in modern clothing one may find shatnez in everything from sweaters and skirts to scarves; and from bedding and button loops to baseball gloves.

Before delving into contemporary questions, we must first understand some of the laws taught in this week’s parsha. The prohibition of shatnez exists only if the garment is made from a blend of sheep’s wool and linen, but that wool of other species does not make shatnez. Thus, wool made of camel’s, rabbit’s or goat’s hair mixed with linen is not shatnez (Mishnah, Kilayim 9:1; see Rambam, Hilchos Kilayim 10:2). (“Wool” is simply hair that is soft and can be used as cloth.) The Mishnah (Kilayim 9:2) records that certain combinations, such as silk and wool, were prohibited because of maris ayin, since this raises suspicion or may be misinterpreted that someone is wearing shatnez. However, the Rishonim already conclude that this concern exists only when the material that may be confused with wool or linen is not commonly obtainable, but that no prohibition of maris ayin exists once people become familiar with its availability (Rosh, Hilchos Kilayim).

Most people are surprised to discover that a garment made of a blend of linen and either mohair or cashmere is not shatnez! Why is this? Because neither mohair nor cashmere are made from sheep’s wool, but from the hair of goats! Mohair is processed from the hair of an angora goat. Although goats of this variety are now raised around the world, originally they were developed in Turkey. (The current capital of Turkey, Ankara, used to be called Angora.)

Cashmere is the wool of the Kashmir goat, which was originally native to central Asia, as its name indicates. Thus, if no sheep’s wool thread was mixed into the mohair or the cashmere, the existence of linen in the garment will not make it shatnez.

The Majority Rules

By the way, a garment could contain both linen and sheep’s wool and still not be shatnez! How could this be?

When a thread is spun from a mix of fibers, the halachic status of the thread is determined by what composes most of the thread’s fiber content and ignores the existence of other fibers inside the thread (Mishnah Kilayim 9:1). The minority of fiber is halachically bateil, or nullified, to the majority fiber content in the thread. Thus, threads spun from a mix of mostly cotton fiber with some linen fiber are considered cotton and can be used lichatchilah in a woolen garment. Similarly, a garment consisting of threads made of a blend of mostly mohair but including some sheep’s wool fiber that are woven or sewn with linen threads is not shatnez and may be worn.

Here is a very practical example of this case – in a dress that was tested recently in a shatnez laboratory.

A knit dress whose content label listed 70% wool and 30% silk, which should not be a shatnez problem, was brought to a shatnez checking service. However, the tester noticed that the front panel of the dress was made of thread that was a blend of linen and cotton fibers. If the cotton is the majority, there is no halachic problem with this garment, since this would be considered a cotton thread. However, if the majority component of the threads is linen, the garment is shatnez.

Here is another recent case where the halacha is more complicated:

The label of a sweater brought to a shatnez checking service accurately described its content as: 28% viscose, 20% nylon, 15% lamb’s wool, 15% cotton, 10% polyester, 6% metallic fiber, 3% cashmere and 3% angora. A decorative cloth ornament, whose content was not included on the label, was sewn onto the sweater. The shatnez checker tested the ornament and discovered that it was made of a blend of linen and cotton, where linen was the majority. Thus, the decorative fabric was halachically considered linen, and the material of the main sweater included wool. However, it is possible that there is no shatnez problem here because the wool in the sweater fabric was a minority component. Thus, although there was both linen thread and wool fiber in the garment, it would not be shatnez.

Why did I say only that “it is possible that there is no shatnez problem?”

The authorities dispute whether shatnez exists when there is noticeable wool fiber in a thread which is mostly made from a different fiber. The Rosh (Shu”t 2:5), Mishnah Rishonah and Tiferes Yisrael (both to Kilayim 9:1) consider this shatnez, since the wool is noticeable; whereas the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 181:9) rules that this is not shatnez, contending that the definition of a thread is its majority component, and that the minority wool component of the thread is bateil. In the case at hand, the wool may be noticeable in the thread, since there is a sizable amount of lamb’s wool in a blend that contains many very non-wool type fibers. It may indeed be that according to the Rosh the wool is not bateil in this case, and that this sweater is therefore shatnez. On the other hand, according to the Chazon Ish, since most of the fiber in the thread is not wool, the wool component of the thread is bateil.

Hanging by a Thread

Linen or wool fiber is bateil only as fiber. However, a thread of linen that is woven or otherwise attached into a woolen garment renders the garment shatnez, and there is no bitul (Rosh, Hilchos Kilaei Begadim #5 quoting Tosefta; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 299:1). Even a single linen thread in a large woolen garment renders the entire garment shatnez. In addition, if a spun thread is mixed into a larger thread, then there is a shatnez problem min haTorah even if there is only one linen thread in a large garment.

This distinction is extremely important, as we see from the following case:

A 100% pure wool sweater contained a long green thread knotted into its seam. The green thread consisted of a cotton braid, which was not mentioned on the label, but should not present any problem either. However, the core of the cotton braid contained a linen thread. Thus, the 100% pure wool sweater contained a linen thread. (We will soon see that according to many authorities this particular sweater was not shatnez for a different reason.)

What if they do not touch?

If a garment contains wool thread on one side and linen in a different place — so that the wool and linen do not touch, is the garment shatnez?

This issue is disputed by the Rishonim. The Rash (Kilayim 9:1, 9) one of the early Baalei Tosafos, (this is Rabbeinu Shimshon, author of the Tosafos commentary to Zera’im, Taharos, Pesachim and Kesubos, and should not be confused with the more frequently quoted Rosh, Rabbeinu Asher, who also authored commentaries on the Mishnah, Gemara and Halacha, and lived somewhat later than the Rash), rules that shatnez requires that the linen and the wool actually touch, but that one is permitted to wear a garment containing wool and linen threads that are on different parts of the garment. According to the Rash, the prohibition of shatnez is that there is a “combination” of wool and linen, but this is avoided when the wool and linen are separated by other materials.

Based on this Rash, a common custom was to attach a linen atarah to a wool talis by having cotton cloth act as the “mechitzah” between the wool and the linen.

However, the Rambam rules that wool and linen threads on different parts of a garment constitutes shatnez min haTorah. In his opinion, the Torah prohibited a garment containing both wool and linen, even if the linen and wool themselves do not touch. Thus, according to the Rambam, the separating cotton does not change the garment from being shatnez, and wearing the above-mentioned talis is a mitzvah habaah be’aveirah.

Similarly, whether the wool sweater with the cotton green thread containing a core that is a linen thread is shatnez or not is dependent on this dispute between the Rash and the Rambam, since the linen thread does not touch the wool but is surrounded by cotton. According to the Rambam, wearing this sweater involves a Torah prohibition of shatnez, whereas according to the Rash, it is permitted!

How do we rule?

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 299:2) rules like the Rambam that a garment is shatnez even if the wool and the linen threads are separated by other materials. Thus, Sefardim, who follow the Shulchan Aruch’s rulings, are certainly prohibited from wearing this sweater. Among Ashkenazi authorities, the Rosh, the Rama  (Yoreh Deah 299:2), the Magen Avraham (9:8) and the Eliyah Rabbah (Orach Chayim 9:6) rule like the Rash, whereas the Mishkenos Yaakov (Yoreh Deah Shu”t #70) Shenos Eliyahu (9:1)[1], Artzos Hachayim rule like the Rambam. I note that Rav Chayim Kanievski notes that the prevalent practice is to rule like the lenient opinion (Derech Emunah, Hilchos Kilayim, Hilchos Kilayim 10:41).

What have we learned so far?

1. We have learned that shatnez exists only when there is sheep’s wool, but not when the wool is from other species, and that therefore pure cashmere or mohair blended with linen is not a shatnez concern.

2. We have also learned that some testing for shatnez existed even before the microscope, but there was halachic controversy concerning whether one could rely that this testing is reliable.

3. In addition, we have learned that threads spun from a mix of cotton and linen fibers are considered cotton and when blended in a woolen garment are not shatnez. However, threads of linen woven into a garment that is a cotton/wool blend is shatnez, even when the blend is mostly cotton thread.

What have we not yet learned?

1. Are baseball gloves a shatnez problem?

2. Which garments must be checked for shatnez.

3. How a shatnez tester works.

To answer these and other shatnez questions, we will need to read a future article.


[1] We should note that in his notes to Shulchan Aruch (299:8), the Gra, who also authored Shenos Eliyahu, appears to accept the Rash‘s approach.

Observing a Colorful Lifestyle

clip_image002This week’s parsha describes how master artisans used three dyes, techeiles, argaman, and tola’as shani, in the manufacture of the Kohen Gadol’s vestments. These colors were also used to produce the curtains and coverings of the Mishkan, and the halachic conclusion is that these dyes are also used for dyeing the kohen hedyot’s belt (see Rambam, Hil. Klei HaMikdash 8:1, 11, 13, based on Yoma 6a, 12a). In addition, processing the ashes of the parah adumah (Bamidbar 19:6), purifying a metzora and decontaminating a house that became tamei all use tola’as shani (Vayikra 14:4, 49). As we will discover, correctly identifying the tola’as shani not only affects these halachos and those of the Beis HaMikdash, but also concerns a wide assortment of foods and beverages that we eat and drink.

At one point in my life, when I worked as a "rabbinic field representative" (aka  a mashgiach), I once made a surprise inspection of a company that produced juice drinks – let’s call it Generic Juices Inc. I was surprised to discover that the plant was bottling beverages containing carmine red coloring, and other drinks colored with enocianina, a coloring derived from grape skins. Neither of these products was on the lists of approved ingredients, and for good reason. Of course, this created a serious problem for the hechsher, the company, and most of all, the unsuspecting consumer.

Whether we like it or not, many of our foods are colored with a host of coloring agents; some derived from food items, such as beets, berries, sugar (caramel coloring), turmeric and annatto; whereas others are derived from inedible materials such as coal or petroleum, whose sources most consumers would prefer to ignore. Although processing colorants can compromise the kashrus of the finished product, few food colors are themselves obtained from non-kosher materials. However, two common food pigments originate from non-kosher substances: One is carmine red, also called cochineal, which is a very common color used to color fruits, yogurts, juice drinks, maraschino cherries etc., and the other is enocianina, colloquially often called simply eno, a red or purple color similarly commonly used in beverages, fruit fillings and confections. The origin of carmine is from a scale insect — I discussed the kashrus ramifications in an article that I sent out on Parshas Va’eira Suffice it to say that almost all kashrus organizations treat carmine color as non-kosher.

ENO – A GRAPE SKIN EXTRACT

After the juice has been squeezed out of the grapes, the remaining skin pulp is processed into a commercial coloring agent called enocianina. Although one could produce kosher eno from kosher-processed grape skins, grape skin color available today is almost always produced after the grapes have become non-kosher and thus we usually assume that eno is not kosher. However, the prohibition here is only the rabbinic prohibition of stam yeinam, grape juice and wine product handled by a gentile.

GENERIC JUICE DRINKS

Unfortunately, Generic Juices had already produced and shipped tons of product using either carmine or eno – and all of it bearing the kosher certification symbol on the label! Is the kashrus agency halachically required to insist on a recall of the product from the supermarket shelves?

RECALL

Companies hate having their products recalled, both for technical reasons, the major expense involved, and because it is a public relations nightmare. The policy of this particular hechsher was not to require the company to recall the product unless the product could not be used even after the fact, bedei’evid. However, if the product would be kosher be’dei’evid because of bitul, the hechsher would not require that the product be recalled. It was now the responsibility of the hechsher’s poskim to decide whether the product is prohibited or permitted after the fact.

Why should the finished product be kosher if the colorant added was not?

The basis for this question follows:

Coloring agents are used in very minute amounts. Indeed, when the Spaniards discovered carmine red, they sold the concentrated powdered pigment at a higher price per ounce than gold! Thus, the amount of coloring used to color a juice drink or maraschino cherry is significantly less than the amount that we usually say is bateil (nullified) in a finished product. Although one may never add treif product to a food and rely that it will become bateil, if non-kosher product was inadvertently added in minute quantities the finished product is usually permitted.

The primary criterion to determine whether the treif food is bateil is:

Can the non-kosher product be tasted, either because of its quantity or because it is a flavoring agent?

This test is passed with flying colors! None of these colors can be tasted in the finished product.

However, there is another criterion:

Is the treif product noticeable?

If one can see a treif ingredient floating inside a food, one may not consume the food without first removing the non-kosher item.

COLORS ARE NOTICEABLE

The boldness of a color announces its existence. Can we say that a color is bateil when we clearly see evidence of its existence?

Several great halachic authorities discuss this question, reaching widely different conclusions. Some prohibit consumption of the resultant product precisely because one can notice its existence (Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 100:1; Minchas Kohen, Sefer HaTaaroves 3:3, quoted by Darkei Teshuvah 102:30). They contend that bitul can only happen when the offending item leaves no trace. A colorant is by definition very noticeable and therefore not bateil. According to this approach, all of the juice drinks mentioned must be recalled since the non-kosher ingredient is very noticeable.

On the other hand, the Vilna Gaon argues that determining whether the food is kosher depends on whether one can taste the treif ingredient (Yoreh Deah 102:6). In our instance, although the color is noticeable, no one tastes the colorant, and therefore the finished product is permitted, assuming that the admixture was made in error. An earlier authority, the Minchas Yaakov (74:5), also espouses this position.

A COMPROMISE POSITION – IN WHOLE CLOTH

Some authorities concluded a position between these two positions, comparing our question to a Gemara that discusses whether someone who stole dye and cloth and now returns the dyed fabric fulfills his mitzvah of returning what he stole. The Gemara rules that this depends on whether the dye is considered to still exist after it has been used because its color is still noticeable (Bava Kamma 101a). Is the color on the cloth treated as if the dye itself still exists, or did the dye become bateil and no longer exists?

The particular issue in that Gemara remains unresolved, and therefore halachically is considered an unresolved doubt, a safek (Shu”t HaRan #70). Based on this discussion, several prominent authorities contend that a colorant that may involve a Torah prohibition is prohibited, because of the principle of safek de’oraysa lechumra, we rule stringently in a question involving an unresolved Torah issue; whereas one that involves only a rabbinic prohibition is permitted because of safek derabbanan lekula, we are lenient regarding an unresolved question involving only a rabbinic prohibition (Pri Chodosh, Yoreh Deah 102:5; Chasam Sofer, quoted by Darkei Teshuvah 102:30).

CONCLUSION

By this time, I presume most readers want to know what the hechsher did. The deciding posek ruled like the last position mentioned, and contended that the carmine coloring might be prohibited min haTorah and therefore the company must recall the beverages containing carmine. Since the grape skin extract only involves a rabbinic prohibition, he did not require the company to recall this product, contending that according to most authorities this product may be drunk since the eno is nullified in the final mix.

We should always pray that the food we eat fulfills all the halachos that the Torah commands without resorting to any controversial shaylos.

Swifter or Better?

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question #1: Shacharis in the Air

Rabbi Nosaya called me recently with the following shaylah:

“My flight lands at a time that I can still get to a minyan, but I am sure that there will be a minyan davening on the plane before we land. Should I daven earlier on the plane, or after we land, where I will be able to daven with more concentration?

Question #2: New Mezuzos

Dovid and Rutie are purchasing mezuzos, but really nice ones are unavailable in the small Jewish community in which they live. Should they delay their purchase until they next visit a larger community, or should they buy the nicest ones available where they live?

There is a principle of the Torah, zerizin makdimim lemitzvos, that one should perform a mitzvah as soon as the opportunity arrives. To quote the Gemara: One may perform a bris milah any time during the day, but one should try to perform the mitzvah as soon as possible (Pesachim 4a). Thus, since the earliest time to make a bris milah is at sunrise, one should perform it as soon as one can.

As a source for the law of zerizin makdimim lemitzvos, the Gemara mentions that when Avraham Avinu was commanded to bring his son Yitzchak to the Akeidah, the Torah emphasizes that Avraham got up early in the morning to fulfill his mitzvah. We also find another Biblical source in which Dovid HaMelech lauds those who perform mitzvos at the first opportunity; I hurried and did not delay to fulfill Your commandments (Tehillim 119:60).

Our enthusiasm to carry out Hashem’s commandments should manifest itself in a desire to perform mitzvos as immediately as possible. We should bear this in mind for every opportunity that presents itself, whether to perform a chesed or to fulfill one of the laws that we do not necessarily understand. As an example of zerizin makdimim lemitzvos, the Gemara requires one to check for chometz as soon as the evening of Erev Pesach begins and not wait until later that night.

Zerizus versus Hiddur

The issue that we will discuss in today’s article is whether zerizin makdimim lemitzvos is the only factor in determining when we should perform a mitzvah, or are there other considerations, such as performing the mitzvah in a preferred way. For example, let us say that early on Sukkos morning someone has a kosher esrog and other minim on which he can recite the brachah and fulfill the mitzvah, but he knows that if he waits until later that day he will have access to a much nicer esrog with which to fulfill the mitzvah. Should he wait to recite the brachah and fulfill the mitzvah until later in the day so that he can fulfill the mitzvah in a more mehudar way, or should he recite the brachah immediately because of zerizin makdimim lemitzvos? Is performing a mitzvah in a nicer way more important than fulfilling it earlier?

Early Discussions

An early authority who discusses our question is the 14th Century Terumas HaDeshen, who was asked what is the optimal time to recite the kiddush levanah prayer that men recite each month upon observing the new moon. Since Chazal mention that one should preferably perform kiddush levanah when one is in a festive mood and while wearing nice clothes (Mesechta Sofrim 20:1), should one carry out kiddush levanah on the first night that one may, or should one wait until motza’ei Shabbos so as to perform the mitzvah in a preferred way, since one will then be in good spirits because of Shabbos and will be wearing one’s Shabbos finery? Is the hiddur mitzvah of reciting kiddush levanah when one is happy and nicely dressed more important then performing the mitzvah at the first available opportunity?

The Terumas HaDeshen concludes that one should usually wait until the first motza’ei Shabbos and rallies Talmudic proofs that although observing a mitzvah with zerizus is very important, it is more valuable to perform a mitzvah in a better way. (Cf. Maaseh Rav #159, who disagrees.)

Variant Text

It is interesting to note that our text to Mesechta Sofrim states this explicitly: One should recite the blessing on the moon only on Motza’ei Shabbos when one is in good spirits and wearing nice clothes. However, it is noteworthy that aside from the Terumas HaDeshen, who obviously did not have the words only on Motza’ei Shabbos in his text of Mesechta Sofrim, I have found other Rishonim who also clearly did not have these words in their text. (See, for example, Rabbeinu Yonah at the end of Berachos Chapter 4 s.v. Naharda’ei.) It might indeed be that these three Hebrew words in our text of Mesechta Sofrim were added in error by a copyist.

However, notwithstanding the difference in text, the Rishonim all reach the same halachic conclusion – that one should wait until the first motza’ei Shabbos to perform kiddush levanah.

Better over Swifter

We therefore see that although one should strive to perform a mitzvah with zerizus, zerizus is not an absolute value: it is better to perform the mitzvah later, but in a preferred way, then to perform it earlier in a less preferred way.

Similarly, we find an early responsum that discusses the exact case I mentioned above: Someone has an esrog that is kosher, but not the nicest. He believes that if he waits until later in the day he will have a nicer esrog on which to recite the brachah. Should he perform the mitzvah now with the kosher, but not mehudar, esrog, or should he wait until later so that he can perform the mitzvah in a more exemplary way? The Shevus Yaakov, a great halachic authority of the 17th– 18th centuries, ruled that if one is certain that he will have a nicer esrog available later, he should wait, but if he is uncertain, he should recite the brachah now on the esrog that he has (Shu"t Shevus Yaakov 1:34).

Here is another case discussed by earlier authorities:

A community is planning to acquire a new sefer Torah. Should they wait until they can get a really beautiful sefer Torah, or should they acquire a sefer Torah as soon as they can, even if it is not as nice, although it is certainly kosher.

Assuming that they already own a kosher sefer Torah, they should wait to acquire the nicer one (Chida’s commentary to Sefer Chassidim #878). If they do not currently own a kosher sefer Torah, then they should acquire a kosher sefer Torah as quickly as possible without paying attention to how nice it is.

Dovid and Rutie’s Mezuzos

Dovid and Rutie’s question is almost identical to what we just asked: They are looking to purchase new mezuzos, but live somewhere where really nice ones are unavailable. Should they delay the purchase until they can find nice mezuzos to purchase?

The answer is that, assuming that their current mezuzos are kosher, they should wait to purchase new ones until they can get nice ones. (We are not discussing how much one should spend extra to purchase nicer mezuzos, which is a topic that we will leave for a different time.) However, if they are missing mezuzos that they need to put up, they should purchase them immediately, as long as they know that they are buying kosher mezuzos.

Exception to the Rule

Our general rule is that performing a mitzvah in a nicer way takes precedence over performing a mitzvah swiftly. However, there is a major exception to this rule: If delaying the mitzvah might result in missing the mitzvah altogether, then it is better to perform the mitzvah immediately in a less exemplary way. For example, what if it was cloudy on the first motza’ei Shabbos available that one could perform kiddush levanah, and then later, when one is wearing weekday clothes, one sees the moon clearly between the clouds. Should one wait to change one’s clothes before one performs kiddush levanah?

Based on their analysis of several relevant Talmudic passages (Yevamos 39a; Yoma 6b; Sanhedrin 12b), the authorities conclude that if waiting to perform the mitzvah in a mehudar way may result in a major delay, which might cause that the mitzvah not be performed at all, then one should perform the mitzvah already. For this reason, the Terumas HaDeshen, who contended that one should wait until motza’ei Shabbos to perform kiddush levanah, ruled that should the first available motza’ei Shabbos occur relatively late, one should recite the kiddush levanah earlier because of concern that if several consecutive nights are overcast one will lose the mitzvah completely.

By the same token, if delaying purchasing the new sefer Torah may result that it is not purchased at all, then one should not wait but should buy it already.

Airborne Prayers

At this point, we can answer Rabbi Nosaya’s question, which is whether he should daven on the airplane or wait until the plane lands where he will be able to daven with more kavanah. Based on our analysis, if it is certain that he will find a place where he can daven properly before the time for davening ends, then he should indeed wait to daven in the optimal way. However, if it is uncertain that he will be able to daven within the proper time, he should do so on the airplane, notwithstanding that it is very difficult to daven properly there (see Graz, Orach Chayim 94:5).

Review

Based on these points, we should prioritize our mitzvah performance in the following way:

1. Hiddur mitzvah is the first choice. When one is certain that one will be able to perform the mitzvah later in a more mehudar fashion, one should delay in order to do so. An example of this is delaying kiddush levanah until motza’ei Shabbos.

2. When delaying may result in missing the mitzvah altogether, one performs the mitzvah as soon as possible. The same is true if delaying the mitzvah for the hiddur may result in a long delay – we perform the mitzvah as soon as possible.

In Conclusion

Our entire discussion revolved around whether and when it is important to perform a mitzvah without delay or are there other mitzvah calculations that supersede that reason to perform a mitzvah early. The main point is that our attitude towards the performance of mitzvos should be one of enthusiasm – we are overjoyed with the opportunity of fulfilling Hashem’s commandments and therefore rush to perform His mitzvos as soon as we possibly can. This zeal must also sometimes be tempered with a different type of passion- the desire to perform the mitzvah in an optimal way. It is wonderful that Jews share these two enthusiastic emotions and try to seek balance between them.

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