Maaser Kesafim

Since the first source of the obligation of maaser kesafim is in this week’s parsha…

Question #1: Paying for Your Kids in Kollel

“I agreed to support my married children for five years. May I use maaser money for this?”

Question #2: Chomesh

What is chomesh?

Question #3: Tuition

May I pay tuition out of maaser kesafim funds?

Question #4: Testing Hashem!

May I ask Hashem to pay me back for the tzedakah money that I give?

Which maaser?

We should first note that the term maaser, without specifying which one, is used sometimes in the Mishnah and Gemara to refer to maaser rishon, and sometimes to refer to maaser sheini, and, in later halachic works, sometimes also to maaser kesafim. These three types of maaser have vastly different laws from one another. Usually, one can understand from context which maaser is intended. If the context alludes to maaser owned by a Levi, or to the first maaser being separated, maaser rishon is intended. If it refers to something that has sanctity, usually maaser sheini is intended. If it refers to a percentage of one’s income that is donated to tzedakah, it refers to maaser kesafim.

The above questions all relate to shaylos about how much someone should donate to tzedakah and how he should prioritize his giving. It is well known that Rav Moshe Feinstein used to complain that these are areas of halacha about which he was asked too infrequently.

Maaser kesafim: giving ten percent of one’s moneys to tzedakah. The poskim dispute whether one subtracts household expenses from one’s income, before calculating maaser.

The concept of maaser is primarily in the case of ayn ani bifanav, when I fulfill the mitzvah by putting aside money for tzedakah. In a case of ani bifanav I do not fulfill my mitzvah by giving him only ten percent.

A person who distributes maaser kesafim to the poor is blessed with a special guarantee of wealth (Taanis 9a). This beracha happens only when someone is meticulous to calculate exactly a tenth of one’s income for tzedakah (Shu’t Avkas Rocheil #3). Furthermore, this beracha is fulfilled only if one gives this maaser money to the poor, but if one gives part of it to other causes, there is no guarantee that wealth will follow (see Shu’t Radbaz 3:441). Therefore, although one may use maaser kesafim to buy an aliyah, pay for a “mi’shebeirach,” purchase sefarim that will be used by the tzibur (Taz, Yoreh Deah 249:1) or similar communal needs, it is preferred to earmark maaser kesafim for the needs of the poor (Rema, Yoreh Deah 249:1). Donations to Torah institutions are considered distributions to the poor (Ahavas Chesed 2:19:2), as are hachnasas kallah expenses (to pay wedding and related expenses for a poor groom or bride).

Chomesh: giving twenty percent of one’s moneys to tzedakah. This is the optimal level of fulfilling mitzvas tzedakah, whereas setting aside ten percent is considered only “midah beinonis,” an average person’s conduct. Someone who gives a chomesh to tzedakah should first calculate and set aside one tenth, and then a second tenth.

Before starting to give regular amounts of tzedakah on an ongoing basis, one should declare that he is following this procedure bli neder, without accepting it as a vow.

Paying for Your Kids in Kollel from Maaser Money

“I agreed to support my married children for five years. May I use maaser money for this?”

The Chasam Sofer authored a responsum (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #231) on this subject, which is fascinating for the many different halachic issues that he clarifies. Someone had arranged the marriage of his scholarly son to the daughter of a talmid chacham,with the following understanding: The father of the son accepted that he would pay every week a certain amount to his mechutan, the bride’s father, who would sustain the young growing family in his home, thus enabling the son-in-law to continue his studies under his father-in-law’s direction. The father of the chosson realized that it will be difficult for him to meet this commitment, and wants to know if he can use the maaser money from his business endeavors to provide the support for which he is responsible.

The Chasam Sofer opens his discussion by quoting two opinions that seem to dispute whether it is acceptable to use maaser money for such an expenditure. The Rema, quoting the Maharil, contends that it is not permitted to use maaser money to pay for a mitzvah, such as donating lamps and candles to the shul, whereas the Shach states, in the name of the Maharam, that it is permitted to use maaser money for mitzvos. Thus, whether one may pay for mitzvos, other than supporting the poor, from maaser money appears to be a dispute among early authorities.

The Chasam Sofer then quotes the Be’er Hagolah, who explains that the two above-quoted opinions are not in dispute. All authorities prohibit using maaser money to fulfill a mitzvah that someone is already obligated to observe. The Maharam, who permitted using maaser money for these purposes, was discussing a case in which the donor intended to use maaser money for this mitzvah from the outset, whereas the Maharil is discussing a situation in which he has been using his maaser money to support the poor, in which case he cannot now divert it for other mitzvos that do not qualify as tzedakah for the poor. Thus, according to the Be’er Hagolah, whether the father can begin meeting his obligations to his son and mechutan with his maaser money will depend on whether he has already accepted the obligation on himself to pay this from other funds, in which case he cannotuse maaser money for it, or if it is an obligation that he is now accepting upon himself, in which case he can specify that he wants to use maaser money to fulfill it.

The Chasam Sofer does not consider the approach of the Be’er Hagolah to be fully correct. He (the Chasam Sofer) notes that the Maharil wrote that maaser moneys are meant to support the poor and not for the acquisition of mitzvos. Therefore, use of maaser money for any type of personal mitzvah is inappropriate, whether he is already obligated to fulfill the mitzvah or not.

The Chasam Sofer concludes that when someone begins donating maaser money, he may stipulate that, sometimes, the money will be used for a mitzvah donation, such as the lighting in shul. However, once he has begun donating his maaser money regularly to the poor, he must continue using it for tzedakah.

Family first

Having determined that there are definitely situations in which maaser money must be given to the poor, the Chasam Sofer then discusses when and whether money designated for the poor can be used to support an individual’s extended family. There is a general rule that one is obligated to the poor to whom one is closest – close family first, more distant family next, neighbors third, members of one’s city next and the out-of-town poor next.

Greater needs

Notwithstanding that family should be supported first, the Chasam Sofer quotes from his rebbi, the author of the Haflaah, that the rules of “closest first” or “family first” are only when the funds are necessary for the same level of need, for example, all have enough to eat, but not enough for clothing. However, if some are short of food, and others have enough to eat but are short on clothing or other needs, the responsibility to make sure that someone has enough to eat comes first, even for someone out of town, regardless of whether there are neighbors or locals who are needy, as long as they have sufficient food.

Yet, concludes the Chasam Sofer, this prioritization is not absolute. All needs of someone’s family are considered his responsibility before the basic needs of others. In other words, the priorities should be as follows:

(1) Family needs.

(2) Most basic needs – food – regardless of location of needy.

(3) People of one’s city.

(4) The out-of-town poor.

Chasam Sofer’s conclusion

If the father had stipulated, at the time of obligating himself to support his son, that he would use maaser money for this obligation, he would be able to use it. Even then, the Chasam Sofer recommends that he use only up to half of his available maaser money to support his son. His reasoning is based on a Mishnah (Peah 8:6) which says that someone is permitted to save his maaser ani (the tithe one gives to the poor in the third and sixth year of the shemittah cycle) to support those that he chooses to, but he should not set aside more than half of his maaser ani for this purpose; the rest should be given to the local poor.

However, this is only when he had originally planned to use maaser money for this purpose. Otherwise, once he created an obligation upon himself to support his son, it is similar to any other obligation that he has, and he may not use his maaser money for this purpose.

Tuition

Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that one should not pay tuition for sons and daughters in elementary school and high school from maaser funds, because this level of education is obligatory. However, someone eligible for a tuition reduction who elects to pay full tuition may pay the extra from maaser (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:113; also see Ahavas Chesed 2:19:2). If paying the expected amount of tuition without resorting to maaser funds creates hardship, one should ask a shaylah.

Yeshiva gedolah tuition and expenses may be paid from maaser, because a parent is not obligated to support a child at this age.

Testing Hashem!

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions: “May I ask Hashem to pay me back for the tzedakah money that I give?”

It is generally prohibited to “test” Hashem, as the Torah states, “Lo senasu es Hashem,” “Do not test Hashem” (Devarim 6:16). One may not say, “I am performing this mitzvah so that Hashem will reward me by providing me with such-and-such (Sefer Yerei’im #361; Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzvah 395, 424; Shu’t Radbaz #882).

However, there is one exception to this rule – one may give maaser kesafim, expecting to be blessed with wealth as a reward (Taanis 9a, as explained by Shu’t Avkas Rocheil #3; Sefer Hassidim #144; Rema, Yoreh Deah 247:4; Ahavas Chesed 2:18. Cf. Shel”a and She’ei’las Ya’avetz #3, quoted in Pischei Teshuvah 247:2).

The Gemara (Taanis 9a) relates that, after Reish Lakeish’s passing, Rabbi Yochanan encountered his nephew (who was Reish Lakeish’s son). Rabbi Yochanan asked his nephew what he had learned in cheder that day. The nephew replied, “Te’aser kedei shetis’asher,” “Give maaser so that you get rich.”

“How do you know?” asked Rabbi Yochanan.

“Go test it,” answered the nephew, who then asked, “But is one permitted to test Hashem?”

Rabbi Yochanan replied, “I heard from my rebbe, Rabbi Hoshiyah, that this is an exception –because of the pasuk in Malachi (3:10), where Hashem begs us to test Him when giving maaser and see for yourself that He opens the windows of Heaven and grants blessings until our lips weary of saying ‘Enough!’”

We see from this that it is permitted to declare that I am giving the correct amount of tzedakah and expect that Hashem will reward me with wealth. I know several people who personally attest that this beracha was fulfilled!

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Forgot Tal Umatar

Question #1: Forgot once!

What is the halacha if someone forgot to pray for rain?

Question #2: Forgot twice!!

“I just recited the words baruch Attah Hashem of the beracha Shema Koleinu, and I realize that I have not recited Vesein tal umatar! What do I do now?”

Question #3: Forgot a third time!!! Have I struck out?

“I went back to Boreich Aleinu because I forgot Vesein tal umatar the first time I said shemoneh esrei. But now I forgot Vesein tal umatar again. Do I get another chance?”

Foreword

Chazal (Mishnah, Taanis 2a, 5a and 10a; Gemara Taanis, 10a) instituted that a small prayer requesting rain be added to the shemoneh esrei during the winter months. The Mishnah and Gemara conclude that this prayer is begun in Eretz Yisrael on the Seventh of Marcheshvan and, in Bavel, sixty days after the equinox. This article will not discuss how we calculate “sixty days after the equinox” and why it falls in the beginning of December.

Bavel vs. Eretz Yisrael

Rashi (Taanis, 10a s.v. Tata’i) explains that “we” follow the approach of Bavel, which means that the commonly accepted practice outside Eretz Yisrael is to begin reciting Vesein tal umatar in early December (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 117:1,2). I have written articles that are on the website RabbiKaganoff.com in which I explained the disagreement between Rashi and the Rosh, who disputes his conclusion; I also presented the debate among the poskim regarding when Vesein tal umatar is recited in the southern hemisphere.

Edot hamizrah and Ashkenazim

It should be noted that the Edot hamizrah follow a very different procedure for reciting Vesein tal umatar than do Ashkenazim. Based on kabbalistic sources, the Edot hamizrah recite a completely different text for the entire Boreich aleinu beracha during the winter months than they do in the summer months. Ashkenazim, whether they daven nusach Ashkenaz or nusach Sefard, merely add the words tal umatar and a letter lamed between the word ve’sein and the word beracha. Either approach is acceptable.

There is an interesting advantage to the way the Edot hamizrah fulfill this requirement of reciting Vesein tal umatar. Since the entire beracha has two different versions, someone who is uncertain whether he recited Vesein tal umatar but knows that he began the winter version of the beracha may assume that he recited that version completely, including the proper recital of Vesein tal umatar (Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah, Devar Halacha 8:30).

Forgot once

What is the halacha if someone did not recite Vesein tal umatar?

Someone who neglected to mention Vesein tal umatar in his shemoneh esrei and completed his shemoneh esrei must daven again (Berachos 26b). However, someone who forgot Vesein tal umatar in the beracha of Boreich Aleinu may still recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu (Berachos 29a), immediately before the words ki Attah shomei’a tefillas, which iswhere he would recite aneinu on a fast day. Thus, one is required to recite Vesein tal umatar as an essential part of davening, but there are two places in davening where Vesein tal umatar may be included.

We should note that there are times when reciting Vesein tal umatar in the beracha of Shema Koleinu is preferable, as indicated in the following passage of Gemara: “The people of Nineveh sent the following she’eilah to Rebbe: Our city requires rain, even in the middle of the summer. Are we considered individuals that request rain in Shema Koleinu, or are we considered a community that recites Ve’sein tal umatar during Boreich Aleinu? Rebbe responded that they are considered individuals and should request rain during Shema Koleinu” (Taanis 14b).

Why should the people of Nineveh recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu rather than in Boreich Aleinu? The answer is that someone who recites Vesein tal umatar in Boreich Aleinu when he is not supposed to must return to that beracha. (If he completed the shemoneh esrei without correcting his error, he must recite shemoneh esrei again from the beginning.) However, reciting Vesein tal umatar during Shema Koleinu does not violate the halacha and does not require that he repeat the davening. Someone looking for a job or a shidduch, or whose town is suffering from a drought, may request help during Shema Koleinu. Thus, requesting rain in Shema Koleinu is fitting any time of the year; requesting rain in Boreich Aleinu is reserved for the needs of a community, and only in the appropriate season.

We now know that there are situations when requesting rain in Shema Koleinu is the best thing to do. This is also the solution often suggested for someone who is uncertain whether he should recite Vesein tal umatar – for example, someone visiting or traveling to Eretz Yisrael who is uncertain whether he should recite Vesein tal umatar during the days between the 7th of Marcheshvan and December 4th (on the above website, I have an article on this topic). Similarly, some authorities rule that, in the southern hemisphere, it is best to recite Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu, so as to accommodate differing opinions. I discussed this matter at length in the article that I referred to earlier.

This is what you dew

The Gemara states that, both in the beracha of Mechayeh Hameisim and in the beracha of Boreich Aleinu, only mention of rain, using either of the two words, geshem or matar, is essential (see Taanis 3a). Someone who forgot to mention either the wind or the dew, but requested that Hashem bring rain, has fulfilled his requirement and does not repeat anything at all. Therefore, a person reciting Vesein matar al penei ha’adamah but omitting the word tal, dew, should not correct himself, since this is an unnecessary repetition in the shemoneh esrei and constitutes a hefsek (Mekor Chayim 18:8).

Someone who forgot to recite either Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem or Vesein tal umatar, when required, is obligated to repeat the shemoneh esrei. However, there is an important difference between the two, as noted by the Tur. Someone who recited Morid hatal, praising Hashem for providing dew, rather than Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem, is not required to repeat the shemoneh esrei. On the other hand, someone who is required to recite Vesein tal umatar but prayed only for dew and said Vesein tal al penei ha’adamah is required to repeat the shemoneh esrei.

Geshem instead of matar?

Is there any halachic difference between reciting the word geshem and reciting the word matar? Both mean rain. What is the halacha if someone said Vesein tal ugeshem livracha instead of Vesein tal umatar? The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 114:2) rules that he has fulfilled the mitzvah and does not repeat any davening.

Before or after Aneinu?

What should someone do if it is a fast day and he has to say Vesein tal umatar in Shema Koleinu? Both requests, Aneinu and Vesein tal umatar, should be recited immediately before the words ki Attah shomei’a tefillas. Which one does he recite first?

Quoting the Avudraham, the Rema rules that Vesein tal umatar should be recited before Aneinu (Orach Chayim 117:5). The Magen Avraham (ad loc.) explains that this is because Vesein tal umatar is considered more vital than Aneinu – should someone omit Vesein tal umatar, he is required to repeat the davening, whereas omitting Aneinu never requires someone to repeat davening.

Finished davening

Someone who completed the shemoneh esrei and realizes that he did not say Vesein tal umatar must repeat shemoneh esrei from the beginning (Tosafos, Berachos 29b s.v. Ha). If he is still reciting personal prayers at the end of the shemoneh esrei, or he is still thinking about what personal prayers he wants to say, he is considered to be in the middle of shemoneh esrei. However, someone who backed up to say oseh shalom at the end of shemoneh esrei, or he who has concluded what he intends to daven, has completed his davening, and he must begin shemoneh esrei from the beginning in order to recite Vesein tal umatar.

What should someone do if he forgot Vesein tal umatar in its proper place, forgot it again in Shema Koleinu, and already began the beracha of Retzei. We know that he must return to the proper place to recite Vesein tal umatar, but the question is whether he returns only to Shema Koleinu, or must he return all the way back to Boreich Aleinu? This question is disputed by the ga’onim and the rishonim (see Tosafos, Berachos 29b s.v. Ha; Rosh, Berachos 4:14; Rashba, Berachos 29b; Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 117). The poskim conclude that he should return to Boreich Aleinu (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 117:5).

Completed Shema Koleinu

What is the halacha if someone completed the beracha of Shema Koleinu, but did not yet begin Retzei. May he recite Vesein tal umatar at this point and avoid repeating parts of the shemoneh esrei, or must he already return to Boreich Aleinu? This question involves a dispute among rishonim, some of whom contend that, as long as he has not begun the word Retzei he is still considered to be in the beracha of Shema Koleinu and it is still an acceptable place to recite Vesein tal umatar (Rosh, Taanis 1:1). On the other hand, other rishonim argue that once he recited the words Boruch Attah Hashem Shomei’a Tefillah, he has completed that beracha and can no longer recite Vesein tal umatar (see Biur Halacha 114:6).

Which rishon is correct?

There is a dispute between two of the greatest poskim of their era, the Shulchan Aruch and the Maharshal, regarding how we rule in this situation. The Shulchan Aruch concludes that the halacha follows the Rosh and, therefore, it is acceptable to insert Vesein tal umatar between the berachos of Shema Koleinu and saying the word Retzei. However, the Maharshal contends that the halacha is that once the beracha is completed, it is too late to add a missed addition.

How do we rule?

Since the Shulchan Aruch concludes like the Rosh, most later authorities follow this opinion that it is acceptable to add something to a beracha after its recital is completed, as long as one has not begun the subsequent beracha. This halacha may be applied to other additions to our davening, including Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem and Yaaleh Veyavo.

Forgot twice!!

At this point, we can address the second of our opening questions: “I just recited the words baruch Attah Hashem of the beracha Shema Koleinu, and I realize that I have not recited Vesein tal umatar! What do I do now?”

The later poskim dispute what someone should do in this situation. The Mishnah Berurah (117:19 and Biur Halacha 114:6) paskins that he should interpose the two words, lamdeini chukecha, which means that he has now made the potential beracha into a pasuk (Tehillim 119:12). Then he should recite Vesein tal umatar, followed by the closing of the beracha ki Attah shomei’a tefillas amcha Yisrael berachamim (tefilas kol peh, if he davens nusach Sefard) and close the beracha correctly Boruch Attah Hashem Shomei’a Tefillah. This method avoids the dispute among rishonim as to whether he must daven over or not; however, it creates an interruption in the middle of his prayers.

The Tehillah Ledavid (Orach Chayim 114:7) is not convinced that creating this interruption is better than completing the beracha by reciting Shomei’a Tefillah, then reciting Vesein tal umatar and continuing with Retzei.Rav Moshe Feinstein concludes, unlike the Mishnah Berurah, that he should definitely complete the beracha of Shomei’a Tefillah and then mention Vesein tal umatar (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim, 4:93).

Forgot three times — an ultra long shemoneh esrei

What is the halacha if someone (a) forgot to say Vesein tal umatar in Boreich Aleinu, then (b) forgot to say it in Shema Koleinu, (c) remembers it before he completed his shemoneh esrei, which requires him to return to Boreich Aleinu, but he then (d) forgot to say it (again) in Boreich Aleinu! Must he (1) begin his shemoneh esrei from the beginning, or (2) return to Boreich Aleinu, or may he (3) simply continue his shemoneh esrei and (hopefully) remember to say it in Shema Koleinu (this second time around). Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach rules that he should follow the third option suggested – simply continue his shemoneh esrei and remember to recite Vesein tal umatar in his second recital of Shema Koleinu (Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah,8:22).

Friday mincha

What is the halacha if someone omitted Vesein tal umatar in mincha on erev Shabbos, and now it is Shabbos. Someone who forgot to daven mincha on Friday davens an extra tefillah, called a tefillas tashlumin, on Friday night, to make up the missed mincha, even though the Shabbos eve prayer is completely different from the shemoneh esrei he would have said on Friday. Is the same halacha true if he davened Friday mincha, but omitted saying Vesein tal umatar? After all, he recited the shemoneh esrei on Friday afternoon, and the insertion Vesein tal umatar is not said on Shabbos; so, does he gain by repeating the shemoneh esrei of Shabbos?

Before answering this question, we need to research a related issue discussed already in the rishonim (Tosafos, Berachos 26b s.v. Ta’ah). Someone forgot Yaaleh Veyavo in mincha on Rosh Chodesh, and the following evening is no longer Rosh Chodesh. Does he recite a tefillas tashlumin after he recites maariv? On the one hand, someone who forgot Yaaleh Veyavo on Rosh Chodesh must daven again, but, in this instance, he will not be reciting Yaaleh Veyavo anyway.

The question is the following: Why does he repeat the shemoneh esrei when he forgot Yaaleh Veyavo? Is it because he cannot fulfill the requirement of tefillah on Rosh Chodesh without Yaaleh Veyavo? Or has he, indeed, fulfilled the mitzvah of tefillah, but he still has a requirement to recite Yaaleh Veyavo, and Yaaleh Veyavo cannot be said without shemoneh esrei. The practical difference between the two understandings is our case – where he already missed the opportunity to recite Yaaleh Veyavo at mincha, and will be unable to recite Yaaleh Veyavo the following evening because it is no longer Rosh Chodesh. If missing Yaaleh Veyavo means that he did not fulfill his obligation to pray mincha, he is required to daven maariv with a tefillas tashlumin in order to make up the missed mincha. However, if he fulfilled his requirement to daven mincha, but is missing Yaaleh Veyavo, nothing is accomplished by davening an extra maariv tefillah, since either way he has missed Yaaleh Veyavo.

Rabbeinu Yehudah, one of the baalei Tosafos (Tosafos, Berachos 26b s.v. Ta’ah), rules that, even though he forgot Yaaleh Veyavo, he fulfilled his obligation of to daven mincha and there is no tefillas tashlumin. On the other hand, the scholars of Provence require a tefillas tashlumin; without Yaaleh Veyavo he has not fulfilled the requirement to daven (quoted in Rosh, Berachos 4:2).

The conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch is that, in this instance, he should daven the extra prayer after Rosh Chodesh as a voluntary prayer, in order to avoid the halachic dispute.

In the same way, we should view the question that we asked about someone who omitted Vesein tal umatar in mincha on erev Shabbos. If he did not fulfill the requirements of tefillah, he is required to daven a tefillas tashlumin after Friday night maariv to fulfill his missed tefillah. However, if he fulfilled his obligation to daven, but is missing only his prayer for rain, nothing is accomplished by davening a Shabbos tefillah a second time, since he will not be reciting Vesein tal umatar in the replacement shemoneh esrei.

However, this situation cannot be resolved with a voluntary tefillah, because we cannot recite voluntary prayers on Shabbos. Therefore, he will not recite an extra tefillah because of the rule of safek berachos lehakeil –we do not recite berachos when it is uncertain that they are required (Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim 1:54; Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah 8:82; note that both of these sources mention that Rav Chayim Soloveichek of Brisk is quoted as disputing this conclusion).

A bit of a shlemiel

The later poskim discuss the following case: Someone davened shemoneh esrei on Rosh Chodesh and remembered to say Vesein tal umatar, but forgot to say Yaaleh Veyavo, which requires him to repeat the shemoneh esrei. When repeating the shemoneh esrei, he remembered to say Yaaleh Veyavo, but this time forgot to say Vesein tal umatar. He has now recited two tefillos, said both Yaaleh Veyavo and Vesein tal umatar, but has he fulfilled his davening requirement? The Steipler Gaon, who raises this question, says that he is uncertain what this person should do (Kehillas Yaakov, Berachos #12).

Conclusion

Rashi (Bereishis 2:5) points out that until Adam Harishon appeared, there was no rain in the world. Rain fell and grasses sprouted only after Adam was created, understood that rain was necessary for the world, and prayed to Hashem for rain. Whenever we pray for rain, we must always remember that the essence of prayer is drawing ourselves closer to Hashem.

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Hybrid Halacha

Question #1: Grapes

Why is kilayim of grapes different from all the other kilayim prohibitions?

Question #2: Great Auks

Is it permitted to crossbreed auks and ducks?

Question #3: The Grand, Green Movers

I am green. Instead of trucks, may I use elephants, water buffalo and draft horses together to move my house?

Question #4: Accused of Graft!

Where does the Torah prohibit grafting trees?

Introduction:

In parshas Bereishis, the various species of animals and plants were instructed to reproduce lemi’neihem, according to their species, meaning that they were not to hybridize (crossbreed) with other species. These sources in parshas Bereishis bring to mind the several mitzvos taught later in the Torah not to mix species(Chullin 60a; Tosafos, Sanhedrin 60a; Ramban, Bereishis 1:26; Rashbam, Vayikra 19:19).

The word kilayim is translated by Onkelos and ibn Ezra (Vayikra 19:19) as “mixture,” although other commentaries understand that this word originates from the same Hebrew root as the word “prison,” beis ke’le (see Yeshayah, 42:22). This approach is quoted in the name of the Raavad (by the Rashas, in his commentary to the Yerushalmi, Kilayim 3:5) and by Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19), who explains that the shoresh כ ל א means to keep or hold something back, and that the plural structure kilayim is similar to yadayim “hands” or raglayim “feet,” and means a pair. Therefore, the word kilayim means to treat as a pair two items (similar to our pair of hands) that are required to be kept separate.

Having explained the source of the word kilayim this way, there is no need to assume that Onkelos or ibn Ezra disagree. They are merely elucidating the word in the context of the posuk, where it means a forbidden mixture, whereas Rav Hirsch is explaining the etymological basis for this meaning.

Kilayim versus hybridization

It is important to clarify a common misconception. The prohibition of kilayim is not necessarily the creation of a new species — it is the appearance that one is mingling two species together. My desktop dictionary defines hybrid as “the offspring produced by breeding plants or animals of different varieties, species, or races.” Hybridization always involves making changes in the DNA of a species; most instances of kilayim do not. Planting seeds of different species in close proximity does not affect their genetic makeup – thus, technically, no hybridization transpires — yet it may be prohibited min haTorah. Similarly, wearing a garment manufactured from woolen and linen thread does not affect the two parent species or the DNA of the thread in the slightest.

Kilayim prohibitions

The Torah teaches about kilayim in two places, in parshas Kedoshim and in parshas Ki Seitzei. There the Torah mentions a total of six lo saaseh prohibitions, each of which is counted among the 365 lo saasehs that are included in the 613 mitzvos.

In parshas Kedoshim (Vayikra 19:19), the Torah teaches:

(1) Observe my laws! Do not mate your animal with a diverse species (kilayim).

(2) Do not plant your field with a diverse species.

(3) A garment containing diverse species called shatnez you shall not put upon yourself.

In parshas Ki Seitzei (Devorim 22:9-12), the Torah states:

(4) Do not plant diverse species in your vineyard

(5) lest what grows become sanctified (tukdash); the seed that was planted together with the growth of the vineyard.

(6) Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

(3, again) Do not wear shatnez, wool and linen together.

Of the six lo saaseh prohibitions counted here, the Torah calls four of them kilayim (which we translated as “diverse species”). The fifth, “lo sacharosh,” do not plow, prohibits different species of animals working together, such as plowing or pulling wagons, but is not called kilayim by the Torah.

The sixth is a prohibition against using what grew as kilayim in a vineyard. There is no prohibition in using any of the other mixtures, meaning that, although it is forbidden to hybridize different species of animals, crossbreed fruit, or plow with different species of animals, it is permitted to eat a crossbred fruit or what grew in a kilayim field other than a vineyard. Similarly, it is permitted to use a shatnez garment as long as I don’t wear it.

Grapes are different!

This leads us to our opening question: “Why is kilayim of grapes different from all the other kilayim prohibitions?” The product of kilayim of other species, including the fruit created by grafting and the mule created by mating a male donkey (jack) with a mare (female horse), are permitted to be used, even if a Jew created them in violation of the halacha. Only in the instance of kil’ei hakerem is there a prohibition to use what is produced.

This prohibition is derived from a careful reading of the pasuk, where the Torah states: Do not plant diverse species in your vineyard lest what grows become sanctified (tukdash); the seed that was planted together with the growth of the vineyard. None of the other kilayim prohibitions include an additional lo saaseh that applies to what grows afterward. The Torah’s method of conveying this law is the word tukdash. The Rashbam explains the word tukdash to mean sanctified — the produce becomes prohibited like kodashim are prohibited for personal use. Although other rishonim have different explanations of the word tukdash, all agree that the produce that grows there is prohibited for use min haTorah.

Why are vineyards different?

Why does the prohibition against benefitting exist only with regard to kilayim in a vineyard? The Chizkuni (Devorim 22:9) explains because otherwise this type of kilayim can slip by unnoticed; the wheat that grows in a vineyard does not look different from wheat grown in a wheat field, as opposed to shatnez and animal husbandry, where the item worn or produced is noticeable that it includes two different “species.” Note that the grafting of a tree is similarly highly noticeable, at least initially.

Animal Hybrids

Thousands of years ago, mankind crossbred horses and donkeys to create mules and hinnies. This hybrid, called a pered (female pirdah) is already mentioned many times in Tanach. As a pack animal, the mule, produced from a male donkey and a mare, may have advantages over either of its parents. It is usually as strong as a horse, yet sturdier and more sure-footed, and — notwithstanding its reputation for being “stubborn as a mule” — is often more reliable for hauling than draft horses. (A hinney, which has less commercial value, is produced from a female donkey [jenny] and a stallion.)

Not only is it prohibited to crossbreed a horse with a donkey, it is even forbidden to mate a mule or hinney with either a donkey or horse (Mishnah, Kilayim 1:6). In fact, it is rare that such an attempt will produce offspring, although it is claimed anecdotally that there are occasions in which a mule or hinney is fertile and reproduces.

Other crossbred animals

Artificial insemination has been used to crossbreed all sorts of species. Camels and llamas have been crossbred with the goal of producing a larger quantity of quality llama wool. Mankind has created such interesting creatures as ligers (crossbreeds of male lions and tigresses), tiglons (sometimes called tigons, from male tigers and lionesses), leopons (male leopards and lionesses), wholpins (whales and dolphins) and geeps (goats and sheep). Most of these have resulted in limited, if any, commercial value, although individuals unconcerned about the halachic ramifications thought that offspring of such crossbreeding might provide an economic advantage. Crossbreeding animal species is one of the prohibitions of the Torah, when it declares behemtecha lo sarbia kilayim (Vayikra 19:19).

Great auks

At this point, let us discuss the second of our opening questions: “Is it permitted to crossbreed auks and ducks?”

Although both varieties of birds spend much time in and over water, I presume that there would be a kilayim prohibition involved in attempting to crossbreed them. There is an additional problem in attempting to crossbreed great auks with ducks, since great auks have been assumed extinct for well over a century.

Pulling your weight

A similar question would be whether a circus show could use species of different animals to haul together. We know that the Torah prohibited this when it wrote lo sacharosh beshor vachamor yachdav, Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together. The juxtaposition of this mitzvah between other kilayim prohibitions implies that this is an extension of the laws of kilayim.

Some rishonim explain that the prohibition of having two different species haul a load together is a type of min haTorah gezeirah to avoid housing them together at night, which (they contend) would be prohibited as crossbreeding animals. We do find other instances of Torah prohibitions whose purpose is to prevent a more serious violation of the Torah. The classic example of this is the prohibition of bal yematzei, owning chometz on Pesach, which the Torah itself states is to avoid violating the more serious prohibition of eating chometz on Pesach (Shemos 12:19). A similar idea is yichud, which the Gemara (Kiddushin 80b) implies is a Torah violation, whose purpose is to discourage the more serious violation of arayos.

Unfair labor practices?

Notwithstanding that the Torah and the Mishnah both imply that the prohibition of lo sacharosh is because of kilayim, many early authorities explain this law because of other reasons. The ibn Ezra  explains that this is prohibited because, although a donkey is an excellent work animal, it is not “strong as an ox.” In other words, the “reason” for this mitzvah is to teach us to be concerned not to overburden the donkey.

I want to show a reverse case. During a tour I once took of a reconstructed nineteenth-century farm, the plow was being pulled by a draft horse together with a mule. The curators explained to me that they own both horses and mules, and teaming up to work together depends on the animal’s temperament, not necessarily its species. They can sometimes successfully team together a particular mule and a particular horse, and sometimes two horses or two mules will not pull their weight together. Apparently, in the animal world, your coworker is as important a factor in job satisfaction as it is in the human world.

However, from a halachic perspective, there are several unusual factors here. For one, mules are the offspring of male donkeys and mares (female horses). The halacha is that teaming a mule and a horse is prohibited min haTorah because they are different species, notwithstanding that their size and strength may be functionally equivalent. In other words, the reason that the ibn Ezra presents for the prohibition of lo sacharosh does not fit the halacha. Furthermore, the mitzvah of lo sacharosh permits matching a large mature draft horse with an undersized pony colt, notwithstanding that the young and small pony will have a very difficult time pulling its weight alongside its powerful coworker.

Nevertheless, we could still accept the ibn Ezra’s approach to analyzing the “reason” for this mitzvah. As noted by the Sefer Hachinuch, we can never, and should never, claim to understand the “reason” for a mitzvah. Why Hashem commanded us to perform a specific mitzvah is not something for us to try to prove or to rationalize. Unfortunately, such rationalizing has often led to individuals not complying with mitzvos. We know that this error was perpetrated even by the greatest of the great – for example, by Shelomo Hamelech when he accrued more wealth and wives than the Torah permits. The Sefer Hachinuch explains that taamei hamitzvah does not mean “reasons” for mitzvos, but that the word taam should be translated here as “taste,” meaning that these are ideas, messages, or tastes that we can apply to ourselves as lessons when we observe or study these mitzvos. The Rambam also agrees that “reasons” or “tastes” of mitzvos do not always reflect the halachic reality. (Those who oppose this approach to taamei hamitzvah rally around Rav Hirsch, who usually espouses reasons for mitzvos only after a highly detailed analysis of all its laws, and suggests taamei hamitzvah only when they fit the halachic details of the mitzvah.)

Graft

At this point, I am returning to the last question that I asked: “Where does the Torah prohibit grafting trees?” If we look carefully at the pesukim of kilayim prohibitions, quoted above, we will note that nowhere does the Torah explicitly prohibit the grafting of one species of fruit tree onto another, which is called in Hebrew harkavah. If, indeed, this prohibition is not mentioned in the Torah, how do we know that it is prohibited?

By means of a complicated homiletic derivation, based on the first words of the pasuk, Observe my laws, the Gemara  (Kiddushin 39a; Sanhedrin 60a) derives that harkavah, grafting a fruit tree onto a different species, is prohibited min haTorah. The Rambam (Hilchos Kilayim 1:5) concludes that it is included under the lo saaseh of sadecha lo sizra kilayim, the prohibition of planting different species of grains together.

Crossbreeding of plants

Crossbreeding of plants, or, as it is usually called, cross-fertilization or cross-pollination, is when one pollinates the flower of one species with pollen from a different species to produce offspring with some characteristics of each. Many fruits have been developed this way, although I want to share that a nectarine is not a crossbreed of a peach and a plum, as is often mistakenly thought. A nectarine is an ancient variety of peach (Prunus persica) that has a smooth skin. Botanists consider it to be the same species as peach. In their opinion, the difference between nectarines and peaches is the difference between two people who have different complexions or perhaps variant orientations of skin pigment, and certainly not a halachic consideration. I am unaware of anyone who has attempted to study this as a halachic issue. The practical difference is whether it is permitted to graft a nectarine scion onto a peach stalk or vice versa.

What is interesting is that, in the discussions about kilayim in the Torah, the Mishnah and the writings of Chazal, nowhere does it say that it is prohibited to cross-pollinate from one plant species to another. This does not mean to say that there is no prohibition of kilayim germane to trees or plants. Quite the contrary, there are three such prohibitions min haTorah. They are referred to as kil’ei zera’im (kilayim in plants), kil’ei hakerem (kilayim in vineyards), and harkavas ilan (kilayim in trees). But, as we will soon see, none of these three prohibitions has to do with crossbreeding.

The prohibition applies to herbaceous, as opposed to woody plants, meaning that it does not apply to trees and shrubs, but it does apply to vegetables and many herbs. Thus, one may plant seeds of different trees together, yet one is forbidden to plant a mix of vegetable seeds (Rambam, Hilchos Kilayim 1:6).

Kil’ei zera’im

Kil’ei zera’im is planting two or more different species of grains, vegetables or other edible herbaceous plants in close proximity. Exactly what defines “close proximity” is a very complicated halachic topic, and depends on factors such as the shape and size of the vegetable patch, and what variety of produce one is planting. We should note that from a botanical point of view, planting two species in close proximity will not cause hybridization because it does not affect the genetic makeup of the species.

The mitzvah of kil’ei zera’im applies only in Eretz Yisrael. Thus, someone in chutz la’aretz may plant his backyard garden with a wide variety of vegetables without any halachic concern, whereas in Eretz Yisrael someone planting a garden patch must be very careful to keep the different species separate.

Kilayim in a vineyard, kil’ei hakerem

Kil’ei hakerem is the prohibition against planting grains or vegetables in or near a vineyard. Again, this forbidden planting will not affect the genetic makeup of any of the plants involved. It is also quite clear that this was not the concern in halacha, as we see from many of the halachic details. For example: although it is prohibited to plant grains or vegetables near a vineyard, it is permitted to separate the vegetable patch from the vineyard by placing a halachic wall between them. For this, two poles and a wire at the top, a tzuras hapesach, between the vegetable patch and the vineyard suffices (Eruvin 11a), similar to what we do when we construct an eruv to permit carrying on Shabbos.

It is quite clear that, botanically, the tzuras hapesach does not prevent the mingling of the species. Yet, with the tzuras hapesach, it is permitted to plant the grain and, without it, there is a Torah prohibition to do so! This certainly cannot be explained on a scientific basis.

Conclusion

Observing and studying the laws of kilayim reminds us how all of Hashem’s creation always follows His instructions. This reminds the contemplative Jew that, if the plants heed Hashem’s word, how much more must we strive to obey His instructions.

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Gifts to the Poor

The Gemara tells us that the Torah reading of Sukkos includes references concerning gifts to the poor, to remind people of these mitzvos during harvest season.

Question #1: Leaving in Today’s World

“Is there a requirement to leave leket, shich’cha and pei’ah in your field today?”

Question #2: In Chutz La’Aretz

“I live in chutz la’aretz. Am I required to separate pei’ah on my backyard vegetable patch?”

Question #3: Cluster Alms

“Why do I need to know how a typical cluster of grapes looks?

Introduction

While harvesting grain and other produce, the Torah presents six different mitzvah opportunities to provide for the poor: leket, shich’cha, pei’ah, peret, oleilos, and maaser ani. I discussed several of these mitzvos in a recent article, but did not complete the topic. This article picks up where that one left off.

In parshas Kedoshim, the Torah mentions the mitzvos of pei’ah, leket, peret and oleilos: When you reap the harvest of your land, do not complete harvesting the corner of your field, and the “leket” of your harvest you should not collect. From your vineyard, do not remove the “oleilos,” and the “peret” of your vineyard you should not collect. Leave them for the poor and the stranger (Vayikra 19:9-10). I deliberately did not translate the words leket, oleilos and peret, since they will be explained shortly.

Shich’cha, peret and oleilos are all discussed at the end of parshas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 24:19-21).

Maaser ani is mentioned in parshas Ki Savo (Devarim 26:12)

Two of these mitzvos, pei’ah and leket, are also discussed in parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:22), in the midst of the Torah’s discussion about the festival cycle (parshas hamo’ados): When cutting the harvest of your land, do not complete the reaping of the corner of your field while you are harvesting, and the “leket” of your harvest you should not collect. Leave them for the poor and the stranger. This pasuk is the one included in our Sukkos reading.

Several halachos are quite clear from these pesukim, even without any commentary. The mitzvah is to leave behind these four items: pei’ah, leket, oleilos and peret, and allow the impoverished to help themselves. This implies that the owner may not choose or favor one pauper over another in the distribution of these gifts, and that neither he, nor anyone else, is even permitted to assist one poor person over another. To quote the Mishnah: He who does not allow the poor to collect, or allows one of them to collect but not another, or helps one of them, is stealing from the poor (Pei’ah 5:6).

Shich’cha

The mitzvah of shich’cha is discussed only at the end of parshas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 24:19): When you reap your harvest in your field, and you forget a sheaf in the field, you may not return to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow, so that Hashem, your G-d, will bless you in all your undertakings. Shich’cha is different from the other four mitzvos we have previously mentioned in one significant way – it applies to produce only as it is brought in from the field, and not any earlier or later (Pei’ah 5:8).  Therefore, small bundles that were forgotten in the field, but where the intention, initially, was to combine them into larger bundles before bringing them in from the field, are not shich’cha (Pei’ah 5:8). This is different from the mitzvos of pei’ah, leket, peret and oleilos, which apply only at the time of the reaping, when the produce is being cut from the earth.

Shich’cha applies only when the owner or his workers forgot one or two bundles (Pei’ah 6:5). If they forgot three or more bundles, the law of shich’cha does not apply – the poor may not take it, and the owner may retrieve it.

Shich’cha applies only if we can assume that the sheaf or sheaves left behind are likely to be completely forgotten.  However, it does not apply if the owner or his worker will remember later that the bundle was left behind, for any of a variety of reasons, such as, it was left in a place that he will remember where it was, or it was much larger than the rest of his sheaves (Rambam, Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 5:17). Another example is when they forgot to harvest from a certain tree, but they will later remember about the tree because it is distinctive, either because it has its own nickname, or it is unusual in some other way or in its location (Pei’ah 7:1-2).

Shich’cha applies also to grapes, as well as to olives and the fruit of other trees (Pei’ah 6:9; 7:1).

What is leket?

To quote the Mishnah: What is leket? That which falls at the time of the cutting… If it is within [the reaper’s] hand or his sickle, it qualifies as leket and belongs to the poor. If it is beyond his hand or his sickle, it belongs to the owner and does not qualify as leket (Pei’ah 4:10). In other words, stalks of grain that were cut by swinging a sickle, but were beyond the hand or the sickle of the harvester, do not qualify as leket, because they were not severed from the ground in the way that grain is usually cut (Bartenura).

Three and over

The law of leket applies only when the reaper dropped one or two stalks at a time, but if he dropped three or more stalks, he may pick up the stalks and add them to his harvest, and the poor people are not permitted to take them (Pei’ah 6:5).

Piled on top of the leket

What is the halacha if the owner of the field or his employees collected the produce of his own harvest and then piled it in an area of the field where the poor people had not yet collected the leket. In this instance, we will no longer be able to ascertain how much leket grain in the field rightfully belongs to the poor, because the reapers’ pile creates a mixture of leket grain that belongs to the poor and non-leket grain that belongs to the owner.

To discourage this from happening, Chazal instituted that the entire bottom layer of the grain pile is considered the property of the poor (Pei’ah 5:1), even when it is impossible that so much grain fell as leket. This ruling is a penalty leveled upon the owner, to make sure that he does not allow such a practice. He should make sure that his workers pile their produce in an area that does not contain any leket.

What are peret and oleilos?

We have not yet explained the other two mitzvos that are taught in the pasuk that I quoted above, peret and oleilos. These two gifts to the poor exist only regarding grapes.

Peret is to a vineyard what leket is to grain. In other words, while picking the grapes, should a single grape or two fall from the hand of the harvester, they must be left for the poor (Pei’ah 6:5; 7:3). However, just as we explained before that three stalks of grain falling together while cutting are not leket, three of more grapes falling at one time are not peret and may be retrieved by the owner.

Oleilos

Oleilos are grapes that did not grow as part of a proper cluster. Ordinarily, a cluster of grapes includes many small bunches that grow off the main stem near the top of the cluster; when the grapes lie upon one another, they create a bulge, appearing a bit like a “shoulder,” near the top of the cluster. In addition, the central stem of typical cluster grows longer than the small bunches that branch off it, which causes some grapes to hang down at the bottom of the cluster. These two features provide a cluster of grapes with its traditional appearance of the widest part near, but not at, the very top, and the bottom being narrowest, where a few grapes hang lower than the rest of the cluster.

Oleilos are when a cluster of grapes grows without a “shoulder” at the top of the cluster and without any grapes of the main stem hanging lower than the rest of the cluster. A bunch of grapes growing without these features may not be harvested by the owner or his workers and is left for the poor (Pei’ah 7:4).

Maaser ani

Regarding maaser ani, the Torah states: When you complete all the tithes of your produce in the third year, the year of the special tithe, make certain to give it to the Levi, the stranger, the orphan and the widow, who will eat it within the gates of your cities and be satisfied (Devarim 26:12).

This pasuk alludes to at least two different tithes, and teaches that the third year has a tithe different from the previous years. In the third year, you must give one maaser, which we call maaser rishon, to the Levi, and a second maaser that is a maaser for the poor (the stranger, the orphan and the widow). This mitzvah, maaser ani, is mentioned also in parshas Re’eih (Devarim 14:28-29).

There is a fundamental difference between maaser ani and the other gifts to the poor. As mentioned above, gifts to the poor are left for them to help themselves. A more agile and industrious poor person can collect a great deal more leket, shich’cha, pei’ah, peret and oleilos than someone who has difficulty getting around. However, the pasuk in parshas Ki Savo states that the owner gives the maaser ani to the poor, meaning that he chooses which poor person will be the lucky recipient.

Answering questions

At this point, we have enough background that we can discuss one of our opening questions.  “I live in chutz la’aretz. Am I required to separate pei’ah on my backyard vegetable patch?” In other words, do any of these mitzvos of matanos la’aniyim apply outside Eretz Yisrael?

Matanos aniyim in chutz la’aretz

Although these mitzvos are halachically categorized as mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, agricultural mitzvos, and the general rule is that these mitzvos apply only in Eretz Yisrael (Mishnah Kiddushin 36b), the Gemara (Chullin 137b) mentions that the mitzvah of pei’ah applies in chutz la’aretz as a rabbinic injunction, and the Rambam explains that this includes all matanos aniyim (Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 1:14). We find this applies to several other of the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, including challah, chodosh, terumos and maasros (because of space constraints, the details and definition of these different mitzvos will be discussed in other articles).

Regarding where in chutz la’aretz these mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz are applied miderabbanan, there are two different sets of rules:

In the case of challah, the mitzvah applies anywhere in chutz la’aretz. Wherever you live, you are obligated to separate challah from a large enough dough.

Regarding terumos and maasros, the requirement to separate them applies only in lands near Eretz YisraelMitzrayim, Amon, and Moav – corresponding to parts of contemporary Egypt, Jordan and the Sinai and Negev deserts. There is no requirement to separate terumos and maasros from produce grown in Europe, anywhere else in Africa, the vast majority of Asia, and certainly not from produce grown in the Americas or Australia.

The question at hand is whether the matanos aniyim have the same halacha that applies to terumos and maasros, and therefore they apply only in lands near Eretz Yisrael, or whether they are treated like challah and apply everywhere. Most authorities conclude that the obligation of matanos aniyim applies only in places near Eretz Yisrael.

At this point, let us focus on the first question that we posed: “Is there a requirement to leave leket, shich’cha and pei’ah in your field today?”

Answering this question correctly requires that we explain another principle. In the earlier article, I mentioned the Mishnah that states that if all of the poor people in a certain place want the pei’ah to be divided evenly among them, rather than being available for each to forage as he best can, the pei’ah is divided evenly among the local poor. We can ask a question: Granted that the local poor people all agree to divide the matanos aniyim equally, however, these gifts do not belong only to them. All poor people, no matter where they live, are entitled to these matanos. If so, how can the people here decide how to divide their local matanos aniyim, without taking into consideration the rights of poor people elsewhere, who are also potential owners of the matanos aniyim?

The answer is that the poor people who are outside this locale have clearly been me’ya’eish, implicitly given up their legal right to the local matanos aniyim (see Bava Metzia 21b). The poskim conclude that in any situation in which the owner can assume that the poor will not come to collect the matanos aniyim that are left in the field, he is permitted to collect and keep them (Derech Emunah, Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 1:62). Therefore, in today’s world where poor people are not traveling to fields to collect their matanos, there is no obligation to leave leket, shich’cha, pei’ah, peret and oleilos.

Conclusion

In our discussion of the mitzvah of shich’cha, we quoted the pasuk that states that someone who observes this mitzvah will have all his undertakings blessed by Hashem. Rashi (Vayikra 5:17) notes the extent of this blessing. After all, the person forgot only one sheaf, yet Hashem blesses all his undertakings. As Rashi expresses it: We see from here that if someone dropped a coin, and a poor person found it and supports himself with it, Hashem provides the loser of the coin with a beracha.

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Appreciating Tashlich

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

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

Answer:

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

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

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

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

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

Is it a Good Omen?

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

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

A Different Reason

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

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

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

A Fishy Place

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

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

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

Must it be Fishy?

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

Outside the City

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

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

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

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

Feeding the Fish

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

What is wrong with feeding the fish?

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

Crumb Carrying

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

Instead of Feeding the Fish

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

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

Women and Tashlich

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

The Structure of Tashlich

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

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

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

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

A Word about Attributes

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

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

Who Knows Thirteen?

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

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

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

Micha’s Thirteen Attributes

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

What do I do?

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

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

What did the Gemara mean?

Emulate Hashem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Gifts to the Poor

Question #1: Living in Chutz la’aretz

“I live in chutz la’aretz. Am I required to leave peah in my backyard vegetable patch?”

Question #2: Leaving in Today’s World

“Is there a requirement to leave leket, shich’cha and peah in your field today?”

Question #3: Cluster Alms

“Why is it important to know how a typical cluster of grapes looks?”

Introduction

While harvesting grain and other produce, the Torah presents six different mitzvah opportunities to provide for the poor: leket, shich’cha, peah, peret, oleilos, and maaser ani. These mitzvos, as well as many of the basic laws of the mitzvah of tzedakah, are discussed in the second mesechta of seder Zera’im, mesechta Peah, and in the commentaries thereon, including the Talmud Yerushalmi. As is the case with all the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, the agricultural mitzvos of the Torah, there is no Talmud Bavli on Peah, although many of its topics are discussed, sometimes in great detail, in scattered places.

This article will provide a basic understanding of some of these six mitzvos and cover a few select details. In so doing, we will answer some of the questions asked above and leave the others for a future article.

Let us begin by quoting the pesukim that introduce these mitzvos. In parshas Kedoshim, the Torah mentions the mitzvos of peah, leket, peret and oleilos: When you reap the harvest of your land, do not complete harvesting the corner of your field, and the “leket” of your harvest you should not collect. From your vineyard, do not remove the “oleilos,” and the “peret” of your vineyard you should not collect. Leave them for the poor and the stranger (Vayikra 19:9-10).

I deliberately did not translate the words leket, oleilos and peret, since I will explain what these technical terms mean. Two of these mitzvos, peah and leket, are repeated in parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:22), in the midst of the Torah’s discussion about the festival cycle (parshas hamo’ados): When cutting the harvest of your land, do not complete the reaping of the corner of your field while you are harvesting, and the “leket” of your harvest you should not collect. Leave them for the poor and the stranger. In addition, the two mitzvos of peret and oleilos are again discussed at the end of parshas Ki Seitzei (Devorim 24:21), immediately following the Torah’s instructing the mitzvah of shich’cha. (We will quote the sources for the mitzvos of shich’cha and matanos aniyim later in this article.)

Several halachos are quite clear from these pesukim, even without any commentary. The mitzvah is to leave behind these four items: peah, leket, oleilos and peret and allow the impoverished to help themselves. This implies that the owner may not choose or favor one pauper over another in the distribution of these gifts, and that neither he, nor anyone else, is even permitted to assist one poor person over another. To quote the Mishnah: He who does not allow the poor to collect, or allows one of them to collect but not another, or helps one of them is stealing from the poor (Peah 5:6). This law applies equally to anyone, not only the field owner, who assists one poor person over another (see Peah 4:9).

Corner

At this point, we will explain the basics of the mitzvah of peah. The requirement of peah is to set aside a portion of your field that you do not harvest. There is no minimal requirement min haTorah regarding how large a section of the field must be designated as peah. In other words, the Torah’s mitzvah is fulfilled if someone sets aside only one stalk of grain. To quote the Mishnah: These items have no measured requirement: Peah, bikkurim, appearing in the Beis Hamikdosh on the festivals, performing kind deeds and studying Torah (Peah 1:1). This Mishnah is the basis for a halachic passage that we say every morning after we recite birkas haTorah, but what we say daily has other parts added to it from other statements of Chazal.

Why does the Mishnah mention only these five mitzvos? Are there no other mitzvos that have no “minimum amount” required in order to fulfill them?

Indeed, these are the only five mitzvos that fulfill the statement that they have no measured requirement, because min haTorah, these mitzvos have no minimum and also no maximum, whereas all other mitzvos have either a minimum or a maximum, min haTorah. The commentaries on this Mishnah raise questions about several other mitzvos that seemingly should be included in this list, making it more than five, and explain why each of these other mitzvos is not mentioned (Rash; Tosafos Yom Tov; Mishnah Rishonah).

Not all produce

Returning to the laws of peah, not everything that is grown must have peah separated from it. The Mishnah notes that only produce that has five specific characteristics is included in the mitzvah of peah. To quote the Mishnah: They (the earlier authorities) stated a rule regarding peah. Anything that (1) is food, (2) is guarded, (3) is nourished from the ground, (4) is reaped at one time, and (5) is brought in for long-term storage is obligated in peah. Grain and legumes are always assumed to be included (Peah 1:4).

In other words, the following categories of produce are exempt from peah:

(1) Products grown for feed or for dyestuffs (such as woad or indigo).

(2) Produce that is hefker, meaning that it is evident that the owner has no concern if other people take it.

(3) Cultivated mushrooms, truffles, and other fungi, because they do not draw their nourishment from the ground.

(4) Some varieties of produce do not ripen all at once. Instead, they are harvested in stages, as each fruit ripens. These types of products, such as figs, are exempt from the mitzvah of peah.

(5) Many varieties of vegetables and other produce cannot be stored unless they are frozen or canned. Any of these types of produce are exempt from peah. However, items that can be dried or stored as is, such as grain, beans, peas, carobs, nuts, grapes (can be stored either as wine or as raisins), olives (as oil) or dates (dried) are obligated in peah.

How much peah?

Earlier, we quoted the Mishnah that ruled that the Torah requirement of the mitzvah of peah has no minimum size. The Mishnah subsequently teaches that although the Torah did not require a minimum to fulfill this mitzvah, Chazal did, enacting a rule requiring the owner to set aside at least 1/60 of his field as peah. Furthermore, he is required to set aside a larger part than this for peah under some special circumstances, such as, he had a bumper crop, he is exceptionally wealthy, there are a lot of poor or the impoverished are exceptionally needy (Peah 1:2 according to various commentaries).

Corner

Must peah be in a corner of the field?

Notwithstanding that the Torah calls the mitzvah peah, and that, in the context of other mitzvos of the Torah, the word peah means a corner of some type, it is not required to set aside peah in a corner of the field, nor does it necessarily have to be set aside when the harvest is finished. In addition, at the beginning of the harvest, the owner may designate a part of his field as peah. To quote the Mishnah: You can give peah from the beginning of the field or from its middle (Peah 1:3).

Three times a day, the owner must appear at his field to allow the poor to collect what they are entitled (Peah 4:5). The three times of the day are in the morning, at midday and towards the late part of the afternoon. There appears to be a dispute among halachic authorities exactly what this Mishnah is ruling. According to some authorities, the poor may not enter the field unless the owner, or his representative, is there, but the owner is required to be there at these three times, or otherwise appoint a representative in his stead, who will be in the field these three times every harvest day (Rashas; Mishnah Rishonah).

The Rambam appears to understand the Mishnah and the halacha somewhat differently: The poor may not enter the field at any other time, but during these three times they are free to enter, whether or not the owner or his representative are there (Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 2:17). In his opinion, the Mishnah should be understood as follows: “Three times a day the pauper may appear at the field.”

Nobody get hurt!

The halacha is that the poor people reaping the peah may not use sickles or spades to gain access to the leftover produce. Since many poor people are in the field, and they are not coordinating their activities, using a heavy tool could cause someone to get hurt (Peah 4:4).

Exceptional distributions

As noted above, peah and the other matanos aniyim that we have so far discussed should be left for the poor to take for themselves. However, there are exceptions:

(1) Something that is dangerous for the poor to harvest themselves. The Mishnah (Peah 4:1) chooses two examples of fruit — dates and grapes growing on trellises — where it might be dangerous for the poor to harvest the peah themselves (Rosh, Rav and Rashas ad loc.). Dates grow only on the new growth of a date palm. Since the dates will be only on the top of the tree and a palm tree can grow quite tall, it could certainly endanger the poor people, should they have to harvest the dates themselves.

Similarly, grapes grow on vines which are basically runners, rather than strong trees. To maximize the quantity and quality of their crop, it is common that vinedressers (people who cultivate grapevines) construct wooden frames called trellises, looking something like a jungle gym, and train the grape vines, which are very easy to educate, to grow on these trellises. However, it is not safe to allow the poor people to come collecting the peret grapes by themselves from trellises. Numerous poor people may attempt simultaneously to collect the grapes left on a trellis, and a trellis may not be strong enough to hold their collective weight.

To avoid people endangering themselves, in these instances the harvester cuts down the peah fruit and distributes what is there evenly among the poor who have assembled (Peah 4:1).

(2) A second case where the owner should harvest and distribute the produce is when all of the poor people who have arrived at the field want it divided evenly (Peah 4:2).

Maaser ani

Maaser ani is mentioned in parshas Ki Savo, where the Torah states: When you complete the tithing of all the tithes of your produce in the third year, the year of the special tithe, then you shall make certain to give it to the Levi, the stranger, to the orphan and the widow, and they shall eat it within the gates of your cities and be satisfied (Devorim 26:12).

This posuk talks about creating at least two different tithes, and mentions that the third year has a special tithe that the earlier years do not have. In the third year, you must then give one maaser to the Levi, which we call maaser rishon, and a second maaser to the stranger, orphan or widow, which is clearly meant to be a maaser for the poor. This mitzvah of maaser ani is also mentioned in an indirect way, in parshas Re’eih (Devorim 14:28-29).

Thus, there is a fundamental difference between maaser ani and the other gifts to the poor in that, in general, the others are left for the poor people to help themselves. In other words, a poor person who is more agile and willing to work hard can collect a great deal more leket, shich’cha, peah, peret and oleilos then someone who has difficulty getting around. However, the posuk in parshas Ki Savo states that the owner gives the maaser ani to the poor. This implies that he can choose which poor person he wants to provide. In general, it is his to distribute to the poor, as he chooses.

Answering questions

At this point, we have enough background to the general laws of these mitzvos that we can return to of our opening questions.  The first question was: “I live in chutz la’aretz. Am I required to separate peah on my backyard vegetable patch?”

In other words, do any of these mitzvos of matanos la’aniyim apply outside Eretz Yisroel?

Matanos aniyim in chutz la’aretz

Although these mitzvos are halachically categorized as mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, agricultural mitzvos, and the general rule is that these mitzvos apply only in Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Kiddushin 36b), the Gemara (Chullin 137b) mentions that the mitzvah of peah applies in chutz la’aretz as a rabbinic injunction, and the Rambam explains that this includes all matanos aniyim (Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 1:14). We find this applies to several other of the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, including challah, chodosh, terumos and maasros (because of space constraints, the details and definition of these different mitzvos will be left for other articles).

However, this does not yet resolve our question; regarding rabbinic injunctions germane to mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz that are extended to chutz la’aretz, we find two different sets of rules:

In the case of challah, the mitzvah is applied to anywhere in chutz la’aretz. This is why, no matter where you live, you are obligated to separate challah from a large enough dough.

On the other hand, in the case of terumos and maasros, the requirement to separate them in chutz la’aretz applies only in lands near Eretz Yisroel, such as Mitzrayim, Amon, and Moav – today corresponding to parts of Egypt, Jordan and the Sinai and Negev deserts. There is no requirement to separate terumos and maasros from produce grown in Europe, anywhere else in Africa, the vast majority of Asia, and certainly not from produce grown in the Americas or Australia. (Which rule applies to chodosh is a topic for a different time.)

The question at hand is whether the matanos aniyim have the same halacha that applies to terumos and maasros, and therefore they apply only in lands near Eretz Yisroel, or whether they are treated like challah and apply everywhere. Most authorities conclude that the obligation of matanos aniyim applies only in places near Eretz Yisroel.

At this point, let us focus on the other question that we posed: “Is there a requirement to leave leket, shich’cha and peah in your field, today?”

Answering this question correctly requires that we explain another principle. Above I mentioned the Mishnah that states that if all of the poor people in a certain place want the peah to be divided evenly among them, rather than being available for each to forage as best he can, indeed the peah is divided evenly among the local poor. We can ask a question: Granted that the local poor people all agree to divide the matanos aniyim equally, however, these gifts do not belong only to them. All poor people, no matter where they live, are entitled to these matanos. If so, how can the locals decide to divide among themselves the matanos aniyim without taking into consideration the rights of those elsewhere, who are also potential owners of the matanos aniyim?

The answer is that the poor people who are not here have clearly been me’ya’eish, implicitly given up their legal right to the matanos aniyim that are here (see Bava Metzia 21b). The poskim conclude that any situation in which the owner can assume that the poor will not come to collect the matanos aniyim that are left in the field, he is permitted to collect them (Derech Emunah, Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 1:62).

Conclusion

In the days of King Munbaz there was a drought, and he distributed the entire royal treasury, accumulated over several generations, to the poor. His family members protested, saying that his predecessors had all increased the wealth of the monarchy, and Munbaz was disbursing it. Munbaz responded, “My ancestors stored below, and I stored above. They stored their wealth in a place where it could be stolen, and I stored in a place from where it cannot be stolen. They stored items that do not produce profits and I stored items that do. They stored money, and I stored lives. They stored for others, and I stored for myself” (Bava Basra 11a).

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Planting Kil’ayim

Question #1: Spelt

I understand that spelt is a type of wheat. May I plant a small patch of it next to my wheat field?

Question #2: Trees and Ornamentals

I purchased a property in Israel that has grapes and other trees and ornamentals growing on it. What do I do to avoid violating the prohibition of kil’ayim?

Question #3: Tomatoes

May I plant various types of tomatoes next to one another?

Foreword:

In parshas Ki Seitzei, the Torah teaches the mitzvah not to plant your vineyard with kil’ayim (Devarim 22:9), after which the Torah mentions two other kil’ayim prohibitions: doing work with different animal species together and wearing shatnez. In parshas Kedoshim, the Torah introduces several mitzvos called kil’ayim when it says, “You shall keep my laws. You shall not breed your animals as kil’ayim, you shall not plant your field as kil’ayim and you shall not wear kil’ayim shatnez garments” (Vayikra 19:19).

I have written many times about the prohibitions of wearing shatnez, grafting one tree min (species) onto another and crossbreeding animals, but I have never written an article devoted to this week’s topic — the kil’ayim prohibitions in a vineyard and in a field. Please note that this article is only a general introduction to these mitzvos and not halacha le’maaseh — the topics are far more complex than can be covered in one article. For this reason, the opening questions in this article are going to be left unanswered.

Kil’ei hakerem

Kil’ei hakerem is the prohibition of planting an herbaceous (meaning non-woody, i.e.  – a plant other than a trees or a shrub), cultivated plant in a vineyard or adjacent to a grapevine. This mitzvah applies min haTorah in Eretz Yisrael and as a rabbinic prohibition in chutz la’aretz (Orlah 3:9; Kiddushin 39a). It also includes planting above or below grapes, such as, if the vine is trained onto a trellis or other framework.

Kil’ei hakerem is the only instance in which the Torah prohibits using what grows in violation of the kil’ayim prohibition. Other kil’ayim mitzvos prohibit only the act, but what grows or develops as a result may be used. (The Yerushalmi, Kil’ayim 1:4, permits using even the cutting developed from a forbidden graft.)

There is a major dispute among tana’im and rishonim whether kil’ei hakerem applies even when planting one species other than grapes in a vineyard, or only when two species other than the grapes are planted in a vineyard. Rav Yoshiyah rules that the lo sa’aseh of kil’ei hakerem applies only when planting both wheat and barley (or any two other species that are kil’ayim with one another) in a vineyard. Since the Torah says, “You shall not plant kil’ayim in your vineyard,” Rav Yoshiyah understands this to mean that someone is planting two varieties that are kil’ayim with each other, in a vineyard, which compounds the prohibition.

Vineyard vs. vines

There are major halachic differences between a few grapevines and what is halachically called a vineyard. The most prominent difference is that it is prohibited to plant any type of grain or most vegetables within four amos (about seven feet) of a vineyard, whereas it is forbidden to plant only within six tefachim, which is less than two feet, of a grapevine that is not part of a vineyard.

What is a vineyard?

So, what is a vineyard?

The halacha is that a vineyard must have at least five grapevines growing, four of which are positioned in a rectangle or square. Exactly how the fifth vine is planted is unclear from the Mishnah (Kil’ayim 4:6), and is disputed by the halachic authorities. The Chazon Ish rules that a vineyard requires that the fifth vine continues in a straight line from two of the other vines. In other words, the minimum definition of a vineyard is two parallel grape plantings, one of at least three plantings and the other of at least two.

Others contend that the fifth vine can also be similar to the way one would envision, from a bird’s eye view, the location of the tail relative to the four legs of an animal standing in rapt attention. The four legs form a rectangle, and the tail is alongside the rectangle, but opposite the middle of a side rather than the continuation of one of its sides (Rambam, Peirush Mishnayos, Kil’ayim 4:6; Tosafos Yom Tov; cf., however, Rambam, Hilchos Kil’ayim 7:7).

If five vines have been planted this way, and alongside them many more vines were planted haphazardly, the disorganized vines might not be considered a vineyard, but individual vines. The practical difference is whether vegetables and grains may be planted nearby, as long as they are more than six tefachim from the vines, or whether the laws of a vineyard apply, which requires a much more substantive distance of four amos. In both instances, construction of a tzuras hapesach or other mechitzah will allow planting the vegetables or grains alongside the vines, as long as the mechitzah separates between the vines and the vegetables or grains.

One row of grapevines is not considered a vineyard, even if it contains hundreds of plantings (Kil’ayim 4:5). This means that one may plant vegetables or grains alongside the grapes, as long as there is a six tefachim distance between them.

Kil’ei hakerem in chutz la’aretz

The rules of kil-ei hakerem in Eretz Yisrael are stricter than they are in chutz la’aretz. In chutz la’aretz, there is a rule, kol hameikil ba’aretz, halacha kemoso bechutz la’aretz. For our purposes, this rule means that since the law of kil’ei hakerem in chutz la’aretz is only miderabbanan, Chazal ruled that whenever a recognized scholar ruled that a particular situation is not considered kil’ayim in Eretz Yisrael, even when the halachic conclusion rules against him, one may follow this minority position in chutz la’aretz. For example, since Rav Yoshiyah rules that kil’ei hakerem is prohibited only when planting two species (that are already prohibited together) in a vineyard, this is the only act of kil’ei hakerem prohibited in chutz la’aretz. However, in Eretz Yisrael, there is concern over planting even a single type of vegetable in a vineyard.

Kil’ei zera’im

Kil’ei hasadeh or kil’ei zera’im (two ways of referring to the same prohibition) is planting two non-woody (also called “herbaceous”) commonly cultivated plants or seeds near one another, planting one species very close to another, already-planted species, or planting the seeds of one species on top or inside a specimen of another species. This mitzvah applies only in Eretz Yisrael. In chutz la’aretz, it is permitted to plant two herbaceous plants next to one another, although some authorities prohibit planting the seed of one species on top of or inside another in chutz la’aretz (Rambam, Hilchos Kil’ayim 1:5; Tosafos Chullin 60a s.v. Hirkiv). Therefore, in Eretz Yisrael, someone planting a garden patch must be very careful to keep the different species separate.

Both prohibitions, kil’ei hakerem and kil’ei zera’im exist, even if the species are not intentionally planted together, but grew on their own (Kil’ayim 2:5). In this instance, if the two species are too close together, one either must pull out one, or, as we will see shortly, build a mechitzah between them.

Introductions

Several important introductions will facilitate understanding the laws of these mitzvos.

A. Firstly, many assume that kil’ayim prohibits hybridization or crossbreeding (two ways of saying the same thing) of unlike species, or, in simpler terms, attempting to mix genetic material and create new species. However, this approach is inaccurate, since only one of the many kil’ayim prohibitions, crossbreeding animals, attempts to create something that does not occur in nature. All the other mitzvos ban the appearance of mixing two species. This distinction is very important in understanding many of the laws of kil’ayim.

B. Secondly, for clarity’s sake, I will use the word “species” in this article to mean items that halacha prohibits “mixing.” The dictionary definition of the word “species” is “a pool of individuals that breed together and will not breed with other individuals.” However, neither halacha nor science uses this definition. Since this article is a halachic talk about kil’ayim, I will discuss only aspects of the halachic definition germane to these mitzvos.

What defines a halachic species? Although there is a great degree of uncertainty about this, certain principles can be derived from the various passages, particularly of the Talmud Yerushalmi Kil’ayim.

(1) Two varieties that naturally cross-pollinate are halachically considered one species (see Yerushalmi Kil’ayim 1:2).

(2) At times, similarity of leaves or appearance or taste of the fruit are sufficient evidence to consider two varieties as members of the same species (Yerushalmi Kil’ayim 1:5). Small differences are never considered significant (Bava Kama 55a). Thus, different varieties, one of which grows wild and the other of which is cultivated, are usually one species (Mishnah Kil’ayim 1:2). Frequently, the rules are difficult to define and, therefore, most authorities recommend not growing two similar varieties of squash or beans together.

C. It is also important to note that the definition of “species” for the laws of kil’ayim is not the same as it is for the laws of challah. Spelt and wheat are considered different minim for the laws of kil’ayim, notwithstanding that they are the same min for the laws of challah. (This means that dough made of spelt and wheat flour can combine to create enough dough to be obligated to separate challah, notwithstanding that wheat and spelt cannot be planted next to each other.)

Cultivated

D. As I mentioned above, kil’ei zera’im and kil’ei hakerem apply only to species that are cultivated or maintained in your location for food, forage, clothing, dye or other similar purposes. The Mishnah states that the laws of kil’ayim apply to a species called zunin,usually understood to be darnel, a ryegrass that, in earlier generations, was used as bird seed. Planting zunin in a field of barley, rye, oats or spelt violates the prohibition of kil’ei zera’im. (Why it is permitted to plant zunin in a wheat field [Mishnah Kil’ayim 1:1] is a topic that we will leave for a different time.)

Proximity

Planting two crop species together or near one another is prohibited as kil’ayim. How far apart the two species must be depends on several factors, including the layout of the planting and what and how much was planted. In some situations, when growing small amounts of certain vegetables, planting the two species in alternate patterns is sufficient to permit the planting, notwithstanding that the different species grow alongside one another (Kil’ayim 3:1; Shabbos 84b ff.).

Between two grain fields of different species — for example, one growing spelt and the other rye — there needs to be an empty area greater than ten amos squared, approximately twenty feet by twenty feet, between the two fields. On the other hand, between two kinds of vegetables, the requirement is that the separating area be only six tefachim squared, approximately two feet by two feet. And even the size of this requirement is only miderabbanan. Min haTorah there is a dispute among rishonim whether the distance is one tefach squared, or 1.5 tefachim squared (Raavad, Hilchos Kil’ayim). The Chazon Ish (5:1) ruled according to the Rambam, the lenient opinion, that requires only one tefach squared, approximately four inches by four inches.

Mechitzah

Although we usually think of mechitzah as a separation necessary in a shul, the word has significance in several other areas of halacha, and particularly in the laws of kil’ayim. For the purposes of kil’ayim, whenever one wants to plant two species and there is not enough space to allow this, a halachically acceptable separation between the plantings permits the planting (Kil’ayim 2:8; 4:6). The rules here are similar to what is called a mechitzah for other halachos, including permitting carrying on Shabbos, although, for the laws of Shabbos, the entire area must be enclosed by mechitzos on all sides. For the laws of kil’ayim, it suffices that there is a halachic divider separating the plantings from one another. Among the many ways that someone can separate the two areas is by building a wall that is ten tefachim tall (approximately 32-40 inches) or piling rocks to a height of ten tefachim. Another option is a furrow or crevice in the ground, either natural or dug, that is ten tefachim deep.

The Mishnah (Kil’ayim 4:4) notes that lavud, openings that are smaller than three tefachim (about ten inches), does not invalidate a mechitzah, and therefore a fence that is more open than closed, but is ten tefachim tall, is a valid mechitzah for kil’ayim purposes. Similarly, one may build a “wall” with sticks placed either horizontally or vertically every three tefachim, and it is a satisfactory mechitzah.

This means that someone may have a vineyard on one side of a fence, in which the grapes grow alongside the fence, and plant grain or vegetables on the other side of the fence; it is completely permitted, even though the two crops may be growing within inches of one another.

Gaps

Large gaps in the middle of a mechitzah may not invalidate it. The general halachic principle is that an area that is mostly enclosed is considered “walled,” even in its breached areas (Kil’ayim 4:4; Eruvin 5b). For example, a yard enclosed by hedges tall enough to qualify as halachic walls may be considered enclosed, notwithstanding that there are open areas between the hedges, since each side is predominantly enclosed either by the hedges or by the house. This is true as long as the breach is smaller than ten amos,about 17 feet (Kil’ayim 4:4). This means that someone may have a vineyard on one side of the hedges (inedible growths usually do not create prohibited kil’ayim), and grain or vegetables on the other side of the hedges, even though the two crops may be extremely close to one another.

Tzuras hapesach

The Gemara (Eruvin 11a) rules that a tzuras hapesach, which we customarily use to make to enclose an area to permit carrying on Shabbos, may be used to separate two species, so that there is no prohibition of kil’ayim. A tzuras hapesach consists of two vertical side posts and a horizontal “lintel” that, together, vaguely resemble a doorway. Thus, it is permitted to grow a vineyard on one side of the tzuras hapesach and grain or vegetables on the other side.

Weeding

What about weeds? Do weeds present a kil’ayim concern?

As anyone who gardens knows, the definition of a “weed” is whatever the gardener does not want in his garden. Halachically, if the “weed” is from a species that is not maintained in your area, it is not a kil’ayim concern.

Conclusion

Targum Onkelos (Vayikra 19:19 and Devarim 22:9) understands the word kil’ayim to mean “mixture.” However, other commentaries explain the origin of the word from the Hebrew root כלא, the same as the word beis ke’le “prison” (see Bamidbar 11:28). Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) explains that the root כלא means to hold something back, and that the plural form kil’ayim — similar to yadayim, hands, or raglayim, feet — means a pair. Therefore, the word kil’ayim means to pair together two items that should be kept apart.

Concerning this, Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) writes, “The Great Lawgiver of the world separates the countless numbers of His creations in all their manifold diversity, and assigns to each one of them a separate purpose and a separate form for its purpose.”

In addition, observing the laws of kil’ayim helps us remember how various species obeyed Hashem’s instructions to remain separate during their creation. This reminds the contemplative Jew that if the plants heeded Hashem’s word during the Creation, how much more are we obligated to obey His instructions!

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Specific Species

Question #1: Wolf and Dog

Are wolves and dogs members of the same species?

Question #2: Bactrian and Dromedary

May I haul a wagon with two camels, a Bactrian and a dromedary?

Question #3: Tangelo

Is it permitted to crossbreed tangerine and grapefruit to create a tangelo?

Question #4: Crabapples

May I graft an apple branch onto a crabapple trunk?

Foreword:

At the beginning of parshas Noach, Rashi teaches us that, during the moral chaos that led to the Mabul, even members of the animal kingdom mated outside their species (min), something that no self-respecting and ethical animal would ever do.

At this point, we need to ask what is meant by min, which is usually translated as species. The dictionary definition of the word “species” is a pool of individuals that can breed together and do not breed with other individuals.

However, we will soon see that neither halacha nor science uses this definition. It is important that, when studying the Talmudic, aggadic and halachic topics germane to kil’ayim, we must understand properly the Torah’s meaning of the term “species.”

Crossbreeding

Many halachically knowledgeable people assume that the purpose of the laws of kil’ayim is to prohibit the hybridization or crossbreeding (two ways of saying the same thing) of unlike species, or, in simpler terms, not to attempt creating new biological species or to mix genetic material of different species. However, we will soon demonstrate that this assumption is specious, since it is inconsistent with halachic accuracy for two completely different reasons:

A. Most kil’ayim prohibitions have nothing to do with creating new species.

B. In numerous instances, the laws of kil’ayim permit mingling two varieties that are biologically different species, and there are situations in which the laws of kil’ayim prohibit mingling two varieties that are biologically considered members of the same species.

Types of kil’ayim

First, we will demonstrate that kil’ayim prohibitions rarely have anything to do with creating new species (point A). Mesechta Kil’ayim deals with six different mitzvos involving the intermingling of species:

1. Crossbreeding animal species. This prohibition is called harva’as beheimah, or sometimes simply harva’ah. In this instance, as in most of the cases of kil’ayim, there is no prohibition against using the product created by someone who violated the prohibition. Thus, it is permitted to use a mule, notwithstanding that mating a donkey with a mare to produce a mule violates a lo sa’aseh min haTorah.

2. Using two animal species to haul or work together. This mitzvah is usually called lo sacharosh, as in the words of the Torah: lo sacharosh beshor uvachamor yachdav,“Do not plow with an ox and a donkey together” (Devarim 22:10).

3. Grafting different tree species, harkavas ilan, which prohibits inserting a shoot or scion of one species into the wood stock, or lower trunk, of another species. Note that it is completely permitted to plant different species of trees next to each other (Yerushalmi, Peah 1:4).

4. Planting a non-woody edible plant, such as a vegetable or grain, in a vineyard. (A “non-woody” or “herbaceous” plant is a plant other than a tree or a shrub.) This prohibition is called kil’ei hakerem, and applies min haTorah only in Eretz Yisrael, although it does apply in chutz la’aretz as a rabbinic prohibition. This mitzvah is atypical in that it is the only prohibition of kil’ayim whose product is prohibited to use, min haTorah.

5. Planting two non-woody edible plants near one another. This mitzvah, called kil’ei hasadeh, kil’ayim of the field, applies only in Eretz Yisrael. In chutz la’aretz it is permitted to plant two herbaceous plants next to one another.

6. Wearing shatnez, clothing that includes both wool and linen. The prohibition is limited to wearing such clothing.

The two mitzvos of kil’ei hakerem and kil’ei hasadeh, apply min haTorah only in Eretz Yisrael, whereas the others apply min haTorah both in Eretz Yisrael and in chutz la’aretz.

I stated above that kil’ayim prohibitions usually have little or nothing to do with the creation of new species. Crossbreeding of plants involves pollinating the flower of one species with pollen from a different species. But none of the agricultural mitzvos listed above has anything to do with hybridization.

Let’s take a more careful look at the three agricultural prohibitions: 3, 4, and 5, above. In the cases of herbaceous, or non-woody, plants, kil’ayim is planting two crop species near one another (#5) or planting them inside a vineyard (#4). But planting the seeds of different species in close proximity does not change the DNA of the species or cause any hybridization, nor does it cause anything to grow of a variety different from either parent.

In the case of trees and shrubs, harkavas ilan (#3) means grafting one species onto another. When you graft a branch of one species onto the stock of another, the fruit that grows has the DNA of the scion branch and no DNA material of the species of the stock.

Also note that these three kil’ayim prohibitions are limited to species in which some part of the plant is edible.

Wool and linen

Wearing a garment that contains both wool and linen (#6) does not cause any hybridization. Wool grows on sheep, and linen is the product of a flax plant. Combining the two textiles in a garment does not affect their genetic material.

Lo sacharosh

Although some wish to explain that the prohibition of using two animal species to haul or otherwise be worked together is out of concern that someone will house them together or otherwise cause them to mate (Alshich, Devarim 23), there are many other ways to explain the “reason” for this prohibition (see, for example, Ibn Ezra, Devarim 22:10).

Harva’as Beheimah

The only one of the six kil’ayim prohibitions that involves hybridization is harva’as beheimah. But I presume that my readers agree that it is very strange to provide a reason for six different mitzvos that does not apply to five, or, possibly, not to four of them!

And, although we usually translate the word kil’ayim as “mixture,” some commentaries associate this word with the root כלא, as in the word “prison,” beis ke’le. Rav Hirsch explains the root word ke’le as holding something back, keeping someone incarcerated. The plural form kil’ayim is structurally similar to yadayim, raglayim or kesafayim,and means “a pair.” Thus, the word kil’ayim means pairing together items that should be kept apart (Hirsch Commentary to Vayikra 19:19), a definition that fits all six categories of kil’ayim, but has nothing to do with hybridization.

Dogs and wolves

My second point above (point B) is that there are numerous instances where the laws of kil’ayim permit mingling two kinds that are biologically considered different species, and there are also many instances in which the laws of kil’ayim prohibit mingling two kinds that are biologically considered the same species.

To explain, I will first pick examples in the animal world and then in the plant world. The Mishnah (Kil’ayim 1:6) states that wolves and dogs are kil’ayim together; it is forbidden to crossbreed them or to have them haul a load together. Yet, wolves and dogs breed together freely in the wild. Thus, we see that kil’ayim is not dependent on whether the varieties breed together.

From the Yerushalmi and the halachic authorities it appears that several factors are used to determine whether two varieties are considered different species, including how mankind views them, as the Torah teaches, “Hashem had created… all the animals of the field and the birds of the sky and He brought them to the man to see what he would call them… And the man gave names to all the domesticated animals and the birds of the sky and the animals of the field (Bereishis 2:19-20). This implies that man understood the purpose or uniqueness of each species and how it should be categorized, separately, from all other species.

Scientific dogs

The scientific system for classifying species, developed by Carl Linnaeus in the eighteenth century, names every species by two words: the first, its genus, which is capitalized, and the second, a lower case word for its species. Occasionally, a third word, also lower case, is added to indicate subspecies, which can also be called race, ethnic group, breed, variety or cultivar. (Humans are divided into races and ethnic groups, dogs into breeds, fruits and vegetables into varieties – or cultivars for boutique products.) Linnaeus categorized dogs as Canis familiaris and wolves as Canis lupus,meaning that he considered them two separate species. Today, most scientists categorize domesticated dogs as Canis lupus familiaris, which means that Canis lupus refers to a single species that includes both wolves and dogs, and familiaris is added for any domesticated dog breed.

An interesting comparison can be made with the dingo, a non-domesticated Australian dog. I checked Wikipedia regarding the dingo’s classification, and found the following: “The dingo, Canis familiaris, Canis familiaris dingo, Canis dingo, or Canis lupus dingo, is an ancient lineage of dog found in Australia. Its taxonomic classification is debated, as indicated by the variety of scientific names presently applied in different publications. It is variously considered a form of domestic dog not warranting recognition as a subspecies (Canis familiaris), a subspecies of either dog or wolf (Canis familiaris dingo or Canis lupus dingo), or a full species in its own right (Canis dingo).” I note that Wikipedia assumes that wolves and dogs are considered separate species.

The contemporary scientific world no longer defines a species by its ability to breed together and not to breed with a different species. As contemporary science has reinvented itself in the modern world, including its widespread misconceptions of spontaneous evolution of species and its unproved hypotheses regarding the origin of species, it can no longer use the definitions of breeds as its basis for defining species. This is because it accepts that species eventually mutate naturally into new species, which rejects or modifies the traditional definition of a species breeding within itself. As a result, science is forced to redefine “species” on the basis of similarity of DNA, but this piece of information has as yet not been communicated to the dictionary editors.

Camels

I have just demonstrated where, halachically, something can be considered two different species, notwithstanding that they breed together. I will now pick an example in which halacha considers two varieties to be the same species, notwithstanding that modern science categorizes them as separate species. The Gemara teaches that the one-humped Arabian camel, the dromedary, and the two-humped Bactrian camel (“Persian camel,” in Chazal’s lexicon) are, without question, one species. (By the way, “Bactria” was an area of ancient Persia; thus, Chazal’s method of distinguishing between the two varieties of camel is identical to modern nomenclature.) The Gemara states, rhetorically: “do you consider them different species, simply because one variety has a longer neck?” (Bava Kama 55a). Obviously, minor differences in physical characteristics are insufficient reason to treat two varieties as halachically different species.

Modern science counts three surviving species of camel, and, based on fossil remains, five extinct species. (How can one tell whether two extinct individuals could breed together or not?) The three existent species are Camelus dromedarius, the one-humped Arabian camel; Camelus bactrianus, the two-humped, domesticated variety; and Camelus ferus, the only remaining variety of wild camel, which lives today in desert areas of northwestern China and southwestern Mongolia. Formally, scientists will tell you that Camelus ferus is considered a separate species on the basis of genetic studies. Informally, they may admit that it is categorized as a separate species in order to facilitate research grants. Research money is more readily available to study “species” that are critically endangered than critically endangered “subspecies.”

Spelt wheat

Thus far, I have demonstrated that, in the animal world, halacha’s category “min,” and modern science’s nomenclature “species” do not necessarily coincide. Now, I will show that this is equally true in the plant world. Modern science does not consider wheat to be a species, but to be a genus, a group of related species, Triticum. Linnaeus categorized wheat into five different species, including spring wheat, winter wheat, Einkorn, and spelt as separate species. However, halacha recognizes spelt as one species and the other varieties as different forms of the species, wheat (Kil’ayim 1:1, see Rash and Rambam). Thus, it is permitted to plant different wheats together, or alongside one another, even in Eretz Yisrael, whereas one may not plant wheat and spelt together or alongside one another, without following the rules established for kil’ayim of two different species.

Citrus

Science treats the various citrus fruits as species of the same genus. Thus, esrogim are Citrus medica; grapefruits, Citrus paradise; lemons, Citrus limonia;and tangerines are a varietyof Citrus nobilis called Citrus nobilis deliciosa. Yet, based on his extensive analysis of halachic sources, the Chazon Ish (Kil’ayim 3:7) considers lemons, esrogim, grapefruits and oranges to be the same species as regards the laws of kil’ayim, which would permit grafting a grapefruit tree onto a lemon stock. (However, in a different place, the Chazon Ish is hesitant about this decision and rules against relying on it [Hilchos Kil’ei Ilan 178:9]. His concern in the latter place is the difference in appearance of the various fruits. He also rules that chushchash, a variety of wild orange, and the oranges that we eat and juice are the same min for halachic purposes [Hilchos Kil’ei Ilan 178:11].) The Chazon Ish notes that his discussion is germane only to the prohibition regarding harkavas ilan, meaning that it is permitted to graft an esrog branch onto the stock of a different citrus for the objective of consuming the produce. However, an esrog grown this way will not be kosher to use as one of the four minim on Sukkos. (See Shu’t Rema #117; #126:2; Shu’t Maharam Alshich #110; Levush, Orach Chayim 649:4; Taz and Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 649; Shu’t Bach #135 et al., all of whom agree that an esrog grafted onto a different species is not kosher for Sukkos use. The Shu’t Panim Me’iros, Volume II #173, and the Saba Kadisha,are among the small minority of authorities who permitted using an esrog grafted onto non-esrog stock for the four minim on Sukkos.) In other words, according to most authorities, an esrog grafted on lemon stock is not kosher for the mitzvah on Sukkos, notwithstanding that the grafter may not have violated any prohibition.

Tangelo

We can now discuss the third of our opening questions: “May I create a tangelo by crossbreeding a tangerine and a grapefruit?” Although the Chazon Ish did not discuss tangerines, it would seem that, according to his comments in Kil’ayim 3:7, this would be permitted, and that, according to his comments to Yoreh Deah, it would not.

Crabapples

At this point, we should examine the last of our opening questions: May I graft an apple branch onto a crabapple trunk?

The regular eating-apple is usually called Malus pumila. There are numerous varieties of crabapples, most of which are also included in the genus Malus and are called names such as Malus coronaria, Malus angustifolia and Malus ioensis. Many of these crabapples freely hybridize in the wild with apple cultivars. Thus, we see again that the dictionary definition of a species is no longer accepted by the scientific community.

What is the halacha of grafting apples onto crabapple stocks?

The Mishnah states that apples are kil’ayim with chazrad, some type of wild apple or other fruit bearing some resemblance to, or characteristics, of an apple. Some rishonim believe that chazrad is a variety of wild apple that produced a fruit that was used as feed, but was not considered suitable for human consumption, even after pickling or stewing. However, we do not really have any idea what species or variety chazrad is.

In early nineteenth-century eastern and central Europe, we suddenly find several major halachic authorities debating whether some variety of crabapple or wild apple could be used as the stock on which to graft edible apple trees. The crabapple fruits were usually not considered edible.

The Torah scholar who addressed this question to the author of Shu’t Mishkenos Yaakov considered grafting apples onto crabapple stocks a problem, quoting the Levushei Serad (Chiddushei Dinim #106, also quoted by Piskei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 295:2) that this graft is prohibited as harkavas ilan. The Mishkenos Yaakov (Shu’t Mishkenos Yaakov, Yoreh Deah #69) discusses some of the varieties of crabapple that were commonly used for grafting apples, and permits grafting an apple scion onto the stock of any of the crabapples available in his area. This conclusion is accepted by several other authorities (Beis Efrayim, quoted by the Mishkenos Yaakov; Shu’t Tzemach Tzedek, Yoreh Deah #221; Aruch Hashulchan, Yoreh Deah 295:15). Thus, again, the difference in scientific species identification has nothing to do with the halachicdefinition.

Conclusion

In all six types of kil’ayim mentioned above, the general criterion is to avoid the appearance of different species being intermingled. Concerning this, Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) writes, “The Great Lawgiver of the world separates the countless numbers of His creations in all their manifold diversity, and assigns to each one of them a separate purpose and a separate form for its purpose.”

In addition, the laws of kil’ayim help us bear in mind how various species obeyed Hashem’s instructions to remain separate during their creation. This reminds the contemplative Jew that if the plants heeded Hashem’s word during the Creation, how much more we are obligated to obey all His instructions.

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Sheva Berachos

Question #1: Is it yours?

The wedding ceremony begins with two berachos recited by the mesadar kiddushin. Should he tell the chosson to have in mind to fulfill these berachos?

Question #2: Wine on top or bottom?

Which is the first of the sheva berachos?

Question #3: Is this deliberate inconsistency?

Some of the sheva berachos begin with the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam and others don’t. Some of them end with Boruch Attah Hashem and a closing, whereas others don’t. Is there any rhyme or reason to this seeming chaos?

Introduction:

The time in between the Three Weeks and the Yamim Noraim is a popular time to schedule weddings. We find a source for the recitation of sheva berachos in a discussion in Mesechta Kallah. In parshas Chayei Sarah, the Torah discusses the trip that Eliezer takes to find a wife for Yitzchok. Shortly before Rivkah leaves to marry Yitzchok, the Torah mentions that her family blesses her (Bereishis 24:60). In reference to this posuk, we find the following passage at the beginning of Mesechta Kallah: “Where is a source in the Torah for the blessings [which we call the ‘sheva berachos’] given to the bride: And they blessed Rivkah.” The Mesechta Kallah retorts, “Did Rivkah’s family use a cup [of wine when they blessed her]?” Since they did not, this verse is not a source for sheva berachos, but only an allusion to the mitzvah. In conclusion, the Mesechta Kallah and the Gemara (Kesubos 7b) derive the mitzvah of sheva berachos from other pesukim.

Erusin and nesuin

There are two stages to a Jewish wedding, and each has its appropriate berachos. The first stage, kiddushin or erusin (not to be confused with the Modern Hebrew word erusin, which means “engagement”), is when the chosson places the wedding ring on the kallah’s finger. The second step, nesuin, focuses on the chupah, the kesubah, the sheva berachos and the yichud that takes place immediately after the chupah. In Talmudic times, these two stages were conducted separately – often as much as a year apart. Today, they are conducted as one long ceremony. Each of the two stages has its own berachos, which I will discuss shortly.

Birkos erusin

Prior to the chosson explaining to the witnesses why he is placing a ring on the kallah’s finger, two berachos are recited, borei peri hagafen and the beracha called birkas erusin. They are said by the mesader kiddushin — the rosh yeshivah, rav or other talmid chacham — who is “performing the ceremony,” as people say in English, or, more accurately, the one who is responsible to make sure that everything is done according to correct halachic practice.

According to the Rambam’s opinion, the birkas erusin is a birkas hamitzvah, a beracha recited before fulfilling a mitzvah, and that, therefore, it should be recited by the chosson (Shu”t Harambam, quoted by Shu”t Noda Beyehudah Tinyana, Even Ha’ezer, #1).

A second approach is that, although the birkas erusin is a birkas hamitzvah, the mesader kiddushin recites the beracha, rather than the chosson, to avoid embarrassing a chosson who does not know the beracha by heart (Even Ha’ezer, Taz 34:1; Beis Shmuel, 34:2). Remember that, in earlier days, there were no printed works, and berachos were recited from memory. Thus, many chassanim would not know, by heart, the somewhat complicated and uncommon beracha that is recited before the erusin. Therefore, the mesader kiddushin is motzi the chosson with the beracha, and the chosson, also, should have in mind to be included in the birkas erusin (Shu”t Noda Beyehudah ad loc.).

A third approach disagrees, concluding that the birkas erusin is not a birkas hamitzvah and that, therefore, there is no need for the mesader kiddushin to be motzi the chosson when reciting this beracha (Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim #44, quoting many earlier sources).

Who drinks the wine?

When the mesader kiddushin recites the beracha on the cup of wine, he gives the cup (usually via the parents) to the chosson and kallah, who sip from the cup. Since we may not drink or eat without first reciting a beracha (Berachos 35a), the chosson and kallah should be included in the beracha hagafen of the mesader kiddushin.

Thus, we can examine our opening question: The wedding ceremony begins with two berachos recited by the mesader kiddushin. Should he tell the chosson to have in mind to fulfill these berachos?

The answer is that he should tell both the chosson and the kallah to have in mind to fulfill their requirement to recite hagafen. Whether he should also tell the chosson to have in mind to fulfill birkas erusin is disputed.

Text of birkas erusin

The Gemara (Kesubos 7b) records a dispute regarding the text of birkas erusin. The first opinion cites the following text: Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam asher kideshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al ha’arayos, ve’asar lanu es ha’arusos, ve’hitir lanu es hanesuos lanu al yedei chupah vekiddushin. The second opinion, that of Rav Acha the son of Rava, contends that we add to the above text a conclusion, baruch Attah Hashem mekadeish amo Yisrael al yedei chupah vekiddushin. The first opinion rules that this beracha does not require a concluding part, just as berachos prior to performing mitzvos and prior to eating are berachos structured simply, without any conclusion. Rav Acha the son of Rava disagrees, contending that birkas erusin should be treated like the beracha of Kiddush, which has a concluding beracha, Baruch Attah Hashem mekadeish hashabbos.

Why does Rav Acha the son of Rava compare birkas erusin to the beracha of Kiddush? This topic is a subject of dispute. Rashi explains that mentioning the sancitity of the Jewish people, mekadeish amo Yisrael al yedei chupah vekiddushin, is similar in concept to mentioning the sanctity of Shabbos, and therefore this beracha has the added mention of Hashem’s Name at the end. Tosafos explains that both these berachos, Kiddush and birkas erusin, contain multiple themes and, therefore, require a closing beracha also.

Birkas nisuin

Birkas nisuin is another way of referring to what we usually call the “sheva berachos.” These berachos are recited as part of the wedding ceremony, or, more accurately, as part of the nisuin, second part of that program. The sheva berachos are also recited at banquets held in honor of the newly married couple.

Six or seven

Although we are accustomed to referring to this series of berachos as “sheva berachos,” people are surprised to discover that this term is of relatively late origin. This is because the Gemara cites a dispute as to how many berachos are recited.

When we look at the wording of the berachos, we see that two of them, Asher yatzar es ha’adam, and Yotzeir ha’adam, begin with almost identical statements. The Gemara cites a dispute whether we should, indeed, recite both of these berachos, or just the longer one, Asher yatzar es ha’adam. The dispute concerns whether the way man and woman were originally created should require one beracha or two. According to the opinion that this requires only one beracha, there is no beracha Yotzeir ha’adam and, therefore, there are less than seven berachos.

Out of order

Since we recite both berachos, Asher yatzar es ha’adam, and Yotzeir ha’adam, we have six berachos, plus the beracha on wine, for a total of seven (that is why we call it sheva berachos). Under the chupah, the first of the seven berachos recited is the beracha on the wine. However, when sheva berachos is recited after a meal celebrated in honor of the new couple, the hagafen is recited after the other berachos. Why is the order changed?

The Beis Shmuel (62:2) explains that hagafen should really be recited first, as it is during the wedding ceremony, because it is recited more frequently, and the rule is tadir ushe’eino tadir, tadir kodem, that which is recited more frequently comes first (Mishnah Zevachim 89a). However, when reciting hagafen after the celebratory meal, someone might think we recite a beracha over wine only because of the bensching, and not because of the nuptials. In order to clarify that the wine is brought, also, because of the wedding celebration, we postpone its beracha until the end of the sheva berachos.

Where’s the wine?

When sheva berachos are recited at the end of a meal, the prevalent custom is to bring three kosos, and fill two of them to the top with wine. One of the filled kosos is held by the person leading the bensching while the second is left on the table until bensching is completed, and then held by each of the honorees who recite the berachos. When those six berachos have been recited, the person who led the bensching recites the berachaof hagafen, pours a bit from his kos into the empty cup, and drinks the majority of the wine in his kos. The wine from the sheva berachos kos and the small amount of wine that was poured into the third kos are then mixed together, and the wine in the two kosos is presented to the chosson and the kallah to drink (Aruch Hashulchan, Even Ha’ezer 62:18). Some poskim recommend that the honoree leading the bensching hold the kos to be used for the sheva berachos while reciting the prayer dvei hoseir,which is inserted before bensching at a sheva berachos meal,and, then, put that kos down and pick up the first kos for bensching (Taz, Even Ha’ezer 62:7). I have never seen anyone follow this practice (see Derisha, Even Ha’ezer 62:4 who disagrees with the Taz’s practice). According to a third opinion, the second kos should not be filled until after bensching is completed (Magen Avraham 147:11 and Be’er Heiteiv, Even Ha’ezer 62:11).

According to all three approaches we have mentioned, bensching is recited over one kos, and sheva berachos over a different cup. Why do we use two different kosos? Why not use the same goblet for both bensching and sheva berachos?

The poskim dispute this issue: The Gemara (Pesachim 102b) teaches that if someone bensches and recites Kiddush at the same time, he should not recite both blessings over the same cup. Rather, he should recite Kiddush holding one cup of wine and bensch while holding a different one. The Gemara asks why we take two different cups, and answers that we do not “bundle mitzvos together.” Using the same kos for both mitzvos implies that we view these mitzvos as a burden, rather than respecting each mitzvah with its own goblet of wine.

However, when Yom Tov falls on a Sunday, we recite Kiddush of Yom Tov and Havdalah of Shabbos over the same goblet. This is not considered bundling mitzvos together, since Kiddush and Havdalah are considered one topic (Pesachim 102b).

Are birkas nisuin and bensching considered one topic, or two? This is a dispute discussed in Tosafos (Pesachim 102b s.v. she’ein), in which the first opinion views bensching and sheva berachos over the same cup as bundling mitzvos together, and therefore separate kosos need to be used for bensching and sheva berachos. Rabbeinu Meshulam, however, maintains that this is not considered bundling mitzvossince, without bensching, we do not recite sheva berachos. According to Rabbeinu Meshulam, we fill one goblet with wine and hand it to the person leading the bensching. When he finishes bensching, he hands the kos to the honoree who recites the first of the sheva berachos, who hands it to the next honoree to recite the next beracha, and so on. Eventually, the kos returns to the person who led the bensching, who holds the kos while reciting borei peri hagafen.

The Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha’ezer 62:9) quotes both opinions and observes that custom is to use only one cup for both bensching and sheva berachos, following Rabbeinu Meshulam, which apparently was the prevalent practice among Sefardim at the time of the Shulchan Aruch. The Rema notes that the custom among Ashkenazim is to use two different goblets. The Chida (Shu”t Yosef Ometz #47) notes that, although at the time of the Shulchan Aruch,the custom among Sefardim was to recite the sheva berachos on the same goblet as the bensching, in the Chida’s day, a separate goblet was used for sheva berachos. Other Sefardic authors of the last several hundred years (see Otzar Haposkim 62:9:53) record two customs, some following Rabbeinu Meshulam (following Shulchan Aruch) and others using separate cups for the two mitzvos (following Chida).

Inconsistent berachos

At this point, let us look at our third opening question. “Some of the sheva berachos begin with the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, and others don’t. Some of them end with Boruch Attah Hashem and a closing, whereas others don’t. Is there a rhyme or reason to this seeming chaos?

The structures of the six birkas nisuin appear to be inconsistent. The first two, Sheha’kol bara lichvodo, “that everything was created in His Honor,” and Yotzeir ha’adam, “the Creator of man,” are structured the same way as our berachos before eating food and most of our berachos before performing mitzvos: we recite the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam and then the short closing of the beracha (sheha’kol bara lichvodo or yotzeir ha’adam). However, the third and the sixth berachos both begin with the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam and also have closings: Boruch Attah Hashem yotzeir ha’adam and Boruch Attah Hashem mesamayach chosson im hakallah, respectively. To make matters more confusing, the fourth and fifth berachos that begin with the words sos tasis and samayach tesamach do not begin with Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, but conclude with Boruch Attah Hashem, similar to the structure of the berachos of the shemoneh esrei. So we are faced with an obvious question: Why does this series of berachos contain such a potpourri of beracha structures?

Among the rishonim, we find several answers to this question. Tosafos (Kesubos 8a s.v. shehakol) explains that, indeed, most of the berachos should have only an ending and no beginning beracha, as we have in the shemoneh esrei. However, since two of the berachos, Sheha’kol bara lichvodo and Yotzeir ha’adam are so small, not providing them with a full beracha would make them almost unnoticeable. Similarly, the beracha Asher yatzar, whose theme is so similar to the beracha before it, Yotzeir ha’adam, would appear to be a continuation of that beracha, if it did not begin with the words Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam. Furthermore, Rabbeinu Chananel explains that, since the recital of the beracha Yotzeir ha’adam, itself, was the subject of a dispute, to emphasize that it is a beracha by itself, it includes the full statement Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha’olam.

Tosafos explains further that the beracha Asher bara, the last of the berachos, is sometimes the only beracha that is recited. For example, when there are no new participants, called panim chadashos, this beracha is recited, notwithstanding that the others of the sheva berachos are not. For this reason, it is treated as a full, independent beracha, with both a full beginning and an ending.

Rashi presents a more detailed approach. He notes that although all these berachos are recited together, as if they are one unit, most of them are really different berachos on different aspects of the simcha. For example, Sheha’kol bara lichvodo, “that everything was created in His Honor,” is really a beracha on the beauty of having so many people joining together to celebrate a mitzvah, and should have been recited as soon as one saw all the assembled people. However, since the other berachos are recited over wine, the independent beracha of Sheka’kol bara lichvodo is included with the other berachos, so that everyone should focus on it. This is similar to the berachos of Havdalah — which include a beracha on the fragrance and a beracha on the candle — each of which is, really, a separate beracha that we combine together on the cup of wine in order to focus on all the berachos at one time.

Wrong order

If someone recited the berachos out of order, he should not repeat a beracha, but should recite the skipped beracha and then proceed to recite the remaining berachos that have, as yet, not been said. Similarly, if the honoree began saying the wrong beracha, and already recited Hashem’s Name, he should complete the beracha he has begun, the omitted beracha should then be said, followed by the remaining berachos.

If someone began reciting either the beracha of Sos tasis or Samayach tesamach, which do not begin with Hashem’s Name, out of order, and has not yet recited Hashem’s Name which appears at the end of the beracha, he should stop and recite the correct beracha, in the usual order (Amudei Apiryon, page 76).

Conclusion

Above, I quoted Rashi’s explanation that the beracha, Shehakol bara lich’vodo, is really for the gathering of the people and not directly associated to the wedding that is taking place. The Hafla’ah (Kesubos 8a) offers a different approach, which makes the beracha directly relevant to the nuptials. Hashem created His entire world for His Honor, and the last of his Creation was man. Man is, of course, imperfect until he is married, which is the celebration of the wedding. Thus, sheva berachos celebrates the completion of Hashem’s Creation!

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Toiveling Keilim

Question #1:

“Last time I went to immersesome cutlery, a lady immersing some aluminum bowls asked me to include her with my beracha. When I asked her whether she wanted me to help her recite her own beracha on the mitzvah, she responded softly that she received a psak not to recite a beracha when toiveling aluminum, although she did not know the reason. Why would she not recite the beracha?”

Question #2:

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

Introduction:

In Parshas Matos, the Torah teaches: Only 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 pure [meaning “kosher”], yet it must also be purified in mikveh water. And that which was not used in fire must pass through water” (Bamidbar 31:22-23). These verses serve as the basis for teaching three different sets of laws:

  1. Absorbing Concepts

How to kasher vessels that were used to cook non-kosher foods. An item that was used directly in fire, such as a spit or grate that broiled non-kosher, is kashered only by burning it directly in fire; an item used to cook on top of a fire, such as a pot that cooked non-kosher, may be kashered via a process similar to the way it was used, etc.

  1. Tainted Metal

Which items are susceptible to tumah. The Torah here teaches that implements made of metal become tamei (spiritually impure) through contact with a tamei item (such as an animal carcass), and that immersing them in a mikveh restores them to tahor status. An item is susceptible to tumah only when the Torah informs us of this fact – if the Torah never taught that an item can become tamei,it does not, and therefore most items in the world are not susceptible to tumah. (Unfortunately, these laws have limited practical application until Moshiach comes and we again have the parah adumah. At that time, we will be able to live according to the tahor status necessary to observe the mitzvos related to the Beis Hamikdash, terumah and maaser sheini.)

  1. Immersed in Holiness

The mitzvah to immerse implements in a 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 of kashering equipment that was used to prepare non-kosher food and to the laws related to purifying implements that became tamei.

Materials that require tevilah

The Torah teaches that utensils owned by a non-Jew that are made of gold, silver, copper, iron, tin or lead require immersion in a kosher mikveh or spring when they are transferred to Jewish ownership. According to most authorities, this mitzvah is a Torah requirement, although there is a minority opinion that this mitzvah is required only miderabbanan (Rambam, as understood by Pri Chadash). We will assume that the requirement to immerse gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead implements is Torah-ordained. (Bear in mind that, although we would not use lead as an ingredient because of valid concerns about lead poisoning, this medical problem was not discovered until the nineteenth century. Therefore, we find much earlier halachic literature discussing immersion of lead or lead-lined utensils.)

There is no requirement to immerse food utensils made of wood, earthenware, ivory, bone, leather, stone or most other materials. We will soon discuss glass and plastic.

Mechiras Chometz and Tevilas Keilim

As we all know, before Pesach one is required to rid one’s house and all one’s possessions of chometz. However, some items, such as toasters, mixers, wooden kneading bowls, and flour bins are difficult, if not impossible, to clean. Shulchan Aruch and Rema (Orach Chayim 442:11) recommend giving wooden kneading bowls and flour bins and the chometz they contain as a gift to a non-Jew before Pesach, with the understanding that the gentile will return them after the holiday. Today, the standard mechiras chometz that we perform includes selling this chometz and these appliances in the sale. However, what do I do if I have metal appliances that may be full of chometz, such as mixers and toasters? If I sell these appliances to a gentile and then purchase the appliance back from him, will I now need to immerse the appliance in a mikveh?

The halachic authorities note that someone selling his or her chometz to a gentile before Pesach should be careful not to sell utensils that require tevilas keilim. Instead, one should rent the appliances to a gentile and sell the chometz they contain (Chachmas Odom; Noda Beyudah, cited in Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 120:13). An item rented to a gentile does not require immersion when it is returned to the Jewish owner.

Cleavers versus Graters!

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) quotes Rav Sheishes as suggesting that anything purchased from a gentile, even a clothing shears, should require immersion. Rav Nachman responded that the mitzvah of tevilas keilim applies only to kelei seudah — literally, implements used for a meal, which includes both utensils used to prepare food, such as pots and knives, and those utilized to eat or drink, such as drinking cups and tableware (Avodah Zarah 75b).

Grates and Grills

One is required to immerse only those items that usually touch the food directly. Therefore, stove grates, blechs, hotplates, knife sharpeners, trivets, can openers and corkscrews do not require tevilah (see Yoreh Deah 120:4), but grills, peelers, funnels, strainers, salt shakers, pepper mills and tongs do require tevilah, since they all touch food.

What about storage vessels?

Is one required to immerse a metal container or glass jar used to store foodstuffs, but that is not suitable for preparing or consuming food?

Rabbi Akiva Eiger (on Yoreh Deah 120:1, quoting Keneses Hagedolah [Beis Yosef 18]) discusses whether storage vessels require tevilah, and concludes that it is unclear whether they should be immersed. Therefore one should immerse them without reciting a beracha, because in case there is no mitzvah to immerse them, reciting a beracha al tevilas keilim before immersing them is reciting a beracha levatalah, a beracha in vain. A better solution is to immerse them at the same time that one immerses an item that definitely requires a beracha.

Kelei Sechorah — “Merchandise”

The halachic authorities note that a storekeeper does not toivel vessels he is planning to sell, since for him they are not kelei seudah, but items he intends to sell. Later authorities therefore coined a term “kelei 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 statement of the Rema that implies that a tevilah performed before one is obligated to immerse a vessel, such as while it is still owned by the gentile, does not fulfill the mitzvah and must be repeated after it becomes the property of a Jew (Rema Yoreh Deah 120:9).

Based on this discussion, we can now address one of our above-mentioned questions:

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

This question is a modification of a situation in which I was involved. I once received a glass candy dish from someone, with a note from the business stating that the dish has already been toiveled. I called the proprietor of the business to inform him that, in my opinion, not only is he not required to toivel the dish, but I suspect that it does not help. My reasoning is that, although the proprietor fills his dishes with nuts and candies, from his perspective this is still merchandise that he is selling. The dish therefore qualifies as kelei 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 immersion. 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 the dishes.

Some Immersing Details

When immersing the utensil, one should not hold it very tightly in one’s hand, since this will cause the part of the utensil he is holding to not be immersed properly. Instead, one should either hold the utensil somewhat loosely, or alternatively, one should dip one’s hand into the mikveh water before holding the utensil that will be immersed (Rema, Yoreh Deah 120:2; see Taz and Shach).

Prior to immersing a utensil, one must remove all rust and dirt from the utensil. If one immersed the utensil and it had rust or dirt that most people would not want on the appliance, one must clean it, and then re-immerse it (Yoreh Deah 120:13).

When one is immersing an item that definitely requires tevilah, immediately prior to dipping it, one should recite the beracha, Asher kideshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al tevilas keili. If one immerses more than one vessel he should conclude instead al tevilas keilim (Yoreh Deah 120:3). Although some authorities mention alternative texts to the beracha, I have quoted the commonly used text, which follows the majority opinion.

If it is uncertain whether the item requires tevilah, one should not recite a beracha. It is preferable, if possible, to immerse it at the same time that one immerses a different utensil that definitely requires tevilah, so that both items are included in the beracha.

May a child toivel keilim?

If a child tells you that he immersed a vessel in a kosher mikveh, may you rely that this indeed happened?

The halacha is that if an adult supervised the child immerse the vessel correctly, one may use the utensil, but one may not rely on the child attesting that he or she immersed the utensil properly (Yoreh Deah 120:14; see also Gr”a ad locum and Pri Megadim, Orach Chayim, Mishbetzos Zahav 451:6). Apparently, this is not a well-known halacha, since one often finds children being used as agents to immerse utensils for their parents.

People eating from glass dishes…

The Gemara teaches that food utensils made of glass must be immersed prior to use, since glassware is similar to metalware in that when it becomes broken it can be melted and repaired, what we usually call recyclable.One recites a beracha prior to immersing glassware, just as one recites a beracha prior to immersing metalware.

Of course, this leads us to a question about plasticware, since many forms of plastic are recyclable in ways very similar to metal and glass. Does repairable plasticware require tevilah just as glassware does? Most people assume that plasticware is not included in the mitzvah of tevilas keilim, but why?

This takes us to an earlier discussion between 19th-century poskim concerning a type of boneware, which, when broken or cracked, could be repaired by melting and melding it. (I personally have no experience with this material, but I imagine that one could probably melt and repair bone, just as one can repair horn by melting and melding. There is much halachic discussion about the repair of a damaged shofar by melting and melding the crack.) Rav Avraham Shaag, the rebbe of Rav Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld (later the Rav of the old Yishuv of Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisrael), concluded that just as one is required to immerse glassware because it is repairable, one is required to immerse boneware (Shu’t Ohel Avraham #24, quoted by Darkei Teshuvah). This position was disputed by Rav David Zvi Hoffman, the preeminent posek of Germany in his day, who contended that since the immersion of glassware is required only miderabbanan, one need immerse only those items that Chazal specifically required, but a newly developed material, albeit similar to glassware, would not require immersion (Shu’t Melamed Leho’il, Yoreh Deah #49).

The late authorities debate whether plastic items require immersion prior to use. Indeed, some authorities (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 3:76) require the immersion of reusable plastic plates and the like, because they follow the logic of Rav Avraham Shaag — although without a beracha, since perhaps Rav Dovid Hoffman is halachically correct. Nevertheless, most authorities conclude that one is not required to immerse plasticware (Shu’t Yabia Omer 4: Yoreh Deah: 8; Tevilas Keilim page 226).

Other Metals

When teaching that metal implements become tamei and that one must immerse food utensils before use, the Torah specifies the six metals that were available in ancient times: gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead. (Bronze and brass are both alloys whose main component is copper; in bronze, the most significant minority element is tin, and in brass it is zinc.) However, over the last two hundred years, mankind developed the means to extract and process several other metals, including platinum, chromium, aluminum, and titanium. Do these “new” metals have the same halachic status as the six mentioned in the Torah? Are platinum rings, aluminum urns and titanium airplanes susceptible to tumah?  Do chrome pots and aluminum trays require tevilas keilim?

The Tiferes Yisrael, in his extensive introduction to the Order of Taharos, rules that the newly discovered metals have the same halachic status as the six mentioned explicitly by the Torah, and they are all capable of becoming tamei (Yevakeish Daas #44). It follows from his line of reasoning that one is required min haTorah to immerse food vessels made of the new types of metal, and indeed this is how many authorities rule (Tevilas Keilim page 225). Many authorities contend that, although one is required to immerse aluminum pots, one is not required to immerse aluminum items that are disposable. Since they are meant to be disposed after use, they are not considered “keilim” that require immersion.

On the other hand, other poskim dispute the Tiferes Yisrael’s conclusion that all types of metal become tamei, contending that since the Torah mentions six specific metals (and the Torah could certainly have used a generic term for all metal items that would have been much briefer), choosing a lengthy way of listing six types of metal demonstrates that these are the only types of metal that become tamei, and that any newly developed metals are not susceptible to tumah (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:164; letter from Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky published at end of the sefer Tevilas Keilim).

According to the latter approach, one can argue that chrome pots and aluminum implements do not require tevilas keilim. The prevalent accepted practice is to assume that they do require tevilas keilim, although some authorities consider this a sufficient enough doubt to omit the beracha prior to immersing these items.

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 is to use our physical self to assist our intellect to do Hashem’s will. Specifically in this instance, the Torah requires that the items hereby produced be immersed in a mikveh before we use them, in order to endow them with increased kedusha before they are put to food use. This demonstrates that although one may use one’s intellect for physical purposes, when doing so one must first sanctify the item, to focus on the spiritual.

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