This is the Way We Bake Our Bread! – Some Practical Questions about Hilchos Challah

clip_image002Shaylah #1: Mrs. Ginsburg calls me with the following question:

“I like to separate challah with a bracha, but I do not have a bowl big enough to hold the minimum amount of dough necessary. Instead, I have been mixing the dough in two bowls, and draping a cloth over them. Someone told me that this is not a satisfactory method of combining the doughs and that I have been reciting invalid brachos as a result. What is the correct way to separate challah?”

Shaylah #2: Mrs. Bracha, Mrs. Ginsburg’s friend, was curious why Mrs. Ginsburg was trying to combine her two doughs. “After all, let her just ‘take challah’ on each bowl separately. Why all this hassle?” Which of the two good ladies is correct?

Shaylah #3: In preparation for Shalach Manos, Mrs. Lowenstein is baking her challahs in small batches and placing them in her freezer. Should she separate challah from them?

AM I BAKING CHALLAH OR “TAKING” CHALLAH?

In the last question, I used the word challah to mean two completely different things – our special Shabbos bread, and the consecrated portion that we separate from dough. Indeed a very strange misnomer has occurred in both Yiddish and English that often creates confusion. Whenever someone mixes a large dough or batter intending to bake it, he or she is required to separate a special portion called challah. In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, a generous portion was separated from each dough and given to a kohen. Only a kohen or his family and only when they were tahor could eat the challah, which had special sanctity. Today, since we are all tamei and cannot rid ourselves of this tumah, no one may eat the challah; therefore we separate a small piece, which we burn or dispose of respectfully.

On the other hand, the word challah also came to refer to our special Shabbos bread . To avoid confusion, I will refer to the special Shabbos bread as “bread,” rather than challah, and the word “challah” will refer to the consecrated portion separated from dough or bread to fulfill the mitzvah.

Indeed, it is a very important mitzvah for a woman to bake bread for Shabbos, rather than purchase it from a bakery (Bi’ur Halacha, Orach Chayim 242 s.v. vehu), and it is an even bigger mitzvah to bake enough to separate challah with a bracha (Rama, Orach Chayim 242). However, as we will see in discussing the questions raised above, these mitzvos can sometimes become complicated.

The Torah teaches us the mitzvah of challah in Parshas Shlach (Bamidbar 15:18-21). I quote some of the pasukim:

(18) Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, upon your entry to the land that I am bringing you there.

(19) And it will be when you eat from the bread of the land, that you should consecrate a special portion for Hashem’s sake.

(20) The first of your kneading bowls is challah; you should consecrate it just as you consecrate part of your grain.

Note that Pasuk 19 refers to separating challah when you eat bread, whereas Pasuk 20 mentions taking challah from your kneading bowls. This leads us to a question: Why does the Torah tell us to separate challah from bread if we already separated challah when we were kneading it? The two references imply that sometimes we must separate challah when kneading dough, whereas at other times we are not obligated to do so until it is already bread. Stay tuned to find out how this applies.

HOW TO SEPARATE

Before answering Mrs. Ginsburg’s question, we need to explain the basic method of challah taking.

The simplest method of separating challah is as follows:

1. Separate a piece of the dough that will become the challah portion, but do not intend that it should become challah yet. The custom is that the piece should be at least as large as a small olive (Rama, Yoreh Deah 322:5).

2. Touch the piece to the rest of the dough.

3. Recite the bracha Asher kidishanu bimitzvosav vitzivanu lihafrish challah. Many people have the custom of adding the words min ha’isah to the end of the bracha. (Others end the bracha with the words lihafrish terumah, lihafrish terumah challah, or lihafrish terumas challah instead of lihafrish challah.)

4. Declare that the piece is challah. If saying this part in Hebrew, simply say “Harei zu challah.” One can just as easily say in English: “This is Challah.” Technically, one does not need to declare the portion challah verbally; it is sufficient to simply think which piece becomes challah. (This last case is useful when someone serves you bread or cake and you are uncertain whether challah was separated. Simply have in mind now to designate part of the bread as challah and leave that part uneaten.)

5. One should treat the separated portion, which is now challah, as non-kosher and destroy it. One may wrap it up carefully in two layers of aluminum foil and burn it in one’s oven or on top of the stove. In our ovens, one may burn the challah while using the oven for cooking or baking, so long as one is careful that it does not unwrap. Even if it does unwrap, it will not prohibit anything baked in the oven at the same time; however if it touches the oven itself, that part of the oven will require kashering. Because of the latter concern, some people prefer to wrap it carefully and respectfully place it in the garbage.

MINIMUM AMOUNTS

To answer Mrs. Ginsburg’s question how she should separate challah, we must first appreciate that there is no mitzvah to take challah if one is baking only a small amount of dough. Referring back to our Pasuk, we will see why this is true.

When the Torah required separating challah from “your kneading bowls,” to whom was the Torah speaking? Obviously, the generation living in the Desert, who were eating man. The Torah (Shemos 16:32) tells us that each individual gathered one omer of man each day in the Desert. Since the “bowl” used by the Jews in the Desert contained one omer, we know that this is the size bowl that the Torah is describing.

How big is an omer? The Torah (Shemos 16:36) teaches that this was one-tenth the size of an eifah, but that does not help us if we do not know the size of an eifah. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 324:1) rules that an omer contains 43.2 eggs. By the way, the gematria of the word challah is 43, and the last letter of challah is a hei, whose gematria is five. This is a good way to remember that the minimum size of separating challah is a dough the size of 43 and 1/5 eggs (Shach 324:2).

However, today we are uncertain how much dough this means since eggs vary tremendously in size. For our purposes, I am suggesting an estimate. We will assume that less than eight cups of flour does not require separating challah, and that one should not recite a bracha before separating challah unless one uses at least five pounds of flour. Any amount in between requires separating challah but without reciting a bracha. These figures are estimates and your Rav may give you different amounts.

If you ask me why I gave the first measurement in cups and the second in pounds, the answer is very simple. Cups are a less accurate measure than pounds, but more commonly used. If a woman knows that every time she uses eight cups of flour she should take challah without a bracha she is unlikely to miss taking challah when necessary. On the other hand, a bracha requires a more accurate measure, and most poskim require a bracha over dough made from five pounds of flour, although many poskim rule that one should recite a bracha even if using less.

WHY SEPARATE CHALLAH WITHOUT A BRACHA?

One recites the bracha only when certain that the dough is large enough to fulfill the mitzvah. If the batch is too small to fulfill the mitzvah, then a bracha would be levatalah, in vain. On the other hand, if one is required to separate challah, then one may not eat the bread without separating challah. Since it is uncertain exactly how much flour requires challah, we separate challah on any dough without a bracha when it is questionable whether one is required.

Preferably, one should try to recite a bracha before performing a mitzvah. Therefore, it is preferred to make a batch large enough to separate challah with a bracha. However, if one does not need such a large amount and it will go to waste, one should make a smaller dough and separate challah without a bracha (assuming that the batch contains at least eight cups of flour). It is preferable to bake fresh bread for every Shabbos rather than bake a double-batch one week and freeze half for the next week, unless the frozen bread tastes as good as the fresh variety.

We have now answered Shaylah #2, the dispute between Mrs. Bracha and Mrs. Ginsburg whether one should try to combine doughs to recite a bracha on the mitzvah. Indeed, one should.

Furthermore, one may not deliberately make small doughs to avoid taking challah altogether (Gemara Pesachim 48b; Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 324:14). Therefore, someone making small batches should combine them into one larger batch in order to fulfill the mitzvah.

BATCHING TOGETHER

How does one combine different batches of dough or bread?

There are two general ways to combine different doughs into one “batch” in order to perform the mitzvah of separating challah. The first is by actually combining two doughs together; the second is by using a vessel to combine doughs or breads into what is now considered to be one batch.

HOW DO WE COMBINE DOUGHS?

One can combine two doughs by touching them together sufficiently that parts of one dough will join the other dough when separating them (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 325:1 and Taz). This sticking together is enough to make the different batches considered as one.

Thus, Mrs. Ginsburg could combine her two doughs by touching them until the doughs stick together. Although this is often a simple way to combine two doughs, Mrs. Ginsburg pointed out that this approach is impractical when her doughs are mixed in two separate bowls. However, a simple solution is to wait until after the doughs rise and then to place them both on the board or tray for braiding. At this point, she should touch the doughs together until they stick to one another and become considered one dough.

“Does this mean that I can never take challah until my dough is removed from the bowls?” asked Mrs. Ginsburg. “I would prefer to separate challah while the dough is still in the bowl.”

Indeed, there are two possible ways she could take challah from the dough while it is still in the bowl, although each approach has its potential drawbacks.

A. If the dough rises in the bowls until it is high enough that one can touch the two doughs together, one may separate challah from one dough for both of them after sticking the two together. Of course, this is only possible if both doughs rise until they are higher than the top of the bowl.

B. A second approach involves placing the two bowls in a sheet or tablecloth in a way that the two bowls are touching while inside the sheet or cloth (Mishnah Berurah 457:7). Then fold the sheet or cloth over the bowls until it covers the doughs, even partially. I will explain shortly why this combines the doughs together. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, I prefer method “A” to method “B.”

HOW DO WE BATCH BREADS?

Another method of combining either dough or bread from small batches into one large batch to fulfill the mitzvah of challah is to place them together in a basket or other vessel (Mishnah Challah 2:4; Gemara Pesachim 48b).

Why does a basket make two or more different batches into one batch? Refer back to the Pasukim that I quoted earlier:

Pasuk 19: And it will be when you eat from the bread of the land, that you should consecrate a special portion for Hashem’s sake.

Pasuk 20: The first of your kneading bowls is challah; you should consecrate it just as you consecrate part of your grain.

I noted above that Pasuk 19 refers to separating challah when you eat bread, whereas Pasuk 20 mentions taking challah from your kneading bowls, which implies that we already separated challah when it was dough. Why does the Torah teach us to separate challah from bread when we already separated challah when it was being kneaded? The answer is that sometimes a dough is too small to require separating challah, but placing the baked bread (from two or more such doughs) in a basket will create a batch large enough to perform the mitzvah!

AN EXCEPTION — A MIX THAT DOES NOT WORK

If one does not want to combine two doughs, for example, if one dough is whole wheat flour and the other is white, or one is bread dough and the other pastry, then combining the two batches does not work (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 326:1). These batches remain separate unless one actually mixes the two doughs together. Thus, even if one touched together hamantashen dough with bread dough and the two combined have the requisite amount to separate challah, they do not combine.

At this point, we can answer Mrs. Ginsburg’s shaylah, about combining two batches of dough mixed in separate bowls. I have suggested two methods whereby one can combine the two batches into a five-pound batch and recite a bracha before the separating:

1. Take the different doughs and touch them together until the edges stick to one another. Do this either while the dough is in bowls or any time afterwards before the bread is baked.

2. Place the doughs or breads together inside one basket, cloth, or vessel. Since they are all inside one container, this combines them into one batch. Preferably, the dough or breads should all touch one another (Mishnah Berurah 457:7).

We can now analyze Mrs. Lowenstein’s question whether her freezer combines the breads into one batch that requires her to separate challah?

DOES ANY VESSEL COMBINE BREAD INTO ONE BATCH?

Previously, we discussed how one can combine to batches together for mitzvas challah by placing them into one basket. Does putting breads or hamantashen from many small batches into the freezer together create a mitzvah of separating challah?

The Gemara (Pesachim 48b) teaches that a table with a rim around it combines small batches of bread together to create a mitzvah of challah. Thus, it seems that a basket is simply an example. However, many Rishonim imply that the mitzvah of challah is created by a vessel only while in the process of baking bread, but not afterwards (Rashi, Pesachim 48b; She’iltos #73; Eimek Shei’lah who explains these opinions meticulously). However, the Rosh (Beitzah 1:13) implies that if a large quantity of bread is mistakenly placed into one vessel later, it will become obligated in challah at this point, and therefore he recommends combining all the doughs together earlier and separating challah. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 457:1) implies that he rules like the first opinion, unlike the Rosh.

Although some poskim suggest that a freezer will combine just as a basket combines, most contemporary poskim rule that this is not a concern for a variety of reasons. These reasons include: 1) This takes place long after you finished making the bread. 2) You have no intent to combine the doughs together. 3) A freezer may not be considered a vessel at all because of its size and weight. 4) The doughs are all bagged before they are placed inside the freezer (see Machazeh Eliyahu #l11; Shu’t Nimla Tal).

We can now answer questions 1 and 3 that we posed at the beginning. 1) One should indeed try to combine different batches of dough or bread in order to separate challah from them, and in order to be able to recite the bracha. 3) Although a vessel or tablecloth will combine different doughs into challah, a freezer does not create a concern that requires separating challah, nor does it combine batches for challah taking.

Having discussed the halachic details of this mitzvah, it is worthwhile taking a glimpse at the following Medrash that underscores its vast spiritual significance: “In the merit of the following three mitzvos the world was created – in the merit of challah, in the merit of maasros, and in the merit of bikkurim” (Breishis Rabbah 1:4). Thus, besides gaining us eternal reward, this easily kept mitzvah helps keep our planet turning.

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What Happens When We Do Something Wrong on Shabbos?

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Question #1: Cholent Caper

Shimon looks rather sheepish when he asks this shaylah on Shabbos morning: After waking up, he tasted the cholent and decided it needed some extra spices. Without thinking, he added some pepper and garlic powder, which is clearly an act of desecrating Shabbos. Can his family eat the cholent, or is it prohibited to benefit from this melachah?

Question #2: Bad Advice

“My main mutual fund has performed wonderfully over time and I am very satisfied with it. However, I recently read a transcript in which the fund manager, who is probably Jewish, referred to investment discussions with his staff on Friday night. I am concerned that I may be benefiting from chillul Shabbos that he performs in the course of researching venture possibilities for the fund. Must I pull my money out and look for another investment vehicle?”

Question #3: The Unrepentant Knitter

Yehudis seeks guidance for a real predicament: “I have a non-observant relative who loves to knit and is presently knitting a baby blanket for my soon-to-be. I am certain that she is doing some of this on Shabbos. If we do not use her blanket she will be very upset — and she will notice if we fail to use it. What may we do to avoid antagonizing her?”

Each of these true-life shaylos that I have been asked involve the same halachic perimeter: May one benefit from work performed on Shabbos? Although we certainly discourage Shabbos desecration before the act, the question is whether something produced on Shabbos may be used afterwards. This very question is discussed in the Gemara in several places, which cites a three-way dispute concerning food cooked by a Jew on Shabbos. The three opinions ultimately focus on three different concerns and debate whether and to what extent we are concerned about these issues:

I. Intrinsic Prohibition

Some contend that a food cooked in violation of Shabbos becomes a substance that we are prohibited to eat. Those who rule this way maintain that this food becomes non-kosher.

II. Penalize the Sinner

Chazal penalized a person who intentionally desecrated Shabbos by banning that individual from benefiting from his misdeed. The food is still kosher, but there are restrictions as to who may eat it and when.

III. Deferring Use

One must defer benefiting from an item created through Shabbos desecration until after Shabbos so as not to profit from the sin.

I. Intrinsic Prohibition

Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar contends that cooking in intentional violation of Shabbos creates an intrinsically “tereifah” forbidden food. In his opinion, not only does the Torah forbid desecrating Shabbos, but also, food prepared in defiance of Shabbos may not be eaten and will never become permitted. However, this only applies to an item produced in intentional violation of Shabbos. An item created in unintentional, but negligent, violation of Shabbos (shogeig) is treated more leniently.

II. Penalize the Sinner

Rabbi Yehudah follows a somewhat more lenient approach, prohibiting the sinner from using items made on Shabbos as a penalty, but not because the food is intrinsically non-kosher. Chazal created this penalty so that the perpetrator should not benefit from his misdeed. For this reason, Rabbi Yehudah prohibits the item permanently only to the person who desecrated Shabbos. Others may use the item after Shabbos is over.

III. Deferring Use

Rabbi Yehudah, and third opinion, Rabbi Meir, agree that other people may not use the item on Shabbos itself. This benefit must be deferred because one should defer use of items created via Shabbos desecration until after Shabbos. However, once Shabbos is over, people not involved in the Shabbos desecration may use the item.

Negligent Desecration

Thus far, we have discussed what happens when something was prepared in intentional defilement of Shabbos. However, if someone cooked the item in unintentional, but negligent, violation of Shabbos (shogeig), even the one who cooked may eat the food once Shabbos is over. In this case, no distinction is made between the person who violated Shabbos and anyone else. Since the sin was unintentional, we do not penalize the perpetrator. But Rabbi Yehudah requires that we defer the benefit until after Shabbos.

What is the Legal Definition of “Negligent”?

Negligent violation (shogeig) includes someone who forgot or did not know that it is Shabbos, or forgot or did not know that the activity being performed is forbidden on Shabbos. It also includes someone who was provided mistaken information that something prohibited is permitted. This applies even if one asked a competent scholar who erred and permitted something forbidden (Magen Avraham 318:3). As mentioned above, in any of these situations, one may use the item after Shabbos ends.

Example:

Devorah discovered that she prepared food on Shabbos in a way that the Torah prohibits. Since she was unaware of the halachah, this is an act of shogeig, and the food may be eaten after Shabbos.

An Intended Beneficiary

As I explained above, Rabbi Yehudah maintains that a person who desecrated Shabbos intentionally may never benefit from the result, while others may benefit after Shabbos. What about a person for whom the item was made in intentional desecration of Shabbos? May he/she use the item? For example, if a Jew cooked for a guest on Shabbos, may the guest eat the food after Shabbos is over?

Why should the intended beneficiary be treated more stringently than anyone else?

Not Only Shabbos

To understand the background behind this question we need to clarify some related issues. I mentioned above that Rabbi Yehudah prohibits the sinner from ever using an item that resulted from his desecration. This rule is not limited to Shabbos, but also applies to other areas of halachah. Here is an example:

Ein Mevatelin Issur Lechatchilah

Although prohibited substances that spill into food are sometimes nullified, this applies only when the mixture occurred unintentionally. One may not deliberately add prohibited food to permitted food in order to nullify the banned substance. This prohibition is called ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah. Bitul is something that happens after the fact and cannot serve as a premeditated solution .

What happens if someone intentionally added a proscribed ingredient? Is the food now prohibited?

Indeed, the person who added the forbidden component may not consume it. This law is derived from the rules of Shabbos. Just as the intentional Shabbos desecrator may not benefit from his misdeed, so too, the deliberate contaminator of kosher food may not consume the mixture (Gittin 54b). Therefore, if the CIA (Cashrus Intelligence Agency) detects the misdeed, the perpetrator will be banned from benefit.

Already Added

Because of the above rule, if non-kosher food accidently fell into food at a rate too great to be nullified, one may not add extra kosher food or liquid in order to nullify the prohibited substance. This act is also prohibited under the heading of ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah. Here too, someone who knows that this act is prohibited and intentionally added permitted food to nullify the forbidden component, may not consume it because he violated ein mevatelin issur lichatchilah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 99:5). However, if he did this negligently he may use the finished product.

All these rulings derive from the laws of Shabbos that we discussed before. The person who added the product intentionally, knowing that this is prohibited, is comparable to someone who knowingly desecrates Shabbos and may not benefit from his misdeed. However, the person who was unaware that his act is prohibited qualifies as a shogeig and may use the product. (Note that although on Shabbos we sometimes make a distinction between using the food on Shabbos and using it after Shabbos, no such distinction applies in the case of ein mevatelin issur lechatchilah.)

Don’t Add Water!

The following case explains this last situation more clearly. Mrs. Smallminded discovers that she inadvertently added a non-kosher ingredient to the huge pot of soup she is preparing for a family simcha. Realizing her error, she calls her rav, who concludes that the ratio of kosher to non-kosher in her soup is insufficient and that therefore the soup is not kosher. Unwilling to discard all her efforts and ingredients, Mrs. Smallminded adds water to the soup until there is sufficient kosher product to nullify the non-kosher ingredients. As mentioned above, this act is prohibited as a violation of the rule ein mevatelin issur lichatchilah. If Mrs. Smallminded was unaware that she was forbidden to add water, she qualifies as shogeig and may eat the soup. However, if she was aware that this was prohibited and she intentionally ignored the halachah, she may not eat the food, for this would allow her to benefit from her deliberate misdeed.

What about her Guests?

Let us assume that Mrs. Smallminded realized that she was not allowed to add water, but did so anyway. Later, she has pangs of conscience about her misdeed. As I mentioned above, Mrs. Smallminded may not eat the soup. What about her guests and family members? May they eat the soup because the non-kosher ingredient is indeed bateil, or are they also prohibited from eating it?

The halachah is that the intended beneficiaries may not eat the soup. Since all of Mrs. Smallminded’s family members and guests are intended beneficiaries, none of them may eat the soup (Rashba, Toras HaBayis 4:3, page 32; Tur Yoreh Deah 99). However, some authorities contend that this applies only if those people knew that the water was being mixed in for their benefit, as I will explain.

Not Aware of the Bitul

This leads us to a new question: What if the intended beneficiaries did not know that the item was being mixed in for their benefit?

Some authorities rule that in this last situation the intended beneficiary may use the product (Maharshal; Taz 99:10). However, many authorities conclude that the item is prohibited. Furthermore, most rule that if a store added prohibited substances to kosher food in order to sell it to Jewish customers, no Jewish customers may consume the finished product since they are all considered intended beneficiaries (Shu”t Rivash #498; Rabbi Akiva Eiger). According to this, Mrs. Smallminded’s guests and relatives would be forbidden from eating her soup even though they were unaware of what she did.

You might ask, why are they being penalized from eating the luscious soup when they were completely unaware of her intent to violate the law? After all, not only did they not intentionally violate any laws, they did not even know what Mrs. Smallminded was doing in the kitchen!

The Overambitious Butcher

It is easiest to explain this ruling by examining a case discussed by earlier halachah authorities. A town butcher had mastered the proper skills to be a qualified shocheit, but had never passed the lext step – being licensed to be a bodeik, the person who checks after the shechitah to ascertain that the animal contains no imperfections that render it tereifah. Nevertheless, this butcher-shocheit performed the shechitah and the bedikah himself, thereby overextending his “license.” The shaylah was whether the meat could be eaten anyway, based on the halachah that if one cannot perform bedikah the animal is ruled kosher, since most animals are kosher.

The posek of the generation, the Rivash, ruled that no one could eat the meat. Although it is indeed true that if a bedikah cannot be performed the meat is kosher, one may not intentionally forgo the bedikah. The Rivash forbids the meat of the above-mentioned butcher-shocheit because of the principle of ein mevatelin issur lichatchilah, and rules that no one may use the meat, since all of the butcher’s customers are intended beneficiaries of his violation. This is true even though the customers certainly did not want the butcher to forgo a proper bedikah. We see that when the prohibited food is prepared for someone else, the authorities forbade that person from eating the food, even when he did not want the bitul to transpire.

An Intended Shabbos Beneficiary

Having established that mixing food in violation of halachah prohibits the resultant product, we now need to determine the law on Shabbos. Does halachah ban the intended beneficiary from benefiting from the item produced on Shabbos, even if he/she did not want the item prepared on Shabbos?

The late halachic authorities dispute this question, some contending that since one cannot use the item until Shabbos is over, there is less reason to prohibit the intended beneficiary (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 318:2, based on Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah 99). Others conclude that food cooked on Shabbos for customers remains prohibited forever since they are all intended beneficiaries (Shu”t Ksav Sofer, Orach Chayim #50).

III: Rabbi Meir’s Approach

At the beginning of the article, I mentioned that the Gemara records three positions concerning this issue. And yet, so far I devoted most of the article to explaining Rabbi Yehudah, briefly mentioned Rabbi Yochanan Hasandler, and mentioned the third opinion, Rabbi Meir, only in passing. This is because most halachic authorities rule like Rabbi Yehudah, although there are several who follow the more lenient opinion of Rabbi Meir (Gr”a, Orach Chayim 318). (One can note that the Rosh, in Bava Kamma 7:6, rules like Rabbi Yochanan HaSandler; however, in Chullin 1:18 he seems to conclude otherwise.) Rabbi Meir contends that anything cooked in negligent violation of Shabbos may be eaten even on the day it was made and even by the person who desecrated Shabbos. Only something produced in intentional defiance of Shabbos may not be used, and this becomes permitted as soon as Shabbos ends even to the violater himself. Thus, he disputes Rabbi Yehudah in two key points, both about the status on Shabbos of food cooked negligently, and whether it is permitted after Shabbos for the person who intentionally desecrated Shabbos.

According to Rabbi Meir, although violating Shabbos is a most severe desecration, the Sages did not prohibit use of the product, but merely postponed using it until after Shabbos so as not to benefit from the sin. He makes no distinction between the violater himself and others. He also contends that there is no prohibition at all against using an item negligently prepared on Shabbos.

Answering our Shaylos

At this point, let us try to resolve the different shaylos that I mentioned before.

Question #1: Shimon negligently added spices to the cholent on Shabbos. Can his family still eat the cholent, or is it prohibited due to the prohibition of benefiting from melachah performed on Shabbos?

According to most authorities, the halachah follows Rabbi Yehudah and therefore this cholent would be prohibited, but only until Shabbos is over. However, some late authorities rule that under extenuating circumstances one may rely on those who accept Rabbi Meir’s more lenient approach (Mishnah Berurah 318:7). According to this approach, one could permit Shimon to enjoy his cholent on Shabbos if he does not have enough ready food for everyone.

Mutual Funds and Shabbos

Our second question was: “My main mutual fund has performed wonderfully over time, and I am very satisfied with it. However, in a transcript I read recently, the fund manager, who is probably Jewish, referred to Friday night discussions with his staff about investments and the economy. I am concerned that I might be benefiting economically from chillul Shabbos that he performs in the course of researching investment possibilities for the fund. Must I pull my money out and look for another vehicle?”

Although we do not want to encourage anyone to desecrate Shabbos, there is, strictly speaking, no violation incurred in benefiting from this investment. The adviser’s desecrating Shabbos does not create any object, so that even the strictest opinion of Rabbi Yochanan Hasandler would not prohibit the money earned by the fund.

The question here is really a different one: Am I hiring a fund adviser to work on Shabbos? Also, there is what I would call a hashkafah/hadrachah question: Do I want to make profit based on a Jew being mechaleil Shabbos? After all, Hashem provides livelihood and perhaps I should steer away from building my personal nestegg on the backs of someone’s chillul Shabbos. I refer our readers with such a question to their own rav.

The Unrepentant Knitter

Now let us now examine our third case above: Yehudis has a non-observant family member who is knitting on Shabbos a baby blanket. May Yehudis use the blanket?

Assuming we follow Rabbi Yehudah’s approach, the main question here is whether an intended beneficiary is prohibited forever from use of an item made in violation of Shabbos. Since most later authorities permit this, I ruled that she could use the blanket.

Conclusion

Resting on Shabbos is our acknowledgement that Hashem created everything and brought the Creation of the world to conclusion on the seventh day. Shabbos is His statement that His creating the world was complete, and our observing it recognizes this. When we bring our workweek to a close, we thereby note Hashem’s supremacy and the message of Shabbos. Unfortunately, not all our brethren understand this message, thus leading to many of the shaylos that we discussed in this article. We hope and pray that all Jews soon understand the full beauty of Shabbos.

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Being a Good Guest, or The Halachic Etiquette When Visiting Someone’s House

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Parshas Va’Yera describes how Avraham Avinu treated his guests, and how his angelic guests behaved. From these interactions, Chazal derive many halachos pertaining to the behavior of a guest in someone’s house.

Some of these rules are fairly self-explanatory. For example, a guest should not bring with him another guest (Bava Basra 98b).

A guest should feel that whatever the host serves and prepares is in his honor. The Gemara explains, “What does a good guest say? How hard the host worked for me! How much meat he brought! How much wine he served! How many dainty dishes he prepared! And all this he prepared for me!”

On the other hand, what does a bad guest say? “Did the host work for me? I ate only one roll and one piece of meat and drank only one cup of wine. All the work he did was done for his wife and children!”

A STRANGE CONVERSATION

In the context of learning proper etiquette, the Gemara (Pesachim 86b) records the following anomalous story. Rav Huna the son of Rav Nosson visited the house of Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak, where apparently Rav Huna was not known. His hosts asked Rav Huna, “What is your name,” to which he replied “Rav Huna.” They then offered him to sit on the couch, although everyone else was sitting either on the floor or on benches, and the couch was reserved for special guests. Rav Huna sat on the couch and did not decline the honor. Subsequently, they brought him a kiddush-sized cup full of wine, which he immediately accepted and drank in front of them, but he paused once in the middle of drinking.

Rav Nachman’s household, which included talmidei chachamim, felt that Rav Huna’s responses to their invitations were inappropriate and peppered him with questions about his behavior. (Since he had identified himself as a talmid chacham, all of his acts could teach someone a halachic lesson. However, they disagreed and felt that he had not acted correctly; it was therefore appropriate to ask him to explain his behavior.) The conversation that ensued is the source of many halachos.

“Why did you introduce yourself as ‘Rav Huna?’” they first asked. Is this an appropriate way to identify oneself?

Rav Huna responded: “That is my name.”

“Why did you sit on the couch when we offered?” They felt that it would have been proper for him to politely refuse the honor and to sit on the floor with everyone else (Tosafos).

Rav Huna retorted by quoting the now famous halachic adage, “Whatever the host asks you to do, you should do (see Mesechta Derech Eretz Rabbah 6:1).”

The hosts continued, “When we offered you the cup, why did you accept it the first time we offered it?”

To which Rav Huna replied, “One may refuse a small person, but one should not refuse the request of a great person.” As we will see shortly, the source for this halacha is in this week’s parsha.

The hosts then inquired, “Why did you drink the small cup of wine we gave you in two gulps, rather than drink it all at once?”

Rav Huna countered, “The earlier authorities taught us that only a guzzler drinks a whole cup of wine at once and arrogant people drink a cup with three sips. The proper way to drink a cup of wine is in two swallows (Mesechta Derech Eretz Rabbah 8).”

Finally, his hosts asked, “Why did you not turn your face when drinking?” A talmid chacham should not eat or drink in the presence of many people (Gemara and Rashi, Bechoros 44b). To this Rav Huna replied that only a bride should be so modest; for anyone else this is not considered modesty (Rashi, Pesachim 86b).

WHAT DID THEY MEAN?

In the course of this puzzling conversation, Rav Huna taught his hosts (and us) several halachos germane to proper etiquette that need to be understood properly. We will now dissect the conversation between these scholars to understand its underlying lessons.

1. He identified himself as “Rav Huna.” Isn’t this a conceited way of introducing oneself? Why would Rav Huna, a great Torah scholar and tzadik, have done this?

The source of this halacha (Nedarim 62a) reads as follows:

Rava pointed out that two verses seem to contradict one another. In one verse, Ovadiah says to Eliyahu, your servant has feared Hashem from his youth (Melachim I 18:12), implying that it is appropriate to make a true statement about one’s spiritual accomplishments. On the other hand, Mishlei (27:2) declares, someone else should praise you, but not your mouth. Rava explains that the pasuk in Mishlei applies only when there are people present who can notify others that this person is a talmid chacham. However, if no one here knows that he is a talmid chacham, he may notify people of his special status in order to receive his deserved rights and so that people are not punished for treating him disrespectfully (Rosh, Nedarim 62a).

Since the members of Rav Nachman’s household were unaware that Rav Huna was a talmid chacham, it was appropriate for him to bring this to their attention (Meiri; Maharsha).

It is noteworthy that when Rav Huna explained why he had identified himself as Rav Huna, the Gemara quotes him as saying baal hashem ani, which Rashi seems to explain as meaning, this was always my name. However, this is not the usual way in either Hebrew or Aramaic of telling someone one’s name or appellation. Alternatively, the words baal hashem ani can be interpreted as meaning, I am well known by that name, which implies that he was a well-known personage, although he was apparently unknown by the members of Rav Nachman’s household (see Meiri). Thus, he was responsible to inform them who he was so that they should not treat him disrespectfully.

WHY NOT SIT ON THE COUCH?

2. The hosts proceeded to inquire about his next act:

“Why did you sit upon the couch when we invited you?” Apparently, they felt that it was inappropriate for him to sit on the couch and he should have politely refused the honor. To this inquiry Rav Huna replied, “Whatever the host asks you to do, you should do.”

Did the hosts indeed want him to sit in the finest seat in the house, or were they simply being polite? Is the host’s offer genuine, or does he really prefer that I refuse the offer? It is not unusual to face this type of predicament.

Rav Huna answers that when the host’s intent is unclear, one should assume that his offer is sincere and do as he suggests.

There is a clear exception to this rule. When one suspects that the host cannot afford his offer and is only making it out of embarrassment, one should not accept his offer. This is referred to as a seudah she’ainah maspekes libaala, lit., a meal insufficient for its owner (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 4:4; also see Gemara Chullin 7b and Rashi).

DO WHAT THE HOST ASKS

Why should one do whatever the host requests?

Here are two interpretations of this statement of Chazal:

A. A visiting (nonpaying) guest should do whatever the host asks him to, since this is a form of payment for services rendered. In return for free accommodations, the guest should reciprocate by performing the tasks and errands the host requests of him (Bach, Orach Chayim 170).

In a sense, this parallels the modern practice of presenting the host with a gift. (One can find halachic sources for this practice in the Sefer Orach Meisharim 18:2.) The gift reciprocates the host’s kindness. However, the host often prefers different favors, such as babysitting, rather than a box of chocolates that his waistline can do without, or an additional bouquet of flowers that will soon wilt. Therefore, one’s reciprocation can consist of doing any appropriate favors for the host.

In a similar vein, if one has the opportunity to reciprocate hospitality, one should do so (Orach Meisharim 18:2). However, neither host nor guest may specify in advance that the hosting will be reciprocal because of concerns of ribbis, prohibited paying and receiving interest on a loan (Rama, Orach Chayim 170:13), since the one who hosts first has in essence extended his hospitality as a loan to the other!

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

B. Courtesy dictates that a guest in someone’s house should respect his host and fulfill his requests as Master of the house (L’vush). Rav Huna ruled that denying the host’s request to honor his guest contradicts the host’s authority as Master of the house. By sitting on the couch and accepting the honor, the guest affirms his host’s authority to honor whomever he wishes in his home.

In many societies, turning down a host’s offer of a cup of tea or coffee is considered insulting. If one is unaware of local custom, one should follow Chazal’s instructions as Rav Huna did.

IF THE HOST HAS DIFFERENT KASHRUS STANDARDS

What happens if the host and the guest interpret the laws of kashrus in different ways? Must the guest follow the host’s request to join him for a meal?

If the guest follows a stricter halachic opinion that the host, the guest should apprise the host. The host may not serve the guest food that does not meet the guest’s standard unless the food is obviously something he may not eat (Shach, Yoreh Deah 119:20). For example, if the guest observes cholov yisroel fully and the host follows the poskim who permit unsupervised milk in modern Western society, the host may not cook anything that does not meet the guest’s standards without telling him. However, he may place food on the table that is obviously not cholov yisroel. Similarly, if the guest notifies the host that he uses only food with a specific hechsher, the host may not serve him food that violates this standard.

Once a halacha-abiding host knows his guest’s standards, the guest may assume that the host is accommodating his standards and eat whatever is served without further questions (Shach, Yoreh Deah 119:20). This is included in Chazal’s adage, whatever the host asks you to do, you should do, since questioning the host’s standards unnecessarily is offensive. Offending someone is always halachically reprehensible, and certainly when he has done one a favor.

PERSONAL CHUMROS

On the other hand, if the guest has a personal halachic stringency that he would rather not divulge, he should not violate his chumrah and he is not required to divulge it (Shaarei Teshuvah 170:6; Ben Yehoyada).

Generally, one should be modest when it comes to any chumrah (Birkei Yosef 170:6). Of course, one should always be aware that taking on personal chumros comes at a price, and one would discuss the matter with a gadol prior to observing a chumrah. (See the important discussion on this point in Michtav Mei’Eliyahu Volume 3 pg. 294.)

EXCEPT LEAVE

Our editions of the Gemara Pesachim 86b have two Hebrew words appended to the end of the statement whatever the host asks you to do, you should do. The additional words are, chutz mi’tzei, except leave, and therefore the passage reads, Whatever the host asks you to do you should do, except leave. It is unclear if these words are an authentic part of the text as they are not mentioned in Mesechta Derech Eretz, the source of the original statement. Some very authoritative commentators (Meiri) take exception to it, and Tur and Shulchan Aruch both omit it. The Meiri reports that these words are an incorrect textual emendation added by clowns and should be disregarded.

Nevertheless, other authorities (Bach, Magen Avraham, Ben Yehoyada) accept these words as part of the text and grapple with different possible interpretations.

What does this text mean? I found numerous interpretations of this text, including six different interpretations in one sefer (Ben Yehoyada) alone! Several of these approaches assume that performing whatever the host requests means reciprocating his favors, the first approach I mentioned above. According to these approaches, the words chutz mitzei mean that the guest is not expected to perform any inappropriate activity for the host. This would include the host asking the guest to run an errand for him outside the house, which the guest may refrain from since it is unacceptable to ask someone to run an errand in a city with which he or she is unfamiliar (Bach, Orach Chayim 170).

Nevertheless, if the host requests the guest to do something that he would ordinarily not do because it is beneath his dignity he should perform it anyway (Birkei Yosef 170:5).

THE STRANGE CONVERSATION

We now revert to explaining the original conversation that transpired between Rav Huna and his hosts.

3. The hosts continued, “When we offered you the cup, why did you accept it the first time we offered it?”

To which Rav Huna replied, “One may refuse a small person, but one should not refuse the request of a great person.”

THE INCONSISTENT ANGELS

It is interesting to note that this particular rule of etiquette is based on a passage in this week’s parsha. When Avraham Avinu invited the angels to dinner they immediately accepted, whereas when his nephew Lot invited them they initially turned him down. Only after he begged them repeatedly did they accept his invitation (Breishis 15:1-5, 16:1-3). Why did they accept Avraham’s invitation immediately and initially turn down Lot’s offer? The Gemara (Bava Metzia 86b) answers because of this rule – one may refuse a small person, but one should not refuse a great person.

This halacha has ramifications for other non-guest situations. When someone is asked to lead the services in shul (usually called to daven before the amud), he should initially decline the offer as a sign of humility. However, if a great person, such as the Rav of the shul, asks one to lead the services, one should immediately agree.

TWO GULPS?

4. The hosts now inquired, “Why did you drink the small cup of wine we gave you in two gulps, rather than drink it all at once?”

Rav Huna countered, “The earlier authorities taught us that only a guzzler drinks a whole cup of wine at once, and arrogant people drink a cup with three sips. The proper way to drink a cup of wine is in two swallows” (Mesechta Derech Eretz Rabbah 8).

A reviis-size cup of wine, which is about three ounces, should be drunk in two sips; not all at once, and not in more than two sips. It is preferable to drink about half the cup each time rather than to drink most of it and leave just a small sip for afterwards (Magen Avraham 170:12). If the cup is smaller, the wine is very sweet, or the person drinking is very obese, one may drink the entire cup at one time (Gemara Pesachim 86b, as understood by Magen Avraham 170:13). When drinking beer, one may drink a greater amount in each gulp since beer is less intoxicating than wine; and certainly when drinking non-alcoholic beverages (Magen Avraham 170:13). On the other hand, if the drink is very strong, one may drink it much slower (Aruch HaShulchan 170:9). Thus it is appropriate to sip whiskey or other strongly intoxicating beverage slowly.

TURNING YOUR FACE?

5. Finally, his hosts asked, “Why did you not turn your face when drinking?” To this Rav Huna replied that only a bride should be so modest. What is this conversation about?

A talmid chacham should not eat or drink in the presence of many people (Gemara and Rashi, Bechoros 44b). The hosts felt that Rav Huna should not have eaten in their presence without turning to the side so that they could not see him eat. Rav Huna held that the halacha that a talmid chacham should not eat or drink in the presence of many people does not apply when one is eating a meal together with other people. However, a bride should not eat in a way that other people see her eating, even if they are all participating together in a festive meal (Tosafos, Bechoros 44b s.v. vi’ayn). Therefore, Rav Huna replied that only a bride should be so modest; for anyone else this is not considered modesty (Rashi, Pesachim 86b).

The halacha is that one should not eat in the street or marketplace (Kiddushin 40b), and on the other hand, one should not stare at someone who is eating or at the food that he is eating because it embarrasses him or her (Rambam, Hilchos Brachos 7:6; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 170:4).

As we see, Chazal had tremendous concern that a person act appropriately in all circumstances. We should apply this lesson to our daily lives.

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Carrying in Public and the Use of an Eruv

Iclip_image002n this week’s parsha, the Torah recounts the story of the manna, also including the unbecoming episode where some people attempted to gather it on Shabbos. In the words of the Torah:

And Moshe said, “Eat it (the manna that remained from Friday) today, for today is Shabbos to Hashem. Today you will not find it (the manna) in the field. Six days you shall gather it, and the Seventh Day is Shabbos – There will be none.”

And it was on the Seventh Day. Some of the people went out to gather, and they did not find.

And Hashem said to Moshe: “For how long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings. See, Hashem gave you the Shabbos. For this reason He provides you with two-day’s supply of bread on the sixth day. On the Seventh Day each person should remain where he is and not leave his place” (Shemos 16:25- 29).

Although the Torah’s words each person should remain where he is and not leave his place imply that even leaving one’s home is forbidden, the context implies that one may not leave one’s home while carrying the tools needed to gather manna (Tosafos, Eruvin 17b). The main prohibition taught here is to refrain from carrying from one’s house or any other enclosed area (halachically called reshus hayachid), to an area available for the entire Bnei Yisroel in the Desert to traverse, a reshus harabim. Chazal further explain that moving an item in any way from a reshus hayachid to a reshus harabim violates the Torah, whether one throws it, places it, hands it to someone else, or transports it in any other way (Shabbos 2a, 96). Furthermore, we derive from other sources that one may also not transport an item from a reshus harabim to a reshus hayachid, nor may one transport it four amos (about seven feet) or more within a reshus harabim (Gemara Shabbos 96b; Tosafos, Shabbos 2a s.v. pashat). Thus, carrying into, out of, or within a reshus harabim incurs a severe Torah prohibition. For convenience sake, I will refer to portage of an item from one reshus to another or within a reshus harabim as carrying regardless of the method of conveyance.

One should note that with reference to the melacha of carrying on Shabbos, the terms reshus hayachid and reshus harabim do not relate to the ownership of the respective areas, but are determined by the extent that the areas are enclosed and how they are used. A reshus hayachid could certainly be public property and there are ways whereby an individual could own a reshus harabim.

Notwithstanding the Torah’s clear prohibition against carrying into, from, or within a reshus harabim, we are all familiar with the concept of an eruv that permits carrying in areas that are otherwise prohibited. You might ask, how can poles and wires permit that which is otherwise prohibited min haTorah? As we will soon see, it indeed cannot, and the basis for permitting use of an eruv is far more complicated.

We are also aware of controversies in which one respected authority certifies a particular eruv, while others contend that it is invalid. This is by no means a recent phenomenon. We find extensive disputes among early authorities whether one may construct an eruv in certain areas; some considering it a mitzvah to construct the eruv, whereas others contend that the very same “eruv” is causing people to sin.

AN OLD MACHLOKES

Here is an instance. In the thirteenth century, Rav Yaakov ben Rav Moshe of Alinsiya wrote a letter to the Rosh explaining why he forbade constructing an eruv in his town. In his response, the Rosh contended that Rav Yaakov’s concerns were groundless and that he should immediately construct an eruv. Subsequent correspondence reveals that Rav Yaakov did not change his mind and still refused to erect an eruv in his town. The Rosh severely rebuked Rav Yaakov for this recalcitrance, insisting that if Rav Yaakov persisted, he, the Rosh, would place Rav Yaakov in cherem! The Rosh further contended that Rav Yaakov had the status of a zakein mamrei, a Torah scholar who rules against the decision of the Sanhedrin, which in the time of the Beis HaMikdash constitutes a capital offence (Shu”t HaRosh 21:8). This episode demonstrates that heated disputes over eruvin are by no means recent phenomena.

The goal of this article is not to make halachic decisions; that is the role of one’s rav. The purpose here is to explain what allows the construction of an eruv, and present some circumstances in which one authority permits carrying within a specific eruv while another forbids it.

IS IT A MITZVAH?

Before I present the arguments for and against eruv manufacture in the modern world, we should note that all accept that it is a mitzvah to erect a kosher eruv when this is halachically and practically possible, as the following anecdote indicates.

Rabbah the son of Rav Chanan asked Abayei: “How can it be that an area in which reside two such great scholars (Abayei and Abayei’s Rebbe) is without an eruv?” Abayei answered: “What should we do? It is not respectful for my Master to be involved, I am too busy with my studies, and the rest of the people are not concerned” (Gemara Eruvin 68a).

The commentaries note that Abayei accepted the position presented by Rabbah that one should assemble an eruv. Abayei merely deflected the inquiry by pointing out that no one was readily available to attend to the eruv, and that its construction did not preempt other factors, specifically Abayei’s commitment to Torah study, and the inappropriateness for Abayei’s Rebbe to be involved in the project. Indeed, halacha authorities derive from this Talmudic passage that it is a mitzvah to erect an eruv whenever halachically permitted (Tashbeitz 2:37, quoted verbatim by the Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 363:2). These rulings are echoed by such luminaries as the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Orach Chayim #99), the Avnei Nezer (Orach Chayim #266:4), the Levush Mordechai (Orach Chayim #4) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:139:5 s.v. vilichora).

I mentioned before that the construction of an eruv of poles and wire cannot permit carrying that is prohibited min haTorah. If this is true, upon what basis do we permit the construction of an eruv? To answer this question, we need to understand that not every open area is a reshus harabim – quite the contrary, a reshus harabim must meet very specific and complex requirements, including:

(A) It must be unroofed (Shabbos 5a).
(B) It must be meant for public use or thoroughfare (Shabbos 6a).
(C) It must be at least sixteen amos (about twenty-eight feet) wide (Shabbos 99a).
(D) According to most authorities, it cannot be inside an enclosed area (cf., however, Be’er Heiteiv 345:7, quoting Rashba; and Baal HaMaor, Eruvin 22a, quoting Rabbeinu Efrayim). Exactly what is the definition of an “enclosed area” is the subject of a major dispute that I will discuss.
(E) According to many authorities, it must be used by at least 600,000 people daily (Rashi, Eruvin 59a, but see Rashi ad loc. 6a where he only requires that the city has this many residents.). This is derived from the Torah’s description of carrying into the encampment in the Desert, which we know was populated by 600,000 people.
(F) Many authorities require that it be a through street, or a gathering area that connects to a through street (Rashi, Eruvin 6a).
(G) Some authorities add still other requirements.

Any area that does not meet the Torah’s definition of a reshus harabim, and yet is not enclosed, is called a karmelis. One may not carry into, from, or within a karmelis following the same basic rules that prohibit carrying into a reshus harabim. However, since the prohibition not to carry in a karmelis is only rabbinic in origin, Chazal allowed a more lenient method of “enclosing” it.

CAN ONE “ENCLOSE” A RESHUS HARABIM?

As I mentioned earlier, carrying within a true reshus harabim is prohibited min haTorah – for this reason, the use of a standard eruv does not permit carrying in such an area (Eruvin 6b). Nevertheless, the construction of large doors that restrict public traffic transforms the reshus harabim into an area that one can now enclose with an eruv. According to some authorities, the existence of these doors and occasionally closing them is sufficient for the area to lose its reshus harabim status. (Rashi, Eruvin 6b; However, cf. Rabbeinu Efrayim, quoted by Baal HaMaor, Eruvin 22a).

PLEASE CLOSE THE DOOR!

There are some frum neighborhoods in Eretz Yisroel where a thoroughfare to a neighborhood or town is closed on Shabbos with a closing door in order to allow an eruv to be constructed around the area. However, this approach is not practical in most places where people desire to construct an eruv.

So what does one do if one cannot close the area with doors?

This depends on the following issue: Does the area that one wants to enclose meet the requirements of a reshus harabim min haTorah or is it only a karmelis. If the area is a reshus harabim min haTorah and one cannot occasionally close the area with doors, then there is no way to permit carrying in this area. One should abandon the idea of constructing an eruv around the entire city or neighborhood (see Gemara Eruvin 6a; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 364:2). Depending on the circumstances, one may still be able to enclose smaller areas within the city.

TZURAS HAPESACH

However, if the area one wants to enclose does not qualify as a reshus harabim, then most authorities rule that one may enclose the area by using a tzuras hapesach (plural, tzuros hapesach), literally, the form of a doorway. (However, note that Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov #120 s.v. amnom and Shu”t Mishnas Rav Aharon #6 s.v. Kuntrus Bi’Inyanei Eruvin paragraph #2 forbid this.) A tzuras hapesach consists of two vertical side posts and a horizontal “lintel” that passes directly over them, thus vaguely resembling a doorway. According to halacha, a tzuras hapesach successfully encloses a karmelis area, but it cannot permit carrying in a true reshus harabim (Gemara Eruvin 6a). Using tzuros hapesach is the least expensive and most discreet way to construct an eruv. In a future article, I hope to explain some common problems that can happen while constructing tzuros hapesach and how to avoid them, and some important disputes relative to their construction.

Let us review. One can permit carrying in a karmelis, but not a reshus harabim, by enclosing the area with tzuros hapesach. Therefore, a decisive factor in planning whether one can construct an eruv is whether the area is halachically a karmelis or a reshus harabim. If the area qualifies as a karmelis, then an eruv consisting of tzuros hapesach permits one to carry; if it is a reshus harabim, then the existence of tzuros hapesach does not. The issues concerning the definition of a reshus harabim form the basis of most controversies as to whether a specific eruv is kosher or not.

600,000 PEOPLE

An early dispute among Rishonim was whether one of the requirements of a reshus harabim is that it be accessible to 600,000 people, the number of male Jews over twenty the Torah tells us exited Egypt (see Tosafos, Eruvin 6a s.v. Keitzad). According to Rashi and the others who follow this approach, one may enclose any metropolis with a population smaller than 600,000 with tzuros hapesach to permit carrying. (Rashi in some places describes that the city has 600,000 residents, and in others describes that 600,000 people use the area constantly. The exact definition to be used is the subject of much literature, see Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov #120 s.v. hinei harishon; and Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:139:5.)

However, other early authorities contend that an area with less than 600,000 people still qualifies as a reshus harabim, providing that it fulfills the other requirements that I listed above. In their opinion, such an area cannot be enclosed with tzuros hapesach. Although many authorities hold this way, the accepted practice in Ashkenazic communities was to follow the lenient interpretation and construct eruvin. Nevertheless, the Mishnah Berurah discourages carrying in such an eruv since many Rishonim do not accept it (364:8; Bi’ur Halacha to 345:7 and to 364:2). There are different opinions whether Sefardim are at liberty to follow this lenience, although the prevalent practice today is for them to be lenient.

MODERN CITY

Most large metropolitan areas today are populated by more than 600,000 people. Some authorities still define many of our metropolitan areas as a karmelis based on the following definition: Any area less concentrated than was the Jews’ encampment in the Desert is considered a karmelis. Since this encampment approximated 50 square miles, these authorities permit an eruv anywhere that the population density is less than 600,000 people per 50 square miles (Shu”t Igros Moshe 4:87). However, other authorities consider any metropolitan area or megalopolis containing 600,000 people to be a reshus harabim regardless of its population density. Does this mean that there is no heter with which to construct an eruv in a large city? Indeed many authorities contend this way (Shu”t Mishnas Rav Aharon 1:2).

A LARGE BREACH

Nevertheless, the Chazon Ish presented a different approach to permit construction of an eruv in a contemporary large city. His approach requires an introduction.

In general, an area enclosed by three or four full walls cannot be a reshus harabim (Eruvin 22a). What is the halacha if each of the three sides of an area is enclosed for most of its length – however, there are large gaps in the middle of the enclosure. For example, walls or buildings enclose most of an area – however, there are gaps in the middle of the area between the buildings where streets cross the city blocks. Does the area in the middle, surrounded on both sides by buildings and other structures, still qualify as a reshus harabim, or has it lost this status because it is mostly “enclosed”?

The basis for the question is the following: There is a general halachic principle that an area that is mostly enclosed is considered enclosed even in its breached areas (Eruvin 5b et al.). 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.

On the other hand, a breach longer than ten amos (about 17 feet) invalidates the area from being considered enclosed. Therefore, one may not carry within a fenced-in area that has a 20-foot opening without enclosing the opening in some way.

The issue that affects the modern city is the following: Granted that a large breach needs to be enclosed to permit carrying within the area, is this required min haTorah or only rabbinically? Let us assume that one encloses a large area with walls that run for miles, but has large gaps in this middle – is this area considered enclosed min haTorah on the basis of its walls, or is it considered open because of its gaps?

This question was debated by two great nineteenth-century authorities, Rav Efrayim Zalman Margoliyos, the Rav of Brody, the Beis Efrayim and Rav Yaakov of Karlin, the Mishkenos Yaakov. The Beis Efrayim contended that the breach is only a rabbinic prohibition, but that the area is considered enclosed min haTorah, whereas the Mishkenos Yaakov held that the breach qualifies the area as a reshus harabim min haTorah. The lengthy correspondence between the two of them covers also a host of other eruv related issues (Shu”t Beis Efrayim, Orach Chayim # 25, 26; Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov, Orach Chayim, #120- 122).

What difference does it make whether this area is considered open min haTorah or miderabbanan, since either way one must enclose the area?

The difference is highly significant. If we follow the lenient approach, then even if the area in the middle meets all the other requirements of a reshus harabim, the Beis Efrayim contends that it loses its status as a reshus harabim because of the walls surrounding it, notwithstanding the large gaps in the walls, in which case it may be possible to construct an eruv in such a place.

On the other hand, the Mishkenos Yaakov contends that this area is considered a reshus harabim because of the gaps, and we ignore the walls. According to him it will be impossible to construct an eruv.

How one rules in this dispute between these two gedolim affects the issue of constructing an eruv in a contemporary city. Most modern cities contain city blocks which consist predominantly of large buildings with small areas between the buildings, and streets that are much narrower than the blocks. If we view these buildings as enclosures, then one can easily envision that both sides of the street are considered enclosed min haTorah according to the Beis Efrayim’s analysis. This itself does not sufficiently enclose our area. However, at certain points of the city, these two parallel streets dead end into a street that is predominantly enclosed either with buildings, fences, walls, or some other way. The result is that this section of the city can now be considered min haTorah as enclosed on three sides by virtue of the buildings paralleling both sides of the street and those on its dead end. Since this area now qualifies as an enclosed area min haTorah, the entire area is considered a reshus hayachid min haTorah.

The Chazon Ish now notes the following: Once you have established that this part of the city qualifies as a reshus hayachid min haTorah, this area is now considered completely enclosed halachically. For this reason, other city blocks that are predominantly enclosed on both sides of the street that intersect with this first area are also now considered to be enclosed areas min haTorah. As a result, a large section of most cities is considered min haTorah enclosed on at least three sides, according to his calculation. Although one cannot carry in these areas miderabbanan because of the “breaches” in their “enclosures,” they are no longer reshus harabim min haTorah and one can therefore enclose the entire area with tzuros hapesach (Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim 107:5). As a result of this calculation, the Chazon Ish concludes that many large cities today qualify as a karmelis and therefore one may construct tzuros hapesach to permit carrying there.

However, other authorities reject this calculation for a variety of reasons, some contending that the gaps between the buildings invalidate the enclosure, thus leaving the area to be considered a reshus harabim, which cannot be enclosed (Shu”t Mishkenos Yaakov; Shu”t Mishnas Rav Aharon).

In conclusion, we see that disputes among poskim over eruvin are not recent phenomena. In practice, what should an individual do? The solution proposed by Chazal for all such issues is “Aseh lecha rav, vehistaleik min hasafek,” “Choose someone to be your rav, and removes doubt from yourself.” He can guide you whether it is appropriate to carry within a certain eruv, after considering the halachic basis for the specific eruv’s construction, the level of eruv maintenance, and family factors. Never underestimate the psak and advice of your rav!

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The Kosher Way to Collect a Loan

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This article was published originally in the American edition of Yated Neeman.

Although it is a very big mitzvah to lend money, some people are reluctant to do so because they know of loans that were hard to collect. Must I lend someone money if I am not sure it will ever be repaid? What can I do if I loaned money to someone who seemed very honest and sincere, but now that it comes time to repay, he informs me that he is penniless? What may I do and what may I not do to collect my money? How can I guarantee that I get my money back?

Our goal in this article is to answer all these questions.

THE MITZVAH OF LENDING MONEY

The Torah requires us to lend money to a poor Jew who needs it (Rambam, Hilchos Malveh 1:1). This is stated in the pasuk, Im kesef talveh es ami, es he’ani imach, “When you lend money to my people, to the poor person among you” (Shmos 22:24). Chazal explain that the word “im” in this pasuk should not be translated as “If,” which implies that it is optional, but as a commandment, “When you lend…” (Mechilta). The poskim even discuss whether we recite a bracha on this mitzvah just as we recite one on tefillin, mezuzah and other mitzvos (Shu’t HaRashba #18). Although the halacha is that we do not recite a bracha, the mere question shows us the importance of the mitzvah of loaning money.

It is a greater mitzvah to lend someone money, which maintains his self-dignity, than it is to give him tzedakah, which is demeaning (Rambam, Hilchos Malveh 1:1). There is a special bracha from Hashem to people who lend money to the poor.

I should not become upset if a poor person wants to borrow money from me shortly after repaying a previous loan. My attitude should be similar to a storekeeper: “Do I become angry with a repeat customer? Do I feel that he is constantly bothering me?” Similarly, one should not turn people away without a loan, but rather view it as a new opportunity to perform a mitzvah and to receive extra brachos (Ahavas Chesed 1:7).

RICH VERSUS POOR

One should also lend money to wealthy people who need a loan, but this is not as great a mitzvah as lending to the poor.

FAMILY FIRST

Someone with limited available funds who has requests for loans from family members and non-family members, should lend to family members. Similarly, if he must choose whom to lend to, he should lend to a closer family member rather than to a more distant one.

WHAT IF I KNOW THE BORROWER IS A DEADBEAT?

I am not required to lend money if I know that the borrower squanders money and does not repay (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 97:4). It is better not to lend if I know that the borrower will probably not pay back.

THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE BORROWER

Someone who borrows money must make sure to pay it back. One may not borrow money that one does not think he will be able to repay. A person who squanders money and therefore does not repay his loans is called a rasha (Rambam Hilchos Malveh 1:3).

The borrower is required to pay his loans on time. If his loan is due and he cannot pay it, he is required to use his household items, if necessary, to pay his debt (Nesivos 86:2=?). Similarly, he may not make significant contributions to tzedakah (Sefer Chassidim #454). He may not purchase a lulav and esrog if he owes money that is due but should borrow one (see Pischei Teshuvah, Choshen Mishpat 97:8). He must use whatever money he has available to pay his debts.

It is strictly forbidden for the borrower to pretend that he does not have money to pay his debts or even to delay paying them if he does have the money, and it is similarly forbidden for him to hide money so that the lender cannot collect. All this is true even if the lender is very wealthy.

COLLECTING BAD DEBTS

Most people who borrow are meticulous to repay their debts and on time. However, it occasionally happens that someone who intended to pay back on time is faced with circumstances that make it difficult for him to repay.

THE PROHIBITION OF BEING A NOSHEH

There is a prohibition in the Torah, Lo sihyeh lo ki’nosheh, “Do not behave to him like a creditor.” Included in this prohibition is that it is forbidden to demand payment from a Jew when you know that he cannot pay (Rambam, Hilchos Malveh 1:2). The lender may not even stand in front of the borrower in a way that might embarrass or intimidate him (Gemara Bava Metzia 75b; Rambam, Hilchos Malveh 1:3).

However, if the lender knows that the borrower has resources that he does not want to sell, such as his house, his car, or his furniture, he may hassle the borrower since the borrower is halachically required to dispose of these properties in order to pay his loan. (See Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 97:23 for a list of what items he must sell to pay his debt.) Furthermore, the lender may sue in beis din for the rights to collect these items as payment.

(Technically, it is not the borrower’s responsibility to sell the items and bring the cash to the lender; he may give them to the lender as payment. The lender must then get a beis din or a panel of three experts to evaluate the property he has received. If he needs to hire experts to make the evaluation, the expenses are added to the debt. Of course, the lender and borrower can agree to whatever terms are mutually acceptable without involving expert evaluation, provided that no ribbis [interest] prohibition is created. The vast subject of ribbis is beyond the scope of this article.)

The borrower is often in an unenviable position. He owes money that he would like to pay, but he is overwhelmed with expenses and he simply does not earn enough money to pay all his creditors. He knows he could sell his house or his furniture to pay up, but he really does not want to do that to his family. He should try to appease the lender in whatever way he can – asking him for better terms or for a delay, and he should certainly try to find other sources of income and figure out how to trim his expenses. But he should realize that he is obligated even to sell his household goods to pay off his creditors. Someone who uses his money to purchase items that are not absolutely essential and does not pay back money that is overdue demonstrates a lack of understanding of the Torah’s priorities.

The lender may not enter the borrower’s house to seize collateral or payment. Some poskim contend that the lender may seize property that is not in the borrower’s house or on his person (see Pischei Choshen Vol. 1 pg. 96). There are poskim who contend that if the borrower has the means to pay but isn’t paying, the lender may enter the borrower’s house and take whatever he can (Shu’t Imrei Binah, Dinei Geviyas Chov Chapter 2; Pischei Choshen Vol. 1 pg. 100). One should not rely on this approach without first asking a shaylah.

If the borrower claims that he has absolutely nothing to pay with, the beis din can require him to swear an oath to that effect (Rambam, Hilchos Malveh 2:2).

A lender who feels that the borrower is hiding money or property may not take the law into his own hands, but may file a claim in beis din. If the lender feels that the borrower will not submit to beis din’s authority, he should ask the beis din for authorization to sue in secular courts, but it is forbidden for him to sue in secular court without approval from a beis din.

HOW CAN I GUARANTEE THAT I GET MY MONEY BACK?

It is unpleasant to be owed overdue loans. The lender is entitled to be repaid.

Is there a way that I can lend money and guarantee that I get in back?

First of all, the lender must make sure that he can prove the loan took place. This is actually a halacha forbidding lending out money without witnesses or other proof because of concern that this may cause the borrower to sin by denying that the loan exists (Gemara Bava Metzia 75b).

All of this is only protection against a borrower denying that he borrowed, which is fortunately a rare occurrence. What we want to explore are ways that the lender can fulfill his mitzvah of lending to a needy person, while making sure that the loan does not become permanent.

By the way, one may lend money to a poor person with the understanding that if the borrower defaults, the lender will subtract the sum from his tzedakah-maaser calculation (Pischei Choshen, Volume 1, p. 4).

CO-SIGNERS

The most common method used to guarantee the repayment of a loan is by having someone with reliable finances and reputation co-sign for the loan. In halacha, this person is called an areiv. In common practice, if the borrower defaults, the lender notifies the co-signer that he intends to collect the debt. Usually what happens is that when the lender calls the co-signer, suddenly the borrower shows up at the door with the money.

There are several types of areiv recognized by halacha. The most common type, a standard co-signer, is obligated to pay back the debt, but only after one has attempted to collect from the borrower. If the borrower does not pay because he has no cash, but he has property, the areiv can legitimately claim that he is not responsible to pay. The lender would need to summon the borrower and the areiv to beis din, (probably in separate dinei Torah) in order to begin payment procedures. Most people who lend money prefer to avoid the tediousness this involves.

One can avoid some of this problem by having the co-signer sign as an areiv kablan. This is a stronger type of co-signing, whereby the lender has the right to make the claim against the co-signer without suing the borrower first.

The primary difficulty with this approach is that it might make it difficult for the borrower to receive his loan, since many potential co-signers do not want to commit themselves to be an areiv kablan.

ANOTHER APPROACH

Is there another possibility whereby one can still provide the chesed to the potential borrower and yet guarantee that the money is returned?

Indeed there is. The Chofetz Chayim (Ahavas Chesed 1:8) suggests that if you are concerned that the proposed borrower may default, you can insist on receiving a collateral, a mashkon, to guarantee payment.

Having a loan collateralized is a fairly secure way of guaranteeing that the loan is repaid, but it is not completely hassle-free. There are three drawbacks that might result from using a mashkon to guarantee the repayment of the loan. They are:

1. Responsibility for the mashkon.

2. Evaluation of the mashkon.

3. Converting the mashkon into cash.

1. Responsibility for the mashkon.

When the lender receives the mashkon, he becomes responsible to take care of it. If it is lost or stolen, the value of the collateral will be subtracted from the loan (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 72:2). If the collateral is worth more than the loan, the lender might be required to compensate the borrower for the difference. (See dispute between Shulchan Aruch and Rama ibid.) The creditor is not responsible for the mashkon if it is lost and damaged because of something that halacha considers beyond his responsibility.

2. Evaluation of the mashkon.

When keeping the collateral to collect the debt, the mashkon must be evaluated by a panel of three experts before it can be sold (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 73:15 and Ketzos), or alternatively, sold with the involvement of beis din (Shach), to protect the borrower’s rights. Some creditors find this step tedious.

However, there are methods whereby one can use a mashkon to guarantee a loan and avoid having the mashkon evaluated afterwards.

When arranging the loan, the lender tells the borrower of the following condition: If the loan is not paid when due, the buyer agrees to rely on the lender’s evaluation of its worth (Pischei Choshen, Vol. 1 pg. 145).

An alternative way is for the lender to tell the borrower at the time of the loan: If you do not pay by the day the loan is due, then retroactively this is not a loan but a sale. The collateral becomes mine now for the value of the loan money. This is permitted even if the mashkon is worth far more than the loan without any violation of ribbis (prohibited charging of interest), since retroactively no loan took place but a sale (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 73:17).=

3. Converting the mashkon into cash.

At times, lenders have asked me for a method whereby they can be certain to get their money back, and I have suggested the collateral method. Sometimes I receive the following response: I don’t want to be bothered with selling the mashkon to get my money back. If I think the borrower is a risk, than I would rather not lend to him.

Do we have the same attitude towards other mitzvos we perform? Do we say that we only want to perform mitzvos when they are without complications? Certainly not! However, the yetzer hora convinces us that lending money is a good deed that I need only perform when it is convenient and when I feel like being benevolent, not when it is going to result in a hassle.

SHLEMIEL THE BORROWER

Nachman once came to me with the following shaylah:

Shlemiel used to borrow money from Nachman regularly, and although Shlemiel always paid back, he often did so long after the due date. Nachman wanted to know what he could do about this situation. He wanted to perform the tremendous mitzvah of lending money, but he wanted his money back in a reasonable time.

I suggested to Nachman that he tell Shlemiel that the loan was available, but only if Shlemiel produced a mashkon and agreed to the above conditions. Since my suggestion, Nachman has been zocheh to fulfill the mitzvah of lending money to Shlemiel many times and not once has a loan been late! Think of how many brachos Nachman has received from Hashem because he is willing to subject himself to the “hassle” of transporting the mashkon to a secure place and being willing to sell it should the need arise!

Why do people view loaning money as an optional “good deed” rather than as a commandment? The Chofetz Chayim (Ahavas Chesed 2:8)= raises this question and mentions several excuses people make to avoid lending money. After listing these reasons, the Chofetz Chayim proceeds to refute each one of them. Simply put, the answer to this question is the old Yiddish expression, Ven Kumt to Gelt, iz an andara velt, “When people deal with their money, they tend to deal with things totally differently.” Truthfully, people find it difficult to part with their money, even temporarily. This is precisely why one receives such immense reward for lending. As Chazal teach us, lifum tzaara agra, “the reward is according to the suffering.”

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Should a Kohen Be Afraid of Confederate Ghosts?

clip_image002When Yaakov Avinu asks his sons not to bury him in Egypt, Rashi notes three reasons for this request:

(1) The earth of Egypt would turn to lice during the Ten Plagues.

(2) To avoid the suffering of rolling to Eretz Yisroel at the time of techiyas hameisim.

(3) To prevent the Egyptians from making him into an idol.

On the other hand, although Yosef and his brothers undoubtedly had the same motives to be buried in Eretz Yisroel, they could not arrange their immediate burials there and were interred in Egypt until the Jews left. This is a classic example of the exhumation and reburial of meisim (human remains).

Our article will discuss a case where meisim were supposed to have been reburied, but apparently were not, creating a number of halachic concerns.

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

In a major metropolis, one section of the city included a large cemetery. About 140 years ago, this cemetery was closed to new burials and later, many of its graves were exhumed. Subsequently, the city constructed residential and commercial areas, city streets, a major park, a zoo, and museums atop the seventy-two acres of the cemetery.

Here is the historical background: In 5603/1843, the city designated a sixty acre area as a cemetery and three years later, a Jewish organization paid $45 to purchase part of this land as its own cemetery. Four years later, in 5610/1850, the city purchased an adjacent area of twelve more acres to expand the cemetery, so that it now encompassed 72 acres.

However, in the late 1850’s, a prominent physician requested that the cemetery be closed because of concern that it was too close to the city’s water supply and that it might spread disease. Until that point, this cemetery was the only authorized one in the city, and included a large “potters’ field,” or area for burying the destitute and the unidentified.

Two years later, an area immediately north of the cemetery was set aside as a park. During this time, the city gradually ceased using the cemetery. However, since the area was near a large prisoner-of-war camp housing captured Confederate soldiers, an estimated 4,000 Confederates who died in custody were interred in the cemetery’s potters’ field. At one time, the cemetery held an estimated 35,000 graves, including the resting place for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the Confederacy.

In 5626/1866 the cemetery was officially closed, partly due to the physician’s health concerns. By now, the Civil War was over and the surviving Confederate captives had been repatriated. The city officially decided to move the remains buried in this cemetery to other locations. Over the next thirty years there are numerous scattered reports of moving the graves to new locations. Despite attempts to remove graves, a conservative speculation is that the majority of the remains were never removed.

Fast forward to the modern era: In 5722/1962, workers digging a foundation for the zoo’s new barn discovered a skeleton and a casket. They reburied the casket in situ and poured the foundation right on top. During 5758/1998, workers constructing a parking lot in the area discovered 81 skeletons and an iron casket containing a cadaver. There are at least nineteen more reports of human bones found in the disused cemetery’s location.

Thus, the shaylah is whether a Kohen may walk through the streets and businesses of this old-time burial ground.

Steve Katz lives and works in this city and is well aware of the history of this park and its environs. His boss assigns him to attend a business meeting at a hotel that is located in the area that was originally the cemetery. Since Steve is a Kohen, may he attend the meeting? If he cannot, how will he explain this to his gentile employer?

Steve made an appointment to discuss the problem with his Rav, whom he knows will explain to him all the aspects of the shaylah.

WILL THE TUMAH RISE FROM THE GROUND?

Rav Goldberg begins by explaining some of the halachic background. When human remains are buried, under most circumstances the tumah rises directly above and contaminates the area above it. If a building is constructed directly above a grave, tumah may spread throughout that building, although sometimes it may spread only through the bottom floor and possibly only into the room constructed directly above the grave. We will have to leave for another time the discussion as to what factors affect how far tumah will spread through the structure.

If there is no building, tree or overhang over the gravesite, one becomes tamei only if one walks or stands directly above the gravesite.

SAFEK TUMAH BIRSHUS HARABIM

“However, the specific situation that you are asking about may be more lenient,” explains the Rav, “because of a concept called safek tumah birshus harabim, sefeiko tahor, which means, literally, that if there is doubt about whether something in a public area became tamei, the halacha is that it remains tahor (see Nazir 57a). Notwithstanding our usual assumption that safek de’oraysa lechumra, we rule strictly on doubts concerning Torah prohibitions, we rule leniently concerning a doubt of matters of tumah when the question occurred in a “public” area, a term we will define shortly.

There is also an inverse principle that safek tumah birshus hayachid, sefeiko tamei, which means that if there is doubt whether someone or something contracted tumah when they were in a private area, they are considered tamei.

WHAT IS PUBLIC?

For the purposes of these two principles, “public” is defined as an area to which at least three people have ready access, and “private” means a place that is accessible to less than three people. Thus, someone who discovers that he may have become tamei while walking down the street remains tahor. However, if he discovers that he may have become tamei while he was in a private area he is tamei. (All of these laws are derived from pesukim.)

“I know that there is more to explain,” interjects Steve, “but it would appear that one could have a situation in which one may enter a building, but one may not use the bathrooms, have a private office, or have a private interview.”

“It is certainly true,” responded the sage, “that someone entering a public building and discovering that he may have become tamei while there, would remain tahor, whereas if he entered a similar private area, he would be considered tamei. However, there are other factors to consider before we reach a definitive ruling.”

MAY THE KOHEN ENTER?

At this point, Steve raised a sophisticated point:

“I understand that someone who entered this area would afterwards be considered tahor. But may I enter the area knowing that I may be contaminating my kehunah?”

The Rav explained: “You are asking whether a Kohen may lichatchilah rely on the principle of safek tumah birshus harabim, or whether this principle is applied only after the fact. In general, one must be stringent when there is concern that one may be violating a Torah prohibition, and it is prohibited min hatorah for a Kohen to contact tumah from a meis. Thus, one could assume that a Kohen should not enter an area where there is a possibility of tumah. However, many authorities rule leniently when dealing with a safek tumah birshus harabim. They contend that the Torah only prohibited a Kohen from becoming tamei, but not from entering a situation where he will be ruled as tahor (Tosafos, Kesubos 28b s.v. Beis; Shu”t Rashba #83; Binas Odom, Klal 157; Pischei Teshuvah 369:4, quoting Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah; Minchas Chinuch 263:13 s.v. Vehinei). Thus, a Kohen could enter any publicly available area, including an office or residential building constructed over the city’s defunct cemetery. However, he could not enter an area restricted to less than three people.

“Others contend that since the Torah prohibits a Kohen from being in contact with a meis, he is similarly prohibited, because of safek de’oraysah lechumra, to be in a place where he might be exposed to a meis” (Tzelach, Berachos 19b; Achiezer 3:1:1, 3:65:7; Kovetz Shiurim; Teshuvos VeHanhagos).

STATUS QUO

Steve raised another point:

“In fact, we know that this area was once a cemetery, and we are fairly certain that not all the graves were exhumed. Does this make matters worse?”

“You are raising a very insightful question. Even assuming that a Kohen can rely on the principle of safek tumah bireshus harabim, this principle might not apply here since we know that this area was once a cemetery, and we are fairly certain that some graves remain. Thus we have a chazakah, status quo, that the area was once tamei meis, and we are uncertain whether the tumah was removed. In such a situation, perhaps the principle of safek tumah birshus harabim does not apply, since this rule may apply only where there is no status quo. (In Mikvaos 2:2, this seems to be the subject of a dispute between Tannayim. See also Tosafos, Niddah 2a s.v. Vehillel.)

“Nevertheless, in our particular case, we have some basis to be lenient. Although this entire area was once set aside as a cemetery, it is very unlikely that it became filled wall-to-wall with graves, and also, only the places directly above the graves were tamei. Thus, any place within the cemetery was tamei because of doubt, not because of certainty.

JEWISH VERSUS NON-JEWISH GRAVES

“There is another reason to permit entering the hotel for your meeting. People who researched the area have ascertained the exact location of the original Jewish cemetery, which is now the location of the ball fields of a local park. Thus, although I would advise you and your sons not to play ball on those particular diamonds, we can be more lenient regarding entering the hotel constructed in the area, as I will explain.”

Steve replied: “But how can we be certain that no Jews were ever buried in the non-Jewish cemetery. There definitely were some Jewish soldiers in the Confederate army, and it is likely that some Jews were buried in the non-Jewish cemetery or in the potters’ field.”

His Rav replied: “You are correct that some Jews were probably buried in the non-Jewish parts of the cemetery. Nevertheless, since we do not know this for certain, we may work with the assumption that there are no Jews there.”

“But even a non-Jewish body conveys tumah, so I still have a problem.”

“This depends on whether remains of a gentile convey tumas ohel, that is by being under the same being under the roof, cover, or overhang that is at least three inches (a tefach) wide.

DO THE REMAINS OF A NON-JEW CONVEY TUMAH?

“Although virtually all authorities agree that remains of a non-Jew convey tumah through touching and carrying, the Gemara cites the opinion of Rabbi Shimon that remains of a non-Jew do not convey tumas ohel (Yevamos 61a). The Rishonim dispute whether this position is held universally, and, in addition, whether this is the way we rule. It appears that most Rishonim conclude that a Kohen may enter a room containing the remains of a gentile because they follow Rabbi Shimon’s position. Others contend that we do not follow Rabbi Shimon’s position and that tumah of a gentile does spread through ohel. The Shulchan Aruch considers the question as unresolved and advises a Kohen not to walk over the graves of non-Jews (Yoreh Deah 372:2).”

At this point, Steve commented. “It seems from what you are saying that it is not a good idea for a Kohen to enter buildings in this area, but one may enter if there is a pressing reason” (see Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah #470).

The Rav responded: “This is the conclusion of many authorities. Some are even more lenient. One famous responsum permits a Kohen to enter a field that he purchased without realizing that it contained an unmarked gentile cemetery. The author permits this by combining two different leniencies, each of which is somewhat questionable. One leniency is that perhaps a gentile does not spread tumah through ohel, and the other leniency is that some early authorities contend that once a Kohen becomes tamei, he is not forbidden from making himself tamei again (Raavad, Hil. Nezirus 5:15, as explained by Mishneh LaMelech, Hil. Aveil 3:1). Although we do not rule like this last opinion, the Avnei Nezer contends that one can combine both of these ideas to permit the Kohen who purchased this field without realizing the problem to utilize his purchase (Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah #466).”

“This case of the Avnei Nezer sounds like a much more difficult situation in which to rule leniently than mine,” noted Steve. “After all, in his case there was no attempt to clear out the cemetery.”

“You are correct. For this reason, I would certainly not find fault with someone who chose to be lenient and indiscriminately enter the area that was only a gentile cemetery, relying on the ruling that gentile remains do not contaminate through ohel, and on the principle of safek tumah birshus harabim.”

“It still seems that one should avoid the ball fields that are located right over the old Jewish cemetery.”

“I would certainly advise this,” closed the Rabbi.

So Steve does not need to explain to his boss that he cannot attend business meetings at the hotel because of lost Confederate ghosts.

Although there may be little reason to panic over such issues, as we have discussed, one should be aware that it is not infrequent to discover old cemeteries beneath modern cities. Cemeteries, particularly Jewish ones, were always consecrated on sites outside the city limits in order to avoid the obvious problems of tumah affecting kohanim. Unfortunately, when Jews were exiled, the whereabouts of many cemeteries became forgotten, and in addition, as cities expand, they include areas that were originally outside the city’s limits that often include earlier cemeteries. Thus, these problems will continue to prevail. In each case, a posek must be consulted to find out whether, and to what extent, a Kohen need be concerned.

WHY IS IT PROHIBITED FOR A KOHEN TO COME IN CONTACT WITH A MEIS?

It is beyond our understanding to explain why Hashem commanded us to keep each specific mitzvah. However, we can and should attempt to glean a taste of Hashem’s mitzvos in order to appreciate and grow from the experience, including understanding why the Torah bans a Kohen from having contact with a meis under normal circumstances.

Rav Hirsch, in his commentary on Vayikra 21:5, provides a beautiful educational insight into this mitzvah. In most religions, fear of death is a major “selling point” of the religion. Thus, the role of the priest is most important when dealing with the dying and the dead.

However, Torah emphasizes how to live like a Jew — to study Torah, perform the mitzvos, and develop ourselves in Hashem’s image. To emphasize that Hashem provided us with the blueprint for perfect living, the Torah excludes the Kohen, who is the nation’s teacher, from involvement with death. Thus, the Kohen’s role is to imbue us with the knowledge and enthusiasm to truly live!

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Can Contact Lenses be Laundered? How do I Care for my Soft Contacts on Shabbos?

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Question: My friend and I both wear soft contact lens, but we received very different instructions regarding their care on Shabbos. Could you please explain the background to the questions and details involved?

Answer: From a halachic perspective, the question is whether cleaning soft lenses on Shabbos is different from washing the older hard lenses and ordinary eyeglasses, for that matter. The technical difference between them is that soft lenses absorb water, whereas the other lenses do not. Therefore, contemporary poskim dispute whether cleaning soft lenses involves a prohibition of laundering on Shabbos. To explain this dispute we must first introduce the halachic concepts of laundering on Shabbos.

One of the activities necessary to construct the mishkan was cleaning and bleaching the wool for its curtains. Therefore, one of the thirty-nine avos melachos (main categories) of Shabbos is melabein, which translates either as laundering (Rashi, Shabbos 73a) or as bleaching (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 9:11). Both opinions agree that laundering fiber or clothing is prohibited min haTorah because it improves the wool’s appearance

To illustrate this melacha’s details, we will first explain the halachos of regular laundering. Washing clothes involves three steps, soaking them in water or another cleaning liquid, scrubbing out the dirt and wringing the water out of the clothes. Each of these steps is prohibited because of laundering.

SOAKING

The first step is soaking. Simply placing dirty clothes into water to soak is a Torah violation of melabein. In the words of the Amora Rava, “Someone who threw a handkerchief into water violated a Torah prohibition of laundering on Shabbos,” (Gemara Zevachim 94b).

Some poskim contend that it is even forbidden to soak clean clothes (Yerayim; see Rama 302:9), since this whitens or brightens them. (For purposes of meleches melabein, a “clean garment” means one without noticeable stains or obvious dirt.) Others contend that soaking a garment is prohibited only if there is noticeable dirt that will be removed thereby (Tosafos Yeshanim and Rosh, Yoma 74b). Although most poskim are lenient, one should preferably follow the more stringent opinion (Mishneh Berurah 302:48).

Some later poskim contend that even the opinion that forbids soaking a “clean garment” only does so when the soaking will cause a noticeable change, e.g., the garment looks brighter when it is soaked. However, it does not apply in the case where one is soaking a clean item that never brightens when it is soaked (Shu”t Avnei Nezer 159:10; Shu”t Koveitz Tshuvos #18. However, see Graz 302:21 who disagrees). Later in this article, we will see how this factor affects our discussion about contact lenses.

Sprinkling water on clothing is also considered soaking, certainly if one intends to clean it. Therefore, if some food splatters on your shirt or blouse on Shabbos, placing some water or even saliva on the stain so that it does not set is a Torah violation of laundering.

The poskim dispute whether one may moisten a cloth for the purpose of making it dirty. For example, may one mop up some spilled juice with a rag? If this is prohibited because it is considered melabein, then one is required to shake the excess water off one’s hands before drying them on a towel, even though drying one’s hands soils the towel.

Other poskim contend that it is permitted to moisten a cloth while making it dirty. In their opinion, one may dry drenched hands on a towel. The halacha is like the latter opinion, and therefore it is permitted to throw a towel onto a spill (Shulchan Aruch and Rama 302:10).

One should use a towel or rag, rather than a garment, if it will get drenched. This is out of concern that one might squeeze out a soaked garment (Shulchan Aruch 302,11). We are not concerned that he will forget and squeeze a towel or rag since they are meant for this purpose.

Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that one may wipe up a spill with a paper towel because paper is not an item that is laundered (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:70). (However, one should not squeeze out the paper towel because of the prohibition of “mefareik,” extracting a liquid from a solid, which we will discuss a different time, IY”H.)

SCRUBBING

The second stage of laundering is scrubbing, which actively dislodges dirt from the garment. This is the main step in cleaning a garment. Any type of scrubbing or scouring clothing or material violates the prohibition of laundering on Shabbos.

WRINGING

The final stage in laundering is squeezing out the water. This is prohibited because the garment’s appearance is improved by squeezing out absorbed liquid (Beis Yosef end of 301, quoting Kolbo). Thus, one can violate melabein by wringing out a garment even if it is totally clean. Furthermore, when squeezing water out of a garment one generally also squeezes out dirt (Shu”t Avnei Nezer 159:19, 23).

WASHING DISHES

Why are we permitted to wash dishes on Shabbos? Aren’t we removing dirt from the dishes and improving their appearance?

Laundering clothing is different because this removes dirt that became absorbed between the fibers of the fabric. However, the food and dirt on dishes sticks to their surface and does not absorb into the dish. Thus, washing dishes is halachically different from laundering (Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Orach Chayim 157:4). (Note that it is prohibited to wash dishes on Shabbos when one is obviously washing them to use after Shabbos [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 323:6]. However, this is a violation of preparing on Shabbos for after Shabbos and has nothing to do with the prohibition of laundering.)

Since most poskim prohibit using hot water from the faucet in modern homes on Shabbos, our prior discussion concerned washing dishes in cold water or with hot water from an urn.

LEATHER

We have seen that soaking, scrubbing, or wringing out clothing violates melabein on Shabbos and that soaking or scrubbing dirty dishes does not. Yet, there is a material that falls in between dishes and normal clothing which is leather. It is permitted to soak leather, although it is prohibited to scrub it or to wring liquid out, as will be explained.

Halacha forbids scrubbing soft leather on Shabbos, although it is disputed whether this is prohibited min haTorah or only midirabanan (Graz 302:19; Shu”t Avnei Nezer 157:2; Biyur Halacha 302:9 s.v. aval). Those who contend that it is midirabanan contend that dirt never absorbs into leather – it merely adheres to its surface like it does to dishes (Shu”t Avnei Nezer 157:5). However, since leather is not as hard as dishes, it is still prohibited midirabanan to scrub dirt off the leather even though it is permitted to scrub dishes clean.

All opinions agree that one may soak leather on Shabbos. Thus, one may pour water on shoes and leather jackets that became dirty on Shabbos and even rub lightly to remove the dirt. However, one may not scrub dirt off shoes and jackets (Shulchan Aruch 302:9). (Shoes and leather jackets are considered soft leather, whereas many leather-bound books are considered hard leather. One must check that the entire shoe is leather because many leather shoes have cloth parts that may not be soaked on Shabbos.)

Although soaking is generally considered the first step in laundering, this only applies to clothes and fabrics where the soaking indeed begins the cleaning process. Leather is different because although soaking dirty leather or hide loosens the dirt, it does not significantly improve the appearance of the leather. It is prohibited midirabanan to squeeze wet leather (Rambam Hilchos Shabbos 9:11).

HARD LEATHER

Most poskim allow one to scrub hard leather on Shabbos (and certainly to soak it) although some contend that this is prohibited midarabanan (Sheiltos, quoted by Mishneh Berurah 302:39). Thus, if a leather bound book becomes soiled with mud on Shabbos, one may scrub it clean immediately before the mud dries. Once the mud dries this would be prohibited because of tochein, grinding (Shulchan Aruch 302:7).

PLASTIC

Hard plastic plates or cups are considered like dishes and may be washed on Shabbos just like dishes.

What is the halachic status of soft plastic items such as disposable tablecloth covers? Is there is prohibition of melabein in washing these plastic tablecloths? Are they considered like dishes, like leather or like cloth?

The great poskim who lived after the invention of these tablecloths discuss whether they should be treated like leather or like dishes. They conclude that although they are probably most comparable to dishes, one should be strict and treat them like soft leather. Thus, one may rinse or soak them, but should be stringent not to scrub them (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:76; Shulchan Shelomoh 302:15). Following this approach, children’s rubber pants may be soaked on Shabbos but should not be scrubbed. However, so-called rubber sheets should not be soaked at all since they are made of cloth and only coated with a plastic layer. However, it is permitted to soak plastic sheets made for the same purpose since they are like plastic tablecloths.

PLASTIC LENSES

Now that we have explained these cases we can return to our original question about cleaning contact lenses.

To the best of my knowledge, all contemporary poskim agree that hard contact lenses and eyeglass lenses, whether glass or plastic, may be washed on Shabbos just like dishes. Since they are hard, we assume that the dirt adheres to their surface and does not absorb inside them.

The standard care of soft lenses is to remove them and place them in a special antiseptic solution overnight. In the morning, one removes the lenses from the solution, rubs a finger over them to remove any remaining dirt and reinserts them.

The lenses are soaked for three reasons. First, to sanitize the lens from microscopic germs that can cause infection. This is why the solution is antiseptic. Second, to clean the lens from dirt and tears that, although they are initially unnoticeable, eventually collect on the lens and cloud it after a few days. To facilitate this cleaning, one rubs one’s finger over the lens before reinserting it. The rubbing action removes the dirt and tears which are not always removed simply by soaking the lenses.

The third reason to soak the lens is to keep it soft and pliable. If the lens is not kept moist, it will dry out and become unusable. For this purpose however, it is unnecessary to soak the lens in a cleaning solution – soaking it in a sterile saline solution suffices.

Under normal circumstances, no dirt is noticeable on the lens. It is unclear whether the dirt and tears are absorbed into the lens or lie on the surface and this makes a big difference in our shailah.

The halachic question is whether placing the lenses into the solution, rubbing them, and then removing them involve any violation of laundering on Shabbos. Does placing the lens into solution constitute soaking, is rubbing them equivalent to scrubbing, and is removing them considered squeezing since the cleaning fluid is now being removed or “squeezed” out of the lens. Or do we say that these lenses are no different from hard lenses?

As mentioned above, the critical difference is that whereas hard lenses do not absorb liquid, soft contact lenses do, as a matter-of-fact considerably more than leather. Whereas some lenses absorb as much as 70% water content by weight, most leather absorbs little or no water at all. (Some leather absorbs liquid, but never this much.) Because lenses absorb so much water it can be argued that they are like cloth and therefore all these steps should be prohibited.

However, every posek I saw disputes this conclusion because the lens remains unchanged when the liquid is added and removed. As mentioned above, soaking a clean garment is prohibited only when it causes a noticeable improvement such as the garment looks brighter afterwards. However, the appearance of soft lens is unchanged by the soaking, and therefore soaking alone does not violate any laws of Shabbos (Orchos Shabbos; Shu”t Yevakeish Torah 5:11).

Some poskim distinguish between the normal cleaning solution and a pure saline solution (Kovetz Tshuvos #18). In their opinion, placing leather in a powerful cleaning solution is equivalent to scrubbing leather and is prohibited on Shabbos. Similarly, since placing the lenses in the normal cleaning solution removes the dirt from them, it is considered as if one scrubbed them on Shabbos and is forbidden (Orchos Shabbos). However, placing them is a saline solution to keep them moist is permitted since no improvement is noticeable.

Poskim who follow this approach usually tell people to wash the lenses before Shabbos with cleaning solution, reinsert them immediately and place the lenses into regular saline solution when removing them for the night on Shabbos.

However, if following this last opinion one should be very careful. The saline solution does not prevent infection from developing on the lens, whereas the normal cleaning solution is also a disinfectant. A physician I spoke to advised someone using saline solution to place it and the lenses into a refrigerator overnight. Even after removing the lenses from the saline solution Shabbos morning, one should keep the solution refrigerated the whole week until next Shabbos. He also recommended replacing the saline solution every few weeks.

Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, had a different approach to this issue, contending that the soft contact lenses do not really absorb liquid. He maintained that plastic does not absorb liquid the same way that cloth does. Whereas the liquid actually enters the cloth and becomes absorbed inside, liquid does not actually enter into the plastic of the soft lenses, but remains between the strands of the plastic. Soft lenses are constructed of a plastic that has space between its strands to allow water to enter. However, the water never enters the “fiber” of the plastic the same way it enters the fiber of cloth. Thus in his opinion, it is permitted to clean soft contact lenses on Shabbos the same way one would on weekdays (Nishmas Avraham 5 pg. 20; see Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasah pg. 181).

Rav Shlomo Zalman held that one must place the contact lenses into solution only when they are still moist out of concern that wetting them after they are dry is considered repairing them. In point of fact, everyone who has these lenses keeps them moist at all times exactly for this reason.

I have heard rabbonim paskin a compromise position between these two above-mentioned positions, contending that there is no problem with soaking the lenses since this does not clean them, but that when removing the lenses one should not rub them since this might be considered scrubbing the lenses.

The Torah commanded us concerning the halachos of Shabbos by giving us the basic categories that are prohibited. Our poskim analyze the rules the Torah gives us and then compare these rules to new circumstances that appear. The greatness of the Torah is that even though the world is constantly changing and developing, the words of Torah are timeless and can be applied to all of these new situations.

As in all areas of halacha, one should consult with one’s posek how to care for contact lenses on Shabbos. The goal of this discussion is to present the background of the halachic issues that form the basis for the varying piskei halacha on this contemporary issue.

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The Rights of a Copyright Holder

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What is the halachic background to copyright law? Does the Torah have a concept of intellectual property rights, meaning that someone who creates or invents an item is owner of his invention? May a rav prevent people from taping his shiur? May one copy computer software or music disks?

We will IY”H provide the background and history behind these issues. Our purpose is not to paskin anyone’s shaylos but to introduce and explain the subject matter. An individual should ask his own shaylah from his own rav.

For our purposes, we are dividing the topic into three subtopics:

1. Copyright. Does a publisher have rights protecting him so that he has the opportunity to recoup his investment? Assuming that such rights exist, do they apply in all cases, or only if it is a new publication? For how long are his rights protected?

2. Intellectual property rights. Does someone who wrote a book or created an invention own rights to future sales of this book or this invention? If he does, for how long do his rights last?

3. Conditions of sale. Can a seller or manufacturer stipulate that a buyer may not copy the item sold?

WHAT RIGHTS DOES THE PUBLISHER HAVE?

One of the earliest published responsa on this subject deals with a very interesting sixteenth century case. One of the gedolei Yisrael of the time, the Maharam of Padua, Italy, entered a partnership with a non-Jewish publisher in Venice to produce a new edition of Rambam. Maharam invested a huge amount of time checking and correcting the text for this edition, included notes of his own, and apparently also invested significant amounts of his own money in the undertaking. A competing publisher, also a non-Jew, produced an edition of Rambam (without Maharam’s corrections and notes) at a greatly reduced price, apparently out of spite that Maharam had engaged his competitor. It appears that the second publisher might have been selling the set of Rambam at a loss with the intent to ruin the Maharam financially. The halachic question was whether an individual may purchase the less expensive edition of the second publisher.

The shaylah was referred to the Rama for decision, who ruled that the second publisher’s actions constitute unfair trade practices. Rama prohibited purchasing or selling the second edition until Maharam’s edition was sold out. Realizing that the non-Jewish publisher would not obey his ruling, Rama reinforced his ruling by placing a cherem (decree of excommunication) on anyone selling, buying or abetting the sale of the competing edition (Shu”t Rama #10). This was an effective way of guaranteeing that Jews did not purchase the less expensive (but inferior) edition.

Subsequent to Rama’s ruling, it became common practice for publishers to include in their works a cherem (plural: charamim) from a well-known posek banning the publishing of the same sefer, usually for a period of ten to twenty-five years. The purpose of these charamim was to make it financially worthwhile for the publisher to invest the resources necessary to produce the sefer. Thus, these charamam encouraged publishing more seforim and the spread of Torah learning.

Generally, these charamim protecting the publisher’s rights were accepted and obeyed. However in the early nineteenth century, an interesting dispute arose between the Chasam Sofer, the Rav of Pressburg, and Rav Mordechai Benet, the Rav of Nikolsburg, germane to the production of the famous Roedelheim machzorim. Two competing editions of these machzorim were produced, the first by Wolf Heidenheim, who had invested much time and money gathering and comparing manuscripts and texts. A Jewish publishing house located in a different city subsequently published a competing edition. Prior to Heidenheim’s issuing the machzorim, several prominent rabbonim had issued a cherem banning other publishers from competing.

The Chasam Sofer prohibited the second publisher from selling his machzorim and similarly banned people from purchasing them (Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat #41, #79). In his opinion, this case is halachically comparable to the edition of Rambam produced by the Maharam Padua.

Rav Benet disagreed, contending that there were several key differences between the cases. In his opinion, it is unnecessary to guarantee publication of machzorim by issuing charamim. Machzorim are a common item, and publishers know that they will profit from producing them. Thus, the entire purpose for which these charamim were created, to guarantee the production of seforim, does not apply. Furthermore, since non-Jewish publishers will certainly produce machzorim, issuing a cherem against competition will benefit the non-Jewish publishers, who will be faced with less competition, more than it will benefit a Jewish publisher such as Wolf Heidenheim. In addition to the above legal arguments, Rav Benet did not consider the second publisher to be unfair competition for a variety of reasons (Shu”t Parashas Mordechai, Choshen Mishpat #7, 8).

The Chasam Sofer responded by contending that since Heidenheim had invested time and money in checking and correcting texts, his business interest should be protected. Chasam Sofer even contended that Heidenheim’s monopoly should be allowed for the entire twenty-five years decreed in the original cherem, even after he had sold out his first edition. This was because the investment had been so great that it required multiple editions to recoup. This leads us to a new discussion.

WHAT IF THE FIRST EDITION SELLS OUT?

May a competitor produce a new edition if the first edition was sold out before the terms of the cherem have been completed? Some poskim contend that the cherem becomes void at this point. They reason that the purpose of the cherem has already been accomplished since the publisher successfully sold out his first edition. The goal is to encourage the production of more seforim, and that will be best accomplished by opening up the market to any publisher who is willing to produce the sefer (Pischei Tshuvah, Yoreh Deah 236:1, quoting Tiferes Tzvi. PT there also quotes Rav Efrayim Zalman Margaliyos as disputing this conclusion but does not explain his position.).

Support for this position can be brought from an interesting halachic decision rendered by the Rosh and quoted by Rama (Choshen Mishpat 292:20). In a certain community, there were an insufficient number of seforim available for people to study, but there were individuals who had private seforim that they were unwilling to lend. The local dayan ruled that these individuals were required to lend their seforim since their reticence was preventing Torah learning. Apparently, individuals challenged the ruling of their local dayan and referred the shaylah to the Rosh. The Rosh agreed with the dayan, although he stipulated that each borrowed sefer should be evaluated by three experts and that the borrower must provide the lender with a security deposit in case of damage or loss (Shu”t Rosh 93:3).

The question here is upon what halacha basis did the Rosh insist that these individuals relinquish their seforim? After all, it is an individual’s prerogative to lend his property. Clearly, Rosh contended that an individual’s rights are surrendered if people are deprived of Torah learning as a result. Similarly, the right of the publisher is rescinded after the first edition sells out if the result is that less seforim are available for study.

DOES HALACHA RECOGNIZE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AS OWNERSHIP?

This shaylah came to the forefront in the middle of the nineteenth century, also as a result of a din torah. Around 1850, a printer named Yosef Hirsch Balaban published a large-size edition of Shulchan Aruch with major commentaries, accompanied for the first time by the anthologized commentary, Pischei Tshuvah. (This is the Pischei Tshuvah that was referred to above in a note and is often quoted in these articles.)

Balaban was sued in beis din by a printer who claimed to have purchased exclusive rights to Pischei Tshuvah from its author. At the time Pischei Tshuvah had been printed only once, in a small-size edition including only the Shulchan Aruch and one other commentary. The plaintiff claimed that Balaban had violated his exclusive ownership rights to Pischei Tshuvah.

This writer is aware of three tshuvos on the shaylah, each reaching a different conclusion.

The Rav who precided over the din torah, Rav Shmuel Valdberg of Zalkava, ruled in favor of Balaban for the following reason. The original edition of Pischei Tshuvah did not include any statement placing a cherem against someone printing a competing edition. Rav Valdberg contended that this voided any copyright on Pischei Tshuvah. Furthermore, Rav Valdberg included two more reasons to sustain his ruling. One, the original edition of Pischei Tshuvah was no longer available. Thus even had a cherem banned a competing edition, it would have already expired once the first edition had sold out. Second, even if the first edition was still available for sale, Balaban’s reproducing Pischei Tshuvah as part of a multi-volume set of Shulchan Aruch was not competition for the original edition where Pischei Tshuvah had been published as a small, presumably inexpensive sefer. Rav Valdberg reasoned that no one interested in purchasing Pischei Tshuvah would likely purchase Balaban’s edition of Shulchan Aruch just for that purpose; instead he would buy the small edition (assuming it was available). Thus, he did not consider Balaban’s edition to be unfair competition for those looking to purchase Pischei Tshuvah.

According to Rav Valdberg’s analysis, the author of Pischei Tshuvah has no greater ownership to his work than someone publishing a different person’s work. His latter two arguments, that the first edition was already sold out and therefore the cherem expired, and that the multi-volume set does not compete with the one volume edition, would both be preempted if we assume that the author retains ownership over his work. Thus, Rav Valdberg did not believe that halacha recognizes intellectual property rights. Sho’eil uMeishiv (1:44) took issue with this point. He contended that the author of a work is its owner. Thus, Pischei Tshuvah retains his rights as author/owner whether or not a cherem was declared against competition. A cherem is to guarantee a publisher enough time to recoup his investment. An author is an owner, not an investor, and maintains ownership over the item produced which he is entitled to sell, regulate, or contract. This is called intellectual property rights.

A contemporary of the Sho’eil uMeishiv, Rav Yitzchok Shmelkes, also ruled against Balaban but disagreed with Sho’eil uMeishiv’s reasoning (Shu”t Beis Yitzchok, Yoreh Deah 2:75). Beis Yitzchok contends that halacha does not recognize intellectual property rights as inherent ownership. In Beis Yitzchok’s opinion, the author has a right of ownership but only because it is accepted by government regulation, what is called dina dimalchusa dina, literally, the law of the government is binding. Although halacha does not usually accept non-Jewish legal regulations, a civil law established for the wellbeing of society is sometimes accepted. Since intellectual property rights encourage initiative and invention that are in society’s best interests, halacha accepts these ownership rights to the extent that they are recognized by civil law.

There are several key differences between the position of Sho’eil uMeishiv and that of Beis Yitzchok. According to Sho’eil uMeishiv, the ownership of an author exists forever just as any other property that he owns. Upon his passing, they are inherited by his heirs, just like his other property. However in Beis Yitzchok’s opinion, the ownership rights extend only according to what is established by government regulation and expire after a number of years. Moreover, in most countries a copyright is valid only if registered, and it must also be indicated in the published work. Presumably this was not true in the Beis Yitzchok’s place and time, since he applied civil copyright law to Pischei Tshuvah even though the author had not indicated any copyright in the sefer.

Thus, whether halacha recognizes intellectual property ownership is a three-way dispute, Rav Valdberg rejecting it, Sho’eil uMeishiv accepting it, and Beis Yitzchok contending that it depends upon whether such ownership is assumed in the country of publication.

Incidentally, there is evidence that the Chofetz Chayim agreed with the Sho’eil uMeishiv’s position. The Chofetz Chayim left specific instructions detailing who owns the publishing rights to his seforim after his passing. He instructed that his seforim on loshon hora could be freely republished and that Mishnah Berurah may be published by anyone, provided that 4% of its volumes printed are donated to shullen and batei medrash. However, he stipulated that most of his seforim could not be republished without permission of his family members and that the proceeds from such publication should succor his widow for the rest of her life. Chofetz Chayim’s instructions imply that he considered his ownership to be in perpetuity. Furthermore, Chofetz Chayim did not publish any words of cherem or copyright inside his seforim. Thus, he seems to have presumed ownership over future editions of seforim on the basis of intellectual property (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchok 9:153), although it is possible that he based it on dina dimalchusa dina, following the opinion of Beis Yitzchok.

MAY A RAV PREVENT PEOPLE FROM TAPING HIS SHIUR?

On the basis of the above discussion whether halacha recognizes intellectual property rights, one might suggest that someone giving a shiur may restrict the taping of the shiur on the basis that he owns the shiur. However, in a responsa on the subject Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that a rav may forbid taping his shiur but for totally different reasons. They are:

The lecture may include material that should not be circulated without supervision.

Subsequently, the rav may change his mind from the conclusions he reached in the shiur, or the shiur may include ideas that are conjectural.

He might be embarrassed later by the opinions he stated when he gave the original shiur (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:40:19).

In the same responsum, Rav Moshe rules that if the rav permitted the shiur to be taped, he may not prevent people from reproducing these tapes for sale (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:40:19). This implies that Rav Moshe holds that the rav cannot claim ownership of the shiur on the basis of intellectual property, certainly not to the extent held by the Sho’el uMeishiv.

Rav Moshe also rules that if someone is selling copies of a shiur, it is prohibited to make copies without permission of the seller. This takes us to the next subtopic in our discussion.

IS IT PERMITTED TO COPY A TAPE OR DISK?

Does a seller have the halachic right to stipulate that a buyer may not copy the item sold? This shaylah takes our discussion in a new direction. Until now, we have been discussing whether halacha prohibits publishing a competing edition to an existent work. Now our shaylah is whether one may copy what he purchased when the seller stipulates that he may not.

As we saw above, Rav Moshe rules that this is prohibited unequivocally and is an act of stealing, since you are using someone’s property in a way he has not permitted. Numerous other contemporary poskim also rule this way (see Mishnas Zechuyos HaYotzeir; cf. Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 4:202).

Some poskim contend that copying disks may not be considered stealing, although they also prohibit doing so for various other reasons. The line of reasoning why they do not consider it stealing is very instructive.

There are basically two ways that a seller can limit how a purchaser will use an item after the sale. The first is by placing a condition on the sale. If the buyer subsequently violates the condition of sale, the sale becomes invalid, and the buyer has used the item without permission. According to halacha, using someone’s item without permission is stealing. Thus, by voiding the condition of sale, the purchaser has retroactively made himself into a thief.

However, there is a strong argument against this position. If indeed the sale has been voided, then the purchaser is entitled to a refund of his purchase money. Since the seller has no intention of providing a refund to everyone who copies his tape or disk, clearly he did not intend this stipulation to be a condition that invalidates the sale.

There are two other ways that the seller can enforce rights not to copy his material. One is halachically referred to as “shiyur,” which means that the seller places a partial restriction on the sale. In this case it means that he sold the right to use the tape but not the right to copy it. Some poskim contend that one should assume that computer programs, tapes etc. are sold with these stipulations. It appears that Rav Moshe Feinstein held this way.

There is a second reason why it is prohibited to copy this material. Most computer software agreements specify that the programs are licensed, rather than sold. This means that the seller has rented the right to use the equipment but has never sold these items outright. Using the items in an unapproved fashion thereby constitutes using an item I have rented in a way that violates my agreement with the owner. Therefore, copying these items against the owner’s expressed wishes is certainly a violation of halacha.

In addition to the above reasons, many poskim point out that it is not good for a Torah Jew to use something in a way that violates the implied trust he has been given. There also might be a halachic issue of violating ve’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha, loving your fellowman like yourself, since if you published software or disks you would not want someone else to copy them.

Based on the above discussion, most of us will realize that we have probably been following certain practices without verifying whether they are halachically permitted. It behooves us to clarify with the posek we use whether indeed these activities are permitted. For example, may I photocopy a page of a book for educational purposes? Does it make a difference whether it is being used for Torah purposes or for a secular use? (See Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 4:202.) May I make a copy of a tape or disk if I am concerned that the original will wear out? May I make an extra copy of a computer program and use one at home and one at work?

Clearly, a Torah Jew must be careful to follow halacha in all his financial dealings and arrangements. Ultimately, this is the true benchmark that measures what is considered kiddush Hashem in this world.

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How Does Someone Convert to Judaism?

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When our ancestors accepted responsibility to observe the Torah, they did so by performing bris milah, immersing themselves in a mikveh, and offering korbanos. In the same way, a non-Jew who chooses to join the Jewish people is entering the same covenant and must follow a similar procedure (Gemara Kerisus 9a).

The privilege of becoming a ger tzedek requires very exact and exacting guidelines. On a technical level, the ger is accepting responsibility to perform mitzvos. Through the geirus procedure, he creates an obligation upon himself to observe mitzvos (Birchas Shmuel, Kiddushin #15).

DEFINITION OF A JEW

To the non-Jewish or non-observant world, the definition of a Jew is based on sociological criteria. But to the Torah Jew, the definition of a Jew is someone who is a member of a people who are obligated to fulfill all of the Torah’s commandments. For this reason, it is axiomatic that no one can become Jewish without first accepting the responsibility to observe mitzvos (kabbalas mitzvos). This concept, so obvious to the Torah Jew, is almost never appreciated by the non-observant. Someone who does not (yet) observe mitzvos himself usually does not appreciate why observing mitzvos is imperative to becoming Jewish. This is why a not-yet-observant Jew often finds our requirements for giyur to be “unrealistic” or even “intolerant.” However in true reality, attempting to bend the Torah’s rules reflects an intolerance, or more exactly, a lack of understanding. The Torah Jew realizes that the basic requirement for becoming a Jew is accepting Hashem’s commandments, since a Jew is by definition someone who is bound by the Torah.

DISCOURAGE CONVERTS

As we all know, when someone requests to be converted to Judaism, we discourage him. As the Gemara (Yevamos 47a) says, if a potential convert comes, we ask him, “Why do you want to convert? Don’t you know that Jews are persecuted and dishonored? Constant suffering is their lot! Why do you want to join such a people?”

Why do we discourage a sincere non-Jew from joining Jewish ranks? Shouldn’t we encourage someone to undertake such a noble endeavor!

The reason is that even if the potential convert is very sincerely motivated, we still want to ascertain that he or she can persevere to keep the mitzvos even under adversity. Although we can never be certain what the future brings, by making the path to conversion difficult we are helping the potential convert who might later regret his conversion when the going gets hard. Because of this rationale, some batei din deliberately make it difficult for a potential convert as a method of discouraging him.

I have used a different method of discouragement, by informing potential converts of the seven mitzvos bnei Noach. In so doing, I point out that they can merit olam haba without becoming obligated to keep all the Torah’s mitzvos. In this way, I hope to make them responsible moral non-Jews without their becoming Jewish. As the Gemara explains, we tell him, “Until now you received no punishment if you failed to keep kosher. There was no punishment if you failed to observe Shabbos. If you become Jewish, you will receive very severe punishments for not keeping kosher or Shabbos!” (Yevamos 47a).

I once met a woman who was enthusiastically interested in becoming Jewish. Although she was living in a town with no Jewish community – she was already keeping a kosher home!

After I explained the mitzvos of bnei Noach to her, she insisted that this was not enough for her. She wanted to be fully Jewish.

Because of her enthusiasm, I expected to hear from her again. I was wrong. I never heard from her again. It seems that her tremendous enthusiasm petered out. This is exactly what Chazal were concerned about. Therefore they told us to make it difficult for someone to become Jewish and see whether his or her commitment survives adversity. It was better that this woman’s enthusiasm waned before she became Jewish than after she became Jewish and had no way out.
The following story from my personal experience is unfortunately very common. A gentile woman, eager to marry an observant Jewish man, agreed to fulfill all the mitzvos as a requirement for her conversion. (As we will point out shortly, this is not a recommended procedure.) Although she seemed initially very excited about observing mitzvos, with time she began to lose interest. In the end, she ended up giving up observance completely. The unfortunate result is that she is now a chotei Yisrael (a Jew who sins).

MOTIVATION FOR CONVERTING

We must ascertain that the proposed convert wants to become Jewish for the correct reasons. If we discern or suspect that there is an ulterior reason to convert, we do not accept the potential convert even if he is committed to observing all the mitzvos.

For this reason converts are not accepted at times when there is political, financial, or social gain in being Jewish. For example, no converts were accepted in the days of Mordechai and Esther, nor in the times of Dovid and Shlomoh, nor will geirim be accepted in the era of the Moshiach. During such times, we suspect that the convert is somewhat motivated by the financial or political advantages in being Jewish (Gemara Yevamos 24b). This applies even if we are certain that they will observe all the mitzvos.

Despite this rule, unlearned Jews created “batei din” during the reign of Dovid HaMelech and accepted converts against the wishes of the gedolim (Rambam, Hilchos Issurei Biyah 13:15).

The Rambam explains that the “non-Jewish” wives that Shlomoh married were really insincere converts. In his words, “In the days of Shlomoh converts were not accepted by the official batei din…however Shlomoh converted women and married them…and it was known that they converted for ulterior reasons and not through the official batei din. For this reason, the pasuk treats them as non-Jews…furthermore the end bears out that they worshipped idols and built altars to them” (Rambam, Hilchos Issurei Biyah 13:15-16).

Because of this rule, we do not accept someone who is converting because he or she wants to marry someone who is Jewish, even if the convert is absolutely willing to observe all the mitzvos (Gemara Yevamos 24b). I have seen numerous instances of non-Jews who converted primarily for marriage and who agreed to keep all the mitzvos at the time of the conversion. Even in the instances where mitzvos were indeed observed, I have seen very few situations where mitzvos were still being observed a few years (or even months) later.

GEIRUS WITH IMPROPER MOTIVATION

What is the halachic status of someone who went through the geirus process for the wrong reasons, such as they converted because they wanted to marry someone?

If the convert followed all the procedures including full acceptance of all the mitzvos, the conversion is valid even though we disapprove of what was done. If the convert remains faithful to Jewish observance, we will treat him with all the respect due to a Jew. However, before reaching a decision on his status, the beis din waits a while to see whether the convert is indeed fully committed to living a Jewish life (Rambam, Issurei Biyah 13:15-18).

However, someone who is not committed to mitzvah observance and just goes through the procedures has not become Jewish at all.

Jim was interested in “converting to Judaism” because his wife was Jewish and not because he was interested in observing mitzvos. At first he went to a Rav who explained that he must observe all the mitzvos, and certainly they must live within the frum community. This was not what Jim had in mind, so he went shopping for a “rabbi” who would meet his standards. Is there any validity to this conversion?

CONVERSION PROCESS

How does a non-Jew become Jewish? As mentioned above, Klal Yisrael joined Hashem’s covenant with three steps: bris milah (for males), immersion in a mikveh, and offering a korban (Gemara Krisus 9a). Since no korbanos are brought today, the convert becomes a ger without fulfilling this mitzvah. (We derive from a pasuk that geirim are accepted even in generations that do not have a Beis HaMikdash.) However, when the Beis HaMikdash is iy”h rebuilt, every ger will be required to offer a korban olah which is completely burnt on the mizbayach (Rambam, Hilchos Issurei Biyah 13:5).

Besides these three steps, the convert must accept all the mitzvos, just as the Jews accepted to keep all the mitzvos.

Preferably, each step in the geirus procedure should be witnessed by a beis din. Some poskim contend that the bris and tevilah are valid even if not witnessed by a beis din. But all poskim agree that if the kabbalas (accepting) mitzvos does not take place in the presence of a beis din, the conversion is invalid (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 268:3). Thus, a minimal requirement for proper giyur (conversion) is that the ger’s commitment to observe all the mitzvos and practices of a Jew be made in the presence of a kosher beis din. Any “conversion” with no commitment to mitzvos, or where the commitment is made without observant Jews present, is by definition invalid and without any halachic foundation.

Unfortunately, some well-intentioned converts have been misled by people purporting to be batei din for geirus. I know of a woman who underwent four different conversion procedures until she performed a geirus in the presence of a kosher beis din!

KABBALAS MITZVOS

As mentioned above, kabbalas mitzvos is a verbalized acceptance to observe all the Torah’s mitzvos. We do not accept a convert who states that he is accepting all the mitzvos of the Torah except for one (Gemara Bechoros 30b). Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses a woman who was interested in converting and was willing to fulfill all the mitzvos except that she did not want to dress in the halachically-required tzniyus way. Rav Moshe rules that it is questionable if her geirus is valid (Shu”t Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 3:106).

If the potential convert states that he/she accepts kabbalas mitzvos, we usually assume that the geirus is valid. However, what is the halacha if a person declares that he accepts the mitzvos but his behavior indicates the opposite? For example, what happens if the convert eats non-kosher or desecrates Shabbos immediately following his conversion procedure? Is he considered Jewish?

Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that if it is clear that the person never intended to observe mitzvos, his conversion is invalid. The person remains a non-Jew since he never undertook kabbalas mitzvos, which is the most important component of geirus (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:157; 3:106).

BEIS DIN

As mentioned before, conversion is an act that requires a proper beis din, meaning minimally three fully observant male Jews.

Since a beis din cannot perform a legal function at night or on Shabbos or Yom Tov, conversions cannot be performed at these times (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 268:4).

CHILD CONVERSION

Until now we discussed the conversion of adults. A child can also be converted to Judaism (Gemara Kesubos 11a). There are two common reasons why this is done: Either when the child’s parents are converting to Judaism, or when a non-Jewish child is adopted by Jewish parents.

The conversion of a child involves an interesting question. As we explained above, the convert’s acceptance of the mitzvos is the main factor that makes him into a Jew. However, since a child is too young to assume legal obligations and responsibilities, how can his conversion be valid when it is without a legal accepting of mitzvos?

The answer is that we know that children can be converted from the historical precedent of Sinai where the Jewish people accepted the Torah and mitzvos. Among them were thousands of children who also joined the covenant and became part of klal Yisrael. When these children became adults, they became responsible to keep mitzvos (Tosafos Sanhedrin 68b).

There is, however, a qualitative difference between a child who becomes part of the covenant together with his parents, and an adopted child who is becoming Jewish without his birth parents. In the former case the parent assumes responsibility for the child’s decision (Gemara Kesubos 11a; Rashi Yevamos 48a s.v. eved), whereas an adopting parent cannot assume this role in the conversion process. Instead, the beis din supervising the geirus acts as the child’s surrogate parents and accepts his geirus. This same approach is used if a child comes of his own volition and requests to be converted (Mordechai, Yevamos 4:40).

CAN THE CHILD REJECT THIS DECISION?

Yes. If the child convert decides on reaching maturity that he does not want to be Jewish, he invalidates his conversion and reverts to being a gentile. The age at which a child can make this decision is when he or she becomes obligated to observe mitzvos, twelve for a girl and thirteen for a boy (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:162).

CAN HE CHANGE HIS MIND LATER IN LIFE?

No. Once the child achieves maturity and is living an observant lifestyle, this is considered an acceptance of the conversion that cannot be rejected afterwards.

WHAT IF THE CHILD CONVERT WAS UNAWARE THAT HE WAS A GER AND DID NOT KNOW THAT HE HAD THE OPTION?

Rav Moshe Feinstein discusses the case of a couple that adopted a non-Jewish child but did not want to tell him that he was adopted. (Not telling the child he is adopted may be inadvisable for psychological reasons, but this is an article on halacha, not psychology.) Rav Moshe raises the following halachic reason why the parents should tell the child that he is a convert. Assuming that the child knows he is a child convert, he has the option to accept or reject his Judaism when turning bar mitzvah (bas mitzvah for a girl), which is a time that the parents have much influence on their child. Subsequent to this time, he cannot opt out of Judaism. However, if he does not discover that he is a convert until he becomes an adult, he would have the option at that time to accept or reject his Judaism, and the parents have limited influence on his decision.

WHAT IF THE CHILD WANTS TO BE A NON-OBSERVANT JEW?

What is the halacha if the child at age thirteen wants to be Jewish, but does not want to be observant?

There is a dispute among poskim whether this constitutes a rejection of one’s conversion or not. Some contend that not observing mitzvos is not the same as rejecting conversion; the conversion is only undone if the child does not want to be Jewish. Others contend that not observing mitzvos is considered an abandonment of one’s being Jewish.

Many years ago I asked my rebbe, Rav Yaakov Kulefsky zt”l, about the following situation. A boy underwent a giyur katan and was raised by non-observant “traditional” parents who kept a kosher home but did not observe Shabbos. The boy wanted to be Jewish without being observant, just like his adopted parents. The family wanted to celebrate his bar mitzvah in an Orthodox shul and have the boy “lein” the Torah. Was this permitted or was the boy considered non-Jewish?

Rav Kulefsky zt”l paskined that the boy could “lein” and was considered halachically Jewish. Other poskim disagree, contending that being halachically Jewish requires acknowledging the mitzvos we must perform. Someone who rejects the mitzvos thereby rejects the concept of being Jewish.

GERIM ARE SPECIAL

Once a potential ger persists in his determination to join the Jewish people, the beis din will usually recommend a program whereby he can learn about Judaism and that sets him on track for giyur. A ger tzedek should be treated with tremendous love and respect. Indeed, the Torah gives us a special mitzvah to “Love the Ger,” and we daven for them daily in our Shmoneh Esrei!

Throughout the years, I have met many sincere gerim and have been truly impressed by their dedication to Torah and mitzvos. Hearing about the journey to find truth that brought them to Judaism is usually fascinating. What would cause a gentile to join the Jewish people, risk confronting the brunt of anti-Semitism, while at the same time being uncertain that Jews will accept him?  Sincere converts are drawn by the truth of Torah and a desire to be part of the Chosen People. They know that they can follow the will of Hashem by doing seven mitzvos, but they insist on choosing an all-encompassing Torah lifestyle.

One sincere young woman, of Oriental background, stood firmly before the Beis Din. “Why would you want this?” questioned the Rav.

“Because it is truth and gives my life meaning.”

“There are many rules to follow,” he cautioned.

“I know. I have been following them meticulously for two years,” came the immediate reply. “I identify with the Jews.”

After further questioning, the beis din authorized her geirus, offering her two dates convenient for them. She chose the earlier one, so she could keep one extra Shabbos.
We should learn from the ger to observe our mitzvos every day with tremendous excitement – just as if we just received them for the first time!

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