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The Rock – Parshas Chukas

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
July 1st, 2011
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פרשת חקת – The Rock

by Binyomin Radner

פרק כ’ פסוק י”ב – “ויאמר ה’ אל משה ואל אהרן יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל לכן לא תביאו את הקהל הזה אל הארץ אשר נתתי להם

משה and אהרן are taken to task for failing to sanctify G-d in the midst of the Jewish nation and are therefore denied the privilege of leading them into the Promised Land.

The פסוק is rather cryptic both in its wording of the incident with the rock  at מי מריבה, and in what precisely the sin of משה and אהרן entailed. The commentators discuss this issue at length and the אור החיים alone explores no less than ten varying possible explanations as to what exactly transpired at מי מריבה.

רש”י explains that משה was commanded to speak to the rock and thereby release water for the Jewish people to drink. Yet משה deviated and struck the rock with his staff instead of speaking to it. This was because the rock did not react after being spoken to, as it was the wrong rock. משה figured that perhaps he should hit the rock first in order to achieve the desired effect as was the case with the rock in פרשת בשלח. If only משה had spoken to the rock as instructed, the people would have said, “If a rock which does not speak nor hear and does not need sustenance, yet still dutifully fulfills the command of G-d, we certainly should do likewise.” This potential response would have caused a קידוש ה’.

רמב”ן takes issue with the approach of רש”י on several fronts:

ה’ commanded משה to take the staff in his hand first and then to approach the rock. The implication is that he should, in fact, hit the rock. For if he was to merely speak to the rock to release water, what role would the staff play other than to be used to hit the rock?

Furthermore, the fact that sufficient water for an entire nation could be released from the rock is a tremendous miracle in and of itself. The act of striking the rock does not detract from the miraculous nature of water being produced from an inanimate object, let alone in such a large quantity so as to provide water for a nation of millions of people . Accordingly, the קידוש ה’ of such a supernatural event is the same regardless of the method of communication with the rock.

Additionally, the Pasuk in דברים פרק ל”ו פסוק נ”א  refers to the incident at מי מריבה with  ”אשר מעלתם בי”. Why should משה hitting the rock be called an act of מעילה (which is deriving personal benefit from הקדש?)

Thus, רמב”ן (as well as רבינו חננאל and the רא”ש) explain that the wrongdoing of משה and אהרן was not in the action of striking the rock, but in their choice of words,  ”המן הסלע הזה נוציא לכם מים”. “From this rock will we produce water”?! They should have said “יוציא” “He” – that ה’ will produce the water. This incorrect wording could possibly have lent credence to the false notion that משה and אהרן were the ones who produced the water from the work, and not just ה’. That perhaps it was something of a team effort.  Hence, the קידוש ה’ was lacking. This is also why it was called מעילה since they derived personal benefit from an act of G-d by seemingly crediting themselves with the miracle instead of completely crediting G-d with it.

The רמב”ם in שמונה פרקים פרק ד’ offers yet another explanation that the sin of משה was that he acted with anger when he said to the Jewish nation “שמעו נא המורים” (Listen here rebels.) This caused a חילול ה’ since משה was the chosen emissary of G-d, and the people thought that G-d was angry with them as well, which was not the case.

In light of the attacks which the רמב”ן lodges at the approach of רש”י, perhaps we could have a better understanding of רש”י with the words of the כלי יקר:

The כלי יקר explains that the staff under discussion here that משה was to hold in his hand while speaking to the rock was actually the staff of אהרן. The staff of אהרן was dry wood which contained no moist nor water whatsoever, and yet  still  had sprouted flowers and almonds, which is impossible without water. This occurred because ה’ performed a miracle causing the staff to produce water which in turn produced the flowers and the almonds. Thus, משה was to display the staff to the Jewish people in order to demonstrate that just as ה’ can produce water from a staff, so can He produce water from a stone. Furthermore, whereas משה is commanded to speak to the rock the פסוק does not  inform us  at all of  what he is supposed to say to the rock. But on a closer look, the פסוק states “ודברתם אל הסלע ונתן מימיו”. The basic meaning is that “You should speak to the rock, and then it will give water.” However, the כלי יקר explains that these two words “ונתן מימיו” were the actual words that he was  to say to the rock. Meaning, he should say to the rock, “Just as the staff produced water by the command of G-d, so too should you (the rock) produce water by the command of G-d.”

This is alluded to by virtue of the fact that the גימטריא (numerical equivalent) of  סלע  (rock) = 170 which   is the same as that of עץ (staff). The rock was supposed  to learn from the staff to produce water by G-d’s command. משה however,then proceeded to strike the rock not with the staff of אהרן but with his own staff. This was a great sin due to the history of the staff’s involvement in many of the miracles. Some would scorn that the miracles were performed by the staff of משה with the powers of witchcraft contained inside that staff. Now that water was produced from the rock only after being struck by the same staff of משה  ,the misconception that the miracles were all performed with witchcraft of his staff was further intensified. This caused a חילול ה’ as it reopened the possibility for the scorners to credit the staff for all of the miracles instead of ה’ who really performed them.

The כלי יקר concludes that there is a deeper lesson  hinted to us as well. Earlier in פרשת בשלח, ה’ commanded משה to strike the rock to produce the water, and later on in פרשת חקת not to strike, but to speak to the rock to produce water. At the first time, the Jewish nation had just previously left Egypt and was yet young. Now in פרשת חקת the Jewish nation  was older, had experienced matan torah, and was more developed. This teaches us that when a child is young, corporal punishment can be effective and helpful in the child’s development. However, once the child matures into adolescence, only verbal rebuke is the proper חינוך.

Furthermore, the Jewish nation was to learn from this that they ought to  follow in the ways of ה’ without “corporal punishment”. Meaning, without all of the punishments that were given to them throughout their journey in the desert, they should be able to dutifully follow in the ways of  Hashem without coercion or threats, but out of free will. Since the rock was struck instead of spoken to, this message was prevented from being fully internalized by the Jewish people.

R’ Moshe Feinstein Zt’l in the Darash Moshe adds that there is another lesson hinted to us here as well:

Certainly there is no real difference between hitting the rock or talking to it. The miracle is the same just  like the  רמב”ן explained above. Hence, Moshe was commanded specifically  to speak to the rock even though rocks do not hear or understand. This is to teach us that Torah should be taught even to those who who do not at first  fully grasp it, and  eventually with the accurate  effort and toil, they too will reach the point where they are able to understand it .  R’ Moshe writes furthermore that one should not give up on teaching his children even if it seems at first like they do not understand. Rather, he should teach them repeatedly  until they do understand. Just as the stone did not understand but still fulfilled the command of G-d, so too and certainly to people who do not understand in the beginning but can eventually, with effort, reach the point where they can understand the words of Torah.


The author can be reached at benradner@gmail.com.

Mothers-in-Law, Sandy Koufax, and the Lesson of Shavuos

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
June 5th, 2011
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by Rabbi Elchonon Feldman

Rabbi of Belmont United Synagogue, London, U.K. 

As we approach the anniversary of one of the most epic historical periods of our nation, I am reminded of a….  Mother-in-law joke:

What do you do if you miss your Mother-in-law?

 Reload and shoot again.

Let me explain why a coarse piece of humour is on my mind as we approach Shavuos, our re-enactment of receiving the Torah at Sinai.

When it comes to Jewish-American sports heroes, the famous Baseball Pitcher Sandy Koufax comes to mind. In his famous act of loyalty to his roots, on October 6th 1965, during the first game of the World Series, the Dodgers versus the Twins, Sandy refused to pitch (that is throw the ball at a guy with a wooden bat, for all those unfamiliar with the sport), for it was Yom Kippur day.

In this selfless act of commitment, Sandy became a Jewish-American icon, a model for generations to come; for Jewish men and women to make their own sacrifices by putting their Judaism before themselves.

Imagine you were in the same Shul as Sandy during that Yom Kippur service. Obviously, the Rabbi would have made an honourable mention during his sermon of Sandy’s self-sacrifice. I can imagine it would not have gone something like this: “Sandy, I would like to publicly applaud you on your dedication to your ageing mother, you have gone out of your way to escort her to Synagogue today and you have doted over her throughout this service. Oh, in addition, I think it’s great that you didn’t play baseball today, possibly forfeiting your entire professional career.”

Why am I convinced that the Rabbi did not mention the devotion Sandy had for his mother? Although, of course, it is laudable to treat one’s parent with care, still, relative to such a massive act of sacrifice, it just doesn’t seem to register.

Yet, we see in Megillas Ruth, which we will be reading over Shavuot, a fascinating thing. Boaz, a Jewish aristocrat, who marries Ruth the convert, explains what exactly attracted him to her: “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.” (Ruth 2:11)

We must analyze this verse. First Boaz comments how Ruth helped take care of Naomi, her Mother-in-law, after the passing of Naomi’s son, Ruth’s husband. This is very nice indeed. However, only afterward does Boaz even mention Ruth’s supreme accomplishment of leaving her house of royalty in Moab, becoming a peasant, and following the religion of her heart. How can we give centre stage to kindness to one’s Mother-in-law in contrast to Ruth’s famous conversion? Perhaps this is why the above mentioned Mother-in-law joke came to mind.

I think we can offer something a little more substantial. The Targum Yonason ben Uziel, an early commentary on the Torah, explains as follows: Boaz was not just describing his personal admiration for Ruth, rather he was explaining Ruth’s merit to be the mother of the Davidic dynasty; the Birth-mother of Moshiach. True, the ability to sacrifice one’s self for what is right is an outstanding virtue, perhaps integral for royalty. However, simple personal care is the cornerstone of Judaism. The Talmud tells us that there are certain attributes which characterize and exemplify the characteristics of a Jew, the finale of which is our Chessed. Ruth deserved to be the Mother of royalty not just due to her spiritual devotion, but rather because of her kindness.

As we approach our own special re-acceptance of the Torah on Shavuot, we need to decide how much of a role caring and kindness plays in our own lives. When we are shooting for the stars in terms of spirituality, our relationship with our fellow man is paramount to get us there.

Perhaps the Rabbi did mention Sandy’s kindness to his mother during the sermon, or at least he definitely should have.


 Rabbi Elchonon Feldman has over 15 years experience at high level Yeshivos as both student and teacher, where he gained the relevant Torah fundamentals and skills to lead and teach a congregation. This is complemented by a degree in Liberal Arts and a councellor’s license. He received semicha last year and recently completed a two year rabbinic training program at the Ohr Lagolah Leadership Institute. He is a talmid of mine, as well as the newly appointed rabbi of  Belmont United Synagogue in London, U.K. He can be reached at  rebelchb@gmail.com.

Categories: Hashkafah, Inspiration, Mussar, Shavuos Tags:

Baking Milky

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
June 1st, 2011
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Baking Milky

 A discussion in Halocho by Rabbi Elie Schoemann – For a final Psak, please consult your Rov.

חז”ל decreed a prohibition on baking milky or meaty bread. If baked, the bread may not be eaten at all. The reason for this is that bread is commonly eaten together with either meat or milk. Hence, חז”ל were concerned that a person might eat the milky bread with meat or vice versa.[1] (For the purpose of this article we’ll be discussing milky bread that could accidentally be eaten with meat but the same applies in reverse.)

 Shavuos is a time that many milky delicacies will be on the menu.[2] Some of these might include Milky bread and rolls, Milky cake, Milky biscuits etc. How do we go about preparing our favorite milky delights without transgressing this above mentioned Halocho?

 Two leniencies were given to this Halocho[3]:

  1. It is permitted to bake a small quantity of milky bread.
  2. It is permitted to bake even a large quantity of milky bread in a unique shape that one would recognize as milky and not come to eat with meat.

 Small Quantity

The שולחן ערוך[4] says that this is the amount of bread that is eaten in that household at one meal. The רמ”א[5] has a more lenient opinion, that a small amount is the supply of bread for that household for one day (24hr period[6]). Bnei Ashkenaz follow the ruling of the רמ”א.

The reason for this leniency is that one would not forget the milky status of the bread in this short time period. Therefore, if relying on this leniency, one should intend to consume the bread within these times and not to store them away in the freezer.[7]

 Unique Shape

Only a shape that would be recognized as milky by the intended consumers may be used. Cheese or other obviously milky toppings or fillings that are visible would also permit the bread or baked product.[8] The shapes, fillings or toppings should encompass the entire product[9] and must be present prior to the actual baking.

 Intention to amend or inform after baking

One should not make a large amount of milky bread without any unique shape with the intention to either divide up the bread between many people or to change the shape or place a sticker or sign on the milky bread after baking.[10]

Similarly one should not bake milky bread with the intention to inform potential consumers of its milky status as one might forget to do so.[11]

However, there are opinions that are lenient in either of the above.[12] 

 Milky Cakes and Biscuits

Baked goods that are not usually eaten with meat (e.g. cakes, biscuits, croissants, danishes …) are not included in the above restrictions of milky bread.[13] However, there are poskim[14] that are stringent with these types of products as well.


[1] גמ’[פסחים ל. , לו.] טור ושו”ע [יו"ד ריש סי' צ"ז]

[2] עיין רמ”א ומ”ב [או"ח סי' תצ"ד סע' ג']

[3] [יו"ד סי' צ"ז סע' א']

[4] [שם]

[5] [שם]

[6] ערוך השולחן [יו"ד צ"ז סי' ד']

[7] בדי השולחן [יו"ד סי' צ"ז ס"ק ט' , ביאורים ד"ה ולכן עמ' שנ"ג] וע”ע בחמודי דניאל, אות י”ב “מדברי רש”י נראה שצריך לאכול מיד….לכך נראה דצריך לאכלו בו ביום”. וכן מובא בדרכי תשובה שם ס”ק ט”ו.

[8] ערוך השולחן [שם סי' ה'], כף החיים [שם ס"ק א'] וכן שו”ת באר שבע [סימן ל"ב]

[9] גליון מהרש”א [שם]

[10] פתחי תשובה [יו"ד שם ס"ק ג'] בשם החוו”ד ופמ”ג ודלא ככו”פ בשם זקנו שמיקל בכה”ג.

[11] פ”ת [שם] בשם מהרי”ט [שו"ת ח"ב יו"ד סי' י"ח]. ויש מתירים בכה”ג [דברי יוסף סי' תרנ"ו - מובא ד"ת ס"ק כ'].

[12] עיין לעיל הערה 10 ו-11. לענין פת שנהיה “חלבי” בשוגג עיין פ”ת [שם ס"ק ב'] שמביא בזה מחלוקת אי אסרינן או לא ומסיק לחומרא. ע”ע ביד יהודה שבנפל עליו חלב אח”כ, אפשר לחתוך ולחלק לכמה אנשים או לעשות עליו סימן [ד"ת ס"ק ז'].

[13] מהרי”ט [שם], פר”ח [ס"ק א'], חכ”א [כלל נ' סעי' ג'], פ”ת [ס"ק ג'], ערה”ש [שם סעי' ז' וח'], הגריש”א שליט”א, הגר”מ הלברשטאם ז”ל (מפי מו”ר רב יוסף יצחק לרנר שליט”א).

[14] ט”ז [שם ס"ק א'], יד יהודה [הקצר ס"ק ג', הארוך ס"ק ו']. המ”ב [סי' תמ"ז ס"ק ק"ו] אוסר נתינת חלב לתוך יין, אמנם כתב המנח”י [כלל ס' אות ג'] שהיינו דווקא יין (ולא במיני מתיקה) כמו בלחם שדרך לאוכלה עם בשר.


Rabbi Elie Schoemann is a Rabbinic Coordinator in the certification department of the London Beth Din Kashrus Division. His role includes overseeing and coordinating the operations of the certification department thereby maintaining the high kashrus standards of the KLBD.

Rabbi Elie Schoemann studied at leading Yeshivos and Kollelim in Jerusalem for 10 years, gaining numerous Smichas and Qualifications including Yoreh Yoreh from Harav Moshe Sternbuch shlit”a and Harav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg shlit”a, Bachelor of Talmudic Law and Certificate in Kashrus Supervision, Jerusalem Kashrus Institute.

He can be reached at  eschoe@gmail.com.

Categories: Halacha, Halacha For the Layman, Shavuos Tags:

The Ins and Outs of Mechiras Chometz

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
April 15th, 2011
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 The Ins and Outs of Mechiras Chometz 

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

 As we all know, a Jew may not own chometz on Pesach, which is included in the Torah’s double prohibition, bal yira’eh and bal yimatzei. Furthermore, the Torah commanded us with a mitzvas aseh, a positive mitzvah, to destroy any chometz left in our possession after midday on Erev Pesach.

 According to most poskim, these prohibitions apply both to chometz gamur (pure chometz) and to ta’aroves chometz (chometz mixed into another product). Furthermore, the Torah prohibited benefiting from chometz from midday on Erev Pesach regardless whether a Jew or a gentile owns it. Chazal prohibited benefiting from chometz an hour earlier. In addition, Chazal instituted a penalty whereby chometz owned by a Jew during Pesach may never be used. They also required us to search our homes and property the night before Pesach for chometz that we may have forgotten.

 Although a Jew may not own chometz on Pesach, there is nothing wrong with his selling his chometz to a gentile before it becomes prohibited. The Mishnah (21a) states explicitly that one may sell chometz to a gentile before Pesach, although this meant that the gentile took the chometz home with him (see Terumas HaDeshen #120). Today when we sell our chometz, we leave it in our homes and we know that the gentile does not intend to use our chometz. Does this sale present us with any halachic issues to resolve?


Before addressing these issues, we should note that there are several valid reasons to arrange a mechiras chometz even if one has no chometz of any value:

 1. One is required to rid one’s house and all one’s possessions of chometz. However, some items, such as toasters, mixers, wooden kneading bowls, and flour bins are difficult, if not impossible, to clean. Shulchan Aruch and Rama (442:11) recommend giving wooden kneading bowls and flour bins and the chometz they contain as a gift to a non-Jew before Pesach, with the understanding that the gentile will return them after the holiday.

 However, if one does not have such a relationship with a gentile, or it is inconvenient for the gentile to store these items in his house, one needs to modify the solution so that one does not possess chometz on Pesach. Thus, one can include this chometz and these appliances in the sale of chometz.

 One should not sell items that require tevilas keilim (immersing vessels in a mikveh), such as metal or glass appliances, but rent them out instead, since otherwise one will have to immerse them again according to many poskim (Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 120:13). Alternatively, one can simply sell the chometz that is attached or inside them, but not the appliances themselves.

 2. Someone who owns stocks either directly or through mutual funds and/or retirement programs has another reason to arrange selling his chometz. Although some poskim contend that one may own stocks in a chometz business over Pesach (Rav Moshe Feinstein), most poskim prohibit owning shares on Pesach of a company that owns chometz. They contend that owning part of a corporation that owns chometz is considered as if I own chometz myself (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 3:1). Thus, in their opinion, even if someone’s house is completely chometz-free, he should arrange a mechiras chometz to include that which he owns as part of his shares.

 3. The Mishnah Berurah mentions an additional reason to sell one’s chometz — to avoid searching for chometz (bedikas chometz) in areas that are difficult to check (433:23) or where one plans to store non-Pesach items (436:32). Many poskim contend that when using the sale to preempt bedikah, it should take affect prior to the time of bedikas chometz. This way, when the mitzvah of bedikah takes affect, these areas and their chometz are already under the control and ownership of the gentile.

 4. Modern manufacturing creates an additional reason why one should arrange mechiras chometz, since it is difficult to ascertain whether medicines, vitamins, and cosmetic items such as colognes and mouthwashes contain chometz. For this reason, many people perform a standard mechiras chometz even if they destroy all their known chometz and search all the areas they own for chometz.


The Mishnah (Pesachim 21a) and Gemara (Pesachim 13a) discuss selling chometz before Pesach in cases that one does not expect to receive the chometz back. In these instances, the sale is fairly easy to arrange: The gentile pays for the chometz (or receives it as a gift) and takes it home with him.

However, in instances where the Jew is expecting to receive the chometz back after Pesach, how does one guarantee that the chometz indeed becomes the property of the non-Jew? Does the Jew’s expectation that he will receive the chometz back undermine the sale? Also, does the gentile really intend to buy the chometz, or does he think that this is all make-believe and that he is not really purchasing it? This would, of course, undermine the purpose of the sale.

 The Tosefta provides us with background to these questions:

 A Jew is traveling by ship and has with him chometz that he needs to dispose of before Pesach. However, the Jew would like the chometz back after Pesach because there is a dearth of kosher food available. (Apparently, there was no hechsher on that particular ship.) The Jew may sell the chometz to the gentile before Pesach, and then purchase it back afterwards. Alternatively, the Jew may give the chometz to the gentile as a present, provided no conditions are attached. The gentile may then return the present after Pesach (Tosefta Pesachim 2:6). Thus we see that one may sell or give away chometz to a gentile and expect it back without violating any halachos provided the agreement does not require the gentile to give it back.


Terumas HaDeshen (#120) also discusses whether you may give your chometz to a gentile as a present that he intends to return to you after Pesach. He permits this, although he stipulates that the gentile must remove the chometz from the Jew’s house (as explained by Bach, Orach Chayim 448).

 This condition presents us with a problem in arranging our mechiras chometz. The gentile is willing to cooperate and purchase our chometz, but he does not remove the chometz to his own house. Is there a way to alleviate this problem, or must we forgo selling chometz?

 This problem became common when Jews became extensively involved in the ownership of taverns, which was in many places one of the few forms of livelihood open to them. It became common practice to sell the whiskey to a gentile before Pesach even though it remained in the Jew’s tavern (Bach, Orach Chayim Chapter 448). This procedure seems to violate the Terumas HaDeshen’s instructions.

 Before we address this question, we must first analyze why the Terumas HaDeshen requires the removal of the chometz from the Jew’s premises.

 The poskim present different reasons for this stipulation, some suggesting that leaving the chometz on the Jew’s property implies that the Jew assumes responsibility for the chometz even though he no longer owns it (Magen Avraham 448:4). The halacha prohibits a Jew from being responsible for a gentile’s chometz during Pesach (Gemara Pesachim 5b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 440:1).

 Others contend that the sold chometz should be removed from the Jew’s property out of concern that the Jew might eat it by mistake since it was once his (Shu’t Radbaz #240). The halacha is that if the Jew never owned the chometz, he may leave it on his property as long as he places a very noticeable barrier around it (Gemara Pesachim 6a).

 The poskim rule that transferring ownership of the area where the chometz is stored to the gentile satisfies both of these concerns (Bach 448). Thus, rather than moving the chometz onto the gentile’s property, we make the property holding the chometz into his property. Therefore, the contract selling the chometz also sells the area where the chometz is located.

 If the Jew does not own the area holding the chometz but is renting it, he should rent the area to the non-Jew for Pesach rather than sell it. (To simplify matters, many Rabbonim simply rent areas to begin with, and do not sell the areas to a gentile.) Similarly, in Eretz Yisroel, where the Torah prohibited selling land to a gentile, one should rent his property to a gentile rather than sell it.

 There is another approach to explain why the gentile should remove the chometz from the Jew’s property when he buys it. This opinion contends that in order to take possession of the chometz, the gentile must remove it into his property (Chok Yaakov, 448:14). This requires a bit of explanation.


 On a daily basis, we buy and sell items from merchants without paying attention when the item changes possession. – That is, at what point does the transaction become valid. Indeed for most of our daily activities, this question is not germane. I go to the supermarket to buy groceries. Does the item become mine when I pick it up to place it into my shopping cart, when I pay for it, or when I pick up the bag to leave the store? The vast majority of times it does not make a difference.

 However, sometimes it makes a difference at what point the item becomes mine. If the item accidentally breaks after I paid for it, but before I picked up the bag, is it already mine or not? If the item is indeed already mine, I have no right to ask the merchant to replace it. It makes no difference whether it broke while I was at the store or after I brought it home – in either instance it is incorrect for me to assume that the merchant is responsible to compensate me. Indeed, although the merchant may be willing to replace the item, it is unclear that I may ask him to do so. The merchant may replace the item because he does not want to lose a customer, not because he has any obligation. Thus, this may qualify as coercing someone to give a present that he does not want to, something that is halachically prohibited and morally objectionable.

 When selling chometz, it is of paramount importance to determine that the transaction has actually transpired. If the transaction has occurred, then the chometz now belongs to the gentile and there is no violation of bal yira’eh and bal yimatzei on Pesach. However, if the transaction has not taken affect, then the chometz still belongs to the Jew, who will violate bal yira’eh and bal yimatzei.


 An item changes ownership when there is an agreement between the parties that is then followed by a maaseh kinyan, an act that transfers ownership. There are many types of maasei kinyan, each appropriate to some transactions and not to others.

 Here is an example of an attempt to make a maaseh kinyan that does not work. Reuven wants to purchase a candy, and he decides to draw up a contract for the sale. This written contract does not transfer ownership of the candy to Reuven since it is not a recognized maaseh kinyan for transacting movable items. (Real estate is an example of an item for which a written contract is a maaseh kinyan.) On the other hand, the candy becomes Reuven’s property when he picks it up (assuming that the seller has agreed to the transaction and the two parties have agreed to a price) because this is a maaseh kinyan for movable items.

 The poskim dispute what is the maaseh kinyan when purchasing movable items from a gentile, some contending that movable property becomes the buyer’s when he pays for it (Rashi, Bechoros 3b), others contending that it does not become his until he picks it up or takes physical possession in a similar way (Rabbeinu Tam, quoted by Tosafos, Avodah Zarah 71a). If it is a large or heavy item, then it becomes his when he pulls it or causes it to move it in some other way, or when it is delivered to his property. Thus the chometz will not become property of the gentile until he takes physical possession.

 This presents us with a practical problem. Since the gentile is not bringing the chometz home with him, nor is he picking it up, there is no maaseh kinyan taking place to transfer to him the ownership of the chometz according to Rabbeinu Tam.

 Several poskim suggest alternative methods of carrying out the transaction (see Mishnah Berurah 448:17). In some of these methods, one rents to the gentile the places where the chometz is stored.

 Since not all poskim accept this method of transacting chometz, we perform several such maasei kinyan in order to guarantee that the chometz indeed becomes the property of the gentile. This concern is one of the reasons why some people refrain from selling chometz gamur and only use the mechirah as a back-up measure. (See also Tevuos Shor, Pesachim 21a for another reason.)

 We see that conducting a proper mechiras chometz is a complicated procedure, and certainly beyond the halachic skills of the typical layman. Thus, it is inadvisable for a lay person to arrange his own mechiras chometz without a rav’s supervision and advice.


 In one of my previous positions, I was the only rav in the vicinity who was arranging mechiras chometz. One member of my shul, an attorney, had not approached me to arrange for the sale of his chometz, which I assumed was an oversight on his part. Wishing to avoid a crisis, I approached him diplomatically to ask whether he had forgotten to take care of mechiras chometz. He replied that he had arranged his own sale with a non-Jewish acquaintance of his, and had indeed drawn up the deed-of-sale himself.

 The attorney did not consult with me before he arranged this sale. In all likelihood, the contract he drew up was valid according to civil law, and therefore would be considered a valid mechirah according to some poskim (Masas Binyamin quoted by Magen Avraham 448:4). However, according to many poskim this attempt to sell chometz did not follow the rules that govern mechiras chometz (see Magen Avraham and Machatzis HaShekel). Thus, the attorney had violated bal yira’eh and bal yimatzei according to many opinions.


 Shimon is looking forward to his visit with his children in Eretz Yisroel for Pesach. He must make sure to mention this to his rav who is arranging his mechiras chometz. Since the sixth hour of Erev Pesach will arrive for Shimon in Eretz Yisroel many hours before it arrives for his rav in New York, Shimon’s chometz must be sold before the sixth hour of Erev Pesach in Eretz Yisroel, many hours earlier than if he were in America. The rav will make sure that the sale on Shimon’s chometz takes affect earlier than everyone else’s.


 Yosef stored a case of whiskey in my garage and then left for a lengthy vacation. He told me he would be back by Purim. A few days before Pesach, I notice that the whiskey is still in my garage, and I have not heard from Yosef, nor do I know how to reach him. What do I do with his whiskey? Can I arrange mechiras chometz on it without his explicit authorization?

 Yehudah’s father, who lives in South Africa, is unfortunately no longer able to care for himself and suffers from dementia. Months ago, Yehudah moved his father into his own home in New York and closed up his father’s house for the time being. Now Yehudah realizes that he has no idea if his father owns any chometz in the house, or where it possibly might be. Can he authorize mechiras chometz on his father’s property without authorization?

 The Gemara tells a story that impacts on these shaylos. Someone placed a large sack of chometz with a man named Yochanan the Sofer for safekeeping. On the morning of Erev Pesach, Yochanan went to ask Rebbe whether he should sell the chometz before it becomes prohibited. Rebbe ruled that Yochanan should wait to take action since the owner might still claim his property.

 An hour later, Yochanan returned to ask the shaylah again and received the same reply. This happened hourly until the fifth hour, the last time at which he could sell the chometz, at which time Rebbe instructed him to sell the chometz to gentiles in the marketplace (Gemara Pesachim 13a).

 There is a question that this Gemara does not address. How could Yochanan sell the chometz, if the owner had not authorized him?

 The answer is that although the owner had not authorized Yochanan to sell the chometz, if it will become worthless, he should sell it as a favor for the owner. This is a form of hashavas aveidah, returning a lost object to its owner, since now he will receive some compensation for his chometz and otherwise it will become worthless (Mishnah Berurah 443:11). Similarly, both Yosef and Yehuda would be able to arrange mechiras chometz even though the owner had not authorized them (see Magen Avraham 443:4).

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


Copied with permission from http://www.rabbikaganoff.com.

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff, a prolific Halacha writer, and former Rav and Dayan in Buffalo and Baltimore, currently serves as a Morah Hora’ah in Neve Yaakov in Yerushalayim. Rabbi Kaganoff, a renowned posek who answers shaylos from around the world, is the author of seven books on Rabbinic scholarship, both in English and Hebrew. He and his Rebbitzin are extraordinarily dedicated to the Jewish people, and work tirelessly to assist, support and teach. They have touched countless lives and earned the respect of thousands. He can be reached through his website www.rabbikaganoff.com.

Rabbi Kaganoff also runs a Tzedaka Organization – Nimla Tal. To learn more about it or to donate, please click here: http://rabbikaganoff.com/about-nimla-tal.

Purim Somayach!!!

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
March 19th, 2011
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by Daniel Freedman
Well its that time of year again
where we drink and join the party train
Yes, I know its exciting and filled with great cheer
When we rid ourselves of the inhibitions that have blocked us
throughout the year
But give some thought to these few words,
which I think will give you something more than just for the birds.

We celebrate the hand of G-d, a hidden hand no more,
With subtle hints in the Megillah we read twice for thats the law.
For Haman’s failed attempt to wipe us out
ended in his own demise that came about.

But take pause, and do contemplate, there is another that also tried
and failed in his attempt, but lived a ripe old age, for which no-one cried.
His Name: Achashveirosh, who was equally malicious in Haman’s exposé
Equally vicious?  why you do you malign? you may say.
But its true, the king’s mind was not on our side at all
and it is only Mordechai’s rescue that saved us from the fall.

Remember it is Achashveirosh that held the party,
with the relics from the Beis HaMikdash, that almost ended in tragedy
He was by no means a saint
and in fact could be likened to something like smelly paint.

What is the point, anyway you might digress?
I mean we won, and we’re here no less?
It is true we are here, for the valiant steps of individuals in times of despair
but its time we realize that WE need to care!

Mordechai and Esther, as great as they were, are no longer here,
to help us overturn decrees that have fallen on a deaf ear
But we are in a serious matzav, if you couldn’t quite tell
Financially speaking, many of us are not at all well
the world is going crazy, and in a few weeks, Egypt, Jordan and the like
have quite literally lost it, and have taken a hike.

The threat of Iran is much more severe, especially with a nuclear
program aimed at Israel,
Palestinian gunmen at our door, makes life interesting I must tell,
But these are symptoms of a deeper problem, as the case was with our
ancestors in Persia,
The tragedy came from a lack of sensitivity to who we are and what our
purpose is,
We forgot our mission, our focus, and came to a dangerous precipice
and now we aren’t so fortunate to have others to save us from this.
We have to rely on ourselves to make simple changes
and we pray that these might have a great impact for the future
Pray a few words to G-d, give a little charity, learn about Purim, say
a Psalm for the sick
and become more connected to your fellow Jew, give a friend a hug and
say I love you
to the people you care about.

Purim is not just a holiday for once a year,
But rather is a day that spreads throughout, good cheer
Good tidings is what we want, a failed plot, a killed despot
To see G-d’s hand in everything is the test for us all
Especially in trying times, when we’re in for a long haul
So my wish and blessing this Purim and time of gladness
Is that each and everyone of you is able to wipe away the sadness!

Freileche Purim!

The author can be reached at daniel@ohr.edu.

The Origins of Eating Hamantashen on Purim

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
March 17th, 2011
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By Rabbi Eliezer Brodt

I. Introduction

As Jews, most of our holidays have special foods specific to them; and behind each culinary custom, lays enveiled the reasoning behind them. Shavuot brings with it a vast array of customary dairy delicacies – in some parts of the world, cheesecake is practically obligatory – not to mention different customs in regard to how and when to eat them. Rosh Hashanah in renowned for the different fruits and vegetables eaten as physical embodiments symbolizing our tefillot; Chanukah has fried foods (no trans-fats please); whether latkes sizzling in the frying pan, or the elusive Israeli sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) seen for a month before but not to be found a minute after Chanukah’s departure, and on the fifteenth of Shevat a veritable plethora of fruits are sampled in an almost ‘Pesach Seder’-like ceremony. Of course, on Purim we eat hamentashen.

Hamentashen. Those calorie-inflated, Atkins-defying, doughy tri-cornered confections filled with almost anything bake-able. The Mishpacha reports that this year in Israel alone, an astounding 24.5 million hamentashen will be sold, weighing 1225 tons, and yielding an approximate 33 million NIS in sales.[1] The question that many will be asking themselves is “where did this minhag to eat hamentashen come from?”

Recently I started researching this topic; thus far (and I hope to find more) my results are as follows.

II. Origins

The earliest source I have located so far can be found in the first Jewish comedy called Ztachus Bedechusa Dekidushin. This play was written in Hebrew by Yehudah Sommo (1527- 1592) from Italy. He was a friend of R. Azariah Men Hadomim and is even quoted in the Meor Eynamim (at the end of chapter eighteen). This comedy was written for Purim as he writes in the introduction: 

הוא ספר חדש מדבר צחות אשר בדה מלבו פ’ בימי בחרותו לצחק בו בימי הפורים ובשעת חדוה

In one of the scenes the following conversation take place:

יאיר: אם בדברים כאלה אכפרה פניו, כבר יש לי קושיא אחת אשר ייעפו כל תוספי התורה להתירה, כי הנה כתוב במגלת פורים “ויתלו את המן” ובפרשת בלק נכתב בפירוש “ויאכלו בני ישראל את המן”. ואיך יאכלו היהודים הנשמרים מכל רע את נבלת התלוי ההוא ואל הכלב לא ישליכו אותה?

יקטן: גם זה ראיתי אני וכבר תרץ הקושיא הזאת רב בלעם בן בבי בשם אביו: כי מה שאמרה התורה “ויאכלו את המן” היא אזהרה וציווי לנו שנאכל בימי הפורים האלה מאזני המן – הן המה הרקייקם הנעשים בסולת בלולה בשמן, וזהו שאמר אחרי כן “וטעמו כצפיחית בדבש”.

יאיר: יפה פירוש בן ביבי זכור לטוב!

 Professor Schirman who printed this play from manuscript notes that רב בלעם בן בבי is the name of one of the characters in the Massekhet Purim of R. Kalonymus ben Kalonymus. [2] In connection with Yehudah Sommo’s play, it is possible to understand an engmatic statement in the Tishbi. Specifically, R. Elijah Bocher writes: 

ערך “מנלן”- מנלן להמן מן התורה שנאמר ויאכלך את המן, גם זו מלה מורכבת מן ב’ מלות אן ולן

 R. Yeshaya Pick in his notes on the Tishbi asks, the Gemarah in Chulin which asks this same question has a different source for Haman min Hatorah where does the Tishbi get this Chazal from? He suggests that maybe he had different chazal which we do not have. However in the new edition of Tishbi they printed notes of R. Mazauz who suggests that it is highly probable that there was no such Chazal rather the Tishbi was referring to the famous lezunuot about eating hamntashen. This suggestion is all the more probable after seeing the words of Yehudah Sommo in his play written a little after the Tishbi.[3]

The next source I have located is in the poetry of the brothers Yakov and Emanuel Pranosish (1618- 1703) in one piece [4] they write:

אמנם נזרק העט ונקצר ענינים,

כי יום פורים זה בא, נכין לו מעדנים,

נכין מרקחות ממתקים מכל מינים,

נגדיל אזני המן מאזני השפנים,

 Ben-Yehudah, in his dictionary also cites to a manuscript excerpt of a Purim comedy penned by R. Yehudah Aryeh de Modena, where he is supposed to mention this food Hamantashen.[5]
Mention can also be found in some liturgical parodies [6] from the seventeenth-century, where it includes references to eating hamentashen:

 שתו אכלו אזני המן

Thus, from the above, it seems that the original word was aznei Haman; the name Hamantashen only came later.

In an 1846 cook book called The Jewish Manual by Lady Judith Cohen Montefiore we find a recipe for “Haman fritters.”[7] R. Baruch ha-Levi Epstein, in his Mekor Barukh, relates the following interesting anecdote which highlights the importance his grandfather placed on eating hamentashen:

 One year in the beginning of the month of Adar he [my grandfather] noticed that the bakeries were not selling hamentashen. When he inquired as to why this was so, he discovered that there was a shortage of flour. He promptly went ahead and gave the biggest bakers in the city a large sum of money to enable them to buy flour to bake hamantsashen.[8]

 In a nineteenth-century Lithuanian memoir again the import of hamentashen is apparent. The author recalls that “my sister spent the day preparing the baked delicacies of Purim. Most important were the hamentashen.”[9] R. Michael Braver in his excellent memoir of Galicia written in the mid 1800’s also describes the sending of Hamantashen on Purim. [10] A. S. Sachs in his memories on shtetl life notes that his “grandma would add a Haman-tash for the kiddies” in the meshloach manot.[11] Chaim Hamburger also mentions the baking of Hamantashen on purim in his memoirs. [12]. Professor Simcha Assaf, in an article describing Purim, also writes that people made special foods called hamentashen.[13] Shmarya Levin recollects in his autobiography with great detail the hamentashen:

 The much-loved little cakes, stuffed with nuts and poppy seed, which are called ‘Haman’s ears’ – sometimes ‘Haman’s pockets’ – had been prepared for us in vast numbers. Their shape alone was a joy. They were neither round, like rolls, nor long, like the loaf; with their triangular shape they were like nothing else that we ate during the year. The stuffing was made of poppy-seeds fried in honey, but there was not enough of it, so we used to eat the cake cagily, in such wise that with every mouthful we got at least a nibble of honeyed poppy seed.[14]

 Similarly, David Zagier in his memoirs of Botchki writes about his childhood there: We commemorated Purim . . . Lesser Miracles came in the wake of the Purim miracle . . . the invention of Hamentashen, the best cakes one could dream of, all poppy seed and honey (p. 69).[15] We also find hamentashen being eaten in Amsterdam[16] and Jews from Bucharia, as well, make אזני המן, similar to hamentashen. [17] לאה אזני המן מנין is a comedy listed in Avraham Yari’s bibliographical listing of comedies.[18]

III. Other possible early origins for HamentashenAs we can see, the custom of eating hamentashen is widespread and common from at least the 16th century. In fact, R. Shmuel Ashkenazi pointed to some sources which may demonstrate that hamentashen were eaten even earlier. Ben Yehuda in his dictionary claims that as early as the time of the Abarbanel (1437-1508), hamentashen were consumed. The Abarbanel, discussing the food which fell from heaven, the mon, describes these cakes as:[19]


 וצפיחית הוא מאכל הקמח מבושל בשמן כצורת צפחת המים הנאכל בדבש והוא כמו הרקיקים העושים מן הבצק כדמות אזנים מבושלות בשמן ויטבלו אותם בדבש ויקראוהו אזנים

 This sounds like our hamentashen although there is no reference to eating them on Purim. But R. Ashkenazi pointed out to me that if this is the source, you might then be able to suggest that hamentashen was already eaten much earlier, as this piece of the Abarbanel is word for word taken from R Yosef ibn Kaspi who lived several hundred years earlier (Kaspi was born in 1298 and died in 1340)!

Another possible early source for our Hamentashen could perhaps be found thru the words of Emanuel Haromi. In Machbres Emanuel [20] he writes:


מה אומר המן? לכל זמן

וזרש? לא תקלל חרש!

And then again:

ואם אמר: ארור המן וזרש! ישיבון: אל תקלל, דוד, לחרש!

 Dov Yardan when he was preparing his excellent critical edition of Machberes Emanuel composed a list of statements of Emanuel that Yardan was unable to locate sources for. One of these was this line regarding Haman’s deafness. Yaran suggests that this maybe this has to do with why we eat aznei Haman! And maybe that is also tied to the banging and using of gragers when we say Haman name. [21] Interestingly Dov Sadan also writes in his youth he used to hear that Haman was deaf.

So to conclude it seems from all this that the original word was aznei Haman; the name Hamantashen only came later and earliest origins are from Italy. [22]

IV. Ta’am ha-Hamentashen

Irrespective when the custom of eating hamentashen began, the question we need to now explore is why hamentashen, what connection do hamentashen have with Purim?

Chaim Schauss explains that in actuality the origins of the hamentashen are not Jewish, rather, we originally appropriated them from another culture. He explains that “the hamentashen are also of German origin. Originally they were called mohn-tashen, mohn meaning poppy seed and tashen meaning pockets and also signified dough that is filled with other food stuffs. The people therefore related the cake to the book of Esther and changed the mahn to Haman [due to its similarity]. In time the interpretation arose that the three cornered cakes are eaten because Haman wore a three cornered hat when he became prime minister to Ahasuerus. The three corners were also interpreted as a symbolic sign of the three patriarchs whose merit aided the Jews against Haman.”[23]

Another reason offered for eating hamentashen also deals with the meaning (more correctly a pun) of the word – hamentashen, because Haman wanted to kill us out and Hashem weakened him, preventing him from doing evil to us. Thus, the treat is called המן תש (Hamen became weakened). Eating these pastries is representative of our faith that the same result will befall all our antagonists.[24]

 The next reason offered by Menucha u-Kedusha has to do with the pastry itself, more specifically, how the filling is hidden. Until the events which occurred on Purim, the Jews were accustomed to open miracles like those in their battle with Sisra, whereas the Purim miracle appeared to be through natural events – only Mordechai knew that this was a miracle. To remember this, we eat pastries that the main part – the filling – is hidden in the dough, similar to the miracle which was hidden in nature. The filling chosen was specifically zeronim (seeds – poppy seed – mahn) to remind us of Daniel having eaten only seeds (and not non-kosher food) while in captivity at Nevuchadnezar’s court. Furthermore, according to this source the triangular shape also has meaning. The Talmud (Megillah 19b) records a three way argument from where to start reading the megillah. As the halacha is to follow all three opinions and start from the beginning, we cut the pastries in triangular shape to symbolize our accordance to all three opinions.

Another reason mentioned in Menucha u-Kedusha for the filling is based on the writings of R. Moshe Alshich, who states the Jews did not really think they were going to get completely wiped out until Mordechai finally convinced them so. The possibility arises that Mordechai was afraid to keep on sending out letters, so pastries were baked and the letters hidden therein. These pastry-letters saved the Jews; in turn we eat filled pastries. This reason is a bit interesting for itself, but what is even more interesting is that he never calls the pastries hamentashen.[25] A possibility might be kreplach, meat filled pockets boiled in soup, but the theory is unlikely as kreplach are not something special eaten exclusively for Purim – we eat it other times such as Erev Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabah.

R. Yaakov Kamenetsky offers yet another reason for eating hamentashen on Purim. As we eat the hamentashen and eating is a form of destroying the item being eaten. Therefore, in eating hamentashen, we are fulfilling the commandment (figuratively) of destroying Amalek we are eating Hamen.[26]

Yom Tov Lewinsky and Professor Dov New both suggest that the reason for eating the hamentashen is because the custom in the Middle Ages was to cut off the ears of someone who was supposed to be hanged,[27] to remember that we eat pastries from which a part had been cut off. Another point mentioned both by these authors is an opinion that the filling in the pastries [this is specific to poppy seeds] is in remembrance to the 10,000 silver coins that Haman offered to contribute to Achashverosh’s coffers.[28]

Aside from the general merrymaking on Purim, there is also a long tradition of written fun. Specifically, since the famous Massekhet Purim of R. Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (1286-1328), there have been many versions of these type of comedies written throughout the ages. One such was R. Avraham Mor, Kol Bo LePurim (Lemberg, 1855), which is a complete sefer all about Purim written to be humorous. Included therein is a question regarding changing the way hamentashen should be made from a triangle to make them square shape! He answered that it would be terrible to make hamentashen square. If the hamentashen are square they would have four corners which in turn would obligate the attachment of tzitzet like any clothes of four corners.[29]

One last interesting point in regard to hamentashen can be found within Prof. Elliott Horowitz’s recent book-length discussion related to Purim[30] where he notes that as recent as 2002, a Saudi ‘scholar’ Umayna Ahamad al Jalahma claimed that Muslim blood can be used for the three cornered hamentashen.[31] Horowitz also notes that in middle of the Damascus affair in 1840, a work from 1803 was discovered which claimed that Christian blood was used in the ingredients for Purim pastries.[32] Again in 1846, Horowitz writes that “on the holiday of Purim it was claimed the Jews would annually perform a homicide in hateful memory of Haman, and if they managed to kill a Christian the Rabbi would bake the latter’s blood in triangular pastries which he would send as mishloach manot to his Christian friend.”[33] In 1938 the Jews were once again accused of murdering an adult Christian and drying his blood to be mixed into the triangular cakes eaten on Purim.[34]

Thanks to Rabbis Y. Tessler, A. Loketch and Yosaif M. Dubovick, and the two anonymous readers, for their help in locating some of the sources.

[1] Mishpacha (27 Shevat 5767), 30.
[2] This play was printed for the first time from manuscript by C. Shirman in a critical edition in 1946 and than reissued by him with additions in 1965. This piece with the quote of aznei Haman can be found in the second edition on page 67. This particular passage was also reprinted by Shirman in his Letoldos Hashira vHadrama Haivrit, 2, pg 52-53. Shirman includes a nice introduction and background on Yehudah Sommo printed in both these places.

This play is the first known play performed for Purim. From this time period and onwards we have a very rich literature of plays and musicals. They were performed especially on Purim but on other occasions such as Simchas Torah and weddings (Shirman, Ibid, pp. 63-67; 80 -85). To be sure these plays were also met with opposition most notable by R. Samuel Abhuv [See, Shu"t Davar Shmuel, siman daled and Shirman, ibid pg 47, 56]. This is the one and the same that was against Meschtas Purim and cross dressing. However, it could be there was not so much out rage against it as the Rabonim felt it was a lost battle or the lesser of two evils to go to ones of Gentiles. Of the many play writers some were very famous gedolim most notable the author of Ikrei Dinim, R. Moshe Zechuto and the Ramchal. This whole topic has been dealt with very much in depth by C. Shirman in his Letoldos Hashira VHadrama Haivrit, 2, pgs 44-94. On the Ramchal see: Shirman, ibid, pg 84-85 and 161-175.

This era in Italy was followed by a long period of Yiddish plays many of which were collected by C. Shmirk. Until today in many circles especially yeshivas plays are performed on Purim. In Europe some of the plays were performed by the bochrim to raise money for themselves. In many memoirs we have accounts of how much the masses enjoyed these plays. Just to list a few of the very many sources on this topic. See the accounts in Pauline Wengeroff, Rememberings: The World of a Russian-Jewish Woman in the Nineteenth Century pp. 31- 32; A. S. Sachs, Worlds That Passed, pp. 232-234 ; Zechronot Av Ubeno, p. 356.

On purim plays in general much has been written see: Israel Abrahams, Jewish life in the Middle Ages, pgs 260- 272; H. Pollack, Jewish Folkways in Germanic Lands (1648-1806), pp. 184- 190 and 332-335; Sperber, Minhagei Yisroel,6, p. 201 who writes this was from outside influences; M. Breuer, Ohele Torah, pp. 418-419; E. Horowitz, Reckless Rites, pp. 84-87;
[3] New edition of Tishbi p. 162.
[4] Printed in Kol Shirei Yakov Pronsish p. 363. On these brothers see the Introduction printed in this edition. See also: C. Shirman, Letoldos Hashira vHadrama Haivrit, 2, pp. 57, 138.
[5] Though I was unable to pin-point the comedy, it might be the one called La Reina Esther; see Mark R. Cohen, The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi: Leon Modena’s Life of Judah (Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 235. This play was written in Italian and is extremely rare. Recently Marina Arbib wrote an excellent article called ‘The Queen Esther Triangle: Leon Modena, Ansaldo Ceba and Sara Copio Sullam’, printed in the book Aryeh Yeshag pp. 103-135. See also C. Schirman, Letoldos Hashira vHadrama Haivrit, 2, p. 55.
[6] Israel Davidson, Parody in Jewish Literature (New York, 1907), p. 193.
[7] Lady Judith Cohen Montefiore, The Jewish Manual (London, 1846)
[8] R. Baruch ha-Levi Epstein, Mekor Barukh (vol 1, p. 974)
[9] Pauline Wengeroff, Rememberings: The World of a Russian-Jewish Woman in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Bernard Dov Cooperman, trans. Henny Wenkart (University Press of Maryland, 2000), p. 29.
[10] Zechronot Av Ubeno, p. 24.
[11] A. S. Sachs, Worlds That Passed (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1928), p. 229.
[12] Shlosha Olmos, 3, p. 22.
[13] Simcha Assaf, Sefer Hamoadim, p. 29.
[14] Forward from Exile: The Autobiography of Shmarya Levin, ed. and trans. Maurice Samuel (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1967).
[15] Botchki, p. 69.
[16] Minhagei Amsterdam p. 149 # 12
[17] Yalkut ha-Minhagim, pg. 210
[18] Hamachazeh Ha-Ivri, p. 76 n.654.
[19] Parashat Beshalach, end of chap. 16; [This source is also quoted in the Otzar ha-Lashon ha-Ivrit, however the editors simply describe it as a "phrase from the Middle Ages" (vol 1 p. 59).] When I first wrote this suggestion from R. Askenazi, R. M. Honig pointed out to me that it is more likely that they were referring to Sufganyuos as it is evident from the words of Rav Mamion the father of the Rambam where he says:

 אין להקל בשום מנהג ואפילו מנהג קל. ויתחייב כל נכון לו עשית משתה ושמחה ומאכל לפרסם הנס שעשה השם יתברך עמנו באותם הימים. ופשט המנהג לעשות סופגנין, בערבי אלספינג, והם הצפחיות בדבש ובתרגום האיסקריטין הוא מנהג הקדמונים משום שהם קלויים בשמן לזכר ברכתו – כלומר לנס שבפך שמן

(See my earlier post on this). This could be further supported with the words of Emanuel Haromi in Machbres Emanuel where he writes (p. 168):

בכסליו… ואחרת תבשל הרקיקים, וצפחית ומעשה החבתים.

This could be another early source for Sufganyuos. However in light of these words of Yehudah Sommo where he says:

לנו שנאכל בימי הפורים האלה מאזני המן – הן המה הרקייקם הנעשים בסולת בלולה בשמן, וזהו שאמר אחרי כן “וטעמו כצפיחית בדבש”.

So it could very well be that the Abarbanel and Kaspi were referring to Hamantashen.
[20] Machbres Emanuel pp. 109, 169. According to this that the possible source for eating aznei Haman comes from Emanuel Haromi! It is not clear if he had a source from Chazal for this statement that Haman was deaf as much of what he says is based on Chazal. However there is a good chance that this was just a joke of his. This would not be the first time that a joke of his became accepted in our regular literature. R. Askenazi pointed out to me one such example in the Tur Al Hatoroah, Bresheis (pg 7) where he writes as follows:

ויאמר האדם האשה אשר נתתה עמדי הוא נתנה לי מן העץ ואכל. לפי הפשט שהכתני בעץ עד כי שמעתי לדבריה.

The source for this is really Emmanuel Haromi (pg 400) where he writes:

ויגש העשרי ויאמר: אמר נא, פלא יועץ מה רצה הכתוב באמרו היא נתנה לי מן העץ והיה לו לומר מפרי העץ, לפי הנראה ועתה אמר נא, בחסדך מה פרוש בו אתה רואה? ואען ואמר: חייך, ידידות נפשי! פרוש הפסוק הוא: היא נתנה לי מן העץ על ראשי ודכאה לארץ חיתי עד שאכלתי על כרחי, שלא בטובתי.

R. Askenazi noted that this pirish which was meant as a joke was accepted by many besides for the Tur amongst them the Moshav Zekanim R. Yakov Meveinia.
[21] Yedah Haam, 3, p. 70.
[22] See the excellent article of Dov Saden printed in his work Shay Olomos (pp. 25-38) on the development of this word hamantashen, based on an incredible wide range of sources. This piece helped me find some of the rather unknown sources. See also Yehudah Avidah in his work on Yiddish Foods ‘Yideishe macholim’ pp. 46-49. See also Dov New, Machanaim (# 43) and the recent issue of the Kulmos (#60) p. 17.
[23] Chaim Schauss, The Jewish Festivals (Random House, 1938; Hebrew, 1933), p. 270. The source for the first reason can be found in Judah David Eisenstein, Otzar Dinim u-Minhagim (New York, 1917), p. 336, and for the last reason in Yitzhak Lifshitz, Sefer Ma’atamim (Warsaw, 1889), p. 86.
[24] Avraham Eliezer Hershkowitz, Otzar Kol Minhaghei Yeshrun (St. Louis, 1918), p. 131. See also R. Cohen in his book Puirm VChodesh Adar, pp. 116-117 and R. Kamile, Shar Reveun, p. 206.
[25] R. Yisrael Isserl of Ponevezh Sefer Menucha u-Kedusha (Vilna, 1864), pp. 271-72.
[26] Yaakov Michoel Jacobs, Bemechitzas Rabbeinu: Hagaon Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, zt”l (Feldheim, 2005), p. 142.
[27] Yom Tov Lewinsky, Sefer Hamoadim (pp. 153-154); Dov New, Machanaim # 43. New quotes a piece from Yashar which I have been unable to locate on this topic if any one knows its location please be so kind as to let me know. This source is also quoted by Ben Yehuda in his dictionary under the entry aznei.
[28] Ibid.
[29] R. Avraham Mor, Kol Bo LePurim (Lemberg, 1855), pg. 6. See Israel Davidson, ibid. pg 234-235, #191.
[30] Elliott Horowitz, Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (Princeton University Press, 2006)
[31] Ibid, p. 9.
[32] Ibid, p. 218.
[33] Ibid, p. 219.
[34] Ibid, p. 228.


Copied with permission from The Sefarim Blog  http://seforim.blogspot.com

Rabbi Eliezer Brodt, author of Bein Kesseh L’Esor and Lekutei Eliezer, is a prolific writer whose numerous articles, mainly on researching the origins of Minhagei Yisrael, have been featured in many Torah and Halacha journals, as well as The Sefarim Blog. He is currently working on his third sefer ‘Uru Yeshainim M’Shinaschem’ on Minhagei Aseres Ymei Teshuva. He can be reached at eliezerbrodt@gmail.com


Matanos L’evyonim – A Halachic Review – Q & A

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
March 15th, 2011
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by Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Megillas Esther teaches that one of the mitzvos established by Mordechai and Esther was “matanos la’evyonim,” giving gifts to the poor. Since the megillah states one should give gifts “La’evyonim,” which is plural, we derive that one must give gifts to at least two poor people (Gemara Megillah 7b).


 There are several opinions regarding the minimum gift needed to fulfill the mitzvah. The Maharasha contends that one must give each person an amount significant enough to be respectable (Chiddushei Agados, Megillah 7a s.v. shadar). Some contemporary poskim rule this way.

 Zera Yaakov (Shu”t #11) contends that it is sufficient if the poor person could purchase a minimum meal with the gift, which he defines as bread the size of three eggs (quoted in Pischei Teshuvah 694:1). Thus according to this opinion, one fulfills matanos la’evyonim if one gives three slices of bread to each of two poor people (or enough money for each to purchase three slices of bread).

 Ritva contends that one is required to give only the value of a prutah, a copper coin worth only a few cents (Ritva, Megillah 7b; Menoras HaMaor; Shu”t Maharil #56). Mishnah Berurah (694:2) rules this way and one can certainly follow this approach.


 The above amounts are indeed extremely paltry matanos la’evyonim and only define the minimum amount to fulfill the mitzvah. There are two other rules that are important:

 Firstly, one should give money to every person who asks for a tzedakah donation on Purim without verifying whether he has a legitimate tzedakah need (see Yerushalmi Megillah 1:4). We will explain the details of this halacha later. (It is obvious that one should not make a major donation without verifying that the need is legitimate.)

 Secondly, one should calculate how much one intends to spend for shalach manos and the Purim seudah and then designate a greater amount of money for matanos la’evyonim (Rambam, Hilchos Megillah 2:17).


 Question: Assuming that one has limited resources, which is more important to give, many gifts to the poor or many shalach manos?

 One should give a greater amount of matanos la’evyonim and limit how much shalach manos he sends (Rambam, Hilchos Megillah 2:17).


 The Bach rules that someone with 100 gold coins to distribute for matanos la’evyonim should distribute one coin to each of 100 poor people rather than give it all to one individual because this makes more people happy (Bach 695 s.v. v’tzarich lishloach). According to Rav Elyashiv, it is better to give two large gifts that will make two aniyim happy than to give many small gifts that are insufficient to make the recipients happy (quoted in Shevus Yitzchok on Purim, pg. 98).

 These two Piskei halacha are not in conflict — quite the contrary, they complement one another. The mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim is to make as many poor people happy as possible. Receiving a very small gift does not place a smile on a poor man’s face, although it fulfills the minimal requirements of the mitzvah as noted above. However, both the Bach’s gold coin and Rav Elyashiv’s large gift accomplish that the poor person becomes happy. Therefore, giving each person enough of a gift to bring a smile to his face is a bigger mitzvah than giving a very large gift to one person and being unable to bring a smile to the others. Thus, the optimal way to perform the mitzvah is to make as many people happy as possible.


 The minimal amount that I am required to give may not be from maaser funds just as one may not spend maaser money on other mitzvos (Shu”t Maharil #56; Magen Avraham 694:1). The additional money that I give may be from maaser (Magen Avraham 694:1). However, since I concluded that one is not required to give more than one perutah to each of two poor people, two perutos are worth only a few cents. Therefore, once can assume that virtually all one’s matanos la’evyonim may come from maaser money.


 If the poor person receives the money on Purim, one is yotzei (Be’er Heiteiv 695:7; Aruch HaShulchan 694:2). Therefore, one can fulfill the mitzvah by mailing a contribution if one is certain that the poor person will receive it on Purim. If the poor person receives the money before Purim, one is not yotzei (Magen Avraham 694:1).

Similarly, one does not fulfill the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim if the ani does not receive the money until after Purim.


 If the organization distributes the money to the poor on Purim, I can perform my mitzvah this way.


 If I donate the money through an institution that will distribute the money on Purim, I can fulfill the mitzvah and also deduct the donation from my tax liability.


 If the poor person can convert the check into cash or food on Purim, then I fulfill the mitzvah (Shvus Yitzchok pg. 99, quoting Rav Elyashiv).


 A woman is obligated in matanos la’evyonim (Shulchan Aruch 695:4). Magen Avraham states “I did not see that people are careful about this, possibly because this rule applies only to a widow or other woman who does not have a husband but that a married woman fulfills her obligation by having her husband distribute for her. However, one should be more machmir.” Thus according to the Magen Avraham, a woman should distribute her own money to the poor. It would be acceptable for a husband to tell his wife, “I am giving matanos la’evyonim specifically on your behalf,” but it is better if he gives her the money for her to distribute or gives the money to a shaliach to be zocheh for her, and then gives the money to the ani. Although most poskim follow the Magen Avraham’s ruling, some rule that a married woman fulfills the mitzvah when her husband gives, even without making any special arrangements (Aruch HaShulchan 694:2), and others contend that a married woman has no responsibility to give matanos la’evyonim (Pri Chodosh, quoting Maharikash).


 No. One fulfills the mitzvah by giving the poor either food or money (Rambam). However, one should give the poor person something that he can use to enhance his celebration of Purim (see Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 694:1).


 No. The poor person may do whatever he wants with the money (see Gemara Bava Metzia 78b).


 One does not fulfill the mitzvos of matanos la’evyonim, shalach manos, or the Purim meal if they are performed at night (see Machatzis HaShekel 694:1).


 The Mishnah (Peah 8:8) states that someone who owns less than 200 zuz qualifies to collect most of the Torah’s gifts to the poor, including maaser ani, the second tithe reserved for the poor, and peah, the corner of the field left for them. What is the modern equivalent of owning 200 zuz? Contemporary poskim rule that someone whose income is insufficient to pay for his family’s expenses qualifies as a poor person for all halachos including matanos la’evyonim. This is assuming that he does not have enough income or savings to support his family without selling basic essentials (Piskei Teshuvos 694:2).


 Does the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim apply to the poor? Is there an easy way for him to perform it?

 The Tur (694) states that “Chayov kol adam litein matanos la’aniyim,” “Every person is obligated to give matanos la’evyonim.” What is added by emphasizing “kol,” everyone? The Bach explains that this emphasizes that even a poor person, who is himself a tzedakah recipient, must also give.

 Is there an inexpensive way for a poor person to give matanos la’evyonim?

 Yes, he can give part of his seudas Purim to another poor person and the other poor person reciprocates. Thereby, they both fulfill matanos la’evyonim (Mishnah Berurah 694:2). Also, note that according to what I concluded above, a poor person can give a quarter to each of two other paupers and thereby fulfill the mitzvah.


 One may not use money collected for matanos la’evyonim for a different tzedakah (Gemara Bava Metzia 78b). This is because the people who donated the money expect to fulfill two mitzvos with their donation: tzedakah and the special mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim. Thus, if one uses the money for a different tzedakah purpose, they fulfilled the mitzvah of tzedakah, but not the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim.

 If someone decided to give money for matanos la’evyonim, he is required to give it for this purpose even if he did not say so (Mishnah Berurah 694:6, quoting Hagahos Ashri).


 Do residents of Yerushalayim and other ancient walled cities who observe Purim on the fifteenth of Adar (often referred to as “Shushan Purim”) fulfill the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim by giving to the poor who observed Purim the day before? Do people who observe Purim on the Fourteenth fulfill the mitzvah by giving to the poor of Yerushalayim when it is not yet Purim for them? These are good questions that are debated by contemporary poskim.

 In the words of the Rambam (Hilchos Megillah 2:17), “It is more important to provide more gifts to the poor than to have a more lavish Purim seudah or send more shalach manos. This is because there is no greater and honored joy than bringing happiness to orphans, widows and the needy. Someone who makes the unfortunate happy is likened to Hashem’s Divine Presence, as the pasuk says: ‘He who revives the spirit of the lowly and brings to life the heart of the crushed,’” (Yeshayah 57:15).


Copied with permission from http://www.rabbikaganoff.com.

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff, a prolific Halacha writer, and former Rav and Dayan in Buffalo and Baltimore, currently serves as a Morah Hora’ah in Neve Yaakov in Yerushalayim. Rabbi Kaganoff, a renowned posek who answers shaylos from around the world, is the author of seven books on Rabbinic scholarship, both in English and Hebrew. He and his Rebbitzin are extraordinarily dedicated to the Jewish people, and work tirelessly to assist, support and teach. They have touched countless lives and earned the respect of thousands. He can be reached through his website www.rabbikaganoff.com.

Rabbi Kaganoff also runs a Tzedaka Organization – Nimla Tal. To learn more about it or to donate, please click here: http://rabbikaganoff.com/about-nimla-tal.

Turnabout – The True Meaning Of Purim

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
March 13th, 2011
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by Rabbi Shlomo Price

A certain teacher, Mr. Schlatter tells of an experience he had early in his career.

He had a student, who was very troublesome. He was a bully, a thief and always getting suspended. Everyday, Mr. Schlatter would have the class memorize some famous inspirational sayings and repeat them at roll call. Among them were, “If you can see the obstacles, you’ve taken your eyes of the goal.”, “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” This troublesome student complained the most about this routine until he was expelled from the school. They lost touch for five years when all of a sudden the student called Mr. Schlatter.

He was at a special program at one of the neighboring colleges and had just finished parole.

He told Mr. Schlatter, that after being sent to different prisons for his antics he had become so disgusted with himself that he had taken a razor blade and cut his wrists.

To see the amazing ending of this story continue reading:                       

One of the Torah thoughts that I like to say about Purim is from the sefer “Drash Moshe” in Hebrew, p. 67, by Hagaon Rabbi Moishe Feinstien, z.t.l. (also cited in Artscroll Megillah on this verse from “Bastion of Faith”)

He discusses the name of the holiday “Purim” because of the pur-the lot that Haman drew in order to decide which month to annihilate the Jews (Esther 9:26).

He asks, “…the name (of a Holiday) teaches us the main concept of the Holiday, and this concept of the lots is not a major theme of Purim, (so why is the name Purim)?

Evidently, the lesson from this is, that a person shouldn’t think that when Hashem has already given him good fortune and blessing that it’s already in his hand (guaranteed) and there is no longer any need to seek Hashem’s salvation.

Rather he should feel that just as he must pray to Hashem before he gets it, so too must he pray even after Hashem has given it to him, for one does not know what his lot is. We see this from Haman. Even though his lot (in the beginning) was for his benefit, later it was for his detriment and for the benefit of the Jews. This is a very important principle in Belief of Hashem that we should learn from this Holiday. That is why this name (Purim) is the most befitting of all.”

Of course we see this lesson in everyday life how very wealthy people can overnight lose their fortune to the whims of the stock market (which of course is just one of the messengers of Hashem to give or take away sustenance)

We also see the other side of the coin in Purim, how a situation that looks so bleak and desperate can all of a sudden, make a “turnabout” and be a tremendous benefit for its recipient. As it says in the Megillah (Esther 9:1) “… and there was a turnabout that the Jews dominated over their enemies.”

A few years ago I was privileged to attend a Bar Mitzvah in St Louis that brought this point home. It was of a boy who came to live with his uncle in St. Louis, at the age of 11 1/2 and didn’t even know Aleph Beit. Yet here he was, a mere year and a half later, a true Ben Torah who lained the Torah and Haftorah and spoke beautifully about his yearnings to be a true Ben Torah.

Before I left to St. Louis from Israel, I was informed by the guys in the Yeshivah (Neveh Zion) that the St Louis Rams had just won the Super Bowl. This was news to me on two accounts. First of all, I thought the Rams were in Los Angeles. Second of all, I didn’t know that the Super Bowl had been played. See what you miss by moving to Israel.

Anyway when I arrived in New York before going to St. Louis I visited the Yeshiva “Shaar Yoshuv” in Far Rockaway to see some of the Neveh Alumni. Over there, as Hashgocho would have it, I was told by one of our alumni, Gershom Paretzky, the amazing dismal history of the St Louis Rams of yesteryear and their miraculous turnabout this year. Of course, he also briefed me on the no less amazing biography of their quarterback, Kurt Warner.

Armed with my new vital information, when I spoke at the Bar Mitzvah I made use of it. I mentioned how “… St. Louis is a land of miracles and heroes as we see from the Rams, Kurt Warner, and of course, who can forget Mark McGwire? In case you did, he hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998.

But all of these so-called “miracles and heroism” pale in the light of the real hero that is with us tonight in St. Louis, the Bar-Mitzvah boy. In fact, as much as we all came here to inspire the Bar Mitzvah boy, there is no doubt that more than we could have inspired the Bar mitzvah boy, he has inspired us.”

A person must learn never to lose hope or give up.

In fact, I saw some beautiful stories in the book, “Chicken Soup of the Soul” which stress this point.

One is about Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb. He had tried over 2,000 experiments before he got it to work. A young reporter asked him how it felt to fail so many times. He said, “I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2000 -step process.”

When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it did not ring off the hook with calls from potential backers. After making a demonstration call, President Rutherford Hayes said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?”

Another story from the same book is really a story within a story. It is called “The Magic Pebbles” by John Wayne Schlatter.

This schoolteacher, Mr. Schlatter, tells how he would handle one of the most frequently uttered questions in his teaching career, “Why do we have to learn all this dumb stuff?”

He would answer by recounting the legend of “The Magic Pebbles.”

One evening a group of nomads were suddenly surrounded by a Heavenly light which gave them a special message, “Gather as many pebbles as you can. Put them in your saddle bags. Travel a day’s journey and tomorrow night will find you glad and it will find you sad.”

The nomads, who were expecting some profound message and advice, were disappointed with such a menial task that made no sense to them. However, they were so inspired by the great light that they each picked up a few pebbles and put them in their saddle bags.

They traveled a day’s journey and at night while making camp they looked into their bags and discovered that every pebble had become a diamond. They were glad they had diamonds. They were sad that they didn’t get more pebbles.

Mr. Schlatter then tells of an experience he had that illustrated the truth of that legend to him.

He had a student, early in his career, who was very troublesome. He was a bully, a thief and always getting suspended. Everyday, Mr. Schlatter would have the class memorize some famous inspirational sayings and repeat them at roll call. Among them were, “If you can see the obstacles, you’ve taken your eyes of the goal.”, “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” This troublesome student complained the most about this routine until he was expelled from the school. They lost touch for five years when all of a sudden the student called Mr. Schlatter.

He was at a special program at one of the neighboring colleges and had just finished parole.

He told Mr. Schlatter, that after being sent to different prisons for his antics he had become so disgusted with himself that he had taken a razor blade and cut his wrists.

“You know what , Mr. Schlatter, as I lay there with my life running out of my body, I suddenly remembered that dumb quote you made me write 20 times one day. ‘There is no failure except in no longer trying.’ Then it suddenly made sense to me. As long as I was alive, I wasn’t a failure, but if I allowed myself to die, I would most certainly die a failure. So with my remaining strength, I called for help and started a new life.”

At the time that he heard the quotation it was just a pebble. When he needed guidance in a moment of crisis, it had become a diamond. And so it is with all of us we should gather all the pebbles we can and we can count on a future full of diamonds. Till here is the story.

Of course, all of this may be true concerning secular wisdom, but Lehavdil elef havdolos, the words of Torah are more precious than diamonds the very moment we learn them. And if secular wisdom can help in the future, then certainly Torah wisdom will inspire and help us immediately if we only internalize them.

I will further this point with part of an article from Aish.Com about Purim from Rabbi Benjamin Bleich, called, “Modern Miracles.”

“There is a Hebrew word in the book of Esther central to the story of Purim, V’nahafoch – it was turned around. Everything that seemed like a misfortune at first was in retrospect recognized as a Divine miracle. Because there are miracles, unlike those in the Bible, that come camouflaged as seeming coincidences, as natural events, as incidents that “just happened,” but that in reality are the products of heavenly intervention in the affairs of mankind.

The very name Purim comes from the word meaning “lottery.” Some call that a game of pure luck, the winner determined by random inexplicable forces that have no rational basis. Faith however allows us to understand that in a world governed by an All-seeing God there cannot be room for blind chance. A lottery is far more than luck; it is allowing the Director of the universe to decide the outcome while hiding in the background.

Purim is the holiday that harps on what people call coincidence. It reminds us, as the proverb has it, that “coincidence is God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.”

Purim has many miracles in its story. Not the kind of miracles that override the rules of nature. Rather the miracles that happen so much more frequently in our own lives. The miracles that we so often discount because God chooses not to shout but rather to whisper. It is His still small voice that we have to attune ourselves to hear as He turns tragedies into blessings. And that is why the festival of Purim, with its message of miracles camouflaged as coincidence, will outlast every other holiday on the Jewish calendar.

A personal story will shed some light on the matter. Thirty years ago in the middle of giving a lecture to my class at Yeshiva University I was suddenly called out due to “a life-and-death emergency.” One of my students was threatening to commit suicide in his dormitory room and desperately needed some counseling.

I rushed over and found the young man wailing and moaning. “This is the worst day of my life!” he screamed, “I don’t want to go on living anymore.” Slowly the story poured out of him. His girlfriend had just broken up with him and he was inconsolable. “You don’t understand, Rabbi. I’ll never ever find anyone like her. I’ll never meet someone as perfect as she is. I can’t go on, I just want to die.”

I stayed with my student all day, as well as the following night. I tried to reassure him that his life was not over. By morning I finally got him to promise me not to give up on his future. He agreed that suicide is a sin and that he’d struggle to go on, even though it pained him to lose what he was certain was his only possibility for happiness.

A little over 20 years later I was teaching in my very same classroom when there was a knock on the door. A young man asked permission to enter and then, with a smile, asked, “Rabbi, do you remember me?”

It took but a moment for me to realize who it was. “Of course I recognize you,” I told him, “and you still owe me a night’s sleep.”

The young man returned to tell me the end of the story. “You know that day when I wanted to commit suicide and I told you it was the worst day of my life? In retrospect I now realize that day was really the luckiest day of my life. The girl I thought I couldn’t live without — she’s been involved in drugs and a series of scandals that even hit the newspapers. My life would have been a horror had we stayed together. I came back to thank you Rabbi, because today I am married to a woman who is truly the best in the world and we have four amazing children who give me joy every single day. I guess what you taught us is true. There are times in life when we mistake blessings for tragedies.”

But that’s not the end of the story.

Just one year after this moving experience I was invited to serve as scholar in residence at a synagogue in Los Angeles. For my Sabbath sermon I chose a theme based on a verse in Exodus in response to Moses’ request to see God. God told Moses, “You cannot see My face, for man cannot see My face and live… you will see My back, but My face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:20). Of course God has no body. It was not His physical appearance that was being discussed. Moses wanted to “see” — to comprehend — God’s ways and His interaction with His creations. What he was told is that with our finite intelligence we can’t understand events as they unfold; it is only retroactively that “You will see My back” and grasp God’s infinite wisdom. I quoted Kierkegaard who expressed the same idea when he said, “The greatest tragedy of life is that it must be lived forward and can only be understood backwards.” And then, as I was speaking, the story of the suicidal student suddenly popped into my head and I told it as an illustration.

The following Sunday night, one of the congregants told me that my speech had unwittingly saved a life. It seems that in the audience on the previous day for the Sabbath service was a young man just 24 hours before his wedding. He was scheduled to fly out to New York late Saturday night to join his bride for the wedding ceremony they had been happily anticipating for the last six months. No sooner was the Sabbath over when he received the phone call that shattered his dreams. His fianc?e at the last moment decided she couldn’t go through with it. She called to regretfully inform him that it was all over.

The almost-to-be-groom later described to his friends what happened next. For a moment he felt suicidal. He wanted to rage, to vent his anger, to scream. But one thought kept repeating itself in his mind. Why was it that on that very morning he heard a sermon describing an almost similar event? He had not intended to go to that particular synagogue. It was a last-minute decision that brought him to a place where, almost as a Divine message, he could hear words that in the aftermath of his own tragedy might offer him some solace.

Little did he know that my inserting that particular illustration was also totally unplanned. A higher source put into my mind and my mouth — a gift from God to allow someone to survive incredible pain just a few hours later.

And this story, too, has a happy ending. This past July my wife and I were strapping ourselves into our El Al seats on the way to Israel. Passengers were still filing by on the aisles when one of them began to stare at me and suddenly shouted, “Aren’t you Rabbi Blech?” When I responded that indeed I was, he identified himself. Five years before, he told me, he was sitting in a synagogue in Los Angeles on the day before he was supposed to get married. He proceeded to share the part of the story I already knew.

With tears in his eyes he asked me to come with him so he could introduce his wife and three children. “I’m just like that student in the story you told us that unforgettable Shabbat. Today I’m the happiest man in the world. I can honestly say that the curse of that Saturday night has turned out to be my greatest blessing.” [Till here is from Rabbi Bleich]

In the Sefer Chumash HaMagiddim on Parshas VaYetze [p.242…] there is a very inspirational lecture from Rabbi Yaacov Galinsky, shlita which also teaches us this lesson, that one must have patience and then he may see later on how a seeming “tragedy,” was really for his best.

We find that after Leah had six sons, she was pregnant with the seventh son. Since she knew that there would only be 12 tribes she calculated that since the two maidservants had 4 [2 each], if she would have 7 that would leave only 1 for her sister Rachel. This would be disgraceful as Rachel would have less than the maidservants. So she prayed and it changed to a female and she was named Dinah. [Bereishis 30:21in Rashi from Berachos 60a].

This was a tremendous sacrifice that Leah had done for her sister Rachel, to give up the merit of having another holy Tribe. As much as we understand their holiness, the Matriarchs knew better.

At least she merited a daughter from Yaacov which is also fine and good. One would imagine that such a daughter that was born as a result of Leah’s self sacrifice should merit great blessings and a tremendous Choson-groom.

But what happened?

She gets taken by Shechem a Gentile!!

One can ask at this point a very poignant question. Is this Leah’s reward for her sacrifice? Is this the Nachas-the pleasure Leah is supposed to get from Dinah for her self sacrifice? This is truly a hard question to answer.

However, if we look in “Pirkei DRabi Eliezer,” Chapter 38 it will be revealed to us an amazing thing.

A daughter was born from the union of Shechem and Dinah. Her name was Osnat. She was considered Jewish as her mother was Jewish. Nevertheless, the brothers wanted to kill her so people shouldn’t say there was immorality in the “House of Yaacov.”

Yaacov wrote the Holy Name of Hashem on something and hung it around Osnat’s neck and sent her away. Hashem, who sees everything, sent the  Angel Michoel to take her and bring her down to Mitzrayim-Egypt to the house of Potiphar and his wife. The wife of Potiphar was barren and brought up Osnat as her own daughter. Eventually she married Yoseph.

Yoseph and Osnat had two children, Menashe and Ephraim. They were counted among the 12 tribes. [Bereishis 48:5-see Rashi].

So now we have the amazing answer to our question.

Leah gave up one tribe and gained two tribes Menashe and Ephraim, her great grand children!!

In the beginning, when Leah sacrificed, we don’t see immediate beneficial results. In fact, we see as if she was given a slap. Only much later do we see the final benefit that she merited double.

We learn from all of this that we have to have patience. We won’t always see immediate results for our sacrifices. But if we have patience we may see it at the end. With this future outlook we can make peace with the difficult present.

Sometimes, we have to take into consideration things that happened to our Neshamos-Souls in a different lifetime to get the whole picture.

 The Chofetz Chaim (On Torah. p.284), brings the verse in Tehilim 19:10 “…The Judgements of Hashem are true, they are all together righteous.” The simple understanding by many commentaries [Ibn Ezra,Metzudas Dovid] is that they don’t contradict each other, but the Chofetz Chaim explains it in a very novel way.

 We know that for sins bein odom l’chaveiro-between man and man Yom Kippur alone will not forgive us. We require personal forgiveness from the one we have wronged. If someone hits his friend and he doesn’t make amends in this world then the soul must return again in a different gilgul-reincarnation to this world to rectify this sin.

 Imagine, the Chofetz Chaim says, the pain and anguish that the soul has when it is sentenced to come back down here again [the soul yearns to be next to Hashem, and just when it finally thinks it’s reaching its goal, it is sent down here again. This is tremendous suffering for the soul].

 The soul complains to Hashem why He made him rich. The soul blames the haughtiness and chutzpah that accompany wealth as the reason why he hit his friend, and begs not to have to be sent down again.

 Finally, when the soul realizes that inevitably it must come down to rectify the sin of hitting his friend, it pleads for special consideration. It begs to be sent down as a poor person with a broken spirit, or to be born without a hand, so that it will prevent him from hitting his friend again.

This causes a great upheaval in the Heavenly Court. The Prosecutor does not agree. He claims that in order to make amends properly, the neshomo has to come down in the exact same situation it had before. It has to be rich and with two arms in order to go through the same test again. Finally, after much praying, pleading, beseeching, and a number of advocates who spoke on the soul’s behalf, its request was granted. It was sent down as a poor man or without an arm.

 Yet, when the soul gets here, it remembers nothing of the previous episode. When it is born poor or handicapped, instead of thanking Hashem for listening to its request, it complains to Hashem about the unfairness of its situation. It forgot completely how hard it worked till it “persuaded” Hashem to create it with this situation, to insure that he wouldn’t hit his friend.

 This is what the posuk in Tehillim means, that in order to see the truth in Hashem’s judgments, one must see the whole story all together. When one knows what occurred before he was sent down, how he begged Hashem to create him in this situation, then it will be obvious to him that Hashem’s judgments are true and his poverty or handicap were a tremendous merit for him.

 One of the beautiful thoughts that Rabbi Bleich mentioned, I had seen before from  Rabbi Yissochor Frand, in the name of the Chasam Sofer.

The posuk in Ki Sisa (Shmos 33: 23) says, that Hashem told Moshe, “. . . . And you will see “Achorai“- My back, “Upanai” – My front you will not see”. The Chasam Sofer points out that there are many events that look quite bad when they actually occur. We wonder why Hashem is doing this. Only much later do we sometimes see how this event led to a whole chain of events that ultimately led to a tremendous good for Klal Yisroel. Then we realize in retrospect that the first event was really good.

This, he said, can be alluded to in the posuk “Upanai – My front”, – before that final event (that clarifies the first event) occurs then “we will not see” – we will not understand its goodness. However “Achorai” – My back”, – when you see much later the great event that it led to, “you will see. . . “, you will then understand in retrospect why the first event was necessary.

When I looked up the Chasam Sofer I saw that he uses the story of Purim as an example.

He points out that when we look at the death of Vashti which caused the taking of Esther as Queen, it raises the obvious question. Why did Hashem cause Esther to be taken as Queen to this Goyishe King where she will be defiled? [Or as a Jewish Comedian would say, “What’s a nice Jewish girl doing in a place like this?!”]

Years later we discover that it was very necessary. It put Esther into a key position to help bring salvation to Klal Yisroel.

May Hashem help us to learn the lessons of Purim and internalize them so that we can live them throughout the rest of the year and so we will truly live a happier life in this world and the next.

 Have a Happy Purim!


Rabbi Shlomo Price, a renowned lecturer and educator, is also a senior Rebbe at Neve Tzion. To receive his weekly Priceless Torah – please contact him at RabbiShlomo.Price@gmail.com.

The Purim – Pesach Connection

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
March 10th, 2011
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The Purim- Pesach Connection


By Rabbi Elchonon Feldman

Rabbi of Belmont United Synagogue, London, U.K.

Well, as the song goes: ‘Happy days are here again.’ We are approaching quite a jovial time in our calendar. On the horizon are some of the most popular Jewish festivals: Purim and Pesach. For most of us this period of time can be tricky. We have to strategize how to best give and receive the most MiShaloch Manot (friendship food parcels traditionally given on Purim day) and still have all the chametz in them consumed before Pesach arrives. Talk about difficulties!

An interesting question which comes to mind based on this receive-consume dilemma is why exactly couldn’t there have been a healthier distance from Purim to Pesach? After all, there is only one month in between! Obviously, the straightforward approach is that we have no say in how any given epic period in our Jewish history will fall out. Therefore, wherever on our calendar these occasions occurred, will be commemorated as our Holiday and there is not much to do about it.

The truth is, there is very careful intent in what will happen and when, during our calendar year. We look at time as raw potential to be channelled. As we see in nature, there are seasons of growth and blossom as well as seasons of decline and wither. Similarly, throughout the year there are periods of positivity and emancipation as well as times of negativity and constraint. It seems that there must be some insight into why Purim and Pesach come one after the other. What exactly is there beneath the surface?

As with most aspects of Judaism, there is more than meets the eye. Let us take a brief glimpse into Purim. Besides being a great time for camaraderie and revelry, where friends and family get a chance to party in proper Jewish fashion, there is something special we are celebrating. The men and women of our nation were on the brink of annihilation. Haman had brought forth an edict which would have legalized our decimation. However, due to a string of ‘coincidental’ occurrences, the evil plans were thwarted and the very gallows which Haman built to hang our main protagonist Morderchai, were used for Haman instead. Yay, let’s celebrate!

We who have had the benefit of history can see things from such a rosy perspective. Back during the time of Purim though, it was relatively easy to say that all the events which were unravelling were happenstance, mere lucky circumstances which could have just happened. As they say with the New York Lotto ‘Hey you never know’.

Yet, we Jews decided to see things differently. We were looking for the hand of God and therefore we saw it. In fact, this is one of the reasons why there is a custom to drink intoxicating beverages on Purim. We need to see beyond our personal natural discomfort with anything paranormal existing in our world. So we drink until we can say ‘Yes, I am comfortable with a reality where God intervenes for me.’ (Each of us therefore requires a different inebriation to get us there.)

This sheds a whole new light on the purpose in placing Purim before Pesach. Sure, our exodus from Egypt was miraculous and God performed feats which may never be matched until the end of time. But, perhaps that type of intervention was unique to that time. Therefore, we need Pesach to come at the heels of Purim, where we ascertained for ourselves that God is always looking after us, even behind the scenes. Hence, we can now approach Pesach as a culmination of the expression of God’s love for us rather than just an exception.

May we all merit to see God in the small details in our own lives and may we always have positive opportunities to appreciate the ‘coincidences’ in the world we live in.


Rabbi Elchonon Feldman has over 15 years experience at high level Yeshivos as both student and teacher where he gained the relevant Torah fundamentals and skills to lead and teach a congregation. This is complemented by a degree in Liberal Arts and a councellor’s license. He received semicha last year and recently completed a two year rabbinic training program at the Ohr Lagolah Leadership Institute.   He is a talmid of mine, as well as the newly appointed rabbi of  Belmont United Synagogue in London, U.K. He can be reached at  rebelchb@gmail.com.

Kashering New Pots?!

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
January 6th, 2011
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This past week, an ad appeared in many newspapers here in Eretz Yisrael, stating that the Badat”z Eida Chareidis has halted its supervision on Sultam brand pots. Therefore, the Eida announced that those purchasing the pots should be aware that hagala and tveila are required. This left many puzzled, as this “requirement” to kasher new pots is not mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch. Is this halacha? Chumra? Why do some people do it and others do not? 

To address these issues, and to hopefully shed some light on the halachic issues involved, I wrote a short overview posted on the Jerusalem Kosher News website. See link: http://www.jerusalemkoshernews.com/2010/12/eida-halts-hechsher-on-sultam-pots

This is a much expanded version, including source notes and the sevaros behind the psakim. Please see the endnotes: 

Kashering New Pots?! 

By Rabbi Yehuda Spitz 

There are many different sniffim to be lenient in this case, as I will explain. 

First of all, the reason manufacturers generally add this “sheen” is to increase appeal for purchase, as people seem to prefer a shiny look over a dull one, and not to cause a kashrus concern. The problem arises when the product used, the compound needed to lubricate and facilitate this buffing in to achieve this purpose, is a non-kosher oil or fat. The Eidah Chareidis and different hechsherim give hashgachos on various keilim (ex. aluminum disposable pans) to 1. Show it came from a Jewish owned company and therefore not come into the question of tevillah. 2. To make sure that any oil used in manufacturing is vegetable or petroleum based and therefore not have this problem. 

However, even without a hashgacha, it is far from a forgone conclusion that haga’alah is required. 

1. It is not certain that these pots have this sheen (maybe a rov, but not vaday). 

2. The majority of oils used in this part of the world, as well as in U.S., is vegetable or petroleum based, not animal based. Only in South America would we have to assume it is animal based. Therefore, min harov, even with a sheen, the probability, in all likelihood, is with kosher oils. 

3. Even if one wants to assume that the oils used are indeed non-kosher, and therefore problematic and the pots require kashering [like the Chazon Ish (Y"D 44, 4) and Har Tzvi (Shu"t Y"D 110) who say haga'alah is required and not libun], it should be noted that they were referring to a scenario where the pots were vaday smeared with vaday issur while on the fire, which is fairly uncertain here[1]

4. Many contemporary Poskim, including the Minchas Yitzchak (Shu”t vol. 4, 112 – Ga’avad of the Eidah Chareidis), the Tzitz Eliezer (Shu”t vol. 12, 55), Rav Menashe Klein[2] (Shu”t Mishna Halachos vol. 7, 112), the Rivevos Efraim (vol. 6, end 212), and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yabia Omer vol. 6, Y”D 10), all maintain that even if it was smeared with vady issur, nowadays it is “barur” that the oils used are completely Pagum from achilas Adam as well as probably Pagum from achilas Kelev and therefore do not present a kashrus concern[3]. See also in the Kovetz Hilchos Pesach of Rav Avraham Blumenkrantz (5769 p.66) where he writes that even for Pesach one does not have to be machmir due to the above-mentioned reason. 

5. Rav Moshe Feinstein, (heard from Rav Shmuel Feurst of Chicago[4]) was lenient as well, but for an entirely different reason: The reason why we hold a pot with aino-benyomo bleeyos (absorbed taste more than 24 hours prior) still remains assur - is because gezaira Atu ben yomo – one might make a mistake and use a pot that was used for non-kosher within 24 hours prior and transgress an issur d’oraysa. But with these pots, it is not physically possible for someone to buy a new pot within 24 hours of its manufacture, and therefore in this scenario Chazal would not have been Gozer (Similar to the case of pala in Y”D 108, 3) and therefore one does not have to kasher the pot[5]

6. And, most tellingly, due to the above reasons, the Eida Chareidis themselves, in their annual Madrich Kashrus -[in their most recent edition -Pesach 5770 pg.25-26] – state that after buying new pots that have this she’ilah, ‘the “custom” is to be “stringent” to Kasher it. It does not state that this oil used makes the pot assur until it is kashered, rather that the minhag is to be machmir to do so because of the chashash. In other words, the Badat”z themselves hold that issue falls under the category of chumra and not din[6], most assuredly due to the safeikos involved as well as the lenient ruling of the Gedolim, including their own Ga’avad[7]

In conclusion, it seems that if one would like to be machmir and kasher his new pot in order to remove any doubt, tavo alav bracha. But l’halacha, with or without the hashgacha, the new pots do not require kashering m’dina before use; ergo, it is customary to do so, especially here in Eretz Yisrael[8]. 

I hope this helps to clarify the issue.
Y. Spitz



[1] It is possible that at the time of this buffing, the temperature may not actually be Yad Soledes, and therefore may not truly assur the pot at all. Furthermore, the Tzitz Eliezer (quoted, s.k. 5) adds that it is not completely clear that these Gedolim actually maintain that haga’alah is required, as they are trying to disprove others who assert that libun is necessary and haga’alah would not be sufficient; the Har Tzvi and Chazon Ish merely state that haga’alah would definitely work. 

[2] The Mishna Halachos adds several more reasons to be lenient: 1. It’s possible that due to the intense heat used in forming the pot, the actual issur might get burned off. 2. A sheen is not considered a real issur [See Shu”t Tuv Ta’am V’Da’as (Mahadura Kama 182)] – since it’s only a mashehu and not genuine mammashos of issur, and can not actually impart a taste [The Rivevos Efraim also brings this sevara]. Furthermore, the fact that it is absorbed in the metal for so long will likely render it Pagum. (See also Y”D 99, 7, that according to all opinions, by a bleeya of issur mu’at which is pagum, the pot does not need to be kashered.

[3] Even though Halacha normally dictates that something that becomes Pagum (unfit for consumption, completely inedible) is only muttar bedieved, nevertheless, in our scenario, the Poskim [including the Rema (Toras Chatas 85, 23), Minchas Yaakov (ibid. s.k. 73), Pri Toar (Y”D 103, 7), and Pri Megadim (Y”D 103, S.D. end 11, M.Z. 6 end s.v. Da)] differentiate that something that is starting out Pagum, it is muttar even l’chatchila. The contemporary Poskim apply this to our case as well, that since the issur involved would be rendered pagum long before the pot’s initial use, one may therefore rely on this even l’chatchila. 

[4] This psak was related to me by my former Chavrusa and Co-Rosh Chabura in Yeshivas Mir, Rabbi Aver Jacobs, currently a Rosh Kollel in Denver, Colorado. It is also brought in Ohalei Yeshurun (vol. 1, Ch. 4 note 23). 

[5] See also Kovetz Yagdil Torah (5640, vol. 4, 19, brought in the aforementioned Tzitz Eliezer s.k. 3) – which states a similar sevara, that Chazal were not gozer on something completely non-common, and therefore since it’s not possible to use the pot on the same day that it absorbed the issur, one does not have to be choshesh for gezeiras Chazal. However, the Seridei Aish (vol.2, end 35) does not accept this comparison, as the case in Y”D 108 is where one has no other options; in our case, he maintains that one has alternative solutions available: to buy from a fellow Jew or at least kasher the pot if bought from a non-Jew. [Yet, it must be noted that from the way the Seridei Aish addressed the issue, it seems that he understood the problem to be referring to mammashos on the pot, as he compares our case to one of an oven that’s coated in grease and almost impossible to clean properly, and not a problem of absorbed taste, which is the actual issue.] 

[6] I spoke with the Badat”z mashgiach in charge of overseeing pot production, who clarified their shitta. He explained that sometimes treif oils are used in the process, even though generally kosher is used, and this oil is definitely ”aino rau’i l’achilah” – not fit to be eaten. However, they are choshesh that it is not truly Pagum, and therefore maintain that based on this chashash one should definitely kasher a new pot. [He added that it’s possible the process of manufacturing pots may have changed from the time the Minchas Yitzchak wrote his teshuva.] See also Kovetz M’Bais Levi (vol 1, page 32, footnote 1), where Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner writes similarly: That even though he maintains that one should kasher a new pot, he explains that it is only m’taam chumrah, based on a slight chashash that indeed the oil used was possibly not kosher and also not pagum; however, he acknowledges that m’din there is no obligation to kasher it. See also Shu”t Avnei Yashpei (vol. 2, 58) who rules similarly in the name of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos v’Hanhagos vol.1, 442 and Shu”t Moadim U’Zmanim vol. 4, 282, 1) writes likewise, that it’s kdai l’ha’agel v’lo l’hakel. For an opposing view to all shitos mentioned above, see Shu”t Kinyan Torah B’Halacha (vol. 4, 92 s.k. 5) who asserts that nowadays the oil used (cheilev) is vaday treif and vaday not Pagum, and maintains that one is obligated to do haga’alah on all new pots. However, renowned kashrus expert Rabbi Mordechai Kuber pointed out to me that Kinyan Torah was probably referring to cast iron pots (as opposed to the ubiquitous stainless steel pots), which come with an oil coating to prevent rust; but they use lard, not cheilev in the manufacturing process. 

[7]  Even among those Poskim who are of the opinion that one should kasher a new pot, many feel that the usual requirements of haga’alah are relaxed in our case. For example, Rav Elyashiv, Rav Wosner and Rav Feinhandler (quoted in last footnote) all maintain that since the kashering in our case is only m’taam chumrah, in order to kasher, all that is required is to do haga’alah on the inside – let the pot fill up and heat it until a rolling boil where it will splash. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo Moadim vol. 2, Hilchos Pesach, Ch. 3, Dvar Halacha end 4, footnote 12, based on Shu”t Minchas Shlomo Tinyana end 51) was even more lenient. He held that since the whole problem is a “chashash b’almah”, all one has to do is add a little water to the pot and heat it until it’s Yad Soledes; by doing so, the walls also heat up and are considered kashered. The Tzitz Eliezer (quoted above) who holds that there is no reason to do haga’alah, adds that if one wants to be machmir, he can rely on kashering through Iruy (pouring), even though normally that would not be sufficient. 

[8] The Mishna Halachos (cited above) writes that the minhag is to be lenient – “Puk Chazi Mah Ama davar”, and not to require kashering at all.


Kudos are due to R’ Yechiel Spira of Jerusalem Kosher News for being on the forefront of bringing kashrus concerns to the attention of  Klal Yisrael. www.jerusalemkoshernews.com.

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