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Archive for the ‘Halacha’ Category

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.

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.

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.

Categories: Halacha, Halacha For the Layman Tags:

Parshas Va’eira: Changing Halachah in a Changing World?

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
December 30th, 2010
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Parshas Va’eira: Changing Halachah in a Changing World?

This week’s parashah begins to chronicle the miracles in Egypt. In regular times, however, the order of nature, which Hashem directs yet does not interfere with, controls the world. Yet, There are a number of differences between the natural world of today and the phenomena described by Chazal, which present poskim with a halachic dilemma. Many halachos in Chazal and the poskim are based on the nature of the world as perceived by our Sages. Many have questioned the status of such halachos, in light of our modern understanding of the world. How should we relate to the halachic rulings of Chazal and poskim that are at odds with modern scientific findings? Are there some halachos that change, while others remain constant? What will be the ruling in case of matters that Chazal considered dangerous, yet we view as being innocuous? These questions, and others, are addressed in this week’s article.

This week’s parashah begins to chronicle the miracles in Egypt. Hashem overturned the entire order of nature when redeeming Israel from the Egyptian exile. Bnei Yissachar (Nissan no. 12) writes: “In the time of our redemption from Egypt, Hashem revealed to the world that He reversed the natural order of the heavens and constellations, when He bestowed His kindness upon His children.” In regular times, however, the order of nature, which Hashem directs yet does not interfere with, controls the world.

Many halachos in Chazal and the poskim are based on the nature of the world as perceived by our Sages. Many have questioned the status of such halachos, in light of our modern understanding of the world. How should we relate to the halachic rulings of Chazal and poskim that are at odds with modern scientific findings?

 Laws of Eating Fish

The Gemara states that fish must not be baked together with meat in a single oven, because the one who consumes the fish may thereby contract leprosy. This principle is accepted by Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 116:2). It is extended further (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 173:2) to the obligation to wash one’s hands between the consumption of meat and fish. “Danger,” concludes Shulchan Aruch, “is more severe than prohibition.”

Magen Avraham (173:1, cited by Mishnah Berurah 3), however, states that in our times, there is less danger in mixing the two, because nature has changed. For this reason, the halachah of washing one’s hands between fish and meat is not generally practiced. Shevus Yaakov (vol. 3, no. 70) writes that one should not rely on Magen Avraham, because one may not be lenient in matters of physical danger.[1]

Another instruction found in Chazal concerns the time one should eat fish. According to the Gemara, one should not consume fish close to the time it is caught, but rather eat the fish just before it goes bad. Tosafos state that in our times, the contrary is true: “In our days, it is considered a danger to eat fish right before it goes bad.” Tosafos explain this with a principle of dynamic nature: “It is possible that [nature] has changed, just as the medical treatments mentioned by Chazal cannot be applied today.”

A dynamic nature, at least regarding Talmudic advice of when to consume fish, obligates a dynamic halachah.

 Other Changing Halachos

In fact, Rema himself (Even Ha’ezer 156:4) addresses the question of changing halachic rulings in the face of changes in the natural world.

Chazal established a physical fact that women do not give birth to healthy children in the beginning or middle of the ninth month of their pregnancy, but only at its end (although women can give birth to healthy children throughout the seventh month). Rema writes that the halachos derived from this principle no longer apply, because nature has changed.[2] The following are a number of additional examples where the principle of a changed nature is applied:

  1. The halachah states that a baby born in the eighth month of his mother’s pregnancy cannot survive. If born on Shabbos, it may not be treated or even moved (because he is considered muktzeh; see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 330:7). Today, poskim write that one must certainly do anything possible to aid a baby born during the eighth month of his mother’s pregnancy, for as Chazon Ish (155:4) notes, nature has changed, and the baby must be saved.[3]
  2. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 179:6) states that if one eats food without salt, or drinks a beverage without drinking water, he should expect bad breath during the day, and the danger of asphyxiation at night. In spite of this severe-sounding halachic ruling, Mishnah Berurah (18), quoting once again from Magen Avraham, writes that in our days we needn’t be cautious about this matter, because nature has changed.
  3. Chazal expound at length on the interpretations of dreams, offering a range of interpretations for numerous dreams. Shulchan Aruch Harav (288:7) writes that one cannot necessarily rely on these interpretations in cases that would lead to halachic ramifications. For instance, he writes that one should not fast on Shabbos based on a negative interpretation given by Chazal. The reason is that the meaning of dreams has changed, just as medical procedures have changed.

 Inflexible Halachos: Tereifah and Kilayim

In contrast with the above there are some areas where we find halachic inflexibility. Thus, in spite of apparent changes in the natural reality, poskim write that the halachah does not change.

An example of this is the issue of treifos. Chazal delineate clear guidelines as to which injuries and physical defects render an animal a treifah, and which do not. The general principle is that a wound which can be healed does not render the animal a tereifah, and a wound that cannot be healed, causing the animal to die within the year, renders the animal a treifah.

Today, there are certain physical states that are curable, which according to Chazal render an animal treif. Does the fact that modern medicine is able to heal them, change the halachos of treifos?

Chazon Ish (Yoreh De’ah 5:3) answers this question negatively. The reason for the inflexibility of halachah, Chazon Ish explains, is that Chazal, in their Divine wisdom, established the laws of treifos based on the natural principles of their time—the last years of the ‘two thousand years of Torah.’[4] The laws of treifos are therefore immutable, and do not change as a result of advances in medicine.

Another example of the unyielding nature of some halachos is found in a responsum of Rav Kook (Mishpat Cohen, no. 14), concerning the laws of kilayim (mixing of the species). He rules that although the nature and classification of plants might change with the years, the principles governing which plants may be combined,  depend on the time of the Torah. Later changes in species do not affect these halachos.

 The General Principle

Is there a general principle by which we can determine which halachos change with nature (such as the question of an infant born in the eighth month of pregnancy), and which do not change (such as tereifah and kilayim)?

Following a discussion of the laws of metzitzah (a mohel performing a circumcision sucks some of the blood from the bris into his mouth, and spits it out), Maharam Schick offers a principle.

The reason for the halachah of metzitzah, as given by Chazal and ruled by Rambam (Milah 2: 2), is in order to prevent potential harm to the baby. Today’s medical world, however, does not see the act of sucking blood from the bris as being healthy for the baby.

Nonetheless, Maharam Schick (Yoreh De’ah 244) rules that the mitzvah of metzitzah should be continued even today. He explains that the ruling of Chazal is based on tradition, and the doctors’ opinion is based on a ‘majority position’ i.e. whereas doctors are satisfied if in the vast majority of situations there is no danger, Chazal are not satisfied. Doctors’ guidelines, therefore, can not be followed in matters that can still be potentially dangerous to even a minute percent of the population.

Maharam Schick adds that even though we find that poskim do take into account the principle of a ‘changed nature,’ it does not affect matters that are halachah le-Moshe mi-Sinai—such as the laws of tereifos mentioned above. A similar concept is noted by Rav David Karliner (She’elas David, no. 1), who writes that changes in nature are not taken into account for halachos based on tradition, or halachos that are derived from Torah verses. Only those halachos that Chazal derived from the nature they knew, can be changed based on a changing nature.

 Killing Lice on Shabbos

A discussion of halachah and nature cannot be complete without addressing the question of killing lice on Shabbos.

The matter of killing a louse on Shabbos is disputed among Tanaim. According to Rabbi Eliezer, “One who kills a louse on Shabbos is halachically equivalent to one who killed a camel!” There is no distinction, according to Rabbi Eliezer, between killing a louse, and killing a large animal; both involve an unequivocal desecration of Shabbos.

According to Chachamim, however, it is permitted to kill lice on Shabbos. The Gemara states that the reason is that lice multiply spontaneously from sweat or dust, and are not created by means of procreation (as other living things).

Tosfos describe the referred lice as the “black jumping louse,” and permits its killing on Shabbos. The “crawling louse,” however, is termed par’osh (flea), and it is forbidden to kill it, even according to Chachamim.

Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 316:9) rules in accordance with the opinion of  Chachmim .Thus, killing lice on Shabbos is permitted, while killing fleas is forbidden. Mishnah Berurah (38) explains that the prohibition of killing living creatures on Shabbos is derived from the killing of ‘red rams,’ which were slaughtered in making the Tabernacle for the use of their skins. Since rams multiply by means of procreation, Chazal derive that it is only forbidden to kill creatures which multiply by means of procreation.

 Do Today’s Lice Procreate?

Rav Yitzchak Lamfronti, was among the leading Talmudic scholars, of eighteenth century Italy. He questions (Pachad Yitzchak, Tzeidah, p. 21b) the modern application of this halachah. Science today believes unquestioningly that lice are born from eggs, just like other forms of life. Nature, as we know it, therefore appears to contradict the description of Chazal. The inevitable question thus arises; how can we rely on the halachic conclusion reached by Chazal, if the descriptive reality from which the conclusion was drawn, is apparently false?

Based on this postulation, Pachad Yitzchak rules that one may not kill lice on Shabbos, for it would violate a Torah prohibition.

Pachad Yitzchak expressed his wonder over the halachah of killing lice to his peer, Rav Yehudah Brill of Mantova. The latter responded, that in spite of the realistic question, “we may not change halachos that were established by ancient tradition, on account of discoveries made by the nations of the world. We may not stray from the halachic decisions of the Talmud, and even if the combined winds of human investigation blow against us, we will not yield, for the spirit of Hashem has spoken among us.”

Rav Lamfronti, however, expressed his disagreement with this position, stating that this statement runs contrary to basic logic. He continues that sometimes “the words of the Sages are based on human investigation, and not on tradition.” Therefore, in his opinion one must be stringent, and refrain from killing lice on Shabbos, because of the disparity between the assumptions made by Chazal concerning nature, and today’s knowledge of it.

In the twentieth century, the renowned mashgiach Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler (Michtav Me-Eliyahu, vol. 4, p. 355, note 4) took issue with the reasoning given by Pachad Yitzchak. He explains that the reasoning mentioned by Chazal is not always the only reason for halachic principles, and we must follow their rulings even if we do not understand them. We are expected to search for alternative explanations for the rulings of Chazal. Even if we fail to find any, their dictates should be followed faithfully.

The Continued Discussion

The halachic discussion over killing lice on Shabbos has continued into the modern era, and present-day authorities remain in dispute over the halachic status of lice. However rather than focusing the debate on whether or not Chazal’s concept of spontaneous generation is plausible, the focus is rather on the question of changing nature: if our lice are unlike those of Chazal, there is perhaps room for stringency.

Rav Nissim Karelitz (Chut Shani, Shabbos, chap. 15) has ruled that one should adopt the stringency of Pachad Yitzchak, and refrain from killing lice on Shabbos—a position also stated in Shevet Hakehasi (vol. 3, no. 126) in the name of Rav Elyashiv.

Birur Halachah (part 4) discusses this issue at length, noting that Az Nidberu of Rav Binyomin Silber, and many others, rule that one may follow the Shulchan Aruch and kill the lice found in hair even today. He adds that this is the halachic position of Rav Chaim Kanievsky.

Vayizra Yizchak points out that even plants ‘procreate,’ and that Chazal were well aware of this phenomenon. What, in view of this, is the meaning behind the Talmudic statement whereby lice do not procreate? He responds that Chazal meant to state that it is only forbidden to kill those creatures that are able to procreate of their own accord, independent of external aids. Lice, however, are only able to multiply by means of an enzyme released by the human scalp (the enzyme is released by children to a greater degree than adults, explaining the greater frequency on lice among children), which is the reason why there is no prohibition of killing them on Shabbos.


  • There are certain halachos that depend on physical nature. Where nature has changed these halachos have changed. Examples are caring for a child born in the eighth month of pregnancy, eating fish that are almost spoiled and eating salt after partaking of food items.
  • Many authorities maintain that rulings of Chazal that result from perceived dangers cannot be readily changed. This is the view of the Shevus Yacov concerning eating fish and meat and the Maharam Shick concerning metzitzah.
  • Certain halachos are immutable. Examples discussed are the Chazon Ish‘s ruling concerning treifos and Rav Kook’s ruling about kilayim.
  • A further debate involves matters in which current scientific opinion contradicts the physical reality as described by Chazal. The example discussed is killing lice on Shabbos.

[1] It is interesting that Rema, and poskim that follow in his wake, refer to a question of physical danger, whereas the Gemara only mentions a concern for leprosy.

[2] Note that this approach gives rise to a leniency concerning laws of yibum.

[3] It is interesting that Mishnah Berurah does not make any note of the possible change in nature, and accepts the ruling of Shulchan Aruch at face value. The change in nature was perhaps less evident in the time and place of Mishnah Berurah, leading him to accept the fact of 100% infant mortality among babies born in the eighth month.

[4] The Gemara teaches that the total number of years of this world is six thousand, which divides into three sets of two thousand years. The first two thousand years are years of chaos; the second are years of Torah; the third are years of Mashiach (meaning years in which the Mashiach can come). The early era of Tanaim coincides approximately with the ending of the two thousand years of Torah.


This article was copied with permission from www.dinonline.org.

Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer is one of the Rabbanim who answers halachic questions for DIN – The International Beis Hora’ah. He can be reached at yehoshuapfeffer@gmail.com. You may send in your halachic questions and queries to  www.dinonline.org

Shnayim Mikra Ve-Echad Targum – Parshas Shemos

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
December 23rd, 2010
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 There is a well  known Gemara (Brachos 8a-b) that states: “A person should always complete his [study of the] parsha with the congregation – [by studying] shnayim mikra ve-echad targum – Anyone who does this will have long days and years.” Learning the text of the parsha twice with the targum is a segula for long life. What many do not know is that this ma’amar Chazal is actually codified in Halacha (Rambam Hilchos Tefilla 13,25; Shulchan Aruch O.C. 285,1) . The Ba’al HaTurim (Shemos 1,1) famously comments that this halacha can be gleaned from the first passuk in Parshas Shmos: The Parsha begins `V’aileh Shmos Bnei Yisrael’ – `And These Are The Names Of Bnei Yisrael`. The Ba’al HaTurim States that this stands for (Roshei Teivos) -V’adam Asher Lomed HaSeder Shnayim Mikra Ve-echad Targum B’Kol Na’im Yashir, Yichyeh Shanim Rabos Aruchim L’Olam - or `And the person who learns the weekly Parsha shnayim mikra ve-echad targum in  a sweet straight voice, will live many long years (have an extremely long life).

In this vein, I would like to present to the Close To Torah audience a dvar Torah from my close friend, Rabbi Yosef Radner, from his newest project, to bring lomdus out of the bais medrash to those who do not have the time to plumb the depths of a sugya and are thus deprived the enjoyment of lomdus.

Shnayim Mikra Ve-Echad Targum

by Rabbi Yosef Radner

The gemara (Brachos 8a-b) writes: “A person should always complete his [study of the] parsha with the congregation – [by studying] shnayim mikra ve-echad targum – including [the words] ‘Ataros ve-Divon.’ Anyone who does this will have long days and years.” Learning the text of the parsha twice with the targum is a segula for long life.

Why does the gemara say that this applies to the words “Ataros ve-Divon” as well? These are names of cities listed in Parshas Chukas. Rashi explains that these words have no Targum Onkelos. You might think that you are therefore exempt from learning that pasuk with the targum. The gemara is thus telling us that even when there is no Targum on a text, the words must be repeated in Hebrew yet a third time.

Tosfos notes that if the gemara was trying to give an example of words in the Torah that do not have Targum, they should have made a different choice – the Targum Yerushalmi does, in fact, translate the words “Ataros ve-Divon.” (These words are translated in our texts of the Targum Onkelos as well, but it is clear from the discussion in the Rishonim that this translation was taken from the Targum Yerushalmi and did not appear in the original Targum Onkelos.) A better example to prove such a point would have been a pasuk like “Reuven ve-Shimon.” There is no targum in the world for these names.

Tosfos argues that the gemara brings “Ataros ve-Divon” as its example precisely because there is only a Targum Yerushalmi on those words. The gemara is telling us that it is better to recite a targum of some sort rather than repeat the words in Hebrew a third time, as Rashi argued.

How can we explain Rashi’s interpretation? If the entire point of the targum is to translate the Hebrew words, what have you accomplished by reciting the Hebrew words again? How can Rashi respond to Tosfos’ question?

 The Purpose of Targum

 Tosfos notes that some hold that the targum can be in any language. After all, the entire purpose of the translation is to help the “amei ha-aretz” who don’t understand the original. Most people don’t speak Aramaic nowadays, so using an English translation would seem to be much more logical. Tosfos, however, rejects this possibility because the Targum is not simply a translation – it is an interpretation. The gemara says in Megillah that without the Targum, we wouldn’t even know how to read the words. A translation wouldn’t help; there are some words in the Torah that we can’t understand without the Targum. Tosfos concludes that the chiyuv of targum should thus be fulfilled by learning Targum Onkelos over any other translation.

 But an explanation is only helpful if you understand it. Since we are no longer fluent in Aramaic, perhaps studying Targum Onkelos is a waste of time!

The Rosh argues that if one learns the Chumash with the explanation of Rashi, he has fulfilled the mitzva just like if he had studied it with the Targum, since Rashi explains every word. The Rosh understands the obligation in the same way as Tosfos. The purpose of targum is not translation, but explanation, and Rashi’s commentary serves that purpose as well as the Targum Onkelos – and perhaps better!

Elsewhere (Megillah, third perek, se’if 6), the Rosh proves that even in the time of the gemara, there were communities who no longer used a meturgaman to simultaneously translate the Torah reading into Aramaic. That being the case, and given the fact that we no longer understand the Targum anyway, there is no need to use the Targum specifically.

Rashi clearly views the obligation of targum as that of translation and not of interpretation. That is why he insists that the words “Ataros ve-Divon” be repeated a third time in Hebrew. The point of repeating it is not to aid our understanding.

The Tur records (siman 285) the mitzva of shnayim mikra ve-echad targum, citing both the opinions of Rashi and Tosfos but concluding that the minhag is to be machmir like Rashi and recite “Ataros ve-Divon” three times. The point is translation, not explanation.

 Understanding Rashi’s Approach

Tosfos (Bava Kamma) writes that Aramaic should not be taken lightly, because the Torah was given in Aramaic. There is a famous machlokes between the Rama and Rav Shmuel Yosef Katzenellenbogen regarding what Tosfos means. Rav Shmuel Yosef Katzenellenbogen argues that Aramaic is Lashon Ha-Kodesh that became corrupted. In fact, the grammar of the two languages is similar. It must therefore be treated respectfully. The Rama argues, on the other hand, that Hashem gave us the Torah in two languages – once in Hebrew, again in Hebrew, and a third time in Aramaic.

The Pri Megadim explains the reason for the obligation of shnayim mikra ve-echad targum – it parallels the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai and the Ohel Moed and the Mishna Torah, which was “be’er heitiv.” Moshe’s repetition of the Torah was accompanied by explanation – this is targum. Through shnayim mikra ve-echad targum, we are recreating Matan Torah. It makes no difference if we understand Aramaic or not, just as it makes no difference if you understand Lashon Ha-Kodesh when you read the Torah. The language has importance in and of itself because that is how the Torah was given. Torah she-ba’al peh is not like that – if you don’t understand an interpretation, you have done nothing by reciting it. But reading targum has significance even if you have no idea what it means.

The perspective of the Rama and Pri Megadim sheds light on why Rashi was so insistent in viewing targum as a translation and not an explanation. We must read the Torah in Aramaic the same way that it was originally given in that language. The obligation is shnayim mikra ve-echad targum, not shnayim mikra ve-echad perush.

Tosfos, the Rosh, and other Rishonim understand that the point of the obligation is not to recreate Matan Torah, but rather to learn it in a way in which we understand it. Hashem gave Bnei Yisrael the Torah in a way that they understood it, and we should therefore learn a perush that we understand. That perush, according to the Rosh, is that of Rashi.

The result of this machlokes is that Rashi holds that Targum is better and the Rosh holds that Rashi is better!

Practical Applications

What should a person do if he doesn’t even understand Rashi’s explanations? How should he fulfill the obligation of shnayim mikra ve-echad targum? The answer is dependent on this machlokes between Rashi and the other Rishonim. According to Rashi, Targum is better whether you understand it or not. According to the others, the whole point is to understand the text. If someone understands an English explanation better, he should certainly use that over Rashi’s commentary. The Taz writes that one can rely on other explanations as well.

Practically speaking, what are we to do? The Smag suggests that logically, Rashi’s commentary is preferable to the Targum, but he notes that many Rishonim insist on the preference of Targum over other options; the Targum was “zocheh” because it was given at Har Sinai, and shnayim mikra is a recreation of that experience.  The Beis Yosef concludes that a “yarei Shamayim” would fulfill both opinions – reading both the Targum Onkelos and Rashi’s commentary!!

Clearly, no matter what a person chooses to do, there are Rishonim who support him. Why is the Beis Yosef concerned with a “yarei Shamayim”? And why should he fulfill both opinions? We are dealing with a safek de-Rabbanan, about which we are usually lenient.

At the conclusion of the drama of Yosef and his brothers – after they had decided that he was a rodef and sold him, after the shevatim had come down to Egypt, after Yosef had given them so much trouble, and after Yehuda had threatened to take down the world superpower if Binyamin was not returned – Yosef finally revealed himself. “I am Yosef – is my father still alive?” The brothers were so overwhelmed that they couldn’t respond. The famous midrash relates, “Oy lanu mei-yom ha-din, oy lanu mei-yom ha-tochecha!” Woe is to us from the Day of Judgment and Rebuke! When Hashem shows each person who he really is, our reaction will be similar to that of the brothers. If the brothers couldn’t look their little brother in the face, how are we going to face Hashem?

The Beis HaLevi explains that Yosef accused his brothers of hypocrisy. You told me again and again that you need to bring Binyamin back home because otherwise his father would die because he loves his son so much. Well, I’m Yosef – is my father still alive? When you sold me, your father’s pain didn’t seem to bother you! You had no problem trying to kill me or sending me down to Egypt, even though you knew it would kill your father! This is exactly what Hashem will one day say to us – your own actions overrule your defense!

Take a man who has been successful in business; he gives tzedaka and has some spare money to take vacations and redo his house and go to Eretz Yisrael for Sukkos. He’s living the good life. Then he hits a snag. I can’t give tzedaka anymore, he argues. What will Hashem tell him on the yom ha-din? What about Sukkos in Israel? You still have enough money for that. Why did you renew your lease? Why do you have enough money for those things and not enough for tzedaka? (I heard a great explanation relating to this point: “Ani rishon ve-ani acharon” – when the economy is bad, Hashem is the first to get cut, and when things are good, He’s the last to be paid!)

A yarei Shamayim fulfills both options because he is afraid that when he gets up to Shamayim, they will ask him how he fulfilled shnayim mikra. If he answers that he read Chumash with Rashi, they will respond that Rashi himself holds that you are not yotzei with Rashi! If you like Rashi so much, you should have listened to Rashi!

Parallel Machloksim

The Magen Avraham asks if you should read each pasuk independently with its Targum or if you should read a whole section followed by its Targum. This is dependent on our same machlokes. If the point is to recreate Matan Torah, it would be best to read three complete sections, while if the point is to understand the psukim, it would be better to understand each pasuk independently with its explanation.

The obligation is “im ha-tzibur” – it applies to the Shabbos on which the parsha is read. It is best to finish before the meal, but one can do it by mincha as well. After that, there is a machlokes Rishonim if you have lost your chance. The Tur says that time is up after mincha. The Beis Yosef cites Rabbenu Simcha, who argues that you can be yotzei bedieved until Simchas Torah, when we finish all of the parshios. Bedieved, we pasken like Rabbenu Simcha. This machlokes also parallels our original dispute –  Whether the mitzva is to conclude reading the whole Torah shnayim mikra ve-echad targum, like it was given at Har Sinai –  in which case you can fulfill it up until Simchas Torah, or whether it is an  independent obligation every single week, as the point is to understand the text.


 Rabbi Yosef Radner, a popular Rebbe in Yeshiva Gedola of Waterbury, has earned a reputation as an engaging and inspirational Maggid Shiur with the unique ability of conveying complex ideas culled from an encyclopedic knowledge of Torah Literature  in clear and simple terms. He shares his ideas with an infectious enthusiasm and a passion that excites and inspires his talmidim; imparting a wealth of information in a thoroughly enjoyable style, making the sugya come alive. He is the author of the three volume set of Nachalas Mayim on sugyos haShas, and makes an annual siyum haShas. In addition, he gives a weekly shiur at the Monsey Night Seder Bais Medrash, presenting an original approach to a sugya in Shas which generally relates to the weekly Parasha in a lucid and articulate manner, enabling participants to reconnect with the geshmak of lomdus that they experienced in yeshiva.        

To sign up for Rabbi Radner’s weekly lomdus/Parsha Dvar Torah, or for any questions or comments, please contact him at  ryradner@gmail.com.

Asarah BeTeiveis on Friday?!

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
December 15th, 2010
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 Asarah BeTeiveis on Friday?!

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

 In the Yeshiva where I teach, one of my students came to me rather incredulously- “I heard that the Tenth of Teiveis falls on a Friday this year—but I thought that we cannot have fast days on a Friday? I don’t remember a fast ever falling on Friday!”

 Although Moshe’s halachic assumption is inaccurate, it is easy to comprehend why he made this mistake. In our current fixed calendar, the only fast day that ever falls on a Friday is Asarah BeTeiveis. And the last time this happened was exactly ten years ago, before he was old enough to fast.

 There is another, more sophisticated, basis for Moshe’s question. In a “regular” (kesidrah) year Marcheshvan (usually, but inaccurately called simply “Cheshvan”) contains 29 days and Kislev 30. In such a year, Asarah BeTeiveis always falls on the same day of the week as Rosh Hashanah. And, since Rosh Hashanah cannot fall on a Friday, one might think that Asarah BeTeiveis should not fall on Friday either.

 However, our fixed calendar system has fourteen “types of years,” seven leap years, and seven common years. Of those fourteen “types of years,” four of them result in Asarah BeTeiveis falling on Friday, two of them in a leap year and two in a common year. This is because if Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday and the year must have a day added (sheleimah), (I explain this concept in a different article which I will be sending in one of the nearcoming weeks) the day added is the 30th of Marcheshvan, which postpones Asarah BeTeiveis to a day later in the week – to Friday. In addition, if Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos and the year must have a day deleted (chaseirah), the day subtracted is the 30th of Kislev, which moves Asarah BeTeiveis forward one day in the week – again to Friday. Since both of these scenarios can happen in either a normal year or in a leap year, there are four different “years” that result in Asarah BeTeiveis falling on Friday.

 This year provides an example. Rosh Hashanah fell on Thursday and the year is sheleimah, meaning that both Marcheshvan and Kislev have 30 days, which avoids Rosh Hashanah from falling next year on Wednesday. But adding the 30th day to Marcheshvan causes Asarah BeTeiveis to fall on Friday. This type of year is referred to as a השג year, theה  standing for Thursday (the fifth day of the week), the day of Rosh Hashanah; the  ש for sheleimah, and the  ג for the day of week that Pesach will fall this year, which is Tuesday, the third day of the week, which result because this is a leap year.

 (By the way, the year 5774, which occurs in three years, is also a השג year exactly as this year is, so remember not to throw away your Hebrew calendar at the end of the year; you can reuse it in three years. On the other hand, the molad times will be different, as will the times for zman keriyas shma [which is dependent on the solar calendar], so maybe that is not such a good idea. Good thing for the calendar makers.)

 If we plan a bit ahead, we will discover that all four types of years when Asarah BeTeiveis falls on Friday will occur within the next few years. The year 5781 (the end of the secular year 2020), is a common year in which Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos. Both Marcheshvan and Kislev are 29 days that year, which results that the last day of Chanukah that year is a Friday, the 3rd of Teiveis, and the fast of Asarah BeTeiveis falls on the following Friday.


If we look ahead to the Hebrew calendar years 5784 and 5785, corresponding roughly to the secular years 2023 through 2025, we discover the fairly unusual situation of having back-to-back years with Asarah BeTeiveis falling on Friday both in 5784 (2023) and in 5785, (when it falls on January 10, 2025), each for a different reason: In 5784, which is a leap year, Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos and it is a chaseirah since both Marcheshvan and Kislev have 29 days, thus causing Asarah BeTeiveis to occur one day earlier in the week than Rosh Hashanah – Friday. 5785 is a common year when Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday and it is a sheleimah when both Marcheshvan and Kislev have 30 days. Of course, I’m sure you noticed that there is no Asarah BeTeiveis in the secular year 2024, but it falls out twice in 2025. I will explain this phenomenon shortly.

 A rocket scientist once attempted to explain to me why Asarah BeTeiveis falls occasionally consecutively on Friday. I am going to attempt to explain what he told me. When Rosh Hashanah in a leap year falls on Shabbos, that year cannot be a regular leap year of 384 days, because that would cause the next Rosh Hashanah to fall on Friday, violating the rule of lo adu Rosh, since this would result in Yom Kippur falling on Sunday. To avoid this happening, that year must either be shortened by a day (chaseirah), moving the next Rosh Hashanah forward to Thursday, or by adding a day (sheleimah), pushing the next Rosh Hashanah to Shabbos. Which of these happens is dependent on when the molad of the new moon for the next Rosh Hashanah falls. But if the year is indeed chaseirah, the loss of the day moves Asarah BeTeiveis to Friday, a day earlier in the week than was Rosh Hashanah.

 Now then: When the year is made chaseirah (and Rosh Hashanah of the second year falls on Thursday as a result), it sometimes results that the second year requires an extra day to avoid the following year’s molad from falling too early. What has basically transpired is that because one year was shortened by a day, the next year requires a compensation of an additional day. When this happens, both Marcheshvan and Kislev in the second year now have 30 days. This results in Asarah BeTeiveis in the second year being postponed from Thursday to Friday.

 If I understood the rocket scientist correctly, the only way this phenomenon of Asarah BeTeiveis falling in two consecutive years on a Friday is when the first year is a leap year that begins on Shabbos that was chaseirah and the second year is a common sheleimah year that begins on Thursday. Every time I have found this on the calendar it has been such a phenomenon, but I take no responsibility for ascertaining that this is the only way this can happen. I make no claim to be a rocket scientist.

 What did Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon have uniquely in common?

The last time Asarah BeTeiveis fell in two consecutive years on Fridays was in 5733 (on December 15, 1972, when Richard Nixon was president) and 5734 (on January 4, 1974). Few of those reading this article were fasting the previous time that Asarah BeTeiveis occurred on Friday in back-to-back years since this was on December 20, 1901 and January 9, 1903. Teddy Roosevelt was president, having succeeded to the office when William McKinley succumbed on September 14, 1901, to the wounds inflicted by Leon Frank Czolgosz. According to my research, these were the only two times the phenomenon of Asarah BeTeiveis falling in two consecutive years on Fridays occurred in the Twentieth Century. Is there any significance to the fact that both Roosevelt and Nixon were Republicans? Let us wait eagerly to see who wins the election of 2020 to see who will be president in 2023 and on January 10, 2025, the next back-to-back Asarah BeTeiveis on Friday. Perhaps the Republicans can keep this streak running!

 The wait for the next back-to-back Friday Asarah BeTeiveis observances after 2023 and 2025 is not quite as long. Someone planning on good health and longevity can look forward to fasting on two Fridays of Asarah BeTeiveis in the years 5831 (on December 12, 2070) and 5832 (January 1, 2072), providing an auspicious way to celebrate the secular New Year.

 By now, you presumably have noted that the secular years 1902 and 1973 both missed having Asarah BeTeiveis, and that so will 2024 and 2071. That a secular year misses Asarah BeTeiveis is not particularly significant. Almost every halachic leap year causes the pushing of Asarah BeTeiveis into the next secular year, and means that Asarah BeTeiveis misses one secular year, and falls out in January and then December of the year following. As a result, seven of nineteen secular years miss out on Asarah BeTeiveis. (Actually, it is slightly less, since about twice a century Asarah BeTeiveis in a leap year falls on December 30 or 31.)


Biblical Source

Although it would appear that the reason no other fast occurs on a Friday is simply a coincidence of the fixed calendar, one early authority contends that observing Asarah BeTeiveis on Friday has a Tanach basis and deep halachic significance. The Avudraham explains that since the verse in Yechezkel (24:2) identifies the Tenth of Teiveis as etzem hayom hazeh, this very day, these words require that Asarah BeTeiveis be observed on the date that it occurs and may not be moved. The Avudraham expressly states that if Asarah BeTeiveis were to fall on Shabbos, we would be required to fast on Shabbos just as we are required to fast when it falls on a Friday. This means that prior to the establishing of our calendar by Hillel Hasheini, whenever Asarah BeTeiveis fell on Shabbos (during the period after the Churban), Klal Yisrael fasted on Shabbos, similar to the fasting we do when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos! This ruling of the Avudraham seems unusual – particularly, since there is no record in the Gemara of such a halacha.

 We can easily understand why the Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 550) takes strong issue with Avudraham’s approach, and questions why one should treat Asarah BeTeiveis more strictly than any other rabbinically ordained fast. In addition, Avudraham’s position conflicts both with Rashi (Megillah 5a s.v. aval) and the Rambam (Hilchos Taanis 5:5), both of whom mention that when Asarah BeTeiveis occurs on Shabbos, the fast is postponed to Sunday.

 Nevertheless, we must understand the conceptual basis why the Avudraham understands Asarah BeTeiveis to be a stricter fast than the others. It would seem that its significance is because it is the beginning of the tragedies that resulted in the churban, a message we should take to heart when we observe this fast, whether or not it occurs on Friday.


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.


Flying High – A Traveler’s Guide to Kindling the Menorah

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
December 3rd, 2010
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Flying High – A Traveler’s Guide to Kindling the Menorah

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question #1: “Rabbi…” I recognize Shlomo Rabinowitz’s voice on the phone. “My company is sending me to Japan next week, right in the middle of Chanukah,” he continues, “and to top it off, one of my flights has me on the plane the entire candle lighting time. How do I fulfill the mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lights five miles above earth? Furthermore, in Japan I will be busy at conferences all day long. Where and when will I light my menorah there? Can I kindle in a corner of the conference room?”

Question #2: Rav Mordechai, a fundraiser acquaintance of mine, asked me how to fulfill the mitzvah of hadlakas Ner Chanukah when he is out of town soliciting tzedakah until late in the evening.

Question #3: The Schwartz family is spending Shabbos Chanukah with friends on the other side of town. May they kindle the menorah at their friends’ home on motzei Shabbos, or must they wait until they return home? (Although all names have been changed, each of these cases reflects an actual shaylah people asked me.)

True, most of us will not be collecting funds all of Chanukah or flying to Japan. However, resolving these shaylos provide a good opportunity to explain the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah in greater depth. First, we will go through the basics of the mitzvah, and then we will examine the details that apply to travelers.

Every Jew must light Chanukah lights or have an agent kindle for him (see Rambam, Hilchos Chanukah 3:4). Many people do not know that the basic mitzvah requires kindling only one flame, whether oil or candle, for the entire household on each night of Chanukah, regardless of which night of Chanukah it is, and regardless of how many people live in one’s house (Gemara Shabbos 21b). Kindling the additional lights is in order to observe the mitzvah according to the exemplary standard that the Gemara terms mehadrin min hamehadrin.

In places where the custom is that the entire household lights only one menorah, which is the predominant practice among Sefardim, the person who kindles functions as an agent for the rest of the family. Even in places where the custom is that each individual kindles his own menorah, as is the common Ashkenazic practice, married women do not usually light (Eliyah Rabbah 671:3; Mishnah Berurah 671:9), and most people have the custom that single girls do not either (Shu’t Shaar Efrayim #42; see Chasam Sofer, Shabbos 21b s.v. vehamihadrin and Mikra’ei Kodesh #14 who explain reasons for this practice). According to both the Ashkenazic and Sefardic approach, the head of the household fulfills the mitzvah for those family members who do not light for themselves. In fact, he is their agent not only for the kindling, but also for the brachos he recites before lighting. (The difference between the Ashkenazic and the Sefardic custom reflect different interpretations of mehadrin min hamehadrin.)


So far, we discussed how the regular household members fulfill their mitzvah of Ner Chanukah. However, what about a guest who is not a regular member of the household? Does he have his own obligation to kindle Ner Chanukah or does the head of household’s kindling exempt him as it does the regular household residents? If he has his own obligation, how does he fulfill this mitzvah? The Gemara (Shabbos 23a) discusses this question in the following passage:

“Rav Sheishes said, ‘A guest is obligated in Ner Chanukah.’ Rav Zeira said, ‘Initially, when I was in Yeshiva, I paid my host a coin to include myself in his Ner Chanukah. Now that I am married but am still occasionally away in Yeshivah for Chanukah, I do not need to pay my host where I am staying because my wife kindles on my behalf in my house.’”

We see here that a guest must observe the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah himself and not through the head of the household’s lighting. Rav Zeira described two methods whereby the guest can fulfill his requirement without actually kindling his own menorah. The first method is to become a partner in the candles or oil of his host, which he does by purchasing ownership in them. (An alternative way of fulfilling this approach is for the guest to acquire a portion in the items by picking them up with his host’s permission.)

The second method Rav Zeira suggests is when the guest is a member of his own household, although he is not with them for Chanukah. In this case, he is automatically included when his family kindles even though he is not home.

By the way, the guest can fulfill his mitzvah in a third way — by kindling his own menorah in his host’s house. However in this instance, if he wants to recite a bracha on his own kindling, he should decide that he is following this approach before his wife kindles (Mishnah Berurah 677:15). Otherwise, since he has already fulfilled his responsibility to perform the mitzvah through his wife’s kindling in his house, his own kindling is unnecessary and a bracha recited before kindling them is levatalah, in vain.


What happens in the second scenario if the guest is in a different time zone from his family? Can the guest fulfill his mitzvah with his family’s kindling even though he is in a different time zone?

The poskim who discuss this shaylah dispute whether one fulfills the mitzvah with his family’s lighting if their lighting takes place at a time when there is no mitzvah to kindle Ner Chanukah in his time zone. According to many, an Israeli resident visiting the United States will not fulfill the mitzvah through his family’s kindling and vice versa (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 7:46; however, see Halichos Shelomoh Volume 2 pg. 261, that Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach disagrees). Minchas Shelomoh II:56:2 s.v. ומ”מ (red edition) contends that you fulfill the mitzvah with your household, a guest has no household and therefore has his own mitzvah. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Rav Shelomoh Zalman held this when you are east of your family- could be he contended this only when you are west of the family, and thus they have fulfilled their chiyuv already and you never become chayov in the mitzvah; but where the individual is east of his famiy, and thus becomes chayov earlier, that the halacha is different.

Nevertheless, someone traveling within the United States might fulfill his or her mitzvah through the kindling at home if the family kindles when people are still frequenting the streets in the city he/she is visiting.

According to our analysis, if Shlomo Rabinowitz was flying from Chicago to New York instead of Japan, he could rely on the candle lighting in his house since the candles will be kindled at a time that he is obligated in Ner Chanukah. (We will discuss shortly whether he recites the bracha she’asah nissim upon arrival in New York.) However, if he is in Asia, it is unclear whether he can rely on his family’s menorah since his family will kindle the lights at a time when he cannot perform the mitzvah.


Rashi (Shabbos 23a) cites the following case: Someone traveling by boat and unable to light a menorah should recite the brachos of she’asah nissim and shehechiyanu (on the first night of Chanukah) when he sees a kindled menorah even though he is not kindling himself. In other words, one recites the bracha of she’asah nissim in commemoration of the miracle of the lights and not for the actual mitzvah of kindling. Similarly, we recite the bracha shehechiyanu for seeing the lights of the menorah, not for fulfilling the mitzvah of kindling it. However, in both instances one recites the bracha only on a menorah that fulfills the mitzvah, and not on a menorah lit in a shul or other public place. Kindling menorah in a shul or other public place is only a custom and does not fulfill the mitzvah (Shu’t Rivash #111).

However, we still need to explore whether an airplane has the same halacha as the boat discussed by Rashi. To explain the possible difference, we will first discuss a teshuvah authored by Rav Shalom Mordechai Shvadron, the famous Maharsham of Brezan, the posek of his generation (late 19th century- early 20th century Galicia) about kindling menorah while riding a train.

RIDING THE TRAIN                                                                                                                   

Rav Shimon Valtuch, the Rav of Leipzig, Germany, sent a shaylah to the Maharsham asking whether someone traveling by train should light his Chanukah menorah on board. The Maharsham ruled that since he has paid for the entire night, it is as if he rented a house to eat and sleep, and the obligations of Ner Chanukah apply on the train.


But if so, why does Rashi rule that someone traveling by boat cannot fulfill the mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lights and instead recites the brachos of she’asah nissim and shehechiyanu on the lights he sees on shore. Why does the Maharsham give a different ruling concerning a train than Rashi ruled concerning someone traveling by boat? The Maharsham explains that Rashi’s case involved an unroofed boat which cannot qualify as a house since it does not provide adequate shelter. This implies that someone spending Chanukah on a cruise ship or even on a yacht would have a mitzvah of kindling menorah on board.

The Maharsham considers whether the train is the same as a house even though it is constantly moving, and rules that this makes no difference. Thus, someone in a house trailer should kindle a menorah in its window, even if the trailer is on the move. However, it is unclear whether someone spending Chanukah night traveling in a car or truck should kindle Ner Chanukah there, since he has nowhere to sleep properly. Therefore, it might not be considered as lodging.

In addition, we should note that there is evidence that other authorities contemporaneous to the Maharsham did not accept his opinion, but felt that one fulfills the mitzvah only in a proper residence.


There are two common ways of traveling by train –either in a private compartment, or, more commonly, on a seat in a public compartment. Since the Maharsham seems to consider even the second case enough of a lodging to light, this implies that one’s seat on a plane is also considered sufficient “lodging” to require kindling Chanukah lights on board.

Because of safety considerations, no one will permit you to kindle a menorah on an airplane. However, according to those opinions that one may fulfill the mitzvah of kindling Chanukah lights with a flashlight or an electric light (a subject we will iy”H discuss a different time), Shlomo Rabinowitz traveling to Japan in the middle of Chanukah has an interesting solution to his predicament. He can take a flashlight or other battery operated light onto the plane with him, turn it on for the purpose of fulfilling the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah, and leave it burning for half an hour. Although this is only one light, I noted above that one fulfills the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah by kindling only one light. (If practical, he could bring along a few flashlights and fulfill the mitzvah mehadrin min hamehadrin.) For those interested in following this approach, Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach contends that it is preferable to fulfill the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah with a battery operated light over other electric lights (Halichos Shlomoh Volume 2, pg. 283).


Although kindling in the conference room may inform everyone that it is Chanukah, one does not fulfill the mitzvah with these lights, because one fulfills the mitzvah only in one’s residence.


Does Shlomo Rabinowitz fulfill the mitzvah by kindling in his hotel room?

Yes, because the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is fulfilled even in a place that is his home for only one night (Chovas Hadar, Ner Chanukah 2:9).


If people can see the lit menorah from outside, it is preferable to light in a window. If no one can see the menorah from outside, he should simply kindle the menorah on a table in his room.


Ideally, he should kindle the menorah around nightfall wherever he is. However if this is not practical, he may fulfill the mitzvah at any time that it is common to find people in the streets of the town that he is visiting. If he cannot return to his room until even later than this time, he should kindle the menorah without reciting the brachos. This is assuming he is traveling alone. If he is traveling with someone else who is Jewish, he can recite the brachos even late at night provided that both of them are awake to witness the kindling (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:215).

What about Rav Mordechai, our fund raiser? How does he fulfill the mitzvah of hadlakas Ner Chanukah while he solicits tzedakah the entire evening?

I suggested that he appoint an agent (a shaliach) at the place where he is sleeping to kindle the menorah on his behalf. Alternatively, he could acquire partial ownership in the oil of his host’s menorah by paying him a token sum of money.


Where do I light menorah if I visit a friend for Chanukah dinner and I am not staying overnight?

Many people mistakenly think that one may fulfill the mitzvah by kindling the menorah at someone else’s house while visiting. I know of people who invite guests to their house for menorah kindling and dinner. The problem is that one is required to kindle Chanukah lights at one’s own house, and kindling at the friend’s house does not fulfill the mitzvah. Therefore, the guest must kindle the Chanukah lights at his own house and then leave to join the festive meal (Taz 677:2; Mishnah Berurah 677:12).


Remember the Schwartz family that is spending Shabbos Chanukah with friends on the other side of town? Must they come home to kindle on motzei Shabbos, or can they kindle at the home where they were Shabbos guests?

If one spends Shabbos at someone’s house, he may kindle the menorah there on Motzei Shabbos (Tshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:391). Some poskim suggest that one remain near the menorah until it has burnt for a half-hour (see Tshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:394).

The Gemara teaches that someone who kindles Ner Shabbos and Ner Chanukah will merit to have sons who are Talmidei Chachomim (Shabbos 23b, see Rashi). This is puzzling — since all observant Jews kindle these lights, why are there not many more Talmidei Chachomim? The Rishonim explain that this promise only applies to someone who observes the mitzvah carefully in all its details (Sod Hadlakas Ner Chanukah, authored by Rabbi Yitzchok, the son of the Raavad). So it is certainly worthwhile to thoroughly review the halachos of Chanuka lights before the wonderful days of Chanuka catch up with us.


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.


Modern Day Ransoms: Too High a Price? A Halachic Perspective

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
November 28th, 2010
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Modern-Day Ransoms: Too High a Price?

A Halachic Perspective

by Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer

One of the most tragic and delicate halahcic questions of the modern day, which must be addressed both by halachic decisors and by political leaders of the State of Israel, is the question of redeeming soldiers or civilians that are taken hostage by terrorist groups. Invariably, the demands of terrorists include the release of imprisoned terrorists, who generally await their return to their former profession. What does halachah have to say on this matter? Can the monetary ransom demanded by conventional captors be compared with the modern-day requests for release of terrorists? Indeed, how would the demand for monetary payment be seen in today’s halachic eye. Inspired by this week’s parashah, which chronicles the most famous case of ‘kidnapping’ in the history of the world–the sale of Yosef to Egypt–we seek to address these issues in this week’s article.

Our Parashah includes the description of what is surely the most famous ‘kidnapping’ in history: The snatching of Yosef by his brothers, and his subsequent sale to the Egypt-bound group of Ishmaelites. It was this fateful episode that led to the descent of our entire nation to Egypt, the exile and hardships it went on to experience, and, ultimately, the miraculous redemption in the hands of God.

We will take the opportunity to dwell on the halachic aspects of captors and captives, and, in particular, the delicate questions of how to react to captors’ demands for ransoms in exchange for freeing their prisoner.

Throughout the generations, both halachic and historical literature reveal how Jews, in their various countries of exile, suffered greatly from bandits, who found a way to make easy income by capturing Jews and demanding exorbitant ransom money. At certain times, this ploy for making money was employed not only by vagabond anarchists, but even by state machinery. State coffers could be filled by fabricating legal cases against Jews, in order to demand money for their release.

Today, the question of redeeming captives remains tragic, difficult, and very delicate. Instead of money, the demand of modern kidnappers, namely terrorist groups who capture soldiers or civilians, is the release of terrorists.

This, of course, presents a terrible dilemma to decision-makers: The life and freedom of every Jew is priceless, but practically, how much should we be prepared to pay? Is the release of murderers, who are most likely to return to their previous ‘occupation’, justified halachically? In this article we will try and discuss this question.

Paying More than the Captive’s Value

The Gemara teaches that the mitzvah of redeeming captives from their captivity is a “great mitzvah,” a term reserved for only a number of mitzvos. Based on its unique importance, the redemption of captives is given first priority when allocating charity money. In the words of Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 252:1), “No mitzvah is as great as the redemption of captives.”

The Gemara also highlights the dire plight of the captive, who finds himself at the mercy of his captors, who are liable to torture him, place him through unspoken suffering, and even kill him. Shulchan Aruch (252:3) thus writes that he who is able to redeem a captive, yet fails to do so, is considered to be a murderer.

Nevertheless, the Mishnah (Gittin 45a) teaches that captives should not redeem for any price: “Captives are not redeemed for more than their value.” The reason for this is discussed by the Gemara, which mentions two possible reasons. One is that it would prove too weighty a load on the community. According to this reason, a private individual is permitted to redeem his own family or loved ones, even for great sums of money.

Another suggested reason, is that payment of large sums of money would encourage captors to continue in their evil ways, taking as many captives as possible, for the purpose of making quick and easy riches. According to this rationale, even a private individual would not be permitted to use his personal wealth in order to pay exorbitant sums for the release of his relatives.

Exceptions to the Rule

The Rishonim mention a number of exceptions to this rule. One example, as Tosafos (Gittin 45a) writes, is based on a Gemara which obligates a husband to ransom his wife (on the first occasion that she is taken captive) for a great sum of money. As Tosafos explains, the reason for this is that a person’s wife is considered his own self, and regarding to a person’s own self, no limitation was made on the size of the ransom he may pay.

Tosafos also cite an anecdote mentioned in the Gemara (Gittin 58a), which describes how one of the Tanaim ransomed a child—in whom he saw tremendous potential—for “any sum that [the captors] demand.” According to one explanation offered by Tosafos, the reason why this was permitted was because of the great potential that the child displayed. Indeed, the child grew up to be the great Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha. As Ramban writes, money is a replaceable commodity, but Torah scholars are irreplaceable. When it comes to Torah scholars, any sum of money is legitimate to procure their release.

According to another explanation of Tosafos, it was permitted to ransom the child for a great sum because the conditions at the time of the Destruction were so dire, that encouragement of the threatening non-Jews could make matters no worse than they already were.

Elsewhere, Tosafos (Gittin 58a) write another reason for this. An exorbitant ransom may be paid when there is an imminent danger to the captive’s life. Ramban disagrees with this explanation, claiming that all cases of captivity involve a danger to the captive’s life, yet ransoming for exorbitant sums remains prohibited. However, as we will see below, a number of halachic authorities do adopt the explanation given by Tosafos.

Halachic Rulings

A number of Rishonim, including Rambam, who is followed by Shulchan Aruch (252:4), rule that the rationale behind the above mentioned prohibition is because we are concerned lest we encourage captors to continue their ways. Shulchan Aruch also rules a number of the exceptions cited above: A person is permitted to redeem himself for large sums, and it is likewise permitted to ransom a Torah scholar, or somebody who is destined (we believe) to become a Torah scholar, for sums beyond his value.

Yam Shel Shlomo (Gittin, chap. 5, no. 66) rules that the rationale behind the prohibition of ransoming for exorbitant sums is the immediate strain this places on the community. Based on this rationale, he explains the custom of a number of communities to actually pay disproportionate ransoms. The reason for this is that the community has a right to ignore and overlook the strain and difficulty of raising the necessary funds.

Yam Shel Shomo adds that in circumstances that present immediate danger to the captive’s life, it is permitted (and obligatory) to ransom a captive even for disproportionate sums. Significantly, he also adds (no. 72) that this is the accepted custom.

Based on his outlook on the issue, Yam Shel Shomo questions the legendary behavior of Maharam of Ruttenburg, who refused to allow his community to ransom him from captivity, and ultimately died in the hands of his captors. His status as a leading Torah scholar should surely have been reason enough to permit his ransoming, even at a great expense. In addition, the captivity endangered his life, and this should also have been a reason to allow for his ransoming, even for disproportionate sums.

What is a Person’s Value?

We have seen that it is forbidden, in principle, to ransom a person for more than his value. What, however, is a person’s value?

In times of old, the definition of a person’s value could be calculated with relative ease, based on the slave market. Maharam of Lublin writes (no. 15) that it is prohibited to ransom a person for more than his value on the slave market. In the absence of a local slave market, the value of a person can be ascertained by comparison to a slave market elsewhere.

Today, however, there are virtually no slave markets anywhere, and the question of how to estimate a person’s value must be raised. Addressing the question of why it is customary to ransom captives for more than their value, without discerning between elderly or young, Radvaz (vol. 1, no. 40) explains that a person’s value should not be determined in the slave market, but rather according to the norm for ransoming captives. In other words, Jewish captives should not be ransomed for a higher sum than equivalent non-Jewish captives. It is interesting to note that Radvaz ends stating the fact of Jews being willing to spend far more than non-Jews on ransoming their captives, and greatly praises this quality.

Nowadays, even the yardstick given by Radvaz is hard to employ, in view of the scarcity of monetary ransoms demanded in today’s world. Because of this difficulty, Rav Shaul Israeli (Chavas Binyanim, shaar 2, no. 15) wrote that today any sum of money would be considered more than the value of the captive, and one should not pay anything as ransom money for a captive.

This opinion, however, comes over as being somewhat extreme, and it would seem more likely that each case must be judged according to individual circumstances, the general rule being that one should not pay (much) more than non-Jews would for the freedom of non-Jewish captives.

Freeing Terrorists: The Danger Element

In the State of Israel today, the ransom that captors are demanding in exchange for captives is not financial, but human. The demand for the freeing of terrorists from Israeli prisons introduces a new, hitherto unexplored element into the question of redeeming captives. Is it permitted to free dangerous prisoners, who are in all likelihood waiting to return to their murderous practices, for the sake of releasing Jewish captives?

One approach to this question is to view it as entering a state of potential danger for the sake of alleviating an immediate, definite danger to the captive’s life. Halachic authorities dispute the halachah of saving another’s life at the expense of placing oneself in a state of potential danger: Some (Hagaos Maimonios, Rotzeach 1:15) maintain that one is obligated to do so, while others (Sema, no. 426) maintain that one is not obligated to do so. Indeed, Radvaz (vol. 3, no. 627) goes so far as to label such a rescue as an act of folly. Freeing terrorists would also seem to fit the category of exchanging a definite danger for a potential danger, which would invoke the dispute of authorities mentioned above.

Nevertheless, we find an explicit ruling in the words of Gilyon Maharsha (Yoreh De’ah 157), who writes that “if somebody is taken captive, and it is known that if he is redeemed, another will be taken in his stead, it is forbidden to redeem him… however, if there is a doubt as to whether the other will be taken captive, we do not abandon the definite captive because of the doubt.” In other words, we should not refrain from redeeming somebody in certain danger because of a potential danger in the future.

This ruling, whereby a possible danger for the future does not defer a certain danger at the present, is also given by Rabbi Ovadya Yosef (Yabia Omer, vol. 10, no. 6).

Freeing Terrorists: Too High a Price?

An additional way in which to analyze the question is by comparison with the halachah whereby one may not pay too high a price for redeeming captives. Is the freeing of terrorists too high a price? Does this not encourage terrorist groups to take more captives, thus causing the release of more imprisoned terrorists?

Addressing this issue, we find an interesting ruling in the writings of Rabbi Shaul Israeli (Chavas Binyanim, loc. cit.). In his opinion, “Soldiers that are sent to military service by the State, for the defense of the people, do so under a non-written yet plainly obvious agreement that the State will do all that is in its powers (within reason) to redeem them in case they fall into captivity… This is an obligation that the State accepts upon itself in exchange for the military service, and therefore, it is considered as though the State is redeeming itself, and the restriction of paying more than the captive’s value does not apply. “

According to Rabbi Israeli, the redemption of soldiers from captivity is comparable to a person’s redemption of himself, or of his wife, which, as we saw above, is not bound by the restriction of too high a price. In this light, Rabbi Israeli rules that the State must be ready to free terrorists, for the sake of returning captured soldiers, for no price (within reason) is too great.

There is room, however, to question the comparison between a person’s redemption of his own self, which Chazal did not wish to restrain, and the redemption of a single person by the entire community—and in this case, by the entire country. The rationale, though perhaps plausible, is certainly arguable.

Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef (op. cit.) relies on a different approach in tackling the question of “At what price?” He quotes a number of halachic authorities who rule that in cases where a captive’s life is in tangible danger, it is permitted to redeem him at any price. As we saw above, this is the opinion of Tosafos and Yam Shel Shlomo, to which Rabbi Yosef adds a number of poskim (see also Pischei Teshuvah 252:4). Based on this principle, he concludes that it is permitted to release terrorists for the sake of redeeming Jewish captives, whose presence in the claws of terrorist organization is certainly an imminent danger to their lives.

It is important to note that it will sometimes be necessary to consider additional, extra-halachic factors, in weighing the difficult decision of freeing prisoners for the sake of redeeming captives. One such factor is the national morale, which can have far-reaching consequences; another is national honor, which borders on the issue of chilul Hashem; a third issue is the motivation of high-school graduates for military service, a matter not to be taken lightly in the State of Israel. These factors have a place in the halachic debate, because their ramifications can be far reaching, even if we cannot point to them in a concrete sense.

We end with a prayer: May we speedily see “sons returning to their borders,” and may the difficult and tragic halachic debates we have raised never enter the realm of real-life application.


This article was copied with permission from www.dinonline.org.

Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer is one of the Rabbanim who answers halachic questions for DIN – The International Beis Hora’ah. He can be reached at yehoshuapfeffer@gmail.com. You may send in your halachic questions and queries to  www.dinonline.org

Chodosh In Chu”l

Posted by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
November 4th, 2010
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Chodosh In Chu”l

Nu, so, what is new?

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question #1:

“When I was young, I do not think I ever heard about a prohibition called chodosh, or that something was yoshon. Now I am constantly hearing these terms. Do we now have a new mitzvah?”

Question #2:

“We have decided to stay permanently in Eretz Yisrael, but we visit the United States a few times a year. Do we need to be concerned about chodosh when we visit?”

The Basics

Around this time of the year, those concerned about chodosh begin checking packing dates on packaging. Before addressing the issue underlying the above questions, which is whether the prohibition of chodosh applies outside Eretz Yisrael, we must first study some essential details of the mitzvah. The Torah teaches:

“Bread, sweet flour made from toasted kernels, or the toasted kernels themselves, may not be eaten until that very day – until you bring the offering to your G-d. This is a law that you must always observe throughout your generations in all your dwelling places” (Vayikra 23:14). “That very day” refers to the second day of Pesach, the day that the korban omer, the “offering” mentioned in the pasuk, is brought. (This is the same day that we begin counting the omer, a practice we continue until Shavuos.)

The Mishnah (Menachos 70a) explains that this mitzvah applies only to the five species that we usually categorize as grain, which Rashi (Pesachim 35a) defines as wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. The Gemara (Menachos 70b) demonstrates that the laws of chodosh apply to the same varieties of grain that can become chometz.

What permits the new grain?

We should note that the Torah mentions two different factors that permit the new grain – it “may not be eaten until that very day – until you bring the offering to your G-d.” This seems to be a bit contradictory. What permits the new grain, the day or the offering that transpires in the course of the day?

The New Korban

The Gemara (Menachos 68a) concludes that it depends on whether a korban omer will be offered that particular year. Until the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, a korban omer was brought annually, and offering this korban permitted the new grain, thereby fulfilling “may not be eaten… until you bring the offering to your G-d.” After the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, it is the day that permits the new grain.

There is a further question, when the day is what permits the new grain, is it the beginning of the day or its end?

The Gemara quotes a dispute about this fact, but concludes that even those who permit the new grain at the beginning of the day, this is only min haTorah, but they agree that miderabbanan the new grain is not permitted until the day ends (Sukkah 41b).

“New” Grain versus “Old” Grain

This new grain is called chodosh, literally, new. Once Pesach passes, the grain is called yoshon, old, even though it may have been planted only a few days before. The promotion from chodosh to yoshon transpires automatically on the second day of Pesach – all the existing chodosh becomes yoshon grain on that day, even that which is still growing. The only requirement is that by then the grain has taken root. Thus, designating the grain as “old” does not mean that it is either wizened or rancid. Grain planted in the late winter or early spring often becomes permitted well before it even completed growing. On the other hand, grain that took root after the second day of Pesach is categorized as “new” grain that may not be eaten until the second day of the next Pesach.

How do we know that it is newly rooted?

Since most of us spend little time subterraneanly, how are we to know when the newly planted seeds decided to take root? This question is already debated by the Tannayim. The halachic authorities dispute whether we assume that seeds take root three days after planting or not until fourteen days after planting. If we assume that they take root in only three days, then grain planted on the thirteenth of Nisan is permitted, whereas that planted on the fourteenth, Erev Pesach, is forbidden. This is because the remaining part of the thirteenth day counts as the first day, and the fifteenth day of Nisan (the first day of Pesach) is the third day and we therefore assume that the new grain rooted early enough to become permitted (Terumas Hadeshen #151; Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 293:4, 5; Aruch Hashulchan).

According to those who conclude that it takes fourteen days to take root, this grain does not become permitted until the next year. In addition, any grain planted on the third of Nisan or afterwards will not be permitted until the coming year, whereas that planted on the second of Nisan becomes permitted. We count the second of Nisan as the first day, which makes the fifteenth of Nisan the fourteenth day, and the grain took root early enough so that the sixteenth of Nisan permits it (Nekudos Hakesef; Dagul Meirevavah; Shu”t Noda Biyehudah 2:Orach Chayim:84).

What’s New in Chutz La’aretz?

Now that we understand some basic information about chodosh, we can discuss whether this mitzvah applies to grain growing outside Eretz Yisrael. Following the general rule that agricultural mitzvos, mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, apply only in Eretz Yisrael, we should assume that this mitzvah does not apply to grain that grew in chutz la’aretz. Indeed, this is the position of the Tanna Rabbi Yishmael (Kiddushin 37a). However, Rabbi Eliezer disagrees, contending that the mitzvah applies also in chutz la’aretz.

This dispute is based on differing interpretations of an unusual verse. When closing its instructions concerning the mitzvah of chodosh, the Torah concludes: This is a law that you must always observe throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.” Why did the Torah add the last words, “in all your dwelling places”? Would we think that a mitzvah applies only in some dwellings and not in others?

The Tannayim mentioned above dispute how we are to understand these unusual words. Rabbi Eliezer explains that “in all your dwelling places” teaches that this prohibition, chodosh, is an exception to the rule of mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz and applies to all your dwelling places – even those outside Eretz Yisrael. Thus, although we have a usual rule that mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz apply only in Eretz Yisrael, the Torah itself taught that chodosh is an exception and applies even in chutz la’aretz.

Rabbi Yishmael explains the words “in all your dwelling places” in a different way and as a result, he contends that chodosh indeed follows the general rule of agricultural mitzvos and applies only in Eretz Yisrael.

The New Planting

When a farmer plants his crops depends on many factors, including what variety or strain he is planting, climate and weather conditions, and even perhaps his own personal schedule. At times in history, even non-Jewish religious observances were considerations, as we see from the following incident:

The Rosh reports that, in his day, whether most of the new grain was chodosh or yoshon depended on when the gentiles’ religious seasons fell out. Apparently in his day the gentiles did not plant crops during Lent. In some years the gentiles planted well before Pesach, and in those years there was no chodosh concern, since the new grain became permitted while it was still growing. However, there were years in which the gentiles refrained from planting until much later and in those years the new grain was chodosh (Shu”t HaRosh 2:1). We therefore find the rather anomalous situation in which the Rosh needed to find out exactly when the gentiles observed Lent in order to ascertain whether the grain was chodosh or yoshon.

What is New in Agriculture?

But one minute — the Rosh lived in Europe, first in Germany and then in Spain. Why was he concerned about chodosh? Should this not be an agricultural mitzvah that does not apply to produce grown outside of Eretz Yisrael? From the case above, we see that the Rosh ruled that chodosh is prohibited even in chutz la’aretz. The Rosh is not alone. Indeed, most, but not all, of the Rishonim and poskim conclude that chodosh applies to all grain regardless of where it grows, since we see from the Gemara that chodosh was practiced in Bavel, even though it is outside Eretz Yisrael (Menachos 68b). However, notwithstanding that the Rosh, the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch all prohibit chodosh grown in chutz la’aretz, the traditional approach among Ashkenazic Jewry was to permit the use of new grain. Why were they lenient when most authorities rule like Rabbi Eliezer that chodosh is prohibited even outside Eretz Yisrael?

Later authorities suggest several reasons to permit consuming the new grain.

Doubly Doubtful

Many authorities permitted the new grain because the new crop may have been planted early enough to be permitted, and, in addition, the possibility exists that the available grain is from a previous crop year, which is certainly permitted. This approach accepts that chodosh applies equally in chutz la’aretz as it does in Eretz Yisrael, but contends that when one is uncertain whether the grain available is chodosh or yoshon, one can rely that it is yoshon and consume it. Because of this double doubt, called a sefek sefeika, many major authorities permitted people to consume the available grain (Rama, Yoreh Deah 293). However, we should note that this heter is dependent on available information, and these authorities agree that when one knows that the grain being used is chodosh one may not consume it.

The Rosh accepted this approach, and was careful to monitor the planting seasons so as to ascertain each year whether it was true. In years that there was a chodosh problem, he refrained from eating the new grain – however, it is interesting to note, that he was extremely careful not to point out his concerns to others. He further notes that his rebbe, the Maharam, followed the same practice, but said nothing about this to others. Thus, we see that some early gedolim were strict about observing chodosh but said nothing to others out of concern that they would be unable to observe chodosh. This practice was followed in the contemporary world by such great luminaries as Rav Yaakov Kaminetzsky, who was personally stringent not to eat chodosh, but was careful not to tell anyone who followed the lenient approaches that I will soon share.

Another Heter

Other authorities permitted the chutz la’aretz grain, relying on the minority of early poskim who treat chodosh as a mitzvah that applies only in Eretz Yisrael (Taz; Aruch Hashulchan). This is based on a Gemara that states that when something has not been ruled definitively, one may rely on a minority opinion under extenuating circumstances (Niddah 9b).

This dispute then embroils one in a different issue: When the Gemara rules that under extenuating circumstances one may rely on a minority opinion, is this true only when dealing with a rabbinic prohibition, or may one do so even when dealing with a potential Torah prohibition. The Taz and Aruch Hashulchan who permitted chodosh for this reason conclude that one may follow a minority opinion even when dealing with a potential Torah prohibition. The Shach rejects this approach, and concludes that one must be stringent when one knows that the grain is chodosh (Nekudos Hakesef. See also his Pilpul Behanhagos Horaah, located after Yoreh Deah 242; cf. the Bach’s essay on the same topic, published in the back of the Tur Yoreh Deah, where he rules leniently on this issue.)

The Bach’s Heter

Another halachic basis to permit use of the new grain is that chodosh applies only to grain that grows in a field owned by a Jew, and not to grain grown in a field owned by a non-Jew. Since most fields are owned by gentiles, one can be lenient when one does not know the origin of the grain and assume that it was grown in a gentile’s field, and it is therefore exempt from chodosh laws. This last approach, often referred to simply as “the Bach’s heter,” is the basis upon which most Ashkenazic Jewry relied.

We may note that the Rosh, quoted above, rejected this heter, and that Tosafos (Kiddushin 37a end of s.v. kol), the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch also reject this approach. Similarly, the above-quoted responsum from the Rosh explicitly rejects this logic and contends that chodosh applies to grain grown in a gentile’s field.

Nevertheless, common custom accepted this as the main opinion in observing chodosh, even by many gedolei Yisroel. The Bach notes that many of the greatest luminaries of early Ashkenazic Jewry, including Rav Shachna and the Maharshal, were lenient regarding chodosh use in their native Europe. He shares that as a young man he advanced his theory that chodosh does not exist in a field owned by a gentile to the greatest scholars of that generation, all of whom accepted it.

The Bach himself further contends that although the Rosh in his responsum rejected this approach, the Rosh subsequently changed his mind and in his halachic code, which was written after his responsa (see Tur, Choshen Mishpat, end of Chapter (72, he omits mention that the prohibition of chodosh applies to gentile-grown grain.

Thus, those residing in chutz la’aretz have a right to follow the accepted practice, as indeed many, if not most, of the gedolei Yisrael practiced. However, others, such as the Mishnah Berurah, ruled strictly about this issue (see also Beis Hillel, Yoreh Deah).

Until fairly recently, many rabbonim felt that those who are strict about the prohibition should observe the law very discreetly. Some contended that one should do so because they feel that observing chodosh has the status of chumrah, and the underlying principle when observing any chumrah is hatznei’ah leches – they should be observed modestly. (See Michtav Mei’eliyahu Volume 3, page 294.) Others feel that the practice of being lenient was based on an extenuating circumstance that is no longer valid since yoshon is fairly available in most large Jewish communities, and that, on the contrary, we should let people be aware how easy the mitzvah is to observe.

North American Hechsherim

The assumption of virtually all hechsherim is that unless mentioned otherwise, they rely on the halachic opinion of the Bach. Many decades ago, Rav Aharon Soloveichek pioneered his own personal hechsher that did not follow either the heter of the Bach or that of the Taz and Aruch Hashulchan. He further insisted that the yeshivos that he served as Rosh Yeshivah serve exclusively food that did not rely on these heterim. Today, there are a few other hechsherim that follow this approach, whereas the majority of hechsherim accept the heter of the Bach.

With this background, we can now address the first question that began our article. “When I was young, I do not think I ever heard about a prohibition called chodosh, or that something was yoshon. Now I am constantly hearing the term. Do we now have a new mitzvah?”

The answer is that the mitzvah is not new. When you were young, most halachic authorities either felt that one could rely on the opinion of the Bach, or felt that one should keep the topic quiet. Today many feel that one may advertise the availability of yoshon products.

In addition, there is interesting agricultural background to this question. At one point in history, the flour commonly sold in the United States was from the previous year’s crop and always yoshon. Rav Yaakov used to monitor the situation and when the United States no longer followed this practice, he began to freeze flour so that he would have a supply during the winter and spring months when chodosh is a concern. Usually, the earliest chodosh products begin coming to market midsummer, and some products do not appear until the fall.

Visitors from Abroad

At this point, we can begin to answer the last question: “We have decided to stay permanently in Eretz Yisrael, but we visit the States a few times a year. Do we need to be concerned about chodosh when we visit?”

As I mentioned above, someone who lives in chutz la’aretz has the halachic right not to be concerned about observing chodosh on grain that grows in chutz la’aretz. The question is whether someone who has moved to Eretz Yisrael where the prevailing custom it to be stringent, and is now visiting chutz la’aretz has the same right. This matter is disputed, and I refer an individual to ask his rav what to do.

In Conclusion

In explaining the reason for this mitzvah, Rav Hirsch notes that one of man’s greatest enemies is success, for at that moment man easily forgets his Creator and views himself as master of his own success and his own destiny. For this reason, the Torah created several mitzvos whose goal is to remind and discipline us to always recognize Hashem’s role. Among these is the mitzvah of chodosh, wherein we are forbidden from consuming the new grain until the offering of the korban omer, which thereby reminds us that this year’s crop is all only because of Hashem (Horeb, Section 2 Chapter 42). Whether one follows the Bach’s approach to the chodosh laws or not, one should make note every time he sees a reference to yoshon and chodosh to recognize that success is our enemy, and humility is our savior.


Editor’s note by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz: As with many cases in halacha, there are a few more complicated issues involved in the chodosh hetter in Chutz l’aretz.

First of all, the Rema’s hetter (quoting the Rosh) of safek sfeika (compounded doubt), is not a davar pashut to rely upon; for Rabbi Akiva Eiger (in his glosses Y”D 293, 3, quoting the Shu”t Mutzal Ma’eish – 50) maintains that the safekos of when the grain rooted are all really one safek, and since we hold chodosh is a din deoraysa, we hold safek deoraysa l’chumra. Although the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. 16) tries to answer up (dochek terutz) how we can still call it a safek sfeika, still Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s kushyos are not to be taken lightly.

About the hetter of the Taz (ibid. 4), that bshaa’s hadchak one may rely on a minority opinion, the Shach (quoted) rejects this opinion. But it’s not only the Shach; The Ba’er Heitiv (ibid. 4) as well as the Beis Hillel (ibid.) likewise voice their rejection of this hetter, in the strongest of terms – that there are “clear proofs” against this logic, and all poskim (Rif, Rambam, Rosh, Tur, Shulchan Aruch) effectively paskened against it – that chodosh in Chu”l is deoraysa, period.

There is also the hetter of the Magen Avraham (O.C. 489, 17), that it is not so pashut that the halacha follows Rabbi Eliezer in the Mishna, and therefore, “in order to answer up for the minhag of the world, we must say that we follow Rabbeinu Baruch – that chodosh in Chutz l’aretz is a gezeira d’rabbanan, and Chazal only made the gezaira on countries nearby to Eretz Yisrael, and therefore would not apply to countries further away. He concludes saying that a “ba’al nefesh” should still be machmir as much as it is possible.

The Aruch Hashulchan (Y”D 293, 19), although disagreeing with the Magen Avrahem’s proof (like the Machatzis HaShekel there – A”H ibid.end 2), still paskens l’maaseh like him: That in Russia where (he lived and) the land was frozen until past Pesach, there is no hetter of safek or sfeik sfeika to rely upon, for we know that the farmers were unable to plant until after Pesach. Rather, we rely on that the issur of chodosh is dependant the Korban Omer, and therefore only applies to places where said Korban could be brought from; ergo, Chazal were not gozer on lands far away from Eretz Yisrael, for there would be no reason to do so, as the grains won’t even reach Eretz Yisrael. [It can be debated that the Aruch Hashulchan’s hetter would no longer apply nowadays, when chodosh Cheerios are easily purchasable in Israel – for more on this topic of Chodosh grain used in E”Y see Shu”t Achiezer (vol 2,39), Shu”t Chelkas Yoav (Y”D 33), and Shu”t Har Tzvi (Y”D 239 -240)]. He adds that since if one would not partake of the chodosh grains, he would be unable to eat any grain product for at least six months of the year, Chazal would not have made a gezeira that the tzibbur would not be able to withstand, and especially about grain which is “chayei nefesh mamash”.

Another hetter is that of the Lechem Mishna (end of Terumos –  brought by the Shach (ibid. 6), and Pnei Yehoshua (end of Kiddushin, Kuntress Acharon 51, s.v. din hashlishi) that drinks that are made of derivatives of chodosh grain (such as beer) should be permitted, as they are not the actual grain itself. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (shu”t 20) and the Beis Lechem Yehuda -Y”D end 293) seem to accept this logic, in a case of whiskey that was derived from a mixture (ta’aruvos) of different grains – including chodosh grains, but not if the drink was made exclusively from chodosh grain (Shulchan Aruch HaRav O.C.489, end 30).[On the other hand, the Chochmas Adam (Binas Adam 54 (73) maintains that even by a ta’aruvos, in order for this to apply, there would need to be present at least 60 times the yoshon grain against the amount of chodosh grain.]

However, The Shach himself seems uneasy about using this leniency, as the Rosh implies that it should also be prohibited. The Chacham Tzvi (Shu”t 80) as well as the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. 23) rule that one may not rely on this l’maaseh. The Gr”a (Ma’aseh Rav 89) was so stringent on this that it is reported that he called someone who buys beer made from chodosh grain for someone else – transgressing on lifnei Iver. The Mishkenos Yaakov (Shu”t Y”D end 68), although disagreeing with the Chacham Tzvi, nevertheless rules  that only for a tzorech gadol and shaas hadchak may one rely on beer and other drinks derived from chososh grain. Similarly, The Beis Hillel (above) also disagrees with this hetter, but adds that if someone is weak and sickly, and it would be a sakana for him not to drink it, he may rely on this hetter for the Torah says “V’Chai Bahem”, v’lo Sheyamus bahem.

As for the Bach’s hetter of relying on that chodosh that’s from a non-Jew’s grain is really muttar: Even though there are a few poskim who hold like him, including the Ba’er Hagolah (Y”D 293, 7), the Knesses Yechezkel (Shut 41) the Shev Yaakov (Shu”t 61) and the Makneh (Kiddushin 38- who qualifies his hetter that in E”Y the prohibition would apply by grain owned by a non-Jew); and there are others who try to answer up for his shitta, through sevara, and not psak lmaaseh – including the Avnei Nezer (Shu”t Y”D 386), who wrote a teshuva on this topic when he was16,  where, although not writing anything for psak lmaaseh, still brings sevaros to be maykel like Rabbenu Baruch; but he does note that the Rambam l’shitaso would not hold of them, and Rav Meshulam Igra (Shu”t vol. 1, O.C. 40) where, while not paskening, similarly answers up for the sevara of Rabbenu Baruch to say chodosh in Chu”l could be derabbanan, but also disproves that it is dependant on the Korban Omer; nevertheless, the vast majority of poskim categorically already ruled against this including the Rosh, Rambam, Rashba, Ran, Tosafos, Tur, and Shulchan Aruch; as did many later poskim, including the Shach (ibid. 6), Taz (ibid. 2), Gr”a (ibid. 2 – who writes that the Ba’er Hagolah made such a mistake by paskening like the Bach, that it’s not worth even addressing the issue; see also Ma’aseh Rav 89 – 90 and Sheiltos 82 on how strict the Gr”a was with this halacha), The Pnei Yehoshua (Shu”t Y”D 34 – the grandfather of the Pnei Yehoshua on Shas who was more lenient – see below; who writes extremely strongly against the Bach – calling his hetter “worthless”), the Sha’agas Ayreh (Shu”t haChadashos – Dinei Chodosh Ch. 1 – 2 – who was even makpid on all the dinim of Ta’am K’ikar – for chodosh grain) and the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. 12). See also Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv (vol.6, 38), who wrote a pilpul (only sevarah and not psak) proving that chodosh should apply by grain owned by a non-Jew. Additionally, although some like to quote the Ba’al Shem Tov (Ba’al Shem Tov al HaTorah Parshas Emor, 6) as their source for relying on the Bach [where it is quoted he had a dream that when the Bach died, Gehhinom was cooled down for 40 days in his honor; when the Besh"t woke up he exclaimed that he did not realize the greatness of the Bach, and it is therefore worthwhile to rely on his opinion regarding chodosh], they don’t realize that later on in his life, the Besh”t retracted his opinion and he himself became stringent after he found out that a certain Gadol in his time (Rabbeinu Yechiel) was machmir (Ba’al Shem Tov al HaTorah Parshas Emor, 7).

It should be further noted that even those who allowed consumption of chodosh based on the Bach’s hetter, the vast majority said that only since it  was Sha’as hadchak (extenuating circumstances) one may rely, but one should not do so: including the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (O.C. 489, 30) who calls it a “melamed zchus” and that every ba’al nefesh should be as machmir as possible – since that is the ikar halacha, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (172, 3), The Pri Megadim (O.C. 489, A.A. end 17) – “B’avonoseinu harabbim hadoros chalushim, v’ee efsher lizaher kol kach bzeh”, the Mishna Berurah (O.C. 489, 45, Biur Halacha s.v. v’af) who uses very strong words against it  and also calls the hetter a “melamed zchus”, since it’s a “davar kasha” to be vigilant from eating chodosh, and maintains that everyone should try to keep as much as they could [It is said that Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l - in line with the reasoning of Mishna Berura, was very scrupulous about this and made sure to have at least yoshon oats and barley - since it was much easier to observe yoshon with them] – he furthermore comments that with the advent of the train (iron chariot), the grain might be coming from faraway lands such as Russia, where it’s vaday chodosh (like the Aruch Hashulchan observed), and the Kaf HaChaim (end O.C. 489) who tries to find hetterim for why the “oilum is maykel”. This is similar to the the Magen Avraham and Aruch Hashulchan’s approach (above) of finding a hetter, in order that  klal yisrael will be “clean of sin” for their actions.

Even the Ohr Zarua (vol. 1, 328) himself, one of the early proponents of paskening that chodosh in Chu”l is only derabbanan, (and whom the Maharil and Terumas Hadeshen base their lenient psak on) qualifies his psak, that his hetter only applies in a case of safek when the grain was planted (and therefore safek drabbanan l’kula), and only since it’s shaas hadchak, for it is impossible not to buy grain and bread, therefore kdai l’smoch bshaas hadchak.

It is known that in the shul of the Chasam Sofer only a person meticulous in the fulfillment of this mitzva was eligible to be called up to the Torah when the pesukim relating to chodosh were read – (from Rabbi Moshe Heinemann.

 It is important to note that many Gedolim through the ages worked tirelessly to find hetterim for the hamon am to find a limud zechus for those who were maykil. A prime example is the Mishkenos Yaakov, who upon hearing from Rav Chaim Volozhner to be melamed zchus on klal Yisrael for eating chodosh, wrote a twenty-five page responsa (Shu”t Y”D 67) – point by point, sevara by sevara – in order to answer up for the “minhag ha’olam” to be lenient about chodosh in Chu”l, and “in order so Hashem should judge them l’zchus, and not chas v’shalom as nichshalim in an issur deoraysa”. However, he writes many times throughout this teshuva, that the hetterim are all only regarding extenuating circumstances, for in many countries it was extremely difficult to obtain yoshon grain. The Pnei Yehoshua (Kuntress Acharon on Kiddushin, 51) writes similarly, after finding sources for hetterim to be lenient and rely that chodosh in Chu”l is derabbanan, that Chas v’shalom that he would argue on all the poskim who hold it is deoraysa, rather he is coming to find a hetter for those who are lenient since it’s shaas hadchak. The Tzemach Tzedek (Y”D 218), as well, after bringing sevaros to hold like the Bach and Pnei Yehoshua (only grain from a non-Jew in Chutz Laaretz – not near Eretz Yisrael and only with another safek), and even so writes that “anyone with fear of Heaven should be stringent – like the Rif, Rambam, Tur, and Shulchan Aruch that chodosh in chutz l’aretz is deoraysa, and that the iker is that there is no difference whether the grain was owned by a Jew or non- Jew.” The Magen Ha’elef (O.C. 489, Kuntress Shaim Chodosh) similarly writes extensively, bringing  sniffim and sevaros to be “melamed zchus on the Nation of Hashem”, and even so holds that a “ba’al nefesh yachmir”.[Although, in an interesting footnote to his responsa about if a son who eats chodosh grain in Chutz l’aretz is required to keep yoshon because of “kibbud av v’aim” – Shu”t Meshivas Nafesh (vol. 1, end 16, s.v. v’yadaati) – he writes that even though no one is as great as the Gr”a, still Chalila to make the whole world into Resha’im by transgressing an aveira deoraysa, and therefore we can not bring a proof based on his greatness (similar to Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai – whom the halacha does not always follow, despite his greatness).

There are also Gedolim who took the melamed zchus a step further. The Sdei Chemed (vol. 8, Kuntress Haklalim, Asifas Dinim, Maareches Chodosh B’zman Hazeh), after citing many poskim and sevaros on both sides of the issue, ends off with the words of the Teshuos Chain (Shu”t 25) – “that since Klal Yisrael generally has been lenient in the issue of chodosh in Chutz l’aretz for many generations due to the various hetterim and extenuating circumstances, it has developed into a “minhag hakadmonim”, and even though it is against the standard halacha, one may not question those who keep it, for they have what to rely upon. Rav Yitzchak Shlomo Yoel – Av Beis din of Rovna (in the second half of the Sdei Chemed’s kuntress on chodosh) – also writes extensively – “for it is a mitzvah to be melamed zchus where the majority of the population will be unable to eat grain for three quarters of the year. And if we are machmir, then we will have effectively passuled up every get from Chutz L’aretz, (for all the witnesses would be considered unfit if they publicly transgress a Biblical Commandment). The Butchacher Rav (Eishel Avraham O.C. 489. s.v. Ode Matzas – see also Shearim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (172, 3 who cites different sevaros and shittos to be lenient) similarly defends the “minhag to be maykel” as a limud zchus – since “kol tefutzos hagolah” were lenient it became a “minhag l’halacha amitis”, even though it’s against the standard halacha, since “if Bnei Yisrael are not prophets – they are the sons of prophets”.

However, it appears that it would not be a davar pashut to rely on this, as historically this would not seem quite correct, for there never was any prevalent “universal minhag”. The reason why people in Russia were lenient is not the same reason why others were lenient in Poland. For example, the Aruch Hashulchan and Mishna Berura (cited above) both stated that there is no safek sfeka to rely upon in Russia where the farmers were unable to plant grain before Pesach due to the frozen ground, and had to rely on an alternative hetter; whereas poskim from Eastern Europe felt that in their periphery there was always a safek as to the grain’s status. Some places held of the Bach’s hetter, others relied on the Taz’s and others on the Magen Avraham’s. So even though many were lenient in this manner, it does not seem conclusive that all came from the same source, to say everyone relied on the same “minhag”. Indeed, even the Sdei Chemed himself concludes that “Anyone who fears Hashem should be machmir like the Rif, Rambam, Rosh, and the Baalei Tosafos”.

 Recently, I’ve seen that Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit”a (Shu”t Teshuvos v’Hanhagos vol. 1, 655) writes that in our times where there is no great difficulty to obtain yoshon flour, it is a srong issur to be mezalzel in the psak of the Shulchan Aruch and Gedolei Haposkim that assur chodosh; and since it is easily obtainable – how can one rely on the Poskim who were moser nefesh to be melamed zchus on Klal Yisrael in times of “dchak gadol? He maintains that it is “Pashut that one should not come into the chashash of maachalos asuros by eating chadash.”

In the final analysis, what remains to be seen is the reason for the widespread use of eating chodosh products in chutz laretz l’chatchila nowadays. For even with the many reasons and sevaros given to be melamud zchus, it must be noted that each and every one of them – most poskim disagree with, notwithstanding the prevalent rationale in our time, which seems to fall in the category of “mutav shyehyu shogegim v’al thyu mezidim”.

 For the History buffs

My father, a talmid of Rav Aharon Solovetchik zt”l, related to me that the real starting point in America for wheat was the Russian Wheat Act of 1972. Until then, the United States had major surplus of wheat, and therefore all flour used was older flour and thereby yoshon. But then they sent the surplus (yoshon) to the U.S.S.R., and used the more recent wheat (chodosh) for themselves. That’s when it became a real sheilah in America.

However, despite this, it is known that the world renowned gaonRav Lazer Silver zt”l of Cincinnati, OH, who was niftar in 1966, would never eat out, and instead carried a sandwich in his top hat. One of the reasons he did so was because he was makpid on vaday yoshon in Chutz l’aretz (and kept the minhagei haGr”a – who, as previously noted, was very makpid on it.

In Israel, however, it was never a sheilah for since everyone holds its d’eoraysa here, with none of the hetterim of Chu“l to rely upon, every hashgacha is makpid. In fact, there was no real issue with chodosh from Chutz l’aretz in Israel until they started importing Cheerios and other assorted nosh a few years back.

By the way, For those of us living in Israel, this year’s cut off date for certain types of Cheerios is Aug 16, 2011 (stamped on the box). Any box of Multi -Grain Cheerios that has a package date after that is presumed chodosh. Honey – Nut And Regular Cheerios cutoff date is Oct 22, 2011. Thank you to Rabbi Yosef Herman of the Chodosh Guide for providing that information.

Here is a link to the information: http://www.jerusalemkoshernews.com/2010/11/chodosh-corrections/#more-3709\

Chodosh Trivia: Which bakery was the first one in Chicago (and possibly America) to become makpid on Yoshon?

 A: Tel Aviv Bakery, which at the time was known as Ta’am Tov Bakery


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 at ymkaganoff@gmail.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.


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