Thursday, April 30, 2009

I don't need prizes to give צדקה

Hamodia published a great letter this week from someone who is annoyed that he is being inundated with all kinds of useless free stuff from צדקה organizations. As he says "I don't need prizes to give צדקה".

I wholeheartedly agree and would extend this to all of the historic events as well. I don't need prizes and I don't need historic events to give צדקה. Give people a little credit that they give צדקה for the right reasons.

Here is the full text of the letter.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

הזמה of an עד אחד (Bava Metzia 4a)

The Gemara has a long discussion on how we learn out that עדים are מחייב a שבועה. At one point the Gemara says that עד א יוכיח שישנו בהכחשה. Tosfaos there is גורס the הזמה as well. Tosafos explains that the fact that he doesn't pay money is just because he is not מחייב money. The (קצות (סימן ל"ח ס"ק ה says that the נפקא מינא would be in a case where he is מחייב money such as where he is מחייב a שבועה that the person can't take and the person then has to pay. In that case if he is מוזם the עד would need to pay. The קצות ends off that he is not sure that there is הזמה by an עד אחד.

The Minchas Chinuch (מצוה ל"ז), brings an expicit Rambam (הל' עדות פרק כ"א הל' ה) that there is הזמה by an עד אחד by a Sota:
"בא עד אחד והעיד שזינת אחר הקינוי והסתירה, ונמצא אותו העד זומם--משלם כתובתה ..."

Based on the Rambam the Michas Chinuch is surprised why the קצות said he is not sure that there is הזמה by an עד אחד.

However if you look in the Frankel Rambam you see that there are different נוסחאות in the Rambam whether it should say עד א or not and therefore the proof from the Rambam is not so clear cut. Also see the חזו"א there.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not eating chametz that was sold to a גוי - Is it possible? Part 2

The situation is actually even worse then I described. According to R' Yossi Shteinberger a Kashrus expert it is impossible not to eat chametz that was sold to a גוי.

Flour in Israel is very low in gluten and therefore won't rise well unless gluten is added. All bakeries add gluten to the flour in all baked goods.

There is no gluten produced in Israel, it is all imported mostly from Germany, France, and China. Gluten by definition is חמץ גמור. Because it needs to be imported gluten must be SOLD to a Goy over Pessach; unless the bakeries want to close shop for a few weeks waiting for a new shipment. Since they start making bread literally a few hours after Pesach is over they must be using gluten that they sold to a גוי.

Therefore, even if the bread says baked after Pesach from flour that was ground after Pesach, the gluten was most definitley sold and therefore you are relying on the sale to a גוי.

In other words they are pulling the wool over your eyes. They say that it was baked after Pesach from flour that was ground after Pesach but conveniently leave out the bit about gluten that was sold.

Source: בלון ושמו אחר הפסח

ודאי רמאי (Bava Metzia 2a-3a)

The gemara on 3a applies the principle of ודאי רמאי to the idea of יחלוקו that if someone is definitely lying you would not say יחלוקו. The simple reading of the Gemara is that even the רבנן hold that you don't say יחלוקו if there is a ודאי רמאי because the Gemara asks on both ר' יוסי and the רבנן from חנוני על פנקסו that in that case there is a ודאי רמאי.

However, in fact, this is a מח' ראשונים. The last Rashi on 2a states that whenever you have a ודאי רמאי you say יהא מונח, implying that according to Rashi this is even according to the רבנן. Tosafos (2b ד"ה אי תנא מציאה) as well as the Rosh in סימן א both disagree and say that even in the case of זה אומר אני ארגתיה וזה אומר אני where there is a ודאי רמאי, you say יחלוקו. They hold that the סברה of ודאי רמאי was only said for ר' יוסי.

A נפקא מינה is the case of זה אומר אני ארגתיה וזה אומר אני ארגתיה. Rashi says the din is יהא מונח because there is a ודאי רמאי. However, Tosafos (2b ד"ה אי תנא מציאה) as well as the Rosh in סימן א both disagree and say that even in the case of זה אומר אני ארגתיה וזה אומר אני ארגתיה where there is a ודאי רמאי, you say יחלוקו. They bring a proof from the Gemara later (7a) from the case of שנים אדוקים בשטר where there is a ודאי רמאי and still the din is יחלוקו. Tosafos and the Rosh explain that according to the רבנן there is a different סברה, that the חלוקה יכולה להיות אמת. What this means is that we don't look at the 2 people to see if one is definitely lying but rather we look at the psak din, can the psak din be correct. In the case of זה אומר אני ארגתיה וזה אומר אני ארגתיה the answer is yes, it is possible that both of them own it and the correct psak is יחלוקו.

What do Tosafos and the Rosh do with the Gemara (3a) of חנוני על פנקסו where the Gemara seems to assume the סברה of ודאי רמאי even according to the רבנן? The answer is that although the Gemara uses the language of ודאי רמאי that is לפי ר' יוסי, according to the רבנן the question really is that by חנוני על פנקסו the psak din cannot be correct. Reuven owes his worker Levi $100 and tells him to collect from Shimon. Both Levi and Shimon now come to collect from Reuven. Reuven only owes $100 yet the psak din is to make him pay $200, $100 to Levi and $100 to Shimon. Even according to the רבנן that is a problem because the חלוקה cannot be אמת.

Daf Yomi related posts

Daf Yomi just started learning Bava Metzia so I m going to start posting on Bava Metzia related topics.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not eating chametz that was sold to a גוי - Is it possible? - Updated

As I pointed out a few years ago (Not eating chametz that was sold to a גוי ) this has become a very popular chumra.

However, Hamodia is reporting this week that it is all a fake. It is practically impossible to keep this chumra as manufacturers can put whatever they want on the label and no one checks whether it is actually true.

Kashrus organizations do not see a difference between cake sold halachically to a gentile and beer ... For that reason there are no grounds for relying on the manufactures declarations.
Halachically there is no problem with eating chamtez that was sold to a gentile in accordance withthe law. ... So the kashrus organizations stance is usually to permit the manufacturers to write on the package whatever they want

In other words the Kashrus organizations like the Eidah Hacharedis, R' Landau, R' Rubin and others hold that this is a chumra with no basis and therefore have no issue with the manufacturers writing whatever they want.

In short, this is a chumra that makes people feel frum but has no basis in halacha and is in fact not really possible to keep.


Some people rely on checking product codes which tells them when the product was made. This year for example, a code higher then 9106 (9 - 2009, 106 the 106th day of the year) means it was made after Pesach. However, this is not that useful. All it says is that the product was made after Pesach. However, every Chometz product has chometz ingredients in it (at least flour which is most probably chometz because it was washed) and the consumer has no way of knowing when the chometz ingredients were made. For example even if you only buy cookies that were made after Pesach you have no idea what flour was used. It is very possible/probable that the flour used to make the cookies was chometz and was sold for Pesach.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shaving this Friday

This Friday is an opportunity to shave even for those who don't normally shave during sefira. Because it is both Rosh Chodesh and Erev Shabbos, the Mishna Berura (סימן תצ"ג ס"ק ה) writes that since there is additional simcha of both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, even those who are noheg not to shave from Pesach until Lag Baomer are allowed to shave on this Erev Shabbos which is also Rosh Chodesh.

In previous years I have always forgotten and when I came to shul Friday night and saw the shaven faces I kicked myself. This year I don't plan on forgetting and am either going to trim my beard nicely or shave it off completely (I don't know if it is worth the effort to shave it all off).

Of course this only applies to those people who don't hold from the צוואה of R' Yehuda Hachasid. The Mishna Berura in סימן ר"ס quotes from the the צוואה of R' Yehuda Hachassid that some have the minhag not to take a haircut on Friday that is Rosh Chodesh because it is dangerous.

However, the fact is that according to the calendar Rosh Chodesh Iyyar is always 2 days and cannot fall out on Shabbos and Sunday (because Pesach can't start on Friday). Therefore if Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Iyar, then that Erev Shabbos is always Rosh Chodesh as well and even so the MB allowed haircuts. In other words the MB here allowed haircuts on Rosh Chodesh against the צוואה of R' Yehuda Hachassid.

Interestingly enough the שונה הלכות quotes (סימן תצ"ג) the Mishna Berura that you can shave on Friday if Rosh Chodesh is Shabbos but then he adds, if Friday is also Rosh Chodesh then look at what I wrote in סימן ר"ס where he quotes the minhag of R' Yehuda Hachassid. This is very difficult because when Rosh Chodesh Iyyar is Shabbos, Friday is always Rosh Chodesh as well in our calendar.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is mixed seating on public transportation the cause of all our problems?

According to these Kol Korei's in todays Yated, the answer would seem to be yes. The cause of our problems is התרופפות (weakening) in צניעות specifically mixed seating on public transportation.

Is a lack of tznius really the biggest problem in the Charedi community? Are there no bigger issues that need to be fixed? A generation ago everyone went on public transportation with mixed seating and no one said a word about it. According to this Kol Korei separate seating on public transportation is required by halacha. I guess they disagree with R' Moshe's famous teshuva allowing people to ride the NY subway even in the rush hour.

Another historic event from Kupat Hair Bnei Brak

Last year it was a historic event in Vilna

Now they are sponsoring another historic event in the house of the אשה השונמית (from the Haftara of וירא).

What will they think of next?

Why in Sefira do we count up and not down?

See this post from a few years ago for a beautiful explanation in the name of R' Aharon Kotler.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why can't we eat non-kosher food?

In last week's parsha (שמיני), the torah told us what animals are kosher and what are not.

The mefarshim try to understand this mitzva and why we are not allowed to eat certain animals.

One approach taken (based on the Gemara in Yoma) is that non kosher food is intrinsically harmful, it is spiritual poison. Eating non-kosher food prevents a person from connecting to hashem, clogs up your spiritual arteries, just like eating fatty foods clogs up your physical arteries.

This approach is brought down להלכה both in Shulchan Aruch and by the later Poskim.

The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah Siman 81 paskens that a Jewish baby is allowed to have a non-Jewish wet nurse, however the Shulchan Aruch says that you shouldn't do it because the non-kosher food will harm the baby spiritually. Likewise the Rama there states that a Jewish woman who needs to eat non-kosher food for health reasons should not nurse her baby because the non-kosher food will harm him. The Gra comments that 1 of the sources of this din is the Medrash in Parshas Shemos. The pasuk says they brought a nursing woman from the Jews, the Medrash brought down by Rashi comments that Moshe refused to nurse from an Egyptian woman because he was going to grow up and be a Navi so how could he eat non-kosher food. In other words, the non-kosher food would have affected his soul and made it impossible for him to be the Navi that he became.

The Ran in his Drashos also takes this approach. In the 11th drasha he discusses why Halacha is decided by Chachamim and not Neviim. He asks the following question. He says that if a Chacham makes a mistake and permits a forbidden food it is like a doctor who makes a mistake and gives a patient poison instead of medicine. In both cases the person is harmed. If so, why don't we have Neviim decide halacha with nevua and there would be no mistakes? He answers that nevua is not always available (see the drasha for more details). He then explains that even though eating non-kosher food is harmful the mitzva of listening to Chachamim may counterbalance the harmful effects. In any case, we see clearly from the Ran that non-kosher is objectively poison and harmful.

The Abarbanel (Devarim 17,4) disagress with the Ran. He holds that a person is never harmed by following the Chachamim. If it is mutar then it cannot be harmful. It would seem that the Abarbanel holds that non-kosher is not objectively harmful, rather it is harmful because it is prohibited. If for you there is no prohibition then it is not harmful.

Rashi in Chullin(5a) seems to agree with the Abarbanel. The gemara there is discussing whether a mumar l'avoda zara can do shechita. The gemara tries to bring a proof from Eliyahu Hanavi. At 1 point Hashem tells Eliyahu to go live by himself and the Orvim (birds) brought him meat to eat from Achav's place and (almost)everyone in Achav's palace worshipped Avoda Zara. How could Eliyahu eat the meat if meat slaughtered by a mumar is not kosher? It must be that a mumar is allowed to slaughter. The Gemara answers that על פי דיבור שאני. Rashi explains that Hashem permitted him to eat non-kosher meat (a Navi is allowed to violate the Torah based on his nevua). The obvious question is how could Eliyahu Hanavi eat non-kosher food if it is spiritually harmful? It didn't seem to affect him as he continued being a Navi. The answer would seem to be like the Abarbanel that because he ate it b'heter it was not spiritually harmful.

In fact, the Ritva in Chullin as well as the Maharsha understand the gemara's answer differently. They understand that the Gemara answered that Eliyahu Hanavi knew b'nevua that the meat was kosher, that it had been slaughtered by Ovadia who did not worship Avoda Zara. According to them, Eliyahu Hanavi did not end up eating non-kosher food.

R' Moshe (Orach Chaim 2:88) quotes a teshuva of the Chasam Sofer where he discusses a handicapped girl in the following situation. If she stayed at home she would never develop and remain an ayno bar daas. However, if the parents sent her to a special school they claimed that she would reach the potential of a 13-14 year old. However, the school was in a non-Jewish area and there was no possibility of providing kosher food. The Chassam Sofer said that al pi din it is muttar, however he recommends against sending her for the following reason. If they send her she will become a bar daas and be chayav in mitzvos. However, the non-kosher food will affect her lev and she will probably violate torah and mitzvos and therefore it is better for her to remain an ayno bar daas.

We see clearly that this idea that any non-kosher food is metamtem halev, even if eaten b'heter (the girl was a ketan and an ayno bar daas so there was no issur), is brought down halacha l'maase and is a serious concern.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Bris milah or Bircas Hachama which comes first?

R' Elyashiv was asked this question by one of his grandchildren who had a baby last Wednesday. R' Elyashiv's psak was that first you do Bircas Hachama and then the mila. The reason for the pask is not given but I would guess that it has to with the fact that Bircas Hachama is a mitzva that has a very short time (only the first 3 hours) while milah is all day.