Friday, July 24, 2009

Pareve Bread

by: Rabbi Yechezkel Khayyat

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Bread - only Pareve?

The Gemora introduces the prohibition on producing and eating meat or dairy bread. The Tur and Shulchan Aruch discuss this prohibition at length in YD 97. Below are a number of issues related to this topic.


The Gemora explains that these breads are forbidden due to a concern that one may eat the bread with meat of milk. This is true even if the bread was baked with bird fat, even though bird meat and milk is only Rabbinically prohibited.

The Poskim question why this is not a gezeirah l’gezeirah – a Rabbinic decree applied to a Rabbinic decree.

The Pri Megadim (Sifsei Da’as 97:1) answers that bread is such an essential staple that indiscriminately eating bread with meat or milk – i.e., assuming it is pareve – is so pervasive and common as to be certain. Therefore, the Rabbinic prohibition on a milk and bird meat mixture includes the prohibition of such bread.

Other Applications

The Taz (YD 97:1) applies this prohibition to other essential foods that are assumed pareve, including spices. Therefore, the Taz says that if one had a spice grinder which was used as pareve, and then one ground meat in it, it may not be used for any spices, even for use with meat.


The Gemora (Pesachim 36a) allows one to make such bread when made k’ain tura – like an ox. Rashi says this means that when one bakes only a small amount, which will be eaten in one meal, we are not concerned that it will be accidentally eaten with the wrong type of food, and is therefore permitted.

The Rif says that this means that if the bread baked has a distinctive shape and/or appearance, we are not concerned that one will eat it with the wrong food. For example, a muffin type of bread, or bread with obvious cheese or meat in it, would be permitted.

The Rama (YD 97:1) says that this is why it is customary to bake bread with milk for Shavuos, and with fat for Shabbos, since the bread looks different, and only a small amount is baked this way.

Taste Once Removed

The braisa says that if one coated an oven with fat, one may not bake bread in it until he burns out the fat.

The Rishonim discuss why simply cleaning the fat from the surface is not sufficient. The Rashba says that cleaning the surface is sufficient, but the braisa gave the more common action of burning it out.

Tosfos (Pesachim 30 Dilma) says that since the fat is so hard to clean at the surface, we assume that cleaning the surface will not be done thoroughly enough, and therefore one must burn it out.

The Poskim discuss whether the case of the oven whose surface is cleaned out is a case of nat bar nat – an embedded taste that is one step removed. If it is, the question and answers given by the Rishonim may indicate their position on whether one may intentionally create food that is nat bar nat for eating with meat or milk. See Yalkut Yosef YD 89, footnote 35.

Coffee Breaks

The Mishna discusses at what point in the work day a worker can eat from the food he is harvesting. Most Rishonim read the Mishna and Gemora as saying that from the Torah, while the worker is working with the fruit – until it is harvested – he may eat, while the Sages allowed them to eat during breaks between sections of the vineyard.

The Rambam (Sechirus 12:2) says that from the Torah a worker may only eat after he has harvested, since before then he will be wasting work time on eating. The Sages allowed the workers to eat before the harvest is fully done, during breaks between sections, to limit the break time taken once the harvest is done.

The Rambam’s text in the Mishna seems to be like the Rif’s - that one may eat only “b’shas gmar m’lacah” - at the time of the end of work, as opposed to our text - “b’shas m’lacha” - at the time of work.

The Maggid Mishnah says that the Rambam’s position is similar to Rashi’s. Rashi says that the Mishna says that a worker may not take a break from his work in order to eat, indicating that eating out of the permitted time is prohibited due to idling from the required work. See Drisha HM 337:4 for further details on the positions of the Rambam and Rashi. See Even Haezel for an alternate explanation of the Rambam’s position.

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Unenforcable Obligations

Rava explained that although one who muzzles an ox is punished with lashes, and therefore is not forced by the court to pay the ox’s owner the damages of the withheld food, he is still fundamentally obligated to pay. Rava compares it to the case of one who paid his mother an animal in exchange for relations with her. Although the son is killed, and we therefore the court cannot enforce his obligation to pay his mother, if he did so, he fulfilled a contractual obligation, and the animal is unfit as a sacrifice.

Rava made the same statement (Bava Kamma 70b) in relation to one who transferred a stolen animal to a customer on Shabbos, concurrent with a violation of Shabbos. Although the court cannot enforce the sale, it is valid, just as the son’s payment to the mother is considered a bona fide payment.

The Rishonim discuss the extent of Rava’s statement. The Raavad quotes those who say that this applies only to obligations explicitly taken. In the case of paying his mother, the son obligated himself to pay, and in the case of the sale of the stolen animal, the thief entered into the sale.

The Raavad disproves this from our Gemora, where Rava is discussing the obligation of the thresher to feed the ox. This does not seem to be an instance of anyone explicitly undertaking an obligation, yet the Gemora applies Rava’s statement.

Rav Chaim Soloveichik (Chidushei Rambam Me’ila 8:1) states that while the obligation to allow a worker to eat from the food he’s working with is a monetary obligation, the prohibition of muzzling an ox is fundamentally a religious obligation.

The Kehilos Yaakov (BK 13:4) suggests that our Gemora therefore indicates that when the Torah stipulated a religious obligation, any resultant recipient of monetary payment is considered a bona fide owner of that money. Therefore, the obligation of the thresher to the owner of the ox is still considered a bona fide obligation. He discusses whether one can apply this other religious obligations that require monetary payment (e.g., meats from a sacrifice given to Kohanim).

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Saving the Whales

by: Reb Avi Lebovitz

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The Gemora suggests a kal vachomer that would result in their being a mitzvah of preserving the life of animals. Although one may have a mitzvah to feed his own animals, the Gemora concludes that there is surely no mitzvah to support the animal (when it is no longer profitable), and certainly one is not obligated to support animals that are not his.

The Tosfos HaRosh asks in the name of Rabbeinu Meir: Why would we have thought differently? There should be an obvious challenge to this kal vachomer from the fact that one is not allowed to slaughter people, but may slaughter animals - this obviously shows that there isn’t any mitzvah to preserve the life of animals!?

The Tosfos HaRosh responds to this question by saying that we would have thought that this mitzvah would apply to animals that one is not allowed to slaughter, such as a bechor that is intermingled with an ox that is destined to be stoned (shor haniskal).

Aside from the actual question of the Tosfos HaRosh, the entire thought that one would be obligated to support animals and help them survive seems a little strange. Especially since in the end, the mitzvah of preserving a life only applies to a Jew and not to an idolater!?

The Biur Halachah (330:2) writes that one is obligated to help a ger toshav woman give birth because on a ger toshav, there is a mitzvah to preserve their life. He entertains the possibility that the Jew can even violate a Rabbinic prohibition to help the ger toshav give birth because when there is a mitzvah to preserve a life, the Rabbis did not issue their decrees. Based on this application of the mitzvah to preserve a life, the mitzvah goes beyond tzedakah; it compels one to actually take care of others and help them through physically challenging circumstances.

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Ma'aser on Purchased Produce

by: Reb Avi Lebovitz

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There is a fundamental argument between Rabbeinu Tam and Rivam quoted by Tosfos regarding the exemption from ma’aser on produce that Reuven sold to Shimon.

Rabbeinu Tam holds that if Reuven processed the produce prior to selling and it became obligated in ma’aser and assumes a status of tevel, by selling it to Shimon, the tevel status is removed and it is exempt once again. But if Reuven never processed it, when Shimon does the processing, he will be Biblically obligated in ma’aser because it is considered his own produce.

Rivam says exactly the opposite. If Reuven processed the produce prior to selling it, since it has become obligated in ma’aser and assumes a status of tevel, this status cannot be removed. Therefore, when he sells it to Shimon, Shimon will have a Biblical obligation to separate ma’aser. But if Reuven sold it to Shimon prior to processing it and it was processed in the home of Shimon, then it is not subject to a ma’aser obligation.

When the produce was grown by an idolater (assuming his acquisition in Eretz Yisroel will not remove the ma’aser obligation), the Gemora says in Bechoros (11b) that if the idolater processed them and then sold them to a Jew, they are exempt from ma’aser, but if the Jew processed them, they are obligated.

Rabbeinu Tam holds that if the produce was processed by the original farmer, it makes no difference if he were a Jew or an idolater, the buyer would be exempt. But, if they weren’t processed by the original farmer, the buyer would be obligated.

The Rivam holds that when the original farmer was an idolater, the halachah is exactly the opposite from when the original farmer would be a Jew. An idolater farmer who processes and sells would be exempt since it was processed by the idolater and it will remain exempt even after it is sold. But if an idolater farmer didn’t process it, it is not considered his at all, so that when he sells it to the Jew and the Jew processes it, it is obligated.

The greatest difficulty with Rabbeinu Tam is that produce that is tevel can be sold and revert back to being exempt from ma’aser (and then if sold back to Reuven would revert back to being obligated in ma’aser)! The greatest difficulty in the Rivam is that produce of an idolater is not considered to be his unless he processed it, so that if sold to a Jew, it is as if the Jew grew it himself and is obligated in ma’aser.

Another hybrid approach (possible Reb Chaim’s explanation in a Rambam) is that it is not dependent on who processed it, but rather what the intent was when it was processed. If Reuven processed it for personal use and it becomes obligated, nothing can remove that status of tevel (like the Rivam). If Reuven did not process it; rather he sold it to Shimon who processed it, then it is also obligated (like Rabbeinu Tam). Only if Reueven processed it with the intent of selling it to Shimon, it will be exempt.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

License to Lie

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Rabbi Moshe Menachem Liberman, a member of the Chicago Community Kollel discusses some of the halachos regarding the modification of the truth for certain purposes.

“And they sent a message to Yoseph saying: Your father commanded before he died, saying: So you shall say to Yoseph: Please forgive now the transgression of your brethren, and their sin, for they did to you evil . . .” Vayechi 50:16-17. Rashi points out that the brothers modified the words of Yaakov Avinu in this matter in the interest of peace because Yaakov Avinu had not actually commanded thus.1 The Gemara learns from these pesukim that there is a license to alter the truth in the interest of peace.2 This freedom to alter the truth is actually mandatory and not merely an authorization to alter the truth.3 Before we look at this obligation to alter the truth in the interest of peace, it behooves us to examine the general restriction against altering it.

The Torah states in Parshas Mishpatim, “From a false matter you shall distance yourself.”4 Thus, halachic authorities hold that there is a biblical obligation to refrain from lying.5 Furthermore, Hashem exhorts us to speak the truth, as the Navi in Zechariah states, “Let one man speak with another in truth.”6

The threshold for establishing what constitutes a falsehood, though, is very low. A mere omission is considered an alteration of the truth.7 The Chofetz Chaim deduces this from our Gemora, which states:

Peace is important because even Hakodosh Boruch Hu altered the truth in the interest of peace. Initially the Torah writes [that Sarah Imeinu, after hearing that she will give birth to a son to Avraham Avinu, said], “[After I am old shall my skin become smooth] and my husband is old?”8 And afterwards it writes [Hashem (only) told Avraham Avinu that Sarah Imeinu had said], “and I am old?”9 The only difference between what Sarah Imeinu said and what Hashem told Avraham Avinu that she said, was that Hashem omitted the comment that she had made concerning Avraham Avinu.10 This omission, the Gemara said, was permitted only because it was done in the interest of peace.11 Thus, even a mere omission of part of an otherwise true statement is considered a falsehood to which we are commanded to keep our distance.12

Although merely omitting is considered a falsehood, when altering the truth in the interest of peace, it is preferred to an outright lie.13 Of course, if merely omitting would be insufficient then he should outright lie.14 This obligation to lie in the interest of peace, however, does not sanction swearing falsely.15 Additionally, one may not lie concerning things which have not yet happened.16

There are other times when it is also appropriate to lie. If a person is asked whether he is knowledgeable in a certain Mesechta, he may lie and answer that he is not when in fact he is.17 However, if he is asked in order to provide an answer to a halachic query or to teach, then he must answer truthfully, consistent with his expertise in the Mesechta.18 If a person is asked in the presence of disreputable people concerning the graciousness of his host, he may lie and answer that his host was not gracious.19

The contemporary halachic authorities also permit altering the truth in the following circumstances:
• People may answer, “I don't know” when asked about a matter that is supposed to remain secret.20
• Wealthy individuals may lie about their wealth if they fear “the evil eye” (ayin hara) or if they do not want to arouse jealousy.21
• If one fears that a package will be mishandled, it is permitted to write “glass” on it, even though it does not contain any glass.22
1 Rashi al Hatorah, Vayechi 50:16 (beginning with the words “Your father commanded”)
2 Yevamos 65b
3 Derishah al Choshen Mishpat 262:21
4 23:7.
5 Rabbi Shmuel Hominer, Eved HaMelech, Parshas Mishpatim 23:7:1 (citing SMa”G at Esay 107 and SMa”K 226) (4th ed. 1998); but see Rabbi Menachem Trivash, Orach Maysharim 9:1:1 (noting that this verse is only a restriction on judges and witnesses in the judicial context) (3d ed. 1968).
6 Mesilas Yesharim Chapter 11 (quoting Zechariah 8:16 and other sources).
7 Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus 1:8:14.
8 Vayera 18:12.
9 Id. at 18:13.
10 Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus 1:8:14.
11 Id.
12 Id.
13 Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus 1:8.
14 Id.
15 Id.; but see Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus 1:8:15 (noting that if there is a foreseeable loss to the other person it is questionable whether swearing falsely may be permitted).
16 Magen Avraham 156:2 (citing Sefer Chasidim 426); but see Mishnah Berurah 156:4 (commenting on Magen Avraham 156:2 that it is questionable); see Rabbi Shmuel Hominer, Eved HaMelech, Parshas Mishpatim 23:7:2 (explaining that the Mishnah Berurah does not understand why there should be a limitation as to when one may alter the truth in the interest of peace).
17 Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 262:21.
18 Be'er HaGolah al Choshen Mishpat 262:9.
19 Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 262:21.
20 Rabbi Doniel Yehuda Neustadt, The Weekly Halachic Discussion, 47 (citing Titen Emes l'Yaakov at 76 (quoting Harav S.Z. Auerbach and Harav S.Y. Elyashiv)) (2d rev. ed. 2002).
21 Id. (citing Titen Emes l'Yaakov at 78 (quoting Harav S.Y. Elyashiv)).
22 Id. at 48 (citing Titen Emes l'Yaakov at 66 (quoting Harav S.Y. Elyashiv, Harav Y.Y. Fisher, and Harav C. Kanievsky)).

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Hosting Guests is Greater than Greeting the Divine Presence

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“And Hashem appeared to him in the orchards of Mamrei, and he was sitting at the opening of the tent in the heat of the day.” What does, “in the heat of the day” mean?

Rabbi Chama the son of Rabbi Chanina says: That day was the third day after Avraham’s bris milah. Hashem came to him to see how he was doing. Hashem therefore took out the sun from its sheath, so Avraham would not be disturbed with guests.

Avraham sent out Eliezer to go look for guests, but he came back empty handed. Avraham replied to him: I do not believe you (that there are no possible guests). This is the source of what is commonly said in Eretz Yisroel: There is no credibility in slaves. Avraham went out and saw Hashem by his doorway. This is why the verse says, “Please do not go away from Your servant.”

Tosfos writes that since Avraham asked Hashem to wait until he brings the guests inside, this would indicate that hosting guests is deemed to be even greater than greeting the Heavenly Presence.

The question is asked: How did Avraham Avinu know this halachah? Perhaps greeting the Heavenly Presence takes precedence over hosting guests? [There is an answer to this given in the name of the Noda Beyehudah.]

What is so unique about this mitzvah that it overrides a Shabbos prohibition (as the Gemora in Shabbos 127a derives) and is even greater then receiving the Divine Presence?

Rabbeinu Yonah writes that one honors his friend because his friend is a creation of Hashem. When one honors the prince, in effect, he is honoring the king. This is the deeper understanding of receiving and hosting guests. When a Jew receives Jewish guests and honors them as princes, in essence he is honoring the King, Hashem.

The Maharal writes that one cannot really honor Hashem as one cannot see Hashem and live. By receiving and hosting guests, one draws closer to the Divine Presence.

The brother of the Maharal writes in Sefer HaChaim that by performing the mitzvah of receiving and hosting guests, one will be quicker to improve on his service of Hashem. A person will say to himself, “If I can do so much for my friend who is my guest, certainly I can perform the mitzvos in a more wholesome fashion.”

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A Pair of Drinks

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The Gemora relates that Rabbah was found (by the king’s messenger) in Pumbedisa. The messenger was staying in the same inn as Rabbah. They (the workers at the inn) brought the messenger a plate of food and two cups two drink, and they then took away the plate. He turned his face away. [Rashi explains that the fact that he had two cups had given the demons reason to help damage him (in a life-threatening manner, as is apparent from the Gemora below). This is as the Gemora explains at the end of Pesachim, that an even number of drinks can cause this.] The workers asked Rabbah: What should we do? It is the king’s messenger! [They realized that this was the messenger of the king, and did not want to injure him.] Rabbah said: Bring him a plate and one drink, and take away the plate and he will be better. [He advised to give him one more drink, as this caused his drinks to be a total that was an odd number, giving the demons no more reason to harm him.] They did this, and this helped the situation.

The Tosfos HaRosh asks: Why should there be a danger here for drinking a pair of drinks? The Gemora in Pesachim (110b) states that there is no concern regarding a guest, for he does not know how many cups the host will offer him; it is therefore regarded as if he drank one and changed his mind and drank another. These two cups do not combine and there is nothing to worry about!?

He answers that the king’s messenger, on account of his prominence, is regarded as the host, since they will provide for him anything that he requests. It would therefore be a danger for him to have a pair of drinks.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blessing before the Torah

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The Land Became Lost

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: What does the verse mean when it says: Who is the man who is wise and can understand this? This (the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple) was asked to scholars and prophets and they could not explain it, until Hashem explained it Himself, as it says: And Hashem said that it is because they left my Torah. Isn’t the phrase “and they did not listen to My voice” the same as the phrase “and they did not go in its ways”? Rav Yehudah explains in the name of Rav: This means that they did not recite a blessing before learning Torah.

The Chanukas HaTorah explains: The Gemora in Brochos (48b) asks: From where do we derive that one should recite a blessing prior to studying Torah? Rabbi Yishmael says: It is derived by means of a kal vachomer. If a blessing is recited before partaking in “sustenance for the moment” (food), it certainly follows that a blessing should be recited on “eternal sustenance”! The Gemora (Brochos 38a) also states: Prior to reciting a blessing, the land belongs to Hashem; after the blessing is recited, the land is given over to man.

Accordingly, it can be said that if they refrained from reciting a blessing before studying Torah, it is clearly evident that they did not recite a blessing before eating as well. For if they would have made a blessing before the consumption of food, they certainly would have made a blessing before studying Torah (based upon the kal vachomer). Since they didn’t recite a blessing on their food, the land became lost, for prior to a blessing, the land belongs to Hashem.

They didn’t Recite the Blessing on the Torah “First”

Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: What does the verse mean when it says: Who is the man who is wise and can understand this? This (the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple) was asked to scholars and prophets and they could not explain it, until Hashem explained it Himself, as it says: And Hashem said that it is because they left my Torah. Isn’t the phrase “and they did not listen to My voice” the same as the phrase “and they did not go in its ways”? Rav Yehudah explains in the name of Rav: This means that they did not recite a blessing before learning Torah.

The language of the Gemora is that they didn’t recite a blessing on the Torah “techilah.” What is that word coming to exclude? We do not recite any blessings after we conclude learning Torah! (The Levush says that the two blessings that we recite before studying Torah are actually “one before” and “one after,” except that we never finish studying Torah, so the Rabbis instituted that both blessings should be recited beforehand.)

The Orach Yesharim explains: When a person receives a present, he values both the gift and the giver. Even if the gift is a small one, he will value it, if it was given to him by a prominent person. Similarly, he will appreciate something given to him by an ordinary person, if the item is a valuable one.

The Torah is praised with both elements. It is written: Ki lekech tov nasati lachem, the Torah itself is valuable, and that it is being gifted to Klal Yisroel from Hashem.

This could be the explanation as to why we recite two blessings before studying Torah. The first brocha is asher bachar banu, Hashem chose us; Torah is special because Hashem has given it to us. The second bracha is v’chayei olam nata b’socheinu, Torah is precious because of its inherent value.

This is the meaning of our Gemora: They appreciated the value of Torah, and therefore, they recited the second blessing. However, they were not fully appreciative of the Giver of the Torah, and they therefore refrained from reciting the first blessing on the Torah. This is why the Torah did not continue to flourish with their children.

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Every Step of the Way

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The Gemora records a story which demonstrates the greatness of Rabbi Chiya. The Gemora relates: When Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Chiya were once in an argument, Rabbi Chanina said to Rabbi Chiya, “How can you dispute me? If, Heaven forbid, the Torah were forgotten in Israel, I would restore it by my deliberations.” Rabbi Chiya rejoined, “How can you dispute me, who I caused that the Torah should not be forgotten in Israel? What did I do? I planted flax from which I made nets to capture deer. The meat from those deer I would give to poor orphans and I would convert their skins into parchments upon which I would write the five books of the Chumash. I brought these to a community where there was no Torah study and I would teach each one of five children one of the five scrolls. I would also teach orally each one of six youngsters one of the six orders of the Mishna. I would tell each of these young pupils, ‘Teach the others what you have learned before I return to see if you succeeded.’ It was because of this that I said that I caused that the Torah should not be forgotten in Israel.”

The Maharsha explains why it was necessary for him to go to such great lengths: Rabbi Chiya was determined that every step of the way be done purely for Heaven’s sake, and no person should be deriving any profit. It was for this reason that he could not simply go to a store and buy parchment. Even the meat of the animal, whose skins he used for parchment, was donated to needy orphans. It was only on account of such meticulous attention to every detail of the process that he could be certain that Heaven would bless his efforts with success.

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