Monday, April 7, 2014

Seder Historical Realities vs. Seder "Traditions"

(A re-post from last year. Timely and important!)

The clash between historical reality and recent tradition is especially prominent in the Pesach seder. Should we measure a kezayis as being the size of an olive (the historical reality), or the size of six olives (recent tradition)? Should we use soft matzah that is relatively thick and spongy (the historical reality), or matzah that is thin and hard? Should we use bitter lettuce for maror (the historical reality), or sharp horseradish? Then there is the issue of many seder customs that are rooted in the historical reality, but for which the historical reality was simply ancient convention for meals, and which were subsequently implanted with religious significance; I once took a revelatory course on this topic with Rabbi Dr. Yosef Tabory. The current explanation of the Afikoman is so treasured that I wouldn't dare say what the historical setting was!

Determining the historical reality is one thing; deciding what to do today is a different matter. As I have been arguing with R. Gil Student lately, while tradition is important, it's very difficult to define its parameters. I will therefore simply share some insights and guidelines that I see as relevant.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach wrote a letter (which I have, but have unfortunately misplaced) in which he strongly rejects Prof. Yehudah Feliks' contention that lettuce rather than horseradish should be used for maror. I don't believe that this was because he disputed Feliks' evidence that lettuce was the historical reality; Rav Aharon Lichtenstein reports that Rav Shlomo Zalman told him that when Mashiach comes, many halachos will have to be changed. Rather, his point was that Judaism is as Judaism does. The living tradition is far more important than the ancient historical reality.

Contrary to what some might expect, I strongly endorse the idea behind this view. Orthodox Judaism is a traditionalist way of life, and traditionalist religions are inherently and necessarily conservative. Radical change, even if done with the best intentions and good reasons, is often destabilizing and harmful. Even if a halachah has not been unequivocally canonized, it can still be sufficiently entrenched that it becomes problematic to change. This is similar to my explanation in Sacred Monsters about why Chazal's ruling that it is permitted to kill lice on Shabbos should remain in effect despite it being based on scientific error. As to how to apply this to maror, that is more complex. I can certainly see that it is perfectly legitimate to continue using horseradish, but I don't see it as being wrong for someone to choose bitter lettuce instead.

With kezayis, however, there is no unequivocal living tradition to use an egg-sized olive. As I noted in my monograph, there have always been those, such as Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, the Avnei Nezer and others who maintained that the kezayis is the size of an ordinary olive. Even the Chazon Ish acknowledged that this is the fundamentally correct position. It is thus an established halachic view which is merely being given greater weight in light of new discoveries of manuscripts and new data concerning olives and eggs.

What about soft versus hard matzah? I really haven't studied that case in detail, yet it seems to me that the Ashkenazi practice of using hard matzah is not based on any halachic arguments (as with the giant kezayis), but rather due to historical changes in how matzos were produced in different countries. As such, Rav Hershel Shechter's letter ruling that Ashkenazim may use soft matzah does not conflict with the aforementioned values.

There is one final important point that I want to stress. Someone told me that they were at a seder in which there were Modern Orthodox parents with their son who had gone to yeshivah in Israel and become charedi. The topic of kezayis came up, and the rest of the seder was ruined by a furious argument between parents and son about these issues. So it is apparently not "needless to say" that these issues should not cause one to lose sight of values such as shalom bayis and family unity - which is a truly important theme of seder night!

131 comments:

  1. I've spoken with Prof. Ari (Arthur) Shafer - author of the classic study of the identity of maror - about this issue. Turns out he and I both do the same thing. We make the bracha of "al achilat maror" on lettuce, since that's one of the species of "real" maror (the Gemara lists five), and have some horseradish afterward, as it has become part and parcel of Ashkenazic tradition.

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  2. Couple more points:
    Schaffer's (sorry for the earlier misspelling)article is available here:
    http://www.livelyseders.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/Horseradish.pdf

    And for those interested, here's his faculty page:
    http://www.agri.gov.il/people/571.aspx

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  3. But you're talking about the real wild lettuce, Lactuca serriola, right? Not the stuff that they sell in stores.

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  4. Take a look at the article. The mishna lists 5 different species acceptable as marror, and Schaffer chronicles attempts to identify them. Shaffer argues that "the stuff they sell in stores" is the botanical descendant of the Mishna's lettuce, the result of centuries of cultivation that has made it sweeter.

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  5. I know, that's why I was wondering if you were using the real, bitter mcCoy or the watered-down domestic version. (I just found some of the real stuff in my garden!)

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  6. R"HS discussed the soft matza issue in west orange recenly as part of a pre pesach shiur:
    http://www.mediafire.com/file/qofbcwhjb1z6qff
    Rav Hershel Schacter - Pesach Customs (i think ther may also be a copy on yutorah)
    of course one should consider his remarks on defining orthodoxy:
    http://torahmusings.com/2011/04/audio-roundup-cxl/#comments

    so deciding which minhagim are like the color of the parochet (lfi shitato) and which aren't is up to a limited group (chachmei hamesora)
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  7. Do you view the statement 'Radical change, even if done with the best intentions and good reasons, is often destabilizing and harmful. Even if a halachah has not been unequivocally canonized, it can still be sufficiently entrenched that it becomes problematic to change.' as a reflection of part of ther halachic process implanted by hkb"h or a practical legal construct found in many legal systems? if the former, what is the earliest source and why was it instituted?(a possible counter process might be that a later sanhedrin, per rambam, is not bound by the drashot of an earlier one)
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  8. The maror case is more problematic than the other ones you mention. With maror, there is a concern that one will not fulfil the mitzva at all. However, no-one holds that using a bigger shiur for matza or eating soft matza prevents fulfilment of the mitzva of matza.

    You could also have mentioned the requirement that we lean davka to the left, on the mistaken assumption that the trachea and oesophagus are located side by side.

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  9. R' Moshe Feinstein paskened a long time ago that iceberg lettuce is ok lchatchila for maror. End of discussion. He was the Gadol HaDor, and not just for certain people.

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  10. RNS,

    Please read the book Merorim by prof. Zohar Amar.

    BTW there are many cultivars of Lactuca sativa, it's not about being domestic or wild.

    Unlike the soft matza case, there are many early and late authorities who have problem with using a root for maror.

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  11. No. I'm thinking of going with endives, which are bitterer than store-bought lettuce, but I wouldn't know how to identify wild lettuce (and anyhow, I just had a kid on bein ha-zemanim weed my garden). Knowing me, I'd end up eating poison ivy or something.

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  12. >Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach wrote a letter (which I have, but have unfortunately misplaced) in which he strongly rejects Prof. Yehudah Feliks' contention that lettuce rather than horseradish should be used for maror

    In the polemical book מסורותנו (about how the Aleppo Codex is really not authoritative) there is a letter from RSZA, which I assume is this letter, which says:

    קבלתי יקרת מכתבו מעולם לא אמרתי לשנות 'מהמסורת והשו"ע וכמו שאין שומעין לפרופ פליקס (שהוא שומר מצוות) ששבולת שועל הוא לא מה שקוראים העולם, ואין שומעין לו ומברכין מזונות, וכן הוכיח באותות שתמכי הנקרא חריין לא היה כלל בזמן חז"ל ואין יוצאין בזה מרור, ואעפ"כ אין שומעין לו נגד המסורת. וכ"ש בענין זה שמפורש בשו"ע וכידוע

    I recently posted about how the original usage of horseradish seems to have been to eat the *leaves* - and these, perhaps, are indeed bitter. So while they're not what the Mishnah said, it did make sense to use it as a substitute. Not too much fresh lettuce in April in Ashkenaz.

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  13. deciding which minhagim are like the color of the parochet (lfi shitato) and which aren't is up to a limited group (chachmei hamesora)

    Does he define chachmei hamesorah, and explain his basis for that definition?

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  14. nate said...
    R' Moshe Feinstein paskened a long time ago that iceberg lettuce is ok lchatchila for maror. End of discussion. He was the Gadol HaDor, and not just for certain people.


    Nate, are you aware that R. Moshe Feinstein also paskened that any rav is entitled to argue with the Gadol HaDor? End of discussion.

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  15. I wouldn't know how to identify wild lettuce... Knowing me, I'd end up eating poison ivy or something.

    It's really easy. Check out
    http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/lacse.htm
    To confirm that it's wild lettuce and not one of the look-alikes, check for the spines on the midvein of the lower surface of the leaf, as in this picture: http://www.flowersinisrael.com/Lactucaserriola_page.htm

    It's all over the place in Israel at the moment.

    Besides, there isn't any poison ivy in Israel!

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  16. (I should add, though, that apparently it is like a mild form of opium, with potentially harmful side-effects. See http://montana.plant-life.org/species/lactuca_serrio.htm)

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  17. In my Ben-Ish-Chai haggada it lists Chazerat as lettuce, carpas as celery and Maror as any bitter green plant ( ירק מר לסימנא בעלמא )

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  18. I have been reading Rabbi Dovid Ribiat's notes on halachos of pesach and he (on pg 45) gives reasons for only eating the crunchy matzah. Basically he says:
    1) The thickness of the dough might not let the center cook fast enough.
    2) The thick matzah goes stale in a day and so requires baking it every day, and hence problems can occur on pesach while baking it. These aren't halachic per say since if one is skilled in matzah-baking one can make sure the dough is cooked properly everyday. However for us out-of-towners haivn fresh made thick matzah each day is not practically possible.

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  19. Does he define chachmei hamesorah, and explain his basis for that definition?
    ========================
    Not really-he explains that it is not your local shul rav nor someone who got an 8/100 on smicha exams. I think it takes one to know one might be the best explanation.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  20. That's not a useful explanation at all!

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  21. R'NS-or perhaps it's if you have to ask, it's not you (Not useful either, I know)

    R'RM-R'HS described that as yeridot hadorot in baking since the gemara didn't seem to be concerned for that possibility.

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  22. Regarding the use of horseradish as morror, it is interesting that from the Rambam's description of tamcha in his commentary to the mishna it is clearly not horseradish. Although there is an Ashkenazi tradition that tamcha is horseradish, it would make sense for people who are concerned with all kinds of chumros to use lettuce, at least to satisfy the Rambam's view.

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  23. Reuven Meir, until very recently everyone ( at least among Sepharadim ) baked their own matza fresh, every day during Pesach. What's crazy, is that now when I go around Jerusalem looking for Kemach Shmura I can't find it and when I ask people about it they look at me like I'm crazy. They even tell me things like it's assur to have flour during Pesach. How are you supposed to bake matza without flour?

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  24. Reuven Meir, just ran across this:

    Soft Massa: It’s the Real Thing

    ..."This much is beyond doubt: originally massa was soft and bread-like. In the Talmud (TB Pesahim 7a) we read: “Rabbah the son of R. Huna said in the name of Rab: If a mouldy loaf [is found during Pesah in a bread bin and we are unsure whether it is bread or massa], if the majority of loaves [in the bin] are massa it is permitted [because we assume it to be like the majority].” The Talmud goes on to explain that this Halakha only applies if several days of Pesah have already passed in which case “we say every day hot massa was baked and placed there and thus it became very mouldy”, whereas if a very mouldy loaf is found at the beginning of Pesah it must be some days old and is certainly bread from before Pesah.

    When did you last come across mouldy massa? You haven’t, because cracker-massa doesn’t go mouldy. Soft bread-like massa does; I know from personal experience. I have been baking soft massa for nearly 30 years."...

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  25. Actually, IIRC, Prof. Felix also says that one should add a bit of horse raddish in the bitter lettuce as a "zakher" of the old incorrect minhag. I think that is a common practice nowadays.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  26. Can someone please explain briefly what in the world is going on with matza? Everyone knows that there is nothing better than freshly baked bread -- and now I am finding out that freshly baked, soft matza was the minhag for a thousand years -- but now we are stuck with mass produced machine made crackers that are more perfectly square than my tefillin? If this isn't yeridos hadoros I don't know what is.

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  27. It's interesting how minhag, even if not ancient, trumps the talmud. There appears to be little basis for the assumption that the horseradish is one of the 5 species mentioned in the talmud as usable for maror. The usual understanding of the prevalence of using horseradish for maror in Eastern Europe was the unavailability of any kind of lettuce Pesach-time due to the climatic conditions (late growing season). Thus, an 'ein bereira' situation became a holy custom which must, apparently, be continued even when the maror species mentioned in the talmud are available.

    My own practice over the years has been to use iceberg lettuce wrapped around some grated horseraddish. I had earlier used Romaine lettuce but the tiny green bug issue in that lettuce made it problematic. I know that the above practice is hardly unique, even if some may question whether the sharp taste of the horseradish overwhelms and nullifies whatever taste iceberg lettuce has. My own understanding is that bitterness need not be tasted as long as the species is acceptable (even Iceberg lettuce turns bitter if left unpicked. In the absence of a contrary pesak from someone I respect, I, therefore, plan on continuing my personal custom.

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  28. The anecdote about a heated argument between father and son about shiurim at the seder is related in an incomplete manner. If the father wanted to impose his practice on a grown son, that is a counter-productive approach. It will accomplish little and can lead to estrangement - besides the loss of simchat yom tov and the potential for treating the son as if he were a "ben rasha".

    If, however, the son initiated the argument, that would be a bad reflection on the Hareidi yeshiva that he attended. His education would have been clearly remiss in his thinking that only the shitah on shiurim of his rebbe'im was valid. Besides, the theme of the seder is a father's obligation to teach his children - not the reverse.

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  29. wouldn't Romain lettuce be preferred from a matchil bignus misayem beshevach point of view?

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  30. Natan - the opiate thing convinced me to go for it :-)
    Reuven Meir - they make these appliances now called freezers. If you put the matza in them, like many Sephardim here in Israel do, you can keep the soft matza from going stale, even out-of-town.

    For an excellent overview of hte history of matza baking - soft, semi-hard, and hard - see http://www.jidaily.com/RHT

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  31. Regarding the "return to historical reality", as opposed to ongoing tradition, there is a movement in this direction which was ignited by the return of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel. An example was given Rabbanim who are affiliated with the "new TANACH studies" affiliated with Yeshivat Har Etzion/Michlelet Yaakov Herzog/the Megadim Journal/Virtual Beit Midrash. They that new interpretations of the TANACH are legitimate because we are in renewed contact with the land, we are learning more about its history and archaeology which shed light on the TANACH and there is a new spirit in the air.
    Another example is the return to the use of TECHELET (the blue string) in the Tzitziot.
    Another example is the renewed interest in ascension of Jews to the parts of the Temple Mount that the laws of Tuma-Tahara (ritual impurity) permit.
    Finally, there was the move to restore the Hebrew Language as the spoken language of the Jewish People in Eretz Israel. This proved to be a big success.
    There was or is immense opposition to all these things from certain elements of the Rabbnic establishment, but courageous people, filled with Yirat Shamayim are forging ahead with these new/old ideas and I, for one, find them refreshing.

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  32. With all this discussion about Botany, I'm wondering if you're soon going to be known to us as the Phyto-Rabbi as well as the Zoo-Rabbi.

    Have a wonderful Pesach.

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  33. I am the rov providing the hashgocha for the soft matza in australia.
    See www.exodusmatza.com for more info.

    One of my considerations is that the Mishna B, Aruch HaSh, and ShO HaRav, all speak about soft matza (486) yet none mention anything about hard matz. Thin matza is recorded but that rama is explained by the baer heiteiv to refer to thickness of an etzba.
    it is not reasonable for a practice, that runs contrary to such recent documentation, to become a binding minhag and be deemed a threat to the stability of minhag ashkenas and community norms.

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  34. If the father wanted to impose his practice on a grown son, that is a counter-productive approach.

    Y. Aharon – I beg to differ on this point. A son, even a “grown” son (pretending that age 18-20 is an “adult” on an emotional maturity level) is a guest in his father’s home, unless he is running his own home. A father is not “imposing” his practices when running his seder and saying this is my home, and this is how I run my seder.

    If, however, the son initiated the argument, that would be a bad reflection on the Hareidi yeshiva that he attended. His education would have been clearly remiss in his thinking that only the shitah on shiurim of his rebbe'im was valid. Besides, the theme of the seder is a father's obligation to teach his children - not the reverse.

    Most rebbeim in yeshivos in Israel who are teaching boys who come from Modern Orthodox backgrounds to leave the way of life that they grew up with and to go the way of Chareidi Judaism, are teaching them that Chareidism is the ONLY valid way. This translates into the boys’ rebbeims’ shitah on everything, including shiurim of matzah, marror, minhagim, etc being the only valid way, and the parents’ ways therefore being invalid.

    His education would have been clearly remiss

    You don’t say? (This is an understatement!!)

    Besides, the theme of the seder is a father's obligation to teach his children - not the reverse.

    Clearly you know nothing about the “Torah True” way. The obligation of a father to teach his children is only in the Chumash, the Torah Shebichtav – the written Torah. But anyone who knows anything about Judaism knows that Torah Sheba’al Peh (the oral Torah) has the last word on practicing Judaism. And the Oral Torah (which is no longer oral but now written in a form of stone), can ONLY be interpreted correctly by a yeshiva boy’s Chareidi rabbeim in Israel who are the keepers of “Torah True Judaism” (i.e., Chareidism). (This was facetious, in case that was missed.)

    The amount of shalom bayis issues which arise between children and parents due to the indoctrination kids receive while learning in Israel should be a good example of what G-d and the Torah do NOT want.

    I myself was brainwashed at that young, impressionable age, and still do not forgive “the system” for the multiple rifts (an understatement) it caused between me and my parents, all in the name of holiness. That is not Torah. And it is not Judaism. But it is what is being sold to the masses as the “Torah True” way, it is where Orthodoxy is in the majority and where Orthodoxy is moving towards en mass.

    Sorry for the soapbox…

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  35. With all this discussion about Botany, I'm wondering if you're soon going to be known to us as the Phyto-Rabbi as well as the Zoo-Rabbi.


    Between my friends Dr. Zohar Amar and Dr. Jon Greenberg at http://www.torahflora.org, it's already covered!

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  36. Michapeset, your generalization is uncalled for and completely incorrect. There are some rebbeim that will try to brainwash their talmidim, but they are by and large the minority. Most rebbeim just try to get the talmidim inspired to be shomer halacha, and do not try to convince then of charedi hashkafa at all.

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  37. “Radical change, even if done with the best intentions and good reasons, is often destabilizing and harmful.” - For many BTs like myself, the transformation from secular to observant was initially both destabilizing and harmful because my life, and my way of looking at life, completely transformed, and there were definite repercussions. Finding the right balance took time, but it was well worth it because I wanted to live life the way Hashem wanted me to live life. For the Jews leaving Egypt the transformation from living life as an Egyptian slave to a servant of Hashem was also both destabilizing and harmful, as many lost their lives due their errors in the desert (Golden calf, sin of the spies, etc.). However, that was price to pay for the end goal of living life the way Hashem wanted us to live life. That said, if there are halachot that are based on erroneous scientific conclusions, or Pesach customs like the ones you mention in this post that do not reflect “historical reality,” then I believe based on personal experience that the pursuit of truth and authenticity is worth the instability and risk of harm that comes with it. “The seal of the Holy One blessed be He, is truth.” (Shabbat 55a.) As noted by the Ramchal, “’[I]f this is what the Master, blessed be He, chose as His seal, its opposite must be abominable to Him.” I also say that because I believe Hashem will help the Jewish people if they move toward a more authentic and accurate form of avodah (i.e. “historical reality”). As it says, “[i]f one comes to purify himself, [heaven] assists him.” (Shabbos 104a.)

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  38. Michapeset,

    You wrote, "I myself was brainwashed at that young, impressionable age, and still do not forgive “the system” for the multiple rifts (an understatement) it caused between me and my parents, all in the name of holiness."

    I had a similar experience, causing my father much distress. Simply wickedness. My case did not take place in the MO world, but it took place in "the system."

    Why anybody thinks it's important for a kid to oberve chalav yisrael or wear his tzitzis out and to then think himself as really more frum than poor people like his father who "nebech" grew up in 1950s America is beyond me.

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  39. I've had some experience with the wild lettuce you mention. The opiate-like substances are mostly in the sap. If you drain obvious sap and don't eat more than the religiously required amount you should be okay.

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  40. Reuven, as has been mentioned, most people used to bake their own bread and matzoh. It can't have been that hard to do it right. I've baked soft matzoh for a couple years. It's pretty easy to get it cooked all the way through as long as you don't make it an inch thick or something else ridiculous.

    With modern technology you don't have to do it every day. Make a bunch, pop it in the freezer, and thaw as needed.

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  41. Why anybody thinks it's important for a kid to oberve chalav yisrael or wear his tzitzis out and to then think himself as really more frum than poor people like his father who "nebech" grew up in 1950s America is beyond me.

    That way of thinking, far from being traditional is quite modern:

    Why anybody thinks it's important for a kid to

    [oberve chalav yisrael]/[eat treif]/[study Marx and Lenin]

    or

    [wear his tzitzis out]/[[take off his tzitzis]/[be a revolutionary]

    and to then think himself as really more

    [frum]/[American]/[enlightened and compassionate]

    than poor people like his father who "nebech" grew up in

    [1950s America]/[the Old Country]/[in cheder and yeshiva]

    is beyond me.


    Word verification: paters

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  42. Yehuda – My case also did not take place in the MO system per se. My family was a mix of frum/modern. But “the system” taught me all these new halachos and minhagim that my parents never heard of, told me that we have an obligation to be the kohanim and leviim of this generation and the boys need to learn full time and the girls need to support them. They told me that my parents live in a world of illusion because it’s not filled with Torah 24/7 (right – my parents were working to pay those teacher’s salaries so they could indoctrinate us!). They told me that Hashem will pay my bills, and I should have bitachon and not go to college even though my parents begged me to. They told me that my parents, nebuch, didn’t know better but now that we know that we have to check our lettuce with light boxes it is assur d’oraiysa for us to eat those foods in our parents’ homes if they are not following proper halachos of kashrus. And who knows what kind of damage we could do to our neshamos, and even future doros, chas v’shalom, if we would eat a sheretz or treifus even b’shogeg. And then they taught us about all the new halachos of Shabbos that our Shomer Shabbos parents never heard of, and the list goes on and on and on.

    Zu Torah? No, this is preying on young minds.

    BA – Perhaps it is only the “minority” – so let’s say it’s 48% of rebbeim. Even if it is 20% - it is a “minority” too many. This “minority” of rebbeim is doing a “majority” of damage not only to the reputation of the Torah they believe they are teaching, but to the lives of those they are indoctrinating. The Torah they are using to manipulate young impressionable minds eventually becomes resented as those young minds mature and as adults they see that Torah was used to manipulate them. Nobody updates “the system” and tells these rebbeim that so many of the boys and girls they think they were “mekarev” eventually turn into the biggest skeptics, and deeply resent the fact that they were taught that Torah comes before their relationships with their parents, which are among the most meaningful relationships they will ever have in their lifetimes.

    YoelB – Indoctrinating and rallying the young and impressionable to your cause of choice is not a new idea. But doing so without regard for what is good for them as people, and doing so in the name of Torah, G-dliness, and holiness is a corruption of the essential morals of Torah.

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  43. YoelB,

    While you raise some food for thought, I don't think your analogies work. Saving the world (socialism) or contributing to the world and living a life of meaning(enlightenment) are arguably, arguably reasons for estranging a child from his parent. My point is, from a religious point of view, how does one justify encouraging a child to eat cholov yisrael or wear his tzitzis out if doing so will estrange father from son?

    Are these customs (or "chumros" as they incorrectly see them) really that important in the overall scheme of things?

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  44. On the subject of change. The Midrash says, Jews should be like a reed in the water--flexible enough to bend with the winds of time, but not so flexible as to be washed away by the tide. Meaning there should be a balance for the times we live, not far right nor far left.

    And on the story of the son who became a charedi and of the furious argument that took place at the sader with his perfectly normal Modern Orthodox parents I say this. It is one thing to be born a charedi and it is one thing for one to become a charedi who comes from a non Torah observance background, who can be excused for his being ignorant. But to become a charedi from a Modern Orthodox upbringing is beyond ignorance. It is a mental problem. The charedi attitude is, you will agree with me, parents or no parents, sader or no sader. The charedi movement brings one away from Torah observance with their attitude of, we have it right and you all have it wrong and there can not be agreement, love nor unity.

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  45. Married and longer in Mir!April 15, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    In the Lakewood-branch Yeshiva I attended, the Mashgiach called me over and said that in light of the dikduk halacha I was practicing, it was time to stop eating cholov stam. When I protested that this could cause problem at home, he said NOT to give my parents problems, and to eat what they serve. He only meant that when I'm in Yeshiva, I should try to be makpid. I agree with this approach. Eating cholov stam is based on a self-described kula of R' Moshe, who IIRC says that a ben torah should be machmir. I haven't eaten cholov stam since then, except when necessary for Shalom (as occured at the milchige Sheva Brachos made for me and my new wife several days ago!!)

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  46. "; Rav Aharon Lichtenstein reports that Rav Shlomo Zalman told him that when Mashiach comes, many halachos will have to be changed. Rather, his point was that Judaism is as Judaism does. The living tradition is far more important than the ancient historical reality. "

    I wonder if Mashiach is necessary, or just Rov Shomer Shabat Yehudim in Israel. (Which this year, for the first time, is the case.)

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  47. "One of my considerations is that the Mishna B, Aruch HaSh, and ShO HaRav, all speak about soft matza (486) yet none mention anything about hard matz."

    One thing I found interesting from reading Vayikra recently, is that the Chumash describes 3 types of non-chametz offerings. rolls, loafs, and crackers.

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  48. I recommend the link which you posted on soft matzah by Rav David Bar-Hayim. It gives a sense of what historical realities have elapsed.

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  49. Dear Michapeset
    My hat of to you. You are most articulate. I can not agree with you more. I wish I can express myself as well as you. Thank You.

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  50. I wasn't talking about indoctrination (interesting associations you have there, Michapeset,) and Yehuda, I wasn't saying that the Communism or secularism are analogous to becoming more observant, although Communism functioned in many ways as a supersessionist religion and many have described a civil religion in the USA.

    I was saying that the Chareidi movement is as much a manifestation of modern times (i.e. in many was a break with tradition) as political revolution and abandonment of traditional ways is.

    When the tradition has been broken, there are a number of possible responses. Our history shows several: consider the redaction and writing down of the Mishna, and the development of the Talmud. The rise of Chasidut in the wake of the Chmeltizky (y"sh) massacres.

    But every man learns until 120 and nobody works? That's a radical innovation in the guise of tradition.

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  51. To Married and longer in Mir! wrote: Eating cholov stam is based on a self-described kula of R' Moshe.

    This is inaccurate. R. Moshe's heter is just one justification for permitting the consumption of stam chalav. As is evident from his first teshuva on the topic, R. Moshe was responding to an existing reality in America which was probably based on the Pri Chadash and minority Rishonim who held that if the reason doesn't apply, neither does the issur.

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  52. Married and no longer in Mir - there seems to be a lot of confusion about who R. Moshe thought should be machmir on chalav yisrael. He does not say a ben torah should be machmir - rather 'ba'al nefesh yachmir al atzmo' - I don't know how he would define ba'al nefesh.
    Also, drinking chalav stam is NOT merely based on R. Moshe's ruling - this practice existed for centuries. It is partly based on a Pri Chadash, as described here:
    http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2005/05/halav-yisrael.html
    Also, many gedolim in America, such as Rav Henkin, permitted this before R. Moshe came along. Rav Soloveichik drank chalav stam throughout his life, as described here:
    http://www.koltorah.org/ravj/13-7%20Chalav%20Yisrael%20-%20Part%201.htm
    Rav Dovid Feinstein is known to drink chalav stam, and R. Moshe Dovid Tendler ives an interesting description of R. Moshe's atitude towards the topic:
    http://www.jewishpress.com/printArticle.cfm?contentid=47598
    That said, I admit that his teshuvos do not always give us this impression; I don't know how to reconcile everything.

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  53. Isaac - Thank you.

    But I would like to add that I do not think it is "mental illness" to go from Modern Orthodox to Chareidi. I think it takes an earnest, impressionable teen (or adult) who is not skeptical enough yet to see past what is presented to him/her as a "deeper" or "more intense" derech of serving Hashem. It often happens to the best of the bunch. The kids that care only about their iPods or whatever the popular fad of the day is, or those who are not searching for "something more" often don't get swept away by the "spiritual glamour" so-to-speak. And they often don't realize how "exclusive" Chareidism is until they are knee deep in it.

    Sorry if I've been ranting/venting.

    Wishing all a good Pesach. Hopefully we can leave the bitterness behind us while we create new, sweet memories for ourselves, our families and friends. Chag same'ach to all.

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  54. To our misfortune many believe that on any given issue being machmir is always somehow better. There is a difference between a "hiddur" which has meaning to it and being machmir even though the chumra is based on a mistake.

    Rabbi David Bar-Hayim has told me that it is perfectly fine to eat dairy chocolates from outside of Israel or milk bought in the U.S.(where there is gvt. regulation.) When I asked the Rav whether it is any case preferable to avoid such products he stated that there need be no such preference. See the following Q & A:

    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/list-ask-the-rav/27-kashrut/116-chocolate-halav-nokhrim

    ReplyDelete
  55. Michapeset reply was
    Isaac - Thank you.

    "But I would like to add that I do not think it is "mental illness" to go from Modern Orthodox to Chareidi".

    Firstly, your welcome.
    And allow me to point out that as I agree with your latest post as well, I did not say nor mean "mental illness". If you look back at my post in reference, you will see I wrote "mental problem" there is a big difference between the two.
    I understand, this type of mistake happens to everyone all the time including myself, and no offense has been taken.
    Happy passover to all.

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  56. J. and HaDarda'i,

    I think you guys are right on the money. Everyone loves to read Rav Moshe's teshuvos inside out and prove that he didn't really and truly approve of drinking regular milk in America as if the whole issue rests and falls on Rav Moshe's teshuvos.

    I think it's very important for people to realize that minhag America was to drink regular milk way before Rav Moshe came on the scene. It would be an interesting project (and maybe important for the historical record) to ask older people from rabbinic families what they drank when they were children (before Rav Moshe issued his hetter) and what their parents drank.

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  57. Michapeset,

    I think you're wrong. Most people who are swept into the charedi way of thinking stay there. Only a select few manage to becone normal again. Rabbi Slifkin is one example. You're another. But you guys are the exception.

    Unfortunately, as you know only too well, I'm sure, the logic of charedism is very compelling. Look, it says such and such in Shulchan Aruch in black and white. Who can resist such logic when one has been taught one's whole life that all good Jews should follow everything stated in the Shulchan Aruch? (Even if there's a heter, which ideological teengaer wants to conduct his life based on loopholes and easy-way-outs?)

    (Naturally charedism also ignores parts of Shulchan Aruch -- even charedim don't upturn 100s-year-old community minhagim -- but teenagers don't know that.)

    Combine the black and white text with the explanation (which rings true to many) that Jews in America were somewhat lax in various areas of observance (and to be fair, many were) and do-good teenagers can't help but conclude that "true" Judaism rests in the hands of their rebbe, not their parents.

    Countering this type of logic is not easy, which is why even a large part of the MO world is attracted to it. (Right-wing MO, in fact, is basically charedi in its halachic outlook.)

    Only when one gets older and realizes that nobody (except the Vilna Gaon, Rav David bar Hayim and very, very few others) follows pure "halacha" -- disregarding minhagim, precedent, etc. -- does one understand that Judaism has never, and still doesn't (even in charedi circles) revolve around what it says in books.

    It revolves aound minhagim, traditions, and what one's local rabbi decides.

    Years ago, Marc Shapiro claimed he was writing an article listing dozens of halachos that are no longer kept by anyone. I have no idea whatever came of that (I'm still anxiously awaiting it), but anyone who knows anything can easily come up with his own list.

    I'll just throw two out there for now: the clear halacha about that childless couples must get divorced after 10 years, and the clear halacha that one shoud always refrain from serving a dish at a meal that one otherwise would, zecher l'churban.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "the clear halacha about that childless couples must get divorced after 10 years"

      All the nosei keilim on shulchan aruch discuss this point. Have a look.

      Delete
  58. Yehuda, I assume you formulated youre "sophisticated" view of halacha based on your vast knowledge of the entire corpus of chumash, mishna, gemera, rishonim and ahcharonim, not to mention Jewish philosophers as well. I am extremely impressed in your scholarship.

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  59. iirc R'Moshe did hold any Rav

    could argue on the Posek Hador.

    (well aware of the Tshvushah Re: Bnei Brak)

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  60. Yehudah, I hear your points. I would like to respond in detail, but will need to wait until after yuntif. I find this whole topic very interesting, as I relate to it personally.

    And I'm glad Marc Shapiro didn't write that article. Someone Chareidi would find it and before you know it they would be practicing all sorts of new things! (Like yoshon which certain Chareidim got into in the USA, etc.) Honestly - we have enough. G-d knew what He was talking about when saying not to add to the Torah. I don't know why people are not machmir about THAT! I think that will be MY new hakpadah! :)

    Chag same'ach to all.

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  61. Isaac - you are right. You did say "mental problem" and not "mental illness. I was mistaken on that.

    So I would replace where I wrote "mental illness" with "mental problems" because I still don't think it's due to mental "problems" for the reasons that I wrote about. Yehudah explained it in even greater detail in his post on April 17, 2011, 8:05 PM where he writes what about Chareidism attracts certain idealogical youth (or even adults) who were already religious (just not Chareidi), including the Modern Orthodox. I don't think it's coming from "mental problems".

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  62. Yehudah,

    You have some insightful points. The lack of reference to "the books" in a truly meaningful sense makes Haredi pretensions to "true authenticity" less than valid.

    I recommend a return to the approach which such great Jews as the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi David Bar-Hayim advocate\advocated. A return to the sources (while taking into account historicist factors in halachic decison-making.

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  63. Michapeset,

    From my understanding of Mishneh Torah the commandments not to add or take away from the Torah relate primarily to attribution. Specifically, the Sanhedrin could pass whatever regulations it wanted as long as they didn't permanently nullify any aspect of d'oryta law or claim that something which is d'rabinan is actually d'oryta or that something which is d'oryta is d'rabinan.

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  64. Michapeset

    If someone from an Modern Orthodox home feels they want to serve Hashem more, they would know what to do, e.g. learn more Torah, give more Tzedakah, help more people, and promote more unity and love amongst fellow Jews, etc. etc.
    This is the ideal and Torah way for a Jew to advance.

    To help you understand the explanation I am trying to convey here and to give you an idea of what the chareidi believe the path of Torah should be. Go to "You Tube" "Mea Shearim". Look at the violence perpetrated by the chareidim.(not only in Mea Shearim can this violence be seen but in the U.S. as well) Now go to "Taliban" on You Tube, then go to "Skin Heads" on You Tube, then go to "Neo Nazi" on You Tube, etc. etc. Look at their violent acts and compare. Now ask yourself why would anyone want to become a chareidi, taliban, skin head, neo nazi, etc. etc.
    You will see that the answer to this question has "mental problem" written all over it.

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  65. Isaac – You are terribly misinformed about Chareidism if you think that the violence of a very small percentage of Chareidim worldwide is reflective of a violent ideology similar to Skin Heads, Neo Nazis or the Taliban. The latter are ideologies which have militant training camps for their followers and for which over 90% of their followers advocate a violent and militant approach to carrying out their objectives and ideologies. Whereas by Chareidim you will find that over 90% worldwide are against a violent and militant approach to carrying out their objectives and ideologies.

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  66. Michapeset
    I live near a charedi neighbourhood for many many years and I venture in most everyday and every Shabbat and Yom tov. I have seen many violent acts, e.g. beatings of fellow Jews, defacing of signs on stores and ads on buildings and demonstrations of all kinds, and have witnessed many fights between themselves. (examples can be seen on You Tube)

    I have spoken to thousands of them over the years. Their ideologue include is to take aggressive violent action against all that do not see it their way and whom they feel have violated their ideologue in anyway. They teach their childern to hate and curse Zionist. They carry with them much fear and resentment towards outsiders and are quick to turn on one of their own as well. Most all of them believe and feel this way, if not 90% then it is more. The difference between the charedi and taliban, skin heads and the others may be far and wide, but their sick mentality is not.
    If the old adage of "seeing is believing" is true, then I have seen more then I need to.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Isaac surely lives in .....(and only in) Bet Shemesh.

    ReplyDelete
  68. And in response to
    "c / said...
    Isaac surely lives in .....(and only in) Bet Shemesh.
    April 28, 2011 9:30 AM"

    Mr. c/ is a perfect example of someone having all the required elements and qualities of a typical charedi.

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  69. Isaac,
    Explain
    (ad hominem's aren't impressive.)

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  70. "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

    - Albert Einstein

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  71. "Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."

    - Thomas Jefferson

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  72. Self styled rationalists pride themselves on an empirical approach to things.

    Did you, Natan or any of your readers and posters go out and test the baking of matsot? I did.

    I have been baking for 54 years. I wrote the recipe which the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry sent to Russia in the 1970's for people to bake matsah at home.

    We (me and another Talmudic jew) tested matsot at three or four Ashkenazi style hand matsah bakeries and one Sephardi style thick matsah bakery.

    At the Ashkenazi bakeries, we received permission to break matsot immediately after they came out of the oven. In a significant percentage of the matsot, there were chuttim nimshachim (unbaked dough). Therefore, according to the gemorra and all subsequent halachic opinions, they are chometz.

    At the thick matsah bakery, we purchased matsah which was allegedly kosher l'chatchila for the seder. We immediately washed and ate it on the spot. (For anyone who is interested, it was after Rosh Hodesh Nissan.) I can tell you as a very experienced baker and eater of bread of many varieties, that it was not completely baked.

    If you look at Mordechai Tendler's book Pesach Made Easy (actually his shiurim written down by someone else) he points out the obvious, in the name of his grandfather Rav Moshe Feinstein: The matsah ovens today are too hot, and as a result, the outside of the matsah gets done before the inside is properly baked. He recommends breaking off and discarding the outer edge of hand matsot.

    It takes great skill and knowledge of the oven temperature and a lot of testing to get it all correct. The thinner the matsah, the easier it is to get it all right. it all must be done in a way that it becomes baked all the way through before it becomes chometz and before it burns. The thicker the matsah, the harder it is to get right.

    "Regular" hand shemura matsah in Israel is about 20 to the kilo of flour. It looses 10-11% in the baking, so 20 matzot weigh ~900 grams. In America, I think that they are usually a bit thicker, 8-10 matzot per pound.

    In order to insure that all matsot are thoroughly baked (and we have three mashgichim breaking and examining matsot immediately as they come out of the oven)we make 40 matsot out of a kilo. Even waiting a few minutes after the baking ruins the test. The matsot become dried out and hard, but not better baked. I can actually taste the difference.

    The reason that thinner (and they are not thin enough) matsot became the norm is that it is easier to bake them through and through.

    Do some empirical research. My empirical research costs me $400 per kilo for my matsot. Most people a) can't do the research or b) won't do the research, and c) as rationalist as they claim to be in regard to the creation of the world will have some mystical explanation why they can use either the cheaper commercial matsot or the super mystical soft matsot.

    And by the way, machine matsot have their own series of problems, including the fact that if it is not from the shemura line, they do not clean the machinery throughout the day, so they are bevadai mevatel chometz l'chatchila.

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  73. "It takes great skill and knowledge of the oven temperature and a lot of testing to get it all correct."

    That seems counter intuitive. Baking matza is something that's been done by every person individually for himself for thousands of years. Most of the Jews doing this throughout history were am haaretz so I really can't believe that it's that complicated.

    In addition, what you describe as "Sephardic" thick matza sounds allot more like Yemenite matza. It sounds like there were no chutim nimshachim in regards to this matza as I assume you would have indicated such if there had been. So other than your "feeling" that it's not thoroughly baked what conclusive halachic proof do you have to say it's not kosher ( if in fact that's what you're saying )?

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  74. Robert:

    Saying that something is counterintuitive does not make it wrong. I challenged you to do your own research.

    As for the Sephardic, non Yemenite matzot - as I pointed out, you can't do a proper test unless you break the matzah immediately as it comes out of the oven.

    I am just pointing out that the so called rationalists, when it comes to doing work and laying out money for kashrut in general and matsot in particularly, mystically know that it is all fine, and the cheaper the better.

    This also applies in general to tephillin and mezzuzzot and etrogim and lulavim.

    It applies to mechirat chometz and it applies to heter mechirah and it applies to chodosh chutz la'aretz.

    Counter-intuitive and seems ok don't cut it.

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  75. "Saying that something is counterintuitive does not make it wrong."

    True, but it does call the statement in question, and in this case, your assertion, interesting as it is, cannot hold up. Claiming today's ovens are hotter is akin to claiming today's wine is weaker, today's eggs and olives are smaller, today's thumbs are different, - NONE of which has any truth whatever. As Robert asserts, baking matzah has always been an indivudal task. Unlike certain halachos, like maaros nidah or blemishes on a bechor, it was never left to an expert. That means there's nothing complicated about it.

    Actually, Robert's point is much bigger than just matzos. It finds particular application in kashrus, where, we are told today, you need supervision for practically anything. All the inns and taverns you read about in the storybooks - who supervised them? Nobody. The reality is, the only thing that changed is that kosher food has become an industry, with thousands of Jews finding employment through it. The industry can only survive by scaring Jews into thinking that without them, every evil goy would be sneaking spider legs into the coffee. [In much the same way organizations like the Anti-defamation leaugue work on the same principles.] Again, if it wasnt needed in the past, there should be no need for it now.

    Of course, there may be some exceptions to this. But as a general rule, if something was done without a mumcha or hashgacha in the past, it means its not that complicated.

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  76. With kezayis, however, there is no unequivocal living tradition to use an egg-sized olive.

    I'm trying to understand the distinction you're making between the kezayit and maror. What do you mean exactly by an "unequivocal living tradition" that exists for horseradish that doesn't exist for an egg-sized kezayit and makes the latter a less legitimate tradition (assuming I'm representing your point correctly)? Are you saying that the major poskim who are the sources of the large shiur are equivocal or ambivalent in such a way that it's not legitimate to hold that way? Thanks in advance...

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  77. @ Michapeset

    I remember a very nasty fight, when I was about five years old, about how kosher for Pesach a family home was. These things can have long lasting results , and if anybody has problems with the kashrus of anything at the table, they should keep it to themselves .Think beforehand about where you`re going .

    By the way , I never got into leaning. I put my weight on my left hand- for shemoneh esrai, that constitutes leaning - an stay upright .So there .

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  78. I brought up the topic of soft matza at the Seder of a Charedi kiruv family last year and just started to discuss Rav Schacter's position when I was cut off by our host who, in front of his kids, angrily said, "I'm sorry but we don't mess around with kares!" To some non-rationalists, historical reality - or any other compelling evidence that contravenes what is considered standard frum practice - is irrelevant.

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  79. The current explanation of the Afikoman is so treasured that I wouldn't dare say what the historical setting was!

    oh come on rabbi, share the secret!

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  80. "Rather, his point was that Judaism is as Judaism does. The living tradition is far more important than the ancient historical reality."

    Now you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

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  81. I am the rabbi responsible for the soft Matza in Australia and the author of the letter displayed on the FM site.
    There is a heap of information available at www.realmatza.com
    meir rabi, rabbi@kosherveyosher.com.au

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  82. It was last year when El-Al mistakenly sold their tickets for a low price and some orthodox rabbis paskened according to the strict letter of the law there is no need to pay them the extra, you posted how you would have given the airline the full amount due for the ticket.
    Clearly you were going above the letter of the law, but since you felt it would make you a better person/yid you would pay them the full fare. Ashrecha!
    There are many shiurim stated in the poskim for a kezayis. Some authorities base themselves on the Gemara that explicitly says that the flesh of some fruit was larger in the time of the Bet hamikdash.
    So when Orthodox jews want to go that extra step and eat the largest shiur "just to be sure" as they feel thats the best way of doing that particular mitzvah, i see it no different to you going that extra step and paying an airline a fare that halachically you would be exempt.
    My point is we all have chumras, you do yours and we will do ours.

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  83. emesleyaakov and robert

    i think you might be talking past each other, if I understand you both correctly. emes seems to be saying that to stay in bounds with all current halchic positions, it takes great skill and most matza baked today isn't good enough.

    robert seems to be saying that, almost by definition, then the current halachic standards are unnecessary stringencies that turn perfectly ok matza (as baked by any joe shmoe) into chametz (as judged by those who follow the new rules).

    I seem to think that roberts point is valid. It can't be the case that most matza baked is actually treife. It would make matza a prohibitively expnesive mitzva to keep.

    it's not just that emes's point is counter-intuitive but it is also self-defeating. if you think making matza is so difficult, then you are incorrect about how difficult it must be to make matza as G-d desires.

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  84. most matza baked today isn't good enough.

    for the above to be true, that means that the vast majority of kashrut organizations and supervising rabbanim are either ignorant, corrupt, or both. i personally any claim which is based on the idea that "only i know how"

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  85. Moish,

    RNS isn't telling you, or anyone else, don't eat your preferred quantity of matza. However, from the other side, there's a great deal of pressure to conform to a larger shiur for a K'zayit.

    For those of us for whom the larger measure is a literally sickening amount of matza or (as I mentioned above,) had abandoned our family tradition in favor of notion of a k'zayit hammered into you by some yeshiva -- we appreciate RNS giving support and validation to another understanding of K'zayit that is compatible with our family minhag and/or digestive system and even more so when it fits our rationalist perspective too.

    So, yes - you can do yours, no one is trying to stop you from eating a Chazon Ish k'zayit, if that fits your derech. And, while misery may love company, please, please, let us do ours. Those who prefer the larger shiurim should stop trying to convince the rest of the frum world to turn their seder(s) a painful experience.

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  86. ahg
    Sorry, i just took offence when RNS called us "obsessed" in doing our chumra when no one from the charedi world called him obsessed when he did his chumra of paying EL-AL the full fare.
    Why cant he live and let live?
    Shalom Shalom

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  87. "I'm sorry but we don't mess around with kares!"

    Hilchot nidda are "messed around with" every single day, all over the world, by the greatest poskim. That's karet.

    By the way, not bringing the Korban Pesach is also a matter of karet, and you don't see many charedim agitating for that.

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  88. RSZA must not have been aware that eating horseradish was NOT the commonly accepted practice among Jewry. Vast portions of the Jewish world ate the correct Marror including Egypt, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Libya, Algeria.

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  89. To some non-rationalists, historical reality - or any other compelling evidence that contravenes what is considered standard frum practice - is irrelevant.

    the inability or unwillingness to discuss or consider a halachic position isn't a problem with rationalism. such an angry response means that at some deep level you inadvertently "triggered him". it may be entirely possible that this rav could discuss hilchot nida or chillul shabbat ad infinitum. but something inside him went off when the subject of soft matza is broached.

    anyway if you take the ""I'm sorry but we don't mess around with kares!" approach to its logical extreme (not taking any chance of eating hametz) you very quickly get to the minhag of not eating matza on pesach, except for the mitzvot doreitta.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Adam (Manchester, UK)March 20, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    As a chalav stam drinker I have been pondering modern realities in the light of the recent horse-meat scandal in the UK (and Europe) since we rely on goverment supervison of milk production for kashrut purposes. Supervision of meat products was clearly abysmal.
    Would this affect the heter for milk? I hope not - long live Cadbury's!

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  91. Adam (Manchester UK) above stated:
    "As a chalav stam drinker I have been pondering modern realities in the light of the recent horse-meat scandal in the UK (and Europe) since we rely on goverment supervison of milk production for kashrut purposes. Supervision of meat products was clearly abysmal."
    I'm not sure what your concern really is - that chalav stam will be abolished? But this is not an issue with government supervision per se. The same has happened too many times to count with kosher supervision as well. How many restaurants, butchers, food wholesalers, etc. can you think of that were caught sneaking in non-kosher products, despite having a full time mashgiach? I can think of way too many instances. No amount of supervision can fully overcome human greed. In reality we rely on any supervising agency (be it gov't, kashrus, etc.) to be vigilant. But in the end we also rely on the manufacturer's honesty. If supervision is reasonably vigilant, that is about as good as you can possibly get.

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  92. "Radical change?" How silly. It was the use of horseradish itself that was the radical change. Preserving that radical change in practice zealously only a few hundred years later because "Judaism is traditionalist" doesn't make any rational sense. The tradition was lettuce. If we stick to tradition, we follow Dr. Feliks.

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  93. "am the rov providing the hashgocha for the soft matza in australia.
    See www.exodusmatza.com for more info.

    One of my considerations is that the Mishna B, Aruch HaSh, and ShO HaRav, all speak about soft matza (486) yet none mention anything about hard matz. Thin matza is recorded but that rama is explained by the baer heiteiv to refer to thickness of an etzba.
    it is not reasonable for a practice, that runs contrary to such recent documentation, to become a binding minhag and be deemed a threat to the stability of minhag ashkenas and community norms."


    It's absurd that you even have to explain that to anyone. Shouldn't people's concern be with how long it was cooked and your supervision over the actual kashrut (ie, lack of chametz) of the matzah? Isn't that what a hechsher on matzah is for? (Not to say, historically we ate this, but to say, I supervised the production and it is definitely not chametz). To have to debate about whether people used to eat soft matzah totally misses the point about the kashrut of matzah and is a waste of time.

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  94. "I am just pointing out that the so called rationalists, when it comes to doing work and laying out money for kashrut in general and matsot in particularly, mystically know that it is all fine, and the cheaper the better."


    Oh, sure. And the anti-rationalists, when it comes to doing work and laying out money for kashrut in general and matsot "in particularly" (sic), mystically know that it is all fine and the more expensive the better. Because if I'm paying 45 dollars a pound for matzah then it must be the most kosher with the most stringency possible. And if I drop a couple hundred on an esrog, then it is the most pristine and impossible to be unfit.

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  95. Regarding Ben Waxman's comment:

    "anyway if you take the ""I'm sorry but we don't mess around with kares!" approach to its logical extreme (not taking any chance of eating hametz) you very quickly get to the minhag of not eating matza on pesach, except for the mitzvot doreitta."

    There are, or at least were, a number who in fact kept such a minhag, among them the Ach Pri Tevuah and the Yismach Moshe. This was part of a parcel of minhagim at which most readers here would likely roll their eyes - if they were being polite!

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  96. I read an article last year that traced the minhag not to eat gebrokts--שרויה--on Pesach. The minhag only started when the Ashkenazic communities insisted on thin matzo. (The Shulchan Aruch doesn't mention any problem with wetting matzah: for example, if the matzah is too hard to eat, you're allowed to wet it to soften it, as long as it doesn't lose its form.) Occassionally, in baking thin matzah, there would be some flour on the surface of the matzah, which didn't get mixed in in the course of kneading the dough.
    Assumedly when making thick matzah, the water content would be higher, so there was less of a chance of some flour not getting kneaded in.

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  97. Devorah & Devoras hubbyMarch 21, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    We have come to wish you a good yom tov. Even though we do not frequent this site anymore due to what is in our view a lack of honesty and consistancy we still want to send you our good wishes for a chag kosher v'sameach.
    (take for example this post that we just read; Moish put forward a valid point that your chumra of wishing to pay an airline ticket is no different to a chumra of others who wish to eat a large matza, you had nothing to reply because there was nothing to respond. Its called being inconsistent)
    Anyway we came back here today to send you our good wishes and hatzlacha for all your future projects.
    Kol Tuv
    Devorah & Tzvi

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  98. I find it hard to believe that anyone can draw an analogy betwen the issue of paying full fare to El Al and shiurim re matzah. The El Al case is a matter not of halakhic humrah, but of lifnim meshurat ha-din on an interpersonal matter. It involves abstaining from doing something (not paying the full fare) which while technically legal was ethically improper. This has NOTHING to do with shiurim re matzah.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  99. Aside from Prof. Kaplan's point, there is a basic falsehood in the claim made by Moish and echoed by Devorah & Tzvi. Contrary to Moish's claim, I never condemned those who want to be machmir regarding a kezayis as being "obsessed."

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  100. I also want to point to the inonistency of Deborah and her hubby, who while saying that they were posting in order to wish R. Slifkin a good yom tov could not resist or did not try to resist getting in one last(?) jab.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  101. Dear R Natan
    Perhaps you forgot what you wrote so please see the opening sentence of your post on tue 12/03/13 where you wrote this is the time of year when people will be "obsessing" ...........

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  102. Dear Lawrence.
    Please can you quote me a source in Jewish writings where one should only be machmir in interpersonal matters (i assume you mean ben odom l'chavero) and not be machmir in halachot (ben odom l'makom)
    Thanks

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  103. Moish, you are correct, I did indeed write about people "obsessing" over the size of a kezayis. Thinking about it, I realize that this does have negative connotations, and it reveals that I am indeed critical of those who are, I believe, missing the wood for the trees - focusing on eating a quantity which is really supposed to be a bare minimum, a miniscule amount, less than which is not even an act of eating, that should not even require thought.
    So, yes, I am critical of that approach, even though I understand the reasons for it. Are you likewise critical of going lifnim mishuras hadin in monetary matters bein adam l'chavero?

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  104. I don't even see it as being machmir to eat a larger shiur for a k'zayis. The argument isn't in a matter of psak halacha (deciding what the halacha should be). Everyone agrees you need a k'zayis! The argument is a matter of metziyus. One opinion is correct and one is definitely wrong. If one is in doubt, let him eat more. For those that accept the historical reality, they are not being maikil; they are eating k'halacha!

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  105. Dear R Natan
    Am i critical in going l'fnim meshuras hadin in monetary matters?
    Of course not! In my first comment to you above i said on you "ashrecha" for wanting to pay back the airline.
    You are machmir in monetary matters which involves d'oiraysos kol hakovod!
    Others are machmir in kezayis matza which involves d'oiraysos kol hakovod!
    I really fail to understand why your so critical
    Good shabbos

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  106. "With maror, there is a concern that one will not fulfil the mitzva at all. However, no-one holds that using a bigger shiur for matza or eating soft matza prevents fulfilment of the mitzva of matza."

    OK, I'll be first. Using an enormous shiur for matzah, when there are two kezeisim up front (for hamotzi and matza), then another for korech (plus two kezeisim of maror for maror and korech), and then another for afikoman, practically means that people are stuffed when it comes to achilas afikomen. I've wondered whether this is achila gasa, which would not be achila, and thus a prevention of fulfillment.

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  107. @joshwaxman

    And all that matzah and marror comes immediately before Shulchan Oreich. How is one supposed to fulfill the D'ohreisah of Simchas Yom Tov (that is supposed to include eating) if he just stuffed himself fulfilling Halachos D'rabanan?

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  108. I find the juxtaposition of this article, and your next one, (regarding two sentences of inspiration) to be enlightening.

    If you look at recent history, we see that the return of the Jews to Israel, the flourish of Judaism and the growth in Israel itself, all come from Jewish people taking action and not 'sitting and waiting'

    Yet, when it comes to Halacha, you prefer the "wait for moshiach" mode of operation. Instead of taking responsibility for your own following of Halacha, when you know what the halacha is, and that what we do is wrong, you opt to "sit and wait".

    I do not understand the inconsistency of behavior and thought. It should be clear to us, that if we want the Moshiach, we need to do our part and act in such a way that reflects our yearings.

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  109. I have been waiting patiently for a month to see if either you or Lawrence would provide me with a source that was put forward by Lawrence and echoed by RNS, that one should only be machmir in "interpersonal matters" eg: paying back el-al the full fare and one should not be machmir on mitzvos between man and God like the shiur for a kezayis matza.
    Neither of you have responded, so perhaps if you would be mentchlach you would take off-line the post where you critisize the amount of marror some want to eat, as after all you are also guilty of being a machmir.
    Try for once to take a lesson from Charedi Gedolim past & present whom will readily backtrack in their works when someone points out a valid flaw.

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  110. Try for once to take a lesson from Charedi Gedolim past & present whom will readily backtrack in their works when someone points out a valid flaw.

    The problem with that is that according to Charedim their "Gedoling" are perfect and can't make mistakes, so they never have to "backtrack" on anything. And no, this isn't a strawman argument - I have a cousin who spent a year at Mir here in Jerusalem and told me this straight to my face.

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  111. Rabbi Slifkin, could you please provide me with sources to back up your claim that one can be machmir in ben odom l'chavero (el-al tickets)but not in ben odom l'makom (shiur of a kezayis)

    Thanks.

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  112. With the tickets, there is V'asisa hayashar vehatov. Taking advantage of someone else's mistake, even if technically permissible, is unethical. Returning the money, on the other hand, has no drawbacks.

    But what reason is there to believe that a kezayis is bigger than an olive? And setting a larger shiur has significant drawbacks.

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  113. waxman

    maybe this would be helpful. time to get myself a new shirt !


    http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/pesah/tabori.html


    The second group saw the Afikomen as some sort of social or cultural activity. Rav determined that the prohibition was "that they not wander about from group to group" (Bab. Tal., Pesahim 119b) and Rabbi Simon, in the name of Rabbi Einieni son of Rabbi Sissi, explained that the Afikomen was: "Types of singing" (Jer. Tal., Pesahim 10,9, p. 37d).[4]

    Historical investigation seems to justify the latter group. The Sages feared that the Seder night, so similar in many ways to the Greek - Hellenistic "symposium", would degenerate into the kind of lewd behavior which was the general rule at a symposium. The dessert at a Greek or Roman banquet usually signaled a transition to what the Greeks called komos and the Romans comissatio, different words for the identical practice. After various kinds of desserts, they would indulge in drinking, the dessert foods being an accompaniment to the wine. When we read of the riotous finale to the banquet which Socrates attended, we can easily imagine to what extremes the revelers could go.[5

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  114. Does anyone know where you can buy soft matzot in israel?

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  115. dovid

    you can find it in the mahane yehuda shuk in jerusalem. also, there is a bakery open one day a year, erev pesach (from the night). they make soft matza. they're located on uzissken and narkiss.

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  116. On Ussishkin exactly one block south of Rechov Betzalel on the corner. They make lafa-like (half inch thick) soft matzos. They sell a set of 3 for the seder with pinches on the edges to differentiate between the 3 (Kohen-1 pinch, Levi-2, Yisrael-3.) Be there the night before the seder and wait in line. Also it isn't cheap :)). If you want to use them after the first night, freeze them so that they don't get hard.

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  117. (I should add, though, that apparently it is like a mild form of opium, with potentially harmful side-effects. See http://montana.plant-life.org/species/lactuca_serrio

    "It" being the milky sap or latex which contains a component, lactucarium, with opium-like properties. There is some latex in the leaves bit it's mostly in the stems. The dried sap of one species, Lactuca virosa, was officianal in the US and UK.

    It takes a lit of lettuce to get enough latex to do much.
    The leaves, in any rationally consumed amount, should be safe. That said, combining a "my shiur is bigger than your shiur and I'll have extra just to make certain" attitude plus being extra machmir on the kosot might make for an interesting seder.

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  118. I still take umbrage at self-styled experts who seek to invalidate our normal matzot under the guise of not being well-baked in the interior. The fact that some hot-from-the-oven matzot have strings, i.e., don't break cleanly, when broken apart - or have soft spots, doesn't mean they are chametz. The gemara's sign of when a piece of dough has fermented to the extent of becoming chametz (whitening and the formation of a fibrous, hollow sounding structure)doesn't apply to a thin dough that has undergone extensive heating. Such heating kills the fermentation process even if a browning temperature hasn't been reached. Moreover, the drying out of the matzah also stops the fermentation process. As evidence of that claim, I point to the absence of subsequent inflation of the matzah due to some continuing fermentation.

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  119. Rabbi.
    Why can you not accept some people like to be stringent in some mitzvot?
    Yet you title your post Crazy kezayis.....
    My rabbi tells me that talmud says that once Temple was destroyed the flesh of fruit shrank. You can throw that Talmud dictum out the window together with everything else you have thrown out but why the need to condemn those who base themselves on the above Talmudic statement?
    You make as if haredim are some drug taking perverted alien cult the way you pounce on them every day
    Grow up

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  120. Jason, I think that you meant to address your comment to the previous post. If you read that post, you will see several Torah-based reasons as to why extreme kezayis measurements are problematic.

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  121. "Then there is the issue of many seder customs that are rooted in the historical reality, but for which the historical reality was simply ancient convention for meals, and which were subsequently implanted with religious significance"

    Indeed, there are those who say the entire concept of eating marror at all was only because it was a convention, a nice side dish (to eat the matzah with) and the notion of it being something with which to commemorate the bitter slavery was only an ex post facto to give religious significance to the ancient and forgotten convention.

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  122. I look at it a different way, and I have no sources other than my own sechel. Chazal said "kezayit", that is clear to everyone. If we use a "kebeitzah", it is equivalent to saying that chazal was wrong. Because if they meant kebeitzah, they would have said "kebeitzah."

    And also a quick question -
    "values such as shalom bayis and family unity - which is a truly important theme of seder night!"

    What is the source that shalom bayit is an important theme of seder night (I mean different than any other night)? Maybe the whole question/answer discussion theme is meant to be a little rancorous?

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  123. Jason. B - what does that have to do with the shiur kezayis - which is defined in the post-churban Tosefta in relation to then-contemporary olives?

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  124. There was a comment made by CES a couple posts ago that I wish for too. I believe that it is a great pity the content of this site is not made available online in both Hebrew and Yiddish.

    The impact of your efforts is not fully realised. Is there any hope of running parallel sites, perhaps starting with Hebrew?

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  125. Certainly the early matzohs were pliable, and these may still be utilized in some Sephardi communities. Indeed - as one of my rabbonim pointed out - a Chassid, no less - the wavy matzohs are if anything more relatively vulnerable to the possibilities of chometz, and yet these were routinely used on Pesach. And nearly all Sephardim eat gebrochts.

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  126. Please note: Yoel B who commented on lettuce is not YoelB who was using chalav Yisrael and tzitzit to make his point.

    Thank you

    Yoel B

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  127. Actually, IIRC, Prof. Felix also says that one should add a bit of horse raddish in the bitter lettuce as a "zakher" of the old incorrect minhag. I think that is a common practice nowadays.

    Lawrence Kaplan

    In relation to Prof Kaplan's comment, I think that I was once told that Rav Soloveitchik said this was not a good practice. My understanding was that he said so because one requires the taam of the maror, so if the real maror is the lettuce and you are blocking out its taam with the horseradish, you essentially will not be mekayem the mitzva.

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  128. Just as I was getting all excited about searching out some wild lettuce I read that it is "suporific and painkilling", and can even cause hallucinations and cardiac arrest.
    What's your opinion R Slifkin? Is it safe to use?

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