Friday, April 25, 2014

Challah With Keys? Give Me Bagels With Locks.

On the Shabbos following Pesach, there is a custom of some to bake "Shlissel Challah" - challah with the design of a key, or challah with a real key actually baked into it. It is alleged to be a segulah for parnassah (sustenance).

There's a debate about the origins of this custom, with some claiming that it is rooted in Christian and/or pagan practices, while others defend it as having Jewish origins. Yet, unlike certain hyper-rationalists, I'm usually not so fervently opposed to such things even if their origins are questionable. There's lots of things in Judaism that originated in foreign cultures; but where something originated is less important than what we've made of it.

But what about the very idea of such a segulah? While the rationalist Rishonim were obviously not into segulos, I'm not militantly against them. Segulos are often harmless placebos, and may also be time-honored tradition.

Yet in this case, however, I am a little more concerned, given the wider context. In the ultra-Orthodox community, there is a prevalent message that it is wrong and futile to engage in regular efforts to obtain parnassah (i.e. education, training and work). Chazal's directive that a person must teach his child a trade, i.e. to be financially self-sufficient, is widely ignored in charedi society. There is a real problem of people focusing on segulos instead of doing the necessary hishtadlus. And the segulah industry is rife with problems.

Instead of trying to get parnassah via an unproven and unlikely custom of unclear origins, why don't people try get it via a proven method ordered by Chazal themselves? The answer, of course, is that Chazal's way is much more difficult. But such is the way of the world. "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread" - not by the key in the challah.

(Regarding segulos in general, see my posts on The Ring Of Power and Manipulating with Mysticism for Money.) 

74 comments:

  1. Mr. Slifkin, are you good at anything other than trying to knock down others?

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    1. He's good at opening minds and clarifying positions. Those aren't bad things.

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    2. noeonneinparticularApril 25, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      also, pointing out when people are acting and believing in accordance with made-up shtuss is also important.

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    3. I agree Dan. Visitor exercise your brain once in a while, study Torah if you are a Jew and you will understand what Rav Slifkin is doing.

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    4. One can only hope that more people look to Rabbi Slifkin's writings and start referring to him as Rav. He is certainly more worthy of the title than many others that use the term!

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    5. Mr. visitor, please show some respect to RABBI Slifkin.

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    6. Quaint family or regional customs, when done in the spirit of good humour and without a sense of duty may be quite harmless. But when they begin the transition from a segula and appear to begin to morph into halakha, it's certainly legitimate to question them or even to hit the siren button. Nothing new or improper in that.

      Is the shlussel hallah custom a legitimate tradition, a mitzvah b'simkha, a questionable minhag shtut/ta'ut (a "stupid custom"), or an inappropriate superstition as a segulah parnassa of a questionable pedigree? The fact that the shlissel hallah custom is increasingly treated with seriousness surely invites such debate. There are now instructions on what kind of keys to use, the proper ways of inserting them into a challah or how to bake a hallah in the shape of a key and we are even seeing the emergence of vernacular attempts at hashkofot, even suggested prayers. Better to have a debate about such developments now, before they become seriously entrenched in the mainstream and cause even more makhlokhes down the road, no?

      In any case, your jejune rudeness is misplaced, Visitor; R. Slifkin treats this topic lightly and with sensitivity. Just you wait and see until others pile into it.

      --Temujin Irate

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    7. He's a Rav like you're a Monk.

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    8. I understand you were being disrespectful with your comment, but as a general rule, it is extremely inappropriate to refer to a Rav as "Mister" even if you don't agree with him. Rabbi Slifkin has earned his ordination.

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    9. If the Amoraim challenged each other each time they disagreed - even on matters central to Judaism such as whether or not Moshiach was yet to come - they still referred to each other with the highest degree of collegiate respect. We have a right to disgree, not to show disrespect. these two concepts are independent of each other. So, yes, R' Nosson, but not Mr. Slifkin, if you don't mind.
      As an orthodox rabbi I have every sympathy with the need to examine carefully issues such as advocating that bnei Torah cease to daven for Israeli soldiers, as was reported on this blog in the name of R' Nosson Tzvi Finkel a"h. Whether or not this report is in fact true, I do not know unless I heard the words from his mouth myself, but just in case anyone thinks that such words if uttered were legitimate, I have to say, it is completely to the concept of "kol yisrael areivim ze bazeh". I challenge anyone to bring proof to the contrary. No one has a Torah-given right to abandon another Jew, spiritually or materially, when they are in danger of life, all the more so when they are defending the lives of those praying for them. Moshe Rabbeybu even davened for the the Pharaoh as soon as he could, at his request, even though he was a rasha and deserved 10 plagues. Are our Israeli brothers (and sisters) in the IDF worse the Pharaoh? Impossible!
      Can there be a greater "kefirah betov chaveiro" (see Brachos 58a and Midrash HaGadol Shemos 8) than refusing to daven for another who obviously needs it? If one believes in koach hatefilla, then what is the difference between this and "pulling the plug" on a dangerously ill person? What morals are being taught in the name of yiddishkeit as to how we regard "the other"?
      It is no longer just about charedi-chassidic Judaism and the danger to the lifestyle of the yeshiva world from the army, but it is now a case of Sodom and Amorah - where the attitude was - You are not one of us, so we don't care about your life. The dilemma we face are no longer due to concerns over chumros bey adam laMakom but due to the most basic behavioural and attitudinal issues of middos, beyn adam lachaveiro. The danger with delegitimisation of the other is that it creates hate and resentment, and even worse, indifference, and will bring dire consequences. Standing by your brother when he goes down in blood is a mitzvah min haTorah, one of the 613 and even enshrined in modern Israeli law. How is this mitzva being observed by NOT doing one's bit to serve in the army or security forces? What twistedness of mind will it require to reason how not even davening for the welfare of soldiers is excused in the light of this Torah commandment? Or does the modern (!) hashkafic concept of "da'as Torah" now include a mandate to be mevatel a clear mitzva min haTorah to assist the saving of life? Sadly, I think that this is the point to which we may have been led by by some of our leaders. It is time to wake up, get a conscience (yetzer tov) and re-examine fundamentally what we really are willing to accept in the name of yiddishkeit.

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    10. For those who think that addressing someone with the title MISTER is disrespectful, should know that the title Mister was derived from MASTER. Being that we refer to our Rabbis as Masters, by those who are well educated in etiquette to address our Masters as Mister is appropriate, being the two titles share the same origin. (same as in Hebrew)

      But those who are trying to be disrespectful and think they are being funny should try this with their charedi rabbis, and will discover from where their education really comes from.
      o

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  2. "The answer, of course, is that Chazal's way is much more difficult. But such is the way of the world. "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread" - not by the key in the challah."

    Perhaps you have more to add to this statement in another blog post that I haven't read...what is your evidence of the comparative difficulty of work? I spent many years in yeshiva learning, worked for 3 years, and I am currently in an intense ivy league graduate school. My most difficult years were spent in Yeshiva learning. Perhaps I am the exception. I do not know. I also don't assume that "of course, Chazal's way is much more difficult." Can you provide us with some evidence?

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    1. I believe R' Slifkin is comparing working for parnassah vs segulos for parnassa, rather than working vs learning.

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    2. After rereading it, I believe you are correct. Thank you. (leebs2)

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  3. Once again, attempts to manipulate the Eternal One, Above Time, Source and Owner of All Knowledge, by a folk custom that does nothing to change the ones who perform it.
    The only way this custom might be praiseworthy would be if it were performed by a woman whose family had always done so.

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  4. The satmar rebbe reb yoelish used to tell his hassids (in yidish) all the segulas are good until nine aclock then the only segulah is going to work

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    1. That is how it came about that Reb Yoelish's Chassidim are widely self reliant.

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    2. Torah With Moral DecencyApril 25, 2014 at 2:24 PM

      Unfortunately, Satmar chasidim too often rely on government entitlements and welfare by fraudulently and criminally qualifying for many taxpayer's financed subsidies with off-the-books income.

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    3. Ever been to Kiryas Joel? The poorest town in America?

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    4. Self reliant? Haha... 80% on government assistance. AL my Saturday friends are busy for days with this narishkiet. All else erybody talks about is this upcoming shtusfest. I'm giving them a piece of my mind.

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    5. I apologize, I meant Satmar not Saturday.

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    6. According to 2008 census figures, the village has the highest poverty rate in the nation, and the largest percentage of residents who receive food stamps. More than five-eighths of Kiryas Joel residents live below the federal poverty line and more than 40 percent receive food stamps, according to the American Community Survey, a U.S. Census Bureau study of every place in the country with 20,000 residents or more.[3] A 2011 New York Times report noted that, despite the town's very high statistical poverty rates, "It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent."[2

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  5. The best segulah for parnassah is a good education and the willingness to work...

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  6. noeonneinparticularApril 25, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    presumably, then, if I work, I am allowed to do a schlisselchallah?
    thank goodness. coz my wife insists on baking them.

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  7. Christians in Eastern Europe, especially in the Balkans bake a coin or an object of value into a braided, sweet challa-like loaf at Easter time. Temujin's late uncle, a physician and an amateur archeologist claimed that the custom may be of Indo-European origins, predating Christianity, connected to agrarian sacrificial offerings, which once involved putting in clay figurines of the household, hearth gods. Such a custom doesn't appear to have been mentioned in Jewish texts anywhere, so it is quite likely that it was adopted and "Judaized." At the same time, many customs appear all over the world and did not necessarily emerge from a single source.

    --Temujin

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    1. I'll just point out that the Rashba, in permitting various Segulot that he thought actually worked, explicitly said that they would be permitted even if they came from Emorite literature containing other things that were prohibited. He analogized it to pulling out the seeds of pomegranate (and to pulling out the good parts of Aristotle and discarding his denial of Providence). Pull out the good parts and discard the rest.

      So a pagan source would not necessarily disallow the practice.

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  8. Rabbi Slifkin,
    IMHO, not only should this practice be discouraged, I think it is actually assur, and those doing so are sinning. It is second-hand avodah zara. The question of tradition is irrelevant. See Jeremiah chapter 40 or 41. Yirmiyahu rebukes the women who bake cakes for the "Queen of Heaven" / Ishtar. (I wonder what shape they used?) Their husbands answer - correctly! - that they are only doing what their parents & grandparents had done for generations.

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    1. No one is baking keys for Ishtar. Even the Rambam allows incantations that will calm down the patient, as well as wearing charms to protect against various maladies as long as they are well "accepted" despite the fact that he believed them ineffective. I'm sure that the Rambam would be unhappy with this practice, but he does seem to permit those whose efficacy has been "thought" to have been established. He has little choice, since the Gemara does so as well.

      Ironically, the practice may be more questionable for followers of the Ramban. According to the Ramban, if the practice has any effect, it could possibly be a deleterious one and prohibited. Likely though, once the practice has been accepted and used over the years he would have assumed it to be benign.

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    2. No one is baking keys for Ishtar..." No, Mr Ohsie, it's worse than that; people are baking keys for Jesus.

      In reading up more on the topic and checking with a few friends,Temujin is now quite certain that this is an undeniably Christian Easter practice found all over Christendom. In Poland and Ukraine braided Easter breads in the shape of a key, breads with keys in it, as well as dough-shaped keys are popular and are the most likely origin of this custom. The key is a major Christian symbol represented in illuminations, iconography, on stained glass windows, the flag of the Vatican and all sorts of amulets, the key signifying St Peter's keys to Heaven and the Cross. The Cross shape i connection with the Easter bread is the symbol for the"risen Christ." This is why the key has never appeared in Jewish symbolism until this recent farce of a segula.

      "I'm sure that the Rambam would be unhappy with this practice, but he does seem to permit those whose efficacy has been "thought" to have been established." But this is a recent custom, no older than two hundred years, unknown to modern Jewish communities until very recently and the only thing that is "established" is that it originated with a small sector among Hassidim, that it has no known past that is older than a century and that for some reason, it's now being rather aggressively and mendaciously promoted as an ancient and theologically valid, if not binding custom. So, the question is, should those who can see the obvious Christian connection hold their peace just not to insult challah-bakers (see http://www.thekosherchannel.com/key-challah.html) and nonsensical, a-historical claims by apologists who cannot conceive that some of their charismatic leaders were embarrassingly wrong about something?

      --Temujin

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    3. I second what Temujuin said, but add a couple of points mostly ad hominem against David Ohsie since he makes quite a point of citing this particular Rambam to justify just about any pagan practice.

      1) The Rambam wrote on multiple levels to different people. Even if we accept that he would have permitted Schissel Hallah to the masses he would certainly have told those in the know to avoid it, which, I'm inclined to think would include everyone commenting on this website. The reason he was lenient on certain issue for the masses is because he thought they were hopeless ignoramouses who couldn't take the whole truth. I must say I fail to see how this can be applied to our current reality when most orthodox Jews under 40 received a (relatively) extensive Jewish education.
      2) Bearing in mind that Schlissel Hallah is not an ancient Jewish practice, but something marketed heavily by Hassidim, the obvious must be pointed out. If the Rambam were here today he would be waging constant intellectual warfare against the entire Hasidic movement, just as orthodoxy today battles Reform, and just as the Rambam battled mystical Rabbis (and Karaites etc.) of his own era, even denying them a place in the world to come.

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    4. Spell check: "I must say I fail to see how this can be applied to our current reality when most orthodox Jews under 40 received a (relatively) extensive [i.e., expensive] Jewish education..."

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  9. Segulas turn God into an idol. Just like pagans offered things to their idol in order to get it to do what they wanted so people use segulos to manipulate Him.
    And the origin of the key in the challah is totally different from what this post claims it is. Anyone following the news knows that there are lots of frum Jews in jail. How to get them out? You hide the key in the challah and deliver it to the prisoner for SHabbos!

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  10. One thing's ironically certain - shlissel chalos, other segulos, and non-rationalist approaches to Judaism are good for R. Slifkin's parnasah! If all of Judaism was completely rational, R. Slifkin would certainly not be where or what he is now, and the work he'd be engaged in as well as his message would undoubtedly be measurably different.

    -- Dialectic

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  11. Rabbi Yair Hoffman's argument for this segula is elegant in its straightforwardness and simplicity. As Temujin understands it, it goes something like this: Sure, the Jewish sages may not have observed or even known about this custom, but the Hassidic rabbis wrote about in the 18th century and linked it to Kabbalah and therefore the Torah. It is unthinkable and inappropriate to suggest that Hassidim took on Christian or Pagan customs because they were…well, Hassidim. Therefore, a rejection of the shlussel hallah segula is a rejection of Jewish tradition and Torah from Sinai. Subject closed.

    Well, alright then. A Shabbat shalom to all...do remember to bite gently into your hallah piece in case there is a carbon steel key hidden in it and segulah windfalls may have to be diverted towards a dental implant.

    --Temujin

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  12. Apparently there is a tradition that saving part of the Afikoman from the second seder, keeping it somewhere safe for a year and then burning it with the rest of your chametz the following Pesach is a segulah for ... something (not sure what). Anyone ever heard of that?

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    1. In the calendar/almanac לוח דבר בעתו, Rav Mordechai Ganut brings the minhag of eating the Afikoman on Rosh Hashanah--by showing how much we adore the mitzvos (חיבוב מצוה), it'll serve to plead our case before Hashem on Rosh Hashanah.

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  13. I'm not really sure how to respond to something like this with the additional comments already made on this post, but here it goes.
    From what I understand and what probably makes sense, is that segulos are supplementary, not instead of.
    1) To say that the "ultra orthodox" as you call them are relying on segulos instead of working...I am not sure that is the case. I am not saying I agree with the "all learn and no work policy" - I am certainly a big fan of working and the teachings of chazal that one should be working. But that being said, in a small defense of those that do only learn all day, I am not sure that they are relying the segulos for parnassah, I think it's more so that they are relying on their learning for parnassah and the segulos are supplementary. Whether right or wrong, they learn and expect to get supported. I don't think that the segulah is done because it's easier than working, and think it's just more that they chose a way of life regardless of the segulos, but as long as there are segulos, might as well use them too.
    2) In response to segulos being idol worship - I think the answer to that is that SEGULOS are NOT idol worship, and that there is such a thing as mysticism and such spiritual connections to the physical world. The question is more so "what are the REAL segulos?" and that anything that is passed off as a segulah and isn't, well then ya, maybe that is second-hand to idol worship - though I am not someone with broad enough shoulders to say that. To say that there's nothing wrong with a harmless segulah that acts as more of a placebo...I'd be careful about saying that as well, as I am sure if you would hear of someone calling rubbing some statues belly harmless you would certainly question it as being something tainted with avodah zorah (for those of you unfamiliar with the reference, the Buddhists rub the belly of the statue buddha for luck). So basically, it's not so easy to say, you can do it it's harmless because even if it won't help there still may be reason not to do it.
    In essence we have to know what the right segulos are (and for those of you skeptical I will say if they exist at all) but we certainly have to be careful of what we say bad about other people, no matter how true it might seem, for that is certainly the worst segulah of all.
    That being said though, the point that I think Natan Slifkin is ultimately bringing out, as I alluded to at the beginning of my comment is that segulah's are not your parnassah, and to rely on them is certainly not commendable and/or recommendable. We are required to do our hishtadlus (whatever that may be depending on the person - and yes that includes for SOME people sitting and learning) and then we have a chance that all these EXTRA measures can have some effect.
    This is similar to the story in the Navi with Elisha and the widow with the oil pitcher. The only way for the miracle to work was to have that little bit of oil already in the pitcher. There needed to be something there for the miracle to work on - same thing here - you need your hishtadlus to be the thing the segulah to work on.
    We also see this similar Halacha in regards to benching. I believe it is the Mishnah brurah that brings it down that one should have some of the bread left on the table when one benches so that there is something for the bracha to go on.
    I've said my piece - I hope I have made everybody somewhat satisfied and allowed people to learn something a little more from what they may not have know before.
    Have a good Shabbas!

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  14. I consider all segulot to be crass superstition and counterproductive to proper religious beliefs and practices. When the segulot like red strings, lead casting, and key baking are borrowed from Pagan and Christian folk customs, they become even more objectionable (chukot haGoyim). Even if they are not treated seriously, the continuation of foolish family practices are hardly more worthy of continuation than a family history of irresponsible behavior. I distinguish, however, the foods eaten on Rosh Hashana from my black list. Those are symbols (simanim) rather than segulot. They function as a concrete means of invoking short prayers for a good year.
    Y. Aharon

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    1. What if you do a Sgulah, but just call it a Siman?

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  15. This shabbos, I am having 13 keys Kneged the Yud Gimmel midos, but my neighbor Ding zich oif mir and is having 12 K'Neged the shvatim.

    Our Rov Ta'aniz that it is a Sh'ealah of Ribui Reshoyos and we should be makpid to have one LARGE one while the others can be small.

    However, our local Kabbalist says that it is okay to have ten keneged the ten sefiros.

    Mestama it is a hakpada not to use a car key which might be a safek of muktzeh unless you were Maktzeh it Midaato before Bain Hashemashos.

    Once you are being maktzeh, it may be a hidur to use avanim instead of shliselach. While they may not open the door to parnasa, they sure will open the heads of any chilonim or mizrachim or anyone else trying to force you into the army.

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  16. I once asked an old Hungarian I know to tell me about how this was observed in pre-war Europe. He said it wasn't reserved for the shabbos after pesach, and that it wasn't only the house key. It was any shabbos, with an object related to an issue you were having. If your business was in trouble, you might put the key to your store in the challah, or something from the business, like a jeweler might insert a ring.

    Because of this, I will never accept challa from a plumber. ;-)

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  17. Did anyone make the connection between shlissel chalah and this week's parasha - the prohibition of ov and yide'oni?

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  18. Laughing all the way to RBSApril 27, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    RNS "why don't people try get it via a proven method ordered by Chazal themselves? The answer, of course, is that Chazal's way is much more difficult".
    You are hilarious rabbi, the last 8 years you have made it your lifes ambition to show how chazal could have been mistaken. This covered a big area from the physical world eg: mud lice to the psycholgical world eg: the chazaka whether a woman prefers to remain alone rather than to be with a rotton hubby, to the biblical world eg: if the narrative of the akeida is to be understood as Abraham passing his trial.etc etc
    So here is a question for you - perhaps chazal were also mistaken on this idea of working for a living!!!?
    your posts are hilarious, they sound so dazzingly academic but from an orthodox view point they are JUST SO HUMOUROUS
    Keep it up rabbi. we are waiting for your piece on Yom Haatzmut
    keep it up

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    1. Why would they have been mistaken about the idea of working for a living?

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    2. You are hilarious rabbi, the last 8 years you have made it your lifes ambition to show how chazal could have been mistaken.

      (At the risk of feeding the trolls)

      You've got it backwards. R. Slifkin has helped people see how the Torah and Chazal can be correct. It is his opponents that are claiming that one can only believe in the Torah if they also disbelieve basic facts about the world, thus implying that the Torah and Chazal were very, very wrong.

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  19. You are not following the right minhag. The only proper key is the key to the RYs (or the rebbe, for chassidim) house. No other house / key counts, in charedi circles.

    Ourforefathers did not use car keys; their horse and buggy used no keys.

    Actually they used what we call skeleton keys. Any othrr key is wrong minhag. Now you have to bake a new chsllah this coming shabbat.

    MiMedinat HaYam

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  20. MiMedinat Haym

    Are you suggesting we put skeletons in the challa instead of keys? Please explain. Wouldn't that come with its own issues of chukos hagoyim coming perilously close to Halloween?

    Anonymous with 13 keys

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    1. Anon w/13: plz consult the photo at top of this article.

      Note: my shul is "yotzei leChol haDeot". We serve a challah in shape pf a key (baked by a temaniah (yeminite origin) married to a yekke) ) and a chalah with an old house key (wrapped in sluminum foil (is that a chatzizah?)

      MiMedinat HaYam

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  21. No one is baking keys for Ishtar..." No, Mr Ohsie, it's worse than that; people are baking keys for Jesus.

    Temujin, what I meant was that no Orthodox Jews are baking keys for "Ishtar". I understand that the custom might have pagan origins. However, paradoxically, this doesn't necessarily make it forbidden.

    MISHNAH. ONE MAY GO OUT WITH A HARGOL'S EGG,16 A FOX'S TOOTH, AND A NAIL FROM [THE GALLOWS OF] AN IMPALED CONVICT AS A PROPHYLACTIC: THIS IS R. MEIR'S VIEW; BUT THE SAGES FORBID THIS EVEN ON WEEKDAYS ON ACCOUNT OF 'THE WAYS OF THE AMORITE.'

    GEMARA. ONE MAY GO OUT WITH A HARGOL'S EGG, which is carried for ear-ache; AND WITH A FOX'S TOOTH, which is worn on account of sleep: a living [fox's] for one who sleeps [too much], a dead [fox's] for him who cannot sleep.
    AND A NAIL FROM [THE GALLOWS OF] AN IMPALED CONVICT. It is applied to an inflammation,
    AS A PROPHYLACTIC: THIS IS R. MEIR'S VIEW. Abaye and Raba both maintain: Whatever is used as a remedy is not [forbidden] on account of the ways of the Amorite.
    [...]
    A tanna recited the chapter of Amorite practices before R. Hiyya b. Abin. Said he to him: All these are forbidden as Amorite practices, save the following: If one has a bone in his throat, he may bring of that kind, place it on his head, and say thus: 'One by one go down, swallow, go down one by one': this is not considered the ways of the Amorite. For a fish bone he should say thus: 'Thou art stuck in like a pin, thou art locked up as [within] a cuirass; go down, go down.'


    The way that the Rambam interpreted this is that these remedies are permitted because they were thought to have worked, even though the sages cited in the Mishnah thought them to be pagan practices.

    The Rambam wrote on multiple levels to different people. Even if we accept that he would have permitted Schissel Hallah to the masses he would certainly have told those in the know to avoid it, which, I'm inclined to think would include everyone commenting on this website.

    My dear Gavriel M: I don't recommend it; I was responding to those concerned that it would be a Torah violation. I'm not a Rabbi and I'm not paskening, but the reasons given here are not sufficient to make the practice prohibited, as best as I can tell. Not every bit of foolishness in this world is prohibited, nor even worth fighting over. Save it for the anti-vaxxers.

    If you think that the practice is prohibited, please distinguish it from the "gallow's nail charm" that is permitted.

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  22. The Apter Rov in his sefer Oheiv Yisroel brings another reason for what he calls "this ancient minhag", not related to parnassa. As follows:
    The Medrash in Shir Hashirim says ” פתחו לי פתחו של מחט ואני אפתח לכס כפתחו של אולם ” – Open for
    me like the size of a needle and I will open for you like the opening of a palace”
    This Medrash contains the rules of hashpa’as haruchniyus the Ribono shel Olam set into place upon
    creating this world. הבא לטהר מסייעין אותו If we make a small effort to grow in ruchniyius, Hashem is
    mashpia ruchniyus to us many more times than the effort we expended. However if no attempt is made
    on our part then Hashem does not allow any ruchniyus to flow to us.
    We were not worthy of being taken out of Mitzrayim. We were already on too low of a level to make
    any effort to come close to Hashem. The Torah says ( ופסח ה„ על ‘הפתח‘“ (שמות יב,כג ”. The real nes of
    Pesach is that Hashem ‘passed over’ this rule of “ פתחו לי פתחו של מחט ” and brought us to the heights
    of kedusha with Yetzias Mitzraim and Krias Yam-Suf even though we couldn’t “open the door” on our
    own.
    Immediately after Pesach this “free” kedusha was taken from us and we were again subject to the
    natural laws of ruchniyus set into place at creation.
    This is the symbolism of the Key; to remind ourselves that Pesach is over and we now need to do our
    part and open the door, even just a little bit, in order to be mekabel ruchniyos from Hashem. We place
    the key in the Shabbos Challah to show the Ribono shel Olam our efforts in honouring (baking) and
    keeping Shabbos.

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  23. Your parallel fails because no-one ever (I think) claimed that using a locusts egg was a specifically Jewish practice, whereas people do claim that Schiissel Hallah is a specifically Jewish practice and, in fact, this is the only reason why anyone does it.

    This is about a far more important issue than whether people are unwittingly violating the prohibition of darchei Amori, this is about what kind of religion Judaism is. Is it a religion where we do out best to fulfil G-d's commands and implement his blueprint for a Jewish country, or is it a religion where we bake keys in bread for money? In the time of the Mishnah, and in the time of the Rambam there were many people mired in paganism in spite of their being Jewish. Now there are many people mired in paganism solely BECAUSE they are Jewish, specifically because they are "orthodox". This is a hillul Hashem of epic proportions, and that's what matters.

    To make a comparison, when Hazal believed the sun went round the earth because that is what everyone else believed, that was not and is not a hillul Hashem. When contemporary "gedolim" maintain that the sun goes round the earth despite what everyone else believes and do this because they insist that Judaism so teaches this is a hillul Hashem, If everyone else was baking keys in their bread then we would not be marking ourselves out as tipshim by so doing, but, in the actual event, we are. (The parallel is not complete because heliocentrism is not intrinsically stupid and unpious, like shlissel hallah).

    The real objection is not whether this is originally a Christian practice, but that it is by it's very nature a pagan practice, justified by a pagan belief system. If pointing out is manifestly obvious Christian origins dissuades some people from doing it then that is a wonderful thing and so we must do it.

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    1. Gavriel M: You seem agree it is not Assur. This was my main point. Since Chilul Hashem is Assur, it can't be that either.

      I also doubt that we look more "foolish" to others by performing this custom than by performing most Mitzvos. Especially, if the Rambam was right and some of our practices are actually intentionally derived from pagan ones. The only observers who can make that distinction, if there is one, are themselves Orthodox.

      I agree with you on modern heliocentrism (science is something that other distinguish from religious practice) and would add the tendency towards racism on the part of Orthodox (you probably don't agree with that last one).

      As an aside, I don't think that there is a lot of evidence that this is really "derived" from paganism. Rather it most likely derives from our natural fallback to ritual over things that lie only partly within our control, financial security probably being the most important of those concerns. Witness the various ritual of athletes trying to recapture that perfect performance by repeating what they did when the day that happened. That is not pagan, but in-built to us pretty universally; these customs probably arise independently in all societies.

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    2. Rather [the shlussel hallah custom] most likely derives from our natural fallback to ritual over things that lie only partly within our control, financial security probably being the most important of those concerns.

      What? That only happens with very general and simple object-symbol connections...e.g., the circle as perfection, water as purifier and so on. Besides the segulah is not the only emic explanation offered. Here we have a custom based on a specific artifact connected to a uniquely Christian symbol and one recently appearing for the first time among a sector of Jews in the precise epicenter of a surrounding dominant culture. In the same season and without a developed theology or rituals connected to it. Quite a stretch, that; what you have here instead is a classic example of cultural diffusion and adoption. Or simply put, a group of homemakers in one Hassidic group picked up an amusing custom from their Gentile neighbours, as it happens today with commercialized customs, and the men were forced to squeeze out a plausible theology and a legitimizing history to justify it to other groups.

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  24. Temujin, what I meant was that no Orthodox Jews are baking keys for "Ishtar". I understand that the custom might have pagan origins. However, paradoxically, this doesn't necessarily make it forbidden.

    True, David, but as your subsequent quotes regarding the "ways of the Amorites" versus non-Jewish customs which were not identified with the Amorites suggests, the problem appears to be with adopting contemporaneous customs of non-Jews, customs whose provenance was obvious. This makes sense, because such practices increase opportunities for intra-communal contact and establish an attitude of tolerance for adopting foreign customs, thus opening up the gates for additional cultural intrusions. There is, of course, no clear-and-present-danger from influences of the Cult of Ishtar in our days, but in the case of the key, this is a popular, ongoing and distinctly Christian custom employing specific Christological symbols. Temujin has stopped short of opining that shlissel challah should be subjected to a ban; he is merely noting that this custom is acquiring a pseudo-history and a very contrived-looking theological basis, as the tentative suggestions for specific prayers indicates. On the current trajectory of its promotion, growing acceptability and emerging justifications, it will be soon forbidden to call it a minhag shtut, to point out that this is merely a peculiar and non-binding Hassidic custom far removed from a valid minhag or to refuse to bake shlissel challahs.


    Doresh, the shlissel challah custom has been isolated to chronological and geographical points of origin. Its "epicentre" is a cluster of specific regions in Catholic areas of Poland and Ukraine (others, south of the Carpathian divide, used a coin for "paying the gate-keeper" to the Hereafter, eventually identified as St Peter, or the Greek myth ferryman for the journey across the River Styx). Its appearance has been traced to the 18th century among some Hassidic groups...coincidentally those located in the same area. The Apter Rav you cite, namely Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel of Apt (Opatow), was Hassidic rabbi who lived and taught in variousl locations within this "epicenter" as well.

    Dare one ask on what basis one can claim that This is the symbolism of the Key (now capitalized?); to remind ourselves that Pesach is over and we now need to do our part and open the door, even just a little bit, in order to be mekabel ruchniyos from Hashem. We place the key in the Shabbos Challah to show the Ribono shel Olam our efforts in honouring (baking) and keeping Shabbos.? There is nary a whiff of a suggestion of such a tradition before the Apter Rebbe's time and the symbolism of the opening gates doesn't appear to just naturally lead to recipes for baking keys into challahs or making challas in the shape of a skeleton key, nor inventing new prayers for such, if one may remark. Adoptions of pleasant non-Jewish customs is one thing, but retrofitting philosophies, implying unsubstantiated historical pedigrees and attempting to construct a binding minhag is another. Still, Temujin is pleased to be able to witness the development (or attempts at) and reactions against such in real-time.

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  25. I fully agree with Temujin. While this key baking nonsense is not idolatrous and may not even be in violation of a biblical "u'vechukoteyhem lo teyleychu" [don't follow their (the pagan people's irrational) laws], it remains a practice adopted (as Temujin has stated) from the peasantry amongst whom Jews lived for centuries. While the practice is no longer followed in modern societies, so that the 'chukat haGoy' issue may no longer be relevant, it can lead to a denigration of Jewish customs and religion by those moderns aware of such practice among Jews. As such, it should be opposed rather than excused. This is besides the issue of believing that the key challah is somehow going to lead to economic improvement - a totally unworthy sentiment for religious Jews. Moreover, it conflicts with the traditional teaching that economic welfare is determined in early Tishrei, not the end of Nisan (over 6 months later). If the Apter Rebbe's reinterpretation of the custom as a symbol and reminder were in vogue, then there would be less opposition. However, it appears to be an idiosyncratic interpretation that has little currency.
    Y. Aharon

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    1. Temujin loves it when others agree with him as, by rule, this never happens to him in his own yurt. The baking of key-shaped Easter breads and inserting keys or coins in the same is still very much a living popular custom among Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans, though.

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  26. What is happening here is similar to the efforts of the anti-creationists and skeptics in general. First they point out that a particular popular or somewhat popular idea is foolish or, more generally, that it is unsupported by evidence. That is the correct and easy part.

    Then they twist themselves into a pretzel to prove that if a person accepts this foolishness, they will support every other foolishness in the world and eventually walk off a cliff thinking that they will float, or at least that the US [or substitute your country here] will become scientifically ignorant overall and therefore become backward technologically. So then there is a crusade to eliminate this specific foolishness.

    Let's be honest. The custom is silly, but it is mostly like neither assur nor particularly harmful. If it leads a person to avoid learning a trade or profession, then it is bad, but it is the avoidance of learning a trade or profession and not the custom.

    It is somewhat satisfying find fairly obvious flaws in others and then harp on those flaws as the cause of the evils of the universe. So is shooting fish in a barrel up to a point, I suppose.

    Some examples:

    Y. Aharon: While the practice is no longer followed in modern societies, so that the 'chukat haGoy' issue may no longer be relevant, it can lead to a denigration of Jewish customs and religion by those moderns aware of such practice among Jews. As such, it should be opposed rather than excused.

    This is very forced. Baking a key into a Challah will be ridiculed by moderns, but not the waving of the 4 species, avoidance of pork, affixing of an amulet to the doorway, and praying to an invisible God? This quote from Bertrand Russell on Chanukah seems appropriate:

    In enduring and resisting persecution the Jews of this time showed immense heroism, although in defense of things that do not strike us as important, such as circumcision and the wickedness of eating pork.

    Temujin: There is, of course, no clear-and-present-danger from influences of the Cult of Ishtar in our days, but in the case of the key, this is a popular, ongoing and distinctly Christian custom employing specific Christological symbols.

    Again, this is forced. Baking a challah with a key in it after Pesach has no identifiable Christian symbolism today. If you right about the source of the custom, this proves nothing. Presumably, this custom did not orginally involve the specified verses either and yet the Talmud allows it:

    R. Johanan said: For an inflammatory fever let one take an all-iron knife, go whither thorn-hedges2 are to be found, and tie a white twisted thread thereto. On the first day he must slightly notch it, and say, 'and the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, etc.' On the following day he [again] makes a small notch and says, 'And Moses said, I will turn aside now, and see, etc.' The next day he makes [another] small notch and says, 'And when the Lord saw that he turned aside [sar] to see.'5 R. Aha son of Raba said to R. Ashi, Then let him say, 'Draw not nigh hither?' Rather on the first day he should say. 'And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, etc. … And Moses said, I will, etc.'; the next day he says, 'And when, the Lord saw that he turned aside to see'; on the third, 'And he said, Draw not nigh.' And when he has recited his verses he pulls it down [sc. the bush] and says thus: 'O thorn, O thorn, not because thou art higher than all other trees did the Holy One, blessed be He, cause His Shechinah to rest upon thee, but because thou art lower than all other trees did He cause His Shechinah to rest upon thee. And even as thou sawest the fire [kindled] for Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah and didst flee from before them, so look upon the fire [i.e., fever.] of So-and-so and flee from him.'

    The custom is silly, but it is not the root of man's evil. Sinas Chinam is a much better candidate and that is something that we can all work.

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    1. David, you're simply wrong about your facts on this one.

      " Baking a challah with a key in it after Pesach has no identifiable Christian symbolism today." But it clearly has for probably couple of million Christians who follow it every Easter, identifying the key as a traditional symbol of the Cross. One imagines you are trying to say that the key has no identifiable Christian symbolism for Hareidi Jews. That is clearly so, but are you arguing that others must keep mum about it and watch what even you acknowledge as a silly custom develop into a compulsory minhag with a mountain of contrived tradition behind it? Can one then introduce you to coloured Pesach eggs, perhaps in approved teheilet-blue to make them “Jewish,” or your kids to the cute relative of the Easter Bunny, the Pesach Hyrax?

      Your citation of R. Yohanan's fever cure and your reminder that the Talmud allows it is a red herring; a simple response would be that the Talmud doesn't allow or even hint at baking keys into a challah. One is also fairly sure that whatever general principles can be drawn from this passage, importing clear and identifiable foreign customs and retrofitting them with questionable theologies to legitimize them is surely not one of them.

      Look, David, you're missing the point here; the battle is not over the origins and legitimacy of all sorts of vernacular customs and practices, that’s a straw man you are needlessly demolishing. Jews have accepted and modified thousands of such over the centuries, and modernity brings even more. Nor is this a case of the slippery slope danger where laughing at key-shaped challahs will lead to laughing at etrogim, sinat hinam...or dancing. The battle is in "real time" and it's over the process of introducing a new custom by a group which claims the privilege of authority to do so and to create new mythologies, rationales and religious duties by fiat. It's a raw kulturkampf, a religio-political dominance attempt. That is what is what can arguably lead to sinat hinam, not the healthy process of discussion over or opposition to a new and dubiously sourced custom.

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  27. David Ohsie:
    You appear to have completely misunderstood the concept of Hillul Hashem.

    Hillul Hashem is not when gentiles who know nothing of the Torah and/or do not believe in our G-d decide that certain misswoth are silly.* Hillul Hashem is when Jews publicly forsake the Torah (e.g. the misswah of tekheleth) and instead practice peasant pagan nonsense, like baking keys in bread for money. Thus even gentiles (or Jews) who do understand something of the Torah and are possibly inclined to accept our G-d will (justifiably) run from Judaism/Noahidism like a bad smell,

    * As it happens lulav as conceptualised in much of galuth is a silly practice. It only makes sense, like many things, in the land of Israel and the only real purpose of doing it elsewhere, as with many things, is to keep the misswah alive until we return. The kabbalaistic and childish reasons adduced by various people for performing misswoth that in truth are not relevant in galuth does, indeed make our religion look foolish. The honest answer to all such questions is "Judaism only makes sense in an independent Jewish state, for a long time we have been a people in exile, thank G-d that is now coming to an end".

    Quoting you:

    " Rather it most likely derives from our natural fallback to ritual over things that lie only partly within our control, financial security probably being the most important of those concerns. Witness the various ritual of athletes trying to recapture that perfect performance by repeating what they did when the day that happened. That is not pagan, but in-built to us pretty universally; these customs probably arise independently in all societies"

    Umm, yes, and when applied to spiritual matters this type of behaviour is called ..... paganism. The gnostic justifications for these kind of practices (in our people "kabbala") of course come second to folk-paganism. As to which is worse, I shall not opine, They are both bad. The Torah is not tolerant of human foibles, it is in many ways a sustained polemic against the human race. I appreciate where you are coming from with your irenic, mildly elitist conservatism, but that's not where the Torah is coming from, and, if you ever sit down to read it with an open mind, this will quickly become apparent.

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  28. We need to be careful about what alien practices we naturalize. There needs to be an objective Halachic test.

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  29. David, as has been remarked, you're fighting a strawman. Few if any of the critics of the key challah business entertain some slippery slope argument. That is usually the province of Hareidim and their 'wannabes'. The point is that such superstitious nonsense is being encouraged and spread among the Orthodox and must therefore be combatted. In the past this custom was, apparently, seldom observed - at least in the US. I was raised in a Shomer Shabbat Orthodox home by immigrant parents from Galicia - the supposed center of such practice and never observed or heard of such a thing. Nor is there a valid comparison with chukim of the torah or practices advocated in the talmud. It's, in fact, a denigration of such chukim and practices to compare this Gentile key custom to mezzuzah, pork, or waving a lulav (I deliberately omit mention of the folk superstitutions that one can find in the talmud and which have been long discontinued or disregarded). Moreover, the Rambam would strongly condemn your invoking the mitzvah of mezzuzah as a doorpost amulet. I and, I imagine other rationalist Observant Jews, do not consider a mezzuzah as an amulet, nor take seriously the supposed implication of the lettering on the front (really the back) of the mezzuzah parchment as an acronym for "shomer daltot yisrael". That's not its function. Rather, it is a symbol and a reminder of the content written on the parchment it contains.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. "shomer daltot yisrael"

      Can't that just be a reminder that God is the guardian of the doors of Israel?

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  30. Yochanan, while a mezzuza may serve secondarily as a prayer for protection more than a reminder, its primary purpose is to remind those in the house of the contents of the "Shema" and "Vehaya im shamo'a", i.e. serving Hashem wholeheartedly. Rationalists, I assume would favor the Rambam's understanding of divine Hashgacha. According to the Rambam in the Moreh, detailed providence (hashgacha peratit) is reserved for those who have a real relationship with Hashem. Simply putting up mezzuzot on doorposts doesn't, by itself, confer any such providence, nor is that its purpose - as stated earlier. It dishonors the mitzva, according to the Rambam in hilchot mezzuza, to turn it into a fetish or amulet. Read the Mishne Torah, hilchot mezzuza (chap 5 in sefer Ahava) for his language. While his anger is directed primarily at those who add names and passages on the inside of the parchment who are called idiots and reckoned amongst those who have no share in the hereafter, his language conveys the above message.

    Y. Aharon

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  31. I stand by my original argument, but I'll make a few comments:

    Y Aharon: I didn't claim that anyone was making a slippery slope argument. I analogized your various and different arguments to the slippery slope argument of the anti-creationists/skeptics. You argued that this custom makes us look foolish and I demonstrated (IMO) why this was a stretch. I didn't assert that Mezuzah is an amulet. I said that it looks like an amulet the observer that you are concerned about. As to your assertion that this is new, I don't know the history, but in modern times there is a lot of "cross-contamination" of Minhagim. Witness the large number of non-Hassidim avoiding "Gebrochts" and practicing "Upsherin". This is probably another example.

    As an aside, the slippery slope argument is the "rationalist" argument as to why Darchei Emori should be Assur, since they don't actually work: "In order that we may keep far from all kinds of witchcraft, we are warned not to adopt any of the practices of the idolaters, even such as are connected with agriculture, the keeping of cattle, and similar work. ... Our Sages call such acts “the ways of the Amorite”; they are kinds of witchcraft, because they are not arrived at by reason, but are similar to the performances of witchcraft, which is necessarily connected with the influences of the stars;. If you disclaim the slippery slope argument in this case, then you disclaim the harm foreseen by the Rambam's formulation.

    Temujin: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. You see Christian symbols based on what you assert that 0.1% of Christians do. If so, don't do it, but for the rest of the world that doesn't see it, the harm may not be what you suggests. I also don't think that the key-bakers are looking to take over the world. Your framing this as ground zero for the Jewish "culture wars" are perhaps what is leading to the over-emphasis (as I claim) on the supposed evils of this custom.

    Gavriel M.: According to Gavrielian Judaism, this custom is the least of our problems.

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  32. Temujin: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    David, for whatever it's worth, that quip's always worth a chuckle of course, but you should know that it's totally apocryphal; old Sigmund of blessed memory never uttered that line. At least according to Temujin's most brilliant and intimidating prof ever, Dr Paul Roazen, z"l, the foremost biographer of Freud and his merry band of deeply weird psychoanalyst groupies.

    Speaking of psychoanalysis and its gaggle of reflexive defense mechanisms, one is still puzzled at why you are so strongly bothered at what are really only legitimate questions, critiques and rejections of a superstition that has morphed into a segulah unwittingly picked up from Christian peasants and one which is currently acquiring a fictional historical and theological pedigree. You really should read Rabbi Yair Hoffman's article, wherein he takes this custom to the skies, linking it to the "Kabbalistic notion of 'Tirayin Petichin' that the gates to Heaven are opened," or the wafflings of some extremely earnest folks who are composing or "discovering" special prayers for it. Come now, what can be so alarming about debating or challenging the validity of the process of introducing a clearly Christian custom ? Is it better to accept or lightly dismiss it as a cute and goofy little custom and not to say anything about it just not to make a growing number of important and seriously sincere believers look silly? They certainly wouldn't be very happy with your cavalier attitude to the sublime and soon to be sanctified shlissel either, you know.

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  33. PS, Aaaand another thing, David, calling something a fallacy or a "law," as it has become popular, does not necessarily make it so.

    Your citations in your third paragraph do not actually lead to a slippery slope fallacy, as they enumerate clearly stated positions which are rationally transferable to contemporaneous situations and challenges, something, one understands, halakhah is equipped and intended to deal with .

    The slippery slope fallacy pertains to imagined relations between rationally unconnected events, unlikely slides into wild hypotheticals, the use of fear and unsubstantiated conjectures, often necessitating mendacious claims. A classic example of such is the way some authorities claimed that R'Slifkin's books would lead yeshiva students to abandon their faith and studies and to lend credence to this claim. Because they is no rational basis for this claim, it was followed up with two alleged examples which, upon closer inspection, proved to be entirely made up.

    But in the case of the shlussel challah, the proverbial "slide" down the "slope" from a Christian custom which was inadvertently adopted to a "Judaized" one is in full progress and is amply evident for anyone to see. The actual slippery slope fallacy usually employed on this issue is in the irrational argument that any questioning of or opposition to this "tradition" undermines the authority of all rabbis, of mesorah, all minhagim and the Torah itself, even though some rabbis reject it as unfounded in mesorah or Torah and as a recent custom of very suspicious provenance.

    Also, since we're on the topic of fallacies, in your attempt to counter Temujin's arguments, you slipped-in, somewhat patronizingly, two classic straw men in apparent semi-jest. First, that Temujin is claiming that "key-bakers are looking to take over the world," and secondly, his supposed " over-emphasis...on the supposed evils of this custom." This is after one repeatedly stated that the issue is the demonstrably heavy-handed and obscurantist religio-political process of imposing the custom, not any intrinsic theological properties or qualities about which Temujin has no comments, since he lacks even the basic knowledge to offer a useful opinion.

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  34. David, for whatever it's worth, that quip's always worth a chuckle of course, but you should know that it's totally apocryphal; old Sigmund of blessed memory never uttered that line.

    That isn't surprising, but it was still a good shorthand for my argument :).

    Speaking of psychoanalysis and its gaggle of reflexive defense mechanisms, one is still puzzled at why you are so strongly bothered at what are really only legitimate questions, critiques and rejections of a superstition that has morphed into a segulah unwittingly picked up from Christian peasants and one which is currently acquiring a fictional historical and theological pedigree.

    My point is simply this: if you wife starts going to church, then you have a problem. If she bakes a key in the challah, then move on with your life. Ridicule to your heart's content (the Minhag is silly), but it is probably not Assur and therefore probably not worth a lot of energy. Unless you like to spend time criticizing obviously silly things that people happen to do to as a custom, like wearing a necktie and rooting for the sporting club of your youth.

    Yes, you can hang this on defensiveness, if you like, since both family and friends sometimes perform the custom. In my younger days, I was very uncomfortable attending "upsherin" ceremonies and would stand off uncomfortably to the side so as not to be involved. I would probably have been more vehement against the key-bakers at that time, too. As I got older and more knowledgeable, I realized that there are bigger problems in this world from both a halachic and moral perspective.

    Your citations in your third paragraph do not actually lead to a slippery slope fallacy

    I didn't claim that anyone on this thread was engaging in a slippery slope fallacy. I actually said the opposite: the Rambam uses a slippery slope argument as the explanation for the prohibition to follow Amorite customer. Since, in this case, everyone seems to agree that the footing is quite solid, no great alarm need be raised around his custom.

    First, that Temujin is claiming that "key-bakers are looking to take over the world," and secondly, his supposed " over-emphasis...on the supposed evils of this custom." This is after one repeatedly stated that the issue is the demonstrably heavy-handed and obscurantist religio-political process of imposing the custom

    My point is that people don't do it because of that. They do it because they have heard of the custom (or it is in their family) and they are concerned about sustenance. You are infusing a symbolism and meaning that doesn't exist in most instance, if at all.



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  35. Umm, David, you're merely knocking down the same straw men. Let Temujin guide you the errors of your reasoning.

    My point is simply this: if you wife starts going to church, then you have a problem. Indeed so, a rather big one too; a fancy wardrobe for shul to-dos and one with pricey semi-casuals with fancy hats and white gloves for church barbecues? Perish such thoughts! If she bakes a key in the challah, then move on with your life. Hardly, old boy; a former Scottish Presbyterian who can spot an old idolatrous Papist custom from a mile away shudders at such things. It's congenital.

    As I got older and more knowledgeable, I realized that there are bigger problems in this world from both a halachic and moral perspective. Ah, ye ole argumentum from maturity and benign moderation as applied against the perceived swivel-eyed, nit-picking zealot. Weak logic: There are always bigger problems in the world, David. All you are saying is that one must look the other way when a minhag of a foreign origin which is acceptable to some important people, is being incorporated into Jewish customs and practices. You don't think there are halachic or moral issues with that? Anyway, you're pretty tenacious for someone who wants to blow this one off as unimportant.

    3. I didn't claim that anyone on this thread was engaging in a slippery slope fallacy. Temujin did not say or imply this. I actually said the opposite: the Rambam uses a slippery slope argument as the explanation for the prohibition to follow Amorite customer(sic.). This man can't claim to be an authority on the Rambam, but he knows his fallacies and says that you have no reason to call that a slippery slope fallacy. The slippery slope fallacy is, as this man argued above, a pretty extreme logic-fail, one typically involving "imagined relations between rationally unconnected events, unlikely slides into wild hypotheticals, the use of fear and unsubstantiated conjectures, often necessitating mendacious claims."

    My point is that people don't do it because of that [erroneous history and implied obligation]. Yes they are. Rabbis are arguing that this is a Jewish custom, a mesora, a custom with sublime meanings relating to the Gates of Heaven. They do it because they have heard of the custom (or it is in their family) and they are concerned about sustenance. Yes, many treat it as a segula, which is another issue. And most probably do it because it's something cool and new to do with the same challah one deals with week in, week out. And so what, now one can’t speak out against it?

    5. You are infusing a symbolism and meaning that doesn't exist in most instance, if at all. No, the key in a braided loaf or banitsa or byurek (in the Balkans) already comes with the meaning and symbolism which predates the shlussel challah: An Easter custom with the key symbolizing Jesus and St Peter's key to the Heavens, and the leavened bread meaning the "Risen Christ." There you have it, in Technicolor™. Again, not that that's what the challah-bakers and the enthusiastic rabbis obviously intend...and of course intent counts... but in realizing this biggie of an oopsie, one would think more folks would want to drop the custom, rather than doubling down and trying to patch together an unconvincing Jewish pedigree for it. It’s that which should irk reasonable folks.

    --Temujin the Schluessel Challah-clast

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  36. David Ohsie: If some people are persuaded to stop performing this inane ritual by being presented with evidence of its Christian origins and complete lack of authentic provenance, is that not a good thing? If some people are further persuaded to abandon other customs like upsherins, and praying at graves and "neglewasser", is that not a good thing? And if some people are further persuaded to dump kabbala-Judaism entirely and return to the teachings of Hazal and the "rationalist" Rishonim, is that not a good thing? And if these are good things, why are you so keen to oppose them. And, what, frankly, do you hope to achieve with all this?

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  37. There you have, David, Gabriel M raised the stakes by going after ushperin. A curious custom that one; oddly enough from around the time of when schluessel challah may have first emerged among Jews.

    When Temujin was wee lad in South Eastern Europe, he witnessed the tail end of a custom where the country folk...Christians and minority Muslims...used to let their young children's hair grow long and dress them like girls, their emic explanation being that it fooled demons and whatevers to think they are "less valuable" girls and not to harm them. Temujin sailed off on this tangent and read up this and that, discovering that it is an old custom indeed, appearing hither and yon (but with nary a hint of Judaic origins) and thus proposes an admittedly shaky hypothesis that the custom is even older, from Animist pre-Christian times and that it had a reversed explanation: Females were more valued, as a band's or a tribe's population health depended on having an optimum number of child-bearing females and it was believed that the "goddesses" would protect girl. so parents would try to "fool" them. But then in the transitional phase from hunting-gathering (female-centred gathering representing 80%-90% percent) to pastoralism and sedentary agriculture (reversed gender percentages), there was an acute demand for brute strength and warriors, making males more valuable. So, the spirits and goddesses would have to be "fooled" to protect the male children. One digresses, so feel free to take pot-shots at this.

    Anyhow, a prosaic and reasonable guess would be that Jews picked up this popular custom from their neighbours and eventually Isaac Luria" legitimized" it with a complicated kabalistic explanation linked to his promotion of peyot. It appears that it is a fairly recent and not a universally practiced custom among all Jews, even among all Hasidim, and according to Wiki, a number of prominent rabbis, including more recently, Rabbi Kanievsky, opposed it.

    This is clearly a tricky subject; folk customs bind groups together and can be very useful. But on the other hand, no one can say that Judaism lacks such "binders" in the form of halakhot and rituals, so it's kind of hard to argue that adopting non-Jewish customs and "Judaizing" them is always necessary or beneficial. Especially, when the rejection of Paganism appears to be a central feature of Judaism. You seem to worry about an eroding effect on Judaism from challenging established customs, but this is not a Reform or Conservative approach to a revision of halakhah...nor a zealous, puritanical iconoclasm of the charming little pleasures of Yiddishkeit...but reasoned examinations of and debates over the origins and legitimacy of peripheral non-scriptural customs. At the very least, it compels us to study the sources and engage in theological conversations.

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  38. David Ohsie: If some people are persuaded to stop performing this inane ritual by being presented with evidence of its Christian origins and complete lack of authentic provenance, is that not a good thing? If some people are further persuaded to abandon other customs like upsherins, and praying at graves and "neglewasser", is that not a good thing? And if some people are further persuaded to dump kabbala-Judaism entirely and return to the teachings of Hazal and the "rationalist" Rishonim, is that not a good thing? And if these are good things, why are you so keen to oppose them. And, what, frankly, do you hope to achieve with all this?

    Again, you put a smile on my face :). I don't hope to achieve much of anything with posting to the comments section of a blog. My comments (scroll up to see them) were as follows:

    1) The claimed Christian origin doesn't make it Assur.
    2) This statement is false IMO (backed with some argumentation) " I think it is actually assur, and those doing so are sinning. It is second-hand avodah zara.".
    3) Although I didn't comment on it this fellow should rest easy: "presumably, then, if I work, I am allowed to do a schlisselchallah? thank goodness. coz my wife insists on baking them."
    4) As an empirical matter, this custom is not going to turn people away from Orthodox Judaism who would otherwise join up.

    My position is along the lines of Rav Moshe's on the positioning of an American and Israeli flag in a Shul. http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=916&pgnum=105:

    Essentially, it is unclear that there there is any actual prohibition in the erection of the flags [...] therefore even though it is definitely not fitting to bring them into a synagogue which is a holy place, and certainly not to place them there permanently, especially next to Aron, but there is this no room to say that there is an actual prohibition, rather it is a matter of vanity and foolishness.

    So that if it is possible in a peaceful way to remove them from the synagogue, this would be a beneficial thing, but to create a conflict over this is prohibited. If we had the power to remove the flags completely [or perhaps to abolish the Israeli flag completely?] without any conflict so that there would be no memorial to the actions of wicked [presumably the anti-religious or non-religious Zionists] it would be possible that this would be correct, but God-forbid that one should create a conflict over this.

    Therefore, those that want to create a new Minyan over this issue, and think that they are doing some great thing by this, are not acting properly. Rather it is a political matter, arising from power of the evil inclination and the "Satan" who, in our great sins, dances among us...

    Note: I don't agree with Rav Moshe's characterization of the Israeli flag or Zionism.

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  39. The Schlissel Challah Segulah is widely spread amongst all the Bnos Yisroel.

    The only source for this Minhag is supposedly from the Ohev Yisroel who claimed Schlissel Challah to be an old Minhag B’Yisroel .

    The Sefer Ohev Yisroel is a collection of Divrei Torah from R. Avrohom Yehoshua Heshil zt”l, known as the Apte Rebbe.

    The Rebbe’s son R. Yitzchok Mier zt”l realized, people were writing and saying over in the name of his father (Apter) things he never said; they were also quoting Toirehs from the Rebbe inaccurately. He decided to appoint a Talmid Chacham to write down all the authentic and reliable Divrei Torah from the Rebbe.

    Every so often where they had questions or were not sure, they asked personally from the Rebbe.

    In the year 1863 long after the Petira of the Rebbe and his son R. Yitzchok Mier, the grandson R. Meshulem Zusia zt”l finally printed the Sefer Ohev Yisroel.

    He also added to the back of the Sefer, “Likutim”, Divrei Torah that wasn’t recorded in the Sefer Ohev Yisroel.

    There can be two reasons why it didn’t make it in the Sefer.

    1. The son R. Y. M. and the Talmid Chacham were not aware of that particular Dvar Torah.

    2. The Rebbe never said it. It was made up by one of the many people who had claimed “the Rebbe to have said it.” ( The original intention of the Sefer was to quote only reliable Torah of the Rebbe)

    R. M.Z. claimed to believe all the Toirehs to be of his grandfather (not exactly his father’s intention) and therefore added them to the back of the Sefer.

    The only source for the Minhag of Schlissel Challah is the Likutim in the back of the Sefer Ohev Yisroel.

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