Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Taking Judaism Seriously

Over Pesach, my view of a certain Modern Orthodox rabbi was radically transformed. This was a person that I never really knew much about, except that twenty years ago, when I was a diehard charedi yeshivah student, I came across an essay of his about akeidas Yitzchak. The rabbi posited that Avraham Avinu had actually failed the akeidah; he was supposed to have challenged God as to the injustice of the command. At the time, I ridiculed this as making no sense as an explanation of the chumash, as well as being entirely inconsistent with Jewish tradition. This gave me the perfect excuse to utterly disqualify the author as a serious rabbi.

Twenty years later, I still feel that his suggestion regarding akeidas Yitzchak does not work on a textual level in the chumash, and I still feel that it is entirely inconsistent with Jewish tradition. However, I now feel that the traditional understanding of the akeidah is indeed problematic (see this post that I wrote on it). In addition, I no longer feel that one mistaken essay is reason to disqualify someone. Finally, this Pesach, I learned that this rabbi is indeed a serious person, with regard to a particular Pesach matter that had long bothered me.

Selling chametz always seems like a bit of a sham (see this discussion at Hirhurim). It's a way to observe the letter of law without the spirit of the law, like glatt kosher factory farmed meat, or glamorous sheitels. And even with regard to the letter of the law, is it really a valid sale? Do people really think that the gentile is taking ownership of it?

Well, this rabbi is in charge of selling chametz for his large community, and he takes it very seriously indeed. First of all, he strongly encourages everyone to dispose of any genuine chametz. This is not because he feels that the sale is not genuine; as we shall see, he certainly does make a genuine sale. But it's because the idea of Pesach is to destroy your chametz.

With regard to the actual sale, this rabbi does something extraordinary. During the chag, he goes with the gentile purchaser to some randomly selected homes of those who have sold the chametz, and the gentile actually takes it! I heard of a similar situation in another community, where in one case the homeowner, who was losing a very expensive collection of drinks, vociferously protested, but the rabbi was firm. A sale is a sale. Everyone who sells the chametz with this rabbi has come to understand that they are really selling it.

I heard several fascinating and inspiring stories from this rabbi, which I might relate on another occasion. I don't want to name him, because it might distract people from the point of the post. The message to take home is that there are many ways to take Judaism seriously.

70 comments:

  1. I once lived in a community where all the chametz that was being sold was put in a communal machsan, and the key was given to the gentile purchaser. It certainly made the sale more valid halakhically, and also made it feel like a real sale. I don't know whether the gentile actually came on Pesach and took anything, or not, but had he done so, I nobody would have known about it until after Pesach, when they would have received payment for what he took.

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  2. Didn't the gentile then pay for the expensive collection of drinks with a vast amount of money?

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  3. For a fascinating and novel interpretation of Akeidat Yitzchak, read this article from the Jewish Bible Quarterly.

    In short, Professor Schrader shows how Avraham Avinu passes the akeidah test not by his WILLINGNESS to sacrifice his son, but by his REFUSAL to sacrifice his son.


    http://www.jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/324/324_Schrade1.pdf

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  4. This is why when R Willig (and now hundreds of other RCA rabbis in NY) sell their chometz, the goy pays a small sum as a down payment and agrees to pay the rest after Pesach. After Pesach the goy finds that he does not have enough money to pay the rest so R Willig agrees to return the down payment and buy back the chometz. If the goy did want to take any chometz, he'd be legally obligated to pay for it in full.

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    1. Yes, Isn't this the standard for of the contract? I have also heard that the final payment is a very high amount; much more than the market value of the chometz. Is this true?

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    2. The Shulchan Aruch HoRav believes that method to be invalid, see shu"t shearis yehuda 1 but it is the accepted method of selling chometz. See also Teshuvas HoRif printed at the back of the Vilna Shas Bovo Metzia for further analysis and shulchan aruch ch"m 190:12

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  5. A. The article reference is as good as a name to anyone with a passing knowledge of recent Jewish history.
    B. As far as the sale you are proceeded in your feeling by none other than Tvuas Shor to Psachim 21. However I am sure you have already come across the discussion in Chsam Sofer OC 62 (plus a passing reference in YD 310 who discussed the fact that the goy does not intend to buy) and the Nesivos in Mkor Chayim 448. However, I would draw your attention to to the tosefta in Psachim perek bes that explicitly describes mechiras chometz (although there is an obvious chiluk between institutionalized sales and individual sales the spirit of the law question should be the same and if so it is explicitly rejected as a problem by the Tannaim. .

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  6. The rabbi posited that Avraham Avinu had actually failed the akeidah; he was supposed to have challenged God as to the injustice of the command.

    Interesting. I read the same thing in the book, "GOD According to God" by Gerald Schroeder. Philosophically, this did not sit right with me, either. If God tells you to do something that seems wrong to you, perhaps part of the test is accepting the instruction without complaint. On the other hand, when God told Moshe Rabbeinu that He was going to destroy the nation and start anew from Moshe, he argued with God and God accepted his arguments. Of course, this itself is difficult. God obviously knew Moshe's arguments beforehand so the whole exercise must have been a test for Moshe to see if he would argue on the nation's behalf.

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  7. This is not because he feels that the sale is genuine; as we shall see, he certainly does make a genuine sale.

    You meant to say "This is not because he feels that the sale is not genuine; as we shall see, he certainly does make a genuine sale."

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  8. I never understood why some people claim that the sale is not viewed seriously. I don't know anyone (and don't think it's fair to assume this about anyone) that thinks the chometz stored in their house on Pesach belongs to them or will belong to them after chag is over. To me, this is an inaccurately negative assumption about popular perception, which is unfair.

    This Rabbi who has the non-Jew take chometz - that doesn't sound impressive to me. Why is it not obvious that every so often Rabbis would do that? I guess based on this article it sounds like it's uncommon for Rabbis to do it (after all, it's never happened to me). But that sounds like a fault of any community Rabbi that doesn't have the non-Jew take possession of some of his chometz every once in a while.

    Unless I hear any compelling evidence otherwise, I'm convinced world Jewry respects the sale as a perfectly valid sale, and doesn't think of any chometz in their house as theirs.

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    1. I never understood why some people claim that the sale is not viewed seriously.

      No doubt most people view it seriously, in part because it makes one's life much easier. Having to eat, throw away, burn or genuinely sell their humetz can be very expensive and pose a huge logistical challenge. Those who question the practice question the legitimacy of the "sale," not how people feel about it.

      --Temujin

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    2. We eat all our hametz before Erev Pesah, except for the symbolic piece or pieces of bread, for bi'ur hametz, that I feed to the goats at the school up the hill the morning of Erev Pesah.

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    3. "I'm convinced world Jewry respects the sale as a perfectly valid sale"

      I don't know of any other sale in which the seller is sure that the goods won't be transferred to the buyer, and that the buyer will sell them back just in time for when the seller can begin using them again.

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  9. I heard of a similar situation in another community, where in one case the homeowner, who was losing a very expensive collection of drinks, vociferously protested, but the rabbi was firm. A sale is a sale.

    The non-Jew must have been either a Christian or a not so observant Muslim. I heard that Rabbi Leff had trouble with his chametz sale the first time he tried it in this country. The non-Jew was an observant Muslim and refused to take ownership of whisky.

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  10. I hope the goy paid for the very expensive stuff that he took. The sale is just a transfer of the rights but the goy must pay for all chametz taken, unless returned after the chag. So it really isn't such a big deal if the goy comes with the Rabbi. Im not sure why the guy protested.

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    1. In other words...
      "I demand that you only pay me a symbolic amount because I'm trying to weasel out of my halachic obligation. But if you actually treat this like a legal sale you will darned well pay through the nose."

      If "the heeb" wanted full price he should have sold if for full price to "the goy". That's what a sale is. If he sold it at a horrible discount that's his problem. Maybe he should finish off the chometz beforehand or work out a fair price and terms in advance.

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    2. What is the problem with making a down payment at the bevinning of a very expensive purchase? That is the standard procedure when purchasing a house.

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    3. Before I got to the end I thought Nosson was getting too lazy to write his own posts and took to plagiarism :)

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  11. Natan,

    I remember when that essay was published. It was in the late 80's, around the same time he published another piece describing Moshe Rabbainu as a poor manhig for Klal Yisroel. Both were in the Jerusalem Post, as I recall.

    The articles bothered me, and I talked with my rebbeim about it. They felt the opinions represented a radical departure from traditional thought, and were in conflict with some important and pervasive concepts in Jewish thought and practice.

    I had a list of things I wanted to discuss with Rav Sheinberg, and I included this in the mix. I asked him if these opinions were within the bounds. His answer was simple: "Apikorsus".

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  12. any student of the Rav will know who it is anyway from both ends of the post...

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  13. I can't recall if this was before or after his article calling Jesus a "failed" rather than "false" messiah.

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  14. I had a list of things I wanted to discuss with Rav Sheinberg, and I included this in the mix. I asked him if these opinions were within the bounds. His answer was simple: "Apikorsus".

    Not sure what that's supposed to prove. Rav Sheinberg considered the views of a good many Rishonim, including Rambam, to be Apikorsus.

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  15. Avraham: That's how every mechirat chametz works. This is over and above that.

    There was a story on one of the charedi sites recently about the kiddush hashem made when the non-Jew decided to do this on his own and found the Jews willing to give the items to him. There as here, commenters missed the point entirely and asked about ultimate payment.

    Like Unknown, I hope this is true. Unlike him, I'm not as optimistic.

    Moshe David Tokayer: Avraham himself argued with Hashem, over the destruction of Sodom. I think Rabbi X may have made this point.

    clarity required, people don't necessarily want to sell their stuff, even at a fair price.

    Toronto Tatty: The same people would- and do- say that any sort of writing about Tanach characters is "apikorsus." See what happened to R' Steinsaltz for his writings on, say, Michal bat Shaul, which were a lot tamer than this.

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  16. Natan- I understand why you would reject Rav Shienberg's position as irrelevant, based on your approach. However I would be hard pressed to understand how you can reconcile the authors words with that of mainstream Judaism. We regularly call on the zechus of Avraham from the Akaidah in our davening. Hard to do that when it was a failure.

    Nachum- This isn't simply writing about personalities from T'nach, it is taking a radically different view of their actions and even their worth. You can't expect to call Avraham a failure and Moshe a fool and not be outcast. It's silly. Toss in the Jesus stuff...

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  17. I understand why you would reject Rav Shienberg's position as irrelevant, based on your approach.

    Not based on my approach. Based on the Rishonim.

    However I would be hard pressed to understand how you can reconcile the authors words with that of mainstream Judaism.

    As I wrote explicitly in this post, I don't think it can be reconciled with traditional Judaism.

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  18. "Taking Judaism seriously" - overrated. Usually that's just shorthand for heavy handed intrusiveness, like trying to stop Kiddush clubs. The type of Puritanism that Mencken described as the paralyzing fear that someone out there might God Forbid actually be having some fun. Mechiras Chametz is for sure a total subterfuge. All the straining the rabbis do to protest otherwise merely proves the point. (Nobody has to work so hard to *prove* that when I sell my car it's an actual sale.) So is/are Hetter Mechirah, Pruzbul, Kolel, Shavers, nice sheitels, Kosher for Pesach cheerios, and a host of other things. What's wrong with all that?


    "Factory farmed glatt kosher meat" - What law are you talking about? Glatt? Kashrus? Exactly how is it not within the spirit of it? This sounds like another case of confusing your rationalist judiasim polemics (universal) with your pro-PETA politics (personal). Very unwise.

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    1. Everything on that list is OK except for kollel, for the simple reason that it costs other people, and not just in terms of money.

      On the other hand, religion does, indeed, have what to say about your lifestyle.

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  19. I am certainly not pro-PETA, nor vegetarian.
    Most of the mitzvos relating to eating meat have to do with sensitivity to the animal's well-being and to the value of life. Factory farming is the opposite of that. (This can be discussed further on another occasion; it's not the topic of this post.)

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  20. If selling chometz is not within the letter of the law, then neither is Heter Mechira. From a judicial point of view, I am ok with both.
    Factory farmed meat - I must admit that I don't know much about it, but I stopped eating veal years ago when I discovered about how they force fed the calves.
    Glamarous sheitels - Not very clear what the purpose of the law is. It has been argued, and perhaps very well, that the purpose of a woman covering her hair is in order to look more glamorous. Upara rosh ha'isha- kdei lenavlah. Gemara says its mida keneged mida - she made herself pretty for someone else so we make her look ugly. Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi makes this argument in his shut and he has a nice list of sources to back the idea that married woman should look prettier than unmarried.

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    1. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

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    2. No doubt he cites the famous Gemara in Taanis, where the field worker was met at home by his well-dressed wife. But this (and similar citations) are not the same as proof that the sheitel itself is actually meant to be an improvement. In which case the opposite would be true, and half the frum women of America - those walking around in snoonds and plain sheitels - are violating the principle. Would appreciate ir if you could explicate this argument more, bc frankly im not buying it.

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  21. Note to those submitting comments on the Akeidah - please post them instead to this comment thread: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/10/challenge-of-akeidah.html

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  22. Some years ago, Kibbutz Kfar Etzion sold its chometz to nearby Arabs.
    Guess what happened when they came to reclaim the chometz after the holyday!
    The sale is valid and biding. That's the difference between haarama (within the law) and mirma (deception - outside the law).

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    1. Yeah - and it was widely reported in the law, and everyone was furious with the idiot of a rabbi who told the people to bring all their chametz to a central location. Thus proving (the obvious) that no one ever thought it was a real sale in the first place.

      Chezky

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  23. Although one doubts Rabbi X is Rabbi David Bar-Chayim, the latter has prominently held to a strict interpretation on humetz for quite a while, arguing that one needs to simply get rid of it...period. Temujin has held his peace over the years on the "sale" of humetz, but remains puzzled over how folks can go absolutely OC on cleaning their house, laundering and cleaning their clothing, even steam-cleaning the interiors of their cars and then leave a concentrated mass of the stuff in cabinets and cupboards in the same kitchens they scrubbed and torched...all on the power of a poorly photocopied one-page form in English. Yes, yes, one knows the arguments behind the sale and how it fits in with interpretations of halakha and established tradition, yet one can't shake the nudge-nudge, wink-wink feel about this sale which is really not a sale as we normally understand sales. Then, there is an aggressively defensive attitude out there which rapidly shuts down questions and criticism as un-Jewish and disrespectful of halakhah...as fundamentalist, simplistic, Karaite, Christian or Reform. Such over-reactions suggest discomfort or uncertainty. Rabbi Bar-Chayim has been (perhaps too casually) dismissed for being too radical in his quest to excise many unquestioned traditions of the Galut and his insistence on the primacy of the Talmud Yerushalmi, so Temujin is glad this issue is now treated seriously here and elsewhere.

    --Temujin the Serious

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    1. I also was thinking of Machon Shilo's Rabbi David Bar-Hayim-not as having been Rabbi X, but for his having a truth-oriented approach such as Rabbi Slifkin which has led him to feel that standard hamess sales are not serious and not to be relied upon. Rabbi Bar-Hayim also does not hold by heter mechira.

      Rabbi Bar-Hayim is indeed in favor of putting the Talmud Yerushalmi back in the center, but we must not oversimplify regarding his approach on this matter. If he feels that the Talmud Bavli's postion on a given matter is more correct then he will poseq like the Bavli against the Yerushalmi.

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  24. DF, (4:27 PM) corrections of Temujin's often faulty assumptions are always welcome, but isn't Pesach the most serious of festivals, one which trumps even the High Holy Days? At least the heroic and expensive effort observant folks are required to make in ridding themselves of humetz suggest this. You yourself say that "Mechiras Chametz is for sure a total subterfuge," and yet you defend it on a vague argument against puritanism and go on to compare it to unrelated restrictions and customs.

    In a declaration of strong bias and some alarm, Temujin certainly hopes that stricter interpretations of ridding oneself of humetz will not in any way challenge the legitimacy of the Kiddush clubs and may consider changing his current stance if such should be the case.

    --Temujin the Frightened

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  25. Moshe Toyaker: "God obviously knew Moshe's arguments beforehand so the whole exercise [arguing with Moshe] must have been a test for Moshe to see if he would argue on the nation's behalf."

    If God knew Moshe's arguments beforehand, he also knew that Moshe would pass the test beforehand.

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    1. Of course, but the test wasn't for God. It was for Moshe.

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  26. I agree with R' Natan's attitude towards religious figures who may occasionally step outside of traditional boundaries in matters of hashkafa, but who are serious minded when it comes to halacha. If there is no moral or ethical failing involved, offering some apologetic stances need not detract from their otherwise high regard. I also note that hashkafic deviations appear to occur at least as much by those on the right as by those on the left of the Orthodox spectrum - as R' Natan has often remarked. It is disturbing, however, when such respected figures sometimes appear not to treat the torah as a coherent text with a coherent, timeless message.

    Y. Aharon

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  27. So, is Bittul better than Mechira?

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    1. מדאורייתא בבטול בעלמא סגי

      My understanding had been that the mechira, even if it was not completely valid as a sale, at least ensured that the bittul would be entirely effective by avoiding the potential for “שמא ימצא גלוסקא יפה”.

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  28. To me, that kind of behavior does not parse as "serious" but rather as "arrogant". As in, "my judgment of right and wrong is greater than that of the Tanach, Chazal, and the authors of the Machzor". As in, "I will prove to you that you are all fools to think you no longer own that chametz".

    Whereas I heard several lectures this year against selling household Chametz, including that of R' Meidan himself, nevertheless, it is the way our family has done things and will continue to do. The one cupboard of things that do not belong to us for the duration of Pesach does not in any way negate the work that went into clearing the rest of the house of edible chametz. I do not need anyone coming into my home to shove his holier-than-thou this-is-all-just-a-fiction attitude in my face.

    Moreover, does the gentleman in question not hold by Heter Iska? Or does he make it a habit of showing up in banks demanding to see his share of the profits? Will he refrain from lending money this coming year so that he doesn't find himself in the position of writing a prozbul? More than that - does he find himself supporting the premarital contract that would bypass the Ketubah?

    The rabbis have the power and the ability to bend Halacha to make it conform with the needs of the Jewish People. Undermining the rabbinic ability to do so in the case of Mechirat Chametz is not fundamentally different from undermining the rabbinic ability to judge whether Akeidat Yitzchak was a success or a failure.

    For the record, I have no idea who you're referring to.

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    1. chametz destroyerApril 24, 2014 at 3:31 AM

      Perhaps your mistake is in thinkiing that an exhausting and extremely exacting "search" / cleaning for chametz is the whole point and therefore definitely satisfies the obligations based on how much tireless effort you put into it. But chazal say chametz smaller than a kezayit doesn't even qualify as needing to be searched and destroyed, yet a gimmicky "sale" MIGHT be questionable according to some opinions, but probably is not valid according to all opinions if the seller expects the buyer has no right to eat it himself! So while we obsess over dirt smudges in the crevices of walls which are not even food let alone chametz or a kezayith worth of chametz, maybe we should relax and just be more careful that we truly sell the chametz we do posess and sell via the rabbi which is more important than a thorough spring cleaning. The anger in your tone seems misplaced.

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    2. When I said "clearing the house of edible chametz", I was referring to Kit Kats and Oreos in their original packaging, not dirt smudges in the crevices of walls.

      The standardized sale of chametz is valid. It is truly sold, it does not belong to me, and my anger is at those who imply that I do not understand the mechanism of the sale.

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    3. chametz destroyerApril 25, 2014 at 4:31 PM

      The argument is, how is it truly sold if the "buyer" doesn't have access to it or even have rights to it in the minds of most "sellers" (which sounds like you in this case correct me if I'm wrong, since you object to this rabbi's actions) ? Why is that something to get angry about instead of addressing this realistic concern?

      Is it really that difficult to clear out oreo's? I had assumed you were one of the many people who self-imposes back-breaking labor to do "spring cleaning" in the place of (or alongside) chametz removal. To those people I would say no one is forcing them to do that. But evidently you are upset for different reasons, including that chachamim claim to understand halachot and sales to a better extent than you or me. I don't know what to say, then.

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    4. Let me try to explain myself clearer.

      I can't speak for everyone, but for all the ehrlich Jews of my acquaintance, who close up a cabinet or two and mark it "Sold", they actually believe that they do not have access to it during Pesach.

      Moreover, they do believe that chachamim who understand halachot and sales have created a valid mechanism that they can rely on. It might not be perfectly transparent, but it is sufficient. If it is sufficient to allow us to buy chametz from the supermarket the day after Pesach, than it is also sufficient for us to join that mechanism and earn the convenience of saving a trip to the supermarket.

      What makes me angry about the story is the implication on the part of the rabbi that the people selling chametz, who have relied upon him to sell their chametz, do not have realistic intentions. This is arrogant and unjustified. Based on many years of experience, they know that while their chametz does not indeed belong to them now, the sale is structured in such a way as to allow them to retake possession after the holiday. They know this because their chachamim who understand halachot and sales told them so. To undermine this belief is not taking the halachot more seriously, it is undermining the belief in halacha altogether.

      As for the relative difficulty of clearing out oreos, that depends on the size and population of one's house, no?

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  29. Kira, if you look at the history of mechiras chametz described in the Hirhurim post that I linked to, you'll see that the rabbis over history were very much concerned that it might not be a real sale.

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    1. I'm aware. R' Meidan brought many sources at his shiur at the closing session of the Zman at the Gush.

      However, there is a qualitative difference between R' Meidan urging people to plan to clear out all chametz and not leave any to sell (as well as the rav of our shul discussing what can and cannot be kept over Pesach if you don't sell), vs someone barging into the home of someone who trusted him to sell their chametz and start playing games to prove a point.

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  30. Moshe says.
    I consider all chomets sales invalid. The practice is for the goy to give a downpayment of pennies for chomets worth millions. No secular judge would ever validate such a sale and it is also against halacha.

    If you look at previous chomets sales documents for instance like the kitsur who has a very good and detailed one. He reckons out all the chomets articles, their value and their downpayment. Like each value is different so is their downpayment. And he adds on payment for where they are situated.

    To my knowledge no rov today follows the kitsur example and therefore all chomets sales are void. In my area people prefer to buy from large non-Jewish supermarkets than from Jewish shops who have sold their chomets. This again can be problematical, the supermarkets could have bought their chomets stock (those with a hechsher) from Jewish non-observant importers on pesach or not yet paid for it.
    Best to buy products without a hechsher, made by goyim, which are still kosher.

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    1. that does not negate who owned it after production

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  31. R' Slifkin, I imagine by now you've heard the story of the South African chametz-buyer who converted to Judaism? (Believe the story or not.) http://www.localjewishnews.com/2014/04/17/how-a-gentile-converted-to-judaism-because-of-the-sale-of-chometz/

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  32. Temujin has been pondering over the logistics of giving or throwing away humetz come the next, Pesach...may he merit to welcome it again...but something else occurred to him. It's one thing to toss a few stale crackers, to give away a bagful of cans to the food bank, even to pour half of a bottle of 12 year-old Islay single malt (perish the thought), glug-glug-glug, down the drain, but what of the Jewish-owned agricultural enterprises and the food processing sector? Logistics headaches and expenses to householders must pale in comparison to those in the food industries. And back to the poor bottle of single malt. Suppose one gives it to his non-Jewish friend, can he then accept a lechaim at his home as a guest after the festival?

    --Temujin the Perplexed

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  33. It's a way to observe the letter of law without the spirit of the law

    Why is it necessarily a bad thing when "letter of the law" is used to circumvent "spirit of the law"?

    Take the example of glamorous sheitels. For women who wear them, the "spirit of the law" - making themselves look less attractive - is clearly something they don't want, don't resonate with. No, they want to look beautiful according to contemporary standards. In the letter of the law, it's a question of their hair having the din of "nakedness". A sheitel, whether it looks frumpy or glamorous, covers the nakedness - end of story (at least according to lots of poskim). Look beautiful + stay within Halacha = Win-Win.

    Bottom line, even though "technical Halacha" sometimes comes across as disingenuous, when it makes observant life more comfortable and enjoyable for people, I give that two solid thumbs up.

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    1. But the issue, Mr Meir, appears to be that the observance of the "letter of the law" is in question. As Mr Moshe says, "the practice is for the goy to give a downpayment of pennies for chomets worth millions. No secular judge would ever validate such a sale and it is also against halacha."

      Temujin doesn't know about the halakha on this, but secular law does not seem to validate the reality behind the sale of humetz the way it for example validates Heter 'Iska through legal arbitration, as the State of New York has done. It is one's understanding that in cases where a non-Jew "purchases" a warehouse full of food, there are complicated clauses which clearly make this a fictitious purchase and the buyer would not be able to claim "his" goods under any conceivable circumstances. How does one further stretch halakhah to interpret such a clear not-a-sale contract as an actual sale is what's problematic.

      A proposal: Perhaps just moving the chumetz out of one's home and out of temporary reach for the duration of the festival might be more to the "letter of the law" with a bit of creative paskening. So, Temujin offers to take everyone's humetz next year, load it into a cooled truck and take it on a scenic road trip to Alaska. Out of sight, out of mind and out of reach...certainly not in one's possession... and back in a week's time. For a small fee, of course.

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    2. Except ... that they are not keeping the letter of the law, Since the heter for sheitels is a bizarre fringe opinion that relies on logical arguments that make no sense, which is based on a clear misreading of the gemara, which confuses the issue of ervah and peruah rosh in public, which misunderstands the whole concept of ssinniuth on the most basic level, and which makes a mockery of Judaism. But apart from that, yeah great.

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  34. Rabbi Zvi, bittul is problematic for known chametz which is put aside for use after Pesach. That mere fact would tend to negate any declaration of lack of ownership, and it is certainly inconsistent with declaring it "like the dust of the ground". In other words, for bittul to work the intention to forfeit any proprietary interest in the items must be genuine. Hence the need for the sale of the put-aside chametz. Those of us who do not sell actual chametz are unwilling to rely on what appears to be a legal fiction - even if there is a halachic basis for it. As I see it, it comes down to what chametz do you really need to save. I don't stock liquor, and am able to finish whatever significant chametz is in the house prior to Pesach. I don't understand people who are stringent about most matters but will keep small amounts of chametz in their freezer compartment over Pesach.
    Y. Aharon

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  35. Avraham Burg in his safer בלשון בני אדם lashes out against Avraham Avinu along the same lines. This is a total disconnect from the Jewish tradition. IMO anyone who says that Avraham Avinu had failed the test is either an apekores, am haarets or stupid.

    The chometz shtick is not taking religion seriously but is irrational and silly. Nothing better to do on Pesach? I mean what does this shtick contribute the actual mechira? This behaviour actually fits pretty good with his drasha she dofi.

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  36. Again: Note to those submitting comments on the Akeidah - please post them instead to this comment thread: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/10/challenge-of-akeidah.html

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  37. My understanding is that the whole concept of mechirat chametz is really only meant for a business that has an extremely large amount of chametz that they basically can't get rid of in any reasonable way without causing themselves massive financial loss. IIRC, from what I read in Mishneh Torah it doesn't seem to be intended for individuals at all.

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  38. Why would someone protest? The sale has a rider that kicks in when any chametz is consumed and requires the buyer to pay fair market value for the consumed chametz. The buyer can drink all the Macallan 25 he wants, but then he will have to pay for it.

    (I didn't read the other comments. I assume / hope someone made this point already.)

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  39. Toronto Tatty: It was Rabbi Yitz Greenberg who called Jesus a "failed" Messiah. He is clearly NOT the rabbi that R. Slifkin is talking about. The rabbi in question, whose identity, of course, I know, is, despite a few outlier views, on the whole much more mainstream than R. Greenberg

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  40. But keep in mind that for most of human history -- until recent advances in refrigeration, sterilization, air sealing and chemical preservatives -- there was pretty much no real chametz that would keep for any significant time other than grain alcohol anyway. Dried pasta probably comes second and has been around for less than a thousand years, but doesn't require aging so its inventory could easily be managed around a pesach depletion. On top of this 95% of the population were probably operating on a subsistence level with no significant food inventories of any sort. And grain would be stored unmilled as long as possible to prevent spoilage.

    Only a brewer (or someone privately aging distilled liquor) would have a real need for a loophole sale. And through Talmudic times and beyond most of the brewing was fruit-based anyways so I'm not even sure that this need arose until the move of Jews into more Northern Europe.

    Of course, now days the average middle class family probably keeps pantry and freezer holding half a year's nutritional intake for their medieval counterpart and more closely resembles the inventory of a not-so-ancient merchant of rare and luxury goods than that of a regular person.

    Since this year I sold a few carbouys worth of aging homebrew along with the rest of my chametz I had even less reason to feel guilt about using the heter than usual.

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  41. Lawrence,

    I don't mind being corrected, but my recollection is that the Rabbi in question made the same sort of comments in his Jerusalem Post column in the late '80s. If you're telling me that I'm mixing him and RYG up, fine. Because, in any event, if you Google his name with Jesus, you will be reminded of the kerfuffle he had on this topic in 2009.

    "...certainly, to myself, I always refer to him as Rabbi Jesus"....c'mon, how "mainstream" is that?

    Look, if Natan is impressed by how he handles mechiras chometz, great. However, to not see that in the greater context of the man and his philosophies is dangerous.

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    Replies
    1. Toronto Tatty: Indeed, in a televised interview the Rabbi referred to Jesus as "Rabbi Jesus." But in a later written and televised clarification he points out that 1) the televised interview was broadcast and edited without his permission; 2) that his comments stressing the fundamental differences between Christianity and Judaism were omitted; and 3) that he used the term "R. Jesus" as a way of conveying to Christians the Jewishness of Jesus and that in retrospect his use of the phrase was inappropriate and unfortunate.

      By the way if you googled, as you said you did, the name of the name of the Rabbi and Jesus you could not have missed the many references to and postings of this clarification. How come you did not refer to it???

      Lawrence Kaplan

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    2. Yes, his responses to the reaction his original comments generated are what made it a kerfuffle. It is all there for anyone to see with a simple Google search. Those so inclined can review all the materials and make up their own mind.

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  42. For the THIRD time: Note to those submitting comments on the Akeidah - please post them instead to this comment thread: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/10/challenge-of-akeidah.html

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  43. I don't find it so hard to be sincere in selling normal household chametz before Pesach. A few boxes of dry cereal, unfinished pasta, few bottles of beer or half-empty whiskey, etc. can all be replaced with newer, fresher product in an hour or two at the grocery store. I am selling the chametz with a full heart each year because I don't want to own it anymore when Pesach arrives. I aim to quote an honest/fair price (for opened / second hand goods) to my Rav, and if the buyer doesn't want to return it after Pesach and gives me my $100 or whatever, no big deal. I'm going shopping anyway the day after Pesach.

    The exercise of identifying this chametz, setting it aside, and affirming contractually that I am happy to part with it feels very much in tune with the overall message of biur and bitul chametz. The point is to rid one's self of attachment to and dependence on chametz for the period of Pesach -- it is literally of no concern or interest to me, like dust of the earth. Why not fulfill that principle by selling the food to a non-Jew who then controls its future --- he can keep it and pay the fair price, or if he prefers can resell it to me later after Pesach if he chooses? That seems to me very much in the true spirit of biur and bitul.

    I don't see why it matters whether empirically the buyer is likely to keep the chametz or sell it back. As long as I am selling with a full heart and am perfectly willing for him to keep it, who cares? The buyer, for his part, ought to be confidently sincere as well, since he has a contractual option to sell it back, so there is no risk to him in acquiring ownership. That doesn't make him any less of an owner for so long as he doesn't exercise the option to resell.

    Perhaps some authorities in the past were bothered (as Rav Slifkin mentions) because perhaps sales included inventory that was not easy to replace, and so sincerity of seller was in doubt. As for me, if the buyer decides to keep my boxes of Wheat Chex and lasagna, he's truly welcome.

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  44. Typo alert: Fourth paragraph, third line: I believe you meant to say "is NOT genuine."

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  45. So let me get this straight,chariedim are to be mocked not only when they are machmir but also when they are meikil!!?

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