Apr 11, 2007

Advocating for a simple Judaism

It is that time of year again.

You know - the time of year when everybody (at least in the religious/yeshivish communities in Israel) picks up a certain crazy chumroh that has little basis in halacha but has gained strong social standing. The kind that if you do not keep it, people try to make you feel as if you are less religious, not trustworthy, a meikil, someone in whose house they would not eat, etc.

you ask - what could this guy possibly be talking about? Pesach has already passed with its crazy chumrohs so what could be such a crazy chumroh now in the quiet sefirah season?

You had to ask, didn't you? Now I will have to tell you.

Flour ground after Pesach. That's it. That's the chumroh.

People do not want to purchase flour or chametz that had been sold over Pesach to a goy and insist on only purchasing flour and chametz products that are labelled that they are from wheat ground after Pesach.
They then add to their personal preference of buying such products the idea that if someone else does not they must be relying on a mechiras chametz which is a big kula, if it is valid at all, and therefore they must not be reliable people or frum enough. I might add that I have not yet heard of a child being thrown out of cheder because the parents were caught buying chametz that had been sold over Pesach, but I would not be surprised if it did happen.

A Mother in Israel wrote about this trend and suggests people support the storekeepers who do sell their chametz. I totally agree.

The chumroh has little basis in halacha. It is mostly based on the idea that some people consider the sale of chametz fictitious and on that assumption, any chametz sold to a goy should not be eaten after Pesach.

I personally feel that if we force storeowners to sell their chametz, and we do as we will not patronize a restaurant or supermarket that does not have a "sold chametz for Pesach" sign up, then we have no right afterwards to tell them that now that you sold your chametz I cannot eat that chametz. What right do we have to force them (the ones who do not want to) to do so if we will not support them afterwards?

Much ink has been spilled over the years regarding the issue of whether the sale of chametz is fictitious or real. Most poskim are of the opinion that it is real and the sale is valid. Based on that one is allowed to eat chametz that had been sold for Pesach. I will note that this chumroh is not sponsored by any kashrut organization. Even the most machmir organizations such as the Badat'z Eidah Charedit gives hechsher to food products of chametz that had been sold for Pesach. The chumroh is insisted upon by the yeshivish public and is almost baseless.

I will also add that many organizations that provide the hechsher for such a chumroh (including the Badat'z among others - just because they do not insist on it does not mean they will not offer the hechsher for such products that do fit the chumroh) have said in the past (I read an interview last year with a rep from the Badat'z) that even if someone thinks he is being machmir and refraining from eating chametz that had been sold, he is only fooling himself.

One who really wanted to adhere to such a chumroh would only eat matza and butter until Shavuos, he said. He added that after Pesach everyone is up in arms over this and loud about it and insistent on not buying flour unless is says "ground after Pesach" and all that jazz, but, he added, the companies are not willing to take the unnecessary loss on those products they sold for Pesach. So, he said, they might shelve the products that had been sold for Pesach for a while, but after a month or so when everything quiets down and people stop looking at the labels, they will bring all those products back to the shelves and you will be buying the same things you refused to buy a few weeks earlier.

It is rumored that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l was supposedly machmir on this chumroh not to purchase chametz that had been sold for Pesach. When discussing this with someone they showed me something from the newest volume of the sefer Halichos Shlomo that is written by a student of Rav Auerbach's about the psakim of Rav Auerbach. They showed me that he writes there that this chumroh is one that if someone wants to adhere to he should do so privately and not insist on other people doing so. As well, this chumroh is only relevant for actual chametz (like bread) and not flour.

Update: My son called me a little while ago from school. His rebbe had purchased some wafers to distribute among the class. The wafers have the hechsher of the Badat'z Eida haCharedit. The package said it was made from flour that was ground after Pesach, yet the date of manufacture was from a week before Pesach! You tell me there is not some fake chumroh happening!

Another factor is the appearance. By insisting on such a chumroh we are being "motzi laaz" to a certain extent on previous generations of frum jews who sold their chametz and bought it back after Pesach and ate such chametz and did not adhere to this chumroh. We are, in a sense, saying we are better than them. We are saying they did not behave properly in eating chametz that had been sold for Pesach.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach refused to pressure the kashrus organizations to implement a labelling system by which one would be able to understand from the codes which foods were from after Pesach and which had been sold for Pesach. His reasoning for not playing along with this scheme, he writes, is that he does not want to be a part of something that puts the validity of the sale of chametz in doubt when all the gedolim of previous generations relied on such sales and somebody who wishes to be machmir for himself should figure out on his own which foods are acceptable to him.

It is time to advocate for a return to a simple Judaism.


  1. It's like wanting your cake and eating it too, as long as that cake was made well within your specific guidelines - that change depending on the day.


  2. "Another factor is the appearance. By insisting on such a chumroh we are being "motzi laaz" to a certain extent on previous generations of frum jews who sold their chametz and bought it back after Pesach and ate such chametz and did not adhere to this chumroh. We are, in a sense, saying we are better than them. "

    they are other examples of where we think we are better than previous generations. For Many generations no big city in the US had an eruv now every city has an eruv. You see we matir things that were considered assur and here is a n example of where we assir things that for generations were muter. The idea about bugs in vegetables in the old days you bought vegetables and you cleaned them now adays everything is considered no good. I long for the days of old when we had solid Jewish leadership. we should share in good news and learn to be tolerate of one another.

    Kol tov

    Joshua Nathan

  3. Last year I was in Yeshiva. I went into a makolet in Maalot Daphna (Yerushalayim) about 6 hours after yom tov and bought a bag of pretzels that sadethe flour had be ground after Pesach!

  4. robbie - that's right... but if it was each person wanting a cake and eating it that would be fine. the problem is when people impose their cake on society.

    joshua - the thing is with eruv, the situation changes. neighborhoods change. streets change. sometimes an eruv is not good and sometimes it later can become good. Also, even if nothing changed, the example you gave is where the earlier generations were more machmir and we are more lenient. That is not us being motzi la'az on them - we are being more meikil.
    With bugs in veggies, also the situation changes. I have been told by rabbonim that bigs used to be less of a problem. not that we are more machmir (though I think we are) but they used to not have such infestations as we do.
    That being said, I am not much of a fan of the bug checking issues either...

  5. Simple Judaism? Doing away with all of those precious, made-up chumrot/minhagim-turned-halachot? Oh, the horror!

    That would just ruin the fun for a lot of people.

    I'm with you on it, Rafi.

  6. rafi

    Why do you torture me so? I am controlling my urge to rant and rave, so I'll cut it short - DITTO!

    BTW - Yi'yasher Kochacha on your son catching that and calling you.

    luv ya!

  7. Great, great post!
    I dread shmitta next year. I can't stand the way people treat each other and don't respect rabbis whose psak is different from theirs.

  8. I think Muse is right, and that's why I'm proposing the following.

    Instead of just criticizing and looking down on those who hold differently than you, I think I'm going to start looking down on everyone, especially those who agree with me!

  9. Great post Rafi!
    Batya/Muse, please don't say the S word!

  10. tns - ok. that's two. how many more do you think wikll sign up?

    Shaya - I don't know if he caught it. it was noticed and discussed in class. He told me about it.

    muse - you are right about that. shmitta will have great stories in this vein.

    mike - that's a great idea!

    moi - thanks

  11. I agree with you almost 100% and have stated so many times,publicly.
    Why 'almost'?,you ask.
    1)The word 'crazy' is inappropriate.
    2)"What right do we have to force them....?"Well,R.G,if they re otherwise being ovehr B.Y. and B.Y.--we have a right to insist,although we cannot force bizeman hazeh.
    3)What happened in your son's school is very understandable and should not be a subject for mockery-they did not have time for new packaging.At least,that's my dahn lekaf zechus.
    But otherwise---right on!

  12. R' CZm - thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I am honored. I stand corrected on the "crazy".
    I cannot figure out what BY stands for, but I understand your point, but I am referring only to b'zman hazeh. Also, my point was really to say why force them to sell or even insist, if we will still refuse to buy those products anyways?

    I was not mocking what happened in the school - I was using it as an example of the situation in which the chumroh is used baselessly and the kashrus organizations just play to the publics whims. Since then I have heard stories from people (personally, not written on the blog) that are similar. Somebody even told me that he contacted an oragnization last year to ask about their policy on that and the response was they believe the chumroh is unnecessary and therefore they are not careful about the labels - they are willing to label things inaccurately for that chumroh

  13. As you said these products are probably kept in storage and sold later, when people have forgotten about the chumra.If you really want to make sure you have to read the manufacturing date on the item.
    If I recall, I think that Rav Elyashiv holds that the sale is not valid if the seller does not really intend to sell, but thinks it is just a symbolic ceremony with no real binding value. This could explain the propagation of this chumra in yeshivish circles.

  14. anon - that is why they bring it out later. eventually people get tired of and stop checking the labels and they can get the products out without worrying about compromised sales.

    They have made the sale of chametz so complicated with the Rabbi usually telling the seller a dozen times about how serious it is that I have a hard time believing they think it is not serious. And if you can trust the Badat'z for everything else, why can we not trust them to sell the chametz properly?

  15. BY and BY is bal yeraeh and bal yimotzeh I think.
    Solly G.

  16. How do you define "simple judaism?"

    How do you decide which chumra is crazy and which is justified. Chumras are all based on the same canard; 'geder lifnay hadin'

    So the chumrah on pesach flour is whacky but the chumras on kashrut are not whacky? or is it just a matter of timing? any chumra from over 300 years ago is din and any chumrah from the last 300 years is whacky?

    This is the inherent problem in religion (aside from the whole belief in some entity's existence thing) Once people are allowed, or even honored for protecting god and adjust the laws to suit their needs to be more frum or more righteous then he whole thing becomes a fake version of itself.

    If you want simple judaism join my team and become secular.

  17. Anan of 4:23 is correct

  18. I am curious,

    Some people here posted and are being very careful not to use words like "crazy" or don't make a mockery. I wonder if they are as careful to treat other halachic issues with the same political correctness or dan lekaf zechus. For example, koolos. do you people who are afraid to judge chumros negatively, also treat a koola with the same level of respect? or do you shrug it off and say, yea sure? maybe even you say, oh, he' not really frum, he holds by XY and Z rabbi/koola? take it further, a jew who holds of torah misisnai, hashem bashamayim, and moshiach, but calls himself conservative/traditional and drives on shabbos because his rabbi said it's allowed. do you treat his psak with the same respect as you treat a simple chumra? (ps -driving to shule is possible to "only" involve dirabbonons).

    I do not believe chumros and koolas are treated equally, nor do I beleive that chumros should not be subjected to the same level of inquiry that we treat a koola. If we attack a koola as being "wrong or only a minority opinion or silly, then we ought to be able to do the same to a chumra!

  19. also - I would like someone to balance these 3 ideas
    1. lifnim meshooras hadin (rabbinic)
    2. asu syag latorah (rabbinic)
    3. Lo sasoor yamin oo'smoel (di'oraysa)

    everyone tries, but the fact is many chumros have abused the first 2 gedarim and are kneged the last!

  20. Dan - I have no problem with people keeping watever chumroh they feel will help them on their personal path to growth and service of Hashem. The problem is when it is imposed on society and becomes a peer pressure standard for other people to keep.

    what's the big deal? so you buy this flour instead of that flour? The problem is when these become the standard - people forget what the halacha is and what the customs are. That leads to a perversion of halacha.

  21. I popsted about this last year Not eating chametz that was sold to a גוי. Last year both Angel's and Berman's decided not to be machmir about unwashed flour, they felt that it was too much work (the flour was hard to use and didn't bake well) and therefore after Pesach they used regular flour. This caused an uproar in certain segments of the Charedi community, there was a big article about this in the Mishpacha magazine how it is terrible that we went backwards in terms of chumras.

    This is one thing that we can all learn from the Eidah Chareidis. they have their shitos and they hold from them. They don't care if other people are machmir, if their poskim hold it is mutar, it is mutar and they offer no apologies.

  22. Rafi,

    you wrote,"this leads to a perversion...."

    I think what I am trying to say is this: Don't use the future tense. From my (and others) perspective, you should say, "this has led to our current state of...." The reason why I think 'simple judaism' is secular judaism is because all these chumos and minhagim and sociological peer pressures have already perverted the system. you have already become what you fear might happen. And when you see that level of human manipulation it is an act of honesty to redefine the entire history and culture in a manner which makes sense to yourself.

    Shaya, I asked numerous rabbis that question and they allpoint to the same pasuk about "listening to the judges" I think it was in d'varim. Its a bit like letting a poloticiam investigate himself.

  23. danny

    the pasuk is about going to the "kohen in those days", that regardless of the stature of the current kohen compared to prior kohanim, you should listen to the current one as he is the authority.
    this does not really answer the question though.

    interstingly enough, nowadays we are directly ignoring this principle. Most poskim, will not pasken against a prior posek, using the lame excuse "we are not worthy". i say lame, because the torah specifically gives the power to the "big kahuna" regardless of his relative "gadlus" to the prior rabbis. yet, even the greatest poskim nowadays, will not go against prior rabbis. e.g. - let''s revisit the issue of 2 days yom tov, kitniyot, showering on yom tov - or - davar hashave lichol nefesh, etc...

    Let no-one make a mistake. where danny and I may agree, I also disagree. I do not take it to mean that because man distorted the laws, therefor the laws and lawgiver is bad -or nonexistent. i just believe that man bechirah allows for such distortion and ruins what the law really is.

  24. R. Zevin in Moadim B'Halacha quotes the Rishon R. Zechariah in Sefer HaMaor that someone who refuses to eat warm food on Shabbos should be looked at with suspicion. Perhaps he does not accept the ruling of the Rabbis that it is permitted. R. Zevin then makes an analogy to mechiras chametz, stating that someone who considers it as a rabbinical subterfuge has also placed himself in the category as one who is suspect.

  25. What's the difference between selling chametz on Pesach and selling land in Shemittah?

    And if selling chametz is totally kosher, why do many people have a practice not to sell chametz gamur?

  26. The heter mechira for shemitta is a much more complicated halachic issue for many reasons. Here are some of them:
    There may be an issur d'oraysa in selling the land.

    Even if the sale is valid the stuff grown may ave kedushas sheviis

  27. shaya wrote: davar hashave lichol nefesh, etc...

    this concept was the reason for allowing smoking on Yom Tov. It has been questioned in the previous years, because 150 years ago it was thought that smoking was healthy. Now we know its not, the heter of smoking on Yom Tov has become shaky, and many people refrain from it.
    So here is an example of evolution of Halacha, but this is only one way towards more stringency.The opposite will never happen.
    I heard once that there is a difference between chasidish poskim and non chasisdish poskim.
    A chasidish posek will stick to previous tradition, even if today some factors might require a change (in both directions).
    He might say: my rebbe was matir/osser, his rebbe was matir/osser so I cannot pasken otherwise.
    OTOH, a non chasidish posek might be more inclined to change the accepted norm because of these factors. However the change will always be towards more stringency.


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