Yuma 18b: A Shevuah Not to Do a Mitzvah

Yuma 18b: They said to him, “We are the representatives of Beis Din, and you are our representative as well as the representative of Beis Din. We impose on you an oath, by the One who made His name dwell in this Temple, that you will not deviate from the instructions we have given you.” 

יומא יח ע”ב: אמרו לו: אישי כהן גדול, אנו שלוחי בית דין ואתה שלוחנו ושליח בית דין, משביעין אנו עליך במי ששכן שמו בבית הזה שלא תשנה דבר מכל מה שאמרנו לך.

Before the First Zionist Congress took place in Switzerland in 1897, Herzl sought out 100 rabbis from Poland and Lithuania who would attend the event and lend Jewish legitimacy to the new movement.  In the city of Kosova, where Rabbi Shmaryahu Yosef Karelitz, father of the Chazon Ish, served as rav, there was one rav who believed in Zionism. He was invited to the congress and he planned to attend. When R’ Shmaryahu Yosef heard about this, he called in this rav and tried to convince him not to go. In the end, he made him swear that he would not go to the congress, and indeed he did not go. Eventually he recognized his mistake and dropped Zionism altogether.

Someone asked the Chazon Ish, “Why did your father think that swearing would stop him from going to the congress? Didn’t he think he was doing a mitzvah by participating in the Zionist congress that would promote the settlement of Eretz Yisroel? If so, the oath would be, according to him, like swearing not to do a mitzvah, and he would still do the mitzvah.”

The Chazon Ish replied, “We find that before the Yom Kippur service in the Beis Hamikdash, the Beis Din made the Kohein Gadol swear that he would do the Avodah of the Ketores as they instructed him. Rabbi Akiva Eiger on the Mishnayos quotes the Pri Chadash who asks the same question you asked: According to the Tzedukim, their practice of burning the Ketores before entering the Kodesh Hakodashim is the right way to do the mitzvah, so why would a Tzeduki be deterred by the oath? One who swears not to do a mitzvah must still do the mitzvah.

“My answer (Chazon Ish Orach Chaim 126:17) is that deep down, the Tzedukim did not really believe in their own shitah; it was only their yetzer hara that convinced them to sin, but they took an oath seriously, and would not transgress it.  So too with Zionism, even though the yetzer hara convinces them with Yishuv Eretz Yisroel and beautiful words, in their hearts they know the truth: Zionism is heresy and a departure from the path of the Torah; therefore the man knew that swearing not to attend the congress is not swearing not to do a mitzvah. It is a real oath, and he would not violate his oath.”

Source: Orchos Rabbeinu v. 4, p. 189

[The Pri Chadash answers that when one swears not to do a mitzvah, it’s true that he should still do the mitzvah, but nevertheless the oath is a שבועת שוא, a vain oath (Shevuos 29a). Since it was well-known that every Kohein Gadol had to swear, this would stop at least those Tzedukim who took the prohibition of a vain oath more seriously than the mitzvah of doing the avodah their way. Others, who might be willing to do the Tzeduki avodah even at the expense of a vain oath, might still do it. 

We could also propose two other answers:

1) Perhaps it was known to Chazal that the Tzedukim, having their own interpretation of the Written Torah, held that when one swears not to do a mitzvah, the oath is effective and one may indeed not do the mitzvah.

2) The answer may lie in the introductory sentence, “We are the representatives of Beis Din, and you are our representative as well as the representative of Beis Din.” This meant that they were making the Kohein Gadol the representative of the Jewish people to burn the Ketores, only on condition that he would burn it the way they instructed him. If he chose to do it the Tzeduki way, he would cease to function as Kohein Gadol, and his service would not be a mitzvah even according to the Tzedukim. Thus it would not be allowed under the rule of one who swears not to do a mitzvah. (This answer would only work according to the opinion that the kohanim are the representatives of the people. The Gemara (bottom of 19a) points out that the Mishnah reads better according to that opinion.)]


Shabbos 151a: Burial by a Non-Jew on Shabbos

Shabbos 151a: If non-Jews built a coffin or dug a grave for another non-Jew or for commercial purposes, a Jew may be buried in it. But if they did it for the Jew, he may never be buried in it.

[If one may not even use the grave dug by a non-Jew on Shabbos, certainly one may not hire the non-Jew directly to dig the grave. Why not? On Yom Tov we find that it is permitted (Beitzah 6a). Why should Shabbos be different? Furthermore, we find that Rabbinic prohibitions are permitted for the sake of a dead body on Shabbos: for example, one can carry the body by placing a loaf of bread on top; one may even carry the body out of the house to a Rabbinically prohibited area. Asking a non-Jew to do something is also a Rabbinic prohibition, so why isn’t that allowed too? The answer is provided by the Magen Avraham, and, earlier, by the Rishonim quoted by the Gra:]

Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 526:3: On Shabbos and Yom Kippur they should not bury the dead at all, even through a non-Jew. One may not even ask the non-Jew to carry the body out and place it in a grave that was dug yesterday. Magen Avraham: Because of respect for the deceased, so that people should not say that Shabbos was desecrated because of him. Tosafos Bava Kama 81a, quoted by the Gra: Because it is unseemly and disgraceful and embarrassing for a person to be buried on Shabbos, even by non-Jews.

שבת קנא ע”א: עשו לו ארון וחפרו לו קבר יקבר בו ישראל ואם בשביל ישראל לא יקבר בו עולמית.

שו”ע או”ח תקכ”ו ס”ג: בשבת וביום הכיפורים לא יתעסקו בו כלל אפילו ע”י עממין אפילו להוציאו על ידיהם ולהניחו בכוך העשויה מאתמול. מגן אברהם: משום כבוד המת שלא יאמרו שנתחלל שבת על ידו.

ביאור הגר”א: כן משמע בראש השנה שם (כ ע”א) שהקשו [הרמב”ן והריב”ש] אמאי אסרו [קבורה בשבת] בעממין הא התירו שבות משום מעשה טלטול ע”י ככר ותינוק ולהוציאו לכרמלית אפילו לר’ יהודה [דס”ל מלאכה שאינה צריכה לגופה חייב] כמ”ש בפרק המצניע ותירצו דהכא משום כבודו שלא יאמרו נתחלל עליו שבת או יום הכיפורים וכמ”ש בפרק כ”ג [ממסכת שבת] עשו לו ארון ותכריכין כו’ בעומד באסרטיא כו’ ולפיכך להוציאו כו’ ועיין תוס’ דב”ק פ”א א’ בד”ה אומר כו’.

תוס’ ב”ק פא ע”א: דמן הדין הוה ליה למישרי לקבור מת בשבת אלא לפי שהוא מכוער ומגונה ומתבייש שנקבר בשבת שנעשה באיסור שבת אפילו ע”י נכרי.

On Friday, March 29, 2020, an urgent halacha question arose in the Jewish community of Bucharest, Romania after government authorities instructed that corona virus victims must be buried on the same day they died, or else be cremated.

The community asked Rav Yaakov Rojah, a Zaka rav, what to do if a Jew dies from the corona virus on Shabbos. Should they allow the Jew to be cremated or is there a halachic allowance to bury the body on Shabbos through a nachri?

Rav Rojah found precedent for a heter in an incident that happened many years ago in Jerusalem, published in a monthly journal called Toras Eretz Yisrael. There was a terrible stench due to a meis in Yerushalayim to the point where no one could bear to be in the same building. The Rav of Yerushalayim at the time, Harav Shmuel Salant, z’tl, allowed the meis to be buried on Shabbos by a nachri to avoid bizayon ha’meis.

Rav Meir Acker, the secretary of the Va’ad Rabbanei Zaka urgently brought the shaila to Harav Avigdor Nebenzahl, the Rav of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Nasi of the Va’ad Rabbanei Zaka. Rav Nebenzahl ruled that the Bucharest community was permitted to bury a corona virus victim who dies on Shabbos through a nachri to prevent the body from being cremated.

[It would seem that here, there is no need to base the heter on the precedent of R’ Shmuel Salant’s story. If the reason for not burying the dead on Shabbos were because amirah l’akum, asking a non-Jew, is forbidden for this purpose, then we could weigh the options: cremation which involves no amirah l’akum, but does involve bizayon, or burial through a non-Jew, which involves amirah l’akum but saves bizayon.

But in fact, the Rishonim say that the reason is not because of amirah l’akum, but because of respect for the deceased, so that people should not say that Shabbos was desecrated because of him. If so, whether the non-Jews do cremation on Shabbos or burial on Shabbos, either way Shabbos will have been desecrated because of him. Therefore it would seem obviously preferable to opt for burial so that at least the bizayon of cremation will be avoided.]

Source: theyeshivaworld.com


Nedarim 62b: Pretending to be a Non-Jew to Save One’s Life

Nedarim 62b: A Torah scholar is allowed to say, “I am a servant of fire and I will not pay taxes.” Why? He is just saying it to chase away the lion.

נדרים סב ע”ב: ואמר רבא: שרי ליה לצורבא מרבנן למימר עבדא דנורא אנא לא יהיבנא אכרגא, מ״ט? לאברוחי אריא מיניה קאמר. פירש הר”ן דהן סבורים לעבודת כוכבים והוא לבו לשמים כדכתיב ה’ א-להיך אש אוכלה הוא.

יו”ד קנ”ז ס”ב: אסור לאדם לומר שהוא עובד כוכבים כדי שלא יהרגוהו אבל אם כדי שלא יכירוהו שהוא יהודי משנה מלבושו בשעת הגזרה מותר כיון שאינו אומר שהוא עובד כוכבים: הגה…ואע״ג דאסור לומר שהוא עובד כוכבים מכ״מ יוכל לומר להם לשון דמשתמע לתרי אפין (נמוקי יוסף פ׳ הגוזל) והעובדי כוכבים יבינו שהוא אומר שהוא עובד כוכבים והוא יכוין לדבר אחר.

In the Kovna ghetto during the Holocaust, there lived a Jew who was exiled from Germany by the Nazi government. He did not have a Jewish appearance, and his name, printed on his German passport, sounded non-Jewish. As life in the ghetto became more and more difficult for the Jews, he decided to escape and try hiding among the non-Jewish population. In order to ensure that he not be suspected of being Jewish, he wanted to add the letters “RK” to his passport, standing for “Romisch-Katholische” (Roman Catholic), and he asked Rabbi Ephraim Oshry if this was allowed.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 157:2) says that a Jew is forbidden to say he is a non-Jew in order to avoid getting killed. However, he may wear non-Jewish clothing in order to make them believe he is a non-Jew.

The Rema adds that one may say words that can be understood in two ways, so that they will understand that he is a non-Jew, but he really means something else. His source is the Nimukei Yosef on Bava Kama 113a, who brings our Gemara in Nedarim 62b as a proof. Saying “I am a servant of fire” definitely implies that one is not Jewish. If one is allowed to say that to avoid taxes, certainly it is permitted to do so in order to save one’s life. 

There is a dispute about how to understand the words “servant of fire”. Some Rishonim (Tosafos quoted by the Nimukei Yosef, and Shitah Mekubetzes) explain it to mean a servant of the priests who worship fire. Others (Rosh and Rashi) say it means a servant of the fire idol itself. Either way, says the Nimukei Yosef, the implication is that he is not Jewish, yet it is permitted because he is not saying it directly; he is just misleading his killers.

Rabbi Oshry argues that according to the Rosh, who says one is allowed to say he is a servant of the idol itself, the only way it can be permitted is if the words have another meaning and he secretly has that meaning in mind. In the case of fire, the Rishonim explain that he can have in mind that he is a servant of Hashem, who is called fire as it says in the Torah, “Hashem your G-d is a consuming fire” (Devarim 4:24). He brings the Knesses Hagedolah who says this as well, and says this is the source of the Rema who says one may say words that can be understood in two ways.

Accordingly, it would seem that writing R.K. on the passport is forbidden, since that is saying he is a servant of the Catholic religion, and there is no other way to understand his words.

However, Rabbi Oshry ultimately argues that it is permitted for two reasons:

  1. The halacha that a Jew may not say he is a non-Jew to save his life is similar to the halacha of Kiddush Hashem, that one may not pretend to believe in or accept idolatry to save his life, even if in his heart he does not believe it. The case is that the gentiles are trying to forcibly convert Jews who they are know are Jews, and they just want to squeeze out of them a conversion at the point of a sword. Therefore, to say “I am a non-Jew” or the equivalent is giving in the pressure. A Jew must give up his life for that. But here, the Nazis don’t know he is a Jew. They are out to kill all Jews, but if he can fool them into thinking he is a non-Jew, he is not giving in to shmad, so it is not a Kiddush Hashem situation.
  2. The Rema permits a statement that could be understood two ways. The Toras Chaim on Avodah Zarah 17 tells the story of a great tzaddik who, during a murderous attack on the Jews in Germany, was asked if he was Jewish and replied, “Kein Jude” which in German means “not a Jew” but in Hebrew means, “yes a Jew”. If that is called “words that can be understood in two ways” then here too, he can write R.K. and have in mind that it means the Hebrew word “rak” as in “Only guard yourself and watch your life carefully” (Devarim 4:9).

One might object that the Shach (157:18) that says this heter to mislead them with words is only for a talmid chacham, but a simple Jew is forbidden to use it, lest he take it too far. The answer  is that as the Pischei Teshuva says, quoting Beis Yaakov, that is only true if he is avoiding taxes, because the simple Jew could really pay the tax, whereas a Torah scholar should really be exempt from taxes. But to save oneself from robbery, and all the more so from death, it is allowed for anyone to use this deception.  

(Source: Shailos Uteshuvos Mimaamakim 5:3)


Sanhedrin 24b: Giving a Name that you Promised to Give

Sanhedrin 24b: Gambling is forbidden because a person who bets does not really mean it; he is only playing because he hopes he will win. Therefore when the loser pays the winner, the winner is stealing.

סנהדרין כד ע”ב: משחק בקוביא מאי קא עביד? ־ אמר רמי בר חמא: משום דהוה אסמכתא, ואסמכתא לא קניא.

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, rosh yeshiva of Ner Yisroel of Baltimore, was born in Dolhinov in 1901. His mother, Sheineh, was a daughter of Yaakov Puterfas, who was also R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky’s mother’s uncle and namesake.  

Rav Ruderman told his nephew, R’ Ezra Neuberger, that he had called himself Yitzchok Yaakov until the age of 13, when he joined the Slabodka Yeshiva in its World War I exile in Minsk, at which time R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky was there. R’ Yaakov, who was ten years Rav Ruderman’s senior, recalled the exact name given at his bris, and told him to place Yaakov before Yitzchok.

Reb Yaakov related that when R’ Yaakov Yitzchok’s mother was with child, she was visited by a friend who told her that she could not name a son after her father, Yitzchok, because one of her husband’s two names was Yitzchok. So she asked Sheineh to name her child Yitzchok, if it would be a boy. Having already given birth to seven girls and expecting another girl, she agreed. When a boy was born and she wanted to name him for her own father, Yaakov, the question arose whether she was obligated to keep her promise to the other woman.

The Rov of Dolhinov, Rabbi Mandel Ber Shachnovitch, ruled that the baby be given two names. The order of the two names was important to R’ Yaakov because among Ashkenazim, unlike among Sephardim, the second of double names was dominant. Thus the order of the names would indicate whether the Rav of Dolhinov considered Sheineh’s promise binding, or merely proper to keep but non-obligatory.

[Since the name “Yitzchok” was second, the Rov clearly considered the promise binding. It must be that although we hold אסמכתא לא קניא – a promise made where it is possible one won’t have to keep it is not a promise – that is only when it’s obvious from the circumstances that the gambler doesn’t want to lose the bet. But here, why would anyone think she made the promise only because she didn’t think it would be a boy anyway? Therefore the promise was binding.

The Sefer Shma Garim (p. 211) quotes Rav Shach as saying that if someone decided to name a baby after his father, and then one of the gedolei hador passes away and he prefers to name after him, he must be matir neder, because a promise to do a mitzvah (of kibud av) has the status of a vow. In our case, naming after the other woman’s father would not be a mitzvah and no hataras nedarim would be necessary. Still, the promise was binding.

It’s not clear what Reb Yaakov’s source was for saying that the second name is dominant. We know that when adding a name to a sick person, the added name always comes first. But on the contrary, that might be because we want the new name to be the main one.]

Source: Making of a Godol pp. 116-117


Pesachim 50b: Is two days Yom Tov “minhag hamakom”?

Pesachim 50b: If one goes from a place where they work on Erev Pesach morning to a place where they do not work, or vice versa, he must follow the stringencies of both places.

פסחים נ ע”ב: ההולך ממקום שעושין למקום שאין עושין או ממקום שאין עושין למקום שעושין נותנין עליו חומרי מקום שיצא משם וחומרי מקום שהלך לשם.

שו”ע או”ח תצ”ו ס”ג: בני ארץ ישראל שבאו לחוצה לארץ אסורים לעשות מלאכה ביום טוב שני בישוב אפילו דעתו לחזור, וכל זמן שלא הגיע לישוב אפילו אין דעתו לחזור מותר לפי שעדיין לא הוקבע להיות כמותן אבל אם הגיע לישוב ואין דעתו לחזור נעשה כמותן ואסור בין במדבר בין בישוב וכל חוץ לתחום אין נותנין עליו חומרי מקום שהלך לשם.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 496:3) rules that keeping one day Yom Tov in Eretz Yisroel or two days outside of Eretz Yisroel falls in the category of minhag hamakom and is subject to the rule in our Mishnah. However, the Chacham Tzvi (167) disagrees. He writes that minhag hamakom applies only in questions of halacha, where the same halacha applies in all locations, yet different communities follow different opinions. For example, the Gemara says that Eretz Yisroel and Bavel followed two different practices as to whether a certain fat is permitted. What is forbidden fat is forbidden everywhere, but certain places had a minhag to follow the opinion that considers certain fats not forbidden. If the community that considered it forbidden were to move en masse to the other location, they would continue to refrain from eating it, because the prohibition is not dependent on location. But Yom Tov Sheini is not a universal halachic question; it simply depends on whether the messengers of Beis Din reached that particular place. Therefore, people from Chutz Laaretz who are staying temporarily in Eretz Yisroel should only keep one day Yom Tov, just as they would if they had visited during the time when Beis Din sent out messengers.

When the Satmar Rav lived in Eretz Yisroel for a whole year in 1945-46, he kept only one day Yom Tov. After moving to the United States, he made four visits to Eretz Yisroel (in 1952, 1955, 1959 and 1965). He was always careful not to be in Eretz Yisroel over Yom Tov, so as not to run into the dilemma of whether to keep one day and risk doing work on Yom Tov, or to keep two days and risk neglecting the mitzvah of tefillin. Although most poskim agree with the Shulchan Aruch, he felt that as a descendent of the Chacham Tzvi, he should be careful not to violate the Chacham Tzvi’s opinion.

Source: Rabbi Moshe Zoberman, shiur on Taanis 10b


Nazir 55a: Kohanim Flying Over a Cemetery

Nazir 55a. If a person is carried into Chutz Laaretz in a box, Rebbi holds he is tamei and Rabbi Yossi ben Rabbi Yehuda (RYBY) holds tahor. The dispute hinges on whether a tent carried by people or animals can shield a person from the defiled earth over which he is floating. But if the tent is flying in the air, not carried by anyone, even RYBY agrees that it does not shield him. Thus RYBY said: If one had a big box of utensils and threw it over a dead body, the utensils inside are tamei, but if the box was standing still, they are tahor. (Tosafos, second explanation)

נזיר נה ע”א: לא, דכולי עלמא משום גושא, מר סבר: אהל זרוק שמיה אהל, ומר סבר: לא שמיה אהל. והתניא, רבי יוסי ברבי יהודה אומר: תיבה שהיא מלאה כלים וזרקה על פני המת באהל ־ טמאה, ואם היתה מונחת ־ טהורהִ.

תוספות: אהל זרוק – שנכנס בשידה שבהמה או אדם מוליכים אותו שמיה אהל לחוץ ולהפסיק, וצ״ל דעדיף מטלית המנפנפת דתנן במס׳ אהלות (פ״ח מ״ה) דאין חוצצין בפני הטומאה ואין מביאין, והיינו טעמא דהכא עדיף משום דרגלי האדם או הבהמה הנושאים השידה והתיבה נוגעים בארץ אבל הטלית מנפנפת באויר, ומר סבר אהל זרוק לא שמיה אהל והיינו דאמר והתניא בניחותא.

The Shvus Yaakov was asked the following question: a kohein lived in one of a ring of attached houses that all opened onto a central courtyard. Someone died in one of these houses, so the kohein left his house and stood in the courtyard. But he could not exit the courtyard to the street without passing under a roof connected to houses. Does he have to stand there under the open sky until the body is removed, or is there some permitted way for him to get out?

The Shvus Yaakov quotes the above explanation of Tosafos, that RYBY holds that a carried tent protects, and only a flying tent does not protect. The Rashba rules like RYBY, so this kohein could be carried out in a large box (at least 3 cubic amos in volume). The Rambam, however, seems to give contradictory rulings: in Tumas Meis 11:5 he follows Rebbi, but in Nezirus 5:18 he follows RYBY. The Shvus Yaakov proposes that the halacha follows RYBY on a Torah level, but on a Rabbinic level we are strict like Rebbi. Therefore, even the Rambam would agree that the kohein could be carried out, because human dignity supersedes a Rabbinic prohibition. 

The exact wording of the Rambam in Tumas Meis 11:5 is:

הנכנס לארץ העכו״ם בשידה תיבה ומגדל הפורחין באויר טמא, שאהל זרוק אינו קרוי אהל.

Given that the Rambam says explicitly “flying in the air,” it is puzzling that the Shvus Yaakov did not resolve the apparent contradiction in the Rambam by saying, as Tosafos does, that when the box is literally flying through the air, it does not shield, but when carried it does shield.

The Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 211:5) argues that the Rambam in Tumas Meis could not have meant a literally flying tent, because then he would be neglecting to pasken on the question of a dragged or carried tent, which is the subject of the dispute between Rebbi and RYBY. Rather the Rambam means a carried tent. The Rambam didn’t bother addressing a real flying tent because that can’t happen in real life, except by the powers of a Shem or by throwing.

The Chazon Ish asks: what about the doors that were placed on top of oxen when the children went to draw water for the Parah Adumah? (Tosafos in Eiruvin 31a asks this question on Rebbi and responds that Rebbi will disagree with that Baraisa. But the Chazon Ish’s question is on the Rambam, who rules like Rebbi, yet says that the doors were used.) He answers by quoting the Mishneh Lamelech who says that since it was only a chumra to protect the children from tumah, they were lenient. The Chazon Ish explains that they relied on RYBY, as perhaps this was a dispute going back to the Bayis Sheni times too.  

Based on the above, the Chazon Ish rules that a car or train moving over a cemetery does not protect its riders from tumah. And all the more so that an airplane, which is not supported by anything, would be considered a flying tent, so a kohein is not allowed to fly over a cemetery.

The Tzitz Eliezer 12:62 allows a kohein to ride in a bus on a road built over a cemetery. His reason is that he understood the Rambam in Tumas Meis to mean that a “flying tent” does not shield from tumah only when it is literally flying, but when supported by people, animals or wheels, it does shield.

In summary, the Chazon Ish is the strictest opinion here: he does not even allow traveling in a car over a cemetery. The Tzitz Eliezer is the most lenient, while the Shvus Yaakov takes a middle position, forbidding it only Rabbinically and therefore allowing it in cases of human dignity. But all three poskim agree that a kohein is forbidden to fly in the airplane over a cemetery.

This issue became a practical one late in the summer of 2001, when a newly-observant Israeli pilot asked a number of halachic authorities: How is it that kohanim are permitted to embark on flights leaving Ben Gurion airport that pass over the cemetery in Holon? Upon investigation it was discovered that this had been a problem since 1984, when flight patterns were altered to minimize flying over densely populated areas north of Ben Gurion airport and to avoid overflying a military area south of the airport. Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, Rav Nissim Karelitz and the Badatz all ruled that it would be forbidden for kohanim to take those flights.

In February of 2012, the problem deepened when the north-south runway at the airport became unusable, and all flights began using the east-west runway. Under international law, a runway can only be used in one direction at one time, for both inbound and outbound flights. At times of the day when the runway was being used for westbound traffic, the takeoffs were not a problem, as they flew directly west out over the Mediterranean, but the landings were a problem: the flight path to approach the airport led directly over the cemetery, after which the pilots made a U-turn and approached the runway from the east. At times when traffic was eastbound, the departing flights made the same U-turn in the opposite direction and passed over the cemetery.

When the problem was discovered, some kohanim began wrapping themselves in plastic bags during takeoff and landing to shield themselves from tumah. This led to shock and fear among other passengers, as well as endangered the kohanim themselves, since the plastic bag was not allowed to have any air holes, and it would be difficult for them to access oxygen masks if necessary. Many flights were delayed because the crew refused to allow kohanim to use the bags.

After much negotiation, the religious community prevailed upon the airport authorities to have the pilots alter their flight path slightly to avoid the cemetery. However, this was only possible during the day, when the pilot controls the airplane manually. At night, the arriving pilots have to be electronically guided into the airport, as they do not rely on visual directions. All incoming flights have to locate a beam, and the beam then takes over control of the plane from the pilot and guides the plane to the runway. 

What about changing the beam system to guide the plane to avoid the cemetery at night? The authorities were not willing to do this, because they preferred that the nighttime flights pass over the vast Holon Cemetery, rather than over residential areas where the noise would be a disturbance.

It was noted that many American-bound flights take off between 12 and 1 AM, at which time the runway is used in the westbound direction, so these flights were not an issue.

[The question here is why anyone would think that a plastic bag does any good. Just as the plane does not shield the kohein from tumah because it is a flying tent, the plastic bag is also flying and has the exact same problem. Perhaps the answer is that the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 211:9) adds that even if we were to follow the opinion that a flying tent is a tent, the airplane, as it is made of metal, does not shield its passengers from tumah. Thus the plastic bag would solve the problem at least according to this opinion. However, as we have established above, the halacha is that a tent that is literally flying is not a tent, so the difference between metal and plastic is academic.

This does come into play in a bus or car, where there are some such as the Tzitz Eliezer mentioned above who permit a kohein to ride over the cemetery. The Tzitz Eliezer advises that since the vehicle is made of metal, it is preferable for the kohein to place a flat wooden board under himself while passing over the cemetery.]

Source: dinonline.org, yated.com.


Keilim 17:14 A Container Made of Moon Dust

Keilim 17:14. Among the creations of the first day there is tumah, of the second day there is no tumah, of the third day there is tumah, and of the fourth and fifth days there is no tumah, except for the wing of the osprey and the coated shell of the ostrich egg… And everything created on the sixth day is tamei.

כלים פרק יז, משנה יד. ויש במה שנברא ביום הראשון טומאה. בשני אין בו טומאה. בשלישי יש בו טומאה. ברביעי ובחמישי אין בהם טומאה. חוץ מכנף העוז וביצת נעמית המצופה.

ופירש הרע”ב: הכי קאמר, יש דברים שנבראו ביום ראשון שהעושה כלי מהם יש בהם טומאה, כגון הארץ שנבראת ביום ראשון, וכלי חרס הנעשים ממנה טמאים. בשני אין בו טומאה שבו נברא רקיע ואין בו טומאה. בשלישי נבראו אילנות, וכלי עץ הנעשים מהם מקבלים טומאה. ברביעי נתלו המאורות ואין בהם טומאה. בחמישי עופות ודגים ואם עשה מהן כלים אין מקבלים טומאה.

The Bartenura explains that if one makes a container out of the dust of the earth, which was created on the first day, it is tamei; but the rakia, which was created on the second day, has no tumah. If one makes a container out of wood, which was created on the third day, it is tamei, but on the fourth day the luminaries were created and they have no tumah.

After the first men walked on the moon in 1969, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach commented that now we understand the true meaning of this Mishnah. The Bartenura’s explanation does not fit well into the words. The Mishnah is apparently contrasting the first and third days with the second and fourth day, yet according to the Bartenura there is really no difference; it is just a change of the case. Just as the rakia and the luminaries are not tamei, so too the earth and the trees in their natural state are not tamei; it is only the containers made from them that are tamei.

But now that men have gone to the moon and brought back moon dust, we can understand the Mishnah quite simply. This moon dust, if made into a container similar to earthenware, would not be tamei. This is the difference between earth dust, created on the first day, and moon dust, created on the fourth day. This is what the Mishnah originally meant when it was given at Sinai. It was only in the course of the generations that the meaning was forgotten, and scholars learning the Mishnah could not imagine bringing dust down from the moon, hence the Bartenura’s explanation.

[It would seem that the same applies to a container made of dust from a meteorite that landed on earth, a case that was relevant before man reached the moon.]

Rabbi Menachem Kasher quotes the above explanation in his sefer about the moon, and disagrees. After all, the Mishnah also says that what was created on the second day is not tamei. The rakia, which he understands to mean the atmosphere, cannot be made into a container.

[However, we do not really know what the rakia is, since the Torah describes it as a barrier between the waters above and the waters below.]

Also, granted the Bartenura’s explanation seems forced, but the Mishnah flows well as the Rambam explains it in his Commentary on the Mishnayos: the entire Mishnah is speaking about the creations in their natural state, not man-made containers fashioned from them. Day 1: Water can become tamei. Day 2: The rakia cannot become tamei. Day 3: Fruits and vegetables can become tamei. Day 4: The luminaries cannot become tamei.

Furthermore, there is a three-way dispute in the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 12:11): one opinion holds that the moon (as well as the sun) was actually fashioned from the earth. At least according to this opinion, the same laws of tumah and taharah should apply to vessels made from its dust. Another opinion holds that the heavenly bodies were created separately from the heavens, and yet a third holds that even the earth was created from the heavens.

Source: Ha’adam Al Hayareiach, pp. 65-72. (Rabbi Kasher quotes the other writer anonymously, but Rabbi Moshe Zoberman, in a shiur on Taanis 9b, said it was R’ Shlomo Zalman who held this position.)


Chullin 111a: A Chicken Cooked With Its Liver

Chullin 111a: Rabbah bar Rav Huna was eating at Rabbah bar Rav Nachman’s house. He noticed that the liver had an artery that was saturated with blood. He said to them, “Why did you do that?” They said: “What should we have done?” He said, “Tear it crisscross and put the torn side down while you roast it.”

קיא ע”א: אשכח ההוא כבדא דהוה בה סמפונא דבליעא דמא, אמר להו אמאי עבדיתו הכי? אמרו ליה: אלא היכי נעביד? אמר להו: קרעו שתי וערב וחיתוכא לתחת.

שו”ע יו”ד ע”ג ס”א: הכבד יש בו ריבוי דם לפיכך לכתחלה אין לו תקנה לבשלו ע״י מליחה אלא קורעו שתי וערב ומניח חיתוכו למטה וצולהו (שיהא ראוי לאכילה) (או״ה נתיב ט״ו) ואחר כך יכול לבשלו… ובדיעבד מותר אם נתתבשל לבדו בקדירה (בלא צלייה) אבל הקדירה אסורה שפולטת ואינה בולעת ויש מי שאוסר. רמ”א: וכן נוהגין לאסור הכל.

A man came to Rabbi Avrohom Pam and said, “My wife bought a whole chicken and didn’t realize that the liver was packed inside. She cooked it in soup, and then served the chicken on china plates. We have no problem throwing out the chicken and kashering the soup pot, but is there any heter to save the china plates?”

Rav Pam replied, “The Shach (73:8) says that although we hold like the opinion that liver needs to be roasted, and therefore if it was cooked one may not eat it, still the plate on which the liver was served after cooking does not become forbidden. The Pri Megadim asks why not – doesn’t pouring from a kli rishon cook the outer layer of the plate? Also, the Shach himself in 74 and 105 holds that a hot piece of solid food (דבר גוש) can transmit taste even when in a kli sheini.

The Chavos Daas answers:

ולענ”ד לא קשיא מידי דהא כתב הש”ך בסימן ק”ה ס”ק י”ח דחתיכה שנאסרה מחמת דם הוי כאיסור בלוע, ושם בס”ק כ”א שאינו מבליע כדי קליפה רק מגוף הדבר אבל מאיסור בלוע אינו בולע אפילו בשמן וכ”ש דם דכחוש הוא ודאי דאינו יוצא מחתיכה בלא רוטב.

“When the solid piece of hot food being placed on the plate is not forbidden on its own, only because of something else that got absorbed in it, then it does not transmit taste to the plate through pouring. And a piece of meat that is forbidden because it contains blood is like any other piece that has something forbidden absorbed in it.”

Therefore, said Rav Pam, the chicken, which contains blood from the liver cooked with it, will not forbid the plate.

[What is puzzling is that although Rav Pam was certainly correct about the chicken, which is only forbidden because it absorbed from the liver, the Chavos Daas says this even regarding the liver itself. He cites as his source the Shach in 105, but the Shach there (105:18) clarifies that he says this only regarding blood absorbed in the meat that came from another source, whereas blood from that piece of meat itself – i.e. if it was not salted properly – would forbid other pieces or plates. Seemingly this liver, which was cooked without roasting, is in that category.

The answer may lie in the second Shach (105:21) quoted by the Chavos Daas. There he says that even though usually fatty tastes absorbed in one dry piece can travel to another dry piece through touch, if the bottom piece (or plate) is cold, it does not travel. If so, possibly even blood that originated within the liver itself cannot travel to the plate under it.

The only problem is that the Chavos Daas says that blood is a כל שכן from fatty tastes, and according to the above explanation it is not really a כל שכן, since here the blood originated in the meat and is therefore worse, in one aspect, than fatty taste that came from elsewhere.]

Source: Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, tape on YD 73:6.


Yevamos 121a: Agunah from a Plane Crash

Yevamos 121a: If a man fell into a body of water whose shore can be seen, his wife is permitted to remarry. If the shore cannot be seen, she is forbidden.

יבמות קכא. מים שיש להם סוף אשתו מותרת ושאין להם סוף אשתו אסורה.

Shlomo Anidjar was one of the most respected members of the Chabad community in the French city of Boulogne-Billancourt (a suburb of Paris). At 10:00 PM on June 1, 2009 he was one of the 228 passengers aboard an Air France flight that went missing over the Atlantic Ocean. The Airbus A330-200 plane was last heard from about four hours after taking off from Rio de Janeiro en route to Paris.

Anidjar was 40 years old, and left a wife and 3 children.

The Jewish community planned a memorial ceremony in Paris’s Great Synagogue. Anidjar’s children asked to recite Kaddish for their father, and began sitting shivah together with their mother.

France’s rabbis objected to these signs of mourning expressed soon after the plane went missing, even before the plane’s debris or passengers’ bodies were recovered, and threatened to boycott the ceremony. The rabbis expressed their fear that taking part in the memorial would be perceived as a rabbinical approval that the woman was a widow, while she was in fact considered an agunah.

On June 2, at 3:20 in the afternoon, a Brazilian Air Force jet spotted wreckage and signs of oil, possibly jet fuel, strewn along a 3 mile band 400 miles northeast of Fernando de Noronha Island, near the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago. The sighted wreckage included an aircraft seat, an orange buoy, a barrel, white pieces and electrical conductors. Later more wreckage and some bodies were discovered.

Following the disagreement, Rabbi Yirmiyahu Menachem Cohen, a senior member of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, decided to convene the beis din of Paris to discuss the matter.

The beis din ruled that before sitting shivah, the family should have ensured that the chances of finding survivors were down to zero, but that now that the wreckage had been discovered, they could continue sitting.

The beis din based its ruling on the initial opinion of aviation experts, who ruled that the plane had exploded in the air, based on the radius where the plane’s debris was found.

The halachic ruling also relied on a response written in the past by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer v. 6, Even Haezer 4) in regard to a combat pilot whose plane was hit by a missile and fell into the sea. Rabbi Yosef had said at the time that the explosion of a plane and drowning in the sea were two scenarios from which a person could scarcely escape alive, and that joined together, there was a halachic foundation to release the wife from her agunah status.

Rav Ovadia quotes the Beis Yaakov (9), by the Gaon of Zazmir, who argues that we find similar logic in Kesubos 15a. When a girl was violated in a city in which most people are of good lineage, the Torah would permit her to a kohein, but מעלה עשו ביוחסין – Chazal made an extra stringency and required two majorities: the majority of the city and the majority of the travelers. The two majorities operate similarly to a  ספק ספיקאin which each question has a majority pointing toward leniency – if the man came from the city, chances are he was of good lineage, and even if he was one of the travelers, chances are he was of good lineage.

The Beis Yaakov uses this as a model for the stringency we are discussing – the man who falls into a large body of water where the shore cannot be seen, which is also only a Rabbinic restriction (as evident from the fact that bedieved, if the woman remarried, she is permitted to stay married – Even Hoezer 17:32). Therefore, argues the Beis Yaakov, if there were two majorities – for example, if a man who was very ill and close to death fell into water – his wife is permitted, because probably he died from the illness, and even if not, he probably drowned. Here too, said Rav Ovadia, probably the pilot was killed when his plane exploded, and even if not, he probably drowned in the sea.


Megillah 5a: The Baal Korei Who Died

Megillah 5a: Rav said: “When Purim is observed in its regular time, an individual alone may read the Megillah, but when it is observed outside of its regular time, such as when it falls on Shabbos and is pushed back to Friday, one must read the Megillah with a minyan.”

But does this not contradict the following statement of Rav: “When Purim falls on Shabbos, Friday is the regular time.” Actually, Shabbos is the regular time. (Rashi: Because the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah ordained Purim on Shabbos, and it was only a later generation of sages who made the decree not to read the Megillah on Shabbos.) So when it says Friday is the regular time, doesn’t it mean that one does not need a minyan on Friday? – No. it just means that Purim is not pushed back to Thursday.

This Gemara is discussing the case when the 14th of Adar fell on Shabbos, but the Mishnah Berurah (690:61) extends the rule (that when it is not the regular time, we need a minyan) to the case when the 15th of Adar falls on Shabbos and the Megillah is read in a walled city on Friday. 

מגילה ה ע”א. אמר רב: מגילה, בזמנה ־ קורין אותה אפילו ביחיד, שלא בזמנה ־ בעשרה… ומי אמר רב הכי? והאמר רב יהודה בריה דרב שמואל בר שילת משמיה דרב: פורים שחל להיות בשבת ־ ערב שבת זמנם. ־ ערב שבת זמנם? והא שבת זמנם הואִ! אלא לאו הכי קאמר: שלא בזמנם ־ כזמנם, מה זמנם אפילו ביחיד, אף שלא בזמנם ־ אפילו ביחידִ ־ לא… לאפוקי מדרבי וכו’.

שו”ע או”ח תר”צ. מגילה בי”ד ובט”ו צריך לחזור אחר עשרה ואם אי אפשר בעשרה קורים אותה ביחיד. וכתב המ”ב: דהיכא דמתרמי יום ט”ו בשבת דצריכין המוקפין להקדים ולקרותו בע”ש בודאי צריך לקבץ עשרה לקריאתו, ובזה עוד חמיר יותר דאי ליכא עשרה לא יברכו המוקפין עליה.

Once, in Yerushalayim in a year when the 15th of Adar fell on Shabbos, and the Megillah was read on Friday, the baal korei in one particular shul fell suddenly ill after the reading, and died on Friday afternoon. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach paskened that all those who had heard the Megillah from him would have to hear it again. The reason is that the real time for Krias Hamegillah is Shabbos, and Friday is just a replacement for Shabbos. This baal korei, since he did not live to see Shabbos, was not obligated in the mitzvah, and thus was incapable of being “motzi” the listeners in their obligation.

 [The Chazon Ish disagreed with the Mishnah Berurah’s contention that when a walled city pushes back the reading to Friday, they must have a minyan. He argues that since Friday is the day everyone in the world is reading the Megillah, there is enough pirsumei nisa and one doesn’t need a minyan.

But it would seem that in R’ Shlomo Zalman’s case, even the Chazon Ish would agree that the listeners did not fulfill their obligation with the now-deceased baal korei. For even the Chazon Ish agrees that Shabbos is the real time originally ordained for the reading, and Friday is just a replacement for Shabbos. The fact that this replacement time happens to be the time when the rest of the world is laining does not change the fact that it is, after all, just a replacement. And someone who is not obligated in the original day is not obligated in the replacement either.]

Source: Rabbi Aryeh Golovenzitz