Vayidom Aharon

After the simcha of Pesach come the weeks of the Omer. We look forward joyfully to Shevuos but can’t ignore past tragedies – the deaths of Rebbe Akiva’s talmidim, the massacres perpetrated by the Crusaders and others in more recent history. The contrast between the rejoicing of Yom Tov and the mourning of the sefira makes parshas Shemini which is read this year on this first Shabbos after Pesach, particularly appropriate.

It was supposed to be a tremendous simcha. The Mishkan, which represented Hashem’s forgiveness of the Jewish People’s sin of the golden calf and His willingness to allow His Shechina to dwell amongst the Bnei Yisroel, was to be inaugurated. And that’s how the day began. Fire descended from the sky to the mizbe’ach and consumed the korban olah. The people saw, rejoiced and fell on their faces.

But then, tragedy.  Nodov and Avihu, two of Aharon’s sons, offered unauthorized incense and another fire blazed down from Hashem, killing both. “And Moshe said to Aharon. This is what Hashem said, that I shall be sanctified by those close to Me and honoured in front of the people and “Vayidom Aharon” Aharon was silent.” (Vayikra 10:3). No wailing or protesting such harsh judgement, just a silent acceptance of Hashem’s justice.

When the late Rav Betzalel Rakov was told that his beloved youngest son, Nosson Zvi, had drowned in a swimming accident one fateful erev Shabbos about thirty years ago, he immediately stood up and exclaimed Hashem hu Ho’elokim, Hashem hu Ho’elokim seven times before sitting down to find out more details. The deeply ingrained emuna and spontaneous acceptance of Hashem’s will shown by our great leaders is an inspiration for all of us even if, thankfully, we don’t suffer such tragedies ourselves.

But is there something besides acceptance of Hashem’s justice which can help a person at such a horrific moment? Is there an aspect of our emuna which can be an extra source of comfort not only for those who have suffered tragedy but can help to give all of us a new direction in the way we view life?  A new insight into familiar words of Hallel may provide us with just such help.

Dovid Hamelech said, “Lo amus ki echye va’asaper maaseh Koh. (Tehilim 118: ). “I shall not die but live and I shall speak of the deeds of Hashem….zeh hashaar L’Hashem tzadikim yovo’u vo. This is the gate to Hashem, Tzadikim will come through it.” What did Dovid Hamelech mean that “he won’t die?” Everybody dies at some point. And which gate was Dovid referring to?

Tomid (32b) relates that Alexander the Great was once sitting by a river and smelt a wonderfully fragrant odour. He thought that it must be the smell of Gan Eden and walked towards its source. He finally reached a gate behind which seemed to be the source of the odour and concluded that this must be the door to Gan Eden itself. He asked to be allowed in. A voice from behind the door said, “Zeh hashaar l’Hashem tzadikim yovo’u vo. This is the gate to Hashem. Only tzaddikim may enter.” Alexander was not a tzaddik and was denied entry. Without going into the deeper meaning of this Gemoro, we see that the gate mentioned in the posuk is understood by Chazal to be the gate to Gan Eden.

With this in mind perhaps we can understand the deeper meaning of Dovid Hamelech’s words. The previous pesukim portray Dovid’s full trust in Hashem. “The nations surround me; with the Name of Hashem I will destroy them.” They increase their attack. “They surround me more and more…like bees….they are so close that they try to push me but Hashem will still help me.” The danger intensifies but Dovid maintains his trust in Hashem. As Chazal say (Brachos 10a) “Even if the sword is on your neck, do not give up hope.”

But does trust in Hashem mean that one will definitely survive?  Sadly not. Many have died through illness and al Kiddush Hashem. Trust in Hashem means that we believe that everything is in Hashem’s hands, not that we will always get the outcome we want. (Chazon Ish: Emuna Vebitachon). What comfort can we cling to in the face of tragedy?  Dovid Hamelech tells us, “I will not die, for I shall live.” Leaving this world is not death. It is not the end. We live on in another, better world. “Zeh hashaar L’Hashem… If we have lived our lives as we should, we, unlike Alexander, will be allowed to enter the gates of Gan Eden. We will live on, enjoying a much greater closeness to Hashem than is possible in this world. And “I will speak of the great deeds of Hashem.” we will continue to praise Hashem as we say three times daily in Ashrei.  “I will bless You every day and praise Your Name for ever.”

Dovid Hamelech said, “Even if I walk in the shadow of the valley of death, I will fear no evil because You are with me. Your rod and your staff will comfort me.” (Tehilim 23: 4) A staff supports but how can a rod, an instrument of punishment, be a source of comfort? Perhaps Dovid is hinting to this same principle. In the valley of the shadow of death – survival is not assured. Whether Hashem helps me and I survive or even if the Divine justice is that I do not survive, I will not fear because “You are with me,” whether in this world or the next.

The Seforno (Devarim 14:1) writes that Jews do not cut their skin or pull their hair out when their loved one dies because, although we miss them, “We are the children of Hashem, we are a holy nation” and those who have left this world will be enjoying rewards greater than any pleasure we could experience in this world.

Like the unborn baby who thinks that his mother’s womb is the whole world and knows nothing of the big wide world outside, some think that our world is the whole world and don’t realise that there is a great world beyond ours. In that world, those who suffered in this world will even praise Hashem for their difficulties because it will be as a result of their maintaining their emuna despite their suffering that they will merit supreme pleasure which will far outweigh the pain they experienced whilst they were alive. Even those kedoshim who have died al Kiddush Hashem will praise Hashem when they receive their tremendous reward in olam haba as is written in the Shemone Esre, “The kedoshim will praise You every day.”

Without a belief in the World to Come, this world can seem unjust; the righteous sometimes suffer, the wicked sometimes prosper. With a belief in the World to Come, our emuna is strong, our incentive to achieve spiritually is enhanced and our acceptance of Hashem’s justice will be complete.

Ho Lachmo Anya

One of the most famous questions on the Hagada is why we invite “all those who are hungry to come in and eat” after our seder has already begun. We also wonder why this invitation follows the statement, “Ha lachma anya, this is the bread of our affliction which our forefathers eat in the Land of Egypt.” Is there any connection between these two sentences that they are placed next to each other? Perhaps we can use a theme which we started a few weeks ago to answer these questions.

Dovid Hamelech has taught us the correct response when, with Hashem’s help, we are victorious against our enemies. “How can I repay Hashem for all His kindness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvations and call out in the name of Hashem. I will bring korbonos to Hashem in front of all the people.” (Tehilim 116). Calling out in the name of Hashem means announcing that Hashem has done this miracle which will bring glory to Hashem and sanctify His name. Bringing korbonos  is another way of publicising Hashem’s  role in the victory over  our enemies which will sanctify His name. Hashem doesn’t want us merely to say “Thank You” but actively bring honour to Him.

The Novi Micha, however, seems to say that the way to show hakoras hatov to Hashem is not the way Dovid Hamelech taught us. He implies that, on the contrary, bringing korbonos is a mistaken approach. “Hashem brought us out of Mitzrayim, redeemed us from the House of bondage. He gave us Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. How shall we show thanks? Shall we approach Him with burnt offerings, with calves in their first year? Does Hashem want thousands of rams or tens of thousands of streams of oil? Hashem has told us what He wants from us; do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before Him.” (6:1-6). Do we see here a fundamentally different approach between Micha and Dovid? Micha says that practicing justice, love and humility is the way to respond to Hashem’s kindnesses. Dovid favoured korbonos.

In Ahavas Chessed the Chofetz Chaim explains why practicing chessed is so vital. Firstly, he says, we all need it. We may be sick, a mourner, in need of a loan, a baal simcha or on a journey in need of hospitality. And even if we were in none of those situations, eventually we will all need chessed shel emes. Secondly, he says that in the World to Come our source of life and pleasure will be our proximity to Hashem. We cannot be close to Hashem unless we are in some small way like Him. Seeing that He is the ultimate Baal Chessed, if we did not practise chessed during our lifetime, we will have no similarity with Him at all and it will be impossible for us to be nehene miziv HaShechina.

The Siach Yitzchok points out another very important reason for us to do chessed. The first of the sheva berochos  is shehakol boro lichvodo – He created everything to honour Him. What has this to do with a chuppa? Rashi explains (Kesuvos 8a) that when all the guests assemble around a chuppa to be mesame’ach choson vekallo they are following the example of Hashem who was mesame’ach the first choson and kallo. By imitating the actions of Hashem we are giving Him honour as the saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Hence the brocho, shehakol boro lichvodo.

Hashem is the ultimate Baal Chessed. Even as He is involved with waging war against His enemies, (Hashem Ish milchomo), He is still mercifully providing for the rest of the world, (Hashem Shemo). (Rashi, Shemos 15:3). When we follow in His ways, even at our low level, when, we practice mishpat and chessed, by imitating Hashem, we are giving Him honour. Micha was saying that when we are the recipients of Hashem’s miracles and kindness, we should not merely bring korbonos to publicise those miracles and bring honour that way. “Does Hashem want thousands of rams or tens of thousands of streams of oil?” He wasn’t disagreeing with Dovid Hamelech that we need to “lift up the cup of salvations, call out in the name of Hashem and bring korbonos in His honour.” Micha was just saying that it is not enough. We must also bring honour to Hashem by imitating His ways, trying our best to “practise justice, kindness and walking with humility before Hashem.” In fact both Dovid and Micha are telling us that the correct way to respond to Hashem’s kindnesses to Him is to honour Him. They just give two different ways of honouring Hashem and both are correct.

On Purim we remember the kindnesses of Hashem when He saved us from Homon, Amolek’s descendant. And we show our hakoras hatov both in the way taught to us by Dovid Hamelech –  reading  the megila and publicizing the miracle (kriosa zu halila) – and  in the way of Micha by practicing chessed when we do the mitzvos of mishloach monos and matonos l’ovyonim. In fact we place great emphasis on these two mitzvos on Purim. We try to fulfil the words of the Rambam (Hilchos Megilla 2:17) “There is no greater and more honourable simcha than bringing simcha to the poor, orphans, widows and strangers. Because one who brings simcha to these less blessed members of our community is comparable to the Shechina about Whom it is said, “lehachayos ruach shefolim ulehachayos lev nidkaim.

Our Seuda too will ideally be an embodiment of the two ways of our showing hakoras hatov. We lift up our cup of salvation and drink wine in the honour of the miracle of Purim. And we invite to our tables family, friends and others, as the Rambam instructed us.

We will now extend this theme into Pesach to answer the questions we started with. We begin the story of our exodus from Egypt with Ha lachma Anya, by showing to those round the table a piece of matzo – an example of what our ancestors ate whilst they were slaves in Egypt. By this we are showing the contrast between the very basic, tasteless food which was our sole nourishment then and the delicacies we eat today. We are so thankful to Hashem for having improved our situation so radically. We do not suffice with a mere mention of our former nourishment but, for greater effect, we show the food itself to our families, friends and guests. By doing this we are following the example of Dovid Hamelech and publicizing Hashem’s miracles which He has done for us. We are also following the example of Yanai Hamelech (Kiddushin 66a) who, after conquering sixty towns in the South invited all the Chachomim to a festive meal to publicise the miracle of his victories and to give Him thanks. He served simple vegetables as the first course as an example of the type of simple food the Jews who had participated in building the second Beis Hamikdash were forced to eat because of their poverty. However the food was served on golden tables to show how much Hashem had blessed the people since that time. Yannai’s whole intention was to thank Hashem and sanctify His Name. (Rashi ibid).

In our Hagada we follow this by inviting any guests who might still be in need of a festive meal. This is not intended as a real invitation because we invited people before we said Kiddush which was the correct time to invite people. It was rather a statement showing how we want to honor Hashem by following the path of Micha by going in Hashem’s ways of showing kindness just like He shows us kindness all the time. We are thus continuing the theme of Purim by honoring Hashem both in the way of Dovid Hamelech and also in the way of the prophet Micha. And in this merit we hope that although this year we are still slaves, we hope that next year we will be free. And although this year we are here, we hope that next year we will be in the rebuilt city of Yerusholayim.

Do You Know Hilchos Chol Hamoed?

Chapter One Introduction

1.      Q.  How many days of Chol Hamoed are there in a year?

A.      In Eretz Yisroel there are five days Chol Hamoed Pesach and six days Chol Hamoed Succos. In Chutz Lo’oretz because of the second day of Yom Tov there are four and five days respectively. When Shabbos is one of the days of Chol Hamoed, the halachos of Shabbos apply.

2.      Q. Is there a special greeting for Chol Hamoed?

A.      Yes; Moadim lesimcha or A Gutten Moed and we should use these greetings rather than our normal weekday greeting.[1]

3.      Q. Why did the Torah make these days to be Chol Hamoed?

A.      This is a very good question because if we understand the reason for the days of Chol Hamoed  we won’t waste them. The purpose of Pesach and Succos is to remember the miracles Hashem did for us when He brought us out of Egypt and during the forty years we were travelling through the wilderness. We should be thinking of these miracles and Hashem’s love for us, eating festive seudos, singing Hallel and other praises of Hashem for all the days of these two Yomim Tovim. On the other hand, it is difficult not to do melachos for a whole week. Therefore the Torah made just the first and last days into full Yomim Tovim with the days in between having the status of Chol Hamoed. During Chol Hamoed certain melachos are not allowed whilst others are allowed. Therefore we can continue with the Yom Tov atmosphere but are able to do certain necessary things which cannot wait until after Yom Tov.[2]

4.         Q. Are the prohibitions of Chol Hamoed from the Torah or rabbinic?

A.      Your question implies that if the prohibitions are rabbinic they are somehow less important. This is big mistake because we have to respect rabbinic laws as we respect Torah laws. In fact the Torah itself tells us to listen to rabbinic law. (Devarim 17:11). If you are a rav and want to know how to answer questions of doubt, I will tell you. There are different opinions in the Rishonim. Some say they are from the Torah.[3] Some say they are rabbinic.[4] Some say a melacha which is forbidden because it is not necessary, is forbidden from the Torah but melachos which are forbidden because they involve too much effort or special skills etc are only forbidden rabbinically. [5] The Biur Halacha (530) concludes that in questions of doubt one should not be lenient unless there is a great need.[6]

5.        Q.  All my life I have kept the first and last days of Yom Tov but I have always considered the days in between to be like a weekday with just a longer davening in the morning. Isn’t avoiding melachos on Chol Hamoed midas chasidus, something which extra pious people keep, not regular Jews like me?

A.      Unfortunately many people think the same way as you about chol hamoed. The reasons for this are possibly historical because a few decades ago avoiding work on Shabbos and Yom Tov was enough of a challenge. Therefore to work only on Chol Hamoed was regarded as a great achievement. Other reasons are possibly because often we may work if not working would cause us a loss (davar aved )and the loss of one’s job or losing customers in business is a davad aved. Therefore people began to treat the days of chol hamoed as regular days. However “where there is a will there is often a way” and as people have become more knowledgable and have realized that it is not correct to treat chol hamoed as a weekday, more and more people cut down or completely avoid working and what they thought at first couldn’t be avoided, can sometimes indeed be avoided, especially if they are self- employed. Sometimes, children inherited businesses from their father who felt that the business needed to stay open to remain solvent. But now the business is well established and won’t suffer from being closed for the whole week of Yom Tov. So now, perhaps, is the time to re-examine our chol hamoed with a view to improving our observance of it. Indeed, this is one of the purposes of this sefer. So read on and try to keep chol hamoed as the Torah intended. Remember, “According to the effort is the reward.” (Pirkei Avos).

6.      Q. I like Chol Hamoed because my Mum and Dad take us on outings. Are you saying that going on outings is not really keeping Chol Hamoed properly?

A.      Obviously children need a variety of activities to enable them to enjoy Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed. Going out as a family is a good way of strengthening the family relationships, which is very important. However parents should still consider how the atmosphere of the Yom Tov can be maintained. In Eretz Yisroel a family can visit the Kosel together, visit places where events of Tanach took place or just to see the beauty of Eretz Yisroel. In Chutz Lo’oretz a family can also go beautiful places where they can admire the beauties of Hashem’s creation. Sometimes communities or groups of schools come together for activities which are kosher and educational. Having said this, outings don’t have to take up the whole time. There can still be time for a Avos Ubanim (Banos?) session before going out or an enjoyable festive brunch. One day perhaps Dad and the boys can prepare a nice Chol Hamoed seuda giving Mum and the girls a well earned rest! Also an unrushed Chol Hamoed davening should be a vital part of each day, not to be squeezed out because we’re “too busy.” From what we have said, it is clear that visiting non-Jewish playgrounds with loud secular music and immodestly dressed boys and girls and adults is not an appropriate way of spending the very special days of Chol Hamoed and of fulfilling Simchas Yom Tov.

7.       Q. Could you give me a brief overview of which melachos are permitted on Chol Hamoed .

A.      There are four main categories of melachos which are permitted. A. Those which are necessary for preparation of food or other personal needs. B. Those which are necessary for something we need during the rest of Yom Tov. C. Those which, if we wouldn’t do them, we would suffer a loss. D. Those which a worker who is severely short of food may do. Each of these categories has sub-categories and details which we need to study together over the next few chapters in order to have everything clear.

8.      Q. Do you mean that anything that doesn’t fall into these categories is not allowed?

A.      There is a dispute amongst the Poskim whether a melacha which does not involve any effort like turning on an electric light if there is no need or carrying something unnecessary in one’s pocket in the street where there is no eiruv is allowed on Chol Hamoed. I would say that someone who has been treating Chol Hamoed as more or less a weekday up until now, should improve his observance to avoiding doing those melachos which are clearly not allowed, in the meantime.[7] However somebody who has been keeping the halachos carefully and wants to raise his standards should avoid anything which is not allowed on Shabbos unless there is a halachic reason to be lenient.[8] Certain rabbinic prohibitions certainly do not apply on Chol Hamoed  e.g. not going outside the techum,[9] muktza[10] and the halachos restricting us from speaking about business matters etc[11]

9.       Q. Are the halachos of not asking a non-Jew the same as for Shabbos?

A   In principle yes but there are occasional differences, sometimes more lenient,[12] sometimes stricter. [13] If it is for the purpose of a mitzvah to be done during Yom Tov we may ask a non-Jew.[14] If a non-Jew does a melacha for us we may benefit from it immediately.[15] Before Yom Tov we are allowed to give work to a non-Jew as long as we don’t ask him to work specifically on Chol Hamoed. This is permitted even if the work is eventually done over Chol Hamoed, as long as we are paying him for the complete job and not by the hour and as long as it is a movable item. For instance we can hand in clothes to a dry cleaner before Yom Tov without telling him to have it ready by a certain day.[16] If the clothes are needed for Yom Tov we may go to the dry cleaners on Chol Hamoed to pick them up.[17]

10.  Q. As far as I knew, we don’t put tefilin on on Chol Hamoed so I was quite shocked when some visitors to our shul were wearing tefilin. Is there an argument about tefilin on Chol Hamoed?

A.      Indeed there is and no-one is right or wrong. It’s a machlokes rishonim hundreds of years old.

Ideally those who do wear tefilin should daven together and those who don’t should daven in a different place together. In practice[18] there are many places where some wear tefilin and some don’t and people understand that there are two customs and everyone should just keep his own custom.[19] Of those who put on tefilin, some do not say a bracha on the tefilin because of the doubt and some say before they put them on, “If I should be putting tefilin on, I am putting them on to do the mitzva, if not, I do not intend to do the mitzvah.[20]

11.  Q. I heard that in Eretz Yisroel they don’t put tefilin on on Chol Hamoed. Is that so?

A.      Yes, that is the universal custom, so somebody who is just visting Eretz Yisroel who normally puts tefilin on on Chol Hamoed should not wear tefilin in shul but should put them on later in private.[21]

12.       Q. That’s great. The contract for our new house has come through and the date is in the middle of Chol Hamoed. Moving into a new big house will really give us simchas Yom Tov

A.      Not so quick. Generally speaking, we are not allowed to move home on Chol Hamoed. Chazal deemed such a major operation as incompatible with the purpose of these important days.[22]

13.       Q.  Are there no exceptions?

A.      If you are presently renting and now you are acquiring your own home could be one exception[23], moving to a different apartment within one building could be another, moving from a shared apartment to a private one another[24] and where not moving would cause a financial loss[25] yet another but as these situations are not as black and white as they used to be, a shaala should be asked.[26]

[1] Piskei Rav Eliashev 86

[2] Chazal say about Chol Hamoed, “They forbad melachos on Chol Hamoed in order that we should eat, drink, rejoice and learn Torah.” (Yerushami Moed Katan Chapter 2 Halacha 3). “The intention of Hashem when He gave us the Festivals was in order for us to cling to fearing Him, loving Him and learning His Torah.” (Mishna Berura 530:2 in the name of the Kolbo). “Those who keep the Festivals as required are is if they are partners with Hashem in the creation of the world.” (Pesikta Shemos 34:18). “Those who show disrespect the Festivals, it is as if they have served idols.” (Pesachim 118a)

[3] Rif, Rashi, Rashbam and others.

[4] Rambam (Hilchos Yom Tov 7:1), Rosh, Mordechai and others.

[5] Ramban, Rashba, Ritva

[6] I know personally of a case of somebody who refused to work on Chol Hamoed and he lost his job. However shortly afterwards he was offered another job with much better pay and conditions.

[7] He has certain authorities to rely on such the Aruch Hashulchan 545:12 and others. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was also reported to be lenient.

[8] The Chazon Ish is quoted as saying that since people are generally too lenient about Hilchos Chol Hamoed , the Poskim should be strict on this point. Chut Shoni 530:1 is also strict and says that one should be careful not to telephone a friend on Chol Hamoed unless there is a Yom Tov need. Even according to this stricter opinion there is room to be more lenient in certain cases like eini miskavein, melacha she’eina tzricha legufa etc.

[9] Mishna Berura 543:4

[10] Darchei Moshe 544:2

[11] Mishna Berura 543:8***

[12] Rather than paying a Jew to do a permitted melacha, it is preferable to pay a non-Jew. (Mishna Berura 542:5)

[13][13] A non-Jew may do work for a Jew berkablonus (where he is paid for the job, not by hour) on Shabbos and Yom Tov outside the techum because he will not be seen by Jews who are not allowed to go outside the techum (unless they made an eiruv techumim). However on Chol Hamoed when we are allowed to go outside the techum people might suspect that he is being paid by the hour. Shulchan Aruch O.C 543:2.

[14] Mishna Berura  543:1

[15] Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 68:38

[16] Shulchan Aruch 543:2

[17] Ibid 534:3

[18] Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe 5:34.6) writes that in communities with a large number of shuls with different customs and people on a weekday or Chol Hamoed often just go the nearest minyan, it is accepted that all who come follow their own custom concerning Tefilin.

[19] See Daas Torah 31

[20] Not saying the bracha and making this statement, “If I…” is what Mishna Berura (31:8) says should be done.

[21] Piskei Rav Eliashev 87 Igros Moshe (ibid) adds that a person in this situation should say the shema wearing his tefilin.

[22] Shulchan Aruch O.C.535:1

[23]Ibid :2

[24] Shaar Hatziun 535:5

[25] Ibid

[26] Aruch Hashulchan 335:4.   Be’er Moshe 7:28 writes that unless not moving would cause a heavy financial loss, moving nowadays is such a major operation that it is unbefitting for Chol Hamoed.


In the middle of Pesach cleaning we sometimes pause for a quick lunch. That lunch might be ‘wraps’. What is ‘wraps and what brocho do we make on it?

Wraps is a type of sandwich but whereas the traditional sandwich has two layers of bread with a filling in between, wraps is one piece of dough which wraps round the filling. It also tends to be a very thin dough. Is wraps hamotzie or mezonos? Let’s look into it.

In Gemoro Brochos (42a) we read that Rav Huna ate three cakes and did not say Bircas Hamozon. Rav Nachman said to him that even though these cakes were pas habo bekisnin, since he was eating them as a meal, he should have said bircas hamozon.

We already see that even though the food is pas habo bekisnin, if it constitutes a meal, it requires hamotzi and birchas hamozon. If not, we say mezonos and al hamichyo.

What is the definition of pas habo bekisnin?

The Shulchan Aruch (168:7) brings three opinions.

  1. Bread which is baked with a filling of honey or sugar, nuts and spices.
  2. Bread which is made from a dough which contained enough honey, oil or spices to affect the taste.
  3. A dry, thin cracker.

The Ramo comments on the second opinion: “Some say that it is still considered bread unless there is so much of these extra ingredients that they are almost the main ingredient.” The Mishna Berura says that the Ramo’s comment applies to the first opinion as well and that for bread with a filling to be considered pas habo bekisnin there must be enough honey, sugar etc. to have a very strong effect on the taste. The Shaarei Tziun brings the Taz that even the Shulchan Aruch holds this first opinion. Since there are three opinions, what does one do in practice?

The Shulchan Aruch says as we are not sure, we are lenient and if we have eaten food of any of these three types we treat it as pas habo bekisnin and say al hamichyo.

Let us now consider the following question: We have learned about different examples of pas habo bekisnin,as brought down in the Shulchan Aruch. Does this mean that these are pas habo bekisnin and every other type of pas is hamotzi? Or are the types mentioned just examples, but any other type of pas which is also not normally used to base a meal on (either in Chazal’s generation or later) will also have the halocho of pas habo bekisnin?

 The sefer Mekor Habrocho of Dayan Krauszshlita brings two opinions.

  1. The Emek Habrocho who says that we only look at the examples of pas habo bekisnin which were given by Chazal. Any other type of bread, even though it might fulfil the same function as pas habo bekisnin did in the days of Chazal, requires hamotzi and bircas hamozon.
  2. The Nesivos Hamishpot who says that if the usual custom is not to base a meal on this type of pas it will have the halocho of pas habo bekisnin.

The Aruch haShulchan also seems to hold this opinion. In 168:24 he writes that eier kichlech which are made with eggs and water are clearly not normal pas. Later he writes: “Our Sages only said that we should say hamotzi and bircas hamozon on bread that most people base a meal on. They were referring to dough baked in the normal way. If there is any change which causes most people not to base a meal on it, there is no obligation to say hamotzi and bircas hamozon…”

Now this would help for items which are clearly meant as a snack like eier kichlech and for bridge rolls which are intended for a kabolas ponim rather than a meal.. Can it be applied to a wraps? Do people eat wraps as a meal or as a snack? .

There is another factor with wraps which we have not mentioned so far. The Shulchan Aruch mentions another type of dough, nalsilka which is baked in a pan with vegetable leaves and because it is watery and thin, one says mezonos rather than hamotzie. The Shulchan Aruch mentions yet another type of thin dough called trisa and on this dough the Shulchan Aruch holds that we say only mezonos even if one is kovea seuda on it. Can we compare wraps to these types of dough? Rav Eliashev was once shown some wraps and he said that it was like trisa which, as we just said, does not require hamotzie even if we base a meal on it.

According to this reported psak of Rav Eliashev, the brocho on wraps will be mezonos even if we base a meal on it. However it is difficult to be sure that all wraps are made with such thin dough.

In conclusion. If we are eating wraps as a snack, if it is made with enough fruit juice which gives a strong taste to the dough, (which I’m told is the case in Gateshead), we certainly say mezonos. If we are basing a meal on such a wraps meaning that we fill it with a generous amount of filling and this is our lunch or supper, many poskim hold that one should say hamotzie like other pas habo bekisnin. If it is not made with fruit juice, there are opinions which allow us to say mezonos. However it would appear to be the case that many poskim hold that it is usual to base a meal on wraps and therefore the brocho should be hamotzie especially if we are indeed basing a meal on it. However according to Rav Eliashev the brocho on thin wraps will always be mezonos. Because of the doubt, we should take some ordinary bread and make hamotzie on that, have in mind the wraps and then bench as usual. However this only works if we are happy to have the bread but if we really don’t want the bread and we are only trying to solve the question of the correct brocho on wraps, it is questionable if this is a solution. My personal solution is for the kashrus authorities to tell the bakers under their supervision to make their wraps with thicker dough and without fruit juice and then they will be hamotzie without a question.

If you find all this too complicated, you could stick to the traditional sandwich.  And after that, it’s back to pesach cleaning!

Approaching The Month Of Redemption

With a joyful and inspiring Purim now behind us, we come closer to Nissan, the month of our redemption and to Pesach. This week is Parshas Ki Sissa whose central section describes the sin of the golden calf. How does Parshas Ki Sissa bring us closer to Nissan, the month of redemption and to Pesach? The episode of the golden calf is one of the most tragic in the Chumash. A mere forty days after witnessing the revelation on Mount Sinai, hearing the voice of Hashem, seeing Moshe ascend to the top of the mountain to receive the Torah, they were dancing round a golden calf saying “This is your god who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” It is unbelievable and incomprehensible! What can we learn from this episode? Are we supposed to just shake our heads in incredulity or is there, at least something, which we can take out from this national tragedy which can help us prepare for the month of redemption and Pesach?

The later section of the parsha contains the yud gimel middos, the 13 attributes of Hashem which is one of the most significant concepts in the Torah which comes to our attention particularly at the time of the Yomim Nora’im. “Hashem, Hashem, Keil Rachum Ve chanun.” “Hashem is merciful before we sin and after we sin. The strength of His mercy is even greater than indicated by the Name Hashem, He is compassionate and easies the punishment of the guilty, He is gracious even to the undeserving…” .Our belief in Hashem’s mercy gives us hope that despite our sins we can be successful in our judgement. Rosh Hashonoh 17b reveals the amazing power of saying these thirteen attributes of Hashem’s mercy. “If it were not said in the posuk, we could not have said it. Hashem put His talis on like a sheliach tzibbur and showed Moshe the order of tefila. Whenever the Jewish People sin, they should recite these attributes of mercy and I will forgive them.” If this seems too good to be true, it is. The previous section explains that not everybody merits such mercy. The Gemoro explains the words nosei ovon over al pesha – He forgives sin and overlooks transgression. “Whose sins will be forgiven? Not everyone’s. Only the one who overlooks transgression (in other people). Rashi says that Hashem’s characteristic of strict judgment, will overlook the one who forgives others who have done him harm.” He has shown mercy to his fellow-man; Hashem shows him mercy to him. Is it a coincidence that this vital concept is written in the section following the sin of the golden calf?

There are a number of points we can learn from the sin of the golden calf including a fascinating detail of the way we allocate the aliyos in Parshas Ki Sissa. Normally a parsha is divided into seven approximately equal sections for the seven aliyos. In Ki Sissa the first two aliyos cover over three-quarters of the parsha and the other five are squashed into the remaining quarter. Why do we do it in this way? The explanation is that only the Yisroelim were involved in the sin of the golden calf, not the tribe of Levi. If we called up a non-Levi for the section which describes the sin, he might be embarrassed that his great-great-grandfather would do such a serious sin. Therefore we extend the first two aliyos which are given to a Kohen and a Levi, whose ancestors were not involved in the sin, despite the disproportion in the size of the seven sections, to avoid embarrassing the person having the aliya. Wow! What a lesson in not embarrassing a fellow Jew! Another important detail about the sin was that despite the severity of the sin of the golden calf only a very small number were punished; only those who actually served the golden calf. According to one opinion, those who rejoiced were also punished. (Yuma 66b) But what about all the others who stood there and did nothing to protest? Those who saw the murder of Chur, who did protest, without trying to defend him? In the time of Ochon who took some of the booty from Yericho, all the people were blamed because they didn’t protest. (Yehoshua 7:11). Didn’t they deserve punishment for their serious sin? A golden calf is being set up and people were saying, “This is your god who took you out of the land of Egypt” and they look on silently? Why did they escape punishment?

The answer possibly lies in the words of the navi Yirmiya (2:2). “I remember the kindness of your youth…” Which kindness was the novi referring to? The commentators give different explanations. The Malbim says that it refers to the kindness of the Ovos. Another explanation is that with so many Jews dying in the plague of darkness, there were many innocent orphans. Who looked after these orphans if not the rest of the People. Such wonderful kindness by the People does not go unnoticed by Hashem. “You practise kindness and mercy. I will practise kindness and mercy with you.” According to My attribute of strict judgment you should all be severely punished for your rôle, albeit passive, in the sin of the golden calf but those who are over al pesha – who show mercy to others, I will be nosei ovon – show mercy to them.” This may explains the juxtaposition of the Torah’s description of the sin of the golden calf with the section dealing with Hashem’s attributes of mercy.

As we look forward to Nissan, the month which “In the future we will be redeemed.” (Rosh Hashono 10a), do we imagine that we will merit redemption according to Hashem’s attribute of strict judgment? Who among us can possible claim that we have not sinned and that our mitzvos are done perfectly and with the right intention? Who among us who are living comfortably in golus are even interested in being redeemed, our lip-service when the time of Tisha B’av comes round, notwithstanding? Our only hope is Hashem’s attributes of mercy and kindness. But we will only be treated with mercy and kindness if we treat others the same way. As we learn parshas Ki Sissa and especially the section about Hashem’s attribute of mercy, we remember that Hashem was merciful to the vast majority of the Jews despite their guilt. We remember also why they merited such kindness and mercy – because they practised kindness and mercy in their dealings with other people. And the way we arrange the seven aliyos reminds us how far we have to go to avoid embarrassing others. With such a preparation we can hope that Nissan will be indeed the month that we finally merit our long awaited redemption.