Selling chametz via the Internet is a solution in a time of need * There is no need for thick pamphlets of medicines kosher for Pesach – only flavored medicines require kashrut certification * The Ashkenazi custom to eat hard matzos is a virtue, not an obligation * Modern and post-modern approaches attack family values because they espouse individual choice to the extreme, reaching the point of egoism * The family does not harm one’s capabilities, rather, empowers them * Nowadays, precisely when one is able to live alone, the family is transformed from being an existential need, to an even higher value
From the Laws of Pesach: Chametz Absorbed into Utensils
One should not sell the chametz that is absorbed into utensils. Quite a few laws relating to mekhirat chametz were introduced in order to make it clear to all that it is an actual sale, but if one writes that he is selling the chametz absorbed in his utensils, the sale will appear to be lacking seriousness, since chametz absorbed in utensils has no value and nobody is interested in buying chametz absorbed in utensils. It is therefore correct not to indicate this in the sale contract. Indeed, if there was a halakhic need for this, the sale of the chametz absorbed in utensils would have been considered a serious issue, but according to halakha it is unnecessary, for it was ruled: “Ceramic dishes that have been used for chametz the whole year, even if they were used for oats or other grains, should be wiped well such that there is no noticeable chametz left, and then it is permitted to keep them until after Passover… they should be hidden on Pesach in a hidden place where one does not normally go, lest one come to use them on Pesach” (S.A.,O.C.451:1). After Pesach, one can go back to using them for chametz. Consequently, according to halakha there is no need to sell chametz utensils, or the chametz absorbed or stuck to them, and therefore, someone who sells them makes the halakha and the sale look silly and unserious.
The Sale of Chametz Online
If necessary, one may sell chametz over the phone, or via the Internet. Usually, the person selling chametz signs and performs a kinyan (act of acquisition) in order to empower the Rabbinate as a shaliach. Nonetheless, the kinyan is not crucial, as the most important thing is the transaction between the Rabbinate and the gentile when it makes the sale between the owners of the chametz to the gentile.
Medications on Pesach
Regarding a flavored medicine, like syrup, lozenges, or chewables, one must ascertain that it is kosher for Pesach, and as long as one is not sure it is kosher for Pesach, it is forbidden to eat. Only one who is seriously ill and his medicine does not have a good substitute, is permitted to eat it, because ‘pikuach nefesh’ (preservation of human life) overrides the prohibition against eating chametz.
However, a tasteless medicine does not require kashrut certification, because even if edible chametz was previously mixed in it, since it is not fit to eat even under pressing circumstances, because even for ‘achilat kelev’ (feeding it to a dog) is not fit, it no longer is forbidden to be eaten, and it permitted to swallow for any medical need.
However, there are some who are careful not to swallow even bitter medicines that contain a mixture of chametz, because they take into consideration the opinion of a few poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who believe that since the medicine is important to us, it is not considered unfit for ‘achilat kelev’, and it is forbidden to be eaten owing to ‘Divrei Chachamim’ (rabbinical decree). However, the halakha goes according to majority of poskim, and it is permissible to swallow a medicine that is not fit for eating without examining its kashrut first.
It should be added that the chances of a medicine containing chametz are very low, and even more so today when many people are sensitive to gluten, and grain is not mixed-in freely, rather, gluten-free substitutes are used.
Therefore, the thick guides that the HMOs publish are superfluous, and they should have focused their efforts on flavored medicines. They fulfilled the general rule: “Tafasta merubeh, lo tafasta” (“If you have seized a lot, you have not seized”). Due to the preoccupation with tasteless medicines, no effort is made to clarify the composition of the flavored medicines, which are the only ones whose clarification is important, and which are often neglected.
Medicines on Shabbat
Our Sages decreed that on Shabbat a mildly sick person should not take medicine, lest he come to pulverize herbal ingredients to prepare a medication and thereby violate the Torah prohibition of Tochen (grinding). However, with respect to medicines manufactured in factories, the poskim disagree, and therefore, for those truly in pain, it is permissible to take them. But if one is not in such great pain – it is forbidden. All this is on the condition that one is not used to taking medications such as Acamol (Paracetamol) or nasal drops from time to time. But if one usually takes such medications as the majority of people do in our times, if one feels that he needs it, he is permitted to continue taking the medicine on Shabbat, since he makes sure they are prepared in advance, there is no concern he will come to pulverize herbal ingredients to prepare a medication (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 28: 5-6).
Soft Matzot for Ashkenazim
Q: Can Ashkenazim eat soft matzot?
A: By strict law, there is no halakha that says matzot must be hard, but rather, it is a ‘minhag‘ (custom) of Ashkenazim to eat hard matzot. There are two reasons for this: one is that the hard matzot are kept fresh for a long time, and therefore before Pesach, matzot can be prepared for the entire holiday of Pesach. The second reason is that from a halakhic point of view, hard matzot have two virtues: 1) when the matzot are baked before Pesach, even if chametz is mixed in, as long as it is less than one-sixtieth it is null and void, and permissible for eating on Pesach. However, if this mixture is created on Pesach, the matzot are forbidden, because on Pesach chametz is forbidden be’kol she’hu (in any amount). 2) The ability to know whether the matza has become chametz depends on the ‘threads‘ that string from the baked matza. In hard matzot, this can be detected easily, while in soft matzot, it requires more expertise.
Since this ‘minhag‘ also has halachic virtues, it should not be nullified without reason. However, when necessary, since it is not prescribed as a binding ‘minhag’, it is possible to be lenient.
Pesach, Family, and the New Book
In the past few months, I have been busy preparing books for print. In my previous column, I wrote about the new and upgraded version of “Peninei Halakha: Ha’am ve’ Ha’Aretz” (“The Nation and the Land”); now I will talk about the new and upgraded book “Likutim” which deals with family matters.
Most of my work in the recent past has been writing and preparing ‘hilchot kashrut’ (dietary laws). At present with the help of God, I am finishing preparing the first volume (out of two), in which all the laws relating to vegetation and living creatures are explained, and therefore some of the laws that appear in the ‘Likutim’ books will not appear in the coming volumes. Consequently, ‘Likutim’ Volume 3 will end up devoted entirely to family matters. Since this is the case, I have added to it other laws I have written over the years in matters of marriage, modesty, laws of mourning and their meanings, and various other laws. Thus, more than seventy pages have been added to the book.
Since most of the halachot in this book have been printed in the previous edition, and those who purchased the older edition may feel deprived, I asked the publishers to sell the new book at cost price for three months to anyone who has an old edition of ‘Likutim: Mishpacha’ Volume 3.
The Attacks on Family Values
Family values are at the center of a person’s world, and in keeping with their importance and centrality, they are under attack today from various directions. In modern society, and even more so in post-modernism, man is perceived as a loner and individual; family weighs down on him, impinging on his freedom of revealing his desires without restraint. This is the case with regard to parent-child relations, with the mitzvah to honor one’s parents under attack by the accepted psychological positions, to the point where parents are accused of all the emotional complications of their children. Even more so, the marriage framework is under attack, because it ostensibly violates the freedom and rights of women and children. Thus in actuality in Western secular society, most married couples get divorced, and the majority of people live for most of their adult lives without a stable relationship.
Changing from Existential Need, to an Exalted Value
In the past, family values were an existential need, for without a family, a person could not provide for his own material needs, and protect himself. Therefore, all of human society extolled the nuclear and extended family values, and established rules and regulations according to which the family was governed. On a higher, more sacred level, according to Torah instruction family life is guided in such a way that all members of a family are elevated to a spiritual life of holiness, Torah, and mitzvot. Contrasted with the situation in the past, in modern society an individual adult can take care of himself, achieving his material needs and the various social activities he enjoys. Not only is he not in need of family but family is liable to burden him down, delay his professional progress, interfere with his daily and nightly enjoyment as he sees fit, consume all his money, deprive him of his freedom, oblige him to take care of his parents in their old age, to be faithful to his wife, and to devote himself to his children’s education. The value of freedom is indeed sacred, but if misused, it reinforces the egoistic position that views man as a loner, and a serves a mortal blow to family values - and ultimately, even in man, because loneliness is a complicated living situation, full of sadness and pain – especially when a person is enfeebled.
We must return to and deepen family values and the mitzvoth they entail in order to fulfill these commandments for their loftiest value, both in a person’s relationship with his parents, in relation to the sacred covenant of marriage with which he becomes a whole person, and in relation to his children. According to this view which we have learned from the Torah, man is not a loner, but part of a family, and this does not harm the revealing of his vitality and freedom, rather, it empowers them. In order for this to happen, we must study these commandments in a deep manner, and fulfill them.
In this book, as in ‘Peninei Halakha’, the volume of ‘Simchat HaBayit U’Verchato’, which was published in 2011, while studying the mitzvot and halachot, one is exposed to the elements of a good and exalted family life.
Seder Night and Family Values
The Seder and its mitzvot are intended to establish the tradition of Jewish faith, and this mitzvah must be done with joy as we are commanded to be happy on every holiday, and especially on Seder night, for which we were commanded to drink four glasses of wine, so that the whole order of the Haggadah be said over a glass of wine, by means of freedom and joy. Nevertheless, occasionally it is difficult for some people to be happy, and instead, they pout at each other, to the point where family gatherings causes tension and arguments.
The Torah teaches us that whenever a person is happy, he should share his joy with family and make them happy. In other words, true joy depends on the fact that one must first delight his family members (see ‘Peninei Halakha: Moadim 1: 11). From this, one can come to a very deep understanding: family is the opportunity to give love and joy in an orderly and stable manner. When a person arrives at Seder night with a feeling of a mission, and his intent is make others happy, to show them a happy face and compliment them, he is guaranteed to fulfill the mitzvoth of the holiday with extra joy, and he himself will leave the family reunion full of vitality and blessing for the entire year.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il/