May the learning serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk a”h.
Holy Books Produced by Gentiles
Daf Yomi Digest pointed out that a lesson in Kiddushin 37 elicited a discussion amongst the poskim about holy works printed by gentiles. Our Gemara mentioned the law of אבד תאבדון, you shall surely destroy. We have a mitzvah to destroy idols and we have a prohibition not to damage or destroy holy books or objects.
Rambam writes that any sacred writings (כתבי הקודש), as well as their commentaries and explanations, may not be burned or destroyed in any other fashion. This restriction, however, is limited to where the sacred writings were written by a Jew with sanctity (בקדושה), but a Sefer Torah written by a heretic, apikores, should be burned. The reason is that we do not wish that the work of a heretic should remain in existence. It is permitted to burn these writings since it is assumed that, as a heretic, he did not write the name of Hashem with the correct intent. Sacred writings written by a non-Jew should be buried rather than burned. Based on this Rambam, Teshuvas Zekan Aharon ruled that Chumashim and Siddurim printed by Christians should not be used. He recommended that they be buried.
Other authorities comment that notwithstanding the ruling of Teshuvas Zekan Aharon, their communities have a long-standing custom, from the time printed books became available, to use books printed by Christians, and no one ever expressed concern that it should be prohibited. The rationale for this lenient approach is that the prohibition is limited to sacred writings like the works of Tanach that are handwritten, but Chumashim and Siddurim that are printed were never included in the prohibition and are thus permitted for use. Maharam Shik suggested another rationale to allow the use of sacred books printed by Christians. When a book is printed, it is not the owner of the printing press, who may in fact be Christian, who does the actual work. Employees do the physical printing. Since the workers are engaged and focused on performing their job efficiently, it is assumed that they do not have any idolatrous thoughts while they are printing the books. As a result, the books are not considered to contain names of the Almighty that were produced without the correct intentions. Rav Shlomo Kluger also adopted a lenient approach to these matters. He was asked about possessing a Christian-printed Bible that contained both our Tanach and their “New Testament.” He suggested that by the letter of the law, one may possess and use such a book. One of the reasons suggested was that Christian non-Jews (נכרים) are not assumed to be idolaters, like the pagans of the ancient world. He did feel that a person of great spirituality should avoid such books as much as possible. (Daf Yomi Digest)
There is a custom that for the Shabbos right after Pesach, a challah is used that is either shaped like a key, has been punctured by a key or has a key hidden inside of it. This challah is called shlissel challah. The Oheiv Yisrael suggested that Kiddushin 38 is the source for this practice. The Gemara taught that the Jewish people, under the leadership of Yehoshua Bin Nun, first entered the land of Israel on the 10th of Nissan. The nation only first began to eat from the produce of the land on the 16th of Nissan, the second day of Pesach. The Gemara asked, why did they not begin to eat right away when they first entered the land? The Gemara answered that according to the opinion that they became obligated in the law of chadash right when they entered the land, they waited for the Minchas Ha’Omer to be offered and then began to eat the new grain. However, according to the view that they were only obligated in the laws of chadash after settling the land, which occurred 14 years later, the reason they did not initially eat the new grain was that they did not need the new produce. Initially, they were still eating manna. Only when the manna was finished did they eat grain, and that occurred on the 16th of Nissan. It thus emerges that until Pesach the Jewish people were eating manna. Only on the second day of Pesach did our nation begin to eat produce for food. When manna falls from heaven, all know that food is coming. Each morning the manna would arrive. Once the nation finished their manna and had to eat off the land, the nation was dependent on shefa, flows of blessing from Heaven. If they were not deserving then they would not have the flow of blessing and would not have produce to eat. Each flow of blessing needs a key to enable it to flow down to this world. Since, when we first entered Israel, Passover was the time when we transitioned from Divine food to earthly food, each year the Almighty renews His shefa, flows of blessing for earthly food, on Pesach. To remind us that once we are dependent on earthly food we need to maintain merits so that the gates of blessing for food not close, it is a Jewish custom to have a challah linked to a key right after Pesach. (Mesivta)
By Rabbi Zev Reichman