June 17, 2024
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May the merit of these words of Torah serve as an aliyah for the neshamah of Menachem Mendel Ben Harav Yoel David Balk a”h.

Kiddushin 70

How Can Someone Who Suffers From Celiac Disease Recite Birkat Hamazon?

There is one blessing that is a Biblical obligation. Birkat Hamazon, the blessing recited after eating a meal, is mandated by verses in the Torah. According to Jewish law, only one who has eaten bread made from the five grains is considered to have eaten a meal and obligated Biblically in reciting Birkat Hamazon. Individuals who suffer from celiac disease cannot eat bread made from the five grains. Gluten would cause them great pain. Can such an individual ever get to fulfill the Biblical commandment of Birkat Hamazon?

On Kiddushin 70, Rav Chelbo made a surprising statement. Rav Chelbo said that converts are as difficult to the Jewish nation as the sapachat plague. The commentators struggle with this statement. The Torah repeatedly expresses admiration for converts and commands all to treat them with love. Why would Rav Chelbo say that converts are like the plague?

Rashi suggests that Rav Chelbo referred to converts who do not fully adopt religious law and practice. Those who continue the habits they got used to while they were gentiles are as difficult as a plague for the Jewish nation, for, even as Jews they will sin. Those sins might bring punishment on all; in addition, regular Jews might learn from their misbehavior and emulate their actions. Tosafot quoted an opinion who added another point. All Jews at Sinai accepted responsibility for each other. There were 603,550 Jewish men at Sinai. Each Jewish man accepted upon himself 603,550 covenants, for each of us is responsible for the behavior of every single Jew. If converts are included in this commitment, it is understandable why Rav Chelbo would decry conversion, for he knew that some would continue their gentile behaviors and all Jews would bear some of the guilt, based on the rule of mutual responsibility, areyvut.

Mishnah Berurah (197:24) teaches that m’d’Oraita, one Jew can recite Birkat Hamazon for his friend who ate even though he did not eat anything. The reason for this law is that all Jews are responsible for each other. The Jew who ate was obligated to recite the blessing after the meal. Since there is mutual responsibility, the Jew who did not eat also is obligated in that blessing. However, Rabbinic law legislated that one should only recite the Birkat Hamazon if he ate at least an olive-sized piece of bread. They linked this law to the verse, ואכלת ושבעת וברכת—and you will eat, be sated and you will bless; only one who ate may bless. Yet, Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 484) rules that one who led a seder meal in his home and then went to the home of his friend to lead their seder meal, if they do not know how to recite blessings, he should recite the blessings for them, saying each word aloud, including the names of Hashem. Such a recital would not be considered invoking the name of Hashem in vain. Since he is responsible for them, and they cannot bless on their own, he is merely teaching them and fulfilling his responsibilities when reciting the blessing aloud. Therefore, if someone suffers from celiac he should sit with our brethren who do not yet fulfill the laws of Torah when they eat. Then, at the end of their meal of bread, he should recite aloud each word of the Birkat Hamazon. Based on areyvut and chinuch, his recital would not be a vain utterance of Hashem’s names and it would be a fulfillment of the mitzvah of Birkat Hamazon. (Chashukei Chemed)

What Is the Definition of a Place of Danger?

The Gemara relates that Bavel was the place of best lineage. Ezra left Bavel and took with him all the problematic families. If a person arrives from Bavel wishing to marry, one can be confident that they have a good lineage and can marry him or her. Bavel was even preferable to the Land of Israel in this regard. If someone came from Israel and wished to marry, one could not be fully confident that he or she were of good lineage. In the days of Rav Pinchas there was a desire to change the realities. There were those who wished to declare that Israel was more pure than Bavel. Rav Pinchas told his students, “I am about to enter into danger. Therefore, put me on a stretcher and bring me to the yeshiva. After I say my piece, grab me and run before anyone can harm me.” The students agreed. Rav Pinchas entered the house of learning. First, he distracted all with a striking comment. He declared that, based on Torah law, fowl can be eaten even if it is not killed by shechita. When the sages were trying to figure out the source for this surprising ruling, he declared, “All lands have lineage problems when compared to the Land of Israel, but the Land of Israel has lineage problems when compared with Bavel. Bavel is the purest.” His students then grabbed him and ran and the sages who were in a state of uproar were unable to catch up to him. The sages of Israel then tried to purify the families of Israel. They started to do research as to which families were pure and which families had mamzeirim or slaves who had intermingled with them. Their research created danger. They had to stop.

What is the definition of danger? When should an activity not be performed because it is dangerous to health?

During the first decade of the 21st century, our brethren living in Judea and Samaria were subjected to rocks, terror attacks and shootings. A Jew from Bnei Brak asked Rav Zilberstein at that time if Halacha would forbid him from traveling to Judea and Samaria for it was now a place of danger.

Rav Zilberstein answered that Mishnah Berurah writes that danger is defined as an event that might occur to one out of a thousand. Since there were many thousands of Jews traveling in Judea and Samaria and not getting hurt, the chances of getting hurt were less than one in a thousand and, therefore, Judea and Samaria would not be considered a place of danger. Furthermore, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ruled that the definition of a place of danger was dependent on the feelings of people. If most people would flee a particular place it was considered a place of danger. During the terrible intifada, most residents did not flee Judea and Samaria. Furthermore, many people went to visit and did not feel a need to flee in panic. As a result, it was not a place of danger and the Jew from Bnei Brak could travel there. (Chashukei Chemed)

Kiddushin 71

Who Is More Needed: A Genius or a Ba’al Middot?

Masechet Horayot discusses the horrific question of who is to be saved first when one can only save one person from a sea that is threatening to drown several individuals. The Mishnah taught that if two people were drowning in the sea, one a king and the other a sage, the sage should be saved before the king. Rambam explains that this is because the sage brings a very great benefit to the nation. From the Rambam we see that those who bring the most benefit to the nation are the ones to be saved first.

What would the law be in the following scenario? Two budding Torah scholars are drowning in the river. One is a great genius. The other has fantastic personal qualities, he is a ba’al middot. Who should be saved first? Who helps the nation more? Will the nation gain the most from the genius who someday might master great amounts of Torah? Alternatively, perhaps the ba’al middot is more consequential for the nation?

Kiddushin 71 teaches that there are secrets associated with names of Hashem. Only someone who is modest, humble, never loses his temper, never gets drunk, never bears a grudge and is in the middle of his years may be included in the select society of those who know these secrets. Throughout Jewish history there were giants who knew the secret names of Hashem.

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

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