April 12, 2024
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April 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

“Really? There are actual halachos about moving? You cannot be serious, Rabbi.”

Well, we are serious and during moving day there is a little-known halacha that, very often, does apply—at least peripherally. But first, a short introduction. There are, generally speaking, always two options in which one can move:

One can hire movers, at a total cost of about $4300-$6500.

Or one can rent a truck and then hire day workers from Home Depot ($18 per hour for 12 hours times four people), at a total cost of $1000.

Usually, if one opts for the second choice—one should provide them with lunch—and here is where the little-known halacha comes in.

When you are moving, you are not exactly going to cook up some mac and cheese—there is no time for it. You need to label, to supervise and to ensure that things are moving along, as time is money. Also, all of your pots and pans have been boxed and properly labeled.

You can drive them to pick up food, and generally speaking, they are going to opt for the local Popeyes or order Uber-Eats—their preference is not exactly the takeout section of Seasons Express. Most people offer to pay for lunch (since you saved all of that money by avoiding option one).

But if you do give them lunch, you have to give them the cash. Do not give them your credit or debit card or somehow put it on your credit card. The reason for this (aside from theft concerns) is that when it goes on your credit card, it is you making the transaction buying non-kosher food. The use of the credit or debit card is a halachic problem as discussed in Siman 117 in the Yoreh Deah section of Shulchan Aruch.

The Name of the Prohibition

The name of the prohibition is “schorah b’maachalos asuros.” The topic is found in both the Mishna in Shvi’is (7:3) and the Gemara in Psachim 23a, where the pasuk in Vayikra (11:11), “And they shall be an abomination for you. You shall not eat of their flesh, and their dead bodies you shall hold in abomination,” is understood to prohibit having anything to do with that which is non-kosher.

The Nature of the Prohibition

One may further speculate as to the nature of the prohibition. Is it forbidden out of a concern that one may come to eat it? Or is it forbidden on account of the concept of maaris ayin, the appearance of purchasing non-kosher?

Let’s say, for example, one had a gentile worker pick up cases of non-kosher fish from a gentile wholesaler and then had that worker flip it to another gentile retailer, and no one would know that it was a Jew doing the flipping. Would that be permitted or forbidden? The Chasam Sofer in a responsum (YD Vol. II #104) addresses this very question and forbids it, seeing no leniency.

Other Issues

This prohibition may also apply to so many other areas. May one purchase McDonalds stock? What about shares in a mutual fund that buys McDonalds? Some poskim forbid the purchase of the McDonald’s stock, but permit the purchase of the mutual fund shares. Regarding this last question, we will leave up to each reader’s rav or posek.

But let’s say one purchases a nursing home in New York State from a gentile owner. The law now is that one may not change the menu options of a resident of a nursing home in New York State without his or her permission. If the nursing home resident preferred bacon and eggs for breakfast, you cannot change it to bagels, lox and cream cheese. So what can you do if you are an aspiring tycoon and wish to purchase these nursing homes? Most poskim say that you cannot purchase the food service portion of the nursing home and you must do a mechira, similar to mechiras chametz.

The Debate As to Its Origin

Indeed, the Baalei Tosfos (Psachim 23a, Amar) hold that it is a full-blown Torah prohibition. This also seems to be the opinion of the majority of poskim. The Trumas HaDeshen (Siman 200), however, cites the Gilyon Tosfos that the citation of the pasuk is merely an asmachta, generally understood as a biblical allusion to a future rabbinic enactment.

The Rashba (responsum Vol. III SIman 223) explains that the reason for the prohibition is lest one come to eat of it accidentally himself. Even though the phraseology of the Rashba seems to indicate that it is of rabbinic origin, the Taz does rule that even the Rashba holds that it is actually a Torah prohibition. The concern for “lest one come to eat” can also be a biblical concern, as we see in the Pesach Torah prohibitions of bal yera’eh and bal yematzeh, one may not see chametz nor find chametz.

To What the Prohibition Applies

What is the halacha if we are unsure as to whether the food item is forbidden by actual Torah law? It seems that the poskim hold that the prohibition still applies (See Mishne LaMelech Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 8:18 and Rabbi Akiva Eiger responsum #74) and the Beis Meir (beginning of Siman 117).

Wormy Fruit

What about fruits that got wormy? The Pischei Teshuva (YD 117:2) cites views that forbid it since the fruits are forbidden to consume. There is a large body of poskim with a dissenting opinion cited in Darchei Teshuvah (117:6). The Pri Magadim questions how they could dissent since the entire reason is that one may come to consume it and that certainly applies with wormy fruit.

The responsum sefer entitled Shaivet HaK’hasi (Volume VI #283) tries to cite proof to the lenient opinion from the Mishna in Bava Basra 93b: “One who sells grain to another, the buyer accepts upon himself that up to a quarter-kav of impurities may be present in each se’a purchased. When purchasing figs, he accepts upon himself that up to 10 infested figs may be present in each hundred figs purchased.” The implication of this Gemara is that one is permitted to sell items that are infested and non-kosher.

However, this can be countered with the famous responsum of Rabbi Yaakov Minkowsky zt”l, graduate of the Volozhin Yeshiva and author of the Mishkenos Yaakov (#16) that technically one is permitted to consume food items where the concern for infestation is a miyut sh’aino matzui, a minority that is not at all prevalent, less than 10%.

Main Purpose Factor

The Shulchan Aruch rules that the prohibition is limited to non-kosher items whose main purpose is for food consumption. This is based on a Yerushalmi in Shvi’is (7:7) which states that one is permitted to raise donkeys and camels if one is doing so for the labor that they perform. Based upon this Rabbeinu Tam ruled (Bava Kamma 82b “lo yigdal”) that one is permitted to raise donkeys for the purpose of tanning hides with their fat.

The Bais Yoseph and the Shach, however, both cite the dissenting view of the Rashba (responsum Vol. III SIman 223) who forbids it.

There are certain animal fats called chailev, the consumption of which involves a punishment of Karais. There is a debate among the poskim as to the disposition of doing business with these fats [see Shaivet HaLevi (Volume VI Siman 113) for a full discussion of this.]

The reason why chailev may be more lenient is because there is a pasuk in the Torah (Vayikrah 7:24) that seems to specifically permit doing business with it. (For the view that the prohibition is only rabbinic, the verse can be understood as why a rabbinic enactment was not made on chailev, because the rabbis never made an enactment on anything specifically permitted in the Torah.)

The Darchei Teshuva (117:34) writes that since the main use of chailev in contemporary times is solely for work purposes and not for food, it is permitted according to all opinions.

Transporting

Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igros Moshe YD I #51) rules that the prohibition does not apply to someone transporting forbidden foods. So, a truck driver has no issue. Rav Aharon Felder, zt”l in his Rishumei Aharon (Vol. I 117:5) cites the view of Rav Moshe Feinstein that one would be permitted in doing business in horsehair.

If the Food Could Once Have Been Kosher

The Pischei Teshuvah (YD 117:6) cites a possible debate between the Chavas Yair and the Chasam Sofer as to whether there is a biblical prohibition of doing business with food that once had a time of its possibly being kosher. All chicken, kosher or not, would have had a time where it could have been kosher.

Thus, in the aforementioned case where the Popeyes food was placed on a Jewish man’s credit card, the Chavas Yair would hold that only a rabbinic prohibition was violated, while the Chasam Sofer may hold that a Torah prohibition was violated.

What Difference Does It Make If It Could Once Have Been Kosher?

One may ask what difference it would make whether it once could have been kosher or not, since, at the end of the day, it would still be forbidden by rabbinic law?

The answer, believe it or not, lies in whether or not there is an obligation to do teshuva on an accidental violation (shogaig) of a rabbinic law.

Rav Yaakov Lorberbaum, zt”l in his Nesivos HaMishpat (CM 243:3) writes that there is no need for atonement. The Mishna Berurah (334:76), however, disagrees and cites the view of the Eliyah Rabbah (334:26) that it definitely requires atonement.


Rabbi Yair Hoffman, is a teacher, author, lecturer and moreh d’asra. His columns are read by over five million readers each year. The author can be reached at [email protected].

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