Pesachim 29 – 35

Pesachim 29: A Glitch in the Machinery

On thisdaf,we find that one may not derive benefit from chometz that is owned or produced on Pesach in any amount.

The machinery of a certain factory underwent a terrible malfunction, and instead of baking cakes that were kosher for Pesach, several tons of cakes turned out to be chometz.

The owner of the factory consulted with his posek, who immediately ruled that he should burn the chometz. The owner did so, but afterward he had a separate question: “My insurance is very good. If I explain what happened, the company will surely reimburse me for every penny’s worth of merchandise that had to be destroyed due to this unfortunate incident. Am I permitted to ask them for compensation? Although this would be a huge loss for me, isn’t it forbidden to derive benefit from chometz?”

When this question was presented to Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, he provided a clear ruling: “It is certainly permitted for this man to accept reimbursement from his insurance company if, according to their agreement, he has a right to it. This is clear from the Gemara in Avodah Zara 59. There we find that if an idolater purposely consecrated a Jew’s wine to idolatry, the owner can demand compensation. He is not asking for payment for the wine from which he cannot derive any benefit. Rather, he is demanding payment for ruining his kosher wine. In essence, he demands payment just like he would if someone had spilled out his wine. Similarly, the owner of the factory can request reimbursement for the damages he suffered due to the malfunction of the machinery” (Chashukei Chemed, p. 237-238).

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Pesachim 30: The Trace of Chometz

On this daf, we find that one may not derive benefit from even a miniscule amount of chometz.

When some chassidim were waiting for Rav Aharon Hagadol of Karlin zt”l, his son, “the Young Rebbe,” spoke with the avreichim about Pesach. “In the holy works, we find that teshuvah usually doesn’t help for the four sins whose initials form the acronym ‘chashmal.’ The four are: even a bit of chometz, sheker or falsehood, mirmoh or duplicity, and leitzonus or cynical mocking.

“We can readily understand the last three sins. They are insidious and one gets so used to living with them that it can be virtually impossible to correct them. For that reason, regular teshuvah is not enough. But why is chometz included?

“The answer can be understood in light of the Arizal’s teaching regarding avoiding chometz. He revealed that one who avoids even a trace of chometz for the sake of Heaven will be protected from sin the entire year. Even a person with these three problems who avoids any chometz on Pesach will perceive the horrible damage caused by these traits and will be assisted from Heaven to correct these failings. But if he is not careful, he becomes prey to their evil influence” (Mateh Aharon, 19:5).

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Pesachim 31: “Plant for Yourself Tzedakah”

The Bais Aharon of Karlin teaches about tzedakah from a statement of Chazal. “In Pesachim 31 we find that the only way to properly guard money is to place it in the ground. The posuk in Hoshea states, ‘Plant for yourselves tzedakah.’ The commentaries explain that giving tzedakah is like planting. Regarding planting we find, ‘Those who plant tearfully will reap joyously.’ To plant, one has to trust that he will reap what he plants and the seed will not be lost. Similarly, one can only give tzedakah if he overcomes his worry of what will be. Although his heart may be heavy when he helps the needy because it seems as though he has less for his own needs, his action is like planting and he will reap a rich reward. One should not worry about helping another. Like seeds which will only sprout and grow if placed in the ground, the best way to protect money is to ‘plant it’ by giving tzedakah” (Bais Aharon, Likkutim).

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Pesachim 32: A Meilitz Yosher?

On this daf we find a discussion about a person who ate a certain type of chometz on Pesach.

When Rav Avrohom Tzvi Ungvar zt”l became rov in Kapuvar, Hungary, there were 120 Jewish families living there. Twenty-six of them were not Shabbos observant, mainly due to a deeply entrenched ignorance of Torah. These families would even keep their stores open on Shabbos, profaning Shabbos publicly.

One of the mechallelei Shabbos was an aggressive type of person who enjoyed getting other people’s goat, especially when it came to Shabbos. As the community got out of shul on Shabbos, he would stand outside his store smoking and bless every passing congregant with a jovial, “Gut Shabbos!”

One Pesach, Rav Ungvar was passing with his son, when this man called out to him, “Ungvar! Ungvar! Come here!”

Although addressing the rov of the town with such disrespect was considered out of bounds even for the non-Jews, he did not take offense. “Let’s see what the man wants,” the rov said to his son, and they approached his open store.

“Come!” he said, leading them into the store, where his daughter was sitting at the cash box, attending to his many customers.

He reached into the cash box and took out what appeared to be two wafers wrapped in a cloth. “You see? Chometz umatzoh!” The rov and his son understood that what he had was a piece of matzoh and an almost identical piece of chometz. The man – who appeared to be filled with rage – took a big bite out of both.

“Chometz umatzoh!” he repeated with his mouth full. As he angrily chewed up the combination, he suddenly made a strange noise and fell to the floor.

His daughter ran to the local doctor, Hirsch, who was the closest medic. He came in time to pronounce the man dead.

Rav Ungvar said nothing at all.

At the well-attended funeral on the first day of Chol Hamoed, one of the man’s eulogizers ended his speech with, “May he be a meilitz yosher for us.”

One of the simple folk who kept Torah and mitzvos but didn’t have a great sense of discretion immediately took issue with this. “Let him be meilitz yosher for you, but not me! The man died with chometz in his mouth! I don’t want such a defender!”

When the rov’s son asked him what he thought of the entire matter, he said, “You know, that entire sad story strengthened many people’s adherence to Torah. The man must have had zechus avos to have had such a positive effect on the Jewish communities around here!” (Reshumim Bishmecha, p. 167).

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Pesachim 33: Our Superhuman Sages

On thisdaf,we find that our sages are referred to as angels.

On one unfortunate day, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l broke a vertebra in his back. Although the doctors decided that it was best not to tamper with it since it was not life threatening, they warned the family that many people with the same condition had literally died from the pain.

Rabbi Binyomin Fisher worked tirelessly to find an expert who could find some way to heal the gadol. After numerous inquiries, he heard about a specialist, a professor who was said to be a wizard when it came to this particular problem.

When Rabbi Fisher asked him to treat Rav Elyashiv, the professor refused outright. “You expect me to treat a man who is over a hundred years old?”

After much hard work, he was finally convinced to see if he could help.

He studied the case and then visited Rav Elyashiv’s small home in the alleyways of Meah Shearim.

When he entered the room, Rav Elyashiv was doing what he always did at any spare moment of the day: he was sitting in a chair, an open Gemara in front of him, swaying as he learned with powerful concentration.

The doctor looked around the room. “This is the sick man?”

Rabbi Fisher confirmed that it was.

The doctor was flabbergasted. “But that doesn’t square with the x-rays and the test results I received. He is acting in a manner that is impossible for someone who is suffering what his file says he has!”

The professor approached Rav Elyashiv. “Does the rov’s back hurt?” he asked.

“I have yissurim gedolim. I am suffering greatly,” replied Rav Elyashiv.

“Then how can you sit here, swaying in your chair?!”

Rav Elyashiv remained silent and continued to learn.  (Gedolah Shimushah, p. 314).

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 Pesachim 34: Room for Leniency

A certain person planted wheat shortly before Pesach. In various places in Europe, this was the season to plant grain. Unfortunately, he forgot to include the seeds – which would surely sprout and become chometz during the Yom Tov – in his sale of chometz, in unconscious violation of the prevalent custom in his hometown.

When it was time to harvest the wheat, he recalled his error and realized that the wheat may well be forbidden. When he consulted the Chasam Sofer zt”l, he ruled leniently.          “It is surely an excellent custom to sell such grain, since on the surface it would appear that this should be prohibited. Nevertheless, there is room for leniency in this instance. Although chometz after Pesach is only prohibited due to rabbinic decree, since the beginning of this wheat’s growth is at a forbidden time, we might have thought to prohibit it. Regarding this we can be lenient, since there is a double doubt discussed in the Rashba in a different context. Perhaps it did not take root until after Pesach (we hold that it takes two weeks to be certain a plant took root), and if it did take root, the seed most likely decomposed enough that it is not edible for a dog. Since the seeds were planted before Pesach and most of the growth was certainly after Pesach, one can be lenient in this instance” (Shu”t Chasam Sofer I:104).         

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 Pesachim 35: Proper Shemirah of the Grain

The Bais Yisroel once mentioned, “In some chassidic circles, they were stringent not to eat much on Pesach to try to avoid chometz, but in our communities this was never the case.”

Rav Gud’l Eizner zt”l explained the deeper meaning of the Bais Yisroel’s words. “Although one must do his utmost to avoid chometz – which alludes to the yeitzer hara – he should not do so by eating less.

“We find in Pesachim 35 that one can only make matzoh out of one of the five grains that can become chometz. Any substance that cannot become chometz cannot discharge one’s obligation to eat matzoh on the Seder night.

“We may wonder what is wrong with a substance that cannot become chometz. After all, isn’t eating such foods the best way to avoid chometz?

“The answer is that we need certain middah ingredients for avodas Hashem, even though they potentially feed the yeitzer hara as well. We cannot live without enthusiasm, which can slip into anger and other similar characteristics. It is our task to keep them and to also make sure that they do not become chometz and are not corrupted. The main thing in such matters is proper shemirah” (Mesillas Gad, p. 122).