All summaries below are done to the best of my abilities and are for the purpose of informing and not paskening. In all cases, a posek should be consulted.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Non-Chametz Products on Pesach - Yechaveh Daat 1:11

Can a person eat butter or cheese on Pesach if it was manufactured before Pesach (and presumably did not have a Kosher l'Pesach hashgacha on it)? This issue hinges primarily on whether or not we say chozer v'neiur, which means that something that was batel before Pesach can "come back" and become assur on Pesach. In other words, if a small amount of chametz got into a food before Pesach, when it would be batel, can it become no longer batel once Pesach starts? There is a debate on this point, and while Sephardim take the lenient road, Ashkenazim follow the Ramo who notes that there is a view to be strict when it comes to things such as cheese, fish, and dry meat (hence my Rumanian hot dogs are being put away). In the second half of the teshuva, Rav Yosef speaks about not being overly strict in halacha. While a person can decide to be strict for himself, once a person is in a position of being moreh halacha for others, he should only be strict if he is doing so based on sources, and not simply on personal preference. He ends by citing the Teshuva MeAhava who says that a person who is overly strict for others by mistake has a harsher punishment than a person who is erroneously lenient, since the former person sinned to his fellow man.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Selling Egg Matzah - Yechaveh Daat 1:10

Rav Yosef deals with the issue of whether a Sephardi, who has no issue with egg matzah, is allowed to sell such matzot to an Ashkenazi. He begins by reviewing the basics of the egg matzah issue, including whether or not adding fruit juice to the mix speeds up the chametz process or permanently impedes it. He then presents the fact that Sephardim are lenient on this issue while Ashkenazim are strict, although they will allow the ill and elderly to eat such matzot. In terms of selling, Rav Yosef writes that a Sephardi who is selling egg matzot must inform an Ashkenazi that that is what they are, since one is not allowed to mislead someone about something that that person is strict. However, Rav Yosef does limit the merchant's responsibility in this case insofar as he notes that if it is clearly posted in the store that these are egg matzot, then one does not have to stop the Ashkenazi from buying it, as he can assume that he is buying it for permitted purposes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kitniyot - Liquid Derivatives - Marcheshet #3

In this long teshuva, Rav Henoch Agus delves into the issue of whether or not oils made from kitniyot are permitted on Pesach. He begins by trying to identify a certain seed that had come before him, and he concludes that it is certainly a specie that falls under the rubric of kitniyot and thus may not be eaten on Pesach (I am skipping over a very well-informed tour through Seder Zeraim). His conclusion on that point is that all seeds are considered to be mini de-midgan, which roughly means that they are harvested like grain, and thus are considered kitniyot. He then moves to discuss whether one can make oil from kitniyot for eating purposes. There is no question that since kitniyot are only assur b'achila that one could use such oil for other purposes, such as lighting them. However, is it possible that such oils could even be eaten? Rav Agus works out several reasons why the answer should be yes, assuming that certain conditions are met. His first move is a simple act of logic. He writes that if one had a grain before Pesach and then ground it up into flour and made sure that the non-chametz portion was at least 60 times as much as any potential chametz, then it would be considered lach b'lach (a liquid mixed into a liquid - flour is considered a liquid in this case) and would be permitted even once Pesach began. How much more so should the same be the case with oils of kitniyot, which are both actual liquid and are not even chametz! For Rav Agus, this would satisfy the first reason why kitniyot are permitted, namely the fear of getting them mixed up with chametz. With regard to the concern of getting ktniyot confused with chametz, Rav Agus writes that they should be no stricter than actual grain, and if those can be used as long as which are careful to prevent them from becoming chametz, then certainly kitniyot can be used as well if we are this careful. As a way to provide some more cover, Rav Agus suggests scalding the kitniyot in steaming hot water, which would prevent them from being able to ferment. Even if one were to be worried that a person would think that this could work with potential chametz as well, Rav Agus says that since we are taking some many precautions, a person will remember that he is dealing with kitniyot and will not make the confusion with actual chametz. In the second part of this teshuva, Rav Agus deals with the issue that oils from various seeds could be considered to be zei'ah b'alma, mere "sweat", which according to Pesachim 24b is not assur d'oraita for Orlah purposes, and thus certainly should not be forbidden for kitniyot purposes, given that kitniyot is a minhag. He engages in a length discussion on this point, and discusses as well the issue of using derivatives from foods that one has forbidden to himself via a neder (oath). At the end, he concludes that it should be possible to use liquid derivatives of kitniyot, so long as one has taken all necessary precautions. [Editors note - To the best of my knowledge, we do not normatively permit such liquid derivatives of kitniyot, although this does provide some room for leniency in difficult situations. As always, a competent posek should be consulted.]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kitniyot - Ashkenazic perspective - Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 3:63

In this teshuva from 1966, Rav Moshe deals specifically with whether or not peanuts fall under the rubric of kitniyot. In answering the question, he attempts to define the parameters of the prohibition. He cites the various rationales offered by earlier commentators and decisors, including the ideas that kitniyot can also be made into flour like grain, that they are planted in the fields in a manner similar to grain, and that perhaps some grain was mixed in with the kitniyot (and would result in chametz without the person realizing it). While Rav Moshe favors the latter reasons, he says that since the decree of kitniyot was not made with a full Rabbinic council, therefore the decree is limited to the species that were originally included in it. As such, he feels that the decree of kitniyot should remain a limited one, and peanuts should not fall under it. However, he does note that there are those who do include it as kitniyot and they should stick to their view. [My note - this view of kitniyot seems to run counter to the view currently held by some that kitniyot can be expanded to include new species. It is also a maddening teshuva for a peanut lover to read, since Rav Moshe seems to allow peanuts on Pesach, and yet it is fairly accepted by now that they are kitniyot.]

Kitniyot - Sephardic perspective - Yechaveh Daat 1:9

Rav Yosef begins this yeshuva by discussing some of the history of the decree not to eat kitniyot on Pesach, noting that its reason is not because of chametz per se, but because since both chametz and kitniyot can be made into similar cooked dishes, we do not want people to confuse that which is permitted with that which is forbidden, and therefore they were forbidden as well. While even such Ashkenazic Rishonim as the Rosh rejected this practice as an unnecessary stringency (after all, the Gemara does talk about eating rice at the Seder), nevertheless by the time of the Beit Yosef, it had apparently become standard practice in the Ashkenazic world to not eat kitniyot on Pesach. Several centuries later, Rav Yaakov Emden cited his father the Chacham Tzvi (an Ashkenazi, despite his title) who bemoaned the institution, but was powerless to repeal it. An earlier Ashkenazic Acharon, the Maharshal, also felt that one should not be overly strict after the closing of the Talmud, but again he was powerless to undo this decree. Rav Yosef then deals with the specific question of whether or not Ashkenazim are allowed to give kitniyot to their children on Pesach. He concludes that since the prohibition is merely a protective minhag, and does not even rise to the level of midivrei sofrim, therefore it would be permissible to do so (while I would doubt that any Ashkenazim actually give their kids kitniyot on Pesach, this could be helpful in the case of medicines that might contain corn syrup or other kitniyot-based ingredients).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

False teeth - Yechaveh Daat 1:8

Do false teeth need to be kashered for Pesach? As strange as this question sounds, since they are not part of the body per se, and thus can be considered a utensil, they should be given the same scrutiny as any other utensil used for food.

Rav Yosef comes up with two easy reasons to say that false teeth need only to be cleaned, but not actually kashered. First, since food only absorbs via heat that reaches the level of yad soledet, and since yad soledet can be estimated as being a temperature at which one would put a food in one's mouth, then be definition one does not generally put food that hot on such teeth, and thus they are unlikely to have absorbed chametz. Second, since people tend to eat with utensils, that means that the food only got to their mouths via a kli sheni, which does not possess the requisite heat to present a problem.

Finally, Rav Yosef notes that he spoke with a leading dentist, who mentioned that false teeth certainly do not absorb any food, since they are specifically made out of a material that does not absorb, since if it did that would ultimately destroy the teeth.

Kashering frying pans - Yechaveh Daat 1:7

In this teshuva, Rav Yosef deals with the issue of whether or not it is possible to kasher frying pans or cake pans via hag'ala. One aspect of the issue is to what degree are such pans considered to be cooked in while dry, and to what degree do we could the oil as a liquid that is always present in the pan? Rav Yosef concludes that frying pans can be kashered via hag'ala, although they need to be well scrubbed first.

In terms of cake pans, Rav Yosef notes that even though such pans are sprayed first with some oil-like substance, that oil is minimal and does not count as a liquid vis-a-vis the method of cooking. Furthermore, since such pans, particularly aluminum ones, cannot withstand the heat of libun, it is best to store them away over Pesach.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Kashering Pyrex - Yachaveh Daat 1:6

Is it possible to kasher pyrex dishes for use on Pesach? Rav Yosef begins his answer by presenting three views on whether or not one can kasher glass. According to Avot D'Rabi Natan, glass neither absorbs nor releases absorbed material, and therefore it only needs to be washed out in order to be kashered. According to the Or Zarua, glass can never be kashered, as it is comparable to earthenware. And according to Rabbeinu Yonah, we are unsure if glass is to be considered like earthenware, since it is also made from sand, or like metal utensils, since it can also be fixed when broken, and thus we apply the stringencies of both to it and we do not allow hagala, but we require tevila.

From there, Rav Yosef moves to note that the Shulchan Aruch follows the view that glass can be kashered by mere washing, although the Terumat HaDeshen and the Ramo hold that one may not use previously used glass dishes on Pesach. As such, Rav Yosef rules that Sephardim may follow the lenient view and use pyrex if it has been washed well (he suggests three times). For Ashkenazim, he suggests that the reason that glass cannot be kashered via hagala is that it will break in the heat, but pyrex is meant to withstand such heat, and thus perhaps even Ashkenazim can use pyrex if hagala is done to it.