A note many Rabbis write Chometz where I write Chametz. I change the script in my editing as Chometz in Hebrew is Vinegar and Chametz is leaven. I also distinguish between Kol which is voice in Hebrew vs. Kaul which is all in Hebrew.
Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. I went to the Synagogue one morning and there was a boy with Tallis and Tephillin sitting on a chair outside the Schul with his back to the Synagogue talking on a cellphone. In Tractate Shabbos chapter 2 there is brought down a story of a man outside of the Synagogue who did not go into pray but was being idle behind the Synagogue. Eliyahu HaNovi came as in heaven there was accusations not only against the local Rabbi but against all of Israel because of this man. Eliyahu disguised as an Arab on an Arabian Steed came and with a sword swiped off the man’s head. Upon seeing the youth, I simply said to him. “I am not your father or teacher but the Congregation is praying what are you doing talking on the phone outside? If you were my son I would slap both sides of your face.” Another man behind me of the boy’s ethnic group also made a comment.
Sitting behind the Synagogue is not smoking cannabis or taking Oxytocin but spiritually on the same level. FOR THERE IS NONE BESIDES THE L-RD so what the heck are you thinking and doing when you talk on the phone. The only people whom I approve of are doctors, medics and security forces as emergencies may involve somebody’s life but the average person can wait a few minutes.
The symbols of the Seder nice for kids to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awl1KCo_oZ0
Check with your local Orthodox Rabbi for the last time one can eat Chametz and when it must be burned Erev Pessach: Modiin Area: 9:58 AM no more eating of Chametz. Destroy Chametz not sold starting at 11:17 in other areas of Israel; the time may vary by a few minutes between the Golan and Eilat.
Halachos from Danny Shoemann
On Sunday night one may not do any work, nor eat anything, until one has checked the house for Chametz. Before one starts searching the house for Chametz the entire house needs to be cleaned, and the Chametz that one plans to use until mid-morning on Monday morning needs to be put in a secure place.
First one says the Bracha
"אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל בִּעוּר חָמֵץ""… to destroy Chametz", since the point of the search is to rid the house of Chametz.
After the search is complete one says “Kaul Hamira” declaring that "all Chametz one isn’t aware of to be “ownerless and worthless like dust”. This declaration constitutes a Halachic “destroying Chametz”, which is why one shouldn’t interrupt between the Bracha, the searching and the Kaul Hamira with anything not related to the search. One may appoint other members of the household to help with the search, as long as they are over Bar/Bat Mitzva. The search is done using a single candle which provides the optimal light for searching. A torch (like a Havdalah candle) is not allowed – as it’s a fire hazard and it gives a flickering light – and if it was used one needs to redo the search. Search under all furniture, inside all closets, pockets of all clothes worn in the past year, schoolbags, purses, cars and anywhere else where Chametz could have been placed accidentally or purposely by adults, children or toddlers. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 111:1-10 I count and double count 10 pieces and have my wife distribute them in various rooms in the house. Since we do not eat Chametz all year around except in the kitchen, dining room and perhaps the living room the search is less through in the other rooms mainly looking for perhaps crumbs that stuck to my shoes or clothing. Only the areas that there are real Chametz all year around are searched thoroughly. The car for safety is searched with a small flashlight or pen light and usually cleaned by professionals before Pessach allowing for me to spend a few minutes in the front, same in the back and the trunk. Also if one has cleaned thoroughly by moving furniture and searched before, one just makes a superficial search. Since the toilets are not places of eating one need not check for the assumption is that the floor was cleaned and the shower and bath washed everything down the drain.
There is no need to turn off the electric lights while searching with a candle, since with more light it’s easier to find Chametz. I do so to adhere to tradition but in case I only found 9 pieces, I do use the light to recheck for sometimes the aluminum foil if folded not smoothly instead of reflecting the light turns the Chametz Ball into a black ball.
After searching with a candle in those places where it’s safe and convenient to do so, one should continue with a flashlight, so that one can search safely and calmly without fear of burning down the house. Source: Rabbi Shimon Eider zt”l, Halachos of Pessach, Vol. 1, page 86
The 10 Nissan, in the year 2448, the Jews in Egypt selected lambs for their Pessach sacrifice. Forty years later, on 10 Nissan, the prophetess Miriam - sister of Aaron and Moshe - died. A year later on 10 Nissan, the Jews crossed the Jordan river, as recorded in Joshua 3-4. The Jews in Egypt were commanded to take home a lamb for their pre-Exodus Seder on 10 Nissan, four days before it was going to be sacrificed. It was a miracle that the Egyptians didn't harm the Jews when they did this, since lambs were considered sacred objects in Egypt. Since we left Egypt on Thursday 15 Nissan, this miracle happened on a Shabbat. To commemorate this miracle, the Shabbat before Pessach is called Shabbat HaGadol - the Great Shabbat - and a special Haftorah is read; the last chapter in Malachi which predicts the future redemption, may we merit it in our days. The custom is to read the narrative section of the Haggada - from Avadim Hayinu (we were slaves) until (but not including) Rabban Gamliel's admonition to say "Pesach, Matza and Marror" - at Mincha on Shabbat HaGadol. Source: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 430 Shabbat Shalom - Danny
How Do We Sell our Chametz? By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff
As we all know, a Jew may not own Chametz on Pesach, which is included in the Torah’s double prohibition, baal yira’eh and baal yimatzei. Furthermore, the Torah commanded us with a Mitzva aseh, a positive mitzvah, to destroy any Chametz left in our possession after midday on Erev Pesach.
According to most Poskim, these prohibitions apply both to Chametz gamur (pure Chametz) and to ta’aroves Chametz (Chametz mixed into another product). Furthermore, the Torah prohibited benefiting from Chametz from midday on Erev Pesach regardless whether a Jew or a gentile owns it. Chazal prohibited benefiting from Chametz an hour earlier. In addition, Chazal instituted a penalty whereby Chametz owned by a Jew during Pesach may never be used. They also required us to search our homes and property the night before Pesach for Chametz that we may have forgotten.
Although a Jew may not own Chametz on Pesach, there is nothing wrong with his selling his Chametz to a gentile before it becomes prohibited. The Mishnah (21a) states explicitly that one may sell Chametz to a gentile before Pesach, although this meant that the gentile took the Chametz home with him (see Terumas HaDeshen #120). Today when we sell our Chametz, we leave it in our homes and we know that the gentile does not intend to use our Chametz. Does this sale present us with any Halachic issues to resolve?
REASONS TO ARRANGE MECHIRAS CHOMETZ
Before addressing these issues, we should note that there are several valid reasons to arrange a mechiras Chametz even if one has no Chametz of any value:
1. One is required to rid one’s house and all one’s possessions of Chametz. However, some items, such as toasters, mixers, wooden kneading bowls, and flour bins are difficult, if not impossible, to clean. Shulchan Aruch and Rama (442:11) recommend giving wooden kneading bowls and flour bins and the Chametz they contain as a gift to a non-Jew before Pesach, with the understanding that the gentile will return them after the holiday.
However, if one does not have such a relationship with a gentile, or it is inconvenient for the gentile to store these items in his house, one needs to modify the solution so that one does not possess Chametz on Pesach. Thus, one can include this Chametz and these appliances in the sale of Chametz.
One should not sell items that require Tevila Keilim (immersing vessels in a Mikvah), such as metal or glass appliances, but rent them out instead, since otherwise one will have to immerse them again according to many Poskim (Pischei Teshuva, Yoreh Deah 120:13). Alternatively, one can simply sell the Chametz that is attached or inside them, but not the appliances themselves.
2. Someone who owns stocks either directly or through mutual funds and/or retirement programs has another reason to arrange selling his Chametz. Although some Poskim contend that one may own stocks in a Chametz business over Pesach (Rav Moshe Feinstein), most Poskim prohibit owning shares on Pesach of a company that owns Chametz. They contend that owning part of a corporation that owns Chametz is considered as if I own Chametz myself (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 3:1). Thus, in their opinion, even if someone’s house is completely Chametz-free, he should arrange a mechiras Chametz to include that which he owns as part of his shares.
3. The Mishnah Berura mentions an additional reason to sell one’s Chametz -- to avoid searching for Chametz (Bedikas Chametz) in areas that are difficult to check (433:23) or where one plans to store non-Pesach items (436:32). Many Poskim contend that when using the sale to preempt Bedikas, it should take affect prior to the time of Bedikas Chametz. This way, when the mitzvah of Bedika takes effect, these areas and their Chametz are already under the control and ownership of the gentile.
4. Modern manufacturing creates an additional reason why one should arrange mechiras Chametz, since it is difficult to ascertain whether medicines, vitamins, and cosmetic items such as colognes and mouthwashes contain Chametz. For this reason, many people perform a standard mechiras Chametz even if they destroy all their known Chametz and search all the areas they own for Chametz,
SOURCES FOR MECHIRAS CHOMETZ
The Mishnah (Pessachim 21a) and Gemara (Pessachim 13a) discuss selling Chametz before Pesach in cases that one does not expect to receive the Chametz back. In these instances, the sale is fairly easy to arrange: The gentile pays for the Chametz (or receives it as a gift) and takes it home with him.
However, in instances where the Jew is expecting to receive the Chametz back after Pesach, how does one guarantee that the Chametz indeed becomes the property of the non-Jew? Does the Jew’s expectation that he will receive the Chametz back undermine the sale? Also, does the gentile really intend to buy the Chametz, or does he think that this is all make-believe and that he is not really purchasing it? This would, of course, undermine the purpose of the sale.
The Tosefta provides us with background to these questions:
A Jew is traveling by ship and has with him Chametz that he needs to dispose of before Pesach. However, the Jew would like the Chametz back after Pesach because there is a dearth of kosher food available. (Apparently, there was no Heckshir on that particular ship.) The Jew may sell the Chametz to the gentile before Pesach, and then purchase it back afterwards. Alternatively, the Jew may give the Chametz to the gentile as a present, provided no conditions are attached. The gentile may then return the present after Pesach (Tosefta Pessachim 2:6). Thus we see that one may sell or give away Chametz to a gentile and expect it back without violating any Halachos provided the agreement does not require the gentile to give it back.
REMOVING THE CHOMETZ TO THE GENTILE’S PROPERTY
Terumas HaDeshen (#120) also discusses whether you may give your Chametz to a gentile as a present that he intends to return to you after Pesach. He permits this, although he stipulates that the gentile must remove the Chometz from the Jew’s house (as explained by Bach, Orach Chaim 448).
This condition presents us with a problem in arranging our mechiras Chametz. The gentile is willing to cooperate and purchase our Chametz, but he does not remove the Chametz to his own house. Is there a way to alleviate this problem, or must we forgo selling Chametz?
This problem became common when Jews became extensively involved in the ownership of taverns, which was in many places one of the few forms of livelihood open to them. It became common practice to sell the whiskey to a gentile before Pesach even though it remained in the Jew’s tavern (Bach, Orach Chaim Chapter 448). This procedure seems to violate the Terumas HaDeshen’s instructions.
Before we address this question, we must first analyze why the Terumas HaDeshen requires the removal of the Chametz from the Jew’s premises.
The Poskim present different reasons for this stipulation, some suggesting that leaving the Chametz on the Jew’s property implies that the Jew assumes responsibility for the Chametz even though he no longer owns it (Magen Avraham 448:4). The Halacha prohibits a Jew from being responsible for a gentile’s Chametz during Pesach (Gemara Pessachim 5b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 440:1).
Others contend that the sold Chametz should be removed from the Jew’s property out of concern that the Jew might eat it by mistake since it was once his (Shu’t Radbaz #240). The Halacha is that if the Jew never owned the Chametz, he may leave it on his property as long as he places a very noticeable barrier around it (Gemara Pessachim 6a). The Poskim rule that transferring ownership of the area where the Chametz is stored to the gentile satisfies both of these concerns (Bach 448). Thus, rather than moving the Chametz onto the gentile’s property, we make the property holding the Chametz into his property. Therefore, the contract selling the Chametz also sells the area where the Chametz is located. If the Jew does not own the area holding the Chametz but is renting it, he should rent the area to the non-Jew for Pesach rather than sell it. (To simplify matters, many Rabbanim simply rent areas to begin with, and do not sell the areas to a gentile.) Similarly, in Eretz Yisrael, where the Torah prohibited selling land to a gentile, one should rent his property to a gentile rather than sell it. There is another approach to explain why the gentile should remove the Chametz from the Jew’s property when he buys it. This opinion contends that in order to take possession of the Chametz, the gentile must remove it into his property (Chok Yaakov, 448:14). This requires a bit of explanation.
WHAT MAKES A TRANSACTION VALID?
On a daily basis, we buy and sell items from merchants without paying attention when the item changes possession. – That is, at what point does the transaction become valid. Indeed for most of our daily activities, this question is not germane. I go to the supermarket to buy groceries. Does the item become mine when I pick it up to place it into my shopping cart, when I pay for it, or when I pick up the bag to leave the store? The vast majority of times it does not make a difference. However, sometimes it makes a difference at what point the item becomes mine. If the item accidentally breaks after I paid for it, but before I picked up the bag, is it already mine or not? If the item is indeed already mine, I have no right to ask the merchant to replace it. It makes no difference whether it broke while I was at the store or after I brought it home - in either instance it is incorrect for me to assume that the merchant is responsible to compensate me. Indeed, although the merchant may be willing to replace the item, it is unclear that I may ask him to do so. The merchant may replace the item because he does not want to lose a customer, not because he has any obligation. Thus, this may qualify as coercing someone to give a present that he does not want to, something that is halachically prohibited and morally objectionable.
When selling Chametz, it is of paramount importance to determine that the transaction has actually transpired. If the transaction has occurred, then the Chametz now belongs to the gentile and there is no violation of baal yira’eh and baal yimatzei on Pesach. However, if the transaction has not taken affect, then the Chametz still belongs to the Jew, who will violate baal yira’eh and baal yimatzei.
HOW DOES THE CHOMETZ BECOME PROPERTY OF THE GENTILE?
An item changes ownership when there is an agreement between the parties that is then followed by a maaseh kinyan, an act that transfers ownership. There are many types of maasei kinyan, each appropriate to some transactions and not to others. Here is an example of an attempt to make a maaseh kinyan that does not work. Reuven wants to purchase a candy, and he decides to draw up a contract for the sale. This written contract does not transfer ownership of the candy to Reuven since it is not a recognized maaseh kinyan for transacting movable items. (Real estate is an example of an item for which a written contract is a maaseh kinyan.) On the other hand, the candy becomes Reuben’s property when he picks it up (assuming that the seller has agreed to the transaction and the two parties have agreed to a price) because this is a maaseh kinyan for movable items.
The Poskim dispute what is the maaseh kinyan when purchasing movable items from a gentile, some contending that movable property becomes the buyer’s when he pays for it (Rashi, Bechoros 3b), others contending that it does not become his until he picks it up or takes physical possession in a similar way (Rabbaynu Tam, quoted by Tosafos, Avoda Zara 71a). If it is a large or heavy item, then it becomes his when he pulls it or causes it to move it in some other way, or when it is delivered to his property. Thus the Chametz will not become property of the gentile until he takes physical possession.
This presents us with a practical problem. Since the gentile is not bringing the Chametz home with him, nor is he picking it up, there is no maaseh kinyan taking place to transfer to him the ownership of the Chametz according to Rabbaynu Tam. Several Poskim suggest alternative methods of carrying out the transaction (see Mishnah Berura 448:17). In some of these methods, one rents to the gentile the places where the Chametz is stored.
Since not all Poskim accept this method of transacting Chametz, we perform several such maasei kinyan in order to guarantee that the Chametz indeed becomes the property of the gentile. This concern is one of the reasons why some people refrain from selling Chametz gamur and only uses the mechirah as a back-up measure. (See also Tevuos Shor, Pessachim 21a for another reason.)
We see that conducting a proper mechiras Chametz is a complicated procedure, and certainly beyond the Halachic skills of the typical layman. Thus, it is inadvisable for a lay person to arrange his own mechiras Chametz without a Rav’s supervision and advice.
A PRIVATELY ARRANGED SALE
In one of my previous positions, I was the only Rav in the vicinity who was arranging mechiras Chametz. One member of my Schul, an attorney, had not approached me to arrange for the sale of his Chametz, which I assumed was an oversight on his part. Wishing to avoid a crisis, I approached him diplomatically to ask whether he had forgotten to take care of mechiras Chametz. He replied that he had arranged his own sale with a non-Jewish acquaintance of his, and had indeed drawn up the deed-of-sale himself.
The attorney did not consult with me before he arranged this sale. In all likelihood, the contract he drew up was valid according to civil law, and therefore would be considered a valid mechirah according to some Poskim (Masas Binyamin quoted by Magen Avraham 448:4). However, according to many Poskim this attempt to sell Chametz did not follow the rules that govern mechiras Chametz (see Magen Avraham and Machatzis HaShekel). Thus, the attorney had violated baal yira’eh and baal yimatzei according to many opinions. There is a general rule in Chazal that Dinei LeMalchuta Dinei (the law of the land is the law) so the contract is legal but Halacha is different so it would have been better to do the exchange according to the Halacha to avoid the Sofek (doubt).
DIFFERENT TIME ZONES
Shimon is looking forward to his visit with his children in Eretz Yisrael for Pesach. He must make sure to mention this to his Rav who is arranging his mechiras Chametz. Since the sixth hour of Erev Pesach will arrive for Shimon in Eretz Yisrael many hours before it arrives for his Rav in New York, Shimon’s Chametz must be sold before the sixth hour of Erev Pesach in Eretz Yisrael, many hours earlier than if he were in America. The rav will make sure that the sale on Shimon’s Chametz takes affect earlier than everyone else’s.
CAN I SELL CHOMETZ WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION?
Yosef stored a case of whiskey in my garage and then left for a lengthy vacation. He told me he would be back by Purim. A few days before Pesach, I notice that the whiskey is still in my garage, and I have not heard from Yosef, nor do I know how to reach him. What do I do with his whiskey? Can I arrange mechiras Chametz on it without his explicit authorization?
Yehuda’s father, who lives in South Africa, is unfortunately no longer able to care for himself and suffers from dementia. Months ago, Yehuda moved his father into his own home in New York and closed up his father’s house for the time being. Now Yehuda realizes that he has no idea if his father owns any Chametz in the house, or where it possibly might be. Can he authorize mechiras Chametz on his father’s property without authorization?
The Gemara tells a story that impacts on these shaylos. Someone placed a large sack of Chametz with a man named Yochanan the Sofer for safekeeping. On the morning of Erev Pesach, Yochanan went to ask Rebbe whether he should sell the Chametz before it becomes prohibited. Rebbe ruled that Yochanan should wait to take action since the owner might still claim his property.
An hour later, Yochanan returned to ask the Shaylah again and received the same reply. This happened hourly until the fifth hour, the last time at which he could sell the Chametz, at which time Rebbe instructed him to sell the Chametz to gentiles in the marketplace (Gemara Pessachim 13a). There is a question that this Gemara does not address. How could Yochanan sell the Chametz, if the owner had not authorized him? The answer is that although the owner had not authorized Yochanan to sell the Chametz, if it will become worthless, he should sell it as a favor for the owner. This is a form of hashavas aveidah, returning a lost object to its owner, since now he will receive some compensation for his Chametz and otherwise it will become worthless (Mishnah Berura 443:11). Similarly, both Yosef and Yehuda would be able to arrange mechiras Chametz even though the owner had not authorized them (see Magen Avraham 443:4).
According to Kabbalah, searching for Chametz is symbolic of searching within ourselves to locate and remove our own arrogant selves. As we go through the Mitzvos of cleaning the house, searching, burning, and selling the Chametz, we should also try to focus on the spiritual side of this search and destroy mission. There is a Halacha that one can benefit his friend even if his friend is not available at the time. Thus the Chametz would become forbidden forever and valueless to a Jew as soon as Pessach came in and therefore the sale would benefit the friend.
A friend of mine does not want Chemotherapy to keep him alive for he has a cancer that cannot be cured only stabilized but maybe in a number of years gene therapy will be developed so I told him the following story. The moral of the story is that sometimes one must make a risky decision to survive for it is the lesser of two evils certain death or a chance to survive.
I relate a story, a true story. When I was a kid, less than 7 years of age, i was sitting in front of the TV set, it was on, and I was looking down at something, but I'd look up at the nature show every few moments. It didn't really hold my attention. My Mom was on the sofa, to my right. The nature show was following a herd of Ibex (a mountain sheep or goat). There was a snow leopard following the herd, at 4 hours behind. The large male Ibex led the herd up a steep mountain pass. The leopard followed. Then, the leader Ibex held up his troop and waited. He walked to the gap between the mountains and the rear of the troop. the gap looked relatively small to me. I was certain an Ibex to leap the gap. But so could a snow leopard -- they're know to take leaps of 30 feet. I figured that the Ibex was afraid that the kids wouldn't be able to make the jump. But what could be gained by waiting? He had to act now! Unfortunately, the Ibex was on film and couldn't hear me. He had made his fatal decision long before I was seeing the film. I looked down to the scribble paper. I didn't enjoy seeing animals act stupidly and get torn to shreds. It just wasn't my thing. And yet that Ibex didn't force his herd across the jump! When the filmmakers estimated the snow leopard was a mere half hour behind the herd, the Ibex got agitated. It ran back and forth through the herd. They -- the mountain sheep -- were all watching him. I went back to my scribbles. The filmmakers said that the Ibex was leading the herd to the jump. Then, I looked down, but I heard my mother shriek -- a quick scream -- and I looked first at her, and then, seeing that she was looking at the TV, I immediately put my attention there -- to the TV. The Ibex had jumped. But he jumped short! Even I could see that he wasn't going to cross the gap, and it was straight down on either side. The camera caught him face to face with the cliff. And then he turned and jumped again, short to the other side, and again, and again. the camera came in for a close up. The Ibexes, all of them were now doing this, were jumping side to side, landing on tiny crevices in the cliff, turning around and repeating the motion. The herd was jumping, piece by piece, down the cliff. The commentator said now the snow leopard was about twelve hours behind them, for its feet were wide, much too wide to jump down a cliff. It took the long way down. And now why do I tell you this? Because it's not so easy to kill a goat or mountain sheep on the cliffs. They live there. "Born and Bred in the briar patch, dear fox," said brother rabbit to brother fox. As an adult, on TV I saw a goat slip off a mountain trail, land on its head (by design, it's horns) and walk away. The fall would have been fatal to other animals (not a spider, but a mouse it would have killed). So here is my question: When they throw the goat off the mountain cliff to "Azazel", does it die or merely walk away? I keep on hearing die, but I've seen goats land on their horns and live. And, as I just told you, they'll jump down between the "smooth" faces of a gap. It's not so easy to kill a goat in the mountains.
Shalom and shalom, Laiib
Pessach on a tight budget: http://www.ou.org/jewish_action/article/pesach_on_a_budget_top_ten_tips_for_a_low-cost_pesach
Failed policies of the assimilations: http://www.youtube.com/embed/A3YQANdvvbY
Lynette sent me this it is a trailer which goes into a three part series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PDh7s1pjIw&feature=player_embedded#at=15
This is the best news for my grand kiddies in a long time: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4055890,00.html
April 12, ’61 the day the world changed or the first Jew in Space: http://news.discovery.com/space/first-orbit-reveals-what-yuri-saw-110412.html
How to combat piracy on the high seas: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/13/us-navy-laser-pirates_n_848926.html?icid=main%7Chtmlws-main-n%7Cdl13%7Csec1_lnk3%7C209833
No great loss for humanity: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4057173,00.html
Federal Debit rises per person: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obamas-increasing-federal-debt-rate-1148
Good Shabbos Everyone. The verse in this week's portion Acharei states "You shall observe My decrees and My laws... and become alive through them -- I am Hashem." (Vayikra 18:5) The commentator Ramban, one of the foremost Torah commentators in the history of the world, has some deep insights into the meaning of this verse.
The Ramban explains that one of the highest levels of serving Hashem is one who observes Hashem's mitzvahs out of love; such a person will merit the good life in this world and in the world to come. Serving Hashem out of love can be compared to a faithful son serving his dear father. The son serves his father out a deep love for his father who has done everything for him. We owe everything in life to Hashem's kindness. We should therefore strive to serve Hashem out of love.
The following story involving the great Talmid Chacham (Torah Scholar) and Tzadik (righteous person) Reb Yonason Eibshuetz (c.1690-1764) author of "Yaaros Devash," shows the extent to which a few Jews were willing to go in their dedication to doing mitzvahs out of a love for Hashem.
R' Yonasan Eibshuetz was married in his late teens into a wealthy family. Reb Yonasan's father-in-law gave him three thousand gulden as a wedding present. The generous gift was meant to enable the outstanding scholar to study Torah undisturbed and realize his fullest potential.
As was (is) the norm in Europe, it happened to be that the gentiles of R' Yonasan's town had very little tolerance for Jews and their customs. Appropriately, the gentiles decided to build a huge church right across the street from the synagogue that would overshadow and dwarf the Jews' place of worship and study. The Jews were enraged at having to face a church the moment they stepped out of their shul, but being a minority in both numbers and power, they could neither do nor say anything. That is, all the Jews except Aryeh Leib, R' Yonasan's hot-headed, temperamental young chavrusa (study partner). While the church was being built, Aryeh Leib seethed with anger at the audacity of the church officials. The constant flow of priests and nuns who looked at the Jews with contempt evoked a terrible fury in R' Aryeh Leib. He promised himself that someday he would avenge the insult.
R' Yonasan could not calm his hot-headed friend. Even R' Yonasan's insistence that any attempt at reprisal would jeopardize other Jews went unheeded. Aryeh Leib was adamant. When the building was finally completed, ceremonies were held for the inauguration of the church, and services began. Many gentiles moved into the neighborhood to be closer to the new church, and Aryeh Leib decided that he had had enough. Late one night he entered the church and climbed the winding stairs to the steeple top, where there was a huge cross. Equipped with a hammer and chisel, he managed to break off and shatter the cross.
The noise woke up the resident priest, who raced up the stairs to investigate what had happened. Another priest joined him and when they caught sight of an "accursed Jew" in their church, they ran after him in hot pursuit. In his blind rush to get away from the scene of the crime, Aryeh Leib lost his way in the dimly lit halls of the church. The priests caught him and beat him mercilessly. They then decided to lock him up until the morning when they would decide how to deal with him further. In the morning, at a conclave with other church officials, it was decided to burn Aryeh Leib at the stake for desecrating their church.
When Aryeh Leib did not appear for learning the next day, R' Yonasan was surprised but not particularly worried, but when he did not come the next day either, his friends really began to worry.
The next night, as R' Yonasan and a few others were learning in shul, they heard a knock on the door. It was the priest in charge of security at the church across the street. He knew that Jews are charitable, and had devised a plan that would net him a large amount of money. He told the small group that if they would agree to give three thousand gulden, he would see to it that Aryeh Leib was set free, as long as he agreed to leave town forever. The sum was a very large one, but Pidyon Shevuyim (redemption of the captured) is a great mitzvah.
R' Yonasan and his friends reluctantly agreed to the priest's price. There was only a small chance that the Jews could raise such a large sum of money before Aryeh Leib would be killed. The priest might change his mind about the deal if the ransom was not paid on time. He decided that he would use the three thousand gulden that he had received from his father-in-law to redeem Aryeh Leib.
The next morning he went to the church and met with the priest. "I have the money," R' Yonasan told him, "but first let me see Aryeh Leib." "How did you get the money so quickly?" asked the incredulous priest. "It's my own money," said R' Yonasan. "My father-in-law gave it to me as a wedding gift, but I'm glad to give it up to save my friend." The priest could not help but be in awe at the selflessness of the young scholar. He brought Aryeh Leib to a back door. R' Yonasan embraced his friend and gave the priest the money.
Aryeh Leib was set free and told to leave town immediately. That evening a group of men came to the synagogue and told R' Yonasan that they had collected a large sum of money for the release of Aryeh Leib. R' Yonasan told them that it wasn't needed anymore because he had already paid the ransom and Aryeh Leib was safely out of town. The men tried to convince R' Yonasan to keep part of the money, but he refused. "But we too would like to share in the mitzvah," they argued. "Save the money for a future emergency," answered R' Yonasan, and he refused to take a single gulden of their funds.
Meanwhile, at the church, the other priests found out that Aryeh Leib was missing. They were infuriated and tried to find out how he had escaped. They confronted the priest in charge of security who claimed that he had found the cell open and the young man gone. The others did not believe him, for he had not reported the escape to them. They unanimously decided to put the scheming priest to death, for they suspected that he might have arranged for ransom money which he kept for himself.
The priest overheard their conversation and the death sentence they had pronounced on him. Now he would have to escape before his colleagues would be able to execute their sentence. He quickly took R' Yonasan's money together with other money and jewelry that he had amassed over the years and made his way to R' Yonasan's house. There he told the young wife how her husband had given his own money to free his friend, and then said to her, "I have no one to trust. I must get away quickly. Here, you hold the money and my gold and silver items. If I come back, I know you will return everything to me. I never saw such integrity as your husband showed. I'm sure you are the same. If I don't come back, it's all yours."
Later that day the priest's body was found in the river, under the town's bridge. Three days later R' Yonasan returned home, somewhat uneasy about the reception he would receive. To his pleasant surprise, his wife greeted him with smiles, praise and warmth. "What a tzaddik you are. I know the whole story. I'm proud of your willingness to fulfill the great mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim, even at such great cost to yourself! But look how wonderful Hashem has been to you. He has returned all your money and even given us a great fortune."
R' Yonasan couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What are you talking about? How do you know about the mitzvah?" His wife told him how the priest had had to flee for his life, how he'd given her the three thousand gulden plus other things, with instructions to hold everything until he returned. "He said that if he doesn't return, everything belongs to you. Today I found out that he'd drowned under the town bridge. Everything belongs to you, now," said R' Yonasan's wife. R' Yonasan's face fell, and he began to cry. His wife understood that these weren't tears of joy. "Why are you so unhappy," she asked, "when the whole incident has ended so well? Aryeh Leib is saved, we have our money back ... "
R' Yonasan couldn't be consoled. "G-d has thrown the mitzvah back in my face," he wept. "For some reason he doesn't want me to have my reward in the World to Come, where righteous people enjoy their true reward (see Avos 2:21). That is why He gave me my reward here and now." For three days R' Yonasan fasted.
After the third day he beseeched G-d to reveal to him in a dream why his mitzvah hadn't been accepted. That night he was told the answer in a dream. Because he had refused to share the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim with others and had kept it for himself, it was not acceptable. He should not have refused his friends' money. By "giving" all the money on his own, R' Yonasan had been "taking" - that is taking the whole mitzvah for himself when others wanted a share in it. He had not used proper judgment in fulfilling the mitzvah. (R. Pesach Krohn, The Maggid Speaks, p. 52)
Let us be inspired by this amazing true story to strive always to do mitzvahs "l'shaim shomayim" - for the sake of heaven, and out of a love for Hashem. Good Shabbos Everyone.
M. Wolfberg’s stories are sponsored by: Refuah Shleima to Reb Mordechai Menachem Mendel ben Tziporah Yitta Refuah Shleima to Tsviah bas Bracha Leah
Have a good Shabbos, in fact a great Shabbos and a wonderful, healthy, happy, sweet and kosher Pessach.