Why the Chametz Law Matters

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7 Responses

  1. Shira Schmidt says:

    I disagree with Jonathan on the value of symbols. On this I will quote from an essay by my late father-in-law, Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, in his book “Remarks on Parashat Hashavua,” Parashat Bo (Chemed Books). He wrote:
    I was invited to participate in a seminar on “Judaism, Jewish People, and Jewish State” organized by the IDF, a seminar for senior military officers, which was held in hol hamoed Pesah at an IDF base. The deliberations were very earnest and all the participants treated the topic seriously, as something close to their hearts. A senior officer pointed to Pesah as a national heritage which we have in common. He said, with sincerity and with great emotion, “Even if we have different attitudes toward Pesah, we all observe the Seder, in one form of another, because we all are conscious of the history of the Jewish people, which started – either historically or symbolically – with the Pesah event and which we all wish to continue.”
    My rejoinder to him: “Imagine that I were not invited here this seminar in an IDF base, but would have hiked through the countryside with my wife. Let’s say it were a very hot hamsin, and we were thirty and would have some upon your secular kibbutz. Do you know that today we could not even drink a cup of water in your home (in those days there were no disposable cups) because of the hametz in your dishes? You are the commander of my sons and grandsons in the army, and today I could not drink a cup of water in your home. Pesah today is not a common heritage for us, rather, if anything , the festival expresses a deep rift between us.”
    The man responded to this with deep emotion: “It is true that you have mentioned a fact which is frightening, and nevertheless – we have a common awareness of Pesah. After all, we all regard Pesah as the symbol of the beginning and the continuation of the history of the Jewish people, and we are all united in our desire and in our aim of being a continuing link in this historical chain.”
    I was forced to point out his error to him, even in regard to this awareness. I told him: “I understand and can feel the sincerity in your words and the profound emotion contained within them. For you, Pesah is indeed a great symbol of the history of the Jewish people. But for my wife and myself, Pesah is not a symbol, but a reality. Pesah is not expressed in the fact that we, using certain symbols, remind ourselves of the beginning of the history of the Jewish people. The significance of Pesah for us lies in the fact that for seven days we actually live a life different from all the other weeks of the year: for before Pesah we, or to be more accurate, my wife, turns our house inside out in order to prepare it for Pesah. For you, Pesah is a sentimental and nostalgic matter, and I am not trying to belittle it: sentiments are of great importance. Nevertheless, for you it is only a sentimental matter, whereas for us Pesah is an existential issue – an issue dealing with our existence in the present, on this day and at this hour, and not only a remembrance of an event. Pesah thus presents us with the most profound problem which confronts the Jewish people and Judaism today.”

  2. Chareidi Leumi says:

    WADR to mrs. Schmidt and in turn to Dr. Leibowitz. The good doctor seems to be nitpicking rather talking about an essential problem. In fact, there is nothing in Dr. Leibowitz’ point that is in any way specific to the symbol of pesach. His point could be illustrated through countless other halachot which create walls between secular and traditional Jews. I am left with the impression that he was just being contrarian.

    Of course Pesach creates common ground for countless Jews of all stripes. We can see this in communal seders on army bases. We can see this in the desire of the vast majority of Jews to preserve the public nature of pesach here in Israel. We can even see it in that most Jews identify with many of the underlying messages of the seder and its symbols. No, pesach does not “present us with the most profound problem which confronts the Jewish people and Judaism today.” The most you can say is that looking from a particularly cynical angle, Pesach illustrates some of our issues pretty well, but such a view comes at a cost of many other angles which are much more optomistic and relevant to actually solving our problems.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    I think Ms. Schmidt is correct because to any Torah observant Jew, Torah and Halacha are a lot more than symbols to be dusted off once a year as if they are museum artifacts placed on some sort of display. It is indeed a tragedy that we live in a generation that far more of our Jewish brothers and sisters can tell you more about the events of 1933-45 in all of their horrible detail than they could about the contents of Echad Mi Yodea.

  4. Chareidi Leumi says:


    You are also commiting a logical falicy. The fact that to a observant Jew, pesach is a lot more than just a symbol does not mean that the symbols are not a source of common ground, which was the original point of the post.

  5. Daniel Weltman says:

    Is it not true that glasses, which hold cold drinks, would be allowed to use on Pesach (and even if they held hot drinks at one time that were chametz, they would be permitted to use on Pesach for cold water, since cold water would not cause any pletot)?

    Why could YL not drink water from a glass (or cup) at a secular kibbutz on Pesach?

  6. Daniel Weltman says:

    It is frustrating to see a person who sees himself as religious pounding a stake into the cracks in our unity, especially when his example of disunity is disingenuous.

  7. zalman says:

    Thank you for making clear that the ruling could have been minimized as a technical, legal analysis — entirely appropriate before imposing a penalty on an individual — not an attack on religious symbols. I don’t understand why this take was not more widely adopted.

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