From HaGaon Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, The Head of Halacha Yomit
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
The Hazards of Eating Non-Kosher Food and the Protection Accorded to Those Who Are Meticulous in Observing Kashrut, As Well as The Importance of Avoiding Chametz During Pesach and the Benefits that Brings
It this week’s Parashah we shall learn the halachot of which animals are permitted to be eaten and which are not. We shall learn about the kashrut signs of fish to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher ones. It states, “This is what you may eat of all that is in the water: You may eat any creature that lives in the water, whether in seas or rivers, as long as it has fins and scales. [On the other hand], all creatures in seas and rivers that do not have fins and scales, whether they are small aquatic animals or other aquatic creatures, must be avoided by you. They will [always] be something to be shunned. You must avoid them by not eating their flesh” (Vayikra 10:9-11).
We need to analyse these pessukim regarding non-kosher fish, it states, “something to be shunned” and immediately adds, “you must avoid them”. Why the repetition, what may the Torah be intending here?
The Gaon Rav Chaim ben Attar z”l (1696-1743, Orach Chaim) also observes this repetition and explains this based on the chachamim in the Talmud (Hullin 5b), who said that Hashem does not bring a mishap to the tzaddikim. It once happened with Rebbi Pinchas ben Yair who arrived at an inn. His donkey was given barely to eat. However, the donkey refrained from eating it. So, they removed the barley shells to improve their taste and despite this the donkey didn’t eat. So, they continued to clean the barley and remove any trash so that the donkey would it, yet it still didn’t. Rebbi Pinchas said to them, this donkey is going to fulfil the will of its Creator and you are feeding it untithed produce?
From here our chachamim taught that a person who is an exceptional tzaddik and always careful not to eat even something this may have a doubt as to its kashrut, Hashem assists him from transgressing in any of these related matters. Not even the tzaddik’s animal (that it is forbidden to be fed untithed produce) Hashem protects it that it won’t stumble.
The Talmud (Gittin 7a) quotes the Mishnah (Shabbat 34a), “three things a person should remind his household close to dusk on erev Shabbat, Have you tithed? How you made an eruv? Light the lamp! And Rabbah bar Channah said that these things should be said gently. The reason for this is so that they be effective and encourage the household to do them. Rebbi Avahu said, “a person should not instill too much fear in his household” (meaning that his household is not overly afraid). For Rebbi Chaninah ben Gamliel, who was a great man, instilled too much fear in his household and was almost tripped up into eating a limb from a living animal.
Rashi explains that once, Rebbi Chaninah ben Gamliel’s servants slaughtered an animal and they lost part of it. Because they were so fearful of him, that he does not get annoyed with them that they lost the meat, they took meat that was non-kosher and put it in its place. Only because Heaven took pity on Rebbi Chaninah ben Gamliel, that they informed him that the meat was non-kosher. Because Hashem doesn’t bring a mishap even to tzaddikim’s animals and more so not to the tzaddikim themselves.
The Tosafists quote Rabbenu Tam z”l who clarifies this. The intention isn’t that tzaddikim will never sin, for we find many cases in the Talmud where great people stumbled in various prohibitions, rather the intention is that someone who is a tzaddik, Hashem protects him that he won’t stumble in matters appertaining to food. This means the kashrut of food, because eating prohibited substances is a despicable sin for the body of the tzaddik because he becomes at one with the food that he eats. This is a notorious for him if he eats prohibited substances. Therefore, Hashem assured regarding kashrut that he doesn’t allow a mishap to happen to tzaddikim.
This applies to tzaddikim who are great, but regular people who aren’t tzaddikim like this, are susceptible to inadvertently stumbling with forbidden foods. Therefore, they need particular diligence in this regard.
Based on this the Orach Chaim explains “something to be shunned” - “you must avoid them”, “something to be shunned” that they are forbidden to be eaten and “you must avoid them” the Torah cautions us that we be careful not to eat non-kosher food even inadvertently. Notwithstanding this, if you stumble and eat them, the food will defile the soul! A great person, however, will be saved from forbidden foods, but a regular person who made a mistake and ate something forbidden, the food will defile his soul and caused him harm.
From here we see how careful we must be to avoid non-kosher foods, that even inadvertently we not eat these foods.
Inter alia, since we are dealing with the laws of Pesach, we heard from the Sabba Rabbeinu Rebbi Ovadia Yosef zt”l who mentioned the words of the Arizal (1534-1572), that someone who is diligent from chametz during Pesach is guaranteed that he won’t sin the whole year. He related that Rebbi Akiva Eiger’s z”l (1761-1837) mother asked that we find many great chachamim that are very diligent regarding the prohibition of chametz during Pesach and despite this they stumble in many sins. Her son the Gaon Rebbi Akiva Eiger said that the words of the Arizal are like the words of the chachamim, that a person who is diligent from the prohibition of chametz will be saved from prohibited foods during the year, but the intention isn’t that he will be protected to the extent that he won’t sin at all.
Maran zt”l added that from the teaching of Rabbeinu the Ran z”l (1320-1376) that all the assurances found in the words of the chachamim that a person won’t sin, don’t mean that there is no iniquity whatsoever in their hand. But they rather mean that Hashem will only protect a tzaddik and one who is careful with chametz and the like, only if the person himself does nothing negligent. However if there is some negligence on their part, for example they enter a restaurant that has a poor level of kashrut then Heaven won’t save him and it is plausible that he will stumble in the consumption of forbidden foods.
A story is told by the Chassid Rav Yoseph Yaavetz z”l (15th century-16th century, the brother-in-law of the author of the work the Akeidah) who lived during the period of the Spanish expulsion, that once two Jews travelled and escaped from Spain to another country. Once they were travelling on the boat a storm erupted and their ship sank. Due to miracles of miracles they succeeded in both grabbing planks of wood until they were swept away and they ended up returning to the Spanish shore, and there they had to conceal their Jewishness.
Since they had nothing but the garments on them, they each knocked on doors to seek anyone who would be able to put them up for a few days until they will be able to recover, and they will then try to sail to their desired destination. Each one stayed at a different house. There they ate and drank for a few days until they departed from their hosts who had been kind to them, and they returned to the port in order to sail by ship. One of them, prior to him leaving his host, his host turned to him and said, your face looks Jewish, know that I too am a trapped Jew [Marrano] and all the food that you ate in my home was fully kosher. I slaughter the birds in the basement, and I make my own wine. The Jew was very happy and departed from his host lechaim tovim ul’shalom.
When the two Jews met at the port, they each told one another what happened to them. When they arrived at their respective destinations the second Jew turned to his rav and asked him whilst aggrieved and crying, why did my friend merit to eat and drink in the home of a kosher Jew, but me, to my great anguish, I had to eat neveilot and tereifot in a Gentile home? The rav responded to him, tell me please, have you ever stumbled with forbidden foods? The Jew thought and said, indeed on one occasion he had gone with friends hunting in the forest and there his friends place before him all types of unique cheeses and good quality wine. “I couldn’t withstand the temptation and I also tasted the foods, however G-d forbid me to put into my mouth food which contains a serious prohibition such as neveilot and tereifot!” The rav replied to him, “Your friend was careful not to put anything prohibited into his mouth, therefore Heaven protected him that he will never stumble, however, you neglected to refrain from the prohibition of Gentile cheeses and wine, therefore you weren’t fitting that you would have such kindness shown to you from Heaven!”
May Hashem save us from all prohibitions and may we merit to only put in our mouths kosher foods!
Shabbat Shalom u’mevorach!