Apr 5, 2009
Taking 'Chumros' to Task
Rabbi Yosef Heller, respected member of the Crown Heights Bais Din and Rosh Kollel Menachem, is taking the many 'Pesach Chumros' to task. "A Chumra needs a source and it should not be at the expense of Shalom Bayis," he says.
Based on a talk given by Rabbi Yosef Heller. Transcribed by Agudas Avreichei Lubavitch of Kolel Menachem
Many people are more stringent during Pesach than throughout the year; nonetheless, certain priorities must take precedence. Oft times, due to ignorance or unawareness, one is scrupulous in keeping a hiddur yet careless with halacha mandated in shulchan aruch.
There is a saying from the Gerrer rebbe, the Beis Yisroel, concerning this issue. It is written in Shulchan Aruch that many have the custom not to eat nuts during Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, for the word àâåæ (nut) has the same gematria as çèà (sin). The Beis Yisroel brings to our attention that the word çèà, also has the same gematria as çèà…
Machlokes forbidden like Chometz
In Sefarim it is written, that the same way excessive measures are taken in eliminating all chometz (each with his own chumros), so too all means of removing behaviors of anger, conflict, and opposition must be employed. Just like chometz, these are forbidden, even in the slightest form.
One should not keep hiddurim at the family's expense, destroying the atmosphere at home or ruining the enjoyment of Yom Tov. One such instance is making sure to eat the afikoman before chatzos. There are varying opinions regarding the obligation of eating the afikoman before midnight, and since the Rabbeim would do so the 1st night, we try to implement this as well. However, when the hour's getting late, should a family's seder be wrought with pressure and aggravation to ensure the fulfillment of this hiddur?!
In a similar vein, according to halacha, it is permissible to own, use, and eat something which contains Chometz so inedible that even a dog wouldn't consume it. Therefore, according to halacha, the usage of toothpaste, perfume etc. is permissible. Yet, being that it is possible to chemically extricate the chometz from the mixture, some are stringent not to use such items. [Consequently, an item that has been looked into and found not to contain any chometz components can be used (even without an official hechsher stamped on.)] Since this is only a chumra, there is no need to prevent those who are lenient, from using these products.
Not at the expense of Shalom Bayis
Regarding personal stringencies, husbands need to bear in mind that their wives' personal actions (ones that don't relate to the holiness of the home, i.e. tznius, chinuch of the children etc.) are not their responsibility. It does not pertain to him whether she abstains from eating certain foods that do not fit his standards (such as chocolate, coffee, etc.) or not. In fact, many great, chassidishe women ate such foods on Pesach.
In addition, at times it is necessary for the husband to give up his own chumros for the sake of shalom bayis. For instance, if his wife wants to travel to her family where they are less machmir than he is, (and she insists on going specifically for pesach,) he should try, inconspicuously, to only eat foods that follow his chumros. However, if this is not feasible, he should completely give up on his stringencies for the sake of shalom bayis.
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A Chumra needs a source
It is not admirable, nor laudable, to take on Chumros that others follow. The source of a stringency must be verified, and a reliable source must be ascertained, before taking it on.
This can be deduced from the Shulchan Aruch where it is written, "Many have the custom to scrape the walls and chairs that have come in contact with chometz, and they have on what to rely on." It is easily understood that a reliable source is necessary for following a leniency; yet, here the Shulchan aruch brings to our attention that a stringency also requires a dependable source.
This can be understood by comprehending the value of a chumra: Truthfully, with all the scrupulous cleaning put in to rid one's home of even the minutest amount of chometz, it is still possible for something to have been overlooked, or for chometz to have been brought in afterwards. True riddance of all chometz, can only be brought about with help from above. To merit such assistance, one must tread on its path, the path the chachamim have lead us on, follow their guidelines and instructions and not mix in personal reckonings, initiatives, and chumros.
When introducing new stringencies that are based on one's own feeling, essentially one is saying, that it is he alone who is protecting himself from all chometz and thus forgoes the help from above.
R' Pinchas of Koritz had a student who was extremely scrupulous in keeping out all chometz. During pesach, he only ate at home, not even attending his Rebbe's yom tov meal. Once, during the se'uda of Shvi'i shel Pesach, upon inquiring about his student's whereabouts, R' Pinchas was told that his absence was due to his meticulousness regarding chometz. "In the barrel of water he had prepared for Pesach, lays some chometz," the Rebbe told his students. When the student was thus alerted, he fretfully rushed to R' Pinchas asking how such a calamity had befallen him, especially with all his intense supervision. The Rebbe explained, "Although we are carefull with chometz, we are not angels and require assistance from above. You, however, relied on your own efforts, not depending on Hashem; hence, you were shown from above that such cannot bear proper results…"
2 types of chumros: Halacha and Mesorah
There are two types of chumros. There are those that are sourced in halacha and are beset by logic concern. These stringencies pertain to all, and each person may take them upon himself.
The second type of chumros do not involve real, concerning issues and are purely based on Mesorah (tradition). On pesach, even such stringencies are kept, as our Rabbeim have said, "Pesach is Andersh." However, just as chumros based on Halacha need a dependable source, these do as well.
For example, there is an ancient custom not to eat garlic on pesach. Some say this had been instituted in previous generations as a result of flour getting mixed into the garlic during the processing. However, R' Sholom of Belz (the Sar Sholom) said that this custom is actually a Torah directive for it says "Al titosh Toras Imecha," do not forsake the Torah of your ancestors. For someone who received this custom from previous generations, it is 'Toras Imecha;' yet for others, this custom is irrelevant, for its existence is solely based on tradition.
The same applies to sugar. In years by gone, when sugar was sold, it had to be cut on the merchant's table which doubtlessly had chometz on it. Therefore, they would cook the sugar to check it before use. Nowadays, we have no such concern. Should we worry that perhaps a factory worker threw some chometz into the machines?! Moreover, There are industrial runs of sugar that are processed specifically for pesach. Nevertheless, many cook the sugar due to Mesorah.
This tenet applies to all traditionally based customs. Even though the reasons for not eating certain foods currently do not exist, being that it has a source, it can be adhered to. Yet those to whom this source does not apply, have no reason to follow it, for they have neither chumra qualification: it is not based on halacha and it is not their tradition.
When joining a community, one should partake in their chumros. The 'Toras Imecha' of the community now becomes his, and he should follow them even though they are not his personal tradition. Nevertheless, there is no reason for him to take on chumros of individuals, and in the same vein, someone who has personal chumros, should not expect others to keep them, nor should they call it a 'Chabad custom.'
It is necessary to recognize what is considered a minhag, what is a chumra, what is to be expected from the public and what is not.
Many have the custom not to eat processed foods. This is an understandable stringency, based on what the Alter Rebbe says (Hayom Yom 20 Nissan), that one should not eat by another on Pesach. Is a factory production line more reliable than 'another?' Therefore, we try to only eat foods prepared at home, except when it is not possible, as with wine, matza and the like.
However, those that do not follow this chumra, have no reason to follow the additional stringency of not using milk and oil. Nonetheless, it is advisable to be stringent in using milk that was milked before pesach, and to avoid using cottonseed oil for it may be kitniyos.
By fulfilling our obligations, following the mandates of the Torah, we will be assisted in keeping out even the minutest amount of Chometz, and thus will be fulfilled the Arizal's guarantee that one who is scrupulous with the smallest amount of chometz is assured to be held away from sin throughout the entire year.