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 (nut) has the same gematria as (sin). The Beis Yisroel brings to our attention that the word , also has the same gematria as

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.

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.
Processed Foods

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.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
Must show this to my parents
Awesome. For what my opinion is worth, I agree one hundred percent!!!
(4/5/2009 5:20:04 PM)
(4/5/2009 5:24:10 PM)
Thank you!
Thank you for posting this informative article - setting people's "priority's" straight....
(4/5/2009 5:39:06 PM)
finally somone speaks up
yay people we can be normal again
(4/5/2009 6:00:00 PM)
This is a 5 star article.
(4/5/2009 6:07:27 PM)
(4/5/2009 6:36:00 PM)
Amazing!!! My mother drives herself and all of us meshuge. We starve for days before pesach. What's all the good if none of us even enjoy pesach?!?? Than you Rabbi Heller. Ahhhh... Imagine being able to put on some lipstick lchavod yom tov without having to convince my mother that even though I'm starving I won't eat the lipstick
(4/5/2009 7:35:59 PM)
Rabbi Heller...
(4/5/2009 8:08:00 PM)
One of the only real rabbonim left in Lubavitch
Him and Rabbi Yarkovitch of Lod.
(4/5/2009 8:20:23 PM)
Laaniyas Dayti
1. There is the old anecdote of a lady telling her friends that her husband is a big machmir. Machmir a cholent, machmimir a kugel etc etc.
2. What is refreshing here is that common sense may yet return to Chabad!!
Oy vey, unemployment of mashpiim on the horizon?
Litvaks have chumros. Chassidim have zehirussen. The same issue can be a chumra there (and needs sholom bayis warnings) - and a zehirus here, which by definition has sholom bayis in the equation.
4. Perhaps the same "chassidim" who have abandoned common sense are those who indulge in chumros. (The Rebbe always assumed common sense in his chassidim. If he ever erred, this was it.)
5. Chag kosher vesameach.
(4/5/2009 10:50:20 PM)
Akeras Habayis
Finally, a voice of reason. It will take time but hopefully articles like this will help people.
(4/5/2009 11:54:32 PM)
Wait a minute!
Before you go running off to quote the Rov, I'm not so sure all the people who are so excited about this article will be as willing to listen to and follow Rabbi Heller's guidance and advice about many other issues throughout the year.

If you look closely, the main point the Rov is making is to prioritize and focus on halacho and the more important things FIRST.

He has similar thoughts and has shared them often about the general approach of focusing on minhogim and side chomros throughout the year and in other matters that make one feel good and like a big chaossid at the expense of more important things.
(4/6/2009 12:00:56 AM)
So impressed
Imformative, gives a halochik source for everything, my only hope is that people won't say look we can eat anything on pesach, rabbi heller says so.
(4/6/2009 12:49:32 AM)
Thank you for clarifying the importance and need for putting our energies in the right place and having the correct focus this Pesach. A much needed article. Yasher Koach!
(4/6/2009 1:12:27 AM)
Fans of Rabbi Heller - for Pesach only
I love it.

Rabbi Heller talks about this concept every year to the kolel (or very much along the same lines).

You have so many people that will never look in his direction all year, let alone listen to him (his opinions are well known).

Comes Pesach, he says something which appears to be less stringent then theyve been doing till now --- Bingo! Look what a following he's got!!!
(4/6/2009 1:19:48 AM)
Ashreinu !!
How fortunate we are to have the Zechus to have a Rov like Rabbi Heller in our midst! , a true example of a Chasidisher Yiras Shomayaim and a Dugma Chaya for us and our children, "Yarech Yomim Al Mamlachto".
(4/6/2009 1:48:10 AM)
With much appreciation to Rav Heller and his talmidim
One comment about the article writing:
Correct me please if I am wrong.

Hayom yom 20 Nissan says one shouldn't offer a guest what to eat, but he may take himself. Rav Heller most likely said that we infer from that a chumra "that one should not eat by another on Pesach."

(4/6/2009 2:04:24 AM)
A Mentsch
No wonder Rabbi Heller has always been our beloved Rov. He is such a mentsch!
G-d bless him!
(4/6/2009 2:05:32 AM)
he was voted in
for life BH
(4/6/2009 2:27:17 AM)
Internet !!!
To all those praising Rabbi Heller, what do you think he'd say about you reading his drosha on the internet! we all know how strongly he opposses the use of the internet, or perhaps we pick and choose, we take what we like yet something we disagree with we say "Na, Ah Misnagdisha Rov, Vos Farshtait Ehr " just some food for thought! , If the man has is head on right, it's all year round!
(4/6/2009 2:33:50 AM)
talk talk!
ar you going to do somthing
(4/6/2009 3:10:42 AM)
To #20
Dah... you are such a moron...
(4/6/2009 3:40:28 AM)
The heading is misleading
Rabbi Heller has been saying this for years. He is not taking chumros to task
but rather puting our focus in the right place.
I would like COL to post his opinion on Tznius.
(4/6/2009 5:02:32 AM)
To #20:
You are:
1. abusively a person who is notably stupid or lacking in good judgment.
2. a person of borderline intelligence, having an intelligence quotient of 50 to 69.
(4/6/2009 5:05:33 AM)
please advise
How many people will now follow these very general statements without fully looking into the matter?
make sure you ask a rov before you act!!
Heres a very large question not being addressed here!
If one did except "baseless chumros, or in the case of shalom bayis" does one need to make hatoras nedorim?
is it so simple?
(4/6/2009 7:19:23 AM)
obsessive compulsive disorder
A mother once came to the rebbe kvetching that her children won;t help her enough with cleaning 4 Pesach. The rebbe told her "dust is not chometz and your children are NOT the korban Pesach!
its not a mitzva to abuse your children!
the obsessive women are suffering from ocd.
trust me, I grew up in a house where we thought it was normal to have to scrub the chandelier and the bathrooms for Pesach. Please, Yom Tov is meant to be enjoyed! not to hate it!!
(4/6/2009 8:52:58 AM)
to #26
your point is right but the Rebbe told it to the husband that his wife isnt a korban pesach
(4/6/2009 9:27:48 AM)
are you sure?
(4/6/2009 9:43:25 AM)
WAIT! Just Remember...
The Alter Rebbe says in Shulchan Aruch that one should be Machmir all Chumra's! Of course, you have to have brain's (not like other's i've seen, that just drive their whole community up the wall becuause he think's he has to be the Frum est guy in town)

It should be made very clear: what is a CHUMRAH, and what is a MESHUGAS! Before you know the diffrence... do not talk!

Yasher Koach Rabbi Heller
(4/6/2009 3:12:31 PM)
to 26 27 and 28
Ailu Ve'ailu Divrie Elokim Chaim, neither spouse has a right to abuse others due to their own issues.
(4/6/2009 5:06:57 PM)
The Rebbe Rashab once saw "retach" (radish) served by the bochrim in Lubavitch and said don't you know that retach and garlic are not eatn Pesach?
(4/6/2009 7:28:17 PM)
Thank you
(4/7/2009 12:15:10 AM)
ask a rov!
about pratim
(4/7/2009 10:27:16 AM)
Care is needed
Be careful of belittling any minhag and one should not start removing chumros which are in the family it can only lead to bad things. except if it is an issue of sholom bais I hold one should never remove a chumroh.
(4/7/2009 10:29:35 AM)
reply to 26
You obviously have no idea what ocd is, next tme do a bit of research before posting
(4/7/2009 10:31:50 AM)
reply to 35
sounds like your mother wanted to make the house yomtovdik. i did come from such a household too, and i loved the feel of the house being so clean for the chag. my mother would get up earlier in the day for 6 weeks before pesach so as not to disrupt her routine or the household or to place undue pressure on anyone else in the house. bottom line is that everyone should be happy. my mother had 2 children and didnt work - this is an important point.
everyone has to see what is realistic for them and prioritize from there = reality + Hashem takes care of the rest = love your family and enjoy yomtov.
(4/8/2009 3:54:24 AM)
read carefuly the original piece and you'll be more confused than before you started:
here are a few flip-flop exemples:
you don't need to take on a chumrah that you parents didn't keep - later he says: if you joined a kehilah, then you need to take in the chumros.
vekaheina rabos.
but those of you on the left who voted obama should have no problems with flip-flopping.
most inspiring is the overwheming responsefrom all the porkei ol who now found a hechsher for their kalus (not kulos)

PS:col, print this if you have a backbone.
(4/8/2009 5:47:55 AM)
to #5
no surprise that with the screen name you put to your comment you'd like the misconstrude content of this article. zei nisht kein kal. do haltz zich far a shliach!!!!!
(4/8/2009 5:56:02 AM)
to #38 from Shliach
As far as I am concerned Rav Heller iz a chassidishe yid un re veist vos er redt. Zicher er hot gelernt in Brisk Yerusholayim un dos iz oicht nit a chisoroin nor a maile. Oft ven men kumt fun droysn er ken zen beser. You might have a problem with Rabbi Heller but he is the only on on the CH Beth din not involved in politics (at least since Fisher) and he is a real mentch!!!
(4/12/2009 2:31:44 AM)
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