Halachic Musings

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

A colleague recently mentioned that their total family food bill for Pesach amounts to some $6,000.

While it is correct that one should have more delicacies on yomtov than on Shabbos on account of the obligation of simcha (see Magen Avraham 529:4), this statement brought up three reactions:

1. “You are in serious need of budgeting. Perhaps you might consider cutting down on the fish and meats and maybe start cooking some macaro–no, that is chametz. But perhaps start preparing some less-expensive food items.”

2. “Wait, in the Gemara (Beitzah 16b) it states: “Lavu alai v’ani porei’a–borrow on Me and I shall pay back.” Rav Tachlifa explains that every person’s income is determined from Rosh Hashanah. Whoever adds to the outlays for Shabbos, yom tov, and talmud Torah expenses, they will add to him. Whoever detracts from them, they will detract from him.”

3. “It would be worthwhile to see what the parameters are in the mefarshim and poskim to this statement of Chazal.”

Meaning Of The Dictum

Generally speaking, Rav Tachlifa’s dictum means that whatever you are to spend on Shabbos and yom tov is not deducted from the income you were destined to earn that year. This is Rashi’s explanation. For example, if you were destined to earn $150,000 that year and you spent $6,000 on Pesach, you will either earn $156,000 that year or your expenses for that year will be $6,000 less.

What Days Does It
Apply To?

The Gemara tells us that it applies to both Shabbos and yomtov. Is it more inclusive than this? The Yerushalmi and Pesikta D’Rav Kahana (#27) both add rosh chodesh and chol ha’moed. The Ritva, however, extends it to all mitzvos. Why does it only say Shabbos and yom tov? According to the Ritva, these are the more common examples. Rav Chaim Kanievsky (She’eilas Rav, page 29), however, explains that it does not apply to Chanukah and Purim. Seemingly, he disagrees with the Ritva. And one chassidishrebbe explains that it even applies to travel expenses incurred to go to the kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron on Lag B’Omer!

Receiving Charity:
Six Answers

How does this notion of spending on Shabbos and yomtov fit with Rabbi Akiva’s dictum to make your Sabbath like a weekday and not come to take charity from others? Tosfos in Beitzah (15b) poses the apparent contradiction between the idea of “Lavu alai v’ani porei’a–borrow on Me and I shall pay back” and make your Sabbath a weekday and do not come to take charity.

There are a number of answers to this question, each of them yielding a different understanding of the underlying issues.

1. Tosfos (Beitzah) answer that Rabbi Akiva’s answer is only if someone does not have, “mimal’farnes”–the resources to pay it back. If he does have the resources to eventually pay back, then he should spend more on Shabbos.

2. The Vilna Gaon has an entirely different text within the Tosfos. Instead of “mima l’farnes” he has the text “mimi lilvos” from whom to borrow. In other words, according to the Vilna Gaon, as long as he has a source from which to borrow, he should do so. Nonetheless, Rav Nissim Karelitz (Chut Sheini Vol. I 1:2) writes that even according to the Vilna Gaon he should only borrow what would be a meal fit for him, and he may not borrow in order to have a meal fit for Shlomo HaMelech.

3. The Meiri answers Tosfos’ question in a remarkably innovative manner. He writes that, “Borrow on Me and I will pay back” and the idea of Shabbos expenses only refer to the wine of Kiddush, but not to the other expenses. Rabbi Akiva’s statement does not apply to wine. This Meiri is highly innovative and does not seem to have been accepted by the latter poskim.

4. A fourth explanation is that although the person will get back the money, he should not spend it for Shabbos if he will not be liquid enough not to take from charity in the interim. (Toras HaRishonim Pesachim 112a).

5. Tosfos (Bava Basra 9a, ShabbosNosnin) answers that the dictum of Rabbi Akiva only means that one should not start taking charity solely on account of Shabbos meals, but if one is already taking charity then one can add the Shabbos-meal expenses. Thus the dictum of Rabbi Akiva does not negate the idea of Shabbos meals being a “free expense.”

6. The Chofetz Chaim explains the position of the ShulchanAruch (242:1) that Rabbi Akiva was only referring to someone who had enough for two meals on Shabbos. He should not take charity for a third meal. However, someone who does not have enough food for two meals should take charity. Also someone who has enough food for three meals should also extend himself on account of Shabbos. It is possible that the source of this ruling is from Tosfos in Bava Basra (9a) that someone who has 14 meals for that week should not take from charity.

The halachah would follow this last opinion (#6) which severely limits the dictum of Rabbi Akiva to someone who can barely make it, cannot afford three meals for Shabbos, and has not yet taken charity.

A New Caveat

The Chazon Ish’s opinion (cited in Imrei Yosher, Shabbos page 157) is that the dictum that all Shabbos expenses are covered only works for one who truly believes it, but if one doubts the dictum, the funds do not get returned.

What Types Of Spending?

Can any person decide that they will purchase Chilean sea bass, veal ribs, and rack of lamb for each meal and still have it “not count” in the money he normally would earn? Is that $30-per-pound machmirim shemurah matzah also included?

Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, is of the opinion (Shvus Yitzchak Chashmal, p. 188 cited in Miluim to the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah, p. 72) that only food items that one would use during an important meal during the week are included. Thus if one would not serve Chilean sea bass or rack of lamb during the week, even for an important meal, then it is not deductible as a Shabbos or yom tov expense. Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (see Zichrom Dror Yikra, p. 375) is of the same opinion.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s opinion is slightly more nuanced. His position (She’eilas Rav, p. 377) is that the more expensive foods are included in the dictum of the Gemara but that one should not buy excessively expensive foods. It should only be to the point where it is not noticed that his table is lacking anything.

Where To Purchase From?

At times, a more local convenience store sells staple items at a much higher price, but shopping for it takes considerably less time. When one is in a rush on an erev Shabbos, is the extra expense of the convenience store covered by Rabbi Tachlifa’s dictum?

This author had posed this question to Rav Dovid Feinstein, shlita, once, who responded that the criterion was whether one would purchase that item at the convenience store during the week. If so, then the dictum of Rabbi Tachlifa would still apply. If the item is so extravagant that he would not purchase it during the week, then he may not consider it a covered expense on Shabbos as well. This also seems to be the indication of the Rambam’s wording (HilchosShabbos 30:7).

Is It Just For Food?

What about a new custom-made $4,000 Dini sheitel (Monsey) or a $5,000 Ralph’s (Manhattan) or a $4,000 shtreimel from Miller’s in Boro Park? Are these also included in the concept of Shabbos expenses are free?

The RivevosEphraim (Vol. I #181) cites Rav Moshe Feinstein as being of the opinion that clothing that is specifically designated for Shabbos and yomtov use is also included in Rav Tachlifa’s dictum. Heat and air-conditioning expenses would thus be included as well. If one carefully examines the wording of the Rav Shulchan Aruch (OC 242:3), it seems that hotzaos, other types of expenses, are included aside from tikum ma’achalim, foods.

The costs involved in building a sukkah would almost certainly be included as well. The same question would arise in terms of going away to a Shabbos bar mitzvah, and paying for the hotel bill. Would this be included in Rabbi Tachlifa’s dictum?

It seems that these items would be included in Shabbos expenses are free–if they fit into Rav Feinstein’s criterion above. Another opinion–that of the Eishel Avraham (Siman 242, Rav Avraham Dovid Wahrman of Botshash 1770—1840)–is that Rav Tachlifa’s dictum applies only to the minimum foods, but not to excess purchases. Thus, according to this view, the Dini or Ralph’s sheitel and the Miller’s shtreimel would not be covered. Nor would the Chilean sea bass, the rack of lamb, and the veal ribs.

It is interesting to note that Rav Shlomo Kluger writes (Sefer HaChaim Siman 242) that obtaining Shabbos clothing is even more important than food for Shabbos because it is more public. Rav Kluger writes that Rabbi Akiva’s dictum of “make your Shabbos a weekday and do not rely on charity” does not apply to Shabbos clothing! This author believes, however, that the wording of Rabbeinu Chananel in Pesachim 112a seems to indicate not like Rav Kluger’s explanation.

How To Become Wealthy

One last thought. It is well known that Hillel was poor (see Yuma 35b) and Shammai was wealthy. How did Shammai gain his wealth? The Imrei Emes (see Lekutei Yehudah, p. 64) explains that Shammai would always purchase every item for the sake and honor of Shabbos. If he found a better one later on, he would switch that item. Hillel, on the hand, would utilize the principle of bitachon and he would make his Shabbos purchases toward the end of the week. The Imrei Emes explains that perhaps Shammai gained his wealth from the method in which he approached Shabbos purchases. Since everything he bought was l’kavod Shabbos, there was no cost involved. Even though later, when he found something better for Shabbos, he would eat the original purchase during the week, it was still not included in his yearly expenses since initially it was purchased for Shabbos.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com.



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