Inside The Chassidish
And Yeshivish World
By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum
In the days preceding the yom tov of Sukkos this year, while Jews around the world were engrossed in the preparation of fulfilling the many different mitzvos of Sukkos, literally “as many mitzvos as seeds in a pomegranate,” special effort was invested in procuring unique challos for yom tov. The mitzvah of esrog had many conducting wide searches for just the right shape, color, pedigree, and integrity–the use of a loupe was commonplace. Protracted examinations took place at every point of esrog sales. Close examination of lulavim were very similar.
In addition, the building of sukkos had many deeply involved in examining the intricacies of the laws of dofen akuma (the bending of sukkah walls) as well as gud asik (the stretching of walls). The application of these halachic principles can make a seemingly incomplete sukkah perfectly kosher. The increasingly wide use of kosher-certified s’chach mats has simplified finding and using halachically acceptable sukkah ceilings. The increase in availability of beautiful and inexpensive sukkah decorations enables unattractive sukkos to become instantly beautiful. Whether artistic laminated posters, stunning banners, or exquisite murals, the addition to a sukkah beautifies it and lends majesty to yom tov meals.
In the September 12, 2014 Machberes column, we reported that Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, rosh beis din of the Eidah Hachareidis of Jerusalem, recently had a formal meeting at his home which was attended by all the members of the Vaad Hakashrus of the Eidah Hachareidis and its Vaad HaShemittah. The proceedings were carefully recorded and widely reported. Amongst the many important items on the agenda of the meeting, the implementation of a Shemittah milk chumrah was considered.
The two groups at the session deliberated on the chumrah of Shemittah milk and decided to decline its recommendation.
More than 40 years ago, Rabbi Shternbuch formulated an exacting interpretation of the halachos pertaining to the obligation of eating in the sukkah on the first night of Sukkos. Though the yom tov of Sukkos lasts seven days, the obligation of eating in a sukkah is specific to the first night. Generally, one may eat many foods, such as fruits and vegetables, outside of a sukkah all yom tov long. Bread can only be eaten in a sukkah. These halachos are dependent on the volume of the foods and whether they are being eaten as a meal or as a snack. However, the obligation of eating a minimum of bread or challah in a sukkah on the first night of Sukkos is absolute, even if it is raining heavily. Ordinarily, rain would nullify the mitzvah of eating in a sukkah. However, on the first night of Sukkos, the obligation of eating a minimum of bread or challah prevails. The rest of the meal could be eaten indoors.
Rabbi Shternbuch, through his penetrating studies, perceived the obligation of eating a minimum of bread or challah in a sukkah on the first night of Sukkos to be that of eating pure bread or challah, meaning bread or challah that is made exclusively of wheat-meal and water, with no other ingredients added. This interpretation is derived from the 15th of Nissan being likened to the 15th of Tishrei. The 15th of Nissan is Pesach, on which we conduct a Seder and must eat a minimum of matzah, so on the 15th of Tishrei, the yom tov of Sukkos, we eat in a sukkah and must eat a minimum of bread or challah. Just as the matzah can only be made of wheat-meal and water without any other ingredients added, the bread or challah that we eat on the first night of Sukkos in the sukkah, according to Rabbi Shternbuch, must also be made exclusively of wheat-meal and water without any additional ingredients. This obligation does not preclude the additional eating of any other type of bread or challah. Rabbi Shternbuch’s obligation can be fulfilled by eating a piece of matzah in the sukkah on the first night of Sukkos.
This concept is derived from the rulings of several Rishonim; Rabbi Joseph Teomim, zt’l (1727—1792), Rav of Lemberg and Frankfurt Oder and author of the Pri Megadim; as well from various Acharonim. Rishonim are the rabbis who issued halachic rulings preceding the writing of the Shulchan Aruch in 1563 by Rabbi Joseph Karo, zt’l (1488—1575). The Acharonim are rabbis who issued halachic rulings after the Shulchan Aruch.
Rabbi Shternbuch presented his findings to Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, zt’l (1899—1985), Steipler Rav and the authoritative author of Kehilas Yaakov. After thorough review together with his students and with Rabbi Shternbuch, the Kehilas Yaakov personally adopted the chumrah of Sukkos challah. His students, as well as his descendants, adhere to the chumrah.
This year, in preparation for the High Holy Days, requests were made to bakeries in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and others to bake chumrah challahs for the first day of Sukkos. Apparently, the chumrah has been adopted by many students of Brisk and the Chazon Ish. Intensive study of the applicable halachos was undertaken in various Lithuanian yeshivos and kollels, and the chumrah was enthusiastically adopted.
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.