Pesach Chumros-Background

This Halacha is an excerpt from our Sefer


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General background and rules of Chumros:

The source of Pesach Chumros:

The Rishonim[1] and Poskim[2] record that the Jewish people are holy and go above and beyond the letter of the law requirements on Pesach. The Arizal[3] states that on Pesach one should be stringent to follow all the stringencies. Thus, we find in various areas of Halacha, that we are stringent on Pesach to follow a lone opinion, versus the accustomed leniency of the majority approach.

 

The reason for Pesach Chumros:

First Mitzvah we accepted:[4] The Mitzvah of prohibiting Chametz was the first Mitzvah given to all the Jewish people, and they therefore accepted it with love and affection, and were stringent in it regarding all details.

Chametz symbolizes the Yetzer Hara:[5] The reason that the Torah was so stringent regarding Chametz is because Chametz symbolizes the Yetzer Hara, as just as Chametz is defined as bread that has risen, so too, the Yetzer Hara derives from haughtiness. Therefore, the Torah gave very strict rules regarding the Chametz on Pesach, in order to banish the Yetzer Hara completely from within us.

Banishes the Yetzer Hara to the point one does not sin:[6] The Arizal states that on Pesach one should be stringent to follow all the stringencies, as one who is careful to avoid even a speck of Chametz on Pesach is guaranteed not to sin throughout the year. [This means that his nature will change to the point that it is so refined that he will not be naturally inclined to do an inadvertent sin. However, regarding sinning advertently, one always retains his freedom of choice.[7]]

Idolatry:[8] Chametz is referred to by the Zohar as idolatry.

 

Complaining about Chumras:[9]

The accustomed abundance of Chumras that people keep on Pesach found expression in the following law: One may not say “How troublesome is Pesach”, as this is similar to the statement of the wicked son.[10] Nevertheless, today people are not careful in the above and some Poskim[11] have learned merit to justify these statements.[12] They learn that one is only similar to a Rasha when one complains regarding the Mitzvos of Karban Pesach, and other Mitzvos which are Biblical, as by saying this one makes it seem that the commands of the Torah are a burden on him. However, today this statement is said in reference to all the great stringencies which are accustomed with Pesach, and when he says on them how troublesome they are there is no prohibition in the matter.

 

The types of Pesach Chumros:

There exist four types of Chumros regarding Pesach. 1) Chumros that have been codified in Jewish law, and are applicable for all Jewry, as can be found in the sections of Pesach in the Shulchan Aruch. 2) Chumros accepted in one’s ethnic group, such as Kitniyos and Matzah Ashira for Ashkenazim, which are applicable for all Ashkenazim. 3) Chumros accepted in one’s community or sect affiliation, such as the custom of Chabad and the Chabad Rebbeim, which are applicable to all those of that community. 4) Chumros accepted in one’s ancestral family, which are applicable to the descendants of that family.

 

Who should/must be Machmir a certain Chumra:

Every person is to follow the Chumros that have been accepted in his family, community and ethnic group, in addition to the Chumros mentioned in Shulchan Aruch. One is not to belittle even family customs, as they may have the Biblical status of a vow, and be considered an obligation from that respect.[13] There is no need, however, for one to adopt the Chumra of another family, community or sect. Nonetheless, on Pesach, every Jew can choose to be stringent like all the Chumros, even if he did not receive a family or community tradition to follow that Chumra.[14] In such a case, however, one must take into mind how this Chumra may affect his wife, children and general Shalom Bayis and peace of mind, which certain should not be sacrificed. There is no wisdom in taking upon oneself a Chumra of Chashash Chametz if it will lead to actual spiritual Chametz, which comes in the form of anger, dispute and arrogance.

 

Hiding your Chumros:[15]

A person should act modestly and keep his Chumros to himself, in his own home, without allowing others to know. When asked a Shaala, one would only answer the letter of the law, and not based on a Chumra that one personally has accepted.

Baseless Chumros:

Ideally, according to Halacha, one is not allowed to be stringent regarding Rabbinical matters more than the stringencies of the Shulchan Aruch, nevertheless, regarding Pesach, the Jewish people are holy and go above and beyond the letter of the law.[16] Nonetheless, this only applies if the custom has some basis or source, one however is not to innovate new Chumros that have no base in Halacha.[17]

Compromising on Chumros for the sake of Shalom Bayis or when staying by a host who is lenient:

Any matter which is a mere custom or act of piety, and is permitted from the letter of the law, may be compromised on in a case that it can cause a host to be offended, and it is not possible for the custom or stringency to be done inconspicuously and go undiscovered.[18] There is no need for Hataras Nedarim to be performed in such a case, even if this stringency has the status of a Neder.[19] Accordingly, we find in Halacha that one is required to transgress the custom of his community, when he is found in a community which does not keep that custom, and guarding that custom in that area will cause strife and dispute, being that it is not possible to perform it inconspicuously.[20] This however, only applies by a custom or Chumra that is not based on a Biblical or Rabbinical requirement.[21] If, however, the custom or Chumra is based on a Biblical or Rabbinical prohibition, such as that one is accustomed to follow a certain opinion in Poskim which prohibits a certain matter or a certain food, then one must keep his custom even when he is a guest in another’s home, even if the matter is a mere Chumra.[22] Likewise, if the act of piety is kept because there is even a chance of prohibition involved in doing this matter, then one is not to break his stringency.[23] In conclusion, if a host asks his guest to eat or partake in a certain matter which he is stringent in, then if it contains no prohibition at all, and is a mere act of piety which one avoids, then one is to inconspicuously avoid this matter, and if he can’t then he is to compromise on it.[24]

 

 

Practical advice for guests:

Often, the differences of approach in customs and stringencies between a guest and host on Pesach can lead to friction. This especially applies within close family, such as a married son or daughter who is staying by their parents, or parent’s in-law for Pesach. In all cases, it is imperative to have transparency, and discuss any matters that can be foreseen to be of issue, before accepting the invitation. One should not accept an invitation out of graciousness, knowing that doing so will cause conflict due to their differences of custom and/or stringencies. It is precisely for this reason that many are accustomed not to eat by others during Pesach, including family [see Halacha 11]. As stated above, a guest should be open-minded that there may be room for compromise on certain Chumros for the sake of keeping the peace at home. Such a matter is to be discussed with a Rav prior to accepting the invitation. In all cases, one should keep in mind that a Chumra is at best only a suspicion of Chametz, while anger, fighting, and arguing is a Biblical prohibition, and is 100% pure spiritual Chametz which we are trying so hard to get rid of during Pesach.

 

Practical advice for parents:

As parents, we all desire our children to be educated with the highest standard of Torah education and piety, and revere our traditions and customs which we wish to inherit into our child. Nonetheless, at times, this correct and proper goal can be articulated in ways that distances the child from the wish or desire to keep them, let alone cherish them. It is very important that one assess the age of a child, his maturity, and spiritual wellbeing, prior to inheriting him a stringency that may prove to be too difficult and counterproductive to his education. Certainly, when education in these matters is imparted with overly zealous strictness, anger, and fury, it can serve as counterproductive to the child’s general education, and while it may guarantee winning the current battle, he may at the long run lose the war. As parents, especially regarding Pesach when we were chosen by G-d as a nation, we must impart into our children the love and joy of this precious Holiday, and make them have a fun and exciting experience engrained in their minds, so they too will want to inherit those same precious laws and customs to their future generations.

 

A story with the Rebbe Rayatz-Being Machmir not to offend others with your Chumros:

It once occurred by a Pesach meal on the table of the Rebbe Rayatz in New York that a certain uneducated guest dipped his Matzah in the Borscht [beet soup], performing a grave sin in the eyes of the Chassidic brotherhood that were present by the meal. As can be understood, a great tumult transpired surrounding the actions of this guest, and the other Chassidim present gave the guest a piece of their mind. The Rebbe Rayatz inquired as to the reason behind the commotion and was told of the grave actions performed by the guest on his very own Pesach table. The Rebbe Rayatz nonchalantly replied “It is better that the Matzah become red [with the Borscht soup] than you cause the face of a Jew to redden in shame.”

 

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[1] Rosh 3:2 “I did not lengthen on these laws of dough stuck on vessels as the Jewish people are holy and are accustomed…”; Raavan, brought in Rosh ibid “This custom of scraping down the walls and chairs has a root in the Yerushalmi”; Rokeiach 247

[2] Admur 442:30; Radbaz 1:135 “The Jewish people are holy as writes the Rosh, and as we see that they keep extra Chumros, in contrast to other Issurim”; Michaber 442:6 “Those who are Machmir have upon whom to rely”

[3] Admur Shut 6 “The Arizal says that one is to be Machmir on Pesach all the Chumros”; Beir Heiytiv 467:1; Mishnas Chassidim Nissan 3:4 “One is to be stringent all the stringencies of those who are strict, and this will benefit his soul throughout the year”; Dvash Lefi [Chida] 8:18 and Moreh Laetzba 196

[4] Shut Min Hashamayim 70

[5] Zohar Shemos 40b “Chametz is the Yetzer Hara”; Radbaz 3:546; See also Kad Hakemech [Rabbeinu Bechayeh] Pesach; Toras Moshe [Alshich] Shemos 12:13

[6] Beir Heiytiv 467:1; Admur Shut 6 “The Arizal says that one is to be Machmir on Pesach all the Chumros”; Mishnas Chassidim Nissan 3:4 “One is to be stringent all the stringencies of those who are strict, and this will benefit his soul throughout the year”; Shaalos and Teshuvos of Admur 6; Zohar Ki Seitzei p. 282 “One who guards himself from Chametz is guarded from the Yetzer Hara”; Mikdash melech on Zohar ibid; Dvash Lefi [Chida] 8:18 and Moreh Laetzba 196

[7] Likkutei Sichos Vol. 3 Shabbos Hagadol

[8] Zohar Shemos p. 182a

[9] Admur 469:5; Chok Yaakov 469:3

[10] Admur ibid; Rokeiach 283; Chok Yaakov ibid

The reason: As the wicked son says “Why do you trouble yourselves with these rituals?” [ibid]

[11] Chok Yaakov ibid

[12] As they learn it is only similar to a Rasha when one states this regarding the Mitzvos of Karban Pesach, and other Mitzvos which are Biblical, as by saying this one makes it seem that the commands of the Torah are a burden on him. However today this statement is said in reference to all the great stringencies which are accustomed with Pesach, and when he says on them how troublesome they are there is no prohibition in the matter. [Admur ibid]

[13] See Michaber Y.D. 214:2; Pischeiy Teshuvah 214:5; Maharam Shick E.H. 5; Siach Yitzchak 207Nitei Gavriel 39:20

[14] See Machazik Bracha 467:5; Moed Lekol Chaiy 2:17; Kaf Hachaim 453:40; Nitei Gavriel 39:21

[15] Machazik Bracha 467:5; See also Michaber 565:6; M”A 565:7; Taz 565:6; Piskeiy Teshuvos 565:6

[16] Admur in Kuntrus Acharon 442:16; Admur 442:30

[17] See Michaber 442:6 “Those who are Machmir have upon whom to rely” Raaven, brought in Rosh 3:2 “They rely on the Yerushalmi”; Mamar Mordechai 442:6, M”B 442:28, Kaf Hachaim 442:69 “Since the custom is based on the Yerushalmi, one is therefore not to belittle it and claim it is a Minhag Shtus and superfluous stringency.”; See Admur Teshuvah 6 “However regarding fruit juice, certainly one is not to be stringent at all throughout Pesach”; See Sefarim in Nitei Gavriel Pesach Hakdama 21-24

[18] Admur 468/14; See Igros Kodesh 14/391 regarding Nussach of Davening; 5/91; 16/12 and 99; 19/249 regarding wearing a Tallis as Chazan

[19] Rama 568/2; 581/2 [regarding a Bris during Bahab or Aseres Yimei Teshuvah]; Shach Y.D. 214/2 that one may eat by a Seudas Mitzvah even though it breaks his Chumra which became accepted as a Neder; M”A 581/12; Machatzis Hashekel ibid; Degul Merivava ibid and Yoreh Deah 214/1 and Pischeiy Teshuvah Y.D. 214/1 that a temporary lifting of a Chumra that becomes a Neder is allowed in a case of need; Piskeiy Teshuvos 170/8; See Hearos Ubiurim Oholei Torah 627 in which based on all above, his questions are answered, as there is no Issur of breaking a Neder in such a case.

Opinion of Michaber and Shach: The Michaber 214/1 rules regarding the Hiddur of fasting during Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, that even if one became weak, he is required to do Hataras Nedarim. The Shach 214/2 explains that the reason for this is because only those circumstances that are publicly known not to be included within the Hiddur, such as eating during a Bris Mila during Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, do not require Hataras Nedarim. However, an unexpected circumstance is included in the Hiddur and thus requires Hataras Nedarim. The Degul Merivava ibid argues against the Shach’s explanation, and says the Michaber’s ibid ruling referred to a case that due to weakness the person wanted to revoke forever his custom, and for this everyone agrees that Hatara is required.

[20] Admur ibid; Rebbe ibid

The reason: As the sustaining of peace is of greater importance than a custom, if the custom is not a Biblical or Rabbinical requirement.  [Admur ibid] As Machlokes is a Biblical prohibition according to all. [Igros Kodesh 14/391]

[21] Admur ibid

[22] See Rama 112/15 that only by Pas Paltar do we make an exception of compromise; [See however Rama 115/3 that this exception applies also to butter and the Levush explains that this is because it is an Issur Kal; See however Taz 115/13 who negates the Levush and explains that butter is also an exception because in those areas that people eat it, they make it in a way that is Kosher without suspicion] See also Rama Y.D. 119/7 that it is forbidden for a host to feed his guest a food which the guest holds to be not Kosher from the letter of the law, or due to stringency; See Shach 119/20 and Beir Heiytiv 64/10 regarding the Cheilev of the Keres that if the custom is to forbid the Cheilev then one may not even eat in the dishes of one who follows those Poskim who is Matir; See Rama 64/9 who permits eating from the pots of Bnei Reinitz and Shach 64/12 who even permits eating from their food. The Shach and Beir Heiytiv ibid explain that this Heter only applies for communities within Reinitz who are accustomed to prohibit, unlike the widespread custom to be lenient. However, those who come from a community in which everyone accepts the matter as a prohibition, then there is no leniency accorded even regarding the pots.

[23] Shaareiy Teshuvah 170/6; M”B 170/16

[24] Shaareiy Teshuvah 170/6; M”B 170/16; See Ashel Avraham of Butchach in Tehila Ledavid, brought in Piskeiy Teshuvos 170 footnote 40

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