Eating Bread and Intermarriage
And how are these topic related to our parsha? They are not! Ober it so happens that we are in the throes of the “asers yimay tshuva” (ten days of repentance) and as you can imagine, our rabbis of yore –mistama to make these days somewhat memorable given that they are sandwiched in between two major holidays, decided to create new restrictions in their honor. Among them: the custom –among some- not to get married, and to be stricter than the rest of the year when it comes to eating certain baked goods. No Entenmann’s? Dunkin Donuts? Which ones? And the answer: only baked goods produced with the involvement of a Jew may be eaten and such baked items are referred to as pas Yisrael, meaning that a Jew was somehow –even very minimally- involved in the baking process. What does getting married or the consumption of baked goods by a goy, or even a Jew, have to do with Rosh Hashono, Yom Kippur and or the Aseres Yimay Tshuvah? We shall soon find out.
Welcome to Parshas Vayelech, the shortest parsha in the entire heylige Toirah. It’s all of 30 pisukim. Moishe begins by telling the Yiddin that it’s his birthday and let’s then begin by wishing him a very happy 120th. Sadly -according to most medroshim- he will be passing away later that day, oy vey. The good news: he’s still very much alive in this week’s parsha as well as next week’s. The controversy will only begin in Vzois Habrocho when he continues to write words of the heylige Toirah though already dead. Shoin, that for another day. Because he’s Moishe and none of us are, and though it’s his last day on the job and, he’s still buy lecturing the Yiddin; he’s in the midst of his final charge to the Yiddin while also predicting that all his words are for naught. He pontificates quite correctly that the Yiddin will turn back to sin. Grada many of our exegetes claim that the Yiddin were well behaved –on good behavior mamish while Yihoishua, the RBSO’s hand-picked successor to Moishe was still alive.
In any event, we all know that the Yiddin did in fact return to their sinning ways; the Novee will recount much of it. Such is the nature of man. Shoin: that’s how the RBSO made us; is it our fault that we are drawn to sin? If He wanted us to be perfect or at least mostly good, He could easily have programmed us differently. Maybe it’s our tafkid (mission) to continually be fighting with the yetzer horo (evil inclination), a battle royale we mostly lose. We succumb; kimat always. Zicher the RBSO knew all that and that’s also efsher why He gave us Rosh Hashono, the ‘aseres yimay tshuva’ and Yoim Kippur. Collectively these are days of awe, days of repentance. And if that weren’t enough and zicher it should for you sinners, for those perennially late, He also gave us the bonus day of Shmini Atzeres. On those days, He’s in the house, in the garden so to speak and ready to accept our supplications. Ober where are we? Moreover, words in the Yom Tov liturgy state that He awaits us daily, He waits patiently for each and every one of us to do tshuva, to return. Grada most do return ober, it lasts but hours, days, and at times, a week or two. Azoy gey di velt (that’s how the world goes).
Speaking of birthdays, it’s very rear that the Toirah shouts out a birthday. Once in a while the heylige Toirah will tell us someone’s age, but never since the birth of Odom Horishoin (Adam) and until, and after Moishe, does the Toirah mention a specific birthday. Back in Vayichi, Paroy asks Yaakov how old he is and Yaakov answered. Back in Vayeshev we learned that Yoisef was 17 when all hell broke loose in the Yaakov Oveenu family; when his holy brothers decided that killing another brother was just fine. Shoin: they too were forgiven; there is zicher hope for most of us. Oh and as these words are being put to paper, the Oisviorfer suddenly recalled that the heylige Toirah does shouts out Paroy, he the bad-guy king who enslaved and tortured the Yiddin for at least 210 years. It specifically tells us that it was his birthday. Why he deserved a birthday shout-out, ver veyst? The Oisvorfer was going to delve more into Moishe’s birthday and review how the heylige Gemora deduced that he was taka born on the 7th day of Adar and also died on that very date, ober, once we introduced the topic of tshuva and the aseres yimay tshuva – the ten days of repentance, efsher it’s bashert (predestined) that we instead look into these auspicious days. We will cover the math leading to conclusion that Moishe was both born and passed on the 7th of Adar as we close out Sefer Devorim.
What are the aseres yimay tshuva? Literally translated, they are the ten days of repentance. Are there really ten full days? What are we supposed to do during these ten days that’s different than the rest of the year? Are these ten days mentioned anywhere in the Toirah? Not? In the heylige Gemora? Also not! At least not in the Talmud Bavli, or what we refer to as the heylige Gemora written over in Bovale where the Yiddin where dispersed to after being chased out of the land. That being the case, what is the source of these ten days? Who invented them? Nu, lommer lernin. One thing is zicher: few if any reform or conservative Yiddin ever heard of these ten days? Are they mentioned in the machzor (High Holy Days Prayer Book)? Also not! Earlier this week, the Oisvorfer asked a chaver, a non practicing Yid if he ever heard of these ten days. And his answer was a very firm no! He did however hear of the “Days of Awe” and believed these days refer to Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur. Ober limyseh (in reality, as it turns out, the ten days between the Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur are called the “Days of Awe” –the Yomim Noraim (Days of Repentance).
Shoin: if they’re not motioned in the heylige Toirah and not in the heylige Gemora, where are they found? Who invented them and the term? Nu, let’s start with the RambaM (Maimonides) who authored a very comprehensive guide to repentance in his Hilchois Tshuva (Laws of Repentance) and published them in his Mishneh Toirah. And for those who want more, his Mishneh Toirah is mistama the most authoritative source for the name and function of these days. Ober not to worry: he shouts out his inspirations which are all from earlier sources.
Says he azoy: “The term aseres yimay tshuva is not found anywhere in the heylige Gemora. Ober, there are references to them. More specifically there is mention in the heylige Gemora (Bavli) to “the ten days between Rosh HaShono and Yom HaKipurim.” In plain English: the ten days between Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur have morphed into the “aseres yimay tshuvah.” And they come with their own set of restrictions along with extra prayers and supplications. Some say these late at night and some early in the morning. Why? Ver veyst? The bottom line: few people the Oisvorfer knows have a clue what the words to these supplications mean; fewer actually say them.
And before we go veyter, avada you should know that included in the ten days are two days of Rosh Hashono leaving eight day. Rosh Hashono is followed by Tzoim Gidalya a rather light fast day observed in memory of some Jewish governor by the name of Gidalya who was killed by another Jew. So happens that he was killed on Rosh Hashono and why we fast in his memory a day or two later, ver veyst! On the other hand, fasting –for any reason- after gorging by shoveling all sorts of food into our mouths the entire yom tov, is not a terrible idea. Veyter. It does not appear that the fast of Gidalya is in any way related to the ten tshuva days, ober let’s not forget that there is always one shabbis between Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur which has its own name. The bottom line: when deducting two days for Rosh Hashono and one day for Yom Kippur, there are seemingly no more than seven days of repentance between Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur. The bottom line: there are a full ten days from the onset of Rosh Hashono through Yom Kippur and these are known as the aseres yimay tshuva. Got all that? Givaldig!
And why do we observe them? Didn’t we already do some tshuva on Rosh Hashono? Didn’t we already ask the RBSO to write us down for good life and to remember all our good deeds while reciting a few dozen Ovenu Malkaynus? And didn’t we also ask the RBSO to forgive us for a litany of sins? We did: seemingly the little tshuva we did over Rosh Hashono pales to the litany of sins we committed this past year, need you be reminded, chazir that you are? The RBSO wants more.
Says the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah,(2:6), azoy: despite the fact that “teshuvah” and crying out to the RBSO is always timely, during the Ten Days between Rosh HaShono and Yom HaKipurim, it is exceedingly appropriate, and such repentance is accepted immediately. And his source? A few words from the Novee (Yeshayahu 55:6 and (Isaiah 55:6) which state: ‘Seek HaShem when He is to be found.’ He is seemingly more receptive these ten days.
Ober what’s with the restrictions on bread and getting married and a few other strange customs we observe during these ten days including kaporis where we wave a live chicken over our heads and magically transfer our sins to the unsuspecting hen? How are they related to tshuva?
Says the Mateh Ephraim (602:5), a sefer the Oisvorfer was introduced to only in the past three years, azoy: the custom is to refrain from marrying during the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah. And he’s not a lone voice. This opinion is also cited by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (130:4) where he writes azoy: the most obvious reason is that the Aseres Yimay Teshuvah are very serious days, days meant for prayer and repentance. Because weddings can cause frivolity and drunkenness, it is not appropriate to have weddings during that time of the year. Then again, this is but a custom, ober nowadays don’t customs trump din?
Does everyone agree? Of course not! Says the Sefer Melamed Lechoil (E.H.1): “I have seen in the Sefer Mateh Ephraim that one should not marry during the Aseres Yimay Teshuva. This was also codified by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. This halocho can also be found in the siddur of Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l. However, I have searched and not found an earlier source for such a stringent custom. It also appears to me that this stringent custom has not been widely accepted. This does not seem to be the view of the gedolei hador (leaders of the generation). Indeed, my wedding took place on the sixth of Tishrei in the year 5633. My father in law, the saintly Harav Yonah Rozenbaum zt”l, was slightly unsure as to whether my wedding may take place during the Aseres Yimay Teshuva. He asked Harav Zeligman Bar Bomberger zt”l who ruled in the affirmative and added that fulfilling the mitzvah of getting married and having children will help the young couple gain atonement on Yom Kippur. I, therefore, married during the Aseres Yimay Teshuva and neither my teachers nor my friends raised any objections. Therefore, it seems clear to me that one who has not yet fulfilled the obligation of having children should not avoid getting married during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva. However, one who already has children, and therefore marriage is not as great of an obligation, should delay the wedding until after Yom Kippur. After writing this letter it was brought to my attention that the Sefer Darchei Noam cites that Harav Azriel Hildsheimer zt”l permitted weddings to take place during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva.”
Says the Tzitz Eliezer (7:49:11): “It appears to me that the common custom, especially among Ashkenazic Jews, is to refrain from marrying during the Aseres Yimay Teshuva. However, when necessary one may rule leniently.” And said Rav Ovadia Yosef: one should even urge others to marry as soon as possible, even if that means that the wedding will take place during the Aseres Yimay Teshuva. This applies especially if the chosson has already reached the age of twenty. The bottom line: as is the case with most minhogim (customs) and even laws, there are rabbis to be found on both sides. Nu, forget getting married, ober what about the bread?
Nu, before we discuss how bread got mixed into the aseres yimay tshuva, let’s lay the foundation. In the times of the Mishna, our sages (Chazal) forbade the eating of Pas Akum. What is pas akum? It’s bread and bread-like items baked by goyim, non-Jews. In other words: even if said bread is otherwise kosher and caries a kosher stamp, if made by a goy, it was forbidden. Why? Seemingly our sages believed that buying such bread and eating such bread could lead the Yiddin towards assimilation and intermarriage. Mamish? It can? In any event, in order to dissuade us from assimilation and intermarriage, they forbade pas akum, bread baked by a goy! The good news: the prohibition pertained exclusively to bread products containing one or more of the five major grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye, and generally includes baked goods that have the form of bread (tzuras haPas). What to do? What if one has a strong desire for Italian bread? Not to worry because of course our sages –while efsher overly concerned with issues we care little about in our times- were also the masters of the loophole and avada they kimat always provided a few. In the case of bread, they said azoy: If, however, a Jew participated in the baking process, even in some small way, the bread becomes permitted, and is known as Pas Yisrael. Shoin, a new term was born. As the years went by and due to the fact that many baking ovens were owned or operated by goyim, making it difficult to procure Pas Yisrael products, our sages later qualified their own prohibition, and created a new class of bread products – Pas Paltur, literally “Baker’s Bread”. This refers to bread products baked in a bakery or commercial setting, where there is no personal or intimate contact between the baker and customer, thereby drastically reducing the chance of intermarriage. Such bread became permitted. Who knew that a chance encounter at the bakery counter could lead to inter-marriage? Our sages did; avada we don’t argue with our sages.
So far so good ober what has all this bread, goyim, and chance encounters leading to assimilation and intermarriage to do with the aseres yimay tshuva? Nu, keep your pants on which is what our sages were worried about in the first place. And before we answer, let the Oisviorfer remind you that some authorities, including the Rema, maintain that Chazal’s hetter (permission to eat) of Pas Paltur applies in all cases, even when Pas Yisrael is readily available. However, many decisors, including the Shulchan Aruch and the Shach, maintain that this hetter is only applicable if one cannot purchase Pas Yisrael of similar type, quality or price. Ober, all this is connected to the ten days of awe just how? Says the Shulchan Oruch (Code of Jewish Law) azoy: Although this leniency remains in effect year round, during the Aseres Yemay Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashono, one must avoid such bread.
The bottom line: though the bread you purchase in the ordinary course carries an acceptable hechsher (kosher certification), be it with a K or a U with a circle, triangle, rectangle, or some other geometric or other shape and or logo indicating that the bread is kosher, it may not be kosher for consumption during these ten days. Buying such bread at your local supermarket can efsher still lead to a chance encounter leading to assimilation and even inter-marriage, say it’s not so please. Shoin and now you know.
Wait, there’s more. A litany of rabbis weighed in on this topic, and seemingly most agree that no matter what we eat all year round, we should be more careful of what goes into our bodies during these ten days. As an aside, other sages added additional stringencies for these ten days. Some say we don’t bless the moon and we don’t go to court to adjudicate cases between man and man. Why it’s not better to resolve issues between friends before Yom Kippur, ver veyst?
The final bottom line: says Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, azoy: during these ten days, we accept upon ourselves certain restrictions that we already know we cannot observe during the year. Seemingly our heightened and improved behavior during these ten days, have a spillover effect on the coming days, weeks, and months. In other words says the heylige Oisvorfer: though the RBSO avada knows that you – yes, you will revert back to your less then admirable ways just following Yom Kippur, you may still get a break for the coming year. Behave during the aseres yimay tshuva, by eating some Jewish baked and not just will you avoid assimilation and intermarriage, the RBSO may yet judge you favorably and give you a pass. Not a bad deal.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv