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13 Elul 5759 - August 25, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Machon Tzomet: Heter On Demand
by Rabbi Yitzchok Roth

What do you think of kosher for Pesach bread, for example? Of course, it would be of unquestionable kashrus, real mehadrin min hamehadrin, without any halachic questions of orla, tevel, shevi'is, but . . . chometz nonetheless. This seems to be impossible? Why can't it be done?

Last year, in fact, kosher for Pesach rolls could be found on the grocery store shelves, although only for those who eat gebrochts. It had not been awarded a top mehadrin hechsher -- at least not yet -- but Israel's Rabbinate did endorse those rolls. They were rolls made from matzo flour only, and were 100% without any chometz.

What deters food companies from offering us challos next year for Shabbos chol hamoed Pesach and its yomim tovim -- or bread for the rest of Pesach? With today's advanced technology it would be easy to produce imitation bread from matzo flour with no noticeable difference in taste or appearance. Such an innovative idea would surely help those who have a hard time chewing matzos. The elderly especially, whose teeth are not as they were, would be more than happy to substitute soft kosher for Pesach lemehadrin bread for the hard-to-eat matzos. In order to eliminate any mar'is ayin, the hechsher for the special Pesach bread should be printed on the wrapper with extra large letters.

Perhaps it would be possible to carve the hechsher on the bread itself if there is no problem of cutting letters on Shabbos. If there is such a problem the experts of the new hechsher will surely solve it. Perhaps the letters could be cut with a special gromo knife, one that does not cut the letters directly but only causes them to be cut a few seconds after the knife is placed on the bread. We must do all we can to help those who need to enjoy Pesach, the yom tov commemorating our freedom. We must all feel this freedom.

Does this seem imaginary? Something unrealistic?

Ask the Tzomet Technical Institute. Precious Jews, intent on alleviating the lives of the Torah-observant, work there. Some people frequently say, "It is hard to be a Jew." Tzomet will ensure that it is easy -- very easy.

Today's technology knows no limits. It is possible to coordinate between it and the halocho so that everything will be kosher lemehadrin.

Think about an elderly Jew who has trouble walking to shul on Shabbos on his aching feet. In summer it means a long walk under the blazing summer sun, in winter he must face freezing-cold wind. Sometimes his feet hurt so much that he must go without the great zechus of davening with a minyan and stay home.

Perhaps you do not think about him, but the Tzomet Institute scientists simply cannot sleep at night because of his troubles. They will not allow that Jew to remain at home. No way!

What could be simpler than inventing some sort of car with four wheels and a steering rod, which he can drive to shul? Is there a problem to start it up? Because of this problem Tzomet uses the idea of gromo -- causing acts and not doing them directly. Is there a problem of mar'is ayin, that others will think he is doing an aveiro? It seems that you do not know the Tzomet scientists. They think of everything. A gigantic sign will hang from the Shabbos car bearing a stamp of the institute's hechsher stating clearly that it is permitted for Shabbos use.

Wild imagination? A false accusation? Plain ordinary mudslinging? Well, if you think so it seems that the editors of Yated Ne'eman are guilty for causing you to think so. We "neglected" to print the news broadcast all over the Israeli media about the new car designed by the Tzomet Institute, headed by Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, who also heads the Conversion Institute of the Chief Rabbinate. This Shabbos car even received a hechsher of a local rav, and a member of his shul uses it to travel on Shabbos. There was even a picture attached to this news item, although the caption did not mention whether the picture was taken on Shabbos (perhaps, of course, with a gromo camera).

What started off with searching for halachic solutions for matters of pikuach nefesh, matters of life and death, became a dynamic industry to uproot Judaism. One can remove the neshomoh from Judaism using newly-devised halachic gadgets. Although maybe they appear to be kosher lemehadrin, they are actually treif lemehadrin. Using them, as the Ramban explains in the beginning of parshas Kedoshim, a person can be a novol birshus HaTorah. He may try to have both worlds but is actually acting contemptuously even if not actually transgressing the Torah commandments.

We can have kosher Shabbos cars, kosher Shabbos telephones, kosher Shabbos heaters and cookers, kosher Shabbos writing utensils, and, as a result of this article perhaps Tzomet will adopt the idea of kosher for Pesach bread. In short, the difference between us and those who profane Shabbos and eat what is forbidden, Rachmono litzlan, will only be the sign!

More than ten years ago gedolei Yisroel warned about this happening after they saw where these heterim were leading. They understood what the results would be of those who are initiating halachic reform masked as halocho observance. In 5745 maranan verabonon HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, the Steipler Rav zt'l, and ylct'a Maran the Rosh Yeshiva HaRav E. M. Shach shlita, publicized a letter pertaining to this matter.

"We are hereby publicly announcing that concerning the new technological inventions connected to cooking and heating water on Shabbos kodesh using various heterim -- and similar things in other matters of Shabbos kodesh -- that they are extremely questionable, and even where they permitted as far as the particulars of hilchos Shabbos are involved, it is undoubtedly impossible to comply with the conditions of the heterim. Moreover, the use of these heterim entails an extremely grave issur. Such heterim destroy and uproot the holy Shabbos and turn it, chas vesholom, into a workday. These heterim allow people to do things that are almost the same as regular melochos, causing an imminent danger that people will do real melochos. Woe to us that we are in such a predicament.

"It is therefore obvious that according to da'as Torah it is forbidden to use the heating tanks based on a heter of gromo and likewise not the water heaters that heat water up to less than yad soledes. It is forbidden to use various utensils based on technological heterim of gromo and koach sheini, since their common denominator is that they all wreck and uproot the kedusha of Shabbos, and it is impossible to foresee what the results will be. In such cases we are commanded to make safeguards for the mitzvah.

"By making a safeguard around the Holy Torah we will be privileged to have a Shabbos that will be a day of rest and kedusha, a complete rest that HaKodosh Boruch Hu desires."

At that time, mori verabi HaRav Yosef Hacohen Roth shlita, the head of the Beis Dovid Institutions of Bnei Brak, publicized a letter to the members of his community in which he explained at length what is essentially wrong with what the Tzomet Institute is doing:

"A person has a brain, a heart, and five senses. These organs are covered with several protective bodies around them. If even part of that protection is missing the person is endangered. Scholars and doctors throughout history have researched the benefit of these protective bodies so they could know how to shield them from harm, and if harmed how to heal them, since they know that any damage to the protective bodies is a grave danger to man.

"The mitzvos are also protective bodies. The mitzvos symbolize man's 248 limbs and 365 tendons, and the holy Shabbos is the Divine sign between us and Hashem. This sign is our observing the 39 melochos, the mitzvah of shevisah, kiddush, and the safeguards that Chazal made either to prevent transgressing an aveiro or because it appears like a melocho. They likewise forbade doing acts similar to weekday ones or exerting oneself in an everyday fashion even without its being a melocho. Many things are even forbidden on erev Shabbos. Some things were forbidden because they disgrace Shabbos by appearing as if the person is engaged in a melocho. All this was done to preserve the merit of not working on Shabbos and observing its kedusha.

"Among the things that Chazal forbade are matters that one must constantly analyze in order to understand their boundaries and reasoning. This is because our sacred mentors, through the knowledge that Hashem gave them from His own knowledge, knew the value of many matters that appear obscure to us. All this is included in the gemora (Brochos 4b), `Divrei sofrim are cherished more than the wine of Torah,' and `someone who disobeys the teachings of the chachomim deserves a death punishment.'

"I therefore request of those who study in our beis midrash or come here for the tefillos, to distance themselves from this as from other types of chillul Shabbos, Rachmono litzlan, and not become a source of evil for their descendants. I will conclude with quoting the Sefer Hachinuch: `How fortunate is the person who talks to someone who obeys him,' and by following the above he will be sanctified and blessed with the brocho of Shabbos."

Since then some ten and a half years have passed. Technology has made much headway and the means to uproot the Torah's essence have become even more accessible. "If so, a lustful person can allow himself to become intoxicated with wine, gorge himself with meat, and speak as he likes in any obscene language since the Torah did not mention it as forbidden, and he will be a novol birshus HaTorah . . ." (Ramban)

At this time when we are fighting for Shabbos observance on so many fronts, it is forbidden to forget those who uproot the spirit of Shabbos and its neshomoh, and clothe themselves with a robe of halachic heterim. The danger from them is perhaps even greater than those who "officially" uproot Shabbos, and the protest against them -- as we have heard in the past by maranan verabonon -- must be voiced more powerfully.

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