March 12, 2021

Pesachim 111

There are many Jewish practices which evolve from considerations expressed in Jewish texts, and in general, the more those texts are vague in intent and the more the considerations which they explore are not purely halachic, the greater the evolution.

A good example of this can be found in today’s daf (Pesachim 111b) where, listed among the various harmful practices that we are told that we should avoid is the hanging of bread in a (suspended) basket in one’s home which ‘brings a person to poverty’. As the Gemara explains, this is because people say: “one who suspends their basket, suspends their sustenance”.

Admittedly, most authorities do not record this as something we should be concerned by, and this reflects the general attitude held by most halachists that suggestions made in the Gemara presented in this spirit – especially those relating to spiritual sensitivities of the time – no longer apply (nb. a good example of this is also found in today’s daf where, notwithstanding the fact that we are recommended not to put on shoes while our feet are wet, very few authorities even mention this, and those who do generally take the position that this is not something we are concerned about today).

Still, some authorities, and especially those who are more influenced by the mystical tradition, do record this practice. For example, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav does record this sensitivity (in his Hilchot Shemirat Guf V’Nefesh U’Bal Tashchit 9), as does the Kaf HaChaim (Orach Chaim 180:14, 434:13 & Yoreh Deah 116:198).

More recently, Rabbi Ben-Zion Abba Shaul ruled this way while extending this rule beyond baskets to bags, writing that: ‘one should not hang a lunchbag on a hook because this brings a person to poverty’ (Or LeTzion Vol. 2 Ch. 12 No. 18). In fact, it would seem (see R’ Aharon Grossman’s VeDarashta V’Chakarta Vol. 3 Yoreh Deah 5 and Rabbi Levi Almog’s Avnei Levi Vol. 2 No. 10) that Rabbi Abba Shaul was of the opinion that the low economic status of avreichim (Kollel students) may be due, in part, to them not being sensitive to this teaching.

However, based on Rashi & Rashbam’s remarks that this applies to a person’s own bag of bread, Rabbi Abba Shaul rules that ‘we can be lenient for a teacher or a ganenet to hang the lunchbags of their students on the hooks’, and this is because they are hanging the bread of others and not their own. In fact, both Rabbi Grossman and Rabbi Levi appear to suggest that given this sensitivity, a parent should consciously ask their child’s ganenet to hang up the lunchbag of their child. Alternatively, Rabbi Grossman suggests that the bread of a child (or an adult) should be placed in a bag within a bag, since Rashi and Rambam only speak of one basket and not two.

Contrasting this, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 434:1) – which should not be confused with the Shulchan Aruch HaRav – rules that having performed bedikat chametz on the night (or, this year, the night before the night) before Pesach, and having gathered together the chametz that has been found, one should hang the chametz somewhere or place it in a box to keep it safe before burning it the following day. This clearly suggests that normative halacha is not concerned by the statement found in our Gemara. However, it should be noted that some commentaries have explained that bedikat chametz is an exceptional case since we are involved in a mitzvah, and given this, the mitzvah protects us from poverty.

Others, such as Rabbi Levi Rabinovitch (author of the M’adanei HaShulchan and quoted in Daf-Al-Daf on Pesachim 111) state that this concern only applies in a time when people say, “one who suspends their basket, suspends their sustenance”. However, since this is not a common expression today, we need not be concerned.

Finally, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (see Halichot Shlomo: Pesach Ch. 9 footnote 359) challenges the distinction drawn by Rabbi Abba Shaul between bread owned by you and by others, and instead, he rules that all this only applies if the hanging of the bread shows disdain for the bread (i.e. it is ‘derech bizayon’), whereas if it is done for purely functional reasons, it is fine to do so.

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