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Mishnah Berurah to Siman 20.2


Rabbi David Sperling

Tammuz 10, 5774
Shalom Rabbi I read your answer to this question and wondered why you do not apply the Mishnah Berurah to 20:2 to this as there it is ruled that one cannot sell a Tallis to a non-Jew. Kol Tuv
Shalom, Thank you so much for your comments. It is a pleasure to know that our answers on the site are being read, and not only that, that we benefit from the Torah of our readers! I appreciate greatly the fact that you went to the trouble of sending me the important source that applies to my answer. In relation to the question of giving a tallit to a non-Jew who intents to convert. You point out that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Haim, 20,2) rules that it is forbidden to sell a non-Jew a garment with tzitzit on it, "lest they [wear it in order] to join a Jew walking on the way, and murder him". Firstly, I will tell you in all truth that I wrote my answer only thinking about the issue of tefillin (as you can see from my response) and so the halacha in siman 20 (about a tallit) slipped my mind completely. None the less I am inclined to rule that one may indeed give a tallit to the non-Jew in question. The reason is as follows – The Talmud (Menachot 43a) rules that one may not sell a tallit to a non-Jew. The reasons given are either that he will wear it in order to trick a Jew into thinking he's also Jewish, and then kill him, or he may give it to prostitute as a payment and she will use it to cast aspersions on a Jew (and say that a Jew was with her). Even though one might have thought that this is an across the board Rabbinic decree that must be upheld in all cases, we see that the latter rabbis discuss applying it only in cases where the reality is similar to that which the Talmud worried about. For example, the Hai Adam writes that the fear of the non-Jew using the tzizit as a disguise to kill Jews with does not apply in our times. The Biur Halacha writes that based on this, one can use tzitzit as a security for a loan, because in such a case the worry about him using the garment as payment to a prostitute also does not apply. Following the same logic, it would seem that particularly in the case at hand, where there is no fear at all of the tzitzit being put to bad use, it is permitted to give them to the non-Jew. In fact, it may be that today where a) the fear of the non-Jew using the tzitzit as a disguise does not apply (as per the Hai Adam) and b) to the best of my knowledge prostitutes do not accept garments as payment today – that the halacha does not apply at all. I will add that there are other reasons to be lenient. Firstly, in the question at hand it states that the gifts are to be given by a non-Jew to a non-Jew, and did directly address the issue of a Jew selling the items to a non-Jew. Secondly, the fact that tzitzit can be purchased today by anyone over the internet (if not in most Judiaca shops, where I doubt that a store would every question selling things to a non-Jew) may also lessen the severity of the halacha. Thirdly, when the non-Jew at hand is in the process of conversion, as is the case here, the practice is to be lenient with many issues in order that they be able live as full halachic Jews after the conversion (for example, we teach them Torah, invite them to Yom Tov meal, etc – even though all these things involve halachic problems in relation to non-Jews). Fourthly, perhaps there is room to discuss whether the term "oved kocavim" (an idol worshipper) used in this case in the Talmud applies to all non-Jews today, or only an absolute pagan idol worshipper. Because of all the above, in feel that my original ruling still holds. Thank you again for your input, and may we merit to increase Torah in Am Yisrael. Blessings.
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