Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Matot-Masei
To dedicate this lesson
Matot - Masei 5778

At The Shabbat Table


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Tamuz 29 5778
The Meat of the Matter
Arik and Aharon are learning together in a secular college, in southern Israel. At first, it seemed to them that they were the only religious students on campus. However, after a while, they began to pick up on the fact that most, if not all, of the students were Jewish, and some of the students came from somewhat observant families.
At lunch time, Arik and Aharon would eat whatever lunch they had taken with them from their dorm room. They were saddened to see that many of the students acted differently, and chose to dine at the one local eatery, which was clearly not kosher. It wasn’t just that the store didn’t have kosher supervision. The store actually sold sea food and cheeseburgers!
One day, while the two sat eating their sandwiches, Arik began to share his thoughts.
"Aharon, this is terrible! How can we just sit here and watch Jews eat cheeseburgers, like this?" Arik began. "I’m sure that, at home, a lot of them keep kosher. It’s just that, here, there isn’t even a kosher option here for them to choose, so some of them probably feel like they have no choice but to eat non-kosher."
"But what can we do about it?" Aharon asked. "No one will listen to us."
"I didn’t say anything about listening to us. All we need to do is give them another option. Let’s start a kosher food stand!" Arik explained, enthusiastically.
Aharon agreed, and the two boys got to work. Within weeks, they were set up, and serving hamburgers, hot dogs, and other tasty foods. The word got out, and Campus Kosher was becoming a big success. Arik and Aharon were thrilled that their plan was working.
One day, Aharon came to a startling realization. "Arik!" he exclaimed. "Next week the ‘nine days’ start. We’re not allowed to eat meat. Do you think we’ll have to close Campus Kosher until after Tisha B’Av?"
"But Aharon, without Campus Kosher, our customers will probably go back to eating at the non-kosher restaurant. We have to keep it open!" Arik replied.
"I don’t know. How can we serve Jews meat during the nine days?"
What should the boys do? Should Campus Kosher close during the nine days?

Rabbi Dov Lior, shlita:

It would seem that, if Arik and Aharon believe that, if Campus Kosher is closed during the nine days, Jewish customers will eat non-kosher food instead, the boys should continue selling meat, as usual. The prohibition against eating meat during the first nine days of the month of Av has the status of "obligatory custom." The alternative of eating at the non-kosher store involves violations of Torah and rabbinic prohibitions. If it is a choice between violating an obligatory custom, or violating Torah and rabbinic laws, seemingly, upholding the laws takes precedence. Also, there is an obligation to prevent other Jews from sinning. Given all of these factors, it would seem proper to leave Campus Kosher open.
However, there are a number of considerations which undermine the above conclusion. Firstly, it is not our responsibility to prevent other Jews from eating non-kosher food by selling them meat during the nine days. (See Baba Kama 69a, where Raban Shimon Ben Gamliel states that one does not need to mark which of his trees are orla (fruit forbidden, due to the fact that it grew within the first three years of the growth of the tree), in order to prevent thieves from eating the fruit.) It is true that not eating meat during the nine days is only a custom, but we do not belittle a custom. Secondly, selling meat during the nine days would constitute a desecration of G-d’s name.
Therefore, although it may be technically permissible to sell meat during the nine days, in order to prevent Jews from eating non-kosher, the reality is that it is not advisable. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the other students to refrain from eating non-kosher. While it is praiseworthy to assist them, by selling meat throughout the year, it is improper to override a binding custom of the Jewish people, for this purpose.

(We asked Rav Lior regarding an incident which is cited in Mo’adei Hara’aya (chapter Bein Hametzarim), written by Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neria. There, it is related that members of Mizrachi set up a kosher kitchen for religious chalutzim (pioneers) who were not able to eat in the general kitchens. When the nine days approached, the Mizrachi members asked Rabbi Kook whether or not they could continue to sell meat, given that some religious chalutzim might opt to eat in the general kitchens, due to lack of meat in the kosher kitchens. Rabbi Kook responded that, because the Mizrachi kitchens were preventing Jews from eating non-kosher, these meals had the status of seudot mitzva (feasts held for the purpose of a mitzva), and, therefore, it was permitted to serve meat, even to those who would not choose to eat non-kosher, otherwise.
Rabbi Lior responded that this line of reasoning is hard to understand, and he is not convinced that the story is authentic. The term ‘seudat mitzva’ refers to a meal made in honor of a brit mila, or similar occasion.)

"…wherever its lot shall fall, it shall be his…" (Bamidbar 33:54)
Baffled Raffle
The following is a dramatized story, based on the principles discussed in a question sent to the Chavot Yair.
Rivka stood up, wiped the paint off her hands, and stood back to admire her work. She and her teammates had worked all night, painting the color war banner, but, now, looking at their magnificent creation, she was sure that it was worth the effort. "I’m sure we’ll win a lot of points for our team, with a banner like this!" she called out, happily.
"You’re right, Rivka, it’s beautiful!" added Chana. "After working so hard like this, I wish I could take the banner home with me, so I can look at it all year."
"Yeah, what are we going to do with the banner, once camp is over?" inquired Shifra. "I mean, we can leave it in camp, but it seems like a shame. It would be so nice to have it hanging in my room!"
"I think you’re right. One of us should take it home." Miri paused. "But six of us worked on the banner, and we can’t all take it home. So why don’t we draw lots? Everyone can write their name on a paper, and we’ll put all the names in a box. Whoever’s names is picked gets to take the banner home."
The other girls were excited by the idea. They eagerly wrote out their names, and placed them in a box. Chana stuck her hand in, pulled out a slip of paper, and announced "and the banner goes to… Leah!"
"This is amazing! I’m so excited to be able to show the actual banner that I worked on to my parents!" Leah gushed.
"Hey, wait a second," interrupted Dina. "Here’s my paper on the floor! My name was never in the box. That’s not fair."
"How about this, Dina. How about if I pay you twenty dollars because you got left out of the raffle?" Leah inquired. "That way, I’ll get the banner, because my name was picked, and you’ll still get something out of it."
"OK, sounds fair enough," responded Dina. "It’s a deal."
"Wait a second!" Chana called out. "That’s not how raffles work. You can’t buy off her right to be in the raffle. Let’s just do the raffle over again."
Who is right? Are the results of the first raffle valid, or must the girls repeat the drawing?

Chavot Yair:
It would appear that the other artists have no right to complain about the results of the lottery, because, ostensibly, the only one who lost out was Dina, because her name was not included. And, ultimately, Dina agreed to be compensated by Leah, in order to let the results stand.
However, the law is that the results of the initial raffle are invalid, and the drawing should be performed again. This is because, when a raffle is performed properly, there is particular divine supervision, which ensures that the proper name will be selected. In this case, however, the raffle was not performed under proper conditions, therefore, we cannot say that the results are an indication of divine selection.
Rabbi Asher Weiss, shlita, concurs that the raffle should be repeated. He explains that the statement of the Chavot Yair is based on his take on a disagreement between vArikous rabbis, as to the status of lotteries. Some rabbis felt that a lottery is effective, because it involves a specific element of divine inspiration, which guides the results. (This is similar to the urim vetumim contained in the breastplate of the Kohen Gadol, which was used as a means of ascertaining the divine will.) Alternatively, some rabbis dismissed this notion, and maintained that a lottery is merely an agreement between the participants, to abide by the outcome of the drawing. The Chavot Yair held the first opinion, and, therefore, felt that a drawing must be held under proper circumstances, in order for the outcome to have meaningful, divinely inspired results.
Rabbi Weiss states that, even if one were to take the side that a lottery is merely an agreement between the parties involved, because the drawing was not performed under the conditions to which the participants had agreed, the results were not binding.
In summary: The girls should repeat the raffle, and disregard the results of the initial drawing.
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