Wednesday, April 23, 2008

False Advertising

In the hectic days before Pesach one must be extra vigilant not only to clean but to think creatively where chametz may have been placed or entered into the house in unusual ways. Unfortunately, one must either learn form the experience of others or one’s own, chas v’shalom.

One young man found a roll in a cupboard of his small apartment on Pesach, much to his horror. He couldn’t believe it. “How can that possibly be? I checked the entire house, including that cupboard which I distinctly remember was empty.”

After some careful questioning, his four-year-old admitted to have secreted the roll there from the final meal just before the biur. The lad explained, “Everyone told me there would be no more bread and I was afraid I would get hungry and have nothing to eat…”

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A person once needed to send matzos abroad. Although he wrote “fragile” on the boxes, the matzos were broken when they arrived. Subsequently, the man decided to write the word “glass” on the boxes, and his solution worked. Afterward, the man’s friend asked, “Who said you are permitted to lie in writing in order to safeguard an object?”

The question was presented to Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, shlit”a, and he permitted the action. Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, explained Rav Eliashiv’s psak: “In Yevamos 115b we find that even if a barrel is marked ‘terumah’ we assume that the contents are chulin, since it was common practice to label a barrel terumah merely as a means of safeguarding the chulin contents from thieves. Clearly, then, there is no prohibition against falsifying the nature of the contents of a container in order to safeguard them!”

Dayan Yaakov Yisrael Fisher, zt”l, dissented, however. “Although I also permit the action, I rely on a different reasoning. The Gemara in Yevamos is no proof at all. No one actually marked a vessel filled with chulin with the sign for ‘terumah.’ Chulin was merely placed in a vessel which had once contained terumah and was marked appropriately at the time it was originally filled! In our case, the word ‘glass’ was actually written on boxes containing matzah!”

Rav Chaim defended his proof, though. “What’s the difference? The point is that by placing the chulin in a vessel marked as ‘terumah’ the sender is fooling people into thinking that the contents are terumah. Just as writing ‘glass’ on a boxes of matzos fools the handlers into believing that they contain glass. We see from the Gemara that this is permitted as long as one does it to protect his property.”

Rav Fisher still disagreed. “There is no correlation between the two cases. Placing the chulin in a vessel marked ‘terumah’ is a form of shev v’al taaseh since the person didn’t actually commit a lie to writing. He merely stored one item in a box that had been duly marked when it contained something else. Writing glass on a box of matzah is an overt action. I permit because he did not write that the contents are glass, he merely wrote the word ‘glass.’”

The Rebbe of Toldos Aharon, zt”l, explained further: “The man is merely requesting that they handle his packages like glass!”

4 comments:

Freshly said...

I had a similar debate with my brother about whether Yaakov "lied" to Yitzchak for the bracha. Rashi interprets the verse such that there was actually no lie, Yaakov was merely stating "Glass", the implication being left to the listener/reader. My brother argued this interpretation to be delusional - obviously the implication is that Yaakov is claiming to be Esav. But now I see further - writing "Glass" on the box, could be interpreted as "Please treat this like Glass".

Micha Golshevsky said...

Good point.
What went on between the brothers is a very broad topic. If you want to hear more please let me know.

Freshly said...

Absolutely! This is an era of immense debate for me.

Micha Golshevsky said...

I hope to post on this after Yom Tov, b'ezras Hashem.