Monday, March 31, 2014

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N’shei Chabad Magazine for Passover–Get it now!

The N’shei Chabad Newsletter – Jewish Women’s Magazines is an incredible resource of inspiring stories, chassidus, Torah, halacha, Jewish issues, Jewish education, camp, and of course with a focus on women’s issues within the religious Jewish community.

The Passover edition is now available for instant download!  You can buy it here, via   The Electronic Edition can be read on your iPhone, iPad, Android phone or pad, or on any computer. 

All you have to do is get the free Amazon Kindle app (via the App Store / Play Store), or read it on your computer here -

Of course you can't read the electronic edition on Shabbat, but at a lower price than the print edition, you can start reading to TODAY.  Buy it now and enjoy.

Here’s a sample…


Mara D'Asra and Chaver HaBadatz of Crown Heights Rabbi Yosef Y. Braun
Interview by Mrs. Chana Shloush of the N'shei Chabad Newsletter

What is Chabad’s general approach to Pesach chumros and hiddurim?

Let’s distinguish between the two words themselves: chumra and hiddur. While the terms are used interchangeably, nonetheless for the purpose of our discussion it would be worthwhile to establish a distinction. Chumra means stringency, with connotations that it is challenging, difficult, strict, and narrow. Hiddur, in contrast, means the beautification of a mitzvah.

There is an old vort about the three different approaches to mitzvos. One can view them as 613 different segulos, i.e. “what’s in it for me,” or, worse, as 613 problems to contend with. The third – and ideal – way is to think of the mitzvos as 613 opportunities to connect with Hashem. Of course, this is the authentic Torah approach and is particularly highlighted in Chassidus. The added stringency or beautification then enhances our connection.

Still, when taking on a chumra or hiddur, it is important to understand the historical background and halachic discussions involved. A sefer entitled Sh’ailos Uteshuvos Min Hashamayim, written in the early 13th century, by Rabbi Jacob of Marvège (which incorporates responses he received from Shamayim to various halachic questions), discusses this subject. The author (actually, the Author with a capital A) writes that since avoiding chometz on Pesach was one of the very first mitzvos the Jews accepted from Hashem, therefore, our ancestors embraced it with ahavah, chibah v’re’us: love, affection, and warmth. Because of that tremendous initial enthusiasm, they were quite machmir, and the special care and attention paid to Pesach has only grown over the generations. In fact, some tzadikim have said that when the mitzvah of Pesach was given, there was uncertainty as to the parameters, since it was before mattan Torah, but due to their love for the mitzvah, the Yidden formulated their own chumros.

There are several practical reasons for stringency as well. Chazal have taken a different attitude toward chometz on Pesach than toward any other mitzvah, since the Torah itself is extremely stringent regarding chometz. The Torah tells us that not only may we not eat chometz; we must go so far as to declare it ownerless or, alternatively, search for it and destroy it. Chazal went a step further and added that we must always perform the mitzvah of bedikah. Strictly speaking, from the Torah perspective, one may declare the chometz ownerless in a process called bittul – and that would have been sufficient. Chazal have insisted that we search for the physical chometz on the night before Erev Pesach in order to burn it on Erev Pesach. After the bedikah, we destroy it in our thought (bittul), and we verbalize that it has been destroyed and declared ownerless. Furthermore, Chazal say we are not permitted even a mashehu of chometz in a mixture, unlike other mitzvos where a tiny amount of the forbidden might be allowed in a mixture, in some cases, as determined by a Rav.

One of the reasons for all these extra safeguards regarding chometz is due to the fact that chometz is permitted year-round, unlike traife, which is always forbidden. The extra care we take regarding Pesach serves as a margin of safety as we separate ourselves from what is otherwise allowed.

In later times, more Rabbinic prohibitions were added. Kitniyos (beans, legumes, rice, etc.) is an example of food which is not chometz but which Ashkenazi poskim have forbidden on Pesach. Of course, all of Ashkenaz Jewry has accepted the prohibition of kitniyos on Pesach, and even some Sefardim have taken upon themselves this issur. Even in times of severe famine, the Tzemach Tzedek (among other Poskim) treated kitniyos almost as serious a prohibition as actual chometz (except for the infirm or for children). It’s important to always keep our focus on the fact that the Jewish people’s becoming increasingly machmir through the ages stemmed from our love for this mitzvah.

In addition to all the above, we have the spiritual dimension. It is quoted in the name of the Arizal that one who is careful about a speck of chometz on Pesach is protected from sin year-round. Because chometz represents the yetzer hara and the ego, we need to work full force against it (as per Responsa from the Radbaz). There are only three other things which the Torah forbids b’mashehu, even a minute amount: anger, arrogance and avodah zarah. Chometz is symbolic of all of the above. However, here is a crucial caveat: If being machmir on Pesach enhances our ego (engendering a “holier than thou” attitude toward others who are less machmir) or leads to anger in the household, we are defeating the purpose and allowing our chumros to become a stumbling block.

In being machmir on Pesach, people sometimes violate an explicit din in Shulchan Aruch (Alter Rebbe 469:5) because they say, “How difficult this Pesach is for me!” Such an expression sounds like the words of the rasha in the Haggadah, “What is this work to you?” The reality, however, is that people do feel this way and therefore they express it. The Alter Rebbe was melamed zechus on such people by pointing out that the rasha in the Haggadah was referring to the avodah of the korban Pesach exclusively, whereas today’s Jews are complaining about all the extra chumros. Nevertheless, if we fall into the trap of complaining, we are defeating the purpose…

Buy it today and read the rest.  Appropriate for the whole family.


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