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Friday, 9 May 2014

Test your FQ (frum quotient): Would you drink a glass of water in a non-kosher house?

Beitzah 40

Today’s Life Yomi has been dedicated by Jodi Zabludowski in memory of her father, Zelig Weinstein z”l, whose yortzeit is today. May the neshomo have an aliya .  We further wish you much strength on the recent passing of your mother, Rita z”l. May you know no more sorrow.

Eryn was in a bind.
“Rabbi, I keep getting invited over to friends’ homes and I don’t know what to do when they offer me a drink or something to eat.  I believe they keep kosher but I’m not sure they’ve dipped all their dishes in the mikvah.  I don’t want to be rude but I know that we’re not allowed to eat off dishes that weren’t immersed!”

Previously we explained the concept of techum – one may not go further than two thousand amos (about a kilometre) beyond one’s city limits on Shabbos and Yom Tov.  Likewise one may not take one’s belongings outside one’s own limits. 

Let’s say your friend lives in the next town, but it’s outside your techum.  You’ve been invited over for a Yom Tov meal – what do you do?  The only way to extend the limit is to make an eruv techumin, as follows: You take along some food to a point in between your home and theirs and you pitch tent.  You have now established residency in this new abode and you can travel a kilometre in every direction from the tent.  This process has potentially provided you with two kilometres to reach your friend’s place – a kilometre from your home to the tent and a kilometre from the tent to your friend!

The Mishnah states:  If a host wants to send her Yom Tov guests home with leftovers, she must arrange that they acquire the portions before Yom Tov.

Rashi explains that the Mishnah is discussing guests who came from a neighbouring town who have made an eruv techumim so that they can return home after the meal.  The host is kind enough to offer them doggie bags – the problem is that the food belongs to the host and therefore may only go as far as a kilometre outside his town, which won’t suffice to reach the guests’ homes!

The solution is for her to arrange acquisition of the food on their behalf prior to the holy day.  Since the food now belongs to them, they can take it home. 

In other words, when you eat at someone’s home, the food on your plate isn’t yours!  You are eating at their pleasure.   Often we get so used to eating at someone’s place that we start to feel at home, like it’s our own food we’re eating.  We’re opening their fridge; we’re no longer bringing them a bottle of wine for Shabbos.  The Mishnah reminds us that it’s their food and we should never forget to be grateful to the host.

What’s more, says Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik, since it’s their food and utensils, strictly speaking you’re not obligated to check that they’ve been toyveled (immersed) prior to use.  They haven’t lent you their dishes – you’re merely eating their food off their dishes.

So the next time someone offers you a glass of water and you think, ‘I don’t know if they’ve taken their dishes to the mikvah, so I’ll decline,’ remember that the question of utensil immersion is not your problem, since it’s not your cup.  What is your problem is running the risk of offending them for being so frum (zealous) that you won’t even have a glass of cold water in their house!  That’s a much more serious problem!

And even if you know that the person is chazer-treyf – they eat pork! – you’re still allowed to eat cold foods from their plates.  Often they’ve gone to great lengths to accommodate – they’ve looked for a kosher packet of cookies and are all ready to offer you their hospitality.  

Take the cookie, for crying out loud!  Make a blessing loud and clear – that’s by far the best way you can sanctify G-d’s Name!

Life Yomi dedications don’t cost a penny!  To dedicate a day of learning in honour of a birthday, anniversary or yortzeit, all you need to do is commit to sending the Life Yomi of the day (or another Life Yomi teaching of your choice) to 18 (chai) people!  You needn’t provide us with the names of recipients; all we need is the honouree’s name and occasion.  For more details, please email

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