Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 23 October 2021 / 17 Cheshvan 5782

Of Thrift Shops, Extra Simcha Food, and Agunos by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

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Virtually everyone has heard someone use the expression, “Hey, that’s Bal Tashchis!”

That expression is rather famous. But the expression has a lesser-known and less-famous cousin found in the beginning of meseches Yevamos (11b).

And thus, very few people have ever heard anyone use the expression, “Hey, that’s Lo Yishpoch!”

The expression comes from a statement of Rav Yoseph: “A person should not pour the water from his well when others need it – Lo yishpoch odom mei boro v’acheirim tzrichim lahem.”

Although the context of the quote in the Gemorah refers to the best candidate in which one performs a Chalitzah ceremony, there seems to be a number of Poskim that applied the expression in general to pretty much everything.

We Have All Had the Question

That being the case, what should be done when cleaning out the closet? In the age of Marie Kondo, you have shirts or blouses that you just don’t wear any more. Can you throw them out or must you drop them off at the thrift shop – especially if that thrift shop takes a while to drop off? This author would like to suggest that one must still drop them off even though it may be time-consuming or bittul Torah.

What about left-over food from a simcha? It seems that the same parameters would apply as well. [Shout-out to Reb Benny who has made this his Mitzvah!]

Rav Aharon Kotler and the Cab

There is a famous story of Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l wherein he hired a cab driver to take him somewhere. However, he hired the cab driver with one condition: The cab driver had to pick up anyone on the road that was also travelling there. When asked why he had made that condition, Rav Aharon zt”l answered, “I am concerned for the Gemorah in Yevamos of lo yishpoch – and do not wish to waste the other seats in the taxi.”

There is no question that Rav Aharon Kotler was concerned about Bittul Torah. But each stop off to inquire of the person whether he needed a ride, and getting in and out most certainly added an extra 3 minutes to the ride. Multiply that by four (the extra seats in the cab) and you get at least 12 minutes.

The Mishna Brurah and the Tzitzis

The Chofetz Chaim himself in the Mishna Brurah (Hilchos Tzitzis 15:2) writes about a person who wishes to replace the tzitzis strings on his begged with cleaner, nicer looking tzitzis. The Chofetz Chaim writes that when replacing them, he should not cut them off and thereby destroy them – rather he should untie them. This is so that someone else may use the them and one would not be conducting himself in a manner that contradicts “lo yishpoch.”

Untying tzitzis from a talis or talis kotton takes at least 3 minutes for each one. If we multiply that by four, you also get at least 12 minutes. We see, therefore, that even if it takes up time, we should still be concerned for “Lo Yishpoch.”

The Little Girl and the Ohr Sameach

There was once a little girl who was sent to Rav Meir Simcha zt”l of Dvinsk, the author of the Ohr Sameach, to ask a question about a plate that possibly became treif. The plate was sent along with the girl who posed the question. The Ohr Sameach ruled that the plate was, in fact, treif and could not be koshered. The Ohr Sameach asked the girl what she planned to do with the plate. She responded, “I will save it for the t’naim of my wedding.”

The Ohr Sameach immediately recognized from her response that this young girl must be someone extraordinary. Later research showed that indeed she was. She was the younger sister of HaGaon HaRav Eliezer Pletchinsky zt”l.

A Question to the Talmidei Chachomim Out There

All of this brings up a question about the original context of the quote. The Gemorah in Yevamos uses the quote regarding Chalitzah in a case where the deceased brother had more than one wife. One of the wives was someone whom the deceased person had divorced and remarried. The other wife or wives were just regular widows. The divorced and remarried wife, even though she is now widowed, is prohibited to marry a Kohain. Giving her the Chalitzah will not make her ineligible to any further kohain – because she is already ineligible. But a regular widow who was never divorced is, in fact, eligible to marry a kohain. The halacha is that the chalitzah should be given to the divorced and re-married wife so as not to lessen the market out there for kohanim.

There are a number of readers out there that are outstanding Talmidei Chachomim. The question that is being posed out there is as follows:

Those Withholding Gets

There are a number of people that, unfortunately, have not given a get to their wife, even though they have not lived under the same roof for many years. Indeed, a recent addition (who is wearing some sort of military uniform) to the Ora website of such husbands has not granted his wife a get since May of 2009. Is this also a violation of “Lo yishpoch” based on the Gemorah in Yevamos? In other words, what difference does it make whether the market one is affecting is limited to Kohanim or the general public?

One could theoretically argue that the cases are different in that regarding someone that needs a Chalitzah it makes no difference to the chalitzah-performer, but in regard to withholding a get one can use it as a bargaining chip (even though some may question the morality of doing so) to get something from the Agunah. But does this make a difference? The Poskim in Eretz Yisroel seem to put a time limit on the Get issue of no more than 18 months.

Some will question the fact that the discussion here just emphasizes the “lo yishpoch” aspect of what the husband is doing and leaving out the other aspects of shfichas damim and sheer cruelty of making sure that the wife will suffer. They will say that the article perhaps trivializes the plight of Agunos. The author is not trivializing their plight, but merely pointing out an additional prohibition that seems to be derivable from the Gemorah’s use of “lo yishpoch.”

Regardless, the Gemorah in Yevamos seems not to have been discussed by Poskim in the complex issues of Agunos. Perhaps because there is some other distinction or perhaps because the Poskim that discuss cases of Agunos do not feel that a husband who refuses to give his wife a get would care about fulfilling this Gemorah in Yevamos. So what do the Talmidei Chachomim out there say?

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda.

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