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A Matter Of Ownership
‘Here Too [It Means] Of Your Own’
(Pesachim 37b-38a)

 

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R. Meir states (Kiddushin 54b) that ma’aser sheni is considered Divine property because of its sanctity. Rav Assi on our daf asserts that according to R. Meir, matzos made from ma’aser sheni grain cannot be used to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah at the Seder.

Rava explains that a gezerah shavah of “lechem, lechem” teaches us that a person can discharge his matzah obligation only with matzah that is lachem (yours). Hence, it cannot be discharged with matzah of ma’aser sheni, which is Divine property (according to R. Meir).

The halacha follows the Sages who disagree with R. Meir and maintain that ma’aser sheni is the owner’s property. Consequently, matzah made of ma’aser sheni grain can be used for the mitzvah.

 

Two Sins and an Unfulfilled Obligation

The Rosh (siman 18) points out that although the Sages say matzos for the Seder may be made from ma’aser sheni, they don’t dispute the underlying gezerah shavah which teaches us that matzah must be “lachem” (yours). Consequently, he submits that stolen matzah is invalid for the mitzvah because it is not “lachem;” it legally belongs to its original owner.

 

A Simple Declaration

If several people simultaneously use the same oven for baking matzos, and the matzos get mixed up, the matzos one eats at the Seder lack the status of “lachem.” The Raabad (cited by Rabbeinu Manoach to Rambam’s Chametz U’Matzah 6:7) therefore advises people who bake together to declare, “My matzos belong to whoever happens to take them.” By making this declaration, everyone will legally own whichever matzos they take home.

 

Know Your Payment Terms: It Really Matters

The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 444:15) states that if the seller demands immediate payment for the matzos, one doesn’t acquire legal possession of them until one pays. If the buyer doesn’t pay until after Yom Tov, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah because the matzos he ate at the Seder weren’t legally his.

 

Another Type of Theft and an Unfulfilled Obligation

The Gemara (Berachos 35b) states that eating food without reciting a beracha is akin to stealing from Hashem (who created the food) and from the community of Israel (who are deprived of the blessings that saying a berachah provides the crops – Rashi). Based on this statement, the Elef Lecha Shlomo (siman 381) asserts that if one fails to say hamotzi before eating matzah at the Seder, he’s compared to one who eats stolen matzah and is required to eat additional matzah (with a berachah).

 

A Guest Who Doesn’t Recite a Blessing

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe vol. 5, 13:8-9) and Rav Shlomo Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo, siman 35) discuss the legality of feeding a guest who doesn’t recite a blessing over food given to him. Since the host is feeding the guest, is he in violation of lifnei iver (place a stumbling block before a “blind man”)?

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 169:2) specifically prohibits giving food to someone who won’t say a blessing, but both Rav Feinstein and Rav Auerbach argue that there’s room for greater leniency when dealing with a “tinok shenishba,” one who is ignorant of the laws due to lack of proper training.

 

Transfer of Ownership

The Sefas Emes (Sukkah 35a) maintains that a host who provides matzos for his guests at the Seder should explicitly transfer ownership of the matzos to them so that they legally own the matzah they eat. (Rav Moshe Sternbuch, in Teshuvos VeHanhagos vol. 2, Orach Chayim 240, cites the Shevet Sofer, who in a Shabbos Hagadol derasha advised hosts to transfer ownership of matzah they serve their guests at the Seder.)

The Sefas Emes notes, however, that the prevailing custom is not to do so. He suggests that perhaps one may fulfill the mitzvah with matzah she’ula, borrowed matzah, because the lender wishes to aid the borrower in fulfilling the mitzvah. Furthermore, in serving matzah, a host may be considered to have transferred ownership over it even without making an explicit statement to that effect.

If the matzah belongs to the guests, the problem of lifnei iver is softened somewhat as the matzah, but we still must reckon with the question of the host “aiding and abetting” the sin of not saying a berachah by giving the guests the matzah in the first place.

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.