Volume 48 Number 58
                    Produced: Wed Jun 22  5:27:20 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Kavod Habriyos and Aivah
         [Chana Luntz]


From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2005 22:55:21 +0100
Subject: Kavod Habriyos and Aivah

Mark Steiner <marksa@...> writes:
>        To the question whether a person can eat something he knows to 
>be unsold hametz (hametz she-avar `alav hapesah), Chana Luntz suggested 
>a lenient approach based upon kovod habriyos,
>citing responsa where gedolim extended the concept to avoide include 
>severe embarrassment to the host.  Another example might be a 
>cheeseburger made with (kosher) chicken, since the prohibitions 
>involved are "only" Rabbinic--you could then eat such a cheeseburger in 
>order not to embarrass somebody.

Um, I think the cheeseburger you describe is a slightly different case,
because I doubt there is anybody out there who thinks that such a
concoction is kosher or would have the front to assert that it was.  In
all the cases we have been discussing the individual in question
believes/asserts that what they are offering is kosher - it is just that
they are either too ignorant to know that, eg something like unsold
chametz after Pesach is not kosher (or they did not to approach someone
who will have done it properly), or alternatively their general attitude
to observance leads us to halachically suspect them of not being
trustworthy in this regard and hence a suspicion is placed,
rabbinically, on the food in question, so that m'ikur hadin [as a basic
principle] we cannot eat of it even though there is no d'orisa problem.

The closest case I can think of to the cases we have been discussing
that involved with a (kosher) chicken cheeseburger would be if the
person insisted that it was really parve meat substitute, but you
strongly suspected that in fact it was real chicken (although how you
would be sure that in fact it is not treif chicken, making it a d'orisa
prohibition, even in Israel, I can't quite work out).

 >The Aruch haShulchan, of course, is just expanding on what the Shulhan
 >Arukh itself says in siman 119 in light of the poskim.  The
 >application to our issue is immediate: 119 simply takes for granted
 >that one is not allowed to eat something KNOWN to be nonkosher just to
 >save the host embarrassment, with no distinction being made as to the
 >Biblical or Rabbinic source of the prohibition.

Yes, siman 119 does indeed say this (actually it goes further, and
prohibits eating something that is suspected of being forbidden, with no
distinction made between the Biblical or Rabbinic source of the
prohibition).  So how you do you explain the contradiction between that
and eg the Beis Yosef I quoted to you on aivah (regarding eating non
Jewish bread which would seem on the face of it to be a case where
something was known to be not kosher rabbinically) (or, as the Zechor
L'Avraham iunderstands it and as brought n my previous post, which is
suspected of being non kosher).

The straightforward way to understand the matter, it seems to me, and
the way the Sde Chemed must be understanding it is to understand siman
119 as the pure statement of halacha and to understand the other
scenarios as ones that may in certain circumstances push away or
override (ie are layered onto) the standard halacha, in a not dissimilar
way to the way that the standard halacha regarding shabbas is stated in
various simanim, and then the halacha regarding pikuach nefesh pushes
away and overrides that standard halacha. (Although you can argue about
the hutra/d'chuya aspect).  Thus, to continue with the shabbas analogy,
it is completely correct to say that one cannot drive an automobile on
shabbat.  On the other hand, most of us know that that means, except if
there is a pikuach nefesh situation which overrides (something that is a
reasonably commonplace in communities in which women give birth

Similarly you clearly need a statement of basic halacha on how one is
halachically prima facie are required to respond in cases of doubt - can
one just rely on the concept that unless you know that something is not
kosher, and you are given/sold it by a Jew, it is presumed kosher or
not?  Eg if somebody is standing there in Israel handing out food (or
selling food) on the street, what is the presumptive status of the food.
What if one is dealing with somebody about which there are suspicions -
does one need those suspicions validated in beis din before one can act
upon them or not?  That is what siman 119 deals with.  Lets look at a
couple of the si'ifim there:

"(1) One who is suspected of eating forbidden foods whether he is
suspected of an issur from the Torah or whether he is suspected of an
issur d'rabbanan one cannot rely upon him with regard to them and if one
is a guest with him one should not eat from him from items that he is
suspected on them."

"(7) One who is well known for one of the aveyros of the Torah except
for idolatory or chillul shabbas b'farhesia or who does not believe in
the words of our rabbis, is trusted for the other issurim and with
regard to others he is trusted even for that matter to say that it is
permissible for the other".

Now we clearly need this statement of halacha, otherwise we might reason
from first principles that in any case (certainly in any case of a
rabbinic issur) it is permissible to eat anything on the grounds of
safek d'rabbanan l'hakel [for a doubt regarding a rabbinic prohibition
we rule leniently].  Thus we might be tempted to say that in any case of
suspicions, well they are just suspicions and we should ignore them
(meaning we would have no need to get into any discussion of aivah or
kovod habriyos or any of these topics).

And of course, this also gets us into the question of how we relate to
our old friend the MSB [the public sabbath violator] or the multiple
violator of Torah law - because if we treat him/her as somebody who has
set himself up as a denier of Hashem, it is hard to see concepts of
aivah or kovod habriyos applying (we are not obligated to show respect
to somebody who has engaged in the most fundamental disrespect

 > She has a long and erudite discussion of the laws of the `am
 >ha-aretz, where Hazal eracted various barriers to "protect" what are
 >called "haverim" from the depredations of the ignorant or the
 >violators.  Possible embarrassment to the `am ha-aretz was not an
 >issue, once again.  Some of these barriers included, as Chana points
 >out, not eating their food without tithing it, EVEN THOUGH the rule is
 >that the majority (rov) of `amei ha-aretz DO tithe their produce!
 >What this means is that there was originally NO prohibition on eating
 >at the house of an `am ha-aretz since his food was permitted both
 >Biblically and Rabbinically (accordiong too the laws of "rov"), and
 >Hazal enacted the prohibition, with no regard to the possible
 >emabarrassment of the am ha-aretz. As Chana points out, other
 >considerations mitigated this gezera in individual cases (for example,
 >a poor person can eat the produce of the am ha-aretz; there are also
 >family considerations), but the main point is that if Hazal had been
 >concerned about embarrassment, they would not have enacted these
 >gezerot to begin with, since really there is nothing wrong with the
 >food of the am ha-aretz, speaking halakhically.

One of aspects of the complexity of Chazal's thought was the balance
that they sought between creating barriers and fences and not doing so.
It is understood that Chazal enacted the gezera on demai because they
went out and saw what was happening in all of Eretz Yisroel, and saw
that people were lax on tithing.  So they needed to bring home the
importance of tithing by enacting a gezera.  Tithing again costs me
money, but does not necessarily embarrass the particular am ha'aretz in
question (who need not know that I retithed his produce after I bought
it from him).  It is a therefore a far more subtle method of making the
severity of the matter clear without necessarily causing embarrassment
to a particular individual (rather than an amorphous class).  And, where
there was an embarrassment risk, counterbalancing principles, such as
eiva, could be employed.

 >        True, all the geonim and rishonim state that we do not apply
 >this stricture "today" and count the AH to the zimmun--but three
 >reasons are given, in fact the ones Chanah mentions in another

 >(1) Eiva (hatred)--we are afraid of the animosity caused by leaving the
 >AH out of the zimmun.

 >(2) We are afraid that the AH will leave the fold completely--"kiruv"
 >is in order (as long as we are not asked to eat something that is not

 >(3) We don't hold ourselves on the level of the Wise (talmidei
 >hakhamim) at the time of the Mishnah, and thus the gap between us and
 >the AH does not prevent joining together in a zimmun.

 >        What is not at issue, ever, is kovod habriyos of the AH, which
 >Chana correctly says is a separate issue from "eiva."

I agree that kovod habriyos is a separate issue from eiva - I would have
said though (and this seems to be the fundamental basis of our
disagreement), that eivah is a kind of embarrassment too, although
closer to the "hurt feelings" of the original poster.  Yes the
consequence of that embarrassment is animosity, but it is not baseless
animosity, but legitimate animosity and one to which the halacha gives
recognition.  On the other hand, the kind of embarrassment that involves
a violation of kovod habriyos is a deeper and more fundamental
embarrassment (a higher level of embarrassment) than that which results
in eiva.  Therefore, when there is a discussion about eiva, it seems to
me that the same rule would apply even more so if a case of a violation
of kovod habriyos occurred.  However, in most cases of eiva it would
seem clear that the embarrassment is not on a level to cause a violation
of kovod habriyos. One of the reasons I brought R' SZ Auerbach's linking
of going white with embarrassment to the kind of embarrassment caused by
kovod habriyos is precisely for this reason.  Eiva is a concept that
tends to apply between different types or groups of people who may get
upset and resentful due to particular actions.  Most people do not go
white from hurt feelings, but they may get antagonistic.  On the other
hand, if somebody with certain status in a very public way refuses to
eat at somebody's house in certain contexts (I am sure you can think of
examples), or the somebody in question is say a close relative (parent,
close auntie etc), the emotional levels may be significantly raised, and
it seems to me possible that there are not just aivah but kovod habriyos
issues involved.

 >        We see, therefore, that Chana may be asking the wrong
 >question--the question is not: whether kovod habriyos justifies my
 >putting into my moutn nonkosher food, as long as the source of the
 >prohibition is "only" rabbinic; but rather: seeing that I am not
 >allowed to eat known nonkosher food, in anybody's house, why is it
 >that we pay no attention to the embarrassment caused to the host?  The
 >answer is given by the Rosh (Rabbenu Asher) to Berakhot, seventh
 >chapter: the AH is to blame (pasha`) for his own ignorance - If I may
 >be allowed some philosophical terminology (which may put me in the
 >category myself of an AH), my not eating in the house of a person who
 >will definitely feed me unsold hametz, or a chicken cheeseburger, is
 >not the cause, but the occasion, of his embarrassment.  HE should be
 >embarrassed (I would add) for putting me in the dilemma: either
 >violating my principles, or refusing his hospitality.If the mistake is
 >made out of ignorance of the halakha, I have never found a problem in
 >explaining to my host exactly why I can't eat this or that, but in any
 >case, a person who is ignorant is under a halakhic obligation to
 >remedy his ignorance, and it still remains a platitude that nonkosher
 >food is nonkosher.

So, how do you explain the eivah cases I brought?  The Mishna in Demai
and the eating of the bread of non Jews etc? Why do we pay any attention
to potential animosity?  We do not pay attention to potential animosity
that might be groundless, or that might involve a d'orisa prohibition?
Why the distinction with regard to these prohibitions? Why do we not say
that HE should be embarrassed and therefore we are in our rights to
cause as much aivah as we want, and should ignore any aivah caused.

I would say it is a question of balance.  There is a weighing up of the
various factors in the equation.  And one of these factors is indeed the
effect on the host, and his response to the action in question, and
while often that may not be the overriding factor, in certain
circumstances it may be.

 >        R. Moshe added that since he holds that blended whiskey is
 >therefore permitted, although he himself did not drink whiskey with
 >nonkosher substances as ingredients, he nevertheless would make a
 >lechayim at a kiddush in order not to embarrass the hosts.  Note,
 >however, that this was based on R. Moshe's strong belief that blended
 >whiskey is permitted, and the prohibition only a humra.  We can say,
 >therefore, that kovod habriyos sets aside a humra, but not an "issur".
 >Note that all the prohibitions here are rabbinic, and if R. Moshe had
 >been convinced that blended whiskey was an issur, he would have
 >refrained from drinking it even at a kiddush.

On the other hand, whiskey is not, I would have said, the ikur haseudah,
and there are many who do not desire whiskey (I can't stand it, for
example), so there are other aspects of this that take it out of eg the
aivah cases that I cited in my previous post - Note the particular case
on which the Zechor l'Avraham was commenting under the heading of eivah
matches pretty closely this situation of Rav Moshe - ie that of a gadol
eating/drinking where the host is a baal habayis.  There they used the
term eivah, here you deem it embarrassment - you see how the cases
coalesce (although in the latter case I wonder whether the host in
question would have gone white if Rav Moshe had refused a drink of
whiskey and drank something else instead, he was probably chuffed enough
that Rav Moshe showed up to his kiddush).

 >        Finally a matter of principle: Chana's assertion that kavod
 >habriyos might be adduced to permit the eating of nonkosher foods, so
 >long as the prohibition, is rabbinic, amounts to an original responsum
 >(teshuva).  Even the warning that a competent rabbi should be consulted
 >before relying on a "position paper" will not stop many careless
 >readers from relying on such a responsum when seen on the Internet.  I
 >feel that mail-jewish should be a forum for discussing responsa, not
 >writing them, IMHO.

I think (?!)I should be flattered that you believe I am demonstrating a
capability to write on that level.  In my view, however, while there are
risks that people may posken for themselves from an internet list like
this one, based on any of the sources that are brought or the
discussions that take place, the risk would seem much more limited in my
case, because of my gender, than in relation to anybody for who signs
his name as (or can be mistaken for a) rabbi.  In addition there are, in
my view, greater risks in not discussing such matters.  My impression is
(and I could be wrong, I am going on hints of things that various people
at various times have said) that in certain of the baalei teshuva
yeshivot, where they have to grapple every day with people who are now
committed to halacha but who have very strong relationships in the non
religious world (most often with parents, where there are particular
kavod considerations, but other cases as well), halacha is poskened
taking into account some of these issues - in specific cases and taking
into account specific considerations.  Many of these people from these
yeshivot may well be reading or will read this list in the future.
Blanket statements that no posek will take kovod habriyos and aivah
considerations into account in these kinds of circumstances may
therefore cause such people (or those with whom they subsequently come
into contact) to doubt their rabbaim and/or the halachic process where a
wider understanding of the breadth of the halachic source material might

In addition, one of the deficiencies (IMHO) in our generation is that
there are d'orisas and d'orisas and d'rabbanans and d'rabbanans.  I
would hazard a guess that far more people on this list can tell you the
ins and outs of kashrus provisions, whether d'orisa or d'rabbanan, than
can tell you the ins and outs of ben adam l'chavaro [between people]
concepts such as kovod habriyos and aiva (even in the absence of any
clash with other halachas).  But such on concepts are not just touchy
feely stuff, they are a part and parcel of the halacha, about which
shialas ought to be asked and cog nascence taken, the same way as they
are asked about kashrus. - However, my impression is that this area of
halacha is not only widely ignored, but it is one about which there
often not a great deal of knowledge.  It seems a good thing to me that
these concepts get an airing once in a while, so people know they exist.

Chana Luntz


End of Volume 48 Issue 58