Gluten Intolerance, Wheat Allergies and Mitzvos II

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A Guide to the Observance of Mitzvos (with Explanations)

Part 2: Matzah and Sukkah

by Asher Bush

(continued from here)

Pesach

The Mishna [1]Pesachim 2:5; OC 453:1. states that any of the five grains may be used to fulfill the mitzvah of matzah. Traditionally, matzah for Pesach is made of wheat flour only. [2]Rama (Ibid), this ruling is based on the Maharil (see Minhagim of the Maharil, Laws of the Baking of Matzah #1). The Chok Ya’akov (OC 453:2) also introduces the idea that wheat is given priority … Continue reading The reason for this practice is that since wheat is generally preferred by most people, its use is considered a “hidur mitzvah” (as the use of a “preferred product” by definition is viewed as an enhancement of the mitzvah). The Mishna Brura [3]Mishna Brura 453:2 writes that if wheat is not available one may use any of the other four species. Discussing our case, Rav Ovadiah Yosef [4]Chazon Ovadia, Pesach, 5763, Laws of the Seder, page 76, also quoted in Nishmas Avraham OC 461:1:3. ruled that a person who cannot eat wheat due to allergies or celiac may use one of the other species. This is considered the lchatchila (ideal) performance of the mitzvah for that person.Due to the increased awareness of these issues in recent years, both hand and machine Shmura Matzah have been produced from oats. This enables those who are allergic or celiac to fulfill the mitzvah without having to compromise their medically necessitated diet.

The following paragraphs, which speak of the use of wheat matzah, until the end of this section on Pesach are not meant to be taken as practical advice without appropriate medical authorization and hopefully will not be an issue due to the availability of oat matzah.

The Shulchan Aruch [5]OC 472:10 rules that “One who does not drink wine because it harms him or dislikes it should force himself to drink it to fulfill the Mitzvah of the four cups.” The Mishna Brura [6]OC 472:35 explains that the case of the Shulchan Aruch is when someone feels discomfort from drinking wine–such as one who gets a headache–but does not include someone who gets so sick to the point of being bedridden. In the latter case, he explains, [7]Shaar HaTzion 472:52. drinking wine would not be “derech cherus” (the manner of a free person) and thereby contradicts the very nature and purpose of the mitzvah. Therefore, someone who is sickened by drinking wine is exempt from the mitzvah. [8]This would not preclude the use of other beverages (such as tea or brewed coffee) that qualify as Chamar Medina; presumably in his case no such possibility existed. It should be noted that the … Continue reading This ruling of the Mishna Brura was specifically stated in reference to the Rabbinic mitzvah of the Four Cups. It is not clear from his words whether it should also apply to the Biblical mitzvah of eating matzah, which also contains the element of derech cherus.

Rav Moshe Schick [9]Responsa Maharm Schick OC #260. was asked whether a person is even permitted to eat matzah if his doctor warns of potentially lethal consequences. In the course of that responsum he addresses the question of fulfilling a mitzvah involving eating or drinking when a lesser sickness or bodily harm will result. He concludes that if a person is made ill or harmed at the moment he eats or drinks that particular food, he has not performed a halachically meaningful/valid act of eating. If, however, the illness/harm will come only at a later point (such as indigestion or a delayed reaction), the eating is considered a normal act of consumption and is valid for the mitzvah. This explanation of Rav Schick is not limited to a mitzvah whose definition is based on “derech cherus” but applies to all mitzvos of eating and drinking. However, this approach is not accepted by all poskim, as will be seen below.

Rav Yoav Yehoshua Weingarten [10]Responsa Chelkas Yoav, Laws of Ones, section 7, addendum. initially assumed that one would be obligated to suffer significant discomfort in order to fulfill any positive mitzvah (as long as there is no danger to life). However, he reversed himself and ruled that a person is exempt from any positive mitzvah whose active performance would cause him to become a chole she’ein bo sakana (generally understood as one with a non-life threatening illness who is bedridden) or otherwise generate great discomfort. Following this approach, the exemption applies to almost any positive mitzvah and is not limited to those involving eating or drinking.Similarly, Rav Ovadia Yosef [11]Chazon Ovadia, Laws of Pesach, vol. 2 #18. writes that one who is prone to getting ill from eating matzah, even if not life-endangering, should not eat matzah. Additionally, even if this person insists on doing so he should not recite the bracha of “al achilas matzah” as it is likely not a mitzvah at all. However, if he is not sure that he will get sick then he should eat the matzah. Needless to say, this is only when doctors do not fear any potential risk to life.

The Shaarei Tshuva [12]OC 640:5 points out that, on the first night of Sukkos, while a person who is uncomfortable in the Sukkah (such as due to cold or rainy weather) is still obligated, a sick person is exempt. Rav Moshe Sternbuch [13]Tshuvos Vhanhagos vol. 1 #302. also ruled that a person is exempt from performing a mitzvah that will exacerbate a non-life threatening illness and will cause significant discomfort.

Based on the rulings of the above-mentioned poskim, Dr. Avraham S. Avraham [14]Nishmas Avraham vol. 1 OC 461:4:3. introduced a common medical reality, namely that many gluten intolerant individuals can eat small amounts of gluten products from time to time with few if any negative consequences. While this is clearly not true for all celiac or allergic people, those for whom it is true are obligated to eat a kzayis of wheat matzah if oat matzah is not available. [15]This could also be relevant for the first night of Sukkos; see next section. This question is also relevant to those who follow the approach (not taken by this essay) that our oats may not be the … Continue reading [This should not be considered without appropriate prior medical consultation.]Providing for a Limited Diet on Pesach

To accommodate the dietary needs of those unable to eat matzah, “gluten free matzah” has been produced in the past few years. This product contains no gluten and has a proper hashgacha. However, as a more careful reading of the package makes clear, this is not matzah at all, but a non-grain cracker made to look like matzah. While this product may occupy a place in an otherwise limited diet, it is not matzah, cannot be used for the mitzvah, and does not receive the bracha of HaMotzi.

In general, those with severely limited diets due to medical reasons should not hesitate to speak with their Rav about the possibility of eating certain otherwise permissible foods that are not consumed due to minhag. Depending on individual circumstances, there might be room for leniency. [16]Nishmas Adam (Chayei Adam 128, #20) writes of communal reactions and rabbinic rulings in times of famine regarding the universal Ashkenazic minhag of not eating kitniyos on Pesach. It is important to … Continue reading

Sukkah

The Shulchan Aruch [17]OC 639:8. This is based on the ruling of Tosafot (Brachos 11b sv sh’kvar) and the Rosh (Brachos 1:13). The Rif (Brachos 22a in the pages of the Rif) and Rambam (Laws of Sukkah 6:12) rule that this … Continue reading rules that the bracha of “leishev basukkah” should only be recited when eating a meal in the sukkah. The poskim write that, for this purpose, the definition of a meal is based on bread or other products of the five grains. [18]In OC 639:2 the Shulchan Aruch defines a set meal in terms of the mitzvah of Sukkah, consisting of either a piece of bread larger than the size of an egg or a cooked food made of the five species of … Continue reading Based on what has been established up to this point, that would not preclude a gluten intolerant person from reciting this bracha, because oat products would certainly qualify.However, the question still needs to be addressed, for those who cannot or do not want to eat oats. Is there still room for the recital of this bracha without eating any grain? Rabbeinu Peretz [19]Quoted by the Rosh (Sukkah 2:13). wrote that significant foods that are used for a meal, such as meat, fish and cheese may not be eaten outside of the sukkah; following this approach, the bracha would be said even on regular meals that do not contain any grains. However, this ruling is generally not accepted by the later poskim, [20]Mishna Brura 639:15; the stringency would be to refrain from eating these foods outside of the Sukkah while still not reciting the bracha of leishev when eating them without bread or grains inside a … Continue reading and is viewed more as a stringency.

Another option is based on the view of the Taz, [21]OC 639:8; this is also accepted by the Mishna Brura 639:48. Additionally, if a full meal is eaten without bread as is customary in many places (even in fine restaurants), according to many poskim … Continue reading who explained that this ruling to only recite the bracha of leishev basukkah when eating a meal is predicated on the idea that since the meal is the primary activity performed in the sukkah, all other activities are subsumed under that bracha. However, the Taz ruled that if a person will not be eating bread that day, or perhaps not eating at all, he should recite the bracha whenever he uses the Sukkah, even without eating bread or similar foods. Accordingly there is room to permit a person who does not eat bread for medical reasons to recite the bracha when eating meals that do not include bread or any of the five grains.

A potentially more difficult case is the mitzvah to eat in the sukkah on the first night of Yom Tov. The Talmud [22]Sukkah 27a teaches that, based on the connection to Pesach, one is fully obligated to use the sukkah on the first night. The context of the Talmudic discussion is regarding eating in the sukkah; it does not address whether this applies to activities other than eating or if there are specific requirements for this meal. Most Rishonim understand that this specifically refers to eating, [23]Meiri (Sukkah 25a) records that his teachers would even attempt to sleep in a sukkah on the first two nights in inclement weather. Similarly, the Ritva (Sukkah 27a) mentions that one of the great … Continue reading with others [24]Tosafos Sukkah 27a sv i; Rosh (Sukkah 2:13). explicitly stating that this meal must consist of bread, like the Pesach meal consists of (unleavened) bread.

The Talmud Yerushalmi [25]Sukkah 2:7. quotes this same connection to Pesach and asks whether this also limits eating on Erev Sukkos, like eating on Erev Pesach is forbidden so that a person will be able to eat at night with gusto. It also asks whether this connection requires that the meal in the sukkah consist of bread similar to the Pesach meal. These questions are both left unresolved.The general understanding of the Shulchan Aruch is an affirmative answer to the Yerushalmi’s question. The sukkah obligation on the first night of Yom Tov entails eating a meal that includes bread. [26]639:3, Mishna Brura 21. Based on all of the above, this obligation can certainly be fulfilled by eating oat matzah or oat bread. However, an issue may arise if oat products are not available or a person is unable to eat oats (even in small quantities).

Based on the above discussion about matzah, it is likely that such a person is simply exempt from the mitzvah because there is no obligation to get ill in order to perform a positive commandment. Throughout the week of Sukkos, a person who is mitztaer (in discomfort that is caused by being in the sukkah or will be ameliorated by leaving it) is exempt from the mitzvah. The Rishonim debated whether this exemption applies the first night as well. [27]Ran (Sukkah 27a, 12b in the pages of the Rif) states that the exemption of mitzta’er does not apply the first night. Rashba (Responsa, vol. 4 #74) ruled that it still does. If this exemption applies the first night then a person who is unable to eat any of the foods needed to fulfill the mitzvah without getting ill is clearly exempt. Additionally, there are a number of Rishonim [28]Shaarei Tshuva 640:5 references the Kol Bo and Orchos Chaim. who rule that even though the general exemption of mitztaer does not apply on the first night of Sukkos, a sick person is still exempt and need not leave his bed to eat in a sukkah. Following this approach, if a person would become sick by eating bread then he is exempt from this mitzvah.

Still, all of the above notwithstanding, this does not necessarily mean that a person who cannot eat any of the five grains is excluded from the mitzvah on the first night of Sukkos. Following the abovementioned ruling of Rabbeinu Peretz that meat, fish and other significant meal foods may not be eaten outside of a sukkah, it would seem that these same foods would count as his meal for this mitzvah on the first night of Sukkos. [29]This ruling need not be viewed as a singular opinion, as the Rambam (Laws of Sukkah 6:6) also does not permit eating meat and fish outside of the sukkah, limiting his permission to water and … Continue reading

It is also possible that lacking any bread or grain options does not prevent the basic performance of the mitzvah of sukkah. The mitzvah is performed by even just sitting, eating any foods, or spending time in a sukkah as one would in one’s house. In fact the Meiri [30]Sukkah 27a (page 87 in the Meiri). writes that the derivation from Pesach was only needed for eating because when it comes to dwelling and sleeping in a sukkah, there is no need for a specific obligation because these must be done all seven days, the first night certainly included. Accordingly, even if this detail of the mitzvah was not available for the gluten intolerant individual, that would not at all exclude him from the mitzvah of sukkah on the first night.

Each of these last two ideas was part of the logic Rav Yitzchak Zylberstein [31]Chashukei Chemed (on Sukkah 27a). employed when he ruled that a person unable to eat grains should fulfill the Mitzvah by eating a meal on the first night. While he does not explicitly address the question of bracha, it would seem that following the abovementioned approach of the Taz that this would even be sufficient justification to recite the bracha.
———

Endnotes

Endnotes
1Pesachim 2:5; OC 453:1.
2Rama (Ibid), this ruling is based on the Maharil (see Minhagim of the Maharil, Laws of the Baking of Matzah #1). The Chok Yaakov (OC 453:2) also introduces the idea that wheat is given priority since it is the first of the five species mentioned in the verse; he also points out that all sources in the Mishna and Talmud refer to wheat and not the other species, likely because it is the preferred species, giving it priority in terms of the mitzvah.
3Mishna Brura 453:2
4Chazon Ovadia, Pesach, 5763, Laws of the Seder, page 76, also quoted in Nishmas Avraham OC 461:1:3.
5OC 472:10
6OC 472:35
7Shaar HaTzion 472:52.
8This would not preclude the use of other beverages (such as tea or brewed coffee) that qualify as Chamar Medina; presumably in his case no such possibility existed.

It should be noted that the classical poskim rarely considered the use of grape juice instead of wine because it was generally not available at Pesach time since the harvest was in the fall ,and lacking pasteurization, it could only be preserved through fermentation that makes wine.

9Responsa Maharm Schick OC #260.
10Responsa Chelkas Yoav, Laws of Ones, section 7, addendum.
11Chazon Ovadia, Laws of Pesach, vol. 2 #18.
12OC 640:5
13Tshuvos Vhanhagos vol. 1 #302.
14Nishmas Avraham vol. 1 OC 461:4:3.
15This could also be relevant for the first night of Sukkos; see next section.

This question is also relevant to those who follow the approach (not taken by this essay) that our oats may not be the Shiboles Shual of the Mishna. For more details see part 1 “The Status of Oats in Halacha.”

16Nishmas Adam (Chayei Adam 128, #20) writes of communal reactions and rabbinic rulings in times of famine regarding the universal Ashkenazic minhag of not eating kitniyos on Pesach. It is important to note that he wrote that even when permission is granted it was not blanket permission, but based on specific rulings taking multiple factors into consideration, and even then certain foods were more readily permitted than others based on which more closely resembled the five grains.
17OC 639:8. This is based on the ruling of Tosafot (Brachos 11b sv shkvar) and the Rosh (Brachos 1:13). The Rif (Brachos 22a in the pages of the Rif) and Rambam (Laws of Sukkah 6:12) rule that this bracha should be recited each time the sukkah is used, whether food is eaten or not; the Vilna Gaon ruled in accordance with this opinion.
18In OC 639:2 the Shulchan Aruch defines a set meal in terms of the mitzvah of Sukkah, consisting of either a piece of bread larger than the size of an egg or a cooked food made of the five species of grain when eaten as a meal. In 639:8 and Mishna Brura 48, the recitation of the bracha of leishev basukkah is specifically connected to these foods in this quantity.
19Quoted by the Rosh (Sukkah 2:13).
20Mishna Brura 639:15; the stringency would be to refrain from eating these foods outside of the Sukkah while still not reciting the bracha of leishev when eating them without bread or grains inside a Sukkah.
21OC 639:8; this is also accepted by the Mishna Brura 639:48. Additionally, if a full meal is eaten without bread as is customary in many places (even in fine restaurants), according to many poskim this may be considered a full-fledged meal; see Aruch HaShulchan 639:9, and “Recital of the Bracha Leishev BaSukkah on the eating of meat,” Beis Yitzchak, vol. 37, pages 428-35.
22Sukkah 27a
23Meiri (Sukkah 25a) records that his teachers would even attempt to sleep in a sukkah on the first two nights in inclement weather. Similarly, the Ritva (Sukkah 27a) mentions that one of the great French rabbis had ruled that sleeping in a sukkah on the first night is obligatory, even in inclement weather; the Ritva rejected this idea, explaining that the derivation from Pesach only pertained to eating and not the other uses of the sukkah.
24Tosafos Sukkah 27a sv i; Rosh (Sukkah 2:13).
25Sukkah 2:7.
26639:3, Mishna Brura 21.
27Ran (Sukkah 27a, 12b in the pages of the Rif) states that the exemption of mitzta’er does not apply the first night. Rashba (Responsa, vol. 4 #74) ruled that it still does.
28Shaarei Tshuva 640:5 references the Kol Bo and Orchos Chaim.
29This ruling need not be viewed as a singular opinion, as the Rambam (Laws of Sukkah 6:6) also does not permit eating meat and fish outside of the sukkah, limiting his permission to water and fruits.

Additionally, the Or Zarua (Sukkah 27a, #301) quotes the Yerushalmi and points out that it did not resolve the question as to whether bread is actually needed on the first night of Sukkos. Accordingly, since it is an unresolved doubt one must be stringent and use bread. While Or Zarua did not spell this out, clearly the other possibility exists as well, namely, that one need not eat bread that night. [Additionally, since the Yerushalmi also asked regarding not overindulging on Erev Sukkos, clearly a rabbinic halachah, and did not ask whether women are obligated in sukkah on the first night like they are in matzah, it is possible that the Yerushalmi did not consider this a Torah law. However, this matter requires further clarification.]

30Sukkah 27a (page 87 in the Meiri).
31Chashukei Chemed (on Sukkah 27a).

About Asher Bush

Rabbi Asher Bush is the rav of Congregation Ahavas Yisrael in Wesley Hills, NY and is a longtime member of the faculty at Frisch Yeshiva High School. He is the author of Responsa Sho’el B’Shlomo and serves as the Chairman of the Va’ad Halacha of the Rabbinical Council of America.

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