Thursday, April 06, 2006

On Ultra Silly Chumras

We've all seen chumras that, while we don't agree with them, we wouldn't denigrate others for using them. Then we've also all seen chumras that people have that arise out of a lack of basic halachic knowledge.

Then, of course, there are the ultra-silly chumras - those that arise out of that special combination of a lack of basic halachic knowledge and a lack of common sense. My wife provided me with just such an example.

She was in a supermarket buying items for Pesach, along with just about every other Jewish woman in Brooklyn. While there, she observed a woman who

-- lined her shopping cart with plastic
-- very meticulously made sure that every item she put into her cart was in a plastic bag (aside from the plastic that she lined her cart with)
-- if an item fell on the floor, she not only didn't put it back in her cart, she didn't even want to put it back on the shelf so that others could take it (we're talking about pre-packaged stuff, not produce) because it might have become chametz.

With my perverse sense of humor, I told my wife that if I was there I would have gone over to her and said "Psst! You know that those bags were in a box that was touched by truck drivers who ate chametz the day it was delivered," or "Psst! You know that those bags are touching the shelves which touch the floors which touch other shelves that have chametz on them!"

(To be honest, I wouldn't have done that; there's no need to further confuse the already confounded.)

I shudder to think what Pesach cleaning at this woman's home consists of. I'm willing to bet that if she had just a little more knowledge on the halachos of chametz, she could make her life (and the life of her family) so much easier.

The Wolf


Jewish Atheist said...

Pesach brings out the OCD in a lot of people.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

R. Yisroel Reiseman gave a very reasonable shiur on the subject last year, right before Pesach.

Pragmatician said...

I think it was very considerate of that woman not to put it back on the shelf, even though the poor thing is pathetically naive.

The Pessach cleaning may not be as bad as you think they probably start right after Purim with the cleaning.

BrooklynWolf said...

MFM, do you have the audio of that shiur, or can you share some of the highlights?

The Wolf

A Simple Jew said...

Wolf: Here is a chumra I don't understand. Why do people wrap their candlesticks with aluminum foil. You don't eat the candles and the OU site says that candles don't need to be OU-P.

Do you understand it?

Anonymous said...

Judaism, and especially Pesach, lets a lot of Orthodox OCD people feel superior with being frum as their justification.

BrooklynWolf said...

Possible reasons(?):

1. Since they are left on the table, hot chametz could have been absorbed into the candlesticks.

2. They don't light wax candles, but oil ones (as my wife does).

3. They're mistaken.

I'm sure that there are others who are more knowledgeable than I am who can come up with the correct answer.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

And, upon further research on the OU's site, it looks like olive oil doesn't need an OU-P either.

The Wolf

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>MFM, do you have the audio of that shiur, or can you share some of the highlights?

I don't have the audio, nor can I remember the highlights. It basically was a talk about how people need to be normal and less frazzled and that preparing for Pesach al pi halakhah doesn't require over the top OCDness. Pretty much what you'd want a respected rav with a large audience to say.

A Simple Jew said...

So are you saying that most likely they are mistaken since the candlesticks are not even on the table they eat on?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the person had OCD. Frum people are especially susceptible to it. Medication is the only thing that works.

Anonymous said...

then there's the new Hashgacha in town,the Frum Union...they're putting the FU on just about everything.

BrooklynWolf said...

they're putting the FU on just about everything.

Off topic: If you haven't seen The Odd Couple (the original movie, not the TV show) take it out.

Listen for the line that mentions "corn flakes." :)

The Wolf

Ezzie said...

I asked my father-in-law (where we'll be for Pesach) how long it would take to clean the house for Pesach if we would do it. He said "2 hours". I was surprised it was even that long.

Anonymous said...

It was the fact that this woman wouldn't even put the items back where she got them from (so that they wouldn't "taint" the other shoppers purchases) that had me really frightened..
She truly believed that this was a problem!

Orthonomics said...

Oy. The story is good for a good laugh. But, she really needs a halacha class and probably a trip to the therapist.

The Hedyot said...

What a nutjob. I really don't think this is about OCD. Even though most people don't take it to such extremes, so many still feel the extremes is a proper approach for those "who are on that level". It's true that only a minority do the extreme, but way more actually admire the extremists. And once that groundswell of support is there, it doesn't take much to tip the hamon am's attitude to actually adopting the extreme position. (Probably not much more than a few well timed mussar shmuezen.)

Unknown said...

I've been to shiur after shiur on the topic of hilchos Pesach, and the gist of all of them is, "chill out", and these are coming from some quite machmir rabbeim. I did hear an interesting angle, that unfortunately, these days Pesach is one of the only things that elicits true Yiras Shamayim in people. The Rabbi quoted said that he obviously doesn't want to see people drive themselves crazy, but he hesitates to take the seemingly last semblence of true yiras shamayim away from these people. It's an interesting way of looking at it, but I'm just planning on taking the "I do the best I can do and say Kol Chamira" approach.

Anonymous said...

I'm not fond of chumros that I don't do myself :) like most people, but the last poster made a very good point about yiras shomayim.

Granted, if a person acts like this year round, they probably are OCD, but keep in mind that numerous chumros are associated with Pesach that have been zealously kept for generations. I would hesitate before denigrating them.

Why shouldn't I use vegetables or fruits that I can't peel? If I wash them thoroughly that should be fine! But that'a chumra observed by many.

Why shouldn't I use a utensil that fell on my (cleaned for Pesach) floor? Many people have this chumra.

Why shouldn't I use garlic or sundry other vegetables, simply because it wasn't used in der heim? And even if there was a valid reason not to use it back in Europe, the reason doesn't apply it here. But it is considered a proper thing to maintain one's family's chumros.

And of course the custom not to eat gebrokst is a major chumra, practiced by many, many Jews and if it was invented today, you would mock it ...