Saturday, March 03, 2007

Purim - Shu"T Eretz Tov on Hamantashen

To my correspondent:

As for your question regarding what to do with hamantashen that have become damaged in the process of baking, you have asked a very good question. The mitzvah of eating hamantashen is Torah-mandated, as is clear from Shmos 16:35,
"ובני ישראל אכלו את המן", which says explicitly that Bnei Yisroel ate Haman. However, the laws of hamantashen are very numerous and complex, and it is very easy for them to become invalidated due to the baker's lack of knowledge. Hamantashen that have become burnt while baking are invalid, as it says in Shir HaShirim (1:6)
"אל תראוני שאני שחרחרת ששזפתני השמש" - Do not look upon me, I who have become blackened, yet am filled with prunes and apricots
"שמני נטרה את הכרמים כרמי שלי לא נטרתי" - My brethren have set me as a guardian of the wine of Purim, but I have failed in this duty, being that a darkened hamantash is invalid for the mitzvah.

As for a hamantash which is partially stuck to the baking tray, the answer can be derived from the general rule that we have that the parshiyos of the Jewish manservant are the primary source texts for the obligation of hamantashen. This can be derived from the verse in one of the parshiyos of the former (Devarim 15:18):
"כי משנה שכר שכיר עבדך שש שנים" - For as double the hire of a hireling hath he served you for six years. The word "משנה", double, combined with the double lashon of "שכר שכיר" provide us with a cumulative multiplier of four, which, when applied to the maximal six years of the Eved Ivri, produces a value of 24, corresponding to the number of days (starting from the day after Purim) upon which one can derive labor from hamantashen by regifting them to other people before they have to be burned with the chametz on Erev Pesach (the four Shabbosos, of course, are not included in this calculation, due to the halachic issues with gift-giving on Shabbos).

One passuk in the parsha of the eved ivri that sheds much light on the mitzvah of hamantashen is the previous passuk, Devarim 15:17,
"ולקחת את המרצע ונתתה באזנו ובדלת והיה לך עבד עולם ואף לאמתך תעשה כן", which specifically refers to the insertion of an item into an ear, namely that of Haman, and which alludes to an eternal commemoration of the prophecy of Ovadiah about the destruction of Edom, of whom Amalek, and thus Haman, was a scion. The filling of hamantashen is here referred to as "מרצע" as an acronym representing the halachos that the filling must be matok, sweet; rav, abundant; tzavua, colored; and aveh, thick, for various reasons involving pirsumei nisa and/or simcha. The word ובדלת is a verb form of the word "בדל", referring the soft piece of cartilage surrounding the ear (see Amos 3:12), teaching us that the filling must be surrounded by a protective border of some sort, and that one whose border is deficient is therefore invalid. Based on this, if a hamantashen breaks on the baking sheet, or, for that matter, at any time before its consumption, it is invalid, and one is not m'kayeim the mitzvah of eating hamantashen by eating such.

Hence, now that we have established that a broken hamantash is invalid, what can be done with it? Clearly one cannot feed it to other people, for fear that they may err in thinking that the hamantash is valid, and thus not take pains to make sure they are m'kayeim the mitzvah. (Even prior warning is insufficient, lest they forget.) One could suggest feeding broken hamantashen to children, were it not for the interesting din derived from the sugya of R' Yitzchak and Rav Nachman on Ta'anis 5b (aka the sugya of "Ilan, Ilan") which equates children to a stream of water (amas ha-mayim). Hence, the end of 15:17 states that even one's children are obligated in the eating of hamantashen, and thus, the same issue of lifnei iveir applies by them.

The best solution, it would therefore seem, would be to eat them oneself, and to not share them with anyone else for fear of being machshil them. If one is concerned that they will gain weight from these hamantashen fragments, this is clearly an impossibility, as we see from Nechemya 8:10:
"ויאמר להם לכו אכלו משמנים ושתו ממתקים ... ואל תעצבו כי חדות ה' היא מעזכם." - Eat fatty foods and drink sweet drinks, and do not be saddened, for the joy of HaShem is that which fortifies you. The joy of HaShem is what fuels us when performing a mitzvah, not the calories from the food that we eat in doing so.

May we soon be zochim to the period when all days are like Purim.

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At 3/05/2007 10:36 AM, Blogger Mark Dredze said...

Indeed your words are truth! It was told to me by one of my rebbeim, that the wife of Rav Wittgenstein Zt"l was medakdek to eat every hamantashen that came out of the oven broken. She was so makpid on the shiur of a hamantashen that she would often bake 5 trays and allow only 1 unbroken hamantashen to remain.


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