November 15, 2016
Beis Moshiach in #1044, Halacha 2 Go, Mivtza Kashrus, Tzedaka

Selected Halachos from the “One Minute Halacha” project

By HaRav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Shlita ,  Mara Dasra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights 


Parents often support their grown children by helping them with monthly expenditures, covering a down payment on a house, paying for the expenses of a simcha (happy occasion)—such as the bris of a newborn grandson, new-baby paraphernalia—and other such gifts. Are the children obligated to pay maaser (lit., “a tenth”; refers to the practice of tithing earnings for charity) on the money they receive?

Beneficiaries of monetary assistance offered for general support without specific instructions on how to spend it—for example, when parents contribute to a young kollel (married men’s yeshiva) couple’s expenses—should give maaser. (An exemption would apply to a family living beneath the halachic poverty threshold, a discussion beyond the scope of this article.)

However, money that is earmarked for a specific expense is patur (exempt) from maaser—even assur (forbidden)—the recipient may not override the intended purpose without the donor’s express permission by allocating a portion of their gift for tz’daka. Even if the giver did not expressly say, “The money is for this specific purpose only”, we have an umdena d’muchach (an obvious assessment) that the donor would not wish their intent to be changed. There is another possible reason the money should go fully to the expenditure: maaser is an imperative only on profits and an allocation “swallowed up” completely by a specific expense would conceivably not qualify.

When the funds are gifted for a specific purpose, but with the donor’s permission for the money to be spent at their discretion, the recipient is obligated in maaser.


If a Jew defaulted on their bank loan or their house is in foreclosure, may a Jew buy the loan or mortgage without the defaulter’s consent? This is usually forbidden by poskim on a number of counts, especially if the defaulter is in negotiations with the bank regarding the loan.

Even absent any of the purely halachic issues that would present themselves in such a situation, there is the takana (enactment) of the Vaad Arba Aratzos (“the Council of the Four Lands”—a self-governing halachic body of 16th to 18th century European Jewry) that forbids an individual to buy out another’s debt. Poskim speak harshly of those who ignore this universally accepted takana—calling it a toevah (abomination), among other derogatory terms.

What if the deal already went through? What is the status of the new “owner” of the foreclosed building? Is the debtor now obligated to the non-halachic possessor of their loan? If yes, how much—the principle, or more? These decisions must be settled by a Beis Din (Rabbinic court). There is a clear halachic issue of collecting the outstanding interest from a fellow Jew. The purchaser of the loan is also expressly forbidden to sue another Jew in secular court for the money they are “owed.”


A hot water urn that is available for public use in a place of business, work or school cafeteria or an airline kitchen may become treif (non-kosher) when it comes in contact with non-kosher foodstuff. This can create issues for kosher consumers who would like a hot coffee or hot instant soup on the go.

It is safe to assume—based on standard food-safety protocol and additional halachic rationale—that a public hot water urn is used only for heating water, and, in most cases, is washed separately from other dishes. However, it can still become treif in three basic ways:

Negia (physical contact) with non-kosher food that is yad soledes bo (the degree of heat at which the hand recoils) would render the urn treif. Whether food would likely touch—or more likely, splash on—the pot while dispensing hot water is contingent upon the design of the urn, any insulating material, and the location of the spout. (Contact with keilim—vessels such as kettles, reusable mugs or microwavable containers—that were used to heat treif within the past twenty-four hours* can also make the urn treif.)

Zei’ah (steam) is the second manner in which dispensing hot water for non-kosher provisions may compromise the kosher status of the urn. The rule in halacha is that zei’ah adopts the status of the solid or liquid it emanates from—so treif food produces treif steam. (See Halacha #706 for more about zei’ah.) If non-kosher steam that is yad soledes bo comes in contact with the urn, the urn becomes treif. The probability of this occurrence also depends on the design of the urn: the location of the spout would determine whether the steam is still yad soledes bo when it reaches the urn’s body, water gauge or spout. (Often, the steam cools quickly enough to prevent this from happening.)

Nitzuk (flow) is the last of the possible modes of contact. In certain areas of halacha, the product or kli that is at the end of a flow is considered to be in contact with the kli of origin through the chibbur (connection) made by the flowing liquid. Unlike negia and zei’ah, nitzuk is much more limited (and less straightforward) when applied to a public urn. The halacha of nitzuk relates to kashrus situations only l’chat’chilla (initially). Many authorities maintain that nitzuk is only an issue when pouring cold liquid onto hot or—according to others—hot onto hot as well.*

Urns that present all or some of the above modes of contact with non-kosher food through regular use should be avoided. However, in many situations it can be determined that negia and zei’ah that are yad soledes bo are unlikely because the spout of the urn juts out from the body and/or is a distance from the receptacle. We also take into account that the concern of nitzuk is only l’chat’chilla, and in the case of a hot-water urn, a far-fetched chumra (stringency). The odds are quite slim that an already-steaming kli rishon (vessel heated directly on the fire) containing non-kosher food was put under the flow of the spout within the last twenty-four hours**—so many authorities are lenient in permitting the use of a public hot water urn when no other option is available.

* It should be noted that some poskim are stringent about nitzuk in this situation, considering the flow of hot water onto the cold treif food—and according to some, even keilim—to render the urn unusable l’chat’chilla. Those who follow this opinion avoid using public urns except under the most pressing of circumstances.

** Called ben yomo. A clean, treif kli transmits its status to kosher food only in situations where it can conceivably enhance it—and not after it has soured (taamo lif’gam); in other words, it renders kosher food treif only if the treif food was cooked in it within the past twenty-four hours.

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