Friday, October 29, 2004

Candy on Halloween II

Reader Chana Luntz sent me the following in an e-mail (posted with permission). My original post will be italicized. Her comments will be indented, mine not.

When I first saw this, many years ago, I pointed out to R. Broyde that according to Tosafos in Avodah Zarah (26a), eivah only allows one to violate a rabbinic prohibition and not a biblical prohibition - and that is how later posekim rule.

I realise that this is a complex issue being summarised in a few sentences, but is that really the case - how about allowing non Jews to take leckcha shifcha and peah (or are you distinguishing here between eivah and darchei shalom)?
That is an entirely separate issue. In that and similar cases, Hazal are not permitting one to actively violate a biblical prohibition. In that specific case, Hazal did not require one to chase away Gentiles who wished to collect leket, etc. But they certainly did not permit one to violate a biblical prohibition be-yadayim.

Only eivah that entails real danger to human life can allow one to violate a biblical prohibition.

This is presumably meant to bring in all the cases of doctors being mechallel shabbas, but is the distinction as clear cut as you have made it, not to mention that it is somewhat ambiguous whose human life you are referring to here.
You are correct that the danger is somewhat vague and undefined. However, the posekim who permit such violations do so because despite that vagueness they believe that there is a real piku'ah nefesh issue involved. If one believes that the same is involved with Halloween, then one should absolutely permit giving out candy. I do not believe that to be the case.

On the main issue under discussion, ie Halloween, please note that as I live in England and grew up in Australia this is not halacha l'ma'ase for me, because people don't generally trick or treat in either place, nor for that matter do we even have candy, as they are called sweets and biscuits here.
OK I made sure to post this so readers understand this.

On the other hand, my problem with the discussion whenever it comes up every year especially as we are frequently in the parsha is this:

If visitors had shown up on Avraham's doorstep looking for candy (by whatever name) do you think he would have turned them away?

That is, giving food to visitors is about as Jewish as one can get and turning them away seems about as unJewish as one can get.

It is one thing if the act in question is one with dubious origins. But giving candy to visitors is hachnasos orchim, and I sruggle to see how the pagan origins of tricking or treating (ie the reason these people happen to turn up at one's door) operate overrule the obligations of hachnasos orchim (if the goyim that Avraham entertained happened to be travelling in the desert due to some pagan festival, as is more than likely, are you saying he would not have invited them in?)
This is a very important argument. If I may rephrase it, even Tosafos, the strictest rishon on this issue, allow one to perform a Gentile practice if it is mentioned in Scripture. Is the Halloween practice really the same as Avraham's, which would make it kesivah be-Oraisa and therefore permissible? No.

1. I suspect that Avraham would have insisted that these children take off their costumes (i.e. wash their feet of idolatrous dirt) and thank God for the candy before eating it.

2. This is simply not hakhnasas orehim. That mitzvah is when one invites guests to stay in one's home or people who are guests elsewhere to eat a meal in one's home (see Terumas Ha-Deshen, part 1 no. 72; Rema, Orah Hayim 333:1 and commentators). Giving nosh to neighborhood kids is not any mitzvah of which I know. Hessed? Not really; these aren't kids in need. Tzedakah? Certainly not; these children are not poor.

So this is not kesivah be-Oraisa nor is it the fulfillment of any other explicit or implicit mitzvah.

I can however see the merit in making it clear to one's guests what we do and don't keep (as Avraham did in asking his visitors to bless HaShem) - eg stating (as you give the candy) something like "Jews don't celebrate Halloween, but we are happy to give candy to visitors whatever the day".
Is that true? Do you keep candy near your door every day for when the neighborhood kids come by asking for it? Once you make such a statement, you'd better. Because the kids will come. Every day.

UPDATE: Keep in mind that there are still other reasons to be lenient, as explained in my previous post on this subject.

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