Monday, April 13, 2009


I. Mishing

There is a practice among some to refrain from eating at the home of others on Passover (what I believe some call "mishing"). While it is difficult to pin down a label of permissible or forbidden on this practice, I was wondering whether this custom is proper or not. It seems to imply that other people are insufficiently religious and that you don't trust their kosher standards. That doesn't seem like a good thing to do. I'd like to suggest that it is a dispute between Rashi and Tosafos whether this practice is proper.

II. Accepting an Invitation

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The Gemara (Chullin 7b) tells the story of R. Pinchas Ben Yair and R. Yehudah Ha-Nassi (Rebbe). Rebbe invited R. Pinchas Ben Yair to join him for a meal and R. Pinchas Ben Yair agreed. Rebbe reacted with surprise, to which R. Pinchas Ben Yair responded: "Do you think I vowed not to receive benefit from all Jews? Jews are holy." He then goes on to say that he does not ordinarily eat at other people's home because some people invite but don't have the food to give him and others invite unwillingly. However, since he knows that Rebbe has the food and invited him willingly, he is glad to join him. They ended up not eating together for other reasons.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Ta'anis 3:1) gives more background to this story. It seems that Rebbe had intended to permit working the land during the Shemitah year since it is only a rabbinic prohibition and was causing severe hardship for poor workers. R. Pinchas Ben Yair came to Rebbe to convince him not to permit it. Despite this disagreement about Shemitah food, R. Pinchas Ben Yair was still willing to eat with Rebbe.

The question remains what R. Pinchas Ben Yair's responses was to Rebbe when he said that Jews are holy. Rashi (sv. Yisrael) explains that since they are holy, they are worthy of your deriving benefit from them. In other words, it is proper to accept an invitation from another Jew. However, Tosafos (sv. ve-yesh) seem to understand that phrase as meaning that Jews are holy and therefore invite guests out of embarrassment even though they can't afford it.

Therefore, according to Rashi it is good to accept a sincere invitation from another Jew (who can afford it) while according to Tosafos it is neither good nor bad. It would seem that according to Rashi the practice of not "mishing" is improper when we are dealing with religious Jews who are not suspected of feeding you unkosher food, while according to Tosafos this practice is not necessarily improper.

III. Hakhnasas Orechim

Note that generally speaking, there is no issue that not "mishing" prevents others from fulfilling the mitzvah of entertaining guests (hakhnasas orechim). That is because, as the Rema (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 333:1) points out, the mitzvah only applies to a guest from another town who is staying at your house or someone else's house. Inviting a neighbor is not a fulfillment of the mitzvah. Therefore, there is never an issue of preventing others from fulfilling the mitzvah with someone who stays home for Pesach and refuses to eat at a neighbor's house.

IV. Possible Reasons

I do not think that the reason for this practice is a concern that a fellow Jew will feed you food that does not fit your standards. As long as you make them aware of your standards, you are allowed to eat with them because they are forbidden from feeding you things that are contrary to your custom (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 119:7). If your standards are too arduous, then they can simply say that they don't think they can match it. But when everyone lives together in a homogeneous community, which still happens, then it is likely that you all have the same standards.

However, I was thinking that perhaps this practice makes it easy to avoid offending people whom you think might be insufficiently strict in their observance of Pesach. By refusing to eat at anyone's home, you do not have to single out the people whom you do not trust. In a neighborhood of mixed observance, this is a handy practice. However, it might still offend people unless it is sufficiently widespread.

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