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Chumros (Stringencies) In Halacha
& On Pesach
By: Rabbi Moshe Taub
Originally Published in AMI Magazine
“A PERSON IS OBLIGATED (BY TORAH LAW) TO BE HAPPY AND IN GOOD SPIRITS ON THE YOMIM TOVIM;
THE HUSBAND, HIS WIFE, AND THEIR CHILDREN…”
- SHULCHAN ARUCH ORACH CHAIM 529:2
Unfortunately, not only do many women not enjoy Pesach, they dread its arrival. The sad irony is that chazal teach that Pesach and the exodus it comes to celebrate are owed specifically to the Jewish women and their merits.
Rabbis have seen all too often the joy of Pesach sullied, the anticipation for this holiday frustrated by unnecessary behavior done in the name of halacha.
We must put Pesach chumros in perspective.
It should be said at the outset that there are various wonderful chumros relating to Pesach, as well as innumerable minhagim, all of which must all be observed in their respective homes. We all know the words of the Ari Z’L that he or she who is careful for even a trifle of chometz will be protected from sin throughout the year.
We must remember that chumros do not exist in a vacuum bound by no rules whereby they can potentially metastasize into adversities that are unrecognizable even to their creators. Chumros too are restricted by rules. In fact, we need to be machmir regarding chumros, to learn when chumros are unnecessary and, sometimes, even forbidden.
In addition, by confusing chumros with real halacha we can create an atmosphere where what has to be done is eclipsed by what one desires to be done, leading to undesired consequences. In the words of the Netziv, “…we run away from the fox but into the mouth of a lion.”
RULES RELATING TO CHUMROS
A chumrah must have a source - All chumros, aside for one’s personal / group’s minhagim – must have a source – a singular opinion, for instance – found in the poskim and it certainly cannot go against a ruling of chazal. A stringency made up out of whole cloth is not acceptable unless it is a specific tradition or minhag that one has (by tradition, we don’t mean “well, I did it last year”).
A chumrah cannot conflict with a clear halacha - If a newly decided-upon chumrah would be in direct conflict with a clear halacha, like simchas Yom Tov (enjoying the holiday – a mitzvah itself), it often needs to be abandoned. (Unless this is a family minhag. In such a case, a rav would need to be consulted and hataras nedarim performed).
Chumros relating to medicine in pill form - All medicine in pill form, in the opinion of the BVK, is allowed on Pesach. While at first the BVK was nearly alone in this public pronouncement, as of the past few years most kashrus agencies are publicly ruling the same.
Taking on a chumrah for someone else – One cannot take on a chumrah for someone else – or for one’s wife. Indeed, if a husband desires to take on chumros in cleaning for Pesach he is more than welcome to do so, and his wife should show him where the cleaning supplies are kept. Yes, we must be vigilant, machmir even, when it comes to the laws of Pesach. Yet let us remember the words of chazal (Berachos 8a, with Shlah) that the highest form of fearing Heaven is found in the person who merits the next world while also enjoying this world.
See article on this site titled 'Mixed Marriages' regarding varying chumros between a husband and a wife.