SALT - Monday, 12 Nissan 5780 - April 6, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We have discussed this week the question addressed at length by Rav Zvi Ryzman, in his Ratz Ka-tzvi, regarding the permissibility of insuring assets that include chameitz during Pesach.  In our previous installments, we examined the status of assuming responsibility over chameitz, whether or not this would qualify as “ownership” with respect to the prohibition against owning chameitz on Pesach.
            Additionally, however, even if – as we saw – there are compelling reasons why such an arrangement does not suffice as “ownership,” we must also reckon with the separate halakha known as “rotzeh be-kiyumo” – literally, “one wants it to exist.”  The Gemara in Masekhet Avoda Zara (64a) addresses the case of a gentile who owes a Jew money, and tells the Jew that he will sell his idol, or his wine used for pagan worship, in order to obtain the funds to repay.  In such a case, the Gemara rules, where these articles – from which all benefit is forbidden – were designated as the assets to be sold in order to facilitate repayment of the debt, the Jew may not accept the money.  If he accepts the money, then “rotzeh be-kiyumo” – the Jew has interest in these articles’ continued existence until the gentile sells them, and such interest is forbidden.  It emerges from the Gemara that one may not be in a position where he has vested interest in the existence of objects of pagan worship.  As such articles are forbidden for any sort of benefit, it is also forbidden to place oneself in a position of wanting them to exist.  Accordingly, the Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 133:6) rules that a Jew may not commit to guard a gentile’s wine which is used for pagan worship, even if he does not assume responsibility to pay for it if it is lost.  Since he will feel distressed if something happens to the wine, he has interest in the wine’s existence, and so he may not make such a commitment.
            The Tur and Shulchan Arukh (O.C. 450:7) apply this concept also to chameitz on Pesach, which, like objects of idol worship, is forbidden for any sort of benefit.  They thus rule that one may not lend his pot to a gentile to use for cooking chameitz during Pesach, because if the chameitz spills from the utensil while it sits on the fire, leaving the utensil empty, the utensil might break.  Therefore, during the time the gentile cooks with the utensil, the Jew has the status of “rotzeh be-kiyumo” – he is interested in the chameitz’s existence, which is forbidden on Pesach.
            Seemingly, this prohibition should also apply to an insurer.  Somebody who insures chameitz obviously has vested interested in its remaining intact, as otherwise he will have a legal obligation to pay the owner.  At first glance, then, insuring chameitz on Pesach should be forbidden by virtue of the provision of “rotzeh be-kiyumo.”
            However, Rav Ryzman presents numerous different reasons for refuting this argument.  First, the Peri Chadash (450:7) disputed the Tur and Shulchan Arukh’s ruling that the concept of “rotzeh be-kiyumo” applies to chameitz on Pesach.  The Peri Chadash notes Rashi’s explanation of this concept, stating that since we are commanded to obliterate idol worship (when this is practically feasible), we may not place ourselves in situations where we wish for the continued existence of articles of pagan worship.  According to Rashi, “rotzeh be-kiyumo” is a function not of the prohibition against deriving benefit from articles of idol worship – in which case it could be applied to chameitz, which is likewise forbidden for any kind of benefit – but rather of the requirement to eliminate idolatry.  Quite obviously, although the Torah forbids owning or benefitting from chameitz on Pesach, there is no obligation to obliterate other people’s chameitz.  Therefore, in the view of the Peri Chadash, it is entirely permissible to place oneself in a situation where he has interest in chameitz’s existence on Pesach, as long as he does not directly derive benefit from it.  This is also the view of the Radbaz (1:240) and the Mekor Chayim (450:7).
            Additionally, even within the view that the rule of “rotzeh be-kiyumo” indeed applies to chameitz on Pesach, some poskim maintained that it is very limited in scope.  The Chatam Sofer (O.C. 116) writes that this rule refers only to situations where one stands to actually benefit from the chameitz.  In his view, it is only when one rents his utensil to a gentile on Pesach – as opposed to lending – that the prohibition of “rotzeh be-kiyumo” applies, as the chameitz’s existence brings him profit.  If one’s interest in the chameitz’s existence is only to avoid a loss, this situation does not qualify as “rotzeh be-kiyumo” according to this view.  In the case of an insurer, he does not profit from the chameitz, even though he stands to lose if the chameitz is lost, and therefore, in the view of the Chatam Sofer, this is allowed.
            The Chatam Sofer’s disciple, the Maharam Shick (O.C. 225), imposes a different limitation on the rule of “rotzeh be-kiyumo.”  In his view, this rule refers only to an action which clearly indicates vested interest in the chameitz – such as leasing one’s pot to a gentile on Pesach, which is done clearly with the interest in the gentile’s food being cooked in it.  In the case of an insurer, Rav Ryzman posits, granting coverage to an establishment year-round does not, in and of itself, express interest in the existence of the facility’s chameitz on Pesach, and would thus, seemingly, be permissible according to the Maharam Shick.