Thursday, April 4, 2013

Schlissel Challah – An Analysis by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Five Towns Jewish Times   The custom of Schlissel Challah has become very widespread, not only in the Chassidish world but in many other communities as well.  Two years ago, an article written by Shelomo Alfassa appeared (http://www.mesora.org/Shlissel.html) that attempted to connect the custom known as Schlissel Challah to Christian or pagan sources. The Alfassa article, entitled “The Loaf of Idolatry?” stated that fulfilling this custom was, in fact, a Torah violation of following in the ways of the gentiles.   In this article, an attempt will be made to trace the origins of the custom and to examine the alleged connection to non-Jewish sources that appeared in the Alfassa article.  With due respect to Mr. Alfassa, it is this author’s contention that the allegations are quite spurious, error-filled and misleading, and have no connection whatsoever to this Chassidic custom. [...]

While Alfassa is correct in his assertion that the custom is not found in the writings of the Rishonim or earlier, for some reason he fails to point out the Chassidic origin of Schlissel Challah.  As a general rule, we do not find Chassidish customs in the Rishonim because the movement itself only began in 1740.  We, however, do find mention of the custom to bake Challah in the shape of a key in many, many Chassidish Seforim.  These Seforim were written by genuine Torah scholars, and it is difficult to propose that a Christian practice somehow entered into their literary oeuvre.  The Klausenberger Rebbe, the Satmar Rebbe, the Belzer Rebbe, Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund, and numerous Chassidishe Rebbes and Poskim all punctiliously observed this custom. [...]

In conclusion, there is no evidence whatsoever that this Chasidic custom was derived from or influenced by Christian practice.  The scholarship behind this allegation is faulty and error-filled.  This is a custom that has been practiced by the greatest of our Chasidic brethren and it is wrong to cast such aspersions on their practice.

41 comments :

  1. Rav Hershel Shachter in this shiur states categorically that it Nichush, and a lav d'oraysa.

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/772117/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Segulas,_Superstition,_and_the_Ayin_Hara

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  2. "hese Seforim were written by genuine Torah scholars, and it is difficult to propose that a Christian practice somehow entered into their literary oeuvre. "

    Why?

    I think Rabbi Hoffman doesn't really address Alfasa's points. He just dismisses it out of hand... The same reply I get from other Jews when I mention the "hot cross buns" of xtianity which baking a key in a challah seems to be based on.

    In my mind, it's very possible that these chassidic chachamim were simply giving credence or coming up with explanations for a practice that was already "borrowed" from xtians. Why is that out of the question?

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  3. Interesting.

    I'm taking it that Rav Hoffman has missed many of the other articles found on Mesorah.org. He seems to labor under the preception that those who follow the Mesorah.org folks would believe Chassidish seforim. However, everything they write is predicated on their assertion that everyone who accepts Kabbalah is a heretic and cannot be relied upon.

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    1. R. Tzadok,

      With your claim that mesora.org is asserting "everyone who accepts Kabbalah is a heretic and cannot be relied upon", you are once again playing loose with your "facts".

      The claim of idolatrous practices appearing in "Orthodox" Judaism did not originate with mesora.org. For example, your prominent Sephardi posek, the Mechaber of the Shulchan Aruch, does seem to prohibit the practice of "shlogging kapparos".

      Please provide a link to an article on mesora.org backing up your claim that "everyone who accepts Kabbalah is a heretic".

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    2. One example
      The Rambam, Yad Hachazaka, Hilchos Avoda Zarah, Chapter 11, clearly outlines all that kabbalists do today, and Rambam subsumes these acts under idolatry.
      See also Deuteronomy, 18:13, 14, "You should be perfect with Hashem your G-d. For these nations which you inherit, to fortune tellers and enchanters do they listen, and you (the Jews) not so (has) Hashem your G-d given." G-d admonishes us from following enchanters and fortune tellers. Regardless if they are Jewish. Being Jewish, and having a title of Rabbi does not entitle one carte blanch to act against the Torah.

      Know from all this that mysticism has never been, and will never be part of the system which G-d gave, regardless of the number of people performing such prohibited acts. We must follow the Torah, not what the masses sinfully choose.

      http://www.mesora.org/kabbalists.html

      Oh and then there is this:
      http://www.mesora.org/ToharHayihud.pdf

      Of course the nice folks at Mesora claim that they welcome dialogue on these issues:
      http://www.mesora.org/Tohardefense.html
      But refuse to post the rebuttals they claim that they await. Make of that what you will.

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    3. R. Tzadok -

      I agree with you that the citation you posted from mesora.org is problematic when it states "outlines all that kabbalists do today, and Rambam subsumes these acts under idolatry".

      The context of that article perhaps should be clarified by the author - the article seems to be referring to the ACTIONS of fake Kabbalists, miracle workers, and mysticists who are corrupting the Jewish public and/or reaping profits from idolatrous practices.

      "G-d never validated enchanters or fortune tellers. Therefore, we must abhor them as G-d does." (mesora.org).


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    4. Ask the author if he believes in such a thing as a real Kabbalist. He does not. He has stated repeatedly on his website and in a guest post here that he believes all Kabbalah to be paganism, and thus those who partake in it to be heretics.

      Meanwhile he claims he is willing to enter into dialogue about the subject, but when he posted a guest post here, he refused to discuss it on this blog, and referred us to his forum saying he would handle discussion there.

      There he refused to permit comments of any dissenters. Not only does he say that the Gedolim are heretics, he won't even enter into honest discussion about it.

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  4. This discussion is reminiscent of the custom of chalaka, ceremonious cutting of boys' hair. Although mentioned by the Radbaz and Rav Chaim Vital (who mentions that the Arizal did it) Rav Shlomo Binyamin Bamberger (well known researcher into minhagim, particularly German) traces the chalakah custom back to the Indian custom of cutting off hair and burning it to idols. Alfassa may be right in maintaining that new customs may be of idolatrous origin. For once such customs become accepted, their roots are forgotten and people start finding frum rationales for them.

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    1. Also, R' ben Chaim of Mesora, points out that red bendels are darkei Amori, since teh Amorites would wear red bendels on their fingers. BTW, my newsagent who is HIndu also wears red bendels on his wrist, and i asked him if it is a Hindu custom,he said it was.

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    2. 1- The Emori wore rings, not bracelets. (Tosefta Shabbos 7:1)

      2- The central piece of the Hindu practice (and as a computer programmer, I have had MANY co workers to discuss this with) is what was originally tied onto the wrist, and the string is originally saffron, not really red.

      Besides, when did Chassidim in America have opportunity to exchange customs with Hindus? Because the earliest source is the eye witness account of the Be'er Moshe (Debreczyner Rebbe, R' Moshe Stern, 1914 Slovakia - 1997 NY).

      The earliest reference of a red string on the wrist is Bereishis 38:30, marking Zerakh as the bekhor and the ancestor of kings. Not another religion.

      If you want to come out against them, fine. I already wrote about my dislike of this focus on segulos rather than following halakhah and vehalakhta bidrakhav, and have bitachon that the Aibishter will take care of His end of the partnership.

      But this stuff is people making things up out of a bias against Qabbalah and wanting it ("having negi'os") to be something other than mesoretic. Roite bindelakh aren't even suggested on esoteric grounds!

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    3. My oldest son went to Yeshiva of North Jersey, where one of the principals was R' Moshe Zucker -- another talmid of RYC and sometimes Mesora contributor.

      One basketball game, RMZ interrupted play in the middle, and refused to let the game resume. Why? Because a player on the other school's team had a red string on his wrist. He would not let MNJ share a court with AZ. The boy agreed to take the string off for the remainder of the game.

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    4. Your point? Rav Kaduri said that they were an avoda zarah.

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    5. the "shani" thread in the case of Zerach was to identify which was the firstborn, just like in hospitals today they place a tag on a baby's wrist. Or is there kabbalistic significance to this shani?

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  5. Dear Student V - read the article at 5tjt.com and you will see that the points are addressed.

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  6. Davidovici PatrickApril 4, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    If what you do is not connected with the result of what you do it is avoda zara.dixit Rambam. (sorry for my english )

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    1. The Rambam is a daas yachid in making the pursuit of knowledge the essential feature of avodas Hashem. Rather than say, moral and ethical refinement, commitment to Him on an emotional / experiential plane, etc... It is generally held that we aspire to know G-d more than to know about G-d.

      The Rambam's hashkafah is attacked on this point by Rabbeinu Yonah, the Ramban, the Gra, R' SR Hirsch, and numerous others. In this, he goes beyond R' Saadia Gaon's Aristotilianism.

      But attack-worthy or not, it's a daas yachid and not halakhah.

      Lehalakhah, derekh emori and nichush aren't AZ. And if you are tying a red string around your wrist to remember Hashem's selection of Zerach, and to remember to have bitachon in Him rather than worry about other forces (real or imaginary), then the roite bindle IS indeed connected to its results.

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    2. do u think anyone wears (or sells) those red strings to remember that Zerach was the first born who went back in again?

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  7. The Mesora article makes a specious argument that the key is really a cross. There are cases where crosses were used in key making, but no real reason to assume the key itself actually represents a cross in Xianity. The whole thing is specious. R' Alfassa also quotes an essay of mine to justify the OPPOSITE of that essay's thesis, and if he does that to me, I would check through the sources I am unfamiliar with before taking his word for it.

    R' Jeffrey Saks' posts on the subject over at Hirhurim <http://torahmusings.com/2011/04/shliss-challah>. He gives three reasons
    for the minhag:

    1. Based on "Pitchi Li Achoti, Ra'ayati..." ..., on which the Midrash states "Pitchu li petach ke-chudo shel machat...," ... = something like "Open your hearts (in teshuvah) like the eye of the needle, and I (God) will open the rest like [a very large opening].

    2- According to Kabbalah on Pesach the gates to heaven were open, and following Pesach the lower gates are shut, and it's up to us to open them again...

    3- In the desert the Jewish people ate from the manna until after Pesach upon entering the land (with the bringing of the Omer, see: Josh. 5:11), at which point the ate from the produce... The key in the challah after Pesach is a request the God should open the Sha'arei Parnasah... Alternatively, the manna began to fall in the month of Iyyar, and this Shabbat is always Shabbat Mevarchim Iyyar.


    (ad kan RJS)

    A more prosaic explanation...

    Sourdough is hard to come by this week, as it takes over a week to ferment. The other source of yeast frequently used (before the Fleishman's figured out how to isolate it) is barm, a sideproduct of making beer.

    But barm has more yeast and is more reactive than they were used to, and would make softer more floury bread than sourdough. Most metals kill yeast (although stainless steel doesn't). So they put a piece of metal into the challah to kill some of the extra yeast off.

    Then, once people did it, they reverse-engineered kavanos for the practice.

    I made that up; I'm not saying it's emes, just more plausible than assuming a Xian custom that isn't documented anywhere got borrowed by Chassidim.

    And I agree with RMT that this is just another piece of Mesorah Chassidus-bashing. These are people who hold that believing in 10 sefiros is only quantitatively different than (lehavdil elef alfei havdalos) believing in the trinity. Mesora is written by a talmid of R' Yisrael Chait (Yeshiva Bnei Torah, Far Rockaway, NY), and the other writers are also among his talmidim. I once wrote up a summary of my understanding of their derekh over on Avodah <http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol30/v30n175.shtml#03>.

    All that said, I have problems with people putting too much emphasis on segulos like this one. Judaism is about doing His Will simply because it's what we were made for. The gemara defines paganism as religion to get something out of it from the divine, "כל צדקה וחסד שאומות עובדי כוכבים עושין חטא הוא להן שאינם עושין אלא להתגדל בו" (Bava Basra 10b)

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  8. As is with the case of many (if not most) Minhagim, they tend to be based on other reasons and it is only after their acceptance that "Torah reasons" are attributed to them. Just a few examples...

    The Minhag that most Ashkenazim have that unmarried men don't wear a Talis Gadol stems from the fact that in Europe a Talis was very expensive and because of that became part of the "Nadin" (dowry) that was given to the Chassan. Sefarim will subsequently attribute all sorts of "Torah" rationalizations for this Minhag ignoring the sociological and practical reason for it.

    Another example realted to a Talis Gadol... in many Shtieblach and Yeshivos, only the Baal Kreiah, Hagbah, and Chazan wear a Talis for Shabbos Mincha, not the Oleh, or the Gollel. Someone tried to explain to me the "Torah reason" for this Minhag. In reality the reason seems to be simple. There was only one Tallis available in the Shteblach in Europe so it was given to the Chazan, then the Baal Kreiah and then the Hagbah.. there was none available for anyone else... but this "Minhag" is now established. There are so many more, just think about them.

    I am not suggesting that we change all these Minhagim, though perhaps some we should (Mitzva Tantz, Mishunik Tantz of questionable origins) but we should understand that the rationale for many of them were applied later and not the "cause" of the Minhag. I suspect the same is true for the Shlisul Challah.

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  9. Micha, you seem opposed to the idea that Judaism has borrowed pagan/x-tian customs but it seems to me to be self-evident and widespread. Just as one obvious example, the Mechaber holds that Kaparos is Assur due to it being an adopted pagan custom. Yes, the Ramo defends it, but the Mechaber had no problem stating that a widespread Jewish custom was adopted from pagans. He didnt think such a thing was 'implausible' as you do. Schlissel challah is only one example of this type of thing and in fact there are more of these evolving and becoming part of Jewish practice every year. The fact that people come up with "mekoros" and pshetlach does not change the fact that often these practices are borrowed from the nations around us. 'Blei Gissen' is just another example which is as of yet not as widespread.

    There are some which came about in our own lifetimes (standing for Chassan and Kallah at the Chuppah). I witnessed the crowd standing for the bride and groom coming down the aisle at a devout x-tian wedding. I subsequently asked R Heinemann (who I noticed did not stand at a Chasunah) regarding when the custom began and he replied "When I was young, no-one did", so I followed up by asking if the custom had a legitimate mekor and he responded "When Jews do things they find a mekor".

    Look around and you will find there are all sorts of things that we do that come from outside sources or popular behaviors whether related to paganism or not. We then offer all sorts of cute Torah to justify and sanctify it and then it become praiseworthy, then mandatory. Things which were unheard of by Chazal, Rishonim, and often even 200 years ago. There are many other examples.

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    1. You have me mispegged. I have a problem with people who have agendas dismissing minhagim as AZ with an accusation that's a specious argument for labeling them derekh Emori. This has more to do with RYC's circle's disdain for Qabbalah and thus Chassidus than anything about schlissel challos or red strings. The purported prohibited origins are unlikely guesses.

      If you want to go after a minhag for its treif origins... It's more suspicious that Purim costumes originated in Italy, a country where the Xians put on costumes on Carnival (the day before Lent, ie a couple of weeks before Purim, most years). And that milk on Shavuos started in the same areas of Germany as those which were celebrating the return of grass and thus milk production and quality increases after the winter on Wittmontag, the day before Pentecost.

      I just think that a minhag whose treif origins were lost and has holy intent reverse-engineered into it is normative.

      But they're not going after the Rama, so they stick to going after far more arbitrary guesses that justify their prejudices about possessing the One True Way rather than accepting Chassidus and other Qabbalistically influenced derakhim in a pluralistic eilu va'eilu.

      Tangent, but needs correcting: The SA (OC 605:1) says kaparos need to be stopped. The MB says it's because of derekh emori, not the Mechaber himself. In the Beis Yoseif he cites both R' Hai Gaon who bans it (because of shechutei chutz [an offering outside the Beis haMiqdash], although the Machaber doesn't quote R' Hai Gaon's reason) and the Rashba who says it's a problem of shechutei chutz (which the Mechaber does quote). Perhaps the SA was leaving the specific reason open on purpose.

      The Tur suggests the problem is temorah -- and then defends it.

      BTW, it's not just the Ram who defends this minhag -- which we see dates back to the early days of Ashkenaz during the Geonic period. It's a pretty clear Ashk / Seph split.

      (In any case, since my family which switched to using coins generations ago, I refuse to switch back and enter into this machloqes.)

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    2. "But they're not going after the Rama, so they stick to going after far more arbitrary guesses that justify their prejudices about possessing the One True Way rather than accepting Chassidus and other Qabbalistically influenced derakhim in a pluralistic eilu va'eilu."

      "eilu va'eilu" only has validity when it is "Divrei Elokim Chaim".

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    3. "But they're not going after the Rama, so they stick to going after far more arbitrary guesses that justify their prejudices about possessing the One True Way rather than accepting Chassidus and other Qabbalistically influenced derakhim in a pluralistic eilu va'eilu."

      "Eilu Va"eilu" only has validity when it is "Divrei Elokim Chaim".

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    1. what is the Jewish source for wearing a shtreimel? This is the dress of the most violent goy in Russia - chielmnicki, yemach shmo.
      The cost of a shtreimel is thousands of dollars, enough to feed a family for a year.

      Not only is this immoral, and chukkat hagoy, but many people end up being mechalel shabbos when they wear nylon bags over it to protect it from the rain.

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    2. Is a shtreiml more chukas hagoi than a suit?

      Moshe Rabbeinu is described as doing the 8 yemei mil'uim in a simple chaluq and michnasayim of white linen. The tannaim, centuries later, wore a tallis (which, it seems, had a neck hole), chaluq, mikhnasayim and sandals.

      In sifrei haHeichalos (going 2nd-hand on this, so I can't say which or where), there are mal'akhim described as wearing white chaluq and mikhnasayim.

      So it would seem that for the entire duration of an independent Jewish culture, we had a pretty consistent standard of attire.

      But even that isn't all that independent. Stolis (στολις)is a Greek word, source of the English stole (the scarf-like garment). That's where I got the idea that tallisos originally had neck-holes. Like a long tallis-qatan, or a stereotypical knight's page's outfit. And yes, the Roman fashion was for one's stole to be striped; it's an easy way to decorate hand-woven fabric. Just string the loom for stripes, and the actual weaving is normal.

      Shtreimels are to this day worn by Russians in general, not just Cossack son'ei Yisrael. The cost is nowhere near enough to feed the new couple for a year, nevermind a family. And that's assuming they don't get nylon.

      But if you're going to ban them, be consistent -- ban shtreimls, spudiks, black fedoras (which you can call Mafia hats), ties, suits, slacks, socks, skullcap style yarmulkas...

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    3. @ Micha, Is a shtreiml more chukas hagoi than a suit?

      sorry Micha, but here is an irony I have been waiting to point out for some time (and no intention of attacking you).
      Cossacks are sonei yisrael. if you want to chose the biggest anti-semites of the last 2000 years, the cosaks would be high up on the list. There is no problem in a general suit, since that is what everyone wears regardless, whereas the shtreimel and the accompanying dress is purely a fashion of amalek, which was imposed on the Jews. Now some Chassidim wear their jackets or coats with the right side over the left, like women. They claim it is to do with Kabbalah, but it is beged isha, or transvestisism.
      The Torah says Lo Tilbash, and dressing like a woman is assur d'oraita. When my friend RAP talks about strange hassidic customs, he always points to Shabbetai Zvi. This transvestite lo tilbash of wearing buttons the wrong way round is a transgression of the Torah.

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    4. You didn't read the part where I noted that shtreimls follow a style common to all Russians. The Cossack thing is false. R' Rakeffet reports that on his trips to teach gemara in the USSR in the 1980s, he bought a shtreiml.

      Wearing buttons so as to remember to place rachamim (right) above din (left) is kind of nice. But that too is a reverse-engineered minhag; they button the other way because this was the norm when the clothes they wear were in style beyond chassidus.

      As for my own shabbos attire... My buttons are left-on-right, not chassidish. In fact, I dress like my Litvisher rebbe did, like my greatgrandfather did. I dress to remember that there was a time when there was an Orthodox community that wouldn't have been so embarassing to admit membership in so often. That such is my mesorah, not the thing I see around me. I fear that without this affiliation with a now-defunct O movement, I might have lost my ties to Yahadus over the past decade.

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    5. Yea, I did read the Russian reference. The shtreimel worn by hassidim is more cossack than modern. My point is that the fashion is frozen from the time of the cossacks, and the imposition of gentile garb on the Jews.

      As far as I know, the buttons were always left on right, for men. In order to prove that it is not lo tilbash, there would need to be a generic case where men wear right on left.
      Thus, I could wear a kilt, because in the UK, that is traditional men's dress from Scotland and Ireland. However, if I just wanted to wear women's clothes or a symbol of women's clothing, it would be lo tilbash.
      There is a Chatam Sofer where he criticised Habad for claiming that men shaving was Lo tilbash. Since it is something that is widely done, it cannot be called lo tilbash. Wearing buttons like a transvestite is not widely done.

      Again, I am not attacking you or Litvishers, or even traditional garb. Wearign blue denim jeans is more Jewish than dressing like cossacks. After all, jeans were invented by Shevet Levi :)

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    6. a history of the shtreimel

      http://www.vosizneias.com/34085/2009/06/26/israel-blessed-be-the-shtreimel-makers-despite-fur-fury/

      $4000 for a heimishe one - is a ridiculous price to pay - add that to the trip to Uman every Rosh Hashana...

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    7. Actually, I have purchased custom made shtriemlech for $1200, and they last about 10 years. (Compare that to a Borsalino and how long they last.)
      In the last few years, very high quality off-the-rack shtreimlech are available for between $400 and $800.
      In addition, most of those wear shtreimlech do NOT travel to Uman, and most of those who go to Uman do not wear shtreimlech.
      And the article you point to was designed to be sensational, not factual. Which is not to say that you can't find a shtreimelmacher to sell you a shtreimal for $4k, but it's certainly more than double the 'normal' price.

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    8. Today you can get a beautiful shtriemel for $800 or less. Custom-made (heimish) streimlech can be bought for around $1200-$1500. And I've never been to Uman!

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    9. Actually, I have purchased custom made shtriemlech for $1200, and they last about 10 years. (Compare that to a Borsalino and how long they last.)
      In the last few years, very high quality off-the-rack shtreimlech are available for between $400 and $800.


      That is if you go in for the brand name(while poorly manufactured) Borsalino Fedora. We are talking a Fedora and not a hat company.

      A high quality Fedora, made of beaver or rabbit fur, and color sealed(ect) will run you between $300-$1000. As far as how long they will last... well my own Fedora, which has been horribly treated, is fifteen years old, and still holding in there(by Israeli standards). If I had it blocked and dyed($50-$80 maintenance) it would look like new. That was a low end, high quality Fedora.

      If I were to get a high end one, some that come with a lifetime guarantee not to discolor or lose shape... Well that's the beauty of a good hat.

      Oh and a high quality Fedora doesn't need to be covered with plastic, because water will not destroy them. Even the lower end ones like I have, will only begin to lose shape after 5-7yrs of walking in the rain with it. A high end one... never will.

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    10. I buy a regular hat from Zara for about $20, and it gives about 5 years lifespan.

      $1200 for a hat? In Israel that's an average salary for 2 weeks. Now you have to ask where is the gaavah, is it spending perhaps 3 months of food on hat worn by Chielmnecki y.s.?

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  11. Re standing for the choson and kallah at a chuppa, I know no source other than the concept of choson doimeh lemelech. One stands for a monarch when they enter the room. By the same token, one would not stand up for anyone else in the presence of a monarch. So the constant wave od standing and sitting for every Rabbi called for a kibud is likely out of place at a chuppah. What's worse, when they call up great uncle Harry the Holocaust survivor for a bracha, no one gives him the same kavod as some two bit 35 year old yeshiva rebbe.
    Personally, I stand for the choson and kallah, but for nobody else.

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  12. R. Hoffman's bias screams out here. Who is he fooling? Does he take us all for fools when he claims that it is very unlikely that something from a Christian source entered Chasidic practice? What about all the Chasidic niggunim from Christian sources? In addition to various other practices, some of which are discussed above.

    You can debate if it is okay, if it is mutar to do such 'borrowing', but to just about deny that such a phenomenon exists? Come on Rabbi Hoffman, we are not that stupid.

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    1. RYH didn't argue that it was impossible in principle for a practice to make that leap from XIanity to Chassidus (or any other Ashkenazi group).

      What he did do was show that there was no Xian source for key shaped bread or bread with a key in it. And in fact, he showed that there was no non-Jewish practice at the time schlissl challah began, nor were any of R' Alfassa's sources about Eastern Europe -- no possible connection given time nor given geographyt. And last, that R' Alfassa's sources don't say what he wants them to:

      One is actually 20th cent, not "an old Irish source", and suggests that women should be taught to bake cake with keys in it. Not an existing practice, and in any case, centuries after Jews have been doing so.

      A second talks about using various objects to make a cross on the bread. Yes, keys are one of the things people used. But not to make the shape of a key, and not because it's a key -- pig bones or other implements are just as good.

      A third refers to a society of Hercules worshippers that was wiped out by an eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 CE. Way too early, and not Xian. (For that matter, Xianity was still a heretical Judaism back then.)

      A fourth refers to putting figures of people in cupcakes or cakes. Relevance?

      (This particular issue is a sore one for me, because I did NOT appreciate being portrayed as agreeing with him. I was somewhat gratified to see someone found it was a general pattern of abusing quotes.)

      Given that there was no Xian practice to borrow, the whole thing is an unsupported guess of R' Alfassa's, yes -- it's highly unlikely a non-existent practice alleged to be practiced at times and places that they were never near entered Chasidus through assimilation or borrowing from Xianity.

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    2. "And in fact, he showed that there was no non-Jewish practice at the time schlissl challah began"

      You admit to the existence of "hot cross buns" right? Google it and check the wikipedia page. It did exist hundreds of years ago. Not later than 1500's was it already popular for xtians.

      "A second talks about using various objects to make a cross on the bread. Yes, keys are one of the things people used. But not to make the shape of a key, and not because it's a key -- pig bones or other implements are just as good."

      Sorry, but this lacks credibility as an argument. For one, just a few days ago someone posted a Jewish statement (one of the earlier ones we can find) on "shlissel challah" describing it as baking the bread with keys on the bread! In light of that, it would seem that the idea of today making a bread "shaped like a key" or "with a key inside" is just a variation on a theme that morphed into additional forms after the practice was already established.

      Your comment "not because it's a key" assumes your conclusion (Ie, you are assuming the practice did not come from xtians and therefore the stated reason for the custom is its inherent reason and thus, "because it's a key" is the essence of this custom just as the later supporting chassidic sources give their credence to it. Others here are examining the possibility that, in fact, those later explanations are not the real reason and not the actual origin of the custom. "Because it's a key" as a distinction with the old xtian practice doesn't cut it unless we first assume that it definitely wasn't xtian in origin and that the reasons people give today (or in chassidic sources) are definitely how it got started originally.

      There are two different arguments at play here which you seem to conflate by saying "not because it's a key." One argument is: The origin of this custom may be a xtian practice that somehow crept its way among the Jewish masses and then spread and later received sanction by giving rationales for it after it was already popular. 2nd argument is: In light of that possibility (or reality), people today who do this custom are doing something xtian. Your "because it's a key" would only really address the 2nd argument, not the first.

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  13. I think that Rabbi Hoffman, as well as most of the readers here, miss the real point. Ask the woman of your community how many of them made a Schlissel Challah last Shabbos, than ask them how many of them saw their mothers or grandmothers make one. Segulos are THE trend. And minhagim that once were Chassidish have now become the norm (e.g. upsherin). People today are attracted to the mystical, the esoteric, with its promise of bountiful blessings. Why? Because its easy. Why work hard at developing a real relationship with Hashem, studying halacha, working on my emunah, etc. - when I can just go to a tzaddik, or give money to have him daven on my behalf, or do some hocus pocus segula to improve my life?

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    1. yes - extremely important point

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    2. Agreed. I tried to make it clear, though, that there are two distinct topics.

      1- Mesora.org is interested in tearing down anything based on Qabbalah, including Chassidus. They believe that the Torah is purely rational -- both in terms of preferring a rationalist hashkafah as well as believing that the only determinant of proper halakhah is what makes sense to them. The notion that a practice is accepted gives it no halachic authority and places no demands upon them in terms of burden of proof.

      R' Moshe Ben Chayim and the people he gets to write for his site are students of R' Yisrael Chait. Ashkenazim who hang their mezuzos vertically rather than following centuries of Ashenazi pesaq, because the notion of a compromise pesaq makes no sense to them.

      Their attack on a minhag can't be left unanswered.

      2- Yes, segulos are running amok. But actually due to the same Western trend toward autonomy over authority as Mesora.org. One chooses to be hyper-rationalist, the other chooses quick-n-easy fixes for their problems. Neither actually follows the pesaqim and traditions of their community; or in the modern community-less era, the tradition of the community of their ancestors. No sense of being grounded in a norm set by others. Insufficient connection to kelal Yisrael.

      As I wrote, at some point segulah becomes the dominant feature of one's religiosity over "ani avdekha ben amasekha", and the person is a Jewish pagan.

      But that can't silence the complaint against someone who distorts his sources because he is so sure that anything Chassidish that he doesn't like must have come from Xianity.

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