She’elot U’teshuvot Notorious #1 – The Sword Swallower
As posted in my last installment, I’ve become the rabbi of choice for a number of people. While I admit to taking most everything in life with laughter, I nonetheless take the rabbinical role seriously when asked to step into it. Probably more she’elot (questions of halacha – literally “the way”, referring to normative Jewish practice) have come my way in the brief time that I’ve become The Notorious R.A.V. than in all my previous career. And I’ve issued responses (teshuvot) based on my understanding of halacha.
The questions and answers both include more than enough humorous tones, but please don’t make the mistake of laughing them off totally…they help to remind us that there is a very real intersection between Jewish values and ethics and real life. And so, the first published responsum:
The Sword Swallower Faces Pesach
She’elah: Adam the First Real Man (http://www.adamrealman.com/) is a sideshow performer and teacher. Among his acts is the swallowing of swords. He asked: Am I permitted to use the swords that I use year round, or am I required to use different swords on Pesach? [Note: Permission was granted to use Adam’s true identity]
The following considerations come into play:
The prohibition against leavened products (chametz) on Pesach (Passover) has been extended to require that even utensils used directly or indirectly with leavened products cannot be used on the holiday, unless they can be made kasher through one of a number of means.
For food products to be chametz, they must be such that, at the very least, a dog would eat
In our current situation, we first define the sword itself as a non-food item, since no dog would consider swallowing or eating it (the same is true of sane humans). And even if the sword itself were to be edible, certainly swallowing it is not derech achila, the way in which food is eaten.
We then look at what the sword comes into contact with. According to Adam, the sword is swallowed, goes through the esophagus and enters the stomach. While it is possible that the sword might touch some partially digested food, I would suggest that it no longer has the status of chametz once it has been swallowed. The swords Adam uses are never used to cut actual foods.
Therefore, as long as the sword is cleaned thoroughly before the morning prior to the first Seder to assure that no residue of partially digested food is on it, the swords may be used on Pesach without any additional preparation.
More responsa to follow…