Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Divergence In Minhagim?

(Picture courtesy

Sichos HaRan #9:

In the name of the Baal Shem Tov "A knife should not be given as a gift." If you have a friend, do not present him with a knife.

Vedibarta Bam:

Some Chassidim and men of deeds have a custom to purchase a new knife, Erev Rosh Hashanah (Nitei Gavriel 11:10)

QUESTION: What is the reason for the custom of purchasing a new sharp knife before Rosh Hashanah?

ANSWER: The final letters of the words, "Potei'ach et yadecha" - "You open up your hand" - spell the word "chatach" - "cut" - which is the name of the Angel in charge of parnasah - livelihood. Also, the word "u'masbe'a" - "and satisfy [the desire of every living being]" - which follows afterwards in the pasuk (Psalms 145:16) has the numerical value of four hundred and twenty-eight which is also the numerical value of "chatach." Thus, the acquiring of a new sharp knife is considered a "segulah" - something spiritually propitious - for parnasah, which we request on Rosh Hashanah for the entire coming year.


Received via e-mail from Rabbi Avraham Bloomenstiel:

I just read this post and am somewhat confused. What is the divergence in minhagim? Perhaps the title is misleading?

There is no actual divergence in minhagim; Rabbenu Za"l wrote against giving a knife as a gift, but not against buying a sharp new one on erev Rosh Ha-Shanna.

In Uman, there are always several tables or booths out with persons selling new knives and whet stones for sharpening erev Rosh ha-Shanna davka because of the segula mentioned in the post. The rebbe was not against using knives for seguolos (see Sefer ha-Middos: Bayis II:8, Shochet II:5, Segulah B7, B10, etc.). The only issue is giving one as a present.


At September 20, 2007 at 10:19:00 AM EDT, Blogger Akiva said...

I was about to write the same comment of gift versus self purchase.

A further aspect of the minhag I've been told is the wife must purchase, but the husband must toivel it.

At September 20, 2007 at 10:40:00 AM EDT, Anonymous avi bloomenstiel said...

Your comment reminds me of a ma'aseh that Rabbi Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld z"l once told. He was visiting Rav Avraham Shternhartz z"l, the Gadol ha-Dor of Breslov at the time, and presented Rav Shternhartz with a very nice challa board and knife set. Rav Shternhartz accepted the challa board but would not take the knife without paying for it.

At September 20, 2007 at 11:08:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ichud Hatzala gave out to all their EMT volunteers a silver chala knife for Rosh Hashana.

And they said they didn't need to be toveled either :-)

At September 20, 2007 at 12:18:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another aspect of the minhag (which diverges from the picture displayed at the beginning of the blog entry) is that the knife should not be serrated. This indicates that one's parnossah should come smoothly, rather than with bumps.

Incidentally, some also say that eating apple pie is a segulah for parnossah. The roshei teivos of the possuk "Posei'ach es yedecho" spell "pie," and the sofei teivos spell "tapuach" (apple).

A gut gebentched yohr.

At September 20, 2007 at 12:24:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Very interesting, indeed. If it's not my minhag to get a new knife for RH then it might not be an issue if one is GIVEN to me.

re: Ichud Hatzala- Maybe the knives were made in E"Y or pre-toyvaled.

At September 20, 2007 at 12:28:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

Wow. I recieved at least two challah knives as chasunah gifts and have been struggling with parnassa ever since!

At September 20, 2007 at 4:24:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michoel: You can pay back :)

At September 20, 2007 at 4:27:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Neil Harris: Buying a knife for Roysh haShone is one thing, and not giving it as a gift (in general, at all times) is another, so I don't see any connections.


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