Shul Candymen and 9 Halachos Pertaining to Them


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

L’Ilui Nishmas the Author’s mother, Sara Bas HaRav Eliyahu, on her 15th Yahrtzeit, 22 Av

It is no longer the 50’s and 60’s.  Much like other things in Jewish consumerism (such as $180 Mezuzah cases, $6000 wedding gowns, and $800 Tallis bags and $250 makeup sessions) –  the shul candyman’s inventory, in many shuls, has, well, evolved.

In the fifties and sixties the shul candyman had maybe a dozen lollipops and that was it, now many candy men have bags and bags of various candy with all the bells and whistles.  Would it be possible to write an entire sefer on the topic of “the shul candyman?”  Before this topic gets attacked for being excessively frivolous, the reader should be aware that these types of articles do serve to shed light on numerous halachic areas.   What possible topics might be included in such a sefer? In this article we will attempt to explore the following areas of halacha:

  • Is money spent on candy to give out in shul included in “hotzaos Shabbos?”
  • Is money spent on an impressive array of choices of candy also included in hotzaos Shabbos?
  • Is hotzaos Shabbos limited to your own food or would it include others as well?
  • Is it a Mitzvah to give out candy to children to get them to like coming to shul?
  • Is it forbidden because Is it causes children to eat before kiddush?
  • Is there a lifnei Iver (halachic stumbling block) in accustoming children to take part in sweets?
  • Is there lifnei Iver in causing children to walk in front of people that are davening?
  • Is there a lifnei Iver in causing children to lie and steal to get what they want?
  • Is there a lifnei Iver in causing children to throw wrappers on the floor and not pick them up?
  • Is there a lifnei Iver in causing children to talk during shul?


The Gemara (Beitzah 15b) tells us that money we spend for Shabbos and Yom Tov is excluded from the predetermined sum we are destined to make that year. In other words, Hashem covers these expenditures.  The Gemara previously (Beitzah 12a) uses the expression, “Borrow on My account and I shall pay–lavu allai v’ani porei’a.” Hashem covers these expenses and He underwrites the costs.

But what does this exemption include?  Is it only food for Shabbos meals? Or does it include other expenses too?


Rav Meir Brandsdorfer, zt’l, a dayan of the Eidah HaChareidis, in his Knei Bosem (Vol. III #13) writes explicitly that only food and drink are included. He cites as proof that the verse in the eighth chapter of Nechemia only mentions food and drink, and this verse is the source of the entire ruling.  The halachos of the Purim Seudah that the Mitzvah is only during the Seudah may illuminate Rav Bransdorfer’s view too.

On the other hand, the Shitah Mekubetzes (Beitzah 15b) cites the Ritva’s view that all expenditures for mitzvos are included within this exemption. In other words, according to the Ritva, you get back any money that you spend on any mitzvah – which would likely include getting children to come to shul and enjoy it. The Gemara itself extends the exemption to expenses for talmud Torah for one’s children and also rosh chodesh as well. Perhaps this might give precedent to be more inclusive of the Shabbos expenditures that are exempt.


In answering our second question, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita once explained to Rabbi Daniel Kleinman (Koveitz Halachos Shabbos Vol. page 11) that excessive or luxurious purchases, however, would not be included in the deductible hotzaos Shabbos exemption unless the person is on a remarkably high level of bitachon–a level that is not to be found in modern times.

This author, however, would like to suggest that we can infer from the Gemara in Bava Kamma (9a), which says that hiddur mitzvah is only to one-third, that mitzvah items such as an esrog box would not be a fully deductible expense. This would indicate that the concept of hotza’os Shabbos and yom tov is limited to food and drink. However, the aforementioned Ritva would also have had to understand the Gemara in Bava Kamma.


Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, seems to have had a more nuanced view. The Shvus Yitzchak (section on electricity, 19:1) cites a ruling from Rav Elyashiv that the concept only includes tzorchei Shabbos and not luxuries. The Aruch HaShulchan (Orech Chaim 250:4) writes quite clearly, however, that purchasing more meat and wine are included in the expense exemption. Perhaps the contradiction could be resolved by assuming that only in regard to extra meat and wine we would say that they fit into the definition of tzorchei Shabbos–the needs of Shabbos.


Regarding whether it only applies to one’s own food, Rav Chaim Kanievsky was asked (see Ohr L’Yaakov page 72) whether the exemption included guests who would have their own food to eat had they not been invited. He responded that these expenditures are also exempt.  It could be, however, that the exemption only applies to actual house guests and not to what is given out in shul.


As a side note, the Mishnah Berurah (252:2) writes that for whatever one purchases for Shabbos, it is worthwhile to verbally express, “I am purchasing this for the honor of Shabbos.” The Machatzis HaShekel explains that through the verbalized words, the holiness of Shabbos will enter into the item itself.  Most candymen do not promote this Mishna Brurah.


Is there a prohibition of “lo saachilem” – feeding something that is prohibited to another in giving a child candy before he or she has heard kiddush?  The prohibition applies even to a child below the age of chinuch.

An interesting source regarding this topic is found in the Mogain Avrohom’s comments on the words of the Shulchan Aruch (OC 269:1) regarding the custom to make kiddush in shul on Friday night.  The halach states that the person maing kiddush should not drink, but  matimo l’kotton – he lets a child taste of it.  The Mogain Avrohom gives four reasons why it is not a violation of lo saachilem.

  • This is only a bitul assei and not a lo saaseh.
  • There is a minority view which holds that there is no actual prohibition of drinking before kiddush
  • a third possible reason is that there is no other option for making kiddush for travellers.
  • A fourth possible reason (based on the Beis Yoseph in Siman 343) citing Rishonim is that anything for rabisa d’tinok – the child’s growth and development – the chachomim never made a prohibition. There is an issue of the child learning a bad trait here, but the Mogain Avrohom rules that if it is not a set thing it would be permitted.

Some of these reasons might apply to our case too.  Reasons three and four would not apply to candymen unless the Rabbi says that candymen should only operate one or two weeks a month and switch off (Much like Rav Moshe Feinstein’s heter to celebrate Thanksgiving).


The Lifnei Iver questions entail multiple topics:  Is there a lifnei Iver (halachic stumbling block) in accustoming children to take part in sweets?  Let’s remember that 37.3 million Americans (1 in 10) have diabetes and another 96 million American adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes.

The impressive array of candy has given birth to specific rules, such as “No more than two candies per child.”  But is that only in one visit to the candyman – or the whole day?  Some kids fudge things up a bit.  Also, what happens when the candyman or the appointed gabbai is not there?   Is there a lifnei Iver in causing children to lie and steal to get what they want?

Is there a lifnei Iver in causing children to throw wrappers on the floor and not pick them up?  Is there a lifnei Iver in causing children to talk during shul?  All of these questions can be answered with one concept – the three ways to resolve a major contradiction in Lifnei Iver. Depending upon how we resolve the apparent contradiction, we will gain new insight into the parameters and guidelines of lifnei iver even beyond the cases under discussion themselves.

There is a concept known in halachah as teliyah — that whenever it is possible to assume a permitted purpose, even if that possibility is statistically or factually dubious, we do so.

The Gemara in Nedarim 62a tells us that Rav Ashi had an avah, a forest, that he sold to an avodah zara fire temple. When asked about lifnei iver, he responded that most of the wood would be for ordinary heating and not avodah zara. The Ran explains that it is permitted because of teliyah. The Ran’s view is cited by the Taz in Y.D. 151. The Chasam Sofer in a responsum (Y.D. #9) fully explains this idea.

However, there are other passages in the Gemara that indicate that there is a prohibition of lifnei iver whenever a strong likelihood of a violation exists. In Bava Metzia 75b, we see that it is a violation of lifnei iver to loan money when there are no witnesses. There is also such an indication from Bava Metzia 5b.


One approach to resolving the contradiction is that whenever there is a greater probability of a violation than a non-violation, then we do not assume a permitted purpose, and there is no lifnei iver. This is the approach of the HaGaos Tosfos Anshei Shem in Mishnayos Shviis 5:7 and the TaZ in Y.D. 151. This is also the approach of Rav Zilberstein in the above case of the suspecting mother-in-law.

Another approach is that the Talmudic cases that forbid it when the likelihood of a violation is stronger are only a rabbinic lifnei iver (see Tzitz Eliezer Vol. IV 5:3). [This would create an additional leniency, in case of a doubt, as we are more lenient on rabbinic lifnei iver than biblical lifnei iver.]

Rav Dovid’s Approach

Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt’l, related his approach to resolving the contradiction. He explained that if the action being performed will directly lead to a violation on the part of the recipient, and without it the recipient would not have had the desire to violate halachah, then it is a violation of lifnei iver. Rav Feinstein’s view is recorded in this author’s sefer on lifnei iver titled “Misguiding the Perplexed” on page 97. [It is also a possibility offered by the Tzitz Eliezer as well.]


The issue is one with many differing opinions. The halachic issues have deep roots throughout halachic history. But in conclusion, as we can see here, there is certainly enough material for an entire book.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


Listen to the VINnews podcast on:

iTunes | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Podbean | Amazon

Follow VosIzNeias For Breaking News Updates

Connect with VINnews

Join our WhatsApp group

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments