Saturday, 20 May 2017

Latest time to Count the Omer on Friday

Question: I forgot to count the omer on Thursday night, and only remembered after davening kabbalas Shabbos. As that was before shekia, can I still continue counting with a beracha, or was is too late?
Answer: Tosafos (Menachos 66a) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one may count the omer during the day, or if it must be done at night. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 489:7) writes that if one didn’t count at night, they should count during the day without reciting a beracha. They may, however, continue counting with a beracha on future nights (See Mishna Berura 489:34; Shaar Hatziyun 489:45).
The Taz (OC 600:2) writes about a community who hadn’t managed to fulfil the mitzva of hearing the shofar on the second day of Rosh Hashana that fell on a Friday. They davened kabbalas Shabbos early and then someone brought them a shofar. The Taz writes that in this scenario, even though they had already been mekabel Shabbos, they could still blow the shofar (See Taz OC 668).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:99:3) writes that this demonstrates that although one has brought Shabbos in early by saying kabbalas Shabbos, nonetheless, it is still the same day (Friday) regarding other halachos. One can, therefore, in this scenario, still count the omer and continue doing so later with a beracha. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 4:43:8) brings multiple sources who agree that in this scenario one should count that day’s omer.
In conclusion, while one has been mekabel Shabbos, it isn’t too late to still count the previous night’s omer.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Counting Omer Early

Question: I always daven maariv early in the Summer as I can’t stay up until after nacht every night to count the omer. Can I count the omer early or should I wait until the next day to count?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 34b) writes that there is a doubt as to whether the time period between shekia (sunset) and tzeis hakochavim (nightfall) known as bein hashemashos, belongs to the end of the day, or to the beginning of the following night. Generally, we follow the rule that when it comes to matters of doubt we rule stringently with matters that are mideoraisa and leniently with matters that are miderabanan.
As there is a machlokes as to whether counting the omer nowadays is mideoraisa or miderabanan, there is a machlokes as to whether one needs to wait until tzeis to count.
Thus, Rambam (Temidin Umusafin 7:22) who holds that counting the omer nowadays is a mitzva deoraisa writes that one should wait until tzeis to count (See Biur Halacha 489:1).
Tosafos (Menachos 66a, first opinion), the Rosh (Pesachim 10:40) and his son, the Tur (OC 489:1), however, write that one may count from shekia, as they hold that counting nowadays is derabanan.
Following this, the Mishna Berura (489:14) writes that as most poskim hold that counting nowadays is derabanan, one may count from shekia. Nonetheless, it is ideal to wait until after tzeis (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 489:7).
Other poskim, however, including the Bach (OC 489:1), Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 489:12) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:23) write that it is acceptable to count after shekia.
In conclusion, if one finds it difficult to stay up until nightfall, one may count the omer with a beracha after shekia.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Music at Seudas Mitzva during Omer

Question: We attended a Bar Mitzva where they played music even though it was during the omer. Was this okay?
Answer: The poskim (Aruch Hashulchan OC 493:2; Igros Moshe YD 2:137) write that one mustn’t listen to music during the omer.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:45; 6:34) writes that one may play music at a seudas mitzva during the omer, be it a bris seuda, bar mitzva or siyum, etc. R’ Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 3:17:1) also allows playing music at such occasions, writing that the simcha of the mitzva overrides the minhag not to play music.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:111), however, writes that this minhag is so important that one wouldn’t even be able to play music at a seudas mitzva. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe EH 1:98) similarly writes about making a party for a chassan and kalla who had returned to town after their sheva berachos. While one can make such a party, one shouldn’t play any music there.
R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:128) writes that an ashkenazi may attend and participate in a sefardi chasuna during the ‘three weeks’ even though they wouldn’t make one then themselves. Thus, it would seem that an ashkenazi may attend a sefardi simcha in which music is played.
In conclusion, while the sefardi poskim allow one to play music at a seudas mitzva during the omer, the ashkenazi poskim write that one shouldn’t play music at such an event. An ashkenazi may attend a sefardi simcha regardless of music being played.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Travelling Children

Question: My 12 year old son has just come back from a holiday in Israel. Should he bentch gomel?
Answer: The Magen Avraham (OC 219:1) quotes the Maharam of Mintz (14) who writes that children don’t recite the beracha of hagomel. As children do not get punished for their sins, it wouldn’t make sense for them to say the words, ‘hagomel lechayavim tovos, who bestows good things upon the guilty’. Nor can he just omit those words, as we mustn’t tamper with the text of the berachos. The Mishna Berura (219:3) adds that we don’t even train children to recite this beracha for chinuch (See Shevet Halevi 3:163:2).
The Shaarei Teshuva (OC 219:1), however, quotes the Mahari Bason (Lachmei Todah 5) and others who allowed children to recite the beracha. Likewise, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 4:63) challenges the reasons for children not to.
Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 219:6) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 219:2) write that common practice is for children not to recite hagomel. Similarly, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 14:20; 18:22) writes that children who recover from an illness shouldn’t bentch either.
In conclusion, the consensus of poskim is that children should not recite the beracha of hagomel.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Eating before Counting the Omer

Question: I read that one mustn’t eat before counting the omer. Does it make a difference whether I daven maariv early or late?
Answer: The Rema (OC 489:4) writes that when it is time to count the omer one mustn’t eat until they have counted. 
There is a machlokes as to when exactly this starts. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 489:17) writes that one mustn’t eat from a half hour before shekia while the Mishna Berura (489:23) writes that one can eat until a half hour before nacht.
Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 235:2) writes that one shouldn’t sit down to eat half an hour before it’s time to daven maariv, as they may get preoccupied and forget to recite the shema.
Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 232:16) writes that one who regularly davens maariv in shul is allowed to eat beforehand as they won’t come to forget to recite the shema. Likewise, the Mishna Berura (235:18) writes that one who wants to eat then may do so providing that they ask someone else to remind them. R’ Avraham Yeshaya Pfoifer (Ishei Yisrael 27:19) writes that the same applies to setting an alarm.
Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:99) and R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 6:52) write that there is no need to act more stringently with counting the omer than one does with eating before davening maariv. One who regularly davens maariv after nacht may eat supper beforehand without having to be concerned that they will forget to recite kerias shema. Likewise, as nowadays we are accustomed to count the omer after maariv, one may eat before davening and counting (See Rivevos Ephraim 2:129:28).
In conclusion, one who regularly davens maariv after nacht can eat beforehand. One who either davens earlier or is davening later than usual should set themselves a reminder on their phone, etc. before sitting down to eat.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Laundry on Chol Hamoed

Question: While I’m washing my children’s clothes on chol hamoed, can I throw some of my own clothes into the washing machine?
Answer: The Gemara (Moed Katan 14a) writes that in order to ensure that people would prepare properly for yom tov, chazal instituted that it is forbidden to wash clothes on chol hamoed.
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 534:1) writes that under regular circumstances one mustn’t wash one’s clothes on chol hamoed. The Rema, however, writes that one may wash young children’s clothes if they constantly dirty them. The Mishna Berura (534:11) explains that one can only wash children’s clothes that they’ll need for that yom tov.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 7:48:1), R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:354) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 66:63) write that as the reason for this prohibition is to ensure that people are well prepared for yom tov, it doesn’t make a difference how one washes their clothes. Thus, one can’t wash adult’s clothes in a washing machine. Likewise, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe 5:36:1) writes that one can’t give one’s suit in to the dry cleaners.
The Mishna Berura (534:4) quotes the Chayei Adam who permits washing handkerchiefs that need washing regularly. Based on this, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 66:66) allows one to wash underwear on chol hamoed providing that they washed everything before yom tov (See Shevet HaLevi 8:124).
In conclusion, while one may wash young children’s clothing, etc. on chol hamoed, one may not add any regular clothes to the wash at the same time.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Selling Chametz Online

Question: I see that some organisations are offering people to sell their chametz online. Is this ideal?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 448:3) writes that one may sell their chametz to a non-Jewish person for the duration of Pesach. R’ Shlomo Yosef Zevin (Hamoadim Behalacha, quoted by R’ Ribiat, Halachos of Pesach, p172) describes the history of selling chametz. While individuals used to sell their own chametz, they were fraught with complications and errors. Especially as most times the chametz never leaves the house, the forms of acquisition are most complicated (See Magen Avraham OC 448:4). As a result, communities began selling their chametz through their local rav and Beis Din.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 448:27) explains that nowadays the rav acts as an agent for anyone who has appointed him to sell their chametz.
While it is possible to appoint an agent verbally (Shulchan Aruch EH 141:26; CM 182:1), Rambam (Mechira 5:12) writes that it is customary to perform a kinyan (act of transaction) to solidify one’s appointment of an agent.
Nonetheless, it is important that the chametz gets sold properly and that all parties involved view it as a legal sale rather than a mere ritual. Thus, it is common practice to fill out a form that acts as a legal document (shtar) as well as to engage in a kinyan sudar, a symbolic act of transaction performed with a cloth which demonstrates the transfer of authority through this agent.
Thus, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:293) writes that while one can appoint their rav to sell their chametz over the phone, it isn’t ideal.
In conclusion, one should try their utmost to sell their chametz in person with their rav, due to the severity of the sale. One who is housebound can sell their chametz online or by phone if necessary.