Sunday, 18 March 2018

Tovel Seder Plate and Kos Shel Eliyahu

Question: We bought a new matching seder plate and kos shel Eliyahu for seder night. Do we need to tovel them?
Answer: The Gemara (Avoda Zara 75b) writes that any kelim used while eating require tevila. The Shulchan Aruch (YD 120:4) extends this to kelim that are used in cooking or food preparation such as barbecue grills.
Nonetheless, the Rema (YD 120:5) writes that while one doesn’t use a chalaf, knife for shechting, for preparing food, one should ideally tovel it without a beracha. The Shach (YD 120:10) explains that this is because it can be used for other food purposes.
R’ Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher 3:62) writes that a kos shel Eliyahu fits into a similar category as it may be used for drinking. Additionally, one may come to use it years later for kiddush, especially if one finds another, nicer kos for seder night. Thus, it should be tovelled without a beracha (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:122).
In the following teshuva (ibid. 3:63), R’ Weiss writes that there is no need to tovel a seder plate, however, as it is not used for eating off or for preparing food. While some make a point of eating the food from the seder plate, it still serves as a tray for displaying the symbolic foods.
In conclusion, there is no need to tovel the seder plate, but one should tovel the kos shel Eliyahu without a beracha.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Covering the Sefer Torah

Question: I sometimes stand next to the bimah to help out during leining though am confused as to when to cover the sefer Torah. Should it be covered after every aliya?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 5b) writes that if a sefer unrolled into a reshus hayachid in a way that they couldn’t roll it back, they should turn it over so that the writing should not be exposed.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 277:1) writes that when a sofer who’s writing a sefer Torah leaves it to dry, he should cover it rather than turn it over, as covering it is more respectful. The Bach (YD 277:1) writes that we learn from here that it is disrespectful to leave a sefer Torah or other sefarim open for any extended period of time (See Shach YD 277:1; Baer Heitev YD 277:1; Aruch Hashulchan YD 277:2).
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:5) writes that the minhag is to cover the sefer Torah between each aliya. The Rema, however, writes that the minhag ashkenaz is to roll it closed. Likewise, the Mishna Berura (139:21) quotes the Taz that one shouldn’t cover the sefer Torah each time as it is a tircha, extra bother.
The Baer Heitev (OC 139:8) adds, however, that it is appropriate to cover the sefer Torah when saying kaddish afterwards. Thus, we cover the sefer Torah whenever there is a substantial pause, such as the gabbai saying mi shebeirach.
In conclusion, one should close, but not cover the sefer Torah after an aliya. When there is a longer break, such as kaddish or mi shebeirach being recited, then it should be covered.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Don’t Close the Torah

Question: When receiving an aliya is it best to close the sefer Torah during the berachos or leave it open?
Answer: The Gemara (Megilla 32a) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one who is called up to the Torah should leave the sefer Torah open or close it while they are reciting the berachos before their aliya. According to R’ Meir, one should close the sefer Torah so as not to give off the impression that the berachos are in the Torah.  R’ Yehuda, however, is not concerned that people will make this mistake. The Gemara says that the halacha follows R’ Yehuda. Thus, Rambam (Tefilla 12:5) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:4) write that when called up, one should open the sefer Torah to see where they are going to read from, leave the Torah open while saying the berachos and then read. One should roll the sefer Torah closed before saying the berachos after their aliya.
The Taz (OC 139:4) and Mishna Berura (139:17) explain that one shouldn’t close the sefer Torah as rolling it back and forth and finding the place again would constitute tircha detzibbura, an unnecessary burden on the community.
The Rema (OC 139:4) adds that when saying the berachos beforehand, one should look to the side. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (139:19) writes that this isn’t ideal as it looks like one is looking away. Rather, one should close one’s eyes, or read the berachos if they are on the bimah.
Some follow Tosafos (Megilla 32a) who writes that ideally one should close the sefer Torah before saying the berachos. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 139:12) challenges this, however, saying that the consensus of poskim is to leave the sefer Torah open.
In conclusion, it is preferable to leave the sefer Torah open during the first berachos so as not to delay the tzibbur by even a few extra seconds.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Read Along Parshas Zachor

Question: I usually see some people read parshas zachor quietly along with the baal korei. Is this ideal?
Answer: The Mishna Berura (146:15) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether the tzibbur should normally read along with the baal korei. According to the Shelah and Gra, one should follow without reading, while the Mateh Moshe writes that by reading along quietly one will be able to concentrate better.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 141:2) writes that the one called up to the Torah must read along as otherwise he would be saying his berachos levatala.
The Taz (OC 141:2) challenges why the one receiving the aliya can’t say the beracha on the baal korei’s behalf as we have a rule (Gemara Berachos 21b; Sukka 38b) shomea keoneh, that one can fulfil one’s obligation by listening. Thus, the Gra (OC 139:3) disagrees, writing that the one called up for his aliya should not read along quietly. R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:399) writes, however, that we pasken like the Shulchan Aruch, and one called up for an aliya must read along.
As listening to parshas zachor is mideoraisa, there is a machlokes as to whether this applies.
R’ Chaim Elazar Shapira (Minchas Elazar 2:1:10) writes that as there is a mitzva mideoraisa to remember amalek, everyone should read along parshas zachor quietly with the baal korei rather than relying on shomea keoneh.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:53), however, quotes the Pri Chadash (OC 67:1) and the Netziv (Meshiv Davar OC 47:128) who maintain that the tzibbur should follow along quietly (See Piskei Teshuvos 685:7).
This is so important that according to some poskim even the one called up for the aliya of parshas zachor should remain silent. Thus, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Epraim 7:344) writes that when R’ Moshe Feinstein was called up for parshas zachor, he would listen quietly to the baal korei. R’ Moshe Sternbuch explains that the reason for reading parshas zachor is different to the regular leining where the reason is for the tzibbur to hear the parsha. Thus, while according to the Shulchan Aruch, remaining quiet would usually constitute a beracha levatala, here it wouldn’t, as he is being yotze with shomea keoneh just like everybody else.
Nonetheless, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:447) writes that it is ideal for the one who is called up to read along quietly with the ball korei.
In conclusion, the tzibbur should be quiet while parshas zachor is being read. In some shuls even the one receiving the aliya doesn’t read along with the baal korei.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Returning a Sefer Torah

Question: We accidentally took out a sefer Torah which was not rolled to the right place. Could we have returned it to the aron hakodesh and swapped it for the right one or should we have rolled it to the right place?
Answer: The Gemara (Yoma 70a) writes that while one should not normally read pesukim from the Torah off by heart, the kohen gadol would do so, so as not to cause tircha detzibbura, an unnecessary burden on the community while they would roll the sefer torah (See Mishna Berura 49:3).
Accordingly, Rambam (Tefilla 12:23) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 144:3) write that one shouldn’t roll a sefer Torah during kerias hatorah. Thus, when we read the maftir from a different sidra, we should remove another sefer Torah when possible.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 8:15:4) quotes many poskim who forbid returning a sefer Torah to the aron hakodesh once it has been taken out. As people may erroneously think that this sefer Torah isn’t kosher, it is deemed to be disrespectful to the sefer Torah (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 78:10).
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 144:13) and R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:37) write that there is a machlokes as to whether one may return a sefer Torah that is rolled to the wrong place as on the one hand we are concerned for the kavod of the sefer Torah, while on the other hand we don’t want to cause tircha detzibbura. The Kaf Hachaim concludes that one mustn’t return the sefer Torah. R’ Moshe, however, writes that the community can choose whether to roll the sefer Torah or to return it to the aron hakodesh.
In conclusion, while the sefardi poskim write that one should roll the sefer Torah, ashkenazim would be able to replace it and exchange it for one rolled to the right place if necessary.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Kosher Soap

Question: I recently visited Israel and saw hechsherim on so many non-food products, even some bath products. Does it matter if body soap is made from non-kosher ingredients?
Answer: Rambam (Maachalos Asuros 8:15) writes that while one isn’t allowed to eat non-kosher fats, one is allowed to have other forms of benefit from them.
The Beis Yosef (YD 117; 123) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one may rub non-kosher fats into their skin. As the Mishna (Shabbos 86a) teaches us that anointing oneself on Yom Kippur is akin to drinking, the Orchos Chaim holds that one mustn’t anoint oneself with such fats. The Rashba, however, holds that one may do so. Following this, the Taz (YD 117:4) writes that one may only anoint oneself with such fats for medical reasons, etc. (See Kaf Hachaim YD 117:15). The Biur Halacha (326:10) quotes the Vilna Gaon (OC 326:10) who sides with the Taz though writes that the minhag is to allow using non-kosher soap.
Tosafos (Yoma 77a; Nidda 32a), however, disagrees, writing that this comparison only applies to oils though not to fats. As such, soap made from fats such as tallow wouldn’t be problematic. Furthermore, the comparison of anointing to drinking primarily applies to Yom Kippur and teruma.
Based on this, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:62) writes that one can use medicinal creams on Pesach even though they contain chametz alcohol.
The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 117:29), Kaf Hachaim (YD 117:14; 17) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:43) write that since our soap is not at all edible, it poses no issue whatsoever.
In conclusion, one can use body soap even if one knows that it contains non-kosher ingredients.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Post It Notes on Shabbos

Question: Is it permissible to use Post-it notes as bookmarks on Shabbos?
Answer: The Rema (OC 317:3) writes that while one is technically allowed to open temporary stitching that ties clothes together, one shouldn’t do so in front of one ignorant of hilchos Shabbos (See Beis Yosef OC 317:8; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 15:n209).
The Mishna Berura (317:21) writes that there is a machlokes as to what is considered temporary. According to the Taz, it is only considered temporary if it will be undone that day while the Levush holds that if it is sewn by a manufacturer and undone by the customer when he takes it home then that qualifies as temporary. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n55) notes that we pasken like the Levush. Thus, one may remove clothing tags on Shabbos (ibid. 15:63).
Rambam (Shabbos 10:11) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 340:14) write that sticking two pieces of leather or paper together is a toldah of tofer, sewing. Thus, R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 5:39:2; 9:41) writes that one would only be allowed to undo threads or remove something sticky that was tied or stuck on for very temporary use. This would include anything that is supposed to remain stuck until the consumer wants to unstick it. Thus, it would seem that he would forbid using Post-it notes on Shabbos.
Nonetheless, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 16:6:4) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 6:24) disagree, writing that such sticking like the backing on plasters is designed to be temporary and removed immediately before use. The Magen Avraham (OC 340:18) writes that one may separate two pages that had accidentally gotten stuck together with wax as it wasn’t done to last. Thus, while one would not be able to stick a regular sticker onto paper on Shabbos, one would be able to use Post-it notes.
Likewise, R’ Moshe Stern (Baer Moshe 1:36; 2:29:2) demonstrates that the issur of tefira is specifically using something to connect two other things together, and wouldn’t apply to plasters, etc. (See Igros Moshe OC 2:84).
Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 317:18) writes that the difference between tying and stitching is that knots can be untied and tied again whereas items that are sewn or glued together. As Post-it notes are so easily moved, it would seem that they do not come under this category of tofer.
R’ Yisroel Dovid Harfenes (Nishmas Shabbos 7:206) writes that especially as such notes are designed to be disposable and moved regularly, there is no prohibition in using them as bookmarks.
In conclusion, one may use Post-it notes as bookmarks on Shabbos.