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.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Eating Sefardi Matza

Question: I have a hard time digesting so much matza on seder night. Am I allowed to eat the softer ‘sefardi matza’?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 460:5) writes that one must ensure not to bake one’s matza as thick as a tefach. The Rema (OC 460:4) writes that one should bake them thin (rekikin) which don’t leaven quickly.
Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 460:10) writes that one shouldn’t make matzos too thick as the inside won’t bake as well as the outside of the matza. While one may bake a matza less than a tefach thick, it is ideal to make it thin. The Chasam Sofer (OC 121) likewise writes that thick matza does not bake as well as thin matza.
While these poskim don’t define what is considered thin, the Baer Heitev (460:8) quotes the Beis Hillel (YD 97) who explains that the custom was to bake matza thinner than regular bread, and to make them the thickness of a finger. Thus, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 486:2) writes about matza that is soft and bendy like a sponge.
This is even thicker than most ‘sefardi matza’ today. Based on this, it would seem that even the Rema would allow eating the softer ‘sefardi matza’.
R’ Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher 3:44; 45) demonstrates that olden day matzos were far thicker than ours. Our thin cracker-type matzos developed for commercial purposes as they last much longer. Nonetheless, he concludes that it is ideal for ashkenazim to eat thinner matzos (See Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 9:41:80).
In conclusion, it is clear that this ‘sefardi matza’ was the standard matza throughout the ashkenazi communities. While there is a preference among some poskim for ashkenazim to eat cracker-type matzos, one may eat ‘sefardi matzos’ if necessary.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Late Seuda Shelishis

Question: Our shul davens Mincha on Shabbos about an hour before Shabbos ends. By the time I get home, it is after shekia. Is that too late to start eating seuda shelishis?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 299:1) writes that one shouldn’t start eating when it gets dark on Shabbos afternoon until havdala.  If one had started eating a meal before this time, one can continue eating (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 299:3).
The Mishna Berura (299:1) writes that while it is preferable to eat before shekia, if one hasn’t yet eaten seuda shelishis, then one should eat up to half an hour before tzeis hakochavim. Among other reasons, he explains (Shaar Hatziyun 299:2) that we are not accustomed to be so strict about shekia, especially when there’s a mitzva to eat seuda shelishis.
R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:203) writes that while the Chazon Ish was particular not to eat after shekia, nonetheless, most poskim allow one to begin eating seuda shelishis a few minutes after shekia (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 56:4; Rivevos Ephraim 1:264).
In conclusion, it is preferable to begin eating seuda shelishis before shekia, though it is justifiable to begin a few minutes afterwards if necessary.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Using the Eruv for Someone Else

Question: My neighbour doesn’t use the eruv though sometimes asks me to carry things on his behalf. Is that allowed?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 263:17) writes that one who accepted Shabbos early may ask another who hasn’t yet accepted Shabbos to perform a melacha on their behalf (See Tosafos, Shabbos 151a).
Nonetheless, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 18:32:3) differentiates between this scenario and asking another to perform a melacha when it’s Shabbos for him, too. Thus, a sefardi who follows a stricter position mustn’t ask an ashkenazi who follows a more lenient position to perform a melacha on his behalf. 
The Gemara (Shabbos 150a; Bava Metzia 90a) teaches us that it is assur miderbanan to ask a non-Jewish person to do melacha for them on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 276:1) writes that if one mistakenly did so, they would be forbidden to benefit from that action on Shabbos.
Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:119:5) writes that one who doesn’t open cans on Shabbos mustn’t ask a non-Jewish person to open it for them. If a non-Jewish person opened it for them, they wouldn’t be allowed to eat that food on Shabbos. Nonetheless, if another Jew opened it for him as they follow poskim who allow doing so (See Minchas Shlomo 2:12, Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n10; Yechave Daas 2:42), then they may eat from the can. Similarly, the Mishna Berura (318:2; 27) and R’ Waldenberg (ibid.) allows one to benefit from any such melacha performed.
Based on this, R’ Ribiat (The 39 Melochos, p93) writes that one who doesn’t open bottles or cans on Shabbos, should not ask those who do, to do so for them.
In conclusion, one who doesn’t use the eruv on Shabbos should not ask you to carry on their behalf. They may benefit from you doing so, however.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Hearing Zachor in a Sefardi Shul

Question: I daven nusach ashkenaz though occasionally daven in a sefardi shul on Shabbos morning. Is there any issue with me hearing parshas zachor there?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 684:7) writes that there is a mitzva deoraisa to listen to parshas zachor.
R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Zvi OC:4), R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 3:9; 4:47:3) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:154) write that as there are advantages to the ashkenazi pronunciation, one who usually davens with an ashkenazi pronunciation mustn’t change to a sefardi one.
Similarly, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 6:C:11) explains that as there advantages to the sefardi pronunciation, one who davens with an sefardi pronunciation mustn’t change to an ashkenazi one. He writes that he’d regularly tell sefardi bachurim studying in an ashkenazi yeshiva to go to a sefardi shul to hear parshas zachor.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:5; 4:65) explains that during the time of the first beis hamikdash, everyone spoke with a similar pronunciation. It wasn’t until we were exiled, that slight changes crept in. While people shouldn’t change from one to the other, all pronunciations are equally valid.
R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (Mikraei Kodesh, Arba Parshiyos 7:n6) writes that one who usually davens with an ashkenazi pronunciation should be particular to listen to parshaz zachor read in as ashkenazi pronunciation (See Rivevos Ephraim 5:584:4; Piskei Teshuvos 685:10).
Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 685:12) and R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo Purim 18:1) write that bedieved, one fulfils their obligation wherever they go.
In conclusion, one should make the effort to listen to parshas zachor in one’s own nusach. If faced with no choice, one fulfils their obligation whichever shul they attend.