Thursday, 17 September 2020

Yehi Ratzon During Shofar

Question: Last Rosh Hashana I went to a different shul to normal. I started saying the yehi ratzon printed in my machzor between the tekios but someone motioned for me not to say it. Can I say it if I want to?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 592:3) writes that one should not talk between the various tekios. The Tur (OC 592:2) writes that while one who spoke would not need to repeat the berachos and listen to the shofar again, nonetheless, they should be told not to talk. The Rema adds that davening and shofar related speech does not constitute a hefsek, unnecessary interruption.
R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 1:39) maintains that there is no hefsek to recite the yehi ratzon, being that according to the Arizal, such words of vidui are appropriate during the blowing of the shofar. Similarly, the Mateh Ephraim (590:36) records the minhag to recite the yehi ratzon, though cautions against reciting the names of the malachim, angels.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (592:12) writes that the Rema is specifically referring to the tefillos in between each set of blasts. One must not make such interruptions in the middle of a set, however. Therefore, one should not recite the yehi ratzon that is printed in the machzor. He notes (Shaar Hatziyun 592:15) that R’ Yaakov Emden (Siddur Beis Yaakov) was lenient in this regard. If one is in a place where the minhag is to recite yehi ratzon, one should not stop them.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 1:36:18; OC 3:32) quotes the Minchas Elazar (1:75) who challenges the minhag to recite them. The Beis Yosef (OC 590) writes that there is a machlokes as to why we must blow a minimum of thirty blasts. According to Rambam (Shofar 3:2), the reason is because there is a safek (doubt) as to which is the correct sound for teruah. Accordingly, we blow three sets to ensure that we fulfil the mitzva. Therefore, R’ Ovadia argues, it would be a hefsek to interrupt with any tefillos in the middle. Additionally, there are some unsavoury names that have made their way into the text which must not be uttered (See Minchas Elazar 1:75).
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5:65:3) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:344) note that many great Rabbis never said this yehi ratzon.
In conclusion, unless one has a specific minhag to say the yehi ratzon, it is best not to recite it.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Blowing Shofar for Another

Question: I have been asked to blow shofar for people who are housebound. Should I repeat the berachos each time even though I have already fulfilled the mitzva?
Answer: The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 29a with Rashi; Shavuos 39a) teaches that Jewish people are spiritually responsible for each other. As such, one person can recite certain berachos for another even if they don’t need to recite it themselves. The Magen Avraham (167:40) explains that because of this responsibility (arvus), if one knows that another person hasn’t performed a mitzva, it is almost as if they haven’t performed the mitzva themselves. Therefore, one who has already fulfilled their obligation for kiddush can recite kiddush for another person who has not.
There is a machlokes as to whether one can recite a beracha on a mitzva that one is not commanded to perform. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 589:6) writes that as women are not obligated to hear the shofar, they do not recite the beracha as they cannot say vetzivanu, that ‘we are commanded’. Accordingly, a man blowing for women could not recite the beracha on their behalf.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 1:39-42; 4:50; 5:43) writes that this is the practice for sefardim, and women should not recite the beracha of shehecheyanu either. However, ashkenazim follow the Rema who writes that women can recite the beracha as the Jewish people were commanded collectively. Other sefardim follow the Ben Ish Chai (Rav Poalim OC 1 Sod Yesharim 12) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 589:23) who write that women may recite the berachos.
Nonetheless, the Rema writes that a man may not recite the beracha if blowing shofar for women if he has already heard shofar. The Rema (Darkei Moshe OC 589:2) quotes the Maharil who writes that a man may recite the beracha for a woman who cannot do so. Yet, the Rema disagrees, writing that while women may say the beracha if they want to, it remains optional, and so a man shouldn’t do so on their behalf.
The Mishna Berura (585:5) writes that even when blowing for other men, it is ideal for the ones listening to recite the berachos, rather than the one blowing shofar to repeat them.
In conclusion, one blowing shofar after they have already fulfilled the mitzva should ask one of those listening to recite the berachos. He may recite the berachos on behalf of other men if necessary.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Dry Hands for Netilas Yadayim

Question: Do I need to ensure that my hands are totally dry before washing them before eating bread?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 14b; Eruvin 21b) teaches that Shlomo Hamelech instituted the mitzva of washing one’s hands before eating teruma, as one’s hands may have come into contact with items that are tamei, ritually impure. According to the Gemara (Chullin 106a), this law was extended to everyone washing before eating bread, so as to ensure that kohanim would become accustomed to wash their hands before eating.
There is a machlokes, however, as to whether one needs to ensure that one’s hands and the cup handles are dry before washing.
The Rema (OC 160:11) quotes the Terumas Hadeshen (259) who holds that a basin of water which has been touched is suitable for use for washing one’s hands. Only water that one used to wash one’s hands with, becomes tamei and unfit for use again.
Following this, the Chazon Ish (OC 24:20) writes that if one’s hands were wet before washing, the water on one’s hands becomes tamei, and does not become tahor by being washed. As this invalidates the washing, both one’s hands and cup handles need to be dry before washing.
However, the Magen Avraham (162:10), Mishna Berura (162:27; Biur Halacha 162:2; Shaar Hatziyun 162:41) and R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:11:9) write that one does not need to ensure that ones hands are dry before washing. The Mishna Berura quotes the Pischei Teshuva who writes that one should ensure that the cup handles are dry before one touches them. Nonetheless, he disagrees, writing that this water does not become tamei, and therefore it does not invalidate the washing (See Eretz Zvi 35).
In conclusion, one may wash one’s hands even if they are wet, though many are particular to ensure that they are dry first.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Children Affixing Mezuzos

Question: Our eleven-year-old son asked if he could fix the mezuza onto his bedroom doorpost. Is this permissible?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (YD 291:3) writes that children are also obligated in the mitzva of mezuza and we should train them (chinuch) to affix mezuzos on their doors.
R’ Yaakov Yeshaya Blau (Chovas Hadar 1:25) explains that the Shulchan Aruch is clearly referring to a house that is only inhabited by children. If the child is able to, he or she should affix the mezuza, though doing so is only a mitzva derabanan of chinuch. He questions whether an adult doing so on their behalf would recite a beracha or not.
R’ Avraham Dovid Wahrman of Buchach (Daas Kedoshim 289:2) writes that if a mezuza falls on Shabbos, one can get a child to affix it on Shabbos. Nonetheless, in his notes (Gidulei Karka) he questions whether children can be trusted to have the appropriate intentions as they affix them.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 14:75:1) notes that there is a machlokes as to whether children may affix by themselves or not, and concludes that they may not affix mezuzos. He explains that even the Shulchan Aruch means that children should have an adult affix the mezuza on their room on their behalf. If a child does hang the mezuza, it should be removed and reaffixed by an adult.
In conclusion, children should not affix mezuzos until they are bas mitzva or bar mitzva.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Scooters on Shabbos

Question: Can my children ride their scooters on Shabbos where there is an eruv?
Answer: R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:52; Yabia Omer OC 7:37:3; 10:55:2) quotes the Ben Ish Chai (Rav Poalim OC 1:25) who permitted cycling on Shabbos though writes that the consensus of acharonim is that cycling is prohibited for various reasons.
R’ Ovadia Yosef quotes acharonim who are concerned that the tyres will leave grooves in the earth which is prohibited due to choresh plowing. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 404:8) writes that when riding a bike, it is very easy to mistakenly ride outside of the techum or carry it out of the eruv. In addition, it is common for things to break which could easily lead to the prohibition of tikkun mana, fixing things. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 1:21:27; 4:4:8; 7:30) adds that using a bike is also prohibited because it is uvdin dechol, a mundane, weekday activity.
As children’s tricycles are not used to ride long distances, R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (OC 302:339) did not consider them to be the same issue of uvdin dechol and allowed children to ride them on Shabbos. Likewise, R’ Moshe Feinstein (quoted in Tiltulei Shabbos 1:n21) differentiated between bikes that are used for travels and kid’s tricycles that are not typically ridden for long distances (See Baer Moshe 6:16; Ohr Letzion 2:42:1). Similarly, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 16:18) forbids children from riding bikes though writes that they may ride tricycles and scooters.
In conclusion, while adults may not ride bikes on Shabbos, children may ride on scooters.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Accidentally Broke One’s Fast

Question: I forgot it was a taanis and made myself a cup of tea. What’s the halacha now that I’ve broken the taanis?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 568:1) writes that if one accidentally ate on a taanis tzibbur, communal fast day, one must continue fasting. The Mishna Berura (568:1) adds that this applies equally to one who purposely ate.
The Rema (Darkei Moshe OC) and Magen Avraham (568:4) quote the Maharil who instructed one who accidentally ate on asara b’teves to fast three fasts as an atonement. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 549:7) writes that while this incident occurred on asara b’teves, this halacha would apply equally to any other taanis tzibbur. Nonetheless, the Magen Avraham and Kaf Hachaim quote the Terumas Hadeshen (156) who writes that this is not required.
Thus, while the Shulchan Aruch writes that one who broke a personal fast would have to make up for breaking it by fasting on another day, the Mishna Berura (568:8) writes that this doesn’t apply to one who ate on a taanis tzibbur.
The Mishna Berura (568:3) writes that even if one has eaten, they may still say aneinu in mincha. Yet, elsewhere (Biur Halacha 565:1) he quotes the Chayei Adam who maintains that one who isn’t fasting should omit aneinu. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5:60:4; 8:131) explains the difference. One who cannot fast due to ill health, etc. cannot say aneinu as they are exempt. One who has eaten on their fast, can say it, however, as they are still obligated to fast.
In conclusion, if one accidentally ate or drank on a taanis, one must continue fasting until the end of the day. One should still say aneinu in mincha.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Beracha on Seeing a Friend

Question: I haven’t seen some of my close friends for a few months due to lockdown. Should we say a beracha when we meet or does the fact that we have spoken over the phone and via Zoom mean that we don’t need to?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 58a) teaches that one who sees their friend after an absence of thirty days recites the beracha of shehecheyanu, and if after a year, they recite the beracha of mechaye hameisim. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 225:1) adds that this only applies to particularly close friends who one is most excited to see.
Thus, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:17) writes that if one is excited about seeing their close friends or family after a prolonged absence, one recites shehecheyanu.
Nonetheless, many poskim limit this, writing that it does not apply to typical situations nowadays. Thus, the Eshel Avraham (230:4) and Ben Ish Chai (Ekev 1:14) write that we are not particular about this beracha and one should rather recite this beracha without shem umalchus (Hashem’s name). R’ Yosef Yuzpa Han (Yosef Ometz 451) explains that such friendships are few and far between.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 23:12; n53) concurs, writing that one would only say it in rare circumstances such as if one had survived fighting in the front lines in battle, etc. When his daughter and son-in-law (and R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky) came to visit him in eretz Yisrael from abroad, he went out to buy a new fruit in order to be able to say shehecheyanu.
R’ Nissan Karelitz (Chut Shani, Rosh Hashana, Kobetz Inyanim 16) writes that if one had seen their friend over live video in the meantime then this, too, would diminish the joy and prevent one from being able to recite shehecheyanu.
In conclusion, one should not say shehecheyanu upon seeing one’s friends after lockdown, especially if one has been in touch with them in the meantime.