Sunday, 12 November 2017

Beracha on Tasting Food

Question: I regularly taste food while cooking. Should I say a beracha?
Answer: Rambam (Berachos 1:2) writes that one does not need to recite a beracha before tasting food, though Rabbeinu Chananel (quoted by Tosefos, Berachos 14a) writes that one does need to unless one spits the food out (See Tur OC 210:2).
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 210:2) writes that one who tastes less than a revi’is of food doesn’t need to say a beracha if they spit it out, though there are opposing views as to whether one does say a beracha if they swallow the food or not. The Mishna Berura (210:19) writes that the Shulchan Aruch sides with Rambam, meaning that one wouldn’t say a beracha regardless if they swallowed some food or not. The Rema adds that safek berachos lekula, when there is a doubt as to whether one needs to say a beracha, we follow the lenient view as (most) berachos are derabanan.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (ibid., Shaar Hatziyun 210:30) notes that the Magen Avraham disagrees with the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema, writing that one should say a beracha if they are going to swallow any food. Thus, he writes that one should avoid any such doubt by intending on properly eating and benefiting from some of the food so that they need to say a beracha. Regardless, the Mishna Berura (210:13) concedes that if one isn’t intending on eating the food, but is just tasting it before it’s cooked to see if it needs further spicing, etc. or to see if it tastes good once cooked, one doesn’t need to recite a beracha.
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 210:29) disapproves of spitting out food. One would only say a beracha if they tasted fully cooked food, in which case they should take a proper bite, but not if they tasted food that was still cooking.
In conclusion, it is ideal to avoid the question by saying a beracha on other food first. Otherwise, if one thinks they will enjoy tasting the food, they should have a proper bite and say the beracha. If tasting to see if the food is ready, etc. then they don’t need to recite a beracha.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Beracha on Smelling Coffee

Question: I particularly enjoy the smell of coffee beans. Should I say a beracha when I smell them?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 43b) writes that one who smells an esrog or quince should recite the beracha, ‘..hanosen reiach tov bapeiros’ (He who places a nice aroma in the fruit). According to the Shulchan Aruch (OC 216:2), one says this beracha upon smelling an edible fruit, providing when they picked it up, they intended to smell it, regardless of whether they are eating it or not.
The Mishna Berura (216:9 quoting the Elya Rabba 216:5) writes that the correct wording is ‘..asher nasan reiach tov bapeiros,’ using the past tense rather than the present tense. The Ben Ish Chai (Vaeschanan 1:15) writes that as there is a doubt as to what the correct beracha should be, many avoid saying this beracha (See Kaf Hachaim OC 216:27). Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia, Berachos 216:15) writes that one may say it.
The Rema (OC 216:14) writes that there are some who say a beracha upon smelling bread straight from the oven, though concludes that one shouldn’t (See Beis Yosef OC 297). Based on this, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 216:86) writes that one wouldn’t recite a beracha upon smelling coffee.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (216:16) writes that one should say a beracha upon smelling fresh coffee beans.
In conclusion, while there are some sefardim that avoid saying this beracha, one who enjoys the smell of coffee beans should say the beracha, ‘..asher nasan reiach tov bapeiros’ before smelling the coffee.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Making up for Missed Davening

Question: I was travelling and due to losing a few hours, didn’t manage to daven shacharis on time. What should I do now?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 89:1) writes that one should daven shacharis within four hours from alos hashachar (dawn). The Rema writes, however, that one may daven shacharis until chatzos (midday) if necessary.
The Gemara (Berachos 26a) writes that one who accidentally missed shacharis, mincha or maariv can make it up by repeating the amida in the following davening. This is known as tashlumin. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 108:7) and Mishna Berura (108:1; 22) stress that one who deliberately missed a tefilla does not have this opportunity.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 108:1) writes that one must ensure to say the regular amida first followed by the tashlumin (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 108:9).
As this tashlumin should be said soon after the regular amida, the Mishna Berura (108:11) writes that one mustn’t interrupt even to learn something, though one doing tashlumin for shacharis should listen to chazaras hashatz and say tachanun and ashrei first (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:170; 3:142; 8:37).
R’ Avraham Yeshaya Pfoifer (Ishei Yisrael 30:n5) writes that as each of these amidos should be the same, one (who davens nusach ashkenaz) says shalom rav instead of sim shalom even when repeating the amida.
While we no longer wear tefillin while davening mincha (See Igros Moshe OC 4:34), R’ Pfoifer (Ishei Yisrael 19:n46) writes that one who hasn’t yet worn them should do so then.
In conclusion, if one didn’t manage to daven shacharis, one should daven mincha as normal, though repeat the amida again. They should listen to chazaras hashatz (if in shul) first, and say both tachanun (when relevant) and ashrei before the tashlumin.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Using Non-Toveled Plates

Question: We were invited to a family member’s house who does not keep kashrus properly but have gone out of their way to buy us kosher food. They have even bought us new plates to eat from, though they haven’t tovelled them. What can we do?
Answer: While there are some rishonim that allow one to use dishes that have not yet been tovelled (See Raavya, Pesachim 464; Hagaos Maimonos, Maacholos Assuros 17:6), the Rema (YD 120:8) and other rishonim (Issur Vehetter 58:85; Rokeach 481) write that one mustn’t use such dishes. Nonetheless, the Yeshuos Yaakov (120:1) and Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 323:7) write that this prohibition is miderabanan.
The Rema (YD 120:16) writes that the lack of tevila does not render the food forbidden to eat. The food should be transferred to another dish before eating, though.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 120:8) writes that if one borrowed a dish that hadn’t been tovelled from another Jewish person, they are obligated to tovel it, unless they bought it for non-food purposes.
Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 3:22) writes that if one is eating in a Jewish owned hotel that hasn’t tovelled its dishes, one can only eat something solid that can be removed off the plate. One would not be able to have soup, though, etc. (See Rivevos Ephraim 5:480:1:12).
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:44), R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 2:66:14) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:44) write, however, that one running a food business is comparable to one who buys a knife for non-food purposes. Thus, they justify the practice of many establishments who don’t tovel their catering dishes. Likewise, one may eat at such places even if one knows that the dishes haven’t been tovelled (See Minchas Asher 3:55:4). This wouldn’t necessarily apply to eating at one’s friend’s house, however.
R’ Zvi Cohen (Tevilas Kelim 3:n19) quotes R’ Yitzchok Isaac Liebes (Beis Avi 116) who addresses a similar scenario. He writes that porcelain and glass dishes only require tevila miderabanan. In fact, according to the Yaavetz (Sheilas Yavetz 1:67) porcelain dishes don’t require tevila at all (See Aruch Hashulchan YD 120:29).
Additionally, guests aren’t in the same category as one who hires or borrows a dish. As the Rema writes that the food itself would not be prohibited even for the host (if it was transferred to a different container), there is no reason to prohibit it for the guest. Thus, he concludes that one may eat on non-tovelled dishes if absolutely necessary.
In conclusion, it would certainly be okay to take a biscuit, etc. from such a plate. Under such circumstances, you could eat normally from these plates, though you shouldn’t rely on this elsewhere if you can easily use disposable dishes, etc.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Looking at the Kohanim During Duchening

Question: I see different people doing different things during duchening. Some cover themselves with a tallis, while others turn round so they aren’t facing the kohanim. What are we supposed to do?
Answer: The Gemara (Sotah 38a) writes that the kohanim must face the community while duchening (blessing them). Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 128:23) writes that while the kohanim are duchening everyone else must be attentive to the beracha. They should face the kohanim rather than turn away from them, though not stare at them. This halacha is so important that R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:20:23) writes that one can even move in the middle of davening the amida so that they and the kohanim are facing each other.
The Gemara (Chagiga 16a) writes that one shouldn’t look at the kohanim while they were duchaning in the Beis Hamikdash. As the shechina rested upon their hands while they were pronouncing the shem hameforash (ineffable name), doing so will cause their eyes to grow dim. The Magen Avraham (OC 128:35) and Mishna Berura (128:89) write that as the kohanim no longer utter the shem hameforash, this reason not to look at the kohanim no longer applies. Rambam (Tefilla and Birchas Kohanim 14:7) and Tosafos (Chagiga 16a) write that there is another reason not to look at the kohanim as doing so can be distracting. Accordingly, the Magen Avraham and Mishna Berura write that nowadays one would be able to glance, though not stare at the kohanim. Nonetheless, the minhag is to avoid looking as a zecher (remembrance) of the duchaning in the Beis Hamikdash.
The Rema (OC 128:23) records the minhag of kohanim covering their hands with their tallis so that no one looks at them. The Mishna Berura (128:91) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 128:36) write that this is the ideal practice. Yet, the Mishna Berura (128:92) writes that in places where kohanim would not cover their hands with their talleisim, the minhag was for the tzibbur to cover their faces instead.
Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:24:4) writes that nowadays when the universal minhag is for kohanim to cover their hands with their talleisim, there is no concern about seeing them. Other than married men who wear talleisim, it is impractical for everyone to cover their faces (See Mishna Berura 128:115). Therefore, it is sufficient for people to just look into their siddurim or look downwards.
In conclusion, there is a minhag not to look at the kohanim's hands during duchening, though one wouldn’t do anything wrong if they did see them. While those who wear a tallis typically cover themselves with it, there is no need for others to cover their eyes, especially as kohanim cover their hands nowadays. To avoid being distracted, it is ideal to follow in one’s siddur or to look downwards, though one must not turn away from the kohanim

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Tying down Sechach

Question: I was invited to a friend’s sukka and I noticed that his sechach was tied down with plastic cable ties. Was his sukka kosher?
Answer: The Gemara (Sukka 21b) discusses whether the materials used to support the sechach (maamid) need to be fit for sechach themselves. There is a machlokes rishonim as to what the halacha is. While the Ramban (Milchemes Hashem, Sukka 10a) and Ran (Sukka 10a) write that one can’t use a maamid that wouldn’t be kosher for sechach, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 630:13) paskens that one may (See Beis Yosef OC 630:26). Thus, the Magen Avraham (OC 629:9) and Mishna Berura (629:22) write that while it isn’t ideal to use a non-kosher maamid, if one did use such material to support their sechach, it would be kosher bedieved.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 629:7) questions whether one may use a wooden ladder as sechach. The Rema writes, therefore, that one shouldn’t even place it on top of their sechach to keep it in place. The Taz (OC 629:10), however, challenges this, as surely the ladder would be rendered insignificant (battul) by the rest of the kosher sechach. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 629:18) writes that the ladder that the Shulchan Aruch was referring to was a particularly large one with slats that were four tefachim wide. There wouldn’t be an issue, however, with using narrower beams made out of metal, etc.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 629:5) writes that one may use unprocessed reeds for sechach. The poskim write that materials used to tie the sechach down are also considered to be maamid (See Mishna Berura 629:24). While one can’t nail sechach down (Magen Avraham OC 627:2; Shaar Hatziyun 633:6), the Mishna Berura (629:26) writes that one may use such string to tie down one’s sechach to wooden supports. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:64) allows one to use cotton thread to tie bamboo mats together, especially as such thread is only possul miderabanan as sechach. Seemingly, the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) would even permit plastic cable ties lechatchila.
R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 5:44) writes that if the sechach would be able to stay on with the ties under regular wind conditions, then the sukka would be kosher regardless of what ties it down. If during storm weather the sechach only stays on due to plastic ties, however, then the sukka would be unfit to use during the storm according to some poskim.
In conclusion, it is preferable to use natural unprocessed twine to tie one’s sechach down with. While some poskim would always allow one to use plastic cable ties, there are others that write that one should only do so if the sechach would otherwise stay on under normal wind conditions and it wouldn’t be fit to use under heavy winds. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Wearing a Kittel on Yom Kippur

Question: I recently got married and don’t have a specific minhag about wearing a kittel. Should I wear one on Yom Kippur?
Answer: The Gemara Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashana 1:3) records the minhag for people to wear white clothes on Yom Kippur. The Rema (OC 610:4) writes that there is a minhag to wear a kittel. He explains that on Yom Kippur we are comparable to malachim (angels). Secondly, the clean white represents the innocent state we are aiming for. Lastly, as it is worn with shrouds, it urges people to do teshuva.
There are different minhagim as to whether a man should wear a kittel in his first year of marriage.
The Maharam Shik (OC 28) writes that in some communities, the custom is for men not to wear one until after their first year of marriage. He notes, though, that this primarily applies to chassanim who get married before they are twenty. He writes, though, that there is no mekor for this custom and that one shouldn’t prevent newlywed men from wearing one (See Mateh Ephraim, Elef Hamagen 619:11).
The Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha (131:22) and Piskei Teshuvos (610:3) however, quote a few poskim who write that men should wear a kittel even within their first year of marriage (See Yad Yitzchak 3:202:4).
The Taamei Haminhagim (Kuntres Acharon 503) writes that because of the sombre symbolism of the kittel, men who have recently gotten married shouldn’t wear one, though avelim, (mourners) should (See Taz OC 472:3). Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 610:2) and R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 4:61:7) note that nowadays, people choose to concentrate more on the more positive aspects and treat the kittel as an garment of honour. Thus, an avel should not wear a kittel. Presumably, they would allow newlywed men to wear one.
In conclusion, unless one has a specific minhag not to wear a kittel during their first year, it seems that married men should all wear a kittel when davening on Yom Kippur.