Sunday, 25 September 2016

Pesukim on Invitations

Question: I sometimes receive wedding invitations with pesukim written on them. Can I throw them away or do I need to put them in sheimos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 115b) writes that if one writes berachos unnecessarily it is as if they burnt the Torah, as they will eventually cause them to be discarded and mistreated. Thus, Rambam (Teshuvos Harambam 268) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 283:4) writes that one should not write pesukim on a tallis. The Shach (OC 283:6) explains that when the tallis wears out, it will likely be thrown away, together with the pesukim on it.
Following a machlokes in the Gemara (Gittin 6b), Rambam (Sefer Torah 7:14) and Shulchan Aruch (YD 283:3) disagree on whether one may write 3 or 4 words on a document without it becoming holy. The Tashbetz (2) writes that this doesn’t apply if the words are rearranged or not aligned on one straight line.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 2:135) writes that he didn’t print any pesukim on his own children’s invitations and advises others not to, either. Elsewhere (YD 4:38:4) he writes that while one does avoid the problem if they split the words onto different lines, one should still avoid writing pesukim. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo 20:n72) likewise disapproved of printing pesukim on invitations, saying that if it contains a full passuk, it requires geniza (burying).
In conclusion, one printing invitations should ideally avoid printing any pesukim on them. If one received an invitation with more than three words together, it should be placed in geniza.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Leaving Dinner Early

Question: If I want to leave a chasuna early, what do I do about bentching with a mezuman?
Answer: There are two potential issues with leaving a chasuna early. The first is whether one who is part of a large gathering can bentch without a mezuman of ten.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 193:1) writes that one eating along with nine other men must not leave early and bentch with a smaller mezuman without a minyan. The Mishna Berura (200:5) writes that if one really needs to leave early, it is best if he makes a zimun with two others.
The second issue is whether one can miss the sheva berachos that are recited after bentching.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 2:43:15) writes that while sheva berachos needs to be recited at the meal, that doesn’t mean everyone needs to participate. The Gemara and poskim make no mention of staying as they do for bentching. Thus, one who can’t stay until the end may leave early. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 11:84) agrees, writing that only those who participate in the bentching together with a zimun of ten are obligated to join in with the sheva berachos. It would be wrong, though, to gather a minyan to bench and say the sheva berachos without the chassan and kallah.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:56) writes, however, that everyone who participates in the meal is obligated to participate in the sheva berachos. Thus, one who doesn’t want to stay until the sheva berachos must stipulate before they eat that they don’t want to be included with everyone else and that they want to eat and bentch alone. Accordingly, one would bentch without a mezuman.
R’ Moshe Stern (Be’er Moshe 3:32) argues that the obligation to join in for sheva berachos only applies when the chassan and kalla are bentching, and not earlier. He challenges the basis for making such a stipulation, and suggests that one should rather ensure that he washes after the others, so that he isn’t starting to eat together with everyone else. Even if one does this, one would be allowed to make a mezuman, preferably with a minyan, but otherwise with just two others.
In conclusion, it is ideal if one can bentch with a mezuman of ten. If one knows that they need to leave early in advance, it is best to stipulate in advance that one doesn’t want to participate in the communal meal and wash at a different time. One who didn’t make this stipulation and needed to leave, could make a mezuman, even with two other men if necessary.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Adding Hot water to Cholent

Question: If my cholent dries out on Shabbos, may I add hot water to the pot?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 318:4) writes that one can pour hot water into a hot dish that has already been cooked on Shabbos. Yet, elsewhere, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 253:4) writes that it is forbidden to pour hot water from a kettle into a pot of food. The Beis Yosef (OC 253:15) explains that we are worried that the dish has cooled down and it is now being ‘cooked again’ by the hot water (or vice versa). Thus, providing both pots are hot, it should be permitted to pour from one to the other.
Nonetheless, R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:17:8) writes that there are other reasons why the Shulchan Aruch writes this halacha and one shouldn’t add hot water to the pot regardless as to whether it’s on the stove or not. Thus, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:22) writes that sefardim should ideally not add hot water to hot dishes.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 1:16) writes that one may transfer the contents of one pot to another while they’re both on a blech (See Mishna Berura 318:84). Quoting R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1:n44), he writes that ideally one should pour the water directly from the urn, though if necessary one can use a cup (kli sheni) to pour the water providing the water is still hot (See Minchas Yitzchak 6:20; 10:18).
As one cannot stir the pot while it’s on the flame (maygis), one should pour the water in slowly (See Rambam, Shabbos 9:4) or remove the pot from the flame before adding water.
In conclusion, while many sefardim avoid doing so on Shabbos, ashkenazim may add hot water to a hot cholent pot on Shabbos providing that the food is fully cooked and is on a blech.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Bas Mitzva Celebrations

Question: Should girls celebrate their Bas Mitzva with a seuda?
Answer: The Magen Avraham (OC 225:4) writes that parents are obligated to make a seuda for their son on the day of his Bar Mitzva just as one does when he marries.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:104) wrote that while one can celebrate one’s Bas Mitzva at home, it is no different to any other birthday party. He continues that if it were up to him, he would even put a stop to Bar Mitzva celebrations, especially as they often have little religious content and can cause chillul Shabbos. Elsewhere, (Igros Moshe OC 2:97) he questions why there is a difference at all between celebrating a boy’s Bar Mitzva and a girl’s Bas Mitzva.
He later wrote (Igros Moshe OC 4:36) that it is appropriate to make a kiddush in shul to mark this milestone.
R’ Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (Seridei Aish 3:93), however, argues that while people didn’t celebrate Bas Mitzvas in the olden days, times have changed. Girls attending Beis Yaakov schools is a relatively modern phenomena, one that has greatly benefitted us. Likewise, celebrating one’s Bas Mitzva can only be seen as a positive ‘innovation’.
Similarly, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 6 OC:29; Yechave Daas 2:29) felt very strongly that one should celebrate one’s Bas Mitzva with a seuda just as one does for a Bar Mitzva. He quotes various acharonim who write about the importance of making a seuda for a Bar Mitzva and demonstrates how their reasons apply equally to girls.
He concludes that providing there are divrei Torah and songs of praise, the celebrations are deemed a seudas mitzva.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Preparing Egg and Liver on Shabbos

Question: I’ve always prepared my egg and liver before Shabbos lunch. Is that a problem?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 321:9) writes that the melacha of tochen, grinding, doesn’t apply to food that doesn’t grow from the ground such as meat and eggs. Thus, while one needs to be careful not to chop the onion too fine, one is allowed to cut liver and eggs into very small pieces or mash it with a fork (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 8:23). The Mishna Berura (321:36) writes, however, that one mustn’t use a specialized utensil such as a grater to cut such foods, as it is uvda dechol, weekday activity. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 6:3) writes that one may use an egg slicer even for vegetables, as it is simply a few ’knives’ placed closely together.
As shelling the eggs is considered borer, separating, one must only prepare them right before the meal.
Another potential issue with mixing the ingredients together is losh, kneading. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 8:23) writes that while there are reasons to permit mixing the ingredients together normally, ideally one should do it slightly differently, placing the ingredients in a different order to normal and mixing it in a crisscross rather than circular fashion, etc. (See Mishna Berura 321:68; Baer Moshe 6:44).
In conclusion, while onion and other vegetables can’t be chopped too fine, egg and liver may be chopped and mashed. When mixed with other ingredients, ideally it should be done with slight variations. It should only be prepared right before use.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Shaving before Shacharis

Question: Is it appropriate to shave before shacharis?
Answer: The Mishna (Shabbos 9b) writes that one mustn’t cut one’s hair before davening mincha as we are concerned that they will forget to daven.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 89:7) writes that this prohibition does not extend to before shacharis as it isn’t common for people to have a haircut so early in the morning (See Rambam, Tefilla 6:7).
Nonetheless, the Elya Rabba (89:12) explains that this refers to the time before alos hashachar. All work, including haircuts, is forbidden after that time before one davens. Thus, the Mishna Berura (89:36) writes that one can’t have a haircut after alos hashachar before shacharis. He concedes, however, that it is sufficient to just say the birchos hashachar first for activities that one regularly gets up early to perform.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo 2:7) writes that one shouldn’t shave before shacharis as it is no different from taking a haircut (See Ohr Letzion 2:7:9).
However, the Piskei Teshuvos (89:24) writes that people who shave regularly may do so before shacharis as we don’t need to be worried that they will get distracted and miss davening. Similarly, R’ David Yosef (Halacha Berura 89:36) allows it, writing that there’s a difference between having a haircut and shaving, etc.
In conclusion, while it is preferable to shave at other times, one who shaves regularly may do so before shacharis. Ideally, one should say birchos hashachar beforehand.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Guests on Shabbos Tisha B’av

Question: Can I invite guests on Shabbos Tisha B’av?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 552:10) writes that if Tisha B’av falls either on Sunday, or on Shabbos and so is observed on Sunday, then one may eat meat and drink wine during seuda shelishis. Even though normally the seuda mafsekes, the meal before the fast is eaten in a state of mourning, one isn’t allowed to mourn on Shabbos.
The Magen Avraham (OC 552:14) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 552:12) write that while it is prohibited to limit oneself from eating properly because of Tisha B’av, one must eat this meal in a solemn mood and mustn’t invite guests.
The Mishna Berura (552:23) writes, however, that if one usually spends seuda shelishis in company of friends then not doing so because of Tisha B’av is a public demonstration of mourning which is prohibited on Shabbos. Likewise, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:112:1) writes that one may sing zemiros during seuda shelishis even if one doesn’t regularly sing.
In conclusion, one may invite guests throughout Shabbos Tisha B’av, though one shouldn’t do so for seuda shelishis unless they normally do so.