Sunday, 24 September 2017

Shehecheyanu and Yom Tov Candles

Question: I have always said shehecheyanu when lighting my Yom Tov candles. What should I do when my husband says shehecheyanu when reciting kiddush?
Answer: Rambam (Shabbos 29:23) paskens that one should say shehecheyanu every night of Yom Tov except for the seventh (and eighth) night of Pesach.
R’ Yaakov Emden (She’elas Yaavetz 107) writes that while many ladies are accustomed to saying shehecheyanu when lighting, the Gemara (Sukka 47b) writes that this beracha should ideally be said when reciting kiddush. He notes that his own wife said the beracha then and as it can be said at any time over Yom Tov there is no need to prevent women from doing so. Nonetheless, it isn’t the ideal time, and it is best to wait for kiddush to say / hear it.
Thus, while the Mateh Ephraim (581:54, 599:9, 619:4) writes that women should say shehecheyanu when lighting candles, the Mishna Berura (263:23), Aruch Hashulchan (OC 263:12) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 44:4) write that it isn’t the ideal time to, though one shouldn’t prevent women from doing so.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:101:1) likewise points out that while this practice may have no basis, women have been saying shehecheyanu when lighting for hundreds of years and so should continue doing so if it their practice. On the other hand, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:34) writes that we should discourage women from saying shehecheyanu then, instead waiting for kiddush.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 14:53), however, writes that all women should be encouraged to say shehecheyanu when lighting. He writes that this is true of sefardim, too, noting that the Ben Ish Chai recorded that this was the practice in Baghdad.
A woman who said shehecheyanu when lighting who later said kiddush must ensure not to repeat shehecheyanu.
There is a machlokes, however, as to whether she should say amen to another saying shehecheyanu during kiddush.
R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC 1:154) writes that as she has already said shehecheyanu, answering amen now would constitute a hefsek, interruption.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 3:69) writes that answering amen would not be a hefsek on Pesach and Sukkos as while she will have said shehecheyanu upon lighting the candles, the shehecheyanu in kiddush applies to other mitzvos including matza and sukka. Thus, one should say amen only on Pesach and Sukkos.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe ibid; OC 4:21:9) and R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L’yaakov OC 263) however, explain why answering amen would not be a hefsek at all, irrespective of what yom tov it was (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:182; 8:182:1).
In conclusion, women should say shehecheyanu when lighting Yom Tov candles, though men who light should only say shehecheyanu when saying kiddush. Women who recite kiddush should not repeat shehecheyanu, though there are different opinions as to whether they should answer amen upon hearing shehecheyanu again. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Checking Mezuzos and Tefillin in Elul

Question: I got a leaflet in my door advertising tefillin and mezuza checks, saying that one must check them during Elul. Do I need to check them every year?
Answer: Rambam (Tefillin 2:11) writes that providing one’s tefillin come from a reputable sofer one can safely assume that they are kosher and they do not need to be checked even many years later. Similarly, the Tur (OC 39) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 39:10) write that a good pair of tefillin doesn’t need checking providing that they are worn regularly. Otherwise, they should be checked twice in seven years as we are concerned that they may have gotten mouldy (Magen Avraham OC 39:15; Aruch Hashulchan OC 39:6).
The Magen Avraham (OC 39:14) and Mishna Berura (39:26) write that as sweat can permeate the tefillin and ruin them, they should be checked periodically. Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) writes that they should be checked regularly as the ink in his day would crack easily (See Chayei Adam 14:20; Mor Uketzia 39).
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 4:36), however, writes that as nowadays tefillin are manufactured from thicker hides and better quality ink and parchment than ever, one should not have them checked unless one has a specific reason to.
The Gemara (Yoma 11a) writes that while public mezuzos only need to be checked once every fifty years, mezuzos on private dwellings should be checked twice every seven years. Rashi explains that we need to check to ensure that the mezuzos haven’t been spoiled or stolen. Thus, Rambam (Sefer Torah Umezuza 5:9) and Shulchan Aruch (YD 291:1) write that mezuzos should be checked twice every seven years. However, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, ibid.) writes that mezuzos wrapped in proper cases would not need checking this often. Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 291:1) writes that when the mezuza is prone to dampness, it should be checked annually.
The Mateh Ephraim (581:10) and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (128:3) write that it is commendable to check one’s tefillin and mezuza every year during Elul. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Da’as 1:49) adds that this is particularly important as there are many inept sofrim who make mistakes.
In conclusion, it is most important that one buys good quality tefillin and mezuzos from reputable sofrim which don’t require frequent checking. Good tefillin that are worn regularly don’t need to be opened and checked unless one suspects that there may be an issue. Mezuzos on internal doors should not need regular checking if they are in good cases and are untouched, though it is advisable to check those on external doors that are exposed to the wind and rain every Elul.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Beracha on Cholent

Question: What beracha does one make before and after eating a regular cholent made of potatoes, meat, beans and barley?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 208:2) writes that when a cooked dish contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye) the correct beracha is mezonos even if the grain is not the main ingredient providing that it wasn’t added to bind the ingredients together. Thus, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 208:18) writes that one should recite mezonos on dishes such as noodles mixed with potatoes even if there are more potatoes than noodles in the mix.
However, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 212:2) writes that it depends how big the pieces in the mixture are. Thus, if the meat and potatoes are cut into small pieces in a manner that a typical spoonful may contain pieces of each, one would just recite mezonos.
If the potato and meat pieces are bigger, though, such that the pieces would typically be removed and eaten alone, then it is no longer considered to be a mixture and one should make separate berachos.
If one isn’t sure which category their cholent falls into, one can’t just say all the berachos as saying mezonos might render the other berachos unnecessary (Mishna Berura 168:43). Dayan Gavriel Krausz (Mekor Haberacha 23:5) advises in this instance that one removes the other ingredients and says ha’adama and shehakol before saying mezonos (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:146).
One would only say al hamichya if one has eaten a kezayis of the barley within 3-4 minutes (kedei achilas peras). Otherwise, one would recite borei nefashos afterwards.
In conclusion, one should say mezonos on cholent providing that the pieces are small. Large pieces of potatoes and meat should be removed first to make separate berachos on. One says borei nefashos after eating cholent unless one ate a kezayis of barley.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Repeat Kiddush at Home

Question: I usually hear kiddush in shul after davening on Shabbos morning. Do I need to repeat kiddush before lunch?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 273:5) writes that while one is only yotzei making kiddush if it is followed by the seuda, it is sufficient just to eat a little bit of bread or drink some wine. The Magen Avraham (OC 273:10) explains that this is at least a kezayis. The Magen Avraham (OC 273:11) and Mishna Berura (273:10) write that a kezayis of cake will suffice and is preferable to drinking wine. Thus, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (77:17) even writes that one making kiddush over cake should use two pieces of cake as lechem mishne, just as one would for any other seuda on Shabbos (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 55:4).
The Vilna Gaon (Maaseh Rav 122) and R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:63), however, hold that as one doesn’t fulfil one’s obligation to have Shabbos lunch without bread, one needs to recite kiddush again before the meal.
Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:264) writes that while he himself recites kiddush again before the meal, the general accepted minhag is to rely on the Magen Avraham.
R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:20:28) and R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 8:31) thus write that if one eats (mezonos) kugel or noodles at a kiddush that is sufficient, too (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 52:16; 54:22).  
In conclusion, providing everybody has heard kiddush, one doesn’t need to recite kiddush again before eating lunch.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Shofar in Elul

Question: I will be away for a couple of days in Elul without a minyan. Do I need to blow the shofar for myself?
Answer: The Tur (OC 581) gives a couple of reasons for the minhag to blow the shofar throughout the month of Elul.  According to the Pirkei Derebbi Eliezer (46), the shofar was blown in the camp when Moshe went up Har Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Elul to get the second set of luchos. Chazal instituted that we blow the shofar in commemoration of this on Rosh Chodesh. The Tur adds that the minhag is to blow throughout Elul to stimulate us to do teshuva (See Rambam, Teshuva 3:4) as well as to confuse Satan.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:394; 8:523:4) quotes R’ Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Mitzvas Ra’ayah 581:1) as giving another reason. Just as the halacha is that one must start learning the halachos of Yom Tov thirty days in advance (Pesachim 6a), so too, we need to begin practise  blowing the shofar thirty days before Rosh Hashana.
Depending on the reason for blowing, R’ Greenblatt writes that there is a debate as to whether one davening alone should make the effort to hear the shofar himself, though he concludes that it is unnecessary.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 12:48) writes similarly that the various pesukim that talk of the shofar being blown refer it to being blown in the camp and in the city. Hence, one davening alone does not need to blow the shofar.
In conclusion, there is no reason to blow the shofar during Elul when not with a minyan.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Silver Atara

Question: I see some people with a silver atara on their tallis. Is it preferable to wear one?
Answer: The Magen Avraham (OC 8:6) quotes the Shela who writes that some have the minhag to affix a piece of silk onto the top side of the tallis to mark it as the top, thereby ensuring that the same two tzitzis will always remain at the front. This is akin to the kerashim in the mishkan which were marked so that they always stayed on the same side. Thus many chassidim are particular to wear a silver atara, especially on Shabbos (See Minchas Yitzchak 8:117; Minhag Yisrael Torah 8:5).
However, the Magen Avraham, Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 8:9) and Mishna Berura (8:9; Baer Heitev 10:12) note that the Arizal was not particular about this. The Ben Ish Chai (Rav Pealim 2:20) explains that there is no inherent difference between the front two and back two tzitzis.
Likewise, the Levush (Levush Hatecheiles OC 10:10) writes that as a headscarf itself would not need tzitzis (Shulchan Aruch OC 10:10), one shouldn’t place a beautiful atara over the head as that would erroneously give people the impression that the top of the tallis is most important.
Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 8:10) writes that the minhag is to place an extra piece of cloth over the top half to stop the tallis from being ruined. This extra piece is enough to mark the front. He decries the practice of placing a silver atara on one’s tallis, writing that the tallis should only contain wool. Indeed, the minhag Chabad is to have no noticeable atara on the outside of the tallis.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (OC 5:20:3) writes that it is okay to make the atara a little nicer. While he himself wouldn’t wear a silver atara, if one was accustomed to wearing one they wouldn’t need to remove it.
In conclusion, while there is a chassidishe minhag to place a silver atara on one’s tallis, it is preferable for others not to.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Photographing a Sunset

Question: I know that one isn’t supposed to draw the sun or moon. Does that prohibition also extend to taking pictures of a sunset?
Answer: The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 24b) asks how Rabban Gamliel could have had diagrams of the moon in various phases as the halacha is that one mustn’t create pictures of the sun and moon, etc. as they were worshipped by the pagans. The Gemara concludes that he had special dispensation to do so as he needed them to question witnesses who had reported seeing the new moon and for teaching others. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 141:4) writes that one mustn’t draw any such pictures unless they are for educational purposes (See Igros Moshe YD 3:33; Minchas Yitzchak 10:72; Shevet Halevi 7:134:8).
While the Shulchan Aruch writes that one mustn’t even keep such pictures in one’s home, the Chochmas Adam (85:5) and Darkei Teshuva (YD 141:34) write that this only applies to three dimensional images.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 10:72) writes that photographing a sunset is prohibited. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 7:134:6) writes that while one can’t process or keep such a picture, there is no prohibition is taking the picture.
In conclusion, one can take a picture of a sunset and save it to one’s computer, etc. though one should be careful not to print it unless they are going to use it for educational purposes.