Sunday, 14 January 2018

Travelling to Europe

Question: I recently drove to Belgium and back via the Channel Tunnel. Should I have bentched gomel as I crossed the English Channel?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 54b) writes that in the times of the Beis Hamikdash, one brought a korban toda upon surviving a potentially life-threatening situation, including crossing a desert or a sea, imprisonment or serious illness. Nowadays, we substitute this offering with a public blessing, known as hagomel (Shulchan Aruch OC 219:2).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:59) explains that while boats nowadays are safer than ever before, the dangers of being in the sea remain. This is the reason why one benches gomel also after flying over water even though doing so is a safe means of transport (See Minchas Yitzchak 4:11:5).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 219:7) writes that one doesn’t need to bench gomel when travelling from one city to another in Europe which doesn’t carry the same potential dangers as crossing a desert. The Biur Halacha (219:1) writes that accordingly, one wouldn’t bench gomel when crossing a river either.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:72:3) and R’ Nosson Gestetner (Lehoros Nosson 7:10) write that the same applies to travelling through the Channel Tunnel. As the tunnel doesn’t have the potential dangers of travelling by sea, one doesn’t need to bench gomel.
In conclusion, while one would bench gomel if crossing the English Channel by boat or plane, one doesn’t do so if they took the Channel Tunnel.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Mixed Up Dishes

Question: We bought two new plates to replace ones which had smashed from our set. We accidentally put them in the cupboard with the others before tovelling them and don’t know which ones they are. What should we do?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (YD 109:1; 122:8) writes that if a forbidden item such as a dish gets mixed into a pile of similar items that are permitted, then it is battul berov, annulled against the majority, and thus, permissible.
Nonetheless, R’ Chaim Falagi (Ruach Chaim YD 122:1) and R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi YD 93) write that this rule doesn’t apply to our scenario. The Shulchan Aruch (YD 102:1) writes that something that can be rectified (davar sheyesh lo mattirin) isn’t even battul if mixed into a thousand parts. However, this only applies to something that will either inevitably become muttar with the passage of time or if it doesn’t involve a big expense. Thus, a treif pot that got mixed into a pile of similar pots will be okay to use as it is costly and cumbersome to kasher all of the pots (See Chochmas Adam 53:23). As it isn’t such a bother or expense to tovel a few dishes, however, one needs to tovel them all.
R’ Falagi writes that as one of these dishes will inevitably be the non-tovelled dish, one should say a beracha when tovelling them (See Shevet Halevi 4:93; 6:37:2). R’ Frank, however disagrees, writing that this scenario is similar to separating terumos and maasros from demai in which case one doesn’t say a beracha.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 11:58) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 2:YD:9:4) challenge this, explaining in depth why the rule of davar sheyesh lo mattirin doesn’t apply to kelim that may not have been tovelled. Thus, R’ Waldenberg writes that if it’s at all a bother to tovel them, then one doesn’t need to.
In conclusion, if a dish that wasn’t tovelled got mixed into a set of dishes that was tovelled, one should ideally tovel the whole set, especially if they live close by to a mikva though one wouldn’t say a beracha when doing so.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Light Sensors on Shabbos

Question: Do I need to cross the road on Shabbos to avoid triggering a motion sensor light?
Answer: The Mishna Berura (277:9) writes that one mustn’t open a door near a candle. As the breeze will inevitably fan the flame, this is considered to be pesik reisha denicha lei as one may benefit from this too. The Piskei Teshuvos (277:9) writes that this halacha applies equally to walking past a light that will be triggered by a sensor.
Nonetheless, R’ Chanoch Padwa (Cheshev Haefod 3:83) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 7:1231; 8:532:1) argue that when one isn’t interested in triggering someone else’s light it is considered to be pesik reisha delo nicha lei. Thus, they write that while it is ideal to avoid triggering such lights, one may walk past them if necessary.
R’ Ribiat (The 39 Melochos, p1214) differentiates between a regular residential road and a rural area. Only if the street is lit up enough that one can see where they are going clearly is this extra light considered pesik reisha delo nicha lei. Even then, one should avoid triggering this light if possible. Such a light on a dark street would be akin to walking into a building with a light sensor which would be assur (See Orchos Shabbos 26:28).
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:69), however, disagrees. He quotes the Gemara Yerushalmi (Shabbos 13:6) which writes that one may close one’s house door as normal even though a deer will inevitably be trapped (See Rashba, Shabbos 107a; Magen Avraham OC 316:11). Unlike an automatic door that opens as you walk up to it, when one has no interest in triggering the light sensor, there is no issue with walking normally down the street (See Yechave Daas 5:29). R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, R’ Nissim Karelitz (quoted in Orchos Shabbos 26:31) and R’ Shraga Feivish Schneebalg (Shraga Hameir 8:137) concur.
In conclusion, if one knows that one is going to trigger a light switch by walking past it on Shabbos, one should cross the road to try to avoid it. 

Monday, 25 December 2017

Fridge Light on Shabbos

Question: We rented a cottage for the weekend and forgot to check if the fridge had a light that will switch on when we open the door. Could we have asked our three year old child to open and close the fridge on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 120b) writes that it is assur to do a permitted action which will inevitably cause a melacha to be transgressed. This prohibition is known as pesik reisha. Thus, one mustn’t open a fridge door on Shabbos if by doing so it is inevitable that the light will come on, even though the reason they are opening it is to take food out or replace it.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 9:OC:108:187) writes that as one benefits from the light going on in the fridge (pesik reisha denicha lei), doing so is assur mideoraisa (See Rambam, Shabbos 1:6). One mustn’t therefore ask a child to open the fridge for them.
While one cannot normally ask a non-Jewish person to do a melacha for them, the Magen Avraham (OC 253:41; 277:7; 314:5) writes that the prohibition of pesik reisha doesn’t apply to them. Thus R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:68), R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 10:OC:28) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 31:1) write that one can ask a non-Jewish person to open and close the fridge for them. R’ Moshe adds that one may even ask them to remove the bulb if necessary to allow them to open and close the fridge normally afterwards (See Rema OC 276:2), though R’ Neuwirth writes that it is best to hint rather than ask outright.
If the fridge was open, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer, 10:OC:28) writes that one may close it with a shinui (an unusual manner) as shutting the light off in this situation is only miderabanan (See Shulchan Aruch OC 334:27; Mishna Berura 334:84). As there is no constructive benefit in extinguishing the light, closing the door is considered to be pesik reisha delo nicha lei which is assur miderabanan. Alternately, one can ask a child to close the fridge as pesik reisha isn’t forbidden for them (See Mishna Berura 277:15; Avnei Yashpei 1:63).
The Mishna Berura (316:16) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one can do something when there is a safek, doubt, of there being a pesik reisha. Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 10:15) writes that if one doesn’t know whether the light will be turned on or not, there is a machlokes as to whether one can open the fridge themselves or not. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura writes that we can follow the lenient view.
In conclusion, it is ideal to ask a non-Jewish person to open and close the fridge. As there is a doubt in this scenario as to whether the light would even go off, one can even open the fridge themselves if necessary. One should either ask a child to close it, or close it with a shinui.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Waiting for Spouse to Light Menora

Question: I can’t leave work every night in time to light when it gets dark. Should my wife light for me?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) writes that the time for lighting the menora is when everyone from the market has left. Thus, Rambam (Chanuka 4:5) writes that the latest time to light is half an hour after lighting time.
Nonetheless, the Rema (OC 672:2) follows Tosafos (Shabbos 21b) who writes that as nowadays we light indoors, we have more time. Thus, the Magen Avraham (OC 672:6) and Elya Rabba (672:2) write that providing one’s family members are awake, one can light all night up until dawn (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 672:7). The Mishna Berura (672:11) writes that one should even wake up their family members if necessary so that they can light with a beracha (See Rivevos Ephraim 4:159). However, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:105:7) disagrees, writing that while it is ideal for others to see the lights, one would perform the mitzva regardless of there being any witnesses.
While ashkenazi practice is that every adult lights their own menora, married women typically do not light their own. The Chasam Sofer (Shabbos 21b) explains that this minhag developed because women didn’t light in the olden days when people lit outdoors (See Elya Rabba 671:3). Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (675:9) writes that if they do want to light their own, they can do so with a beracha.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:51) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:170) write that if a married man is going to be home late, he should ideally ask his wife to light on his behalf at tzeis.
Nonetheless, R’ Yaakov Kaminetzsky (Emes L’yaakov OC 672:n586) writes that one’s family need not light at the first possible opportunity, but should rather wait for one’s husband or wife to return from work, as they would be upset if they weren’t included.
In conclusion, if one’s husband is going to be a few hours late, it would be ideal for his wife to light on his behalf. If he isn’t going to be too long, she should ideally wait. Alternately, she may light for herself, and he lights again when he gets home, though he must intend not to fulfil his obligation with her lighting.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Newspapers on Shabbos

Questions: I have always enjoyed relaxing on Friday night with the newspaper, though someone told me that I mustn’t read it on Shabbos. Is that true?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 113b) teaches us that the manner of speech on Shabbos should be different to that of the weekday. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 307:1) writes that one mustn’t discuss future business deals on Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (317:5) writes that this is the reason for wishing others ‘Good Shabbos’ or ‘Shabbat Shalom’ rather than ‘Good morning’, etc.
Elsewhere, the Gemara (Shabbos 149a) writes that one mustn’t read a shtar hedyot (common document) on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 307:17) writes that there is a machlokes as to what this includes. Rambam (Mishnayos Shabbos 23:2) and the Baal Hamaor (quoted by the Beis Yosef OC 307:17) write that it refers to regular letters. Thus, one mustn’t read anything other than Torah on Shabbos. The Rashba (Shabbos 149a; Shut Harashba 7:288) understands shtar hedyot as business documents and quotes the Ramban who agrees.
Based on this, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 307:13) writes that one shouldn’t read business related works on Shabbos.
Nonetheless, the Magen Avraham (OC 301:4) writes that if one really enjoys reading something, they may do so on Shabbos. Thus, R’ Yaakov Emden (She’elas Yaavetz 1:162) allows one to read newspapers on Shabbos if they enjoy it, though he cautions against reading relevant business news or adverts. Similarly, the Mishna Berura (307:63; Shaar Hatziyun 307:71) writes that while some permit reading newspapers, others prohibit it because it contains business related information. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 29:46) agrees, though points out that the newspaper content must be appropriate for Shabbos.
In conclusion, one who enjoys reading the newspaper may do so on Shabbos though they must be careful not to read relevant adverts.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Removing Pills from Packaging on Shabbos

Question: I am on a course of antibiotics and forgot to remove the pills before Shabbos. There is writing on the blister pack which will be torn if I pop them out. What can I do?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 340:14) writes that one mustn’t tear in a constructive manner on Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (314:25) writes that while one is usually forbidden miderabanan to tear even in a destructive manner, they may do so if they have specific Shabbos needs, such as for guests.
The prohibition of mocheik, erasing, however, is more severe. While destroying writing is forbidden mideoraisa under the melacha of mocheik (Shulchan Aruch OC 340:3), the Mishna Berura (340:17; 41) writes that one wouldn’t be able to do so even for specific Shabbos needs (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n47).
One should, therefore, ideally remove the pills before Shabbos. If one forgot to do so, they should attempt to cut them out from the back where no writing will be destroyed.
If necessary, however, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n48) allows one to cut betweeen the letters providing that no letters get torn (See Nishmat Avraham OC 316:B). If one is unable to do so, one should pop them out with a shinui, an unusual manner (Aruch Hashulchan OC 340:23; Mishna Berura 340:17).
Nonetheless, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 33:n29) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Shabbos 328:46) hold that if one is not well, there is more room for leniency and one may pop the pills out even if letters will be torn.
In conclusion, one should try their utmost not to tear any lettering when removing pills.