Sunday, 29 December 2013

Eating Before Kiddush on Shabbos Morning

Question: I find it difficult to wait until after shul to hear kiddush. Can I eat before davening?
Answer: Rambam (Shabbos 29:10) and Shulchan Aruch (OC 289:1) write that one is not allowed to eat anything before kiddush. Ra’avad disagrees, as one has already recited kiddush the previous night (See Magen Avraham OC 289:1).
Some chassidim (See Igros Kodesh 10 p326) rely on this Ra’avad, and eat a light breakfast before shacharis to better enable them to daven.
R’ Ben Zion Abba Shaul, (Ohr Letzion 2:7:8) however, writes that it would be preferable to stay home and daven rather than eat before going to shul.
While one mustn’t eat a meal before davening, the Shulchan Aruch allows one to have a drink of water as one isn’t obligated to make kiddush until after davening. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 289:16) extends this to tea and coffee, etc. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:26) writes, however, that one who must eat for health reasons before shacharis, must recite kiddush before eating.
While some rishonim (Rashba; Maharam Chalava, Pesachim 106a) hold that women do not need to hear kiddush during the day, the Mishna Berura (271:3) writes that women must recite (or hear) kiddush in the same way that they have to observe all other laws of Shabbos.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 52, n46) held that women should recite kiddush before eating. However, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:101:2) permitted married women to eat before they daven and their husbands return from shul, explaining that during that time, it is like a man who has not yet davened, and who is not yet obligated to make kiddush. The Minchas Yitzchak (4:28) allowed women to rely on the lenient rishonim when necessary (See Machazeh Eliyahu 33:3).
In conclusion, one can certainly have a drink before davening even without hearing kiddush. While many chassidim eat some cake before davening, most poskim say that one shouldn’t eat before hearing kiddush. While it is best for women to hear kiddush first, they may eat before davening if necessary.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Tovelling Toasters

Question: Do I need to tovel my new toaster?
Answer: There is a machlokes as to whether electrical items require tevila altogether. R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:450) quotes a view (see Chelkas Yaakov 1:126) that when electrical items are plugged in, they are considered mechubar lekarka, attached to the ground, and therefore exempt from tevila, though he disagrees (see too Minchas Yitzchak 2:72 and Shevet Halevi YD 2:57:3).
Although the bread is fully baked before it goes into the toaster, the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 120:35) writes that as such kelim come into contact with food, they require tevila with a beracha. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 3:24), however, writes that as the bread is fully baked before it goes in, the toaster may be used without tevila. Elsewhere, (YD 1:57-58) he writes that while (other) electrical items require tevila, it is sufficient to tovel just the parts that come into contact with food. The electric parts – even if they are attached – do not need to be immersed (See Rivevos Ephraim 2:172).
As kelim manufactured by a Jew don’t require tevila, some disconnect and reconnect an integral part of the appliance. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 2:66:4) writes that it isn’t enough to just change the plug or disconnect a wire outside of the appliance, though it must be an internal one (that requires a professional).
R’ Zvi Cohen (Tevilas Kelim 11:51) writes that one needs to tovel a toaster with a beracha. Nonetheless, as there are Poskim who hold that electrical appliances shouldn’t be tovelled at all, one who does so should ideally make the beracha on something that certainly does require tevila.

Kiddush on Whisky

Question: Is it okay to make kiddush on whisky or beer?
Answer: Certainly on Friday night, when kiddush is d’oraisa, one must make kiddush on wine (or grape juice). If one has no wine, one must recite kiddush over his challa (Shulchan Aruch OC 272:9).
On Shabbos morning, when kiddush is d’rabannan, the rules are relaxed somewhat:
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 289:2) writes that when one doesn't have wine one may use Chamar Medinah, popular beverages. This includes whisky and other liquors (See Igros Moshe OC 2:75). While the Shulchan Aruch (OC 272:9) includes beer in this category, the Mishna Berura (272:24) writes that this only applies where beer is commonly drunk (See Machazeh Eliyahu 34 regarding tea and coffee).
Even when wine is available, many have the custom to recite kiddush on a shot of whisky. While some Poskim (Mateh Ephraim 625:99, Minchas Yitzchak 10:22) defend this practice, others (see Aruch Hashulchan OC 272:13) disapprove. The Mishna Berura (272:30) writes that while it is certainly best to use wine, it is okay to use other drinks when wine is more expensive and drunk less. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 3:26; 5:32) explains that people used to drink wine much more than water. Nowadays, however, wine is not drunk quite as much, hence the hetter to use other beverages.
While the Magen Avraham (OC 190) and Mishna Berura (272:31) write that one who does make kiddush on whisky should use a cup that holds a revi’is and drink melo lugmav, a cheekful (at least 1.6oz), others hold that one may use a shot glass (See Taz OC 210:1, Teshuvos Chasam Sofer 49). R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC 1:159) points out that one who relies on this should say Borei Nefashos afterwards, even if they have not drunk a revi’is.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Babysitting on Shabbos

Question: How can I pay my babysitter for working on Shabbos?
Answer: The Mishna Berura (306:16) writes that chazal forbade one from getting paid for services performed on Shabbos as they were worried that people would inadvertently do business on Shabbos. As paying one will cause them to transgress, one is forbidden to pay another, too (ibid 306:21).
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 28:68) writes that one who received money would never be allowed to benefit from it. Quoting R’ Chaim Soloveitchik, he writes (28:n110) that if one worked on Shabbos intending to get paid, that work is forbidden, too.
Ideally, one should ask their babysitter to do some work for them during the week, and pay them for that work and their Shabbos babysitting as a single unit, rather than per hour (Shulchan Aruch OC 306:4). R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach held that this extra work must be something for which one would normally pay another to do (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 28:66, n145).
Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 306:12) writes that one may pay another (an inflated fee) for any preparations they did during the week, such as travelling.
Another option is to give a gift, rather than paying them (Mishna Berura 306:15). R’ Ribiat (The 39 Melochos, Kosaiv p976) stresses that this gift must not have been pre-negotiated, and both parties must understand that it is indeed a gift.
In conclusion, one cannot pay babysitters normally if they just work on Shabbos. One may give them a gift for their work, though it is ideal if they do some work during the week, too, and are paid, even an inflated fee, for that.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Scrabble on Shabbos

Question: May one play Scrabble on Shabbos?
Answer: There are a few potential issues with playing Scrabble on Shabbos. The first is whether forming the letters into words is considered kesiva, writing (and mechika, erasing, when breaking up words).
The Levush (340:4) writes that one mustn’t open or close a book on Shabbos if there are words stamped on the edges of its pages. Doing so will form or erase the words, which may be forbidden midoraisa! Likewise, putting letters together to form a word in a game is forbidden.
The Machtzis Hashekel (340:6) extends this prohibition to picture jigsaws, as one mustn’t create or ruin a picture.
The Taz (OC 340:2) disagrees, comparing opening and closing a book to opening and closing a door which isn’t considered building or destroying. While we don’t Pasken like the Levush, the Mishna Berura (340:17) writes that one should avoid such books if possible.
R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi – Tel Harim, Koseiv 4) argues that the Levush only forbids using such books as the letters themselves are formed or erased, though would allow joining letters together to form words. Thus, R’ Yehoshua Kaganoff maintains that even the Levush would permit playing scrabble, where the letters are already formed (See Chazon Ish (OC 61:1) who prohibits eating cake with writing on if doing so will destroy a letter).
R' Yisroel Pinchos Bodner (Tiltulei Shabbos 1:n24) writes that R’ Moshe Feinstein also forbade playing when the letters are affixed to the board.
Yet another issue is playing games which normally involve writing. The Chayei Adam (Shabbos 38:11) forbids playing such games on Shabbos. As one usually records the score while playing Scrabble, one would not be allowed to play on Shabbos (See Bris Olam, Koseiv 13 who questions this and Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 17:31, Igros Moshe OC 5:22:14), though similar games which don’t involve keeping score (such as Junior Scrabble) would be permitted.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Time to Light

Question: I see different people lighting their menora at different times. What is the optimum time?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) writes that the proper time for lighting the Chanuka light is at shekia, the setting of the sun. There is a considerable range of opinions regarding exactly what this means.
According to Rambam (Chanuka 4:5) this means the beginning of shekia. Thus, the Vilna Gaon (Biur Hagra OC 672:1) writes that one should light at sunset while the Rema (Darkei Moshe OC 672:4) writes that the Maharil would light just after sunset.
Other poskim however, write that the Gemara refers to the end of the process of the sun setting, tzeis hakochavim. The Mordechai (Shabbos 455) writes that one should wait until tzeis to light as candles are more noticeable during the night. The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (OC 672:1) rule like the Mordechai (See Rosh, Shabbos 2:3; Tosafos, Menachos 20b; Bach OC 672:1; Magen Avraham OC 672:1).
The Mishna Berura (672:1; Biur Halacha 672:2) quotes both opinions and writes that those who daven maariv at tzeis should ideally light first, though should ensure that there is enough oil to last until a half hour after tzeis.
Similarly, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:101:6) writes that the ideal time to light is about ten minutes after shekia though one should ensure that there is an hour’s worth of oil.
In conclusion, there are different minhagim as to when to light with some lighting at shekia and some waiting until tzeis hakochavim. Those lighting earlier should ensure that there is enough oil to last for half an hour after tzeis hakochavim.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Shabbos Chanuka

Question: When should we light our menora before and after Shabbos?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 679:1) writes that as one accepts Shabbos by lighting the Shabbos candles, one must light the Chanuka candles first. The Magen Avraham (679:1) and Mishna Berura (679:1), however, point out that this isn’t necessarily the case with men who light Shabbos candles. The Rema adds that even though this means that they are lighting the menora before shekia, one still recites the berachos.
While the Magen Avraham (679:1) and Mishna Berura (679:2) write one can light the menora from plag hamincha, one and a quarter halachic hours before nacht, R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim Uzemanim 2:15) writes that one should not light more than half an hour before shekia (See Igros Moshe OC 4:62).
The Mishna Berura (ibid.; Biur Halacha 672:1) writes that one must fill one’s menora with enough oil or large enough candles to last for half an hour after tzeis, nightfall.
The Mishna Berura (679:2) writes that ideally one should daven Mincha before lighting the menora. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 671:79) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:74) explain that the menora serves to remind us of the menora in the beis hamikdash which was lit after the afternoon korban tamid, now represented by Mincha. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 671:26), however, writes that as we usually light Shabbos candles before Mincha, our minhag is to light the menora before Mincha, too.
The Rema (OC 681:2) writes that one should light the menora immediately after Shabbos, even before saying havdala.
The Taz (OC 681:2) and Mishna Berura (681:2) argue however, that we should recite havdala first, following the rule of tadir vesheino tadir, tadir kodem, the more regular of two mitzvos is performed first. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 681:2) adds that it makes less sense to say the beracha of meorei haesh after one has already lit the menora. Additionally, even the Rema seems to imply that if one didn’t hear havdala in shul that one should say it first (See Yechave Daas 1:75; Shevet Halevi 6:85).
R’ Dovid Zvi Hoffman (Melamed Lehoyil 1:122) relates that while he used to always recite havdala first, he once lit the menora first as he was running out of time. Just before he was about to light, he realised that he had forgotten to say ata chonantanu, and so it was still Shabbos for him! He took this as a sign from heaven that he should not change his minhag.
In conclusion, one should light the menora on erev Shabbos shortly before lighting Shabbos candles. Unless one has a specific minhag otherwise, one should ideally recite havdala on Motzaei Shabbos first.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Spin that Dreidel

Much has been written about the significance of the four letters on the Dreidel, from שמונה נרות, הלל גמור (‘8 lights, complete Hallel’ - the Mitzvos of Chanuka) to it referring to the four exiles and their being the same Gematria as משיח.
The Bnei Yissachar (R’ Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov 1783-1841) points out that while the Purim Gragger is spun from the bottom, the dreidel is spun from the top. While the Purim events were orchestrated by Esther and Mordechai ‘down below’ (Hashem was hidden), the Chanuka story clearly came from above. We spin the dreidel to remind us that the miracles of winning the war and the oil lasting for eight days were clearly orchestrated by Hashem above.  
Many of us are familiar with the legend of the dreidel. Jewish students had a dreidel prepared in case they were approached by the Greeks whilst learning Torah.
Long before any Jewish reference to the dreidel (first published in Minhagei Yeshurun, 1890), however, the Germans played teetotum, a gambling spinning top. Our dreidel has 4 letters, G (Ganz, all), H (Halb, half), N (Nischt, nothing) and S (shicht, put).
Nonetheless, Minhag Yisroel Torah – when a custom becomes established practise in Judaism, it should be continued as Jewish custom.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Mezonos Bread

Question: I see that some local Kashrus authorities don’t sell mezonos bread. Why is this?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 42a) writes that one recites mezonos before eating pas haba b’kisnin. It isn’t clear, however, what this includes. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 168:7) writes that one recites mezonos on bread that is baked with honey, milk or fruit juice providing that one can taste the difference between normal bread. The Rema writes that one would only recite mezonos on such bread if it also contains a significant amount of juice or spices (see Taz 168:7; Darchei Moshe 20). The Mishna Berura (168:33) paskens that this liquid needs to be the primary ingredient and one would have to be able to taste the difference in the bread. Accordingly, one would have to wash and recite hamotzi on regular mezonos bread which tastes similar to regular bread (See The Laws of B’rachos p254).
Many quote the Da’as Torah (168:7) as allowing one to recite mezonos (and not having to wash and bentsch) even if one can’t taste the juice, providing that the main ingredient is juice, etc. R’ Yisroel Belsky points out that one can’t rely on this as he was referring to specific ingredients no longer used in baking.
Dayan Gavriel Krausz (Mekor Habracha 14) writes that there is a safek as to whether one needs to wash and recite hamotzi before eating bridge rolls or not, though writes that providing that they contain fruit juice, one can rely on the lenient view and recite mezonos.
The Mishna Berura (168:24) writes that if one eats a meal’s worth of pas haba b’kisnin, one needs to treat it as regular bread. This is true even if one ate a little, together with other food. Thus, even one who made mezonos before eating a couple of bridge rolls (or a slice of pizza) followed by some salad, may have to bench if he is full. Many rabbonim therefore urge Baalei Simcha not to serve bridge rolls at their Simcha.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Gifts on Shabbos

Question: I am invited to a Shabbos Sheva Brachos in an area where there is an Eruv. Can I bring a gift on Shabbos?
Answer: When one gives a present, the item transfers ownership which is akin to a transaction. Therefore, one is generally forbidden to give others presents on Shabbos (Mishna Berura 306:33).
One may give a present that may be used on Shabbos, such as food. One who receives a bottle of wine, for example, is not obligated to open it that day. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 323:7; Mishna Berura 323:34) allows one to give a new dish that requires tevila to a gentile on Shabbos and subsequently borrow it off him, thus permitting the dish for use.
Likewise, the Beis Yosef (OC 527) allows one to give a gift on Shabbos if it will be used for mitzva purposes. This is the basis for allowing one to give their lulav and esrog to another as a gift on the first day (or 2) of Sukkos.
The Magen Avraham (OC 306:15) question the practice of giving presents to a chassan who delivers a speech on Shabbos. The Chasam Sofer (Hagaos Hachasam Sofer OC 306), however disagrees as such a gift serves a mitzvapurpose by giving true kavod to the Torah. The Aruch Hashulchan extends this, allowing one to give wedding presents at the Shabbos Sheva Brachos, as doing so brings simcha to the chassan and kalla; itself a great mitzva.
Likewise, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:21) allows giving Bar Mitzva presents on Shabbos (especially Seforim that may be used that day) as they can serve to encourage the boy in his Torah learning and religious lifestyle.
Nonetheless, when giving (non-food) gifts, R' Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 29:29) advises having a third party acquire the gift on behalf of the one receiving the gift. Alternately, they should intend not to acquire it until after Shabbos.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Washing Hands on the Go

Question: What’s the best way to wash one’s hands before eating bread when travelling?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 159:7) writes that one must actually pour the water over one’s hands, koach gavra. Just holding one’s hands under a running tap would not suffice (See Mishna Berura 159:60).
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 8:7) writes that if one doesn’t have access to a cup, one can open and close the tap a few times, as bedieved this counts as koach gavra (See Mishna Berura 160: 64). R' Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 4:21) disagrees, as the pipe cannot act as a keli.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe EH 1:114) writes that one should not wash one’s hands in a toilet room, though R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:60) writes that when that is the only water available, one should wash his hands there, though they should come out before drying them. If possible, one should fill up the cup and take it outside the room.
One can dip one’s hands into a body of water that would otherwise be suitable as a mikvah. One may wash with other liquids, if necessary, though without a Bracha. (Shulchan Aruch 160:12)
While disposable cups are not ideal, one can use them if that’s all one has. Likewise, one may use a bottle, providing the water comes out in an uninterrupted flow (Mishna Berura 162:30).
While ideally one should dry his hands on a towel, if necessary, one may use an electric hand dryer (Shut Az Nidberu 8:52; 9:64), though it is preferable to wipe them on one’s trousers or skirt.
If there is no water around, one is obligated to go the extra mil to obtain water. (That is to go back 18 minutes, or keep travelling for 4 mil / 72 minutes.) If that isn’t feasible, one can cover one’s hands, e.g. with gloves, before eating.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Beracha on Chocolate

Question: What beracha does one make on chocolate-covered raisins?
Answer: While the accepted practice is to recite shehakol on chocolate, there are poskim that maintain that as it comes from the cocoa bean, the correct beracha should be ha’etz. While the Shaarei Teshuva (OC 202:19) writes that the correct beracha is shehakol, the poskim he quotes lived before chocolate was eaten in its solid form. There is no question that chocolate in a liquid form, just like any other fruit juice should be shehakol.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 1:91:2) compares chocolate to finely ground spices. While these spices are no longer identifiable, their beracha remains the same. Similarly, one recites ha’etz on chocolate, even if there is more sugar than cocoa bean. (See Mishna Berura 202:76, 203:12)
Dayan Gavriel Krausz (Mekor Habracha 21) writes that while the correct beracha seems to be ha’etz, nonetheless the minhag is to say shehakol.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC3:31) addresses the issue of chocolate-covered raisins, though is clear that one recites shehakol on chocolate itself. While normally one makes the beracha on the ikar, main ingredient, neither the raisin nor the chocolate can be considered tafel, of secondary importance to the other. One would therefore need to recite both shehakol and ha’etz (ideally on another raisin, etc).
The Baer Hetev (204:19) holds that the raisin is the ikar (See Mekor Habrocha 22) while the Vezos Habracha (p96-97) quotes one opinion that chocolate is the ikar, and another that as the volume of the raisin is usually greater than the chocolate, the correct beracha should be ha’etz (see Yalkut Yosef 3 p431). R’ Moshe Heinemann writes that the beracha is subjective as the ikar is determined by personal preference.
In conclusion, while one can follow his preference, it is ideal to make 2 berachos on 2 other items.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Kiddush in Shul

The Gemara (Pesachim 100b) writes that the Chazan recites Kiddush in Shul on Friday night for the guests who would stay in the Shul. As nowadays, guests don’t typically eat their Shabbos meals in the Shul, the Tur (OC 269) writes that this custom no longer applies. Rambam (Shut Harambam 37) however, writes that although the reasoning may no longer apply, we shouldn’t abandon a takana of the Rabbis. The Beis Yosef (OC 269) quotes a few Rishonim who defend the practice, yet paskens like the Tur that one shouldn’t. The Tashbetz (quoted by his sons in Shut Yachin Uboaz 1:118) held that one shouldn’t even answer Amen to Kiddush in Shul as there is a safek of a bracha levatala.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (269:5) writes that the accepted minhag is for the Chazan to recite it. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 269:2) writes that a Shul that doesn’t usually say it should change their custom if there is anyone in Shul that won’t otherwise say Kiddush. The Shulchan Aruch writes that as he is not going to eat immediately after (Kiddush B’makom Seuda), the Chazan should give the wine to a child. If there is no child present, the Chazan should drink at least a Revi’is, say a Bracha Achrona, and have intent to fulfill the mitzvah of Kiddush. This does not prevent him from later making Kiddush again at home (Mishna Berura 269:1, Yabia Omer 1:15).
The pre-war minhag in Finland was always to recite Kiddush, though as wine was scarce during the war, they stopped this practice. The Chief Rabbi asked R’ Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg whether he should reinstate this minhag. He was reluctant to do so based on the Beis Yosef. R’ Weinberg replied (Seridei Aish 2:157) that the Shul should begin doing so again as it adds grace and beauty of holiness to the start of Shabbos. Additionally, it may inspire others who wouldn’t otherwise make Kiddush, to do so when they return home.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Making Aliya

While Rambam (Melachim 5:12) writes that it is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael, nonetheless he does not include it in his list of 613 Mitzvos. Some explain that Rambam only holds that this Mitzva is Derabanan, while others (Megilas Esther) hold that this Mitzva applied specifically when Yehoshua conquered the land.
Ramban (Hasagos HaRamban 4, Bemidbar 35:53) disagrees with Rambam, and writes that certainly living in Eretz Yisrael is a Mitzva today. The Pischei Teshuva (EH 75:6) paskens like Ramban, and quoting the Sifrei (Re’eh 28), writes that the Mitzva to move to Eretz Yisrael is equal to all other Mitzvos. (See Igros Chazon Ish, 1:175 and Yechave Daas 4:49)
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe EH 1:102) wrote that while most authorities agree with Ramban, it is a Mitzva Kiyumis rather than a Mitzva Chiyuvis, optional (like tzitzis) rather than obligatory. While Rambam writes that one mustn’t leave Israel, he doesn’t write that one must move there. R’ Moshe quotes Rabbenu Chaim Cohen (Tosafos Kesubos 110b) who defended the practice of those who didn’t make aliya, as moving to Israel was considered dangerous.
Amazingly, the Pischei Teshuva quotes the Maharit (Shut 28) who writes that this opinion was mistakenly inserted into Tosafos by a student. Since when did a Mitzva stop being applicable simply because it is difficult to observe?!
R' Avraham Borenstein of Sochachov (Avnei Nezer 2:454) writes that R’ Chaim Cohen’s reasoning is no longer applicable. In spite of the potential difficulties, this is a Mitzva like no other. Furthermore, living in Eretz Yisrael enables one to fulfil so many other Mitzvos. (See Tzitz Eliezer 7:48:12)
While there are factors that may prevent one from making Aliya, one certainly fulfils a Mitzva (according to most Poskim) in doing so. We must bear in mind, too, the words of the Chasam Sofer (Derashos 1p18), The ideal way to observe Torah and Mitzvos is specifically in the land of Israel.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Kiddush Levana

Question: When’s the best time to recite Kiddush Levana?
Answer: According to Rabbeinu Yonah (Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah Brachos 21a) the very earliest one can recite Kiddush Levana is once the moon has begun to show a little light, and one can benefit from its light - that is 2 to 3 days following the Molad. While the Beis Yosef (OC 426) writes that for Kabbalistic reasons one should not recite Kiddush Levana until seven days have passed, the Mishna Berura (426:20) writes that most Achronim disagree, and hold that one may recite it after the 3rd day.
According to Maseches Sofrim, one must only recite Kiddush Levana on motzaei Shabbos while one is still dressed in his Shabbos best. The Shulchan Aruch and Rema (426:2) pasken this way, though the Mishna Berura writes that many Achronim including the Vilna Gaon held that one should not push the Mitzva off, especially in cloudy weather when it can be difficult to see the moon.
One can recite Kiddush Levana up until the 16th day since the Molad. The Shulchan Aruch (426:3) quotes the Maharil (Shut 19) who defines this time more accurately as half of a lunar cycle: 14 days 18 hours and 22 minutes.
While Kiddush Levana should not be recited on Shabbos for Kabbalistic reasons, the Mishna Berura (426:12) allows one to do so if it is the last possible opportunity.
The Mishna Berura (426:1) writes that the custom is that women should not recite Kiddush Levana.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

What to do with Dvar Torah sheets

Question: Am I allowed to dispose of divrei Torah sheets such as these?
Answer: The Gemara (Makkos 22a) writes that one who destroys one of the sheimos, names of Hashem, has transgressed the negative commandment of You shall not do this to Hashem your God. (Devarim 12:4)
Rambam takes this a step further and writes (Yesoidey Hatorah 6:8) that one must never burn or destroy Torah writings (except for those written by a heretic, etc.) The Netziv (Meshiv Davar 1:80) limits this prohibition to materials that were written to last. Thus, one would be allowed to dispose of one’s rough notes. Based on this, R’ Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:17) permits disposing of newspapers that contain Divrei Torah. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5:162) however, writes that they require burial.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:39) writes that often too much is printed, especially in school settings, which just compounds the problem. He writes that if the gedolim in Eretz Yisrael would agree with him (they didn't..) he would have allowed one to even dispose of a worn Gemara, providing it didn’t contain sheimos. Once a sefer becomes unusable, it loses its kedusha somewhat.
There is much debate about placing such papers in recycling. R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:554) maintains that the ideal solution is to put them in a plastic bag before disposing of them. This way, one is treating them respectfully.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Computers on Chol Hamoed

The Mishna (Moed Katan 11a) teaches us that ma'aseh uman (the work of a craftsman) mustn’t be done on behalf of an individual on Chol Hamoed. Only ma'aseh hedyot (the work of an ordinary person) that is necessary for that Chag is allowed.
Rambam (Yom Tov 7:14) writes that personal letters are considered ma'aseh hedyot and so may be written. While others disagree, the Rema (OC 545:5) paskens that one may write, though should do so in an unusual manner. The Magen Avraham suggests writing the first line on a slant (See Mishna Berura 545:35).
Whether printing from a computer is considered ma'aseh hedyot or ma'aseh uman is the source of much debate. The dilemma is that while certainly nowadays typing requires less skill than writing (see Chol Hamoed Kehilchaso 6:89), nonetheless printed works can look more professional than written ones. Is it the act or results that make the difference?
R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim Uzmanim 4:301) considers printing to be ma'aseh uman and therefore assur.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Hilchos Chol Hamoed Zichron Shlomo p78) held that typing cannot be considered ma'aseh uman and providing it was of relevance to Yom Tov, would be permissible. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 66:n209) compares it to using stamps which the Eshel Avraham allows. While storing data to a disc is improving the disc, and therefore tantamount to boneh, providing the work was necessary for Yom Tov (or would cause a significant loss, etc.), it would be muttar. In a letter to R’ Avraham Avraham (Nishmas Avraham OC 4:340:4) R’ Shlomo Zalman explained that displaying letters isn’t problematic, as it merely shows light. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 8:48) paskens leniently, too for the same reason.
While the Acharonim don’t discuss playing computer games, it seems that it should be muttar as, like driving to an outing, it can be considered relevant to the Chag and no Issur is involved.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Travelling Sukka

Question: I am going on a family outing on Chol Hamoed. Do I need to ensure that I eat in a Sukka?
Answer:  The Gemara in Sukka (26a) teaches us that one is exempt from eating and sleeping in a Sukka while travelling because teishvu kaein taduru, one doesn’t alter one’s normal living habits in order to live in a Sukka. Rashi explains that just as during the rest of the year living at home does not prevent one for travelling on a business trip, so too one may make a business trip (over Chol Hamoed).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 640:8) paskens like the Gemara, though the Rema adds that debt collectors travelling to villages which don’t have a Sukka will be blessed if they are particular to return home each night. The Mishna Berura (260:40-45 and Biur Halacha) explains that one should look for a Sukka. If there isn’t one around one doesn’t need to go to the bother of building one just for a night, though should for a longer stay.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:93) qualifies the Gemara’s exemption like Rashi: While may one travel for business purposes or for a mitzvah, one going on a trip for pleasure is still required to eat (and sleep) in a Sukka. One doesn’t need to travel for pleasure, and one should go out of one’s way, and forgo a little extra pleasure in order to fulfil a mitzvah. Elsewhere (EH 4:32:8), R’ Moshe writes that tourists who visit another country and particularly want to see the sites may travel without a Sukka if they can’t delay visiting until after Yom Tov. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:47) also holds that one can not eat outside of a Sukka when on an outing.
R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Hearos Lemasesches Sukkah p114) challenges R’ Moshe’s arguments. As it is common to travel for pleasure, it should be no different to traveling for business, and such travel should be included in teishvu kaein taduru. Rashi, he writes, used business as an example, and other Rishonim don’t stress any type of travelling. Additionally, one who has a Sukka and leaves it for a short trip is not considered avoiding the Mitzva.
While one has what to rely on under emergency, ideally, one should be particular to prepare food that doesn’t necessitate a Sukka when travelling (See Shulchan Aruch OC 639:2).

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Learning during Chazaras Hashatz

Question: May one learn during chazaras hashatz?
Answer: Although most people in shuls today are capable of davening themselves, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 124:2) writes that chazaras hashatz is more important than the quiet shemonei esrei.
Misconduct during the repetition is no new problem, however. Rambam’s (only) son, R’ Avraham, records (Hamaspik Leovdei Hashem, 2 p195) that none of his father’s contemporaries objected when Rambam stopped shuls in Egypt from repeating the amida due it being neglected by the tzibbur. Years later, Radvaz (4:94) reinstated it.
The Mishna Berura (124:17) writes that one shouldn’t learn during chazaras hashatz even when it doesn’t prevent him from answering amen, as others may be mislead into thinking that it’s even okay to talk. Later on (125:1) he writes that it’s fine to learn by thinking (hirhur) except during kedusha. (See Igros Moshe OC 4:19)
The Rema Mipanu (quoted in Baer Hetev) on the other hand, writes that this practice is commendable as one is fulfilling two mitzvos simultaneously! The Kaf Hachaim (OC 124:16) quotes opinions both for and against preventing those who learn during chazaras hashatz, even if they are answering amen to the chazan, though sides with those who oppose it, writing that one shouldn't even think about Torah at this time.
He then writes a novel peshat to the words, אַשְׁרֵי מִי שֶׁעֲמָלוֹ בַּתּוֹרָה וְעוֹשֶׂה נַחַת רוּחַ לְיֹצְרוֹ. Praiseworthy is the one who learns, thereby bringing much Nachas to his creator. It’s possible, he writes, to learn and not give Hashem nachas – that is by learning at the wrong time, such as during chazaras hashatz. According to kabbalah, Tefillah and Torah work in different spiritual ways and should not be performed simultaneously. There’s a time to learn and a time to daven.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Eruv Tavshilin

While mideoraisa one may cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos (Pesachim 48b), Chazal were concerned that people may take it a step further and cook for a weekday meal. Eruv tavshilin ensures that the Shabbos preparations begin before the onset of Yom Tov, and any preparations done on Yom Tov itself, are simply a continuation of that. It also serves as a reminder not to do any other preparations other than for Shabbos (Beitza 15b, Rashi, and Mishna Berura 527:25). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 527:13) writes that when Yom Tov is on Thursday and Friday, one must not begin preparations on Thursday (1st day Yom Tov) but rather must wait until Friday.
One should use a matza or bread along with a cooked food, such as eggs, meat or fish (Mishna Berura 527:11) which should ideally be cooked on erev Yom Tov (Biur Halacha, 527:14).
The Mishna Berura (527:48) writes that it is best to use this bread as the second bread of lechem mishna for both Friday night and Shabbos lunch and eat it during shalosh seudos. This way, one continues using an item used for one mitzvah for other mitzvos. The Mishna Berura (527:4) writes that one who forgot to make his eruv before shekia may do so (even with a beracha) during bein hashemashos (the period of time between shekia and tzeis hakochavim, nightfall). This wouldn’t apply once the Shul had begun davening maariv or he had otherwise accepted Yom Tov upon himself. As there is a machlokes as to whether one needs to make an Eruv tavshilin to light candles, R’ Mordechai Karmy (Ma'amar Mordechai 527:18) paskens that one who isn’t cooking at all, should do so without a beracha in order to enable them to light candles and warm up food, etc.
One who doesn't understand the Aramaic declaration must say the English translation (Mishna Berura 527:40).
A husband who makes an eruv for his family should ideally do so in front of his wife (Aruch Hashulchan 527:22), and should intend to include his family. Any guests (or others) who wish to be included should make a kinyan to share ownership of the food. (Someone else can do this on their behalf. See Shulchan Aruch OC 527:10)
While the Rav makes an eruv on behalf of anyone in his community who forgets or loses theirs, one can’t rely on this instead of choosing to make one. One who forgets two consecutive times is no longer considered accidental and it would not help to rely on this (Baer Hetev 527:6).
If one arrived in Shul and realized that they had forgotten to make an Eruv before Yom Tov, they should go home if they can still make one before Yom Tov. Alternately, one may call home and ask someone else (such as one’s wife) to do so. If not, there are some (Tiferes Yisroel, Beitza 2:1) who hold that one can designate food that he has at home. He can’t make the beracha, and must omit the words behadein eruva, with this eruv. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 7:36) held that one can’t rely on this.
The Mishna Berura (527:4) writes that one who forgot to make his eruv before shekia may do so (even with a beracha) during bein hashemashos (the period of time between shekia and tzeis hakochavim, nightfall). This wouldn’t apply once the shul had begun davening maariv or he had otherwise accepted Yom Tov upon himself.
In an emergency, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 527:22) even allows making one under strict conditions on the first day Yom Tov (in chutz la’aretz), though this doesn’t apply on Rosh Hashana (as there’s no safeik deyoma).

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Totally Nuts!

The Rema (OC 583:2) writes that many have the custom to avoid eating nuts on Rosh Hashana. One reason for this is because אגוז is the same gematria as חט, sin (minus the א – the way it is spelled in Talmud Yerushalmi). Similar to the various simanim we eat on Rosh Hashana, we want to remind – and inspire - ourselves to do teshuva as one eats – or avoids - these special foods (Matei Ephraim 583:2). Thus, many avoid bitter foods.
While many avoid nuts throughout the aseres yemei teshuva, there doesn’t seem to be any source for this.
R’ Shmuel Kamenetsky (quoted in Kovetz Halachos: Yomim Noraim) holds that while one may eat food with nuts mixed or baked in, they should not be recognizable. (Thus, smooth peanut butter may be consumed, though chunky peanut butter should be avoided.)
While this is an ashkenazic minhag, some Poskim point out that the Maharam Mi’Rottenburg used to eat nuts on Rosh Hashana.
The Mishna Berura (583:5) writes that while some are particular not to pickle their fish in bitter brine as a good siman, it is more important to be careful not to get angry with another during this time, as a good siman! Similarly, the Beis Yisroel (5th Gerrer Rebbe) points out that while many avoid nuts because it shares the same gematria as חטא, we mustn’t forget that חטא also shares the same gematria as חטא. Let’s remember these simanim for what they are, and use them to further inspire us to teshuva.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Opening Post on Shabbos

Question: Am I allowed to open post that arrives on Shabbos?
Answer: 
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 314:1) writes that one may crack open a barrel on Shabbos to get to the food inside. While the Mishna Berura (314:25) allows opening a container to access the food inside, he writes (340:41; Biur Halacha 340:14) that one mustn’t open a sealed letter on Shabbos as the envelope becomes a usable kli, though one may ask a non-Jewish person to do so if absolutely necessary. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:21:5) also forbids opening post nowadays, writing that with modern day communication, it’s difficult to say that regular post is so important.
While one may read a personal letter, especially if it contains Shabbos related material (such as a devar Torah), one must not read any business correspondence on Shabbos. Bills, etc. are therefore muktza, irrespective as to whether they arrived on Shabbos or before. Such post is muktza on Shabbos (Mishna Berura 307:56; Igros Moshe ibid.), though one may move it out of the way kilachar yad (such as with one’s foot).
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 586:140) quotes the Tashbetz who writes that one may crack open a barrel to get a shofar. Based on this, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:3; 15:80) writes that R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach applied this halacha equally to non-food items. Thus, one can remove clothes or a newspaper, etc. from their plastic providing one doesn’t intend on reusing the plastic afterwards (See Chazon Ish, Shabbos 61:2).
R’ Neuwirth (9:n18; 28:n15) suggests that the Mishna Berura would agree that one may open a non-food package if they disposed of the wrapping and it was necessary for Shabbos.
The Shulchan Aruch (307:14) writes that there is no issue in reading a letter that came from outside the techum, although if it was brought specially for them then it is preferable not to touch it. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 515:14) explains that while one cannot normally benefit from something brought from outside the techum, it does not make the item muktze (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 307:5). Likewise, the Mishna Berura (307:55) explains that as one does not specifically expect the letter to come on Shabbos, there is no concern that one is asking the postman to deliver it (See Machazeh Eliyahu 37).
Thus, R’ Neuwirth (ibid. 31:23) writes that one may benefit from items that arrived in the post on Shabbos, providing they didn’t specifically ask for it to be delivered then.
In conclusion, while bills, etc. are muktze on Shabbos, one may open a package that arrived on Shabbos if necessary, providing they threw the packaging away.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Folding a Tallis on Shabbos

Question: I've seen some people fold their tallis on Shabbos, while some just stuff it into their tallis bag. What's the halacha?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 113a) and Shulchan Aruch (OC 302:3) write that folding clothing on Shabbos is only permitted if the following five conditions are met: 1) It will be worn again on Shabbos, 2) No one assists in folding it, 3) It hasn’t been washed since its last use, 4) it is white, and 5) he has no other to wear.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 302:12) explains that there are two different reasons for the prohibition: Rambam (Shabbos 22:22) writes that folding is being mesaken, fixing the garment, while the Raavad (Shabbos 23:7) holds that folding is a tircha yesera, additional effort. Neither of these reasons, he suggests, apply to folding a tallis. Certainly, it is inappropriate to stuff one’s tallis into his tallis bag without folding it at all. Similarly, R’ Palaji (Yafeh Lalev 302) writes that the folding is actually a hiddur mitzvah and not treating it properly will lead to it getting ruined.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (302:19) writes that though it is permitted even if it won’t be worn again that day, ideally one should be stringent and avoid folding it.
In conclusion, while those who fold their talleisim properly should not be criticised, it is best to fold it while avoiding its original creases.
Many are particular to fold their tallis immediately after Shabbos following the Magen Avraham (OC 300) who relates that the Maharil would fold his as soon as Shabbos went out in order to begin next week’s preparations already. R’ Gamliel Rabinowitz (Tiv Hachesed) relates that when R’ Yoel of Satmar heard that one man was doing so as a segula for Sholom Bayis, he replied that he’s not sure how much folding his tallis will help, though folding up one’s sleeves and helping with the house work straight after Shabbos will certainly help!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Beracha on Lightning and Thunder

There is a machlokes among the rishonim as to what berachos should be recited when seeing lightning and hearing thunder. According to Raavad (Berachos 10:14) one says both she’kocho ugvuraso malei olam and oseh ma’ase bereishis while Tosafos (Berachos 59a) holds that one says one or the other.
The Mishna Berura (227:5) writes that the minhag is to recite she’kocho ugvuraso malei olam when hearing thunder and oseh ma’ase bereishis when seeing lightning (which better demonstrates Hashem’s might). Some people don’t recite a beracha after lightning until they hear thunder, too, though this practice is wrong, as the beracha must be recited toch kedei dibbur (within a couple of seconds). If one sees and hears them together, one only says one beracha, preferably oseh ma’ase bereishis.
While ashkenazim say the full beracha with Hashem’s name, some sefardim follow the Kaf Hachaim (OC 227:1) who writes that one should say the beracha without Hashem’s name. Other sefardim follow the Yechave Daas (2:27) and say the full beracha
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg wrote to R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Tzitz Eliezer 12:21) that one recites the beracha even if they only saw a lightning flash, and not the actual bolt.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Kashrus of Scotch

Question: I have noticed that certain Scotch whiskies now have a hechsher on them. Does whisky need a hechsher?
Answer: The poskim agree that ordinary Scotch whisky (whether single malt or blended) which has no mention of any wine casks is perfectly Kosher. The question arises when whisky has been matured in wine casks, such as the Macallan Sherry Oak. R’ Moshe Feinstein famously addresses this issue in 2 responsa: Igros Moshe YD 1:62-63. While the Shulchan Aruch (YD 134:13) forbids drinking a gentile’s beverage when it is customary to add non-Kosher wine to it, R’ Moshe follows the more lenient Rema. Providing the wine is nullified against 6 parts whisky (as opposed to the usual 1:60 ratio), the wine is Kosher. While R’ Moshe advises that a baal nefesh should best avoid such whisky, seemingly he was specifically referring to a scenario where wine had actually been added to whisky. As Scotch Whisky Regulations dictate that Scotch may only contain water, grain yeast and caramel colouring, we can be assured that wine is not added.
Many American poskim are concerned that as the entire sherry (or port, Madeira, etc.) cask is saturated with non-Kosher wine, the wine is no longer battul 1:6 in the whisky. Others, including R’ Akiva Niehaus (Sherry Casks, A Halachic Perspective) argue that R’ Moshe wasn't referring to Scotch, but to American or Canadian whiskey. Accordingly, they forbid Wine Cask Finishes, arguing that the wine adds a recognizable taste to the whisky.
Nonetheless, Rabbanim in the UK (including the London Beis Din) maintain that R’ Moshe’s rulings apply to Scotch, and follow R' Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss’s permissive ruling, too (Minchas Yitzchak 2:28).
Note, that distilleries outside of Scotland (including Ireland) are not bound by the same regulations, and their whiskies may be problematic. Thus one must consult their Kashrus authority.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Question: Is it okay to repeat words of davening to fit in with the tune?
Answer: R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:22) addresses the issue of a chazan who repeats words during chazaras hashatz and in the berachos before Shema. He gives examples where repeating the words distorts the meaning of the beracha and thus constitutes a hefsek, interruption. There is a machlokes as to whether an individual may repeat words to aid his kavana, proper intent. Even at times when it may technically be permitted to repeat words, R’ Moshe writes that אין רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו - the sages are uncomfortable with this practice. Repeating the chorus in a piyut such as lecha dodi, however, would seemingly not be problematic.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 338:8) defends a couple of ‘chazanic practices,’ including the popular use of a tuning fork on Shabbos. While he does say that it isn’t ideal, he writes that we should be careful not to condemn wide spread Jewish practices. Aside from instances such as repeating shema and ‘modim’ (see Berachos 33b), one should leave the chazan alone.
In conclusion, one should avoid repeating words, particularly in berachos and pesukim. Likewise, in a pasuk with Hashem’s name, such as הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ ה' אֵלֶיךָ, it would be better to quietly finish the pasuk before repeating the words in song.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Breaking One's Fast

Question: I take regular medication and have managed successfully to fast on Yom Kippur by eating a small piece of cake and a shot of juice with my pills. What do I do on Tisha B’Av?
Answer: A Choleh She'ain Bo Sakanah is defined as one who is confined to bed as a result of their illness (See Shulchan Aruch and Rema OC 328:17). Only one who is considered this ill would be allowed to eat Shiurim (less than a Kezayis in a short amount of time) on Yom Kippur. The Mishna Berura (554:16) writes that Tisha B'Av is like any other Rabbinical fast whereby a Choleh She'ain Bo Sakanah should break their fast. In Biur Halacha (554:6), however he writes that if they can manage to eat in Shiurim on Tisha B'Av they have not technically broken their fast.
R' Dr. Avraham Avraham writes (Nishmat Avraham 4 OC 554:1) that only one who is eating to prevent becoming ill should utilise Shiurim. One who is ill should eat normally. Others, including the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 554:7) write that there is no concept of Shiurim on Tisha B'Av.
The custom is that one who isn't fasting should not receive an Aliyah on Tisha B'Av (Shulchan Aruch OC 566:6 and Mishna Berura 566:19). Following a personal incident when he had to eat, the Chasam Sofer (Teshuvos OC 157) writes that this Halacha doesn't apply on Tisha B'Av.
One who is not fasting omits Aneinu in his Amida (Biur Halacha 565:1) though should say Nachem if he says Birkas Hamazon (Rema OC 557:1).

Monday, 13 May 2013

Too Cheesy!

Ask anyone what Shavuos reminds them of, and they’ll likely respond eating cheesecake. This minhag seems to have been first mentioned by the Rema (OC 494:3) who explains that the extra dairy dish commemorates Shavuos’s unique Korban, the Shtei Halechem. Sefer Metaamei Moshe lists 149 different reasons for this minhag!
The Maharam Mirottenburg (615) related that after eating hard cheese, he could taste it hours later. The Rema (YD 89:2) paskens that it is appropriate to wait after eating hard cheese before eating meat, just as one must between meat and milk. R’ Moshe Feinstein (YD 2:26) points out that this is only a stringency. Interestingly, the Maharshal (see Shach YD 89:17) dismisses this custom as heresy as the Gemara (Chullin 105a) writes that there is no need to wait between cheese and meat! The Gra disagrees, saying that it is similar to adopting other personal stringencies. Nonetheless, this has become the accepted practice for Ashkenazim (See Chochmas Adam 40:13). Sefardim have various lenient opinions to rely on (See Yabea Omer YD 6:7).
Exactly what constitutes ‘hard cheese’ is a matter of much debate. Fatty, greasy cheese and cheese that has developed holes would both qualify as ‘hard’ (See Taz and Aruch HaShulchan YD 89:11). The Shach (YD 89:15) writes that cheese that has aged for 6 months, such as ‘swiss cheese’ (Taz 89:4) generally qualifies as hard cheese.  While some measure the 6 months from the time of production, R’ Yisroel Belsky maintains that the cheese only matures while in the factory, before it is packaged. Mild cheddar is typically a couple of months old, though mature cheddar is often older than 6 months.

R’ Aharon Kotler held (Ohr Yisroel 6:p89) that only cheese which needs a sharp grater to cut up is considered ‘hard.’ Following this, R’ Moshe Heinemann classes parmesan cheese as one of the few ‘hard cheeses’. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Mishneh Halachos 16:9) and the Chazon Ish (Maaseh Ish 5:p22) likewise, held rather leniently.
The Yad Yehuda (89:26) writes that if hard cheese is used in baking, it loses its ‘hard cheese’ status when it melts. R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Kovetz Teshuvos 1:582) disagrees, however, as melting the cheese doesn’t change its taste.
While eating dairy foods is certainly an important minhag, the Darchei Teshuva (89:19) challenges it, saying that there is a more important mitzva to eat meat as part of Simchas Yom Tov and this mitzva applies during every meal. R’ Moshe Feinstein, however, notes (OC 3:68) that we eat meat to remember the Korban Shelamim which was only brought once a day. Thus, one could have both dairy meals to fulfill the Shavuos custom and meat meals to properly fulfil Simchas Yom Tov.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Don’t Rub It In

Most contemporary poskim (Mishna Berura 326:30, Aruch Hashulchan OC 326:11) forbid using bar soap on Shabbos. While some have argued that the reasons to forbid it no longer apply, it is universally accepted that it should not be used.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (OC 1:113) writes that liquid soap is also problematic because when using soap, foam is created and the soap becomes even smoother. This is a problem of mimachek (smoothing). He concludes that he didn’t allow it in his house and it is best to be stringent.
Many poskim write that the original prohibition for bar soap does not extend to liquid soap and it may be used. (See Aruch Hashulchan 326:11, Kaf Hachaim 326:43 and Kitzur Hilchos Shabbos 32:4). In response to the authorities that hold foam should be forbidden because of nolad (creating a new entity), the Kovetz Teshuvos (1:38) writes that foam does not last. It must be permitted as it is no different from pouring beer on Shabbos, which is permitted even though it produces a foamy head. Thus, foaming soap would be permitted.
There is a further problem, however, of mimarayach, smearing thick oil (Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berura 314:11). Thin oil, such as baby oil, may be used. While it is unclear what exactly constitutes thick and thin, many Poskim allow the use of dishwashing liquid soap, though there is debate about thicker hand-washing soap. R' Ribiat notes that some are particular to water down their liquid soap before Shabbat in order to accommodate the strict approach.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Meron on Lag B'Omer

Question: I have heard that some say one should avoid going to R' Shimon Bar Yochai’s kever in Meron on Lag B’Omer. Why is this?
Answer: The Chasam Sofer (YD 233) writes that it is wrong to go and turn Lag B’Omer into a Yom Tov.  While there is a custom not to fast or deliver the eulogies on this day, we don’t know the reason for this. There were no specific miracles that occurred, he writes, and there is no mention throughout shas or poskim that this day should be treated as a festival.
The Chasam Sofer gave a hesped (printed in Toras Moshe, Vayikra) after hundreds lost their lives in 1837 to the Tzefas earthquake. He laments that people were travelling to Meron, Tzefas and Teveria to Daven at kivrei tzadikim while abandoning Yerushalayim, Israel’s holiest city. He continues by challenging those who treat this day as a Yom Tov. Since when do we celebrate a tzaddik’s death in such a way? Moshe’s death is certainly not celebrated as a Yom Tov?!
While many prominent Chassidic Rebbes and Sefardic Rabbanim have encouraged their followers to attend the Meron festivities, many Gedolim including R' Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 5:35), R’ Shach and R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv urged others to avoid it, and not to treat this day as such a Yom Tov.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Shomer Shabbos Website

Question: As I am not allowed to do business on Shabbos, do I need to shut down my website each week to prevent any business transactions from taking place?
Answer: Some compare this to owning a vending machine, which many poskim (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 20:70) allow one to keep running over Shabbos. As one hasn’t predetermined the sale, they aren’t considered to be actively doing a melacha. One doing so should declare that the money earned will not be acquired until after Shabbos.
R’ Akiva Eiger forbids one from pre-arranging an acquisition to take place on Shabbos, however. Accordingly, bidding for an item on eBay that is due to end on Shabbos may be prohibited.
In truth, the issue is far more complicated, as while winning a bid commits one to buy, no transaction has taken place until payment has been received. Some have dismissed the possible prohibition arguing that the time of transaction is not until the credit card payment has cleared. That poses other problems, as according to that argument, one would be forbidden to shop on Thursday, if they knew the transaction won’t clear until Shabbos! Websites that are set up to automatically send a software download or coupon, etc. would be particularly problematic.
Certainly, this is a most complex matter that needs to be investigated further by today’s poskim . (Perhaps they will need to create innovative solutions similar to Heter Iska.)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Music during the Sefira

Question: I find that music really relaxes me and find it very difficult not to listen to music during the omer. Can I listen to acapella music?
Answer: While there is no mention in the Shulchan Aruch of the prohibition on listening to music during the Sefira, the Magen Avraham (493:1) writes clearly that one mustn’t dance during this time. As music and dancing are often synonymous, R’ Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe YD 2:137) that it has become the prevalent minhag to refrain from listening. The Aruch Hashulchan, too, writes (OC 493:2) that while engagement parties are permitted, there must be no musical accompaniment.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:111) brings sources to demonstrate that refraining from listening to music is not a new minhag.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 15:33) discusses whether recorded music is banned, too, and concludes that there is no difference between live and recorded music (See Yechave Daas 6:34).
R’ Belsky holds that one who usually listens to music when they workout may do so, as this music is not considered regular enjoyment. Certainly, one who teaches, studies or plays music for their livelihood may continue to do so.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Sefiras Haomer 11:n14) writes that one who will become overly upset without music may listen to recordings. One need not prevent one’s young children from listening, either. Others have permitted listening while driving if it helps to keep them alert.
While some (Shevet Halevi 8:127) even prohibit listening to acapella music, most authorities allow such ‘music’.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Shaving during the Sefira

There are different minhagim as to which ’half of the Sefira’ to observe. As it is generally understood that R’ Akiva’s students died over 34 days, we mourn for 34 days, either from the beginning until Lag B’Omer (with the first few days being waived because of Pesach), or from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Shavuos.
Among the prohibitions during this period is taking a haircut or shaving. The Mishna Berura (493:12) makes an exception for a sandek, mohel and father of a baby having a bris. When Rosh Chodesh falls on a Shabbos, one may shave on Friday in honour of the double special day. When Lag B’Omer falls on a Sunday (like this year), one may shave on the preceding Friday in honour of Shabbos.
When Lag B’Omer falls on a different weekday, one should ideally wait until the morning to shave.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:95) writes that one attending a wedding during the Omer period may only shave if he’d be too embarrassed to go unshaven. Had he been invited before the Sefira, he should have rather kept the other half so as not to have to rely on this leniency!
There are minority opinions that allow those who shave regularly to shave throughout the Omer. (See Nefesh HaRav, p191). R’ Moshe (Igros Moshe OC 4:102), however, only allows one to shave if not doing so will cause him monetary loss. One who feels the need to avail himself of this leniency should perhaps not shave over Bank Holiday weekend.
Let us use this period to remind ourselves as to why we are mourning and to always maintain the correct respect for each other, especially for Torah scholars.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

How much Matza, Maror & Wine?



Shiurim in CC (ml)
Chazon Ish
R’ Moshe Feinstein
R’ Avraham Chaim Naeh
Larger Size
Smaller Size
Revi’is
145
130.6
85.8
86
Kezayis
50
43.5
32.5
27

There is a lot of debate amongst the Rishonim and later Poskim as to how to accurately calculate the shiurim (size or volume) of halachic measurements.
The Shaarei Teshuva (OC 486) and Mishnah Berura (486:1) rule that we should be particularly stringent for mitzvos that are deoraisa.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (quoted by R’ Avrohom Blumenkrantz) held, therefore, that one should follow the larger shiur (above) for the mitzvos that are deoraisa, and rely on the smaller shiur for those that are derabanan. A healthy person should certainly try to follow the Chazon Ish’s shiurim for the first kezayis of matza and the afikoman to be sure of fulfilling the mitzva according to all opinions. This is estimated at about 2/3 of a Machine baked Matza. By consuming the larger shiur, one also accommodates the preferred practice of eating two kezeisim for both the matza that is eaten at the beginning of the meal and the afikoman (see Shulchan Aruch 475:1 and Mishna Berura 477:1). For the matza and maror of korech, one can follow R’ Moshe’s smaller shiurim.
According to Sefer Kol Dodi (14:11 and 18:3) R’ Moshe’s larger shiur equals 6.25 by 7 inches of matza while the smaller one comes to 4 by 7 inches.
While most authorities hold that Kiddush on Yom Tov is derabanan, others (including the Minchas Chinuch, 31) hold that it is deoraisa, as it is on Shabbos, and therefore, even on a weeknight, it is best to be stringent and drink a ‘larger’ revi’is. One who finds it difficult to drink so much may follow the smaller shiur for the other 3 cups which are derabanan.
While maror is derabanan (nowadays), one need not use the largest shiur. Yet, as we make a bracha on it, one should not eat the smallest size either.
One who can’t even tolerate the small shiurim of R’ Chaim Naeh should consult their Rabbi about consuming less.
While it is ideal to finish one’s wine cup, if necessary one may drink most of it. If one can’t cope with the larger size revi’is, they should find a cup that just holds a smaller revi’is. The second cup may need to be refilled after wine has been spilled out while mentioning the makkos.
The matza, maror and 4 cups must be eaten kdei achilas pras. This time is also debated, with R’ Moshe Feinstein holding it is 3 minutes, and R’ Avraham Chaim Naeh allowing 4. If absolutely necessary, one can take up to 9 minutes.
I wish you a Kosheren and healthy Pesach where we can all fulfil these mitzvos to their utmost.