Sunday, 28 December 2014

Kashering Formica Counters and Plastic

Question: I have just moved into a new home and need to kasher the kitchen. What is the halacha regarding the formica countertops? Is it the same for plastic utensils?
Answer: There is a machlokes among the rishonim as to how to treat materials that aren’t mentioned in the Torah.
Thus, for example, while most rishonim including the Shulchan Aruch (OC 451:26) hold that as glass is non-absorbent, it does not need to be kashered, the Rema follows the Mordechai (Pesachim 374) who writes that glasses can’t be kashered for Pesach because they are made from sand and therefore similar to earthenware.
R’ Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (Seridei Aish 1:46) writes that the acharonim are lenient regarding plastic and such utensils may be kashered through hagalah (placing in boiling water). R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 4:6:3) compares plastic utensils to stone ones and permits kashering through hagalah.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:86; 3:67) writes that while one shouldn’t specifically buy non-kosher plastic utensils, if one’s plastic utensils became treif, one may kasher them. One should avoid doing this to kasher for Pesach.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:92) wrote that while one may kasher natural rubber, one cannot kasher materials made from synthetic substances (See Igros Moshe EH 4:7 regarding Teflon). R’ Shimon Eider (Halachos of Pesach 13:n5; 10) writes that R’ Moshe told him that this only applied to kashering for Pesach. One may use hagalah to kasher during the year, however.
In conclusion, while most poskim don’t allow one to kasher plastic or formica countertops for Pesach, one may do so during the year when necessary.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Lighting in Shul

While the mitzva to light the Menora only applies at home, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 671:7) writes that the minhag is to also light in shul. The Rivash (Shut Harivash 111) writes that although one doesn’t fulfil the mitzva by lighting in shul, one should still recite the berachos when lighting, comparing it to the minhag of reciting hallel on Rosh Chodesh (see Shut Chacham Tzvi 88; Yabia Omer 7 OC 57:4). He explains that this minhag developed when it became forbidden to light the Menora outdoors. Lighting in shul ensured that the miracles of Chanuka were publicly commemorated (pirsumei nisa).
While the Rema (OC 671:7) follows the Rivash that one can’t fulfil one’s obligation to light through the shul’s menora, the Kolbo (44) writes that one reason for this minhag is on behalf of those who don’t light at home. The Beis Yosef (OC 671:7) writes similarly that visitors can fulfil their obligation through the shul’s Menora. The Shibolei Haleket (185) writes that as visitors no longer sleep over in the shul¸ this reason no longer applies. Other reasons suggested are to educate others how to recite the berachos (Beis Yosef) and to commemorate the Menora in the beis hamikdash (Kolbo).
The Mishna Berura (671:46) writes that the ideal time to light in shul is before maariv so many people can see it. After maariv people want to rush home to light their own.
While there are different opinions  as to where the Menora should be placed (see Darkei Moshe OC 671:6), most follow the Shulchan Aruch (OC 671:7) who writes that it should be placed on the right side of the aron hakodesh as in the beis hamikdash it was placed on the southern wall (Mishna Berura 671:40). The one lighting should stand to the south of the Menora.
The Mishna Berura (671:45) writes that the one who lights in shul must light again at home. While he repeats the berachos, he should only recite shecheyanu if he is lighting on behalf of others, too (See Igros Moshe OC 1:190).
One who had already lit at home (e.g. on Friday) may repeat all of the berachos including shecheyanu.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 3:453; 5:432; 8:273:1) writes that one doesn’t need to leave the shul menora alight for half an hour, and one may extinguish it for safety reasons, etc. (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:171).
The Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 670:2) writes that the minhag is to relight the menora in the morning to burn during shacharis though no beracha is recited (See Yalkut Yosef, 671:17).
Ideally one should wait until there is a minyan present to light (See Shaar Tzion 671:54; Rivevos Ephraim 8:265:6). R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 10 OC 55:37) writes that as women were included in the miracle of Chanuka, they count towards the minyan

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Women and Chanuka

Although lighting the Menora is a time-bound mitzva which women are normally exempt from, the Gemara (Shabbos 23a) writes that as women were also involved in the miracle of Chanuka, they are obligated in ner Chanuka. Thus, women must light the Menora unless someone else has lit one at home.
The Rishonim debate what miracle the Gemara is referring to. According to Rashi this refers to the abolishment of the threat that brides were under while according to Ran it was the famous incident of Yochanan’s daughter, Yehudis, who killed the Chief General. As she fed him cheese to make him thirsty, the Rema (OC 670:2) writes that there is a minhag to eat milky foods on Chanuka. R’ Yaakov Emden (Mor Uketzia OC 670) points out, however, that the story of Yehudis occurred hundreds of years earlier during the time of the first beis hamikdash (See Kaf Hachaim OC 670:17; Aruch Hashulchan OC 670:8; Rivevos Ephraim 4:157).
Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 670:1) writes that women should not do any melacha while the Menora lights are burning. The Taz (OC 670:2) compares Yehudis’ actions to the women who didn’t participate in the golden calf, for which they were rewarded with Rosh Chodesh. Accordingly, this restriction only applies to women.
The Vilna Gaon (Biur Hagra OC 670:1) writes that this is to remind one not to benefit from the Menora’s lights. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 5:434 beshem his father) writes that accordingly, this restriction applies equally to men. The minhag however, is that only women need to refrain from melacha (See Mor Uketzia ibid).
While the Magen Avraham (OC 670:2) writes that this applies so long as the lights are burning, the Mishna Berura (670:4) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 670:8) write that this only applies for the first half hour.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:436; 3:163) writes that while there are different opinions as to what melachos are permitted, only sewing and laundry, etc. are forbidden. One may cook and do any other melacha that is otherwise permitted on chol hamoed.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo Tinyana 58:5) writes that women do not need to recite hallel on Chanuka while R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 1:205) writes that women are obligated.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Preparing for After Shabbos

Question: I live within an Eruv. Can I carry my tallis home after Shul? Am I allowed to carry my house key although I won’t use it until after Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 114b) writes that it is forbidden to prepare on Shabbos for after Shabbos (hachana). While Tosafos holds that it is assur miderabanan, Rashi holds that it is assur deoraisa (See Shulchan Aruch OC 323:6).
Thus, one can’t take one’s tallis home on Shabbos because he wants to take it to a different Shul the following day.
The Mishna Berura (290:4) writes that one shouldn’t say that they’re sleeping on Shabbos in order that they will be able to work after Shabbos. This applies to all forms of hachana if it is clear that one is doing so in order to prepare for after Shabbos. R’ Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 28:69) writes that this even applies to Mitzvos. Thus, one may not prepare for havdala while it is still Shabbos.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 28:81) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Hachana Mishabbos Lechol 12) held that things that one regularly does as a matter of course may be done on Shabbos even if it may be preparing for another day. Otherwise, one wouldn’t be able to put books back on the shelf after using them! Thus, one may take one’s tallis home after wearing it. Likewise, one may carry one’s keys even though they won’t be used until after Shabbos.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Announcing Yaaleh Veyavo

Question: What are the halachos of reminding others to say yaaleh veyavo on rosh chodesh? Is it okay to say ‘yaaleh veyavo’ loudly during shemoneh esrei?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 236:2) writes that the chazan announces ‘rosh chodesh’ before shemoneh esrei to remind everyone to say yaaleh veyavo. As this is necessary for davening, it is not considered to be an unnecessary hefsek (See Shut Harashba 1:293). The Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziyun 236:4) points out that one may not announce this during shacharis, though, as there mustn’t be the slightest interruption before shemoneh esrei. Nowadays, the minhag is to announce ‘yaaleh veyavo’, though some bang on a table instead.
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 236:16) writes that the chazzan may announce the words ‘yaaleh veyavo’ loudly while saying his shemoneh esrei. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Rosh Chodesh 1:1) wrote strongly against anyone other than the chazzan / gabbai calling out any words during shemoneh esrei. One is allowed to hint to someone else to say yaaleh veyavo, however. R' Moshe Stern (Be’er Moshe 4:10) writes similarly that while anyone may say the words ‘yaaleh veyavo’ loudly, no one else should do so afterwards.
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 236:17) write that one may not make other announcements during maariv that are of lesser importance, such as al hanissim, though the Mishna Berura (236:7) allows it (See Magen Avraham 236:1).

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Buying non-Kosher Food

Question: I want to buy gifts for our non-Jewish clients. Can I buy them non-Kosher food?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (YD 117:1) writes that one mustn’t do business with any food which is forbidden to eat mideoraisa. The Rema and Beis Yosef (YD 117) write that one mustn’t, therefore, buy such food for one’s non-Jewish workers as one stands to benefit from giving such gifts (See Kaf Hachaim YD 117:28).
The Taz (YD 117:2), however, allows buying such food for workers, as this does not constitute business (See Shach YD 117:3).
The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 117:28) and Kaf Hachaim (YD 117:47) write that if one received non-Kosher meat, one may pass it on to a non-Jew.
As meat and milk that were cooked together are assur behanaah, (forbidden to benefit from, See Shulchan Aruch YD 87:1), if one received such a food product, one may not even pass it on to a non-Jew. The Rema writes that this doesn’t apply to chicken cooked in milk (or other foods assur miderabanan). Thus, one may buy food that is bishul akum, etc.
The Kaf Hachaim (YD 117:52) writes, however, that even those poskim who are stringent would allow buying gifts for non-Jews. Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 117:19) writes that one doesn’t need to spend more money in order to buy Kosher food.
The Rema (YD 123:1) writes that as there is a machlokes about the status of non-Kosher wine (stam yeinam), one should not benefit from it unless one will make a substantial financial loss. The Chochmas Adam (75:14) writes that if one receives such a bottle, they may rely on the lenient authorities and pass it on.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Slow-Cookers on Shabbos

Question: Do I need to place a blech in my slow-cooker?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 36b) writes that to prevent one from accidentally lighting a fire on Shabbos (mavir) there is a restriction against leaving uncooked food cooking on Shabbos (shehiya).  
One way of allowing food to be left on a flame, is by placing a blech over the flame. (This only applies to slow-cookers that have a setting control.) While placing foil in between the heating element and bowl helps for shehiya, it is arguable whether it also helps for hatmana, the prohibition against ‘insulation’.
The poskim debate as to whether it is enough for just the lid to be uncovered, or if part of the sides need to be exposed to avoid hatmana (See Rema OC 253:1; Taz OC 258:1; Shulchan Aruch Harav, Kuntres Acharon 257:3).
Otzros Hashabbos (p514) quotes contemporary poskim on both sides of this debate: R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shulchan Shlomo 257:13) and R' Yosef Shalom Elyashiv forbid its use, whereas R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:52) and R’ Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg permit it.
R’ Ribiat (The 39 Melochos, p615, n187) writes that even according to R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, it is sufficient to line the inside of one’s slow-cooker with foil, though it should stick out a little and be noticeable. Those following R’ Elyashiv raise the insert slightly by placing some scrunched up foil balls underneath to ensure that the top of the sides are not insulated.
R’ Moshe Feinstein is quoted as taking a more lenient approach saying that there is no hatmana so long as the lid is not enclosed  (Ribiat p633; See Igros Moshe OC 4:74). He writes (Igros Moshe OC 1:93) that one should tape up the control settings before Shabbos. Similarly, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia 1:p64) permits using one, though writes that one must cover the control settings.
Especially as one may want to return the pot to the flame, it is advisable to line one’s slow-cooker with a foil-blech.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Destroying Fruit Trees

Question: We have an apple tree in our garden that produces apples each year. Its roots are now causing damage to our house. Can we cut it down?
Answer: The Torah (Devarim 20:19) writes that when fighting against a city, one must be careful not to destroy any fruit trees.
Rambam (Melachim 6:8) writes that if the tree is causing any type of damage, one may destroy it.
While the Kaf Hachaim (YD 116:85) writes that one shouldn’t destroy a fruit tree to build an extension, most poskim allow one to (See Rosh, Bava Kama 91b; Aruch Hashulchan YD 116:13, Yabia Omer YD 5:12:3).
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer YD 5:12:5) writes that even when it is permitted to destroy the tree, it is best to sell the tree to a non-Jew first, and let them destroy it. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5:95) writes similarly, though adds that one should also sell him the land on which the tree grows (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:729).
While the Gemara (Pesachim 50b) writes that one who destroys fruit trees will not see a good sign all his life, the poskim (Aruch Hashulchan ibid; Yabia Omer ibid; Shevet Halevi 6:112) write that when one does so in a permissible manner, one does not need to be concerned.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Kissing Others in Shul

Question: I kissed my crying son in Shul to placate him, though was told that I shouldn't have. Yet, I’ve seen others kiss in Shul. What are the parameters?
Answer: The Rema (OC 98:1) writes that fathers should not kiss their children in Shul, as Shul is a place where one should demonstrate their love to Hashem (Sefer Chassidim 255).
R’ Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Orach Mishpat OC 22) writes that this prohibition applies to kissing other family members and friends, too.
The Ben Ish Chai (Vayikra 11) writes that while one shouldn’t kiss one’s young children in Shul, the sefardi minhag of kissing the hand of a Talmid Chacham is commendable because it is done out of respect rather than personal affection. Likewise, one may kiss one’s father or Rabbi after being called up for an aliyah where that is the accepted practice (See Kaf Hachaim OC 151:6). R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:12) explains that showing them kavod is a form of honouring Hashem, just as one must stand for them, even in Shul. One shouldn't kiss any other relatives who one isn't obligated to honour, however.
Others hold that as this Halacha is written in Hilchos Tefilla (as opposed to Hilchos Bais Hakenesses) this prohibition only applies during Davening (See Piskei Teshuvos 98:7).
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 2:66) quotes R’ Ovadia Yosef who writes (Yabia Omer EH 3:10) that when making a chuppa in a Shul, one must be careful not to embrace one’s relatives. Thus, kissing is always forbidden in Shuls. One would be allowed to kiss one’s child if they are crying, however, as this serves to calm them, rather than show affection.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Dispose of Sechach, Lulav & Esrog

Question: How should I dispose of my old sechach, lulav and esrog?
Answer:  Although following Sukkos, sechach and arba minim are no longer mitzva objects and no longer considered to be kodesh (holy) they must still be treated with respect. Thus, while they do not require geniza (burying) they should not be thrown into a regular bin.
The Mishna Berura (21:6; 638:24; Shaar Hatziyun 664:20) writes that one should be careful not to leave one’s sechach or arba minim around on the floor after Sukkos where others may trample on it. Rather, one should recycle them with other branches, etc. or wrap them before disposing of them. Ideally, one should even treat the sukkah walls respectfully. Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 638:12) writes that one should be particular not to abuse one’s sechach after Sukkos.
Once something has been used for a mitzva it is ideal to use it for another mitzva. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 297:4) writes that it is ideal to use one’s old hadassim for besamim (in havdala). Many Sefardim follow the Kaf Hachaim (OC 445:15; 664:60) who writes that the esrog should be made into jam and eaten on Tu Bishvat. One should keep one’s lulav at home (as ‘protection’) until erev Pesach, whereupon half is burned with the chametz (see Mishna Berura 445:7) and half to bake matza (see Rema OC 664:9).
While some throw their used hoshanos on top of the aron hakodesh for Kabbalistic reasons, others have decried the practice (See Rivevos Ephraim 8:287; Nitei Gavriel Sukkos 79:7). One certainly mustn’t do so in a Shul where this isn't practised.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Gas Flame on Yom Tov

Question: May one adjust the flame on a gas stove on Yom Tov?
Answer: While one mustn’t ignite a new flame on Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch OC 502:1), one is allowed to light a new flame from an existing one or turn a flame up. This only applies to a gas flame - not to an electric stove - and may only be done for cooking purposes, etc.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:93; 1:115; 4:103) writes that one may turn the flame down to prevent food from burning though shouldn’t do so just to save money or to cool the kitchen down, etc. R’ Avrohom Blumenkrantz (Chasdei Avrohom 31) explains the rationale behind this. While one can’t turn down a wick or remove oil from a lit lamp on Yom Tov, turning down a gas flame is akin to not adding more fuel to a fire.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 13:10) writes that one shouldn’t turn the flame down unless there is no other flame, though R’ Moshe allowed one to do so even if one could light another smaller flame. The Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha (98:13) writes that as it is dangerous to leave an extra flame on, there is no need to do so.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Smell of an Esrog

The Gemara (Sukkah 37b) teaches that one may not smell the hadassim on Sukkos as it is designated for a mitzva. Hadassim are primarily used for fragrance and so are muktza to smell. Esrogim, primarily used for food, are muktza to eat. This applies throughout Sukkos, even on chol hamoed.
Nonetheless, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 653:1) extends the prohibition to smelling esrogim, too, as there is a machlokes about reciting a bracha on its fragrance while it is being used for a mitzva. As one could be making a bracha l’vatala by saying the bracha or benefitting without a bracha by smelling it without reciting one, it is best to avoid smelling the esrog.
If one has hadassim or an esrog that one isn’t using for a mitzva (e.g. it isn’t Kosher or following Sukkos), one may recite a bracha on its fragrance. Before smelling hadassim one says “..borei atzei besamim.” Before smelling an esrog one says “..asher nasan reiach tov bapeiros” (Mishna Berura 216:9).

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Kneeling on the Floor

Question: Why do some shuls give out paper before we bow to the floor on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Do we really need it?
Answer: There is a Torah prohibition to prostrate oneself on a stone floor (Vayikra 26:1). The Rishonim offer different reasons for this averah:
According to Rambam (Avodah Zarah 6:6), the Torah forbids this simply because that is how idolaters practice their Avodah Zarah. The Sefer Hachinuch (349) adds that while we don’t suspect one who’s bowing to have such intentions, nonetheless we are worried that others watching him do so may get the wrong impression.
The Kesef Mishna (in his pirush on that Rambam), however, explains that bowing on stone floor was restricted to the avoda in the Beis Hamikdash. As with other forms of avoda, it may not be performed elsewhere (See Megilla 22b).
Although mideoraisa it is only forbidden to prostrate with one’s hands and feet stretched out on a stone floor, the Rabbis extended this prohibition to include prostration without outstretched limbs and full prostration on a non-stone floor (Rema OC 131:8). While some are particular not to kneel at all, the Mishna Berura (131:40) writes that one may kneel even on a stone floor.
Thus Rambam (6:7) writes that the custom is to place a mat between one’s head and the floor while bowing in Shul. The Mishna Berura (621:14) writes that if necessary one can use one’s Tallis. While some Shuls give out paper to place under one’s knees, it seems that this was initially done to prevent one from dirtying one’s clothes.
In conclusion, if the floor is wooden or carpeted, there is no need to place anything down. Only if the shul floor is stone should one place something between one's head and the floor.
May we be zoche to prostrate ourselves properly along with the Kohen Gadol, speedily in our days.

Havdala on Motzaei Yom Kippur Shabbos

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 624:3) writes that one does not use besamim for havdala following Yom Kippur even when Yom Kippur falls on a Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (624:5) explains that we usually smell besamim to console us over the loss of our neshama yeseira, extra soul, that departed at the conclusion of Shabbos. As we are fasting on Yom Kippur, we don’t have this neshama yeseira and so don’t need the besamim.
The Mishna Berura (297:2) points out, however, that if one were fasting on another Shabbos, one would still use besamim.
The Magen Avraham (OC 624:1) and Taz (OC 624:2) disagree writing that as one benefits from the pleasant aroma, it can’t be considered a bracha l’vatala. Similarly, other poskim write that there is always a neshama yeseira present on Shabbos and so one should use besamim (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 624:1).
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 624:9) suggests that one should rather recite the bracha of besamim after havdala.

We light a candle in havdala following Shabbos to commemorate its creation and discovery by Adam (Pesachim 54a). We light a candle after Yom Kippur, however, to demonstrate that the light which was forbidden on Yom Kippur may now be lit (Mishna Berura 624:7).
To highlight this point, rather than create a new flame, one should use a light that had remained lit throughout Yom Kippur. One may light another candle from this one and hold them together for havdala.
The Magen Avraham (OC 624:7) writes that this applies, too, when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe 4:122) writes that if one doesn’t have an existing flame following Yom Kippur, one should do so without reciting the bracha. When Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, however, one may recite the bracha even on a new flame (Yalkut Yosef, Moadim p116).

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tashlich

The minhag of tashlich dates back to at least the 14th century. The Maharil (Minhagei Rosh Hashanah 9) writes about going to rivers that contain fish in order to throw our sins into the depths of the sea (Micha 7:19). The Rema (OC 583:2) records this minhag.
The basic text is the final 3 Pesukim of Micha (7:18-20) which parallel the Thirteen Midos, Divine Attributes of Hashem. Many add more tefillos, composed primarily by the Chida.
While not all observe this minhag, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:54) writes that this is the minhag of Sefardim too, following the Arizal.
Different reasons have been offered for this minhag:
The Maharil refers to the famous Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishis 99). The satan tried various tactics to dissuade Avraham from carrying out the akedah including creating a river. This explains why it took them 3 days to reach Har Hamoriah. The water of tashlich serves to remind us of Avraham’s self-sacrifice (See Gra in his notes to the Rema OC 583:2).
In keeping with the various symbolic foods eaten on Rosh Hashana eve, the Rema (Darkei Moshe OC 583) writes that we should proliferate like fish that are immune to ayin hora (See Mishna Berura 583:8). Elsewhere (Torah Haolah 3:56), the Rema suggests another reason. One going to the river bank or shore observes Hashem’s majestic creation and is reminded of the world completed by Hashem on Rosh Hashana. Doing so will cause them to do teshuva and Hashem will forgive them, throwing their sins into the depths of the sea.
The Levush (OC 596) writes that tashlich should make us think of fish caught in a net as on Rosh Hashana our lives hang in the balance. This image should stir us to do teshuva.
The Elyah Rabbah (OC 596) suggests that as fish never close their eyes, tashlich symbolizes that Hashem is always looking out for us.
While many of the reasons offered are connected to fish, the Magen Avraham (OC 583:5) writes that if necessary one may say tashlich at a river or stream that doesn’t contain fish.
The Maharil points out that it is forbidden to feed the fish (other than one’s own) on Yom Tov. Even carrying bread to feed them (outside of an Eruv) would be forbidden on Yom Tov. Rather, one should shake out their pockets as a symbolic act of throwing away one’s sins (Mateh Ephraim 598:4).

Whatever the reason, this time honoured minhag should serve to inspire us to do true teshuva. May we be forgiven and have our sins thrown into the depths of the sea.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Cream on Shabbos

Question: Can I apply creams on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 146) writes that it is forbidden miderabanan to spread oil, as it is similar to the act of memarayach, which is forbidden mideoraisa (See Rambam, Shabbos 23:11). R’ Ribiat (The 39 Melochos p919) writes that this applies to hand creams such as Nivea and Vaseline, etc. One may, however, use a liquid hand lotion (which can be poured).
R’ Dr. Avraham Avraham writes (Nishmat Avraham 1 OC 328:22b) that both R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 33:n58) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 7:30:2) held that while spreading an ointment evenly on one’s skin is forbidden mideoraisa, this is only if it remains on the surface. One may, however, rub cream into the skin if it gets properly absorbed (See Daas Torah 328:26; Minchas Yitzchak 7:20).
As one shouldn’t take medicine on Shabbos, this doesn’t apply to medicinal creams, though a bedridden patient (choleh shein bo sakanah) may rub such cream in. The same applies to young children.
For creams that are not absorbed, one may press cream (from the back of a spoon, etc.) providing one does not rub the cream in. One is allowed to rub off excess ointments.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A Key Issue

The Mishna Berura (Sha’ar Hatziyun 301:38) discusses going outside on Shabbos (where there’s no Eruv) while wearing a key that’s been made into a piece of jewelry. If the reason one is wearing it is to be able to use it as a key, (rather than jewelry) then it would be considered ‘carrying’. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 301:11) and Aruch Hashulchan (301:60) bring two opinions about wearing a key that is made out of silver, that serves both as a pin (brooch) and a key. According to some, it is permitted as it is a tachshit, ornament, while others forbid it as it will mislead others into thinking they can ‘wear’ their regular keys. (See Mishna Berura 301:42 and Be'er Moshe 3:65).
Other solutions for carrying a key include turning the key into a tie pin or wearing a Shabbos belt. One must ensure that when doing so, the key serves a practical purpose (unless it was silver, as above). One can’t wear the tie pin under his jumper, for example, as it would be serving no practical purpose. Likewise, one should ensure that when using such a belt, the key serves as an integral link in the belt, rather than just hang off it. If one is already wearing a belt, one can’t simply place another Shabbos belt on top or around his waist. Some use it to keep their jacket closed instead of doing up the buttons or some other practical purpose.
The Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa (18:49) writes that if the front door opens onto the street, one must open the door while still ’wearing the key’. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss held that if the keyhole doesn’t go all the way through to the other side of the door, one hasn’t placed the key into a Reshus Hayachid. Providing the other side (inside) of the keyhole is covered, one may remove one’s Shabbos belt and open the door.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Medicine on Shabbos

Question: May I take Paracetamol for a headache on Shabbos?
Answer: The Mishna (Shabbos 14:3) writes that one can’t take medicine on Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 53b) explains that Chazal prohibited us to take medicine on Shabbos as doing so may lead to do such melachos as tochen, grinding. (See Tzitz Eliezer 8:15:15:4 for why this reason is still relevant).
The Mishna Berura (328:1) writes that one who is bedridden, however, or whose pain in so severe that it prevents them from functioning properly (choleh shein bo sakanah) may take painkillers (See Minchas Yitzchak 3:35:2).
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 34:16) writes that if one suspects that their mild headache will develop into a more severe one and they will be bedridden one may take painkillers rather than wait till one is in such a state.
Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 4 p408) writes that Paracetamol relieves pain rather than heals. Thus one who regularly takes pills may take painkillers to relieve pain on Shabbos.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Candles in Hospitals and Hotels

Question: My wife will be in hospital over Shabbos and I will be staying in a nearby hotel. What should we do about lighting Shabbos candles?
Answer: As you are staying in separate places you should both light (Mishna Berura 263:28). R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 43:30) writes that while women light before reciting the beracha, men should recite the beracha first as they are not normally mekabel Shabbos by lighting.
If you are eating in the hotel and can light candles in the room that you’re eating in you should do so (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 45:9). Otherwise, one should light in one’s room, though should ensure that they are benefitting from the light (Mishna Berura 263:41).
As many hotels don’t allow one to light candles due to a potential fire hazard, under extenuating circumstances one may switch on a light. While most poskim (Rivevos Ephraim 6:128; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 43:4; Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:11; Yabia Omer OC 2:17; Har Tzvi 2:114) write that one recites a beracha even when switching on a light for Shabbos, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 43:n22) held that this only applies to incandescent (or halogen) lights, though not to fluorescent (or LED’s etc.). Thus, it is advisable to bring an incandescent torch with to the hotel.
As hospitals usually have strict policies against lighting candles, patients should switch a light on before Shabbos. If necessary, one should switch a light off and switch it on again (Rema 263:4)
While many have the minhag to light numerous candles, R' Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 6:128) and R’ Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 43:3) write that the minhag is to only light 2 when away from home. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Kosher Gum

Question: My children like chewing gum. Can I buy them gum without a hechsher considering that they don’t swallow it? Do they recite a beracha?
Answer: There are a few potentially problematic ingredients in gum. Both the emulsifier in the gum base and the glycerine used to soften the gum can originate from animal fat. Additionally, the flavourings are often non-kosher. While gum is not supposed to be swallowed, most of the ingredients are its flavourings which certainly are ingested.
As gum manufacturers do not legally need to list all of the ingredients, and other non-kosher products may be produced on the same machinery, it doesn’t help to just rely on the listed ingredients.
The Rema (YD 108:5) writes that one mustn’t even taste non-kosher food that one intends to spit out. Certainly then, one must only chew gum that one knows to be kosher.
While there are poskim (Birkas Hashem, maamarim 1) that hold that one does not recite a beracha before chewing gum, most follow R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 7 OC:33) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 6:80:2; 7:219) and recite shehakol.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Beracha on New Car

Question: I just bought a new car. Should I say shehecheyanu? Does it matter that it is second hand?
Answer: The Mishna (Brachos 9:2) writes that one recites a bracha upon hearing good news, building a new house or buying new items. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 223:6) and Mishna Berura (223:13) explain that this only applies to items that are important and one is particularly happy about acquiring. This applies equally to used items (Shulchan Aruch OC 223:3).
The Gemara (Brachos 59b) writes that when others benefit from the good news or new items then one recites hatov vehametiv; otherwise, one says shehecheyanu. (See Shulchan Aruch OC 222:1; 223:3, 5)
The Magen Avraham (OC 223:5) notes that many people aren’t particular about this practice and the Shulchan Aruch Harav (Birchos Hanehenin 12:5) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 223:20) write that one only needs to recite shehecheyanu when buying new clothes. Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:80) writes that one should recite shehecheyanu when buying a new car for oneself. When buying a family car, however, one should recite hatov vehametiv (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:375)
R’ Chaim Falagi (Lev Chaim 3:52) held that one buying (a car, for example) on finance doesn’t make a bracha as their simcha is diminished somewhat. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 12:19) however, disagrees, writing that at times one says shehecheyanu even when one is left a significant inheritance when one’s relative dies.
If the car needs servicing, one should wait until any repairs have been done before saying the bracha (See Mishna Berura 223:17).

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Davening while Flying

Question: Previously when I’ve flown, I’ve been invited to join a minyan on the plane, though have always been uncomfortable about doing so. I am about to fly again. What should I do?
Answer: While the shemone esrei is also known as the amida because it should be said while standing, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 94:4) writes that one who does have to daven while travelling should do so while seated if necessary. The Mishnah Berura (94:13) explains that it easier to concentrate this way.
The consensus of poskim (Igros Moshe OC 4:20; Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 8:4) is that as davening with a minyan during a flight will bother other passengers, one should rather daven shemone esrei while seated. Additionally, a gathering of people davening together poses a safety risk.
In a letter to El Al, R’ Shmuel Wosner wrote that if one can stand by their seat without bothering any other passengers, they should do so; otherwise they should sit. One must sit, even in the middle of shemone esrei if asked to do so or if the ‘fasten seatbelt’ light goes on. R’ Yitzchak Silberstein adds that one who doesn’t sit under such circumstances has not fulfilled the mitzva of tefilla as they’ve done so by way of an aveira. One must also be mindful not to create a chillul Hashem.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 94:18) writes that one davening while sitting should still (keep their feet together and) bow in the appropriate places, standing in their seat to do so if possible.
Certainly, it is best to avoid davening while travelling if possible. The Mishna Berura (89:39, 42) writes that it is better to either daven before travelling or delay davening until one arrives, even though one won’t be davening at the ideal time.
Due to the constant change in location when travelling, it can be difficult to know the best time to daven. One can view the ideal times for each flight at www.chaitables.com.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Davening for the IDF on Shabbos

Question: As one isn’t supposed to recite prayers requesting things on Shabbos, should Shuls be reciting the tefilla for the tzahal (IDF)?
Answer: Rambam (Shabbos 30:12) writes that one mustn’t make personal requests on Shabbos. Thus, the Mishna Berura (584:1) writes that we don’t say avinu malkeinu when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos (except for during neila).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 288:9) writes that one may pray in emergency situations such as for a choleh (one who’s sick) in critical danger.
The Magen Avraham (OC 288:14) questions the common practice of the gabbai reciting a mi sheberach for cholim who aren’t critically ill. It has, however, become accepted practice to do so, though one should add the words Shabbos he melizok.. The Machtzis Hashekel explains that these words serve to remind us not to be too upset and reassure the choleh that Shabbos itself can aid their recovery. Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 287:2) writes that if he had the power he’d abolish this mi sheberach on Shabbos (except for those who are critically ill). Elsewhere, (OC 417:9) he questions the practice of saying yehi ratzon on Shabbos Mevorchim (as it is full of requests), again saying that if he’d have the power, he’d annul it. Indeed, the minhag Chabad is not to say it.
Another exception is when such requests are part of the regular tefilla. Thus, the Tur (OC 188) and Mishna Berura (188:9) write that we can say the requests in bentsching. R’ Chaim Berlin (Nishmas Chaim 23) justifies the tefillos for the community (rather than for the individual) that are said as part of the davening.
Many hold that the tefillos composed by the Chief Rabbinate such as the tefillos for the State of Israel and the tzahal fit into this category.
It would seem that even those that do not usually recite the tefillos for Israel on Shabbos (dues to their views on Zionism or based on poskim that we can no longer add to our tefillos) may and should do so now, as Israel and its soldiers are unfortunately in critical danger.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Havdala During the Nine Days

Question: What should I use for havdala during the nine days?
Answer: While one may not drink wine during the nine days unless it is within a seudas mitzva, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:10) writes that one may drink wine for havdala as it is no different from a seudas mitzva (Mishna Berura 551:67). Thus, common Sephardic practise is to drink the wine (Kaf Hachaim OC 551:152).
The Rema disagrees, saying that we should give it to a child when possible. The Mishna Berura (551:70) explains that this child should have reached the age of chinuch though not be old enough to understand what we’re mourning about (6-9 years old).
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 551:26) writes that one should rather use beer. It is debatable, however, whether beer is still considered to be chamar medinah nowadays. The Mishna Berura (272:24) writes that this only applies where beer is commonly drunk; R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:77) writes that coffee and tea are more suitable. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 2:60:4) allows one to use cider or fruit juice if necessary, providing that they are considered important drinks in that locale.
In conclusion, it would seem that those who make havdala on motzaei Pesach over beer should do so during the nine days. Otherwise they should make havdala on wine. If there is a child (preferably a boy between 6 and 9) available, they should be given the wine. Otherwise, one should just drink the wine oneself.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Siyum During the Nine Days

Question: Is it okay to plan a siyum for during the nine days so that I can eat meat together with my family and friends?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:9) writes that one mustn’t eat meat or drink wine during the nine days. The Rema (OC 551:10) adds that if one has a seudas mitzva during this time then one may partake of wine and meat as such celebrations are incomplete without them. This includes Shabbos meals, a bris seuda, a pidyon haben, or a siyum.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 551:28) strongly disapproved of postponing one’s siyum to coincide with the nine days in order to eat meat, though writes that if one was learning something (extra) and planning on making the siyum then, that is commendable (See Mishna Berura 551:28). The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged people to specifically make a siyum during this time, saying it would add light to this dark period (though his minhag was not to eat meat then). Other poskim write that one should avoid making a siyum afer the 6th of Av (See Moadei Yeshurun p132).
The Mishna Berura (551:75) writes that anyone who would normally be invited to one’s siyum may participate and eat meat, too, though one shouldn’t invite extra people.
While some poskim hold that only one who was present for the learning and siyum may partake of the meal, the consensus of poskim (Minchas Yitzchak 9:45; Rivevos Ephraim 3:343; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:300) is that one who came late may still join in and eat meat (See Mishna Berura 470:10).

Sunday, 20 July 2014

God or G-d?

Question: I see that many people are particular to write ‘G-d’. Is there anything wrong with writing ‘God’ out fully?
Answer:  There is no issue in writing or printing Hashem’s name properly, providing one knows that it won’t be destroyed.
Rambam (Yesodei Hatorah 6:1) writes that there are 7 sheimos (names of Hashem) that mustn’t be erased. There is no issur in erasing a kinui (moniker) such as chanun or rachum, etc. R’ Akiva Eiger (YD 276:9 quoting the Tashbetz) writes that as translations of sheimos have the status of kinuim, there is no issur in erasing them either.
The Shach (YD 179:11) writes that Hashem’s name in a foreign language is not considered sheimos and thus may be erased. Likewise, the Mishna Berura (85:10) writes that the issur only applies to erasing sheimos in Hebrew (See Minchas Chinuch 437:5).
Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (CM 27:3) urges people to be extra particular when writing letters with sheimos even in a foreign language.
Thus, while it is not strictly forbidden to write or erase the word ‘God’, it is good practice to write ‘G-d’ and such writings must still be treated with respect. Thus, rather than thrown in the bin, a paper containing the word ‘God’ should be recycled with other documents, or wrapped before disposal (See Igros Moshe OC 4:39).

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Pets on Shabbos

Question: What are the halachos of holding and feeding my pets on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 128b) writes that animals are muktza and so must not be moved on Shabbos (See Mishna Berura 308:146). One may walk a dog in the street even outside an eruv, though there are certain criteria that must be followed (See The 39 Melochos p877).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:22:21) writes that small birds that are usually played with are not muktza, though elsewhere (Tiltulei Shabbos, p 119) is quoted as taking a stricter approach. As there is a machlokes as to whether playful pets are muktza, too, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 5:26) writes that one should follow the majority of poskim and not move one’s pets. Nonetheless, as some poskim (Az Nidberu 8:36) are lenient, one shouldn't criticize those who do handle their pets on Shabbos.
Certainly, if one’s pet is in distress, one may be lenient and move it or carry it (Mishna Berura 305:70; Yabia Omer 5:26). Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 27:27) allows one to return a fish that had jumped out of its aquarium.
On Shabbos one may feed one’s own animals and any other animals that depend on one for food (Shulchan Aruch OC 324:11). This includes feeding someone else's pets (Biur Halacha 324:10). One may not, however, go to the park and feed the birds or any other stray animal. The Magen Avraham (OC 324:5) writes that as there is a mitzvah to feed stray dogs one may feed them on Shabbos, too (See Mishna Berura 324:31; Aruch Hashulchan OC 324:2).
If the animal’s food needs a lot of preparation, it should be done before Shabbos where possible. Thus one shouldn’t cut one’s dog’s bone into smaller pieces if the dog can eat it straight from the bone (even if he avoids tochen, grinding. Mishna Berura 324:3).

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Ideal Way to Make Kiddush

Question: I have always made kiddush over my wine, and then poured some out for others after drinking though have seen others pour out wine for others before kiddush. Which is correct?
Answer: Halachically, everyone is yotze (fulfils their obligation to hear) kiddush just by listening to one recite it (and answering amen), though it is ideal for everyone to drink from the kiddush wine (Shulchan Aruch OC 271:14).
The Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziyun 271:89) writes that one may recite kiddush, drink from his cup, and then pass it around to others though should not pour out from it after drinking as the wine becomes pagum, unfit for kiddush. If one had done so, they could fix the pagum wine by pouring some fresh wine into the cups. One pouring out from their own cup must ensure that they are left with a revi’is in their cup (Mishna Berura 271:51).
According to the Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 190:5), if one drank wine that was poured out before kiddush, that is considered drinking from the kiddush wine, though R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 48:11) writes that it is preferable for those listening to drink from the main kos (See Shulchan Aruch Harav OC 190:5). R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 48:11 n68) however, disapproved as the Shulchan Aruch (OC 170:16) writes that it is dangerous for two people to drink from the same cup. Nonetheless, many have the custom to pass around the kos to one’s family members.
In conclusion, one should either pour out wine for everybody before kiddush or pour out from his own cup into others before drinking and ensure that he is left with a revi’is in his kos.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Smoking and Kibbud Av

Question: What should I do when my father asks me to buy him cigarettes? Do I listen to him because of kibbud av or refuse because he’s damaging his health?
Answer: The consensus of contemporary poskim is that it absolutely forbidden to smoke (See Minchas Shlomo 2:58:6, Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:115; Shevet Halevi 10:295).
Many poskim who initially took a more lenient stance, later forbade smoking explicitly. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 5:OC 39) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:3) initially took a more lenient stance, though later (Halichos Olam 1:p265 and Tzitz Eliezer 15:39) they both explicitly forbade it.
Many who smoke quote R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 2:49) who wrote (in 1964) that while one shouldn’t smoke, he couldn’t say that it was halachically forbidden. R’ Moshe himself took a stricter stance in his later Teshuvos (Igros Moshe CM 2:18; 76; See too Rivevos Ephraim 8:586).
R’ Moshe Stern (Be'er Moshe 1:60:10) answers your question. As smoking will damage his health, he is asking you to do something that runs contrary to the Torah. In such a case, you have to politely decline.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Ring, Ring

Question:­ I am rather forgetful and often misplace things, so don’t like removing my jewellery. Do I need to remove my rings before washing my hands for bread?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 161:3) writes that one should remove one’s ring before washing one’s hands as it is as a chatzitza (a barrier). This only applies to small items that one doesn’t ever remove, i.e. they always want them on one’s body. The Rema adds that this applies even if the ring is loose and the water can get underneath.
The Mishnah Berura (161:19) writes that as women usually remove their rings before baking, they are considered to be a chatzitza and must be removed. As men who wear rings are less likely to remove them, men may wash with rings even if they are on firmly. This doesn’t apply to a ring set with a precious stone, as men are more particular to remove them when working.
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 161:32) writes that one who has a gold ring with a precious stone and is worried that if they remove it, it may get lost or stolen they may leave it on. They should, however, pour water on that hand first, move the ring a bit (with the still unwashed hand) before pouring again.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:127) writes that as fewer women bake nowadays it depends on the individual. If one removes one’s rings while working or showering, etc. one must remove them regardless. One who doesn’t remove their rings while working and has difficulty removing them may wash with them on, though should ensure to pour at least a revi’is on each hand (see Shulchan Aruch OC 162:2).

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Security Cameras on Shabbos

Question: I have just had a security system with cameras installed around my house. It is not motion detected, but rather runs 24/7. Is it a problem to use on Shabbos?
Answer: A few years ago there was a big discussion about whether it was permitted to go to the kosel on Shabbos as doing so entailed going through security and being filmed. The Yated reported that R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv prohibited visiting the kosel on Shabbos as he was concerned that the surveillance video was being permanently saved to disk. It isn’t clear that he prohibited the use of surveillance cameras, however. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 9:35) allowed one to go as the cameras are running irrelevant as to whether anyone walks in front of them or not.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 10:60) wrote that one may visit someone in hospital even if that means passing by a security camera, though one should avoid it if possible. It would follow that he doesn’t allow residents to operate surveillance cameras on Shabbos.
Other Poskim are more lenient as such filming cannot be considered permanent writing. R’ Yitzchok Halperin (Yeshurun 11) writes that such cameras aren’t even forbidden miderabanan.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (in a letter to R’ Yisroel Rozen of the Tzomet Institute) wrote that as the data is not being permanently recorded, it is at worst a derabanan. Although the cameras operate for security purposes, the passerby does not benefit from being photographed. One only benefits from the system when there’s an unwelcome intruder. Thus, R' Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 3:247) writes that one may walk in front of a camera on Shabbos as this is a case of pesik reisha delo nicha lei (see Shulchan Aruch OC 320:18) which is permitted in a rabbinic prohibition. Likewise, one may operate a surveillance camera. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Ateres Shlomo 6, p57) concurs. 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Torah On Display

The Magen Avraham (OC 134:3) writes that the one honoured with hagbah should open up the Sefer Torah enough to display three columns, though the Mishna Berura (134:8) writes that one capable of safely opening it more should do so. The seam connecting the pages should be in the middle (See Shulchan Aruch OC 147:3; Aruch HaShulchan 147:13). When doing hagbah, one should turn clockwise, slowly enough that people can see the letters (Mishna Berura 134:9).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 134:2) and Rema (Darchei Moshe 147:4) write that when the Torah is lifted, there is a mitzva for everyone to look at it, bow down, and say Vezos habracha..
R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC:64) writes that he is puzzled as to why people aren’t particular about this halacha, especially as we mention bowing when we take the Sefer Torah out (דסגידנא קמיה in Berich Shemei)!
While many people point with their pinky during hagbah, this is not the ashkenazi custom (See Rivevos Ephraim 5:215).
According to the Gemara (Megilla 32a), the honour of gelilah is equal to all of the other honours. (See Shulchan Aruch OC 147:1). The Mishna Berura (147:5) writes that this applies to the way we do hagbah today, and notes that it is no longer treated this way. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 147:9) questions the practice of many gabboim who will give gelilah to a young boy. One theory behind this is that the Torah used to be lifted before leining (as is practiced in many sefardic and chassidic communities). Now that gelilah is the last honour, it no longer receives the same prestige.
Ramban (Devarim 27:26) writes very strongly about the importance of performing the mitzva of hagbah and gelilah properly. Let us take heed of his words.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Shabbos Zemiros

Question: I’ve always sung zemiros on Shabbos, pronouncing Hashem’s name properly, though often hear others who don’t. Is it better to say kel, Elokeinu and Hashem instead of the actual names?
Answer: The Gemara (Megilla 12b) records that Rava said, ‘On Shabbos, the Jews eat, drink and say Torah and praises’. Sefer Chasidim (271) writes that singing zemiros on Shabbos is a mitzva.
R’ Yaakov Emden (Siddur Bais Yaakov, Zemiros Leil Shabbos) writes that the words of the zemiros are all based on Tenach, Gemara and Midrash, etc. and singing them brings goodness to the world.
While there is a prohibition to say Hashem’s name in vain (Temura 3b) even in English (Mishna Berura 215:19), when giving respect to Hashem, however, it is permitted. Thus, saying Hashem’s name in zemiros would be permitted (Biur Halacha 188; Piskei Teshuvos 215:18).
R’ Chaim Volozhin (Orchos Chaim 94) writes that the Vilna Gaon did not sing Tzur Mishelo as it contains much of the same content as bentching. Thus, while most don’t follow this practice, some choose not to mention Hashem’s name. Like other Zemiros, however, Tzur Mishelo was composed in rhyme with Hashem’s name at the end of each stanza. Evidently, it was the composer’s intention that Hashem’s name is mentioned properly.
יבנה המקדש עיר ציון תמלא, ושם נשיר שיר חדש וברננה נעלה.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Visiting the Sick - By Phone / Email

Question: I find it difficult to visit my friend in hospital and so call and email her. Have I done the mitzva of bikur cholim?
Answer: Although the mitzvah to visit the sick, bikur cholim, isn’t written clearly in the Torah, the Behag (Asei 36) and Smak (47) classify it as one of the 613 mitzvos.
The Tur (YD 335) writes that this mitzva includes 3 components: to pray for them, see to their needs and give them encouragement. The Beis Yosef (YD 335) writes that the primary mitzvah is to pray for the patient. According to the Rema (YD 335:4) one who visits a patient without praying for them has not properly fulfilled their obligation.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 1:223) and R' Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 2:84) write that while one can’t fulfil every component of this mitzva by calling a patient, one who can’t visit them in person still performs a mitzva by calling. 
R’ Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher, Bereishis 20) disagrees. Chazal said that we must visit them, and not to try and fulfil our obligation in any other way. Calling or emailing a patient would certainly be a mitzva of chesed, however, and one who can’t visit in person, should use any other means to help them.
The Gemara (Nedarim 39b) writes that visiting the sick aids their recovery. Seemingly, this is something that can only be achieved in person.
יה"ר מלפני אבינו שבשמים שתשלח להם מהרה רפואה שלמה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Tearing Keriah at the Kosel

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 561:2) writes that when seeing ‘Yerushalayim in its destructive state’, one should say ‘Zion has become a desolate desert’ and tear keriah. Upon seeing the ruins of the Beis Hamikdash one should tear keriah (again) and say ‘Our house of holiness and glory in which our ancestors sang praise to You, and all that we hold precious has been destroyed.’
The Mishna Berura (and others) writes that Yerushalayim is only considered to be ‘in a destructive state’ when it’s under foreign rule. Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe OC 4:70) that as Yerushalayim is under Jewish rule today, one need not tear keriah when seeing Yerushalayim. One does, however, upon seeing the Temple ruins.
While R’ Moshe Sternbuch writes (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:331) that one tears upon seeing the Dome of the Rock, others (Baer Heitev 561:5) write that it is ideal to view the Har Habayis itself. Ideally one should try to find a higher vantage point to accommodate all views.
As one doesn’t need to tear keriah if he has been within 30 days, some sell their shirt to a friend while others go to the Kotel on Shabbos or Friday afternoon (the ‘first time’) to avoid doing so. R’ Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe YD 3:52) that one still tears on Friday afternoon, however.
ולירושלים עירך ברחמים תשובובנה אותה בקרוב בימינו

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Left Handed

Question: I am left handed. Other than placing Tefillin on my right arm, are there any other considerations that I should be aware of?
Answer: Which hand a left-handed person should use, depends on which reason a right-handed person is supposed to use their right hand: either because their right hand is more prominent, or because Kabbalistically, the right hand represents the force of Chessed.
The Mishna Berura (4:22) writes that when washing one’s hands, one washes one’s right hand first irrespective as to whether one is right or left-handed. Likewise, everyone should put their right sleeve, etc. in first when getting dressed (See Mishna Berura 2:4). Unlike right-handed people who tie their left shoes first, however, left-handed people should tie their right shoes first (corresponding to which arm they would tie their Tefillin on).
R’ Chaim Kanievsky (Ish Iteir n19) writes that when saying Shema, one should always use one’s right hand to cover one’s eyes.
The Mishna Berura (206:18) writes that a left-handed person should hold the food in their left hand when reciting a Bracha.
Many Sefardim follow the Shulchan Aruch (OC 651:3) who writes that a left-handed person should hold the Lulav in their right hand while most Ashkenazim follow the Rema who writes that one should use one’s left hand.
R’ Paysach Krohn (Yad Eliezer p25) writes that the consensus is that a left-handed person should blow the Shofar from his right side.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Food Under Beds

Question: I have always stored food under my bed and have just found out that one shouldn't place food there. Do I need to dispose of it?
Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 112a) writes that one shouldn't store food under a bed, as a ruach ra’ah, evil spirit, will pass over it. While the Shulchan Aruch (YD 116:5) paskens this way, Rambam (Hilchos Rotzeach 12:5) gives a different reason as he holds that this evil spirit no longer exists (See Lechem Mishne, Hilchos Shevisas Asor 3:2).
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 4:117) writes that one may place food at the bottom of a buggy, even if the baby is sleeping.
Medications are not considered food and may be stored under one’s bed (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 13:17; Tzitz Eliezer 17:35).
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 1: YD 9) writes that as the Vilna Gaon and many others were stringent, if one did inadvertently place food under a bed, one should dispose of it. If the food was expensive, however, one may rely on the more lenient authorities. There are other factors, however, which would make the food permissible, including if the food was raw, if it was a child’s bed, or a carpeted / tiled floor (Yabia Omer 1: YD 10; Tzitz Eliezer 10:35).
Most people follow other Poskim (Aruch Hashulchan YD 116:11; Pischei Teshuvah YD 116:4; Rivevos Ephraim 1:8:1; 5:8) who take a more lenient approach, and allow such food to be consumed.
In conclusion, one must be careful not to store food under one's bed. If one inadvertently does so, one need not dispose of it.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Eating in a Non-Kosher Restaurant

Question: I've been invited to a business lunch in a non-Kosher restaurant. Can I attend and just have a drink?
Answer:  The Mishna (Shekalim 3:2) writes that there is an issur derabanan to do certain acts which will give others the impression – maris ayin - that prohibited acts are permitted. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:82) writes that there is a similar prohibition, chashad, which is giving others the impression that one is performing an averah. This would be prohibited mideoraisa.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:40) writes that one shouldn’t eat even obviously Kosher food in a non-Kosher restaurant, as others will either assume that the restaurant is Kosher (maris ayin), or assume that they are eating non-Kosher food (chashad). Only under extenuating circumstances would one be allowed to eat there. This would include either missing out on an important deal or being really hungry and having nowhere else to eat. Likewise, if one needed to use the facilities there and had nowhere else to go, they could enter. One should go in an inconspicuous manner and ensure that no one outside recognises them without knowing why they’re entering.
One is allowed to have a drink in a coffee shop that sells non-Kosher food, as others will assume that they are only consuming Kosher food (See Igros Moshe OC 1:96).

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Eating Before Davening

Question: Is it okay to have a quick snack and drink before I daven Shacharis? Does the same apply to my wife and children?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 10a) writes that one mustn’t eat before davening as it is considered haughty to take care of one’s personal needs first. While most Poskim (Bais Yosef OC 89:3) hold that this prohibition is derabanan, the Minchas Chinuch (248:5) writes that it is mideoraisa and the Chayei Adam (16:1) writes that as the Gemara brings a Pasuk, it is akin to being mideorraisa. One isn’t even allowed to taste food (Shulchan Aruch OC 89:3).
The Shulchan Aruch allows one to drink water and the Mishna Berura (89:22) includes coffee and tea (if it will help his davening) though writes that one shouldn’t add sugar or milk. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 2:2) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 4:11) however, allow milk and sugar, as these are no longer considered such luxuries (See Aruch Hashulchan 89:23).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 89:4) writes that anyone who is too weak to daven before eating may eat first. The Mishna Berura (89:24) allows one to take any medication or vitamins before davening even if it can wait till later, though in Biur Halacha (89:3), he writes that one should ideally recite the Shema first (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 89:24). Some (including minhag Lubavitch) are more lenient, and allow all to eat if it will aid their davening.
The Mishna Berura (106:5) writes that while one is obligated to train one’s children, one mustn’t prevent them from eating before davening.
There is a machlokes between Rambam and Ramban as to the extent of women‘s obligation to daven. According to Ramban’s stricter opinion (Hasagos Lesefer Hamitzvos 5), women have the same obligation as men to daven Shacharis (See Mishna Berura 106:4). Nonetheless, many rely on Rambam that writes (Hilchos Tefilla 1:2) that a short tefilla such as Birchas Hatorah suffices.
Especially on Shabbos and Yom Tov when one should not fast past chatzos (Shulchan Aruch OC 288:1), it is advisable to have a drink before davening if one will not have kiddush before chatzos.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Erev Pesach

Question: What work restrictions are in place on erev Pesach?
Answer: The Gemara Yerushalmi (Pesachim 4:1) writes that one mustn’t work on erev Pesach. When one brings a personal korban, one treats that day as a Yom Tov. As all Jews would bring a korban Pesach on erev Pesach, they would treat the day as a Yom Tov and abstain from work (See Biur Halacha 468:1). The Mishna Berura (468:1) writes that as this was practiced by everyone, this prohibition remains nowadays.
The rishonim argue as to the reason for this prohibition and whether it is mideoraisa or miderabanan.
Tosafos (Pesachim 50a) writes that according to the Yerushalmi it would be forbidden mideoraisa. Rashi (Pesachim 50a), however, writes that chazal instituted this to help ensure that one properly disposes of their chametz and prepares for their seder.
Ramban (Pesachim 50a) writes that while we no longer offer a korban pesach it is still assur miderabanan to work.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 468:3) writes that one should follow the minhag of one’s community as to whether to abstain from work all day, or only from chatzos (midday). The Chayei Adam (129:4) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 468:5) write that nowadays we may be lenient and work until chatzos.
Most Poskim (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 42 n173; Piskei Teshuvos 468:18) write that one shouldn’t polish one’s shoes after chatzos. Nonetheless, one who didn't do so earlier may do so after chatzaos, l’kavod Yom Tov (Yalkut Yosef 468:10). This applies to other melachos, too, such as clipping one’s nails (Mishna Berura 468:5) ironing and shaving (See R’ Mordechai Eliyahu’s Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 113:5).
The Mishna Berura (468:5) writes that during this time, one can get his hair cut by a non-Jewish barber, though he shouldn’t cut his own hair or shave himself.
As this prohibition is derabanan (Rambam, Hilchos Yom Tov 8:17), one may have a non-Jew perform melachos on their behalf. Thus, one who did not have a haircut or do their laundry before chatzos may still go to a (non-Jewish) barber or launderette (Mishna Berura 468:5). This does not apply on chol hamoed, however.
If one finds chametz in their possession after sof zeman sereifas chametz (the last time to burn it), it must be removed and burned immediately, just as one would on chol hamoed. One who has sold all their chametz, however, should lock this chametz away, as it does not belong to them.
Many have the minhag to study the halachos and recite the order of the korban Pesach after Mincha. May we merit next year to offer this up, celebrating Pesach together in Yerushalayim.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Toiletries on Pesach

Question: My friends told me that their Rabbi told them to sell their toiletries along with their chametz, though I've never done this. Am I doing something wrong?
Answer: There is much debate as to whether toiletries with chametz ingredients may be owned and used over Pesach with differing Kashrus organisations adopting different positions.
On Pesach, anything that is rauy l’achilas kelev (can be eaten by a dog) is considered chametz. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 442: 9) writes that once it becomes unfit, one may own it over Pesach. The Mishna Berura (442:43) qualifies this ruling: while one may own it, one is still forbidden to eat this inedible ‘food’ miderabanan (See Rosh, Pesachim 2:1).
Defining what is rauy l’achilas kelev and eino rauy (unfit) is not so straight forward, however.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (quoted by R’ Avrohom Blumenkrantz, Chasdei Avrohom 23) held that one mustn't use “any kind of toiletry that human beings would eat under extraordinary circumstances (e.g. addicts to alcohol may drink hair spray when they have no alcohol).” (See Minchas Shlomo 1:17)
Certain cleaning agents and cosmetics (including nail polish remover) contain denatured alcohol, ethanol that has been made unfit for human consumption by adding chemicals (denaturants) to it. It is possible, however, through adding various chemicals, to reverse the process (though other chemicals are added to make this difficult). Unless one can ascertain that the alcohol does not come from grain, this may be chametz. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:62) therefore writes that one mustn't use any product containing denatured alcohol over Pesach. R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Mikraei Kodesh, Pesach 54) quotes both those who are strict and lenient and concludes that one should adopt the stricter position.
While the Shaagas Aryeh (75) writes that one mustn't even swallow medicine that contains chametz, most Poskim disagree (See Chazon Ish OC 116:8). R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:60) writes that a choleh may take such medicine, though not one suffering any mild discomfort. R’ Moshe Feinstein (OC 2:92) limits this hetter to swallowing pills, though forbids chewable tablets and liquid medicines. Certainly, anyone with a serious illness should continue taking any regular medication, regardless of what it contains.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 447:2) permits using products that contain denatured alcohol on Pesach. R’ Chaim Elazar Shapira (Minchas Elazar 5:34) writes that while people are particular, once alcohol has been denatured, it is not considered rauy l’achilah. Thus one may drive a car (on Erev Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed) even if the petrol is mixed with denatured alcohol.  
R’ Shimon Eider (Halachos of Pesach p25) differentiates between different types of toiletries containing such alcohol. One only needs to be concerned about liquid ones, such as aftershaves and perfumes, etc. though not with creams, lotions and powders, etc. One should, however, be particular with anything that may be consumed, including lipstick.
R’ Nachum Weidenfield (Chazon Nachum 46) discusses using perfumes that contain chametz on Pesach. While it is ideal to sell them, there is room for leniency.