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.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Bedikas Chametz

Rashi (Pesachim 2a) and Ran (Pesachim 1a) maintain that bedikas chametz is deoraisa. Tosafos (Pesachim 2a) argues that it must be derabanan, as one can technically avoid owning chametz by being mevatel (nullifying) it.
The Bach and Magen Avraham (OC 431:1) write that one should begin one’s search after shekiah. Most follow the Mishna Berura (431:1), however, who writes that one should begin promptly at nacht. One should not learn or eat (a meal) for half an hour beforehand, as doing so may cause one to forget to search. While the Mishna Berura (431:8) brings reasons both for and against davening Maariv first, he maintains that ideally one should.
While one needs to search all of one’s cupboards, too (unless they are being sold), one can rely somewhat on them having been checked previously (Daas Torah 433:2; Shaar Hatziyun 432:12).
Many follow the Arizal’s minhag of having someone else hide ten pieces of chametz around the house before bedikas chametz. The Taz (OC 432:4) dismisses this custom and writes that one should not do so, out of fear that one may get lost. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (432:13) writes that one should not abandon this minhag, and in Shaar Hatziun (432:12) writes that when one has already checked the house for chametz, one must hide a few pieces in order to avoid making a bracha levatala. It also serves to encourage one to check properly around their house.
These pieces should be small (less than a kezayis), sealed in a plastic bag, and their locations recorded to avoid any being lost.