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.