Sunday, 27 December 2015

Saying Berachos with Children

Question: Can I pronounce Hashem’s name properly when teaching children?
Answer: The Gemara (Nedarim 7b) warns us about the consequences of saying Hashem’s name in vain. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 215:4) writes that one who says an unnecessary beracha has said Hashem’s name in vain. The Magen Avraham (OC 215:6) writes that according to Rambam (Berachos 1:15) this is forbidden mideoraisa while Tosafos (Rosh Hashana 33a) and the Rosh (Kiddushin 1:49) write that it is forbidden miderabanan.
The Gemara (Berachos 53b) says that when children are practicing reciting berachos, one shouldn’t say amen in response. The Kesef Mishna (Berachos 1:15) writes that it is clear from the Gemara that adults teaching children can say the berachos for them to repeat, complete with Hashem’s name. In such a case, one shouldn’t say amen when the child says the beracha (See Mishna Berura 215:14). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 215:3) writes that one should say amen, however, if they are saying a regular beracha, e.g. before eating. The Mishna Berura (215:16) points out, however, that this only applies to a child over the age of chinuch (See Mishna Berura 128:123).
R’ Yaakov Emden (Sheilas Yaavetz 1:81) writes that his father, the Chacham Tzvi, admonished a teacher who avoided using Hashem’s name when teaching children chumash. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:56) explains that this only applies when the children are reading the complete passuk in one go. R’ Moshe adds that one may even use Hashem’s name when teaching adults how to properly recite berachos.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Wet Clothes on Shabbos

Question: What can one do if they get soaked in the rain over Shabbos? Can they stand next to the radiator and hang their wet clothes up?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 301:46) writes that one can’t dry wet clothes next to a fire on Shabbos. The Magen Avraham explains that it is forbidden both because of bishul (cooking or heating) as well as melaben (whitening or improving the colour).
Thus, the Mishna Berura (301:169) writes that one can’t stand next to a heater while wearing wet clothes. This only applies if the water could get heated up to yad soledes bo (approx. 43 °C, See Igros Moshe OC 4:74).
The Mishna (Shabbos 146b) writes that it is prohibited miderabanan to lay out wet clothes to dry on Shabbos. Rashi explains that it will give the impression that it is permissible to wash them on Shabbos. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 301:45) writes that one mustn’t hang wet clothes up normally to dry even where others won’t be able to see them.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 15:35; n119) writes that one may, however, hang up a wet raincoat as everyone will realize that it became wet in the rain. Similarly, R’ Dovid Ribiat (The 39 Melochos, p719) writes that this prohibition doesn’t apply to clothes that aren’t normally washed, as people won’t suspect they’ve been washed. Thus, one may hang up a jacket that is normally dry-cleaned.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Dreidel on Shabbos

Question: May one play with a dreidel on Shabbos?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (CM 370:2) writes that one mustn’t gamble or play betting games. Doing so is forbidden derabanan because it is akin to stealing as when losing, one isn’t happy about giving up their money, etc. The Mishna Berura (322:22) writes that this prohibition applies equally to playing with one’s own children even though they would be happy to share, as it will lead to playing with others. Elsewhere, (Biur Halachah 670) he writes that one shouldn’t spend one’s time on Chanuka playing such games.
Nonetheless, many have the minhag to bet with a dreidel over Chanuka (See Taamei Haminhagim 859). To avoid proper gambling, many only play with nuts and sweets rather than money.
Others justify this practice when playing with small amounts of money as people playing together with their families are particularly close and generous over Chanuka and we aren’t worried about the prohibition (See Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 51:n5).
Nonetheless, the Rema (OC 338:5) and Mishna Berura (ibid) write that one mustn’t play such games on Shabbos, as winning and losing involves a transaction. However, one doesn’t need to stop one’s young children from playing such games (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 16:32).
As dreidels are primarily children’s toys, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:22:10) writes that they aren’t muktza and they may be spun by adults on Shabbos, too.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Lighting the Menora at a Concert

Question: I’m helping to organize a concert on Chanuka and have been asked to light the menora. Should I do so with a beracha?
Answer: R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:398) writes that even though the minhag is to light the menora in Shul, one should not do so elsewhere with a beracha. Thus, if one davens in a minyan outside a Shul, or attends a wedding, there is no need to light a menora. If one chooses to do so, they must do so without saying a beracha.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 6:65:3) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 15:30) explain that the mitzva of lighting the menora only applies to lighting in one’s home. Nowadays, we have a minhag to light in Shul with a beracha, too, though that wasn’t unanimous among the poskim. Thus, we cannot extend this minhag to light at parties, etc. with a beracha.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 4:65) points out that as the mitzva is to light at home, one wouldn’t fulfil one’s obligation at such a lighting. The minhag to light in Shul is reminiscent of lighting the menora in the Beis Hamikdash. Thus, even if one knows that there will be someone present who won’t be lighting at home, it doesn’t help to recite a beracha on their behalf (See Az Nidberu 6:75).
Nonetheless, others disagree. The Rivash (111) writes that the mitzva to light the menora includes lighting it at the entrance to one’s home for pirsumei nisa, to publicize the miracle. As we generally light indoors nowadays, it is important that we also participate in a public lighting. Thus, R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 5:37) writes that lighting in shuls nowadays ensures that we are fulfilling the mitzva properly. Lighting in a public place where others may not have lit is even more important than lighting at shul and one who does so should light the menora with a beracha.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 7 OC 57:6) writes that while most poskim write that one should light in public locations without reciting a beracha, one may do so with a beracha if they want to. Ideally, they should daven maariv with a minyan and light beforehand, as one would in Shul.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Unblocking Sinks on Shabbos

Question: My kitchen sink often gets clogged up. Can I use a plunger to unblock it on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Kesubos 60a) writes that one can’t normally dislodge debris from a gutter on Shabbos. If the blockage would potentially cause them a financial loss, one may step on the debris to unblock the gutter (See Shulchan Aruch OC 336:9).
The Mishna Berura (336:47) writes that while one can step on the debris to help the water flow, it is always forbidden to remove the debris.
Based on this, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:40:9) writes that if the sink is totally blocked then it is considered to be broken and unblocking the broken pipe would be similar to creating a new one. One can ask a non-Jew to unblock it for them if necessary, though shouldn’t unblock it by themselves. If it happens regularly, however, the sink is not considered to be broken, and one may unblock it with a plunger (See Yabia Omer 5:33).
Other poskim take a more lenient view.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 5:75) writes that ideally one should ask a non-Jew to unblock it for them. If absolutely necessary, one can unblock the sink oneself as clogged up sinks can be so repellent, graf shel re’i (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 12:n50).
R' Moshe Stern (Be’er Moshe 1:29) writes that there is a big difference between unclogging a sink or toilet with a plunger and clearing a blocked gutter. A plunger merely dislodges a temporary blockage, whereas a blocked gutter may have a solid accumulation of soil that requires a new hole. Thus, one may use a plunger, especially in time of need.
In conclusion, even R’ Moshe Feinstein would allow one to unblock a sink that gets clogged up regularly.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Adding Spices to Food on Shabbos

Question: Can I add sauces and spices to hot food on Shabbos?
Answer: There is a big difference as to whether the sauces or spices are raw or have previously been cooked, whether the food is a davar gush, solid food such as a thick cholent or davar lach, food with significant liquid and if the food is in the keli rishon, pot that was on the flame or keli sheni, e.g. one’s plate.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 318:9) writes that while one can’t place salt directly into a keli rishon, one may do so in a keli sheni. The Rema, however, writes that ideally one shouldn’t even add salt to hot food in a keli sheni (See Shabbos 42b). Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (318:64;71) writes that as regular table salt has been cooked already (in its processing), one would be allowed to add salt to a pot off the flame as we follow the rule, ein bishul achar bishul, food can’t be cooked again. Nonetheless, he writes one should ideally only add it to a keli sheni.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 318:9) writes that one shouldn’t add raw spices such as pepper into a keli rishon, though the Mishna Berura (318:65) allows one to add spices to a keli sheni.
The Mishna Berura (318:45;65) writes that as davar gush retains its heat for longer than liquid, it should be treated as a keli rishon. Thus, one shouldn’t add spices, etc.
Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:74 Bishul 5) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 1:58) write that one may add ketchup and other cooked sauces (See Meor Hashabbos 1:267) even on a davar gush.
In conclusion, one should avoid adding anything to the pot and shouldn’t add spices to a hot solid food. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Heating food on a Timer

Question: Can I place my cold food on the hotplate on Shabbos if the timer is set to heat it up later? If not, can I do so before Shabbos?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 253:5) writes that one may heat up a davar gush, dry solid food, on Shabbos by placing it on top of another pot. One may place such food onto a hotplate, regardless as to whether it is on or will later be switched on with a timer. Some are particular to put an upturned tray, etc. down first (See Yechave Daas 2:45; Tzitz Eliezer 8:26:5; Meor Hashabbos 10:4).
While one mustn’t place a davar lach, a boiled food with liquid, on the stove or hotplate on Shabbos, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 10:26) allows one to place such a pot on the hotplate while it’s off even though it will later switch on through a timer.
Most poskim, however, disagree. R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC 136) compares using a timer to later heat food to placing food on a stove that will be lit soon, which he argues is assur mideoraisa. The Chazon Ish (Shabbos 38:2-3), R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:30:18) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 1:26) write that while it isn’t assur deoraisa, one still can’t do so on Shabbos because it is a problem of gerama, causing something to happen (though one could ask a non-Jew to do so while it was off). R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 2:7) adds that one cannot even place such food before Shabbos on a hotplate that is scheduled to come on as we are concerned that one may come to do so on Shabbos. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (ibid.) disagrees, however, allowing one to place even cold food on a hotplate before Shabbos, providing it is fully cooked.
In conclusion, one may put dry solid food onto a hotplate on Shabbos that will come on later. While some sefardim may allow placing liquid food on, too, ashkenazim mustn’t do so. One may place food before Shabbos onto a hotplate that was off providing the food is fully cooked.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Heating food on Shabbos

Question: Can I place chicken on a hotplate on Shabbos to heat it up?
Answer: Chazal (Shabbos 36b) prohibited reheating even cooked food on Shabbos. According to the Ran (quoted by the Mishna Berura 253:55), the reason is because it looks like cooking, while Rabbenu Tam (quoted in Shaar Hatziyun 253:37) writes that it is to prevent people from stoking or adjusting the flame on Shabbos.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 253:5) allows one to heat up a roasted food on top of another pot on a stove on Shabbos, as this does not resemble cooking (See Magen Avraham OC 318:26). The Pri Megadim (quoted by the Biur Halacha 253:3) writes that this only applies if the pot has food in. Thus, one would only be able to heat food if there was already a pot on the stove (See Chazon Ish 37:9).
Nonetheless, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 3:1n112) and R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 1:91) hold that even the Pri Megadim would agree that one may use an empty pot on a hotplate. Thus, one may place an empty pot or upturned foil container on the hotplate to place solid food on top.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Meor Hashabbos 10:4) writes that hot plates should be treated the same as regular stoves and one who wishes to heat up food on Shabbos must place it on top of another pot.
Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:45) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 8:26:5) allow one to place fully cooked solid food directly onto a hot plate on Shabbos providing that the hotplate can’t be used to cook and has no knobs to adjust the temperature (See Igros Moshe OC 1:93; 4:74:35; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 1:n71).
In conclusion, one may heat up dry food (even if it contains a little sauce). However, any liquid food such as chicken in gravy must be on the hotplate before Shabbos.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Which Direction?

Question: I sometimes daven in a shul where the aron hakodesh is on the northern wall. Some daven towards the aron while others face east. Which is correct?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 30a) writes that one should face towards Yerushalayim when davening the amida. Rambam (Tefilla 5:1) lists facing Yerushalayim as one of eight criteria for davening properly, though writes that if one doesn’t do so, they don’t need to daven again.
Additionally, Rambam (Tefilla 11:2) writes that when building a shul one should place the aron hakodesh on the wall that faces Yerushalayim to ensure that people face the aron while davening.
The Mishna Berura (94:9) writes that if one can’t place the aron on the Eastern wall, they should place it on the northern or southern wall, and daven facing Yerushalayim. One mustn’t place it on the western wall as those praying would have their back to the aron (See Biur Halachah 150:5; Shevet Halevi 10:20).
The Magen Avraham (OC 94:3) writes that if the aron is on the wrong wall, one should still face towards Yerushalayim. The Baer Hetev (OC 94:3) quotes the Yad Eliyahu (1) who writes that one should do so even if the rest of the shul are mistakenly facing the aron.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (94:10) writes that if one goes to a shul where people are facing towards the aron that’s on the wrong wall, one should face the same direction as everyone else, though turn one’s head towards Yerushalayim (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 94:13).

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Studying on Shabbos

Question: Can I study for my medical exams on Shabbos?
Answer:  The Gemara (Shabbos 149a) writes that one mustn’t read a shtar hedyot (common document) on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 307:17) writes that there is a machlokes as to what this includes. Rambam (Mishnayos Shabbos 23:2) and the Baal Hamaor (quoted by the Beis Yosef OC 307:17) write that it refers to regular letters. Thus, one mustn’t read anything other than Torah on Shabbos. Accordingly, one shouldn’t read any secular books, etc.
The Rashba (Shabbos 149a; Shut Harashba 7:288) understands shtar hedyot as business documents and quotes the Ramban who agrees. One may, however, read scholarly works including medical journals on Shabbos (See Beis Yosef ibid).
The Mishna Berura (307:65) writes that while the halacha follows the Rashba, it is commendable to be strict on oneself and avoid reading secular works on Shabbos. Similarly, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 29:47) allows one to read professional magazines and textbooks except business ones.
While one may learn Torah on Shabbos for an upcoming test (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 28:84), R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (ibid 28:n206) writes that R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach hesitated allowing one to prepare for a secular exam, due it to being an issue of hachana, preparing for after Shabbos.
While sefardim follow the Shulchan Aruch’s stricter view, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Shabbos 2:307:n24) makes an exception for medical students who can’t learn at any other time, as after all, studying medicine is such a noble endeavour.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Jewish Birthdays

Question: Is it appropriate to celebrate birthdays? Someone told me that as the only birthday mentioned in the Torah is Pharaoh’s, we shouldn’t celebrate them?
Answer: While Pharaoh’s birthday is the only one mentioned in the Torah (Bereishis 40:20) the Midrash Sechel Tov (on that passuk) notes that most people treasure their birthday and make a party to celebrate.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 4:240:7) writes that we find that the Gemara, midrashim and mefarshim attribute much significance to the birth-dates of our ancestors. Clearly, one’s birthday is most significant and should be celebrated.
The Kesav Sofer (YD 148) wrote that on his 50th birthday he made a siyum upon completing maseches pesachim and recited shehecheyanu. The Ben Ish Chai (Re’eh 1:17; Ben Yehoyada, Berachos 28a) writes that his custom was to treat every birthday as a yom tov, and it is a commendable custom. Likewise, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 6:29:4) writes that it is appropriate to hold a birthday party, and providing that one shares divrei Torah, it has the status of a seudas mitzva.
R’ Eliyahu Dovid Rabinowitz Teumim (the ‘Aderes’) wrote (Tefillas Dovid 4) that one should say the chapter of tehillim corresponding to one’s age. Thus, one turning 13 should say chapter 14, corresponding to their 14th year.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe repeatedly urged his chassidim to treat one’s birthday as a day of introspection whereupon they should say tehillim, give tzedaka and learn Torah (See Sichos 5748:1 p332; Sefer Haminhagim p81).
In conclusion, one should use one’s birthday as a time to celebrate and thank Hashem for his past achievements and future opportunities.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Seven-Branched Candelabrum

Question: Can I buy a seven-branched candelabrum made out of glass?
Answer: The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 24a; Menachos 28b) writes that it is assur deoraisa to create a seven-branched candelabrum as the Torah (Shemos 20:20) forbids imitating any of the kelim of the mishkan.
The rishonim debate whether this applies to all seven-branched candelabra or just exact replicas of the original menora. The Bechor Shor (Rosh Hashana 24a) holds that any seven-branched candelabrum regardless of its size or shape, etc. is assur while Meiri (Rosh Hashana 24a) writes that if it is even slightly different from the original menora, then it is permitted (See Chacham Zvi 60). The Shulchan Aruch (YD 141:8) follows the Maharik (75) who writes that if it would be kosher bedieved in the mishkan then it is assur.
R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld (Salmas Chaim 272) writes that one shouldn’t even make a model of a menorah for educational reasons. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 3:33), however, disagrees, writing that Rambam (Beis Habechira 7:10) allows one to make a seven-branched candelabrum out of wood or earthenware as such candelabra would not be fit as a menora in the mishkan (ibid 1:18).
R' Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 3:411) writes that there is no issue with an electric light fitting with seven lights.
Based on this, one would be able to buy such a candelabrum made out of glass.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Shnaim Mikra

Question: Can I fulfil my obligation of shnaim mikra by reading the Chumash along with the baal korei? Can I read the Rashi in English?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 285:1) writes that even though one listens to the Torah being read on Shabbos, one must review the parsha twice each week together with either the Targum or Rashi (See Berachos 8a). The Mishna Berura (285:6) explains that they each have advantages over each other.
There is a machlokes as to whether listening to leining counts as having read the Torah once. The Magen Avraham (OC 285:8) and Chaye Adam (7:9) write that it does, while Rambam (Tefilla 13:25) and the Beis Yosef (OC 285) holds that listening does not help.
The Shulchan Aruch (285:5) writes that reading (quietly) along with the baal korei counts as reading the Torah (See Aruch HaShulchan OC 285:3 quoting the Perisha).
The Mishna Berura (146:15) quotes differing opinions as to whether it is more appropriate to follow along silently with the baal korei or to read the words to oneself, though elsewhere (285:14) he writes that one can read along if one wants to fulfil one’s obligation of shnaim mikra. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 42:58) writes, though, that if one does have the time, it is best to do so before leining.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:37) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 42:n215) write that even if one doesn’t understand the Targum properly, they should still read shnaim mikra.
The Mishna Berura (285:5) writes that one who doesn’t understand the Targum or Rashi can read the tz’ena ur’ena (in German) instead (See Taz OC 285:2).
Thus, R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:261) writes that if one doesn’t understand the Targum one may read shnaim mikra together with an English translation of Rashi.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Sitting during Hakafos

Question: Is one allowed to sit in Shul during the hakafos on Simchas Torah, or do they need to stand as the Torah is moving around?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (YD 282:2) writes that one must stand when the Sefer Torah is being carried until it has reached its destination or is out of sight (See Mishna Berura 146:17).
On Simchas Torah, when the Sifrei Torah are being carried for lengthy hakafos, this can be problematic for some who struggle to stand for long periods of time. Many of the poskim have come up with different solutions.
The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 282:5) writes that while one must stand during the hakafos, that only applies so long as the Sifrei Torah are in motion. In between the hakafos one may sit, whether the Sifrei Torah are on the bimah or being held by others, as this counts as them having reached their destination.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 12:13) held that during the hakafos the whole shul could be considered as the place of the Sifrei Torah. Additionally, if one sits outside of the circle, the people dancing can be considered to create an effective mechitza. For both these reasons, one may even sit during the hakafos if necessary. Nonetheless, as the first hakafa is the most important, one should at least stand for the first one (See Betzel Hachachma 5:139:6).
R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:319) also writes that once one has stood for the Sefer Torah when it first passes them, one who is too weak to stand for the duration of the hakafos doesn’t need to. He relates that when the Chazon Ish wanted to sit, he would do so while holding the Sefer Torah, though one doesn’t need to do that.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Sleeping in the Sukka

Question: I slept in a sukka as a teenager though now that I’m married with children, I am reluctant to leave them alone at night. Is that a good enough excuse to sleep in the house?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 639:2) writes that while one is allowed to eat a snack outside of a sukka, the halachos of sleeping are stricter, and one shouldn’t even take a short nap outside of a sukka.
Nonetheless, the Rema justifies the practice of many who don’t sleep in their sukka. Firstly, he reasons, the sukka may be too cold to sleep in. One who is particularly uncomfortable (mitztaer) is exempt from sleeping in a sukka. The Mordechai (Sukka 741) wrote that in his time (13th Century, Germany) most people didn’t sleep in the sukka due to the cold weather. The Mishna Berura (639:17), however, understands this to refer to someone who doesn’t have pillows and blankets to keep them warm. Seemingly, one who does have would not be exempt from sleeping there.
Additionally, the Rema writes that if one’s wife can’t sleep together with him in the sukka, he is exempt. The Taz (OC 639:9) and Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 639:9) explain that as sleeping alone can ruin one’s simchas Yom Tov, it would be better not to sleep in the sukka (See Mishna Berura 639:18).
The Rema (OC 660:4) cautions against building a sukka that is unfit to live in, due to it not being safe or comfortable, writing that such a sukka wouldn’t be kosher. The Mishna Berura (640:18) points out that if it’s just the climate that makes it difficult, though the sukka is otherwise sound, it is kosher as one could take extra blankets in and sleep there comfortably.
Rabbeinu Manoach (Sefer Hamenucha, Sukka 3:6) writes that even those who don’t sleep in the sukka at night, should try to do so when napping during the day, especially as many of the above reasons aren’t relevant.
In conclusion, the acharonim allow one to sleep outside of the sukka if one is concerned about leaving their family, though one should try, where possible, to take naps in one’s sukka.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Squeezing Lemons on Shabbos

Question: Can I squeeze a lemon for salad dressing on Shabbos?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 320:1) writes that it is forbidden mideoraisa (prohibition of sechita) to squeeze olives and grapes on Shabbos as these fruits are planted primarily to make oil and wine. It is forbidden derabanan to squeeze other fruits such as pomegranates or strawberries to make drinks on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (320:6) writes that one may however, squeeze lemons on Shabbos. Elsewhere (Beis Yosef OC 320), he explains that people in Egypt would do so on Shabbos. Firstly, he reasons, as lemon juice can’t be drunk unless it has been diluted, it isn’t considered a regular juice. Secondly, they would do so into sugared water, rather than into an empty container (See Teshuvos Harosh 22:2).
Many of the poskim challenge this, as lemons are primarily grown for their juice. The Mishna Berura (320:22), Kaf Hachaim (OC 320:36) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 5:5) write that as nowadays, juice is primarily squeezed to make lemon juice for drinking, one mustn’t squeeze the lemons straight into water or into an empty container. Rather, one should squeeze the lemons onto sugar before adding water.
Nonetheless, squeezing lemons directly onto a salad wouldn’t pose a problem (See Shulchan Aruch OC 320:4).

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Kingsmill Bread in the Aseres Yemei Teshuva

Question: Do I need to avoid eating Kingsmill Bread and Ryvita® crackers during the aseres yemei teshuva?
Answer: The Gemara (Avoda Zara 35b) writes that in order to protect the Jewish community and prevent assimilation with non-Jews, chazal instituted that we mustn’t eat certain foods prepared by non-Jews. One of these was pas akum, bread baked by a non-Jew. Tosafos (ibid) writes that according to the Talmud Yerushalmi, the ban on bread was lifted, as it was too restrictive to limit such a staple food.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 112:2) writes that while one may never buy bread from a non-Jewish ‘home baker’, one may buy from a commercial baker (pas palter) when there is no local Jewish baker. The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 112:17) writes that when the local Jewish baker’s bread is as good, one should only buy that.
The Rema (ibid; Toras Chatas 75:1) writes that one may buy pas palter even when there is a local Jewish baker (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 38:1).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (YD 2:33) writes that if one likes the taste of factory bagels better than the local bakery, one may eat it. He warns, however, that factory bread may contain non-kosher ingredients and it isn’t enough just to ask them what it contains.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 5:596) writes that R’ Moshe Feinstein held that bread baked in modern factories can be eaten, and wouldn’t even be considered pas palter (See Igros Moshe YD 4:48:5). R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 6:108:6) writes that preferably one should buy from one’s local Jewish baker.

The poskim write that one should be meticulous in their observance during the aseres yemei teshuva (See Baer Heitev 603:1).
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 603:1) writes that one who eats pas palter during the year, should refrain from eating it during the aseres yemei teshuva.
The Levush (OC 603) explains that this should remind us of the holiness of these days. The Chayei Adam (143:1) writes that just we have gone above and beyond in halacha, so we ask Hashem to go above and beyond in judging us favourably.
Based on the above, R’ Moshe Feinstein seemingly would allow one to eat Kingsmill Bread and Ryvita® crackers during the aseres yemei teshuva, though others, including R’ Shmuel Wosner wouldn’t.
Certainly, though, where one has an equal choice, one should, as the Aruch Hashulchan writes, opt for the bread baked by one’s local Jewish baker.

Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 3:4) writes that during the aseres yemei teshuva, one should give extra tzedaka, do extra good deeds and mitzvos. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 603:2) warns against taking on certain chumros during this time, as doing so may necessitate that they continue observing it. Instead, he urges that one examine their actions and do teshuva.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Cold Shower on Shabbos

Question:  Can one take a cold shower on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 39b) writes that chazal decreed that one mustn’t wash one’s entire body with hot water on Shabbos, as they suspected that if it would be allowed, people would heat up water on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 326:1) writes, however, that one is allowed to wash one’s face, hands and feet with water that was heated before Shabbos.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 326:4) does allow one to pour cold water over one’s whole body. Nonetheless, the poskim write that the ashkenazi custom is to avoid showering on Shabbos. The Magen Avraham (OC 326:8) writes that one can’t dip in a river as we are concerned that one may carry (outside of an eruv) or squeeze water out of one’s hair, etc. (See Shut Maharil 139; Mishna Berura 326:21).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:74: rechitza 3; 4:75) writes that while the reasons for this minhag may not apply to taking a cold shower in one’s house, one shouldn’t do so under normal circumstances. Only if one is particularly uncomfortable (mitztaer) such as during a heat wave, may they do so. R' Moshe Stern (Be'er Moshe 6:73) writes that one doing so under such circumstances should cover up their hot tap and avoid wetting their hair.
R’ Akiva Eiger (OC 326:1; 5) even allows one to use hot water provided it was heated before Shabbos (e.g. from a Shabbos kettle), though one doing so must ensure that they don’t pour the water directly from the kettle into the cold water.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunbathing on Shabbos

Question: Can I sunbathe on Shabbos?
Answer: R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 5:32:2) writes that whether one is sunbathing for medical reasons or just because they would like a tan, one mustn’t do so on Shabbos. Firstly, he writes, that according to the the Shulchan Aruch (OC 303:25), the melacha of tzoveia, dyeing, applies to colouring one’s body. Additionally, he argues, that when it is exceedingly hot, sunbathing can be a painful experience and so must be avoided on Shabbos (See Rambam, Shabbos 21:29). Lastly, sunbathing is normally preceded by rubbing sun-cream into oneself, and often ointments afterwards. As both of these are forbidden on Shabbos, this is another reason not to sunbathe on Shabbos (See Chelkas Yaakov 4:17:1).
R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 2:30) writes that while one can’t sunbathe for health reasons, one may do so on one’s own balcony for relaxation.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:45) writes that while photochromic lenses change colour in the sun, there is no issue of tzoveia as it is temporary and changes right back. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 18:n70) compares this to sunbathing, which leaves a temporary tan, implying that it isn’t a problem.
R’ Pesach Eliyahu Falk (Machazeh Eliyahu 65:6:24) writes that while purposely sunbathing may be problematic, one can certainly relax outside in the sun if their intention isn’t to get a tan.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Inflatable Beds on Shabbos

Question: Can we inflate an air-bed with a foot-pump on Shabbos for an unexpected guest?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 340:8) writes that one can put feathers back into a cushion on Shabbos though one can’t replace it with fresh feathers as this is tikkun mana, fixing an object (See Mishna Berura 340:32). Based on this, R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 6:30) forbids pumping up a mattress on Shabbos, as one is putting ‘new air’ into the mattress. Additionally, one should avoid acts that involve a lot of tircha, exertion on Shabbos.
R’ Pesach Eliyahu Falk (Machazeh Eliyahu 69:2), however disagrees. There is a big difference between a cushion that is considered broken minus its stuffing, and an inflatable mattress, that is more like a water bottle that is supposed to be emptied and filled as needed (See Minchas Shlomo 1:11:5)
Similarly, R’ Bezalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 4:92:1; 93) writes that one may inflate a mattress on Shabbos. One can’t compare air that has no real substance to feather stuffing (See Igros Moshe CM 2:47:3).
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 15:89; 34:24) writes that one may only inflate the mattress if it had previously been inflated, though not for the first time it’s been used.
In conclusion, while it is ideal to inflate mattresses before Shabbos, one can do so on Shabbos for a guest, especially if the mattress has been used before.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Washing Lettuce on Shabbos

Question:  Is one allowed to soak lettuce on Shabbos to get rid of any bugs?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 319:8) forbids soaking karshinim, grain for animals, in water on Shabbos as doing so will separate the dirt and grain which is borer. The Mishna Berura (319:29) writes that this would apply equally to washing dirty potatoes, etc.
Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:125) differentiates between soaking karshinim and rinsing fruits and vegetables. Just as one can peel onions and garlics as that is considered derech achila, the normal way of eating them, so too, it is acceptable to rinse fruit before eating them. Additionally, one can’t compare dirty potatoes that everyone would wash, to fruit and vegetables that many would eat without rinsing.
Nonetheless, R’ Moshe writes that while one can rinse them off under a running tap, one shouldn’t soak them in a bowl of water.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 3:n48) also explained that there are a number of differences between soaking karshinim and rinsing fruits and vegetables.
Nonetheless, R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 1:52:2) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 3:21) write that if the fruit or vegetable is particularly dirty to the extent that most people wouldn’t eat it, then one shouldn’t wash it on Shabbos.
Regular lettuce must be soaked in soapy water and inspected in order to ensure that it is bug free. If the lettuce is dirty, one mustn’t do so on Shabbos because of borer. Even clean lettuce likely has aphids and thrips which will be killed in water and so shouldn’t be washed on Shabbos (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 3:36). Thus, unless one has lettuce that one knows is unlikely to be infested, one shouldn’t soak it on Shabbos. One may rinse it under a tap on Shabbos, and inspect it under a light, though any small bugs should be removed with part of the leaf.
Wherever possible, lettuce should be soaked and inspected before Shabbos.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Watermelon on Shabbos

Question: How should one remove the seeds from a watermelon on Shabbos?
Answer: The forbidden melacha of borer is sorting food and non-food. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 319:4) writes that even if it a lot of bother to remove the ochel, the food that one wants, from the pesoles, the waste, one cannot remove the pesoles on Shabbos.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 319:16) is clear that the prohibition only applies to preparation of food. Eating itself, however, cannot ever be considered as a melacha.
If possible one should spit the seeds out of their mouth. If one would normally eat one’s watermelon this way during the week, one should certainly do so on Shabbos (See Az Nidberu 1:26).
If possible one should spit the seeds out of their mouth. If one would normally eat one’s watermelon this way during the week, one should certainly do so on Shabbos (See Az Nidberu 1:26).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:74 Borer 7) writes that where that isn’t possible, such as when feeding one’s children, one should shake the melon before picking any remaining seeds out. One must do so by hand and only right before they eat it (See Chazon Ish OC – Moadim 54:4).
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 3:16; n32) writes that while it is ideal to expel the seeds out from one’s mouth or at least shake them off, this isn’t always feasible. As there are poskim who justify the practice of those who remove fish bones there is justification for removing the seeds by hand when necessary (See Kaf Hachaim OC 319:47).

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Making Ice Cubes on Shabbos

Question: Can one put water and ice pops in the freezer on Friday night so that they can have ice cubes and ice pops on Shabbos?
Answer: R’ Chaim Palaji (Lev Chaim 2:182) writes that one can’t make ice on Shabbos. He compares it to producing cheese from milk which is forbidden as it is a form of boneh, building a new substance. R’ Dov Berish Weidenfeld (Dovev Mesharim 1:55) writes that it is forbidden because of nolad, the prohibition against using things that were born on Shabbos.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Halichos Olam 4:p93; Yechave Daas 1:30) allowed one to freeze water on Shabbos, arguing that creating ice is different from cheese as it would quickly change back to water if left out.  R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 10:n14) held that there is no issur in creating ice on Shabbos. As the Shulchan Aruch (OC 320:10) allows one to break ice in a jug on Shabbos, we’re clearly not worried about nolad. Thus, R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 3:55) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 10:4) write that while one should ideally make the ice before Shabbos, in case of great need (e.g. one has guests coming), one may do so. Likewise, R’ Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchok 8:24) writes that one can put food in the freezer on Shabbos to prevent it from getting ruined.
Certainly, one can only make ice on Shabbos for that day, and not for after Shabbos.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Tisha B’av on Motzaei Shabbos

The Rema (OC 553:2) writes that when Tisha B’av is on (or pushed onto) motzaei Shabbos, one must wait until after saying barchu before changing into one’s non-leather shoes. One should undo them before maariv, and then slip them off, ideally without handling them (Mishna Berura 553:6). Only the chazzan should change them before maariv. R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tisha B'Av 15:n15) wrote that when one goes to a Shul that is davening after nacht, they should change their shoes before maariv.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:380:2) writes that one shouldn’t come to shul on Shabbos wearing non-leather shoes because one isn’t allowed to display mourning on Shabbos. Likewise, one can’t carry them on Shabbos, as that would be hachana, preparing for after Shabbos. Thus, one should bring them to shul before Shabbos. (ibid 3:356; 3:606:7).
The berachos on havdala are split up. One doesn’t say hagefen until Sunday night when one can drink wine as it is no longer the nine days (See Mishna Berura 556:3). One doesn’t smell the besamim or say the pesukim at the beginning. While most people say the beracha over the candle in shul before eicha, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tisha B'Av 15:n22) suggests that husbands wait until they get home and say it for their wives, too. One who isn’t fasting should ensure that they say havdala (with drinking wine / chamar medinah) before eating (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 62:46).

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Fresh Clothes in the Nine Days

Question: I forgot to prepare shirts and polish my shoes before the nine days. What can I do?
Answer: The Gemara (Taanis 26b; 29b) writes that one mustn’t clean or iron one’s clothes during the week of Tisha B’av. The Rema (OC 551:3) writes that the custom (for ashkenazim) is not to do so for the nine days from Rosh Chodesh Av. The Rema (OC 551:14) writes that one may wash a child’s clothes, especially if they regularly get them dirty. Some (Piskei Teshuvos 551:n232) write that this only applies to younger children’s clothes and the Mishna Berura (551:82) writes that one shouldn’t wash their clothes in the week of Tisha B’av.
Additionally, one isn’t supposed to wear freshly washed clothing. The poskim write that this doesn’t apply to clothing that are worn on the skin and changed daily. Thus, while most poskim write that this prohibition applies also to shirts, R’ Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (quoted in Divrei Chachamim OC:459) held that one can wear fresh shirts, too. One who is particularly bothered by not changing their shirt may do so (Piskei Teshuvos 551:17).
While the Rema (OC 551:1) writes that one shouldn’t even wear one’s Shabbos clothes on Shabbos Chazon, most people follow the Vilna Gaon (OC 551:3) who allows wearing fresh clothing even when Tisha B’av itself falls on Shabbos (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 551:11). The Mishna Berura (551:33) writes that one shouldn’t change one’s bedding though.
Similarly, one is allowed to polish one’s shoes for Shabbos (Igros Moshe 3:80; Rivevos Ephraim 1:375).
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 551:91) and Piskei Teshuvos (551:17) write that it is advisable to prepare for the nine days by wearing one’s fresh shirts for a while (See Shach YD 389:4).
R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 4:138) writes that if one forgot to prepare shirts before Rosh Chodesh, one can change shirts a few times on Shabbos, thereby having almost fresh shirts to wear after Shabbos (See Kaf Hachaim ibid).

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Children in the Three Weeks

Question: Can my child have a haircut during the three weeks or eat meat during the nine days?
Answer: The  Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:14) rules that adults may not cut children’s hair during the nine days. The Mishna Berura (551:81 quoting the Elya Rabba) writes that this applies for the three weeks (between 17th Tammuz and 9th Av). While the Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziyun 551:91) discusses whether young children can have a haircut, depending on the reason behind this prohibition, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 551:31) and R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 1:224) allow children younger than six to get a haircut if necessary. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:336:2; 2:155:19) writes that one who has the minhag to give their son an upsherin shouldn’t schedule the haircut during the three weeks. Certainly, if a child has lice, one doesn’t need to wait to cut their hair (Nitei Gavriel, Bein Hametzarim 19:8).
The Magen Avraham (OC 551:31) writes that so long as children are too young to comprehend what we’re mourning about they don’t need to mourn and so can eat meat during the nine days. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (551:70 and Shaar Hatziyun 551:76) writes that most poskim disagree and children are not allowed to eat meat or drink wine unless it is for a mitzva (such as havadala wine) or for health reasons (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 551:26). Nonetheless, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:371; 2:155:22; 3:473:18) writes that one should not be strict with children, especially if they are weak.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:21:4) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 3:338) write that children who normally don’t stay up on Friday night and eat earlier may be given meat before Shabbos.
In conclusion, when children are old enough to understand what Tisha B’av is about they should begin keeping the relevant halachos. Ideally, young children should not be given meat either.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Brushing Teeth on a Fast Day

Question: Can one brush one’s teeth on a fast day?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 14a) relates that there were amoraim who would taste some food while fasting. The rishonim debate whether this applies only to a private ta’anis or even a public one (See Tosafos; Rosh).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 567:1) writes that one who’s really hungry on the four minor fast days (i.e. not on Tisha B’av or Yom Kippur) may taste some food and spit it out. The Rema doesn’t allow it on any ta’anis.
While the Shulchan Aruch (OC 567:3) forbids one to rinse one’s mouth with a little water and spit it out on a (public) ta’anis, the Magen Avraham (OC 567:6) writes that this is only according to the Rema who forbids tasting food. The Shulchan Aruch would allow one to rinse with less than a revi’is of water (on a minor fast).
While the Kaf Hachaim (OC 567:13) forbids rinsing even with less than a revi’is, most poskim are more lenient, especially when one is uncomfortable. Thus, the Rema (Darchei Moshe OC 567:2), Elya Rabba (567:5) and Baer Heitev (567:5) relate that the Maharil used to rinse his mouth with water while being particular not to swallow any.
The Mishna Berura (567:11 quoting the Chayei Adam 132:20) writes that on one of the minor fasts one may rinse their mouth with water if they are uncomfortable and on Tisha B’av, one may only do so if they are suffering. One doing so should bend over the sink to ensure that they don’t swallow any water. A healthy person cannot rinse one’s mouth on Yom Kippur.
The poskim write that brushing one’s teeth is the same as rinsing one’s mouth (See Minchas Yitzchak 4:109).
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Ta’anis, 13) writes that if one is uncomfortable not brushing one’s teeth, one may do so, though ensure that one uses less than a revi’is of water and try not to swallow any.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 567:3) is more lenient still, allowing one to rinse (but not gargle) even with more than a revi’is of water.
In conclusion, one who wants to brush their teeth on a minor ta’anis may do so, though they should ensure that they don’t swallow any water.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Melave Malka in the Summer

Question: Do I need to sit down for melave malka even when Shabbos goes out after 11pm?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 119b) writes that one should set one’s table for a meal after Shabbos. This meal is known as melave malka, escorting out the Shabbos queen. Rambam (Shabbos 30:5) and the Tur (OC 300:1) explain that we should escort Shabbos out with the same respect that we brought it in with. Thus, the Mishna Berura (300:1; 3) writes that one should lay the table properly as one does for Shabbos, light candles and sing zemiros.
While the Mishna Berura (300:1) writes that melave malka is not as important as the three Shabbos meals, the poskim stress the importance of this meal and the reward of those who are particular to partake.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 63:3) quotes many poskim who write that women are equally obligated to eat melave malka (See Maaseh Rav 150).
The Vilna Gaon (Biur Hagra OC 300:1) says that one should eat bread at the meal. The Magen Avraham (OC 300:1) writes that when this is difficult because Shabbos ends so late, one should have a snack instead (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 300:3; Mishna Berura 300:1). At the very least, one should have a hot drink (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 63:8).
The Baer Heitev (300:1) and Aruch Hashulchan (ibid) quote the Elya Rabba who writes that if one ate shalosh seudos late, and carried on eating after it was dark out, then one has fulfilled one’s obligation and doesn’t need to eat again after Shabbos. Not everyone relies on this leniency, however (see Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 63:6).

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Seeing the Sea

Question: I am going to visit Israel. Do I say a beracha upon seeing the Mediterranean Sea and Dead Sea?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 228:1) writes that upon seeing the ocean one recites the beracha, ..oseh maaseh bereishis. When one sees the Mediterranean, one should recite ..oseh hayam hagadol instead.
The Mishna Berura (228:2) however, writes that many acharonim disagree and write that one only says oseh hayam hagadol upon seeing the Atlantic Ocean.
To fulfil both views, one could say ..oseh maaseh bereishis  and then add the words sheasah es hayam hagadol (Minchas Yitzchak 1:110; Halichos Shlomo 23:29).
While R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:14:40n) writes that one should say ..oseh maaseh bereishis upon seeing the Dead Sea, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 23:n43) and R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:47) held that one doesn’t recite a beracha as it was not created during the Six Days of Creation (Rashi, Bereishis 14:3).
R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 3:76:1) writes that if one is driving past the sea, one should ideally stop and get out of the car so that one can stand up properly to recite the beracha.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Throwing Sweets at a Chassan

Question: If we’re not allowed to throw food then how can we throw sweets at a chassan at his aufruf?
Answer: Rambam (Berachos 7:9) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 171:1) write that one must treat food in a respectful manner. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 20:29) writes that this even applies to food that one isn’t allowed to eat, such as chametz on Pesach.
The Gemara (Berachos 50b) writes that as bread is more important than other food, one should never throw bread. Other food, however, may be thrown providing that it won’t get ruined (Rambam, Berachos 7:9; Magen Avraham OC 171:1; Aruch Hashulchan OC 171:3; Mishna Berura 170:9).
Thus, the Magen Avraham (OC 167:38) writes that when one says hamotzi on behalf of others, he must pass the bread to them rather than throw it (See Mishna Berura 167:88).
The Gemara (ibid) writes that people used to throw nuts towards the chassan and kalla.
Nowadays, people typically throw sweets or small bags of food at a chassan when he gets his aliya on his Shabbos aufruf. While this almost universal custom has no real mekor, Sefer Taamei Haminhagim (940) explains the significance behind many of the foods that people throw. Additionally, it is not assur and adds to the excitement for many. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 171:26) and Mishna Berura (171:21) write that those who do so should not throw soft sweets that will get ruined.
The poskim (Magen Avraham OC 171:1; Aruch Hashulchan OC 171:5) write that one who sees food on the floor must pick it up. Additionally, one must ensure that one does so to enhance the simcha and one isn’t mevazeh the kedusha of the shul.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Lechem Mishne

Question: Does one need lechem mishne for seuda shelishis? If so, can I use a frozen challa? Do I need to remove it from the bag if I’m not going to eat it?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 117b) writes that we are botzeia over two challos to remember that two portions of man fell in the midbar before Shabbos. While according to the Magen Avraham (OC 254:23) this requirement is derabanan, the Taz (OC 678:2), Chasam Sofer (OC 46) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 274:1) write that it is mideoraisa.
Following Rashi, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 274:1) understands this to mean saying hamotzi over the two challos. The Vilna Gaon, however, follows Rashba who writes that the requirement is to cut both challos (See Mishna Berura 274:4; Aruch Hashulchan OC 274:3).
The Daas Zekeinim (Shemos 16:22) writes that as the bnei yisrael would only have had one portion of man left by Shabbos afternoon, there is no need to have lechem mishne for seuda shelishis. The Rema (OC 291:4) writes that while many only use one challa for seuda shelishis it is ideal to use two challos (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 55:2).
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 8 OC:32), R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 11:23) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:170) write that ideally one should only use fresh challa, though R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 2:115:2) wrote that he often used a frozen challa for lechem mishne as by the end of the meal, the challa had defrosted and was perfectly edible (See Minchas Yitzchak 9:42; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 55:n39).
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:201) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 55:n38) write that ideally, the second challa should be removed from the bag before saying hamotzi.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Non-Kosher Medication

Question: I have just been prescribed a new pill for my asthma. It comes in a capsule made from gelatine. Is that a problem?
Answer: While gelatine, unless certified as kosher, comes from non-kosher animals (or animals not shechted) there is a machlokes as to whether it is kosher or not.
R’ Chaim Ozer Grodzinski (Achiezer 2:11; 3:33:5), R’ Yechezkel Abramsky (brought in intro to Tzitz Eliezer 4), R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 6:16; 10:25:20:2) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 8:YD 11) all write that one may eat gelatine even from a non-kosher source (See Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha 47:5).
However, R’ Aharon Kotler (Mishnas R’ Aharon 1:16), the Chazon Ish (YD 12:7), R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:52; 3:147; 5:5), and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:381) all write that one can only eat gelatine from a kosher source.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 1:37, 2:23, 2:27, 2:32) writes that because of the doubt, one should not be lenient and eat only kosher sourced gelatine (See Har Zvi YD 83).
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 7:135) writes that one may be lenient, however, for a choleh she'ain bo sakanah (one confined to bed as a result of their illness - See Shulchan Aruch and Rema OC 328:17). R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 1:17; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 40:n169) writes that swallowing medicine pills is not considered eating. Thus, one with a serious condition such as asthma may take such medication. One suffering from a headache, etc. (mechush) should make the effort to find an alternative that doesn’t contain any non-kosher ingredients (Rema YD 155:3).

Women and Havdala

Question: I have heard conflicting things about women saying havdala. As a single woman, what should I do?
Answer: The Rema (OC 296:8) writes that as the Shulchan Aruch brings two opinions as to whether women are obligated to say havdala or not, they should not recite it themselves, but should listen to a man saying it instead. The Mishna Berura (296:34) explains that women are obviously obligated to keep all laws of Shabbos. The difference of opinion lies in whether havdala is treated as a part of Shabbos, or as a regular time-bound mitzva (such as tefillin which women are exempt from). The Taz (OC 296:7) points out, however, that women must say hamavdil bein kodesh lechol before doing any melacha.
The Biur Halacha writes that women may make havdala, though should omit the beracha of meoiray haeish on the candle. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 296:5), R’ Moshe Feinstein (CM 2:47) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:273; 6:172), however, write that women may say this beracha, too, in the same way as they would on shaking a lulav if they wish to do so. Likewise, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 14:43) criticizes the calendars that advise women against making the beracha on candles.
One reason why women avoid making havdala is because the Shelah (quoted by the Magen Avraham OC 296:4) writes that women shouldn’t drink the havdala wine (for Kabbalistic reasons). The Aruch Hashulchan points out that not everyone keeps this custom, and it’s more important to properly fulfill havdala.
In conclusion, you should say havdala complete with all the berachos.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Staying up all Night

The Magen Avraham (OC 494) suggests a reason for the minhag to stay up all night to learn on Shavuos. The midrash relates that the Bnei Yisrael slept in on the morning of kabbalas hatorah and had to be woken up. To rectify this, we stay up each Shavuos night, learning Torah, thus preparing ourselves to receive the Torah anew.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 8:500:12) writes that if staying up will prevent them from being able to daven properly, they should rather go to sleep and daven later.
Staying up all night, however, poses a couple of halachic issues with regards to saying certain berachos.
The Mishna Berura (47:28) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one who hasn’t slept may recite the Birchos Hatorah. He writes that one should either listen to someone else (who has slept) recite the berachos or have intent to fulfil the beracha before learning while saying ahava rabba. One doing this should learn immediately after Shacharis. The Mishna Berura writes that R’ Akiva Eiger held that one who had slept during the day for at least half an hour is considered to have slept and may say all the berachos as usual.
Many sefardim follow the Kaf Hachaim (OC 46:49) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 5:OC 6; Yechaveh Daas 3:33) and recite the berachos regardless (See Rivevos Ephraim 8:500:15).
The Mishna Berura (4:30) writes that while there is a machlokes as to whether one should say al netilas yadayim after washing one’s hands, if one excuses themselves, they can say the beracha. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 8:500:13) writes that sefardim should rather listen to someone else recite the beracha.
One shouldn’t say the beracha on tzitzis, though should either hear the beracha from someone else (who says it on either their tzitzis or tallis) or borrow a tallis and recite the beracha on that (Mishna Berura 8:42; Rivevos Ephraim 8:500:18).
As the berachos of Elokai Neshama and hama'avir sheina both refer to waking up, one should ideally listen to someone else who had slept, say them. Failing that, the Mishna Berura (47:30) writes that one should say these berachos without Hashem’s name. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 8:500:14) writes that sefardim may say these berachos regardless.
As for the other birchos hashachar, the Mishna Berura (46:22) writes that one should say them all oneself, as they are all berachos praising Hashem and not dependent on personal circumstances (See Kaf Hachaim OC 46:50; Rivevos Ephraim 8:500:16).

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Beracha on Medication

Question: Do I need to say a beracha on medicine? What about if I need a drink in order to swallow a pill?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 38a) writes that one only recites a beracha on food that one eats for medical reasons if they will enjoy eating it. Likewise, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 204:7) writes that one only says a beracha before (and after) drinking water if they are doing so to quench their thirst. Thus, the Mishna Berura (204:42) writes that if one drank some water just to enable them to swallow a pill, they shouldn’t recite a beracha. However, if one drinks any other beverage, one would be required to recite a beracha.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:82) writes that if the medication itself tastes nice, then one should recite a beracha. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 4:54:39) writes that R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv held that if one mixed the medicine into something that tastes good, one would need to recite a beracha on it.
R’ Dr. Avraham Avraham (Nishmas Avraham 204:1) writes that R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 40:n191) held that one doesn’t  recite a beracha upon taking medicine that has flavouring added to make it taste sweet since the main ingredient is bitter though R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 204:10:n10) held that one should recite a beracha. Similarly, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted by R’ Dr. Avraham) held that one should recite a beracha on pills that are coated with sweeteners.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 230:4) writes that one about to undergo a medical procedure should recite: יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹקַי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לִי עֵסֶק זֶה לִרְפוּאָה כִּי רוֹפֵא חִנָּם אַתָּה, "May it be your will, Hashem, that this procedure should cure me, for You are a Doctor who does not charge," and afterwards, בָּרוּךְ רוֹפֵא חוֹלִים, "Blessed is the One who heals the ill" (See Mishna Berura 230:6).
R’ Dr. Avraham quotes R’ Eliezer Waldenberg who says that one should say these prayers before and after taking medication. This would serve in place of reciting a beracha, thus satisfying both views.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Time Switches on Shabbos

Question: I leave my hotplate on a (manual) time-switch on Shabbos. Can I adjust it on Shabbos if I want it to come or go off earlier or later?
Answer: R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:60) writes that one may only use timers on Shabbos for one’s lights. Firstly, timers are akin to instructing a non-Jew to perform a melacha on one’s behalf which is prohibited. Additionally, it isn’t respectful for Shabbos. As people always had non-Jews come in to their houses to light and extinguish their lights, lights remains an exception.
Nonetheless, most poskim disagree. The Chazon Ish (OC 38:2), R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 3:17), R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 1:11:8), R' Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:9) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 13:23) write that one may set timers for other electrical appliances, too.
This wouldn’t apply to appliances that make a noise, though. Thus R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 2:20) writes that one wouldn’t be able to put a radio on a timer.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:91:5; YD 3:47:4), R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 2:110) and R' Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:9) holds that timers are muktza and must therefore not be adjusted on Shabbos.  
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 1:11:8), R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 3:18:2) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 13:25) hold that timers aren’t muktza, however. Thus, while one isn’t allowed to adjust the timer to switch on or off earlier than planned, one may adjust the timer to prevent or delay the timer from switching the appliance off by pulling pins out (Minchas Shlomo 1:11:8; 1:13). Likewise, one may adjust the timer to prevent or delay an appliance that is off from coming on.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Tovelling Presents

Question: A friend just gave me a glass dish filled with sweets as a gift. Who was supposed to tovel it, me or her?
Answer: R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 2:66:20) held that one shouldn’t tovel a gift before giving it as they may want to return it. If they do, it wouldn’t yet be considered something used for food, and therefore doesn’t require tevila.
Likewise, R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:44; 7:43:2; 8:70) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:452) write that one selling dishes shouldn’t tovel them before selling them as until they have been bought, they serve as merchandise, rather than eating utensils. If one bought a dish that the shopkeeper had tovelled, they would still need to tovel it again (See Tevilas Kelim 8:6).
R’ Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher, Matos 68:4) writes that if one tovelled a gift before giving it, it would not need tovelling again, Nonetheless, one shouldn’t do so, unless one is tovelling other things that require a beracha. Certainly, if one believed that the recipient won’t tovel it, one should do so before giving it.
This, however, only seems to apply to a dish that doesn’t contain food. If one was filling the dish with food, then R’ Asher Weiss (tvunah.org) argues one would certainly have to tovel the dish first. If the sweets were wrapped and so didn’t touch the dish, one may leave the tovelling to the recipient (See Aruch Hashulchan YD 120:32). If there were biscuits on a tray, however, one would still need to tovel the dish, even if one placed a serviette underneath them.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Tzitzis in the Summer

Question:  Is there a preference to wearing woollen tzitzis? Am I allowed to remove my tzitzis if I’m hot in the summer?
Answer: While according to the Torah one only needs to place tzitzis on a four cornered garment if one wears one, the Gemara (Menachos 41a) writes that should wear them at all times. The poskim (Aruch Hashulchan OC 8:2; Yechaveh Daas 4:2) write that it has become the accepted custom to wear tzitzis (on a tallis katan) throughout the day. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:4) emphasises its importance, writing that it now forms part of the mesorah and R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 2:55) argues that wearing tzitzis is part of the actual mitzva.
There is a machlokes between the Shulchan Aruch (OC 9:1) and Rema as to whether non woollen (or linen) garments are obligated to have tzitzis attached mideoraisa. As sefardim generally follow the Shulchan Aruch, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 9:1) writes that one should try their utmost to wear woollen tzitzis even when it’s hot. While ashkenazim generally follow the Rema who writes that the mitzva applies to all materials, the Mishna Berura (9:5) writes that it is best to wear woollen tzitzis (See Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 3:25). R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:1) writes that one who is uncomfortable wearing woollen tzitzis in the heat, can rely on the Rema and wear a cotton pair.
Nonetheless, it is reported that both the Vilna Gaon (Maaseh Rav: Birchos Hashachar 17) and the Chazon Ish (Shoneh Halachos 9:1) wore non-wool tzitzis (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:18).
While R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi 1:9) writes that garments made from synthetic materials such as polyester require tzitzis, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:1) writes that they don’t (like leather). Thus, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 12:3) writes that one shouldn’t make a beracha over wearing such a pair.
R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 2:55) writes that one must wear tzitzis even while playing sports (See Piskei Teshuvos 24:1).
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 4:15) questions whether it is appropriate to wear them directly on one’s skin like an undergarment. Elsewhere (Rivevos Ephraim 7:265), he writes that R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv allowed people to remove their tzitzis on a particularly hot day (See Tzitz Eliezer 14:49:2).
In conclusion, many hold that there is a preference to wearing woollen tzitzis. One should wear tzitzis at all times under normal circumstances, only removing them if they are causing distress.