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.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Blossom Blessing

Question: When’s the best time to say the beracha on the blossom? Should women also say it?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 43b) writes that one should recite a beracha on a tree when it blossoms in the month of Nissan. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 226:1) writes that this beracha can only be recited once a year.
According to some poskim (Halachos Ketanos 2:28; Kaf Hachaim OC 226:1) the beracha should only be recited in the month of Nissan, though most poskim (Ritva, Rosh Hashana 11a; Mishna Berura 226:1; Aruch Hashulchan OC 226:1; Tzitz Eliezer 12:20:3) write that one should say it whenever when one first sees the blossom. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 5:173) writes that he witnessed R’ Moshe Feinstein say the beracha in Iyar.
Thus, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:1; Yabia Omer OC 8:8:4) writes that one should ideally wait until Nissan to recite the beracha, though one can still do so afterwards. R’ Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 10:16) writes that where trees blossom at different times, such as in Australia, one recites the beracha then (See Har Tzvi OC 1:118; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:190).
While the Kaf Hachaim (OC 226:9) writes that one can only recite the beracha upon first seeing the blossom, most poskim (Machatzis Hashekel 226; Shaar Hatziyun 226:3; Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 2:5) write that one can recite it later if necessary.
R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC 1:118) writes that one should not recite this beracha at night time, though the consensus of poskim (Tzitz Eliezer 12:20:6, Chazon Ovadia, Pesach 1: p11; Rivevos Ephraim 6:458:2) is that one may do so providing that one can see the blossom clearly.
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 226:4) writes that one shouldn’t recite this beracha on Shabbos as we are worried that one may come to pluck some blossom off the tree. (He also brings Kabbalistic reasons.) R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:191) writes that some avoid doing so for fear of carrying out their Siddur (where there is no Eruv). Nonetheless, most poskim (Yechave Daas 1:1; Rivevos Ephraim 4:113:41) allow one to do so on Shabbos.
As most poskim hold that this beracha can be said whenever one sees the blossom, it is not considered to be a time-bound mitzva. Thus, R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC 1:118) writes that women are obligated to recite the beracha too (See Tzitz Eliezer 12:25:5; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:190; Rivevos Ephraim 6:106, 6:458:2).

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Women and Sefiras Haomer

Question: Do I need to count the omer? If so, should my husband wait to count the omer until he’s home so that he can count with me?
Answer: While Rambam (Temidin Umusafin 7:22) and the Sefer Hachinuch (306) hold that the mitzva to count the omer nowadays is mideoraisa, most poskim (Tosafos, Menachos 66a; Rosh, Pesachim 10:40; Ran, end of Pesachim) hold that it is derabanan. The Ran explains that the Torah obligation is dependent on the korban haomer. Nowadays, we continue counting in commemoration of the mikdash.
There is another machlokes as to whether women are obligated at all. Ramban (Kiddushin 34a) holds that women are obligated while Rambam (Temidin Umusafin 7:24; Sefer Hamitzvot 161) and the Magen Avraham (OC 489:1) hold that as it is a time-bound mitzva, women are exempt.
The Mishna Berura (489:3) quotes the Shulchan Shlomo (489:3) who writes that as women will probably forget to count one night they shouldn’t count with a beracha at all. Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 489:4) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:327; 6:257:23) write that women do keep this mitzva nowadays and should count with a beracha; especially as people set alarms nowadays to remind themselves of such things, women should do so, too.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 489:1) writes that one should start counting the omer immediately after Maariv on the 2nd night of Pesach. While some count after the Seder for Kabbalistic reasons (Yesod Veshoresh Ha’avoda 8), R’ Yaakov Emden (She’elas Yaavetz 2:83) wrote very strongly against this practice, writing that it is best to count straight after maariv as one shouldn’t eat before one has counted (Rema 489:4). Additionally, it is better to count the omer together with a minyan. The Piskei Teshuvos (489:1) writes that most poskim (including the Aruch Hashulchan OC 489:11) agree that one should count before the Seder.
The Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 489:1) writes that the reason why we daven maariv before counting the omer is because people used to daven maariv before nacht when it was too early to count. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:99 in a letter to R’ Ephraim Greenblatt) challenges this and says the reason is because we follow the rule that tadir ve’sheino tadir, tadir kodam, the mitzva that we do most often takes precedence. Nonetheless, as it is better to count the omer together with a minyan, we do so on motzaei Shabbos before we go home to make havdala.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 6:257) writes similarly that while one should daven maariv first, if one walks into shul while they are counting the omer, one should count with them.
In conclusion, your husband should ideally count in shul after maariv. He should remind you to count, or you may want to set yourself a reminder.