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.