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 use a timer on my hotplate to heat my chicken on Shabbos for lunch?
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 whether it is on or off (but will be switched on with a timer).
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 10 OC: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 deoraisa. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 1:26), the Chazon Ish (38:2-3) and R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:30:18) 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).

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.