Sunday, 25 December 2016

Flying over Chanuka

Question: I am flying over Chanuka and won’t be home to light the menora. What should I do?
Answer: R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 7:46) writes that there is a machlokes among the poskim as to whether one who is away from their house can fulfil their obligation to light the menora by having a family member light on their behalf. The Mishna Berura (677:2) writes that one can fulfil his obligation with his wife lighting at home. R’ Weiss writes, however, that if one is in a different time zone to one’s wife at a time when he wouldn’t be able to light himself, then he wouldn’t be able to rely on his wife’s lighting. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Chanuka 13:4), however, writes that one can rely on one’s family members back home regardless of the time zone.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 2:OC:17; 3:OC:35; Yechave Daas 4:38; 5:24), R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:12) and R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 3:1-2) write that while one can use electric lights for Shabbos candles even with a beracha if necessary, chanuka lights must possess both oil and wicks. As electric lights have neither, one may only use an electric menora under extenuating circumstances, and one can’t say a beracha over such lights. If one was able to light a regular menora afterwards, he should then do so with a beracha. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 2:180:7; 3:240; 4:66) writes that electric flames are no good as there isn’t a proper flame. Additionally, having a lightbulb means that there is no naked flame (See Halichos Shlomo, Chanuka 15:3).
While Rashi (Shabbos 23a) writes that one doesn’t light the menora on a boat, the Maharsham (4:146), Aruch Hashulchan (OC 677:5) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 15:29) write that one is obligated to light a menora on a train. R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 7:67) explains that one doesn’t necessarily need to have a house in order to be obligated to light. Thus, one travelling by car would need to light (See Rivevos Ephraim 2:180:6).
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:434:5) discusses whether one should light a menora on an aeroplane. (This volume was published in 1974 when it was still acceptable to smoke on flights.) He writes that as one could argue that an aeroplane does not count as a place of living one should light without a beracha (See Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha 139:13).
R’ Asher Weiss (tvunah.org), however, writes that there is a difference between a train and plane, and there is no obligation to light at all on a plane.
In conclusion, if one has someone else at home who can light on their behalf while it is night for both of them, they should light and be yotze them. Failing that, one can light an electric torch (preferably incandescent or halogen) if they want to fulfil the opinion of those who say one should ideally light. One wouldn’t say a beracha, though.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Saying Modim Loudly

Question: When listening to chazaras hashatz I sometimes hear the chazzan say modim quietly while everyone else says modim derabanan. Is this correct?
Answer: The Gemara (Sota 40a) writes that when the chazzan reaches the beracha of modim, the tzibbur say modim derabanan (See Rambam, Tefilla 9:4). This beracha is so important that the Gemara (Berachos 21b) writes that one who comes late to shul should not begin davening the amida unless he knows that he will finish before the chazzan reaches modim (See Shulchan Aruch OC 109:1).
The Mishna Berura (124:41) questions the practice of some chazzanim who say modim quietly. The chazzan must raise his voice if necessary, to ensure that he can be heard by at least a minyan of men.
Thus, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:91:1) questions whether the tzibbur should say modim derabanan quietly so as to ensure that they can hear the chazzan. Elsewhere, (ibid. 2:185:17; 5:76) he quotes R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv as saying that the chazzan should pause while the tzibbur say modim derabanan before continuing modim to enable everyone to hear. One shouldn’t do this, however, unless it is the minhag of that shul.
In conclusion, the chazzan should raise his voice a little while saying modim so that the tzibbur can hear him.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Tefillin over Watch

Question: Do I need to remove my watch before putting on my tefillin?
Answer: The Mishna (Megilla 24b) writes that there mustn’t be anything in between one’s tefillin and their arm (chatzitza). Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 27:4) writes that one should ensure to place one’s tefillin directly on their head and arm. The Rema, based on the Rashba (1:827), qualifies this to the tefillin boxes, though allows one to have something under the straps (See Magen Avraham OC 27:5).
The Mishna Berura (27:16) writes that the leniency only applies to the winding around the arm (kerichos). There mustn’t be any chatzitza by the tying (keshira), however (See Shaar Hatziyun 27:16). Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 27:13) writes that the minhag is to be particular not to have a chatzitza even with the arm straps.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 4:16:7) writes that according to the Chasam Sofer (YD 192) one must remove one’s rings before wrapping tefillin. The windings round the fingers are considered keshira and so a ring would be a chatzitza.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:2, Yabia Omer 2:OC:2) writes that especially if one wears one’s watch normally at the end of their arm after the seven wrappings, it doesn’t act as a chatzitza.
Nonetheless, he writes that while we shouldn’t prevent others from wearing their watch, it is ideal to remove it.
In conclusion, one should remove one’s ring before wrapping one’s tefillin round that finger. While one is yotze if they keep their watch on, it is commendable to remove it.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Plasters on Shabbos

Question: Can we use plasters (band aids) on Shabbos? Do they need to be prepared beforehand?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (328:1) writes that one mustn’t perform any act of healing for one who is healthy but slightly uncomfortable (mechush) on Shabbos. Nonetheless, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 34:3) writes that one may apply a plaster to a cut on Shabbos, as it primarily serves to protect the wound from becoming infected.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 340:14) writes that sticking is a tolda of tofer, sewing. Thus, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 8:15:14:6) writes that ideally one should stick the plaster onto one’s body, rather than stick the ends over each other, thereby creating a weaker attachment.
The Rema (OC 317:3) brings a machlokes as to whether one may undo temporary stitching on Shabbos or not (See Mishna Berura 317:21). Accordingly, there is a machlokes as to whether one may remove the plastic tabs from plasters on Shabbos.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 5:39:2; 9:41) writes that one would only be allowed to undo threads or removing something sticky that was tied or stuck on for very temporary use. As tabs on plasters aren’t so temporary, one mustn’t remove them on Shabbos (See Be’er Moshe 1:36).
Nonetheless, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shulchan Shlomo 328:45; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n55) held that the halacha follows the lenient opinion, and one may undo or unstick something that is not supposed to be tied or stuck long-term. Thus, the tabs may be removed on Shabbos.
Likewise, R’ Benzion Abba Shaul and R’ Pesach Eliyahu Falk (Machazeh Eliyahu 70:1) explain that although the tabs were placed on the plasters during production and may have been there for a while, that does not preclude them from being considered temporary, and one may remove them (See Az Nidberu 7:34; 35).
In conclusion, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 16:6:5) writes that it is ideal to remove the tabs and replace them before Shabbos. Either way, most poskim allow one to open and apply a plaster on Shabbos.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Beracha on Fruit Hors D'oeuvre

Question: Is one supposed to say a beracha on a fruit hors d'oeuvre if they’ve washed for a bread meal?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 41b) writes that one must say a beracha before eating fruit that was brought in to a meal, unless it serves as an actual dish or is eaten as a condiment together with the bread.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 177:1) explains that the beracha of hamotzi that one recites over bread only exempts foods that are eaten primarily to satisfy one’s hunger. Thus, the Mishna Berura (177:4) writes that if one has fruit as a dessert, one will need to say a beracha first. If one started eating the fruit with bread, they wouldn’t need to say a beracha.
The Mishna Berura writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one should say a beracha on fruit cooked together with another dish. He suggests that it is ideal to eat a piece of fruit first and say the beracha on that (See Shaar Hatziyun 177:7). The same would apply to a dish made of fruit served as part of the main meal (Biur Halacha).
The Magen Avraham (OC 174:11) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one says a bracha before eating fruit as an hors d'oeuvre. Most rishonim including the Tur, Tosafos (Pesachim 115a), Bach (OC 176), Rashi (Berachos 42b) and the Mordechai (Berachos 136) hold that one shouldn’t say a beracha, while the Chinuch (430) and Rashba (Berachos 41a, quoted in Shaar Hatziun 174:45) hold that one should.
The Magen Avraham sides with the rishonim who say that one doesn’t say a beracha. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziun 174:45) writes that as this is a safek, one should avoid this scenario. One can do this either by having a small piece of this fruit before they wash, or have a different fruit first, as above.
R’ Yisroel Pinchos Bodner (Halachos of Brochos 5:D:5) writes that R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach held that an hors d'oeuvre such as melon is merely an appetizer and can’t be considered to be part of the meal itself. As such, it necessitates a beracha. R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, however, held that it does count as part of the meal and so one wouldn’t say a beracha.
R' Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 3:120) writes that one doesn't say a beracha before eating olives, etc. as it is normal to eat them during a meal.
In conclusion, one should ideally attempt to say the beracha in a way that satisfies the different views, either by having a small piece of fruit before one washes, or by eating another fruit that isn’t normal to eat during a meal, such as an apple. Alternately, one can eat the hors d'oeuvre together with bread and say no beracha.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Working before Shacharis

Question: I have an early morning work shift. Is it better to daven shacharis alone before I go, or to daven afterwards with a minyan?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 89:3) writes that one mustn’t work or travel before one has davened. This applies from alos hashachar, dawn, when one can begin davening. As one cannot daven before alos hashachar, one may work then. The Mishna Berura (89:37) writes that if one is going to work within half an hour of alos hashachar, they should say birchos hashachar beforehand (See Rema 89:3; Biur Halacha 70:5).
The Mishna Berura (70:23) writes that if one begins working before alos hashachar they may continue working until afterwards providing that they ensure that they say shema and daven before it’s too late.
The Mishna Berura (89:20) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:66) write that one must daven before one goes to work even if that means that now they have to daven without a minyan whereas later they would be able to daven properly with one.
In conclusion, if one is going to work before alos hashachar, they should say birchos hashachar first and daven later.
One who goes to work after alos hashachar must daven first, even if that means foregoing the minyan. Ideally, they should still go to shul after work to hear kaddish, etc.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Visiting Israel during November

Question: I will be visiting Eretz Yisrael during Cheshvan / November.  Do I say vesen beracha or vesen tal umattar?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 117:1) writes that in Eretz Yisrael we begin saying vesen tal umattar (prayer for rain) in the beracha of barech aleinu from the 7th of Cheshvan. In chutz la’aretz, we don’t start saying it until the 60th day of the tishrei season. As this season begins on the 7th of October, we begin saying vesen tal umattar during maariv on the 4th or 5th of December (See Taanis 10a). We continue saying this until pesach.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 117:5) writes that one who forgot to say vesen tal umattar after this time must do so in the beracha of shema koleinu. Failing that, they’d have to repeat the shemone esrei.
The Mishna Berura (117:5) quotes different opinions as to what someone visiting Eretz Yisrael during this time should do.
The Pri Chadash and Pri Megadim write that providing one is planning on returning within the year, they should follow their own community. Thus, one paying a short visit to Eretz Yisrael would continue to say vesen beracha until the 4th / 5th of December.
The Birkei Yosef, however, writes that those visiting Eretz Yisrael should say vesen tal umattar.
While R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 10:9) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:73) agree with the Birkei Yosef, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 8:21) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:55) hold that if they are staying in Eretz Yisrael until after the 4th / 5th December then they should say vesen tal umattar. One paying a shorter visit should say it shema koleinu (See Rivevos Ephraim 4:255).
In conclusion, the Ishei Yisrael (23:37) writes that if one plans on returning before the 4th or 5th December, they shouldn’t adopt start saying vesen tal umattar early. If one doesn’t plan on returning until afterwards, they should say it in shema koleinu. Many sefardim will say vesen tal umattar even if only paying a short visit.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Disturbance in Amidah

Question: I brought my child to shul and he was making a noise disturbing others during shemone esrei. Was I allowed to take him out while I was davening?
Answer: The Mishna (Berachos 30b) writes that one may not interrupt while davening shemone esrei even if the king asks them about their welfare or if a snake is on their leg. The Gemara (Berachos 32b) and poskim (Tosafos, Berachos 33b; Shulchan Aruch OC 104:3) explain that we’re not referring to dangerous situations – thus the Mishna refers to a Jewish king and a harmless snake.
The Vilna Gaon (Biur Hagra OC 104:3) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether moving constitutes an interruption. According to Rabbeinu Yona (Berachos 21a) and the Rema (OC 104:3) moving wouldn’t be considered to be an interruption while according to the Rosh it would be and so one mustn’t move unless they’re in danger.
The Magen Avraham (OC 104:3) and Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 104:3) write that while one shouldn’t move without reason, it is okay to move if absolutely necessary, even without being in danger.
Thus, the Mishna Berura (104:1) writes that if one is distracted by a child while davening shemone esrei, they should first try to quietly motion to them (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 104:4). Failing that, they can move elsewhere. Elsewhere, the Mishna Berura (96:4) writes that one shouldn’t begin davening with a young child in front of them as they will likely distract them.
R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Dirshu Mishna Berura 104:n3) held that if the child is disturbing others in shul, they must be removed. R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Lezion 2:35:31) adds that it is better for a parent to stay home to daven with their child rather than bring them to shul if they may disturb.
In conclusion, one should only bring children to shul if one believes that they won’t disturb. In the unlikely event that they disturb, their parents can remove them even during their shemone esrei.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Mincha Before Shekia

Question: By the time I get home in the Winter, it is already after shekia. Is it better to daven mincha by myself before shekia or to daven after shekia in a chassidishe shul after shekia?
Answer: The Mishna (Berachos 26a) brings a machlokes as to whether one can daven mincha up until plag hamincha or until the evening. While Rashi and others define evening as nightfall, Rabbeinu Yona (Berachos 18b) and Rambam (Tefilla 3:4) hold that one only has until shekia as it corresponds to the korban tamid which mustn’t be offered after shekia. The Gemara writes that as this machlokes was never resolved, one can choose one time over the other (See Shibolei Haleket 48; Raavad 194). The Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziun 233:18) writes that the machlokes as to whether we consider shekia or tzeis hakochavim the beginning of the evening is based on a machlokes between Rabbeinu Tam and the Vilna Gaon (OC 459:2) as to how we calculate shekia.
The Rosh (Berachos 4:3) and Shulchan Aruch (OC 233:1) write that one must choose one opinion and be consistent with it, not changing from one day to the next. Different communities have adopted different practices. Ashkenaz shuls typically daven mincha before shekia while chassidishe shuls are more inclined to daven after shekia (See Minchas Yitzchak 4:53:22).
There is a machlokes as to what one who usually davens earlier should do if they can’t get to a minyan until after shekia.
R’ Yaakov Emden (Mor Uketzia 233) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 5:22) write that it is preferable to wait to daven. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:48) writes that they should daven alone unless it has just turned shekia, in which case he should daven with a minyan.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (233:14) writes that it is better to daven (and complete) mincha without a minyan before shekia than to daven later with a minyan. Only under extenuating circumstances, can one daven after shekia (Shaar Hatziyun 233:21). Similarly, many acharonim including the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 233:9) and R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:24) stress the importance of davening mincha before shekia.
In conclusion, unless the minyan starts right before or at shekia it would seem preferable to daven by oneself rather than to daven with a minyan after shekia.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sukka Hopping and Berachos

Question: On Sukkos, we go sukka hopping, visiting various friends’ sukkas. If we say the beracha, leisheiv basukka in the first one, does that cover us for subsequent visits? Do we need to say a new beracha rishona and acharona at every sukka?
Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 101b) writes that if one moves to another house while eating, they need to recite a new beracha rishona before continuing to eat (See Shulchan Aruch OC 178:1).
The Mishna Berura (178:33; 40) writes that providing one intended on continuing their meal when they said hamotzi, they may continue eating elsewhere without reciting another beracha. The Mishna Berura (178:28) stresses that they must have eaten a kezayis of bread in the first location.
The poskim extend this halacha to other food made from the 5 grains (mezonos) as well as the shivas haminim (See Shulchan Aruch OC 178:5; 184:3).
As this halacha doesn’t apply to other foods, one who said another beracha such as shehakol would need to say a beracha acharona before moving on elsewhere (providing they had eaten a kezayis).
R’ Yisroel Pinchos Bodner (The Halachos of Brochos p151) writes that if one ate other foods along with mezonos at the first location intending to continue eating elsewhere, there is a machlokes as to whether one would need to say those other berachos again elsewhere, so it is best to avoid this scenario.
The Mishna Berura (639:48) quotes the Magen Avraham (639:17) who writes that one always needs to recite a new beracha of leisheiv basukka even if one intended to go to another sukka when he said the beracha. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura writes that walking from one sukka to the next is not considered to be a hefsek, interruption, so long as they intended to do so when they said the first beracha.
In conclusion, if one plans to visit different sukkas, they should say leisheiv basukka just at the first sukka where they eat mezonos. Providing one has eaten a kezayis at the first sukka, one doesn’t repeat mezonos (or ha’etz on the shivas haminim) at the second. One must recite any other berachos at each sukka one visits.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Move Lamp on Shabbos and Yom Tov

Question: Am I allowed to move an electric lamp in and out of my sukka on Shabbos and Yom Tov?
Answer: The Mishna (Shabbos 3:6) teaches us that oil lamps mustn’t be moved on Shabbos while they are burning. The Gemara (Shabbos 45a) explains that there is a specific type of muktze prohibition for a fire. The Chazon Ish (Hilchos Shabbos 41:16) gives two reasons for why lamps are muktze. Firstly, in order to avoid extinguishing the flame, lamps are not usually moved around. Secondly, as lamps are not normally moved around, it is muktze to move them.
R’ Moshe Feinstein writes about moving electrical appliances in a few teshuvos. He writes (Igros Moshe OC 3:49; 4:91:5) that lamps, like fans, etc. are kelim shemelachtam leissur, items that serve a forbidden action on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 308:3) writes that such items are allowed to be moved either if one needs the space (letzorech mekomo) or for personal need (letzorech gufo). He allowed the use of electric blankets on Shabbos (OC 3:50) and wrote (OC 5:21:3) that an appliance is only muktze machmas chisaron kis (concern for monetary loss, a more stringent category) if one is reluctant to use it out of fear that it will get ruined.
Accordingly, regular lights would be allowed to be moved letzorech gufo umekomo, for its permitted functions or if its place is needed. According to R’ Moshe (OC 5:23) this would include brightening or darkening a room (See Tiltulei Shabbos, Teshuvos 11).
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 1:14:1) also wrote that there should be no reason why one shouldn’t be able to move an electric lamp on Shabbos.
Nonetheless, some poskim write that one mustn’t move electric lamps on Shabbos. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 3:43) writes that while one can’t move lights on Shabbos, one may do so on Yom Tov, providing it is switched on.
The Piskei Teshuvos (279:1) argues that the reason lamps are muktze, is because the actual flame is muktze machmas gufo, inherently muktze. Even the poskim that forbid moving lamps on Shabbos will only forbid moving incandescent lamps. All poskim would agree that lamps without a filament, such as LED and fluorescent lamps do not fall under this category, and may be moved on Shabbos.
In conclusion, as there is a machlokes concerning moving incandescent lamps on Shabbos, one should only move them if absolutely necessary. One may move LED and fluorescent lamps around as one needs them.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Children and Fast Days

Question: When should we start training our children to fast?
Answer: The Gemara (Yoma 82a) writes that we start training children to fast for ‘hours’ before they are bar mitzva or bas mitzva. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 616:2) writes that when a child reaches the age of nine, we begin to educate them about fasting by feeding them a little later than usual on Yom Kippur. When they reach 11, there is a rabbinic obligation to fast the whole day. The Rema, however, disagrees, writing that there is no such obligation.
Nonetheless, the Bach (OC 616:6) demonstrates from the Gemara that children who study all day are considered to be weak and therefore have the status of a choleh who doesn’t fast. This justifies the practice of children not fasting before they are bar mitzva or bas mitzva (See Kaf Hachaim OC 616:16). Likewise, the Mishna Berura (616:9) writes that children nowadays should not fast before they are bar mitzva or bas mitzva as they are assumed to be weak. Only if one can ascertain that the child is fit to fast, may they do so.
The Mateh Ephraim (Elef Hamagen 616:5) criticizes those who don’t feed their younger children as usual on Yom Kippur night.
While many children observe the three fasts before their bar mitzva and bas mitzva, R’ Shlomo Zalman (Halichos Shlomo, Yom Kippur 6:n67) maintained that this custom is erroneous and has no source.
The Mishna Berura (550:5) writes that there is no obligation for children to fast for a few hours on the other fasts, either, though they shouldn’t eat too much.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 39:31) writes that a choleh or child who eats on Yom Kippur does not make kiddush before eating. Nor is there a requirement for lechem mishne. Quoting R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, he writes that they should, however, wash their hands until the wrist before eating bread.
In conclusion, 11 year old girls and 12 year old boys should ideally eat breakfast a little later on Yom Kippur. There is no obligation to train children to fast at all before their bar mitzva or bas mitzva for tisha b’av or the other minor fasts.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Eating Before Shofar

Question: Our shul makes a kiddush before tekias shofar. Isn’t it best to wait to eat until after hearing the shofar?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 652:2) writes that one mustn’t eat a meal before shaking the lulav on sukkos as we are worried that they may forget to perform the mitzva (See Sukka 38a). The Magen Avraham (OC 692:7) and Mishna Berura (652:7) write that in case of great need, one may eat a small amount of food beforehand. This includes fruit and a small piece of cake, etc. (See Shulchan Aruch OC 232:3).
Thus, R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 4:147) writes that one shouldn’t eat before hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashana unless one is sick.
Others, such as the Mateh Ephraim (588:2) allow one to eat (something small) if they wouldn’t be able to concentrate properly without eating. Similarly, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 585:26; 588:11) writes that as the Gemara only mentioned this halacha with regards to lulav and not shofar, one who is hungry and feels that he won’t be able to daven as well without eating may be lenient and eat (See Shulchan Aruch OC 89:4).
Nonetheless, many poskim justify the practice of everyone eating beforehand. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 6:7:2) writes that according to the Shulchan Aruch (OC 288:1; 597:1) and Magen Avraham (OC 652:4) it is assur to fast until chatzos on Rosh Hashana (See Mishna Berura (597:2). R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim Uzemanim 1:4) writes that because one mustn’t fast, it can be considered a case of ‘great need.’ Nor do we need to be worried that one in shul will forget to listen to the shofar. Additionally, there is a difference between performing the mitzva of lulav which one can be yotzei in a few seconds, and shofar, which carries on until the end of mussaf. Lastly, he argues that there is a mitzva to be happy on Rosh Hashana. This is most difficult if one isn’t allowed to eat until after listening to the shofar. Based on these reasons, he allows one to eat even a few pieces of cake.
R’ Sternbuch concludes, however, that when one is in a shul that doesn’t stop for a kiddush, one mustn’t publicly recite kiddush and eat as there are good reasons to wait.
In conclusion, while it is ideal not to eat before hearing the shofar, it is also problematic to fast until chatzos. Especially if it will help one to daven better, one may eat first.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Pesukim on Invitations

Question: I sometimes receive wedding invitations with pesukim written on them. Can I throw them away or do I need to put them in sheimos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 115b) writes that if one writes berachos unnecessarily it is as if they burnt the Torah, as they will eventually cause them to be discarded and mistreated. Thus, Rambam (Teshuvos Harambam 268) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 283:4) writes that one should not write pesukim on a tallis. The Shach (OC 283:6) explains that when the tallis wears out, it will likely be thrown away, together with the pesukim on it.
Following a machlokes in the Gemara (Gittin 6b), Rambam (Sefer Torah 7:14) and Shulchan Aruch (YD 283:3) disagree on whether one may write 3 or 4 words on a document without it becoming holy. The Tashbetz (2) writes that this doesn’t apply if the words are rearranged or not aligned on one straight line.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 2:135) writes that he didn’t print any pesukim on his own children’s invitations and advises others not to, either. Elsewhere (YD 4:38:4) he writes that while one does avoid the problem if they split the words onto different lines, one should still avoid writing pesukim. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 20:n72) likewise disapproved of printing pesukim on invitations, saying that if it contains a full passuk, it requires geniza (burying).
In conclusion, one printing invitations should ideally avoid printing any pesukim on them. If one received an invitation, one should double wrap it in a plastic bag before disposing of it (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:554).

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Leaving Dinner Early

Question: If I want to leave a chasuna early, what do I do about bentching with a mezuman?
Answer: There are two potential issues with leaving a chasuna early. The first is whether one who is part of a large gathering can bentch without a mezuman of ten.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 193:1) writes that one eating along with nine other men must not leave early and bentch with a smaller mezuman without a minyan. The Mishna Berura (200:5) writes that if one really needs to leave early, it is best if he makes a zimun with two others.
The second issue is whether one can miss the sheva berachos that are recited after bentching.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 2:43:15) writes that while sheva berachos needs to be recited at the meal, that doesn’t mean everyone needs to participate. The Gemara and poskim make no mention of staying as they do for bentching. Thus, one who can’t stay until the end may leave early. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 11:84) agrees, writing that only those who participate in the bentching together with a zimun of ten are obligated to join in with the sheva berachos. It would be wrong, though, to gather a minyan to bench and say the sheva berachos without the chassan and kallah.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:56) writes, however, that everyone who participates in the meal is obligated to participate in the sheva berachos. Thus, one who doesn’t want to stay until the sheva berachos must stipulate before they eat that they don’t want to be included with everyone else and that they want to eat and bentch alone. Accordingly, one would bentch without a mezuman.
R’ Moshe Stern (Be’er Moshe 3:32) argues that the obligation to join in for sheva berachos only applies when the chassan and kalla are bentching, and not earlier. He challenges the basis for making such a stipulation, and suggests that one should rather ensure that he washes after the others, so that he isn’t starting to eat together with everyone else. Even if one does this, one would be allowed to make a mezuman, preferably with a minyan, but otherwise with just two others.
In conclusion, it is ideal if one can bentch with a mezuman of ten. If one knows that they need to leave early in advance, it is best to stipulate in advance that one doesn’t want to participate in the communal meal and wash at a different time. One who didn’t make this stipulation and needed to leave, could make a mezuman, even with two other men if necessary.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Adding Hot water to Cholent

Question: If my cholent dries out on Shabbos, may I add hot water to the pot?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 318:4) writes that one can pour hot water into a hot dish that has already been cooked on Shabbos. Yet, elsewhere, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 253:5) writes that it is forbidden to pour hot water from a kettle into a pot of food. The Beis Yosef (OC 253:15) explains that we are worried that the dish has cooled down and it is now being ‘cooked again’ by the hot water (or vice versa). Thus, providing both pots are hot, it should be permitted to pour from one to the other.
Nonetheless, R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:17:8) writes that there are other reasons why the Shulchan Aruch writes this halacha and one shouldn’t add hot water to the pot regardless as to whether it’s on the stove or not. Thus, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:22) writes that sefardim should ideally not add hot water to hot dishes.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 1:16) writes that one may transfer the contents of one pot to another while they’re both on a blech (See Mishna Berura 318:84). Quoting R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1:n44), he writes that ideally one should pour the water directly from the urn, though if necessary one can use a cup (kli sheni) to pour the water providing the water is still hot (See Minchas Yitzchak 6:20; 10:18; Rivevos Ephraim 1:246).
As one cannot stir the pot while it’s on the flame (maygis), one should pour the water in slowly (See Rambam, Shabbos 9:4) or remove the pot from the flame before adding water.
In conclusion, while many sefardim avoid doing so on Shabbos, ashkenazim may add hot water to a hot cholent pot on Shabbos providing that the food is fully cooked and is on a blech.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Bas Mitzva Celebrations

Question: Should girls celebrate their bas mitzva with a seuda?
Answer: The Magen Avraham (OC 225:4) writes that parents are obligated to make a seuda for their son on the day of his bar mitzva just as one does when he marries.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:104) wrote that while one can celebrate one’s bas mitzva at home, it is no different to any other birthday party. He continues that if it were up to him, he would even put a stop to bar mitzva celebrations, especially as they often have little religious content and can cause chillul Shabbos. Elsewhere, (Igros Moshe OC 2:97) he questions why there is a difference at all between celebrating a boy’s bar mitzva and a girl’s bas mitzva.
He later wrote (Igros Moshe OC 4:36) that it is appropriate to make a kiddush in shul to mark this milestone.
R’ Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (Seridei Aish 3:93), however, argues that while people didn’t celebrate bas mitzvas in the olden days, times have changed. Girls attending Beis Yaakov schools is a relatively modern phenomena, one that has greatly benefitted us. Likewise, celebrating one’s bas mitzva can only be seen as a positive ‘innovation’.
Similarly, R' Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:158) writes that parents should make a seuda for their daughters turning bas mitzva, as it is no different to a boy turning bar mitzva.
Similarly, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 6 OC:29; Yechave Daas 2:29) felt very strongly that one should celebrate one’s bas mitzva with a seuda just as one does for a bar mitzva. He quotes various acharonim who write about the importance of making a seuda for a bar mitzva and demonstrates how their reasons apply equally to girls.
He concludes that providing there are divrei Torah and songs of praise, the celebrations are deemed a seudas mitzva.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Preparing Egg and Liver on Shabbos

Question: I’ve always prepared my egg and liver before Shabbos lunch. Is that a problem?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 321:9) writes that the melacha of tochen, grinding, doesn’t apply to food that doesn’t grow from the ground such as meat and eggs. Thus, while one needs to be careful not to chop the onion too fine, one is allowed to cut liver and eggs into very small pieces or mash it with a fork (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 8:23). The Mishna Berura (321:36) writes, however, that one mustn’t use a specialized utensil such as a grater to cut such foods, as it is uvda dechol, weekday activity. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 6:3) writes that one may use an egg slicer even for vegetables, as it is simply a few ’knives’ placed closely together.
As shelling the eggs is considered borer, separating, one must only prepare them right before the meal.
Another potential issue with mixing the ingredients together is losh, kneading. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 8:23) writes that while there are reasons to permit mixing the ingredients together normally, ideally one should do it slightly differently, placing the ingredients in a different order to normal and mixing it in a crisscross rather than circular fashion, etc. (See Mishna Berura 321:68; Baer Moshe 6:44).
In conclusion, while onion and other vegetables can’t be chopped too fine, egg and liver may be chopped and mashed. When mixed with other ingredients, ideally it should be done with slight variations. It should only be prepared right before use.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Shaving before Shacharis

Question: Is it appropriate to shave before shacharis?
Answer: The Mishna (Shabbos 9b) writes that one mustn’t cut one’s hair before davening mincha as we are concerned that they will forget to daven.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 89:7) writes that this prohibition does not extend to before shacharis as it isn’t common for people to have a haircut so early in the morning (See Rambam, Tefilla 6:7).
Nonetheless, the Elya Rabba (89:12) explains that this refers to the time before alos hashachar. All work, including haircuts, is forbidden after that time before one davens. Thus, the Mishna Berura (89:36) writes that one can’t have a haircut after alos hashachar before shacharis. He concedes, however, that it is sufficient to just say the birchos hashachar first for activities that one regularly gets up early to perform.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 2:7) writes that one shouldn’t shave before shacharis as it is no different from taking a haircut (See Ohr Letzion 2:7:9).
However, the Piskei Teshuvos (89:24) writes that people who shave regularly may do so before shacharis as we don’t need to be worried that they will get distracted and miss davening. Similarly, R’ David Yosef (Halacha Berura 89:36) allows it, writing that there’s a difference between having a haircut and shaving, etc. (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:66).
In conclusion, while it is preferable to shave at other times, one who shaves regularly may do so before shacharis. Ideally, one should say birchos hashachar beforehand.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Guests on Shabbos Tisha B’av

Question: Can I invite guests on Shabbos Tisha B’av?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 552:10) writes that if Tisha B’av falls either on Sunday, or on Shabbos and so is observed on Sunday, then one may eat meat and drink wine during seuda shelishis. Even though normally the seuda mafsekes, the meal before the fast is eaten in a state of mourning, one isn’t allowed to mourn on Shabbos.
The Magen Avraham (OC 552:14) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 552:12) write that while it is prohibited to limit oneself from eating properly because of Tisha B’av, one must eat this meal in a solemn mood and mustn’t invite guests.
The Mishna Berura (552:23) writes, however, that if one usually spends seuda shelishis in company of friends then not doing so because of Tisha B’av is a public demonstration of mourning which is prohibited on Shabbos. Likewise, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:112:1) writes that one may sing zemiros during seuda shelishis even if one doesn’t regularly sing.
In conclusion, one may invite guests throughout Shabbos Tisha B’av, though one shouldn’t do so for seuda shelishis unless they normally do so.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Gardening During the Nine Days

Question: My gardener comes every month to mow the lawn and trim the hedges, etc. Can he come during the nine days?
Answer: The Mishna (Taanis 26b) tells us that when the month of Av enters, we decrease our rejoicing. The Gemara (Yevamos 43a) writes that among other things, one shouldn’t build or plant during these nine days. Tosafos writes that the Gemara Yerushalmi qualifies this prohibition as building or planting for joyous purposes such as building a house for a wedding and planting a royal garden. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:2) only forbids building or planting for joyous purposes. The poskim, however, extend these restrictions to anything done for beauty (See Mishna Berura 551:12). Thus, one should avoid planting new plants and herbs.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:374) writes that one may, however, mow their lawn and maintain their garden during this time. It doesn’t matter whether one has their gardener do it for them or one does it themselves. On Tisha B’av itself, however, one mustn’t do any gardening.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Door Knocker on Shabbos

Question: Can one use a doorknocker on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Beitza 36b) writes that chazal forbade one from dancing and playing with musical instruments on Shabbos as they were worried that they may come to fix a broken instrument (makeh bepatish).
Thus, the Gemara (Eruvin 104a) discusses whether one may make sounds that have no melody such as knocking on a door. Based on this, Rambam (Shabbos 23:4) and the Beis Yosef (OC 338:1) write that one mustn’t use any instrument that makes noise as we are concerned that one will use it to play music. The Mishna Berura (338:1) writes that the same applies to objects that aren’t created for noise. Thus, one should even avoid clapping in the normal way.
The Biur Halacha (338:1) quotes Rambam (Pirush Hamishnayos, Eruvin 104a) who implies that one may use a door knocker on Shabbos. Nonetheless, the Rema (OC 338:1) writes that one must only knock on a door on Shabbos with one’s hand and not with a door knocker.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 28:35) writes that one may use something else, such as a key, to bang on the door, providing that one doesn’t do so in a specific rhythm.
In conclusion, one shouldn’t use a door knocker on Shabbos nor should one knock in a specific rhythm.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Adjusting Fan on Shabbos

Question: Can one adjust a fan on Shabbos to blow in one direction?
Answer: R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:49; 4:91:5) writes that electric appliances such as lamps and fans are muktze as they are considered to be kelim shemelachtam leissur, items that serve a forbidden action on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 308:3) writes that such items are allowed to be moved either if one needs the space (letzorech mekomo) or for personal need (letzorech gufo).
Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:235; 5:250; 6:206) allow one to move a fan on Shabbos so that it blows in the right direction. Similarly, one can adjust its mechanical levers to allow it or prevent it from oscillating.
R’ Moshe warns, however, that one must be careful to ensure that the plug doesn’t get pulled out. Likewise, R’ Yisroel Belsky (quoted in The 39 Melochos, p1235:n165) advises that the speed dial is taped down before Shabbos to prevent people from accidentally adjusting it.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 7:OC 38:3) writes that while there are poskim who take a stringent view on this, one may follow the lenient authorities.
In conclusion, one may adjust a fan on Shabbos providing that one is careful not to adjust the speed, etc.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Disposable Cup for Kiddush

Question: Can one use a disposable cup for Kiddush?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 183:3) writes that one mustn’t use a cracked cup for bentching. The Magen Avraham (OC 183:5) writes that even a broken base disqualifies the cup. The Mishna Berura (183:11) applies this halacha to the cup used for kiddush and havdala, too (See Shulchan Aruch OC 271:10).
There is a machlokes as to how to apply this halacha to disposable cups.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:75; 3:39) writes that one mustn’t use a disposable cup for kiddush as it isn’t respectable. Using a disposable cup would be worse than a real cup with a cracked base. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 10:23) adds that just as one wouldn’t tovel such a cup as it isn’t considered a proper kli, so too it doesn’t qualify as a proper kli for kiddush (See Ohr Letzion 2:47:12).
R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 6:48), however, writes that there is no need for the cup to be particularly respectable. If there is no nicer cup available, one may use a disposable one. Similarly, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 12:23) writes that people often reuse disposable cups, especially those made for hot drinks. Thus, irrespective as to whether one ever reuses them or not, they are considered to be proper cups and may be used for kiddush (See Beer Moshe 5:55; Rivevos Ephraim 1:150:2).
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 47:n51) allows one to use disposable cups that are respectable looking and would not look out of place at a dinner.
In conclusion, one should try to use a proper cup where possible, though when necessary, one can use a disposable cup.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Long Road Ahead

Question: I always say tefillas haderech when I travel abroad. Do I also need to say it when I travel more locally?
Answer: According to the Gemara (Berachos 30a), one says tefillas haderech when travelling a parsa (approximately 2.5 miles) out of the city. As danger is more prevalent on a deserted road, the Tehila Ledovid (110:3) writes that one only says it when travelling on a road that is not within a parsa of any city. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 21:31) suggests that as there is less inherent danger in travelling nowadays, it is best to recite it without the concluding beracha, or to say it in the shemone esrei (in shema koleinu) before travelling. R’ Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg also suggests this if one will find it easier to concentrate when not driving (Tefilla Kehilchasa 27:80).
While, one travelling, from Manchester to London, for example, should recite it, there are different opinions about one travelling on a shorter journey, such as from Manchester to Leeds. Sefardim should not recite it, based on the opinion that it is only recited if the journey takes 72 minutes (the time it takes to walk a Parsa - Halacha Berura 110:16 based on R’ Ovadia Yosef), while ashkenazim should, following R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and others. (See Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha 68:2)
When flying, tefillas haderech should be recited while taxiing on the runway unless the airport is outside the city, in which case it should be said on the way there. Ideally, one should stand while reciting tefillas haderech, and should say it oneself, rather than listening to another and answering amen.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Beracha after Coffee

Question: Should I say borei nefashos after drinking a coffee?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 210:1) writes that one doesn’t say borei nefashos after drinking unless they drink a revi’is in one go (See Mishna Berura 210:1).
The Baer Heitev (204:12) quotes some poskim who hold that one should recite borei nefashos after sipping a hot drink. The Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha (51:5) compares this to drinking alcohol, which according to the Taz (OC 210:1), one would say borei nefashos after drinking just a shot as that is the normal way of drinking it (See Har Tzvi OC 1:159).
Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 202:7) writes that even though this is the normal way of drinking hot drinks, the Shulchan Aruch doesn’t differentiate between hot and cold drinks, etc. Likewise, the Baer Heitev sides with the other poskim who disagree, saying that the minhag is not to say borei nefashos. To avoid the safek, however, he advises one to leave a revi’is in the cup to cool down to drink normally and then say borei nefashos (See Mishna Berura ibid). Similarly, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 8:86) suggests that where possible, one should have a drink of water with one’s hot drink (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:135).
In conclusion, one doesn’t say borei nefashos after a coffee, though one should try to drink it with something else so that one can say the beracha.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Milky Bread

Question: I wanted to bake a milky bread loaf though was told that I couldn’t. Is that true and why?
Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 30a; 36a) writes that chazal instituted that one mustn’t bake a loaf of bread using milky or meaty ingredients as people may not realize and come to eat milky bread in a meaty meal, or vice versa (See Shulchan Aruch YD 97:1).
The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 97:1) writes that this is so serious that if one accidentally baked such bread, one mustn’t eat it at all (See Kaf Hachaim YD 97:11; Yabia Omer YD 1:5).
The Gemara writes that one may bake milky or meaty bread, however, providing that they bake it kaein tura, like the eye of an ox. According to Rashi (Pesachim 36a) this refers to baking a small quantity while Rambam (Maachalos Asuros 9:22) understands it to mean baking the bread in a different shape to regular bread.
The Shulchan Aruch (ibid) writes that if either of these conditions were met, one could bake such bread. Thus, in Yerushalayim, all milky borekas are made in a triangular shape. While the Shulchan Aruch limits this small amount to the amount that one eats in one meal, the Rema says it equals the amount of bread that one will eat in one day.
In conclusion, you may bake milky bread providing that you either bake a small quantity, or shape it differently to usual.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Cleaning Shoes on Shabbos

Question: I walked through some muddy grass on Shabbos. Can I wipe the mud off my shoes before going back inside?
Answer: There are a few potential issues with scraping off mud from one’s shoes on Shabbos:
The Gemara (Shabbos 124b) relates that Rava’s shoes got muddy one Shabbos and he used a piece of earthenware to clean them off. The Gemara (ibid 141a) discusses whether one may use the back of a knife, and whether this applies equally to old and new shoes. The Gemara discusses whether one may scrape one’s shoes on the ground or wall as doing so may be fixing a small crack, an issue of boneh, building. According to the Mishna Berura (302:28) this wouldn’t normally be so problematic, especially when rubbing them against a wall (See Shevet Halevi 5:37).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 302:7) writes that one mustn’t remove mud that has properly dried up as scraping the shoe would cause the soil to crumble which would be considered tochen, grinding.
A third concern that the poskim discuss is memachek, smoothing the shoe. Thus, the Mishna Berura (302:26) allows one to scrape the mud off using a blunt mud bar, though not with the back of a knife (See Kaf Hachaim OC 302:47; 59). Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 302:17) writes that one may use something blunt to remove any mud.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 15:39) writes that this issur applies equally to non-leather shoes.
R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:24:5), however, writes that as leather is processed differently nowadays, there is no issue of memachek.
In conclusion, one may scrape the mud off one’s shoes with something, providing that it isn’t too sharp.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Havdala on Sunday for Children

Question: It is too late for my daughter to hear havdala on motzaei Shabbos. Should she say it on Sunday?
Answer: Parents have a mitzva derabanan of chinuch, to train their children to observe mitzvos. Thus, the Mishna Berura (343:3) writes that when a child is old enough to appreciate what is permitted and forbidden on Shabbos, they should listen to kiddush and havdala.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 299:6) writes that if one didn’t hear havdala on motzaei Shabbos, then one can do so until Tuesday. One saying havdala late should omit the berachos on ner and besamim.
While the Tur (OC 299) writes that one should recite havdala before eating anything (See Rema OC 299:6), the Mishna Berura (269:1) writes that we shouldn’t keep children waiting until after Kiddush to eat. Likewise, they may eat even before hearing havdala.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Chinuch Habanim Lemitzvos 24) writes that when Shabbos ends too late for children to stay up to hear havdala, they should recite it on Sunday morning, without the berachos on ner and besamim.
While some schools encourage their students to say the full havdala complete with the berachos on ner and besamim, this is an incorrect practice as havdala is never performed that way when performed late.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Flowers in Shul

Question: Why are some shuls decorated with flowers on Shavuos, and some shuls not?
Answer: The Rema (OC 494:3) writes that many have the minhag to place herbs in shuls and their homes over Shavuos to commemorate the giving of the Torah. The Mishna Berura (494:10) explains that there was grass or herbs on Har Sinai (See Kaf Hachaim OC 494:53).
The Magen Avraham (OC 494:5) extends this minhag to trees, writing that as we are judged on Shavuos over the fruit, the trees should remind us to pray for a good produce (See Shulchan Aruch Harav 494:15). R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:33) quotes midrashim to explain why people place flowers.
The poskim (Chayei Adam 131:13, Mishna Berura 494:10; Igros Moshe YD 4:11:5) quote the Vilna Gaon who decried the practice of placing trees in shuls as it has become the practice of idolaters. Thus, some shuls don’t place any plants in their shuls (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 494:6).
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:33) explains however, why this isn’t a concern and writes that this is an important minhag.  Additionally, it seems that while the Vilna Gaon disapproved of laying out trees, there would be no issue with herbs and plants (See Kaf Hachaim OC 494:56).

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Beracha on Seeing the Queen

Question: Does one say the special beracha on seeing the Queen?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 9b; 19b; 58a) writes that if one has the opportunity to see a king, one must make an effort to do so (See Shulchan Aruch OC 224:9). Upon seeing him, one says ברוך ... שנתן מכבודו לבשר ודם, Blessed are You… Who has given from His own glory to people. The Mishna Berura (224:13) writes that one should even interrupt learning Torah to see the king if they are accompanied by a royal procession.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 1:35) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:139) write that this applies equally to a Queen.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:28; Yabia Omer 8:22:25) quotes various poskim who say that one only says the beracha if the head of state has the power to execute or pardon (from the death penalty). If they don’t, then one recites the beracha without saying Hashem’s name. Additionally, the monarch needs to be wearing royal clothes. Thus, he relates that when President Nixon came to Eretz Yisrael, they recited the beracha without Hashem’s name as the President was wearing normal clothes (See Be’er Moshe 2:9; Minchas Elazar 5:7:3; Piskei Teshuvos 224:6).
R’ Shmuel Wosner (ibid) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (ibid), however, write that the honour shown counts more than the power they may have. Thus, one wouldn’t say the beracha upon seeing the US President as they are voted in and out of office every few years. The Queen of England, however, receives much more honour as a monarch, and is responsible for signing every law. R’ Sternbuch relates that R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld once had a private audience with the King of Jordan and he recited the beracha. Thus, one says the beracha even when the monarch isn’t accompanied by such an entourage.
In conclusion, the minhag in the UK has always been to recite the beracha complete with Hashem’s name upon seeing the Queen.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Davening in the Ezras Nashim

Question: I came late to shul during the week and went to the ezras nashim to daven as no ladies come then. Was I included in the minyan?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 55:13) writes that the 10 men who make up the minyan need to all be present in the same room as the chazzan. The Mishna Berura (55:48) writes that it doesn’t matter if they can’t all see each other providing that they are in the same room. While the Shulchan Aruch (OC 55:14) writes that one who is outside a shul can join in through an open window, the Mishna Berura (55:52) writes that they shouldn’t make up a minyan of people who are in two separate rooms divided by an open window, even if they can see each other (See Shaarei Teshuva; Shaar Hatziyun 55:53).
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 55:20) writes that as the ezras nashim is separated by a proper mechitza, any men davening there can not join in as they are considered to be in a separate room, regardless as to whether they can see each other or not (See Kaf Hachaim OC 55:76).
Thus, R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:20:1) writes that while men learning there may respond amen, etc. as ladies would, they cannot be considered part of the minyan while there (See Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 5:n18).

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Silent Chazzan

Question: I was the chazzan for shacharis at a different shul to which I usually attend, and the Rabbi told me that I shouldn’t have ended the beracha go’al yisrael before amida quietly. Why is this?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 4b; 9b; 42a) writes that one should ensure to make no interruption between the berachos after shema and the amida, especially during shacharis (Rashi Berachos 4b). One who is particular to do so will be protected that day from harm (See Shulchan Aruch OC 66:8; 111:1; 236:2).
While the Shulchan Aruch (OC 66:7; 111:1) writes that one shouldn’t answer amen to go’al yisrael as it is a hefsek, unnecessary interruption, the Rema doesn’t consider it to be a hefsek and writes that one should answer amen to the chazzan’s beracha. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 66:14) writes that the minhag is to follow the Shulchan Aruch and avoid saying amen.
In order to avoid this questionable safek, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 66:15) and Mishnah Berura (66:35) write that one should aim to finish the beracha of go’al yisrael together with the chazzan, thereby exempting oneself from responding at all.
While R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:71; 6:42:1) explains the rationale behind the common practice for many chazzanim to end this beracha quietly, most poskim decry it.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 7:17) notes that throughout the discussion among the poskim as to whether to say amen, they didn’t propose saying it quietly.
R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:105) writes that if the chazzan doesn’t end this beracha loudly, he is preventing those at other points in davening from saying amen. He demonstrates that this follows Rambam, too (Tefilla 9:1).
R’ Yosef Eliyahu Henkin often spoke out against this practice. Thus, in his Ezras Torah calendar, it is written that according to R’ Henkin, ‘a chazzan who says the ending of go’al yisrael in an inaudible voice, is violating the Talmud’s ruling. Therefore it is a mitzvah to correct this matter, and to insist that the chazzan begin yotzer ohr and conclude go’al yisrael in an audible voice.’

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Traveling Before Shabbos

Question: We were invited to friends out of town for Shabbos, though our hosts told us that we weren’t allowed to travel on Friday afternoon. Is that right?
Answer: Rambam (Shabbos 30:11) writes that one mustn’t travel more than 3 parsa (approximately 7.5 miles) on Friday as their hosts (or own family) may not have had enough time to prepare for them. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 249:1) writes that if one is expected and no further preparations are needed, however, then they may travel further.
The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 249:3) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 2 OC 14:6) write that this limit applies to one walking. One travelling by other means has as long as it takes to walk this distance, or 3 hours and 36 minutes (See Shulchan Aruch OC 459:2).
The Mishna Berura (249:3) writes that while many aren’t as concerned about this halacha nowadays, we need to ensure not to arrive too close to Shabbos. Likewise, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 42:24) writes that as travelling late in the afternoon may lead to chilul Shabbos, one should plan to arrive in good time before Shabbos and prepare for any eventuality.

In conclusion, one should avoid travelling on erev Shabbos unless is one is sure that they will arrive in good time before Shabbos.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Leshem Yichud

Question: I see that many people say leshem yichud before counting the omer yet we didn’t do so in yeshiva. Should I begin saying it?
Answer: Many have a minhag to say the kabbalistic prayer, leshem yichud, before performing certain mitzvos, expressing one’s intentions to fulfil the mitzva to serve Hashem properly in order to properly focus and prepare themselves in advance. Thus, the Chida (Moreh Baetzba 1) and Yesod Veshoresh Ha’avoda (9:8) stress the importance of this mitzva, and write that one must channel their thoughts and emotions to prepare themselves for this mitzva by saying leshem yichud (See Minhag Yisrael Torah  8:1).
Nonetheless, this practice, while printed in most siddurim, is a most controversial one. R’ Yechezkel Landau (Noda Biyehuda YD 93) wrote very strongly against saying leshem yichud, trying to get it removed from the siddur.
This debate aside, other poskim point to particular textual issues within the leshem yichud preceding the sefira.
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 miderabanan (See Mishna Berura 489:14). Thus, R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L’yaakov OC 489) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:247) challenge how we can say, ‘כמו שכתוב בתורה, as it is written in the Torah.’ Doing so is tantamount to bal tosif, adding onto the Torah’s mitzvos. They propose amending the text slightly.
Nonetheless, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Sefiras Haomer 11:2) defends saying this text, writing that this isn’t a problem of bal tosif as we are obligated to count miderabanan.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 489:10) writes that while many have challenged saying these Kabbalistic prayers, it has become common practice to say them.
In conclusion, there are strongly held minhagim on each side with reasons both to say it and omit it.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Of Monkeys and Elephants

Question: I invited a friend to come with us to the zoo, though he said that he doesn’t go to zoos. Why is this? Isn’t there a beracha to say upon seeing certain animals?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 149a) writes that one mustn’t stare at a human or animal statue. Thus, R’ Moshe Greenwald (Arugas Habosem OC 39) writes that one shouldn’t look at animals either. Accordingly, one shouldn’t go to zoos at all.
Most poskim however disagree. The Shach (YD 142:33) allows one to look at such statues providing that they weren’t created for idolatry (See Magen Avraham OC 307:23).
R’ Menachem Mendel Schneerson (Shaarei Halacha Uminhag YD:82) writes that many of the earlier poskim stressed that as we are highly affected by what we see, one should avoid gazing at pictures of non-kosher animals. As young children are particularly impressionable, one should place inspirational pictures near them. One should try to replace teddy bears and pictures of non-kosher animals in children’s books with kosher ones. This doesn’t apply to pictures of animals in Tanach stories, nor does this preclude going to the zoo.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 4:OC:20; Yechave Daas 3:66) writes that even according to the stricter opinions, there is no issue in looking at live animals. It is in fact, a way of coming to appreciate Hashem’s world (See Rambam, Yesodei Hatorah 2:2).
The Gemara (Berachos 58b) writes that upon seeing an elephant or monkey one says a beracha,ברוך.. משנה (את) הבריות,  Blessed are You.. Who differentiates the creatures (See Shulchan Aruch OC 225:8).
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 3:225:21) understands that the Gemara specifically mentioned elephants and monkeys, to the exclusion of all other animals. According to R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 23:35), however, the Gemara simply picked elephants and monkeys as examples of exotic animals. One going into a zoo should say the beracha upon seeing the first such animal.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Shabbos Clothes on Chol Hamoed

Question: Does one need to wear Shabbos clothes on chol hamoed?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 529:1) writes that one should wear nicer clothes on Yom Tov than one does even on Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (529:12) explains that this is because of the special mitzva to be happy on yom tov (See Rambam, Yom Tov 6:17).
There is also a mitzva to treat yom tov with both oneg (joy) and kavod (honour), though there is a machlokes among the poskim as to whether one needs to treat chol hamoed with the same oneg and kavod.
The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 529:5) writes that these don’t apply on chol hamoed.
The Mishna Berura (530:1) quotes the Magen Avraham (OC 530:1), however, who writes that one needs to treat chol hamoed with kavod and notes that the Maharil would wear his Shabbos clothes on chol hamoed. Thus, the Chayei Adam (106:1) writes that one must wear one’s Shabbos clothes on chol hamoed.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziyun 530:4) notes that while one needs to treat chol hamoed with respect, it isn’t on the same level as yom tov. Thus, while one needs to eat nicer foods and wear nicer clothes than on a regular weekday, one doesn’t need to wear ones finest (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 530:4).
R’ Moshe Stern (Be'er Moshe 7:3:3) writes that even those that have to work on chol hamoed should ensure that they wear nicer clothes than usual where possible.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Eating Matza before Pesach

Question: May one eat matza balls (kneidlach) or crackers before Pesach?
Answer: While the halacha is that one mustn’t eat matza on erev Pesach (Rambam, Chametz Umatza 6:12; Rema OC 471:2), the Mishna Berura (471:12) writes that some have the minhag not to eat matza from Rosh Chodesh Nissan.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:155) notes that some abstain from eating matza for 30 days before Pesach as according to one view in the Gemara (Pesachim 6a) this is when our Pesach preparations begin.
The Baer Heitev (OC 471:5) writes that one may eat crackers providing that there is no possibility that they could be fit for matza. Likewise, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 471:2) writes that one can eat egg matza on erev Pesach before ‘the end of the fourth hour’ (when one has to stop eating chametz). Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein writes that when erev Pesach falls on Shabbos, one can use egg matza for lechem mishna on Friday night and in the morning.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet HaLevi 8:117) writes that this prohibition includes cakes baked from matza meal (See Piskei Teshuvos 471:3). Many sefardim follow R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 6:39) who writes that only matza itself must be avoided.
Once food is boiled, it takes on a different form. Thus, the Mishna Berura (444:8; Shaar Hatziyun 444:1) writes that one may eat matza balls on erev Pesach.