Sunday, 31 December 2017

Light Sensors on Shabbos

Question: Do I need to cross the road on Shabbos to avoid triggering a motion sensor light?
Answer: The Mishna Berura (277:9) writes that one mustn’t open a door near a candle. As the breeze will inevitably fan the flame, this is considered to be pesik reisha denicha lei as one may benefit from this too. The Piskei Teshuvos (277:9) writes that this halacha applies equally to walking past a light that will be triggered by a sensor.
Nonetheless, R’ Chanoch Padwa (Cheshev Haefod 3:83) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 7:1231; 8:532:1) argue that when one isn’t interested in triggering someone else’s light it is considered to be pesik reisha delo nicha lei. Thus, they write that while it is ideal to avoid triggering such lights, one may walk past them if necessary.
R’ Ribiat (The 39 Melochos, p1214) differentiates between a regular residential road and a rural area. Only if the street is lit up enough that one can see where they are going clearly is this extra light considered pesik reisha delo nicha lei. Even then, one should avoid triggering this light if possible. Such a light on a dark street would be akin to walking into a building with a light sensor which would be assur (See Orchos Shabbos 26:28).
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:69), however, disagrees. He quotes the Gemara Yerushalmi (Shabbos 13:6) which writes that one may close one’s house door as normal even though a deer will inevitably be trapped (See Rashba, Shabbos 107a; Magen Avraham OC 316:11). Unlike an automatic door that opens as you walk up to it, when one has no interest in triggering the light sensor, there is no issue with walking normally down the street (See Yechave Daas 5:29). R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, R’ Nissim Karelitz (quoted in Orchos Shabbos 26:31) and R’ Shraga Feivish Schneebalg (Shraga Hameir 8:137) concur.
In conclusion, if one knows that one is going to trigger a light switch by walking past it on Shabbos, one should cross the road to try to avoid it. 

Monday, 25 December 2017

Fridge Light on Shabbos

Question: We rented a cottage for the weekend and forgot to check if the fridge had a light that will switch on when we open the door. Could we have asked our three year old child to open and close the fridge on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 120b) writes that it is assur to do a permitted action which will inevitably cause a melacha to be transgressed. This prohibition is known as pesik reisha. Thus, one mustn’t open a fridge door on Shabbos if by doing so it is inevitable that the light will come on, even though the reason they are opening it is to take food out or replace it.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 9:OC:108:187) writes that as one benefits from the light going on in the fridge (pesik reisha denicha lei), doing so is assur mideoraisa (See Rambam, Shabbos 1:6). One mustn’t therefore ask a child to open the fridge for them.
While one cannot normally ask a non-Jewish person to do a melacha for them, the Magen Avraham (OC 253:41; 277:7; 314:5) writes that the prohibition of pesik reisha doesn’t apply to them. Thus R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:68), R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 10:OC:28) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 31:1) write that one can ask a non-Jewish person to open and close the fridge for them. R’ Moshe adds that one may even ask them to remove the bulb if necessary to allow them to open and close the fridge normally afterwards (See Rema OC 276:2), though R’ Neuwirth writes that it is best to hint rather than ask outright.
If the fridge was open, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer, 10:OC:28) writes that one may close it with a shinui (an unusual manner) as shutting the light off in this situation is only miderabanan (See Shulchan Aruch OC 334:27; Mishna Berura 334:84). As there is no constructive benefit in extinguishing the light, closing the door is considered to be pesik reisha delo nicha lei which is assur miderabanan. Alternately, one can ask a child to close the fridge as pesik reisha isn’t forbidden for them (See Mishna Berura 277:15; Avnei Yashpei 1:63).
The Mishna Berura (316:16) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one can do something when there is a safek, doubt, of there being a pesik reisha. Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 10:15) writes that if one doesn’t know whether the light will be turned on or not, there is a machlokes as to whether one can open the fridge themselves or not. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura writes that we can follow the lenient view.
In conclusion, it is ideal to ask a non-Jewish person to open and close the fridge. As there is a doubt in this scenario as to whether the light would even go off, one can even open the fridge themselves if necessary. One should either ask a child to close it, or close it with a shinui.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Waiting for Spouse to Light Menora

Question: I can’t leave work every night in time to light when it gets dark. Should my wife light for me?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) writes that the time for lighting the menora is when everyone from the market has left. Thus, Rambam (Chanuka 4:5) writes that the latest time to light is half an hour after lighting time.
Nonetheless, the Rema (OC 672:2) follows Tosafos (Shabbos 21b) who writes that as nowadays we light indoors, we have more time. Thus, the Magen Avraham (OC 672:6) and Elya Rabba (672:2) write that providing one’s family members are awake, one can light all night up until dawn (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 672:7). The Mishna Berura (672:11) writes that one should even wake up their family members if necessary so that they can light with a beracha (See Rivevos Ephraim 4:159). However, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:105:7) disagrees, writing that while it is ideal for others to see the lights, one would perform the mitzva regardless of there being any witnesses.
While ashkenazi practice is that every adult lights their own menora, married women typically do not light their own. The Chasam Sofer (Shabbos 21b) explains that this minhag developed because women didn’t light in the olden days when people lit outdoors (See Elya Rabba 671:3). Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (675:9) writes that if they do want to light their own, they can do so with a beracha.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:51) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:170) write that if a married man is going to be home late, he should ideally ask his wife to light on his behalf at tzeis.
Nonetheless, R’ Yaakov Kaminetzsky (Emes L’yaakov OC 672:n586) writes that one’s family need not light at the first possible opportunity, but should rather wait for one’s husband or wife to return from work, as they would be upset if they weren’t included.
In conclusion, if one’s husband is going to be a few hours late, it would be ideal for his wife to light on his behalf. If he isn’t going to be too long, she should ideally wait. Alternately, she may light for herself, and he lights again when he gets home, though he must intend not to fulfil his obligation with her lighting.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Newspapers on Shabbos

Questions: I have always enjoyed relaxing on Friday night with the newspaper, though someone told me that I mustn’t read it on Shabbos. Is that true?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 113b) teaches us that the manner of speech on Shabbos should be different to that of the weekday. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 307:1) writes that one mustn’t discuss future business deals on Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (317:5) writes that this is the reason for wishing others ‘Good Shabbos’ or ‘Shabbat Shalom’ rather than ‘Good morning’, etc.
Elsewhere, 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. The Rashba (Shabbos 149a; Shut Harashba 7:288) understands shtar hedyot as business documents and quotes the Ramban who agrees.
Based on this, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 307:13) writes that one shouldn’t read business related works on Shabbos.
Nonetheless, the Magen Avraham (OC 301:4) writes that if one really enjoys reading something, they may do so on Shabbos. Thus, R’ Yaakov Emden (She’elas Yaavetz 1:162) allows one to read newspapers on Shabbos if they enjoy it, though he cautions against reading relevant business news or adverts. Similarly, the Mishna Berura (307:63; Shaar Hatziyun 307:71) writes that while some permit reading newspapers, others prohibit it because it contains business related information. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 29:46) agrees, though points out that the newspaper content must be appropriate for Shabbos.
In conclusion, one who enjoys reading the newspaper may do so on Shabbos though they must be careful not to read relevant adverts.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Removing Pills from Packaging on Shabbos

Question: I am on a course of antibiotics and forgot to remove the pills before Shabbos. There is writing on the blister pack which will be torn if I pop them out. What can I do?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 340:14) writes that one mustn’t tear in a constructive manner on Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (314:25) writes that while one is usually forbidden miderabanan to tear even in a destructive manner, they may do so if they have specific Shabbos needs, such as for guests.
The prohibition of mocheik, erasing, however, is more severe. While destroying writing is forbidden mideoraisa under the melacha of mocheik (Shulchan Aruch OC 340:3), the Mishna Berura (340:17; 41) writes that one wouldn’t be able to do so even for specific Shabbos needs (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n47).
One should, therefore, ideally remove the pills before Shabbos. If one forgot to do so, they should attempt to cut them out from the back where no writing will be destroyed.
If necessary, however, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:n48) allows one to cut betweeen the letters providing that no letters get torn (See Nishmat Avraham OC 316:B). If one is unable to do so, one should pop them out with a shinui, an unusual manner (Aruch Hashulchan OC 340:23; Mishna Berura 340:17).
Nonetheless, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 33:n29) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Shabbos 328:46) hold that if one is not well, there is more room for leniency and one may pop the pills out even if letters will be torn.
In conclusion, one should try their utmost not to tear any lettering when removing pills.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Next Day Delivery on Shabbos

Question: Am I allowed to order something online to arrive on Shabbos?
Answer: The Mishna (Shabbos 121a) writes that one mustn’t ask a non-Jewish person to extinguish a fire on Shabbos. Rambam (Shabbos 6:1) writes that this prohibition (amira leakum) is miderabanan (See Shaar Hatziyun 243:7).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 244:1) writes that one may pay a non-Jewish person to do a melacha for them if they don’t specify that it needs doing on Shabbos. Thus, one may give one’s car in to a garage on Friday and pick it up after Shabbos providing they have enough time to do it before or after Shabbos if they want. The Mishna Berura (244:24) notes that this must include daytime hours when it normal for one to work.
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 247:1) allows one to pay a delivery man to deliver a parcel without worrying when they’ll deliver it, providing that they weren’t specifically instructed to deliver it on Shabbos. Likewise, the Mishna Berura (247:4) writes that if they have been instructed to deliver the parcel on a particular weekday, they must have enough time to travel there without travelling on Shabbos.
Nonetheless, the poskim write that there are a few reasons to be lenient to allow sending a parcel that will arrive on Shabbos.
Firstly, R’ Mordechai Yaakov Breish (Chelkas Yaakov 1:65) and others write that as the deliveryman is delivering so many other parcels along with this one, they are not performing melacha especially for the Jew. The Mishna Berura (318:13; Shaar Hatziyun 316:33), however, writes that this may still be problematic mideoraisa.
Additionally, the Chavos Yair (53) writes that while one mustn’t instruct a non-Jewish person to perform melacha on their behalf, one may ask them to instruct a second person to do so (amira leamira). According to the Chasam Sofer (OC 60) this is especially true when the instructions were given before Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (307:24; Biur Halacha 307:2) writes that one can only do so to avoid a major financial loss.
Based on this (and other reasons), R’ Pesach Eliyahu Falk (Machazeh Eliyahu 37) says that there is no issue in sending a package to arrive on Shabbos.
The consensus of poskim (Minchas Yitzchak 6:18; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:278:2; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 31:20), however, is not to do unless there is an urgent necessity. 
In conclusion, one should avoid ordering something to specifically arrive on Shabbos unless one really needs it then.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Beracha on Tasting Food

Question: I regularly taste food while cooking. Should I say a beracha?
Answer: Rambam (Berachos 1:2) writes that one does not need to recite a beracha before tasting food, though Rabbeinu Chananel (quoted by Tosefos, Berachos 14a) writes that one does need to unless one spits the food out (See Tur OC 210:2).
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 210:2) writes that one who tastes less than a revi’is of food doesn’t need to say a beracha if they spit it out, though there are opposing views as to whether one does say a beracha if they swallow the food or not. The Mishna Berura (210:19) writes that the Shulchan Aruch sides with Rambam, meaning that one wouldn’t say a beracha regardless if they swallowed some food or not. The Rema adds that safek berachos lekula, when there is a doubt as to whether one needs to say a beracha, we follow the lenient view as (most) berachos are derabanan.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (ibid., Shaar Hatziyun 210:30) notes that the Magen Avraham disagrees with the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema, writing that one should say a beracha if they are going to swallow any food. Thus, he writes that one should avoid any such doubt by intending on properly eating and benefiting from some of the food so that they need to say a beracha. Regardless, the Mishna Berura (210:13) concedes that if one isn’t intending on eating the food, but is just tasting it before it’s cooked to see if it needs further spicing, etc. or to see if it tastes good once cooked, one doesn’t need to recite a beracha.
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 210:29) disapproves of spitting out food. One would only say a beracha if they tasted fully cooked food, in which case they should take a proper bite, but not if they tasted food that was still cooking.
In conclusion, it is ideal to avoid the question by saying a beracha on other food first. Otherwise, if one thinks they will enjoy tasting the food, they should have a proper bite and say the beracha. If tasting to see if the food is ready, etc. then they don’t need to recite a beracha.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Beracha on Smelling Coffee

Question: I particularly enjoy the smell of coffee beans. Should I say a beracha when I smell them?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 43b) writes that one who smells an esrog or quince should recite the beracha, ‘..hanosen reiach tov bapeiros’ (He who places a nice aroma in the fruit). According to the Shulchan Aruch (OC 216:2), one says this beracha upon smelling an edible fruit, providing when they picked it up, they intended to smell it, regardless of whether they are eating it or not.
The Mishna Berura (216:9 quoting the Elya Rabba 216:5) writes that the correct wording is ‘..asher nasan reiach tov bapeiros,’ using the past tense rather than the present tense. The Ben Ish Chai (Vaeschanan 1:15) writes that as there is a doubt as to what the correct beracha should be, many avoid saying this beracha (See Kaf Hachaim OC 216:27). Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia, Berachos 216:15) writes that one may say it.
The Rema (OC 216:14) writes that there are some who say a beracha upon smelling bread straight from the oven, though concludes that one shouldn’t (See Beis Yosef OC 297). Based on this, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 216:86) writes that one wouldn’t recite a beracha upon smelling coffee.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (216:16) writes that one should say a beracha upon smelling fresh coffee beans.
In conclusion, while there are some sefardim that avoid saying this beracha, one who enjoys the smell of coffee beans should say the beracha, ‘..asher nasan reiach tov bapeiros’ before smelling the coffee.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Making up for Missed Davening

Question: I was travelling and due to losing a few hours, didn’t manage to daven shacharis on time. What should I do now?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 89:1) writes that one should daven shacharis within four hours from alos hashachar (dawn). The Rema writes, however, that one may daven shacharis until chatzos (midday) if necessary.
The Gemara (Berachos 26a) writes that one who accidentally missed shacharis, mincha or maariv can make it up by repeating the amida in the following davening. This is known as tashlumin. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 108:7) and Mishna Berura (108:1; 22) stress that one who deliberately missed a tefilla does not have this opportunity.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 108:1) writes that one must ensure to say the regular amida first followed by the tashlumin (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 108:9).
As this tashlumin should be said soon after the regular amida, the Mishna Berura (108:11) writes that one mustn’t interrupt even to learn something, though one doing tashlumin for shacharis should listen to chazaras hashatz and say tachanun and ashrei first (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:170; 3:142; 8:37).
R’ Avraham Yeshaya Pfoifer (Ishei Yisrael 30:n5) writes that as each of these amidos should be the same, one (who davens nusach ashkenaz) says shalom rav instead of sim shalom even when repeating the amida.
While we no longer wear tefillin while davening mincha (See Igros Moshe OC 4:34), R’ Pfoifer (Ishei Yisrael 19:n46) writes that one who hasn’t yet worn them should do so then.
In conclusion, if one didn’t manage to daven shacharis, one should daven mincha as normal, though repeat the amida again. They should listen to chazaras hashatz (if in shul) first, and say both tachanun (when relevant) and ashrei before the tashlumin.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Using Non-Toveled Plates

Question: We were invited to a family member’s house who does not keep kashrus properly but have gone out of their way to buy us kosher food. They have even bought us new plates to eat from, though they haven’t tovelled them. What can we do?
Answer: While there are some rishonim that allow one to use dishes that have not yet been tovelled (See Raavya, Pesachim 464; Hagaos Maimonos, Maacholos Assuros 17:6), the Rema (YD 120:8) and other rishonim (Issur Vehetter 58:85; Rokeach 481) write that one mustn’t use such dishes. Nonetheless, the Yeshuos Yaakov (120:1) and Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 323:7) write that this prohibition is miderabanan.
The Rema (YD 120:16) writes that the lack of tevila does not render the food forbidden to eat. The food should be transferred to another dish before eating, though.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 120:8) writes that if one borrowed a dish that hadn’t been tovelled from another Jewish person, they are obligated to tovel it, unless they bought it for non-food purposes.
Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 3:22) writes that if one is eating in a Jewish owned hotel that hasn’t tovelled its dishes, one can only eat something solid that can be removed off the plate. One would not be able to have soup, though, etc. (See Rivevos Ephraim 5:480:1:12).
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:44), R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 2:66:14) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:44) write, however, that one running a food business is comparable to one who buys a knife for non-food purposes. Thus, they justify the practice of many establishments who don’t tovel their catering dishes. Likewise, one may eat at such places even if one knows that the dishes haven’t been tovelled (See Minchas Asher 3:55:4). This wouldn’t necessarily apply to eating at one’s friend’s house, however.
R’ Zvi Cohen (Tevilas Kelim 3:n19) quotes R’ Yitzchok Isaac Liebes (Beis Avi 116) who addresses a similar scenario. He writes that porcelain and glass dishes only require tevila miderabanan. In fact, according to the Yaavetz (Sheilas Yavetz 1:67) porcelain dishes don’t require tevila at all (See Aruch Hashulchan YD 120:29).
Additionally, guests aren’t in the same category as one who hires or borrows a dish. As the Rema writes that the food itself would not be prohibited even for the host (if it was transferred to a different container), there is no reason to prohibit it for the guest. Thus, he concludes that one may eat on non-tovelled dishes if absolutely necessary.
In conclusion, it would certainly be okay to take a biscuit, etc. from such a plate. Under such circumstances, you could eat normally from these plates, though you shouldn’t rely on this elsewhere if you can easily use disposable dishes, etc.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Looking at the Kohanim During Duchening

Question: I see different people doing different things during duchening. Some cover themselves with a tallis, while others turn round so they aren’t facing the kohanim. What are we supposed to do?
Answer: The Gemara (Sotah 38a) writes that the kohanim must face the community while duchening (blessing them). Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 128:23) writes that while the kohanim are duchening everyone else must be attentive to the beracha. They should face the kohanim rather than turn away from them, though not stare at them. This halacha is so important that R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:20:23) writes that one can even move in the middle of davening the amida so that they and the kohanim are facing each other.
The Gemara (Chagiga 16a) writes that one shouldn’t look at the kohanim while they were duchaning in the Beis Hamikdash. As the shechina rested upon their hands while they were pronouncing the shem hameforash (ineffable name), doing so will cause their eyes to grow dim. The Magen Avraham (OC 128:35) and Mishna Berura (128:89) write that as the kohanim no longer utter the shem hameforash, this reason not to look at the kohanim no longer applies. Rambam (Tefilla and Birchas Kohanim 14:7) and Tosafos (Chagiga 16a) write that there is another reason not to look at the kohanim as doing so can be distracting. Accordingly, the Magen Avraham and Mishna Berura write that nowadays one would be able to glance, though not stare at the kohanim. Nonetheless, the minhag is to avoid looking as a zecher (remembrance) of the duchaning in the Beis Hamikdash.
The Rema (OC 128:23) records the minhag of kohanim covering their hands with their tallis so that no one looks at them. The Mishna Berura (128:91) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 128:36) write that this is the ideal practice. Yet, the Mishna Berura (128:92) writes that in places where kohanim would not cover their hands with their talleisim, the minhag was for the tzibbur to cover their faces instead.
Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:24:4) writes that nowadays when the universal minhag is for kohanim to cover their hands with their talleisim, there is no concern about seeing them. Other than married men who wear talleisim, it is impractical for everyone to cover their faces (See Mishna Berura 128:115). Therefore, it is sufficient for people to just look into their siddurim or look downwards.
In conclusion, there is a minhag not to look at the kohanim's hands during duchening, though one wouldn’t do anything wrong if they did see them. While those who wear a tallis typically cover themselves with it, there is no need for others to cover their eyes, especially as kohanim cover their hands nowadays. To avoid being distracted, it is ideal to follow in one’s siddur or to look downwards, though one must not turn away from the kohanim

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Tying down Sechach

Question: I was invited to a friend’s sukka and I noticed that his sechach was tied down with plastic cable ties. Was his sukka kosher?
Answer: The Gemara (Sukka 21b) discusses whether the materials used to support the sechach (maamid) need to be fit for sechach themselves. There is a machlokes rishonim as to what the halacha is. While the Ramban (Milchemes Hashem, Sukka 10a) and Ran (Sukka 10a) write that one can’t use a maamid that wouldn’t be kosher for sechach, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 630:13) paskens that one may (See Beis Yosef OC 630:26). Thus, the Magen Avraham (OC 629:9) and Mishna Berura (629:22) write that while it isn’t ideal to use a non-kosher maamid, if one did use such material to support their sechach, it would be kosher bedieved.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 629:7) questions whether one may use a wooden ladder as sechach. The Rema writes, therefore, that one shouldn’t even place it on top of their sechach to keep it in place. The Taz (OC 629:10), however, challenges this, as surely the ladder would be rendered insignificant (battul) by the rest of the kosher sechach. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 629:18) writes that the ladder that the Shulchan Aruch was referring to was a particularly large one with slats that were four tefachim wide. There wouldn’t be an issue, however, with using narrower beams made out of metal, etc.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 629:5) writes that one may use unprocessed reeds for sechach. The poskim write that materials used to tie the sechach down are also considered to be maamid (See Mishna Berura 629:24). While one can’t nail sechach down (Magen Avraham OC 627:2; Shaar Hatziyun 633:6), the Mishna Berura (629:26) writes that one may use such string to tie down one’s sechach to wooden supports. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:64) allows one to use cotton thread to tie bamboo mats together, especially as such thread is only possul miderabanan as sechach. Seemingly, the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) would even permit plastic cable ties lechatchila.
R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 5:44) writes that if the sechach would be able to stay on with the ties under regular wind conditions, then the sukka would be kosher regardless of what ties it down. If during storm weather the sechach only stays on due to plastic ties, however, then the sukka would be unfit to use during the storm according to some poskim.
In conclusion, it is preferable to use natural unprocessed twine to tie one’s sechach down with. While some poskim would always allow one to use plastic cable ties, there are others that write that one should only do so if the sechach would otherwise stay on under normal wind conditions and it wouldn’t be fit to use under heavy winds. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Wearing a Kittel on Yom Kippur

Question: I recently got married and don’t have a specific minhag about wearing a kittel. Should I wear one on Yom Kippur?
Answer: The Gemara Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashana 1:3) records the minhag for people to wear white clothes on Yom Kippur. The Rema (OC 610:4) writes that there is a minhag to wear a kittel. He explains that on Yom Kippur we are comparable to malachim (angels). Secondly, the clean white represents the innocent state we are aiming for. Lastly, as it is worn with shrouds, it urges people to do teshuva.
There are different minhagim as to whether a man should wear a kittel in his first year of marriage.
The Maharam Shik (OC 28) writes that in some communities, the custom is for men not to wear one until after their first year of marriage. He notes, though, that this primarily applies to chassanim who get married before they are twenty. He writes, though, that there is no mekor for this custom and that one shouldn’t prevent newlywed men from wearing one (See Mateh Ephraim, Elef Hamagen 619:11).
The Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha (131:22) and Piskei Teshuvos (610:3) however, quote a few poskim who write that men should wear a kittel even within their first year of marriage (See Yad Yitzchak 3:202:4).
The Taamei Haminhagim (Kuntres Acharon 503) writes that because of the sombre symbolism of the kittel, men who have recently gotten married shouldn’t wear one, though avelim, (mourners) should (See Taz OC 472:3). Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 610:2) and R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 4:61:7) note that nowadays, people choose to concentrate more on the more positive aspects and treat the kittel as an garment of honour. Thus, an avel should not wear a kittel. Presumably, they would allow newlywed men to wear one.
In conclusion, unless one has a specific minhag not to wear a kittel during their first year, it seems that married men should all wear a kittel when davening on Yom Kippur.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Shehecheyanu and Yom Tov Candles

Question: I have always said shehecheyanu when lighting my Yom Tov candles. What should I do when my husband says shehecheyanu when reciting kiddush?
Answer: Rambam (Shabbos 29:23) paskens that one should say shehecheyanu every night of Yom Tov except for the seventh (and eighth) night of Pesach.
R’ Yaakov Emden (She’elas Yaavetz 107) writes that while many ladies are accustomed to saying shehecheyanu when lighting, the Gemara (Sukka 47b) writes that this beracha should ideally be said when reciting kiddush. He notes that his own wife said the beracha then and as it can be said at any time over Yom Tov there is no need to prevent women from doing so. Nonetheless, it isn’t the ideal time, and it is best to wait for kiddush to say / hear it.
Thus, while the Mateh Ephraim (581:54, 599:9, 619:4) writes that women should say shehecheyanu when lighting candles, the Mishna Berura (263:23), Aruch Hashulchan (OC 263:12) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 44:4) write that it isn’t the ideal time to, though one shouldn’t prevent women from doing so.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:101:1) likewise points out that while this practice may have no basis, women have been saying shehecheyanu when lighting for hundreds of years and so should continue doing so if it their practice. On the other hand, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:34) writes that we should discourage women from saying shehecheyanu then, instead waiting for kiddush.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 14:53), however, writes that all women should be encouraged to say shehecheyanu when lighting. He writes that this is true of sefardim, too, noting that the Ben Ish Chai recorded that this was the practice in Baghdad.
A woman who said shehecheyanu when lighting who later said kiddush must ensure not to repeat shehecheyanu.
There is a machlokes, however, as to whether she should say amen to another saying shehecheyanu during kiddush.
R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC 1:154) writes that as she has already said shehecheyanu, answering amen now would constitute a hefsek, interruption.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 3:69) writes that answering amen would not be a hefsek on Pesach and Sukkos as while she will have said shehecheyanu upon lighting the candles, the shehecheyanu in kiddush applies to other mitzvos including matza and sukka. Thus, one should say amen only on Pesach and Sukkos.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe ibid; OC 4:21:9) and R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L’yaakov OC 263) however, explain why answering amen would not be a hefsek at all, irrespective of what yom tov it was (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:182; 8:182:1).
In conclusion, women should say shehecheyanu when lighting Yom Tov candles, though men who light should only say shehecheyanu when saying kiddush. Women who recite kiddush should not repeat shehecheyanu, though there are different opinions as to whether they should answer amen upon hearing shehecheyanu again. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Checking Mezuzos and Tefillin in Elul

Question: I got a leaflet in my door advertising tefillin and mezuza checks, saying that one must check them during Elul. Do I need to check them every year?
Answer: Rambam (Tefillin 2:11) writes that providing one’s tefillin come from a reputable sofer one can safely assume that they are kosher and they do not need to be checked even many years later. Similarly, the Tur (OC 39) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 39:10) write that a good pair of tefillin doesn’t need checking providing that they are worn regularly. Otherwise, they should be checked twice in seven years as we are concerned that they may have gotten mouldy (Magen Avraham OC 39:15; Aruch Hashulchan OC 39:6).
The Magen Avraham (OC 39:14) and Mishna Berura (39:26) write that as sweat can permeate the tefillin and ruin them, they should be checked periodically. Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) writes that they should be checked regularly as the ink in his day would crack easily (See Chayei Adam 14:20; Mor Uketzia 39).
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 4:36), however, writes that as nowadays tefillin are manufactured from thicker hides and better quality ink and parchment than ever, one should not have them checked unless one has a specific reason to.
The Gemara (Yoma 11a) writes that while public mezuzos only need to be checked once every fifty years, mezuzos on private dwellings should be checked twice every seven years. Rashi explains that we need to check to ensure that the mezuzos haven’t been spoiled or stolen. Thus, Rambam (Sefer Torah Umezuza 5:9) and Shulchan Aruch (YD 291:1) write that mezuzos should be checked twice every seven years. However, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, ibid.) writes that mezuzos wrapped in proper cases would not need checking this often. Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 291:1) writes that when the mezuza is prone to dampness, it should be checked annually.
The Mateh Ephraim (581:10) and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (128:3) write that it is commendable to check one’s tefillin and mezuza every year during Elul. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Da’as 1:49) adds that this is particularly important as there are many inept sofrim who make mistakes.
In conclusion, it is most important that one buys good quality tefillin and mezuzos from reputable sofrim which don’t require frequent checking. Good tefillin that are worn regularly don’t need to be opened and checked unless one suspects that there may be an issue. Mezuzos on internal doors should not need regular checking if they are in good cases and are untouched, though it is advisable to check those on external doors that are exposed to the wind and rain every Elul.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Beracha on Cholent

Question: What beracha does one make before and after eating a regular cholent made of potatoes, meat, beans and barley?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 208:2) writes that when a cooked dish contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye) the correct beracha is mezonos even if the grain is not the main ingredient providing that it wasn’t added to bind the ingredients together. Thus, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 208:18) writes that one should recite mezonos on dishes such as noodles mixed with potatoes even if there are more potatoes than noodles in the mix.
However, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 212:2) writes that it depends how big the pieces in the mixture are. Thus, if the meat and potatoes are cut into small pieces in a manner that a typical spoonful may contain pieces of each, one would just recite mezonos.
If the potato and meat pieces are bigger, though, such that the pieces would typically be removed and eaten alone, then it is no longer considered to be a mixture and one should make separate berachos.
If one isn’t sure which category their cholent falls into, one can’t just say all the berachos as saying mezonos might render the other berachos unnecessary (Mishna Berura 168:43). Dayan Gavriel Krausz (Mekor Haberacha 23:5) advises in this instance that one removes the other ingredients and says ha’adama and shehakol before saying mezonos (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:146).
One would only say al hamichya if one has eaten a kezayis of the barley within 3-4 minutes (kedei achilas peras). Otherwise, one would recite borei nefashos afterwards.
In conclusion, one should say mezonos on cholent providing that the pieces are small. Large pieces of potatoes and meat should be removed first to make separate berachos on. One says borei nefashos after eating cholent unless one ate a kezayis of barley.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Repeat Kiddush at Home

Question: I usually hear kiddush in shul after davening on Shabbos morning. Do I need to repeat kiddush before lunch?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 273:5) writes that while one is only yotzei making kiddush if it is followed by the seuda, it is sufficient just to eat a little bit of bread or drink some wine. The Magen Avraham (OC 273:10) explains that this is at least a kezayis. The Magen Avraham (OC 273:11) and Mishna Berura (273:10) write that a kezayis of cake will suffice and is preferable to drinking wine. Thus, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (77:17) even writes that one making kiddush over cake should use two pieces of cake as lechem mishne, just as one would for any other seuda on Shabbos (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 55:4).
The Vilna Gaon (Maaseh Rav 122) and R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:63), however, hold that as one doesn’t fulfil one’s obligation to have Shabbos lunch without bread, one needs to recite kiddush again before the meal.
Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:264) writes that while he himself recites kiddush again before the meal, the general accepted minhag is to rely on the Magen Avraham.
R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:20:28) and R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 8:31) thus write that if one eats (mezonos) kugel or noodles at a kiddush that is sufficient, too (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 52:16; 54:22).  
In conclusion, providing everybody has heard kiddush, one doesn’t need to recite kiddush again before eating lunch.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Shofar in Elul

Question: I will be away for a couple of days in Elul without a minyan. Do I need to blow the shofar for myself?
Answer: The Tur (OC 581) gives a couple of reasons for the minhag to blow the shofar throughout the month of Elul.  According to the Pirkei Derebbi Eliezer (46), the shofar was blown in the camp when Moshe went up Har Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Elul to get the second set of luchos. Chazal instituted that we blow the shofar in commemoration of this on Rosh Chodesh. The Tur adds that the minhag is to blow throughout Elul to stimulate us to do teshuva (See Rambam, Teshuva 3:4) as well as to confuse Satan.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:394; 8:523:4) quotes R’ Avraham Yitzchak Kook (Mitzvas Ra’ayah 581:1) as giving another reason. Just as the halacha is that one must start learning the halachos of Yom Tov thirty days in advance (Pesachim 6a), so too, we need to begin practise  blowing the shofar thirty days before Rosh Hashana.
Depending on the reason for blowing, R’ Greenblatt writes that there is a debate as to whether one davening alone should make the effort to hear the shofar himself, though he concludes that it is unnecessary.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 12:48) writes similarly that the various pesukim that talk of the shofar being blown refer it to being blown in the camp and in the city. Hence, one davening alone does not need to blow the shofar.
In conclusion, there is no reason to blow the shofar during Elul when not with a minyan.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Silver Atara

Question: I see some people with a silver atara on their tallis. Is it preferable to wear one?
Answer: The Magen Avraham (OC 8:6) quotes the Shela who writes that some have the minhag to affix a piece of silk onto the top side of the tallis to mark it as the top, thereby ensuring that the same two tzitzis will always remain at the front. This is akin to the kerashim in the mishkan which were marked so that they always stayed on the same side. Thus many chassidim are particular to wear a silver atara, especially on Shabbos (See Minchas Yitzchak 8:117; Minhag Yisrael Torah 8:5).
However, the Magen Avraham, Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 8:9) and Mishna Berura (8:9; Baer Heitev 10:12) note that the Arizal was not particular about this. The Ben Ish Chai (Rav Pealim 2:20) explains that there is no inherent difference between the front two and back two tzitzis.
Likewise, the Levush (Levush Hatecheiles OC 10:10) writes that as a headscarf itself would not need tzitzis (Shulchan Aruch OC 10:10), one shouldn’t place a beautiful atara over the head as that would erroneously give people the impression that the top of the tallis is most important.
Similarly, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 8:10) writes that the minhag is to place an extra piece of cloth over the top half to stop the tallis from being ruined. This extra piece is enough to mark the front. He decries the practice of placing a silver atara on one’s tallis, writing that the tallis should only contain wool. Indeed, the minhag Chabad is to have no noticeable atara on the outside of the tallis.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (OC 5:20:3) writes that it is okay to make the atara a little nicer. While he himself wouldn’t wear a silver atara, if one was accustomed to wearing one they wouldn’t need to remove it.
In conclusion, while there is a chassidishe minhag to place a silver atara on one’s tallis, it is preferable for others not to.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Photographing a Sunset

Question: I know that one isn’t supposed to draw the sun or moon. Does that prohibition also extend to taking pictures of a sunset?
Answer: The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 24b) asks how Rabban Gamliel could have had diagrams of the moon in various phases as the halacha is that one mustn’t create pictures of the sun and moon, etc. as they were worshipped by the pagans. The Gemara concludes that he had special dispensation to do so as he needed them to question witnesses who had reported seeing the new moon and for teaching others. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 141:4) writes that one mustn’t draw any such pictures unless they are for educational purposes (See Igros Moshe YD 3:33; Minchas Yitzchak 10:72; Shevet Halevi 7:134:8).
While the Shulchan Aruch writes that one mustn’t even keep such pictures in one’s home, the Chochmas Adam (85:5) and Darkei Teshuva (YD 141:34) write that this only applies to three dimensional images.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 10:72) writes that photographing a sunset is prohibited. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 7:134:6) writes that while one can’t process or keep such a picture, there is no prohibition is taking the picture.
In conclusion, one can take a picture of a sunset and save it to one’s computer, etc. though one should be careful not to print it unless they are going to use it for educational purposes.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Waiting after Tasting

Question: I tasted some chicken to see if it was too hot before feeding it to my baby. Am I now meaty?
Answer: The Tur (YD 89:1) writes that there are two different reasons for why we have to wait between eating a meat meal and a milky one. Rambam (Maachalos Asuros 9:28) writes that we are concerned that there is some pieces of meat left stuck between one’s teeth. After a few hours, such food isn’t considered to be meat. Rashi (Chullin 105a), however, writes that the taste of the meat could linger on for a few hours.
Thus, if one just bit into a piece of meat for a child but didn’t swallow it, then according to Rashi one wouldn’t have to wait, though according to Rambam one would. Likewise, if one found meat stuck between their teeth after six hours, Rambam wouldn’t require you to remove it, though Rashi would. The Tur writes, however, that we need to follow the stringencies of both positions.
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 89:1) writes that one who chewed on a piece of meat must wait six hours even if they didn’t swallow anything. The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 89:4) and R’ Akiva Eiger (YD 89:1) write, however, that in this scenario, one may brush their teeth, rinse their mouth and eat milky foods after just one hour (See Pischei Teshuva YD 89:1).
R’ Feivel Cohen (Badei Hashulchan 89:17) writes, though, that one who swallowed any meaty food must likewise wait six hours regardless of whether they chewed it or not (See Igros Moshe YD 2:26).
Neither reason for waiting applies to one who tastes meat without chewing or swallowing. Thus, the Darkei Teshuva (89:22) and Aruch Hashulchan (YD 89:14) write that one wouldn’t need to wait at all before having milk. The Kaf Hachaim (YD 89:4) adds that one must wash their mouth properly, though.
In conclusion, one who tasted some meat does not become meaty providing that they didn’t chew or swallow any of it. They should still rinse their mouth.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Shabbos Clothes on Shabbos Chazon

Question: I’ve heard conflicting things about whether we should wear Shabbos clothes on Shabbos Chazon. What should we do?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:1) writes that we should limit our rejoicing from Rosh Chodesh Av. Thus, the Rema writes that one shouldn’t wear Shabbos clothes on Shabbos Chazon (Shabbos before Tisha B’Av).
The Mishna Berura (551:6) writes, however, that the Vilna Gaon and Yaavetz both held that one should wear their Shabbos clothes as normal (See Chayei Adam 333:1; Kaf Hachaim OC 551:13).
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 551:11) explains that people wear Shabbos clothes as one isn’t allowed to publicly display acts of mourning on Shabbos (See Shulchan Aruch YD 400:1). He explains that the Rema was writing about a time and place (Cracow, 16th Century) when one’s Shabbos clothes typically looked no different to one’s weekday clothes even if they were of better quality. In 19th Century Europe, however, where people dressed differently on Shabbos than they did during the week, one who didn’t wear their Shabbos clothes would be publicly displaying mourning.
He writes, however, that where one’s Shabbos and weekday clothes are similar, one should wear one’s weekday clothes.
Especially as people are generally more fashion conscious today, one who wore their weekday clothing on Shabbos Chazon would probably be noticed. It is possible, therefore, that even the Rema would agree that nowadays one should wear their Shabbos clothes.
In conclusion, one should wear one’s regular Shabbos clothes on Shabbos as doing otherwise would be showing a public sign of mourning on Shabbos.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Load Dishwasher on Shabbos

Question: Can I clear off the dirty dishes from my table and load them into the dishwasher on Shabbos?
Answer: Chazal (Shabbos 114b; 118a) decreed that one mustn’t prepare on Shabbos or Yom Tov for the following day (See Shulchan Aruch OC 302:3; 503:1). Different reasons are offered for this prohibition. According to Rashi (Shabbos 114b) the extra tircha, effort, that one has to expend is inappropriate on Shabbos (See Mishna Berura 323:28). Rambam (Shabbos 23:7), however, writes that hachana, preparation, is akin to mesaken¸ fixing something.
The Mishna Berura (503:1) explains that this applies even to an action that isn’t a forbidden melacha, such as washing dishes. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 323:6) writes that it is forbidden to wash dishes on Shabbos for use after Shabbos.
The Mishna Berura (302:19) writes, however, that while one can’t make one’s bed on Shabbos for the following day, if one is bothered by it being unmade, then one can make it on Shabbos as that is considered to be a Shabbos necessity. Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 12:35) writes that if one typically clears the table during the week and places the dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher, they may do so on Shabbos, too.
Likewise, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:74, rechitza 4) writes that as people don’t like seeing dirty dishes left out, there is no issue with putting them into the dishwasher. One mustn’t sort the dishes as that would be an issue of borer, though one can take all the large plates off together and put those in together, etc. (See Baer Moshe 3:48).
In conclusion, one may put one’s dirty dishes into a dishwasher on Shabbos though they should be careful not to sort them.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Money in Coat Pocket

Question: I was walking back from shul with others on Shabbos and realised that there was some money in my coat pocket. What should I have done?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 310:7) writes that if one left money on a bed, the bed becomes a bassis (base) and is itself muktze just like the money on it. The Mishna Berura (310:24) writes that as coins are muktze machmas gufo (inherently muktze) one wouldn’t be able to move them just because one needed the space. The same would apply to bank notes which are muktze machmas chesronam (valuables. See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchas 20:20).
While money is muktze, clothing with money in the pocket does not necessarily become a bassis. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchas 20:72) that providing one didn’t purposely leave the money in one’s pocket, the clothing would not be considered a bassis (See Shulchan Aruch OC 309:4). The Mishna Berura (310:31) writes that as people aren’t that bothered about a little bit of change that would not make the clothing muktze, either.
The Beis Yosef (OC 309:5) writes that only money in pockets that are fully attached would render the clothing muktze. If it was in a pocket that hangs, however, then it would not be muktze as the pocket is considered to be somewhat separate to the main clothing. One still shouldn’t wear it on Shabbos, however, as we are concerned that you may come to carry the contents outside of an eruv (See Rema OC 310:8; Magen Avraham OC 310:7).
R’ Neuwirth writes that if one was walking in the street when one realised that there was money they should ideally shake it out of their pocket (See Mishna Berura 310:29). If it will incur a real loss, however, or it is difficult to do so without removing the clothing or if one is embarrassed to empty it out in front of others, one may keep walking providing that they are in an eruv.
In conclusion, while the money is clearly muktze, your coat isn’t necessarily. While it would be ideal in such a scenario to empty the pocket out immediately, you can keep walking home if there was a significant amount, or if it would be difficult or embarrassing to do so in the street.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Broken Glasses on Shabbos

Question: One of the lenses in my glasses falls out on occasion and needs popping back into the frame. Can I do this on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 138b) writes that if an oven leg broke on Shabbos, then it is assur miderabanan to move the oven and the leg as one may come to fix it which would be assur mideorasia. The Mishna Berura (308:37) explains that one would either transgress the issur of boneh (building) or makeh bepatish (the finishing act).
The Rema (OC 308:16), however, writes that if a chair broke before Shabbos and one sat on it before Shabbos, then they may continue using that chair on Shabbos.
Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 15:77) writes that one can’t put a lens back into its frame on Shabbos.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 9:28) and R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 8:33:4), however, write that there would be no issue in popping the lens back into the frame, as this isn’t considered firmly fixing and one doesn’t need to be concerned that they will fix it.
R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 6:123) adopts a middle position. He writes that this scenario is similar to that of the broken chair. Thus, if the glasses broke on Shabbos, one wouldn’t be allowed to fix them and they would be muktze. If the lens had come out before, then one would be allowed to pop it back in on Shabbos.
In conclusion, if the lens had come out before, one could pop it back in to its frame on Shabbos. If they broke on Shabbos, it would be better to find a spare pair of glasses. If absolutely necessary, one could pop it back in.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Flowers on Shabbos

Question: A guest brought us a bunch of flowers on Shabbos. What could we have done with them?
Answer: The Rema (OC 336:11) writes that one may place branches and flowers in water on Shabbos only if there are no flowers that will open up as a result. The Mishna Berura (336:54) clarifies that this only applies to branches and flowers that were already in and had fallen out. One cannot add any new flowers or water to the vase, though.
He writes (Shaar Hatziyun 336:48) that if necessary, one may rely on the Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 336:13) and Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 336:18) who allow one to place a fresh bouquet of flowers in a vase on Shabbos providing that the flowers had fully opened and the water had been filled before Shabbos. Thus, one who had forgotten to place them in the vase before Shabbos would be allowed to add them to an existing vase of flowers (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 26:26; n91).
Providing the flowers were picked before Shabbos, they are not muktze as they were picked for a bouquet. Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchas 26:25) writes that a vase containing flowers is not muktze and may be moved on Shabbos. Likewise, one may remove flowers from a vase on Shabbos (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:258).
R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Dirshu Mishna Berura 336:n48) notes, though, that if the flowers haven’t fully opened, one must be careful when moving the vase not to shake the water around which could aid their growth.
In conclusion, one may gently move a vase with flowers and remove flowers from water, though one may only put flowers into that water if they have fully opened. No water may be added on Shabbos. Otherwise, one should place them into an empty vase. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Playing Football on Shabbos

Question: Are our children allowed to play football in the back garden on Shabbos?  
Answer: The Beis Yosef (OC 308) quotes opposing views as to whether one may play with a ball on Shabbos. The Shibolei Haleket (121) prohibits it as balls have no constructive use and are dirty. Tosafos (Beitza 12a), however, permits playing. Following this, he writes (Shulchan Aruch OC 308:45) that one mustn’t play with a ball on Shabbos or Yom Tov. The Rema, however, writes that the custom is to be lenient on this matter. The Rema adds (OC 518:1) that on Yom Tov one may even play with a ball in a reshus harabim.
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 308:83) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 308:70; 518:8) write that it is commonly accepted that one may play with balls on Shabbos.
Nonetheless, the Taz (OC 518:2) and Magen Avraham (OC 518:4) write that while children can play, this is inappropriate for adults (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 16:1; 6).
Likewise, the Mishna Berura (308:158; 518:9) writes that balls aren’t muktze as they are made for playing with. While playing outside is problematic because one may come to smooth the ground (ashvei gumos, See Shulchan Aruch OC 338:5), one doesn’t need to stop children playing. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:78), writes, too, that one may play with balls indoors.
R’ Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, Ohr Letzion (2:26:8) writes that while sefardim would follow the Shulchan Aruch who doesn’t allow playing with balls, one can rely on the Rema’s lenient position for children.
In conclusion, while balls aren’t muktze, adults should ideally not play with them on Shabbos. Ideally, children also shouldn’t play football on grass or soil, though one doesn’t need to stop them from playing.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Brushing Carpet on Shabbos

Question: Is one allowed to brush a carpeted floor on Shabbos?
Answer: There is a machlokes in the Gemara (Shabbos 95a) as to whether sweeping a dirt floor on Shabbos is assur mideoraisa or miderabanan. While Rambam (Shabbos 21:3) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 327:2) allow one to sweep a tiled or stoned floor, the Rema writes that the custom is not to.
Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 337:5) and Mishna Berura (337:9; Biur Halacha) explain that the Rema (and other rishonim) forbade sweeping such floors as one may come to sweep dirt floors. As we don’t have dirt floors in our houses nowadays, one may sweep tiled floors.
The Rema (OC 337:2) writes that one mustn’t use a hard brush on Shabbos if doing so means that some of its bristles will break (See Mishna Berura 337:14).
The Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha (80:68) and R’ Yisroel Dovid Harfenes (Nishmas Shabbos 6:297) write that one may use a carpet sweeper (Ewbank) on Shabbos, providing that they don’t press down too hard.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 3:50; 5:39:1), R’ Moshe Stern (Baer Moshe 1:32:15) and R’ Mordechai Yaakov Breisch (Chelkas Yaakov 4:6), however, forbid using them. Among other reasons, by brushing the carpet, one is cleaning the pile, which is a prohibition of melaben, whitening.
R’ Ribiat (The 39 Melochos, p710), however, notes that not all of these reasons apply to a regular brush. Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 23:4) writes that one may sweep a carpet with a soft brush, though one must be careful not to brush vigorously.
In conclusion, one may sweep a carpet softly with a brush, providing one knows that the bristles won’t break.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Shabbos Picnic

Question: Is there any issue with having a picnic in a nearby park on Shabbos within the eruv?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 336:3) writes that one may walk normally on wet or dry grass on Shabbos as one isn’t intending to rip up the grass. One who eats in the garden must be careful not to wash their hands there as they will inevitably be watering the grass which is an issue of zorea, planting (Mishna Berura 336:26). The Rema adds that as it is so difficult not to spill any water while eating, it is commendable not to bring drinks out to the garden.
The Mishna Berura (336:27) writes that some argue that there is less of a concern in someone else’s garden, as one isn’t bothered if the plants grow there or not (peski reshei delo niche lei).  Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 336:27) writes that it is difficult to say that people aren’t bothered at all, and therefore urges people to be most vigilant, advising people not to hold meals there. Likewise, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 336:25) points out that even the lenient authorities would concede that one is bothered about a close friend’s garden.
Seemingly, therefore, all poskim would agree that as people want their parks to look good, any water that spills on the grass would be advantageous (and therefore an issue of pesik reshei denicha lei).
In conclusion, one eating outdoors should ideally not bring any drinks onto the grass unless they have put a cloth down first.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Putting out Bins on Yom Tov

Question: Can I take the bins out on Yom Tov to be emptied? Can I bring them back in when they have been emptied?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 308:35) writes that one is allowed to remove a chamber pot (graf shel rei’i) on Shabbos. Although rubbish is usually considered to be muktze, one may remove this due to its unpleasantness. Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 22:45) writes that one may empty an overflowing or smelly bin on Shabbos. There is no need to carry it out with a shinui (ibid n111). R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:21:2) adds that whether rubbish is considered to be graf shel rei’i or not depends how bothered a person is by the unsightly rubbish. Likewise, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:232:2; 6:180) writes that as nowadays most people are bothered by overflowing bins, they can empty them on Shabbos.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe 5:21:9) adds that while the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 308:60) writes that it is preferable for a non-Jewish person to remove it on Shabbos, one shouldn’t ask a child to do it, as they may grow up thinking that muktze items may ordinarily be moved.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 7:303:1) writes that one is allowed to take the bins out to the street for pickup on Yom Tov, though it is ideal to do so before Yom Tov. The Steipler (quoted in Nitei Gavriel, Yom Tov 22:20) also allows one to remove rubbish bags and bins to the street on Yom Tov, as having a clean house is a necessity for Yom Tov.
While it would be ideal to leave the bin on the street until after Yom Tov, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:222:19) also allows one to bring the bin back into one’s yard on Shabbos or Yom Tov either if one needs it to put more rubbish in or because one is concerned that it will get stolen. The Chazon Ish held that as modern bins are made out of plastic or metal, etc. which aren’t absorbent, they don’t smell like ancient earthenware chamber pots and so don’t have the same muktze status when emptied (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 22:45).
In conclusion, while it is preferable to place the bins out onto the street before Yom Tov and collect them in afterwards, one may take them out and bring them in on Yom Tov if necessary.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Daven in English

Question: My Hebrew isn’t great and I don’t understand most of the davening. Is it better for me to daven in Hebrew or in English?
Answer: There is a machlokes in the Gemara (Berachos 13a) as to whether shema must be recited in lashon hakodesh or if it can be read in any language. Rambam (Keriyas Shema 2:10) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 62:2) pasken that one can recite it in any language providing they pronounce the words clearly.
Likewise, one may, if necessary, daven the amida in any language (Sotah 32a; Shulchan Aruch OC 101:4).
Tosafos (Sotah 32a) writes that one who doesn’t understand what they’re saying when they’re davening or reciting the shema has not fulfilled their obligation. They should rather recite it in a different language that they do understand. The Magen Avraham (OC 62:1; 101:5) and Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 62:1) pasken like Tosafos though the consensus of poskim is that it is certainly preferable to daven in lashon hakodesh even when they don’t understand the meaning.
The Mishna Berura (101:13) quotes the Chasam Sofer (84; 86) who demonstrates that one may only daven in a foreign language as a temporary measure. Elsewhere (62:3) he explains that as there are certain words that can’t properly be translated, such as veshinantam or totafos in the shema, one should stick to lashon hakodesh as much as possible (See Biur Halacha 62; 101). The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 62:4; 101:9; 185:3) writes that even the names of Hashem can’t properly be translated, and one mustn’t therefore, daven in a foreign language.
Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:70:4) writes that if necessary, one may daven in English, though they must ensure to only use a good translation (See Rivevos Ephraim 3:92; 4:44:34).
In conclusion, it is certainly preferable to daven in the original lashon hakodesh even if one doesn’t understand the words. It is certainly best if one uses a siddur with translation so that they can understand what they’re saying.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Latest time to Count the Omer on Friday

Question: I forgot to count the omer on Thursday night, and only remembered after davening kabbalas Shabbos. As that was before shekia, can I still continue counting with a beracha, or was is too late?
Answer: Tosafos (Menachos 66a) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one may count the omer during the day, or if it must be done at night. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 489:7) writes that if one didn’t count at night, they should count during the day without reciting a beracha. They may, however, continue counting with a beracha on future nights (See Mishna Berura 489:34; Shaar Hatziyun 489:45).
The Taz (OC 600:2) writes about a community who hadn’t managed to fulfil the mitzva of hearing the shofar on the second day of Rosh Hashana that fell on a Friday. They davened kabbalas Shabbos early and then someone brought them a shofar. The Taz writes that in this scenario, even though they had already been mekabel Shabbos, they could still blow the shofar (See Taz OC 668).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:99:3) writes that this demonstrates that although one has brought Shabbos in early by saying kabbalas Shabbos, nonetheless, it is still the same day (Friday) regarding other halachos. One can, therefore, in this scenario, still count the omer and continue doing so later with a beracha. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 4:43:8) brings multiple sources who agree that in this scenario one should count that day’s omer.
In conclusion, while one has been mekabel Shabbos, it isn’t too late to still count the previous night’s omer.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Counting Omer Early

Question: I always daven maariv early in the Summer as I can’t stay up until after nacht every night to count the omer. Can I count the omer early or should I wait until the next day to count?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 34b) writes that there is a doubt as to whether the time period between shekia (sunset) and tzeis hakochavim (nightfall) known as bein hashemashos, belongs to the end of the day, or to the beginning of the following night. Generally, we follow the rule that when it comes to matters of doubt we rule stringently with matters that are mideoraisa and leniently with matters that are miderabanan.
As there is a machlokes as to whether counting the omer nowadays is mideoraisa or miderabanan, there is a machlokes as to whether one needs to wait until tzeis to count.
Thus, Rambam (Temidin Umusafin 7:22) who holds that counting the omer nowadays is a mitzva deoraisa writes that one should wait until tzeis to count (See Biur Halacha 489:1).
Tosafos (Menachos 66a, first opinion), the Rosh (Pesachim 10:40) and his son, the Tur (OC 489:1), however, write that one may count from shekia, as they hold that counting nowadays is derabanan.
Following this, the Mishna Berura (489:14) writes that as most poskim hold that counting nowadays is derabanan, one may count from shekia. Nonetheless, it is ideal to wait until after tzeis (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 489:7).
Other poskim, however, including the Bach (OC 489:1), Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 489:12) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:23) write that it is acceptable to count after shekia.
In conclusion, if one finds it difficult to stay up until nightfall, one may count the omer with a beracha after shekia.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Music at Seudas Mitzva during Omer

Question: We attended a Bar Mitzva where they played music even though it was during the omer. Was this okay?
Answer: The poskim (Aruch Hashulchan OC 493:2; Igros Moshe YD 2:137) write that one mustn’t listen to music during the omer. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:111) writes that this minhag is so important that one wouldn’t even be able to play music at a seudas mitzva.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:45; 6:34), however, writes that one may play music at a seudas mitzva during the omer, be it a bris seuda, bar mitzva or siyum, etc. R’ Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 3:17:1) also allows playing music at such occasions, writing that the simcha of the mitzva overrides the minhag not to play music.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:95) allows one to play music at a sheva berachos for one who got married on lag b’omer. Elsewhere, (ibid. EH 1:98) he writes that while one can make a party for a chassan and kalla who had returned to town after their sheva berachos, one couldn’t play music then.
R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:128) writes that an ashkenazi may attend and participate in a sefardi chasuna during the ‘three weeks’ even though they wouldn’t make one then themselves. Thus, it would seem that an ashkenazi may attend a sefardi simcha in which music is played.
In conclusion, there is a machlokes as to which occasions one would be allowed to play music at. One could attended a simcha where music was being played, even if it was their minhag to rerfrain from playing at such events.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Travelling Children

Question: My 12 year old son has just come back from a holiday in Israel. Should he bentch gomel?
Answer: The Magen Avraham (OC 219:1) quotes the Maharam of Mintz (14) who writes that children don’t recite the beracha of hagomel. As children do not get punished for their sins, it wouldn’t make sense for them to say the words, ‘hagomel lechayavim tovos, who bestows good things upon the guilty’. Nor can he just omit those words, as we mustn’t tamper with the text of the berachos. The Mishna Berura (219:3) adds that we don’t even train children to recite this beracha for chinuch (See Shevet Halevi 3:163:2).
The Shaarei Teshuva (OC 219:1), however, quotes the Mahari Bason (Lachmei Todah 5) and others who allowed children to recite the beracha. Likewise, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 4:63) challenges the reasons for children not to.
Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 219:6) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 219:2) write that common practice is for children not to recite hagomel. Similarly, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 14:20; 18:22) writes that children who recover from an illness shouldn’t bentch either.
In conclusion, the consensus of poskim is that children should not recite the beracha of hagomel.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Eating before Counting the Omer

Question: I read that one mustn’t eat before counting the omer. Does it make a difference whether I daven maariv early or late?
Answer: The Rema (OC 489:4) writes that when it is time to count the omer one mustn’t eat until they have counted. 
There is a machlokes as to when exactly this starts. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 489:17) writes that one mustn’t eat from a half hour before shekia while the Mishna Berura (489:23) writes that one can eat until a half hour before nacht.
Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 235:2) writes that one shouldn’t sit down to eat half an hour before it’s time to daven maariv, as they may get preoccupied and forget to recite the shema.
Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 232:16) writes that one who regularly davens maariv in shul is allowed to eat beforehand as they won’t come to forget to recite the shema. Likewise, the Mishna Berura (235:18) writes that one who wants to eat then may do so providing that they ask someone else to remind them. R’ Avraham Yeshaya Pfoifer (Ishei Yisrael 27:19) writes that the same applies to setting an alarm.
Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:99) and R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 6:52) write that there is no need to act more stringently with counting the omer than one does with eating before davening maariv. One who regularly davens maariv after nacht may eat supper beforehand without having to be concerned that they will forget to recite kerias shema. Likewise, as nowadays we are accustomed to count the omer after maariv, one may eat before davening and counting (See Rivevos Ephraim 2:129:28).
In conclusion, one who regularly davens maariv after nacht can eat beforehand. One who either davens earlier or is davening later than usual should set themselves a reminder on their phone, etc. before sitting down to eat.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Laundry on Chol Hamoed

Question: While I’m washing my children’s clothes on chol hamoed, can I throw some of my own clothes into the washing machine?
Answer: The Gemara (Moed Katan 14a) writes that in order to ensure that people would prepare properly for yom tov, chazal instituted that it is forbidden to wash clothes on chol hamoed.
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 534:1) writes that under regular circumstances one mustn’t wash one’s clothes on chol hamoed. The Rema, however, writes that one may wash young children’s clothes if they constantly dirty them. The Mishna Berura (534:11) explains that one can only wash children’s clothes that they’ll need for that yom tov.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 7:48:1), R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:354) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 66:63) write that as the reason for this prohibition is to ensure that people are well prepared for yom tov, it doesn’t make a difference how one washes their clothes. Thus, one can’t wash adult’s clothes in a washing machine. Likewise, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe 5:36:1) writes that one can’t give one’s suit in to the dry cleaners.
The Mishna Berura (534:4) quotes the Chayei Adam who permits washing handkerchiefs that need washing regularly. Based on this, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 66:66) allows one to wash underwear on chol hamoed providing that they washed everything before yom tov (See Shevet HaLevi 8:124).
In conclusion, while one may wash young children’s clothing, etc. on chol hamoed, one may not add any regular clothes to the wash at the same time.