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’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:45; 6:34) 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’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:111), however, writes that this minhag is so important that one wouldn’t even be able to play music at a seudas mitzva. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe EH 1:98) similarly writes about making a party for a chassan and kalla who had returned to town after their sheva berachos. While one can make such a party, one shouldn’t play any music there.
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, while the sefardi poskim allow one to play music at a seudas mitzva during the omer, the ashkenazi poskim write that one shouldn’t play music at such an event. An ashkenazi may attend a sefardi simcha regardless of music being played.