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), Aruch Hashulchan (YD 89:14) and Kaf Hachaim (YD 89:4 quoting R’ Shlomo Kluger) write that one wouldn’t need to wait at all before having milk. 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.