Sunday, 30 September 2018

Children getting Aliyos on Simchas Torah

Question: At what age should our son get his own aliya on Simchas Torah?
Answer: The Rema (OC 669:1) writes that on Simchas Torah we add on extra aliyos, reading the same parsha a few times. The Mishna Berura (669:12) explains that we want to give everybody an opportunity to participate in the simcha of the Torah. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Sukkos 12:15) adds that when everyone receives their aliya they get to recite the beracha, ‘asher bachar banu.. venosan lanu es toraso, Who chose us.. and gave us His Torah’ (See Rivevos Ephraim 2:176)
While the Mishna Berura (282:12) writes that we shouldn’t call up a child under bar mitzva for an aliya during the year, the Rema writes that on Simchas Torah we are accustomed to give all the children a joint aliya. The Mishna Berura (669:13) explains that this serves to train them in the mitzva of reading from the Torah. According to the Shaarei Ephraim (8:57) this is also to give them a love for the Torah.
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 669:4) writes that every child gets their own aliya and if the child is unable to read the beracha by themselves then the baal korei should assist them. While different shuls have different customs, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Sukkos 12:n20) writes that we should only give aliyos to children when they are at least nine years old and mature enough to follow along properly. The Shaarei Ephraim (ibid.) suggests that even children as young as six or seven can receive an aliya.
In conclusion, younger children should be brought in to shul for their joint kol hanearim aliya. Older children who can read the berachos and can follow along should be given their own aliya, depending on the shul’s custom.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Rain on Sukkos

Question: What is the procedure for leaving the sukka if it rains?
Answer: The Mishna (Sukka 2:9) teaches us that if it rains enough to ruin one’s food then one may leave their sukka. While the Mishna writes that it is a bad sign if one has to leave due to rain, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 639:20) writes that this specifically applies in Eretz Yisrael, but not in places where it is likely to rain. The Rema (OC 639:7) and Aruch Hashulchan write that one who stays in the sukka when they’re exempt is considered to be unrefined (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:304).
Nonetheless, the Rema (OC 639:5) writes that this halacha doesn’t apply on the first night, as if it is raining then, one must still make kiddush and eat a kezayis of bread in the sukka. According to the Mateh Ephraim (625:51), one should ideally eat a kebeitza.
While one who is mitztaer (uncomfortable) is usually exempt from eating in the sukka, the Mishna Berura (639:35) explains that according to the Rema, this exemption doesn’t apply on the first night. Then, one is obligated to eat in the sukka even if they are somewhat uncomfortable, just like matza on seder night. As there are those who disagree with the Rema and hold that one who is mitztaer is exempt even on the first night, they shouldn’t recite leishev basukka so long as it is raining. One should, therefore, wait until the rain stops to fulfil this mitzva properly according to both views.
While the Magen Avraham (OC 639:15) writes that one should wait until chatzos for the rain to clear up if necessary, the Mishna Berura quotes the Shaarei Teshuva who writes that this is unnecessary, especially as having to wait so long can ruin one’s simchas Yom Tov. Rather, one should wait an hour or so, depending on whether one has young children or guests, etc.
The Magen Avraham writes that if it is raining on the second night, one can start the meal inside their house without having to wait for the rain to clear. One should eat a kezayis of bread in the sukka at the end of their meal, however. If it has stopped raining by then, then one should say the beracha, leishev basukka (See Shaar Hatziyun 639:73).
In conclusion, if it is raining on the first night of Sukkos, one should wait before starting their meal. How long they wait will depend on their circumstances, though they shouldn’t wait so long that it will ruin their simchas Yom Tov. When it is too late to wait any longer, they should recite kiddush and eat a kezayis of bread in the sukka without saying leishev, before closing the roof or going inside to continue the meal. If it does stop raining before chatzos, one should go back into the sukka to eat another kezayis of bread and say leishev, washing again if necessary.
If it rains throughout any other meal over sukkos then one should close the roof or go inside.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Pills to Help One Fast

Question: Can I take pills on erev Yom Kippur to help me fast more easily?
Answer:  The Gemara (Berachos 8a; Yoma 81b) writes that there is a mitzva to eat on erev Yom Kippur. According to Rashi, we do so to properly prepare for the fast on the following day (See Rashi, Rosh Hashana 9a).
The Sdei Chemed (Yom Kippur 1:18) writes that one mustn’t purposely continue eating until the fast begins as this will prevent one from feeling that they’re fasting on Yom Kippur. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 7:32:4), R’ Menashe Klein (Mishne Halachos 2:66:4; 7:82) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 9:54), however, challenge this, writing that we are not supposed to actively do anything to oppress ourselves on Yom Kippur. If we are supposed to eat and drink more before Yom Kippur, then we are allowed to plan our eating in this way. Thus, these poskim write that one may take slow release energy capsules before Yom Kippur (See Rivevos Ephraim 3:413:2). While R’ Ovadia Yosef writes that one should only take such pills if they really struggle to fast, other poskim allow everyone to take them.
Similarly, R’ Mordechai Yaakov Breish (Chelkas Yaakov OC:216) argues that taking such a pill is no different to eating well before Yom Kippur and deciding to eat again before the fast starts in order to curb their hunger pangs later. He adds, however, that it is important to ensure that the ingredients are all kosher. Only one who was ill would be allowed to take non-kosher medicine.
In conclusion, while some sefardim may avoid taking them unless they struggle to fast, the consensus is to allow taking such pills before the fast.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Group Hataras Nedarim

Question: Last year, I joined a new shul where they do many things differently to what I am used to. I have always done hataras nedarim by myself, though in this shul people do it together. Is this okay?
Answer: The Gemara (Nedarim 23b) writes that if one doesn’t want their nedarim, vows, to endure throughout the year, they should proclaim on Rosh Hashana that they wish them to be annulled. According to the Ran (Nedarim 23b), this is the source for saying kol nidrei on Yom Kippur.
According to the Mishna Berura (619:2), kol nidrei does not automatically annul all vows, however. Likewise, the Shaarei Teshuva (581:1) quotes various poskim explaining why one should specifically perform hataras nedarim on erev Rosh Hashana, while it is still Elul (See Kaf Hachaim OC 581:12; 19; Minchas Yitzchak 9:61). The Chayei Adam (138:8) stresses the importance of performing hataras nedarim at this time, writing that people erroneously view it as another prayer. Rather, people should study the halachos of nedarim, and say it in their own language if necessary so that they understand the process.
The Rema (YD 228:2) and Shulchan Aruch (YD 228:46) write that one may annul multiple vows simultaneously and annul a few people’s nedarim together, though they should use the plural refrain ‘mutarim lachem, it is permitted for you’.
While the Mateh Ephraim (581:49) writes that this should only be relied on under extenuating circumstances, the Ben Ish Chai (Re’eh 2:25) implies that it ideal for people to do it together.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 8:533), notes, however, that if the three dayanim don’t use the plural refrain, then it is ineffective.
In conclusion, while there is a preference to do hataras nedarim by oneself, there is a precedent for shuls to do it in groups to ensure that everyone stays to do it.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Early Selichos

Question: I have always found it difficult to get up extra early for selichos before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur though have read that they shouldn’t be recited after maariv. What should I do?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 581:1) writes that one should say selichos at the break of dawn. The Magen Avraham (565:5; 581:1) and Mishna Berura (565:12) write that the end of the night is an auspicious time for selichos. Thus one shouldn’t recite selichos before chatzos, midnight, for Kabbalistic reasons.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:46) quotes the Chida (Birkei Yosef OC 581:1) who explains that this time is one of din¸ judgement, rather than rachamim, mercy. This is so important, that if one is present when others are saying selichos at this time, they shouldn’t participate. According to the Chida (ibid.) and Ben Ish Chai (Rav Pealim 2:OC:2) it would be better not to say selichos at all than to say it at this time of night (See Mateh Ephraim 581:20). While there are poskim who write that we follow the timing of chatzos in Yerushalayim which would allow those West of Eretz Yisrael to say selichos earlier, R’ Ovadia says that we follow other poskim who disagree with this.
Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 581:4) notes that nowadays it is common for people not to recite selichos until much later when it is already properly light outside.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:105) acknowledges that the ideal time to recite selichos is after chatzos though writes that there is no mention of this throughout the Gemara. Thus, one who won’t be able to recite selichos early in the morning may do so at night, though should preferably do so after the 10th halachic hour or 2 hours before chatzos as the Shulchan Aruch (OC 1:2) writes that this is also an auspicious time (See Mishmeres Shalom 41:4).
In conclusion, the ideal time to recite selichos is between dawn and shacharis. While sefardim should avoid reciting selichos early at night, ashkenazim who find it too difficult to do so may do so, ideally after the 10th halachic hour.