Sunday 19 May 2024

Bar Mitzva in the Omer

Question: My son turns Bar Mitzva during the omer. Can he continue counting each night with a beracha?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 489:8) writes that if one forgets to count the omer one day, they should resume counting without a beracha. The Minchas Chinuch raises the question of whether a boy who becomes bar mitzva during the omer should continue counting with a beracha, ultimately concluding that he should.

Bottom of FormWhile his counting before his bar mitzva was only miderabanan due to chinuch, it still contributes to his new mitzva mideroaisa.

According to the Ben Ish Chai (Rav Berachos 2:5; Bereishis 2:14) it is preferable for a boy turning bar mitzva on Friday night to delay reciting kiddush until nacht. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 3:27; 28) extends this principle even to mitzvos derabannan such as kiddush levana. If a boy approaching bar mitzva can delay performing the mitzva until he has become bar mitzva, he should do so. Moreover, any counting he did before reaching bar mitzva was merely for chinuch and does not fulfil the real mitzva of counting once he reaches bar mitzva. Consequently, he should no longer recite the beracha when counting (See Birkei Yosef 20). Similarly, the Avnei Nezer (539) argues that just as one who performed a mitzva while mentally incompetent hasn't fulfilled their obligation, children are not considered to have fulfilled the mitzva. Hence, he cannot continue counting with a beracha.

Nonetheless, the consensus of poskim is that a boy continues counting with a beracha upon reaching bar mitzva. The Ksav Sofer (OC 99) notes that there is a machlokes between Rashi and Tosafos regarding whether the mitzva of chinuch lies on the father or the child. We pasken like Tosafos that the mitzva is the child’s obligation. Thus, his counting as a child counts towards his counting post bar mitzva (See Maharam Schick OC 269).Top of Form

Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 489:15), R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (Har Zvi OC 2:76), R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 11:10), R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 1:36) and R’ Menashe Klein (Mishne Halachos 11:397) write that a boy who has counted every night with a beracha should continue doing so after his bar mitzva.

The Shaarei Teshuva (489:20) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 489:94) emphasize that this holds especially true for a boy about to turn bar mitzva as he is deemed ‘mufla samuch laish’, approaching maturity (See Nidda 46b). Additionally, the Minchas Elazar (3:60) argues that since the beracha itself is miderabanan, Chazal would not penalise him for fulfilling a mitzva in his youth, especially one that is also miderabbanan.

In conclusion, a boy who has diligently counted the omer every night should continue counting with a beracha after his bar mitzva.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Asking the Kohen to Leave

Question: I am one of the only kohanim in my shul and regularly receive the first aliyah. Recently, I was asked to leave shul so that two people with yartzheit could receive an aliyah. Was this right?

Answer: The Mishna (Gittin 59a) teaches that we give the first aliyah to the kohen because of darchei shalom, the ways of peace. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 135:3) writes that a kohen receives the first aliya. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 201:3) writes that this is a mitzva mideoraisa of honouring the kohen. The Gemara (Gittin 59b) concludes that a kohen cannot concede this honour on Shabbos and Yom Tov when more people attend shul. Tosafos writes that this only applied in the times of the Gemara when people were too busy with work to attend shul during the week, but it now applies equally to Monday and Thursday, too.

The Tur (OC 135:4) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether a kohen can ever forgo his honour of being called up first to the Torah. The Levush (OC 135) and Mishna Berura (135:9; 18 quoting the Pri Megadim) maintain that he cannot.

Nonetheless, the Magen Avraham (135:7) writes that a shul can insist that the kohen forgoes the honour when selling aliyos, and the kohen should leave the shul. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:34; 3:20), R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 2:41), R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 6:23) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:151) write that one may ask the kohen to leave on Monday and Thursday but not on Shabbos and Yom Tov. They add that this may be appropriate when there are multiple chiyuvim, e.g. two yisraelim have yartzheit. R’ Ovadia Yosef adds that unlike a kohen who cannot duchen, the kohen does not need to leave the room.

The Maharam Schick (OC 60) stresses that this must only be done in extenuating circumstances. Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 135:23) opposes selling the first aliyah (see Mishne Halachos 3:13; Shevet Halevi 8:25).

In conclusion, if there are extra chiyuvim in shul during the week, the gabbai can ask the kohen to leave the shul for a minute so that he can call up a Yisrael instead.

Sunday 31 March 2024

Bentching Gomel Upon Recovery

Question: I have just returned home after a week in hospital where I underwent heart-surgery. My doctor said I should ask, should I bentch gomel now that I have recovered?

Answer: The Tur (OC 219:8) writes that there is a machlokes among the rishonim as to how ill one must be in order to recite the beracha of hagomel. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 219:8) follows Rambam who writes that anyone who was bedridden should bentch gomel upon recovery. The Bach (119:4 quoted by the Magen Avraham 119:8) and Elya Rabba (119:3) write that we follow the Shulchan Aruch.

The Kaf Hachaim (OC 219:8) and R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:14:n44) write that this even applies to one who was bedridden and unable to move for a few hours.

Nonetheless, the Rema follows the Raavad who writes that this only applies to a choleh who was dangerously ill and writes that this is the Ashkenazi practice. The Levush (OC 219:8) and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 219:11) concur. The Taz (OC 219:5) defines this as one who has been bedridden for at least three days. Likewise, the Chayei Adam (1:65:6), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (61:1) and Ben Ish Chai (Ekev 1:7) write that one who was bedridden for three days recites the beracha.

Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (219:28; Biur Halacha 219:8) writes that even if one was seriously ill for a shorter period of time, one should bentch gomel.

R’ Avraham Avraham (Nishmat Avraham OC 219:2) quotes R’ Shalom Elyashiv who maintained that anyone undergoing a procedure under general anaesthetic should bentch gomel (See Tzitz Eliezer 12:18; Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 23:2).

In conclusion, one who undergoes heart-surgery should bentch gomel upon recovery.

Sunday 17 March 2024

Tefillin Mirror

Question: I see many people use a mirror to ensure that their tefillin shel rosh is placed exactly in the middle of one’s head. Is this necessary?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 27:10) writes that one must ensure to place one’s tefillin shel rosh in the middle of one’s head. The Mishna Berura (27:36) notes that one does not fulfil the mitzva according to some acharonim if one’s tefillin are not in the middle, adding that larger tefillin can be problematic.

The Shulchan Aruch (YD 156:2) writes that men should not look in a mirror unless they need to do so for medical reasons, etc. Nonetheless, the Rema writes that where it is common for men to do so, it poses no issue.

Nonetheless, R’ Chaim Sanzer (Divrei Chaim OC 2:6) demonstrates that the tefillin do not need to be exactly in the middle and writes that using a mirror to position one’s tefillin is considered uncouth. R’ Menashe Klein (Mishne Halachos 5:8; 11:29-30) notes that the Brisker Rav was accustomed to using one. Nonetheless, he writes that for thousands of years, men wore tefillin without using a mirror, and it is ideal not to use one. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 12:6:2) concurs, adding that, if necessary, one may look into a dim reflection of a window, etc.

Sefer Halichos Shlomo (Tefilla 4:n108) notes that R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach used a mirror to position his tefillin later in life. Likewise, the Dirshu Mishna Berura (27:n42) quotes R' Yosef Shalom Elyashiv who maintained that as men do use mirrors nowadays, it is appropriate to use one.

In conclusion, there are different opinions regarding using a mirror to straighten one’s tefillin. Some Chassidishe poskim frown upon using one while others are encouraging.

Sunday 10 March 2024

Temporary Mezuzos

Question: We asked a sofer to come to our house to check our mezuzos. He said that it would take him a couple of days until he could return them. Do we need to put up other mezuzos in the meantime?

Answer: The Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham OC 38:15) writes that one must not remain in a house without a mezuza. Thus, if a mezuza falls down on Shabbos or Yom Tov, one must vacate their home and move into another house if they have one. The Pischei Teshuva (YD 285:1) adds that this halacha applies equally to the weekday, and one may only stay in their home if they do not have another home to go to. Nonetheless, R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 2:28:4; 5:548) quotes R’ Chaim Kanievsky who maintained that one is not required to leave a home without a mezuza.

R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:643) notes that people often remove their mezuzos unnecessarily as a good mezuza on an internal door should not need checking regularly. It is advisable for a sofer to have spare mezuzos that he can affix, particularly for when one owns the house.

Nonetheless, R’ Avraham Dovid Wahrman (Daas Kedoshim 291:1) writes that if one removes one’s mezuzos to be checked, one is not required to replace them in the interim. One would only need to replace them if it would take a while to find someone to ask. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt quotes the Emek Beracha who explains that chazal never required that one replace the mezuzos while they are being checked. R’ Dovid Feinstein relates that his father, R’ Moshe, would remove all of his mezuzos together to be checked, rather than check them one at a time.

R' Shamai Gross (Shevet Hakehasi 1:273) writes that while one does not need to replace one’s mezuzos while they are being checked, it is commendable to place one on one’s front door.

In conclusion, one is not obligated to affix temporary mezuzos when one removes theirs to have them checked. If a mezuza is found to be passul, one must replace it immediately, if necessary, by borrowing one until one can buy a new one. Ideally, one should ensure that there is a mezuza on their front door overnight.

Sunday 3 March 2024

Reciting Berachos With Children

Question: Can I pronounce Hashem’s name properly when teaching children?

Answer: The Gemara (Nedarim 7b) warns us about the consequences of saying Hashem’s name in vain. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 215:4) writes that one who says an unnecessary beracha has said Hashem’s name in vain. The Magen Avraham (215:6) writes that according to Rambam (Berachos 1:15) this is forbidden mideoraisa while Tosafos (Rosh Hashana 33a) and the Rosh (Kiddushin 1:49) write that it is forbidden miderabanan.

The Gemara (Berachos 53b) teaches that when children are practicing reciting berachos, one should not say amen in response. The Kesef Mishna (Berachos 1:15) writes that it is clear from the Gemara that adults teaching children can say the berachos for them to repeat, complete with Hashem’s name. In such a case, one should not say amen when the child says the beracha (See Mishna Berura 215:14). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 215:3) writes that one should say amen, however, if they are saying a regular beracha, e.g. before eating. The Mishna Berura (215:16) points out, however, that this only applies to a child over the age of chinuch (See Mishna Berura 128:123).

R’ Yaakov Emden (She’elas Yaavetz 1:81) writes that his father, the Chacham Zvi, admonished a teacher who avoided using Hashem’s name when teaching children chumash. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:56) explains that this only applies when the children are reading the complete passuk in one go. R’ Moshe adds that one may even use Hashem’s name when teaching adults how to properly recite berachos.

In conclusion, one should recite berachos including Hashem’s name with children to teach them how to pronounce the words correctly. One should only say amen to a child’s berachos when they reach the age of chinuch and have a basic understanding of berachos (about five or six years old).

Sunday 18 February 2024

Bentching Gomel Following a Crash

Question: I narrowly missed a serious pile-up on the motorway in which people were seriously hurt. Should I bentch gomel?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 54b) teaches that there are four specific scenarios following which one recites the beracha of hagomel. They are crossing a desert or a sea, imprisonment, or serious illness. Nonetheless, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 219:9) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether this list is exclusive or not. The Magen Avraham (219:10), Shulchan Aruch Harav (Birkas Hanehenin 13:7) and Mishna Berura (219:32) write that we pasken that one recites the beracha upon being saved from other potentially fatal situations, too.

Nonetheless, the Chida (Birkei Yosef OC 219:8; Machzik Beracha OC 219:6), Ben Ish Chai (Ekev 1:10) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 219:52) write that we only recite the beracha following these four instances. If one survived a different incident, one should recite the beracha without Hashem’s name.

The Chayei Adam (1:65:4) writes that one who has survived being hit by a heavy falling stone recites the beracha, regardless as to whether the stone hit them or just missed.

However, the Mishna Berura (218:32) disagrees, writing that if the stone fell and just missed them, there is a machlokes as to whether one recites the beracha. Thus, one should recite the beracha without Hashem’s name.

Following this, R’ Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler (Avnei Yashpei 1:46:2) and Piskei Teshuvos (218:10) write that one who narrowly avoided a dangerous car crash should not bentch gomel.

One who was involved in a dangerous car-crash should bentch gomel. One who narrowly avoided such an incident, does not bentch gomel.