Thursday, 25 April 2013

Meron on Lag B'Omer

Question: I have heard that some say one should avoid going to R' Shimon Bar Yochai’s kever in Meron on Lag B’Omer. Why is this?
Answer: The Chasam Sofer (YD 233) writes that it is wrong to go and turn Lag B’Omer into a Yom Tov.  While there is a custom not to fast or deliver the eulogies on this day, we don’t know the reason for this. There were no specific miracles that occurred, he writes, and there is no mention throughout shas or poskim that this day should be treated as a festival.
The Chasam Sofer gave a hesped (printed in Toras Moshe, Vayikra) after hundreds lost their lives in 1837 to the Tzefas earthquake. He laments that people were travelling to Meron, Tzefas and Teveria to Daven at kivrei tzadikim while abandoning Yerushalayim, Israel’s holiest city. He continues by challenging those who treat this day as a Yom Tov. Since when do we celebrate a tzaddik’s death in such a way? Moshe’s death is certainly not celebrated as a Yom Tov?!
While many prominent Chassidic Rebbes and Sefardic Rabbanim have encouraged their followers to attend the Meron festivities, many Gedolim including R' Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 5:35), R’ Shach and R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv urged others to avoid it, and not to treat this day as such a Yom Tov.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Shomer Shabbos Website

Question: As I am not allowed to do business on Shabbos, do I need to shut down my website each week to prevent any business transactions from taking place?
Answer: Some compare this to owning a vending machine, which many poskim (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 20:70) allow one to keep running over Shabbos. As one hasn’t predetermined the sale, they aren’t considered to be actively doing a melacha. One doing so should declare that the money earned will not be acquired until after Shabbos.
R’ Akiva Eiger forbids one from pre-arranging an acquisition to take place on Shabbos, however. Accordingly, bidding for an item on eBay that is due to end on Shabbos may be prohibited.
In truth, the issue is far more complicated, as while winning a bid commits one to buy, no transaction has taken place until payment has been received. Some have dismissed the possible prohibition arguing that the time of transaction is not until the credit card payment has cleared. That poses other problems, as according to that argument, one would be forbidden to shop on Thursday, if they knew the transaction won’t clear until Shabbos! Websites that are set up to automatically send a software download or coupon, etc. would be particularly problematic.
Certainly, this is a most complex matter that needs to be investigated further by today’s poskim . (Perhaps they will need to create innovative solutions similar to Heter Iska.)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Music during the Sefira

Question: I find that music really relaxes me and find it very difficult not to listen to music during the omer. Can I listen to acapella music?
Answer: While there is no mention in the Shulchan Aruch of the prohibition on listening to music during the Sefira, the Magen Avraham (493:1) writes clearly that one mustn’t dance during this time. As music and dancing are often synonymous, R’ Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe YD 2:137) that it has become the prevalent minhag to refrain from listening. The Aruch Hashulchan, too, writes (OC 493:2) that while engagement parties are permitted, there must be no musical accompaniment.
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:111) brings sources to demonstrate that refraining from listening to music is not a new minhag.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 15:33) discusses whether recorded music is banned, too, and concludes that there is no difference between live and recorded music (See Yechave Daas 6:34).
R’ Belsky holds that one who usually listens to music when they workout may do so, as this music is not considered regular enjoyment. Certainly, one who teaches, studies or plays music for their livelihood may continue to do so.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Sefiras Haomer 11:n14) writes that one who will become overly upset without music may listen to recordings. One need not prevent one’s young children from listening, either. Others have permitted listening while driving if it helps to keep them alert.
While some (Shevet Halevi 8:127) even prohibit listening to acapella music, most authorities allow such ‘music’.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Shaving during the Sefira

There are different minhagim as to which ’half of the Sefira’ to observe. As it is generally understood that R’ Akiva’s students died over 34 days, we mourn for 34 days, either from the beginning until Lag B’Omer (with the first few days being waived because of Pesach), or from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Shavuos.
Among the prohibitions during this period is taking a haircut or shaving. The Mishna Berura (493:12) makes an exception for a sandek, mohel and father of a baby having a bris. When Rosh Chodesh falls on a Shabbos, one may shave on Friday in honour of the double special day. When Lag B’Omer falls on a Sunday (like this year), one may shave on the preceding Friday in honour of Shabbos.
When Lag B’Omer falls on a different weekday, one should ideally wait until the morning to shave.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:95) writes that one attending a wedding during the Omer period may only shave if he’d be too embarrassed to go unshaven. Had he been invited before the Sefira, he should have rather kept the other half so as not to have to rely on this leniency!
There are minority opinions that allow those who shave regularly to shave throughout the Omer. (See Nefesh HaRav, p191). R’ Moshe (Igros Moshe OC 4:102), however, only allows one to shave if not doing so will cause him monetary loss. One who feels the need to avail himself of this leniency should perhaps not shave over Bank Holiday weekend.
Let us use this period to remind ourselves as to why we are mourning and to always maintain the correct respect for each other, especially for Torah scholars.