Monday, 29 July 2013

Kashrus of Scotch

Question: I have noticed that certain Scotch whiskies now have a hechsher on them. Does whisky need a hechsher?
Answer: The poskim agree that ordinary Scotch whisky (whether single malt or blended) which has no mention of any wine casks is perfectly Kosher. The question arises when whisky has been matured in wine casks, such as the Macallan Sherry Oak. R’ Moshe Feinstein famously addresses this issue in 2 responsa: Igros Moshe YD 1:62-63. While the Shulchan Aruch (YD 134:13) forbids drinking a gentile’s beverage when it is customary to add non-Kosher wine to it, R’ Moshe follows the more lenient Rema. Providing the wine is nullified against 6 parts whisky (as opposed to the usual 1:60 ratio), the wine is Kosher. While R’ Moshe advises that a baal nefesh should best avoid such whisky, seemingly he was specifically referring to a scenario where wine had actually been added to whisky. As Scotch Whisky Regulations dictate that Scotch may only contain water, grain yeast and caramel colouring, we can be assured that wine is not added.
Many American poskim are concerned that as the entire sherry (or port, Madeira, etc.) cask is saturated with non-Kosher wine, the wine is no longer battul 1:6 in the whisky. Others, including R’ Akiva Niehaus (Sherry Casks, A Halachic Perspective) argue that R’ Moshe wasn't referring to Scotch, but to American or Canadian whiskey. Accordingly, they forbid Wine Cask Finishes, arguing that the wine adds a recognizable taste to the whisky.
Nonetheless, Rabbanim in the UK (including the London Beis Din) maintain that R’ Moshe’s rulings apply to Scotch, and follow R' Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss’s permissive ruling, too (Minchas Yitzchak 2:28).
Note, that distilleries outside of Scotland (including Ireland) are not bound by the same regulations, and their whiskies may be problematic. Thus one must consult their Kashrus authority.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Question: Is it okay to repeat words of davening to fit in with the tune?
Answer: R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:22) addresses the issue of a chazan who repeats words during chazaras hashatz and in the berachos before Shema. He gives examples where repeating the words distorts the meaning of the beracha and thus constitutes a hefsek, interruption. There is a machlokes as to whether an individual may repeat words to aid his kavana, proper intent. Even at times when it may technically be permitted to repeat words, R’ Moshe writes that אין רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו - the sages are uncomfortable with this practice. Repeating the chorus in a piyut such as lecha dodi, however, would seemingly not be problematic.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 338:8) defends a couple of ‘chazanic practices,’ including the popular use of a tuning fork on Shabbos. While he does say that it isn’t ideal, he writes that we should be careful not to condemn wide spread Jewish practices. Aside from instances such as repeating shema and ‘modim’ (see Berachos 33b), one should leave the chazan alone.
In conclusion, one should avoid repeating words, particularly in berachos and pesukim. Likewise, in a pasuk with Hashem’s name, such as הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ ה' אֵלֶיךָ, it would be better to quietly finish the pasuk before repeating the words in song.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Breaking One's Fast

Question: I take regular medication and have managed successfully to fast on Yom Kippur by eating a small piece of cake and a shot of juice with my pills. What do I do on Tisha B’Av?
Answer: A Choleh She'ain Bo Sakanah is defined as one who is confined to bed as a result of their illness (See Shulchan Aruch and Rema OC 328:17). Only one who is considered this ill would be allowed to eat Shiurim (less than a Kezayis in a short amount of time) on Yom Kippur. The Mishna Berura (554:16) writes that Tisha B'Av is like any other Rabbinical fast whereby a Choleh She'ain Bo Sakanah should break their fast. In Biur Halacha (554:6), however he writes that if they can manage to eat in Shiurim on Tisha B'Av they have not technically broken their fast.
R' Dr. Avraham Avraham writes (Nishmat Avraham 4 OC 554:1) that only one who is eating to prevent becoming ill should utilise Shiurim. One who is ill should eat normally. Others, including the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 554:7) write that there is no concept of Shiurim on Tisha B'Av.
The custom is that one who isn't fasting should not receive an Aliyah on Tisha B'Av (Shulchan Aruch OC 566:6 and Mishna Berura 566:19). Following a personal incident when he had to eat, the Chasam Sofer (Teshuvos OC 157) writes that this Halacha doesn't apply on Tisha B'Av.
One who is not fasting omits Aneinu in his Amida (Biur Halacha 565:1) though should say Nachem if he says Birkas Hamazon (Rema OC 557:1).