Monday, 26 August 2013

Opening Post on Shabbos

Question: Am I allowed to open post that arrives on Shabbos?
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 314:1) writes that one may crack open a barrel on Shabbos to get to the food inside. While the Mishna Berura (314:25) allows opening a container to access the food inside, he writes (340:41; Biur Halacha 340:14) that one mustn’t open a sealed letter on Shabbos as the envelope becomes a usable kli, though one may ask a non-Jewish person to do so if absolutely necessary. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:21:5) also forbids opening post nowadays, writing that with modern day communication, it’s difficult to say that regular post is so important.
While one may read a personal letter, especially if it contains Shabbos related material (such as a devar Torah), one must not read any business correspondence on Shabbos. Bills, etc. are therefore muktza, irrespective as to whether they arrived on Shabbos or before. Such post is muktza on Shabbos (Mishna Berura 307:56; Igros Moshe ibid.), though one may move it out of the way kilachar yad (such as with one’s foot).
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 586:140) quotes the Tashbetz who writes that one may crack open a barrel to get a shofar. Based on this, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 9:3; 15:80) writes that R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach applied this halacha equally to non-food items. Thus, one can remove clothes or a newspaper, etc. from their plastic providing one doesn’t intend on reusing the plastic afterwards (See Chazon Ish, Shabbos 61:2).
R’ Neuwirth (9:n18; 28:n15) suggests that the Mishna Berura would agree that one may open a non-food package if they disposed of the wrapping and it was necessary for Shabbos.
The Shulchan Aruch (307:14) writes that there is no issue in reading a letter that came from outside the techum, although if it was brought specially for them then it is preferable not to touch it. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 515:14) explains that while one cannot normally benefit from something brought from outside the techum, it does not make the item muktze (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 307:5). Likewise, the Mishna Berura (307:55) explains that as one does not specifically expect the letter to come on Shabbos, there is no concern that one is asking the postman to deliver it (See Machazeh Eliyahu 37).
Thus, R’ Neuwirth (ibid. 31:23) writes that one may benefit from items that arrived in the post on Shabbos, providing they didn’t specifically ask for it to be delivered then.
In conclusion, while bills, etc. are muktze on Shabbos, one may open a package that arrived on Shabbos if necessary, providing they threw the packaging away.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Folding a Tallis on Shabbos

Question: I've seen some people fold their tallis on Shabbos, while some just stuff it into their tallis bag. What's the halacha?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 113a) teaches that folding clothing on Shabbos is only permitted if the following five conditions are met: 1) It will be worn again on Shabbos, 2) No one assists in folding it, 3) It hasn’t been washed since its last use, 4) it is white, and 5) they have no other to wear.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 302:3) adds that one may, however, fold something providing that it isn’t folded on its original crease. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (302:19) writes that though it is permitted even if it won’t be worn again that day, ideally one should be stringent and avoid folding it.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 302:12) explains that there are two different reasons for the prohibition: Rambam (Shabbos 22:22) writes that folding is being mesaken, fixing the garment, while the Raavad (Shabbos 23:7) holds that folding is a tircha yesera, additional effort. Neither of these reasons, he suggests, apply to folding a tallis. Certainly, it is inappropriate to stuff one’s tallis into his tallis bag without folding it at all. 
Likewise, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 302:32) quotes R’ Yitzchak Falaji (Yafeh Lalev OC 302) who writes that the folding is actually a hiddur mitzva and not treating it properly will lead to it getting ruined.
The Beis Yosef (OC 302) quotes the Kol Bo (Shabbos p.33a) who allows one to fold clothes nowadays, arguing that we are no longer as particular to place our clothes in the press as people once were. Nonetheless, the Ben Ish Chai (Vayechi 2:13), R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:24:3) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:40) concede that one shouldn’t rely on this. Rather, one should fold one’s tallis over while avoiding the original folds.
The Magen Avraham (300:1) notes that the Maharil would fold his tallis straight after Shabbos.
In conclusion, while those who fold their talleisim properly should not be criticised, it is best to fold it while avoiding its original creases. It is commendable to fold it properly after Shabbos.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Beracha on Lightning and Thunder

Question: I learned as a child that one should only recite the beracha upon seeing lightning if they have also heard thunder. Is there any basis to this?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 59a) teaches that there are two berachos to be recited upon seeing lightning and hearing thunder though there is a machlokes as to which beracha should be recited for each.

Tosafos (Berachos 59a) write that one recites either she’kocho ugvuraso malei olam or oseh ma’ase bereishis while Raavad (Berachos 10:14) writes that one should recite both berachos.

The Taz (OC 227:1) and Mishna Berura (227:5) write that the minhag is to recite she’kocho ugvuraso malei olam when hearing thunder and oseh ma’ase bereishis when seeing lightning (which better demonstrates Hashem’s might). Some people do not recite a beracha after lightning until they hear thunder, too, though this practice is wrong, as the beracha must be recited toch kedei dibbur, within a couple of seconds (ibid. 227:12). If one sees and hears them together, one only says one beracha, preferably oseh ma’ase bereishis.

While Ashkenazim say the full beracha with Hashem’s name, some Sefardim follow the Kaf Hachaim (OC 227:1) who writes that one should recite the beracha without Hashem’s name. Other Sefardim follow R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:27) and recite the full beracha.

In conclusion, if one sees lightning and hears thunder close together, one recites the beracha of oseh ma’ase bereishis. Otherwise, one recites a separate beracha on each.