Sunday, 29 September 2013

What to do with Dvar Torah sheets

Question: Am I allowed to dispose of divrei Torah sheets such as these?
Answer: The Gemara (Makkos 22a) writes that one who destroys one of the sheimos, names of Hashem, has transgressed the negative commandment of You shall not do this to Hashem your God. (Devarim 12:4)
Rambam takes this a step further and writes (Yesoidey Hatorah 6:8) that one must never burn or destroy Torah writings (except for those written by a heretic, etc.) The Netziv (Meshiv Davar 1:80) limits this prohibition to materials that were written to last. Thus, one would be allowed to dispose of one’s rough notes. Based on this, R’ Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:17) permits disposing of newspapers that contain Divrei Torah. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5:162) however, writes that they require burial.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:39) writes that often too much is printed, especially in school settings, which just compounds the problem. He writes that if the gedolim in Eretz Yisrael would agree with him (they didn't..) he would have allowed one to even dispose of a worn Gemara, providing it didn’t contain sheimos. Once a sefer becomes unusable, it loses its kedusha somewhat.
There is much debate about placing such papers in recycling. R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:554) maintains that the ideal solution is to put them in a plastic bag before disposing of them. This way, one is treating them respectfully.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Computers on Chol Hamoed

Question: Am I allowed to make a sign on my computer on chol hamoed to advertise a shiur?  

Answer: The Mishna (Moed Katan 11a) teaches us that ma’aseh uman (the work of a craftsman) must not be performed on behalf of an individual on chol hamoed. Only ma’aseh hedyot (the work of an ordinary person) that is necessary for that chag is allowed.

Rambam (Yom Tov 7:14) writes that personal letters are considered ma’aseh hedyot and so may be written, though the Rema (OC 545:1; 5) adds that one should do so in an unusual manner. Thus, the Magen Avraham (545:21) suggests writing the first line on a slant, while the Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziun 545:8) writes that one can write in a different script. He emphasises (Biur Halacha 545:1), however, that one should only write when absolutely necessary.

R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim Uzmanim 4:301) considers printing to be ma'aseh uman and therefore assur.

Nonetheless, the Eshel Avraham (545:7) writes that while using stamps and seals on Shabbos would be an issur of kosev, writing, one may use them on chol hamoed if necessary, as they are considered to be ma’aseh hedyot. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 66:55; n209) extends this to using typewriters, etc., writing that R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach compared them to stamps which are considered to be ma’aseh hedyot. Likewise, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 8:48) writes that one may use a computer for mitzva related tasks such as typing Divrei Torah (See Baer Moshe 7:39).

In conclusion, one may use a computer to design a sign for things related to the chag.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Travelling Sukka

Question: I am going on a family outing on Chol Hamoed. Do I need to ensure that I eat in a Sukka?
Answer:  The Gemara in Sukka (26a) teaches us that one is exempt from eating and sleeping in a Sukka while travelling because teishvu kaein taduru, one doesn’t alter one’s normal living habits in order to live in a Sukka. Rashi explains that just as during the rest of the year living at home does not prevent one for travelling on a business trip, so too one may make a business trip (over Chol Hamoed).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 640:8) paskens like the Gemara, though the Rema adds that debt collectors travelling to villages which don’t have a Sukka will be blessed if they are particular to return home each night. The Mishna Berura (260:40-45 and Biur Halacha) explains that one should look for a Sukka. If there isn’t one around one doesn’t need to go to the bother of building one just for a night, though should for a longer stay.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:93) qualifies the Gemara’s exemption like Rashi: While may one travel for business purposes or for a mitzvah, one going on a trip for pleasure is still required to eat (and sleep) in a Sukka. One doesn’t need to travel for pleasure, and one should go out of one’s way, and forgo a little extra pleasure in order to fulfil a mitzvah. Elsewhere (EH 4:32:8), R’ Moshe writes that tourists who visit another country and particularly want to see the sites may travel without a Sukka if they can’t delay visiting until after Yom Tov. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:47) also holds that one can not eat outside of a Sukka when on an outing.
R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Hearos Lemasesches Sukkah p114) challenges R’ Moshe’s arguments. As it is common to travel for pleasure, it should be no different to traveling for business, and such travel should be included in teishvu kaein taduru. Rashi, he writes, used business as an example, and other Rishonim don’t stress any type of travelling. Additionally, one who has a Sukka and leaves it for a short trip is not considered avoiding the Mitzva.
While one has what to rely on under emergency, ideally, one should be particular to prepare food that doesn’t necessitate a Sukka when travelling (See Shulchan Aruch OC 639:2).

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Learning during Chazaras Hashatz

Question: May one learn during chazaras hashatz?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 124:1) writes that the chazzan repeats the amida aloud so that everyone can fulfil their obligation of tefilla, even if they are unable to daven themselves. Although most people in shuls today are capable of davening themselves, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 124:2) writes that chazaras hashatz is more important than the quiet shemonei esrei.
The Mishna Berura (124:17) writes that one must not recite other tefillos or learn during chazaras hashatz even when it does not prevent them from answering amen, as others may be misled into thinking that it is even okay to talk. Elsewhere (125:1), he writes that it is fine to learn by thinking (hirhur) except during kedusha. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:19) notes that one who isn’t listening properly to the chazaras hashatz is not considered to be part of the minyan at that time.
The Magen Avraham (124:8), Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 124:6) and Baer Heitev (OC 124:4) quote opinions both for and against preventing those who learn during chazaras hashatz, even if they are answering amen to the chazan. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 124:16) sides with those who oppose it, adding that one should not even think about Torah at this time (See Rivevos Ephrain 5:61).
In conclusion, one must not learn Torah during chazaras hashatz.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Totally Nuts!

The Rema (OC 583:2) writes that many have the custom to avoid eating nuts on Rosh Hashana. One reason for this is because אגוז is the same gematria as חט, sin (minus the א – the way it is spelled in Talmud Yerushalmi). Similar to the various simanim we eat on Rosh Hashana, we want to remind – and inspire - ourselves to do teshuva as one eats – or avoids - these special foods (Matei Ephraim 583:2). Thus, many avoid bitter foods.
While many avoid nuts throughout the aseres yemei teshuva, there doesn’t seem to be any source for this.
R’ Shmuel Kamenetsky (quoted in Kovetz Halachos: Yomim Noraim) holds that while one may eat food with nuts mixed or baked in, they should not be recognizable. (Thus, smooth peanut butter may be consumed, though chunky peanut butter should be avoided.)
While this is an ashkenazic minhag, some Poskim point out that the Maharam Mi’Rottenburg used to eat nuts on Rosh Hashana.
The Mishna Berura (583:5) writes that while some are particular not to pickle their fish in bitter brine as a good siman, it is more important to be careful not to get angry with another during this time, as a good siman! Similarly, the Beis Yisroel (5th Gerrer Rebbe) points out that while many avoid nuts because it shares the same gematria as חטא, we mustn’t forget that חטא also shares the same gematria as חטא. Let’s remember these simanim for what they are, and use them to further inspire us to teshuva.