Thursday, 28 November 2013

Shabbos Chanuka

Question: When should we light our menora before and after Shabbos?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 679:1) writes that as one accepts Shabbos by lighting the Shabbos candles, one must light the Chanuka candles first. The Magen Avraham (679:1) and Mishna Berura (679:1), however, point out that this isn’t necessarily the case with men who light Shabbos candles. The Rema adds that even though this means that they are lighting the menora before shekia, one still recites the berachos.
While the Magen Avraham (679:1) and Mishna Berura (679:2) write one can light the menora from plag hamincha, one and a quarter halachic hours before nacht, R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim Uzemanim 2:152) writes that one should not light more than half an hour before shekia (See Igros Moshe OC 4:62).
The Mishna Berura (ibid.; Biur Halacha 672:1) writes that one must fill one’s menora with enough oil or large enough candles to last for half an hour after tzeis, nightfall.
The Mishna Berura (679:2) writes that ideally one should daven Mincha before lighting the menora. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 671:79) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:74) explain that the menora serves to remind us of the menora in the beis hamikdash which was lit after the afternoon korban tamid, now represented by Mincha. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 671:26), however, writes that as we usually light Shabbos candles before Mincha, our minhag is to light the menora before Mincha, too.
The Rema (OC 681:2) writes that one should light the menora immediately after Shabbos, even before saying havdala.
The Taz (OC 681:2) and Mishna Berura (681:2) argue however, that we should recite havdala first, following the rule of tadir vesheino tadir, tadir kodem, the more regular of two mitzvos is performed first. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 681:2) adds that it makes less sense to say the beracha of meorei haesh after one has already lit the menora. Additionally, even the Rema seems to imply that if one didn’t hear havdala in shul that one should say it first (See Yechave Daas 1:75; Shevet Halevi 6:85).
R’ Dovid Zvi Hoffman (Melamed Lehoyil 1:122) relates that while he used to always recite havdala first, he once lit the menora first as he was running out of time. Just before he was about to light, he realised that he had forgotten to say ata chonantanu, and so it was still Shabbos for him! He took this as a sign from heaven that he should not change his minhag.
In conclusion, one should light the menora on erev Shabbos shortly before lighting Shabbos candles. Unless one has a specific minhag otherwise, one should ideally recite havdala on Motzaei Shabbos first.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Spin that Dreidel

Much has been written about the significance of the four letters on the Dreidel, from שמונה נרות, הלל גמור (‘8 lights, complete Hallel’ - the Mitzvos of Chanuka) to it referring to the four exiles and their being the same Gematria as משיח.
The Bnei Yissachar (R’ Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov 1783-1841) points out that while the Purim Gragger is spun from the bottom, the dreidel is spun from the top. While the Purim events were orchestrated by Esther and Mordechai ‘down below’ (Hashem was hidden), the Chanuka story clearly came from above. We spin the dreidel to remind us that the miracles of winning the war and the oil lasting for eight days were clearly orchestrated by Hashem above.  
Many of us are familiar with the legend of the dreidel. Jewish students had a dreidel prepared in case they were approached by the Greeks whilst learning Torah.
Long before any Jewish reference to the dreidel (first published in Minhagei Yeshurun, 1890), however, the Germans played teetotum, a gambling spinning top. Our dreidel has 4 letters, G (Ganz, all), H (Halb, half), N (Nischt, nothing) and S (shicht, put).
Nonetheless, Minhag Yisroel Torah – when a custom becomes established practise in Judaism, it should be continued as Jewish custom.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Mezonos Bread

Question: I see that some local Kashrus authorities don’t sell mezonos bread. Why is this?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 42a) writes that one recites mezonos before eating pas haba b’kisnin. It isn’t clear, however, what this includes. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 168:7) writes that one recites mezonos on bread that is baked with honey, milk or fruit juice providing that one can taste the difference between normal bread. The Rema writes that one would only recite mezonos on such bread if it also contains a significant amount of juice or spices (see Taz 168:7; Darchei Moshe 20). The Mishna Berura (168:33) paskens that this liquid needs to be the primary ingredient and one would have to be able to taste the difference in the bread. Accordingly, one would have to wash and recite hamotzi on regular mezonos bread which tastes similar to regular bread (See The Laws of B’rachos p254).
Many quote the Da’as Torah (168:7) as allowing one to recite mezonos (and not having to wash and bentsch) even if one can’t taste the juice, providing that the main ingredient is juice, etc. R’ Yisroel Belsky points out that one can’t rely on this as he was referring to specific ingredients no longer used in baking.
Dayan Gavriel Krausz (Mekor Habracha 14) writes that there is a safek as to whether one needs to wash and recite hamotzi before eating bridge rolls or not, though writes that providing that they contain fruit juice, one can rely on the lenient view and recite mezonos.
The Mishna Berura (168:24) writes that if one eats a meal’s worth of pas haba b’kisnin, one needs to treat it as regular bread. This is true even if one ate a little, together with other food. Thus, even one who made mezonos before eating a couple of bridge rolls (or a slice of pizza) followed by some salad, may have to bench if he is full. Many rabbonim therefore urge Baalei Simcha not to serve bridge rolls at their Simcha.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Gifts on Shabbos

Question: I am invited to a Shabbos Sheva Brachos in an area where there is an Eruv. Can I bring a gift on Shabbos?
Answer: When one gives a present, the item transfers ownership which is akin to a transaction. Therefore, one is generally forbidden to give others presents on Shabbos (Mishna Berura 306:33).
One may give a present that may be used on Shabbos, such as food. One who receives a bottle of wine, for example, is not obligated to open it that day. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 323:7; Mishna Berura 323:34) allows one to give a new dish that requires tevila to a gentile on Shabbos and subsequently borrow it off him, thus permitting the dish for use.
Likewise, the Beis Yosef (OC 527) allows one to give a gift on Shabbos if it will be used for mitzva purposes. This is the basis for allowing one to give their lulav and esrog to another as a gift on the first day (or 2) of Sukkos.
The Magen Avraham (OC 306:15) question the practice of giving presents to a chassan who delivers a speech on Shabbos. The Chasam Sofer (Hagaos Hachasam Sofer OC 306), however disagrees as such a gift serves a mitzvapurpose by giving true kavod to the Torah. The Aruch Hashulchan extends this, allowing one to give wedding presents at the Shabbos Sheva Brachos, as doing so brings simcha to the chassan and kalla; itself a great mitzva.
Likewise, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 3:21) allows giving Bar Mitzva presents on Shabbos (especially Seforim that may be used that day) as they can serve to encourage the boy in his Torah learning and religious lifestyle.
Nonetheless, when giving (non-food) gifts, R' Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 29:29) advises having a third party acquire the gift on behalf of the one receiving the gift. Alternately, they should intend not to acquire it until after Shabbos.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Washing Hands on the Go

Question: What’s the best way to wash one’s hands before eating bread when travelling?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 159:7) writes that one must actually pour the water over one’s hands, koach gavra. Just holding one’s hands under a running tap would not suffice (See Mishna Berura 159:60).
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 8:7) writes that if one doesn’t have access to a cup, one can open and close the tap a few times, as bedieved this counts as koach gavra (See Mishna Berura 160: 64). R' Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 4:21) disagrees, as the pipe cannot act as a keli.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe EH 1:114) writes that one should not wash one’s hands in a toilet room, though R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:60) writes that when that is the only water available, one should wash his hands there, though they should come out before drying them. If possible, one should fill up the cup and take it outside the room.
One can dip one’s hands into a body of water that would otherwise be suitable as a mikvah. One may wash with other liquids, if necessary, though without a Bracha. (Shulchan Aruch 160:12)
While disposable cups are not ideal, one can use them if that’s all one has. Likewise, one may use a bottle, providing the water comes out in an uninterrupted flow (Mishna Berura 162:30).
While ideally one should dry his hands on a towel, if necessary, one may use an electric hand dryer (Shut Az Nidberu 8:52; 9:64), though it is preferable to wipe them on one’s trousers or skirt.
If there is no water around, one is obligated to go the extra mil to obtain water. (That is to go back 18 minutes, or keep travelling for 4 mil / 72 minutes.) If that isn’t feasible, one can cover one’s hands, e.g. with gloves, before eating.