Sunday, 25 May 2014

Visiting the Sick - By Phone / Email

Question: I find it difficult to visit my friend in hospital and so call and email her. Have I done the mitzva of bikur cholim?
Answer: Although the mitzvah to visit the sick, bikur cholim, isn’t written clearly in the Torah, the Behag (Asei 36) and Smak (47) classify it as one of the 613 mitzvos.
The Tur (YD 335) writes that this mitzva includes 3 components: to pray for them, see to their needs and give them encouragement. The Beis Yosef (YD 335) writes that the primary mitzvah is to pray for the patient. According to the Rema (YD 335:4) one who visits a patient without praying for them has not properly fulfilled their obligation.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 1:223) and R' Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 2:84) write that while one can’t fulfil every component of this mitzva by calling a patient, one who can’t visit them in person still performs a mitzva by calling. 
R’ Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher, Bereishis 20) disagrees. Chazal said that we must visit them, and not to try and fulfil our obligation in any other way. Calling or emailing a patient would certainly be a mitzva of chesed, however, and one who can’t visit in person, should use any other means to help them.
The Gemara (Nedarim 39b) writes that visiting the sick aids their recovery. Seemingly, this is something that can only be achieved in person.
יה"ר מלפני אבינו שבשמים שתשלח להם מהרה רפואה שלמה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Tearing Keriah at the Kosel

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 561:2) writes that when seeing ‘Yerushalayim in its destructive state’, one should say ‘Zion has become a desolate desert’ and tear keriah. Upon seeing the ruins of the Beis Hamikdash one should tear keriah (again) and say ‘Our house of holiness and glory in which our ancestors sang praise to You, and all that we hold precious has been destroyed.’
The Mishna Berura (and others) writes that Yerushalayim is only considered to be ‘in a destructive state’ when it’s under foreign rule. Thus, R’ Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe OC 4:70) that as Yerushalayim is under Jewish rule today, one need not tear keriah when seeing Yerushalayim. One does, however, upon seeing the Temple ruins.
While R’ Moshe Sternbuch writes (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:331) that one tears upon seeing the Dome of the Rock, others (Baer Heitev 561:5) write that it is ideal to view the Har Habayis itself. Ideally one should try to find a higher vantage point to accommodate all views.
As one doesn’t need to tear keriah if he has been within 30 days, some sell their shirt to a friend while others go to the Kotel on Shabbos or Friday afternoon (the ‘first time’) to avoid doing so. R’ Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe YD 3:52) that one still tears on Friday afternoon, however.
ולירושלים עירך ברחמים תשובובנה אותה בקרוב בימינו

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Left Handed

Question: I am left handed. Other than placing Tefillin on my right arm, are there any other considerations that I should be aware of?
Answer: Which hand a left-handed person should use, depends on which reason a right-handed person is supposed to use their right hand: either because their right hand is more prominent, or because Kabbalistically, the right hand represents the force of Chessed.
The Mishna Berura (4:22) writes that when washing one’s hands, one washes one’s right hand first irrespective as to whether one is right or left-handed. Likewise, everyone should put their right sleeve, etc. in first when getting dressed (See Mishna Berura 2:4). Unlike right-handed people who tie their left shoes first, however, left-handed people should tie their right shoes first (corresponding to which arm they would tie their Tefillin on).
R’ Chaim Kanievsky (Ish Iteir n19) writes that when saying Shema, one should always use one’s right hand to cover one’s eyes.
The Mishna Berura (206:18) writes that a left-handed person should hold the food in their left hand when reciting a Bracha.
Many Sefardim follow the Shulchan Aruch (OC 651:3) who writes that a left-handed person should hold the Lulav in their right hand while most Ashkenazim follow the Rema who writes that one should use one’s left hand.
R’ Paysach Krohn (Yad Eliezer p25) writes that the consensus is that a left-handed person should blow the Shofar from his right side.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Food Under Beds

Question: I have always stored food under my bed and have just found out that one shouldn't place food there. Do I need to dispose of it?
Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 112a) writes that one shouldn't store food under a bed, as a ruach ra’ah, evil spirit, will pass over it. While the Shulchan Aruch (YD 116:5) paskens this way, Rambam (Hilchos Rotzeach 12:5) gives a different reason as he holds that this evil spirit no longer exists (See Lechem Mishne, Hilchos Shevisas Asor 3:2).
R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 4:117) writes that one may place food at the bottom of a buggy, even if the baby is sleeping.
Medications are not considered food and may be stored under one’s bed (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 13:17; Tzitz Eliezer 17:35).
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 1: YD 9) writes that as the Vilna Gaon and many others were stringent, if one did inadvertently place food under a bed, one should dispose of it. If the food was expensive, however, one may rely on the more lenient authorities. There are other factors, however, which would make the food permissible, including if the food was raw, if it was a child’s bed, or a carpeted / tiled floor (Yabia Omer 1: YD 10; Tzitz Eliezer 10:35).
Most people follow other Poskim (Aruch Hashulchan YD 116:11; Pischei Teshuvah YD 116:4; Rivevos Ephraim 1:8:1; 5:8) who take a more lenient approach, and allow such food to be consumed.
In conclusion, one must be careful not to store food under one's bed. If one inadvertently does so, one need not dispose of it.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Eating in a Non-Kosher Restaurant

Question: Am I allowed to meet people in a coffee shop if they are eating non-Kosher food and I am just having a coffee?
Answer: The Mishna (Shekalim 3:2) writes that the person who took the teruma from the shekalim in the Beis Hamikdash had to ensure that they were not wearing shoes or that their clothes had any pockets, etc. so that no one could falsely accuse them of stealing any money. While this prohibition is typically referred to as maris ayin, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:40; 4:82) explains that there are, in fact, two separate prohibitions.
Maris ayin means that one should avoid doing something which will easily lead people to jump to the wrong conclusion that something else is permissible. Therefore, one should avoid going to daven in a shul that lacks a mechitza even if one is going to daven in a separate room, as others may think that it is permissible to daven in such a shul.
Chashad, on the other hand, is giving others the impression that one is performing an averah. This prohibition is more severe, and according to R’ Moshe, is assur mideoraisa. Sefer Chinuch (295) stresses that this prohibition is even more severe for prominent people such as Rabbis.
One eating in a non-Kosher restaurant could potentially transgress both chashad and maris ayin, though one is allowed to enter under extenuating circumstances. One doing so should go in an inconspicuous manner and ensure that no one outside recognises them without knowing why they are entering.
Although coffee shops sell non-Kosher food, one may eat there as we are not concerned that people will assume that they are eating non- Kosher food, nor that the non-Kosher food there is Kosher (See Igros Moshe OC 1:96).
In conclusion, one may have a coffee in a coffee shop that also sells non-Kosher food.