Sunday, 29 June 2014

Smoking and Kibbud Av

Question: What should I do when my father asks me to buy him cigarettes? Do I listen to him because of kibbud av or refuse because he’s damaging his health?
Answer: The consensus of contemporary poskim is that it absolutely forbidden to smoke (See Minchas Shlomo 2:58:6, Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:115; Shevet Halevi 10:295).
Many poskim who initially took a more lenient stance, later forbade smoking explicitly. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 5:OC 39) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:3) initially took a more lenient stance, though later (Halichos Olam 1:p265 and Tzitz Eliezer 15:39) they both explicitly forbade it.
Many who smoke quote R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 2:49) who wrote (in 1964) that while one shouldn’t smoke, he couldn’t say that it was halachically forbidden. R’ Moshe himself took a stricter stance in his later Teshuvos (Igros Moshe CM 2:18; 76; See too Rivevos Ephraim 8:586).
R’ Moshe Stern (Be'er Moshe 1:60:10) answers your question. As smoking will damage his health, he is asking you to do something that runs contrary to the Torah. In such a case, you have to politely decline.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Removing Rings to Wash

Question:­ I am rather forgetful and often misplace things, so do not like removing my jewellery. Do I need to remove my rings before washing my hands for bread?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 161:3) writes that one should remove one’s ring before washing their hands as it is a chatzitza (a barrier). The Rema explains that this is because people remove their rings when they’re doing manual work so as not to ruin or dirty their ring. He adds that this applies even if the ring is loose, and the water can get underneath.
The Mishna Berura (161:19) writes that as women usually remove their rings before baking, they are considered to be a chatzitza and must be removed. As men who wear rings are less likely to remove them, men may wash with rings even if they are on firmly. This doesn’t apply to a ring set with a precious stone, as men are more particular to remove them when working.
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 161:32) writes that one who has a gold ring with a precious stone and is worried that it may get lost or stolen if they remove it, may leave it on. They should, however, pour water on that hand first, move the ring a bit before pouring again.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:127) writes that as fewer women bake nowadays it depends on the individual. One who removes their rings while working or showering, etc. must remove them, regardless. One who does not remove their rings while working and has difficulty removing them may wash with them on, though should ensure to pour at least a revi’is on each hand (see Shulchan Aruch OC 162:2).
In conclusion, it is preferable for all rings to be removed before washing netilas yadayim. One who rarely removes their ring or is worried about removing it, may leave it on if necessary, though they should wash with at least one revi’is on each hand.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Security Cameras on Shabbos

Question: I have just had a security system with cameras installed around my house. It is not motion detected, but rather runs 24/7. Is it a problem to use on Shabbos?
Answer: A few years ago there was a big discussion about whether it was permitted to go to the kosel on Shabbos as doing so entailed going through security and being filmed. The Yated reported that R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv prohibited visiting the kosel on Shabbos as he was concerned that the surveillance video was being permanently saved to disk. It isn’t clear that he prohibited the use of surveillance cameras, however. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 9:35) allowed one to go as the cameras are running irrelevant as to whether anyone walks in front of them or not.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 10:60) wrote that one may visit someone in hospital even if that means passing by a security camera, though one should avoid it if possible. It would follow that he doesn’t allow residents to operate surveillance cameras on Shabbos.
Other Poskim are more lenient as such filming cannot be considered permanent writing. R’ Yitzchok Halperin (Yeshurun 11) writes that such cameras aren’t even forbidden miderabanan.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (in a letter to R’ Yisroel Rozen of the Tzomet Institute) wrote that as the data is not being permanently recorded, it is at worst a derabanan. Although the cameras operate for security purposes, the passerby does not benefit from being photographed. One only benefits from the system when there’s an unwelcome intruder. Thus, R' Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 3:247) writes that one may walk in front of a camera on Shabbos as this is a case of pesik reisha delo nicha lei (see Shulchan Aruch OC 320:18) which is permitted in a rabbinic prohibition. Likewise, one may operate a surveillance camera. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Ateres Shlomo 6, p57) concurs. 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Torah On Display

The Magen Avraham (OC 134:3) writes that the one honoured with hagbah should open up the Sefer Torah enough to display three columns, though the Mishna Berura (134:8) writes that one capable of safely opening it more should do so. The seam connecting the pages should be in the middle (See Shulchan Aruch OC 147:3; Aruch HaShulchan 147:13). When doing hagbah, one should turn clockwise, slowly enough that people can see the letters (Mishna Berura 134:9).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 134:2) and Rema (Darchei Moshe 147:4) write that when the Torah is lifted, there is a mitzva for everyone to look at it, bow down, and say Vezos habracha..
R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC:64) writes that he is puzzled as to why people aren’t particular about this halacha, especially as we mention bowing when we take the Sefer Torah out (דסגידנא קמיה in Berich Shemei)!
While many people point with their pinky during hagbah, this is not the ashkenazi custom (See Rivevos Ephraim 5:215).
According to the Gemara (Megilla 32a), the honour of gelilah is equal to all of the other honours. (See Shulchan Aruch OC 147:1). The Mishna Berura (147:5) writes that this applies to the way we do hagbah today, and notes that it is no longer treated this way. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 147:9) questions the practice of many gabboim who will give gelilah to a young boy. One theory behind this is that the Torah used to be lifted before leining (as is practiced in many sefardic and chassidic communities). Now that gelilah is the last honour, it no longer receives the same prestige.
Ramban (Devarim 27:26) writes very strongly about the importance of performing the mitzva of hagbah and gelilah properly. Let us take heed of his words.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Shabbos Zemiros

Question: I’ve always sung zemiros on Shabbos, pronouncing Hashem’s name properly, though often hear others who don’t. Is it better to say kel, Elokeinu and Hashem instead of the actual names?
Answer: The Gemara (Megilla 12b) records that Rava said, ‘On Shabbos, the Jews eat, drink and say Torah and praises’. Sefer Chasidim (271) writes that singing zemiros on Shabbos is a mitzva.
R’ Yaakov Emden (Siddur Bais Yaakov, Zemiros Leil Shabbos) writes that the words of the zemiros are all based on Tenach, Gemara and Midrash, etc. and singing them brings goodness to the world.
While there is a prohibition to say Hashem’s name in vain (Temura 3b) even in English (Mishna Berura 215:19), when giving respect to Hashem, however, it is permitted. Thus, saying Hashem’s name in zemiros would be permitted (Biur Halacha 188; Piskei Teshuvos 215:18).
R’ Chaim Volozhin (Orchos Chaim 94) writes that the Vilna Gaon did not sing Tzur Mishelo as it contains much of the same content as bentching. Thus, while most don’t follow this practice, some choose not to mention Hashem’s name. Like other Zemiros, however, Tzur Mishelo was composed in rhyme with Hashem’s name at the end of each stanza. Evidently, it was the composer’s intention that Hashem’s name is mentioned properly.
יבנה המקדש עיר ציון תמלא, ושם נשיר שיר חדש וברננה נעלה.