Sunday, 31 August 2014

Kosher Gum

Question: My children like chewing gum. Can I buy them gum without a hechsher considering that they don’t swallow it? Do they recite a beracha?
Answer: There are a few potentially problematic ingredients in gum. Both the emulsifier in the gum base and the glycerine used to soften the gum can originate from animal fat. Additionally, the flavourings are often non-kosher. While gum is not supposed to be swallowed, most of the ingredients are its flavourings which certainly are ingested.
As gum manufacturers do not legally need to list all of the ingredients, and other non-kosher products may be produced on the same machinery, it doesn’t help to just rely on the listed ingredients.
The Rema (YD 108:5) writes that one mustn’t even taste non-kosher food that one intends to spit out. Certainly then, one must only chew gum that one knows to be kosher.
While there are poskim (Birkas Hashem, maamarim 1) that hold that one does not recite a beracha before chewing gum, most follow R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 7 OC:33) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 6:80:2; 7:219) and recite shehakol.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Beracha on New Car

Question: I just bought a new car. Should I say shehecheyanu? Does it matter that it is second hand?
Answer: The Mishna (Berachos 9:2) teaches that one recites a beracha upon hearing good news, building a new house or buying new items. According to the Gemara (Berachos 59b) one recites hatov vehametiv when others benefit from the good news or new items; otherwise, one says shehecheyanu (See Shulchan Aruch OC 222:1; 223:3, 5).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 223:6) and Mishna Berura (223:13) explain that this only applies to items that are important and one is particularly happy about acquiring. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 223:3) writes that this applies equally to used items.
The Magen Avraham (223:5) notes that many people are not particular about this practice and the Shulchan Aruch Harav (Birchos Hanehenin 12:5) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 223:20) write that one only needs to recite shehecheyanu when buying new clothes. Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:80) writes that one should recite shehecheyanu when buying a new car for oneself. When buying a family car, however, one should recite hatov vehametiv (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:375).
R’ Chaim Falagi (Lev Chaim 3:52) held that one buying something on finance does not recite a beracha as their simcha is diminished somewhat. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 12:19) however, disagrees, arguing that one even recites shehecheyanu when one is left a significant inheritance when one’s relative dies.
If the car needs servicing, one should wait until any repairs have been done before saying the beracha (See Mishna Berura 223:17).
In conclusion, one should say a beracha on buying a new car, regardless of whether it was used or bought on finance. If they were buying it for themselves, they should say shehecheyanu. If they were buying a family car, they should say hatov vehametiv.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Davening while Flying

Question: Previously when I’ve flown, I’ve been invited to join a minyan on the plane, though have always been uncomfortable about doing so. I am about to fly again. What should I do?
Answer: While the shemone esrei is also known as the amida because it should be said while standing, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 94:4) writes that one who does have to daven while travelling should do so while seated if necessary. The Mishnah Berura (94:13) explains that it easier to concentrate this way.
The consensus of poskim (Igros Moshe OC 4:20; Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 8:4) is that as davening with a minyan during a flight will bother other passengers, one should rather daven shemone esrei while seated. Additionally, a gathering of people davening together poses a safety risk.
In a letter to El Al, R’ Shmuel Wosner wrote that if one can stand by their seat without bothering any other passengers, they should do so; otherwise they should sit. One must sit, even in the middle of shemone esrei if asked to do so or if the ‘fasten seatbelt’ light goes on. R’ Yitzchak Silberstein adds that one who doesn’t sit under such circumstances has not fulfilled the mitzva of tefilla as they’ve done so by way of an aveira. One must also be mindful not to create a chillul Hashem.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 94:18) writes that one davening while sitting should still (keep their feet together and) bow in the appropriate places, standing in their seat to do so if possible.
Certainly, it is best to avoid davening while travelling if possible. The Mishna Berura (89:39, 42) writes that it is better to either daven before travelling or delay davening until one arrives, even though one won’t be davening at the ideal time.
Due to the constant change in location when travelling, it can be difficult to know the best time to daven. One can view the ideal times for each flight at

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Davening for the IDF on Shabbos

Question: As one isn’t supposed to recite prayers requesting things on Shabbos, should Shuls be reciting the tefilla for the tzahal (IDF)?
Answer: Rambam (Shabbos 30:12) writes that one mustn’t make personal requests on Shabbos. Thus, the Mishna Berura (584:1) writes that we don’t say avinu malkeinu when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos (except for during neila).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 288:9) writes that one may pray in emergency situations such as for a choleh (one who’s sick) in critical danger.
The Magen Avraham (OC 288:14) questions the common practice of the gabbai reciting a mi sheberach for cholim who aren’t critically ill. It has, however, become accepted practice to do so, though one should add the words Shabbos he melizok.. The Machtzis Hashekel explains that these words serve to remind us not to be too upset and reassure the choleh that Shabbos itself can aid their recovery. Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 287:2) writes that if he had the power he’d abolish this mi sheberach on Shabbos (except for those who are critically ill). Elsewhere, (OC 417:9) he questions the practice of saying yehi ratzon on Shabbos Mevorchim (as it is full of requests), again saying that if he’d have the power, he’d annul it. Indeed, the minhag Chabad is not to say it.
Another exception is when such requests are part of the regular tefilla. Thus, the Tur (OC 188) and Mishna Berura (188:9) write that we can say the requests in bentsching. R’ Chaim Berlin (Nishmas Chaim 23) justifies the tefillos for the community (rather than for the individual) that are said as part of the davening.
Many hold that the tefillos composed by the Chief Rabbinate such as the tefillos for the State of Israel and the tzahal fit into this category.
It would seem that even those that do not usually recite the tefillos for Israel on Shabbos (dues to their views on Zionism or based on poskim that we can no longer add to our tefillos) may and should do so now, as Israel and its soldiers are unfortunately in critical danger.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Havdala During the Nine Days

Question: What should I use for havdala during the nine days?
Answer: While one may not drink wine during the nine days unless it is within a seudas mitzva, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:10) writes that one may drink wine for havdala as it is no different from a seudas mitzva (Mishna Berura 551:67). Thus, common Sephardic practise is to drink the wine (Kaf Hachaim OC 551:152).
The Rema disagrees, saying that we should give it to a child when possible. The Mishna Berura (551:70) explains that this child should have reached the age of chinuch though not be old enough to understand what we’re mourning about (6-9 years old).
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 551:26) writes that one should rather use beer. It is debatable, however, whether beer is still considered to be chamar medinah nowadays. The Mishna Berura (272:24) writes that this only applies where beer is commonly drunk; R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:77) writes that coffee and tea are more suitable. R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 2:60:4) allows one to use cider or fruit juice if necessary, providing that they are considered important drinks in that locale.
In conclusion, it would seem that those who make havdala on motzaei Pesach over beer should do so during the nine days. Otherwise they should make havdala on wine. If there is a child (preferably a boy between 6 and 9) available, they should be given the wine. Otherwise, one should just drink the wine oneself.