Tuesday, 23 September 2014


The minhag of tashlich dates back to at least the 14th century. The Maharil (Minhagei Rosh Hashanah 9) writes about going to rivers that contain fish in order to throw our sins into the depths of the sea (Micha 7:19). The Rema (OC 583:2) records this minhag.
The basic text is the final 3 Pesukim of Micha (7:18-20) which parallel the Thirteen Midos, Divine Attributes of Hashem. Many add more tefillos, composed primarily by the Chida.
While not all observe this minhag, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:54) writes that this is the minhag of Sefardim too, following the Arizal.
Different reasons have been offered for this minhag:
The Maharil refers to the famous Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishis 99). The satan tried various tactics to dissuade Avraham from carrying out the akedah including creating a river. This explains why it took them 3 days to reach Har Hamoriah. The water of tashlich serves to remind us of Avraham’s self-sacrifice (See Gra in his notes to the Rema OC 583:2).
In keeping with the various symbolic foods eaten on Rosh Hashana eve, the Rema (Darkei Moshe OC 583) writes that we should proliferate like fish that are immune to ayin hora (See Mishna Berura 583:8). Elsewhere (Torah Haolah 3:56), the Rema suggests another reason. One going to the river bank or shore observes Hashem’s majestic creation and is reminded of the world completed by Hashem on Rosh Hashana. Doing so will cause them to do teshuva and Hashem will forgive them, throwing their sins into the depths of the sea.
The Levush (OC 596) writes that tashlich should make us think of fish caught in a net as on Rosh Hashana our lives hang in the balance. This image should stir us to do teshuva.
The Elyah Rabbah (OC 596) suggests that as fish never close their eyes, tashlich symbolizes that Hashem is always looking out for us.
While many of the reasons offered are connected to fish, the Magen Avraham (OC 583:5) writes that if necessary one may say tashlich at a river or stream that doesn’t contain fish.
The Maharil points out that it is forbidden to feed the fish (other than one’s own) on Yom Tov. Even carrying bread to feed them (outside of an Eruv) would be forbidden on Yom Tov. Rather, one should shake out their pockets as a symbolic act of throwing away one’s sins (Mateh Ephraim 598:4).

Whatever the reason, this time honoured minhag should serve to inspire us to do true teshuva. May we be forgiven and have our sins thrown into the depths of the sea.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Cream on Shabbos

Question: Can I apply creams on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 146) writes that it is forbidden miderabanan to spread oil, as it is similar to the act of memarayach, which is forbidden mideoraisa (See Rambam, Shabbos 23:11). R’ Ribiat (The 39 Melochos p919) writes that this applies to hand creams such as Nivea and Vaseline, etc. One may, however, use a liquid hand lotion (which can be poured).
R’ Dr. Avraham Avraham writes (Nishmat Avraham 1 OC 328:22b) that both R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 33:n58) and R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 7:30:2) held that while spreading an ointment evenly on one’s skin is forbidden mideoraisa, this is only if it remains on the surface. One may, however, rub cream into the skin if it gets properly absorbed (See Daas Torah 328:26; Minchas Yitzchak 7:20).
As one shouldn’t take medicine on Shabbos, this doesn’t apply to medicinal creams, though a bedridden patient (choleh shein bo sakanah) may rub such cream in. The same applies to young children.
For creams that are not absorbed, one may press cream (from the back of a spoon, etc.) providing one does not rub the cream in. One is allowed to rub off excess ointments.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A Key Issue

The Mishna Berura (Sha’ar Hatziyun 301:38) discusses going outside on Shabbos (where there’s no Eruv) while wearing a key that’s been made into a piece of jewelry. If the reason one is wearing it is to be able to use it as a key, (rather than jewelry) then it would be considered ‘carrying’. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 301:11) and Aruch Hashulchan (301:60) bring two opinions about wearing a key that is made out of silver, that serves both as a pin (brooch) and a key. According to some, it is permitted as it is a tachshit, ornament, while others forbid it as it will mislead others into thinking they can ‘wear’ their regular keys. (See Mishna Berura 301:42 and Be'er Moshe 3:65).
Other solutions for carrying a key include turning the key into a tie pin or wearing a Shabbos belt. One must ensure that when doing so, the key serves a practical purpose (unless it was silver, as above). One can’t wear the tie pin under his jumper, for example, as it would be serving no practical purpose. Likewise, one should ensure that when using such a belt, the key serves as an integral link in the belt, rather than just hang off it. If one is already wearing a belt, one can’t simply place another Shabbos belt on top or around his waist. Some use it to keep their jacket closed instead of doing up the buttons or some other practical purpose.
The Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa (18:49) writes that if the front door opens onto the street, one must open the door while still ’wearing the key’. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss held that if the keyhole doesn’t go all the way through to the other side of the door, one hasn’t placed the key into a Reshus Hayachid. Providing the other side (inside) of the keyhole is covered, one may remove one’s Shabbos belt and open the door.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Medicine on Shabbos

Question: May I take Paracetamol for a headache on Shabbos?
Answer: The Mishna (Shabbos 14:3) writes that one can’t take medicine on Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 53b) explains that Chazal prohibited us to take medicine on Shabbos as doing so may lead to do such melachos as tochen, grinding. (See Tzitz Eliezer 8:15:15:4 for why this reason is still relevant).
The Mishna Berura (328:1) writes that one who is bedridden, however, or whose pain in so severe that it prevents them from functioning properly (choleh shein bo sakanah) may take painkillers (See Minchas Yitzchak 3:35:2).
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 34:16) writes that if one suspects that their mild headache will develop into a more severe one and they will be bedridden one may take painkillers rather than wait till one is in such a state.
Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef 4 p408) writes that Paracetamol relieves pain rather than heals. Thus one who regularly takes pills may take painkillers to relieve pain on Shabbos.