Sunday, 26 October 2014

Dispose of Sechach, Lulav & Esrog

Question: How should I dispose of my old sechach, lulav and esrog?
Answer:  Although following Sukkos, sechach and arba minim are no longer mitzva objects and no longer considered to be kodesh (holy) they must still be treated with respect. Thus, while they do not require geniza (burying) they should not be thrown into a regular bin.
The Mishna Berura (21:6; 638:24; Shaar Hatziyun 664:20) writes that one should be careful not to leave one’s sechach or arba minim around on the floor after Sukkos where others may trample on it. Rather, one should recycle them with other branches, etc. or wrap them before disposing of them. Ideally, one should even treat the sukkah walls respectfully. Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 638:12) writes that one should be particular not to abuse one’s sechach after Sukkos.
Once something has been used for a mitzva it is ideal to use it for another mitzva. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 297:4) writes that it is ideal to use one’s old hadassim for besamim (in havdala). Many Sefardim follow the Kaf Hachaim (OC 445:15; 664:60) who writes that the esrog should be made into jam and eaten on Tu Bishvat. One should keep one’s lulav at home (as ‘protection’) until erev Pesach, whereupon half is burned with the chametz (see Mishna Berura 445:7) and half to bake matza (see Rema OC 664:9).
While some throw their used hoshanos on top of the aron hakodesh for Kabbalistic reasons, others have decried the practice (See Rivevos Ephraim 8:287; Nitei Gavriel Sukkos 79:7). One certainly mustn’t do so in a Shul where this isn't practised.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Gas Flame on Yom Tov

Question: May one adjust the flame on a gas stove on Yom Tov?
Answer: While one mustn’t ignite a new flame on Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch OC 502:1), one is allowed to light a new flame from an existing one or turn a flame up. This only applies to a gas flame - not to an electric stove - and may only be done for cooking purposes, etc.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:93; 1:115; 4:103) writes that one may turn the flame down to prevent food from burning though shouldn’t do so just to save money or to cool the kitchen down, etc. R’ Avrohom Blumenkrantz (Chasdei Avrohom 31) explains the rationale behind this. While one can’t turn down a wick or remove oil from a lit lamp on Yom Tov, turning down a gas flame is akin to not adding more fuel to a fire.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 13:10) writes that one shouldn’t turn the flame down unless there is no other flame, though R’ Moshe allowed one to do so even if one could light another smaller flame. The Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha (98:13) writes that as it is dangerous to leave an extra flame on, there is no need to do so.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Smell of an Esrog

The Gemara (Sukkah 37b) teaches that one may not smell the hadassim on Sukkos as it is designated for a mitzva. Hadassim are primarily used for fragrance and so are muktza to smell. Esrogim, primarily used for food, are muktza to eat. This applies throughout Sukkos, even on chol hamoed.
Nonetheless, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 653:1) extends the prohibition to smelling esrogim, too, as there is a machlokes about reciting a bracha on its fragrance while it is being used for a mitzva. As one could be making a bracha l’vatala by saying the bracha or benefitting without a bracha by smelling it without reciting one, it is best to avoid smelling the esrog.
If one has hadassim or an esrog that one isn’t using for a mitzva (e.g. it isn’t Kosher or following Sukkos), one may recite a bracha on its fragrance. Before smelling hadassim one says “..borei atzei besamim.” Before smelling an esrog one says “..asher nasan reiach tov bapeiros” (Mishna Berura 216:9).

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Kneeling on the Floor

Question: Why do some shuls give out paper before we bow to the floor on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Do we really need it?
Answer: There is a Torah prohibition to prostrate oneself on a stone floor (Vayikra 26:1). The Rishonim offer different reasons for this averah:
According to Rambam (Avodah Zarah 6:6), the Torah forbids this simply because that is how idolaters practice their Avodah Zarah. The Sefer Hachinuch (349) adds that while we don’t suspect one who’s bowing to have such intentions, nonetheless we are worried that others watching him do so may get the wrong impression.
The Kesef Mishna (in his pirush on that Rambam), however, explains that bowing on stone floor was restricted to the avoda in the Beis Hamikdash. As with other forms of avoda, it may not be performed elsewhere (See Megilla 22b).
Although mideoraisa it is only forbidden to prostrate with one’s hands and feet stretched out on a stone floor, the Rabbis extended this prohibition to include prostration without outstretched limbs and full prostration on a non-stone floor (Rema OC 131:8). While some are particular not to kneel at all, the Mishna Berura (131:40) writes that one may kneel even on a stone floor.
Thus Rambam (6:7) writes that the custom is to place a mat between one’s head and the floor while bowing in Shul. The Mishna Berura (621:14) writes that if necessary one can use one’s Tallis. While some Shuls give out paper to place under one’s knees, it seems that this was initially done to prevent one from dirtying one’s clothes.
In conclusion, if the floor is wooden or carpeted, there is no need to place anything down. Only if the shul floor is stone should one place something between one's head and the floor.
May we be zoche to prostrate ourselves properly along with the Kohen Gadol, speedily in our days.

Havdala on Motzaei Yom Kippur Shabbos

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 624:3) writes that one does not use besamim for havdala following Yom Kippur even when Yom Kippur falls on a Shabbos. The Mishna Berura (624:5) explains that we usually smell besamim to console us over the loss of our neshama yeseira, extra soul, that departed at the conclusion of Shabbos. As we are fasting on Yom Kippur, we don’t have this neshama yeseira and so don’t need the besamim.
The Mishna Berura (297:2) points out, however, that if one were fasting on another Shabbos, one would still use besamim.
The Magen Avraham (OC 624:1) and Taz (OC 624:2) disagree writing that as one benefits from the pleasant aroma, it can’t be considered a bracha l’vatala. Similarly, other poskim write that there is always a neshama yeseira present on Shabbos and so one should use besamim (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 624:1).
The Kaf Hachaim (OC 624:9) suggests that one should rather recite the bracha of besamim after havdala.

We light a candle in havdala following Shabbos to commemorate its creation and discovery by Adam (Pesachim 54a). We light a candle after Yom Kippur, however, to demonstrate that the light which was forbidden on Yom Kippur may now be lit (Mishna Berura 624:7).
To highlight this point, rather than create a new flame, one should use a light that had remained lit throughout Yom Kippur. One may light another candle from this one and hold them together for havdala.
The Magen Avraham (OC 624:7) writes that this applies, too, when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe 4:122) writes that if one doesn’t have an existing flame following Yom Kippur, one should do so without reciting the bracha. When Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, however, one may recite the bracha even on a new flame (Yalkut Yosef, Moadim p116).