Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Overnight Onion

Question: I was most surprised when my wife told me that I shouldn’t have left half an onion in the fridge overnight. What are the criteria of this halacha and what should I do with the onion?
Answer: The Gemara (Nidda 17a) writes that it is dangerous to leave peeled garlic, onion or egg overnight due to ruach ra’ah, evil spirit.
This halacha only applies if the entire onion, garlic or egg is peeled. However, if part of it remains unpeeled, or if it has already been mixed with any other food, it may be eaten (Kaf Hachaim OC 504:1; YD 116:92). Some, therefore, add salt to remove this prohibition (See Tzitz Eliezer 18:46; Minchas Yitzchak 6:75).
There is a machlokes as to whether cooking it helps. The Darkei Teshuva (116:74) and R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 3:169) write that it doesn’t apply once it’s been cooked, though other poskim hold that it is only a problem when cooked (See Minchas Yitzchak 4:108).
There is a further machlokes as to whether commercial cooks and bakers need to be concerned for this. While the Klausenberger Rebbe (Divrei Yatziv YD 1:31) and Chelkas Yaakov (3:YD 39) rule stringently, the consensus of poskim is to be lenient (Igros Moshe YD 3:20; Shevet Halevi 3:169; 6:11; Minchas Yitzchak 2:68; Yabia Omer YD 2:7).
While R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer YD 2:7) allows such foods that were left overnight to be eaten, others (Chelkas Yaakov YD 39) write that they should be discarded (See Minchas Yitzchak 2:68; 9:28).
This halacha is not mentioned in the Rif, Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch and even some later poskim including the Pischei Teshuva and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, likely because they held that this evil spirit no longer exists (See Lechem Mishne, Hilchos Shevisas Asor 3:2; Teshuvos Pri Hasadeh 3:61).
Nonetheless, it is mentioned by many of the poskim including the Rosh (Betzah 1:21), Pri Chadash (116), Shulchan Aruch Harav (Shemiras Haguf Vehanefesh 7) and Aruch Hashulchan (YD 116:22).
There is, therefore, a machlokes as to whether one who hasn’t kept this halacha needs to at all. The Darkei Teshuva (116:74) quotes sources on both sides, though R’ Moshe Feinstein (YD 3:20), R’ Yitzchok Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 2:68:13), R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer YD 2:7) both write that one should ideally observe this custom. 

Bentching Gomel

Question: Should women bentch gomel after giving birth?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 54a) says that in the times of the Beis Hamikdash, one brought a korban toda upon surviving a potentially life-threatening situation, including crossing a desert or a sea, imprisonment or serious illness. Nowadays, we substitute this offering with a public blessing, known as hagomel. The minhag is to recite it within 3 days of the incident after krias hatorah, though it may be recited later if necessary (Shulchan Aruch OC 219:6; Mishna Berura 20).
The Chayei Adam (after 69) wrote a prayer after surviving an explosion. He writes that one should say this, along with the pesukim of the korban toda and give charity equal to the value of the animal he would have brought in Temple times. (See Mishna Berura 218:31).
While women would also bring korbanei todah, the custom developed among many Ashkenazi communities that women don’t say the beracha, as the public recital is deemed immodest. The Magen Avraham (OC 219:4) writes that her husband should recite it on her behalf, while the Mishna Berura says that she recites it in front of ten women and a man. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 219:6) suggests that this custom may have developed because women weren’t always present for leining. Nonetheless, the Baer Hetev (219:1), Chayei Adam (65:6), Yechave Daas (4:15) and others all allow a woman to say it loudly from her side of the mechitza. Thus, Sefardi women should only say it in the presence of a minyan.
In what is likely the last teshuva R’ Moshe Feinstein ever wrote (OC 5:14), he paskens that a new mother should recite the beracha in front of another, ideally her husband, and there is no need for a minyan.
In England, we generally follow the Minchas Yitzchak (4:11). Women go to shul and respond to their husband’s borchu and beracha (when he’s called up), with intent to thank Hashem.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Fish and Meat

Question: What do I need to do between eating fish and meat?
Answer: While the Gemara (Pesachim 76b) only warns against the dangers of eating meat that has been cooked together with fish, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 116:2) extends this prohibition to eating fish with meat or chicken (Pischei Teshuvah YD 116:2) together.
As this danger seems to conflict with contemporary medical knowledge, the poskim debate as to whether this applies nowadays.
The Mishna Berura (173:3) and Aruch Hashulchan (YD 116:10) quote the Magen Avraham (OC 173:1) who writes that this is one of many natural phenomena mentioned in the Gemara that no longer apply. The Chasam Sofer (YD 101) suggests that this may be why there is no mention of this in Rambam.
Nonetheless, the Chasam Sofer concedes with the majority of poskim (Chochmas Adam 68:1; Maharam Shick YD 244; Kaf Hachaim OC 173:9), who write that this prohibition still applies even if we don’t understand the danger (See Yad Ephraim 116:3).
The Tur (YD 116) writes that his father would wash his hands and eat wine soaked bread to cleanse his palate between fish and meat. This wouldn’t apply to one who uses a fork to eat their fish (See Kaf Hachaim ibid). Most ashkenazim follow the Darkei Moshe (OC 116:3) who writes that there is no need to wash one’s hands at all. Many sefardim are particular to rinse their mouths and hands in between (Kaf Hachaim OC 173:4; Yalkut Yosef 173:2).
The Chochmas Adam (68:1) writes that one should drink something in between though the Rema (OC 116:3) and the Mishna Berura (173:4) writes that one should both eat and drink something.
Many are particular to have a stronger drink, rather than water in between (See Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha 33:2).

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Children and Pesicha

Question: I have noticed that certain shuls honour children to sing anim zemiros and open the aron beforehand, while other Shuls don’t. What is correct?
Answer: To emphasize the holiness of anim zemiros, ascribed to R’ Yehuda Hachassid, we open the aron hakodesh while singing it. The Bach (OC 132) mentions the minhag to sing it daily, though most shuls sing it every Shabbos while the Vilna Gaon held that it should only be sung on Yom Tov (See Nesiv Bina 2 p260).
Due to this, R' Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 5:237) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:81) hold that it is inappropriate for a child to lead anim zemiros.
Nonetheless, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (12:96) held that a child may do so (See Ishei Yisrael 36:n196). Many shuls follow this, especially as they want to encourage child participation at the end of davening.
Many expectant husbands follow the Chida (Avodas HaKodesh, Moreh Baetzba 3:90; Yosef Ometz 57) who writes that the local minhag was for expectant husbands to do pesicha in their wife’s ninth month as a segula for an easy birth (See Kaf Hachaim OC 134:12).
Others quote the Birchas Ephraim (60) who writes that he heard that the Rashba held that the minhag was for husbands to do pesicha for anim zemiros (rather than to take the Torah out) from the seventh month.
While the Mishna Berura (147:29) writes that a child shouldn’t hold a Sefer Torah, this shouldn’t apply to pesicha where the Torah isn’t removed.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Shemitta Produce outside Israel

Question: I inadvertently bought some yellow peppers that are from Israel. What should I do with them?
Answer: There is a machlokes in the Gemara (Moed Katan 2b) as to whether the observance of shemitta nowadays is mideoraisa or miderabanan. According to the Ramban (Sefer Hazechus, Gittin 36) and the Raavad (Shemitta Veyovel 1:11) shemitta nowadays is mideoraisa, while according to the Baal Hamaor (Sefer Haterumos 45) it is only a midas chassidus (pious act). Most rishonim (Rashi; Tosafos, Gittin 36a) though, understand shemitta nowadays to be miderabanan (See Gra YD 331:6).
Regardless, during the shemitta year, we are forbidden to do business with shemitta produce (Avoda Zara 62a), to destroy it (Pesachim 52b) and to remove it from Israel (See Igros Moshe OC 1:186).
As opposed to fruit, even though most of the vegetable growth may have been before shemitta, the determining stage for vegetables is the time it was picked. Thus, as the peppers you bought were picked in shemitta, all the rules of shemitta produce apply. For a full list, see
As one isn’t allowed to destroy shemitta produce, one can’t simply throw one’s leftover shemitta food away. Rather, one must place it in a designated place until it rots and becomes inedible before disposing of it.
Some poskim (Rabbeinu Tam, Tosafos, Sukka 39b) forbid one to eat produce that has been guarded and worked on (shamur vene’evad), while others allow one to benefit from such produce (See Igros Moshe OC 1:186).
Modern day poskim thus advise that either one eats such produce and disposes carefully of any leftovers, letting them rot first, or disposing of them all in such a way without partaking of them.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Three Hours after Meat?

Question: I’ve always waited three hours after eating meat before eating milky foods though was recently told that this custom has no basis and I must wait 6 hours. Do I need to change?
Answer: The Gemara (Chulin 105a) relates that Mar Ukva would wait between eating a meat meal and a milky one. The poskim debate how long the interval between meals is.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 89:1) writes that this is six hours while Rambam (Maachalos Asuros 9:28) writes that this is about six hours. According to many poskim (Chochmas Adam 40:13, Pischei Teshuva 87:4, and Aruch Hashulchan 89:7) this means six complete hours, while others (Ohr Yitzchak YD 4) write that it means over five and a half hours.
Dutch Jews follow the Rema (YD 89:1) and wait just one hour or seventy two minutes (Kreisi Upleisi 89:3).
Many Jews, especially in the UK, follow the German custom of waiting three hours, though there is a debate as to the origin of this view.
Indeed, many of the German poskim themselves write that one should wait six hours (Horeb 453; Kreisi Upleisi 89:3).
Many quote Rabbeinu Yerucham (Kitzur Issur Veheter 39) who mentions waiting three hours, though R’ Asher Zvi Lunzer (Madanei Asher 41) claims that this is a misprint as in the unabridged sefer (Sefer Adam 15:28) he writes that one must wait at least six hours.
Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz writes that there is no real source though postulates that the three hours came about by German Jews who originally kept one hour who later wanted to compromise with those waiting six hours.
The Darkei Teshuva (89:6) and Mizmor Ledovid (YD 89:6) explain that it is based on the short winter days when people would typically wait three hours between their meals or that it is based on the calculation of shaos zemanios (halachic hours that vary by season).
Irrespective of the source, waiting three hours after meat has become a real minhag mentioned among the contemporary poskim (See Yabia Omer YD 1:4:12), and one who already waits three hours does not need to change one’s minhag to wait six hours (Madanei Asher).