Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Women and Parshas Zachor

Question: It is difficult for me to get to shul with my kids to hear parshas zachor. Should my husband daven earlier or should I go out later to a reading for ladies?
Answer: There is a mitzva deoraisa to remember what Amalek did to the Bnei Yisrael when they left Egypt. The minhag is to fulfil this mitzva by reading parshas zachor on the Shabbos before Purim as Amalek was the ancestor of Haman.
While Tosafos (Megilla 17b), the Magen Avraham (OC 675) and others hold that one needs to read from a sefer torah in order to fulfil the mitzva, Ramban (Ki Setze), the Minchas Chinuch (603) and others hold that this is a rabbinic requirement like all other Torah readings. Similarly, the Terumas Hadeshen (quoted by the Magen Avraham) holds that mideoraisa one needs a minyan. The Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziyun 685:5) challenges his source, however.
Thus, the Shaarei Ephraim (8:85) writes that one who didn’t hear parshas zachor in shul can read it to himself from a chumash.
The Sefer Hachinuch (603) writes that women aren’t obligated to hear parshas zachor though the Minchas Chinuch writes that women must hear it as it is not a time bound mitzva.
While it is commendable for women to listen to parshas zachor, most poskim hold that they aren’t obligated to do so (See Moadim Uzmanim 2:168). R' Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 9:68:1) writes that it has been customary for many women to go to shul to listen though one shouldn’t make an extra Torah reading for them after davening. It would be preferable for women to read parshas zachor from a chumash (See Nitai Gavriel, Purim 20:2).

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bedtime Shema

Question: Is it important to say Shema before going to bed or is it sufficient just to say it during maariv? Is it better to skip saying hamapil if I know I am likely to talk?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 239:1) writes that one should say the first paragraph of Shema, various pesukim and the beracha of hamapil before going to bed (see Gemara Berachos 60b).
The Mishna Berura (239:1) writes that it is ideal to say all three paragraphs. Certainly, one who davened maariv before nacht must repeat all three paragraphs now.
While minhag ashkenaz is to recite the Shema before hamapil, sefardim say hamapil first (See Yalkut Yosef 239:1).
The Rema (OC 239:1) writes that one should not talk or eat afterwards. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:21; Yalkut Yosef 239:1) allows one to say asher yatzar, shehakol on a drink, quieten a child or respond to one’s parents after hamapil (See Mishna Berura 239:4; Piskei Teshuvos 239:3; Tefilla Kehilchasa p352, n29).
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 7:27:3) writes that one doesn’t need to worry about not talking after the beracha. Nonetheless, the Ben Ish Chai (Pekudei 12) writes that if one feels that they won’t fall asleep straight away and is going to talk, one should say the beracha without Hashem’s name at the beginning and end.
The Mishna Berura (239:9) writes that it is good to reflect on one’s actions during the day before sleeping, committing not to repeat any mistakes that one may have done and to forgive others’ wrongdoings against them.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A Fishy Issue

Question: What beracha should I say before eating sushi?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 212:1) is clear that one says a beracha on the ikar, primary ingredient, and not on the tafel, secondary ingredient. One would only say one beracha on cheesecake, for example.
There are many different opinions as to how many, and which berachos should be said. Some feel that we treat it as a mixture of two equal items, and say the beracha on the largest ingredient. As there’s usually more rice than fish, etc. one would say mezonos.
Others suggest that the ikar is clearly the raw fish. The rice is somewhat like a thin base of a cheesecake. Although most people say mezonos on rice, it is actually a source of much debate (Mishna Brura 208:25).  Thus, according to this view, one should only recite shehakol.
R’ Moshe Heinmann holds that sushi is not a clear mixture, as the rice and fish are prepared separately and remain distinct. As they are both primary ingredients, one should say both mezonos (before eating some rice) and then shehakol. It isn’t clear if the roll contained mango and cucumber if one would be required to say haetz and ha’adama, too.
While it is certainly ideal to eat sushi within the meal, or to find other things to make the berachos on, those saying either mezonos or shehakol have what to rely on.

Another Shul, Another Nusach

Question: I usually daven nusach ashkenaz, though sometimes daven in a nusach sefard shul, and am confused what I should do when the davening is different. 

Answer: There are a few minor differences between different nuschaos. While it is important that one follows the nusach of one’s father or community, the Gemara (Yevamos 13b) writes that the prohibition of lo sisgodedu (Devarim 14:1) applies to practicing different customs to each other. Whether this applies here is a matter of debate.

The Netziv (Meshiv Davar 1:17:7) and R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 7:5) write that when davening the silent amida, one should daven according to one’s own nusach. When davening anything out loud, however, one should adapt to the shul’s nusach. Unlike the amida that one can daven alone, one can only say kedusha, for example, with a minyan. Thus, in a sefard shul one should say nakdishach and kesser in kedusha rather than nekadesh and naritzach, etc.

R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 6:10:4) argues that one saying the introductory phrases such as naritzach out loud does not transgress lo sisgodedu as they are joining in with everybody else for the main pesukim. Therefore, everyone may daven according to their own nusach even for tefillos said out loud.

Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:23; 2:104; 4:34) writes that one must join in with everyone else throughout the entire kedusha. As one is supposed to recite kedusha along with the chazzan, this applies even if one is saying the words quietly. One may recite one’s amida in one’s own nussach but one should try to say the rest of davening according to the nusach of the shul.

In conclusion, one must join in with the shul’s nusach for any parts of davening that are recited aloud. Ideally, one should adapt to the shul’s nusach for all of the davening except the silent amida.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Kosher Haircut

Question: How long and thick must my sideburns be?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (YD 181:9) writes that the area of peyos is across from the hair of the forehead, until below the ear where the lower jaw extends. The acharonim debate these exact parameters.
R’ Yaakov Kaminetzky (quoted by R’ Yisroel Belsky, Shulchan Halevi p122) explains that the upper limit of the peyos begins at the highest point of the hairline as it arches over the ear and extends in a slightly curved line across to where the hairline of the forehead turns sharply downwards towards the sideburns. All the hair from the imaginary line that connect these two points and below comprises the peyos (See Leshichno Sidrashu p269).
While many let their sideburns grow until the bottom of their ear, R’ Aryeh Lebowitz (, Halachos of Peyos Harosh) writes that many poskim understand the Shulchan Aruch to be referring to below the ear canal (See Az Nidberu 3:45:7). Thus one should leave them to at least the bone that can be felt in front of one’s ear (See Leshichno Sidrashu p 269; Eretz Zvi 3:5).
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 181:10) writes that one must not place scissors against one’s face and cut their peyos. There is a machlokes as to how long the hairs must be, though.
The Chafetz Chaim (Biur Halacha 251:2) holds that the slightest bit is okay (See Tosafos Nazir 40a; Perisha 181) while R' Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 4:113:5) holds that the hairs must be long enough that they can be folded over to touch its root (see Darchei Teshuvah 181:15). Contemporary poskim advise using a #3 clipper, and no less than a #2, to ensure that the hairs are at least 5 or 6mm long.
For a diagram, see