Sunday, 26 June 2016

Cleaning Shoes on Shabbos

Question: I walked through some muddy grass on Shabbos. Can I wipe the mud off my shoes before going back inside?
Answer: There are a few potential issues with scraping off mud from one’s shoes on Shabbos:
The Gemara (Shabbos 124b) relates that Rava’s shoes got muddy one Shabbos and he used a piece of earthenware to clean them off. The Gemara (ibid 141a) discusses whether one may use the back of a knife, and whether this applies equally to old and new shoes. The Gemara discusses whether one may scrape one’s shoes on the ground or wall as doing so may be fixing a small crack, an issue of boneh, building. According to the Mishna Berura (302:28) this wouldn’t normally be so problematic, especially when rubbing them against a wall (See Shevet Halevi 5:37).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 302:7) writes that one mustn’t remove mud that has properly dried up as scraping the shoe would cause the soil to crumble which would be considered tochen, grinding.
A third concern that the poskim discuss is memachek, smoothing the shoe. Thus, the Mishna Berura (302:26) allows one to scrape the mud off using a blunt mud bar, though not with the back of a knife (See Kaf Hachaim OC 302:47; 59). Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 302:17) writes that one may use something blunt to remove any mud.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 15:39) writes that this issur applies equally to non-leather shoes.
R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:24:5), however, writes that as leather is processed differently nowadays, there is no issue of memachek.
In conclusion, one may scrape the mud off one’s shoes with something, providing that it isn’t too sharp.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Havdala on Sunday for Children

Question: It is too late for my daughter to hear havdala on motzaei Shabbos. Should she say it on Sunday?
Answer: Parents have a mitzva derabanan of chinuch, to train their children to observe mitzvos. Thus, the Mishna Berura (343:3) writes that when a child is old enough to appreciate what is permitted and forbidden on Shabbos, they should listen to kiddush and havdala.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 299:6) writes that if one didn’t hear havdala on motzaei Shabbos, then one can do so until Tuesday. One saying havdala late should omit the berachos on ner and besamim.
While the Tur (OC 299) writes that one should recite havdala before eating anything (See Rema OC 299:6), the Mishna Berura (269:1) writes that we shouldn’t keep children waiting until after Kiddush to eat. Likewise, they may eat even before hearing havdala.
R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Chinuch Habanim Lemitzvos 24) writes that when Shabbos ends too late for children to stay up to hear havdala, they should recite it on Sunday morning, without the berachos on ner and besamim.
While some schools encourage their students to say the full havdala complete with the berachos on ner and besamim, this is an incorrect practice as havdala is never performed that way when performed late.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Flowers in Shul

Question: In the shul that I used to attend, they were adamant not to decorate the shul with flowers on Shavuos, yet the shul I daven in now does decorate the shul. Which is right?

Answer: The Rema (OC 494:3) writes that many have the minhag to place herbs in shuls and their homes over Shavuos to commemorate the giving of the Torah. The Mishna Berura (494:10) explains that there was grass or herbs on Har Sinai (See Kaf Hachaim OC 494:53).

The Magen Avraham (494:5) extends this minhag to trees, writing that as we are judged on Shavuos over the fruit, the trees should remind us to pray for a good produce (See Shulchan Aruch Harav 494:15). R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:33) quotes midrashim to explain why people place flowers.

The poskim (Chayei Adam 2:131:13, Mishna Berura 494:10; Igros Moshe YD 4:11:5) quote the Vilna Gaon who decried the practice of placing trees in shuls as it has become the practice of idolaters. Thus, some shuls do not place any plants in their shuls (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 494:6).

R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:33) explains however, why this is not a concern and writes that this is an important minhag. Additionally, it seems that while the Vilna Gaon disapproved of laying out trees, there would be no issue with herbs and plants (See Kaf Hachaim OC 494:56).

In conclusion, while most communities decorate their shuls with flowers over Shavuos, there are some shuls that avoid any flower decorations. 

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Beracha on Seeing the Queen

Question: Does one say the special beracha on seeing the Queen?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 9b; 19b; 58a) writes that if one has the opportunity to see a king, one must make an effort to do so (See Shulchan Aruch OC 224:9). Upon seeing him, one says ברוך ... שנתן מכבודו לבשר ודם, Blessed are You… Who has given from His own glory to people. The Mishna Berura (224:13) writes that one should even interrupt learning Torah to see the king if they are accompanied by a royal procession.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 1:35) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:139) write that this applies equally to a Queen.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:28; Yabia Omer 8:22:25) quotes various poskim who say that one only says the beracha if the head of state has the power to execute or pardon (from the death penalty). If they don’t, then one recites the beracha without saying Hashem’s name. Additionally, the monarch needs to be wearing royal clothes. Thus, he relates that when President Nixon came to Eretz Yisrael, they recited the beracha without Hashem’s name as the President was wearing normal clothes (See Be’er Moshe 2:9; Minchas Elazar 5:7:3; Piskei Teshuvos 224:6).
R’ Shmuel Wosner (ibid) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (ibid), however, write that the honour shown counts more than the power they may have. Thus, one wouldn’t say the beracha upon seeing the US President as they are voted in and out of office every few years. The Queen of England, however, receives much more honour as a monarch, and is responsible for signing every law. R’ Sternbuch relates that R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld once had a private audience with the King of Jordan and he recited the beracha. Thus, one says the beracha even when the monarch isn’t accompanied by such an entourage.
In conclusion, the minhag in the UK has always been to recite the beracha complete with Hashem’s name upon seeing the Queen.