Saturday, 29 October 2016

Mincha Before Shekia

Question: By the time I get home in the Winter, it is already after shekia. Is it better to daven mincha by myself before shekia or to daven after shekia in a chassidishe shul after shekia?
Answer: The Mishna (Berachos 26a) brings a machlokes as to whether one can daven mincha up until plag hamincha or until the evening. While Rashi and others define evening as nightfall, Rabbeinu Yona (Berachos 18b) and Rambam (Tefilla 3:4) hold that one only has until shekia as it corresponds to the korban tamid which mustn’t be offered after shekia. The Gemara writes that as this machlokes was never resolved, one can choose one time over the other (See Shibolei Haleket 48; Raavad 194). The Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziun 233:18) writes that the machlokes as to whether we consider shekia or tzeis hakochavim the beginning of the evening is based on a machlokes between Rabbeinu Tam and the Vilna Gaon (OC 459:2) as to how we calculate shekia.
The Rosh (Berachos 4:3) and Shulchan Aruch (OC 233:1) write that one must choose one opinion and be consistent with it, not changing from one day to the next. Different communities have adopted different practices. Ashkenaz shuls typically daven mincha before shekia while chassidishe shuls are more inclined to daven after shekia (See Minchas Yitzchak 4:53:22).
There is a machlokes as to what one who usually davens earlier should do if they can’t get to a minyan until after shekia.
R’ Yaakov Emden (Mor Uketzia 233) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 5:22) write that it is preferable to wait to daven. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:48) writes that they should daven alone unless it has just turned shekia, in which case he should daven with a minyan.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (233:14) writes that it is better to daven (and complete) mincha without a minyan before shekia than to daven later with a minyan. Only under extenuating circumstances, can one daven after shekia (Shaar Hatziyun 233:21). Similarly, many acharonim including the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 233:9) and R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:24) stress the importance of davening mincha before shekia.
In conclusion, unless the minyan starts right before or at shekia it would seem preferable to daven by oneself rather than to daven with a minyan after shekia.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sukka Hopping and Berachos

Question: On Sukkos, we go sukka hopping, visiting various friends’ sukkas. If we say the beracha, leisheiv basukka in the first one, does that cover us for subsequent visits? Do we need to say a new beracha rishona and acharona at every sukka?
Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 101b) writes that if one moves to another house while eating, they need to recite a new beracha rishona before continuing to eat (See Shulchan Aruch OC 178:1).
The Mishna Berura (178:33; 40) writes that providing one intended on continuing their meal when they said hamotzi, they may continue eating elsewhere without reciting another beracha. The Mishna Berura (178:28) stresses that they must have eaten a kezayis of bread in the first location.
The poskim extend this halacha to other food made from the 5 grains (mezonos) as well as the shivas haminim (See Shulchan Aruch OC 178:5; 184:3).
As this halacha doesn’t apply to other foods, one who said another beracha such as shehakol would need to say a beracha acharona before moving on elsewhere (providing they had eaten a kezayis).
R’ Yisroel Pinchos Bodner (The Halachos of Brochos p151) writes that if one ate other foods along with mezonos at the first location intending to continue eating elsewhere, there is a machlokes as to whether one would need to say those other berachos again elsewhere, so it is best to avoid this scenario.
The Mishna Berura (639:48) quotes the Magen Avraham (639:17) who writes that one always needs to recite a new beracha of leisheiv basukka even if one intended to go to another sukka when he said the beracha. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura writes that walking from one sukka to the next is not considered to be a hefsek, interruption, so long as they intended to do so when they said the first beracha.
In conclusion, if one plans to visit different sukkas, they should say leisheiv basukka just at the first sukka where they eat mezonos. Providing one has eaten a kezayis at the first sukka, one doesn’t repeat mezonos (or ha’etz on the shivas haminim) at the second. One must recite any other berachos at each sukka one visits.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Move Lamp on Shabbos and Yom Tov

Question: Am I allowed to move an electric lamp in and out of my sukka on Shabbos and Yom Tov?
Answer: The Mishna (Shabbos 3:6) teaches us that oil lamps mustn’t be moved on Shabbos while they are burning. The Gemara (Shabbos 45a) explains that there is a specific type of muktze prohibition for a fire. The Chazon Ish (Hilchos Shabbos 41:16) gives two reasons for why lamps are muktze. Firstly, in order to avoid extinguishing the flame, lamps are not usually moved around. Secondly, as lamps are not normally moved around, it is muktze to move them.
R’ Moshe Feinstein writes about moving electrical appliances in a few teshuvos. He writes (Igros Moshe OC 3:49; 4:91:5) that lamps, like fans, etc. are kelim shemelachtam leissur, items that serve a forbidden action on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 308:3) writes that such items are allowed to be moved either if one needs the space (letzorech mekomo) or for personal need (letzorech gufo). He allowed the use of electric blankets on Shabbos (OC 3:50) and wrote (OC 5:21:3) that an appliance is only muktze machmas chisaron kis (concern for monetary loss, a more stringent category) if one is reluctant to use it out of fear that it will get ruined.
Accordingly, regular lights would be allowed to be moved letzorech gufo umekomo, for its permitted functions or if its place is needed. According to R’ Moshe (OC 5:23) this would include brightening or darkening a room (See Tiltulei Shabbos, Teshuvos 11).
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 1:14:1) also wrote that there should be no reason why one shouldn’t be able to move an electric lamp on Shabbos.
Nonetheless, some poskim write that one mustn’t move electric lamps on Shabbos. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 3:43) writes that while one can’t move lights on Shabbos, one may do so on Yom Tov, providing it is switched on.
The Piskei Teshuvos (279:1) argues that the reason lamps are muktze, is because the actual flame is muktze machmas gufo, inherently muktze. Even the poskim that forbid moving lamps on Shabbos will only forbid moving incandescent lamps. All poskim would agree that lamps without a filament, such as LED and fluorescent lamps do not fall under this category, and may be moved on Shabbos.
In conclusion, as there is a machlokes concerning moving incandescent lamps on Shabbos, one should only move them if absolutely necessary. One may move LED and fluorescent lamps around as one needs them.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Children and Fast Days

Question: Our eleven-year-old daughter came back from school telling us about the three fasts that she is supposed to fast before her ­bas mitzva. What is this about?
Answer: The Mishna (Yoma 82a) teaches that we start training children to fast for ‘hours’ before they are bar mitzva or bas mitzva. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 616:2) writes that when a child reaches the age of nine, we begin to educate them about fasting by feeding them a little later than usual on Yom Kippur. When they reach eleven, there is a rabbinic obligation to fast the whole day. The Rema, however, disagrees, writing that there is no such obligation.
Nonetheless, the Bach (OC 616:6) demonstrates from the Gemara that children who study all day are considered to be weak and therefore have the status of a choleh who does not fast. This justifies the practice of children not fasting before they are bar mitzva or bas mitzva (See Kaf Hachaim OC 616:16). Likewise, the Mishna Berura (616:9) writes that children nowadays should not fast before they are bar mitzva or bas mitzva as they are assumed to be weak. Only if one can ascertain that the child is fit to fast, may they do so.
While many children observe the three fasts before their bar mitzva and bas mitzva, R’ Shlomo Zalman (Halichos Shlomo, Yom Kippur 6:n67) maintained that this custom is erroneous and has no source.
The Mishna Berura (550:5) also writes that there is no obligation for children to fast for a few hours on the other fasts, though they should not eat too much.
In conclusion, eleven-year-old girls and twelve-year-old boys should ideally eat breakfast a little later on Yom Kippur. There is no obligation to train children to fast at all before their bar mitzva or bas mitzva for Tisha B’av or the other minor fasts.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Eating Before Shofar

Question: Our shul makes a kiddush before tekias shofar. Isn’t it best to wait to eat until after hearing the shofar?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 652:2) writes that one mustn’t eat a meal before shaking the lulav on sukkos as we are worried that they may forget to perform the mitzva (See Sukka 38a). The Magen Avraham (OC 692:7) and Mishna Berura (652:7) write that in case of great need, one may eat a small amount of food beforehand. This includes fruit and a small piece of cake, etc. (See Shulchan Aruch OC 232:3).
Thus, R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 4:147) writes that one shouldn’t eat before hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashana unless one is sick.
Others, such as the Mateh Ephraim (588:2) allow one to eat (something small) if they wouldn’t be able to concentrate properly without eating. Similarly, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 585:26; 588:11) writes that as the Gemara only mentioned this halacha with regards to lulav and not shofar, one who is hungry and feels that he won’t be able to daven as well without eating may be lenient and eat (See Shulchan Aruch OC 89:4).
Nonetheless, many poskim justify the practice of everyone eating beforehand. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 6:7:2) writes that according to the Shulchan Aruch (OC 288:1; 597:1) and Magen Avraham (OC 652:4) it is assur to fast until chatzos on Rosh Hashana (See Mishna Berura (597:2). R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim Uzemanim 1:4) writes that because one mustn’t fast, it can be considered a case of ‘great need.’ Nor do we need to be worried that one in shul will forget to listen to the shofar. Additionally, there is a difference between performing the mitzva of lulav which one can be yotzei in a few seconds, and shofar, which carries on until the end of mussaf. Lastly, he argues that there is a mitzva to be happy on Rosh Hashana. This is most difficult if one isn’t allowed to eat until after listening to the shofar. Based on these reasons, he allows one to eat even a few pieces of cake.
R’ Sternbuch concludes, however, that when one is in a shul that doesn’t stop for a kiddush, one mustn’t publicly recite kiddush and eat as there are good reasons to wait.
In conclusion, while it is ideal not to eat before hearing the shofar, it is also problematic to fast until chatzos. Especially if it will help one to daven better, one may eat first.