Sunday, 28 January 2018

Folding Serviettes on Shabbos

Question: I was recently invited to a friend’s home on Shabbos and saw them folding serviettes at the table into different designs. Is this permissible?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 302:3) writes that one should not fold regular clothes on Shabbos. While different reasons are offered for this prohibition, Rambam (Shabbos 22:22) writes that folding is being mesaken, fixing the garment (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 302:12). 
Thus, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 16:19) quoting R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, writes that one can’t fold paper into hats and boats or create origami shapes on Shabbos.
Nonetheless, he writes (ibid. 11:40) that there is no prohibition of tikkun mana, finishing products, with disposable paper products. Thus, one may fold a serviette into a simple shape. Making fancier shapes is prohibited, though, as it is comparable to boneh, assembling something.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Efraim 1:223:8), however, writes that R’ Moshe Feinstein allowed one to fold serviettes, arguing that the reasons to forbid folding clothes don’t apply to disposable serviettes. Likewise, R’ Moshe Stern (Be’er Moshe 8:134) writes that there is no issue of boneh with such serviettes, and one can fold them into any shape.
In conclusion, while it is preferable to fold them before Shabbos, one can fold disposable serviettes even on Shabbos if necessary.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Forgot to Silence Phone

Question: I forgot to silence my phone before I went into shul and it beeped while I was davening the amida. Was I allowed to switch it onto silent so as not to disturb others?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 23b) writes that one shouldn’t hold one’s tefillin or money while davening. As one will be concerned not to drop them, they won’t be able to concentrate properly (See Shulchan Aruch OC 96:1).
The Pri Megadim (96:1) writes that this halacha applies to other parts of davening to, even pesukei dezimra. Thus, one shouldn’t hold one’s phone at all while davening.
The Magen Avraham (OC 96:3) writes that if one’s siddur falls onto the floor while they are davening, they can pick it up in between the berachos if it is disturbing them.
Nonetheless, R’ Nosson Gestetner (Lehoros Nosson 15:5) writes that switching one’s phone off is considered to be a  tzorech mitzva, necessary for the davening, and so permissible. Unlike speaking which is considered to be a hefsek, interruption, motioning or hinting for mitzva purposes is permissible (See Shulchan Aruch Harav OC 63:7). Thus, the Shaarei Teshuva (OC 104:1) and Mishna Berura (104:1) write that one may motion to a child to be quiet. Likewise, a Rabbi can motion to the chazzan to start chazaras hashatz rather than wait for him to finish.
Especially as a phone ringing can disturb others, one should even pause mid-beracha to switch it off.
In conclusion, if one forgot to switch their phone onto silent, they should do so even in the middle of their amida.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Travelling to Europe

Question: I recently drove to Belgium and back via the Channel Tunnel. Should I have bentched gomel as I crossed the English Channel?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 54b) writes 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 (Shulchan Aruch OC 219:2).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:59) explains that while boats nowadays are safer than ever before, the dangers of being in the sea remain. This is the reason why one benches gomel also after flying over water even though doing so is a safe means of transport (See Minchas Yitzchak 4:11:5).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 219:7) writes that one doesn’t need to bench gomel when travelling from one city to another in Europe which doesn’t carry the same potential dangers as crossing a desert. The Biur Halacha (219:1) writes that accordingly, one wouldn’t bench gomel when crossing a river either.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 9:72:3) and R’ Nosson Gestetner (Lehoros Nosson 7:10) write that the same applies to travelling through the Channel Tunnel. As the tunnel doesn’t have the potential dangers of travelling by sea, one doesn’t need to bench gomel.
In conclusion, while one would bench gomel if crossing the English Channel by boat or plane, one doesn’t do so if they took the Channel Tunnel.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Mixed Up Dishes

Question: We bought two new plates to replace ones which had smashed from our set. We accidentally put them in the cupboard with the others before tovelling them and don’t know which ones they are. What should we do?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (YD 109:1; 122:8) writes that if a forbidden item such as a dish gets mixed into a pile of similar items that are permitted, then it is battul berov, annulled against the majority, and thus, permissible.
Nonetheless, R’ Chaim Falagi (Ruach Chaim YD 122:1) and R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi YD 93) write that this rule doesn’t apply to our scenario. The Shulchan Aruch (YD 102:1) writes that something that can be rectified (davar sheyesh lo mattirin) isn’t even battul if mixed into a thousand parts. However, this only applies to something that will either inevitably become muttar with the passage of time or if it doesn’t involve a big expense. Thus, a treif pot that got mixed into a pile of similar pots will be okay to use as it is costly and cumbersome to kasher all of the pots (See Chochmas Adam 53:23). As it isn’t such a bother or expense to tovel a few dishes, however, one needs to tovel them all.
R’ Falagi writes that as one of these dishes will inevitably be the non-tovelled dish, one should say a beracha when tovelling them (See Shevet Halevi 4:93; 6:37:2). R’ Frank, however disagrees, writing that this scenario is similar to separating terumos and maasros from demai in which case one doesn’t say a beracha.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 11:58) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 2:YD:9:4) challenge this, explaining in depth why the rule of davar sheyesh lo mattirin doesn’t apply to kelim that may not have been tovelled. Thus, R’ Waldenberg writes that if it’s at all a bother to tovel them, then one doesn’t need to.
In conclusion, if a dish that wasn’t tovelled got mixed into a set of dishes that was tovelled, one should ideally tovel the whole set, especially if they live close by to a mikva though one wouldn’t say a beracha when doing so.