Sunday, 25 March 2018

Haggada in English

Question: I have been invited to my parents-in-law for Pesach. Rather than everyone reading the haggada like I’m used to, they take turns reading the haggada out, much of it in English. Is it best for me to read it all quietly to myself?
Answer: The Rema (OC 473:6) writes that one should read the haggada in a language that everyone understands or explain the main points well. The Mishna Berura (473:64) points out that this is to ensure that one fulfils the mitzva of ‘vehigadeta levincha, teach it to your children’ (Shemos 13:8).
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:302:2; 3:314) writes that one hasn’t fulfilled their mitzva if they don’t understand what they are reading (See Minchas Chinuch 21:11). Thus, just reading the words in Hebrew wouldn’t suffice.
The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 473:24) and Chassam Sofer (OC:15) write that ideally one person should read the haggada while others fulfil their obligation by listening, shomea keoneh. According to Maaseh Rav (291), this was the practice of the Vilna Gaon, too. Likewise, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 9:31) and R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (ibid. 1:369; 5:323; 8:202:1) write that one can fulfil their obligation by listening to other adults read the haggada.
In conclusion, it is preferable to listen to others read the haggada in a language that you understand, rather than say all the words like davening.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Tovel Seder Plate and Kos Shel Eliyahu

Question: We bought a new matching seder plate and kos shel Eliyahu for seder night. Do we need to tovel them?
Answer: The Gemara (Avoda Zara 75b) writes that any kelim used while eating require tevila. The Shulchan Aruch (YD 120:4) extends this to kelim that are used in cooking or food preparation such as barbecue grills.
Nonetheless, the Rema (YD 120:5) writes that while one doesn’t use a chalaf, knife for shechting, for preparing food, one should ideally tovel it without a beracha. The Shach (YD 120:10) explains that this is because it can be used for other food purposes.
R’ Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher 3:62) writes that a kos shel Eliyahu fits into a similar category as it may be used for drinking. Additionally, one may come to use it years later for kiddush, especially if one finds another, nicer kos for seder night. Thus, it should be tovelled without a beracha (See Rivevos Ephraim 1:122).
In the following teshuva (ibid. 3:63), R’ Weiss writes that there is no need to tovel a seder plate, however, as it is not used for eating off or for preparing food. While some make a point of eating the food from the seder plate, it still serves as a tray for displaying the symbolic foods.
In conclusion, there is no need to tovel the seder plate, but one should tovel the kos shel Eliyahu without a beracha.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Covering the Sefer Torah

Question: I sometimes stand next to the bimah to help out during leining though am confused as to when to cover the sefer Torah. Should it be covered after every aliya?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 5b) writes that if a sefer unrolled into a reshus hayachid in a way that they couldn’t roll it back, they should turn it over so that the writing should not be exposed.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 277:1) writes that when a sofer who’s writing a sefer Torah leaves it to dry, he should cover it rather than turn it over, as covering it is more respectful. The Bach (YD 277:1) writes that we learn from here that it is disrespectful to leave a sefer Torah or other sefarim open for any extended period of time (See Shach YD 277:1; Baer Heitev YD 277:1; Aruch Hashulchan YD 277:2).
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:5) writes that the minhag is to cover the sefer Torah between each aliya. The Rema, however, writes that the minhag ashkenaz is to roll it closed. Likewise, the Mishna Berura (139:21) quotes the Taz that one shouldn’t cover the sefer Torah each time as it is a tircha, extra bother.
The Baer Heitev (OC 139:8) adds, however, that it is appropriate to cover the sefer Torah when saying kaddish afterwards. Thus, we cover the sefer Torah whenever there is a substantial pause, such as the gabbai saying mi shebeirach.
In conclusion, one should close, but not cover the sefer Torah after an aliya. When there is a longer break, such as kaddish or mi shebeirach being recited, then it should be covered.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Don’t Close the Torah

Question: When receiving an aliya is it best to close the sefer Torah during the berachos or leave it open?
Answer: The Gemara (Megilla 32a) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one who is called up to the Torah should leave the sefer Torah open or close it while they are reciting the berachos before their aliya. According to R’ Meir, one should close the sefer Torah so as not to give off the impression that the berachos are in the Torah.  R’ Yehuda, however, is not concerned that people will make this mistake. The Gemara says that the halacha follows R’ Yehuda. Thus, Rambam (Tefilla 12:5) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:4) write that when called up, one should open the sefer Torah to see where they are going to read from, leave the Torah open while saying the berachos and then read. One should roll the sefer Torah closed before saying the berachos after their aliya.
The Taz (OC 139:4) and Mishna Berura (139:17) explain that one shouldn’t close the sefer Torah as rolling it back and forth and finding the place again would constitute tircha detzibbura, an unnecessary burden on the community.
The Rema (OC 139:4) adds that when saying the berachos beforehand, one should look to the side. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (139:19) writes that this isn’t ideal as it looks like one is looking away. Rather, one should close one’s eyes, or read the berachos if they are on the bimah.
Some follow Tosafos (Megilla 32a) who writes that ideally one should close the sefer Torah before saying the berachos. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 139:12) challenges this, however, saying that the consensus of poskim is to leave the sefer Torah open.
In conclusion, it is preferable to leave the sefer Torah open during the first berachos so as not to delay the tzibbur by even a few extra seconds.