Sunday, 30 December 2018

Moving Furniture on Shabbos

Question: We’re having a lot of people over for Shabbos lunch. Are we allowed to move the bookcase into the other room to create extra room?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 35a) cites a machlokes as to how heavy an item needs to be in order for it to be rendered muktza. Tosafos, however, demonstrate that the halacha does not follow this Gemara as elsewhere (ibid. 45b; Eruvin 102a), the Gemara allows moving large items on Shabbos. Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (308:2) writes that an item does not become muktze based on its size or status. The Mishna Berura (308:9) adds that this applies even if it takes a few people to lift the item.
The Mishna Berura (308:8) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 20:22) write, however, that if one would normally be hesitant about moving something because they are concerned about it getting ruined, then it is considered to be muktza machmas chisaron kis (valuable items which cannot be moved).
The Gemara (Shabbos 138a) teaches that there are certain acts that are prohibited miderabanan on Shabbos because they are uvdin dechol, mundane, weekday activities. R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:222:4) quotes R’ Chaim Biberfeld (Menucha Nechona 4), who writes that moving one’s furniture around on Shabbos is considered uvdin dechol.
In conclusion, while it is preferable to move one’s furniture before Shabbos, it would be permitted to move a regular bookshelf on Shabbos providing that it isn’t an expensive one that one is concerned that it shouldn’t get damaged.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Turn Lights off for Havdala

Question: I see that some people switch off the lights during havdala before saying the beracha, borei meoiray haeish. Is this necessary?
Answer: The Mishna (Berachos 51b) teaches that one doesn’t recite the beracha, borei meoiray haeish, unless one benefits from the light, though there is a machlokes in the Gemara (ibid. 53b) as to whether one actually needs to benefit from the light or not. Thus, Rambam (Shabbos 29:25) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 298:4) write that one should ensure that the flame is close enough so that one would be able to distinguish between various types of currency.
While R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim Uzemanim 6:90) writes that he switches the lights off during havdala, elsewhere (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 5:86) he writes that one would still say amen upon hearing the beracha while the lights were on, as if necessary, one can rely on the electric lights themselves (See Rivevos Ephraim 2:115:32).
Similarly, R’ Menashe Klein (Mishne Halachos 15:92) writes that there are some poskim who even allow using an electric light for havdala. He compares our scenario to many people lighting Shabbos candles next to each other. While everyone’s candles only add a little bit of extra light, one still performs the mitzva of lighting. Likewise, there is no need to switch off one’s electric lights when performing bedikas chametz with a candle. Based on all of this, he writes that there is no need to switch the lights off.
R’ Dovid Ortenberg (Tehilla Ledovid 298:4) writes that the language of the Shulchan Aruch (and others) implies that one doesn’t actually need to benefit from the light. One simply needs to be close enough that they could distinguish coins from each other. The Piskei Teshuvos (298:5) writes that this is why we typically recite this beracha even where there is otherwise ample light.
In conclusion, there is no need to switch the lights off during havdala before saying the beracha, meoiray haeish.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Insulating Food on Shabbos

Question: Can I wrap my pot of soup in tea-towels to keep it warm on Shabbos?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 34a) writes that one can only insulate food (hatmana) providing that they use a material that doesn’t emit heat and that they do so before Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 257:3) lists which substances are considered to be heat emitting, and therefore forbidden to place around one’s pot even before Shabbos. Rambam (Shabbos 4:3) explains that chazal were concerned that if one were to place their pot among the embers, they may come to stoke the coals.
Thus, one would be able to wrap a pot with tea-towels, provided they did so before Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 257:8), however, writes that while one can leave a pot on a stove on Shabbos, one would not be able to wrap it with tea-towels even before Shabbos. While the tea-towels themselves don’t emit heat, they will insulate the heat coming from the stove.
For it to be considered a prohibition of hatmana, the insulation would have to cover the whole pot. Thus, if the tea-towels were not wrapped around the actual pot but draped over a couple of pots together with some air space between them, it would not be considered hatmana. Likewise, if the pot wasn’t fully covered so that a significant part of the pot was exposed, it would not be considered hatmana. It is permitted to cover a pot in such a manner even on Shabbos.
In conclusion, while one may not cover a pot tightly with tea-towels while it is on the stove or hotplate, one may do so if it isn’t on the flame providing they did so before Shabbos. Alternately, one may place a tea-towel over the pot on Shabbos providing it didn’t properly touch all the sides or left part of it uncovered.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Silver Menora

Question: I have a nice silver menora though it takes a lot of effort to clean. Is there an advantage to using this over a cheap disposable one?
Answer: When the Bnei Yisrael sang shira after crossing the yam suf, they said “zeh eli veanvehu, this is my G-d and I will glorify Him” (Shemos 15:2). The Gemara (Sukka 11b; Nazir 2b) writes that this passuk teaches us that we should not just perform mitzvos in their most basic manner, but we should make extra effort to build a nicer sukka and spend more money on our lulav and esrog, etc. Similarly, the Gemara (Shabbos 23b) teaches that one who is particular about lighting their Shabbos candles will merit having children who will be Torah scholars. The Tur (OC 263) and Bach (OC 263:1) qualify this to those who make beautiful lights. Rashi writes that this applies equally to the Chanuka menora.
Thus, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 673:3) writes that earthenware dishes should not be reused as they are not nice when used again. The Mishna Berura (673:28) adds that one should go the extra mile to ensure that they have a beautiful menora. Likewise, the Chida (Birkei Yosef OC 673:7) and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (139:5) write that one who can afford to, should buy themselves a silver menora.
Similarly, the Kaf Hachaim (OC 673:60) writes that according to the Chessed Avraham, there are fifteen levels of how nice a menora can be. The very best is a gold menora followed by a silver one and then various other semi-precious and regular metals, followed by glass, wood, bone, and various earthenware ones, etc.
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 8:157) notes that even though the actual oil may be placed into a small glass cup, this does not detract from the hiddur mitzva of using a silver menora.
In conclusion, it is most appropriate to use a beautiful menora rather than a cheap one. This is particularly apt on Chanuka, when we are particular to perform the mitzva of lighting the menora in the very best manner, mehadrin min hamehadrin.