Sunday, 27 December 2020

Hand Dryer for Netilas Yadayim

Question: I don’t have easy access to hand towels at work. Can I dry my hands for hamotzi by using an electric hand-dryer?

Answer: The Gemara (Sotah 4b) teaches the importance of drying one’s hands properly after washing them, before eating bread. One who eats bread while his hands are still wet is considered to have eaten tamei bread. Rashi (158:45) explains that the habit of handling bread with wet hands is so bad that it is considered to be tamei (See Mishna Berura 158:45).

The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 158:17) writes that ideally one should dry one’s hands properly with a towel rather than allowing them to dry by themselves.

R’ Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidberu 8:52; 9:64) writes that one can use a hand-dryer, especially as people nowadays use so much water when washing their hands, washing off any tamei water. He argues that the action of moving your hands to the dryer is not considered to be allowing them to dry by themselves.

R’ Moshe Stern (Baer Moshe, Kuntres Electric 7:48) notes that often the hand-dryers are located in a different room to where one wishes to eat. In this case, using one to dry one’s hands would be less ideal, due to the hefsek taken (See Betzel Hachachma 4:141).

R’ Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef OC 4:19) writes that towels are still preferable, though if one doesn’t have access to one, one may use a hand-dryer (See Rivevos Ephraim 2:68:4).

In conclusion, it is preferable to use a towel to dry one’s hands before eating bread, though one may use a hand-dryer if necessary.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Lighting Indoors or Outdoors

Question: My brother-in-law bought me a box to place my menora in so I can light outdoors. Is that preferable?

Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) teaches that while the menora was originally lit outside one’s front door, in times of danger one can light it inside on one’s table. Rashi explains that the Persian authorities prohibited lighting outdoors on their festivals.

The Ohr Zarua (2:323) writes that he does not understand why, in places where there is no such prohibition or danger, people don’t start lighting outdoors again. Likewise, R’ Yaakov Emden (Sheelas Yaavetz 1:149) and R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Chanuka 671:25) argue that nowadays when this danger no longer applies, it is certainly ideal to light outdoors. If one can easily find a glass box, one should use it (See Az Nidberu 10:26).

Other poskim, however, give various reasons for why the practice in chutz la’aretz is to light indoors.

The Shibolei Halket (185) explains that once people started lighting indoors, this became the accepted practice.

The Rema (OC 671:7) notes that the practice nowadays is to light indoors. Elsewhere (Darkei Moshe OC 671:9), he explains that we are concerned that people may steal the menora if it is left outdoors. The Magen Avraham (671:8) and Mishna Berura (671:38) add that placing it in a window facing the street is preferable to placing it by the door, as more people will see it this way.

The Ritva (Shabbos 21b) writes that danger extends to windy conditions. Thus, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 671:24) writes that as Chanuka in Europe is in the Winter, it is best to light them indoors. The ideal place is in the window facing the street. R’ Yitzchak Yosef Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 6:66) adds that we are also concerned about people mocking the mitzva if we were to light it outdoors.

R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe 4:125) writes that while the Gemara writes that we place it by the doorway opposite the mezuza, that is less important than pirsumei nisa, and the correct position nowadays is in the window facing the street (See Shevet Halevi 7:84).

In conclusion, in chutz la’aretz, one should light their menora inside by a window facing the street unless one has a minhag otherwise.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Eating before Menora

Question: I heard in a shiur that one must not eat before lighting the menora. My husband does not come home from work until about seven o’clock. Can I not eat at all that night before he lights?

Answer: The Magen Avraham (672:5) writes that one should light their menora with their family members present, and ideally before eating. He adds, quoting the Maharshal, that when it is time to light, one should not even sit down to learn Torah, but should perform the mitzva as soon as one can (See Mishna Berura 672:10).

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 235:2) writes that one must not begin eating half an hour before the time of maariv. However, the Mishna Berura (235:18) writes that if one asked another person to remind them to daven then one may eat. This even applies if it is already nacht and one could say shema already.

R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 4:58) writes that while women are obligated to light the menorah, they should be allowed to eat while waiting for their husbands to light. He compares it to a father who is allowed to eat the morning of his son’s bris before it is performed if he has appointed a mohel to perform the milah. Nonetheless, the minhag is for women not to eat before the menorah is lit, especially as they are supposed to be present and involved with the lighting. If necessary, such as there will be a long wait, once can be lenient and eat (See Rivevos Ephraim 4:163:29).

R’ Gavriel Zinner (Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 5:5) adds that as the prohibition is only to eat a full meal, it would be best for her to eat snacks or fruit while they are waiting rather than eat a full meal.

If she must eat a meal, she should ask someone to remind her to perform the mitzva.

In conclusion, one may have a snack while one is waiting for their husband to come home and light the menora. If one needs to sit down for a meal, they should ask someone to remind them to perform the mitzva.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Talking During Haftara

Question: My son came back from Yeshiva claiming that he learned that one may talk in shul while the haftara is being read. Is he right?

Answer: Rabbeinu Yerucham (Toldos Adam Vechava 2:3) writes that as the haftara is read for everybody in shul, one must not speak while it is being read. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 146:3) writes that one must not talk until the haftara has finished being read, just like kerias hatorah.

The Avudraham suggests a few reasons as to how the haftara got its name. One suggestion is that it was used to exempt (pattur) the community from kerias hatorah during times of persecution when they were prohibited to read from the Torah. Alternatively, he writes, quoting Rabbeinu Tam, that one is forbidden to speak at all during kerias hatorah, even in halachic matters. Once the Torah has been wrapped back up and they have begun reading the haftara, they are allowed to open their mouths and speak again (peter means to open).

The Levush (OC 284:1) challenges this explanation, writing that as everyone is obligated to listen to the haftara, then clearly one cannot speak then. Rather, one is allowed to speak, specifically to clarify halachic issues, such as a mistake in the reading. Such talking one may only do while the haftara is being read, but not during kerias hatorah.

The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav OC 284:1), however, disagrees with the Levush, writing that as the Shulchan Aruch compares the haftara to kerias hatorah, one cannot even talk about halacha while the haftara is being read.

In conclusion, one must not talk at all while the haftara is being read.

 

In loving memory of Sholom Mordechai ben Tzvi

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Mezuza for Non-Jewish Friend

Question: A non-Jewish work colleague asked me if I could buy a mezuza for her as she believes it is a good luck charm. I explained to her that we are not supposed to. Can I give her one that is passul instead?

Answer: The Gemara Yerushalmi (Peah 1:1) teaches that R’ Yehuda Hanasi gave Artaban a mezuza in return for a precious stone. Nonetheless, the poskim write that this does not mean that we can just give mezuzos away to anyone.

The Rema (Darkei Moshe YD 291:2) relates that a particular ruler once promised to act favourably towards his Jewish subjects providing that they gave him a mezuza. If they did not, he promised there would be reprisals. The Maharil ruled that they must not send it. R’ Yaakov Emden (She’elas Yaavetz 2:121) challenges the Maharil from this Gemara Yerushalmi, writing that one may certainly give a mezuza to a non-Jewish person who has promised to protect it.

However, the Rema (ibid; YD 291:2) writes that one should avoid giving a mezuza to a non-Jewish person unless it will potentially cause animosity (eivah). R’ Yissachar Ber Eilenberg (Beer Sheva 36) agrees with the Rema and suggests, among other reasons, that R’ Yehuda Hanasi gave Artaban a mezuza as it is only prohibited to give a mezuza to an idolater. Nonetheless, the Ben Ish Chai (Rav Pealim YD 4:25) notes that the Beer Sheva only suggests this as a possibility, though is not lenient in this regard. R’ Mordechai Yaakov Breisch (Chelkas Yakov YD:158) quotes the Pnei Moshe who suggests that Artevan may have been Jewish himself.

R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 1:184) writes that even when we are assured that the non-Jewish person will safeguard the mezuza, we are concerned what may happen if they pass away, and their heirs choose to discard it.  He adds that it is not right to give them a passul mezuza, as that is a prohibition of geneivas daas, misleading others (See ibid. YD 2:141:3).

In conclusion, one should not give a mezuza to a non-Jewish person under normal circumstances, whether it is kosher or not.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Mezuza for Carer

Question: We are hiring a carer to look after our mother. As she is not Jewish, do we need to place a mezuza on her door?

Answer: The Rema (YD 286:1) writes that one who shares a house with a non-Jewish roommate is not obligated to affix a mezuza to their door. The Gemara (Yoma 11a) teaches that the city gates of Mechuza did not have mezuzos. As the non-Jewish inhabitants may have suspected the Jewish residents of witchcraft, it was deemed dangerous. The Bach (YD 286) and Taz (YD 286:2) explain that this is why modern city gates don’t have mezuzos. Additionally, we are concerned that the mezuza may get mistreated (See Shach YD 286:6).

The Shulchan Aruch (YD 291:2) writes that the obligation to affix a mezuza is on the one living in a home rather than the owner. Therefore, one renting a house to a non-Jewish person should not affix mezuzos on that house.

The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 286:3) writes that one who employs a non-Jewish person who lives in their house is obligated to affix a mezuza on their bedroom. He explains that this is not the same as one who rents their room out to a non-Jewish person, as when they are employed and living in their house, that room is considered to be one that the Jewish homeowner is using for their employee (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:650).

R’ Shraga Feivish Schneebalg (Shraga Hameir 4:20:2) writes that if one has non-Jewish people working in one’s office, one does not need to affix mezuzos in their offices. If Jewish people do go into those offices, too, then they require mezuzos. R’ Aharon Aryeh Schechter and R’ Uri Auerbach (Pischei Shearim 286:59) write that this applies to a carer’s room, too. Therefore, one would only need to affix a meuza if they have access to the room, too.

In conclusion, one does not need to fix a mezuza to a non-Jewish carer’s room that one has no access to.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Missing Mezuza

Question: We were decorating our daughter’s bedroom and removed the mezuza case only to find to that it was empty. We have ordered a new mezuza. Can she sleep there without a mezuza until it arrives?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 38:12) writes that if one cannot afford to buy oneself both tefillin and a mezuza and needs to choose one over the other, they should buy a pair of tefillin. The Rema (YD 285:1) explains that this is because tefillin is a mitzva that pertains to the individual, as opposed to mezuza which belongs to the house. However, the Magen Avraham (38:15) writes that as we no longer wear tefillin all day, one should rather buy a mezuza and borrow someone else’s tefillin. The Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 38:15) adds that while tefillin are considered holier than mezuzos, the mitzva of mezuza applies on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Therefore, one must move out of a room without a mezuza on Shabbos or Yom Tov if they have another room available.

The Pischei Teshuva (YD 285:1), Ben Ish Chai (Ki Savo 2:2) and Aruch Hashulchan (YD 285:5) add that this applies equally during the week. If there is no mezuza on the door, one should move to another room if there is one available.

The Magen Avraham (13:8, quoting the Mordechai) and Sedei Chemed (40:115), however, write that one does not need to leave their house without a mezuza (See Tzitz Eliezer 13:53).

R’ Avraham Dovid Wahrman (Daas Kedoshim, Mikdash Me’at 285:3) suggests that one may declare their house hefker, ownerless, thereby obviating the need to affix a mezuza. Nonetheless, the Sedei Chemed concludes that this is not necessary, and one may stay in a house without a mezuza.

In conclusion, one should try one’s utmost to affix a mezuza as soon as one can. In the meantime, it is preferable for your daughter to sleep in another room. If that is not feasible, then she can stay there without one.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Fallen Mezuza

Question: We were moving some furniture around our house and knocked off a mezuza. Do we need to fast? Do we say a new beracha when putting it back up?

Answer: The Pischei Teshuva (YD 289:1) and Aruch Hashulchan (YD 289:4) write that just as one has to recite a new beracha when putting their tallis back on after it has fallen off (Shulchan Aruch OC 8:14), so too, one must recite a new beracha when rehanging a mezuza that fell (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 11:7).

R' Moshe Stern (Baer Moshe 6:6) adds that the same would apply if the top nail was dislodged, causing the mezuza to hang upside down.

However, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer YD 3:17:11) writes that one would not recite a new beracha when reaffixing a mezuza that had fallen. When a tallis falls off, one has already fulfilled the mitzva and is not required to put it back on. If one chooses to do so, one recites a new beracha. If one’s mezuza falls off, however, one is required to immediately reaffix it as the mitzva never ended (See Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 3:14).

R’ Menashe Klein (Mishne Halachos 5:195) and R’ Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Sova Semachos, Mezuza 106) write that one does not need to fast if one’s mezuza falls. They quote the Magen Avraham (44:5) who writes that there is a minhag to fast if one dropped one’s tefillin, though notes that no mention is made of one’s mezuza (See Shraga Hameir 3:12). They write that one should give money to tzedakah instead.

In conclusion, if a mezuza falls, one should replace it immediately. While Ashkenazim should recite a new beracha when they do so, many Sefardim do not. One should give tzedakah rather than fast.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Reaffixing Mezuzos

Question: We moved into a rented flat and removed the mezuzos to get them checked and put them back up the same day. They were all kosher. Should we have said a new beracha?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 8:14) writes that if one removed their tallis, they recite a new beracha when putting it back on, even if they intended on doing so when they removed it. The Rema disagrees, writing that if one had the intention to put it back on, one does not recite a new beracha when they do so.

The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 289:4) compares removing mezuzos to be checked, to a tallis. If one replaces them the same day, one would not recite a new beracha. Only if one replaced a non-kosher mezuza with a new one would one need to recite a new beracha.

The Chida (Birkei Yosef YD 286:10) and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (11:7) write that there is a safek (doubt) as to whether one who removes a mezuza to check it would need to recite a new beracha when reaffixing it. The Pischei Teshuva (YD 289:1) questions why this would be different to removing one’s tallis or tefillin. He suggests that as one removes their mezuzos to be checked, they are not convinced that they will be found kosher and therefore one may need to replace them with other mezuzos. Similarly, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer YD 3:17; Yechave Daas 3:80) maintains that there is a difference between tallis and mezuza and one would recite a new beracha when reaffixing it after having it checked.

However, the Maharam Schik (YD:285) writes that even those who maintain that one would not recite a new beracha would agree that if one affixed a different mezuza, one would do so.

In conclusion, Ashkenazim do not recite a beracha when reaffixing a single mezuza the same day it was removed while many Sefardim do. Even Ashkenazim would recite a new beracha if the mezuzos were replaced entirely and switched around.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Second Mezuza

Question: We recently bought a new house and are affixing our mezuzos. There are some old mezuzos on the doorposts which have been painted over multiple times and are likely not kosher. Instead of removing them, can we just affix our new ones next to them?

Answer: The Sifrei (Devarim 82) writes that one who adds on a fifth corner to one’s tzitzis or a fifth species to the arba minim has transgressed bal tosif, the prohibition against adding to the Torah. Likewise, Tosafos (Rosh Hashana 28b) writes that if one added a fifth parsha to a pair of tefillin, they would have transgressed this prohibition.

R’ Avraham Dovid Wahrman (Daas Kedoshim 286:25) applies this to the mitzva of mezuza, too, writing that one mustn’t affix multiple mezuzos to one doorpost (See Minchas Yitzchak 1:9).

The Pischei Teshuva (YD 291:2) quotes the Chamudei Daniel (YD 291:1) who adds that one must remove the old mezuza before affixing a second, and one must be meticulous not to ruin the old mezuza when removing it.

R’ Moshe Feinstein (YD 1:176; YD 1:183) adds that one must remove the old mezuzos even if they have been repainted over multiple times and are likely passul, and even though by doing so, one may scratch the doorframe (See Shevet Halevi 8:169).

In conclusion, one must remove any old mezuzos before affixing new ones, even if one believes that they may not be kosher.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Children and Arba Minim

Question: I tried buying a passul set of arba minim for my children, but the shop wouldn’t sell them to me, claiming that they could only use a kosher set. If they can’t tell the difference, does it really matter?

Answer: The Mishna (Sukka 42a) teaches that children are obligated to shake lulav and esrog when they are old enough to do so. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 657:1) writes that parents must buy a lulav and esrog for their child when they are old enough to shake them properly. The Mishna Berura (128:123) explains that this age varies between different children and mitzvos.

The Biur Halacha (657:1) stresses that children must only be given a kosher set that is fit for an adult to use.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 658:6) writes that one should not give their arba minim to a child on the first day before fulfilling one’s own obligation, as while the child has the ability to receive a gift, they cannot gift it back. The Magen Avraham (658:8) writes that the child would not fulfil their obligation unless the arba minim belonged to them. The Mishna Berura (658:28) explains that the father would not have fulfilled his obligation in chinuch by lending his child a set. Nonetheless, he notes that other acharonim disagree, permitting lending one’s child a set. In Shaar Hatziyun (658:36) he clarifies that lending suffices (See Minchas Yitzchak 9:163:3.)

Likewise, R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 8:152) demonstrates that a parent fulfils their obligation by lending them a set. As chinuch is only miderabanan, a child’s mitzva is like the second day of Yom Tov when one fulfils their obligation with a borrowed set (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 658:17).

Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:95; YD 1:137; YD 2:104) writes that it depends on how we view the mitzvah of chinuch. If chinuch serves solely to prepare the child for when they are older, then a borrowed set is sufficient. If, however, the parents have an obligation to ensure that their children have performed the mitzva properly, then they need to own it. R’ Moshe concedes, following the Shaar Hatziyun, that children may, indeed, use a borrowed set, and parents would fulfil their obligation of chinuch. Children would not be able to recite the berachos, on such a set, however, unless they own it.

In conclusion, while it is ideal for parents to buy children their own set of arba minim, they must only use a set that is fully kosher.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Yehi Ratzon During Shofar

Question: Last Rosh Hashana I went to a different shul to normal. I started saying the yehi ratzon printed in my machzor between the tekios but someone motioned for me not to say it. Can I say it if I want to?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 592:3) writes that one should not talk between the various tekios. The Tur (OC 592:2) writes that while one who spoke would not need to repeat the berachos and listen to the shofar again, nonetheless, they should be told not to talk. The Rema adds that davening and shofar related speech does not constitute a hefsek, unnecessary interruption.
R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 1:39) maintains that there is no hefsek to recite the yehi ratzon, being that according to the Arizal, such words of vidui are appropriate during the blowing of the shofar. Similarly, the Mateh Ephraim (590:36) records the minhag to recite the yehi ratzon, though cautions against reciting the names of the malachim, angels.
Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (592:12) writes that the Rema is specifically referring to the tefillos in between each set of blasts. One must not make such interruptions in the middle of a set, however. Therefore, one should not recite the yehi ratzon that is printed in the machzor. He notes (Shaar Hatziyun 592:15) that R’ Yaakov Emden (Siddur Beis Yaakov) was lenient in this regard. If one is in a place where the minhag is to recite yehi ratzon, one should not stop them.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 1:36:18; OC 3:32) quotes the Minchas Elazar (1:75) who challenges the minhag to recite them. The Beis Yosef (OC 590) writes that there is a machlokes as to why we must blow a minimum of thirty blasts. According to Rambam (Shofar 3:2), the reason is because there is a safek (doubt) as to which is the correct sound for teruah. Accordingly, we blow three sets to ensure that we fulfil the mitzva. Therefore, R’ Ovadia argues, it would be a hefsek to interrupt with any tefillos in the middle. Additionally, there are some unsavoury names that have made their way into the text which must not be uttered (See Minchas Elazar 1:75).
R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5:65:3) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:344) note that many great Rabbis never said this yehi ratzon.
In conclusion, unless one has a specific minhag to say the yehi ratzon, it is best not to recite it.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Blowing Shofar for Another

Question: I have been asked to blow shofar for people who are housebound. Should I repeat the berachos each time even though I have already fulfilled the mitzva?
Answer: The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 29a with Rashi; Shavuos 39a) teaches that Jewish people are spiritually responsible for each other. As such, one person can recite certain berachos for another even if they don’t need to recite it themselves. The Magen Avraham (167:40) explains that because of this responsibility (arvus), if one knows that another person hasn’t performed a mitzva, it is almost as if they haven’t performed the mitzva themselves. Therefore, one who has already fulfilled their obligation for kiddush can recite kiddush for another person who has not.
There is a machlokes as to whether one can recite a beracha on a mitzva that one is not commanded to perform. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 589:6) writes that as women are not obligated to hear the shofar, they do not recite the beracha as they cannot say vetzivanu, that ‘we are commanded’. Accordingly, a man blowing for women could not recite the beracha on their behalf.
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 1:39-42; 4:50; 5:43) writes that this is the practice for sefardim, and women should not recite the beracha of shehecheyanu either. However, ashkenazim follow the Rema who writes that women can recite the beracha as the Jewish people were commanded collectively. Other sefardim follow the Ben Ish Chai (Rav Poalim OC 1 Sod Yesharim 12) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 589:23) who write that women may recite the berachos.
Nonetheless, the Rema writes that a man may not recite the beracha if blowing shofar for women if he has already heard shofar. The Rema (Darkei Moshe OC 589:2) quotes the Maharil who writes that a man may recite the beracha for a woman who cannot do so. Yet, the Rema disagrees, writing that while women may say the beracha if they want to, it remains optional, and so a man shouldn’t do so on their behalf.
The Mishna Berura (585:5) writes that even when blowing for other men, it is ideal for the ones listening to recite the berachos, rather than the one blowing shofar to repeat them.
In conclusion, one blowing shofar after they have already fulfilled the mitzva should ask one of those listening to recite the berachos. He may recite the berachos on behalf of other men if necessary.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Dry Hands for Netilas Yadayim

Question: Do I need to ensure that my hands are totally dry before washing them before eating bread?
Answer: The Gemara (Shabbos 14b; Eruvin 21b) teaches that Shlomo Hamelech instituted the mitzva of washing one’s hands before eating teruma, as one’s hands may have come into contact with items that are tamei, ritually impure. According to the Gemara (Chullin 106a), this law was extended to everyone washing before eating bread, so as to ensure that kohanim would become accustomed to wash their hands before eating.
There is a machlokes, however, as to whether one needs to ensure that one’s hands and the cup handles are dry before washing.
The Rema (OC 160:11) quotes the Terumas Hadeshen (259) who holds that a basin of water which has been touched is suitable for use for washing one’s hands. Only water that one used to wash one’s hands with, becomes tamei and unfit for use again.
Following this, the Chazon Ish (OC 24:20) writes that if one’s hands were wet before washing, the water on one’s hands becomes tamei, and does not become tahor by being washed. As this invalidates the washing, both one’s hands and cup handles need to be dry before washing.
However, the Magen Avraham (162:10), Mishna Berura (162:27; Biur Halacha 162:2; Shaar Hatziyun 162:41) and R’ Benzion Abba Shaul (Ohr Letzion 2:11:9) write that one does not need to ensure that ones hands are dry before washing. The Mishna Berura quotes the Pischei Teshuva who writes that one should ensure that the cup handles are dry before one touches them. Nonetheless, he disagrees, writing that this water does not become tamei, and therefore it does not invalidate the washing (See Eretz Zvi 35).
In conclusion, one may wash one’s hands even if they are wet, though many are particular to ensure that they are dry first.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Children Affixing Mezuzos

Question: Our eleven-year-old son asked if he could fix the mezuza onto his bedroom doorpost. Is this permissible?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (YD 291:3) writes that children are also obligated in the mitzva of mezuza and we should train them (chinuch) to affix mezuzos on their doors.
R’ Yaakov Yeshaya Blau (Chovas Hadar 1:25) explains that the Shulchan Aruch is clearly referring to a house that is only inhabited by children. If the child is able to, he or she should affix the mezuza, though doing so is only a mitzva derabanan of chinuch. He questions whether an adult doing so on their behalf would recite a beracha or not.
R’ Avraham Dovid Wahrman of Buchach (Daas Kedoshim 289:2) writes that if a mezuza falls on Shabbos, one can get a child to affix it on Shabbos. Nonetheless, in his notes (Gidulei Karka) he questions whether children can be trusted to have the appropriate intentions as they affix them.
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 14:75:1) notes that there is a machlokes as to whether children may affix by themselves or not, and concludes that they may not affix mezuzos. He explains that even the Shulchan Aruch means that children should have an adult affix the mezuza on their room on their behalf. If a child does hang the mezuza, it should be removed and reaffixed by an adult.
In conclusion, children should not affix mezuzos until they are bas mitzva or bar mitzva.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Scooters on Shabbos

Question: Can my children ride their scooters on Shabbos where there is an eruv?
Answer: R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 2:52; Yabia Omer OC 7:37:3; 10:55:2) quotes the Ben Ish Chai (Rav Poalim OC 1:25) who permitted cycling on Shabbos though writes that the consensus of acharonim is that cycling is prohibited for various reasons.
R’ Ovadia Yosef quotes acharonim who are concerned that the tyres will leave grooves in the earth which is prohibited due to choresh plowing. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 404:8) writes that when riding a bike, it is very easy to mistakenly ride outside of the techum or carry it out of the eruv. In addition, it is common for things to break which could easily lead to the prohibition of tikkun mana, fixing things. R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 1:21:27; 4:4:8; 7:30) adds that using a bike is also prohibited because it is uvdin dechol, a mundane, weekday activity.
As children’s tricycles are not used to ride long distances, R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (OC 302:339) did not consider them to be the same issue of uvdin dechol and allowed children to ride them on Shabbos. Likewise, R’ Moshe Feinstein (quoted in Tiltulei Shabbos 1:n21) differentiated between bikes that are used for travels and kid’s tricycles that are not typically ridden for long distances (See Baer Moshe 6:16; Ohr Letzion 2:42:1). Similarly, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 16:18) forbids children from riding bikes though writes that they may ride tricycles and scooters.
In conclusion, while adults may not ride bikes on Shabbos, children may ride on scooters.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Accidentally Broke One’s Fast

Question: I forgot it was a taanis and made myself a cup of tea. What’s the halacha now that I’ve broken the taanis?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 568:1) writes that if one accidentally ate on a taanis tzibbur, communal fast day, one must continue fasting. The Mishna Berura (568:1) adds that this applies equally to one who purposely ate.
The Rema (Darkei Moshe OC) and Magen Avraham (568:4) quote the Maharil who instructed one who accidentally ate on asara b’teves to fast three fasts as an atonement. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 549:7) writes that while this incident occurred on asara b’teves, this halacha would apply equally to any other taanis tzibbur. Nonetheless, the Magen Avraham and Kaf Hachaim quote the Terumas Hadeshen (156) who writes that this is not required.
Thus, while the Shulchan Aruch writes that one who broke a personal fast would have to make up for breaking it by fasting on another day, the Mishna Berura (568:8) writes that this doesn’t apply to one who ate on a taanis tzibbur.
The Mishna Berura (568:3) writes that even if one has eaten, they may still say aneinu in mincha. Yet, elsewhere (Biur Halacha 565:1) he quotes the Chayei Adam who maintains that one who isn’t fasting should omit aneinu. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5:60:4; 8:131) explains the difference. One who cannot fast due to ill health, etc. cannot say aneinu as they are exempt. One who has eaten on their fast, can say it, however, as they are still obligated to fast.
In conclusion, if one accidentally ate or drank on a taanis, one must continue fasting until the end of the day. One should still say aneinu in mincha.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Beracha on Seeing a Friend

Question: I haven’t seen some of my close friends for a few months due to lockdown. Should we say a beracha when we meet or does the fact that we have spoken over the phone and via Zoom mean that we don’t need to?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 58a) teaches that one who sees their friend after an absence of thirty days recites the beracha of shehecheyanu, and if after a year, they recite the beracha of mechaye hameisim. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 225:1) adds that this only applies to particularly close friends who one is most excited to see.
Thus, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 4:17) writes that if one is excited about seeing their close friends or family after a prolonged absence, one recites shehecheyanu.
Nonetheless, many poskim limit this, writing that it does not apply to typical situations nowadays. Thus, the Eshel Avraham (230:4) and Ben Ish Chai (Ekev 1:14) write that we are not particular about this beracha and one should rather recite this beracha without shem umalchus (Hashem’s name). R’ Yosef Yuzpa Han (Yosef Ometz 451) explains that such friendships are few and far between.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 23:12; n53) concurs, writing that one would only say it in rare circumstances such as if one had survived fighting in the front lines in battle, etc. When his daughter and son-in-law (and R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky) came to visit him in eretz Yisrael from abroad, he went out to buy a new fruit in order to be able to say shehecheyanu.
R’ Nissan Karelitz (Chut Shani, Rosh Hashana, Kobetz Inyanim 16) writes that if one had seen their friend over live video in the meantime then this, too, would diminish the joy and prevent one from being able to recite shehecheyanu.
In conclusion, one should not say shehecheyanu upon seeing one’s friends after lockdown, especially if one has been in touch with them in the meantime.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Who Should Light Instead?

Question: A few weeks ago my wife was in hospital over Shabbos and I lit the candles. My teenage daughter asked if she should have lit instead. Who should have lit under these circumstances?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 263:3) explains that lighting the Shabbos candles is first and foremost a woman’s responsibility as traditionally they are more involved in the house affairs. Rashi (Shabbos 32a) quotes the midrash that explains that as Chava caused Adam to sin, she diminished the world’s light. Thus, the Bach (OC 263:3) writes that even if a married man wishes to light, his wife has prerogative in performing this mitzva (See Magen Avraham 263:6; Baer Heitev OC 263:5).
R’ Nissim Karelitz (Chut Shani 4:263:n8) writes that as a couple usually share the mitzva in lighting, when one’s wife is away, he must light instead. He notes that as Adam was also guilty for ‘diminishing the world’s light’ when one’s wife is away, he must take responsibility for lighting the candles. R’ Moshe Stern (Baer Moshe 8:67) adds that as one lights candles in each house lekavod Shabbos, it wouldn’t be right for him to delegate the lighting to anyone. Even if he has daughters over bas mitzva who usually light, he must still light himself.
R’ Shraga Feivish Schneebalg (Shraga Hameir 6:127:2) relates that when his father was widowed (from his first wife), he would light the candles himself each week even though he had teenage daughters at home (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 43:n46; Rivevos Ephraim 6:126:1).
In conclusion, if a married woman is away one week, her husband should light the Shabbos candles himself.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Fresh Challa

Question: I like to bake fresh challa for Shabbos though it’s never enough to separate challa with a beracha. Should I rather bake a big batch for a few weeks so that I can take challa?
Answer: The Gemara (Bava Kama 82a) teaches that one of Ezra’s ten decrees was that women should get up early to bake bread. While the Gemara explains that the reason is so that the poor who go begging should have bread, the Gemara Yerushalmi (Megilla 4:1) teaches that this specifically applies to baking on Friday mornings lekavod Shabbos. Thus, the Rema (OC 242:1) stresses the importance of baking enough dough to separate challa before Shabbos and Yom Tov.
The Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 242:5) stresses the importance of baking fresh challa lekavod Shabbos. He notes that while this practice dates back to the time of the Gemara, unfortunately, many are lax about it, choosing to buy from bakeries instead, which diminishes kavod Shabbos.
R’ Yisroel Pesach Feinhandler (Avnei Yashpei 5:45:1) demonstrates that according to the poskim, the main reason for baking challa is for kavod Shabbos, and that this takes precedence over separating challa.
Conversely, R’ Shraga Feivish Schneebalg (Shraga Hameir 8:16) argues that especially nowadays when we have freezers, one should always bake enough bread to separate challa. R’ Yisroel Dovid Harfenes (Nishmas Shabbos 102:1) writes, however, that nowadays when we eat different types of bread, it is not always feasible to bake such large batches of each. Nonetheless, he sides with R’ Schneebalg, writing that one should rather bake a bigger batch every few weeks.
In conclusion, there is merit to both baking enough to separate challa as well as baking fresh challa for Shabbos. Whichever one chooses is a great mitzva.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Starting Shavuos Late

Questions: I know that we do not normally daven maariv on Shavuos night until nacht. As we cannot daven in shul this year, can we not bring Yom Tov in early?
Answer: The Shelah (Shavuos 1) writes that one must not recite kiddush or begin eating one’s Yom Tov meal on the first night of Shavuos until it is nacht, nightfall. As the Torah writes that one must count seven complete weeks of the sefira, bringing Yom Tov early would diminish this. Just as the Gemara (Berachos 27b) teaches that one can daven maariv before Shabbos ends, so too, one can daven before nacht¸ though one must wait to recite kiddush. The Magen Avraham (494:1) and Pri Chadash (OC 494:1) pasken this way, too.
The Yosef Ometz (850) notes that he never witnessed this in Germany. Additionally, by doing so, it takes away from how much one can learn on Shavuos night. Likewise, the Korban Nesanel (Pesachim 10:2) writes that one does not need to wait until nacht to recite kiddush and begin their meal.
The Mishna Berura (261:19; Biur Halacha 261) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether the mitzva of tosefes Shabbos, to add on a little bit of time both at the beginning and at the end of Shabbos (Rosh Hashana 9a; Yuma 81b) is miderabanan or mideoraisa. The Avnei Nezer (OC 316:12) writes that the mitzva is mideoraisa and applies equally to bringing Yom Tov in early. Thus, R’ Yaakov Emden (Siddur Yaavetz, Shavuos 4) writes that in order to fulfil tosefes Yom Tov one should daven maariv early.
Nonetheless, the Taz (OC 494:1), Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 494:2) and the Mishna Berura (494:1) write that one shouldn’t even daven maariv before nacht.
R’ Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (Haamek Davar, Vayikra 23:21) explains that the reason for waiting until nacht is because the Torah writes that Shavuos should be observed on that same day.
In conclusion, it is important to wait until nacht to begin Yom Tov and daven on Shavuos.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Cutting Tzitzis with Scissors

Question: Is it true that one mustn’t use regular scissors to cut tzitzis?
Answer: The Torah (Devarim 27:5) prohibits use of metal implements in hewing out stones for building the mizbe’ach. The Mishna (Middos 3:4) teaches that one mustn’t even use a metal trowel to apply plaster to the stones. Since iron was created to form weapons which shorten lives, it is not befitting to use iron for the mizbe’ach which was created to prolong lives. The Ramban (Shemos 20:22) explains that this is why the foundational sockets were made from copper rather than iron. R’ Simcha Rabinowitz (Piskei Teshuvos 11:29) notes that tzitzis also serves to prolong lives (See Shabbos 32b).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 11:12) writes that one should trim the tzitzis before inserting them into the begged. Nonetheless, the Rema (OC 11:4) writes that if they are too long, one can cut them even once they have been tied.
The Magen Avraham (11:18) writes that lechatchila one should avoid using a metal knife to cut them. One should rather use their teeth instead. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 11:24) quotes the passuk about using iron implements, comparing tzitzis to a mizbe’ach (See Mishna Berura 11:61).
Elsewhere, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 180:5) writes that one should cover up one’s knives when reciting birkas hamazon. The Magen Avraham (180:4) explains that this serves to remind us that our tables are comparable to the mizbe’ach. He adds that it is only knives made from iron that would be problematic, but other materials would be fine. Thus, R’ Rabinowitz writes that if necessary, one can use knives or scissors made from other materials.
In conclusion, it is ideal to use something other than steel scissors to cut one’s tzitzis.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Looking at the Havdala Candle

Question: I watched a Rabbi sing havdala online and noticed that he looked at his hands before saying the beracha over the candle. Don’t we usually recite the beracha before performing the mitzva or benefitting from anything?
Answer: The Mishna (Berachos 51b) teaches that one shouldn’t recite the beracha of meorai haeish unless they benefit from the light of the candle. The Gemara (Berachos 53b) cites a machlokes as to whether one needs to benefit from the light or if it is sufficient for it to be bright, and a further machlokes as to what is considered benefitting. Following this, Rambam (Shabbos 29:25) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 289:4) write that one needs to actually benefit from the flame and it must be bright enough that one can differentiate between different types of currency. The Tur (OC 298:1) notes that nowadays we look at our hands, particularly as we don’t have money on us.
R’ Asher Weiss (Bereishis 2:2) explains that there is a machlokes as to how to classify the beracha of meorai haeish said over the flame. According to the Kol Bo (41) it is considered to be a birchas hanehenin, a beracha that one says before partaking of something such as food. Tosafos (Pesachim 53b) and Ramban (Berachos 51b) write, however, that this beracha serves simply to remind us that fire was created on motzaei Shabbos. Alternately, R’ Weiss suggests that it may be a beracha of shevach, praise.
Following this, there is a machlokes as to whether we say the beracha before or after looking at our hands. The Taz (298:2) writes that according to the Shibolei Haleket (Shabbos 130) one would look at one’s hands before reciting the beracha. The Mishna Berura (296:31) also writes that this is the correct order.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:9:9) however (in a teshuva to Dayan Krausz), challenges this, writing that common practice is to recite the beracha first and that is how the Yaavetz and Gra paskened (See Rivevos Ephraim 3:286:1).
In conclusion, while some people say the beracha after looking at their hands, the mainstream practice is to recite the beracha first.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Watching Havdala Online

Question: I ran out of grape juice on Shabbos and so don’t have enough for havdala. Can I be yotze by watching someone saying it live online?
Answer: The Mishna (Rosh Hashana 3:7) teaches that one who blew a shofar into a barrel only fulfils their obligation to listen to the shofar if they hear the actual sound rather than an echo. The poskim discuss whether a phone or microphone with (virtually) no delay is equivalent to hearing the actual sound or not.
R’ Chaim Elazar Shapira (Minchas Elazar 2:72) and R’ Zvi Pesach Frank (quoted in Minchas Yitzchak 2:113) allow one to use a microphone for mitzvos derabannan.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:108; 4:91:4) writes, however, that as the electronic sound produced is not the actual human voice, it is not ideal to listen to the megillah through a microphone. Nonetheless, bedieved one fulfils their obligation this way. Likewise, he allowed a woman in hospital to fulfil her obligation to hear havdala over the phone when there was no other choice (See Shevet Halevi 5:84). Similarly, R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 8:11) permits one to use a microphone for patients in hospital to be able to listen to the megilla when necessary (See Minchas Yitzchak 2:113).
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, however, disagrees, writing that one cannot fulfil one’s obligation of havdala or megillah over the microphone or phone, even bedieved. He writes that he does not understand how other poskim could have allowed it, comparing the sound heard to witnessing seeing a crime in the reflection of the mirror which cannot be admitted as evidence in beis din. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weisz (Minchas Yitzchak 3:38:16), R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 1:19:18; Yechave Daas 3:54) and R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Moadim Uzemanim 6:105) agree, explaining that the electronic sound produced is not the actual voice.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 296:2) writes that one may use chamar medina, popular beverage for havdala. Thus, one may use tea or coffee for havdala (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 272:14; Igros Moshe OC 2:75; Tzitz Eliezer 8:16; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:77).
In conclusion, one does not fulfil their obligation of havdala by watching online or listening over the phone. Rather, one should recite it over a cup of coffee or tea if necessary.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Holding Havdala

Question: I have always held the wine in my right hand while reciting havdala. Last week, I watched a Rabbi making havdala online and saw him switch hands in the middle. What is the ideal way of doing this?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 296:6) writes that when reciting havdala one should begin by holding the wine in their right hand and the besamim in their left hand until they reach the beracha on besamim at which point they should switch hands, holding the besamim in their right hand. The Mishna Berura (306:18) explains that as one’s right hand is considered to be more prominent, one should use it to hold mitzva items while reciting the appropriate beracha.
The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 296:17), however, explains that this isn’t strictly necessary as nowadays we place the besamim and candle on the table in front of us. Rather, one should simply hold each one in their right hand as they recite the beracha. Thus, when saying the beracha on besamim¸ one should put the cup down and pick up the besamim. R’ Nosson Gestetner (Lehoros Nosson 8:17) quotes the Beis Yosef (OC 206) who writes that it is sufficient for the cup of wine to be in front of them on the table while reciting kiddush. Likewise, one would not have to specifically hold the besamim or candle, providing they were on the table in front of them. Similarly, R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 3:92) writes that when the Shulchan Aruch writes that one should hold the wine in one’s left hand, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one cannot put it down.
In conclusion, one should hold the besamim and candle in one’s right hand while reciting the appropriate beracha, though one can put the wine down in front of them while doing so.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Fewer Candles

Question: Since our oldest child was born, I have always lit an extra candle for each of our children. Last week, I accidentally lit one too few. Do I need to add an extra candle every week?
Answer: The Rema (OC 263:1) quotes the Maharil (Shabbos 1) who writes that if a woman forgot to light Shabbos candles one week, she should light an extra candle from then on. The Mishna Berura (263:7) explains that this acts as a kenas (fine) to deter people from forgetting. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 5:33) adds that this applies even nowadays when there are also electric lights on in the house.
Many have the minhag to light an extra candle for each child born. R’ Yisrael Chaim Friedman (Likkutei Mahariach, Hisnahagus Erev Shabbos) explains that this is in keeping with the Gemara (Shabbos 23b) that writes that one who lights Shabbos candles properly is rewarded with children who are talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars). R’ Menashe Klein (Mishne Halachos 7:35) explains that this is akin to chanuka when one should (according to Rambam) light a candle for everybody in their house (See Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa 43:n51).
The Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 263:3) writes that if one lit one less candle than they usually do they still need to light an extra one in future. The Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 263:2), however, disagrees, arguing that the halacha is that one only needs to light one light whereas extra candles is a minhag.
In conclusion, one who accidentally lit too few candles one week does not need to light any extra candles after that.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Matza Throughout Pesach

Question: Is there a mitzva to eat matza throughout Pesach?
Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 120a) teaches that there isn’t the same requirement to eat matza on the last day of Pesach as there is on the first night. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 475:32) explains that when the Torah tells us to eat matza on the other days, it clearly means to eat something other than regular bread.
There is a machlokes among the rishonim and acharonim¸ however, as to whether one performs a mitzva by eating matza on the remaining days of Pesach. According to Ibn Ezra (Shemos 12:15), one is obligated to eat matza all seven days (See Chizkuni 12:18).
R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:22) quotes the Baal Hamaor (Pesachim 26b) who asks why we don’t recite a beracha when eating matza throughout Pesach, just like we do upon eating in a sukka following the first day of sukkos. He answers by differentiating between Pesach and Sukkos, when one can live for six days by eating other food, thus one has a choice to eat matza or not. One cannot live for six days on Sukkos without any sleep. As one has no choice, therefore, but to live in a sukka, they recite a beracha upon performing this mitzva. According to R' Avraham Borenstein (Avnei Nezer OC 377), the Baal Hamaor holds that eating matza after the first day to be an optional, rather than an obligatory mitzva.
Similarly, the Vilna Gaon (Maaseh Rav 185; Kesav Vehakabala, Devarim 16:8; Mishna Berura 475:45; 639:24) maintained that while one may not be obligated to eat matza throughout Pesach, one still fulfils a mitzva by doing so. Thus, he would make a point of eating seuda shelishis on the last day of Pesach even though he wouldn’t normally eat seuda shelishis on Yom Tov (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 475:18).
Sefer Hamichtam (Sukka 27a), the Meiri (Pesachim 91b) and the Orchos Chaim (Sukka 36), however, maintain that there is no mitzva to eat matza following the first night. Likewise, the Magen Avraham (639:17) quotes the Maharil who writes that we don’t say a beracha as there is no obligation.
R’ Ovadia Yosef writes that even according to the Vilna Gaon, saying a beracha upon eating matza other than during the seder would be a beracha levatala (beracha in vain).
R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 10:27:5; 13:65) writes strongly against those who have the practice to avoid eating matza out of concerns for their kashrus, stressing the importance of washing for pas over Shabbos and Yom Tov.
In conclusion, while we only say a beracha upon eating matza during the seder, some rishonim and acharonim maintain that one fulfils a mitzva by eating throughout Pesach.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Best time to Count the Sefira

Question: When is the best time to count the sefira when I’m not davening with a minyan?
Answer: The Beis Yosef (OC 489:1) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether one may count the sefira during bein hashemashos (the time between shekia, sunset, and nacht, nightfall). Tosafos (Menachos 66a), the Rosh (Pesachim 10:40) and Tur (OC 489:1) maintain that as counting is only miderabanan nowadays, one may count before nacht. The Ran (Pesachim 28a) and Rambam (Temidin U’musafin 7:22) however write that one should wait until nacht. Following this, the Mishna Berura (489:14) writes that ideally one should wait until nacht to count.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 489:1) writes that one should count the sefira after maariv. The Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 489:1) quotes R’ Yaakov Emden (Mor Uketzia 489:1) who explains that the reason we count after maariv is because people used to daven maariv before nacht. Accordingly, one davening maariv later would count the sefira first (See Shevet Halevi 6:53:3).
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:99:1) however, writes that we follow R’ Yaakov Reischer (Chok Yaakov 489:16) who explains that the reason is because we follow the rule of tadir kodem, giving precedence to the more common mitzva. The only reason we count the sefira before reciting kiddush and havdala is because those must be done at home while it is ideal to count the sefira together with others in shul.
Likewise, the Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 489:16) writes that while one may count as soon as it’s nacht, it is best to do so after maariv.
In conclusion, one should ideally daven maariv at nacht followed by the sefira.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Kimcha Depischa

Question: Can I use maaser money for kimcha depischa?
Answer: The Gemara Yerushalmi (Bava Basra 1:4) teaches that one who has lived in a city for twelve months is considered to be a resident. Thus they must give wheat to the poor and are entitled to receive wheat if necessary. Following this, the Ohr Zarua (Pesachim 255) writes that the minhag is to distribute wheat to those in need before Pesach. This serves as the Rema’s opening words to hilchos Pesach (OC 429:1).
Thus, we see in the Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 429:5) that the prevalent custom was for communities to levy taxes on their townspeople for this purpose (See Mishna Berura 429:3).
The Mishna Berura (Shaar Hatziyun 429:10) explains that it is inappropriate for us to celebrate Pesach, knowing that our friends are unable to. Additionally, we must consider the added costs of Pesach food. R’ Yaakov Betzalel Zolty (Mishnas Yaavetz OC:7) explains that the Rema wrote this halacha in hilchos Pesach rather than hilchos tzedaka because this is, in fact, an integral part of Yom Tov, rather than tzedaka. Thus, Rambam (Yom Tov 6:18) writes that one who doesn’t look after others on Yom Tov demonstrates that his Yom Tov expenditures were not done for Yom Tov but for oneself.
Nonetheless, the Shulchan Aruch Harav and Aruch Hashulchan (OC 429:7) refer to this as tzedaka. Thus, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Nissan 2:2) maintains that one may use their maaser money for kimcha depischa.
In conclusion, one may use one’s maaser money for kimcha depischa.

בבא בתרא י. רבי יהודה אומר גדולה צדקה שמקרבת את הגאולה..
Rabbi Yehuda says, ‘Great is charity for it hastens the Redemption’ (Talmud, Bava Basra 10a).
May the merit of this mitzva lead to our own redemption במהרה בימינו.