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