Sunday, 19 December 2021

Tefillin Bag

Question: Can I use my old tefillin bag to keep my shofar in?

Answer: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 48a) teaches that a cloth that was designated for and then used to wrap one’s tefillin, may not later be used to wrap money. Once the cloth has been used for a mitzva purpose, it retains its kedusha and may no longer be used for general use.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 42:3) paskens that bags that were set aside to be used for tefillin may not be used for money if they were used even once for tefillin. Such bags are considered to be tashmishei kedusha, items that serve kedusha objects. The Rema adds that one may use the bag for other purposes if they stipulated such before using it.

The Mishna Berura (402:11) notes that this restriction does not apply to a tallis bag, even if one usually places their tefillin bag inside it. Likewise, he writes (Biur Halacha 34:4) that providing that one is meticulous to always put their tefillin back into their boxes before placing them into the tefillin bag, the bag itself does not become tashmishei kedusha and can be used to carry other items.

The Minchas Elazar (1:27) questions whether the tefillin bag still acts as tashmishei kedusha as the knots of the tefillin are not encased along with the tefillin boxes (See Piskei Teshuvos 42:3).

Nonetheless, R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 4:35) maintains that tefillin bags do not require geniza (burial) as tefillin are always wrapped in boxes before being placed into the bag.

In conclusion, one may use an old tefillin bag to store one’s shofar in.​ 

Sunday, 21 November 2021

Minyan or Tefillin

Question: I accidentally left my tefillin at work. Should I daven with a minyan without my tefillin and put them on later, or daven with my tefillin without a minyan?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 14b) teaches that one must wear one’s tefillin while reciting the shema and amida. One who recites the shema without wearing his tefillin is considered to have given false testimony about himself (See Mishna Berura 25:14). Likewise, reciting the amida is part of the complete acceptance of the mitzvos.

The Mishna Berura (ibid.; 46:33) writes that one who does not have their tefillin must still recite the shema. Wearing tefillin and reciting the shema are independent mitzvos, and one only transgresses when they deliberately avoid wearing their tefillin.

The Magen Avraham (66:12) questions whether one who does not have their tefillin in time to daven with a minyan should wait to daven with their tefillin. He concludes that it is more important to daven with one’s tefillin. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 66:11), Mishna Berura (66:40) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 25:28) concur, though they each stress that this only applies if one will not end up davening too late as a result (See Minchas Yitzchak 2:107:4).

In conclusion, one who has a choice between davening in a minyan without their tefillin, or davening alone while wearing them, should rather daven alone. However, they must ensure that they don’t recite the shema and amida too late.

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Shofar in the Afternoon

Question: We were on holiday and had no shofar for shacharis. We only managed to obtain one later in the day. Should we have blown it at maariv?

Answer: The Rema (OC 581:1) writes that the minhag Ashkenaz is to blow the shofar each morning after shacharis throughout the month of Elul. He notes that some have the practice to blow in maariv, too. The Mateh Ephraim (Elef Lemateh 581:8) quotes the Elya Rabba who records that this was the practice in Prague.

However, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 581:12) writes that one must not blow the shofar at night-time even to practise as that is not an opportune moment for mercy. Therefore, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:21:5) explains that the Rema is evidently referring to those who davened maariv while it was still daytime. He notes that the Chayei Adam (138:1) specifies that some people would blow a second time during mincha which is still an acceptable time.

In conclusion, if a shul did not blow the shofar during shacharis, they should blow it later in the day. However, they should not blow the shofar at night.

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Road Trip

Question: We are going on a road trip in a camper-van for a few days. Do we say tefillas haderech every day?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 110:5) writes that one only recites tefillas haderech once a day even if one stops off during their journey. The Mishna Berura (110:26) adds that only if one stops off to stay somewhere overnight, do they recite a new beracha when they continue travelling. However, if one stops off for a few hours without properly staying somewhere, they omit Hashem’s name in the beracha when reciting tefillas haderech.

The Chida (Birkei Yosef OC 110:9) writes that sailors should only say tefillas haderech with the concluding beracha on the first day. As there is a safek as to whether one should say tefillas haderech on the following days, one should not complete the beracha (See Kaf Hachaim OC 110:47(.

R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo 2:60:4) and R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (Ishei Yisrael 50:n13) explain that if one stops off properly to sleep then it doesn’t matter where one sleeps. However, one who is on a cruise, should say tefillas haderech when saying shema koleinu in the amida, as that concludes with the same beracha.

In conclusion, if one stops off for a proper night’s sleep then one repeats tefillas haderech the following day upon resuming their journey. If one just stops to rest for a few hours, it is best to include tefillas haderech in their amida.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Everyone Say Tefillas Haderech

Question: When travelling with others, is it best for everyone to recite tefillas haderech, or can we listen to one person recite it and say amen?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 124:1) writes that the chazan repeats the amida (chazaras hashatz) on behalf of those that do not know how to daven. However, the Mishna Berura (124:1) writes that this only applies to one who is not able to easily daven by themselves. One who is able to daven properly cannot fulfil their obligation simply by listening to the chazan’s repetition.

The Gemara (Berachos 29b) refers to tefillas haderech as a tefilla. Therefore, R’ Avraham Dovid Horowitz (Kinyan Torah 2:119:2) writes that one who is able to easily recite tefillas haderech should do so, rather than listen to another recite it on their behalf. However, he justifies why people are generally lax about this, differentiating between the amida that everyone is supposed to recite three times every day, and tefillas haderech that one only says when travelling.

Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (29:15) writes that while this applies to the amida, it does not apply to most other berachos. The berachos before shema in shacharis and maariv are requests for mercy, and therefore they should also be recited by each individual. However, one may fulfil one’s obligation for other berachos by listening to others and saying amen. Thus, R’ Avraham Dovid Wahrman (Eshel Avraham 2:110:4) writes that one who is travelling can say tefillas haderech on behalf of others (See Piskei Teshuvos 110:3).

In conclusion, it is preferable for everybody to say tefillas haderech by themselves, rather than listen to another saying it.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Washing up on Tisha B’av

Question: Am I allowed to wash up the dirty dishes from Shabbos on Tisha B’av afternoon?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 554:9) writes that if one’s hands are dirty on Tisha B’av, one may wash off the dirt. The Mishna Berura (554:19) explains that washing one’s hands in this manner cannot be considered to be pleasurable bathing. Therefore, he writes that one who is cooking would be allowed to rinse meat, even though inevitably their hands will get wet.

Nonetheless, R’ Pesach Eliyahu Falk (Machazeh Eliyahu 1:87) demonstrates that one must avoid getting one’s hands wet as much as possible. One cannot bathe their children unless it is absolutely necessary. This applies even though the restriction against bathing does not apply to children. He quotes the Beis Yosef (OC 616) who explains that unlike feeding one’s children when one does not benefit oneself, by bathing one’s children, one’s own hands get wet. Therefore, one must not wash any dishes that were used to feed one’s children on Tisha B’av. As it is normal to wait a few hours before washing dishes, one should wait till after the fast.

However, this does not apply to washing dishes that were used prior to Tisha B’av, when doing so is akin to cleaning dirt off one’s hand. The Piskei Teshuvos (554:21) writes that ideally one should wash up in cold, rather than warm water, but R’ Falk writes that this is not necessary. Rather, he suggests that one wear rubber gloves.

In conclusion, one may wash one’s dishes from Shabbos on Tisha B’av afternoon even if one’s hands will get wet. One should wait to wash other dishes that were used to prepare food on Tisha B’av, or wear rubber gloves to prevent one’s hands from getting wet.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Eating a Snack Before Feeding Pets

Question: I know that I am supposed to feed my pets before eating. Can I have a snack first?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 40a) teaches that as one must not eat before feeding one’s animals, asking another to feed their animal does not constitute a hefsek, interruption, after reciting the beracha. Elsewhere (Gittin 62a) the Gemara writes that one must not even taste anything before eating (See Chayei Odom 5:11).

The Rif (Berachos 28a) and Rosh (Berachos 6:22) write that one must not even taste, using the term tasting when writing about hefsek. However, the Taz (OC 167:7) and Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 167:9) write that one may have a snack before feeding one’s animals. Rambam (Avadim 9:8) records that the sages would feed their animals before eating their own meal.

The Magen Avraham (167:18) quotes the Sefer Chassidim (531) who writes that one may drink before one’s animals. Thus, Rivka offered to feed Eliezer before feeding his camels (See Mishna Berura 167:40). The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav OC 167:7) challenges this proof, arguing that it would have been easy for the camels to have found water while travelling, However, Eliezer would have been thirstier after traveling, where drinking water would have been scarce. Typically, one must give one’s animals to drink first. Likewise, the Ksav Sofer (OC 32 quoting his father, the Chasam Sofer,) writes that as one is only obligated to feed one’s own animals, Rivka was allowed to offer Eliezer first.

Nonetheless, R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank (Har Tzvi OC 1:90) agrees with the Magen Avraham, writing that as one suffers more from thirst than hunger, the Torah allows us to drink first. Additionally, the prohibition does not include drinking first as unlike with food, we are not concerned that one will become too preoccupied and forget to feed one’s animals.

In conclusion, one may have a drink before eating one’s animals. It is best to feed one’s animals before partaking of snacks. 

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Starting Second Night Yom Tov Early

Question: I know on seder night we must wait until nacht to begin the seder. Is it important to wait for nacht on the second night of other yamim tovim?

Answer: The Taz (OC 489:10) maintains that as the first day of yom tov has a higher level of kedusha than the second day, one should not begin the second day of yom tov before nacht. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (489:23; Shaar Hatzion 789:51) notes that the consensus of poskim is not to pasken this way.

The Mishna (Shabbos 113a) teaches that one must not prepare one’s bed on Shabbos for after Shabbos as it is a prohibition of hachana, preparing. This prohibition applies equally to yom tov. The Levush (OC 488:3) writes that one must wait until it is nacht to daven maariv and perform melacha on the second night of yom tov, so as not to perform hachana on the first day for the second. The Mateh Ephraim (599:2) adds that as people wait until maariv starts to perform melacha for the second day, it is imperative that they wait for nacht to begin maariv.

R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 10:41) explains that the second nights of Shavuos, Rosh Hashana and Shemini Atzeres are different to the second night on Pesach and Sukkos as there is no specific obligation to eat matza or eat in the sukka that night. Ideally, one should wait until nacht on Shavuos.

However, the Ben Ish Chai (Bamidbar 1:2) writes that one may start the second day earlier, especially on Shavuos when nacht is so late. Ideally, one should light candles before reciting kiddush. Therefore, if one recites kiddush before nacht, there is no issue of hachana to light first.

In conclusion, it is ideal to wait till nacht to daven maariv on the second night of Shavuos, but if necessary, one can daven earlier.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Feeding Children Before Pets

Question: We recently bought a pet rabbit. I read that one is supposed to feed one’s animals before eating. Can I feed my children first?

Answer:  The Gemara (Berachos 40a; Gittin 62a) writes that one must not eat before feeding one’s animals. Therefore, if one said a beracha hamotzi and realised that they had not fed their animal, it would not be considered a hefsek to ask another to do so before eating.

While Rambam (Avadim 9:8) writes that this halacha is midas chasidus, an act of piety (See Chayei Adam 5:11; Nishmas Adam 5:11), other poskim (Shevus Yaakov 3:13; Aruch Hashulchan OC 167:13, Biur Halacha 167:6) maintain that it is a mitzva derabanan while the Magen Avraham (271:12) writes that it is mideoraisa.

R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:52) writes that one must feed one’s young children before one’s animals. Once one’s children are old enough to take food themselves, however, they should feed the animals first (See Rivevos Ephraim 6:56:2; 92).

The Piskei Teshuvos (167:15) adds that only the animal’s owner is obligated to feed their animal first. Therefore, one should serve one’s children and guests first.  

In conclusion, one should feed one’s animals before eating, but one may serve one’s children first. Older children who own pets should be encouraged to feed them before eating themselves.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Counting Omer at Nacht

Question: If I daven maariv after nacht, should I wait to count the omer or count as soon as it is nacht?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 489:3) writes that while one can count the omer any time during the night, lechatchila, one should count as soon as it is nacht. Therefore, the Mishna Berura (589:2) writes that it is common practice to count the omer before saying aleinu so as to utilise every opportunity to count the omer as early as possible.

The Magen Avraham (489:7) and Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 489:16) write that one may count before maariv even on Motzaei Shabbos when one extends Shabbos into the night. Nonetheless, it is preferable to daven maariv first, following the rule of tadir ve’sheino tadir, tadir kodam, the mitzva that we do most often takes precedence. As the mitzva of sefiras haomer is less frequent than kerias shema, one should recite the shema first.

The Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 489:1) gives two reasons for why the omer was counted later. He quotes the Chok Yaakov (489:16) who gives the argument of tadir, and quotes R’ Yaakov Emden (Mor Uketzia 489) who explains that historically, people davened maariv before nacht which is why they waited to count. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:99:1) challenges this reason, as one would always daven maariv first, regardless as to what time they were davening.

R’ Menashe Klein (Mishne Halachos 8:193) adds that most poskim maintain that counting the omer nowadays is miderabanan while reciting the shema is mideoraisa. As shema is said within maariv with two berachos before and after, one should daven maariv first.

R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 9:56:2) writes that while the rule of tadir may not apply to one waiting to daven, both the Shela and R’ Yaakov Emden write that it is ideal to count with a minyan, so it is best to wait to count.

R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 6:53) argues that while it may actually be best to count at nacht, people who count together in shul are more likely to remember to count.

In conclusion, one should wait to count the omer in shul at the end of maariv.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Chazzanus During the Sefira

Question: I find that music really relaxes me and find it very difficult not to listen to music during the sefira. Can I listen to chazzanus?

Answer: The Gemara (Yevamos 62b) teaches that 24,000 students of R’ Akiva died between Pesach and Shavuos. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 493:1) writes that we observe certain mourning practices during this time. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 493:1) adds that this has been intensified by the tragedies of the Crusades that ravaged European communities in more recent times.

While there is no mention in the Shulchan Aruch of the prohibition on listening to music during the sefira, the Magen Avraham (493:1) writes clearly that one must not dance during this time. As music and dancing are often synonymous, R’ Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe YD 2:137) that it has become the prevalent minhag to refrain from listening. Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan writes (OC 493:2) that while engagement parties are permitted, there must be no musical accompaniment. R’ Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 1:111) stresses the importance of this restriction and brings sources to demonstrate that refraining from listening to music is not a new minhag.

R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 15:33) writes that the prohibition does not just apply to live music but applies equally to recorded music too.

Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 6:34) and R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Moadim 2:11:14; 2:14:3) write that one may listen to chazzanus or recordings of davening being sung.

In conclusion, one may listen to chazzanus during the sefira.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Walking During the Amida

Question: I was davening without my Siddur and realised that I may have said mashiv haruach accidentally. Was I allowed to walk to get a siddur to look up the halacha in the middle of my amida?

Answer: The Mishna (Berachos 20b) teaches how one must conduct oneself when davening the amida, not even interrupting to respond to a (Jewish) king’s greeting (See Shulchan Aruch OC 104:1).

Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (104:1) writes that if one is distracted by a child who is crying and one cannot motion to them to quieten them, one may move away to complete their amida. Likewise, he writes (96:7; 104:2) that if one gets confused while davening they may walk to get a siddur. The Chayei Adam (25:9) writes that it is even permissible to ask somebody the appropriate halacha if necessary.

R’ Chaim Kanievsky (quoted in Dirshu Mishna Beura 104:n8; Ishei Yisrael Teshuva 115) adds that once one has found the siddur or appropriate sefer, they should continue davening  immediately, rather than walk back to their original place.

In conclusion, one who cannot continue davening their amida due to not knowing the appropriate halacha or text may walk over to find a siddur or sefer in order to continue. If necessary, they may even ask someone. Afterwards, they should immediately continue where they left off.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Roasted Meat on Seder Night

Question: This is the first time we are making seder. Both my mother and mother-in law have always fried schnitzel for seder night though I see that this is not common. Is this wrong?

Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 53a) teaches that one may only eat roasted meat on seder night in places where it is customary to do so. Otherwise, it is forbidden to do so. Rashi explains that doing so gives the mistaken impression that one is partaking of the korban pesach outside the holy places. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 476:2) writes that this prohibition extends to roasted fowl, too. The Mishna Berura (476:9) writes that one may eat roasted fish and eggs, however, as we are not concerned that people will mistake those for roasted lamb.

The Gemara (Pesachim 41a) teaches that there is a machlokes as to whether the korban pesach can be roasted in a pot. Rambam (Korban Pesach 8:8) rules that one mustn’t cook the lamb, whether before or after roasting it. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 476:2) writes that as doing so invalidates the korban pesach it should be permissible to eat any meat cooked in a pot, even if roasted without any liquid. The Mishna Berura (476:1) however disagrees, writing, that we do not eat such meat due to maris ayin. R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet HaLevi 9:120:1) suggests that one adds a little extra water so that the gravy is easy to see.

The Piskei Teshuvos (476:1) writes that there is a machlokes as to whether fried foods are considered to be cooked, and therefore, permissible, or one should avoid them because they are considered to be roasted.

In conclusion, while many avoid fried meat or chicken on seder night, one who has a custom to eat fried meat or chicken may continue doing so.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Erev Pesach Food

Question: May one eat matza balls (kneidlach) or meat balls made from matza-meal on Erev Pesach?

Answer: Rambam (Chametz Umatza 6:12) writes that one must not eat matza on Erev Pesach. The Mishna Berura (471:12) notes that some have the minhag not to eat matza from Rosh Chodesh Nissan. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:155) notes that some abstain from eating matza for 30 days before Pesach as according to one view in the Gemara (Pesachim 6a) this is when our Pesach preparations begin.

The Rema (OC 471:2) writes that one cannot eat matza that had been broken up and kneaded with wine and oil. Thus, one would not be able to eat matza brei, etc. on Erev Pesach. The Mishna Berura (444:8; 471:20) explains that even if one does so, it is still considered to be matza. However, if one cooked the matza, to make kneidlach one would be able to eat it up until sha’ah asiris, three halachic hours before Yom Tov.

R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet HaLevi 8:117) writes that this prohibition includes cakes baked from matza meal (See Piskei Teshuvos 471:3).

According to R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Pesach 8:4), one may eat food made with matza meal providing that it doesn’t have the ‘form of bread’. R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 6:39) writes that the prohibition only applies to actual matza but cake made with matza meal can be eaten.

In conclusion, one may eat kneidlach and meat balls made with matza meal. There are different customs as to whether one can eat biscuits and cakes made with matza meal on Erev Pesach.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Chazak, Chazak

Question: Is it ideal to give the final aliya of a Sefer to the baal korei, or is saying chazak a hefsek before his beracha?

Answer: The Avudraham (Tefillos Shabbos 57) suggests a reason for the minhag to say chazak. The Midrash teaches that when Hashem speaks to Yehoshua and tells him chazak ve’ematz, he was holding a Sefer Torah (See Rema OC 139:11; Aruch Hashulchan OC 139:15). Others compare this to the hadran that one recites upon completing a sefer (See Taamei Haminhagim 339).

R’ Moshe Stern (Baer Moshe 3:28:2) and R’ Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi 7:202:2) note that the words chazak, chazak venischazek are aimed at the one who was called up to the Torah. It makes no sense, therefore, for him to recite these words. Doing so before the beracha, would certainly constitute a hefsek. If they do want to sayTop of FormBottom of Form it, they should do so after reciting the beracha.


R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 2:98; 4:80) adds that for this reason, the gabbai should not call up the baal korei for this aliya, as he will not be able to respond with those words. He quotes R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv as saying that if the baal korei was given this aliya, he must not repeat the words, and just say the beracha after his aliya.

In conclusion, the one who receives the last aliya of the sefer should not say the words, chazak, chazak venischazek. It is best not to give this aliya to the baal korei.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Starting Amida Early

Question: I cannot keep up with the pace of davening at our minyan. Is it okay to start the amida early so that I can be finished in time for kedusha?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 8a) teaches the importance of davening with the tzibbur whenever possible. Rambam (Tefilla 8:1) codifies this as a halacha. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 90:10) adds that one is not allowed to begin their davening earlier than the tzibbur unless it is getting really late due to adding in various piyuttim or for some other reason.

The Chayei Adam (19:1) writes that tefilla betzibbur specifically applies to the amida. One should be particular to come on time to shul so that they can maintain the pace of davening.

The Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 109:2) writes that one only fulfils their obligation of tefilla betzibbur when they begin the amida at the same time with the tzibbur. Nonetheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 3:4) writes that as everybody davens at a different pace, the tzibbur will not necessarily be reciting the same berachos as each other simultaneously. Therefore, it does not matter if one begins a little later.

The Ben Ish Chai (Ki Sissa 1:6) writes that one who davens slower than the tzibbur and so does not listen to the chazaras hashatz, is considered to have participated in chazaras hashatz, too. Accordingly, they should start their amida along with everyone else (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 109:5).

Nonetheless, R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer 2:7) and R’ Moshe Stern (Baer Moshe 4:9) write that one who davens slower than the tzibbur can start their amida earlier. Doing so still constitutes tefilla betzibbur. The Bach (OC 236) writes that the gabbai can start davening amida early on Rosh Chodesh so that he can remind people loudly to recite yaaleh veyavo. Clearly, he maintains that doing so still constitutes tefilla betzibbur.

One reason to start at the same time is out of respect for the tzibbur. When it is apparent that one starts early so that they can keep up, they are not disrespecting the tzibbur. Therefore, one who davens slower than the tzibbur may begin their amida earlier to be able to recite kedusha. One may not do so in mincha, however, as it is more important to respond to kaddish than to recite kedusha.

In conclusion, one who davens slower than the tzibbur may begin their amida before the tzibbur. They should not do so in mincha (or maariv) as doing so will mean forfeiting kaddish.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Lechem Mishne on Matza before Pesach

Question: We have the minhag not to eat matza between Purim and Pesach. Can we use a matza for lechem mishne if our minhag is not to eat it?

Answer: Rambam (Chametz Umatza 6:12) writes that one must not eat matza on erev Pesach. Later poskim, including the Mishna Berura (471:12) note that some have the minhag not to eat matza from Rosh Chodesh Nissan. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:155) notes that some abstain from eating matza for 30 days before Pesach as according to one view in the Gemara (Pesachim 6a) this is when our Pesach preparations begin.

R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 11:23) quotes the Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav 274:2) who writes that one who is particular not to eat pas akum, bread baked by a non-Jewish baker, can still use such bread for lechem mishne. So too, one may use matza for one’s lechem mishne even on erev Pesach. Additionally, even if one cannot eat the second bread, it still serves to remind us of the double portion of mann.

R’ Betzalel Stern (Betzel Hachachma 3:110) quotes R’ Chaim Zvi Hirsch Manheimer (Ein Habedolach 61) who writes that one who does not eat chadash cannot use bread made from chadash flour as lechem mishne. Accordingly, one would not be able to use matza at a time that one does not eat it. Nonetheless, he disagrees, writing that one may use a second bread or lechem mishne even if they cannot eat it. Thus, even though one should only eat shemura matza on seder night one may use non-shemura matza for lechem mishne (See Chelkas Yaakov 1:95:2; Kaf Hachaim OC274:14; Rivevos Ephraim 1:202).

R’ Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Daas 1:91:13) notes that usually food that cannot be eaten would be muktze on Shabbos. Nonetheless, as one can feed matza to little children even on erev Pesach, it is not muktze.

In conclusion, there is no issue with one using matza for one’s lechem mishne before Pesach, regardless of one’s minhag.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Zachor Without a Minyan

Question: I am unable to go to shul to hear parshas zachor. What should I do?

Answer: The Rosh (Berachos 7:20) writes that reading parshas zachor is a mitzva deoraisa that should be performed with a minyan (See Tosafos Berachos 13a). The Terumas Hadeshen (108) paskens like this, writing that it is more important, therefore, to listen to parshas zachor being read with a minyan than to listen to the megilla with a minyan. The Pri Chadash (OC 146:2) questions why the Rosh maintains the need for a minyan (See Shaar Hatziyun 685:5). The Keren Ora (Berachos 3a) suggests that the mitzva to vanquish Amalek is a communal one and this is why we read parshas zachor as a community.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 685:7) writes that one who lives in a village with no shul should endeavour to go to a place with a minyan for this Shabbos (See Shulchan Aruch OC 146:2).

The Rema adds that one who is unable to attend should still read it with its correct tune. The Kaf Hachaim (OC 685:35) explains that one should read parshas zachor from a Chumash unless they have a sefer Torah.

In conclusion, it is important for one to try to hear parshas zachor read in Shul. If one is unable to do so, one should read it to themselves from a Chumash, ideally in the right tune.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Same Time as the Minyan

Question: Due to my health condition, I have been advised by my doctor to shield and not to attend shul. Is there any preference to davening at the same time as shul?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 90:9) writes that one who cannot daven with a minyan in shul should daven at the same time that the tzibbur are davening. The Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 90:17) notes that this specifically applies to the amida rather than the rest of davening. The Mishna Berura (90:30) adds that it has to be same amida. Thus, there is no advantage to davening shacharis while the tzibbur are davening mussaf.

The Kaf Hachaim (OC 90:64) explains that when the community davens together, it is considered an eis ratzon, auspicious time, when the tefillos go up together.

R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 5:18) notes that this has to be a specific minyan. Likewise, R’ Yehoshua Neuwirth (quoted in Ishei Yisrael 8:n32) maintained that this applies specifically to the shul at which one regularly davens.

In conclusion, one who cannot daven in shul should strive to daven the amida at the same time as their regular minyan.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Covered Water for Netilas Yadayim

Question: I always used to wash negel vasser in the morning from the bathroom sink. Recently, I have been leaving a cup of water in a bowl next to my bed so that I do not need to walk around before washing. Is this preferable even though the water is uncovered?

Answer: The Gemara (Avoda Zara 30b) writes that mayim shenisgalu¸ water that was left uncovered, must not be poured out into the street, used for building, drunk from or even used to wash oneself. This was out of concern that a dangerous snake or scorpion had entered the water and poisoned it.

While Rambam (Rotzeach Ushemiras Hanefesh 11:15) records this as the halacha, the Tur (YD 116) and Shulchan Aruch (YD 116:1) write that this does not apply nowadays when such incidents are so unlikely.

R’ Yaakov Chaim Sofer (Kaf Hachaim OC 160:2; YD 116:8) adds that one only needs to observe this halacha in places where snakes are common (See Mishna Berura 160:23).

R’ Chaim Falaji (Kaf Hachaim 8:11) writes that one must not use mayim shenisgalu. The Shaarei Teshuva (4:7) notes, too, that there are those who are still particular about this (See Pischei Teshuva YD 116:1). Nonetheless, the Shaarei Teshuva concludes that one does not need to be concerned about mayim shenisgalu nowadays. Likewise, the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 160:1) writes that one may use such water nowadays. The Levush (OC 160:5) writes that not only may one use it for washing one’s hands, but one may even drink from mayim shenisgalu nowadays.

The Magen Avraham (4:1) and Mishna Berura (1:2) write that one should not walk more than 4 amos prior to washing one’s hands in the water.

In conclusion, one does not need to be particular to cover their water for netilas yadayim. It is preferable to leave an uncovered cup next to one’s room than to leave one’s room to wash their hands.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Washing Hands over the Dishes

Question: Is one allowed to wash one’s hands in the morning in the sink if there are dishes there?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 4:9) writes that when one washes one’s hands in the morning (negel vasser), one must not reuse the water. One should not pour the water onto the floor where people may walk. Therefore, the Mishna Berura (4:20) writes that one must not give this water to one’s animals to drink. The Shaarei Teshuva (4:8) adds that one should not daven in the presence of this water either.

The Piskei Teshuvos (4:14) writes that one must be careful not to wash one’s hands in a sink where there are dishes. One who did so, would have to ensure that they wash their dishes properly afterwards.

However, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 20:7) maintains that one may wash one’s hands in a sink with dishes. As the dishes are going to be washed, there is no concern. The Mishna Berura (4:14) writes that if one touched food with unwashed hands, they should wash the food off three times, Nonetheless, R’ Chaim Kanievsky (quoted in Ishei Yisrael 20:n72) writes that when washing over dishes, they do need to be rinsed three times.

In conclusion, one may wash one’s hands in the morning in a sink, even if there are dishes there.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Dipping Bread in Salt

Question: Are we supposed to dip our bread into salt every time we eat, or only challa on Shabbos?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 40a) teaches that one should not say hamotzi before eating bread unless one has salt or other dips in front of them. Rambam (Berachos 7:3) writes that this applies unless one intends on eating dry, plain bread. Likewise, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 167:5) writes that if the bread was already flavoured or salted, there is no need to have salt at the table.

Nonetheless, the Rema quotes the Beis Yosef who writes that our tables are compared to the mizbeach, and our eating to the korbanos. As such, we should always have salt on the table with bread, just as the korbanos were all salted. The Mishna Berura (167:30) explains that when one shares one’s bread with the poor, one’s ‘table’ atones for their sins in place of the korbanos (See Berachos 55a).

The Magen Avraham (167:15) writes that even though our bread contains salt, there are kabbalistic reasons for why we dip our bread into salt. The Mishna Berura (167:33) adds that according to kabbala, one should dip their bread three times into salt.

In conclusion, as our bread is flavoured, there is no obligation to dip it into salt. Nonetheless, there are different reasons why one should still try to do so. 

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Tachanun Without a Sefer Torah

Question: Since the beginning of Covid, we have been davening in different rooms in our shul. One of these rooms has an aron hakodesh but for security reasons, the sefer torah is removed on days when there is no leining. When saying tachanun on those days, should we not put our head down on our arms? 

Answer: The Gemara (Megilla 22b, Bava Metzia 59b) teaches us that people would prostrate themselves (nefilas apayim) as part of their davening. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:1) writes that nowadays we bow our heads and rest them on our arm. (See Aruch Hashulchan OC 131:4)

The Rema (OC 131:2) quotes the Rokeach (324) who writes that nefilas apayim is not practiced unless one is in the presence of an aron hakodesh and sefer Torah. This is alluded to in the incident of Yehoshua (7:6) at the battle of Ai, when Yehoshua fell on his face in front of the aron hakodesh. The Mishna Berura (131:11) writes that this applies equally if there is a sefer Torah without an aron hakodesh (See Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:79).

The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 131:10) explains why the Shulchan Aruch does not record this halacha. The original source for nefilas apayim is when Moshe describes falling on his face on Har Sinai after breaking the first luchos. He did so, even though there was no sefer Torah present. Nonetheless, he writes that we follow the Rokeach and Rema and only perform nefilas apayim in the presence of a sefer Torah.

R’ Shlomo Zalaman Auerbach (quoted in Ishei Yisrael 25:n37) maintained that if one removed the sifrei Torah to a safe, one would still perform nefilas apayim when the aron hakodesh was empty. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:21:1) stresses the importance of keeping the sifrei Torah in a secured safe.

In conclusion, one performs nefilas apayim while reciting tachanun, even if the sefer torah was removed to a more secure location.