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.