Sunday, 20 February 2022

Separate Minyan for Yahrzeit

Question: It is my father’s yahrzeit on Sunday, though there is another avel in my shul. Can I make a separate minyan on Motzaei Shabbos in my home?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 6a) teaches that tefilla is best accepted when davening in shul. One who chooses not to daven in their local shul is considered to be a ‘bad neighbour’ (ibid. 8a). Rambam (Tefilla 8:1) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 90:11) codify this Gemara as halacha, though the Magen Avraham (90:15) adds another reason. The Gemara (Berachos 53a; Yoma 70a; Megilla 27b, et al.) teaches that berov am hadras melech, it is preferable to perform mitzvos with a large presence. Therefore, even when one can daven with a minyan in their home, one should still go to shul.

The Mishna Berura (90:38) adds that one should strive to daven in shul even if there is no minyan there. While one may not be considered a bad neighbour, nonetheless, a home minyan is not ideal as davening in a shul (See Shaarei Teshuva 90:4).

R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:127) writes that berov am hadras melech is both a mitzva and a zechus, which takes precedence of the minhag for one to daven on a relative’s yahrzeit. While splitting the minyan into two would accommodate two chiyuvim, that would not justify davening outside of a shul.

In conclusion, one should rather daven in shul rather than a minyan at home, even if it means not being able to be chazzan on a yahrzeit. Indeed, the Gemara (Berachos 8a) teaches us that being meticulous to attend shul properly leads to long life.

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Rainbow Blessings

Question: Is it true that one should not tell others when they see a rainbow?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 59a) teaches that one recites a beracha upon a seeing a rainbow, recalling the bris that Hashem made with Noach, and His assurance that the world would never undergo such a mabul again. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 229:1) writes that one should not stare at the rainbow (See Beis Yosef OC 229:1 where he quotes the Rosh). The Gemara (Chagiga 16a) teaches that looking at a rainbow is considered disrespectful to Hashem and that doing so can weaken one’s eyesight. The Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham OC 229:2) asks why the Magen Avraham (229:2 and Baer Hetiv OC 229:2) quotes the Shela as saying this when this teaching can be found in the Gemara.

Thus, the Mishna Berura (229:5), Aruch Hashulchan (OC 229:2) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 229:5) stress that one should look briefly and then recite the beracha.

The Chayei Adam (63:4) writes that he once saw in a sefer that one who sees a rainbow should not tell their friend as it is akin to reporting bad news (See Mishna Berura 229:4). He adds that he does not remember where he read this, however. Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (229:1) and Kaf Hachaim (OC 229:1) quote this unequivocally.

However, the Sefer Chassidim discusses whether it is appropriate to leave shul during chazaras hashatz when hearing about a rainbow, without any mention of such restrictions. R’ Moshe Cohen (Bris Kehuna OC 100:4) argues that one should tell others when they see a rainbow. Rather than being seen as something negative, the rainbow should inspire us to be grateful for being spared. Additionally, by telling others, one is giving them an opportunity to recite a beracha (See Yalkut Yosef OC 229:1).

In conclusion, while many refrain from telling others when they see a rainbow, there are compelling reasons to do so.