Sunday, 22 May 2022

Someone Else’s Umbrella

Question: I accidentally took someone else’s umbrella in shul leaving mine behind. Could I have used it again to bring it back to shul the next morning?

Answer: The Gemara (Bava Metzia 43b) teaches that there is a machlokes as to the status of one who borrows an item without prior permission. Elsewhere, the Gemara (Bava Basra 46a) teaches that one who took the wrong clothes from a craftsman in error may use them until they are exchanged with the rightful owners. However, one who took the wrong clothes home from a shiva house or chasuna may not use them.

The Rema (CM 136:2) adds that one must return the items that one took to the rightful owner even if one does not receive their own items.

However, the Aruch Hashulchan (CM 136:2) writes that the accepted practice in populated areas is that one who accidentally took someone else’s overshoes may use them in the meantime, until they are exchanged with the rightful owners. As this is the accepted practice, it is not considered to be stealing.

R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:9:7) extends this to coats and other items that people mistakenly take, and advises that shuls adopt this as a matter of policy, allowing people to use theirs if taken by accident. If it transpires that the owner did not take theirs, they must offer to compensate the owner for the use of their clothing (See Mishne Halachos 5:276; Shevet Halevi 6:238).

R' Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:818) writes that one who may use an umbrella that one accidentally took home. People are typically not too bothered about lending umbrellas out to others and are happy for it to be replaced if necessary (See Minchas Yitzchak 8:146).

In conclusion, one who accidentally takes another’s umbrella home may continue to use it until they find the rightful owner. They are liable for any damage that may occur, and to replace it if necessary.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Davening in Front of a Picture

Question: I sometimes daven in a shul hall where they have a big picture of their Rabbi on the back wall. Is this an issue?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 5b) teaches that one must ensure that there should not be any chatzitza, barrier, between one davening and the wall. The Beis Yosef (OC 90:21) explains that this does not apply to furniture such as tables and benches, but to wall hangings and pictures that may distract one in their tefilla. Therefore, Rambam (Teshuvos 215) writes that this applies equally to paintings on the wall. One who finds themselves in front of a picture should close their eyes or look into their siddur while davening (See Shulchan Aruch OC 90:23; Mishna Berura 90:63).

The Magen Avraham (90:37) adds that one may paint onto the wall that is high above one’s heads where it will not disturb anyone davening. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 90:28) defines this as three amos.

The Tur (YD 141:14) writes that one should be careful not to include pictures of animals in a shul as one may get the wrong impression that one is bowing down to them. R' Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 2:55) writes that the minhag to place a picture of a lion on the aron hakodesh is acceptable. Nonetheless, the Aruch Hashulchan adds that this prohibition is particularly true with pictures of people.

Nonetheless, the Mishna Berura (ibid.) notes that this is not strict halacha, and if one is in a room with pictures, one does not need to find a different place to daven.

In conclusion, one should not place pictures of people in shuls. One may daven in a room with such pictures hanging, particularly if one is not facing them. If one is facing the picture, they must try to close their eyes or look into their siddur while davening.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Bentching over Wine

Question: Our second son recently turned bar mitzva and so we now have a zimun. Is it necessary to bentch over a kos of wine each time?

Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 105b) teaches that one should bentch with a kos of wine. There is a machlokes among the rishonim as to when this applies.

Tosafos (Pesachim 105b) quotes the Rashbam and Midrash (Shocher Tov 3:8) who maintain that even one eating alone must not bentch without wine. The Tur (OC 182) writes that we follow Tosafos and adds that one who does not have wine for bentching, should not wash for bread.

The Hagahos Maimonios (Berachos 7:60) and Kol Bo (25) write that according to others, this only applies when one has a zimun of (at-least) three. Tosafos (ibid.) notes that this is the practice.

Nonetheless, Rambam (Berachos 7:15), the Rif (Pesachim 105b) and the Rashba (Berachos 52a) write that this is not an obligation, regardless of how many people are bentching.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 182:1) records all of these opinions. The Rema adds that it is meritorious to bentch over wine. The Mishna Berura (128:1) writes that although the Shulchan Aruch does not determine how we pasken, it is considered meritorious to do so, but only when one has a zimun. R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:69:1) writes that the halacha follows Rambam and that the Rif, and there is no requirement to bentch over wine. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 182:1) notes that people are not particular to bentch over a kos, particularly as wine is so expensive. Nonetheless, it is commendable to do so on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

In conclusion, it is not necessary to bentch over wine when one bentches with a zimun, but it is commendable to do so, particularly on Shabbos and Yom Tov. 

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Shaving for a Wedding in the Sefira

Question: I have been invited to a chasuna during the omer. Can I attend even if I am observing that 'half', and can I shave?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (OC 493:1) writes that R’ Akiva’s students died during the omer (See Yevamos 62b). Therefore, we observe certain mourning practices during the omer, including no haircuts.

There are different minhagim as to which ’half of the Sefira’ to observe. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 493:2) writes that one should observe from the beginning until after Lag B’Omer, while the Rema allows one to take a haircut on Lag B’Omer. Others observe the ‘second half’, from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Shavuos (See Rema OC 493:3; Magen Avraham 493:5). The Mishna Berura (493:14; Biur Halacha 493:3) explains that while there are different reasons for each of these minhagim¸ regardless, everybody observes these mourning practices for thirty-three days. However, some avoid taking haircuts throughout the omer except on erev Shavuos (See Shaarei Teshuva 493:8; Kaf Hachaim OC 493:13).

R' Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak 4:84) writes that one observing ‘one half’ of the omer can attend a chuppa during that half, but should not participate in the chasuna.

However, R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L’yaakov OC 493:n465), R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 1:159; 2:95) and R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Pesach 11:19) allow one to attend the chasuna and participate normally. As it is permissible for the chassan and kalla, everyone may participate.   

However, R’ Moshe Feinstein writes, that one attending a wedding may only shave if he would be too embarrassed to go unshaven. Had he been invited before the omer, he should have rather kept the other half so as not to have to rely on this leniency.

In conclusion, one may attend a wedding even while observing the omer, though one should not ordinarily shave. One who is embarrassed to go unshaven may do so, if necessary, though had they known in advance, they should have chosen to observe the ‘other half’ of the omer.