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Eating ContestsPlease state your opinion on whether eating contests violate any prohibitions such as bal tashchit? (I am a reporter writing an article.) Is there a difference between contests of volume (e.g., tens of hot dogs in ten minutes) and of speed (e.g., eating three hot dogs fastest)?
Presumably, one with a Torah-based mindset will react negatively to such contests (with good reason). However, we do not believe in using words like “forbidden” without honestly weighing halachic issues.
We start with the issue you raised – bal tashchit (not destroying). This prohibition, beyond the Torah context of destroying trees, is hard to pin down. The Rambam (Melachim 6:10) describes it as applying not to wasting but to destroying things, including “me’abed ma’achalot derech hashchata” (destroying food in a destructive way). The stress of a destructive manner opens the door for allowing arguably wasteful usage of objects of value for such purposes as recreation (see Etz Hasadeh (Shtesman) 11:2). The fact that, after all, we are discussing eating makes it harder to claim the ingestion of the food is destructive. Rav Zilberstein (in Tzohar, 5758) claims that Rashi would consider stuffing oneself bal tashchit. In discussing one who is bloated eating more, the gemara (Yoma 80b) describes the action as “not eating” but “damaging,” and Rashi (ad loc.) says he damages the food and himself. If it is called damaging the food, it is likely bal tashchit. However, it would seem that since the context there is the parameters of forbidden eating (e.g., Yom Kippur, non-kosher food) and not bal tashchit, it is hard to know what Rashi would say in our context.
Another, related (see Rashi, Ta’anit 20b) issue is bizuy ochlin (disgrace of food). Halacha distinguishes between foods (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 171:1). Most foods are disgraced only when they are soiled and made unappetizing prior to eating. It is hard to apply that to eating, even if in a not natural way. Bread, though, may not be handled disrespectfully (e.g., throwing it) even when it is unaffected. Thus, while it is hard to consider over-eating an objective bizuy ochlin for most foods, it is reasonable to consider stuffing bread (including hot dog buns) down one’s throat in the context of extreme over-eating forbidden situational bizuy.
Safety concerns are also questionable. A small number of people have died (mainly from choking) at eating contests, and it is not wonderful for one’s digestive system. We find in Chazal particular concern for not eating in a dangerous or even not healthy manner (speaking while eating – Ta’anit 5b; eating standing – Gittin 70a). On the other hand, in addition to our reluctance to taking stands on medical matters, we do not want to be hypocritical by outright forbidding eating contests on health grounds when so many people eat very unhealthily.
There are a few semi-halachic, semi-philosophical areas about which people can argue, but we will skip to an issue that we believe at least eating contests of volume clearly violate – bal teshaktzu. A secondary application of Vayikra 11:43 is that one should not put his body in a situation in which he feels disgusted. Classic examples include holding in a strong need to eliminate and eating in a manner that disgusts him (Makkot 16b). It is true that poskim allow such situations for certain needs (e.g., one is in public without access to a bathroom – Mishna Berura 3:17; a sick person who needs to ingest a medicine that disgusts him – see Pri Megadim, Siftei Da’at 81:3). However, the anyway dubious practice of an eating contest is not adequate justification.
Regarding an eating “sprint” of three hot dogs, we lack the expertise to determine whether contestants necessarily disgust themselves or whether fast swallowing is just a technical skill of swallowing a normal amount of food unusually fast. The food can certainly be used by the body in a normal manner. Therefore, objections to such a contest would be based more on philosophical/ethical grounds than halachic ones.
Pay for Cancelled Summer CampsDuring Operation Tzuk Eitan, when summer camps were cancelled because campsites were not “missile-proof,” do the parents have to pay anyway? Does it make a difference if they already paid? [We answered this question during the fighting, but the halachic and moral concepts can be applied even after its hopefully successful conclusion.]
We start with a few halachic sources and conclude with an important moral message.
Bava Metzia 77a records the general rule regarding a work agreement that became unfeasible to carry out. If one side is assumed to have been aware of the possibility of work stoppage and the other was not, the side that knew loses (by paying or not paying, respectively) because of his failure to stipulate otherwise. If the two sides’ degrees of awareness are comparable, the worker is not paid. There are different opinions as to whether the worker loses because he has the more difficult task of extracting money, or because only under special circumstances does a worker deserve pay without performing the work (see Terumat Hadeshen 329 and Be’ur Hagra, Choshen Mishpat 334:5). One difference between the opinions is if the worker was pre-paid. Another pertinent source discusses a case where Reuven rented a boat from Shimon to transport wine and the boat and wine sank midway. Does Reuven have to pay Shimon the rental fee? There are four different halachot (obligated, exempt, split the money, depends if he already paid) in four different permutations of the case (the factors are: whether Reuven can provide other wine; whether Shimon can provide a different boat).
Finally, we present the concept of makat medina (an impediment that affects a broad population). The mishna/gemara (ibid. 105b) says that that a field’s sharecropper is entitled to partial relief from his payment if crops are destroyed by a regional infestation. The Maharam Padova (86) explains that in such a case, one cannot say the “bad fortune” relates to a particular person, and he and the Rama (CM 334:1) apply the concept also to a worker who was prevented from working due to a makat medina. The Mordechai (Bava Metzia 343) cites the Maharam as saying that if the government suspends schools, parents still have to pay teachers. There is great debate (see S’ma 321:6; Shach 321:1; Netivot Hamishpat 321:1) if and under what circumstances we accept the Rama. The Chatam Sofer wrote, regarding teaching that was suspended for weeks due to war, that he found it nearly impossible to determine whether strictly halachically, the teachers must be paid, and he urged for the various sides to reach compromises.
If a specific case came to our doorstep (which would require the presentation of two sides), we would find it hard to be more certain that the Chatam Sofer was. If the question is general, as it appears, it is even harder to answer because many fluid factors are not addressed. A partial list of questions follows. Is the camp in question in a region where some such activities are continuing or are all suspended? Is it possible for the camp to make other arrangements? Was the problem known at the time of payment and by whom?
One of the great national assets going into and to this point of Operation Tzuk Eitan is a palpable feeling of solidarity. Especially around Tisha B’av time, we should recall the gemara (Bava Metzia 30b) that says that Yerushalayim was destroyed because people were unwilling to go beyond monetary law and act beyond the letter of the law. In most cases, both parents and camp directors will have legitimate claims. Let us hope that all people involved in such issues will be willing to offer their brother a compromise if not the benefit of the doubt. (One of our dayanim likes to tell of a Yerushalmi ancestor who was sued in beit din for refusing to receive more payment than he thought he deserved. While our beit din has not yet adjudicated such a case, we will happily do so.) In the merit of mutual understanding and concern, may we defeat our enemies and see a geula shleima.
Restrictions of Motzaei Tisha B’AvWhat restrictions of Tisha B’Av/Nine Days exist after Tisha B’Av and until when?
From the perspective of the gemara (Ta’anit 30a), the restrictions of the Nine Days end with the completion of Tisha (9th of) B’Av. This is not obvious, as the majority of the burning of the Beit Hamikdash was on the 10th of Av, and Rabbi Yochanan (ibid. 29a) said that he would have thought that the latter date is the more appropriate day for the fast. In fact there were Amoraim who fasted both days (Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 4:6).
Based on this background, post-Talmudic minhagim developed to forbid certain matters after Tisha B’Av. The Tur (Orach Chayim 558) writes: “It is a proper minhag to not eat meat on the night of the 10th and the day of the 10th, just to relieve the spirit, so that it should be close to a fast.” The Bach understands this language as a double stringency: one should not eat any meat on the 10th; even regarding other foods, one should limit his eating as is befitting for a day that on some level should have been a fast. The second stringency is not accepted, as we eat non-meat foods normally after Tisha B’Av (although we can relate to Mikraei Kodesh’s (Harari – Fasts, 11:(29)) discomfort with those who, for example, go out for ice cream every Motzaei Tisha B’Av).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 558:1) cites the minhag to not eat meat or drink wine the whole night and day of the 10th. Various Acharonim limit the stringency somewhat. The Be’ur Halacha (ad. loc.) says that it is permitted to eat a food that was cooked with meat as long as one does not eat the meat itself. The Magen Avraham (558:1) says it is permitted to eat meat at a seudat mitzva (we will not get into the question of whether one is allowed to get married at that time). Finally, the Rama (ad loc.) sets the tone for Ashkenazim in limiting the minhag against meat and wine until midday of the 10th.
Regarding other restrictions, Ashkenazim are stricter than Sephardim. The Shulchan Aruch mentions only meat and wine, and the Rama does not argue. However, the Maharshal (Shut 92) writes that since the minhag is to extend the Nine Days’ restriction of wine and meat into the 10th, the same should be true of laundering, haircutting, and bathing. The Mishna Berura (558:3) and the broad consensus of Ashkenazi poskim accept the Maharshal.
Regarding Sephardim, the Chida and some other prominent poskim also accept this stringency. However, this part of the minhag was apparently not widely accepted, and therefore Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Da’at V:41) says that Sephardim should follow the Shulchan Aruch’s opinion that only meat and wine are forbidden, whereas the rest of the restrictions cease right after Tisha B’Av. (The recitation of Shehecheyanu is questionable – see Torat Hamoadim, Fasts 11:5. Mikraei Kodesh (ibid. 18) cites Rav Mordechai Eliyahu as extending the restriction on music throughout the 10th.)
There is room for leniency in cases of need regarding laundering, hair cutting, and bathing, even for Ashkenazim, for a few reasons. First, this part of the minhag is not just post-Talmudic, but even post-Shulchan Aruch. Secondly, it is much more common for there to be difficulty in continuing these restrictions, especially as the hot summer takes its toll and the stacks of laundry pile up. All agree that one can do any of these things in honor of Shabbat when Tisha B’Av falls on Thursday (Mishna Berura 558:3). (Halichot Shlomo I, 15:16 says that one can start washing on Thursday night and throw into a load of things needed for Shabbat even things that are not needed for Shabbat, but that haircutting should wait for Friday.) There are other situations, such as people leaving home soon after Tisha B’Av who need a supply of laundry, where stringency is likely beyond the call of duty.
(When Tisha B’Av is pushed off from Shabbat to Sunday, Motzaei Tisha B’Av is the 11th, and there is only a restriction on meat and wine and only at night – Rama, OC 558:1).
Is a Professional Believed About the Time He Put InI sent my computer to a technician to repair serious problems. He was unwilling to tell me his charge in advance, claiming it depended on how long it would take him, to which he would not commit. After fixing the computer, he charged me what I consider an exorbitant price. I am not sure I trust him on how much work he put in. Must I pay without making an issue of it?
In all questions of this nature, we warn the querier that we cannot say anything conclusive after hearing only one side, as even two honest people can have different viewpoints of the same events. This is all the more so in this case in which you yourself are in the dark about what happened. While we often say that the two sides have to be heard in beit din or another permitted arbitrative setting, we cannot ignore your question – whether you should make an issue at all. Therefore, we will briefly discuss general sources and factors.
The client has the advantage In a disagreement between a client and a worker over the amount that was set for payment due to the rule that one who wants to extract payment requires proof (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 89:4). However, if the client is uncertain how much he owes, he should have to pay because he is unable to take the serious oath in which he is obligated (see ibid. 75:13). If he is incapable of knowing how much he has to pay, this logic does not apply (Shach, CM 75:54).
In work such as this, where it is clear that one is going to know how much time he put in and the other will not, the rules are somewhat different. Mishnayot regarding a particular agent who claims he made expenditures on behalf of another (Sh’vuot 45a) and a husband who made improvements in his wife’s field before divorce (Ketubot 79b) say that the plaintiff swears how much he spent and is reimbursed. The Mordechai (Ketubot 209), Maharik (10), and Rama (CM 91:3) understand this as a broad rule regarding claimants who know about the expenditures and defendants who do not – the claimant is believed to receive payment with an oath.
The above appears contradicted by the halacha that one who seeks reimbursement for expenditures due to unreasonable steps taken by his counterpart in litigation must prove how much he spent (Rama, CM 14:5). The S’ma (91:16) distinguishes between cases where the claimant worked for the benefit of the other side and where he acted against his will. The Shach (ibid. 23) distinguishes between cases where the defendant requested of the claimant to make the outlays and cases where he acted on his own accord. Part of the logic is that when Reuven asks Shimon to do something that deserves reimbursement without demanding proof from the outset, he in effect grants trust in the veracity of Shimon’s charge.
The obligation to pay wages is equivalent to that to pay expenses. In your case, the S’ma and Schach should agree that you should believe the person whom you authorized to work and bill you. Certain cases could arguably be exceptions. One is when you have strong grounds to believe he is lying (see Pitchei Teshuva, CM 91:4). Another is where the technician should have informed you when he figured out the extent of the cost, enabling you to decide whether it is worthwhile to have it fixed. (Often, he will not know until well into the process, when informing you is irrelevant. Furthermore, he can claim that you should have requested an update. Such matters change from case to case.)
It is generally best to research a professional’s reliability before you hire him and if you heard favorable reports, to trust him. While it is your prerogative to not use him in the future, refusing to pay in full is drastic. Some situations may lend themselves to expressing (in a mentchslach way) your displeasure and suggesting that your willingness to use him again depends on a reduction in price. There are so many unclear factors that it is hard to give firm advice as to what to do, and without hearing the other side, it is certainly wrong to attempt to tell you who is right.
Buying Land for ShemittaA group is giving the opportunity to buy agricultural land in Israel for the Shemitta year. Is that worthwhile?
We start with an overview of the agricultural mitzvot of Shemitta along with a brief analysis of the significance of obtaining land ownership.
The Rambam (Lo Ta’aseh 220-223) lists four such negative commandments, about: 1) working the land; 2) tending to the trees; 3) reaping the produce in the normal way; 4) harvesting fruit of the trees in the normal way. The prohibition of working the land applies even to one who does not own the land. There is a machloket whether there is a Torah prohibition on harvesting someone else’s field (Chazon Ish, Shvi’it 12:5 is lenient; Rav Auerbach, Ma’adanei Eretz 7:4 is stringent). In any case, the reward for refraining from aveirot is a function of the availability of and the temptation toward the aveira (see Kiddushin 39b with Rashi). One who owns a distant, small piece of land is not tempted to work it. Just as we would not suggest buying a donkey and bull to refrain from plowing with them together, the above is not a reason to obtain land before Shemitta.
The positive mitzvot are more pertinent. There is a machloket Rishonim whether the positive state of cessation from working the land (Rambam, Aseh 135) is a function of an individual’s work irrespective of ownership (Rambam Shvi’it 1:1) or whether it is a landowner’s responsibility to ensure his field is not worked (Ritva, Avoda Zara 15b). A third approach holds Jews responsible to save the land from being worked, including by redeeming it from non-Jews who may work it (Netziv, Vayikra 25:4). According to the Rambam, obtaining land is not a factor in creating this positive fulfillment (one who takes a sabbatical from his job as a farm worker would fulfill the mitzva). According to the Ritva, buying creates an opportunity to fulfill the mitzva. According to the Netziv (whose opinion is considered somewhat extreme), the mitzva entails obtaining land that would otherwise be worked.
There is also a mitzva to deal properly with the fruit of one’s field that were planted before Shemitta or grew on trees, including treating it as ownerless (Aseh 134). While according to Rav Auerbach (above), elements of this mitzva can also be fulfilled by non-landowners in
Another gain of buying land is helping farmers keep Shemitta properly. Rav Kook (see his introduction to Shabbat Ha’aretz) and all other poskim who supported the heter mechira, did not do so for those who were willing and able (without extreme financial hardship) to keep the mitzva. This is both in order to not uproot the mitzva and to avoid the great halachic problems involved in the heter mechira. Thus, helping interested farmers survive without selling their fields to non-Jews is similar to giving ma’ot chitim to one who cannot afford mehadrin Pesach provisions or donating to improve a mikveh according to the request of the local rabbi. (A member of the camp that rejects the heter mechira would view it as saving people from sin.)
If one purchases the field at its value (including the overhead of arranging the sale), he should not use ma’aser kesafim, as he should not for buying an etrog (see Tzedaka U’mishpat 6:1). A donation (without buying land or the part of the price that is beyond the purchase’s value) to an organization that helps farmers may be taken from ma’aser money (see ibid. 10).
We discovered that those who provide individuals with the land/mitzva opportunity include people who also plan to earn a lot of money (unfortunately, not all approbations of important rabbis relate to this element). Baruch Hashem, there are also those who are dedicated to helping farmers as well as providing a mitzva opportunity. While we will not rate groups publicly, we recommend to the wise mitzva consumer to check, not only the sale’s authenticity, but also the appropriateness of the price per area and the number of farmers who will be benefitting from the project.
A Loan/Investment that Needs a Heter Iska After Its InceptionI have an ongoing arrangement by which a friend loans me thousands of dollars to use for my business at a fixed rate of interest. I think (but am not sure) that we agreed to have a heter iska (I can’t find one), but it is possible it was only agreed orally. Some money has been paid, and some is still owed. What should I do at this point?
If there was a valid heter iska, you have no problems even if you cannot find it. That is because a heter iska sets the nature of the transaction as having an element of investment (subject to profit or loss, at least theoretically) from the outset, and therefore there is no problematic loan. [The reason that a heter iska can be used to pay at a fixed rate, irrespective of actual profits is connected to the halacha that the investor can demand verification (witnesses, oath) that the investment did not earn more than stated. The heter iska states that a fixed rate can be paid as “assumed profit” (d’mei hitpashrut) in lieu of verification.]
According to most poskim, an oral heter iska agreement is valid b’dieved (see Brit Yehuda 40:9; Torat Ribbit 16:2). Why then do we bother with a written agreement? While we certainly do not intend to cast aspersions on a halachic system that the rabbinic community has accepted broadly, most will admit that it borders on halachic fiction. The sides basically agree to a loan to be returned with interest even if the borrower did not profit. It is therefore worthwhile to be able to lean on the halachic precedent that the written word can raise doubtful agreements to the minimum level required (see Ketubot 56b; Tzemech Tzedek, Yoreh Deah 88). Additionally, many people do not understand the conditions of the iska. Most poskim do not require a high-level understanding of the mechanism, but it is unclear what the minimum level is. When things are in writing, there is more chance one understands (see Brit Yehuda 354). Also, there is a broad rule that when something is in writing, we do not enable one to claim he did not understand; he is to realize he is accountable for whatever is written (see Netivot Shalom p. 726). This element is missing when the “agreement” is oral. Also, there are different types of heter iska which can be used, and not everyone knows how to specify which version they are agreeing to. In summary of this part of the question, it is important to have a written heter iska, and you should prepare one now. However, if there was an agreement to follow the conditions of a classic heter iska, under the circumstances you can assume the agreement had the proper halachic effect.
What if there was no agreement? Interest that was paid already would be the violation of a Torah prohibition, which the creditor is required to return to the borrower (Shulchan Aruch, YD 161:5). However, the borrower is allowed to waive the right to have the money returned (ibid. 160:5), as you are apparently interested in doing. (There is more to be said on this matter, but it is beyond our scope.) Regarding the future, it is possible to create an iska at this point. This can be accomplished by transferring to you potentially profit-producing assets by means of a kinyan sudar (Dagul Me’revava to Shach, YD 177:41) or through a written heter iska (slightly modified language is preferable). This new iska arrangement cannot change the nature of the loan retroactively, and thus it is forbidden to make new interest payments to correspond to the time that passed (Torat Ribbit 16:29). Some allow compensating for the lost profit by making the d’mei hitpashrut higher than what was planned (ibid.; Netivot Shalom, p. 721). However, others counter logically that it is clear that the added payment is ribbit for the past and not incidental (ibid.). The less exact and less clear the compensation is the more reasonable leniency is on this point.
[Since each case has its own details and dynamics, we suggest you speak to us about arriving at the best arrangement for your case.]
A Fading KetubaIn our ketuba, the witnesses’ names have faded over the years to the point that they are barely legible. Is this a problem (we got married in Israel, so the Rabbanut has a copy of the ketuba)? Can I (the husband) ask the witnesses to resign their names? If not, what should be done?
It is forbidden for a couple to be together without the husband’s basic ketuba obligation to the wife, which includes a lien on his property so that the wife can feel a certain level of security (see Ketubot 39b & 56b). While ideas are raised to minimize the need for a ketuba document in our days (see Rama, Even Haezer 66:13; Shulchan Aruch, EH 66:1), practically we require that a valid ketuba exist.
The Rabbanut’s practice to hold a copy of the ketuba makes one’s “home ketuba” much less critical, but it was not intended to be relied upon by itself l’chatchila. The existence of two documents for one obligation is problematic, as it may enable one to collect double. While some thus opposed making “copy” documents (Shut Harosh 68:21), others permitted it if proper precautions are taken (Shut Mahari Ibn Lev 55 based on Sefer Haterumot), as Rav Z.N. Goldberg rules (Techumin XXVI). A copy document probably only prevents a full denial of the obligation, but without the original document, the debtor could still claim he already paid (Urim 41:28). Likewise, one could not extract payment via the lien.
If so, does the Rabbanut ketuba give the woman the level of protection that permits the couple to live together? Indeed, some say that if the main ketuba is lost, the one at the Rabbanut is insufficient (see Teshuvot V’hanhagot, I:760; Ketuba K’hilchata, p. 163, in the name of Rav Elyashiv – no convincing reason is provided). Nitei Gavriel (33:6) argues cogently that since it is rare in our days (certainly in
There is a special document called a shtar ketuba d’irchasa that a couple can ask a rabbi to create when a ketuba is lost. It tells the story of the past obligation and the loss of the ketuba, and the new document replaces the lost one from the time of its issuance. This is done with the husband’s involvement. The gemara (Bava Batra 168b) and Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 41:1) discuss a replacement document produced by beit din for one who possesses a document that has become (or is becoming) illegible. Even the witnesses themselves of the original document may not reissue an identical copy of the old one (Shulchan Aruch ibid.) because their authorization to produce a document ceased when they signed the first one (see S’ma ad loc. 5). Even with the lender’s (or, in this case, the husband’s) reauthorization, the lien stemming from a new document would be valid only from the time of the reissuance (Shach, CM 41:3).
Your idea of resigning the document (which is parallel to rewriting other parts of the ketuba that faded) is interesting, but since it is not raised in all the discussions of the parallel cases, it is apparently not feasible. If the rewriting replaces something that is illegible, it is like writing a new document, which, as stated, cannot be done with the old date (a predated document is invalid – Shvi’it 10:5). Even if it is legible, it is still apparently a problem to write over it because people will be reading the new writing that covers the original (making it different from the discussion in Gittin 19a).
We suggest you find an opportunity to ask a rabbi with experience with such documents to prepare an appropriate new ketuba. In the meantime, you can rely on the Rabbanut ketuba. (If your wife is troubled by the situation, you should act immediately.) If you want to fix the old ketuba, you can make any changes you like after you mark clearly (if discreetly) as not for payment.
Permissibility of a Personal BerachaI am often overjoyed that Hashem granted me the zechut to live in Israel for many years, causing me to make a “spontaneous” beracha. A friend told me it is forbidden to compose my own berachot, as one can only use those Chazal composed. Is Judaism not all about thanking Hashem for all the wonders of creations and providence? Would I be precluded from thanking Hashem for something important to me?
Your assumption that one’s relationship with Hashem should be personal and overflowing is poignantly and refreshingly correct. On the other hand, one does not have free reign to serve Hashem as he desires, as evident from such halachot as bal tosif (not adding on to the mitzvot) and beracha l’vatala (unwarranted beracha). Let us seek perspective and guidelines.
The gemara (Berachot 33a) says that one who fulfilled a beracha requirement and then made an unnecessary one violated the prohibition of saying Hashem’s Name in vain. Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 33a) argues that uttering Hashem’s Name to praise Him cannot be in vain, but that it is a Rabbinic prohibition that “leans” on the pasuk. The Rambam (Berachot 1:15) seems to hold that beracha l’vatala is a Torah prohibition (Magen Avraham 215:6).
All agree that uttering Hashem’s Name without any purpose is an isur aseh (low-level Torah prohibition – Temura 4a). Yet, using Hashem’s Name in the context of praising Him is positive and permitted. In fact, the Rambam (Shvuot 12:11) says that if one mistakenly uttered the Name, he should immediately turn it into an appropriate praise of Hashem, and one of his suggested texts of spontaneous praise begins with “baruch.”
Where do we draw the line between appropriate praise and a beracha l’vatala? One approach is that the crucial factor is intention and context. If one intends to recite a required beracha when he is actually not required or if a mistake disqualifies the beracha, it is a beracha l’vatala. If the same words are said as an expression of personal gratitude, it is permitted (Chavat Da’at 110, Beit Hasafek 20; see Minchat Shlomo II:3). The Chavat Da’at cites a precedent for the distinction: one is allowed to repeat Shemoneh Esrei (which is comprised of berachot) with the intention it is voluntary, but not with an intention for an obligation (see Rosh, Berachot 3:15).
Others distinguish based on the text used, which is most severe when one utters a classic name of Hashem. Some say that if one recites the beracha in a language other than Hebrew so that the Name is equivalent only to a kinuy (a descriptive reference) of Hashem, it has the benefits of a beracha without the fear of beracha l’vatala (see opinions cited in Shut R. Akiva Eiger I:25, Pitchei Teshuva, YD 328:1, Piskei Teshuvot 209:7). R. Akiva Eiger (ibid.) and the Netziv (Ha’amek She’ala 53:2) argue that in the recognized, sensitive context of a beracha, even a kinuy or foreign language Name can be forbidden, as we find regarding an oath. The Netziv says that the problem is a Rabbinic issue of appearing to recite a beracha l’vatala. Therefore, the closer the text (and/or the context) is to that of a beracha, the more likely it is to be forbidden. The Minchat Shlomo (ibid.) explains that one should not act in a way that challenges the rules the Rabbis set. However, those rules were not set to forbid expression of personal thanks to Hashem.
We summarize as follows. Your desire to praise Hashem is commendable. Paradoxically, the more creative the text and style are, the clearer it is that it is permitted. Convention is that an individual should generally refrain from using Hashem’s main Names, which we leave primarily to Chazal and to great rabbis who have composed prayers and praises throughout history. Saying “Hashem,” “Hakadosh Baruch Hu,” “Ribbono Shel Olam,” or a Name not in Hebrew is safer and as profound. It is at least preferable not to recite anything that resembles a beracha of Chazal by content, by context (e.g., in Birkot Hashachar) and/or by regularity. That still leaves you with room for much self-expression.
Relighting Shabbat Candles that Went OutSoon after my wife lit Shabbat candles and made a beracha, they went out for no obvious reason. Did she fulfill the mitzva? Should she have relit them (with or without a beracha)?
When the above occurs when a Sephardi woman or an Ashkenazi man lights, for whom Shabbat prohibitions do not begin after lighting me’ikar hadin (see Yalkut Yosef, OC 263:7 and Mishna Berura 263:42), he or she should certainly relight the candles. This is because (as opposed to the mitzva of Chanuka candles), the mitzva’s action of lighting is not a replacement to the heart of the mitzva, the benefit from them on Shabbat. However, what does an Ashkenazi woman, who generally accepts Shabbat through the lighting (Rama, Orach Chayim 263:100), do.? Could a failed lighting preclude her from relighting?
There is a basis to say that candles that go out quickly are as if they were never lit. While the K’tzot Hashulchan (Badei Hashulchan 74:(14), cited by several poskim) makes this claim, it may not apply to our case. First, he is talking about a case where the flame never took hold of most of the wick (your description is unclear on this point). Second, he refers to a case where the beracha was not yet recited. Then, since the acceptance of Shabbat comes from the lighting, this does not occur until the lighting is completely over, including all planned candles and when it is clear they are properly lit. In fact, there is significant debate (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:(179)) as to whether it is the lighting or the subsequent beracha that ushers in Shabbat. Rav S.Z. Auerbach leans toward the “beracha approach,” and Mishneh Halachot (VIII:31) who agrees, therefore permits blowing out the match before making the beracha (as opposed to letting it go out itself – see Shulchan Aruch, OC 263:10). Thus, since your wife already made the beracha, which includes an indication that she is finished lighting, she should not have relit the candles (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:37).
However, there is a (usually) simple solution – to ask someone else to relight the candles, as one who accepted Shabbat significantly before sunset can ask those who have not done so to do melacha for him (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 17). In general, members of the household are not bound by the wife/mother’s acceptance of Shabbat (Rama, OC 263:10). They may (re)light as many as is desired to get to the normal number. If no Jews are available, one may ask a non-Jew to light, and this can be done up until the time of tzeit hakochavim (at least 13 minutes after sunset) and even when there is sufficient electric lighting (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata ibid.; see Mishna Berura 263:21). In the case of a non-Jew’s lighting at twilight, it is not clear whether more than one candle should be lit.
In the various cases where candles are relit, one does not make another beracha (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:37; see Chovat Hadar, p. 87; Yalkut Yosef ibid.). (The explanation is beyond our scope.)If all the candles went out and you did not have any relit, your wife apparently did not fulfill the mitzva. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (263, KA 3) goes as far as to say that the benefit (which you were missing) one receives is the mitzva, and the lighting is just a preparatory act. Even if the lighting is the mitzva, it still appears that the benefit is a necessary condition for the mitzva’s completion (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 263:9). In a case that none of the solutions were feasible, it is not one’s fault, and she is credited for at least doing the right Friday actions (lighting and refraining from desecrating Shabbat). (We, of course, would not suspect your wife of gross negligence in the lighting.) Thus, the “penalty” of having to add an additional candle for the rest of one’s life does not apply (Mishna Berura 263:7). The Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (43:(35)) is unsure on this point when no candles remained lit and one did not avail herself of the above solutions, but if this occurs because she did not know the halacha, we do not believe the penalty applies.
Children Waiting Between Meat and MilkI have children of various ages, and it is often difficult to have them wait six hours between meat and milk. Milk is an important part of their diet/lifestyle (including before bed), and eating disorders concern me.
There is near consensus on the basic principles and only small differences regarding their application to common cases.
Waiting six hours between meat and milk is a double-level stringency. The gemara (Chulin 105a) talks of waiting to the next meal to eat milk after meat. It implies that it is the proper way to be extra careful to avoid eating milk and meat together, and failure to do so may not be equivalent to eating a Rabbinically forbidden food. There is a machloket among the Rishonim if it is sufficient to finish the meat meal and take steps to ensure there is no meat in his mouth or whether one has to wait the normal time that exists between meals (see Beit Yosef and Darchei Moshe, Yoreh Deah 89). Sephardic authorities ruled the need for six (or so) hours, while significant Ashkenazic opinions required just to finish the meal or wait no more than an hour (see Rama, YD 89:1). While the prevalent practice of observant Ashkenazim is now to wait six hours, this may be more of a stringency than a clear ruling (see Chelkat Yaakov, YD 16).
The consensus of poskim is that under the age of three, when a child is too young to be significantly educated in religious matters, they do not need to wait at all between eating meat and milk products (they should not be fed them at the same time at any age). Although we generally accept the opinion that forbids “feeding” a young child Rabbinically forbidden food (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 343:1), waiting between these two types of kosher foods is not included (see one of the explanations in Teshuvot V’hanhagaot I:435).
After age three, children start becoming capable of following halachic restrictions, but their ability to keep some of them remains a factor. There is a concept, arising in several contexts (see Rama, OC 325:17), that the physical needs of a healthy child are halachically equivalent to the needs of a sick (non-life-threatened) person. For this reason, the halachot of even partial fasting on Yom Kippur begin only at age nine (Shulchan Aruch, OC 616:2). While waiting to eat milk products is not the same as fasting, a full-fledged requirement to wait six hours can compromise a young child’s well-being, especially those whose eating patterns are inflexible. Regarding the sick, very prominent opinions allow eating milk an hour after meat, after cleaning the mouth by eating and drinking (Chochmat Adam, 40:13; see Pitchei Teshuva, YD 89:3), including Sephardic poskim (see above; see Yalkut Yosef, YD III, p. 395 in the name of Zivchei Tzedek). Thus most poskim are equally lenient for children, at least under the age of nine (Chelkat Yaakov, ibid.; see Shema B’ni 54). Many take the pragmatic, graduated approach that the number of hours increases over time (ibid., in the name of Rav M. Feinstein; Teshuvot V’hanhagot, ibid.). Yalkut Yosef (ibid.), while legitimizing leniency even for Sephardim, limits it to eating nutritious food at meals, not to indulging in milchig treats.
The Chelkat Yaakov posits that keeping six hours is a minhag and as such should not apply to children under bar mitzva, but he stops short of practical leniency to children over nine. Yalkut Yosef contemplates leniency until one year before bar/bat mitzva.
A parent should use common sense and fine parenting skills in applying the general guidelines provided. The laws of chinuch (lit., education) have a formal element and a pragmatic one of how to best raise a specific child under specific circumstances. Maturity and demeanor are among the changing variables. In the face of potential eating disorders, some which can become grave, it is possible to be very lenient, and it is good for a family to have a wise rabbi they are in touch with. This forum does not enable giving advice regarding identifying real health concerns, including eating disorders.
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