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Stealing by Accident?If one accidentally took and used a friend’s similar coat, is he considered a ganav (thief)? Is he obligated to pay kefel (double)? Must he pay the owner if something happens to it (onsin)? [The querier then presented sources he found about geneiva b’shogeg (unintentional theft).] How can there be geneiva b’shogeg considering one needs intention to acquire something?
We will only scratch the surface of the scholarship on whether one is obligated for geneiva b’shogeg and relate to some of the issues you raise.
The K’tzot Hachoshen (25:1) is among those who posit that a ganav b’shogeg is exempt. He infers this from Rishonim, but his main rationale is that the concept of culpability for accidental financial harm to his friend is limited to mazik (one who physically damages another’s property) because it specifically is derived from a pasuk. Thus, if one takes another’s object without damaging it, he is not responsible to pay for it. Of course, he has to return it when he finds out the truth, but the matter is important if it was lost, damaged, or passed on to someone else.
The Machaneh Ephrayim (Geneiva 7) cogently presents opinions of Rishonim, but agrees with those who obligate a ganav b’shogeg. He is particularly impressed by the gemara (Pesachim 32a) concerning payment made by one who accidentally ate teruma, which says that if the food’s price went down after he ate it, he pays the higher price because “it is no less than one who steals.” The Machaneh Ephrayim sees this as proof that there is payment for geneiva b’shogeg.
Let us now discuss your quandary about the need for intention. The gemara (see Bava Kama 79a) does speak of a kinyan (an act of acquisition) as a necessary step for the obligations of a ganav, and kinyanim require a certain level of intent. However, not all of the levels of intent pertinent to geneiva are equal to those regarding other acquisitions. If one lifted up an object to move it out of his way, he would clearly neither acquire nor be considered stealing it. If he wanted to use it without ever returning it, this would be intention for theft even if he tried to be “shrewd” by having in mind to “not acquire it” (it indeed would not become his). Furthermore, even one who intended to briefly borrow something without permission is considered a ganav (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 359:5).
The Machaneh Ephrayim makes a relevant fundamental distinction. Geneiva b’shogeg can be culpable when one intended to bring the object from another’s possession into his own. If one thought he was just continuing using his own, that would not be considered an act of stealing. (This idea is indeed parallel to the halacha regarding intention to acquire something legally (see Yevamot 52a).) According to this, the accidental coat switcher is not even a ganav b’shogeg and does not have, as of the time he took the object, the accompanying responsibilities for its welfare. Cases in which geneiva b’shogeg applies include unknowingly buying a stolen object or even borrowing one.
The Marcheshet (II:32) posits that a ganav b’shogeg has the basic obligations of a ganav. He sees the K’tzot Hachoshen’s source to exempt – the obligation of an unintentional mazik – as the source to obligate an unintentional ganav as well. As such, though, just as a mazik is exempt b’oness (under extenuating circumstances), so too a ganav b’oness is exempt. In our case, taking another’s coat is usually shogeg rather than oness. According to this approach, it could be considered geneiva. Regarding intention, he does intend to use something that turned out to actually belong to someone else.
All agree that one is not disqualified for anything (e.g., testimony) due to such an unintentional aveira. Kefel is never levied in our days, and it is thus not discussed much by poskim. However, logic and implicit statements indicate that this k’nas (penalty), which applies to only certain types of theft and when one is exposed by witnesses, is predicated on full culpability and does not apply b’shogeg.
The Need for a Mechitza Without a MinyanIs there a need for a mechitza between men and women when there is no minyan?
We must start our answer with some sources that serve as the basis for the need for a mechitza. Most explicit discussions on the matter are relatively recent, as the mechitza was taken for granted without halachic discussion until the 19th/20th century.”
The gemara (Sukka 51b) tells of structural changes made in the Beit Hamikdash to deal with the growing realization of problems of modesty between the genders. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim I:39) is prominent among those who learned from the fact that such changes in the Beit Hamikdash are generally prohibited that the need for separation must be a matter of Torah law.
The only context in which there is any Orthodox unanimity that a physical separation is necessary is when davening in shul. It appears that the concept need not be linked specifically to davening, as the gemara says that Beit Hamikdash renovators based themselves on a pasuk relating to a funeral (Zecharia I:28:12). On the other hand, in practice there is not a history of anything close to universal separation between the genders. Rav Moshe (ibid., OC V:12) makes a distinction between settings that are private (i.e., by permission only), which do not require separation, and those that are open to the public, which require.
Since the setting of davening in shul is unique in its unanimity and its level of definitiveness, it is worthwhile to investigate the halacha’s scope by broadening your question. Does all tefilla require a mechitza? Does everything in shul? How do we define a shul? A man is not allowed to daven, learn aloud, or even make berachot when exposed to a lack of modesty (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 75 with commentaries). However, it is agreed that regarding davening in a place that is not set for tefilla, the formal requirement of mechitza per se does not exist. This is more obvious in a public place, like a plane. The need for a mechitza is more of an obligation to put one in the proper place than a prohibition to daven without it. Therefore, since there is no way to expect an airline servicing Jews and non-Jews to put up a mechitza, there is no problem. Even in places like sheva berachot and a shiva house, there is not a formal need for a mechitza (see Igrot Moshe ibid.).
If men are davening in a shul at a time when there is no minyan, it would seem that a mechitza is needed if women are present (one or two women are likely not a problem (see ibid.; Ishei Yisrael )). After all, they are davening and the shul has sanctity that elevates tefilla even without a minyan (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 90:9).
What about a place that is set for tefilla without a minyan? The gemara in Megilla 27b can be instructive. In explaining the various positions on whether a communal beit knesset can be sold to become a beit knesset of an individual, the gemara raises the claim for R. Meir that an individual’s shul does not have kedusha. Rashi (ad loc.) and others explain that this is because matters of kedusha (i.e., elements of prayer that require a minyan) are not recited there. On one hand, this downplays the status of a shul without a minyan, but many posit that even according to R. Meir it has some kedusha (Ramban, ad loc.) and at least the status of a beit knesset. We note that many places that have semi-regular davening but without a minyan usually have several other uses, which also makes it less like a classic shul, in which we know a mechitza is required.
Tying things together, we suggest the following approximate guidelines (there are many slightly varying cases). In a room that is treated like a shul, just that it belongs to such a small community that there is not usually a minyan, there should be a mechitza. In a multi-use room that has semi-regular davening but without a minyan, davening should be done with a separation between men and women, but a mechitza per se is not necessary (assuming it is done in a way that there are no modesty in dress problems).
Hachnasat Sefer Torah on Chol HamoedI have strong reasons to make a hachnasat sefer Torah on Chol Hamoed. Is it permitted to do so?
The main issue with the hachnasat sefer Torah for a new sefer Torah (as opposed to purchasing one or changing its venue) is writing its final letters, as the minhag is to do so on the day of the ceremony.
The mishna (Moed Katan 18b) says it is forbidden to write even a small part of a book on Chol Hamoed. The Rama (Orach Chayim 545:1) cites two opinions on whether it is permitted if the masses need the book after the chag and concludes that it is permitted if one uses simple, “non-artisan” writing. In other words, he understood that the mishna is referring to cases where there is not an acute need. These halachot follow the rule that simple work (ma’aseh hedyot) is permitted on Chol Hamoed for festival needs or communal needs, which are as significant even if they are for after the chag (Shulchan Aruch, OC 544:1).
Since writing a sefer Torah certainly needs an expert acting carefully (ma’asaeh uman), it should be forbidden on Chol Hamoed. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 545:2) does say that if there is no other sefer Torah for the community’s Torah reading, a sefer Torah can be finished on Chol Hamoed for that purpose. However, it does not sound like that is your predicament.
Despite the above, there has long been a phenomenon of hachnasot sefer Torah on Chol Hamoed. Some poskim (including Aruch Hashulchan, OC 545:5) criticize the practice. However, several poskim justify the practice when done in a certain way, which is anyway common.
Usually the main writing of the sefer Torah is complete days before the event, except that the last letters are written by the sefer’s owner and his honorees. To facilitate this, the sofer uses one of two systems: 1. Write the letters in very light ink, so that the donor writes on top to darken it. 2. Write hollow letters and have the donor fill them in. Some poskim suggest that in those cases the halachic writing already exists, in which case that which is left for the end is not a melacha (see discussion in B’tzel Hachochma IV:50). Moreover, even if it is a full melacha of writing, it is an example of ma’aseh hedyot, as a non-expert can follow the tracing or fill in the hollow letters. In that case, it is permitted for a simple mitzva even of an individual or an enhancement of the chag.
What mitzva or enhancement of the chag applies here? Some say it is the mitzva of having a sefer Torah. While some of the leniencies of Chol Hamoed apply only if one had to do the work at that time (which might not apply in your case), festival and mitzva needs can be done even if they could have been done at different times. Some question (see Minchat Elazar III:2) whether in our days, the writing of the sefer Torah is considered a mitzva, but that seems like a weak claim. In any case, since the whole celebration is such a joyous and chag-appropriate activity, all of its standard elements, which customarily include writing the last letters, are festival needs. (The poskim are not concerned with the possibility that the celebration impinges on the proper focus on the chag, which is the reason weddings are forbidden on Chol Hamoed (Chagiga 8a). A Torah celebration of this type is within the appropriate focus.) If the sefer Torah will be read from during the chag, including Simchat Torah, that should also be considered a mitzva purpose.
Thus, under the above conditions, it is permitted according to most poskim, including the Beit Yitzchak (Yoreh Deah II, addendum 20), Kaf Hachayim (545:6, based on the Sdei Chemed), and the contemporary Chol Hamoed K’hilcahato (6:24). As mentioned, there is also some history of leniency. Some poskim (Shevet Halevi III:96, B’tzel Hachochma, ibid.) are willing to be lenient only in the case of real need, which you indicate you have.
In summary, if the celebration is most appropriately done on Chol Hamoed, feel free to do it then. Make sure the sofer completes his part before Pesach and leaves any expert brush-up work for after chag. Mazal tov!
Methods of Receiving Pay for Work on ShabbatI work at a local shul’s youth department on Shabbat. They occasionally have activities during the week (e.g., Purim, Sukkot, Tu B’Shvat). Some of my co-workers believe that one of the intentions for these activities is to solve the problem of paying us for work on Shabbat (s’char Shabbat). I am skeptical for two reasons. First, would that work, considering that there are several months when we get paid without any such activities. Secondly, aren’t there better solutions than that?
S’char Shabbat (pay for permitted services one provided on Shabbat) is indeed forbidden Rabbinically like other commercial activity, lest one come to write (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 306:4).
The most common way to allow receiving money for work that was done on Shabbat is through havla’ah. That means having the Shabbat-related money “swallowed up” by combining it with weekday pay, as pay for a period of work that includes Shabbat (ibid.). You apparently assume that the applicability of havla’ah depends on the payment period. In other words, each payment has to include pay for work not related to Shabbat or Yom Tov. Therefore, you would forbid a paycheck for a payment period (month) in which there is no weekday work.
However, poskim point out that “havla’ah units” are determined not by the interval of payment but by the period of employment. The period of employment is the time during which there is a commitment to continue the employer-employee relationship, without the ability to back out under normal circumstance. This has ramifications for leniency and for stringency, respectively. If the employee is owed for work on Shabbat and the employer is not obligated to continue the employment during a period that includes weekdays, the work on Shabbat is viewed independently and it is forbidden to receive pay. One common application is a babysitter, who usually gets hired for each job on its own (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 28:58; Orchot Shabbat 22:94). Your situation is in all likelihood an example of the lenient ramification. A shul usually hires youth workers for “a year” (often, Sept.-June), which is the relevant time unit even if the payments are made in monthly installments. If that is the case, then since the year includes work on Tu B’Shevat and Purim, the pay is permitted.
Indeed, there is often another, related leniency – another application of havla’ah. Some suggest (including Aruch Hashulchan, OC 306:12) that the preparations chazanim do during the week justifies their receiving pay for their work on Shabbat and Yom Tov due to havla’ah. For this to constitute havla’ah, it does not suffice for the preparation to be theoretical work, but obligatory work that is time-consuming enough to warrant pay (Orchot Shabbat 22:90 – he (ibid. (149)) doubts whether chazanim are considered to receive any pay for their preparations.) Similarly, there is often an assumption that youth workers, beyond their frontal work with the children on Shabbat and Yom Tov, have necessary preparatory work that is slated for weekday. This can include buying prizes or food, setting or cleaning up, or preparing props. The shul can ensure from the outset that there are serious weekday preparations by requiring the leaders to come to a training session or meeting or to call the children and/or parents with whom they will be working. As mentioned above, one such serious practice during the employment period suffices.
The matter of chazanim introduces a final potential justification for receiving pay. There are two opinions in the Shulchan Aruch (OC 306:5) whether the prohibition on s’char Shabbat applies to mitzva activities. While the Shulchan Aruch seems to lean toward stringency, the Mishna Berura (306:22) acknowledges that the more prevalent minhag is to be lenient on the matter. Contemporary poskim leave the matter open (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 28:66). Whether or not a synagogue’s youth groups are considered a mitzva depends on the content of the activities.
Ranking Mishloach Manot StringenciesI have heard so many opinions about mishloach manot requirements (enough for a meal, different berachot, cooked food, etc.). Which are necessary?
We will refer to the practices you mention and a few others (not exhaustive), categorizing them according to our appraisal of the chumrot.
Proper to Be Careful (strong opinions require them)
Respectable quality/quantity – The gemara (Megilla 7b) tells of Amoraim sending simple foods and sharp spices, respectively, and a colleague implying this was inappropriate. Many explain that mishloach manot are supposed to foster warm relations and/or that they are for seudat Purim use (see Shut Chatam Sofer, Orach Chayim 196). Therefore, it can be expected that poskim say the manot should have some importance (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 695:15) and perhaps that this is magnified by the giver and/or the recipient’s affluence (Ritva, Megilla 7a; Chayei Adam 155:31; Be’ur Halacha 695:4). The opinions (see citations in Yalkut Yosef, Moadim, p. 329, Mikraei Kodesh (Harari) 12:4) that one person’s mishloach manot should suffice for some level of an independent meal (as opposed to an enhancement) are fewer and weaker.
Ready to be eaten – The Magen Avraham (695:11) requires that meat that is given be cooked. The logic is that raw food misses the mark, as the recipient cannot enjoy it without effort. The Mishna Berura (695:19) cites this as the main ruling, while noting there are distinguished lenient opinions. (Some mistakenly understand that one must give cooked food. Actually, the issue exists only for food that is inedible raw.) While important poskim are lenient (Yalkut Yosef, ibid. p. 318), it would be strange not to follow such an easily-followed logical stringency.
One May Want to be Careful (minority strict opinions with a measure of weight)
Drinks do not count – Some claim that manot refer to solid food, not drinks. However, the gemara (ibid.) that tells of a rabbi who sent a nice portion of meat and a barrel of wine indicates drinks are fine (Terumat Hadeshen I:111), as the Magen Avraham (ibid.) and Mishna Berura (ibid.) rule. According to a minority opinion’s reading of the Yerushalmi’s version of the aforementioned story, those manot were insufficient because drinks do not count.
Kedushat shvi’it – The Ben Ish Chai (Torah Lishma 193) includes mishloach manot in the prohibition on using Shemitta produce for paying various debts (Rambam, Shemitta 6:10). He applies this not just to fulfilling the basic mitzva of mishloach manot but even to giving to those who have already given you. Many are lenient (see Minchat Yitzchak X:57), apparently including our mentor, Rav Shaul Yisraeli (see Mikraei Kodesh 12:(31)). Some are machmir only to the extent that without the shvi’it produce, he has not fulfilled the mitzva (Mishnat Yosef, cited in Minchat Yitzchak ibid.).
Separate utensils – the Ben Ish Chai (I, Purim 16) says that whatever is in one utensil counts as one mana. This is difficult concerning foods that are, by their nature, unrelated (as opposed to something like assorted candies in a container – see Hitorerut Teshuva I:126). However, probably partially in deference to the Ben Ish Chai’s stature, several Sephardic poskim endorse this stringency l’chatchila (Yalkut Yosef, ibid. p. 330).
Foods of different berachot – The manot must be unique. Most poskim say not to suffice with one food separate into two portions (even if each is big). However, the idea that foods’ berachot are an indicator of being separate is contradicted by many prominent sources and is illogical (meat and juice share a beracha; different types of potato chips do not).
The stringencies are meant to ensure one fulfills the formal mitzva and are not always indicative of the mitzva’s goals. Therefore, if you give “halachically mehudar” mishloach manot to one person, the idea of giving to many people to cultivate friendship (Shulchan Aruch, OC 695:4) can be done in any way that enhances the Purim spirit. Do not let chumrot stifle your energy or creativity.
Women Hearing Parashat ZachorIt is not always easy for me (a woman) to make it to shul to hear Parashat Zachor. How much of an effort must I make?
There is a mitzva from the Torah to remember the actions of Amalek. It is related scripturally and, as simple logic dictates, innately to the mitzva to fight them (see Devarim 25:17-19). According to some Rishonim, it is included in the latter mitzva – see Mikraei Kodesh, Purim 5.) The question of how and when the Torah prescribes the mitzva can influence whether a woman has an obligation.
The basic mitzva of remembering can ostensibly be done at any time, which seems to preclude an exemption for women on grounds of being a time-based mitzvot. That which we do it on a specific Shabbat is Rabbinic. Yet, for a long time, the minhag was that women did not come to shul like men to hear Parashat Zachor, which prodded poskim to look for a reason why.
The connection to the mitzva to fight could be significant in this regard. One claim is that battle is usually carried out in the day, making it time-based. One of several questions on this idea is that one can remember the need anytime and act when it is practical. The Chinuch (#603) says that since women as a group are not obligated to wage battle, they are not included in the mitzva to remember either. The Minchat Chinuch (ad loc.) argues with the Chinuch by poignantly pointing out that women can and often should take part in other war-related efforts (see Sota 44b). Others argue that mitzvot are not dependent on whether the mitzva’s assumed logic applies to an individual. On the other hand, the Chinuch’s logic is reminiscent of the halacha that Moavite women are not included in the prohibition on marrying into our community because they do not usually bring provisions to nations passing through. Due to the Chinuch’s stature and the old minhag, it is hard to discard the opinions that women are exempt.
It is also possible that women, while obligated, fulfill the mitzva in other ways. The gemara (Megilla 18a) derives that the remembering of the story of Amalek should be done through a recitation from a sefer. The Terumat Hadeshen (I:108) posits that reading Zachor from a sefer Torah with a minyan is required from the Torah. Regarding men, we accept this opinions, thus making us expect men to go to significant lengths to have a minyan for Shabbat Zachor (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 685:7). However, not all agree that Torah law requires a minyan and perhaps not even a kosher sefer Torah. If so, the Rabbinically prescribed way men fulfill the Torah law (Shabbat Zachor), which is time-based, may not be binding for women (see Torat Chesed, cited in Yechaveh Daat I:84; Mikraei Kodesh, ibid.). If women have an obligation for some type of remembrance but not necessarily like men, it is not surprising that some (including Teshuvot V’hanhagot II:344) say that they should take the opportunity of Shabbat Zachor to read those p’sukim from a Chumash.
There is another possible way for women to fulfill the mitzva, which, if correct, does not require an extra action. Some Rishonim say that it is possible to fulfill the mitzva of Zachor by listening to Megillat Esther, which women anyway must do and usually even have a minyan (see Teshuvot V’hanhagot ibid.). It might just be necessary to have in mind for Zachor during that time (ibid.).
In general, over the last few hundred years, the minhag has developed for women to try to make to shul for the reading of Parashat Zachor (see Binyan Tzion (Chadashot 8) in the name of Rav Natan Adler). When this is doable, it is a good thing. However, if one has difficulty doing this, she should not feel undue pressure, and can rely on the several opinions and the old minhag that she does not have to fulfill the mitzva the way men do (Yechaveh Da’at, ibid.). (Some communities have a second reading. There are different ways of doing this, which raise certain halachic questions (see Minchat Yitzchak IX:68). However, whatever system a community uses should be fine for the individual who wants to hear.)
Standing for Parents in our TimesMost people do not stand up when their parents enter the room. Is this due to the opinion that it is enough to stand for them once in the morning and at night?
We believe in the great significance of upstanding Jews’ common practices and in looking for halachic justification for them. However, there has to be a good fit between sources/logic and the practices.
The gemara (Kiddushin 31b) gives examples of kibbud (honoring) for parents and of mora (awe). While standing is not on either list, it is evident from gemarot that it is expected (see Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 240). This is logical considering the mitzva from the Torah (Yayikra 19:32) to stand before old people and scholars (Kiddushin 32b).
R. Yannai (ibid. 33b) says that a talmid chacham is not permitted to stand for his rebbe more than once in the morning and in the evening to avoid giving to him more honor than to Hashem. The
The Rama (YD 242:16) accepts R. Yannai, but not according to its simple reading; one is not obligated more than twice a day, but he may do more (see Darchei Moshe YD 242:11; Semag, Aseh 13). Most Acharonim (see Chayei Adam 67:7; Shevet Halevi II:111; Yalkut Yosef ibid.) assume that the exemption applies to parents also. The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 240:24) suggests that the obligation to stand for one’s parent may exceed that toward his rebbe. (I believe, but cannot develop here, that according to the Rambam’s presentation of the case in which it is not permitted to stand more than twice a day, it does not apply to parents. Also note that the Rama rules that when one is among people who did not see him stand previously, he must stand again.)
It is difficult to demonstrate how the Rama’s opinion would justify the common practice of laxity about standing up for parents. After all, do people think about whether they already stood for their parent that day? The Rama can still help, depending on the following chakira about his opinion. Must one stand at the first opportunity of the day, after which there is an exemption, or should there just be a mode of behavior in which he is expected to stand roughly once in the morning and once at night? This might depend on if standing is part of the positive kibbud, making the exact timing less crucial, or the more negative mora, in which case without an exemption, remaining seated is an aveira (Yalkut Yosef ibid. is unsure to which category it applies). This, of course, helps only if the child stands with some regularity, which is not always be the case.
Another minimizing opinion found in the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) is that standing only applies when a parent comes in from outside the house, not when he moves from place to place in the home.
The most plausible explanation for the practice of laxity is the idea that a parent can be mochel (waive rights to) kibbud (Kiddushin 32a). (Regarding being mochel requirements of mora, see Living the Halachic Process III, G-4.) In our times, parents do not usually expect their children to stand up in their honor and often do not find it to even be positive. If that is the case in a specific household, then the child is indeed not required to stand.
Let us clarify a few things. Even after their mechila, it is a mitzva to stand for parents (Pitchei Teshuva, YD 240:16). Some say that one has to make some gesture of respectful acknowledgement (see Kiddushin 32b). If the reason parents are mochel starts from the children (i.e., the parents are so used to their not standing that they no longer demand or expect), this is not a good thing. Therefore, it is, in most cases, better for children (of all ages) who try to do things properly to stand for their parents more than is presently common.
Beracha on Pureed Vegetable SoupI read your recent response about the beracha on the broth of vegetable soup. Is the halacha any different for pureed vegetable soup?
You will remember that according to most fundamental approaches, based on the gemara (Berachot 39a), the beracha on the clear broth of vegetable soup is Borei Pri Ha’adama. On the other hand, there are enough factors against saying Ha’adama to convince most contemporary poskim to prefer Shehakol. Pureed soup shares certain factors, but other factors point in different directions.
We dealt with an apparent contradiction with the gemara (ibid. 38a) that says that the beracha on most fruit juices is Shehakol. Another reason to not make Ha’adama on vegetable soup broth is the contention of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and others that these soups often lack sufficient vegetable taste to justify it. These issues do not apply to pureed soup because one is not consuming just the juice/broth but the whole essence and taste of the vegetables.
However, in another way, the situation points more toward Shehakol than toward Ha’adama. We saw the Rosh (Shut 4:15) who says that the broth’s beracha is Ha’adama when and because it is normal for people to cook the vegetables to eat them. The broth is thus dependent on the vegetables, which generally exist even if one is eating only the broth. In this case, though, the vegetables cease to exist as a solid, clearly recognizable entity. V’zot Haberacha (p. 404) entertains the possibility that the beracha should be determined as Ha’adama when it was cooked, before it was pureed. However, he concludes that we follow the form in which it is eaten, certainly when the intention when cooking it was to puree it before eating. Since the soup is actually a semi-liquefied form of mashed vegetables, it is necessary to determine what the beracha is on mashed vegetables.
The gemara (Berachot 38a) says that when one takes dates and crushes them into terima, their beracha remains Borei Pri Ha’etz. What is terima? The Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 202:7) say it is totally crushed to the point that it is “like dough,” and yet the beracha is unchanged. The same should apparently apply to a mashed vegetable. On the other hand, Rashi (ad loc.) says that terima is only partially crushed, and based on this, the Terumat Hadeshen (29) and Rama (OC 202:7) say that mashed fruit (and presumably vegetables) should get the safer beracha of Shehakol. This does not necessarily turn into a clear machloket between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, as the Rama says that if one recited the beracha of the fruit/vegetable he can assume he was yotzei. Sephardi poskim also disagree whether to follow the Shulchan Aruch or to also make the safer Shehakol in light of this machloket Rishonim (see V’zot Haberacha, p. 99, Birkat Hashem 7:26-29).
Based on the above, we should, on the practical level, distinguish between different levels of puree. If the vegetables are pulverized to the point that there are no or few pieces of discernable vegetables, even if the soup is thick, then the more accepted beracha is Shehakol. However, if the soup is lumpy, then the beracha should be Ha’adama (V’ten Beracha (Bodner), p. 434). This distinction is similar to what many say regarding types of apple sauce and peanut butter. Those who make Ha’adama even for smooth pureed soup have what to rely upon, especially considering the fact that the stronger fundamental opinion regarding mashed potatoes, even if this not usually suggested, is to recite Ha’adama (see Mishna Berura 202:42).Another logical distinction within the case of totally crushed vegetables is whether they are still recognizable based on their characteristics, which is a major reason to warrant Ha’adama (see Birkat Hashem, p. 404-6). It would seem then that if the pureed soup has several vegetables that form its basis, then it is more difficult to recognize its component parts and harder to justify reciting Ha’adama unless there are many small pieces.
Beracha on a Newly Renovated HomeIf I did major renovations in my home, do I recite Shehecheyanu on it?
The mishna (Berachot 54a) says that one who builds a new house or buys new “utensils” recites Shehecheyanu. While the gemara (ibid. 59b-60a) cites an opinion that this beracha is only for the first such acquisition, which would exclude the possibility of a beracha on renovations, we follow the opinion that it applies even if one built a second house (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 223:3).
But are renovations comparable to a new house? The gemara in Sota (mishna, 43a; gemara, 44a) discusses the halacha that one who builds a new house that he has not inaugurated returns from the battlefield. The first opinion identifies building projects on his property that do not qualify as building a house. Rabbi Yehuda says that even if one rebuilt the house on its previous site, he does not return from battle. However, the gemara posits that extending the house’s height does qualify. The Mishna Berura (223:12) says that this serves as a halachic precedent for Shehecheyanu as well. Contemporary poskim (see Halichot Shlomo 23:14 in the name of Rav S.Z. Auerbach and V’zot Haberacha, p. 166 in the name of Rav M. Eliyahu) assume the same is true for any significant extension of the house, even without acquiring new land. However, renovations that do not include expansion, but just improvement of the house’s appearance or functionality, are not comparable to building or buying and do not warrant a beracha (ibid.). The time for the beracha is when the new area is ready to be used, which coincides with the time for attaching a mezuza (V’zot Haberacha ibid.). (We are not relating to the new furniture that often accompanies renovations, which itself likely warrants a beracha.)
A few factors could raise questions about the beracha. The first is that there is a minhag cited by several Sephardi poskim to not make a beracha on a new house. It is hard to determine this minhag’s exact origin, reason, and extent. The Pri Megadim (223, Mishbetzot Zahav 4), who is Ashkenazi, suggest that there is a minhag to not make Shehechiyanu on clothes and utensils, and he suggests that these people must rely on the opinion that Shehechiyanu for such events is merely optional. The Ben Ish Chai (I, R’ei 5-6) is not impressed by this logic, but he confirms the minhag concerning a new house. He recommends solving the problem by following a different minhag. One makes a chanukat habayit upon entering the house, at which point he wears a new garment and recites Shehecheyanu with intention for the house in addition to the garment. I do not know if there is such a minhag of a chanukat habayit for renovations. However, those who want to follow the minhag, as opposed to the established halacha to make the beracha (Yalkut Yosef 223:2 and Birkat Hashem 2:57 do not believe the minhag should uproot it), can solve the issue with a new garment.
Rav Chayim Palagi and the Kaf Hachayim (OC 223:18) say that one who bought a house on credit does not make a beracha because of the trouble he may have paying up and the possibility he might have to return it to the seller. Besides the strong questions on the basic opinion (see Birkat Hashem 2:(250)), the situation is uncommon regarding renovations, as even one who takes loans for that purpose rarely is nervous about his ability to pay, and the renovations will not be “returned”.
Is Shecheyanu the correct beracha? The rule is that for acquisitions that benefit more than one person, Shehechyanu is replaced by Hatov V’hameitiv (Shulchan Aruch, ibid. 5). The gemara talks about buying a house with a partner, but this also applies to family members (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. and Be’ur Halacha to 223:3). If there is a question of doubt between the two berachot, Shehecheyanu is the safer one, as it can work even when Hatov V’hameitiv is appropriate (Be’ur Halacha to 223:5). This is apparent from those (including above) who suggest using the beracha on new clothes to cover the beracha on a new house.
Using a Shabbat Clock for an UrnMy hot water urn has a Shabbat setting, in which the water is heated at a constant level and the switch for boiling the water is disabled. The socket where I plug it in is on a Shabbat clock that is off at night. When it goes on in the morning, the water that has become cold heats back up. Is that permitted?
Although we accept the opinions among Rishonim that it is forbidden to reheat boiled water that has cooled down (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Orach Chayim 318:4,15), you would not be considered cooking since this is done automatically.
The question is whether your setup violates the Rabbinical prohibitions of shehiya or chazara. Shehiya, leaving food on the flame from before Shabbat, is sometimes forbidden, out of a concern one will raise the heat. It is permitted if the heat source is covered in a way that reduces its efficiency (Shulchan Aruch, OC 253:1) or (likely) regarding a non-adjustable heat source (Hilchot Shabbat (Eider), p. 340). However, neither lenient factor exists here (one can raise the heat from Shabbat to normal mode). It is usually permitted to use this urn when the water has already been boiled, as further boiling causes unwanted evaporation (see Shulchan Aruch ibid.). Your case could possibly be more problematic since one may desire the extra heat to heat the cold water.
Chazara, returning food on Shabbat that had been removed from the heat, has more stringency, including that it is forbidden on a normal, adjustable heat source even if raising the temperature is detrimental (ibid. 2). Is your case considered chazara, considering that the heat is returned to function by a machine rather than a person? The answer may depend on the reason of the stringency of chazara. Rabbeinu Tam says it is a heightened concern one will raise the heat since the food was returned after time off the flame. The Ran says that returning cooked food to a heat source can be confused with cooking. In this case, Rabbeinu Tam’s reason seems to apply, while the Ran’s does not since you do nothing on Shabbat.
Let us examine discussion about a parallel case. The Pri Megadim (OC, EA 253:41) and the Chazon Ish (OC 37:21) wonder about the permissibility of various cases similar to what the Rama (OC 253:5) allows. A non-Jew may put, on Shabbat morning, cold cooked food near a fireplace, which a non-Jew will be permitted to light due to the great cold, thereby also heating the food. Why are we not concerned that after the fireplace is on, a Jew will stoke the coals? The Pri Megadim suggests that this must rely on the opinion that reheating liquids is permitted, and so too the reheating is not significant enough to prompt one to stoke the coals. The Chazon Ish gives a few possible answers. One is that we treat a case where the food is put down when there is no heat as equivalent to shehiya. This helps since the Chazon Ish claims elsewhere (37:27) that the concern of raising the flame regarding shehiya does not apply to fully cooked food even if it is now cold. On the other hand, reheating cooled water may be worse than reheating other cooked foods (Orchot Shabbat 2:(11)). There is further room for leniency considering that Shabbat started with the urn operating and there was no action since then (see Am Mordechai, Shabbat, p. 51). Still, the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata () is stringent when the water has cooled off totally, and the Orchot Shabbat (2:(49)) is uncertain.
Your urn has a feature that provides further grounds for leniency – when the Shabbat mode is on, one cannot raise the heat. This is similar, in some ways, to one who seals an oven where food is heating, which is permitted even though the seal can be removed (Shabbat 18b). It is unclear if the Shabbat-mode button that is deactivated by a simple press is sufficient deterrent (see cases in Orchot Shabbat -19). It is also unclear if this leniency applies when elements of chazara exist (see ibid. 55). However, combining this factor along with the aforementioned grounds for leniency, it is not difficult to justify leniency.
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