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Listening to Laining During Shemoneh EsreiIf a person comes late to davening, is he allowed to continue with Shemoneh Esrei during Kri’at Hatorah (=laining). Does it make a difference if z’man tefilla is coming soon?
This question is not found in classical sources, but there is much to learn from similar cases that are discussed.
Rashi (Sukka 38b) says that one who is in the midst of Shemoneh Esrei when the tzibbur is up to Kedusha or Kaddish should listen without speech to them and thereby fulfill the mitzvot of answering these passages. Tosafot (Berachot 21b) forbids this since listening to fulfill these mitzvot is equivalent to reciting them, which is forbidden during Shemoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 104:6). The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) rules like Rashi, that one may listen. Thus, we seem to assume that listening to things during Shemoneh Esrei is not a fundamental problem, and listening to laining is ostensibly the same.
Arguably, listening is more justifiable for laining. Perhaps, Tosafot objects to listening only to things like Kedusha, which needs to count like speaking in order to fulfill the mitzva. For laining, listening alone suffices, and it should thus not be equated to speaking (Az Nidberu XIV:29; see Lev Avraham (Weinfeld) I:26). Indeed, Az Nidberu allowed a yeshiva in which many talmidim took a very long time for Shemoneh Esrei to continue their practice of stopping to listen to laining.
On the other hand, there are several reasons against listening to laining during Shemoneh Esrei. First, the need to listen to Kaddish and Kedusha may be more pressing than to laining, as there are serious opinions that the obligation of Torah reading is on the tzibbur, not the individual (see Ran, Megilla 3a of Rif’s pages; Yabia Omer VIII, OC 54). Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 146:2) cites some opinions that exempt individuals from listening to laining in various circumstances. While not discussed in that context, a desire to not take a long pause in Shemoneh Esrei is at least as important a reason not to listen to the laining.
Why do we interrupt Shemoneh Esrei even for Kaddish and Kedusha, considering that “one who is occupied with a mitzva is exempt from another mitzva” (Sukka 26a)? Teshuvot V’hanhagot (II:70) says that divorcing oneself from the praise of Hashem going on around him is like disgracing Him; he posits that this logic does not apply to not listening to laining. Lev Avraham (ibid.) suggest that since Kaddish and Kedusha are also forms of tefilla, the mitzva of Shemoneh Esrei does not “knock off” its “brother mitzva.” Another distinction is based on the halacha that we do stop mitzva #1to perform mitzva #2 when it is not difficult to do so (see Rama, OC 38:8). Arguably, stopping for the shorter, less confusing Kedusha and Kaddish is easier than for a series of aliyot of laining. Finally, since part of the reason to rule like Rashi regarding Kedusha is minhag (see Tosafot ibid.; Be’ur Halacha to OC 104:7), the minhag might not exist for laining.
In summary, it is not forbidden to listen to laining during Shemoneh Esrei (compare to Yabia Omer
Eating Questionably Reheated KugelBefore our shul Kiddush, gabbaim noticed the hot plate (for kugel) was unplugged, so they had a non-Jew connect it (I don’t know what they told him). I ate the kugel only after it cooled down. Was that necessary/allowed?
When a non-Jew does melacha on behalf of Jews, even without prompting, they may not benefit from it (Beitza 24b). While this suggests your compromise was right, we must consider various factors pointing to other conclusions.
First, might one be allowed to ask a non-Jew to plug in the hot plate, even though this is a Torah-level melacha? After all, the Rama (Orach Chayim 276:2) cites the minhag of some to have a non-Jew light a candle for a Shabbat meal because a proper Shabbat meal is a mitzva, and this includes having hot food (Mishna Berura 325:60). Where need justifies asking a non-Jew, benefit is also permitted. While the Rama condones this approach only for exceptional need, the Mishna Berura (276:25) permits it for a mitzva of the masses. However, heating up kugel is not critical for a shul Kiddush at least under normal circumstances.
A more promising way to use the non-Jew is with a “good hint.” A regular hint made to him on Shabbat to do melacha on Shabbat is forbidden (Rama, OC 307:22). However, Acharonim rule that a hint that mentions only a need without mentioning any action is permitted (Magen Avraham 307:20; Mishna Berura 307:76). Poskim point out that, for several reasons, this leniency cannot obviate the whole prohibition of amira l’nochri for those who use good hints (see Orchot Shabbat 23:(24)). However, some serious poskim permit it when the non-Jew’s action provides no “halachic benefit” (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (30:3). Does heating up a fully cooked kugel provide halachic benefit?
When usage of an object is possible (a hard word to define) without the melacha, it is not considered benefit. One application is that if a non-Jew lights a second candle, it is permitted to do things that could have been done, even with difficulty, with the first light alone (Shulchan Aruch, OC 276:4; see Mishna Berura ad loc. 20). Arguably, since (almost any) kugel can be eaten at room temperature, heating it up is not benefit. On the other hand, Igrot Moshe (YD III:43) limits this leniency to cases where the benefit (e.g., light) is provided by a different object (e.g., candle #1); one may not receive benefit (e.g., coolness) provided only by a non-Jew’s melacha (e.g., putting on an air-conditioner) even if one can do the same thing (e.g., eat in the room) without that benefit. Rav Auerbach argues similarly and also distinguishes between Torah-level and Rabbinic melachot (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 30:(167)). If this is correct, then when the non-Jew provides all the re-heating by plugging in the hot plate, a good hint would not help. (How one deals with the apparent contradiction regarding using shoes that a non-Jew finished preparing on Shabbat – see Mishna Berura 252:30, 327:16, and 253:98 (below) – may be crucial). Without exhausting the topic, it is questionable whether a good hint would allow heating up the kugel.
Does letting the kugel cool off solve the problem? The Rashba (cited by Beit Yosef, OC 253) discusses (almost exactly) our case and forbids eating the food even after it cools down (see Minchat Shlomo I:5), as a penalty for one who violated the rules of amira l’nochri. While the Rama (OC 253:5) paskens like the Rashba in a slightly modified case, the Mishna Berura (ad loc. 98) limits the stringency to the part of the food that is not readily eaten cold (unlike most kugels). The Rashba himself refers to a case where the Jew knew he was acting improperly.We summarize as follows. It is unclear whether heating up kugel is halachic benefit, which determines whether one could have eaten it warm, irrespective of the gabbai’s action’s propriety. Eating it after it cooled off was permitted if the gabbai believed (all the more so, if he might have been correct – see Mishna Berura 318:2) he was acting correctly.
A Lawyer’s Obligation to Get Involved in Sticky CasesI am a lawyer. A potential client asked me to help sue someone who is known to be part of the underworld. Should I agree based on the commandment of lo taguru (“Do not be afraid of a man” - Devarim 1:17), or is it okay for me to pass?
The formal prohibition of lo taguru does not apply here for a few reasons. First it only applies to dayanim, as is evident not only from the context of the pasuk but also the context in which it comes up in classical sources (the Sefer Hachinuch #415 is explicit on this point; see Minchat Chinuch, ad loc.). There are some sources that extend lo taguru somewhat further (Sanhedrin 6b regarding assistants to dayanim; inference of the Meiri, Sanhedrin 89b regarding one who withholds prophecy out of fear). However, applying it to require a lawyer, who does not have a halachically formal part in the judicial process, to take a case is too much of a stretch. Secondly, even for a dayan, the prohibition applies only if he has heard the case to the extent that he has a feeling what the ruling should be (Sanhedrin 6b).
In general it is problematic to take sides in adjudication (Avot 1:8). While there is an opinion that this warning is only to a dayan (Shiltei Giborim, cited by Shach, CM 66:82), most poskim posit that no one should take sides without a reason (see Sha’ar Mishpat 17:5). What are grounds for taking sides? The gemara (Ketubot 86a) says that it is proper to advise a litigant if he is a relative, invoking a pasuk (Yeshaya 58:7), as long as the advisor is not an important person. The Maharshal (Shut 24) applies this approach to helping a widow who is a litigant. Logic dictates that this permission applies to fighting hardened criminals (see Yeshaya ibid:6), a task that a simple individual cannot handle alone.
In cases where giving advice is appropriate, is there an obligation or mitzva to help out as a lawyer? When the lawyer is (honestly) convinced that his client is correct, there should be a mitzva of hashavat aveida to help him win his case (see part of the breadth of the mitzva in Bava Kama 81b) and thus in the cases it is permitted to get involved, it should likewise be included in that mitzva.
However, the mitzva of hashavat aveida does not require one to put himself in a position of loss or hardship to save money for another (Bava Metzia 30a). This is all the more clear if there are any number of other people who can do the job, making the individual lawyer less specifically obligated than one who found a lost item (see one of many applications of this distinction in Bemareh Habazak I:32).
Returning to the case of the fearful dayan, the Shulchan Aruch (CM 12:1) rules that a dayan who has a set public role is required to hear the case when others would not. While the Radbaz (Sanhedrin 22:1) and Bach (CM 12) explain that it is because the public will help him, the Beit Yosef (ad loc.) seems to understand that one with responsibility cannot shirk it even in the face of reasonable concern. That logic would seem to apply to a lawyer with a role of district attorney, for example. We also find, in a parallel case, that the Tzitz Eliezer (IX:17) allows and encourages a doctor to expose himself to patients with infectious diseases as part of his job. That being said, the job description of an average lawyer does not necessarily include angering dangerous criminals, in which case he should not have to feel obligated to do so. When he decides he wants to, there is generally permission for someone to put himself into at least moderate danger as part of his pursuit of livelihood (Bava Metzia 112a).
In summary, a lawyer need not feel an obligation to take on a case in which he will have to go against a dangerous opposing litigant. He may choose to do so, preferably after discussing the matter with his family. This is a noble step if he has a unique opportunity to help someone who needs and deserves it.
Tisha B’av Pushed Off till SundayWhat is done differently this year with Tisha B’av falling on Shabbat and being pushed off to Sunday?
Seuda Shlishit: The baraita (cited in Ta’anit 29a) says that one may eat an extravagant meal on Shabbat even when Tisha B’Av falls on Motzaei Shabbat. The Tur (Orach Chayim 552) cites minhagim that one is allowed and would do best to curtail the Shabbat meal. This is especially so at seuda shlishit, which is, in effect, the seuda hamafseket (the last meal before Tisha B’Av, which usually has strong elements of mourning). However, these considerations are countered by the need to avoid displaying mourning on Shabbat. Therefore, there are no real restrictions, even at seuda shlishit (Shulchan Aruch, OC 552:10). However, the mood should somewhat reflect the coming of Tisha B’Av, as long as it does not bring on clearly noticeable changes (Mishna Berura 552:23). One important halachic requirement is that one must finish eating before sunset (Rama, ad loc.).
Havdala: One says Havdala in tefilla or separately in the declaration of “Baruch Hamavdil…,” which enables him to do actions that are forbidden on Shabbat. Havdala over a cup of wine is done after Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch, OC 556:1). If one forgot to mention Havdala in Shemoneh Esrei, he does not repeat Shemoneh Esrei even though he will not make Havdala over wine until the next day. Rather, he makes the declaration of Baruch Hamavdil (Mishna Berura 556:2). Unlike Havdala during the Nine Days, where we try to give the wine to a child (Rama 551:10), after Tisha B’Av an adult can freely drink that wine (Mishna Berura 556:3). The beracha on besamim is not said this week. On Tisha B’Av it is not appropriate, because it is a reviving pleasure, and one can make this beracha only on Motzaei Shabbat.
The beracha on the fire is specific to Motzaei Shabbat, is not a pleasure, and does not require a cup. Therefore, we recite the beracha on fire in shul after Ma’ariv, before reading Eicha (Mishna Berura 556:1). There are those who say that a woman should, in general, avoid making Havdala. A major reason is the doubt whether a woman is obligated in the beracha on fire, which is not directly related to Shabbat and thus is a regular time-related mitzva, from which women are exempt (Be’ur Halacha 296:8). Therefore, it is better for one whose wife will not be in shul at the time of the beracha to have in mind not to fulfill the mitzva at that time, but to make the beracha on the fire together with his wife (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 62:(98)).
Taking off shoes: As mentioned, one may not do a noticeable act of mourning before Shabbat is over. While finishing eating before sunset or refraining from washing need not be noticeable, taking off shoes is. There are two minhagim as to when to take them off: 1) One waits until after Shabbat is out, says Hamavdil, and then changes clothes and goes to shul. One can do so a little earlier than the regular time listed for Shabbat ending, which is usually delayed a little bit beyond nightfall to allow for a significant extension of Shabbat. The exact time is not clear and depends on the latitude of one’s location. It is advisable to start Ma’ariv a little late in order to allow people to do so and make it to shul (ibid.:40; Torat Hamoadim 9:1), unless the rabbi has ruled that everyone should take the following approach. 2) One takes off his shoes after Barchu of Ma’ariv. One who takes the second approach should bring non-leather footwear and Eicha/Kinot to shul before Shabbat to avoid hachana (preparations for after Shabbat). However, if one uses these sefarim a little in shul before Shabbat is out, he may bring them on Shabbat (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata ibid.:41).Restrictions after Tisha B’Av: Since much of the Beit Hamikdash burnt on 10 Av, the minhag developed to not eat meat or drink wine on this day. Some are stringent on laundering, bathing, and haircutting until midday of the 10th. On a year like this, only meat and wine are restricted and only at night (Rama, OC ibid.; Mishna Berura ad loc. 4).
Protecting Sefarim But Aiding TerroristsI read a news report that ISIS has looted rare Jewish artifacts, such as old scrolls of various sefarim, to help finance their operations. Is appropriate to save the sefarim, or is it forbidden to support ISIS?
As a practical question, this hinges on many issues that are beyond our strategic-political expertise. Although one’s first response is that one obviously may not do anything that would help murderers such as
First we ask: is there a mitzva to save these artifacts? There are two possible mitzva reasons to “redeem” them. One is to save holy articles from disgrace. Another is to save Torah information for the Jewish people. Often, people buy such things for a personal reason – the desire to own coveted Judaica – it is hard to consider that a mitzva.
Saving holy scrolls from disgrace is recognized as something for which it is worthwhile to pay a halachic price. It is permitted to violate certain Rabbinic laws of Shabbat in order to save holy writings with enough sanctity to require geniza, whether halachic sifrei Torah, remainders thereof, or even any Torah writings (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 334:12, Mishna Berura 334:39 and Rama, OC 334:17). On the other hand, we do not find sweeping leniencies or an obligation to seek out such items to save.
The element of saving vital information comes up in the following context. The mishna (Gittin 45a) says that despite the great mitzva of pidyon shvuyim (paying ransom to free captives), the Rabbis prohibited paying more than the captive’s “market value.” The apparently accepted explanation is that it encourages the taking of captives. Tosafot (ad loc.) asks how it was permitted for R. Yehoshua ben Chananya to pay an exorbitant price to free a youngster who showed great Torah promise (Gittiin 58a). One of Tosafot’s answers, which the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 252:4) accepts, is that it is permitted to pay a high price for someone with the potential to make great Torah contributions. The same logic should also apply to redeeming a valuable Torah work.
Yet, “redeeming” Torah works is apparently not included in formal pidyon shvuyim, which applies to alleviating human suffering (see Bava Batra 8b). In fact, one may sell a sefer Torah to afford pidyon shvuyim (Tosafot, ad loc.). In some ways, this may lessen the mitzva to redeem them. On the other hand, if sefarim are not within formal pidyon shvuyim, they are not within the formal Rabbinic prohibition of overpaying. Thus, if one wanted to extend the prohibition to paying any especially dangerous “seizer of Torah scrolls,” we would say it formally does not apply either. The lack of a formal prohibition, though, does not mean that one should not use common moral sense.
Often, the price people are willing to pay for valuable Judaica has little to do with its practical importance for Torah information, but due to its historical, sentimental, or even artistic value. In the case of a terrorist organization, it seems inexcusable to pay even the “going rate” for them if it means helping an “organization” like
Let us put things in perspective. Sometimes the Rabbis forbade commerce which may be used to further sinful activity (see Avoda Zara 2a). On the other hand, the Rabbis were careful not to forbid more than society is able to handle, and there is a limit to how many things we can boycott (remember the comment about cars). In a case as stark as the one you raised, the spirit of the law suffices to preclude buying even important holy objects in a manner where there is a rational fear that it would put people in mortal danger. Only in exceptional cases might one contemplate that the cost-benefit comparison makes redemption moral.
Requirement for the Seller to Fix the SituationI bought an apartment from the project’s developer’s brother. My lawyer did not discover that the project’s building permits were incomplete. Now, the municipality is “making noise” about kicking out the residents and/or allowing us to stay with limitations. I have tried to smooth things with the municipality but have not yet succeeded. The developer has the best chance of getting the municipality to complete the permit after the fact, and the seller, who admits he did not tell me of the problem, can make him to do it. The seller says that it is uncertain that anyone can get the permits, but that if people act wisely, the municipality will not evict us. (He points out that he still has an apartment in the project, and many who knew of the problem bought). He is willing to buy back the apartment but not take action. Can I force him to fix the situation?
This case undoubtedly contains many unclear elements, which require either a settlement or adjudication in beit din, but we will address your main inquiry in general terms.
Fundamentally, a sale is the transfer of an object from the ownership of one person to another, as opposed to obligating the seller to give or do something for the buyer. Thus, the seller has a good point, when refusing to take a course of action, despite the flaws in the property and his behavior. Rather, the buyer’s general recourse regarding purchases that turn out to be seriously flawed is to nullify the sale (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 232:3).
Some sources do indicate that the seller is required to act to fulfill the buyer’s basic expectations from the purchase. For example, there is an opinion that if one made a purchase before a document was written but pledged to write one, he can be forced to write it and cannot opt to nullify the sale (Shulchan Aruch, CM 243:9). The Imrei Yosher (II:52) explains that the document is part of the process of the purchase.
However, these sources are quite different from your case. For one, there the buyer pledged to write the document. Here, even if (we do not know) the seller said or implied the property had a complete permit, he did not pledge to take further steps to get it to that point. If he gave a false picture of the present situation, there may be grounds for nullifying the sale, but not to force him to take the action you desire. Second, in the case of buying property second hand, dealing with building permits is not part of the sale process (when buying from the developer, the contract usually states what his legally required steps are).
The Rosh (Shut 96:6) says that if one buys an object with a flaw that can nullify the purchase, the seller can, under certain circumstances (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, CM 232:5), say that he is willing to fix it rather than allow the purchase to fall. Our question is the opposite situation: can the buyer say: “Rather than have to nullify the sale, I demand of you to fix the flaw.” The Ulam Hamishpat (ad loc.) understands from the Rosh that he can demand that the seller either fix the problem or reduce the price so the buyer can. However, some Acharonim (including Lev Meivin, CM 144( disagree. I believe that the latter opinion is correct. Realize also that the Rosh says (Bava Batra 5:14) that a seller who overcharges by enough that the sale can be nullified cannot be forced to return the overcharging if he prefers to cancel the sale. Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch (CM 232:4) says that a seller can opt to nullify a sale rather than reduce the price due to the flaw. The Ulam Hamishpat is also clear that he is only referring to cases where that which needs to be done is readily accomplished. In fact, even if one promises as part of a sale to do something, he can only be forced to do so if it is readily accomplished (see S’ma 209:23).
Therefore, in your case, it does not appear that you can compel the seller to take complicated steps that may or may not rectify the situation, although there may be various claims that can be made on him.
Stopping to Rent Out to a ShulI own a property that I have been renting out to a shul for years, but now I want to sell it. The members of the shul say I have no right to do it because my sale will effectively close down the shul, which is forbidden, so I must continue the rental. Are they correct?
We cannot get into “Choshen Mishpat” questions of when a landlord can remove a tenant from rental property (see Shulchan Aruch, CM 312). Rather, we will deal with the “Orach Chayim” questions of closing down a shul, assuming that you otherwise would be permitted to end the rental.
First of all, under certain circumstances and conditions, one may sell a shul (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 153:6-7). One basic condition is that the decision is made in a serious manner by community leaders that the step is in the community’s best interest. In this case, the community wants to keep the shul, so we must see whether the fact that it is rented rather than owned makes a difference.
The gemara (Megilla 26a) cites the Rabbanan’s ruling that the part of town where prayers are held on public fast days lacks sanctity because praying is done there on an ad hoc basis. The Beit Yosef (OC 154) cites Mahari Ibn Chaviv as saying that the batei knesset of his time/place lacked kedusha because they are expected to be used for a limited time, secretly, until removed by the authorities. Some (including Shut Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 225, Michtam L’David OC 5) say that the critical factor in his case is the lack of even short-term security. However, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 154:2) implies that regarding any rental, where the congregation’s ongoing use of the premises depends on the landlord’s agreement, there is no kedusha (see Mishna Berura 154:4). Distinctions are made, including the duration of the rental (Mishbetzot Zahav 154:1) and whether the rental is for a set time or open-ended (see opinion cited by Piskei Teshuvot 154:2). However, all seem to agree (see Chatam Sofer, ibid.) that when the rental period is over, the status of beit knesset ceases. Poskim assume that no status of beit knesset can prevent a landlord from legally discontinuing the rental. (Admittedly, some of the sources relate to non-Jewish landlords, but some discuss Jews (including Divrei Yatziv, OC 78), and the basic sources do not distinguish.)
In certain cases, another factor arguably plays a role. The gemara (Bava Batra 26b) says that a community may not take down a shul before they secure its replacement. This is beyond the matter of kedusha, as it applies even if they are just renovating the shul for future improved use (see Mishna Berura 152:2). Rather, it is a matter of concern that the community, for a short or possibly a long time (see gemara) will be without a proper beit knesset. One might have argued that this concern should prevent a landlord from closing a shul, if there is no proper alternative.
The Mishna Berura (152:3) cites the opinion of several Acharonim that a community that rents a beit knesset may not leave the rental before securing a replacement location. They speak of the permissibility of the community’s steps, not the landlord’s. One cannot infer that there is no prohibition on the landlord because the context of this halacha’s primary source (the Eliya Rabba 152:1 in the name of the Nachalat Shiva) is of a non-Jewish landlord, who obviously has no obligation to be concerned about batei knesset. Nevertheless, since the community is obligated to search for alternatives to rental shuls, the concern need not fall on the landlord. Understand that landlords cannot evict a tenant without giving sufficient opportunity to find an alternative (Shulchan Aruch, CM 312:5). Once the community is forewarned, they are obligated to find an alternative, such as building their own shul (may be preferable) or finding another rental location.That being said, there may be circumstances where at least the spirit of the law would require giving a community an especially long warning period to ensure their ability to find an alternative beit knesset.
Sharing Surprising Grounds for LeniencyA couple of times recently, I have been troubled by your columns, in which you entertain leniencies that I view as dangerous or against the spirit of halacha. Although you acknowledge that such leniency is only for great need, since those cases are rare, isn’t it wrong to share this with a broad readership, which includes people who might misunderstand or abuse the grounds for leniency? In one such column, you discussed the possibility of serving food in a non-kosher establishment, which is at least pas nisht (inappropriate).
The good point you make is one we do take into account. You have prompted us to highlight for our readership the background and goals of this column.
The OU Ask the Rabbi service, in which
We have several goals in sharing some of our answers with the public. One is to inform the masses how to act when they encounter the same circumstances addressed. However, there are other important goals. We treasure teaching Torah lishma, including regarding issues and cases that few are likely to encounter.
We also strive to expose our readership to a multi-faceted and, we pray, balanced approach to rendering halachic decisions. We aim for an approach that is traditional on one hand, but with an openness for innovative problem solving. We aim for high halachic standards, but with a realization that an objective or even a subjective need often plays an important role even according to these high standards. We view implementation of this balance as one of the most exciting and important elements of p’sak halacha.
One case-in-point is a set of teshuvot (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah II: 4, 5), in which Rav Moshe, in the course of a week, wrote ostensibly “contradictory” rulings to the same rabbi on the same case (a shochet who publicly did something that was chillul Shabbat according to almost all rabbanim). The rulings are not contradictory because Rav Moshe begins the second responsum: “if we will forbid him … it will negate all that you have fixed with toil in the kashrut and the peace in the city.” He follows with a novel leniency to allow the shochet to continue with certain provisions. It is fascinating that Rav Moshe was willing to publish (in 1973) the two responsa back-to-back without hiding his change of mind due to the circumstances. The first responsum remains the basic one. The second one demonstrates how he could “stretch” to be lenient when needed. It also teaches that when Rav Moshe ruled stringently even in the face of great need, it is not out of lack of effort.
We estimate that a clear majority of this column’s readers are solidly Orthodox English-speaking olim. As a rule, we would not consider (or allow our child) to be a waiter in an Israeli non-kosher restaurant. But Rav Ovadia allowed someone in great financial distress to be a cook in a non-kosher restaurant, until he could find another job, and published it (Yabia Omer, YD 6). Rav Moshe (ibid. YD I:51) allowed a delivery man in
We want our readership to enjoy the Torah’s richness and hone their halachic sophistication to know what to ask and how. We want them to know that while pas nisht should often preclude things, we subscribe to the approach of the many rabbis, from a variety of traditions, who search for solutions to “non-cookie cutter” cases. Sometimes such rulings should be kept quiet; sometimes they should be publicized. May Hashem protect us from mistakes.
Preference of Davening in a ShulIs there a preference of davening in a beit knesset as opposed to a house-minyan? Does it matter if the place is not an actual shul but consistently hosts a minyan?
The short answer is that there is probably, a small preference.
The gemara (Berachot 6a) says: “A person’s prayer is heard only in a beit knesset, as it says: ‘… to hear the praise and the prayer’ (Melachim I, 8:28) – at the place of the praise, there should be the prayer.” The Rambam (Tefilla 8:1) cites this idea with the addition that the prayers will not be “heard at all times” outside of a beit knesset. This would seem to be an important reason to daven specifically in a shul, and indeed the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 90:9) writes: “A person should try to daven in a beit knesset with the community.” He continues that there is also a preference to daven in a beit knesset even if he will be davening there alone (this is the subject of a machloket Rishonim - see Beit Yosef, OC 90).
The question is whether all davening out of a beit knesset is inferior and to what extent. The Magen Avraham (90:15) cites, as the reason for the Shulchan Aruch’s recommendation, the idea of b’rov am hadrat melech (roughly, it is preferable to the King when there is a large group). The Pri Megadim (ad loc.) posits that even without the factor of b’rov am, a shul is always a preference, as he assumes that the preferences of a minyan and a shul are both called for. This is not a clear conclusion. The Tzelach (Berachot 6a) says that the important thing is having one’s tefilla heard and that this can be accomplished either by davening in a shul, even as an individual, or by davening with a minyan, even out of shul.
There is another Talmudic source about davening in a beit knesset. The gemara (Berachot 8a) says that whoever does not daven in a community’s shul is called a bad neighbor and is slated for exile. The Chida (Machazik Beracha 90:4) says that this does not apply if the person davens elsewhere with a minyan because the Divine Presence dwells wherever a minyan is praying. However, he continues to say that in order to receive the full positive impact, it must be in a place that is “set for holiness.” The definition of “set for holiness” is not always clear. Public vs. private ownership is not the issue (see Rama 153:7). Whether steps were taken to allow occasional use of the place for meals, especially when limited to mitzva-related eating (see complex issue in Shulchan Aruch, OC 151:11; Igrot Moshe OC I:45) is also probably not critical. However, using one’s living room for a minyan after a regular shiur or a daily Mincha minyan in a business’s board room does not turn these places into batei knesset.
While we accepted the preference of davening in a beit knesset (see Mishna Berura 90:38; Ishei Yisrael 8:2), this is not an absolute requirement. This qualification is important, not only to justify one opting out due to a significant inconvenience, but also because other preferences can potentially outweigh that of davening in shul. We will mention some such possible cases, while warning that the particulars of a given case can make all the difference. 1. Davening in a place where one learns on a regular basis (Shulchan Aruch, OC 90:18). 2. The speed of the davening and/or congregants’ behavior make one’s davening noticeably “better” out of the beit knesset (Ishei Yisrael 8:10; see Mishna Berura 90:28; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 90:15). 3. One will have to daven in the shul without a minyan, but can make one elsewhere (Mishna Berura ibid.).
We are generally strong believers in the importance of community on various grounds. We note that Rav Kook, commenting on Berachot 6a, says that it is important to show that one connects his prayer to the matter of publicizing Hashem’s greatness and that this is done most profoundly in the communal setting (Ein Ayah, Berachot 1: 48,49). That being said, sometimes even the most communally oriented people have recourse to davening outside a shul.
Conflict Between “Salvation Day” and YahrtzeitFor many years, I have been celebrating a day on which I had a significant salvation. It now turns out it that it is my father’s yahrtzeit. Can the two commemorations go hand-in-hand? If not, which has precedence? Follow-up Question: What have you been doing until now, and what has changed? Clarification: Since my father died seven years ago, I have been lighting a candle, learning mishnayot, and saying Kaddish, along with thinking about him a lot, on the yahrtzeit. Recently I realized that I miscalculated the Jewish date of the salvation; the true date falls on the yahrtzeit.
On the yahrtzeit that completes the twelve months of aveilut for a parent, the full laws of the year’s aveilut apply (Rama, Yoreh Deah 395:3). In subsequent years, the laws of aveilut do not apply.
There is an old, recommended but not binding, minhag to fast on the day portion of a parent’s yahrtzeit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 568:7, Rama, YD 376:4). The Rama (YD 391:3) says that that one should not take part in festive meals from the night that begins the Jewish day. The Levush (YD 402:12) argues based on how he views the fast’s logic. The yahrtzeit is a day of bad omens for the offspring, and the teshuva that accompanies the fast helps protect him. The Levush says that since it has nothing to do with aveilut, there are no restrictions on attending festivities the night before. The Shach (391:8) and others say that the minhag is like the Rama. These days, it is very common to not fast on a yahrtzeit. However, there is a stronger minhag to avoid or at least lessen one’s participation in weddings. The Taz (YD 395:3) posits that aveilut- type behavior is indeed part of the yahrtzeit experience.
There are several grounds for leniency, besides the aforementioned Levush. Many (including Chochmat Adam 171:11) quote the Magen Avraham as saying that the aforementioned restrictions apply only on a yahrtzeit that ends the twelve months of aveilut. Additionally, the Pitchei Teshuva (YD 391:8) says that participation is forbidden only in a wedding, where the intensity of simcha activity exceeds that at other celebrations. Several poskim say that an avel is permitted to take part in a seudat mitzva such as a siyum (see Shach, YD 246:27). While the Shach (ibid.) cites the Maharil as not allowing a person to eat at a siyum on the yartzeit, that is when his minhag is to fast, and even then, the Maharam Shick (YD 369) rules that one who accepted the practice to fast can still eat at his own siyum.
What is the status of your self-created salvation holiday? The Chayei Adam (125:41) , who instituted one when his family survived a fire, says that it is a mitzva to keep such a day. While the Pri Chadash (496:14) says that the ability to institute semi-holidays ended with the retraction of megillat ta’anit, a clear majority of poskim disagree (see presentation in Yabia Omer X, OC 53). Therefore, all of the aforementioned reasons for leniency exist in your case, and it is fully reasonable to celebrate your salvation on the yahrtzeit.
However, it is apparent from your question [only partially presented here], that you are uncomfortable with the combination, as is very understandable. Therefore, we do not recommend that you move your celebratory day to the yahrtzeit. While the meal you have on this day is likely a seudat mitzva, one is not obligated to institute it. Admittedly, once instituted, it is not a simple matter to undo it (beyond our present scope), but this is not a problem for you. Perhaps min hashamayim, the day you have been celebrating does not cause you a conflict. There are no set rules as to when and how to do such a celebration. Even Purim, after which the concept is modeled, is not held on the day of salvation. Some known “family Purims” consisted of a fast day on the day of salvation and a feast on a different day. Thus, you can continue on the day you instituted it (or a different one), so that the celebration and the yahrtzeit do not cast a shadow on each other.
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