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Washing Hands with Soap on Yom KippurIs it permissible to wash one’s hands with soap after leaving the toilet on Yom Kippur or only with water?
It is a matter of debate whether afflictions other than eating and drinking, such as rechitza (washing hands with water) and sicha (classically, smearing the skin with oil) are of Torah origin or are Rabbinic (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 611). Rechitza is permitted when it is not for enjoyment but to remove dirt (Shulchan Aruch, OC 513:1). The hygienic need for washing hands after use of the toilet is no less significant than of dirt.
Your question is a good one because sicha is more stringent than washing. The Yerushalmi (Yoma 8:1) says that sicha is forbidden even when it is not for pleasure. The gemara (Yoma 77ab) does permit putting oil on chatatim (a type of skin disorder) or for the needs of the sick. Our questions are: 1. Is using soap sicha? 2. If so, does the need for soap justify its use?
The gemara (Yoma 76b) talks of sicha in reference to oil. Tosafot (ibid. 77a) assumes that it applies also to smearing animal fats on the skin. Apparently, the two main ingredients in solid soap are vegetable oils and animal fat (although liquid soaps, which we use because of melacha, are more diverse). Yet soaps seem to be fundamentally different, in that the point of sicha is usually to have the skin absorb the substance. This is also evident from the gemara’s (Yoma 76b) portrayal of sicha as being like drinking. In contrast, soap is intended to be applied and soon thereafter removed with only a tiny amount being absorbed. However, we do find very mainstream Acharonim, including the Mishna Berura (554:28) and the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 117:29), who assume that using soaps is sicha. The context of the latter is a discussion of whether it is permitted to use non-kosher soaps, which depends on how far we take the equation between sicha and drinking. On that topic, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Da’at IV:43) adds to other reasons for leniency, the idea that using soap is “less than regular sicha, as it is immediately washed away with water.” I do not know that he meant that such “less than regular” sicha is permitted on Yom Kippur, but the statement corroborates the salience of our distinction and adds at least slightly to the grounds for leniency.
Why is sicha stricter than washing (i.e., it is forbidden even without intention for enjoyment)? The Magen Avraham (614:1) says that it is because sicha generally provides greater enjoyment. Rabbeinu Manoach (Shvitat Assor 3:9) says that since most people wash off dirt with water, using oil looks like it is being done for enjoyment. Similarly, Tosafot Yom Hakippurim (Yoma 77b) says that since one can use water, the higher level of sicha was not permitted without special need. Since soap is rarely used for enjoyment, people are unlikely to be confused of his intentions, and it has a function that water does not provide, logic would seem to allow its use for hygiene just like water. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that anything that is under the category of sicha is forbidden even when it does not share the reasons for stringency. The Mishna Berura (554:28) might imply this, as does the common ruling/practice to forbid roll-on deodorant on Yom Kippur.Still, the above makes it easier to permit the use of soap based on need. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 614:1) says that it is permitted to do sicha for a sick person. It is logical (albeit, arguable) that it should be similarly permitted to take action to prevent disease, which health experts say soap does. Certainly, circumstances impact the degree of need to use soap. It also seems hypocritical for one whose use of soap is inconsistent to pick Yom Kippur to be careful about it. However, we believe that halacha permits use of soap on Yom Kippur in cases where a basic level of hygiene calls for it. One should use simple, not luxurious, soap, and it is even better to dilute it to the point that it has a water-like consistency (see Dirshu 614:1 in the name of Ohr L’tzion).
Hatarat Nedarim by SkypeAround the time of Rosh Hashana, I will not be in the proximity of people who can do Hatarat Nedarim for me. Can I do it via Skype?
While a general Hatarat Nedarim (=HN) within days of Rosh Hashana is just a minhag (see Chayei Adam 138:8), it is good that you are looking for an opportunity to do it.
There is a machloket Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 228 and Ran, Nedarim 8b) whether hatarat nedarim (=hn – annulling (a) specific oath(s)) requires the presence of the oath taker (noder). The gemara (Nedarim 8b) asks whether a husband can be an agent to request his wife’s hn and concludes that he can. Some say (including R. Shimshon) that others, who are less impacted by it, are certainly effective based on the general rule that agents can carry out halachic processes. The Rambam (Shvuot 6:4), accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (YD 228:16), is among those who require the oath taker’s presence.
We must see how absolute this ruling is, on a few levels. The Keren Ora (Nedarim 8b) and Kiryat Melech Rav (on the Rambam ibid.) suggest that it is a Rabbinic law, with the latter explaining that we want the noder to be self-conscious, to discourage making this a common practice. Rav Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo, Nedarim ibid.) suggests that it is to enable effective discussion of the grounds for the hn.
Classical poskim suggest exceptions. The Rama (YD 228:16, based on the Yerushalmi) says that the hn can be done through an interpreter, but the Shach (228:29) and Taz (228:21) say that this is only because the noder is present. More significantly, the Taz (228:20) cites the Rashba who says that even those who disqualify an agent allow the noder to submit his request to beit din in writing. The idea is that the request must be transmitted without using intermediaries, but it works even without formalistic interaction between the noder and the beit din. The Taz also cites the Rivash (370), who disallows writing. (The Rivash’s proof is from the midrash about Yiftach’s haughty refusal to go to Pinchas to undo his oath, which seems to indicate that a letter would not have sufficed.) The Taz does not take a clear stand on hn by letter, and the Pitchei Teshuva (228: 9; see also Kol Nidrei 19:3) allows it in a case of significant need.
Poskim have been discussing the use of telephones for halachic matters. One crucial issue is appointing the facilitators of a get. This a more difficult matter than ours because of the need to ascertain identity and for a possibly higher level of connection between the husband and the facilitators (see discussion in Tzitz Eliezer X:47 and article by Rabbi H. Jachter in Techumin XIV). Another area of interest is berachot heard via telephone. One cannot fulfill mitzvot through such a beracha, but leading poskim have argued whether one can (Yechaveh Da’at II:68) or cannot (Minchat Shlomo I:9) answer “Amen.” Hn by phone could follow the same logic, or can be more lenient (if a practical rather than formal connection between the two is enough) or more strict than other applications (if presence is a Torah requirement).
A Skype discussion is no worse than a written request for hn. After all, one’s written word does not have a special status in this context (proof of this claim is beyond our present scope). Rather, the important thing is to convey the requester’s message effectively without another person’s intervention. In some ways, Skype is preferable. It allows for give and take between the parties and creates a personal connection that could provide a measure of self-consciousness (see above). In the latter, it might even be a slight improvement over telephone. Audio/video’s greater improvement is in regard to cases (arguably, gittin) in which authentication is crucial, as it is easier to impersonate a voice than a voice and appearance.In conclusion, when necessary, one can rely on hn by phone (see Shevet Hakehati IV:239) and by Skype. We note briefly that HN before Rosh Hashana may require less halachic precision, and therefore leniency is fully acceptable.
Indirect Fire DamageWe went away and lent out our apartment for Shabbat. Due to the guest’s gross negligence, a fire broke out that caused significant damage. Our sefarim were actually more damaged from water than fire/smoke, as I will explain. Good-hearted people (=sprayers) sprayed down the sefarim with water in a way that may have been unnecessary. I will not make claims against them, but can I demand that the guests pay for water damage they did not do? (They feel very bad and, despite not being rich, want to pay everything they should.)
May Hashem make up your losses and reward both parties for their good intentions under trying circumstances.
We will assume in this discussion what we do not know – that the guests were at least causatively responsible (gerama) for the damage, including from water, which was at least an understandable course of action by the sprayers. In many cases of gerama, the damager (mazik) has a moral obligation to pay (chiyuv latzeit y’dei shamayim – see Bava Kama 56a). However, one should not demand pay unequivocally when there is only a moral obligation (K’tzot Hachoshen 75:4). Therefore, you must determine before making claims how much you believe the guests owe in legal, not just moral, terms. Of course, realize that we have heard only your presentation and can say nothing conclusive, other than what we think you can ask for based on your version of the story. Your guests have every right to present their version to a halachic expert of their choice, and you will then see if there is a need for dispute resolution. This is very healthy when people do it in the right spirit.
If the sprayers acted in a way that professional firefighters would have, then the guests would be obligated to pay even for water damage. It is not only the direct damage one causes that one is responsible for, but even the continuing naturally results. This is similar to the halacha of one who wounds another and must pay for new medical problems that develop later from the old ones (Bava Kama 85a).
What if the spraying was uncalled for? The closest Talmudic precedent we found regarding such third-party damage is the gemara (Sanhedrin 74a), regarding damage done while trying to prevent murder. The attempted murderer is exempt from payment due to the fact that he is simultaneously subject to being legally killed to save his would-be victim (see Sanhedrin72a). If a third-party savior damages someone’s property during his efforts, he is exempt due to a special Rabbinic enactment to not discourage people from helping. This implies that according to standard halachic rules, he is considered the mazik. Similarly your sprayers appear to be the mazikin regarding water, although they likely fall under the exemption of the above enactment (see Chiddushei Anshei Shem, 44a of
However, there is a different reason to obligate the guests – they were shomrim (watchmen). While shomrim are generally not obligated for damage to land, including houses (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 301:1), that applies only to that which is connected to the ground. However, there is cause to obligate them for the sefarim, which are movable. If guests’ negligence caused valuables to be stolen, they would be obligated to pay, as this preventing theft is within the implied responsibilities of one who “borrows a house.” Similarly, the guests are obligated for both fire and water damage to sefarim that their negligence caused. (The mechanism is halachically complex – see Shulchan Aruch, CM 291:5; Pitchei Choshen, Pikadon 2:(47)).One thing to be careful about when making demands is estimating value. Halacha grants compensation for the drop in value of the damaged property, which often does not suffice to replace with new items (Shulchan Aruch, CM 387:1).
How Can We Say Things of Minhag Before Kiddush?The Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Gra, Pri Megadim, etc. (Orach Chayim 271) all mention the need to rush to make Kiddush and eat as soon as Shabbat commences. Yet, I have never seen a household that doesn't first sing Shalom Aleichem (which contains problematic elements) and Eishet Chayil. Also, making Kiddush is a mitzva (d’oraita, for those who did not daven Ma’ariv, and d’rabbanan for those who did) while the singing is just a very nice (recent) minhag. Since when does a minhag take precedence over a mitzva?! Shouldn't we make Kiddush (and Hamotzi) first?
Regarding presenting sources, as we like to do, we have little to add, but we will try to add a little perspective.
The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (OC 271:1) do say: “When one comes to his house, he should hurry to eat right away.” Although the idea of hurrying does not seem to be found in the gemara or early Rishonim, these are still weighty sources. Let us understand the need for hurrying. The Beit Yosef (OC 271) explains that the issue is not the delay per se, and the meal is not the problem. Rather, since Kiddush is made to sanctify Shabbat as it enters, it should be close to the beginning of Shabbat (see Pesachim 106a with Rashi). The Taz (271:1) seems to understand it to also hint that one can make Kiddush even before nightfall. Thus, davening earlier, faster, or at a shul that is closer to home is as valuable in this regard as skipping the pre-Kiddush zemirot.
There also is no question that one can fulfill the mitzva of Kiddush any time during the night and, on a certain level, even during the day if he missed it at night (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 8; see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 47:(31)). Considering that according to most Rishonim, those who have davened have already fulfilled the mitzva of Kiddush from the Torah (see Magen Avraham 271:1), one need not be as pressured by the matter as the simple language of the Shulchan Aruch implies. As one example, the Mishna Berura (271:1) says that if the family does not have much of an appetite when people come home from shul, they do not need to make Kiddush and eat right away.
I do not claim to understand the full depth of the timing or even content of these zemirot, but it does not seem that they are given greater importance than Kiddush, but that they are intended to set the tone for the upcoming Kiddush. It is similar in that way to the p’sukim we say before a brit mila or the “Hineni muchan u’mezuman” that some say before performing mitzvot. Even the detractors of the latter minhag (see Noda B’yehuda I, YD 93), do so based on content, not on the issue of delaying the mitzva.
After completing the specific, technical part of the question, we will move on to the general, philosophical part, which we believe is the more instructive element of the answer to your question. Shalom Aleichem and Eishet Chayil were written/instituted for recital on Shabbat evening within the Kabbalistic community of 16th century Tzfat. This is a continuation of the work of that community which introduced to the world Kabbalat Shabbat, including Lecha Dodi. Not being Kabbalists, we cannot explain to you the full depth of all of these tefillot. I cannot explain why it was worthwhile to “fiddle around” with the tried and tested Shabbat tefillot or delay the beginning of Ma’ariv, Kiddush, etc. Who knows?! If we were 16th century rabbis, we might have spoken out against it, using your arguments. However, we are firm believer in the collective wisdom of the rabbinic and serious laity of Bnei Yisrael. As the gemara (Pesachim 66a) says: “Leave
Who Drinks Kiddush/Havdala Wine and Why?Why is it that after Kiddush everyone drinks the Kiddush wine and after Havdala only the mavdil does?
The sources leave room for much hypothesis but little conclusive evidence.
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim271:14) deals with the way(s) to fulfill the requirement that a m’lo lugmav (enough to fill cheeks – approximately 2 fl.oz) of the Kiddush wine is drunk. Some say that one person has to drink the whole amount; others say we can add up that which different people drink. The Shulchan Aruch points out that either way, the choice way to perform the mitzva is for everyone to drink. It is sufficient for each person to have a small amount (Taz ad loc. 17), and if their drinking interferes with one person having a m’lo lugmav or leaving wine for the next day, the idea of everyone drinking is waived (Magen Avraham 30). Yet it is important enough to delay the mekadesh between his beracha and drinking (see Shulchan Aruch, ibid. 16).
The Shulchan Aruch’s source (see Beit Yosef) is the Rosh (Pesachim 10:16), who explains the goings on in the gemara’s about people drinking Kiddush wine: “Although they are not required to drink, still it is a preferable mitzva to drink.” He does not offer a source, or an explanation, nor does he mention if it is a special mitzva regarding Kiddush, which is the gemara’s context.
The Rambam (Shabbat 29:7) says that after drinking a m’lo lugmav, one “gives to all the members of the group to drink.” The Mirkevet Hamishneh (ad loc.) looks for a Talmudic source for the Rambam (who rarely includes a halacha that lacks one). He points to the gemara in Berachot (51a) that lists things one is supposed to do to enhance a kos shel beracha (cup of wine used in a mitzva context). Rav Avahu mentions ten things and then that some say to send it to the members of one’s household. R. Yochanan argues that only four of the practices need to be kept. The Mirekevet Hamishneh says that R. Yochanan reduced the ten to six but did not take issue on sending to one’s household. If this is the source, then it should apply to all cups of beracha. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 190:40) says so regarding wine for Birkat Hamazon, and it should ostensibly apply to Havdala. The logic is that drinking the wine bestows importance to this mitzva cup (Darchei Moshe, OC 182:1).
The Rambam (Berachot 7:15) while not stressing the matter, does talk about drinking the wine used for Birkat Hamazon in the plural. Within the halachot of Havdala, the Rambam (Shabbat 29:24) doesn’t mention drinking at all, which could indicate that the drinking of Havdala wine follows the same rule as Kiddush. The Shibolei Haleket (64), accepted by the Magen Avraham (296:4), is an early source that says that our practice is to not give Havdala wine to others to drink. The Mishna Berura gives a technical explanation of why not. Since Havdala is not made in the framework of a meal, we want the mavdil to drink enough (a revi’it, which is more than m’lo lugmav) for a beracha acharona on the wine to be a certainty. Whether all agree and why the Shulchan Aruch does not mention this issue regarding wine for Birkat Hamazon is unclear (see Mishna Berura 190:17). Our minhag seems to be that not all drink that wine either.
One can suggest positive reasons for drinking specifically at Kiddush, which will also explain the minhag. Some claim that the obligation to make Kiddush over wine has a stronger basis than other cups of beracha (see Encyclopedia Talmudit, v. 27, col. 510). Also, Kiddush is connected to the meal in which all are partaking (there are different explanations of the connection). Since it is positive to drink wine during the meal (Shulchan Aruch, OC 250:2) and when one drinks wine at Kiddush, he is exempt from a beracha during the meal (Shulchan Aruch, OC 174:4), it makes sense to start drinking at Kiddush.
In any case, while halacha does not obligate everyone to drink Kiddush wine nor forbid it at Havdala, your observation has both sources and a variety of possible explanations.
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.
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