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Giving an Envelope on Shabbat to Use for DonationsIt is the practice in some shuls to give a self-addressed envelope to one who gets an aliya to mail his pledge after Shabbat. Is the envelope muktzeh?
[We dealt with this question long ago (Vayeitzei 5773). We reasoned that the envelope is a kli shemelachto l'issur (the main purpose is for a forbidden-on-Shabbat use) and that it is also hachana (preparation for after Shabbat), as this is done to facilitate mailing or presenting a check. We suggested solving both problems by putting a d’var Torah in the envelope, thus having it serve for a permitted use. We invited our readership to provide grounds for leniency without the system we proposed, promising to update our readers if this occurs. We now pay our debt, after one reader, who wants anonymity, made a good point.]
The Biur Halacha (to 279:6) cites an Eliya Rabba (279:13) who claims that an apparent kli shemelachto l’isur does not become muktzeh until it has been used. This is based on the rule of hazmana lav milta (merely preparing something for a certain halachically significant purpose does not yet invest the object with its planned status). Tosafot (Shabbat 44b) and the Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 279:14) apply this leniency only when there are permitted uses for which it may be used. However, if from the outset it will clearly be used for primarily (perhaps, exclusively) forbidden activities, it is muktzeh.
The exact formulation of the above may be critical for our case. Once the envelope has the shul's address printed on it, it is identified as being intended to mail (presumably, checks) in it. According to several contemporary poskim (see Shemirat Shabbat K'hilchata 20:13, Orchot Shabbat 19:30; Tiltulei Shabbat (Bodner) p. 43), it is forbidden even if there are also permitted uses if it is clear that this is not the main intention. Each of them gives a hammer as an example of being muktzeh even before usage, despite the famous halacha about using a hammer to open nuts. According to the simple reading of Tosafot (and perhaps the Eliya Rabba), only items that have practically no permitted purposes are forbidden before use. One could argue whether our envelope is like a hammer or is more likely to be used for permitted uses. One can argue that since from the shul’s perspective, a major function of the envelope is to hint/remind the aliya recipient that he “owes the shul,” it would be permitted before its first forbidden use. Certainly, we see a more valid halachic claim for leniency in regard to muktzeh than we did five years ago.
What about the problem of hachana? First, the practical parameters of hachana are among the most complicated matters to set. To re-analyze this specific case, we will divide the question into two: Is it hachana for the shul to give the envelope? Is it hachana for the recipient to take it (home)?
There is a long-standing albeit controversial practice to sell aliyot on Shabbat, and we will assume that it is permitted (see Mishna Berura 323:20). As part of the process, it is permitted to create “pledge cards” (without writing) (ibid.). Although these notations will be used only to “enforce” payment of the pledge after Shabbat, it is permitted to not lose the opportunity for this mitzva. Giving out the envelope, as a hint and reminder to donate, is ostensibly not worse than marking those pledge cards.
There is a different reason to allow the recipient to take them. For one, it is not clear if he will use the envelope for donating, as he might not donate or might donate without using the envelope; so, he might use the envelope for something else, perhaps even on Shabbat. Actually, the main reason many take the envelope is to not turn down the shul’s suggestion that he take it, to not insult the shul or look cheap. That has immediate value and thus taking the envelope is not hachana for him either.
In summary, while we still think it is a good and nice idea to put something Shabbat-appropriate in the return envelope given to people after their aliyot, we can justify the practice of giving the envelopes as is.
Interrupting the Meal to Recite Kri’at ShemaWhen I make Shabbat early, I make a break in the meal to recite Kri’at Shema when its time comes. Recently, a guest told me that this is not only unnecessary but one is called a hedyot (a moderately derogatory term) for doing so. Should I change my practice?
The mishna (Shabbat 9b) lists activities in which one must not partake before Mincha; one is eating. (see details in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 232:2.) However, if he did, he does not stop in the middle for Mincha. There are different versions in the mishna regarding stopping for Kri’at Shema, and the gemara (Shabbat 11a) discusses elements relating to it.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 235:2) rules that one may not eat a meal within a half hour of the beginning time of the night’s Kri’at Shema, and that if he did, he must stop to recite Kri’at Shema, without its berachot or davening Ma’ariv. The Ran (Rif’s pages, Shabbat 4a) derives this from Sukka 38a, regarding stopping a meal to take a lulav, which distinguishes between Torah-level and Rabbinic mitzvot.
The Ran (ibid.), and Mordechai (Shabbat 224) say that one must stop a meal for Torah mitzvot e.g., Kri’at Shema, only if he started eating improperly (for Rabbinic laws, e.g., tefilla, one may continue even if he started improperly – see Tosafot, Shabbat 9b). This is how the Mishna Berura (325:23) paskens. (These poskim may disagree regarding one who improperly started eating within a half hour of z’man Kri’at Shema, but before its proper actual time.) Your practice of reciting Kri’at Shema during the meal is therefore not required, if you start the meal early enough. (Actually, not everyone who davens at an “early minyan” starts the meal early enough, especially when he davens at a minyan that keeps the same time all summer.)
But is your practice a positive, negative, or “pareve” chumra? There is a concept that one who does something from which he is exempt is called a hedyot. The source is a Yerushalmi on our general topic (Shabbat 1:2), which is probably the logic behind what your guest told you. The Yerushalmi told of rabbanim who were eating together; one stopped to daven Mincha and was criticized by a colleague as above. It is very hard to determine when to apply this rule, as many respected sources have written “one who is machmir shall receive beracha.” Understanding the reason behind the rule, about which there are various opinions, helps. These include: the stringency looks like he is adding on to the Torah; yohara (haughtiness/ holier-than-thou); casting aspersions on those who are not machmir (see more in the entry on this topic in Encyclopedia Talmudit, vol. XXVIII).
It seems to be a small jump from the Yerushalmi to your question. However, some (Sh’vut Yaakov II:30) understand that the Bavli disagrees (see Shabbat 9b). Furthermore, Kri’at Shema, being a Torah-level mitzva is stricter (see above). Indeed, the Rambam (Kri’at Shema 2:6; see also Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 70:5) says that even when one started eating at a permitted time and is not required to stop for Kri’at Shema, doing so is praiseworthy. The Rambam actually hints at a reason for this ruling, which may help us apply the matter to our case, as he describes one who is concerned that he might not recite Kri’at Shema within its time limit. Therefore, if one recites Kri’at Shema during the meal because he has reason (e.g., based on past experience) for concern that he will not remember after the meal to recite it again, it does not make sense to consider him a hedyot. Many participants in early Shabbat meals forget to recite Kri’at Shema after the meal, so machmir based on such grounds is not inappropriate, even if one is allowed to be optimistic.Since it appears that you thought it was necessary to say Kri’at Shema at the first opportunity, you may discontinue your practice (a minhag b’ta’ut) without hatarat nedarim (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 232:10). If you want to continue, we suggest to state first that you do not want it to become binding.
Lateral Position of Tefillin Shel Rosh – part IIMust the tefillin shel rosh be exactly in the middle of the head, to the extent that some people spend several seconds fixing it in front of a mirror?
[We saw a machloket whether the middle is a line on or (more likely) an area of the head. We will now search for the area’s width/borders.]
The gemara (Eiruvin 95b) provides a clue. The halacha that one who is saving tefillin, found on Shabbat in a place where one may not carry, wears two pairs at a time, is because there is room on the head to wear two tefillin in a halachic manner. How big is this area on the head?
Important sources, both early (see midrash, cited by Tosafot, ad loc.) and more recent (see Bi’ur Halacha to 32:41), indicate that the standard size of tefillin is 2 etzbaot (4 cm. according to Rav Chaim Naeh). It is unclear (see Divrei Yoel ibid.) as to whether this includes the ma’avarta (through which the retzuot go); we will assume not. Thus, the area, from hairline going back is at least 8 cm. Most poskim assume that if you can put two normal size tefillin, you can also put one big tefillin up to their combined size (see Bi’ur Halacha ibid., Divrei Yoel ibid.). Therefore, we can dismiss what a fringe source claims – that the tefillin must fit in within the space in between (not including) the eyes, which is approximately 3 cm. width. According to this, some 95% of today’s tefillin (as well as Chazal’s) are unusable.
In a widely quoted teshuva, the Divrei Chayim (OC II:6) reacted with disdain to the then new idea of using a mirror to get the tefillin centered exactly. He argues that tefillin can be off-center, as there is room for two tefillin also laterally. (Some ask that if he is right, why couldn’t the gemara (ibid.) allow bringing 4 (2*2) tefillin in at a time.) The Tzitz Eliezer (XII:6) agrees with the Divrei Chayim but says that it is best to have the tefillin quite centered, and that the latter objected only to use of a mirror. In the past, men were prohibited to use a mirror, as it was a feminine activity (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 156:2), without real need.
If the middle refers to an area and it cannot be limited to the area in between the eyes, what is it? The Magen Giborim (Shiltei Giborim 27:6) suggests that the entire top of the head is okay, as it is parallel to the placement on the arm, but this does not fit well with the language of the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch. If the Beit Yosef is correct, that the bayit is learned from the knot, Rashi by the knot seems to say that anywhere opposite the oref is fine; extending that to the front of the head, this would be most but not all of the width of the top of the head. You get a similar width by taking “between the eyes” literally, but including the width of the eyes. Measuring from the center of one eye to the other gives 6.4 cm. for the average person (# courtesy of my optometrist), which works out reasonably if the 4 etzbaot (see above) includes the ma’avarta, which does not exist on the sides.
Perhaps “between your eyes” is not literal but teaches the general area, in the middle of the head. From there one is to follow normal guidelines – the Torah was not given to angels and does not want us to be OCD. For the average tefillin, that requires them to be approximately centered (no mirror required, just as people don’t use for the knot). If we take the permitted area from front-back and turn it into a square, we also aim for the center but have reasonable leeway with normal-sized tefillin. The same is true if any part of the tefillin’s width needs to be over the exact middle. All these possibilities are consistent with the mainstream approach, including the Tzitz Eliezer (above). Middle – apparently; precise – NO.
In summary only fringe opinions make exactness/mirror necessary for centering tefillin shel rosh. But given that opinions exist and centering is probably laudable, using a mirror is not something to criticize (it is not less important than centering a tie). One who is very careful about centering and lax on how low the tefillin go is misguided.
Lateral Position of Tefillin Shel Rosh – part IMust the tefillin shel rosh be exactly in the middle of the head, to the extent that some people spend several seconds adjusting it in front of a mirror?
We have writing several times that the main issue with the position of tefillin shel rosh is their likelihood to be too far down. But the lateral position also deserves a look. [This week we will focus on classical sources and basic possibilities; next week, we will get into details and practicality.]
The Rambam (Tefillin 4:1) says that the bayit of the shel rosh is in the middle of the front of the head. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 27:10, mixing between the language of the Rambam and Tur) describes it more starkly: “The bayit should be lined up to the middle, so that it is opposite ‘between the eyes,’ and the knot should also be in the middle of the oref (posterior neck), and lo yiteh (should not be over (? difficult to translate)), not to this side or to that side.”
The requirement of the middle of the head is actually not obvious. While the Torah writes of tefillin “between the eyes,” the gemara (Menachot 37b) derives that this refers to the top of the head, based on a gezeira shava from the prohibition of a mourner pulling out hair. Tosafot (Kiddushin 36a) asks that accordingly we would expect that tefillin shel rosh would be in the same area – the entire part of the head in which hair grows (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 180:9). Yet, they and the Rambam (ibid.) posit that a vestige of the literal idea of “between the eyes” limits the area, with the Rambam reasoning that the middle is above the area of “between the eyes.”
The gemara describes the location of the shel yad and the front-back location of the shel rosh, not its lateral position, so what is the Rambam’s source? The Beit Yosef (OC 27) cites the gemara (Menachot 35b), which says that the back knot “faces the face.” Rashi explains: “opposite the oref (posterior neck) and not the side of the head.” The Beit Yosef surmises that this is the Rambam’s source: just as the knot is in the middle of the back of the head, so too the bayit should be in the middle. He adds in that this is anyway apparent from “between the eyes,” which the Rambam mentions (although he does not usually independently derive halachot from p’sukim).
What does in the middle mean? First, the middle of the head can refer to a line precisely in the middle, but the entire tefillin, which has width, cannot fit on a line! One logical possibility is that it suffices that any part of the bayit is on the line, giving us significant leeway, especially if we have big tefillin. Or it can mean that the middle of the tefillin must be in the middle of the head. But does that mean that the precise middle has to be on the precise middle?! As the Satmar Rebbe points out (Divrei Yoel I:4), we accept the opinion that man is incapable of being precise (see Gittin 78a), even with mirrors, not to mention that tefillin move slightly when we move our head. One possibility is raised by the Shulchan Aruch Harav (addendums to Hilchot Tefillin) based on an inference of a different gemara: two of the four parshiyot must be right of center and two left of center. This requires near perfection (in addition to the fact that the chambers for the parshiyot are not necessarily equidistant – see Mishna Berura 32:182), and it is shocking that earlier sources would not warn us!!
Another approach, which seems to be posited by most of the poskim, is that the middle is an area of the head (similar to the front-back and arm areas) within which the entire tefillin must be resting. It follows that if the tefillin’s edges are within this area, in makes no difference, other than zeh keili v’anveihu (doing mitzvot aesthetically) whether it is centered. The question then begs – how wide is this area? What are its borders? If we know the answer, each person will have to compare that area to the width of his tefillin and determine his leeway (accordingly, the smaller the tefillin, the better).
[Save this page to continue next week.]
Backing Out of a Bad Purchase a Little Late?[Adapted from part of a din Torah.] Reuven sold his car to Shimon (who paid immediately) and was to give the car to Shimon a week later. When Shimon received the car, the air conditioning was not working. Reuven apologized and said that his garage had promised to fix it already and that they would do so within a few days. Shimon wanted to back out, but Reuven refused to return the money, and they started exploring dispute resolution venues. In the meantime, Shimon used the car. After 16 days and aggravation for Shimon, it was fixed. Even though the car now works well enough, Shimon still wants his money back. Does he have a right?
The lack of an air conditioner in a car these days in a hot country is considered a flaw that is grounds for mekach ta’ut (misinformed sale) and bitul mekach (nullification of sale). However, several elements might preclude bitul mekach.
The Rambam (Mechira 15:3) and Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 232:3) rule that one is not able to claim bitul mekach due to a flaw if he used the object after discovering it. In this case, Shimon used the car after finding out about the flaw.
On the other hand, we need to look at why using the object precludes bitul mekach. The Rambam (ibid.) explains the halacha as being based on presumed mechila, i.e., if he uses it, apparently he waived his right to return it. This case, though, is apparently different in that he previously stated explicitly that he wants bitul mekach. In fact, the Ritva (Bava Metzia 50b) says that if one grossly overcharged to the extent that the buyer can invoke bitul mekach, he can do so even after using the object, if he previously informed the seller of this intention. The simple explanation is that using the object is an apparent indication of mechila, but a clear statement that he is not mochel makes that indication irrelevant. In this case, Shimon demanded bitul mekach and did not rescind that demand. The Pitchei Teshuva (ibid.) cites a machloket whether the Ritva’s extension of the ability to do bitul mekach applies only to mekach ta’ut due to mischarging (Galia Massechet, CM 10) or even based on flaws (Machaneh Ephrayim, Ona’ah 5), as in our case
Furthermore, the Pitchei Teshuva (CM 232:1) posits that if extenuating circumstances forced the buyer to use the flawed object, he retains the right to back out later. In our case, it is unreasonable to expect Shimon, who already paid for a car and did not have the money returned to buy another, to not use the car. In a case like this, where Reuven permits Shimon to use the car even though he knows Shimon still wants bitul mekach, the Galia Massechet should agree (the analysis of this point is long). He clearly does not mean to be mochel and he clearly is not stealing by using it.
But there is a counter indication. By the time the question reached beit din, there no longer were grounds for mekach ta’ut, as the air conditioner was fixed. Still, this does not make a difference for the following reason. When there is mekach ta’ut without mechila, the sale had never been valid (see Galia Massechet ibid.). Therefore, since there is no agreement or kinyan after the air conditioning was fixed, Shimon does not have to go through with such a cancelled agreement, whatever his reasons are.
Despite the above, we believe that Shimon cannot back out. The Shulchan Aruch (CM 232:5) says that a flaw that can be readily fixed does not nullify a sale; rather, the seller has the right to pay for it to be fixed. The Rama (ad loc.) elaborates on this distinction, but his language creates some confusion. He says that the seller can stave off bitul mekach when the flaw is not in the sales item’s “physical essence” and the item does not lose its normal name. An example in which the seller cannot demand to fix a house is a when it has an insecure wall. Although one could argue the point, we posit that a car that has an air conditioner, just that it needs fixing, is one that the seller has a right to fix in a timely fashion (elaboration is beyond our present scope).
Zimun for a Sephardi, an Ashkenazi, and a KatanI am Ashkenazi. I was eating with a Sephardi and a katan (under bar mitzva). Were we supposed to do a zimun?
We start with the only source I found on the topic, which provides practical (intuitively logical) guidance without explanation. Then we will provide the background and critique the ruling. V’zot Haberacha (p. 132), basing himself on communication with Rav Auerbach, Rav Eliyahu, and Rav Scheinberg, gives the following compromise. Zimun can be done, led only by the Sephardi. If there are nine and a katan, the Ashkenazi should answer the zimun without Hashem’s Name.
The gemara (Berachot 48a) accepts Rav Nachman’s opinion that a child counts toward zimun if he knows to whom we bentch. So rule the Rif, Rambam (Berachot 5:7), and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 199:10), whether for a zimun of three or of ten. (Only one of the quorum can be a katan – Mishna Berura 199:25). You seem aware that this is the minhag among Sephardim. On the hand, the Rosh (Berachot 7:20) cites and accepts the implication of the Yerushalmi that only youngsters with two pubic hairs (the sign of basic physical maturity) count toward zimun; the Rama (OC 199:10) and Ashkenazi practice accept the Rosh. Indeed, then, we have a conflict between minhagim. In a mixed group, whose minhag should “win out”?
One thing to investigate is: how important is each side’s ruling to them? According to the Sephardi ruling, is there an obligation to do zimun or is it only optional? There is an opinion in the gemara (Berachot 45) that there is an optional zimun when two eat together. However, I did not find any indication in the poskim that a zimun including a child is deficient in any way. Therefore, the indications are that the Sephardi member of the group should feel a need to do zimun, for when a zimun is called for, it is forbidden to bentch without it (Shulchan Aruch, OC 193:1).
Is it forbidden (i.e., for an Ashkenazi) to do zimun which is not required? From the discussion of an optional zimun for two, we see that according to the opinion that it is not optional (which we accept), it is forbidden. What is problematic about a zimun’s words? The Shita Mekubetzet (Berachot 45b) says that even a zimun of three is a mini davar shebekedusha (something that requires ten), making it forbidden without its (reduced) quorum even without uttering Hashem’s Name. The Pnei Yehoshua (Berachot 45b) says that it is a disgrace to call out to a single counterpart to praise Hashem, as it is not sufficiently significant.
Is it better to err on the side of recitation or omission? Note that the stronger indications are that a katan counts for a zimun. The implication of the Mordechai (Berachot 172) and Rama (Darchei Moshe, OC 199:4) is that we refrain from zimun in order to be on the safe side. Thus, out of doubt, one would not do a zimun. So how can the poskim we cited expect an Ashkenazi to risk an improper zimun in order to afford his Sephardi friend a “less important” opportunity?
Apparently, the poskim reason that the main problem with an unwarranted zimun falls on the initiator (i.e., the mezamen). Once the Sephardi asks the Ashkenazi to praise Hashem, answering is less of a problem and actually it is a problem to refuse to praise Him. Using Hashem’s Name makes it beracha-like, which is problematic even without initiating. We can appreciate, then, why the Ashkenazi should neither say the Name as part of ten nor lead the zimun.
This resembles the situation of a Sephardi who calls out Barchu at the end of Monday-Thursday davening in an Ashkenazi shul. The minhag is to answer, probably because once it is reasonable to call it out, how can one not respond. In some ways our case is worse. Regarding Barchu, even when there is not a need, the ten provide a tzura (form) of a proper recitation. In contrast, if a child does not count, the zimun is innately lacking.
In the final analysis, there is logic both to and against the poskim we cited. In the absence of contrary sources or compelling logic, we obviously accept their ruling.
Vigilante NeighborTeenagers have been congregating in front of my apartment building, making noise, dropping cups and cigarette butts in our garden, etc. Many of them sit on the wall between our property and the sidewalk. One of my neighbors has begun to smear machine oil, to damage the clothes of the wall-sitters and thus discourage their activity. Most of the building’s residents think this is too harsh. Is our neighbor permitted to act this way? May we demand that he stop?
[What follows are some halachic thoughts, not a formal ruling or legal advice.]
It seems that the use of the wall is more a symptom of the problem, which is the congregating in front of the house, than the problem itself. People of any age and style may congregate on the sidewalk in front of anyone’s house. On the other hand, they do not have a right to make noise that is inappropriate for the time and place in question or leave litter. One may call the police if norms are ignored; it is their job to find the balance between the interests of the various parties.
Your neighbor is performing what Chazal called “avid inish dina l’nafshei” (taking the law into his own hands), which is permitted rather than suing in beit din in certain cases (see Bava Kama 28a; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 4:1). While it is normally forbidden to hit someone (Devarim 25:3; see Sefer Hachinuch 595) or damage his property (Tur, CM 378), it can be permitted in the context of avid inish dina l’nafshei (Bava Kama ibid.). Is your neighbor acting within halachic limits?
A victim is allowed to take physical actions against a trespasser, even when the latter is not causing specific acute damage (Bava Kama ibid.). However, this is only when he cannot succeed in stopping the infraction without damaging the perpetrator (ibid.). Your neighbor should not just put on the grease without first warning trespassers (a clear sign is possible) to stop before having steps taken against them. Also, the rationale and consequently the limitations for this extraordinary permission are important. The Yam Shel Shlomo (Bava Kama 3:9) explains that it is predicated on the fact that the perpetrator is in the midst of violating a clear aveira and ignores the victim’s protest, so that the victim can do afrushei me’issura (preventing another from sinning). If the violators are not made aware that they are actually sinning, these steps are inappropriate (see also Imrei Bina, Dayanim 9).
Your neighbor appears to be wrong on other grounds. By putting not easily seen grease on the wall, “innocent people” can be affected. This can include passersby who get too close to the wall and become dirty. It also impacts the people of the building. It apparently stains the wall, neighbors can be dirtied themselves, or they just don’t want a reputation of being “from the mean building.” In general, in matters of joint property, the rules of engagement are usually that the majority decides (sometimes there are nationwide or municipal rules or accepted practices).
Regarding another factor, we lack sufficient information. When a wall separates between private property and public domain, it is not always clear on whose property it sits. It is then possible that the wall-sitters are not trespassing. The contractor who built the building ostensibly built the wall on behalf of the homeowners. However, it is quite accepted for people who want to do so, to lean and even sit on such a low wall, and permission is assumed. There are even precedents in Halacha to make such things a right that the public can demand (see Bava Batra 12a; Bava Kama 81b) except when it is hurting the owners (e.g., the wall is getting weak). Considering that it is the assembling of noisemakers/litterers that it is the real problem, it is not clear that the building, if they agree, could legally make sitting on the wall forbidden per se.Although we tend to disapprove of your neighbor’s actions, we cannot tell you anything conclusive without hearing his side and knowing the parties. Of course, act with wisdom and sensitivity.
Chasing after a Child during KedushaI often shadow a young boy with special needs at my local shul on Shabbat. This boy does not stay still and moves quickly and goes in and out of shul, where his father is davening. Although I daven earlier, I have the problem of not always being able to stand still during Kedusha, as I have to run after him so he does not get hurt, etc. Recently, I was scolded by an older man for this. Despite my explanation of the situation, he said that one must stay still during Kedusha even in the face of mortal danger. What does Halacha have to say about this situation?
Most of the discussion about walking is found in regard to Shemoneh Esrei, and we will start with that.
Your shul-mate may be remembering (incorrectly) the following mishna (Berachot 30b). During Shemoneh Esrei, “even if a snake is wrapped around his leg (parallel to war), he should not stop.” However, the gemara (ad loc. 33a) says that this is only when it does not appear that the snake presents real danger. Furthermore, the stop (hefsek) referred to is speaking, e.g., calling someone to save him. One actually is allowed to walk to another place to protect himself from even a moderately precarious situation, as walking is not a real hefsek (Mishna Berura 104:10).
Of course, one should not walk for no good reason during Shemoneh Esrei, as it is a low-level hefsek. We find the following priority list for one who must take care of something during Shemoneh Esrei (Mishna Berura 104:1), from best to worst: 1) hinting to someone to help without talking or moving; 2) walking somewhere without speaking; 3) speaking, which is permitted under only extraordinary circumstances.
In comparison to Shemoneh Esrei, the position of one’s body is less important during Kedusha. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 95:1) says one is required to have his feet together during Shemoneh Esrei, to “imitate” angels in service of Hashem. In contrast, regarding Kedusha he writes (ibid. 4) that it is good (i.e., less critical than for Shemoneh Esrei) for one’s feet to be together. Again, one does not walk for no reason, but legitimate concern for a special needs child’s physical (or emotional) safety is fully justified. The additional liturgy for Shabbat within Kedusha is not even considered a full-fledged part of Kedusha (see Mishna Berura 125:1) and arguably it is even less problematic to walk then. Furthermore, one who is not davening has a lower-level obligation to join Kedusha, to not look like he does not endorse what is being said. This would seem to not apply to one whose pressing preoccupation is clear to all. So halachically, you are clearly fine.
We continue with a conjecture about your shul-mate’s reaction. Although he said he was motivated by concern for your Kedusha obligations, it is likely that he was bothered by something else. Having a child running wildly through a shul with or without an adult chasing after him is not ideal for the atmosphere of a shul or davening. Those with certain personality types are particularly disturbed by such a situation. Some people properly care greatly about decorum and quiet in shul. The situation may make others just feel nervous. You may not think in such terms, because you are, laudably, concerned with the welfare and happiness of the child.
It can be a good idea to discuss such a situation (presumably, the father) with the rabbi or other leadership. The job of any true leader is to strike a proper balance between the needs of the general community and the unique needs of individuals. We cannot be of help from here, as only someone intimately familiar with the setting and the people involved can do it justice. Obviously, no reasonable rabbis would ignore the needs of a special needs child. However, it is plausible to arrive at an arrangement using discretion as to when the child will spend time in shul. But again, the feelings of the man you refer to (even though he is wrong in what he said and seemingly how he said it) and perhaps other people is a possible issue, not the halachot of Kedusha.
Ushering in an Avel after Sunset of ShabbatYou wrote in Bemareh Habazak (IX:94) that an avel may enter shul once sheki’a (sunset) has passed, even before the end of Kabbalat Shabbat. Should we say that, similarly after sheki’a, the shul should not “welcome” an avel by saying Hamakom yenachem …”?
You may be assuming that one may not be menachem avel on Shabbat. The gemara (Shabbat 12a-b) (reluctantly) permits being menachem avel on Shabbat, as does the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 287:1). Since this is not the optimal time to do so (Shabbat 12b; Magen Avraham 287:1), we should not be surprised by the minhag to not be menachem on Shabbat, at least for Ashkenazim (see Gesher Hachayim 20:5:2).
The timing of an avel’s entrance is based primarily on his ability to enter shul (not before Shabbat – see Tur, Yoreh Deah 393). Note a historical fact. Until relatively recently, Ma’ariv of Shabbat in shul was done during daytime, so that the community accepted Shabbat early with the saying of Barchu (see Rama, Orach Chayim 253:2, as one of many sources). The custom developed to recite Mizmor Shir L’yom HaShabbat, which became the acceptance of Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, OC 261:4). Between Lecha Dodi and Mizmor Shir became the perfect time for the avel to come in. People could be menachem freely because it was still Friday, and he could enter as it would immediately be Shabbat, when his presence in shul became appropriate. As we pointed out in Bemareh Habazak, if Shabbat began before the community accepted Shabbat, it is also permitted for him to go into shul. Your question is a good one. Does it become forbidden to say Hamakom yenachem …?
One could argue that it is still permitted, as we saw that it is permitted to be menachem on Shabbat, despite the minhag not to do so. Since the custom is to welcome the avel at that point in davening, we would follow the halacha that it is permitted. However, the Pri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav 287:1) says that once the community has said Mizmor Shir, they may no longer announce “to go out to welcome the mourner” (it was apparently more elaborate than today) because it is a public display of mourning (this is not obvious assertion), which is forbidden (see Shulchan Aruch, YD 400:1). He allows individuals to go over and express consolations, but not the shul and not with the standard weekday formula. The Mishna Berura (287:3) states that some authorities permit regular language.
Thus, the purist will logically agree with you that after sheki’a, the shul should not say Hamakon yenachem. We could compromise and say that during bein hashemashot (doubt whether it is day or night), one can be lenient and allow the marginally problematic group consolation. (In Bemareh Habazak we allowed Shabbat leniency from sheki’a because we are lenient on matters of aveilut (Moed Katan 18a).) However, the minhag seems to allow welcoming the mourner even after tzeit hakochavim (nightfall). In theory, we can say the minhag is a mistake, by not updating the practice after the timing changed.
However, it is possible (and preferable) to uphold the minhag for two reasons. On a matter that is not overly serious halachically, we uphold minhagim even when they appear to be “wrong.” Sometimes we also do not know the wisdom behind the minhag. Let us suggest a possible fundamental justification, while not being sure that it is a correct explanation. The Pri Megadim is talking about a case where the community consciously accepted Shabbat with Mizmor Shir. As such, public aveilut behavior is inappropriate. However, when the community has not yet accepted Shabbat with their behavior, it is not forbidden to welcome the avel. While each individual is not allowed to violate Shabbat because the time of Shabbat has come, consoling the mourner is not a violation (see above). If just the public nature of the practice is the problem, sensitivity to that may begin only with Mizmor Shir even the time of Shabbat came earlier.
In any case, we will uphold the minhag of our shuls, many or most of which still welcome mourners before Mizmor Shir despite your good question.
Selling Food Supplements OnlineI sell a wide variety of food supplements and health products in an online business. I buy products from manufacturers and store them in a warehouse, from which we ship an order. Our clientele are a broad population in the US, which will certainly include a minority of Jews. People will not know that a frum Jew owns the business and rely on us that the food is kosher. Must the products be kosher? (I can send pictures of each product’s label for your approval.)
We will start with an overview of the halachic issues involved.
Regarding the possibility that Jews will buy a non-kosher product, you need not be concerned about it for a combination of reasons, including the following (see more in Living the Halachic Process, vol. II, C-20). There is no Torah-level prohibition of lifnei iver (facilitating sin) because people can get these products elsewhere. Only a small minority of the customers are Jews and your intention is not for them. Therefore, since those who buy non-kosher items are not interested in keeping kosher, it is not your problem. The question is about your selling not-kosher, which could be a problem even if it is to non-Jews.
The gemara Pesachim 23a learns from the pasuk, “Vesheketz yiheyu lachem,” that certain foods that are forbidden to eat are but are not forbidden in benefit, have certain limitations on benefit. The gemara states that if he did not seek to obtain the non-kosher food, he can sell them, but he may not purposely obtain the foods in order to gain from them. The prohibition applies only to food that is forbidden from the Torah (as opposed to Rabbinically) (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 117:1). This applies primarily to meat and fish products, as opposed to many other non-kosher foods (dairy products, pastries, etc.).
According to most Rishonim, this is a Torah prohibition (see Shut Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 104-106, 108; Yabia Omer, vol. 8, YD 13). The Rashba (Shut III:223) says that the reason is to minimize the possibility of coming to eat forbidden foods, while others say it is a gezeirat hakatuv (heavenly decree without a known reason).
The consensus of poskim is that the prohibition applies when a Jew owns the food, even in cases where he is not expected to come in direct contact with it (Chatam Sofer, ibid 108, cited in Pitchei Teshuva, YD 117:6). Even if you are not considered to have contact with the food (we do not know to what extent you visit the warehouses), the prohibition applies because of your ownership (see ibid.). Thus, you should check (we can help) that the products are not forbidden by the Torah.
[After receiving labels of many products, we realized we need to discuss non-kosher ingredients – from animals or non-kosher fish – that are in capsules.]
There is no Torah-level prohibition in eating a not kosher food by swallowing it when it is encapsulated in a non-food (see Mishneh Lamelech, Ma’achalot Assurot 14:12; Aruch Hashulchan, YD 85:40). Thus, one can argue that non-kosher food in a capsule is not a problem. On the other hand, one can argue that the food inside is still forbidden food, and it could be taken out of the capsule and eaten. Furthermore, perhaps the only important question is if the food is forbidden, and whether or not it will be eaten in a halachic manner is not important (see above).
The halacha is that one is not allowed to go out of his way to get things that are forbidden to eat by the Torah and are slated to be eaten (Shulchan Aruch, YD 117:1). Such things are forbidden in commerce even if you are not likely to eat them. However, in this case, at the time you will obtain the capsules, they are not slated for eating in a forbidden manner, and it is therefore permitted to buy them in order to sell.
There is much discussion as to whether gelatin capsules themselves are permitted (beyond our scope). However, it is sufficient that there legitimate opinions permit it (at least from the Torah), as in such a case, it is permitted to sell it (Darchei Teshuva 117:63).
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