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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).
Leaving a Client with Half the BillA real estate agent (=Shimon) tried to interest my friend (=Reuven) in a project and suggested that they meet over a meal to discuss it. After each ordered a meal and the discussion proceeded, Shimon realized the deal would not materialize. When the waiter brought the bill, Shimon paid only for his own meal. Reuven was annoyed, as he believes it is customary for an agent who invites a potential client to pay. Shimon argued that he never said he was treating and the halacha is that even if one invites someone to his home and does not explicitly tell the guest their meal is free can charge for it (Rama, Choshen Mishpat 246:17). Who is right?
[We have determined that this question is for halachic curiosity and not to be used to make a claim. This allows us to discuss the matter generally, and to do so less rigorously than if this were a din Torah.]
Shimon was mainly accurate in citing the Rama (based on Terumat Hadeshen I:317), except that even if it is implicitly clear from context that the provider intends to give the food for free, the recipient is exempt. This enables Reuven to claim that common business practice that the professional who is wooing a potential client pays (we take no stand on the veracity) overcomes the standard halachic assumption.
However, two distinctions make things difficult for Reuven. First, in the Rama’s case, the provider has to extract money, which puts some burden of proof on him. In contrast, the restaurant accepted Shimon’s claim that he must pay only his own meal and Reuven for his own. Indeed, if Shimon would have run out, Reuven would have to pay for his own meal without complaints against the restaurant. So, Reuven wants Shimon to reimburse him and therefore has to provide relatively more proof.
More importantly, in the Terumat Hadeshen’s case, there is more room to claim that the provider decided to charge after the food was given. In this case, it sounds that Reuven agrees that Shimon never intended to pay, if Reuven were not interested in the project (just that he is annoyed by it). Putting the indications together, Shimon never obligated himself, even if Reuven thought he did.
Perhaps, though, Shimon caused Reuven damage by causing him to order his meal. On one level, where is the damage? Reuven received a meal that is worth the money he paid! Yet, the concept of d’mei basar b’zol is relevant. This means that when one eats something expensive when he was justified to believe he would not need to pay, he pays only at a discount rate (see Bava Kama 112a). Thus, the difference between that rate and what Reuven paid might count as damage.
Sometimes, one who causes another to spend money based on an assurance which he does not see through, has to pay. One case is when one tells his co-litigant to travel to court and the former does not come; he has to pay for the uncalled-for expenses (Rama, Choshen Mishpat 14:5). However, the restaurant date was not pointless for Reuven. Besides the meal, it had the potential to facilitate great benefit for both Shimon and Reuven (many believe that a good venue for a business meeting is valuable). The fact that it did not work does not retroactively make the effort uncalled for. While this could induce Shimon to pay, it also means that Reuven was not damaged. Although we cannot get into a complete analysis of sources and factors we were not supplied, my experience/intuition lead me to expect that Shimon could not be compelled to pay.
That does not mean that Shimon acted properly. If Shimon was aware that Reuven expected him to pay, and especially if this encouraged Reuven to listen to Shimon’s sales pitch, then Shimon violated g’neivat da’at (deception). The gemara (Chulin 94a) includes in this prohibition relatively innocuous cases in which the deception could cause a party to give something of value due to a favor he thinks he received. There is reason to suspect that Shimon did that. It would be laudable but not required if, as teshuva for g’neivat da’at, Shimon reimbursed Reuven, at least partially.
Answering Amen to a Beracha You “Do Not Believe in”If someone from Israel (who does not recite “Baruch Hashem l’olam …” [=bHlo]) is abroad (where they do recite it), I understand that he does not recite it but does answer amen in deference to the tzibbur’s minhag. Considering that he views the beracha as not called for, isn’t it a hefsek between birchot Kri’at Shema and Shemoneh Esrei. Similarly, should one who does not put on tefillin on Chol Hamo’ed say amen to the beracha of one who is doing so?
We can extend your excellent set of questions, based on your assumptions. Perhaps one should recite bHlo with the tzibbur even though he does not usually do so. If it is not justified to say bHlo, why isn’t responding amen a forbidden amen l’vatala (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 215:4), as you asked regarding tefillin, irrespective of hefsek?
Let us first look at the basis of bHlo. This set of 18 p’sukim, which are completed with a beracha, were instituted post-Talmudically because people were often afraid to stay for Ma’ariv at night. The 18 p’sukim were a reminder/replacement of sorts for Shemoneh Esrei they were missing; Kaddish was instituted to follow these p’sukim (Tur, OC 236). The question is whether this institution continued when people went back to staying for Ma’ariv, and there are indeed different opinions (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 236:2). Most Ashkenazim in chutz la’aretz recite it, as the Rama implies, whereas the universal practice in Eretz Yisrael is not to do so, likely due to the opinions of the Gra, the Shulchan Aruch Harav, and the Arizal (see Kaf Hachayim, OC 236:14).
In general, one whose place’s minhag is not to recite a certain beracha and is davening in a place where they recite it (e.g., Hallel in shul on Seder night) does not recite the beracha unless he is the chazan (see Igrot Moshe, OC II:94). BHlo is different in a couple of ways (see Mishneh Halachot V:29). On the one hand, the importance of reciting it is relatively low, and not all agree that it is necessary even abroad. On the other hand, all agree that it was once deemed proper, and many poskim who do not say it, do not consider it pointless, just insufficiently justified. As a reflection of these (and perhaps other) factors, the consensus is that one who is just visiting chutz la’aretz does not say it (assuming people will not notice his divergence (see Tefilla K’hilchata 19:(49)), whereas a chutz la’aretz person does not say it while in Israel, at least if davening with a minyan (Mishneh Halachot ibid.).
Regarding amen, the question is a little harder. While it is forbidden to answer amen to a beracha l’vatala, many poskim limit what is considered l’vatala in this regard. The Be’ur Halacha says that one is allowed to answer amen to a beracha, which according to the listener’s p’sak, is not called for. When someone praises Hashem appropriately, based on a legitimate opinion, it is fit to receive an amen (Pri Megadim, EA 215:1). Answering, though, is optional because the obligation to answer amen does not extend to a case in which it is only a doubt if the beracha and its amen are called for. The Har Tzvi (OCI:38) goes further, requiring to answer amen. Yabia Omer (IX, 38), regarding a Sephardi answering amen to a beracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh or to an Ashkenazi woman’s beracha on a mitzva in which she is exempt, disagrees and rules not to answer. Your question about tefillin on Chol Hamo’ed (in chutz la’aretz, where there are two legitimate opinions as to whether to put them on) would seem to depend on this question, and the majority opinion is that he may answer amen.
Regarding bHlo, it would seem that, indeed, because of the problem of hefsek, it is better not to voluntarily answer amen. On the one hand, a hefsek between birchot Kri’at Shema and Shemoneh Esrei is less severe at night (see applications in Shulchan Aruch, OC 236:2; Mishna Berura 236:7 and elsewhere). However, since answering amen to bHlo is almost definitely not a requirement, it is better not say it (see similar idea in B’tzel Hachochma IV:25).
Receiving Fish from Shabbat FishingA Jewish friend sometimes fishes on Shabbat and brings me some of his (kosher) catch after Shabbat. Is it permitted for him to give me some and for me to accept them?
There are three opinions among the Tannaim (see Ketubot 34a) about the extent of the prohibition of ma’aseh Shabbat (receiving the main benefit of a melacha done on Shabbat – see Rama, Orach Chayim 318:1; Mishna Berura 318:4). The most accepted opinion (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 318:1) is Rabbi Yehuda’s: if the violation was b’meizid (on purpose), the violator may never use the result; other people may use it after Shabbat. For a violation b’shogeg (by mistake), the violator and others may use the result, but only after Shabbat. You are talking about b’meizid. (Poskim primarily agree that although we generally consider one who was brought up not Shabbat observant as a tinok shenishba, that is regarding possible sanctions against him. His actions in ignoring the laws of Shabbat, though, are considered b’meizid.)
Therefore, your friend is forbidden to eat the fish. The Mishna Berura (318:4) rules that he is allowed to sell them (the Ktav Sofer, OC 50 says that when selling was the violator’s original intention, the benefit of selling is forbidden). Therefore, he is certainly allowed to give them away as a present, and ostensibly you would be allowed to eat them.
We, though, must discuss a complication. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 99:5) rules that if one purposely mixes non-kosher food with enough kosher food for bitul, the “mixer” is forbidden to eat the mixture, but others are permitted. It is also forbidden for a person on whose behalf the mixer acted. The Magen Avraham (318:2) states that logically the same thing should apply to ma’aseh Shabbat, i.e., the result should be forbidden forever not only to the violator but also for one on whose behalf he desecrated Shabbat. However, the Magen Avraham concludes that the Beit Yosef’s logic regarding bitul does not apply here. There, we are stringent because it is likely that one would improperly do bitul for a friend’s benefit since doing bitul is a weak aveira; Since Shabbat is a serious aveira, Chazal were not as worried that people would violate it on someone else behalf. On the other hand, the Ktav Sofer (ibid.) says that a mechallel Shabbat on a regular basis is willing to do so even for others. Whether or not we accept this Ktav Sofer is not a simple matter (see discussion in Bemareh Habazak I:31).
There are additional reasons for leniency. The Maharhsal and Taz (YD 99:10) say that the prohibition on the beneficiary of bitul is only if he was aware and/or happy about the perpetration. If the recipient was not in favor of it, he may benefit. The Pri Chadash (YD 99:13) argues. The machloket appears to be whether the penalty is to discourage from sin the perpetrator or the recipient. The lenient opinions seem to apply to your case, as well, as you do not want him to desecrate Shabbat. Furthermore, here your friend presumably fished primarily for himself (and perhaps more for the sport than for the fish), not for you. Indeed, we find regarding a non-Jew who did work for himself and for others, Halacha views it as the main intention being for himself (Shulchan Aruch, OC 276:2).For a combination of the reasons above, it is not prohibited for you to accept the fish. It is better to not eat the fish until Sunday, so as not to benefit from the fact that he fished on Shabbat (see Pri Megadim, EA 325:22; Orchot Shabbat 25:7; Bemareh Habazak I:31 for discussions of this complex matter). This being said, taking the fish, certainly on an ongoing basis, is an affront to the spirit of our outlook on Shabbat and other Jews. While we do not scream “Shabbos!!” at non-Shabbat observant friends, we do not want to give any impression that we subscribe to the following approach: “To each his own; I will go to shul and pray for both of us; you fish and provide for both of us.” According to the Maharshal (above), doing so could make the fish forbidden according to the letter of the law.
Giving Teruma to a KohenWould it be better, when I take off terumot and ma’asrot, to give the teruma to a kohen instead of wrapping and throwing it out?
First, let us consider what a kohen could do with teruma he received. It is forbidden to eat teruma when either the eater (Rambam, Terumot 7:1) or the teruma (ibid. 2:14) is tameh. We assume that all kohanim in our times are tameh even after going to a mikveh because we lack ash from a para aduma required to remove tuma from a human corpse. (Poskim assume that kohanim have been exposed to corpses at some time despite the prohibition to do so.) Therefore, a kohen would not be able to eat the teruma.
Not all teruma is tameh because solid foods become tameh only after they have been muchshar l’kabel tumah, i.e., prepared to become tameh by being touched by one of seven liquids (usually, water) to the owner’s satisfaction (Vayikra 11:38, Rambam, Tumat Ochalin 1:1-2). This occurs only sometimes.
A kohen may feed teruma that is pure to his animal (Rambam, Terumot 6:1). A great amount of teruma removed centrally is given to the zoo and safari after animals have been transferred to a kohen’s ownership. Fundamentally, teruma that is fit for human consumption may not be given to animals, but authorities are lenient because kohanim will anyway not eat it (see Derech Emuna, ad loc. 10). If teruma is tameh, it should be burnt, and a kohen may benefit from its burning (Rambam, ibid. 2:14). Thus, olive oil teruma is of use to a kohen for lighting.
Apparently, your question is not about the kohanim’s welfare, but about your mitzva to give the teruma to a kohen even if he does not particularly want it. But is there really a mitzva? Not necessarily. The Rambam and Ramban (Sefer Hamitzvot, shoresh 12) dispute whether hafrashat (removal of) teruma and giving it to a kohen are two parts of one mitzva or two independent mitzvot. While each implies it is a mitzva to give it to a kohen, the Netivot Hamishpat (243:8) states that one is not required to do so physically. Rather, one sets aside part of the produce as teruma, and Hashem has determined that it belongs to the kohanim, with the owner deciding which one can come and get it. The Pri Chadash (Yoreh Deah 61:1) suggests that this is the reason there is no beracha if and when one does actually give it. There is also an opinion that there is a mitzva (see opinions in Derech Emuna, Terumot 2:(361)).
Despite the existence of opinions that it is a mitzva, many poskim say that one should not give teruma in our days to a kohen. There is a major question whether we should rely on the kohanim’s presumption of being valid kohanim (see discussion in Shach, YD 322:9). The Chazon Ish (Shemitta 5:12) argues that since we no longer have a beit din that interrogates to confirm the authenticity of kohanim’s claims, we do not have grounds to trust that they are allowed to receive teruma. He reasons that it is therefore wrong to give them the teruma. The Rama (Orach Chayim 457:2) brings two opinions on whether one gives them challa, which is parallel to teruma, in chutz la’aretz, where it can be eaten by a kohen who is a tameh meit if he is too young to have tumah coming from his body. The Mishna Berura (457:22) explains the opinion that one does not as being due to insufficient pedigree. The Maharit (I:85) is among those who does trust a kohen’s pedigree sufficiently to give them teruma, for example, tameh oil that he can use for burning, as the Rama in Yoreh Deah (331:19) rules.
Another reason to not give teruma to a kohen is that one should remove it from human access someone mistakenly eats it (see Pesachim 33b). Although the Rama (ibid.) is lenient that kohanim will not make a mistake, he refers to a case where there the kohen can benefit from the gift, not to a nominal giving for the giver to perform a (possible) mitzva, only for the kohen to dispose of it.
In summary, the standard practice of not giving teruma to a kohen (except for organized donations to animals) is likely halachically indicated and not a matter of laziness.
Getting a Kite Down from a Tree on ShabbatIf one flies a kite on Shabbat and it gets stuck in a tree, may he extricate it from the tree?
We wrote in the past about whether it is permitted to fly a kite on Shabbat. We concluded that there are not sufficient grounds to forbid it, despite the possibility a person could make mistakes in the process (as is possible regarding many permitted Shabbat activities). Your question relates to an important scenario, especially because kites often get stuck in trees.
It is certainly forbidden to climb the tree in order to free the kite. It is forbidden to climb trees on Shabbat, out of concern that one who does so will pull off a branch or fruit from the tree (Beitza 36b). Although there is discussion if this prohibition applies to totally barren trees (see Eiruvin 100b), the halacha is that it applies to all trees and firm vegetation (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 336:1) as long as it is above three tefachim off the ground (ibid. 2). It is also forbidden to lean a ladder against the tree and climb the ladder, due to a prohibition to use a tree or that which is considered the “side of the tree” (Shabbat 154b; Shulchan Aruch ibid. 13).
Is it permitted to, without climbing, free the kite by pulling on the kite strongly? In many cases in which the kite is strongly intertwined with the leaves and branches, pulling strongly enough to remove the kite will certainly knock off parts of the tree even if that is not his intention (p’sik reishei). Assuming that one has no use for what comes off, this would be only a Rabbinic violation of Shabbat even if were done on purpose (see Shabbat 73b). According to most poskim, a p’sik reishei is forbidden even on a Rabbinic prohibition (Mishna Berura 314:11; Yabia Omer I, OC 19 cites poskim on both sides of the debate).
What about cases in which it is not definite that any part of the tree will be severed? It is forbidden to shake trees or parts of trees (Rama, OC 336:13; Mishna Berura 336:63, based on Beit Yosef in the name of Orchot Chayim). This is forbidden because it is using the tree (see above) (see Shabbat 155a; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 336:37). Since this is not just a violation of muktzeh, it is forbidden not only when one does so directly with his hand, but even with another instrument, e.g., the kite string (see Shabbat 155a). This is apparently so even if he did not do so intentionally but as a p’sik reishei. Seemingly whenever one has to pull on a caught kite, branches and leaves will be moved.
Even if one could just lift the kite out without moving anything, it would still be forbidden. The gemara (ibid.) forbids placing things on a tree, as it is prohibited to use a tree on Shabbat. The Rama (OC 336:1) is among those who say that it is likewise forbidden to remove things from a tree. Some understand that the Rosh (Shabbat 5:2) does not view removing things from a tree as using it (see Shevet Halevi IV:74). This is part of the Shevet Halevi’s grounds for allowing one to easily pick a tallit that accidentally fell on a low bush. However, assuming the part of the tree in question is at least 10 tefachim (about three feet) high, there would still be a prohibition out of concern one might climb the tree in order to remove the object (see Rosh ibid.; Mishna Berura 336:12; Shevet Halevi ibid.). Indeed, the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (16:7) forbids removing a ball on Shabbat from a tree upon which it fell, whether doing so by hand or with the help of a pole. While it is not necessary to point this out from a halachic perspective, note that the chances one will come to climb the tree to rescue the kite are probably higher than in the classic case of placing something in a tree above ten tefachim.
In conclusion, once the kite is stuck in the tree, it should not be taken down on Shabbat, in any manner. This is something the kite flyer should consider before flying it. A rabbi might be wise to consider the chances that kids will know/remember this halacha and be disciplined enough to follow it, when setting policy for his community
Dancing at a Wedding during your Sefira PeriodI was invited to a wedding, during my sefirat ha’omer observance period. May I go? If so, may I dance?
As we have written (see Living the Halachic Process III, D-21), we believe in the legitimacy of the various minhagim for which days of sefira to observe and that one may choose different ones on different years according to needs. Certainly, then, one should respect someone else’s choice. True, it is proper for a community to have set practices that all conform to, including in this matter (Rama, Orach Chayim 493:3). However, in the great majority of contemporary Jewish communities, there is a great mix of people from various places of origin and backgrounds. While in certain areas of halacha, community consensuses have developed, the poskim recognize sefirat ha’omer as one in which diversity still exists (see Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim I:159).
One can ask, though: considering the different opinions, is it okay to make a wedding at a time that puts people in a situation of choosing to do things that are ostensibly forbidden for them? The Minchat Yitzchak (IV:84) deals with a wedding of Sephardi boy and an Ashkenazi girl in Buenos Aires which needed to be around Lag Ba’omer. Ashkenazim (in that place, at least) can have weddings on Lag Ba’omer but not after; Sephardim can have weddings after Lag Ba’omer but (probably) not on it. Although the Minchat Yitzchak arrived at a way of doing it which could work for everyone, he posited that participants could not take part in a wedding seuda that would go against their minhag of sefira (the ceremony without lively music would be permitted). The simple reading of the Chatam Sofer (I:142) is similar.
However, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC I:159) posits that everyone can take part freely in the wedding during such times. His rationale is that once a marriage has taken place, it creates simcha obligations that break normal rules. For example, a couple who get married at the end of Nisan are allowed to continue with sheva berachot festivities, which should have been forbidden for the other participants. Rav Moshe even claims, based on the end of the Chatam Sofer’s teshuva, that the latter agrees that people can take part in the wedding.
Rav S.Z. Auerbach (as cited in Halichot Shlomo, Moadim 11:19) similarly posits as a simple matter that if a couple is celebrating a wedding, invitees can take part. (He and Rav Moshe seem to disagree whether one could take part in the celebration if they got married at a time that was not appropriate for their own minhag.) It is possible that the Minchat Yitzchak would agree that given the practice that people do get married at times that do not fit all, one could take part b’di’eved.
In any case, we prefer the approach of Rabbis Feinstein and Auerbach for several reasons: the approach makes sense; those poskim are among those who most impact on our rulings; it is proper to be lenient on sefira questions (Chok Yaakov 493:2; Chatam Sofer ibid.). Imagine that we would be limited by the chumrot of all the sefira opinions and consider the not so distant three weeks with no weddings. It turns out that 4 months of weddings are squeezed into just over a month, which in many communities causes problems of hall availability and conflict that can be very stressful (and/or expensive) to couples and their families.
There is one further reason to allow full participation (see Halichot Shlomo ibid.). Seudot mitzva create all sorts of dispensations regarding national mourning. We know about eating meat at siyumim during the Nine Days. For a closer example, according to many (see Dirshu 493:8), there can be dancing at a hachnasat sefer Torah during sefira. Therefore, music/dancing at a wedding might not be forbidden, as it is an important part of an important seudat mitzva (see Rama, OC 338:2). In fact, according to some, the main reason not to get married is that it is a bad omen to get married at such a time (see Shvut Yaakov II:35). Thus, there is an additional reason for dancing at the seudat mitzva being fine.
Birkat Kohanim for a Kohen who is in Shemoneh EsreiA kohen often comes to my minyan and even if he is early, he says Shemoneh Esrei together with the chazan and does not perform the mitzva of Birkat Kohanim (=BK). I understand that he is allowed to break his prayers to do BK and then to return to his place. He claims that what he does is fine according to a different opinion. Who is correct?
The question of BK during Shemoneh Esrei is a complex one that can depend on several factors. The mishna (Berachot 34a) states that a chazan should do BK if he is the only kohen there and he is confident that he can return to complete chazarat hashatz without confusion. The implication, as the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:20) rules, is that if there were another kohen available, the chazan would not recite BK. The Radbaz (IV:293) reasons that the same thing should be so for one in the middle of his personal Shemoneh Esrei – if and only if he is the only kohen should he go up. The Magen Avraham (128:40) accepts the Radbaz, and this is the first opinion cited in the Mishna Berura 128:106).
However, many disagree with this Radbaz and Magen Avraham. The Rav Pealim (III, OC 4) points out that in the mishna’s case, the chazan is up to the point of Shemoneh Esrei in which BK is recited. If he is anywhere else in Shemoneh Esrei, we can say that BK is a hefsek (improper break). Indeed, a second opinion in the Mishna Berura makes this distinction, ruling that only if the kohen is up to the correct place for BK does he recite it, and this is the opinion that seems prevalent today (see Tefilla K’hilchata 14:35; Yalkut Yosef, Birkat Kohanim 21).
Your question implies that since the kohen says Shemoneh Esrei “along with the chazan” (a system that has certain advantages for some somewhat slow daveners – beyond our scope) he would be up to the right place. Then, almost all agree that he should do BK when he is the only kohen. If so, we do not know why he is reluctant to do this. However, there are two factors that impact whether he is required to do so.
First, one whose tefilla will be confused by doing BK (see aforementioned mishna, Berachot 34a), does not recite BK (Sha’ar Hatziyun 128:83). (Admittedly, it is hard to know what qualifies as being confused). Yalkut Yosef (ibid.) does cite an opinion that confusion applies only to a chazan, as everyone will be waiting for him to resume tefilla, and not to an individual. However, the Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 128:40) is among the more accepted opinions that confusion plays a role here as well.
Another factor is that the obligation to do BK has to be activated in a timely fashion. One violates his obligation for BK only if he has been called to do so, based on the pasuk in this context “amor lahem” – say to them (see Beit Yosef, OC 128). There is another halacha that a kohen can do BK only if he stepped toward the duchan during the beracha of R’tzei (Sota 38b). So if this kohen failed to move forward at least a little bit at that time (he may do so during Shemoneh Esrei, but the kohen in question presumably does not), he is disqualified. Realize that usually a kohen is not called until right before BK (if he is the only kohen, he will not be called at all – Shulchan Aruch ibid. 10.). So for those who did not step forward, it will be too late to obligate them. It is strange, then, that some poskim, including the Radbaz (ibid.) discuss a Torah obligation of BK superseding the Rabbinic mitzva of Shemoneh Esrei even before he is called (Halachot Ketanot I:64 points out this difficulty). It is difficult to say that the kohen violates his obligation if he does not prepare himself for BK on time. In theory, someone could force the issue by telling your kohen earlier in chazarat hashatz to prepare himself (based on Magen Avraham 128:40). However, we do not think that this is appropriate behavior.
So, one might encourage the kohen to find the best way to make BK possible (see Living the Halachic Process vol. IV, A-16). However, we do not think he should be shamed into doing so when he might have a reason not to.
Receiving Video of Personal Event on ShabbatAt my son’s recent Shabbat bar mitzva, a non-Jew who is close to him came to shul. It turns out he videoed some of the proceedings on his phone (if I had noticed, I would have asked him not to) and offered to send it to me, which, of course, would be nice. May I accept the offer?
Mazal tov!! This thought-provoking question touches on important points.
A Jew is not allowed to receive benefit from the melacha a non-Jew did on a Jew’s behalf on Shabbat (Shabbat 122a). If he did it on behalf of himself or other non-Jews, a Jew may benefit (ibid.). When benefit is forbidden, the prohibition lasts bichdei sheya’asu – until the time that the result would have been available if the work had been done after Shabbat ended (Beitza 24b). In your case, bichdei sheya’asu is forever, as if the non-Jew had not videoed on Shabbat, the moments of interest would have never been available. In this context and many others, the content of the electronic recording is equivalent to an “object” from which one could be forbidden to benefit in whatever form it is now found.
So our first question is: for whose benefit did this non-Jewish guest take the video? There are four possibilities: 1. He did it for himself, due to his feelings about your son, and only afterward thought of sharing it with you. 2. He did it for your family, possibly knowing you are unable to video yourselves. 3. He did it with both himself and you in mind. 4. As is now common, people video interesting things with no clear intent about what they will do with it. If #1 or #4 is the case, there is no prohibition to benefit. If #2, it is forbidden. If #3, a discussion is required.
A baraita (Shabbat 122a) states that if a non-Jew did work on behalf of a group of people, then if the majority is Jewish, Jews may not benefit from it, and if the majority is non-Jewish, benefit is permitted. If there is an even number of Jews and non-Jews, it is forbidden. Why is it forbidden in a tie? Rashi (ad loc.) says that it is considered a doubt for whom it is considered done, and we decide stringently in the case of this doubt. Another approach (see Mishna Berura 276:16) is that in the case of a tie, we consider him to have acted on behalf of both, and when one does it for both, it is forbidden. Indeed the Rama (OC 515:6) says that when we know something was done for both Jews and non-Jews, it is forbidden even if the majority was non-Jewish.
Thus, if we really knew that it was for both of you, it would seem to be forbidden (see Bi’ur Halacha to 276:2). On the other hand, when the non-Jew who does the melacha benefits himself, we assume that he mainly has in mind for himself (Shulchan Aruch, OC 276:2; see Shabbat 122b). Yet, the Magen Avraham says that if we know that he had in mind both for himself and others, it is forbidden. Not all agree with the Magen Avraham (the Mishna Berura 276:17 basically agrees; see Bi’ur Halacha ad loc.; see discussion in Orchot Shabbat 23:(97)).In theory, if you know or can ask the guest in a manner of meisiach l’fi tumo (he does not know his answer is of halachic importance to you) and you got the “right” answer, it could be permitted according to straight halacha to accept the video. However, we think that it would be a bad precedent to do so. As you intuited, had you known the guest was filming, you should have nicely informed him that it is inappropriate to do so in a shul or even at a private Jewish Shabbat activity. If people start seeing that involving non-Jews in their Shabbat events may bring “benefits,” a trend can develop. This can lead to not-in-the-spirit-of-Shabbat situations and to halachic abuses. For example, hinting to a non-Jew to film or addressing the camera is forbidden (analysis is beyond our scope), and few know these halachot well. We contend that in general we do not want our Shabbat moments on video. (In a shul, we anyway need the rabbi’s blessing.) Therefore, we urge to keep the precious Shabbat bar mitzva moments captured as they always have been - in the participants’ minds and hearts.
Preferring the Fruits of Eretz YisraelDo the fruit of Eretz Yisrael in our times have kedusha that would make it preferable to eat them over other foods?
Usually discussion of kedusha of the Land’s produce relates to land-based mitzvot. Without going into detail, we posit that most land-based mitzvot apply on a Rabbinic level rather than a Torah-level after the Beit Hamikdash’s destruction. However, the parameters regarding your question may be different.
Actually, Eretz Yisrael’s special qualities exist at all times, as we find in many statements of Chazal from the post-Temple period (see Ketubot 110-112). True, there were elements that were greater at the time of the Beit Hamikdash (see Sota 48a regarding the special taste of fruit) or will be greater when Mashiach comes (see Ketubot ibid.). The success of the fruit of the Land is also a harbinger of the advent of the era of Mashiach (Sanhedrin 98a). But even in destruction, Eretz Yisrael is wonderful, and one should feel a special love for everything connected to it (Ketubot 112a-b). Indeed, the great majority of poskim posit that the mitzva to live in Eretz Yisrael applies now (see Ramban, Mitzvat Aseh 4; Pitchei Teshuva, Even Haezer 75:6).
Does the Land’s innate kedusha create a preference to eat its fruit? The gemara (Sota 14a) wonders why Moshe so strongly desired to enter the Land. It dismisses the possibility that he was interested in eating its fruit and says that he wanted to fulfill the mitzvot of the Land. Based on this approach, there are Rishonim (see Tur, Orach Chayim 208) who say that we should not say, as part of the beracha acharona on fruit, “v’nochal mipirya” (we shall eat of its fruit), as this is unimportant. While the poskim do not come to a consensus on the matter (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 208:51), all our texts include the phrase. Yet the Beit Yosef explains the phrase’s relevance as follows. Since the beracha is thanking Hashem for food, focus on food is appropriate. He seems to agree that overall it is not particularly important. On the other hand, the Bach (ad loc.) argues that while for Moshe eating the fruit was not important, for us, when things are proper, the fruit of Eretz Yisrael connects us to a world of spirituality.
There are other indications of the fruit’s special status. The gemara (Berachot 44a) says (as the Rashba ad loc. and Shulchan Aruch, OC 208:10 understand) that if one eats fruits that grew in Eretz Yisrael, his beracha acharona includes “… v’al peiroteha” (on its fruit), instead of just say “v’al hapeirot” (on fruit). This stresses the significance of the fruit coming from the Land.
The seven species of produce for which Eretz Yisrael is praised have a high priority regarding what fruit to eat right after one’s beracha (Shulchan Aruch, OC 211:4). Logically, produce that is actually from Eretz Yisrael should have prominence in this regard, as V’zot Haberacha (p. 124) says in the name of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu. Others point out (see Mishpetei Uziel I, OC 24; Teshuvot V’hanhagot I:188) that there is not support for this outlook in classical sources. (One could explain that until recently, the fruit of bnei Eretz Yisrael was always from the Land and Jews living abroad did not have access to the fruit of Eretz Yisrael. Since few had a choice between them, the topic is not discussed.) In any case, we note that we do not find a preference to eat the seven species, just that, if we do, it has precedence for the beracha. In other words, prominence does not necessarily mean one should go out of his way to eat it.
We put things together as follows. There is no halachic obligation or clear preference to eat the fruit of Eretz Yisrael. However, since one is supposed to love the Land and matters connected to it (see above), wanting to connect to Hashem and His Land by eating its fruit is displaying and likely fostering a healthy outlook, which gives it added value. (To the extent that eating such fruit helps Israeli Jewish farmers and thereby helps strengthen our hold on the Land, this is valuable (see Gittin 8b).)
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