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Excluding a Son from InheritanceAre there sins that would cause a son to automatically lose his share? If a father is angry at a son, is he allowed to use a device to disinherit him?
It is unclear whether this question is theoretical or practical. In any case, our answer is general.
The Torah laws of inheritance are set monetary rights that are not affected by the righteousness or sins of inheritors. In that way, it resembles the fact that the Torah does not confiscate a sinner’s property. On the other hand, a person is capable of taking steps during his lifetime to effectively obviate inheritance laws. See our survey of some details in Living the Halachic Process IV, I-9.
The main question is whether it is proper to exclude an inheritor due to his moral level. Rashbag (Bava Batra 133b) says that it is a positive thing for a father to transfer his assets to others if his sons act improperly. However, the gemara concludes that others disagree and cites Shmuel’s statement that it is wrong to transfer one’s property even from a “bad son” to a “good son.” Shmuel goes beyond Rashbag, as presented. He rejects not only giving to a non-inheritor but even to one son at the expense of another and states that neither the badness of one inheritor nor the goodness of another is a satisfactory reason. The Shulchan Aruch (CM 282:1) paskens like Shmuel.
There is discussion as to whether this rule is a Torah-level law (difficult), a Rabbinic binding law, or Rabbinical guidance (see S’dei Chemed, vo. IV, p. 27). One reason given for it is that we cannot know what will be with the offspring down the line (Ketubot 53a). The Tur (Choshen Mishpat 282) gives another reason – it causes jealousy and ill-feeling within the family. These are apparently not the primary reasons behind the halacha but the secondary ones, as we will explain. On the basic level, the Torah says that the proper thing is to give as the Torah prescribes (Aruch Hashulchan, CM 282:2). Inheritance is one of the tools of Divine Providence as to a person’s financial resources. A person may ask: “If I can halachically and (ostensibly) morally devise systems that seem more equitable in this specific case than Hashem’s general system, shouldn’t I do that?” The answers are: you cannot know what is truly equitable, as Hashem knows what will happen down the line, and you do not; you have to consider the negative of your plan (i.e., jealousy).
Poskim discuss different cases where it is arguable that the indications for “playing favorites” may be compelling. There is a machloket whether the halacha applies to one whose behavior and the way he raises his children is antithetical to Torah Judaism (see Pitchei Choshen, Yerusha 4:(4)). It is not simple if one must give a full inheritance to one who mistreats his parents (Rambam, Nachalot 6:11 seems to indicate that he should still receive) or tried to oust his siblings from inheritance (see S’dei Chemed, IV p. 34). There is also a machloket if he can keep everyone as an inheritor and only give more to one than to another (see Rashbam, Bava Batra ibid.; Sdei Chemed, IV p. 33).
While the Rambam (ibid. 13) urges to give children equal financial treatment throughout life and the gemara (Ketubot 53a) indicates that large gifts to one of the children during his lifetime could be wrong, one must put things in perspective. One may use his money during to his lifetime for any reasonable need, desire, or mitzva cause, as long as it is not exaggerated in a way that fundamentally alters inheritance (see our column, Mishpatim 5779). Therefore, a parent may give somewhat more to some children based on need. He can also earmark money in a way that benefits those with similar values to the parents (e.g., pay for grandchildren’s day school education), and if a child chooses not to take advantage of such resources (e.g., sends to public school) that is his decision.To summarize a general answer on a sensitive family issue, we urge to listen to this halacha’s “voice”: “Don’t be holy; be smart”; “Don’t try to ‘outsmart’ the Torah.”
Buying a House with a Hidden TreasureMy student asked me the following. Shimon buys a house from Reuven at a normal price even though he knows (and Reuven does not) that there are many gold coins hidden in the attic walls. Is the sale valid? Why/Why not?
Before we get to the excellent conceptual question, we must briefly raise some points that can, under certain circumstances, make the question moot in this scenario.
First, purchasing the house and taking the gold are halachically unrelated. Generally, the movable objects within a house are not sold along with the house. So, if between selling the house and vacating it, Reuven found and took the coins, Shimon could not have complaints or void the sale, as the house was given over as stipulated. Similarly, if Reuven did not take the money and finds out later, he can (try to – see below) complain about the money, as it was not included in the sale.
Secondly, it is far from clear that Reuven owns the gold coins. If he does not know about them, he apparently did not put them there. Whoever did, or his inheritor, is likely still the owner, and Shimon might have to return them, not keep them. Even if the money became ownerless, if it is hidden in a manner that Reuven was likely to never find it, he did not acquire the treasure with the house. Thus, Shimon is like one who knows where an ancient treasure is found and waits for others to leave the area and then digs it up. He would not be taking Reuven’s coins. See further details and sources in Living the Halachic Process, III, I-16.
So, we will present the fundamental question with a different scenario. A petroleum exploration company discovered vast deposits in a certain region and sent people to secretly buy up as much land as possible from unknowing sellers.
There are generally two grounds to void a sale after the fact. 1. Mekach ta’ut – the object was flawed in such a way that we can assume that the buyer would not have agreed to the purchase had he known. 2. Ona’ah (mispricing) – while the sides would have agreed to the sale, the price was far enough from the going rate to make it grossly unfair to one side.
The gemara (Ketubot 97a) tells of people who sold real estate to buy grain during a famine, without knowing that a large shipment was about to arrive. Rav Nachman said that they could back out of the sales because it was based on a mistake about grain’s availability. Kinyan Torah Bahalacha (I:14) applies this concept to a case of one who sold land that had been slated for agriculture when a governmental decision to allow home building had been made but not publicized. He says that if the seller would not have sold it had he known, he can back out. If he would have sold it anyway but at a much higher price, then we get into the issue that the laws of ona’ah do not generally apply to real estate (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 227:29). On the other hand, the Rama (ad loc.) states that if the price was double (or half) of the going rate, the laws do apply. Also, according to most poskim, although the laws of ona’ah (returning money, nulling sales) do not apply to real estate, there is still a prohibition to buy or sell at an unfair price (R. Akiva Eiger ad loc. based on Ramban; S’ma 227:51).
Certain poskim raise other distinctions. The general rule is that proper pricing follows what is prevalent at the time and place involved (see Pitchei Choshen, Ona’ah 11:7). The Imrei Yosher (II, 155) says that if information changes the price, it depends if it is known to a majority of the population. Also, the gemara (ibid.) indicates that there is a difference between a situation that is about to be revealed and one that may remain unknown for an indefinite amount of time. The Kesef Hakodashim (CM 227:(9)) posits that even when a situation is about to be known, that only makes a difference when the issue is lack of interest in the transaction had the information been known. If, though, it is about price propriety, the going rate at that time/place based on the publicly available information is the determinant.
Electronic Communication before DaveningIs it permitted to email, WhatsApp, and use social media before davening?
Emailing and other forms of electronic communication have two broad purposes – social interaction; technical/business-related. Each can be a problem before davening, but their parameters differ somewhat. We will deal with them separately before touching on “policy.” (We leave out the important issue of such activity causing one to be late for tefilla.)
The gemara (Berachot 14a) forbids greeting people with “Shalom” before Shacharit but clarifies that the problem is when you go to another’s place to greet. Rashi (ad loc.; also, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 89:2) describes the permitted case as “meeting him along the way.” Contemporary Acharonim discuss, in this context, calling by phone. Ishei Yisrael 13:(40) cites Rav B. Stern and Az Nidberu, who say that this is not like going to another’s house. Rav Elyashiv (P’ninei Tefilla, p. 59) considers it like going to his house, which makes it forbidden if the call’s purpose was the greeting. It likely depends if one views the problem as giving a special standing to your friend (before giving to Hashem) by going to his house to greet him or that initiating greetings is a problem. (See also our Ask the Rabbi, Vayishlach 5779). Rav Melamed’s compromise, that it is permitted when there is a real need, is logical.
Some electronic communication has advantages over a phone – specifically, those where one does not engage in direct conversation, giving a person prominence, but leaves a message for him/them to see at some time. Also, for written messages, halacha does not always equate writing with speaking (also, beyond our scope). Responding to a message is arguably like responding to a greeting, which is permitted (Shulchan Aruch ibid.). However, there is a difference because, as opposed to normal greeting, it is usually unnecessary to answer messages immediately (i.e., before davening). In short, this element is not a major problem, especially if one first says Birchot Hashachar and avoids the word “Shalom.”
Personal needs: One must not “deal with his needs” before Shacharit (ibid. 3), which some of the activity in question may be. If needed for a mitzva (e.g., helping parents), this is “Hashem’s needs” and permitted (Mishna Berura 89:36). How major an undertaking is considered “dealing with needs” (or melacha, which poskim discuss – see Tosafot, Berachot 5b)? The Eshel Avraham (Butchatch, to 89:3) permits simple things one may do on Chol Hamo’ed. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 2) assumes one may “go to see some eisek”; the Mishna Berura clarifies: “to see but not to be really involved.” Tefilla K’hilchata (6:(36)) cites Rav S.Z. Auerbach as permitting a quick look at a newspaper or throwing clothes into a washing machine. A quick session with an electronic communication tool to take in some information or send out an instruction to a colleague, etc. need not be forbidden on these grounds. Steps to keep the process short are important (see Mishna Berura 89:16).
Personal Policy: The following is clear from various halachot (see OC 89 & 93). When one wakes up, he should focus on encountering Hashem at Shacharit. Things that show that a different priority, misdirect his mind frame, or might make him forget, unduly delay, or rush his tefilla are against the spirit and/or letter of the law. Initiating unnecessary interaction before davening is far from ideal for the average person. Many people are involved in pressing matters that can change overnight and some “cannot wait” until after davening. Doing the minimum necessary is the proper thing. Some people are regrettably so worried/curious before “checking in” that it hinders their kavana. But many are unnecessarily and unhealthily attached to their devices and refuse to go a waking hour off social media, which sometimes includes during davening. Avoiding such devices until after davening is part of weaning themselves or taking steps not to deteriorate and is a great step in their avodat Hashem and personal wellbeing.
Dedicated in memory of Marc Weinberg.
Kri’at Shema in a WhisperAs a speech therapist, I was wondering whether Kri’at Shema can be done in a whisper. In a whisper, the “z” sound is produced as an “s” and the “v” sound is produced as a “f” (and all voiced sounds become devoiced). Scientifically, this is because the vocal chords do not vibrate when whispering. Doesn’t one need vocalize to truly produce a “zayin”, “vav”, or any voiced sound, when saying Shema?
We will have to understand the laws of enunciation of Kri’at Shema to deal with your scientific revelation (to people like me, who were not aware). There is a machloket among Tannaim about whether Kri’at Shema must include sound that is audible to one’s own ear (Berachot 15a). We rule like Rabbanan’s middle approach in between the stringent Rabbi Yossi and lenient Rabbi Meir: L’chatchila one should recite Kri’at Shema audibly, but b’di’eved he fulfills the mitzva even if he did not, as long as he moved his mouth, lips, and tongue (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 62:3; the same is likely true for davening – see Mishna Berura 101:5).
It turns out scientifically that not all letters can be differentiated in a whisper, and certainly when no sound comes out. Your good question about whispering, which is not a major discussion in halachic sources, applies equally to totally non-audible speech, which is discussed. Since the clear halacha is that one does fulfill the mitzva, the question is only: why? (If there were a halachic difference between whispering and quiet talking, some poskim would have mentioned it.)
It seems implausible that the letters in question are close enough in sound that it does not make a difference if one says s instead of z or v instead of f, since they can create different words with different meanings. The answer is based on the following observation. (Almost) every Jewish subgroup pronounces certain things wrong. For example, Ashkenazim pronounce ayin like alef and chet like chaf. Sephardim do not distinguish between kamatz and patach. Some of these regrettable (see Megilla 24b) inaccuracies can change the meaning. Yet, one with a speech impediment fulfills mitzvot of speech with a theoretically confusing lack of differentiation, and when it is standard for one’s society, it is not considered a problem (see Mishna Berura 53:37).
Why? Hashem knows whether we mean. While thought is not enough (see above), the one only has to enunciate to the extent that he can be expected to based on circumstances (ability, minhag (?)). Hashem can handle homonyms. The same is apparently true of whispering. While one technically cannot tell if someone whispered “zonim” or “sonim,” but Hashem knows what one meant, and since whispering is a legitimate form of speech, the best he can do is enough.
One can ask on this approach: why does Halacha makes instruct us to stress the zayin of “tizkeru,” so as not to sound like tiskeru (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 61:17) if anyway it is indistinguishable when done inaudibly or with whispering? One can answer by saying that stressing the zayin is only l’chatchila (Mishna Berura 62:1), and vocalizing so the speaker can hear himself, is anyway required l’chatchila. So indeed, if you follow the l’chatchila of vocalizing, stressing the zayin becomes relevant. But this works out only if the l’chatchila of making audible to the ear can be done only through regular speech and not whispering, an opinion I have not found.Perhaps the answer, then, is that a whisperer does not need to actively make the zayin sound, but rather if and when one is vocalizing, so that a proper zayin is possible, pronouncing it wrong is a real problem. For example, if an Ashkenazi says an ayin wrong it is not a problem, but a Sephardi who usually uses a proper guttural ayin but in one place says it like an alef, that is a halachic problem, at least if it changes the meaning. Perhaps also, because one is sometimes audible for Kri’at Shema and sometimes not, he should consciously do these words audibly and correctly, to avoid accidentally doing it audibly and incorrectly.
Who Lights Shabbat Candles – Father or Daughter?The last time my wife was away for Shabbat, my oldest daughter (under bat mitzva) wanted to light Shabbat candles instead of me. Can a minor daughter do so, and does she have precedence over me?
The short answer is that you should be doing the hadlakat neirot and not your pre-bat mitzva daughter when your wife is away (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:7). Now we will broaden our view of the topic.
Does a daughter have precedence over her father due to gender? The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 263:3) explains a wife’s advantage over her husband pragmatically – she is usually at home more, taking care of household chores, and so it is appropriate that she has the higher level of obligation and rights. The Tur (OC 263) cites a midrash that it was a woman (Chava) who “extinguished the light of the world” by causing Adam to sin, and therefore it is women’s job to add special light to the world (see also Mishna Berura 263:11). Regarding the first matter, one can argue either way regarding a daughter vs. father, and it might depend on the household. The second matter probably applies to all females. The book Radiance of Shabbat (p. 7) cites Rav Moshe Feinstein as saying that a father has precedence over an above bat mitzva daughter. I would surmise that the reason is that a husband has greater responsibility for the proper Jewish running of his home than his daughter has. The book goes on that between bar/bat mitzva siblings, a girl has precedence.
The bigger problem with your daughter lighting is the principle that one who is not obligated in a mitzva cannot perform it for one who is obligated (Rosh Hashana 29a). However, it is actually not so simple. First, if the mitzva is not to light the candles but to have the candles lit, then it might not make a difference who lights them. Regarding the mitzva of Chanuka candles, we conclude (Shabbat 23a) that since the beracha is “to light,” then it is the act of lighting that is the mitzva and that the lighting can therefore not be done by someone who lacks mature thought, including a child. The same is likely true for the lighting of Shabbat candles. In the past (Chayei Sarah 5772) we discussed this issue in regard to the question of whether one just has to light with the expectation to benefit from the candles or whether one needs to actually benefit. We reasoned, based on sources, that it is likely that there is a mixture of the two elements – lighting and having a proper Shabbat atmosphere – but that the nature of the mitzva is to light. We mentioned the machloket between the Magen Avraham (263:11) and R. Akiva Eiger (ad loc.) whether when it is too late for a Jew to light the Shabbat candles and she gets a non-Jew to light, a member of the Jewish household makes a beracha (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:(48)). In the final analysis, it is apparent that one would not want someone who is not obligated in the mitzva to light.
Is your daughter obligated? If she is old enough for you to take the question seriously, we assume she is higiah l’chinuch, reached the age at which she can be trained. Indeed, if only such children are available to light, they are obligated Rabbinically to light with a beracha like any other mitzva of the day (and a girl should have precedence over a boy). True, one who is obligated Rabbinically cannot perform a mitzva on behalf of one who is obligated from the Torah (Berachot 20b), but the whole mitzva of lighting is only Rabbinic, so how are you more obligated than your daughter? There is actually a machloket (Shulchan Aruch, OC 675:3) regarding a child of chinuch age lighting Chanuka candles for an adult, as many hold that one who is obligated only Rabbinically for two reasons (the nature of the mitzva; the general nature of the person’s obligations) can do a mitzva on behalf of someone who has only one reason that it is only Rabbinic (e.g., an adult lighting Chanuka candles). We follow the strict opinion (ibid. 689:2; Mishna Berura 675:13).
(When making early Shabbat, be sure not to light before plag hamincha.)
Trips during the Nine DaysI run a camp for children under bar mitzva during a period that includes the Nine Days. We usually take them on trips off campus once a week. Is it permitted to do so during the Nine Days?
We will address the two main issues regarding activities during the Nine Days and/or the Three Weeks: danger and too much simcha.
Danger: The midrash (Eicha Rabba 1:29) relates the pasuk “All her pursuers caught up with her between the walls” (Eicha 1:3) to the dangers lurking for Jews during the Three Weeks. One of the examples, which the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 451:18) codifies, is going out alone (at certain times of day). It is hard to apply this concern practically. Since safety should always concern us, what should we add? Generally speaking, certain water activities, e.g., a beach or canoeing, are candidates of things to avoid during the Three Weeks. (We are not dealing with issues of swimming for Ashkenazim throughout the Nine Days, which requires its own discussion – see Rama, OC 551:16.)
Simcha: The mishna (Ta’anit 26b) states that we limit enjoyment from the beginning of the month of Av. Details of what this might entail are scattered throughout Talmudic and post-Talmudic rulings and minhagim. The Shulchan Aruch does not mention trips; the Rama (OC 553:1) opposes tiyulim on Erev Tisha B’Av, implying that it is permitted before that. However, the Rama apparently refers to strolling in simple places, not going to tourist attractions, which barely existed in his time. On the other hand, since nowadays people (especially children on vacation) regularly partake in recreational activities that did not exist hundreds of years ago, we would not forbid every moderately enjoyable activity during the Nine Days.
Given the above, it is not surprising that some sefarim, including Torat Hamoadim (R. David Yosef) mention a prohibition on tiyul only on Erev Tisha B’Av. On the other extreme, some cite Rav Chaim Palagi's (Masa Chaim 4:3) statement that it was decided to not go to gardens, orchards and the coast throughout the Three Weeks. The common approach among contemporary poskim is to forbid (or at least discourage) significant vacationing specifically during the Nine Day. We would put it this way – these days are not the time for the type of recreational activities that one rarely partakes in (see Aseh Lecha Rav II:35; P’ninei Halacha, Zemanim 8:6).
Do these halachot apply to children under bar mitzva but old enough to understand the basics of practices of mourning? Children under bar mitzva are not obligated in the laws of mourning for relatives (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 396:3). Yet, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:14) says that we do not cut the hair or launder children’s clothes before Tisha B’Av, and the Magen Avraham (ad loc. 38) explains that children of chinuch age are obligated in pre-Tisha B’Av mourning. To reconcile the sources, he posits that we are stricter about communal mourning (see also Igrot Moshe, YD I, 224). The Ktav Sofer (YD 172) says that chinuch does not apply to personal mourning because it is an irregular situation. According to this, since we have been mourning the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash for millennia, this is regular mourning that applies to children (Tal Livracha II:71).
Nevertheless, age can still play a role. First, there is a machloket whether children are restricted throughout the Nine Days/Three Weeks or only during the week of Tisha B’Av (see Mishna Berura 551:82). Also, there is more room for leniency for children in borderline cases. More fundamentally, children need more recreation than adults, and on matters not included in a defined prohibition but of a more subjective nature (i.e., too much simcha), an activity might be appropriate for a child and not for an adult. Nevertheless, it is important to educate children that the Nine Days is a more solemn time, and this should play a role in the choice of activities. So, there should not be trips during the week of Tisha B’Av (not applicable this year), and good judgment should be used throughout the Nine Days.
Toveling which Utensil FirstI made a beracha before toveling several utensils, primarily glass, which I started with. Then I noticed that one of the utensils was metal. Since toveling metal is a Torah obligation and for glass it is Rabbinic, could the beracha on the glass utensil count for metal? Should I have made another beracha on the metal utensil?
Tevilat keilim for the six metals mentioned in the Torah (Bamidbar 31:22) is, according to many, from the Torah (see Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 120). For glass, it is indeed Rabbinic (Avoda Zara 75b). Let us work with your assumptions.
There are several halachic discussions about using Rabbinic fulfillments for Torah-level obligations, and we will mention a couple: making Kiddush when it is only Shabbat on a Rabbinic level; a bar mitzva boy doing sefirat haomer for adults when he became bar mitzva in the middle of the omer (see Mikraei Kodesh (Frank) Sukkot II, 13).
However, the issue does not apply here for two reasons. Tevilat Keilim ((Cohen) 9:(22)) points out that even when tevila is on a Torah level, the beracha is only a Rabbinic obligation. Therefore, he argues, the beracha of one doing tevila on glass can be used for one toveling metal. In truth, though, even regarding Birkat Hamazon, one who ate only enough for a Rabbinic obligation can be motzi (when there is a need) one who ate enough for a Torah-level Birkat Hamazon (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 197:4). Furthermore, in your case, the beracha applies to all of the utensils that were slated for you to tovel, not just the first one (see parallel application of this concept in Shulchan Aruch, YD 19:7). We even find that one can make a beracha directly before something that may not be a mitzva, and it can go on that which follows. An example is that while we do not know which set of tekiot are the correct one, we make the beracha before the first set and it works even if the second or third set is correct.
We can still ask whether there is at least a preference, had you thought of the issue, to have immersed the metal first, right after the beracha. We do find in regard to berachot before food that the gemara (Berachot 41a) brings rules of kedimut (precedence) – which berachot are made first, and which food should be eaten first after a given beracha. Even if one does not follow the proper order, the beracha takes effect (Magen Avraham 211:11), but we do like to do things correctly. Here, though, it is a different type of beracha – not a birkat hanehenin (on benefit, primarily food), but a beracha on a mitzva. So really the question is whether one mitzva has precedence over another.
The gemara (Zevachim 90b) does address order in mitzvot. Tadir (a more common mitzva) has priority over a less common one. Also, mekudash (a more holy mitzva) has precedence over others. What about a mitzva from the Torah over a Rabbinic one? Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel (Berachot 51b) disagree whether the beracha on wine comes before or after the beracha of Kiddush. The Sha’agat Aryeh (22) claims that the fact that pieces of logic including tadir are raised and the matter that Kiddush is essentially a mitzva from the Torah whereas the beracha over wine is not is not raised, shows that that Torah/Rabbinic obligation must not cause kedimut. On the other hand, R. Akiva Eiger (to Orach Chayim 7:1) assumes that being from the Torah is like being mekudash. The P’nei Yeshoshua (Berachot ibid.) also assumes that being from the Torah gives mitzva precedence, and explains that Kiddush over wine is usually only Rabbinic. Yabia Omer (IX, OC 100) bring several others who concur. However, I have not succeeded to find, in our context of tevillat keilim, that the utensil one puts in the mikveh first should be one that is obligated by Torah law.In summary, it might be preferable to tovel the metal utensil first, but this is not clear in the sources, and it certainly does not make a difference after the fact.
Engagement Parties during the Three WeeksIs it permitted to make an engagement party during the Three Weeks (i.e., before Rosh Chodesh Av)?
Many of the halachot of the time before Tisha B’Av are based only on minhag and/or post-Talmudic sources. Engagement parties (in Modern Hebrew, mesibat eirusin) during this period are arguably mentioned in the gemara. The gemara (Yevamot 43a) after listing some prohibitions of the week in which Tisha B’Av falls continues that in the period before this, it is forbidden to marry but permitted to have eirusin without an accompanying seuda (meal). Talmudic eirusin is kiddushin (if you will, the “giving of the ring”) which is the most halachically crucial part of marriage. It is permitted without a meal because it is assumed to not create an atmosphere of enough simcha to be forbidden (see Tur, Orach Chayim 551). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:2) codifies these halachot.
The Rama (ad loc.) points out that we are stringent not to get married during the entire Three Weeks, starting with Shiva Asar B’Tammuz. However, Acharonim point out that the minhag was not meant to apply all of the Nine Days’ restrictions to the Three Weeks. In our context, the Mishna Berura (551:19) rules that one may have a seudat eirusin during the first part of the Three Weeks.
Does this permission to make a seudat eirusin apply only to halachic eirusin? The Mishna Berura (ibid. 16) permits a meal of shidduchin, which is what is called in some circles a vort, i.e., the sides sign a contract of monetary and moral obligation to properly prepare for and carry out the wedding. There is a machloket among Acharonim whether that seuda is a mitzva, with the stronger opinion being that it is (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 551:26; see also Dirshu 551:32). One can also discuss which type of engagement party – it is practiced differently in different segments of society and some have more than one party – is the one that counts. While one could argue that this too is more of a mitzva than just having an engagement party (see Rashi, Yevamot 43a), the Mishna Berura’s language fits the following idea. While the element of mitzva sometimes permits even Nine Day prohibitions (see Rama ibid.), a seudat eirusin is permitted during the Three Weeks because it does not reach the bar of a joyous event that should be forbidden (see also Shulchan Aruch, OC 546:1). Therefore, the lower the event’s level, the more likely it is to be permitted.
This, however, takes us to what one may do at the party. Even not in the context of a special party, we do not allow dancing (Magen Avraham 551:10) and music in the Three Weeks. Since, as mentioned, the permissibility of an engagement party is not the mitzva but the lesser festivity, there is no reason to permit these here (see Mishna Berura ibid. 16). Singing without instruments and without dancing is fine. If one has very simple food at the time of the announcement of the engagement, then many poskim allow it even during the Nine Days (Mishna Berura ibid.).The final question is about appropriateness. There is (properly) sensitivity to planning especially happy events during the Three Weeks, even when they are not the type that are outright forbidden. (There need not be as much sensitivity regarding the omer – see Living the Halachic Process V, D-16). Therefore, we would strongly recommend (as is customary) to try to avoid this time for an engagement party or to keep it very simple. (In many cases, even if the principles are not bothered, there are guests who will frown on the matter. Rav E. Melamed actually forbade making such a party out of the house). In circles in which these parties are usually done soon after the announcement or if there is a short engagement, we think it is justified if there is little alternative. The same is true when there are strong familial considerations (e.g., parents traveled from abroad and will not be around later). However, when there is no strong reason to do it during the Three Weeks, the standard Jewish practice is to have such festive events at more appropriate times.
Accidentally Staying on the Bus Longer than EnvisionedWhat is the Halacha in the following scenario? I am on an intercity bus, in which the price depends on how far you go. I fall asleep and miss my stop. Should I go to the driver to pay for the additional distance I will end up going?
Since you present this as a theoretical question (although it can happen) and, certainly it will not be adjudicated, we can discuss this and begin with the fundamental level.
In general, there are three halachic constructs by which to obligate someone to pay another who provided a service for him. One is by means of agreement. On a bus, one who gets on a bus agrees to pay according to the set price list of the company. Usually, one pays already before the bus moves, so the question is settled. In a taxi, for example, where one pays at the end, they implicitly agree (unless they begin negotiations) that the amount to pay is what the meter will show at the destination. However, in this case, you agreed to pay only for the closer, planned location, as you indicated when telling the driver where you were going, paying the lower fare, and receiving a receipt for that trip.
The second issue is that of damage. Consider the following true story I heard. Someone entered a taxi in Jerusalem, asked to go to Petach Tikvah, and fell asleep. He was woken in the city of Petach Tikvah and told the driver he meant Petach Tikvah Street (in Romema, Jerusalem). The passenger cannot argue that he only agreed to a short ride because he irresponsibly (by not saying “Street” and by falling asleep) made the driver waste work time and gas driving to a distant location. (Whether there should be any discount is beyond our scope, as is the question as to what factors (e.g., extenuating circumstances) determine when there is an obligation to pay in such a case of semi-direct “damage” – see P’sak Din 73082 of Eretz Hemdah-Gazit.) This element also does not apply here because the driver and the company presumably lose nothing by the passenger staying on somewhat longer.
Another reason to obligate someone is the benefit he received from the service, even if he never agreed to pay for it (see Rama, Choshen Mishpat 264:4). In this case, it would seem that you would not normally benefit from going farther when you wanted to go to somewhere else closer. Therefore, this would not be grounds for payment either. It would be different if when you woke up after missing your stop and realized that getting off a few stops later would be better than getting off at the very next stop. Then, the additional stop(s) would be considered benefit, under the circumstances that developed, and there would be reason to pay.
Practically, one would have to consider other factors. It is very possible that staying on longer than you told the driver could be a problem of chillul Hashem or “Vehiyitem nekiyim” (not causing people to suspect you of sin – see an example in Rambam, Shekalim 2:10). This can happen either if an inspector comes on or if the driver happens to remember where you said you were getting off and where you actually did. It is also possible that the bus company has a set, perhaps even written, policy for cases of staying on accidentally longer than expected. While it sounds random, it makes sense for the company to have a policy so that people not be able to lie and claim that it was accidental. Anyone who gets on a bus accepts the legal policies of the bus company. This is different from a simple agreement between two people, where neither has an advantage over the other. A company prepares a service with rules (sometimes approved by a government agency); the passenger decides to use the bus – on their terms. On the other hand, the driver might inform you that he believes you and it is not necessary to pay. He probably has authority to forgive (mechila) a small payment of this sort.
In summary, on fundamental grounds, you would not be obligated to pay based on any of the constructs for payment for services. Any obligation would be based on more technical grounds.
Fulfilling Kiddush from One Who Did Not EatIf the person making Kiddush in shul does not eat after Kiddush, is his Kiddush valid?
We must distinguish between a valid Kiddush for the person who made Kiddush and for those who listened to Kiddush and then ate.
We accept Shmuel’s opinion (Pesachim 101a) that Kiddush is valid only in the place of a meal (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 273:3). Therefore, if Kiddush is made and no one eats, the Kiddush is in vain.
According to the great majority of poskim (see Sha’arei Teshuva 273:7; Pri Megadim, MZ 273:1; Living the Halachic Process II, C:3), if some eat the food required for a seuda and others do not, only those who ate are yotzei with Kiddush. Thus, at first glance, the person making Kiddush was not yotzei. Therefore, although the mekadesh is usually advised to drink a m’lo lugmav (app. 2 ounces) (Shulchan Aruch, OC 271:14), if he will not eat afterward, he must not drink from the wine, if he has not yet made his own Kiddush (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 4). On the other, if he is willing to drink a revi’it (a little more than 3 oz.), this counts as his meal according to most authorities (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 5; Mishna Berura 273:22, 27).
In certain contexts, it is common for the one making Kiddush to not eat anything. For example, a rabbi at a hospital may go from ward to ward making Kiddush without eating in each place. An older practice is of one making Kiddush in shul even though he is going to eat only at home (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 279:1). The gemara (Pesachim 101a) already mentions this practice and asks how it is possible considering that the person who makes Kiddush does not eat in shul. The gemara answers that it was instituted to fulfill the mitzva of Kiddush on behalf of guests who eat and sleep in the shul. Many Rishonim (see Tur and Beit Yosef, OC 279) are bothered by the situation in which there are clearly no such guests and we continue to make an ostensibly pointless Kiddush. However, when there are indeed such people who want to be yotzei with the person making Kiddush in shul, all assume there is no problem for the Kiddush to be done by one who is not eating on behalf of one who is eating. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 54:6, citing the Pri Megadim (ibid.), says that in the case you describe, the people listening to Kiddush and then eating fulfill the mitzva of Kiddush, while the one making Kiddush but is not eating does not fulfill it.
The possibility to do the mitzva for others while not fulfilling the mitzva oneself is a straightforward application of the rule of arvut (responsibility for others) in mitzvot. The more famous application is when one has already fulfilled a mitzva and wants to do it a second time for one who has not yet fulfilled the mitzva (Rosh Hashana 29a). The Dagul Me’reveva does raise the possibility, based on a surprising line in the Rosh (Berachot 3:13), that a man cannot do so on behalf of a woman. However, Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Shut I,7) convincingly argues that there is no difference between men and women in regards to arvut (he reads the Rosh differently). The Mishna Berura (Sha’ar Hatziyun 271:9) posits that Rabbi Akiva Eiger is correct.
Generally, arvut applies only to mitzvot and their berachot, which are obligations for the one who is in need of fulfillment and not to berachot on food, which the person is not required to eat (Rosh Hashana ibid.). However, the gemara concludes (ibid. 29b) that when the beracha on food is itself a mitzva (e.g., the wine for Kiddush) then arvut applies to it as well. Therefore, it is not required that the mekadesh drink the wine of Kiddush, as long as someone else is drinking the required amount (Shulchan Aruch, OC 271:14 – there is a question whether the m’lo lugmav can be reached by adding up what more than one person drank). This is even possible when others are drinking from a different cup of wine (Mishna Berura 271:77), although it is normally best for the one making Kiddush to drink the proper amount from the Kiddush cup (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 48:14).
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