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Unintentional and Innocuous DeceitI ordered something and had it delivered to my in-laws’ house. I forgot to mention it to them, so when it arrived, they assumed it was a gift for them and thanked me. Is it permissible to "play along" and pretend it was intended for them?
One forbidden form of geneivat da’at (deceiving someone) is when one sells a defective item, even when the buyer does not lose money from it (Chulin 94a). However, the same gemara includes several cases where Reuven makes Shimon think he is intending to give him something, when in fact he did not have that intention. One case is when Reuven urges Shimon to eat with him when he knows Shimon will not eat. Another is when he brings to his friend a utensil in a way that looks like he is bringing something of value, but he is not. Furthermore, the gemara forbids opening before a guest a barrel of wine most of which was already earmarked for sale. (Because the wine of newly open barrels tastes better than those open for a while, opening a new barrel looks like a big gesture to the guest.) Rather, says the gemara, you have to inform them that you would have had to open the barrel soon anyway.
Therefore, at first glance, it is problem to make your in-laws believe you gave a present. However, for one or more reasons, you are not required to tell them. First, we look at the reasoning behind the prohibition of this type of geneivat da’at. Rashi explains that the deceiver causes the recipient to feel that he owes him more reciprocally than he does. Had the recipient of the favor/gesture realized the situation, he would not be as generous in return. Thus, if there is no reason to expect any change in reciprocity due to the act, it is likely permitted to present a more positive picture than exists, and parents (in-law) usually give their children unrelated to little gifts their kids give them. (We do not usually make such distinctions regarding prohibitions, but a prohibition whose action is fine and the whole problem is situational is likely different.)
The following story (gemara, ibid. b) is very instructive. Two rabbis happened to be traveling in the opposite direction of a third rabbi. When they met, the third rabbi expressed his appreciation that they came to greet him. One of the two nicely corrected his mistake to avoid deceiving the third. The second one told the first he was mistaken in disappointing the third and that deception was not a problem because he had “deceived himself.” The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 228:6) rules like the second rabbi, that if the “recipient” should have realized that he actually did not receive a favor, the “giver” does not have to correct him. We can learn a stringency and perhaps also a leniency from this ruling. One might need to correct a misimpression even if he did not purposely do anything to create it if it turns out that he created the error. The leniency is that if he “should not” have jumped to the erroneous conclusion, the “giver” does not have to correct it. You would know better than we can how this idea applies to your case.
Another leniency is that it is permitted to give the wrong impression if the motivation of the “deception” is not to win favor but for the honor of the recipient (gemara and Shulchan Aruch ibid). In this case, it might be embarrassing to tell your in-laws that they made a mistake, although one could argue that it is not embarrassing, as it was your mistake not to tell them the item was coming for you.
Another difference is that, by letting them keep the item, you are, in truth, actually giving them a present. It turns out that they do have reason to be grateful. When one gives an actual present, whose degree is understood correctly (as opposed to the case of opening the wine), we do not find an obligation to divulge all the circumstances under which you gave it. For example, if you gave a nice present, you are not required to say the idea came from your sister-in-law. So too, you do not have to admit the idea of the present came from your in-laws’ mistake.
Maintaining a Possibly Grafted TreeI bought property with a nectarine tree and do not know if it is grafted. What do I do with it?
The main prohibition regarding tree grafting is the act of grafting – (inserting the branch (scion) of one tree into the wood (rootstock) of another tree). Actually, this prohibition is not explicit in the Torah, but Chazal (Kiddushin 39a) derived it from the proximity between crossbreeding of animals and crossbreeding in one’s field. The derivation is presumed to be of a Torah-level law (Rosh, Kilayim 3), and because it is derived from crossbreeding animals, which is not a land-based prohibition, it applies even outside Eretz Yisrael (Kiddushin 39a).
It is forbidden not only to plant kilayim (a mixture of species) but even to allow it to remain in one’s field (Rambam, Kilayim 1:3), and this extends to grafting trees as well (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 295:7). Although one may not leave the trees intact, one may eat or benefit from the fruit that grows there (Yerushalmi, Kilayim 1:4; Rambam, Kilayim 1:7). Exceptions to this rule are when grape orchards are involved and that the offspring of crossbred animals are invalid for a korban (Chulin 115a).
It is unclear whether leaving the grafted tree intact is a Torah-level prohibition or a Rabbinic one (see Tosafot, Bava Kama 81a), and it could depend if one is passive in the matter or active (see Shut Chatam Sofer II:288). In any case, the stronger opinion is seemingly that it is only Rabbinic (Derech Emuna, Kilayim 1:41).
The Chatam Sofer (ibid., cited by the Pitchei Teshuva, YD 295:4) was bothered by the practice in his time of many observant Jews (outside Israel) to buy orchards containing grafted trees. He explained that since the source for the prohibition and its extension to chutz la’aretz is from crossbreeding animals, the prohibition in chutz la’aretz is only when one is active in joining them together. Thus, claims the Chatam Sofer, their practice, even if it was not ideal, could be justified, especially if non-Jews control the doings in the orchard. The Chazon Ish (Kilayim 2:11) critiqued this leniency strongly. Thus, at first glance, it is quite problematic to keep and cultivate a grafted fruit tree even though its fruit are permitted.
In practice, you probably have no problem. Grafting trees is forbidden only when the scion is of a different species than the rootstock (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 295:6). Actually, nectarines are simply a variety of peaches; they are not (at least not usually) grafted onto a plum tree, as many think. Thus, it is permitted to graft a nectarine branch onto a nectarine or a peach tree. (Why would one graft if he does not want to mix species? Apparently, the main idea is almost like cloning. If you grow trees from seeds, fruit will only grow if there is cross pollination from another tree and then you don’t know their exact genetic makeup. By grafting, the scion will turn from a simple branch into, in effect, the beginning of a new tree with the old tree’s properties.)Since we do not want “to go out on a limb” botanically, let us keep your assumption that you do not know if your tree is grafted in a forbidden manner. (In most cases, one with horticultural experience can tell you if it is grafted at all.) The Chazon Ish (Kilayim 2:9) says that if one is unsure whether the scion and the rootstock are (considered) of the same species, it is permitted to keep the tree and cultivate it. This is based on a halachic type of “divide and conquer.” On the level of Torah law, there is a double doubt: perhaps there is never a Torah prohibition to maintain an already grafted tree; even if there is, perhaps the case before us is not an example of forbidden grafting. Therefore, regarding Torah law, we permit it based on double doubt. On the level of Rabbinic law (the Rabbis certainly forbid maintaining an improperly grafted tree), one may be lenient regarding the single doubt of whether they are different species. In chutz la’aretz, there is even slightly more room for leniency (see Chatam Sofer, ibid.).
Nichum Aveilim on Yom Tov and Chol HamoedCan nichum aveilim be done on Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed?
As is common regarding the laws of aveilut, there is a gulf between the gemara’s principles and current practice, but we will try to make some peace between them.
The gemara is clear that one may do nichum aveilim not only on Chol Hamoed but even on Shabbat and Yom Tov. The gemara (Shabbat 12a) says that Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagreed if it is permitted on Shabbat, and the halacha follows Beit Hillel, who permit it. A baraita (Sukka 41b) describing a person going from place to place holding a lulav and etrog mentions one going to nichum aveilim. The gemara (Moed Katan 20a) even says that since people do nichum aveilim on a mo’ed (even though shiva does not begin until after the chag), the number of days of chag after the burial are subtracted from the number of days of nichum aveilim after the chag because of nichum on the chag. So, for example, if there were three days of chag before shiva began, only on the first four days of shiva are people expected to be menachem (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 399:2).
Several relatively recent Acharonim point out that the minhag in our times is not to do nichum aveilim on Shabbat and/or chag. The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 287:3) and Kaf Hachayim (OC 287:4) say this in regard to Shabbat. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, YD II:172) reports that the same is true regarding Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed and suggests that this is the reason that we now assume that nichum aveilim is done during the entire period of shiva after chag even if the burial was during Chol Hamoed.
How did the change in practice come about? The following gemara (Shabbat 12b) may be most instructive: “Reluctantly, they permitted on Shabbat to console mourners and visit the sick.” Rashi (ad loc.) explains that the problem with nichum is that it raises upsetting things, and the Rif (Shabbat 5b) says that the visitor may scream out too strongly for this festive day. (This helps explain the Shulchan Aruch’s (OC 287:1) ruling that we use a different formula for nichum on Shabbat than during the week, although the Mishna Berura (287:3) also cites an opinion that one can use the regular one.) The Magen Avraham (287:1) expresses displeasure with those who improperly take advantage of “free time” specifically on Shabbat to do such mitzvot that are preferably done during the week. The Nimukei Orach Chayim (287:1) says that things have improved in this matter since the gemara’s time, as people now are careful to be menachem avel specifically during the week. He also points out that the nichum should be done with the aveilim sitting low, which should not be done on Shabbat, as it is public mourning. This finds expression in halachic practice in that we stopped doing this non-ideal nichum totally. While he does not discuss chagim, much of the same logic applies to it as well.
The Shevet Halevi (IV:53) points out that the factors that the Nimukei Orach Chayim raises existed in the gemara’s time. The B’tzel Hachochma (II:44) cites many Rishonim who describe nichum on Shabbat as a normal thing to do, and therefore says that we should not reject it. He even mentions some positives about it (people have time, are dressed nicely).The Gesher Hachayim (20:5:2) says that the minhag of Ashkenazim is to not do nichum on Shabbat or Yom Tov, but yes to do it on Chol Hamoed. As mentioned, more recent poskim (see Igrot Moshe, ibid.; Rav Auerbach, cited in Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 65:(181)) state that it is not practiced even on Chol Hamoed. Sephardic minhag (see Yalkut Yosef, Sova Semachot 26:2) is to sanction, even on Shabbat, to be menachem in the mourner’s house, when this is the only time he can do it. Ashkenazim do no more than mention one’s regrets and discuss feelings informally with the avel in shul. It seems that the Ashkenazic approach is that coming to an avel’s home is done only when he is accepting visitors as part of shiva (at the hours they set). At other times, only people who are very close would venture in.
Shehecheyanu on Shofar on Second DayWhy is it that at Kiddush on the second night of Rosh Hashana we require a new fruit in order to make Shehecheyanu but say Shehecheyanu before shofar-blowing of the second day without “help”?
Usually on the second day of Yom Tov (i.e., in chutz la’aretz), Shehecheyanu is recited at Kiddush even though it was already recited the day before, because we view the second day as based on doubt. In other words, we treat the second day as if it might be the correct day and thus the first day was incorrect and the Shehecheyanu of the first night was of no value. Therefore, it needs to be said on the second night. Rosh Hashana is somewhat different in that it was instituted more based on having two days of Yom Tov out of certainty (a concept often called yoma arichta = a long day). This certainty affects a few areas of halacha, not allowing us to employ leniencies that flow from viewing the second day as based only on doubt (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 600:1; ibid. 527:22). Some Rishonim suggest that due to yoma arichta, Shehecheyanu should not be said on the second day of Rosh Hashana since it was already properly, even in hindsight, recited on the first day. However, the more accepted opinion is that the second day was instituted with all elements of the first day. This apparently means that yoma arichta only strengthens the day’s practices and does not remove matters such as Shehecheyanu (see Tur, OC 600; Hapardes, Sha’ar Hama’aseh).
The Rosh (Rosh Hashana 4:14) recommended having a new fruit on hand to hedge our bets, so that even according to the opinion that Shehecheyanu is not called for due to the second day of Rosh Hashana, it is not l’vatala due to the fruit. However, it is not an absolute requirement, as both Ashkenazim and Sephardim rule that if one does not have a new fruit, he recites Shehecheyanu anyway (Shulchan Aruch, OC 600:2).
Regarding shofar, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, somewhat mysteriously, go in opposite directions. Ashkenazim follow the Rama (OC, 600:3) that regarding shofar Shehecheyanu is recited without the need for a new fruit (see Darchei Moshe, OC 600:2). Rishonim say that it is easier to recite it by shofar than at Kiddush (see Hagahot Maimoniot, Shofar 3:7), although the Mishna Berura does not understand why (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 600:5). The Minchat Shlomo (I:20) suggests that it is because regarding shofar there is a break in the yoma arichta, as at night the mitzva of shofar does not apply. Still, though, the Magen Avraham (600:3) and other important poskim recommend (as opposed to requiring when possible, as for Kiddush) for the ba’al tokeiah to wear a new article of clothing requiring Shehecheyanu and having that as his secondary intention while reciting Shehecheyanu on the shofar. Thus, it is not unanimous that there is a big difference for Ashkenazim in this regard between Kiddush and shofar. We agree that the more prevalent minhag is to not bother with the new clothing idea.
Sephardim follow the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 3), that one does not recite Shehecheyanu for shofar on the second day, even though the Beit Yosef cites no reason other than minhag for shofar being less deserving of Shehecheyanu than Kiddush (see Aruch Hashulchan, OC 600:4). Interestingly, Sephardim do not suggest bringing new clothes or fruit to enable it (perhaps because it is less practical than at Kiddush). While Teshuvot V’hanhagot (I:347) says that a Sephardi ba’al tokeiah should recite Shehecheyanu if blowing in an Ashkenazi shul, we expect him to follow Rav Ovadia’s ruling that he should not (Yabia Omer I, OC 29). (An Ashkenazi in the crowd can do so.)There is another comparison to pursue. On the second day of Yom Tov of Sukkot in chutz la’aretz, Shehecheyanu is not recited before taking the lulav. The distinction likely has to do with the possibility that Shehecheyanu of second night Kiddush covers it (Pri Megadim, EA 662:1) or the idea that Shehecheyanu can be said on lulav before Sukkot (Mishna Berura 662:2), so that the first day recitation sufficed.
When to Cut the Challa?Does one fulfill lechem mishneh if the bread is cut, or the matza is broken, prior to the completion of the beracha?
The basic question you ask is the subject of a machloket in the gemara (Berachot 39a) in regard to the preference of making a beracha on a full loaf of bread throughout the week. According to Rabbi Chiya, one does betziat hapat (the breaking of the bread, which, itself, has halachot) as he is making the beracha. Rava argues that the important thing is that at the conclusion of the beracha the bread is still whole, and therefore one should not cut off a piece until after the beracha is complete. The gemara (ibid. 39b) concludes that we accept Rava’s opinion (see also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 167:1).
As mentioned, the above is referring to weekdays, where the stakes are low, as one is not required to use a full loaf. On Shabbat, when one requires lechem mishneh, it is all the more important that the challot remain intact throughout the beracha. The Rama (OC 167:1) makes a practical distinction based on the heightened level of importance of wholeness on Shabbat. The Rosh (Berachot 6:19) says that although the separating off of the part of the bread to be eaten is done after the beracha, one should make a significant although partial cut of the loaf before the beracha. The reason is to minimize the delay between the end of the beracha and the eating of the bread. (See Bach, OC 167, who explains that it is not a halachically forbidden delay, but l’chatchila it should be minimized to the extent possible.) The Rama says that this preferable cutting is justified during the week when the wholeness of the loaf is only preferable, but on Shabbat, when it is crucial, one should not cut it at all. (If one did cut it, but only mildly, so that if one lifted the loaf by the smaller part, the weight of the larger part would not make it break into two, it is fine b’di’eved – see Rosh ibid. and Darchei Moshe, OC 167:2).
Poskim (Magen Avraham 274:1; Mishna Berura 274:5) recommend the following compromise, which most people follow, although to different degrees. One scratches a line on the challa at the place where he is going to want to cut, thereby saving time for that purpose. Many people do more than scratch but make a small cut, just not a significant one, due the concern the Rama addressed. (That seems to make more practical sense than scratching, because to have to position the knife exactly at the place of the scratch takes more time than to start cutting from the outset. In any case, any minhag along these lines is fine.)
Due to the above, using matza for the second “loaf” of lechem mishneh can cause challenges. (We are not even getting into the fact that using matza is a problem in regard to Sephardim (and, thus, when one has Sephardi guests), as matza is not bread for them, and its beracha is actually Mezonot.) One has to actually hold both loaves during the beracha (Berachot 39b; Shulchan Aruch, OC 274:1), and in the daytime the loaf which one is cutting should be on the top (ibid.). It requires some care to hold a nice-sized challa on top of a matza without the matza breaking. (Preferably no part of the lechem mishneh should break (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 55:8), although we generally assume that if the piece that broke off is less than 2% of the “loaf,” it is not a problem (see ibid. (24)).Despite the above, those Ashkenazim who want to use matza have every right to do so, just that they would be wise to be careful in handling it. Even at seuda shlishit, one should be careful to keep the loaves intact until after the beracha, as the poskim say that one should have lechem mishneh then, as well (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 291:4). However, the stakes are much lower at seuda shlishit because of the following. There are opinions, cited in the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 5), that bread is not needed at all. Even if bread is required, the Rama (ibid.) rules that it is acceptable, although not preferable, to have one whole loaf at seuda shlishit.
Reflecting on a Socio-Religious TrendI ask myself – What religious trends have I been noticing, both through questions received and by observation, and what is our reaction toward them?
There are crucial but obvious halachic and/or social issues in the forefront of rabbinic and community discussion. We do not consider this the correct forum to “throw our hat into the ring.” However, there are many “harmless” new or expanded religious practices that are a sign of trends with common roots. Identifying those roots and considering a basic strategy toward them (there are different legitimate ones) help the community and the individual react deliberately to practices that have and will arise.
We will focus on the types of practices that have begun to arise by those who strive for healthy (not extreme) religious excellence. One trend is the use and pursuit of segulot. For example, over the last 10-20 years, the chatan, kalla and sandek have become among those before whom one is expected to line up to receive berachot like a Chassidishe Rebbe. (Previously, we simple people would bless the chatan and kalla.) Tzedaka organizations encourage donations because THE right holy people will daven THE best tefilla at The best place at THE best time for us. (Almost forgotten are the mitzva, the important cause, the steps to prevent needless overhead, etc.)
Another trend (which is not new, but is in some ways is intensified) is the focus on the individual. We are not talking about selfish people, as many are true ba’alei chesed and work for the community, who just want to do the “best thing.” Here are a few examples of such practices that are new, picking up steam, or expanding to new communities: Breaking up a minyan so two aveilim can be chazan; a chazan using his own nusach in a shul with a set different nusach; asking for haftara semi-regularly during the year of aveilut; minyanim in which people come late, daven at their own speed without skipping, and thereby there is a questionable quorum for Shemoneh Esrei and chazarat hashatz.
Without going into the details of such specific issues, we see overlap between the trends. “I believe my nusach is better (for me), so the tzibbur should accommodate me.” “I need to provide my parent with the most effective illuy neshama, so the shul should sacrifice to accommodate aveilim in ways not traditionally prescribed.” “The Beit Yosef’s angel said that skipping is detrimental, so we no longer follow the Shulchan Aruch’s rules meant for a minyan to be a cohesive communal davening.”
Our approach is that while proper balance is always important, the rule is that the needs and preferences of the tzibbur come before those of the individual (see Living the Halachic Process, I:H-3). In matters where diverging from community norms can cause discord, even when that outcome it is not obvious, the sugyot of the 4th perek of Pesachim are strictly against an individual’s divergence. This is often even at the cost of religious preferences for the individual (see Mishna Berura 468:23). Furthermore, we believe (as often expressed beautifully by Rav Kook, including in Ein Ayah, Berachot 1:89) that the individual’s avodat Hashem should be focused on improving the community’s spiritual state. While the ultimate level of community is of Klal Yisrael, in one’s personal life, his local community represents his klal. It is true that a community should be concerned about the feeling of fulfillment of individuals. However, it is more fundamental that the individual not allow the fine points of his personal quest, even for the apparent spiritual advantage of his departed parents, to compromise what is healthiest for the community. Some segulot are positive … but when they do not impinge upon others.
Pursuing real Torah values, as set out by halacha, should define our practices. Of course, every issue that arises should be handled in a manner that seeks to avoid machloket. The community should remember this, but halacha says that the obligation to avoid machloket makes greater demands on the individual.
Calling a Kohen Who is a KatanWe sometimes have only one adult kohen and his son, who is under bar mitzva, doing Birkat Kohanim. In that case, should we call out “Kohanim”?
The halacha that you are assuming, that someone calls “Kohanim” before Birkat Kohanim only when there are at least two kohanim, is derived by the gemara (Sota 38a) from “say to them” (Bamidbar 6:23) in the context of Birkat Kohanim. Several Acharonim relate to your case, when there are two kohanim but only one of them is a gadol.
The Mabit (I:64), apparently the first major posek to discuss it, says that one does not call out in such a case. The first of the Mabit’s working assumptions is that the role of the katan is less than regarding most mitzvot, as a katan is not even supposed to do Birkat Kohanim by himself, just that he goes up along with adult kohanim (Tosafot, Chulin 24b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128:34). The second assumption is that calling out is done to create an obligation for the kohen to do Birkat Kohanim (see Tosafot, Menachot 44a; Tur and Beit Yosef, OC 128). Since the katan is not going to be impacted by the call of Kohanim, there is no point in doing it due to his presence. The gadol will remain uncalled and will fulfill the mitzva of Birkat Kohanim without the standard obligation. He adds that there is also a problem of hefsek if the chazan decides to unnecessarily call out Kohanim during chazarat hashatz. Finally, he says that it is a disgrace to the tzibbur to be dependent on the katan (see Rashi, Megilla 24a).
Several Acharonim, including the Magen Avraham (128:13) accept the Mabit. The Pri Chadash (OC 128:10), though, disagrees on all his grounds and rules to call “Kohanim” in that case. First, he says that although the katan does not do Birkat Kohanim alone, when he does it, it is the fulfillment of a mitzva like any other of a katan’s actions. Once calling is appropriate, there is no problem of hefsek. Finally, he posits that calling out is not a charge to bless, but is instruction to the kohanim to turn around, and thus it does not disgrace the tzibbur. He also points out that according to the Yerushalmi (Berachot 5:4), we should call even to one kohen (with there being a machloket whether to say “Kohen” or “Kohanim”), and therefore it is unlikely that the Bavli would forbid it.
The majority of Acharonim hold like the Mabit (see Kaf Hachayim, OC 128:64, Yalkut Yosef 128:18). However several Acharonim raise the following very pertinent distinction, according to the prevalent minhag of Ashkenazim in this context. While for Sephardim, the chazan recites only the word “Kohanim” after finishing the beracha of Modim, the Rama (OC 128:10) prefers the minhag that the chazan says quietly the short prayer of “Elokeinu … barchenu babracha …,” just that he says the included word of “Kohanim” audibly. As such, the call is not a hefsek. Many, including the Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 128:13), Mishna Berura(128:38), and the Kaf Hachayim (ibid.) say that according to this minhag, there is no problem saying Kohanim for one adult and one minor kohen. This is all the more so according to the prevalent minhag in Israel that the chazan is not the one to call out Kohanim at all. When we recall that according to the Yerushalmi, it is always proper to call out for one kohen, the idea makes a lot of sense. (Admittedly, the Mabit himself had other reasons for not saying Kohanim other than hefsek, but apparently many Acharonim felt that the other reasons are weaker.)
One could claim that it is not just possible but important to say Kohanim even in this case, because the obligation to perform Birkat Kohanim is predicated on that invitation of the tzibbur (see our column of Ki Tavo, 5774). However, I did not see that factor raised by the poskim. That is apparently because according to most, an inappropriate call to Birkat Kohanim is inconsequential. Also, the significance of calling Kohanim and the possibility that it creates an obligation is not as great as one might think. We discussed these points in that column.
Improper “Table” Manners?I was at the home of very fine friends, who have a few-weeks-old baby. Soon before the meal, they put a changing pad down on the dining room table and changed the baby. I didn’t say anything, but I (like most would) found it distasteful. Is it also halachically forbidden, and should I say something?
We will first take a look at the “halachic” element, and then, likely more importantly, try to put things in perspective.
The gemara (Chulin 27a) sees in a pasuk (Yechezkel 41:22) that mentions both the mizbeach (altar) and the shulchan (table) the following idea: “At the time of the Beit Hamikdash, a person would bring a sacrifice and be atoned, but now one’s table brings him atonement.” The primary explanation is that the atonement power comes from the mitzva of feeding those in need (see Tosafot ad loc.) – a practical, not mystical, concept. Nevertheless, there are several (semi-) accepted halachot that are learned from a spiritual concept of “a table is like an altar,” which may reflect another level of this gemara.
Several Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 180) learn from this concept that one should cover metal knives that are on the table at the time of bentching, as metal is kept away from the mizbeach because the latter lengthens life and the former shortens it. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 180:5) paskens this way. The Rama (OC 167:5) recommends to put salt on the table, just as salt was put on the korbanot brought on the mizbeach. The Magen Avraham (167:13) cites the Sefer Chasidim (102), that one must not kill insects on a table upon which people eat, just as he would not do so on the mizbeach, again, for the above reason. As usual, when the Magen Avraham states an opinion, most Acharonim follow suit (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 167:26; Kaf Hachayim, OC 167:41). The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 167:12) extends this to anything that is unseemly, with other Acharonim mentioning some specific examples, such as not allowing children to walk on top of the table (see Piskei Teshuvot 167:6). All indications are that this matter of respect for the table applies all the time, not just during a meal.
It seems clear to most anyone that changing a diaper is included in what the Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.) calls unseemly things, and he would thus forbid it. Actually, most people would refrain from doing so on health and aesthetic grounds, certainly in the presence of guests and soon before a meal.
On the other hand, I would not have said anything to the new parents, unless I felt that due to our relationship and/or their personality, they would take my comments in a positive spirit without significant embarrassment or resentment. While those who cite this halacha use the word assur, it is hard to view this post-Talmudic prohibition as a classical Rabbinic prohibition of the type from which we should try to protect our counterparts. (It is also unclear if all accept the Aruch Hashulchan’s extension to all unseemly things).
It is healthy to be melamed z’chut and see a little logic and even some beauty in the couple’s behavior. First, the halachot of excrement do not apply, for the most part, to such young babies (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 81:1 and Mishna Berura ad loc. 2). Indeed, the smell is also less oppressive (for most) and apparently somewhat less unhygienic (especially for nursing babies). What is more interesting, though, is the attitude of these parents, who, I would guess, are first-time parents. Their days (and some sleep-deprived nights) revolve around that little bundle of joy, and he or she occupies their thoughts and actions. With such a frame of mind, they probably see taking care of the baby’s needs as the most natural and beautiful thing, and it did not dawn on them that others might be taken aback. I would also predict that in a few weeks, they will “land” a little bit and stop doing this practice, not due to halachic realization, but due to a return to normalcy, in which they would “know better.” In the meantime, I would excuse their lack of tact and try to focus on its endearing element.
Animal ExperimentationI am working for a medical researcher, and a lot of it includes experimentation on rodents. Let’s just say that these animals’ lives are not always pleasant. Is this permitted, or is it tza’ar baalei chayim (causing pain to animals)? How should I feel about my involvement?
There is a machloket in the gemara (Bava Metzia 32b) and poskim whether tza’ar baalei chayim is a Torah law or a Rabbinic one, and it is possible that it is a quasi-Torah law (see Encyclopedia HiIchatit Refuit, VI, p. 525). Many mitzvot in the Torah (at least according to some commentators) and Rabbinic laws are based on concern for animals and are to avoid cruelty to them. When and why can this be waived for human purposes?
The simple reading of Tosafot (Avoda Zara 11a) is that tza’ar baalei chayim can be waived only to facilitate an important mitzva. However, the halachic consensus is along the lines of the following Rama (Even Haezer 5:14, based on the Issur V’heter and Terumat Hadeshen): “Anything that is needed for medicine or for other things does not have a prohibition of tza’ar baalei chayim. Therefore, it is permitted to pluck feathers [for quills] from live geese, but the world is careful about that because of cruelty.”
There are at least two approaches to why the prohibition falls in the face of human need. One is that the prohibition is only for being needlessly insensitive. We find regarding bal tachshit (not destroying things) that “destroying” something for a positive reason is permitted because it is, in context, not destructive. Indeed the two mitzvot may be connected as the gemara (Chulin 7b) says – killing an animal for no good reason is ba’al tashchit; keeping it alive but in pain is tza’ar baalei chayim. Thus, if done for a good reason, it is not destructive/cruel.
A second, complimentary approach, is that the Torah teaches us, explicitly and implicitly, that animal rights do not compare to human needs. There are several Torah statements along the line of “Have dominion over the fish … birds …” (Bereishit 1:28). Furthermore, we are permitted to take an animal’s life simply because we desire to eat meat. We may enslave animals to do hard labor, with some restrictions (not Shabbat, muzzled).
There are a few important possible distinctions. Permissibility may depend on the level of pain to which the animal is subjected. Normal agricultural work is not torturous and is permitted. However, the Rama above calls plucking feathers from a live bird cruelty, and says we do not do such things (see Shvut Yaakov III:71). The level of need is also a variable. Some rule that earning extra money is not an excuse (see opinions cited in Minchat Yitzchak VI:145), and while most authorities say that it is a valid reason, it may depend on how painful it will be for the animal (ibid.).
Rav Yaakov Emden (Sheilat Yaavetz I:110) says that tza’ar baalei chayim applies only to animals with which man works (e.g., cattle, horses, donkeys) or perhaps relatively highly cognitive animals (dogs, cats), but not to “lower creatures,” who experience pain differently. According to these opinions, it does not apply to insects, and likely not to rodents.
Looking for cures and treatments for human illnesses is certainly a very valid reason to allow animal experimentation. As several poskim point out, real efforts should be made to ensure the importance of the experimentation, limit the number of animals used, and minimize pain (including using lower species). Suffering animals should be euthanized as promptly as possible. Thankfully many countries have rules to monitor such things, and unfortunately few do a good enough job.
Personally, if you are involved for a short time, it is appropriate to feel somewhat uncomfortable, even if the practice is right (see a scary story about Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi – Bava Metzia 85a). A professional researcher can’t be expected to constantly live with guilt, but it is appropriate to seek ways to heighten sensitivity, emulating Hashem, whose mercy is on all of His creations (see Tehillim 145:9).
Sending Packages on Shabbat or Yom TovI often send packages with UPS. May I have them do a pick up on Shabbat or Yom Tov, when everything was done from beforehand, and they take it without my involvement?
There are two main issues to deal with: whether they are considered doing work on your behalf; whether there is a problem of marit ayin.
In this case, UPS is doing melacha on your behalf, at least in regard to driving to the pick-up point and perhaps other matters. (It might be somewhat of a lenient case since you do not interact with the person who is doing the work – see Mishna Berura 307:24.) It is generally permitted to have a non-Jew do work for you on Shabbat if they are doing it for their own purposes. When one pays the non-Jew to do work that the Jew wants, the major distinction is as follows. If the non-Jew is paid by time, it is considered doing work for the Jew; if he is paid per the job, it is considered that he is working on his own behalf (for the pay) (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 247:1). UPS obviously gets paid for the job, which is good. On the other hand, even in that case, if one instructs him, explicitly or implicitly, to do the work specifically on Shabbat or Yom Tov, it is forbidden (ibid.).
Therefore, you would have to give them a time for pick-up that would not necessarily be on Shabbat or Yom Tov (i.e., they have time before or after). From a look at their site, it seems that one’s request can be made for anytime (24/7). On the other hand, in a response to my written question (I cannot gauge the expertise of the specific customer service worker), pickups are generally done from 9 AM to 7 PM. Accordingly, during some of the year, if you allowed them to come all day, it would not necessarily be on Shabbat/Yom Tov and at other times, it would be on the same halachic day. The halacha is that it is not enough to provide them a theoretical alternative to work on Shabbat, but it must be practical (Mishna Berura 307:15). (You could ostensibly give them a two-day window to come on, but your question implies that you have a reason for it to be on one specific day and not the day after. The day before would also be fine.)
An interesting consideration arises with two days of Yom Tov. Is it permitted to tell them to come, say, anytime on Monday, when Monday is the first day of Yom Tov and Monday evening starts the second? This should be fine for any Yom Tov other than Rosh Hashana. That is because we treat each day as a mutually exclusive doubt. Namely, if the first day is holy, the second is not. If the second is holy, the first is not (Shulchan Aruch, OC 513:5). So if they have all day and part of the night of Monday, they have the opportunity to pick up on chol. Rosh Hashana, in contrast, is treated as two definite days of Yom Tov (ibid.).
There is still a problem, due to the halacha that one is not allowed to have a non-Jew take an object from a Jew’s home on Shabbat, unless he took it unexpectedly (Shabbat 19a). All explain that it has to do with marit ayin, but differ as to what people will think. The Shulchan Aruch (246:2) says that one will think that the Jew told him to carry it out for the Jew’s benefit into the public domain. If that is the case, then if the non-Jew lives within the same eiruv as the Jew’s home, there would be no problem, and it is possible that the same would be true of at least some cases on Yom Tov even without an eiruv (Taz 246:3). The Rambam (Shabbat 6:19) says that people will think that the Jew improperly sold or the like to the non-Jew on Shabbat. In that case, it applies even within an eiruv (Magen Avraham 246:6; see Sha’ar Hatziyun 246:7). In this case, it would seem that according to everyone there should be marit ayin because one who sees the non-Jew taking it on Shabbat or Yom Tov will not realize that he did not tell him to come specifically on the holy day (see Mishna Berura 252:17). Therefore, if you want the pick-up, in addition to including a possibility of chol pick up, you should also have it picked up from a non-Jewish neighbor’s house.
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