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Reconciling Conflicting Kaddish ConsiderationsEvery year, I am the one who says Kaddish for my mother-in-law (=mil) on her yahrtzeit. This year it falls out during the twelfth month of aveilut for my father, when one should not say Kaddish. How should I reconcile the conflict?
Before suggesting solutions, let us discuss the value of saying Kaddish on your mil’s yahrtzeit and refraining from Kaddish in the twelfth month of aveilut.
While the yahrtzeit is considered a potentially difficult day for the deceased and/or his children (Mahari Mintz 9), the focus in saying Kaddish is to improve the state of the deceased’s soul (Avodat Hagershuni 62). Causing others to sanctify Hashem’s Name is a powerful merit, which helps the deceased. When it is done by the deceased’s son, the idea is that the son’s continuing good deeds are a credit to those who brought him into the world (see story of R. Akiva, Kalla Rabbati 2:9; Binyamin Zev 201). For this reason, a son is singled out over other relatives (see Rama, Yoreh Deah 376:4). Because it is a once-a-year opportunity (Divrei Sofrim 376:67), a yahrtzeit commemorator has high Kaddish priority (similar to an avel in shloshim – see Rama ibid.).
Missing reciting Kaddish on your mil’s yahrtzeit is not particularly damaging. First, a son-in-law cannot provide the greatest gain, as above. In fact, according to many (see Piskei Teshuvot 132:30), a grandson, who is a descendant, is a better option when feasible. This is not to belittle your yearly contribution. Anyone who says Kaddish with a deceased in mind (or even for all departed Jews – Rama ibid.) has a positive impact. You have the advantages of being obligated to show respect to a mil and that feeling close to the deceased enhances its impact (Divrei Sofrim 376:83,87). However, we see no reason your mil’s soul should suffer if you are replaced this year by another relative, a friend, or a recipient of her chesed. Add to this that other matters are largely presumed to help the departed soul more than saying Kaddish. These include being chazan, doing extra mitzvot, and learning l’iluy nishmat the deceased (see Divrei Sofrim 376:99).
How problematic is it to say Kaddish in the twelfth month? A mourner’s recitation of Kaddish for twelve months helps the deceased during his time in gehinom, which can be up to twelve months. Saying Kaddish for twelve months disgraces the parent, implying the expectation they need the maximum time (Rama ibid.). The Kaddish does not otherwise hurt their soul; the problem is the appearance. Therefore, if it does not look bad, e.g., both parents died within the year, so that the mourner needs to recite Kaddish for the second one during the first’s twelfth month, he can continue (Divrei Sofrim 376:108). On the other hand, we are quite particular about this, and it is not unlikely that the exception is only for a competing obligation to recite for the other parent, not a voluntary recitation for a mil.
With the above in mind, we present, with short explanations, two good “compromises” to choose from. Both include getting someone else to do a full set of Kaddeishim, in addition to your wife/(others) doing the other elements properly.
1. Say one Kaddish for your mil sometime during the yahrtzeit. When only one person used to say a given Kaddish, giving one Kaddish for the yahrtzeit was sufficient when he was “beaten out” by avel in shloshim (Rama ibid.).
2. Arrange to be chazan at all or some of the day’s tefillot and say only the non-mourners’ Kaddeishim. A mourner in the twelfth month may be an occasional chazan (Shevet Halevi III:165), and by not saying Kaddish Yatom you are showing it is not to “save your father.” We mentioned above, that this is “better” for the deceased than to say Kaddeishim without being chazan.These are “win-win” compromises (which mechutanim hopefully got used to during their lifetimes), which all should be happy with. However, if special sensitivities cause your or your wife’s family to be upset by such arrangements, doing either a full Kaddish regimen or none at all is justifiable.
Visiting EgyptI am considering sightseeing in Egypt. Need I be concerned with the Torah’s prohibition of returning to Egypt?
We will not address the safety and national considerations of such a trip. We discussed when it is proper to leave Eretz Yisrael for any destination in Living the Halachic Process VI, G-2. (Not every place in present-day Egypt is in halachic Egypt (see Rambam Melachim 5:7)).
There is much classical discussion of the phenomenon of big Jewish communities in Egypt and great rabbis who lived there, including the Rambam. Distinctions found there are helpful regarding our less discussed question of sightseeing. The Torah mentions three times that Bnei Yisrael should cease contact with Egypt. Only one is in a clear halachic context, the prohibition of the king having too many horses because it draws people to Egypt (Devarim 17:16). Yet the Mechilta (Beshalach I:2) refers to three warnings and three communities who violated it and were harshly punished. The gemara (Sukka 51b) also speaks of the impressive community of Alexandria, attributing its demise to this prohibition. The Rambam (ibid. 7-8) codifies the prohibition.
The one explicit limitation on the prohibition in Chazal appears in the Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 10:8). It is forbidden to go to settle in Egypt, but it is permitted to go for commerce. Although the Torah (Devarim 17:16) refers to acquiring horses (i.e., commerce), the Ramban (ad loc.) explains that extensive trade for the king causes representatives to move to Egypt. The Rambam (ibid. 8) says broadly that it is forbidden only to go to be mishtakeia (in the Haggada, it means a long stay).
Why did the Rambam, Radbaz, and others live in Egypt for many years? The Radbaz (ad loc.) says that if one goes without intention to stay permanently, it is not a full violation to stay, and the Sultan would not let the Rambam go. The Radbaz justified his own long stay as done to teach Torah and noted that he eventually left. Thus, the Radbaz stretched the Yerushalmi’s leniency to the maximum, so that the Rambam was covered but the Talmudic community of Alexandria was not.
Rabbeinu Bachyei (Devarim 17:16) suggests that the prohibition was based on the fact that the Egyptians of Moshe’s times were particularly corrupt (see Rambam’s Sefer Hamitzvot, Lav 46), and the prohibition was not designed to continue after that period. Along similar but more halachic lines, the Semag (Lav 227) suggests that it was forbidden only as long as Egypt was inhabited by the Egyptian nation, which was exiled in later biblical times. Indeed, the nation is the apparent focus of one of the p’sukim (Shemot 14:13). The historic account of Egyptian exile is the subject of machloket, but the Rambam (Issurei Biah 12:25) accepts it. However, the gemara and the Rambam assume that the prohibition applies after that point.
The Yereim (309) suggests that the prohibition only applies to those who come from Eretz Yisrael to Egypt, and not if they come from other countries. This distinction has basis in the main pasuk, which says “not to return on this path again,” and distinguishes nicely between the Rambam and the community the gemara discussed, but its logic is unclear. The Ritva (Yoma 38a) continues this direction, saying that the prohibition applies only when Jews are able to live in a strong community in Eretz Yisrael, as opposed to when the people are anyway forced to be scattered throughout the world (see Yeshayahu 27:13).Which leniencies apply to contemporary sightseeing? The S’mag (different nation) applies. The Yereim (leaving from Israel?) applies to some Jews. The Ritva (anyway in exile) does not apply (see Tzitz Eliezer XIV:87). While the post-Talmudic distinctions are more difficult to rely upon, the Yerushalmi’s idea, that only settling, not commercial trips, is forbidden, is a strong one. Rav Ovadia Yosef permitted Israeli reporters to go to Egypt (Yechaveh Da’at III:81). Therefore, it should be fine, unless one says that you need a good reason, equivalent to commerce, for it to be permitted.
Finding a Fruit with Kedushat Shvi’itMy wife shopped at a special kedushat shvi’it fruit distribution. A few hours later, I spotted on the walkway to our building (of seven apartments) a single fruit. I took it home and asked my wife, who said it made sense that it fell from her, but asked how we can know it is not from a neighbor who might have also bought. Do I have to put up a sign or ask neighbors (whom I trust) if it could be theirs? Is it more lenient because there is no ownership of kedushat shvi’it fruit?
Let us take off the table the confusing matter of kedushat shvi’it. The field owner is required to treat his fruit as hefker (ownerless). There is a machloket whether it is automatically hefker based on divine decree (Shut Hamabit I:11; see Bava Metzia 39a) or whether it occurs only after the owner is, properly, mafkir (Avkat Rochel 24). When one permissibly receives fruit for consumption, he does become owner of the fruit, with kedushat shvi’it dictating halachot of its consumption and treatment. For that reason, a man is able to use fruit with kedushat shvi’it to marry a woman (Kiddushin 52a; see Rashi ad loc.) even though this requires the chatan’s ownership. Only at the time of bi’ur (when the fruit are no longer available in the field) must one temporarily return them to hefker (see Derech Emuna, Shemitta 7:17). Therefore, the kedushat shvi’it status will not make a difference.
Do you have to worry that it is someone else’s fruit? Your wife is not sure it is yours because this fruit, like most, has no siman (identifiable sign). By all indications, had it fallen from anyone else, they also would not have a siman. In such a case, Halacha assumes that the owner gave up hope of reclaiming it (yei’ush), as an honest finder will not be able it to find and confirm the owner. We rule that yei’ush shelo mida’at (a person will have yei’ush when he finds out of the loss but this has yet to occur) is ineffective, as the yei’ush must precede the finder picking it up (ibid. 22b). Therefore, for it to be permitted to take it, one would have to assume that the owner realized that the fruit fell. We pasken one may make this assumption (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 262:7) even though it is not a simple assumption (see S’ma ad loc. 15). Therefore, you are permitted to keep it.
Does the concern of your wife, who is not even sure if she lost such a fruit, that perhaps it does belong to a neighbor beckon for taking steps beyond the letter of the law? The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Metzia 18) does say this is proper even after yei’ush and with no siman. However, this is only when the finder finds out who lost it; he does not have to announce his find. In some ways your need might be more compelling, as you have the list of candidates effectively down to six trustworthy people, so might it is still be worthwhile?
In another way, your rights are much greater than the average one, because there is strong reason to think it is yours. In fact, even if a neighbor would have seen you picking up the fruit and demanded it back due to the possibility he dropped it, he would not be able to extract it from you without proof. You can then take comfort in the answer to the Mahari Basan’s famous question (cited in Kuntras Hasefeikot I:6) about the halacha that Reuven who is in possession of something does not have to give it to Shimon who makes a claim with insufficient proof, even if Reuven is unsure what the truth is. Why don’t we require Reuven to give it up due to the doubt that he might be stealing from Shimon? The most accepted answer is that once we determine who has rights to it based on the rules of monetary Halacha, the prohibition of stealing does not apply. Here too, if no neighbor is expected to be able to prove himself more deserving than you, you have no reason for concern.
If you want to try to return, not out of concern but out of love of going beyond the Halacha in monetary matters, that it is a different story. However, it would seem that such steps are more appropriate in cases that make a difference to people, not a single fruit.
Responsive Baby BassinetThere is a special bassinet that provides motion and soothing noise and reacts to an infant’s crying by intensifying them. Is it permitted to use this bassinet on Shabbat, and if so, are there special instructions?
[I researched the operation of a specific product but leave the parenting research to the parents.]
Presumably, you are asking about when you prepare the bassinet (including attaching the “sack”) so that you will not have to activate it on Shabbat. Several issues need addressing.
We assume (it is a broad subject) that activation of the change in the settings (as done by the crying) constitutes a Rabbinic-level violation of Shabbat. The baby himself is not culpable for anything, but is his parent guilty of causing him to do something forbidden? An adult must not feed (literally or figuratively) even a young child something that is forbidden (Yevamot 114a). However, he may put him in a situation where he will likely choose to do the violation on his own (ibid.). Our case is both better and worse than that case. On the one hand, the infant is not fundamentally violating Shabbat because his lack of cognizance of any connection between his instinctual crying and the change to the bassinet (see Shut R. Akiva Eiger I:8; Living the Halachic Process VI, C-11 regarding using diapers with disintegrating forms).
However, since the infant is not acting with cognizance, when an adult puts him in the situation in which he is expected to eventually cry and set off the change, we view the results from the adult’s perspective. Since the significant action will occur later after being activated by something, we say that the adult acted through gerama (indirect action). (Regarding gerama completed by living things, see Bava Kama 59b; Har Tzvi, Tal Harim, Tzad 1). Violation of Shabbat through gerama is a very low-level violation of Shabbat, to the extent that it is permitted in certain cases of need (Rama, OC 334:22), and there is likely more room for leniency when the basic prohibition is only on a Rabbinic level (see discussion in Yabia Omer III, OC 17). There is thus room for need-based leniency when the serious needs of a child are involved (Rama, OC 328:17), but that is something that a rabbi needs to decide on a case-by-case basis, which we cannot do in this general presentation.
Even if one receives a lenient ruling, he must be careful. If the infant is crying or likely to do so as he is put into the bassinet, thereby activating the bassinet immediately, that is considered the parent acting directly regarding Shabbat (see Tosafot, Shabbat 17b), as is taking out a crying baby in a way that it will stop right away.
It is forbidden to play musical instruments on Shabbat, and for Ashkenazim this extends to instruments made for the purpose of making sounds (Rama, OC 338:1). This bassinet seems to fit the bill as designed for sound making. However, this will not be a problem here for two reasons. 1) The prohibition is probably only for direct noise making, not for setting a situation in which it will make noise in the future (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 28:(65)). 2) The prohibition does not apply when the noise is made to help the sick (Mishna Berura 338:1), and since leniency is on the basis of the child’s significant need, this matter is also covered.
Another noise prohibition, avsha milta, applies even when nothing was done on Shabbat to cause it (e.g., putting grain in a mill soon before Shabbat) if people who hear it are liable to think that it was set up by melacha on Shabbat (Rama, OC 252:5). However, that is only for louder noises than the bassinet makes (Igrot Moshe, OC IV, 70.6).
In conclusion, we believe one could make the claim that leniency is called for, at least in case of need (to be discussed with one’s personal rabbi). However, leniency is not a foregone conclusion, especially because not infrequently the immediate activation of the mechanism will make its use outright prohibited. We await poskim to express their opinions on this quite new product.
An Agent Showing a House on ShabbatAsked by an American rabbi: A congregant of mine is trying to sell his house. His non-Jewish real estate agent suggested doing an open house on Shabbat, a good time for many buyers. If the owner goes away for Shabbat, may he do that?
I leave to you to deal with communal implications of an event done to attract specifically non-Shabbat observant buyers and the possibility it will cause non-observant Jews to violate Shabbat. Those issues require familiarity with the local situation.
It is difficult to know if the agent, who provides services for the Jewish seller, will need to do melachot in showing the house. When it is not necessary, then even if he does melacha, it does not relate to the Jew for whom he is doing the job (Orchot Shabbat 23:54-58). However, even assuming the agent will not take any steps of formal transactions for you at the open house, just trying to promote a future deal is forbidden on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 306:1). One may not ask a non-Jew to do even a Rabbinic prohibition such as that, without special grounds (Shulchan Aruch, OC 307:5).
A major factor that often permits amira l’nochri (asking a non-Jew to do work for him) exists here, namely, katzatz. When the non-Jew gets paid by the job, as opposed to as a worker paid by time, it is permitted for him to do melacha for the Jew (Shabbat 19a; Shulchan Aruch, OC 244:1). The logic is that in such a case, he is acting not because the Jew asked him to but to receive the money that the result earns him (see Mishna Berura 244:2). Realtors are almost always paid only if and when they succeed in facilitating a sale and their rate is unrelated to the amount of time it took, but to the result.
However, there are two problems with using this leniency in this case. One is that even regarding katzatz, the non-Jew must not be told explicitly or otherwise realize that it is necessary that at least some of the work must be done specifically on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, OC 252:2). Here, the plan the Jewish owner accepts is for the open house to be held specifically on Shabbat. It does not help if the realtor thought of the idea, as it is still a plan to work on the Jew’s behalf specifically on Shabbat. If this were the only problem, one could look for leniencies to alleviate the problem (details are beyond our present scope.)
The second problem, which applies if we are discussing a home in the midst of a community that includes Jews, is marit ayin. The gemara (Avoda Zara 21b) says that one may not let a non-Jew work on his property even if he does so for his own profit because it is known as a Jew’s establishment and some people will assume the type of business arrangement with the non-Jew was one that is forbidden. While this can apply even when the non-Jew is working on a Jew’s movable object (e.g., fixing his car), if it is clearly a Jew’s, the prohibition is broader and sterner when it is related to land/house (Shulchan Aruch, OC 244:1-2). While the problem should not apply when it is known that this type of work is paid by the job (as is the case for realtors), this does not help when the work is done in the Jew’s known, accessible house (ibid.). The concern is that although people will figure he is paid per result, they may suspect that the Jew asked him to do the job specifically on Shabbat (Mishna Berura 252:17).
Therefore, writing about a case where the owner does not live in the house and hands over the job of showing the home to the realtor alone, Orchot Shabbat (23:158) forbids allowing the non-Jew to show the house on Shabbat if it is known to be a Jew’s house and is accessible to a Jewish community. Our case, where the owner takes part in making the open house on Shabbat, is more clearly forbidden. In many communities, this will not only be “technically” forbidden but may be seen as a scandalous affront to Shabbat.
May the concern for the honor of Shabbat help provide the seller with merit to succeed in finding his buyer, during the week.
Mistake in Beracha on Delayed Laying of Tefillin – part III was at home with a weak stomach and decided it would be halachically prudent to put on my tefillin for a shortened period (from after Yishtabach through Shemoneh Esrei). After I fastened the tefillin shel yad, I realized that the beracha I had recited was not the one for tefillin but that I had instinctively said Yotzer Ohr. I continued davening with just the shel yad until the next semi-break, Yotzer Hame’orot, at which point I put on the shel rosh. Was that correct?
[Last time we saw that in the midst of Birkat Yotzer Ohr, there were two reasonable ways to time putting on the shel rosh and making the berachot.]
Had you switched the beracha to L’hani’ach Tefillin within toch k’dei dibur (app. two seconds), you probably could have combined the beracha opening with the intended, preferable wording and ignored Yotzer Ohr (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 209:2). Having not done so, were you truly in the midst of the beracha of Yotzer Ohr and were correct in continuing with it or was the unintended beracha of Yotzer Ohr worthless?
It might seem to depend on the question (see Berachot 13a; Megilla 17a) of mitzvot tzrichot kavana (are mitzvot valid b’di’eved if the right action was done without intention to fulfill the mitzva?). While the ruling is not fully clear, especially concerning a Rabbinic mitzva, including almost all berachot, the main current is that one does not fulfill the mitzva (Shulchan Aruch, OC 60:4 and Mishna Berura 60:10). Also, it is possible that a beracha made with a different beracha in mind is worse (see Tosafot, Berachot 12a). Furthermore, arguably a “slip of the tongue” (you apparently went from Yishtabach to Yotzer Ohr on “auto pilot”) might be considered mitasek, which is worse than lack of intent (see Rosh Hashana 32b). On the other hand, this case might be better than classic mitasek, as you intended to praise Hashem with a beracha, albeit a different one.
Whether your Yotzer Ohr was valid might depend on how one learns a Magen Avraham (209:5). Writing about one who recites Malbish Arumim with Poke’ach Ivrim in mind and then immediately inserts Pokeiach Ivrim, the Magen Avraham is unsure which beracha he fulfills. If he had intended for Malbish Arumim and then tried to “erase” it in favor of Pokeiach Ivrim, he fulfilled Malbish Arumim. The Panim Meirot (I:58) changes the text in the Magen Avraham because one can correct a mistaken recitation immediately (Shulchan Aruch, OC 209:2 about one who recited Borei Pri Hagafen on water), and the Magen Avraham says that one who mistakenly recited, at Havdala, Borei Me’orei Ha’eish before Borei Minei Besamim can correct to Borei Minei Besamim. The Dagul Meirevava keeps our text and distinguishes as follows. In the case of water and of besamim, the object he held during the beracha proved he made a mistake, which enables him to switch to the correct beracha. In contrast, regarding Pokeiach Ivrim/Malbish Arumim, there is no physical indication the beracha was mistaken and therefore, it is unclear if he can change it. The Yad Ephrayim (ad loc.) makes a different distinction. Because Borei Pri Hagefen on water is nonsensical, moving on from Borei Pri Hagefen is natural, whereas regarding Malbish Arumim and Pokeiach Ivrim, which are both appropriate berachot, it might not be possible to switch, as the originally recitation takes effect. Our case contains a split between the distinctions. On the one hand, Yotzer Ohr and L’hani’ach Tefillin were both appropriate at that point, but being about to fasten the tefillin made it clear you did not intend then for Yotzer Ohr.
The above, though, is moot. Since Yotzer Ohr is a long beracha, even if lack of intention invalidates its beginning, the continuation of the beracha validated it. If you would have stopped for L’hani’ach Tefillin, you would have given up on the beracha you began, making it l’vatala, so it was good you continued. It might have been better to repeat “yotzer ohr…” (without “Baruch ata…), with kavana, but the beracha, as you did it, was valid b’di’eved.
Mistake in Beracha on Delayed Laying of Tefillin – part II was at home with a weak stomach and decided it would be halachically prudent to put on my tefillin for a shortened period (from after Yishtabach through Shemoneh Esrei). After I fastened the tefillin shel yad, I realized that the beracha I had recited was not the one for tefillin but that I had instinctively said Yotzer Ohr. I continued davening with just the shel yad until the next semi-break, Yotzer Hame’orot, at which point I put on the shel rosh and the hand wrappings. Was that correct, and what should I have recited when?
Considering the need to react to a mistake, you got a lot of things right, which we will now review. We will start with your assumption that your recitation of Yotzer Ohr was valid, and later we will revisit that assumption and its ramifications.
While it is hard to quantify such matters, one should not have tefillin on when there is even a small/modest chance that he might release gas (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 37:3; Mishna Berura 30:4). The most important time to have tefillin on is for Kri’at Shema and Shemoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch, OC 25:4). After starting Baruch She’amar, when breaks are permitted only for important reasons, the best place to make important interruptions is between Yishtabach and Kaddish (with a minyan, other than for a chazan) or Yotzer Ohr (by oneself) (see Rama, OC 54:3). Even at this point (and certainly in your case), though, one should recite only the berachot and Baruch shem … and not the additional p’sukim (Ishei Yisrael 16:26*). While other possibilities exist, as we shall see (see also Mishna Berura 53:5), your plan makes great sense.
Finding yourself in the midst of putting on tefillin in the midst of one of birchot Kri’at Shema (Yotzer Ohr ends with “Yotzer Hame’orot”) indeed raises questions. One does not make a beracha on tefillin in the middle of a section/beracha, and unless it is during Kri’at Shema, one should wait until the next beracha break to put on the tefillin with the berachot (Shulchan Aruch, OC 66:2; Be’ur Halacha ad loc.; Mishna Berura ad loc. 15; Ishei Yisrael 19:13). There is a minority opinion (see Mishna Berura 54:13) that recommends putting on the tefillin at the first opportunity, even in the middle of a beracha, and making the beracha on them after touching them at the next break. You anyway had little to gain, with the tefillin already on (see opinions in Dirshu 66:5), by reciting L’haniach Tefillin before Yotzer Hame’orot, so waiting had logic.
In your case, though, there was another factor. One must not speak between the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh, which you did with the entire beracha of Yotzer Ohr. The severe issue (Sota 44b) is based on the fact that the break creates an artificial need for an extra beracha (Mishna Berura 25:28), but that did not apply to you. You did not make the beracha in the first place and should have recited the same L’haniach Tefillin (for the ongoing mitzva of the shel yad) and Al Mitzvat Tefillin (followed by Baruch shem k’vod … - Ishei Yisrael 19:13) for the shel rosh. There is no problem per se with having only one of the tefillin on for extended periods, and when necessary this is prescribed (Shulchan Aruch, OC 26:1). Nevertheless, it is relatively important to do the two in proximity to each other (Mishna Berura ibid.).
Therefore, we would have recommended to put on the shel rosh without berachot and make up both berachot after Yotzer Hame’orot. Although we generally want a mitzva’s berachot to precede the mitzva (Pesachim 7b), there are agreed precedents that the beracha on the tefillin will come later. One example is one who is traveling precariously before the time for tefillin (Shulchan Aruch, OC 30:3), and another is one whose tefillin arrive right between Ga’al Yisrael and Shemoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch, OC 66:8). On the other hand, neither setup is perfect and neither is forbidden, and therefore what you did was also reasonable.
As promised, we will return to discuss the mistaken beracha next time.
Birkat Kohanim in a Shiva HouseI was surprised to find, in a shiva minyan, an avel who did Birkat Kohanim. I didn’t know whether to tell him that I had never seen this before. Was it okay that he did so?
Generally, an avel is obligated in all the mitzvot, with a prominent exception being not wearing tefillin on the first day of aveilut because he is not fit to connect with the grandeur of tefillin (Berachot 11a). So, ostensibly there would have to be a good reason to deprive an avel who is a kohen from doing Birkat Kohanim, and there is no explicit source in Chazal that this is the case.
The Mordechai (Megilla 817), in discussing that a kohen who will not do Birkat Kohanim must not be in shul when the kohanim are called, which obligates him to go up, mentions an avel during the 12 months for his parents as one who does not duchen, according to the minhag. The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 128) wonders what the logic of the minhag could be, but he cites a Shibolei Haleket that there is a need for a kohen to be in a state of simcha in order to do Birkat Kohanim. This is also the logic behind the Ashkenazi minhag to do Birkat Kohanim only on Yom Tov (Rama, OC 128:44; see more on the topic in Living the Halachic Process III, A-17). There is even a related Ashkenazi minhag that single men do not duchen because they do not “dwell in happiness” (see ibid.) The Shulchan Aruch (ad loc.) does not accept either of these minhagim (Ashkenazim accept the former), but regarding shiva, he does instruct the avel to leave the place of davening before the kohanim are called (i.e., before they start R’tzei - Be’ur Halacha ad loc.).
The Shiyarei Knesset Hagedola compares the avel during shiva to the situation of all on Tisha B’av, where according to some (including minhag Yerushalayim) there is no Birkat Kohanim in Shacharit, because the first part of Tisha B’av is the antithesis of happiness (not all agree; see opinions in Eliya Rabba 559:13; R. Akiva Eiger to Magen Avraham 131:10). Some distinguish because on Tisha B’av the mitzva is only delayed until the afternoon and because the entire congregation is in aveilut (see Yabia Omer IV, Yoreh Deah 32). The Radbaz (I:1) does not see any reason for the avel to give up his mitzva.
Based on the idea that the avel sets the tone for the entire minyan¸ the minhag in many places is that no one does Birkat Kohanim and, according to some, the chazan does not recite Elokeinu vei’lokei….in a shiva house (Ishei Yisrael 24:50). However, many refer to a minhag Yerushalayim to do Birkat Kohanim there (ibid.; Gesher Hachayim, vol. I, p. 205). According to this minhag, even the avel can and likely should do so himself. After all, since it is only a minhag for a kohen to refrain and it is a Torah-level obligation for a kohen to duchen, it is problematic for a kohen/avel to not take part. We have seen that the kohen should walk out before R’tzei, but this tension makes it understandable if he takes part himself. (It is not clear why he must walk out considering that our minhag is to not call kohanim until right before the Birkat Kohanim, which is too late for them to go up (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 8), but this is apparently the minhag). Therefore, whether the shiva house in question was in Yerushalayim¸ so that the avel may have been right, or elsewhere, since fundamentally he did nothing wrong, there is no need to get involved. (If you feared that he will be embarrassed if “corrected” on another day, you could have mentioned to him after davening that there are different opinions and asked whether he received a ruling.)
If the avel follows the standard minhag (i.e., does not do Birkat Kohanim), what does he do about walking out if he is the chazan? There is a major question (which we wrote about in this column, Vayeira 5780) whether a kohen who is a chazan should ever do Birkat Kohanim; he certainly should not if he might get confused (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 128:20 with commentators). Therefore, the avel/chazan need not leave whether or not other kohanim are reciting Birkat Kohanim.
Interrupting Shabbat Meal for Shema/SefiraWhen we make early Shabbat, is it better, when nighttime falls, to recite Kri’at Shema and sefirat ha’omer during the meal or to wait until after the meal?
We will be assuming you were correct in starting the meal. To make that clear cut, you should have started the meal at least a half-hour before the optimal time for these recitations, which is tzeit hakochavim (Mishna Berura 267:6 regarding Kri’at Shema; ibid. 489:23 regarding sefirat ha’omer). Grounds for leniency to start eating after this point are beyond our present scope (see discussion in Piskei Teshuvot 489:16).
The mishna (Shabbat 9b) says that we interrupt certain activities, including eating, in order to recite Kri’at Shema, but do not interrupt for tefilla, as only Kri’at Shema is a Torah-level obligation (Rashi ad loc.). The above refers to a case where he started when he should not have, but if he started early enough before the time for Kri’at Shema, he is not required to interrupt the meal (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 235:2, see Mishna Berura ad loc. 21).
According to the Rama (OC 489:4), sefirat ha’omer is like Kri’at Shema – if he started eating when he should not have, he should interrupt the eating for sefirat ha’omer, but if he started when he was allowed to, sefirat ha’omer can wait until after he finishes eating. Sefirat ha’omer is treated as strictly in this regard as Kri’at Shema because of the opinion that sefirat ha’omer is a Torah-level mitzva even when there are no korbanot (Rambam, Temidin 7:24, as opposed to Tosafot, Menachot 66a), and/or because it is a minor disruption of the meal (Mishna Berura 489:25).
When it is not required to interrupt, is it positive to do so anyway? The Yerushalmi (Shabbat 1:2) says regarding one who is not required to interrupt eating for Mincha, that if he voluntarily interrupts, we call him a hedyot (simpleton), like others who do things from which they are exempt. Many explanations are given as to why it might be objectionable to “go the extra mile” – it may be haughtiness, it can reflect poorly on those who follow the halacha as given, it can distort the true halacha (see opinions in Encyclopedia Talmudit, entry “Kol hapatur min hadavar v’oseihu”). This rule appears at odds with the common halachic rule that one who is more machmir than he needs to be is lauded as worthy of blessing, and many attempts are made to distinguish between various cases. Regarding the case of Mincha, which the Yerushalmi addressed, while some say that one who is unnecessarily stringent is called a hedyot (Magen Avraham 232:9), others question whether this is accepted (Be’ur Halacha to 232:2; see Divrei Yissachar 18). Regarding voluntarily stopping the meal for the generally more stringent Kri’at Shema and sefirat ha’omer, none of the major commentators raises the prospect of calling him a hedyot.
There may be reasons to prefer a voluntary interruption of the meal specifically for sefirat ha’omer. We have seen already the idea that sefirat ha’omer is fulfilled with relative ease, as it does not require much of a break. Additionally, there is special importance to the concern that if he forgets to recite sefirat ha’omer that day, it might disqualify the entire mitzva (see Noda B’yehuda I, OC 27). On the other hand, the Sha’agat Aryeh (22) says that on Shabbat, when one is in the midst of a mandatory full meal, the obligation of Birkat Hamazon (50 + times a year) is more frequent (tadir) than sefirat ha’omer (49 times a year), which gives the former precedence regarding order. (It is unclear if this applies if one does not plan to bentch until much later). In this regard, Kri’at Shema is more common, and therefore has preference over both (ibid.).In summation, there is nothing halachically compelling about either reciting Kri’at Shema and sefirat ha’omer as soon as possible or waiting until the end of the meal. Therefore, the most important determinant is what system works best so that you do not forget to do all the mitzvot sometime during the evening.
Disposing of Tea Light LeftoversI read that one should not throw directly into the garbage mitzva-related objects. Should I wrap in plastic the leftover shell and wax residue from “tea light” Shabbat candles?
[We have discussed questions about respect for objects involved in mitzvot (tzitzit, netilat yadayim cups, a “yad”), and so relying on electronic access, we will go light on sources. The fact that the question never dawned upon me intrigued and pushed me to seek logical guidelines.]
The gemara (Megilla 26b) says that while tashmishei kedusha (objects related to holy texts) require geniza, tashmishei mitzva (used to facilitate mitzvot, e.g., sukka, lulav, shofar, and tzitzit) may be thrown away. Authorities posit that one may not disgrace the latter (see Orach Chayim 21 regarding tzitzit), and sources make gradations in restrictions based on level of linkage to the mitzva (e.g., tzitzit and schach > tzitzit garment and sukka walls, respectively) and levels of disgrace (use with filth > throwing in the garbage > leaving unattended outside).
Oil left in a Chanuka ner sometimes must be burnt without benefit (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 677:4). This limitation is because of muktzeh (set aside) for a mitzva and does not apply to Shabbat candles, which calls for it being used for human needs (Tosafot, Shabbat 44a). There is a machloket among contemporary poskim whether Shabbat oil leftovers may be disgraced, including throwing them directly into the garbage, (see opinions cited in Ginzei Hakodesh 19:12). (All the above refers to a significant amount of leftover, not negligible residue, as we distinguish regarding kedushat shvi’it leftovers.) We refer to a thesis we raised (this column, Shelach 81) that throwing things in a normal home garbage is not as degrading as throwing into a garbage dump of old.
A tea light shell is not a producer of a mitzva flame, but just something that held it. This makes it a tashmish d’tashmish mitzva, the lowest of the Pri Megadim’s (153, MZ 15) six categories of special objects, for which he provides no halachot. Therefore, it is not surprising that regarding a simple glass cup holding oil/candle for Shabbat lights, the standard opinion is that one may discard it as he likes (Ginzei Hakodesh 19:13).
However, Ginzei Hakodesh (16:(16)) cites an interesting principle from Rav Elyashiv. When an object is clearly related to a mitzva per se (not just a good practice, e.g., a kipa), it should be discarded respectfully. Using regular halachic rules, a chanukiya or Shabbat candlestick could be more lenient than the glass cup sitting on it, as it is one step further removed from the mitzva. But one can (even though it probably is unnecessary) accept this stringency and still not have qualms about the tea lights. On technical grounds, tea lights are used throughout the world for many other purposes than Shabbat candles, so its connection might not be as clear. However, there is a more fundamental distinction. The clear connection to a mitzva makes sense not because someone can guess what it was used for (the user is himself aware), but it is a matter of association. We and/or society closely associate certain objects with a mitzva. You will find candlesticks/chanukiyot in Jewish museums and kids’ mitzva games, not oil cups. An object that would cause a nostalgic person to feel loss when throwing out should be disposed of carefully when its nostalgia is connected to a mitzva. While higher levels on the kedusha “totem pole” follow objective halachic criteria, a tashmish d’tashmish mitzva gets special treatment only when it subjectively deserves it. A normal person disposes of flimsy, disposable tea light shells without sentiment, and therefore there are no limitations. The factors that caused me to not think of your question are likely reason for it being permitted
While we are not generally against personal chumrot, unnecessary ones involving regular use of plastic are not positive “chasidut,” as the Orthodox Jewish community must embrace civic and global environmental responsibility.
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