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Pressuring a Store to Take Back PurchaseI bought something in a store and wanted to return it. The customer service person was reluctant to take it back, but I was persistent and she eventually agreed to it. Was it permitted for me to handle it as I did, or did I violate lo tachmod (I heard in a shiur that you can violate this when pressuring a store to give a refund)?
Our discussion relates to cases in which you do not have a legal right to demand a refund. In such a case, forcibly returning the object is like forcing someone to buy it. Regarding coercion to make a transaction, if someone is coerced to sell something and at the end says “yes,” the sale is final (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 205:1). When he is coerced to buy something, there is a machloket whether the purchase is final (Rama ibid. 12 – no; Pitchei Teshuva ad loc. 11 – yes). Even according to the Rama, it is hard to believe that you would try or succeed in coercing the store to take it back. When a civil person is just persistent, even if annoying, it rarely reaches such a level.
However, acting persistently to try to bring about a transaction in which the other side is not interested does raise questions of lo tachmod (see Shulchan Aruch, CM 359:10) one of the Ten Commandments. However, in this case, lo tachmod (not coveting) does not apply for a simple reason. All of the cases of lo tachmod that I managed to find in classical sources (starting from the examples in the pasuk) and quite a few contemporary sources referred to desiring to receive an object (or person) that belongs to one’s friend. It becomes forbidden when one wants it so badly that he attempts to get it “by hook or by crook” (see Rambam and Ra’avad Gezeila 1:9 for one discussion of the point of violation). They do not mention trying to sell something by pressuring a buyer.
I contacted the talmid chacham who gave the shiur you heard. The only source he found was a footnote in the Pitchei Choshen (Geneiva 1:(26)). He admitted that he was not sure lo tachmod applied. In fact, Minchat Asher (Devarim 9) argues convincingly that one can only be chomed an object that he wants. Wanting to sell something and receive financial compensation is not coveting anything. We point out that desiring money is not forbidden or even negative – we daven and have many sources looking positively about acquiring wealth and certainly a basic living.
It also is quite clear that the Pitchei Choshen did not contradict this thesis. He discusses, in close proximity, lo tachmod and the similar chamas. The difference between the two is that in lo tachmod the seller eventually agrees, whereas chamsan is when the seller never agrees (Bava Kama 62a – it differs from a ganav in that he paid for it). The Pitchei Choshen writes that chamas (not lo tachmod) applies even to one who forces someone to buy from him. While this is difficult on a couple of grounds (beyond our scope), it is more tenable for chamas to apply to selling as well, because in the case where there was never agreement, there is no sale, and therefore the “seller” had no right to take the money even after the fact. This is not the same idea of lo tachmod, which is over-desiring something that is off limits to you (even if some action is necessary to concretize it – see Rambam ibid.). In your case, you did not desire anything; to the contrary, you wanted to get rid of something that did not interest you and just recover the money you regretted paying.The maggid shiur wrote to me that even if it is not formally lo tachmod, it has elements of it regarding the spirit of the law. I agree with this contention partially. It is bad middot to pressure people to do something that they do not want and are not required to do. But if one focuses on convincing the proprietor that if he does not agree, he will prefer patronizing a more accommodating store, which he has every right to do, that should not be a problem. If you pressured him obsessively or with improper tactics, that is against the spirit of the law … but not the spirit of lo tachmod.
The Necessity to See the Moon Before Kiddush LevanaLast week clouds covered the moon after some of us began Kiddush Levana. Can the remainder rely on their “testimony” to join the beracha?
Many early sources (Yerushalmi, Berachot 9:2; Sanhedrin 42a, in some texts; Rambam, Berachot 10:16; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 426:1) present the seeing of the moon as the presumed prompt for making the beracha, saying: “One who sees the moon …” This is despite the fact that we do not need testimony to know that it is there. If the beracha were a matter of the tzibbur, one could argue that if (most of) the minyan saw it, others could join the beracha if it began properly. However, Kiddush Levana is a beracha of the individual, and it is but a preference to do so among others (Be’ur Halacha to 426:2). Therefore, each individual needs the conditions to make the beracha. Usually, when it was seen moments before, it is likely to again be seen soon thereafter. However, there are still conceptual and practical matters to consider.
Is it critical to be able to see the moon, even in a case in which it will not be visible before the end of the beracha’s period? The Radbaz (I:341) says that a beracha made while the moon is covered is levatala, modeling it after Borei Meorei Ha’esh at Havdala. The Terumat Hadeshen (I:35) instructs that one should wait until Motzaei Shabbat for Kiddush Levana only if it leaves enough days for there not be concern of constant cloud cover. This implies that it can absolutely not be done with cloud cover.
Yet, there is a minority opinion that if constant clouds will prevent doing Kiddush Levana that month, one can do it without seeing the moon (Adnei Paz, OC 426). Conceptually, this may depend on the nature of the beracha. If we thank Hashem for the new month (as the simple reading of the beracha suggests), represented by the new moon, then seeing it is perhaps less important. We do not need to see it when we daily bless Hashem for making the sun and the moon (Yotzer Hame’orot)!
A major source that minimizes the need to see the moon is the Shut Maharshal (47), who says that a blind person (suma) can make the beracha. Many accept this opinion (see Mishna Berura 426:1), although many disagree (see Be’ur Halacha ad loc., VIII, OC 22). In contrast, a suma does not make the beracha on light at Havdala (Shulchan Aruch, OC 298:13).
However, many sources posit that the beracha is on the light. The p’sukim on the creation of the sun and moon stress the moon’s light-giving attribute (see Bereishit 1:14-18). In fact, the Rama (OC 426:1) says we must do Kiddush Levana late enough to not only see the moon but also benefit from its light. Even the Maharshal, who obligates a suma, requires benefit in terms of time and possibly place, just that not each person needs to personally benefit directly.
A few questions may hinge on how fundamental to the beracha the light or the benefit from it is. If it is like other berachot on seeing elements of nature and praising Hashem for creation (which the Rambam ibid implies), it would not seem critical that if, subsequently, during the beracha, it is covered (compare to the beracha on thunder/lightning). If the beracha is on receiving benefit from the light, it is more likely to need to continue throughout (see two opinions in Be’ur Halacha to 426:1). The accepted opinion is that one should believe it will last throughout the main beracha (until … mechadesh chodashim), but if one started, he can continue. There is also a machloket in the other direction, when there is enough light to benefit, but the moon is not clearly visible (see Shut R. Yaakov MiLisa, OC 7).
Arguably, the beracha’s nature might impact on a variation of your case – if the one who saw the moon made the beracha also intending to do so on behalf of those who did not. The beracha was valid due to the sighting, but the benefit did not extend to the one who listened. (The possibility of someone making the beracha and including a suma in it may be instructive – see Yabia Omer IX, OC 94 – whether or not it is a proof is beyond our scope.)
A Kohen Serving OthersI am a kohen who likes to fit in with others. When I lend a helping hand, occasionally someone tells me that I need not or should not because I am a kohen. Should I listen to them?
The Torah (Vayikra 21:8) writes about a kohen “v’kidashto” (you shall sanctify him), from which Chazal learn to treat a kohen as an honored person (Gittin 59b). Examples include giving a kohen the first aliya or first choice of food being served. The Yerushalmi (Berachot 8:5) writes: “One who uses a kohen is like one who misappropriates objects in the Beit Hamikdash.” Having a kohen serve another in various ways seems to contradict his elevated status. While here there is only a positive commandment to honor, this is reminiscent of the mitzva of respect for parents (see Kiddushin 31b), which has a positive element of kavod and an avoidance of disrespect (mora).
There are indications that sometimes a kohen may “serve” others. The Hagahot Mordechai (Gittin, 461) tells a story of a kohen pouring water on Rabbeinu Tam’s hands (a classic act of reverence/subservience – see Melachim II, 3:11). Upon being questioned, Rabbeinu Tam explained that kohanim nowadays lack the kedusha they had when they served in the Beit Hamikdash (see Zevachim 17b). It is left unanswered how he reconciled the clear fact that the halachot of a kohen still apply. Rabbeinu Peter (ibid.) answered that it was permitted because the kohen was mochel (relinquished his rights to) his kavod. Another proof of leeway is the gemara (Kiddushin 21b) that assumes a kohen can be an eved ivri (the Semag, Aseh 83, explains that the kohen is not restricted when he acts with a financial incentive).
The Sefer Hachinuch (mitzva 269) does not allow a kohen to be mochel on his kavod, because Hashem’s honor is at stake, as He chose the kohanim to serve Him in the Temple. The Taz (OC 128:39) argues that it is no different from other elements of the kohen’s sanctity (e.g., not marrying a divorcee) that he may not waive. The Levush (OC 128:45) sees it differently – honoring the kohen is the kohen’s counterparts’ responsibility, not the kohen’s, so nothing stops the kohen from waiving his honor, and when he decides to serve others, there is no problem for others to be beneficiaries.
Another factor that could have impacted the Rabbeinu Tam story is that since it is also a mitzva for someone to honor his rebbe (Avot 4:12) or a great rabbi who is revered by all, it is appropriate for the kohen to serve him (see Yabia Omer, VI, Orach Chayim 22). Similarly, the Taz (ibid.) says that it must have been “enjoyable” for the kohen to wash Rabbeinu Tam’s hands, in which case, no mechila was needed.
The Rama (OC 128:45) forbids “using” a kohen even in our days, but says that mechila solves the issue. The Mishna Berura (128:175) does cite the opinion that mechila does not help and concludes that it is good to be machmir if one can and that one certainly should not use a kohen for disgraceful matters.
Let us look at your situation. It is healthy for you to prefer normal treatment other than privileges regarding aliyot, zimun, etc. The fact that your mechila is sincere and complete bodes well for others. On the other hand, those who want to “spare you” are supported by some sources. Additionally, even when mechila works, if one gives the honor anyway, he receives a mitzva (compare to Ketubot 67b). While even if you prevail, he gets credit for trying to honor you (see Kiddushin 40a), he might get more if you refrained from serving him.
Many of us grew up with the good societal norm that all people are created equal. That is not precise in Judaism. Like it or not (Korach did not, but we should), Hashem selected kohanim to be special, and it is correct for us to give this expression. If I were a kohen, I would also be embarrassed if I were treated too specially and would be wary of negative reaction. However, when someone sincerely wants to respect your beloved “tribe” (likely, more than you, personally) it is positive to try to accommodate him in moderation.
Tefillin Prepared by Children under Bar MitzvaSeveral years ago, when I was 11, my (Orthodox) shul brought in a person who makes tefillin batim (boxes) and guided several friends and me to more or less make our own tefillin. Someone questioned me as to whether the tefillin are kosher because I was not yet bar mitzva. I would rather not ask my rabbi, who brought him in. Are my tefillin kosher?
The gemara (Gittin 45b) derives from the proximity of the commandments to write Torah texts (mezuza) and to attach them (tefillin) to the arm (Devarim 11:18-20) that only one who is obligated to and fulfills the mitzva of tefillin can write them. The Rambam (Tefillin 3:16) extends this rule to making batim, as does the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 39:2). Children are not obligated in tefillin on the level of Torah law, and thus the tefillin they make before bar mitzva may not be used after they are fully obligated. Poskim discuss which actions suffice with adult coaching (gadol omed al gabav) to provide proper intent (lishma) and which a katan cannot do at all (see Bi’ur Halacha ad loc.).
Therefore, if a tefillin-making workshop leader knows how to do his job properly, he can involve children significantly and still have an adult do the halachically required parts of the process. A few years ago, we at Eretz Hemdah were among those who approved and wrote specific guidelines for such a person. If you were led by him, we are fully confident your tefillin were made kosher. Since tefillin need to remain kosher, we remind you to not overly expose them to heat and avoid dampness and pressure. You should also periodically ascertain that it remains in good repair (e.g., the surfaces remain straight).
Since you did not tell us who led your workshop or who your rabbi is/was, on a certain level, we cannot fully attest your tefillin’s kashrut. But we urge people to follow an important rule – a member of a respectable Orthodox community should trust his rabbi’s judgment and communal standards. If one cannot do that, he has major problems in various areas. Baruch Hashem, rabbis in the United States have earned their communities’ trust.
Now a word to our readers – the tefillin owner who asked is not among them.
The operation which Eretz Hemdah approved (information can be given to individuals who approach us) teaches pre-bar mitzva boys many halachot they would otherwise not learn or remember and has developed an inspiring curriculum. He correctly teaches that ketanim may not do the most critical steps themselves. This young man might have forgotten that over the years, or perhaps the person who led his workshop did not make it as clear as he might have. The rationale of having the children “make the tefillin themselves,” when that is not exactly the case, is that the involvement creates a greater connection to this important mitzva. In some cases, this can make the difference between their being life-time tefillin wearers or not. One can argue that as long as the tefillin are kosher, the kids don’t need to know that is only because they were helped. That is a tenable approach, but one we would not advocate under normal circumstances.
Batim made in such workshops could not be gassot (from a large animal, which requires serious equipment), but dakkot (hopefully, not peshutot). We will skip the intricacies, but gassot have advantages, especially their excellent longevity in good, kosher condition without needing renovation or replacement. The best (and most expensive) tefillin on the market are gassot. The tefillin produced in the operation we approved are higher quality than “inexpensive” ones, but are not of the highest “quality” echelon. A rabbi or educator who would bring in such a workshop must weigh the pluses and minuses and determine (and/or discuss with parents) what is best for his bar mitzva boys. Having two pairs or donating the one he made to a good cause might be a nice option for those who can afford it, as the opportunity is educationally powerful even for those who will anyway be life-long tefillin wearers.
The Son of a Convert Feeling Looked Down UponMy father converted (his mother was not Jewish). I have struggled with my identity due to what I have read in the Kuzari, Maharal and Kabbalistic and Chassidic works, which seem to view gerim as lesser than born Jews. Does Judaism view someone like me as somewhat defective?
You are wise to seek information and perspective to overcome natural feelings, which the gemara (Sanhedrin 94a) foresaw for some descendants of gerim to have about their identity for generations. (Mentors should ensure that conversion candidates consider such things). However, objectively, this ignores the 98+% “full part of the cup.”
The Torah commands 36 times to treat a ger with love and not harm him (Bava Metzia 59b). This is partly because the average ger has social obstacles to overcome, after leaving family and needing to “learn the ropes.” It is also an expression of Hashem’s affection for one who choses to embrace a challenging path to serving Him to the fullest. A midrash (Shochar Tov 146:9) describes it beautifully with a mashal of a king who had special love for a deer that would follow his flock to their pen even though it is naturally undomesticated.
Potentially offensive sources are centered in two areas. Rav Yehuda Halevi (The Kuzari) speaks of certain special spiritual qualities that come from a Jew’s lineage, as a descendant of the forefathers. Not all agree. Some (Rav Soloveitchik, Al Hateshuva, p. 136; Rav Kook) posit that a ger receives all he needs, including connection to the forefathers, by joining the Jewish people through conversion (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 53:19). Some posit that gerim have Jewish-typical “neshamot,” just that they entered the world in a manner that required them to find their way back (Maharal, Tiferet Yisrael 1). The gemara (Shabbat 146a) indeed says that converts’ souls were present at Sinai and were thus awarded the relevant spiritual gains. (It is unnecessary to be as genetically Jewish as you, but it does not hurt.)
The Kuzari (I:115) says that while a ger draws close to Hashem, he will not be a prophet (the Rambam disagrees; the gemara, Sanhderin 39b, says the prophet Ovadia was a ger). The Kuzari posits that a ger cannot make it to the highest pinnacle. But we do not even have prophets now, and there have only been a few handfuls of prophets! Should I feel lacking that I can never have the kedusha of a kohen?! By exceeding expectations, a sincere, observant convert likely reaches a higher level than a (clear) majority of born-Jews. (Of course, the whole premise of the Kuzari is highly pro-geirut!)
A ger has limitations on positions of power (especially, being king – Kiddushin 76b). While one could attribute this halacha to the Kuzari approach, there are indications of other reasons (see Yevamot 102a): Given a percentage of insincere converts (see Rambam, Issurei Biah 13:18), we are to protect ourselves from giving too much power before we can confirm a newcomer’s loyalty (note, the US Constitution disallows a naturalized citizen to be president; the Jews suffered from such kings in the Second Temple). Also, there is likely, due to poor middot, to be fall-out from a convert exerting dominion over a born-Jew (see Sota 43a). This is not only hurtful, but can also include aspersions on the ger’s motives (see Yevamot 24b).
In all regards, when a ger marries into Jewish society, no limitations apply to his offspring (Kiddushin 76b). Actually, King David did not come from the giyoret Ruth by chance; this was a crucial part of the divine plan (see Bava Kama 38b; Assufot Ma’arachot, Bereishit I, p. 204.) Unkelos was a ger; Shmaya and Avtalion came from gerim, ... (Gittin 57b). A sincere convert’s expectation should be: Hashem and upstanding Jews will love and revere you greatly – you deserve it. But expect time for adjustment in some aspects of life. Members of the next generation should and usually do feel on equal footing with their peers. This is the mainstream Torah approach, consistent with Halacha and basic sources.
Backing Out of an Oral Offer to a Potential WorkerI needed work done on my house – only part of the job acutely. I contacted Reuven, who came recommended; he quoted a high price. Because of the acute need, I agreed without shopping around. When he said he could only come a week later, I found Shimon to do the first part of the job. (It is not clear to me if Reuven now expects to do the rest of the job.). Shimon told me that Reuven charged much too much and offered to do the remaining part for half of Reuven’s quote. Do I have a halachic or moral obligation to use Reuven?
: Regarding enforceable monetary obligations, a commitment to use a worker is not binding unless an act of kinyan was made or the worker came to start the job (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 333:1). Coming to give an estimate does not count, but to do preparatory evaluation can count. If due to your agreement to hire Reuven, he turned down another offer and he cannot now find replacement work, you must pay based on the damage your job offer caused (ibid. 2). However, it is rare that a job that takes a few hours and the worker chooses the time would require such a worker to turn down another job (see Pitchei Choshen, Sechirut 10:(9)). If any of these grounds for obligation might exist, we cannot give you any sort of ruling, without both sides presenting their sides for us to rule.
If there was no binding obligation but one did not keep his word, the mishna (Bava Metzia 75b) says there are ground for tar’omet (being disgruntled). This is parallel to mechusar amana, when one backs out of an agreement to purchase something, and this is a (serious) moral deficiency.
There are several grounds that might relieve you of this status. First, the decision to employ Reuven must have been complete after the critical employment conditions were settled (compare to the rules of mechusar amana – Shulchan Aruch, CM 204:6; Pitchei Choshen, Kinyanim 1:(4)). It is unclear to us (maybe to you too) if this point was reached.
Another relevant matter is Reuven’s high fee. If a po’el (roughly, one who is paid by time) overcharges, the homeowner cannot void his obligation due to mispricing, as a po’el is analogous to a slave, to whom the laws of ona’ah do not apply (Shulchan Aruch, CM 227:33). The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 36) rules that ona’ah applies to a kablan (one who is paid by the job), like Reuven. On the other hand, not all agree (see Maggid Mishneh, Mechira 13:15), and according to some, ona’ah does not apply to work done on something connected to the ground (see Pitchei Teshuva, CM 227:26).
On the other hand, the question whether ona’ah applies or not may be irrelevant here. Regarding the case of mechusar amana, the Rama (CM 204:11) cites two opinions as to whether one may back out if the transaction is no longer worthwhile because of a price change. The final p’sak is unclear (Shach ad loc. 8). The S’ma (333:1) reasons that the same opinions would apply to a worker’s possible tar’omet. The Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 1) says that an employer may back out if he found out the worker is unqualified without the moral stain of tar’omet. Similarly, if one found out the work was significantly overpriced, this should be grounds to remove the tar’omet even if the formal rules of ona’ah do not apply.
This being said, it is hard to trust one partial opinion, like that of Shimon, to conclude that Reuven is objectively, grossly overcharging. Perhaps Shimon needs the job badly and is offering a large discount. Maybe Reuven’s work (regarding what he has planned, how he performs it, or materials) is on a different level than Shimon’s.
In summary, it is likely that you are not morally bound to employ Reuven, and in a case of doubt on a moral, not legal obligation, there is room for leniency (see Chashukei Chemed, Sanhedrin 67a). On the other hand, you might consider the lack of clarity, both about the halacha and the story, and you do not know what points Reuven might raise. Therefore, it would be noble to discuss the matter openly with Reuven. Feel free to contact us again with your findings.
When to Say Yehiyu L’ratzonDoes Yehiyu L’ratzon (=YL) come before or after Elokai Netzor (=EN) and/or personal requests at the end of Shemoneh Esrei (¬=SE)?
The gemara (Berachot 4b) cites R. Yochanan as instructing to recite the pasuk “Hashem sefatai tiftach ...” (=HST) (Tehillim 51:17) in the beginning of SE and “Yehiyu l’ratzon …” (ibid. 19:15) at its end. The former asks for divine assistance in davening effectively, and the latter requests that Hashem receive the tefilla favorably. While this was apparently instituted well after Shemoneh Esrei was composed (see Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim V:24), it, to at least some degree, has become incorporated with SE. The gemara (ibid.) asks why HST does not create a break between “Ga’al Yisrael” and SE and answers that SE with the pasuk has become “similar to a long tefilla.”
To the extent that YL and HST are equivalent bookends, we would expect YL to come right after SE, like HST comes right before SE (note that one may not say “Ki shem Hashem ekra …” after YL- Mishna Berura 111:1). Indeed, some Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, OC 122 in the name of Rabbeinu Yona and the Ra’avad) say that YL should be said right after SE, before any other tachanunim (special requests) are said, and this is how the Shulchan Aruch (OC 122:2) rules.
However, this approach is not clear cut for a few reasons. For one, adding tachanunim to SE is important and connected enough to SE to be permitted even in the midst of SE (Shulchan Aruch, OC 119:1). Actually, Rabbeinu Yona (above) says this is a reason that it is only recommended and not crucial for YL to be before tachanunim, as we see the requests are not totally like moving on from SE and therefore not a serious break before YL.
Also, the presumed fact that YL is a step in finishing SE may weaken subsequent requests. Additionally, if YL is first, then when do we ask Hashem to accept the tachanunim favorably? The Shulchan Aruch (OC 122:2) answers the latter claim – one may say YL a second time after the tachanunim.
An instructive source is the gemara (Berachot 29b) regarding one who left out Ya’aleh V’yavo. If he is still in the midst of SE, he goes back to R’tzei; if he finished SE, he must go back to the beginning of SE. The gemara says that someone who has finished SE proper but usually recites tachanunim afterward is not considered finished until after the tachanunim. Rabbeinu Yona (ibid.) asks why the gemara doesn’t use YL as the marker of the end of SE and concludes that it is because YL is recited before tachanunim. However, this gemara also can teach us the extent to which tachanunim, when recited, are an integral part of SE. This motivated the Gra (cited by many Acharonim, including Ishei Yisrael 23:208) to conclude that one should not recite YL before tachanunim.
We should point out that tachanunim include two different things in our experience. Although we generally view EN as a set part of the end of SE, this is a misnomer. The gemara (Berachot 16b-17a) cites personal prayers that various Amoraim used to say at the end of their SE. EN happens to be one of them (approximately). This may explain why EN, as well as HST and YL are in singular, as they are personal, as opposed to SE proper which is in plural. Practice has developed to choose EN as standard (albeit not required – see Mishna Berura 122:6) tachanunim. The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 122:8) says that while reciting the prayers of all of the Amoraim would be wrong, separating YL too far from SE, it is appropriate to say one. Alternatively or additionally we can all recite our own personal requests (Shulchan Aruch, OC 119:1). There is not a fundamental difference between the two.
The Aruch Hashulchan also suggests (ibid. 6) that a reason that EN was chosen is that it actually concludes with YL. This brings us to perhaps the most common practice and recommended Acharonim (see Mishna Berura 122:3) practice (although not the only legitimate one – see Darchei Moshe, OC 122:2). One recites YL twice: 1) right after SE; 2) at the end of EN, which anyway is the way the original EN concluded.
Davening for a Friend on ShabbatI regularly daven that my friend will find a shidduch. May I do so, mentioning her name, on Shabbat?
After seeing ostensibly conflicting sources on making requests of Hashem on Shabbat and seeing some distinctions that poskim raise, we can address your question about your friend’s shidduch needs.
The Yerushalmi (Shabbat 15:3) forbids davening for needs on Shabbat. It asks on this rule from the part of Birkat Hamazon in which we ask for sustenance and answers that this is tofes berachot (most explain this means that the requests are part of a set beracha, not a special request). Most authorities (see Chiddushei Harashba, Shabbat 113b; Mishna Berura 288:22) explain that Shabbat is a day of happiness, and davening for needs highlights the pain in his life. Midrash Tanchuma (Vayeira 1) says that this is the reason we remove the middle thirteen berachot of Shemoneh Esrei, as when going through the standard requests, one may feel the poignancy of a given need. Another approach sees the matter as related to daber davar, not talking about things that are extraneous to the focus of Shabbat (see She’eilat Yaavetz I:64).
The gemara (Berachot 21a) provides an apparent side reason for the lack of Shemoneh Esrei’s middle berachot on Shabbat – “the Rabbis did not want to toil people due to the honor of Shabbat.” Therefore, if one started a weekday beracha on Shabbat, he completes it. This implies that other than taking time, the section of requests is not objectionable.
Other sources focus on danger-related needs. The gemara (Ta’anit 19a) cites opinions on steps of “calling out” one can take due to security concerns, including “screaming” in prayer if marauders have surrounded the city, as opposed to blowing shofars. The gemara in Shabbat (12a-b) reports that it was with a sense of “no choice” that the Rabbis permitted visiting the sick on Shabbat. The gemara (ibid.) also discusses the language one should use regarding the ill – blessing him within the totality of sick people and stating that we do not pray too forcefully on Shabbat.
We will review some distinctions raised to navigate when requests are more likely to be permitted. 1. When the request relates to a minor and/or future need it is not upsetting (Mahari Bei Rav in Shut Avkat Rochel 12). 2. In the other direction, when the need is great and, particularly, cannot be pushed off, it is permitted to call out to Hashem. While this primarily relates to life-threatening situations (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 288:9-10), it can also apply to a severe shortage of food (ibid.). 3. Regarding the sick, even if the matter is not immediately life-threatening, a Mi Sheberach may be done using the correct formula (Mishna Berura 288:28; see above). 4. If the subject of the request is not present, emotional distress is less likely (Mahari Bei Rav ibid.). 5. It may be permitted to request divine help with something it is permitted to do on Shabbat (B’tzel Hachochma V:41 – apparently a minority opinion; see Dirshu 288:33 in the name of the Chatam Sofer).
Let us analyze your case. According to most distinctions, it would be forbidden to make the specific request for your friend. If you are davening regularly, she is presumably, in your subjective eyes, already in a concerning state. On the other hand, assuming she is, baruch Hashem, healthy, she is not in an acute situation that warrants davening on Shabbat before it is “too late.” Tefillot of this nature do not need to be consecutive to be effective, and davening with feeling six days a week, while showing respect for Shabbat on the seventh, will iy”H be effective. On the other hand, some (minority) opinions may permit it (based on distinctions 4,5), especially if you word the request to follow the Mi Sheberach language. If you generally make the request after reciting Tehillim privately, the best solution is to leave out the request and recite the Tehillim, with her (and/or other needs) in mind as a recipient of the z’chut (Halichot Shlomo, Tefilla 14:(19) permits this).
Taking Out a Sefer Torah for a Child to SeeTaking Out a Sefer Torah for a Child to See
One must treat a sefer Torah with great respect (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 282:1), but the halachot mentioned there do not talk about grounds for taking it out of the aron.
The main halacha about moving a sefer Torah is in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 135:14, based on the Yerushalmi (Yoma 7:1). It is forbidden to bring a sefer Torah to a new location even to be used for its purpose – kri’at haTorah. It is a bizayon (disgrace) to bring the sefer Torah to people; people should come to it (ibid.)!
Possible exceptions to the rule are discussed: 1. Bringing the sefer Torah to a very prominent person, like the kohen gadol (ibid.); the Rama (OC 135:14) applies to normal important people. 2. If people, especially a minyan, are unable to come to the place of the sefer Torah (the Shulchan Aruch, OC ibid. seems to forbid, but the Be’ur Halacha (op. cit.) presents the argument that this is not correct). 3. Things are done to make the sefer Torah’s stay more mechubad (e.g., have an aron kodesh ready for it; keep it there for a while; use it for laining several times) (see Rama ibid., commentators ad loc.). 4. The sefer Torah is privately owned (see Har Tzvi OC I:71); 5. The sefer Torah is designed to serve as a roving sefer Torah (see opinions in Living the Halachic Process III, F-1, regarding the propriety of a sefer Torah brought regularly for a set minyan on the train).
We presented the above list, which do not apply to your question, in order to share our general dilemma. Is the concept of bizayon the basis for Chazal forbidding specifically moving a sefer Torah from place to place even for good purposes, but taking from the aron to the bima is permitted even for a neutral purpose? If so, why not show a sefer Torah to a sweet kid who will someday learn Torah?! Or is there generally a high bar of respect for the sefer Torah, which precludes even positive actions, if they are not in line with what the Torah is supposed to be used for? If so, with all due respect and affection for two-year olds, their love for a sefer Torah is like that for a shiny new toy (confirmed after consultation with early childhood experts) and in light of the high bar, it is a bizayon to take it out.
I have seen few and unimpressive sources on this matter. One forbade taking a sefer Torah out to practice laining (see Hamaor, vol. 83); Piskei Teshuvot 135:5 understood that some prohibit doing an unnecessary laining). While all permit taking out sifrei Torah for dancing on Simchat Torah (at least as long as they stay inside – see discussion on taking outside or moving from shul to shul in Yabia Omer VII:56 and elsewhere) but some say that the minhag to lain at night is to strengthen the justification for taking them out. It is hard to determine which approach is accepted, but the simple reading of the Shulchan Aruch (YD 282:1) is that there is a broad high bar in addition to specific applications that classical sources discussed.
One can argue that there is value in showing off the sefer Torah to people. The gemara (Yoma 70a) relates how individuals would bring their sifrei Torah on Yom Kippur to the Beit Hamikdash to show its beauty. One of the explanations why this was permitted is that doing so honored the sefer Torah. Some apply this idea broadly (Gur Aryeh Yehuda, YD 24), while others limit it to special cases like the Beit Hamikdash (see Beit Avi IV:126, opposing a glass-case display of a sefer Torah in a Jewish museum). While we would be supportive of taking out a sefer Torah to show a group of unaffiliated Jews to try to impress/inspire them, it is difficult to justify for a small child who has and will iy”H see it throughout his life. There are many other ways to build excitement about Torah, and a toddler can be told and rewarded for accepting (on his level) that the sefer Torah is so kadosh that we take it out only for kri’at haTorah.
Simchat Torah for those Not Completing the Torah ReadingHopefully, I/we will be able to make it to shul for Simchat Torah (=ST), but I and many others will not be finishing up the Torah reading, as we missed a few weeks when our shul was closed. Does this effect our ability to celebrate ST, halachically or experientially?
At this point, we expect that much of the physical celebration will have to be toned down due to the Torah’s mandate to protect ourselves/each other. But your question has a practical dimension and gives pause to consider what we celebrate on ST.
Your question is based on the possibility that some ST practices are due to our “making a siyum” on the Torah reading. Indeed siyumim do justify joyful actions that are otherwise forbidden, (e.g., eating on Ta’anit Bechorot, eating meat during the Nine Days).
Do any ST practices need special justification? V’zot Haberacha is the Torah portion for the last day of Sukkot (Megilla 31a) and is not only the next parasha up but also connects Moshe’s beracha to Shlomo’s beracha at the end of Sukkot (Avudraham, Shemini Atzeret). But reading Bereishit and the multiple aliyot need a link to the special event. The same is true for those who lain at night and the minhag to take out all of the sifrei Torah when we are not going to read from all of them (see Rama, Orach Chayim 669:1). Dancing on Yom Tov is also permitted only because of the celebration (Teshuvot Hageonim 314).
If only individuals, but not a whole shul, miss a parasha there would be no question for the individuals to act like everyone else. Otherwise, we would need new rules for many people, who miss due to illness, travel, etc. most years. Indeed, kri’at haTorah is a public mitzva (Ramban on the Rif, Megilla 3a) and thus relates to the community. Your question is pertinent when a majority of the shul missed parshiyot (see Mishna Berura 135:7).
The matter of finishing up also has an individual element, which you can fulfill. The halacha of shnayim mikra v’echad Targum requires you to read the parasha twice and learn it with Unkelus and/or Rashi every week (Shulchan Aruch, OC 285:1). While it is best to complete this practice each Shabbat, one can make it up until ST (ibid. 4). In that way, those who miss have a level of siyum, parallel to the communal one.
A possibly related machloket to our question is what a shul does when reopening after missing parshiyot. The Rama (OC 135:2, based on the Ohr Zarua) says that they must make up a missed parasha. The Meiri expounds that we do not say “what was, was,” in order that at the year’s end they will have finished everything. On the other hand, many (including the Magen Avraham 135:4) rule like the Maharam Mintz that one makes up only one parasha at most; if more was missed, we would not be bothered that parshiyot were missed. Others require to make up as many as needed (Mishna Berura 135:6 cites both opinions). One can claim they disagree whether it is important to have read every parasha by year’s end. We can (but need not – beyond our scope) reason as follows: If your shul held by the strict opinion, they made up the missed parshiyot. If they did not find that necessary, apparently they hold that the “hole” in the Torah reading is not significant.
Clearly, the minhagim of ST, which have developed over centuries (see Hamoadim Bahalacha p. 135-141) are connected to that which WE finish the Torah. However, in the absence of sources to the contrary (which I have not found), we must presume that the fact that it is time for Klal Yisrael to finish the Torah makes it a time to celebrate. Various practices and sources indicate that the focus is on honoring the Torah (see Netzer Mata’ai 6; Pnei Aharon, OC 10) and thanking Hashem for our opportunity to learn it, not celebrating our diligence in finishing our reading. Therefore, even when communities miss multiple parshiyot, whether European Jews during World War II, Jews behind the Iron Curtain or, l’havdil, us this year, ST is still a time for heart-felt joy and special practices, in honor of the Torah and our strong connection to it.
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