Home > Ask The Rabbi
ASK THE RABBI
Do not hesitate to ask any question about Jewish life, Jewish tradition or Jewish law.
Touching Torah ScrollsI know that people are careful not to touch the parchment of a sefer Torah. Does this apply to other scrolls, like haftara scrolls and Megillat Esther?
The gemara cites R. Parnach’s statement in two places: “Whoever holds a sefer Torah naked (i.e., with an uncovered hand (according to almost all)) will be buried … without the mitzva [he was involved in].” In Megilla (32a) it is a free-standing statement in a sugya about the rules of laining and gelila. In Shabbat (14a-b) it comes up in the context of a Rabbinical decree to treat several objects, including “a book” as tameh, so that if they touch teruma, they make it tameh and disqualified. The gemara explains that people used to keep teruma and holy scrolls together because both are holy, but this attracted mice, which nibble on the scrolls, so they enacted that such scrolls disqualify the teruma. The gemara also explains that hands before netilat yadayim are metameh teruma because they are often dirty. The gemara also mentions such a decree on hands that touched a sefer, since this violated R. Parnach’s idea, and Tosafot (ad loc.) posits that this is true even if one did netilat yadayim soon before touching the sefer. The gemara discusses why there was a need for two different decrees regarding hands.
There are different approaches in the Rishonim (see Rambam, She’ar Avot Hatumah 9:5 & Sefer Torah 10:6; Mordechai, cited by the Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 147) as to whether, nowadays (when we don’t eat teruma), the issue of touching a sefer Torah is still connected to tumah, proximity to teruma, or dirtiness of the hands. (The analysis is too complicated for this forum – see the Aruch Hashulchan’s, OC 147:1-7 overview). If it is an independent matter, the problem is that touching directly reflects insufficient honor for the sefer Torah (Levush, OC 147:1). The different approaches can impact on the question of whether it applies only to a sefer Torah or to all holy scrolls, which also create tumah and affect teruma. It also can impact the question of whether netilat yadayim before touching the scrolls helps. If it is related to needing clean or not tameh hands (see Shabbat ibid.), then netilat yadayim should help as it does for hands that need to touch teruma (Aruch Hashulchan ibid. 2).
As far as halacha is concerned, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 147:1) mentions the prohibition to touch only in regard to a sefer Torah, but even if one did netilat yadayim. However, the Rama (ad loc.) cites and prefers the opinion that it applies to all of Tanach, if it is written with the basics (letter formation, parchment, ink) of a sefer Torah (Mishna Berura 147:3). The Rama compromises, in that he permits handling when the two reasons to be lenient are present, i.e., it is not a sefer Torah and one did netilat yadayim. (The Bi’ur Halacha explains this as being because there are two reasons for leniency, not that the two leniencies remove all doubt). In an interesting application, R. Akiva Eiger (I:58) forbids kissing a mezuza scroll when passing by if it is not in a mezuza case.
Since the standard assumption is that touching is a matter of disrespect, context plays a role. Ashkenazim attach atzei chayim to the sefer Torah to facilitate rolling the klaf without touching (see Sha’arei Teshuva 691:3), but Sephardim usually use an attached scarf to roll by hand, and many allow touching after netilat yadayim when a lot of rolling is needed (Yalkut Yosef, OC 147:1). Sofrim touch the klaf directly when writing and even when handling, for various reasons, a completed sefer Torah klaf. There is a machloket whether it is better to have or not have atzei Chayim for navi scrolls, and this is connected (likely in both directions) to whether one rolls with his hands (see Dirshu 147:6). The Sha’arei Teshuva (ibid.) writes that the minhag is not to have atzei chayim and not to be careful about touching a Megillat Esther because it is called an iggeret rather than a sefer. He says it is a nice but uncommonly followed chumra to do netilat yadayim before handling it.
Moving into a Home during the Nine DaysWe sold our home and have been renting because construction on our new apartment is not complete. Now, it is basically ready, but lacks a Tofes 4 (municipal permission to inhabit). If we get the Tofes 4 during the Nine Days, is it permitted to move in then?
Classical sources do not discuss entering an apartment during the Nine Days, but building then. The gemara (Yevamot 43b) requires one to “lessen building activities” during the Nine Days, without specifying. In a parallel context, the gemara (Ta’anit 14b) says to not build a “house of simcha” on a fast day and gives as an example building a house for a chatan, implying that most building is permitted. In contrast, the Yerushalmi (Ta’anit 4:6) writes that it is permitted to build when there is concern that a wall will collapse, implying that most building is forbidden. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 551:2) brings both extreme rulings; the Mishna Berura (ad loc. 12) follows the Magen Avraham and Ran, who say that any unnecessary building, for nonessential expansion/enhancement, is forbidden.
Our understanding (see Bemareh Habazak III:60) is that when something is too simcha-related to be permitted to build in the Nine Days, one should not move into it either (Levushei Mordechai I:101 disputes this thesis). It should also be at least as problematic as wearing a new article of clothing (Levushei Mordechai disputes this too), which is forbidden on grounds of simcha (Rama, OC 551:6).
Let us, therefore, investigate whether building would have been permitted. The Mishna Berura (ibid.) permits to build when it is needed to enable normal living conditions. In your case, this is not grounds for leniency if your present rental setup is satisfactory.
However, the Mishna Berura (551:13) permits building needed to prevent a financial loss, similar, although less dramatic, to the Yerushalmi’s case of a possibly collapsing wall. Finishing up the building to receive the building’s Tofes 4 is certainly justified, as even a minor missing detail can hold up a building-full of families for weeks, causing large losses of money and hardship. Is paying several days of rent enough of a justification? In a parallel case of buying a car during the Nine Days, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC III:80) allows it when needed for work (it is unclear what his assumptions were regarding the person’s alternatives: no job, renting, using taxis?) In your case, it depends greatly on the individual family and its financial situation. In borderline cases, there is logic to allowing moving in during the beginning of Av but not during the week in which Tisha B’av falls (Bemareh Habazak ibid.).
There is another issue – the beracha upon entering the house. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 551:17) says that one should refrain from reciting Shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks because the time is one we are not happy about. Many assume that one should recite Shehecheyanu upon entering a new house (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 223:3). The Levushei Mordechai (ibid.), whom we cited as being very lenient on building, forbids entering the home due to inability to recite Shehecheyanu. Rav Moshe Feinstein (ibid.) ruled, that in case of need, one can get the car during the Nine Days and recite Shehecheyanu after Tisha B’av; that logic applies here too. In Bemareh Habazak (ibid.), we accepted the Bi’ur Halacha (to 223:3) that when the homeowner has a wife and children benefitting from the house, the beracha to make is Hatov V’hameitiv (see more in Living the Halachic Process V, D:18), rather than Shehecheyanu. Since it does not mention “this time,” it is permitted in Av.
Another factor in play here is the concern that major projects undertaken during this period will be lacking in good mazal (see Ta’anit 29b). We are not experts on the rules of mazal. We suggest to consider the psychological element as well – a believing Jew is sometimes uneasy and/or regretful, short and perhaps long-term, about projects he did in the Nine Days, and it is wise to consider that feeling as well.
Geniza for Parts of a PasukI received a bar mitzva invitation containing the words “Vayehi David maskil” (in Hebrew). Since this is part of a pasuk, does the invitation require geniza? (This phenomenon exists in various contexts, so please broaden the picture.)
A crucial source regarding respect for p’sukim excerpts is found in the context of sirtut (etching lines in a writing surface to help one write straight). The gemara (Gittin 6b) tells of one who, in a letter, criticized a situation as comparable to part of a pasuk in Tanach. The gemara indicates that the writer should have done sirtut and cites two opinions as to whether the requirement is for a minimum of three or of four words. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 284:2) paskens that three words require sirtut. Poskim posit that the guidelines for what is holy enough to require sirtut apply to what must not be disgraced and must be discarded in geniza (see Ginzei Hakodesh 9:3). So, it might appear that the three words you refer to require geniza.
But we will look deeper. First, while the words are reminiscent of and inspired by a pasuk (Shmuel I, 18:14), the navi uses two words that are missing in the invitation (between David and “maskil”). Tosafot (Gittin 6b) posits that only when the words are in the order found in the pasuk do they require sirtut, and certainly then if words are skipped it is not a pasuk segment. Even if one put in “…” to indicate that words are missing, still there is an insufficient section of the pasuk to be significant. This is logically so even according to those (Shut Harashbash 482) who say that three words is not the determinant, as two words that create a whole idea (e.g., “Lo tirtzach”) count while three words that do not form an idea (e.g., “el Moshe v’el”) do not. Some also say that when one leaves out a letter from the word, it is as if the word does not exist, although this is less clear when this is the normal way of writing, e.g, if one writes yud yud or heh instead of Hashem’s Name (see machloket cited in Ginzei Hakodesh 9:(23)).
There is another reason that the invitation does not require geniza based on these words. Tosafot (ibid.), accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.), rule that when the words of a pasuk are borrowed as a crisp way of expressing an idea, it is not considered a pasuk. This is even stronger when the context differs greatly from that of the pasuk, as this case illustrates. The pasuk refers to David Hamelech’s great success and/or wisdom; the invitation refers to a regular thirteen-year-old named David.
The exact line between a direct reference to a pasuk and using Tanach’s language to express other ideas (rabbis do this a lot) is difficult to determine. One phenomenon is using a phrase from the weekly parasha along with the day of the week to signify a letter’s date. (One could argue that this practice is justified because such letters usually contain real divrei Torah, so that they anyway require geniza, but that is unlikely to be the reason – see Ginzei Hakodesh 9:(25)). It is more problematic for an organization to put on its letterhead a pasuk or a statement of Chazal that captures their philosophy/activity because there they do want you to think about the message behind the pasuk (similar to the use in Gittin 6b above). Sometimes a pasuk turns into more of a well-known general idea than a quotation of a pasuk (e.g., mipnei seiva takum on Israeli buses). The use of quotation marks or citing the statement’s location are liable to make borderline cases more problematic.
In your case, there is clearly no requirement for geniza. In general, since it is forbidden to write p’sukim in places where they are likely to get disgraced (Shut Harambam 268), one should be careful before using them in invitations, solicitation letters, and various bulletins, which are likely to be thrown out. This is a counterweight to our healthy desire for Torah to be present in our daily lives – left, right and center. If they are used, one has to develop an approach to how to deal with borderline/low-level “sheimos.”
Pressure to Include Second Storage Room[Summary after back and forth]: I bought an apartment from Shimon. We came to a basic agreement on terms in early October. It was important to Shimon to finish by month’s end; our lawyers were working on loose ends throughout Oct. I was interested in Shimon throwing in his spare storage room in the building, but, for a technical reason, I did not initially raise my request. In the meantime, I was getting cold feet due to the high price and decided that I would buy the apartment only if the room was included at the same price. When I raised it, near the end of Oct., Shimon refused, but when he saw I was serious about backing out, he gave in. We will be closing soon, and Shimon has complained that he gave in only because I put unfair pressure on him. I want to do the right thing. Did I violate lo tachmod (coveting a friend’s property), and should I therefore forgo the room?
This is a discussion of general principles, which will help you form a direction for action. We will not make a ruling because: We did not hear the other side, the case and the topic are complex and unclear according to your presentation, and you ask about doing the right thing, which includes subjectivity.
On the one hand, one violates lo tachmod when he pressures an owner who does not want to sell an object until he relents (Rambam, Gezeila 1:9). The means of pressuring found in classical sources are not exhaustive, and your actions should qualify.
Still, whether you violated lo tachmod depends on what was behind Shimon’s refusal to include the storage room. If he values the room enough to not consider selling it, then your actions violated lo tachmod. One would have to determine whether at this late point and after the written agreement, you have to give up your rights to the room (see machlokot between the Rambam and Ra’avad, Gezeila 1:9, with the help of the Maggid Mishneh and Even Ha’ezel ad loc.) and how relinquishing such rights might affect the sales price. These are all beyond our present scope.
If Shimon’s initial refusal to include the storage room was just a matter of finances, (i.e., why should he give it for free?), then your pressure was in effect to lower the price, not to receive something that should have been off limits. Pestering someone who is happy to sell in order to get a good price does not violate lo tachmod. This is all the more so regarding a storage room in the building, which is often sold along with the apartment, so that your raising your desire is not pestering.
However, there is another problem to consider. If one gives his word to do a transaction, without making a kinyan or money being paid, while there are no steps to enforce the word given, it is considered halachically immoral (mechusarei amana) for either side to back out (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 204:7). The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 7) limits the parallel (and more severe) censure for backing out of a deal after money was paid (mi shepara) to cases where the price was already set. The Pitchei Choshen (Kinyanim 1:(4)) posits that mechusarei amana is also limited to cases with set prices and adds that it excludes cases in which “even one detail is not agreed upon.” You could take that position and argue that you had details that were not worked out, and perhaps you are right. However, this position is strong only if the open details were potential deal-breakers. Also, not hashing out those details promptly when you knew that Shimon was counting on the sale and needed it soon is a moral issue. If you could not back out, then you should not receive benefits (i.e., the room) for threatening to do so.
If the only issue is morality and not legality and Shimon is not suing, the present moral decision is yours. We perceive, based on your account, that the process was not “glatt” for one or more reasons. Therefore we recommend you reach some sort of real compromise so that you go into your house with a clear conscience and on good terms with the seller (both valuable things).
Salad at Meat and Milk MealsSometimes I serve the same salad at a fleishig meal and again at a milchig meal. My daughter told me that her friend’s family does not do that. Is it okay?
The main source on such issues involves bread. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 89:4) rules (based on a Yerushalmi in Pesachim, cited by the Tur, YD 91) that between a dairy meal and a meat meal, one “must remove from the table the leftover bread which was eaten with the cheese.” The Beit Yosef, after citing these sources, quotes a Hagahot Oshri: “It is a choice mitzva in cases in which one ate cheese and wants to eat meat that he needs to remove from the table the bread and the food that came to the table with the cheese, and then he can bring the meat and eat.” While the Beit Yosef does not cite anyone who argues, he also does not explicitly cite this second source in the Shulchan Aruch.
These sources greatly resemble your question (it is difficult to argue that one must remove such food from the table but can use it in a future meal if he ascertains it is clean). However, we must notice nuances and explore distinctions. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, YD I:38) notices that the Yerushalmi and Shulchan Aruch refer to “leftover” bread, which he takes to mean a piece of bread that was cut from the loaf and was eaten along with the fleishig food in his plate, or at least was intended to have been. Those pieces are more problematic than the rest of the loaf, which, even if it was sitting on the table, ready to be cut, still was separate from the food as it was being eaten. Therefore, Rav Moshe comes up with the following distinction – that which is cut off must not be eaten with the other type of food. Regarding the uncut remainder of the loaf, it is only a worthy stringency.
Rav Moshe does not address other foods that were on the table. There is halachic precedent to say that the stringency is only in regard to bread, as we find unique kashrut precautions in regard to bread. It is generally forbidden to bake a milchig loaf of bread because one must be concerned that he will eat it with meat; if he does bake milchig bread, it is forbidden to eat it at all (Shulchan Aruch, YD 97:1). The Siftei Da’at (ad loc. 1) posits that this halacha is just for bread because it is the foundation of classic meals. On the other hand, the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 89:15) extends the recommendation to remove all of the food from the milchig table and claims that this is the minhag. It makes sense that Rav Feinstein would agree, considering that the Beit Yosef/Hagahot Oshri, which is the basis of his distinction between required and recommended, refers to all foods on the table.
The Badei Hashulchan (89:(209)), while mentioning a dissenting view, accepts Rav Moshe’s leniency regarding the remaining loaf, to which we will now add support (not a full proof). One of the exceptions to the prohibition on milchig (or fleishig) bread is if the loaf is small enough to be expected to be finished in one meal because it is then less likely a mistake will occur (Shulchan Aruch, YD 97:1). This implies that in the standard Talmudic case, one loaf was used for more than one meal. Yet, in that standard case, if the bread is pareve, it is not considered a problem, even though often one meal will be milchig and one fleishig. Apparently, the only serious problem is when there is actual contact between the pareve bread and food of one type.
In a place without a clear minhag to not reuse the salad at the different type meal, it is logical to be pragmatic and subjective, a direction the Badei Hashulchan (89:99) embraces. If at the table, every salad has a serving utensil, people do not reach in to the salad bowl with soiled hands or their personal flatware, and they do not let the serving utensil touch their plate, one can be lenient to reuse the salad. When people are not careful (facemasks are not necessary J), it makes more sense (although not a full halachic requirement) to follow the stringent opinion/minhag.
Removing Hair from a NecklaceIs it permitted to remove loose hair on Shabbat, which usually includes ripping it, that has gotten stuck in a necklace?
There are three potential Shabbat prohibitions that need to be addressed: borer (selecting), muktzeh, and koreiah (ripping).
We have discussed in the past (see Living the Halachic Process, vol. IV, C-5) a similar case – removing detached hair from one’s head of hair. We concluded, based on very strong indications but without an outright proof, that this action does not violate borer or muktzeh. We will summarize the main indications.
It is forbidden to comb one’s hair in a manner that it is certain (p’sik reishei) that hair will be uprooted from the scalp (gozez- shearing), and it is permitted if done in a way that this is not certain (Shulchan Aruch, OC 303:27). The poskim do not seem concerned with the prospect of removing the unwanted loose hairs from the attached hair (potentially, borer). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 316:9) permits removing insects and lice from clothing, and the Rama (OC 302:1) permits removing feathers; again, this is not viewed as borer. It is difficult to delineate which “combinations” are subject to borer and which are not, but it is quite clear by comparison that removing hairs wrapped around a necklace is not borer.
Regarding muktzeh, since a detached hair is useless, it is muktzeh machamat gufo. If one removes it with a utensil, then it would be permitted because it is indirect movement (tiltul min hatzad) for the purpose of a permitted item, i.e., the necklace (Shulchan Aruch, OC 311:8). Actually it is permitted to handle directly, as we pointed out that it is permitted to directly touch useless things in removing them from desired utensils, e.g., when cleaning dishes. The Chazon Ish (OC 47:15) explains that in such cases, the impurities being removed are considered subsumed under the non-muktzeh items. While some disagree, the consensus follows the Chazon Ish (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 14:(149); Orchot Shabbat 19:207). One might claim that if the hair protrudes from the necklace, it is separate and muktzeh, but this is likely incorrect, as comparison to feathers indicates.
Now we relate to ripping the hair to remove it. One might actually prefer to keep it intact to remove the hair in one shot, making ripping, even if forbidden, an example of davar she’eino mitkaven, an unintentional forbidden consequence of one’s actions, which is permitted (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 337:1). If removal without ripping is impossible, we would have to deal with the laws of p’sik reishei (the forbidden result will definitely occur), which is usually forbidden (ibid.). On the other hand, there are cases (lo nicha lei, d’rabbanan) where some permit even p’sik reishei (see Yabia Omer III, OC 20).
However, this discussion is unnecessary because it is actually permitted to cut a hair in the setting of our discussion. Cutting detached hair is not gozez. If one cuts a loose strand of hair to a purposeful size this would be a violation of mechatech (see Mishna Berura 340:41). (See Be’ur Halacha to OC 340:13 regarding when there would be a prohibition of koreia al m’nat l’taken and when there would be metaken mana). However, when one cuts a flimsy object because it is in the way and the ripped object will not be reused, it is permitted (Shulchan Aruch, OC 314:8 and Be’ur Halacha ad loc.). Admittedly, poskim rule that not only may one not undo a knot, but he may not cut the knot cord at any point (Mishna Berura 317:23). But as hopelessly tangled as a hair might become, that does not automatically make it a halachic knot, and even if it fit the description, it can still be undone or cut when the knot was formed accidentally (ibid.).
In summary, if one feels the need to remove hair(s) from her necklace specifically on Shabbat, it would be permitted to do so by pulling off, ripping off, or cutting the hairs. Once removed, the hair scraps would be muktzeh.
Do All Tzitzit Knots Need to be Double?When I tied a pair of tzitzit, I tied a double knot to the garment and for the final knot, but for the three knots in between the chulyot (subsections of string wrappings), I tied single knots. Is that sufficient?
The gemara (Menachot 39a) posits that the “upper knot” of tzitzit is a Torah-level requirement, as we learn from the Torah’s connection between tzitzit and sha’atnez. Most Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 11; see China D’chayei 8, who cites dissenters) posit that a double knot is needed to connect the tzitzit to the garment, as we find that making a simple single knot is not a violation of Shabbat (Shabbat 74b).
There is also a machloket what the upper knot is – the part closer to the garment or further away from it (see Mishna Berura 11:66). A relatively strong consensus holds that it is the one further away from the garment, where it also secures the gedilim (section containing all of the string wrappings).
According to all opinions, your tzitzit fulfill all the Torah-level mitzva requirements, based on double knots both for the first and last knots. However, that does make the tzitzit fully acceptable. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 11:14), in describing the tying process, instructs to make a double knot in between every chulya. The only question is whether this is a full-fledged Rabbinic obligation or a lower-level matter. The practical difference, besides the degree of lacking in the present situation, is whether one may wear the tzitzit if he lacks an alternative pair and an opportunity to fix it.
Rava deduces from a halacha regarding a ripped string that one is supposed to make a knot between the chulyot (Menachot 38b). The gemara (ibid. 39a) deflects the proof by suggesting that knots were sometimes made but were not required. Many claim that while Chazal expected/preferred for there to be multiple chulyot and knots, basic Halacha only requires chulya with a minimum of three revolutions of a tzitzit string around the others (Mishna Berura 11:65).
The preference of more chulyot and/or knots is due to their being reminiscent of a variety of themes and numerical values. We will mention a few (the Mishna Berura 11:65 cites some): There should be seven knots in each tzitzit corresponding to the seven firmaments, but we leave out two knots when we do not have techeilet (Shut Radbaz 2333) because it is the techeilet that reminds of the sky. The gematria of tzitzit is 600, and when one adds eight strings and our present-day five knots, it comes to 613. 8+5 is also the gematria of echad. The five knots also remind us of the five books of the Torah. Since the five knots are doubled, it is also reminiscent of the ten sefirot (a Kabbalistic concept). None of these numerical significances are absolute requirements, as is true of the number of wrappings (Mishna Berura ibid.), but they are religious/spiritual preferences.
It is also possible that some of the gains of knots in between the chulyot do not depend on there being halachic knots. Single knots also are able to hold each chulya in place, take up some space, which is important (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 11:14), and make the different chulyot, with their significant number of revolutions, noticeable. The fact that a single knot is more secure than usual when it is in the midst of a g’dil that is surrounded by double knots might also give it prominence (see Maaseh Betzalel to Rikanati, Tzitzit 3). Again, despite this, the Shulchan Aruch at least recommends double knots each time.There is another reason to want at least one of the middle knots to be a full halachic one. Sometimes the top knot starts getting looser, even to the point that it is no longer a halachic knot (see Living the Halachic Process IV, F-3). We are not usually overly concerned about this because the minimum requirements of the tzitzit are met when a minimal gedil is followed by a double knot. However, in your case, were the top knot to reach that point, there are no fallback knots after the beginning of the gedil.
P’sak Halacha during a Modern Pandemic – Interim ViewMy own question: What observations can we make about the way halachic rulings were made and disseminated during the first stage of the coronavirus crisis?
As a “student of the history of the halachic process,” I find breathtaking the difference in the tools available in reaching halachic rulings and sharing them in today’s society from 200 years ago and even 20 years ago. Let me share my perspective after 2-3 months of observing and sharing in Eretz Hemdah’s participation in the process.
On the most basic level, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The halachic rules of pikuach nefesh have been discussed in depth for centuries. So have the principles of ruling on standard topics (e.g., Pesach, Shabbat, tefilla) in the face of extenuating circumstances. Our medical emergency and related technical difficulties are only examples of many such circumstances.
However, there were real differences in the process. The local rabbi had almost immediate access to the most updated medical guidelines and insights (although, based on the “surprises” Hashem sent us, much science proved inaccurate only days later – not uncommon for novel viruses). This was crucial when having to apply the halachic rules and Jewish values to specific cases. While a rabbi could and often must ask experts about specific cases that arise, the rabbi/posek’s level of scientific sophistication, both regarding general background and keeping current (or a step ahead when being machmir in pikuach nefesh) concerning COVID-19, is important. If we all made many small but critical decisions about safety in our own houses – when to be health stringent and when it was necessary to “cut a little slack,” a rabbi had a heightened need to be ready for that communally.
The phenomenon of instant collegial contact between large groups of rabbis in which Eretz Hemdah took part (our thanks to Rav R. Taragin) was a powerful tool. A rabbi with a classic “corona question” would present it on a rabbinic group and be sent the latest ruling of Rav Asher Weiss, Rav Rimon, the Chief Rabbinate, etc. within minutes. Pressing questions of this genre (e.g., how to bury a Covid-19 victim, Pesach leniencies, when one can go to the mikveh with which precautions) were presented to such poskim as Rav Schachter and Rav Willig. Rabbis from different areas deliberated in real-time as to whether and then when to follow the bold, life-saving step of the R.C. of Bergen County to close shuls before public authorities mandated it. Many, led by Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, shared insights of their local health authorities. With an understanding of both the shared danger and the unique circumstances of each community, rabbis had both the obligation to follow the consensus when appropriate and seek unique solutions when the nuances of one’s community mandated it.
Of course, as is generally true of information technology, the power contains risks, and raised questions. Will a local rabbi’s authority be undermined when his congregants can find (and disseminate) dissenting (or ostensibly so) opinions online or from a different shul’s electronic bulletin? Might our article in English about strategies for laining as Israeli minyanim opened embolden some distant readers to buck their local guidelines, where even “mirpeset minyanim” were forbidden? Or could discussion of the scenario be used incorrectly if matters took a change for the worse in the same place? Broadly speaking, the danger of Torah guidance being misapplied has always existed, but gains outweigh losses when done properly. Accuracy and sensitivity to nuance in writing are important in helping, but not eliminating, the problem.
Clearly, in terms of health, employment, and psychological and social stability, technological advances have been very beneficial during the lockdowns and social distancing that were forced upon us. We have briefly illustrated that regarding implementing timeless halachic principles, we can also say that, to an extent, Hashem has “brought a [partial] treatment before the affliction.”
Which Way to Turn at Bo’i B’shalomIn what direction should one turn when getting up to “Bo’i B’shalom” at the end of Lecha Dodi? Many shuls seems to have confusion on the matter.
The practice of welcoming the Shabbat “bride” in a special physical manner has its roots at least a thousand years before Rav Shlomo Alkabetz wrote Lecha Dodi (mid sixteenth century, Tzefat). The gemara (Bava Kama 32b) tells of Amoraim who would “go out” dressed for Shabbat, proclaiming their welcoming of Shabbat, with one saying “Bo’i kalla.” Rav Alkabetz based his last stanza on this Talmudic account.
What is special about this juncture, and what is the significance of turning around? The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 261:4) views Barchu, which begins the first tefilla of Shabbat, as an acceptance of Shabbat; this was true in the time of the Rishonim. He then continues: “For us, saying Mizmor Shir L’yom HaShabbat is like their answering Barchu.” While the Magen Avraham (261:13) questions whether people intend to accept Shabbat then, the Mishna Berura (261:31) comments that by his time, people clearly did intend, and that those who say Lecha Dodi accept Shabbat with “bo’i kalla bo’i kalla.” It is likely not an accident that it became the last thing recited before Mizmor Shir L’yom HaShabbat.
Acharonim presume turning is a replacement for the aforementioned “going out” to greet Shabbat (although the Knesset Hagedola, Tur 262:3 does recommend leaving shul for an open area). Several (including Kaf Hachayim, OC 262:32) cite the Arizal, who did go out to a high place, to say Bo’i kalla while facing the setting sun – in the west. The Pri Megadim (EA 262:3) and Mishna Berura (262:10) also mention the west. Some say (see Igrot Moshe, OC III:45) that the significance of the west is due to the idea that the shechina is concentrated there (Bava Batra 25a).
The confusion comes about from the fact that in classic Ashkenazi communities there were a few reasons to turn to the west. Two do not change – the sun sets in the west and the shechina is to the west. However, if the idea is to welcome Shabbat like an important guest, then to demonstrate this, one could turn to the main entrance of the shul, which is usually in the west, opposite the aron kodesh (see B’tzel Hachochma III:65). Alternatively, it can show that one has thoughts of going out of the shul (Igrot Moshe ibid.). One other reason is cited (and rejected – Igrot Moshe ibid.) to turn toward the back of the shul is that at (approximately, depending on minhag) this time, mourners during shiva enter shul, so this positions people to address them. Since the aron kodesh in most communities was to the east, one would turn to the west. If the Acharonim mentioned west only because that is where their main entrances were, then in places that do not face east or if the main entrance is not to the west, one would face the entrance rather than the west.
B’tzel Hachochma (III:65), writing in Melbourne, starts with the presumption that turning to the west is what most poskim suggest, and yet the minhag of the local communities was to turn to the back of the shul. He justifies the minhag with a few observations. He argues that if the idea is to face the sun, then it makes less sense when one is in a closed room and/or the sun has already set. In those cases, the matter of welcoming the “guest” has more weight than the advantage(s) of the west. To the contrary, for those who daven to the west (as they do in Melbourne), the worst thing is not to turn at all. Rav Moshe Feinstein (ibid.) prefers the west but says that the main thing is that something is done in honor of the entering Shabbat.
It is proper that in such a public matter that a shul has a unified approach, as different people facing different directions is not very mechubad. If one has the minhag to do one way and he is in a shul where they do another, he must realize that lo titgodedu (not doing things that contradict local practice) is a real halacha, and the preferred way to turn is a minhag that can be fulfilled reasonably in different ways.
Reciting Borei Nefashot on Food When One Will Still DrinkWhen I eat a fruit and drink, if I finish the fruit but will continue drinking for quite a while, when should I recite Borei Nefashot? If I do it after finishing the fruit, should I make a new beracha on the drink?
Even if you did not eat a fruit, what to do about Borei Nefashot on drinking over time is not simple. If you never drink a revi’it at one time, you are not obligated (due to doubt) in Borei Nefashot (Mishna Berura 210:1). It is inadvisable to go more than a half hour between one drink and another, as that may be enough of a break to detach the drinking from the beracha acharona and perhaps the beracha rishona. Those who drink large amounts with significant breaks should make a set of berachot each time (see Living the Halachic Process, II, B-4).
We proceed to the impact of the fruit. One has at least a half hour and perhaps significantly more (see V’zot Haberacha, p. 50) from the end of eating fruit to recite Borei Nefashot; you can also leave a little fruit to eat many minutes later. Therefore, your question can usually be avoided.
Your question pertains if after eating the fruit, you will continue sporadic drinking for a long time (without leaving the vicinity). The first issue is whether Borei Nefashot’s efficacy on the fruit is extended by continued drinking without a long break. During a long meal in which 72 minutes pass between eating bread and bentching, the food one continues to eat extends the time (Magen Avraham 184:9). There are two ways to explain this halacha. The Pri Megadim (ad loc.) suggests that continued eating slows digestion. The Mishna Berura (184:18) says that it is a halachic matter – Birkat Hamazon does not expire in the middle of a meal. The Shevet Halevi (VII, 27) posits that if the reason is physical, it applies to any eating/drinking, but if it is halachic, it likely only applies to a meal or other unified eating (see V’zot Haberacha, p. 191). Therefore, it is a machloket whether you may wait much more than a half hour after finishing the fruit to make Borei Nefashot.
The Har Tzvi (OC I:96) prefers the opinion that we do not extend the time for eating due to drinking, as the beracha on one is not covered by the beracha of the other. Therefore, it is improper to wait beyond the normal time for making a beracha on the fruit. (The Shevet Halevi concurs in practice).
How does reciting Borei Nefashot impact on the beracha on drinking? The Har Tzvi instructs to have in mind when saying Borei Nefashot that it not apply to the drinking, so he can continuing drinking based on the original beracha. He rules this way despite seeing the ability to affect the matter by intention as a machloket. The Pri Megadim (Peticha Kollelet, Berachot) says that for a beracha acharona (as opposed to a beracha rishona), when one beracha can apply to multiple foods, it does even if one did not have that intention. The Har Tzvi disagrees, with aid from the Rav Pe’alim (II, OC 32). Logic suggests that the Pri Megadim might actually agree that here one can limit the Borei Nefashot’s reach for the following reasons. The Pri Megadim’s apparent logic is that a beracha acharona is different because given the standing obligation to make the beracha, one cannot detach it from all the foods (see Rav Pe’alim ibid.). However, in our case, the time to make Borei Nefashot on the drink has not yet come, and in fact it would cause an unjustified new beracha. Therefore, it is illogical that the Borei Nefashot on the fruit should be forced onto it. Therefore, when there is reason to make a Borei Nefashot on the fruit but not the drink, one should recite it with intention just for the fruit.
On the other hand, it is often wise to purposely have Borei Nefashot on the fruit also “end the round” of drinking for the chance of several cases: 1. he will take too long a break in the drinking; 2. he will unwittingly leave the house; 3. he will forget Borei Nefashot at the end; 4. he drank in a way that it is a safek whether he requires Borei Nefashot.
Top of page
Send to friend