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Fulfilling Parashat Zachor on Ki TeitzeiI heard a chumra that during a leap year, with 13 months between readings of Parashat Zachor, one should have in mind to fulfill the mitzva of zechirat Amalek during the reading of those p’sukim in Ki Teitzei. Should I do that (shuls do not usually announce it)?
The 13 month “concern” occurs the year before a leap year. Between Parashat Zachor 5782 (a leap year) and that of 5783, there will be 12 months + 2 days.
The main reasons to reject this chumra are that it is first raised around 200 years ago and it is still not widely followed, but analysis is both interesting and of limited use. The Torah does not give clear instructions on the timing of the mitzva of zechirat Amalek, but Chazal understood it is to be a yearly mitzva. The Torah was not concerned when other yearly mitzvot (e.g., the mitzvot of the Seder) have a 13 month gap between them, so why should Zachor be different?
The Chatam Sofer (Shut Even Haezer I:119) theorizes that the idea behind a yearly schedule is that the Torah commands us not to forget what Amalek did, and there is precedence of forgetting after more than a year. His talmid, the Maharam Shick (on Sefer Hamitzvot 605), brings sources that forgetting happens after 12 months and reports that the Chatam Sofer would have in mind during Ki Teitzei’s reading to fulfill the mitzva in the years it was “necessary” (theoretically including this year due to the 2 days). Others (see Mo’adim U’zmanim II:166) point out that the Chatam Sofer writes that we can learn the laws of zechirat Amalek from those of batei arei choma, which are also connected to forgetting, and yet a year is the cut-off point even in a leap year (Arachin 31a). He explains that forgetting is impacted by the Jewish year cycle more than 12 months. Therefore, the leap year is not a problem for Zachor.
There are also reasons to reject the assumptions behind the Chatam Sofer’s question. For one, who says that we need to read Parashat Zachor (mitzva #603) to not forget Amalek (#605)? The gemara (Megilla 18a) says that zechira must be done orally from a written text, whereas forgetting depends on the heart. So as long as a person has given thought to the story of Amalek within the critical time period, even without intention for the mitzva, he will not forget, and he can do the active, oral mitzva at the prescribed time. Many (including the Mo’adim U’zmanim) disagree with the Chatam Sofer’s chiddush that concern of forgetting defines precisely the oral mitzva of Zachor. Also, since it is very possible that having Zachor done from a sefer Torah with a minyan is only a Rabbinic mitzva (see Minchat Chinuch #603), it is questionable whether it requires kavana (see Mishna Berura 60:10).
If one wants to have kavana during the Ki Teitzei reading, is that enough? The Har Tzvi (OC I:58) leaves as a question whether the ba’al korei must have kavana to be motzi one for this mitzva or whether it is enough he is reading on behalf of everyone in the shul. The Pri Megadim (EA 692:1) says that in order for Shehecheyanu recited at Megilla reading to cover all of Purim’s mitzvot, the Megilla reader should have the beracha’s broad use in mind, but there may be counter implications in other sources (see Har Tzvi ibid.; Magen Avraham 685). Perhaps also, since the mitzva is performed only as part of a community (see ibid.), the minyan, not just individuals, needs the appropriate kavana. Possibly, the Ki Teitzei reading cannot help. Divrei Yoel (OC I, 33) says the mitzva can only be performed around the time of Purim.
In practice, while there could be value in people having in mind for Zachor on Ki Teitzei, there is nothing compelling enough to create a new minhag because of leap years. If someone missed Parashat Zachor and faces the prospect of going two years, it pays for him to have intention for it. Therefore, it behooves a ba’al korei (he loses nothing) to have that in mind. Only a shul that likes to incorporate chumrot – in a wise manner – should consider instituting announcing that people should have such kavana.
Tasting Meat LiquidsWhen I cook for Shabbat, I like to taste the chicken soup and gravies to make sure they are properly spiced. Does that “make me fleishig”?
In many areas of Halacha, such a question would be easier to decide conclusively, but for whatever reason, Klal Yisrael shies away from leniency regarding meat and milk. We start by telegraphically mentioning multiple ways that such a case is or may be distanced from the Torah-level prohibition. 1) If the meat is poultry, not beef; 2) Perhaps, if you are tasting only gravies and not the meat itself; 3) The meat and milk were not cooked together; 4) You are eating one after the other, not together.
Different Rishonim give different reasons to wait six hours (or a different minhag’s time) between fleishig followed by milchig foods. Rashi (Chulin 105a) says that “meat exudes fat, and it sticks to the mouth and gives taste for a long time.” The Rambam (Ma’achalot Asurot 9:28) says that we are concerned that meat got stuck between the teeth in a manner that it is difficult to remove. The Tur (Yoreh Deah 89) brings nafka minot between the opinions: 1. If meat is found between the teeth after 6 hours, is the meat still fleishig? (Rambam- no; Rashi- yes); 2. If it was chewed but not swallowed (Rambam- must wait, as meat could be between teeth; Rashi – no wait, as swallowing is what makes the taste linger). The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (YD 89:1) rule like the stringencies of both positions, therefore even if one does not eat the fleishig food but chews and then spits out (e.g., to feed to one’s baby), he still has to wait before eating milchigs. The Pri Megadim (MZ 89:1) reasons that our being machmir for both opinions is logical either due to our carefulness about safek in all the relevant cases, or because the two reasons could both be true.
The Pri Megadim continues that if one chewed pareve food that absorbed fleishig taste, but does not contain pieces of meat (e.g., chicken soup broth), neither reason indicates having to wait. However, he says that holy Jews do not distinguish (lo plug) between similar cases and always wait, and the Pitchei Teshuva (YD 89:1) accepts his opinion. How broad is this lo plug? While some rabbanim view it as applying to everything that is put in the mouth, the more accepted opinion is that tasting with the tongue (without chewing) and then spitting out the fleishig food does not make waiting necessary (Pri Chadash, YD 89:18; Aruch Hashulchan, YD 89:14; Darchei Teshuva 89:22). (There are discussions in other kashrut areas on the extent to which tasting with the tongue alone is an especially lenient case – see Pitchei Teshuva, YD 98:1). Among Sephardi poskim as well, the mainstream approach is to be lenient (Kaf Hachayim, YD 89:4; Yalkut Yosef, YD 89:13). (See also a similar discussion in Living the Halachic Process, III, E-1).
There are some provisos, though. First, just as between milk followed by meat, we require washing the mouth by first eating liquid and solid pareve food (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 2), so too this is needed to remove the tasted meat residue (see the aforementioned lenient opinions). Since there is no minimum amount for how much one needs to eat to become fleishig (Badei Hashulchan 89:2), one would have to determine that the tasting included no swallowing.
These rules can be burdensome to follow. Consider also that on a day of substantial fleishig cooking, some people tend to eat samples of their food without giving it much thought and forget thereafter that they are fleishig. Therefore, it might be prudent for many home Shabbat chefs who want to eat milchig food around the time of their major cooking, to eat the real milchig food prior to tasting fleishig food and spending a long time around them.
However, this suggestion is no more than practical advice where it applies. As far as a halachic ruling is concerned, if one just tasted fleishig food with his tongue, spat it out, and washed his mouth, he does not need to wait six hours before eating milchig food.
Chazan Having Trouble Taking Three Steps BackAs chazan, I was unable to take three steps back after my silent Shemoneh Esrei because someone was davening close behind me even when the gabbai signaled me to start chazarat hashatz. What should I have done at that point?
The situation should not have occurred, as a slow davener or one who starts late should not daven right behind the chazan (Dalet Amot Shel Tefilla 5:6). If the gabbai signaled prematurely, that is not ideal either. If the “back davener” was diagonally behind you, while there is a machloket whether you can enter his 4 amot (Mishna Berura 102:16), you could have acted leniently. Actually, I recommend leniency in our days, since differences in Shemoneh Esrei finish time have skyrocketed.
You had four feasible possibilities, some depending on the specifics.
1) Alter the steps – Ideally, one takes three steps (2 + an “equalizer”) backward, where one foot’s toe touches the other’s heel (covering approximately two feet = an amah plus) (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 123:3). Many shuls do not have enough room between pews to do that, and there are two minhagim about dealing with this situation: take smaller steps (see Mishna Berura 123:14); take normal-sized steps but to the side (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 123:5).
In your case, the smaller steps will suffice only if you started off outside the 4 amot, as otherwise any further encroachment is a problem. While poskim (see Ishei Yisrael 29:16) recommend going sideways (i.e., further away from the back davener), it is unclear what the chazan will do when it is time to return (see Rama, OC 95:1), unless one starts outside the 4 amot.
2. Wait – Some say (Ishei Yisrael 29:(61) cites Simchat Cohen) that the congregation must wait until the back davener finishes. If one is not confident he will finish soon, this is unreasonable considering the gravity with which Halacha views tircha d’tzibbura (public inconvenience – see Rama, OC 123:3).
3. Do not take steps – The gemara (Yoma 53b) says that is better not to have davened than to not take the steps back, as it does not show proper reverence in “taking leave of Hashem.” This does not seem so offensive if one is not taking leave, but is about to begin his main amida of chazarat hashatz (see Rosh Hashana 34b, that the chazan’s silent tefilla is a “practice run”). Indeed, the Beit Yosef (OC 123) cites and rejects the Ohel Moed’s opinion that a chazan is not required to step back between his two amidot, as he will do so later. However, when the alternatives are tircha d’tzibbura or actively violating the halacha not to walk within someone’s 4 amot, several Acharonim (Mishpetei Tzedek 2, P’kudat Elazar 123:5, Halichot Shlomo, Tefilla 9:1) allow the chazan to start chazarat hashatz without the steps backward and forward. Although at the end of chazarat hashatz the chazan does not usually take three steps back (Shulchan Aruch, OC 123:5), it is permitted to do so (Mishna Berura 123:19). The Rama (OC 123:5) says that if the chazan did not do a silent Shemoneh Esrei he should step back, and if he did a silent amida but did not step back, it should be at least as appropriate (Ishei Yisrael 29:(62). Generally, the Mishna Berura (123:18) says that the chazan relies on the steps of Kaddish Titkabel (if he remains chazan) and should be careful not to be mafsik until then.)
4. Walk into the 4 amot – The Tzitz Eliezer (VII:23) is among Acharonim (see Ishei Yisrael ibid.) who see this as less problematic than missing the steps back. He also generally is lenient about this prohibition, finding many leniencies for it (see also Eshel Avraham (Butchatch) 102). One leniency to consider here is that when one positions himself in a manner that disturbs many in the congregation, he cannot “keep others out” (Da’at Torah to Shulchan Aruch, OC 102:4). Here too, one who impedes the chazan and thus makes all wait may lose his 4 amot rights (see similar idea in Aruch Hashulchan, OC 102:13).
Of these options, we prefer the modified steps back when feasible, and if not, then skipping the steps at this point.
A Shul Kiddush as the “Third” MealCan I count the cake and other foods I eat at a “shul Kiddush,” followed by a regular Shabbat meal at home, as the second and third meals of Shabbat?
The question arises only if one is lenient on what constitutes seuda shlishit. The gemara (Shabbat 117b) derives from the pasuk about the manna to be eaten on Shabbat (Shemot 16:25), which uses the word “hayom” (today) three times, that one should have three meals on Shabbat. The straightforward reading of the gemara is that the three meals are primarily equivalent. Since the first two Shabbat meals must include (two loaves of) bread (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 274:1; ibid. 289:1), we should expect the same for seuda shlishit. Indeed, this is the principle opinion of the Shulchan Aruch (OC 291:4-5), except when it is quite difficult (ibid.).
On the other hand, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) cites as a minority opinion the possibility to fulfill seuda shlishit with foods other than bread. The Talmudic source for possible leniency is a gemara (Sukka 27a) about a rejected opinion about Sukkot. R. Eliezer says that one must eat fourteen meals on Sukkot and that if he missed one, he should eat an extra meal on the night of Shemini Atzeret. The gemara asks that the bread meal he has on Shemini Atzeret is for that day and answers that the hashlama (make-up meal) is by eating minei targima (there is a machloket exactly what that is – see Tosafot ad loc.) in addition to the regular meal. Tosafot (Berachot 49b) cites Rabbeinu Tam as learning from here that one does not need bread to be considered a modest halachic meal, for example, for seuda shlishit. Most Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, OC 291) say that at least seuda shlishit requires specifically bread because of the derivation from the manna. There are, though, those who do not have seuda shlishit with bread, and they have whom to rely upon.
As mentioned, all agree that bread is required for the second Shabbat meal, even though cake is enough of a meal to give Kiddush its halachic status (Shulchan Aruch, OC 273:5). So, your regular meal is needed to count for the second meal. According to some, that meal must start before chatzot (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 288:2). If this meal started before the earliest time for Mincha (half an hour after chatzot), it is too early for seuda shlishit (Shulchan Aruch, OC 291:2), and even if it extends from morning to afternoon it cannot serve as both the second and third meals (see Levushei Srad ad loc.). Stopping the meal with Birkat Hamazon and then starting a new meal again, could be a potential possibility (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 291:3 and Mishna Berura ad loc. 14). However, this is presumably not a more attractive practical option than making a small seuda shlishit some time later.
It is plausible to make the following halachic claim. Perhaps after having a proper daytime bread meal, we can say that the shul Kiddush constituted retroactively a third meal. While there is an expectation that there will be three meals at three different times of Shabbat (Rambam, Shabbat 30:9), perhaps the important thing is that at the end, fulfilling all of the requirements (two full meals, having eaten after the time of Mincha) in whatever order is enough. Rav Shimon Sofer (Hitorerut Teshuva I:74) left this as an open question and a possible limud z’chut for those who have a pre-meal Kiddush and do not eat seuda shlishit. The Shevet Halevi (I:57) does not view this a viable approach. He cites the Bach (OC 291) who says that the logic of Rabbeinu Tam to treat a non-bread meal as a meal applies only when it follows a full daytime meal, as another full meal might not be expected. However, a small meal before the big meal is not considered a halachic meal toward the three required meals.
In summary, while it is plausible that the setup you describe could remove the need for seuda shlishit, it relies on unlikely assumptions. Therefore, it is significantly better to either have bread at the small meal (i.e., Kiddush) or to have at least a small seuda shlishit sometime in the afternoon.
Making Changes to Shabbat Clock on ShabbatMay one make changes on Shabbat (and which ones?) to the settings on a Shabbat clock that is connected to electrical appliances?
The use of Shabbat clocks, even without making changes, used to be debated (see Yabia Omer III, Orach Chayim 18; Igrot Moshe, OC IV:60), but according to the consensus that we may, the question of how is important.
It is forbidden to adjust the clock so that it will change the on/off status of the connected appliance sooner than if it is left alone (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (=SSK) 13:25). According to some (including Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah III:47.4) this is a full violation of Shabbat. Explanations include that it is because the Shabbat clock is built to operate appliances in this way or that the nature of some melachot makes them apply even for delayed or indirect results (see Orchot Shabbat 29:(25)). However, the consensus is that, considering mainly that nothing of note happens when the change is made, it is considered gerama (indirect causation) (Chazon Ish, OC 38:2; SSK 13:(91)). The difference is not only in the severity of the violation (gerama is not even a full Rabbinic prohibition), but in the possibility of leniency in certain cases of need (ibid.) and other matters.
What if the adjustment delays the next electrical change? The Chazon Ish (ibid.) says that any adjustment to the settings violates the melacha of building. We do not commonly accept that approach even regarding connecting circuits, certainly here where there is no immediate change and this is normal use of a Shabbat clock (SSK 13:(88)). Igrot Moshe (ibid.) says that this too is a full melacha violation of what the appliance does. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (article in Hama’ayan (Pressburg), Elul 5714, p. 10) says that this clearly is not even gerama but merely delaying a change from occurring as soon as it would have. This is not obvious because one can view it not as a delay but of bypassing one opportunity for a change, to set up a new act of change sometime later. SSK (13:(90), as I understand it) deflects this by arguing that since cancelling the earlier change sets up the later change without new activation for the later time, this is only considered delaying the already planned change.
This leniency is less obvious regarding delaying the appliance’s shutting off because one could argue that this is like adding wood to a fire (making it burn longer). SSK (ibid.) prefers comparing it to the permitted closing of a door to prevent wind from blowing out the flame. This is a logical perspective, especially if we view the home electricity flow as, effectively, a constant (unlike adding new wood).
The least problematic adjustment is to have the present state continue indefinitely. If it is on, it will not go off and vice versa. Yet, even that case must deal with the issue of muktzeh. After all, much of what the dials and prongs are used for is forbidden on Shabbat. Orchot Shabbat (29:(29)) says that it depends on the previous questions. If a lot of the usages on Shabbat are permitted (or even permitted in case of great need – SSK 23:(68)), it is not muktzeh. But Igrot Moshe (perhaps because he is machmir in most cases) and the Tzitz Eliezer (I:20:9) consider the Shabbat clock’s parts as muktzeh. Why this makes it forbidden to move is unclear – if a Shabbat clock is a regular kli shemelachto l’issur, it should be permitted to move it in a useful manner. Perhaps in those days electric devices were more expensive and therefore muktzeh machamat chisaron kis (=mmck), which is unlikely to be true today. Moving the prongs using a utensil might be permitted even for mmck (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 311:8) if moving to use the muktzeh is not considered acting for the muktzeh (Magen Avraham 279:9; see Orchot Shabbat 19:244).
In short, it is absolutely permitted to make the Shabbat clock not change the appliance from its present state, at least if he adjusts it indirectly. Delaying the change in state is permitted according to most, and according to them, muktzeh is also apparently not a problem.
Leather Arch Supports on Tisha B’avMay I wear leather arch supports in my non-leather shoes on Tisha B’av?
Most of the sources on the prohibition of wearing shoes relate to Yom Kippur, but the halachot are mainly the same for Tisha B’av (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 550:16). The simple answer to your question is that arch supports are forbidden because one may not wear a non-leather shoe with leather lining (ibid.). Yet, we shall explore two avenues for leniency.
The first is to distinguish between a shoe’s lining and an arch support. The Chelkat Yaakov (OC 217) suggests that since the arch supports are inserted and removed often, they might not be considered part of the shoe, but independent entities. If so, since standing on a leather surface is permitted and stringency is only mildly encouraged (see language of Rama, OC 614:2), perhaps leniency is appropriate in such a case of need.
The problem is that this view of arch supports, brought without precedent from earlier sources, is unlikely to be cogent. It is not as if one stands on arch supports that just happen to be in the shoes now. An arch support user stands on them only when they are in shoes and almost never uses the shoe without arch supports. The fact that one with fewer arch supports than shoes moves them from one shoe to another should not make them foreign to the shoes they are in.
The more likely grounds for leniency is need-based. Chazal and/or the classical poskim (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 614:3-4) permit the following people to wear shoes on Yom Kippur: a woman who recently gave birth, a sick person; one with wounds on his feet; one walking in a muddy area (see details in commentaries ad loc.). The Chelkat Yaakov (ibid.) viewed the arch support user as one who suffers, albeit more than the average person, from not having good shoes. According to this view, it is difficult to compare him to someone with wounds. However, we view most people who are prescribed arch supports as having a specific problem that the average person who does not like being barefoot does not and therefore see this is as a better leniency than the former one.
However, it is not proper to allow arch supports on a broad basis for two reasons. First, for many people, going one day without arch supports is unlikely to cause any damage or significant pain (on a practical level, Tisha B’av is a day with a lot of sitting).
Second, there are many options to leather arch supports. Some non-leather footwear gives reasonable support to the arch. Furthermore, a high percentage of effective arch supports contain no leather. Therefore, if one knows he cannot manage without arch supports, he can obtain ones without leather (or get a cheap spare pair).
It is an excellent question whether one is required to make such preparations in advance, as one can understand the sources above in different ways. It is possible that in a case of a special reason for shoes, the prohibition does not exist, but it is possible that it is an act of prohibition, just that the need overcomes it (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 39:(113)). Several poskim posit (S’dei Chemed vol. IX, p. 157) or at least consider likely (Minchat Shlomo I,7; Torat Hamoadim, Yom Kippur 13:(11)) that even, for example, a woman after birth, may not wear leather shoes when easy alternatives exist. That is after all what the rest of us do when walking in places where we need reasonable footwear. Admittedly, arch supports need to be just right and are relatively expensive, so one could possibly argue that the alternatives are less feasible than usual.
In conclusion, the rule is that most people should not insert leather arch supports into their shoes on Yom Kippur or Tisha B’av. If they did not succeed in arranging a good alternative and expect significant pain, they may be lenient (Chelkat Yaakov ibid.). Leniency is easier on Tisha B’av, since its entire observance is not a Torah law, whereas Yom Kippur is a severe Torah prohibition and according to some even its prohibition of shoes is Torah law (see Mishna Berura 614:26).
Family Name as Alternative for a Ketuba WitnessMust witnesses on a ketuba sign with their father’s name (Ploni ben Ploni)? Can one instead use his first and last name? This could be valuable for a convert or someone whose father is someone else than what people think and is embarrassed about the truth.
The discussion about how a witness is to sign is in relation to a sensitive document, a get. The baraita (Gittin 36a) tells that the Rabbis enacted that the witnesses need to “elucidate their names.” Rashi explains that if the signature does not include his legible name, if its authenticity is challenged, it will be difficult to get information about the witnesses to confirm it.
What did the enactment change? The Rashba (ad loc.) understood that originally it could be signed anonymously, and it became required to write his name, although either one’s given name or “son of [his father’s name]” suffices if followed by “eid” (Gittin 87b). The Tur (Even Haezer 130), as the Beit Yosef (ad loc.) understood, holds that the enactment required writing both the witness’ and his father’s name, the shorter forms being valid only after the fact; so rules the Shulchan Aruch (EH 130:11). Even the Rashba presumably agrees that the standard get signature included name and father’s name (see Gittin 87a).
The gemara (Gittin 36a) questions the requirement to specify the witness’ name from accounts of rabbis who signed with symbols rather than their name. The gemara responds that this is valid only for such rabbis whose symbol signatures were well known, but it asks how their signatures could become known if they cannot be used before they were known. The gemara answers that they became known by means of diski’ot (Rashi - responsa and personal letters). Some cogently prove from this gemara that the requirement of a clear name applies to all legal documents, for otherwise the gemara could have answered that the symbols became known through other documents (see Yalkut Be’urim ad loc.). The Aruch Hashulchan (Choshen Mishpat 45:2) indeed requires writing the father’s name in all documents, which certainly includes a ketuba.
We can confidently say that the ketuba will be valid b’di’eved. First, the first name is enough (with the word eid or its equivalent) even for a get. Second, according to some (see Rashi, Gittin 97b; Mishpat Haketuba 51:(46)), a family name is what the mishna calls a chanicha, which is valid (perhaps even l’chatchila- see Pitchei Teshuva, EH 129:2). Regarding one who signs his name in Hebrew with his family name on legal documents, the Chatam Sofer (EH II, 21) says this is likely the proper way to sign. Mishpat Haketuba (ibid.) argues that this seems no worse than the rabbis’ symbol signatures, and assuming the writing is legible, it should be easy to trace. In fact, family names in our times are important enough that common practice (recommended by Igrot Moshe, OC IV, 40.20) is to regularly add them to the principles’ and witnesses’ names. The Minchat Pitim (to CM 45:1) leaves it as an open question whether family name works as effectively as the father’s name.
Based on the above, according to straightforward halacha, leniency is very reasonable. However, many ancillary factors need to be weighed. For one, rabbinic conventional wisdom rightfully is reluctant to make changes on formal documents (see Chatam Sofer ibid. regarding get, which is, admittedly, more severe). Change can also raise eyebrows in the direction of the mesader kiddushin, the witness himself, and even the couple (sometimes in evaluating the credentials of a couple or their children, rabbis look to see if their ketuba seems like a standard one). Although sometimes we work hard to hide embarrassing information about the bride and groom, they have no choice but to be the subject of the ketuba, whereas a witness is rarely compelled to serve as one. On the other hand, a witness’ embarrassment can be a strong reason for leniency. Therefore, a rabbi must deal with the circumstances of each specific case, while we have sufficed with mapping out the main factors.
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.
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