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Purchasing Tax LiensMay a Jew purchase a tax lien when the tax delinquent is Jewish, or is that taking ribbit? Background: In about half of US states, tax authorities auction off tax liens (unpaid taxes create liens on taxpayers’ property) to the public. After purchasing the tax lien (approximately for the amount due to the government), the buyer is entitled to ever-increasing charges. If, after a set time, the debt is unpaid (most redeem their property before then), the buyer can foreclosure on the property and fully acquire it. As I understand from some research, the system works somewhat differently in different states/localities.
We have not found explicit discussion in classical poskim or contemporary halachic discussion of this exact case. To evaluate this possibly new question, we seek halachic parallels.
The closest parallel is loans that involve three parties – two Jewish and one not – which makes the existence of ribbit possible (see permutations in Bava Metzia 71b). The determining factor is generally whether the obligation and payment (perhaps even partially) are between two Jews (interest is forbidden) or only between each Jew separately with the non-Jew (permitted). The Rashba (Shut I:764) speaks of a case where a Jew owes a non-Jew with accruing ribbit and the non-Jew transferred his rights to the debt to another Jew. This is parallel to our case, as the taxpayer owes the non-Jewish government, and the government transferred its rights to a Jewish tax lien purchaser. The Rashba rules that if the non-Jew receives the money from the first Jew, even if he then gives it to the second Jew, it is permitted. If the money goes directly between the two Jews, it is forbidden. The Rashba, and the Rama (Yoreh Deah 168:10), who codified this opinion, imply that the prohibited case is only a stringency because of the severity of ribbit.
The Taz (ad loc. 12) makes two qualifications. The potential problem of ribbit is only on that which is accrued after the transfer to the Jew; the second Jew may directly take that which was coming to the non-Jew prior to the transfer. (If the original debtor was not entitled to pay early, all the eventual ribbit is considered previously accrued (Chavot Da’at (Chiddushim) 168:20), but in our case, the taxpayer can pay at any time.) The Taz also says that the relative leniency of the Rashba/Rama was only regarding a non-Jew’s partial/temporary transfer of rights to the second Jew, i.e., the non-Jew can pay off the second Jew and go back to demanding payment from the first Jew. In contrast, if the second Jew had obtained irrevocable rights to the loan, he has a full debtor/creditor relationship with the other Jew, so that taking additional ribbit is strictly forbidden. Although the Shach (Nekudot Hakesef ad loc.) takes issue on the Taz’s first qualification and somewhat on the second, the consensus of poskim is like the Taz (see Gra ad loc.; Chavot Da’at ibid.; Torat Ribbit 24:1).
The purchase of the tax lien appears to be like the Taz’s stringent case, making it forbidden to purchase a Jewish taxpayer’s tax lien. Since auctions list details of the taxpayer and his property, it might be possible to pick someone who is highly unlikely to be Jewish; such “profiling” is, of course, an inexact science.
However, we do not want to take a clear stand on this matter for a few reasons. 1) The laws of ribbit are very complex, and we do not preclude a future or unknown-to-us responsum convincing us otherwise. 2) Obligations created by government decree can have special qualities, and sometimes may be able to obviate the prohibition of ribbit (see Shut Ramban 46). 3) We do not know certain potentially impactful factors (some likely differ from place to place), including the degree of finality of the purchase, and who receives payment from the taxpayer. In the meantime, we cannot permit purchasing tax liens of a Jew. We add that the system appears to have some draconian provisions. This might make it appropriate to avoid on moral grounds.
We invite information/insight from our readership.
Making Up a Tefilla Missed to Help the SickI spent all afternoon in the emergency room with my mother and did not daven Mincha. Can/should I daven a second Ma’ariv as tashlumin (makeup prayer)?
The gemara (Berachot 26a) introduces the idea of tashlumin for tefillot missed “by mistake.” Those who missed intentionally are excluded. Rishonim posit that there is tashlumin for one prevented from davening (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 108:1). However, the Rosh (Shut 27:1, codified in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 341:2) rules that an onen (one between the death and burial of a close relative, who is exempt from positive mitzvot) who missed a tefilla does not make it up at the next tefilla. He explains that the onen did not forget but was not obligated in the missed tefilla.
The Derisha (YD 341:3) extends this exclusion from tashlumin to exemptions from tefilla due to pressing involvement in a mitzva (osek b’mitzva). Caring for a mother with acute medical needs certainly qualifies (see Sukka 26a and Mishna Berura 640:7).The Taz (YD 341:5 & OC 108:1) takes issue with the Derisha, arguing that an onen’s exemption is qualitatively different from that of one involved in a mitzva. The Derisha and Taz may disagree on whether mitzvot erase obligations, like aninut does (see nuances in Kehilot Yaakov, Berachot 15; Atvan D’orayta 13). Alternatively, they may argue on the breadth of the institution of tashlumin.
Given that the Rosh regarding onen appears to be based more on logic than Talmudic precedent, it makes sense to distinguish between the cases. During aninut, one may not use windows of free time to do mitzvot. In contrast, our entire day should be filled with various mitzvot, yet we seem to almost always fit in davening with a (set) minyan (see Ishei Yisrael 22:9, who advises doctors and nurses to look for opportunities to daven). Therefore, it makes a lot of sense that even if a certain mitzva could not be interrupted, osek b’mitzva does not make it considered that the obligation of tefilla at that time did not exist. Nevertheless, the majority of Acharonim, including some of the most authoritative ones (Shach in Nekudot Hakesef, YD 341, Magen Avraham 93:5; Eliya Rabba 93:4; Mishna Berura 93:8), rule that one does not need to do tashlumin in a case of mitzva involvement.
That being said, it might be good to do tashlumin voluntarily, an idea we find even in the following cases when tashlumin is not prescribed: 1. He purposely did not daven; 2. More than one tefilla has gone by since he missed. Poskim encourage doing tashlumin as a nedava (voluntary tefilla). The possible proviso is that when the case is further away from warranted tashlumin, the nedava must be done with a chiddush, i.e., additions to his regular Shemoneh Esrei. The Shulchan Aruch requires chiddush regarding #2 (OC 108:5), but not regarding #1 (ibid. 7). Since the requirements of chiddush are not trivial and perhaps difficult (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 107:2), we would not recommend it for the average person.
Regarding an osek b’mitzva, the Pri Megadim (MZ 108:1) says it depends whether the Taz’s opinion is strong enough to create a reasonable doubt whether tashlumin is needed; his inclination is not fully clear. It is an open question (see Yabia Omer IX, OC 90.6) whether there is an indication from the Rivash (140) like the Taz, and the Shevel Halevi (I:205) claims the Zohar supports the Taz. On the other hand, the Mishna Berura (108:2) rules that it requires a chiddush.
In your case, there could be reasons to require tashlumin. If your mitzva involvement began after the earliest time for Mincha, then according to almost all poskim, the subsequent exemption does not preclude tashlumin (Mishna Berura 71:4; the Birkei Yosef, YD 341:17 is equivocal). Also, while you had a right to err on the side of medical/kibbud eim caution and while one may use short breaks for ensuring his ability to continue the mitzva rather than tefilla (see Mishna Berura 71:13), if, in hindsight, you could have davened without compromising your mother’s care, tashlumin is called for.
Putting on Tallit and Tefillin in Early MorningDuring certain times of the year, I have to daven significantly before sunrise. What should I do about putting on tallit and tefillin (=t & t), as I start davening before the time for those mitzvot?
The starting time for Kri’at Shema (Orach Chayim 58), tzitizit/tallit (OC 18), and tefillin (OC 30), is called misheyakir (the time it is light enough to recognize certain things). There are many opinions as to how long before sunrise this is. The extreme opinions are as little as 30 and as much as 60+ minutes before sunrise; the most common opinions range from 40 to 50 minutes before. Because light depends on the angle of the sun under the horizon, many posit that latitude and season affect this time. Therefore, people need to rely on local calendars or some website, which will not represent unanimous truths (most of such resources are close to the general consensus).
Kri’at Shema starts at misheyakir apparently because this is when serious numbers of people start getting up (see Magen Avraham 58:6). Regarding tzitzit, the gemara (Menachot 43a) exempts “night clothing” from tzitzit because the Torah describes seeing the tzitzit. There are two pertinent machlokot on this matter. According to the Rambam (Tzitzit 3:7-8), the exemption refers to the time of the day, and it begins at misheyakir, which relates to the ability to see. Some (Rosh, Tzitzit 1) say that daytime clothing is obligated in tzitzit even at night, and others (Mordechai, Megilla 801) say that the starting time is alot hashachar (at least 72 minutes before sunrise). Because we view the first question as a safek, we wear tzitzit at night but without a beracha (Shulchan Aruch, OC 18:1), and while the Rama (OC 18:3) allows making a beracha from alot hashachar, this is not broadly accepted (see Mishna Berura 18:10).
Most Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, OC 30; the Rambam, Tefillin 4:10 is an exception) posit that the mitzva of tefillin applies at night, fundamentally. However, we must not put on tefillin at night (even without a beracha) out of a concern we may fall asleep and release gas with them on (Rashi, Menachot 36b). One who has already woken up and needs to put them on may do so early, in which case, when the time comes (misheyakir – Shulchan Aruch, OC 30:1), he handles the tefillin and then makes the beracha (Menachot 36a). We also find the idea of handling before the beracha regarding tzitzit that were put on early (Rama, OC 18:3).
There are two valid options: to wait to put on the t & t until their time comes or to put them both on at the regular juncture and make the beracha later (Mishna Berura 89:40), and the point to do it is between Yishtabach and Kaddish, not during P’sukei D’zimra (Rama, OC 54:3). If misheyakir comes before Baruch She’amar, which is more likely if one decides to use (this time of year) the order of Nusach Sephard, that is optimal. How many opinions one should satisfy and what to do about a safek whether misheyakir has come is debatable (see Piskei Teshuvot 30:(4)).
The halachic differences between waiting to put on and waiting for the beracha are small. Assuming misheyakir comes before Barchu (or there are other problems – see Shulchan Aruch, OC 58:3 and Mishna Berura ad loc. 17), the point to put them on and/or make the berachot is between Yishtabach and Kaddish. The main problem at that time, hefsek, relates to speaking, and either way the berachot are said then. There is only a slight advantage of having t & t on early in tefilla, and it is not much of a problem to have them on before their berachot for a good reason (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 8:10).
Let us examine practicalities. For one davening at home, a deciding factor might be which system is more likely to cause a mistake – forgetting to make the beracha at all or forgetting to put on t & t at the right time (if he remembered later, see Shulchan Aruch, OC 66:2). In a shul, friends’ actions may remind others. The rabbi has to decide whether to seek uniformity or have everyone decide for himself. If the former, there are various considerations to weigh.
Dessert after Birkat HamazonA friend of mine always eats dessert after Birkat Hamazon in order to avoid questions about whether he should make a beracha on dessert. Is that appropriate?
The practice of having dessert after Birkat Hamazon has various consequences. It can create a beracha rishona in cases that do not warrant them during the meal. After most desserts, there is a beracha acharona after Birkat Hamazon and not before it (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 177:2).
First we will look at whether this system could be halachically justified. A beracha l’vatala is when a beracha is either recited at a time/circumstance when it was not called for or was done in a critically flawed manner. There is a machloket whether this is a Torah-level (Rambam, Berachot 1:15) or Rabbinic prohibition (Tosafot, Rosh Hashana 33a). A lower level problem is what we call beracha she’eina tzricha (=bshtz) – a beracha that, at the time it was made, was called for, but one should not have put himself in that position.
The main Talmudic source for it is an opinion (Yoma 70a) that explains that in the kri’at haTorah in the Beit Hamikdash on Yom Kippur, they did not use a second sefer Torah because the switch of sefarim would have required another Birkat HaTorah, when this was not justified. The Orchot Chayim (Berachot 15) is one of the sources that apply it to berachot on food, in an almost identical case to ours – Birkat Hamazon before finishing eating, in order to make a beracha thereafter.
However, as the term she’eina tzricha (unnecessary) implies and the Orchot Chayim (ibid.) states, the problem is only when the additional beracha is created for no good reason. When, in contrast, there is a need for his actions, the beracha is not considered unnecessary. What qualifies as a reason? There is a machloket if one may make more berachot than should have been necessary in order to help get to the quota of 100 berachot each day (see Rambam, Tefilla 7:14-16 with Lechem Mishneh; Orchot Chayim ibid.).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 174:4) comments that it is a safek whether one who wants to drink wine at a meal right after drinking Havdala wine needs to make another beracha. He rules that he does not make the beracha, out of doubt, but recommends having in mind when making the beracha during Havdala not to exempt the later wine, thereby justifying the second beracha. The Pri Chadash (Yoreh Deah 19:8) says that while one should not break a string of shechitot, which might stop the efficacy of the beracha toward subsequent shechitot, since there would be a safek if a new beracha is required, one should intend that his initial beracha not extend to shechitot occurring after speaking. In other words, while needlessly setting up the need for a beracha is wrong, the desire to not be in a situation of lack of a beracha due to safek justifies it. In fact, the Ohr L’tzion (II, 12:(10)), in the case of a certain dessert in where it is unclear whether it requires a beracha rishona, recommends eating it only after Birkat Hamazon. So there is room to entertain your friend’s system
However, we do not recommend your friend’s system, at least not broadly. If the halacha is clear, whether to make or not make a beracha, the suggested system, obviating the need to learn the halacha, is unfortunate. It is much better to learn halachot than to avoid the situations to which they apply. One of the major reasons to learn Torah is to get things exactly correct! This is especially so by berachot, where preciseness is valued (see Berachot 38a). That is why poskim discuss all sorts of dessert foods and scenarios and rarely if ever give his solution. For example, regarding a dessert of cake, we do not make a beracha only due to the possibility that cake counts as bread (Bi’ur Halacha to 168:8), and the poskim by and large do not recommend bentching first to remove doubt.
Furthermore, in cases which do not include doubt, an extra beracha is a bshtz. Only in unusual cases (e.g., one with memory problems), to be discussed with a rav, might using this system broadly be justified.
How Much Should the Mezamen Recite Aloud?I learned that the mezamen (= mzm – leader of zimun) should recite, if not all of Birkat Hamazon (=BHM) aloud, at least the first beracha and the ends of berachot. Most people do neither. What should I do and/or tell others to do?
There are two reasons for mzm to recite aloud parts of BHM.
The original institution of zimun was for only mzm to say BHM, with the others being yotzei by listening. The practice has developed that rarely is one person motzi others with reciting a text when not necessary. The reason is that being motzi is not easy, because it requires intention on both sides (Mishna Berura 8:13), concentration of the one listening (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 183), and likely also the latter’s understanding of the Hebrew text (Mishna Berura 183:28). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 183:7) says that although everyone should recite BHM, it is proper for the others to do so silently at the same pace that the mzm does it aloud, thus uniting them in a way that resembles full zimun (Mishna Berura 183:27).
The above is not a requirement, and the broad minhag is not to do so. Some explain the advantages. If they listen to mzm as they recite it, they may not concentrate well and might not have in mind to do be yotzei with their own recitation (see Avnei Yaakov 31). We do not recommend, in places it is unusual, for mzm to read the whole BHM aloud. Beyond the plusses and minuses, it is also likely to give the impression of “holier than thou.”
It is somewhat common to tone down the above by reciting only the ends of the berachot. While listening/responding to this is insufficient to be yotzei, there may be value in joining for BHM’s most important parts, and it gives people the z’chut of answering amen (see Shabbat 119b). It is positive to do this. If the responders do not keep pace with mzm, it is unclear if they should answer amen to mzm in the midst of a beracha (see Mishna Berura 183:30; Dirshu 183:24; Yeshuot Moshe III:19).
The other element of reading aloud applies only to the first beracha (“… hazan et hakol”). Rav Nachman (Berachot 46a) says that zimun ends before BHM’s first beracha; Rav Sheshet says that the first beracha is part of zimun. (It is not a full part of zimun, as we recite it even without one, but Rav Sheshet requires zimun to be connected to the beginning of BHM (Tosafot ad loc.).) One difference between the opinions is until what point one who stops eating to answer zimun has to wait before resuming eating (ibid.). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 200:2, based on the Rif and Rambam) rules like Rav Nachman. The Rama (ad loc.) paskens like Rav Sheshet, that one waits until hazan et hakol to resume eating. Likely, another difference between them is whether mzm recites the first beracha aloud (see Beit Yosef, OC 183).
We rule that we do not trust ourselves to be yotzei with mzm even for the first beracha (see ibid.). Still, the Mishna Berura (183:28) says that mzm should do at least that beracha aloud, so people can read along with him (they go ahead at the end of the beracha so they can answer amen) and get an element of zimun. So why doesn’t everyone do this?
Explanations begin with the fact that Rav Nachman is not a “rejected” opinion so that Ashkenazim can rely upon him in this regard (see Tzitz Eliezer ibid.). They may assume that their concentration on their own recitations is better that way (see Piskei Teshuvot 183:15) or for kabbalistic advantage (see Kaf Hachayim, OC 183:38). Still, we recommend for mzm to recite the first beracha aloud, when this is not a rare practice.
There is less reason to recite the first beracha aloud with a zimun of ten. The Tur (OC 200, accepted by Mishna Berura 200:9 and Chazon Ish, OC 31:2) says that in such a case, Rav Sheshet agrees that one who stopped can resume eating before the first beracha of BHM because by adding the Name of Hashem, the zimun is a self-standing beracha. If so, having mzm say the first beracha aloud is similar to his reciting all of BHM aloud.
Considering all the possibilities’ viability, you should not “correct” people.
Differences of a Second MarriageAt a second marriage for both chatan and kalla, what is different from at a regular wedding?
The following is an overview, regarding a second marriage for both chatan and kalla; some differences depend only on the kalla’s status. Some issues are affected by details or sensitivities, especially regarding issues that are less halachic or are the subject of machloket. A couple would discuss these matters with their rav/mesader kiddushin.
Tenaim – Many do not require a written tenaim document (see Hanisuin K’hilchatam 17:8).
Ketuba – A kalla who is not a betula receives half of what a betula receives for all three of a ketuba’s monetary elements (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 67:1), and her status is referenced in certain places in the ketuba. Certain variables, especially not widely known facts (e.g., adoption, conversion), raise sensitivities during the public reading of the ketuba between the kiddushin and nisuim parts of the ceremony. The minhag of many is to not read the ketuba at a second time marriage (see opinions in Hanisuin K’hilchatam 17:24 and Nitei Gavriel 51:7).
Veil – The kalla going to her chupa with a veil is the sign of the wedding of a betula (Ketubot 15b), and the chatan covers her at “badekin.” There is no badekin at a second marriage (see Rama, EH 55:1; Chelkat Mechokek 55:8), although some have the minhag that someone else puts the veil on her under the chupa (Nitei Gavriel 51:3).
Chupa Location: The chupa is done inside and not under the sky (see Pitchei Teshuva, EH 62:1; Aruch Hashulchan, EH 55:24).
Yichud (the couple’s seclusion) – According to many (see Rama, EH 55:1), the nisuin is accomplished by yichud. Therefore, it is especially important that the kalla not be a nidda, which would prevent full yichud (Nitei Gavriel 51:10).
Minhagim that are unchanged: chupa, breaking of the glass, ashes on the chatan’s head; kalla circling the chatan.
Level of Revelry: The recommendation of poskim and the minhag is that, while joyous, the second wedding is less elaborate, which can find expression in several areas – Many do not have a band (Aruch Hashulchan ibid.); the food is less extensive (Hanisuin K’hilchatam 17:29); the kalla’s dress is less elaborate (Nitei Gavriel 51:2). These are general guidelines, not halachic dictates.
Participation of the couple’s children – Many have the minhag that their children not take part in the chupa (Nitei Gavriel 51:9). The decision should be left to the children (if old enough), without the couple’s pressuring or reading into their decisions.
Sheva Berachot – Sheva Berachot under the chupa are standard, but at meals, it is complicated. The gemara (Ketubot 7a) says that for such a couple there are sheva berachot for only one day. There are three feasible and supported possibilities what one day means (see Rosh, Ketubot 1:13 and its analysis in Chelkat Mechokek 62:6 and Beit Shmuel 62:5): 1) the first meal; 2) any meal eaten the first day; 3) it must be both the first meal and on the first day. The main differences are: A. After a night wedding, can there be a party with the sheva berachot recited the next day? B. If the chupa takes place at the end of the day and the meal takes place at night, are there berachot at the end of the wedding meal? The general approach is that there is doubt in these test cases, and we do not make berachot in a case of doubt (Beit Shmuel ibid.). Therefore, it is best to time things wisely. The Pitchei Teshuva (ad loc. 10) and Aruch Hashulchan (EH 62:33) cite opinions that if the yichud is at night, then even if the chupa was before, they can recite sheva berachot at night. The Ezer Mikodesh (to EH 62:6) is unsure if this is correct. If the meal was well underway during the day, sheva berachot can be recited at its conclusion at night (Aruch Hashulchan ibid.; Hanisuin K’hilchatam 17:35).Time together – The couple is supposed to spend happy time together, as opposed to going to work, for three days (Ketubot 7a). The kalla is able to allow the chatan to return to work early (Rama, EH 64:2).
Non-negotiated FeesWhen a service provider and a hirer do not discuss the fee in advance and disagree later, what does Halacha say about resolving the disagreement?
When we adjudicate such cases in beit din, we usually need to consider particular circumstances. We would give two pieces of advice. Discuss as many important matters as possible before work begins, and realize that compromise between the sides is almost always preferable to adjudication. However, it is good to also be aware of basic halachic/legal guidelines.
Two rules about monetary law and specifically employment law can compete in cases where some matters were not settled in advance: 1) We are to follow our society’s common practices (Bava Metzia 83a; ibid. 76a). 2) When there is a doubt whether one needs to pay and how much, he pays the least of the reasonable options (Bava Kama 46b).
When there is no discussion, the service recipient cannot normally say that he thought the service was being provided for free (Rama, Choshen Mishpat 264:4). But how much should the worker receive?
When there is one accepted fee, that is what he receives (Bava Metzia 76a). A rare example of an accepted fee in our days might be “shadchanus gelt” in certain communities. A fee used in a simple majority of cases does not constitute an accepted fee, (K’tzot Hachoshen 331:3), but a sweeping majority would enter the realm of minhag. When there are multiple fees, the lowest one is used (Rama, CM 332:4). An exception to this rule is when (one of the) sides use language that indicates they want to use an average rate (Shulchan Aruch, CM 331:3, based on Bava Metzia 87a).
Standards are not only set according to the time and place, but also the type of profession needed and the objective qualifications the worker possesses (Pitchei Choshen, Sechirut 8:(11)). For example, electrical work done by a licensed electrician is more expensive not only than the work of a babysitter but than a handyman who also does electrical work. Other factors are dependent on the case. Poskim discuss cases in which there was no explicit decisions but that the intention can be deciphered from the circumstances. For example when the sides gave different offers and did not agree, and only later the work started without resolving the matter of price, the one who initiated the new contact is likely to be assumed to have accepted the other side’s offer (see Pitchei Choshen ibid. (13), based on the Shulchan Aruch, CM 221:1).
The classic rules, including those above, produce some less standard applications in contemporary society. First, for many types of services, it is not possible for the worker to know how difficult and time-consuming a job will be, e.g., a car mechanic, computer technician. We can apply the K’tzot Hachoshen’s (ibid.) ruling that when it is not possible to determine price in advance, the average fee is appropriate.
Furthermore, there are also fields in which the service provider is the one who normally sets the price. Determining what fields fall into this category will also be a matter of local practice. Often when there is no discussion about the price, it is the shortcoming of both sides, which has its own complicated halachic consequences (see K’tzot Hachoshen ibid., Maharashdam CM, 335). However, when the hirer should have known that the worker would set his price and assume that the hirer will accept it or negotiate, that is what the hirer should do. The hirer cannot, then, object afterwards without prior warning. It is likely, even, that when he went into the process, the legal construct of giving trust to the person with whom you are financially interacting applies (see discussion in Living the Halachic Process VI, I-2).The exception to this rule would be if the worker makes an unreasonable or inconsistent charge or he does not provide commensurate service. Neither side should purposely refrain from discussing the fee in advance in order to seize an opportunity where he could negotiate later from a perceived position of strength.
Rings, Watches, and TefillinI wear a wedding ring and a watch on my left arm, and I do not like taking them off. Is it permitted to keep them on when I put on tefillin?
The mishna (Megilla 24b) criticizes those who place tefillin shel yad on their sleeves, for believing that since the Torah calls them an ot (sign), it should be visible to outsiders. We learn this pasuk as meaning that “it is an ot for you - and not for others” (Menachot 37b). Rashi (Megilla 24b) seems to say that the whole problem is that it should not be done primarily toward others. The Rosh (Shut 3:4), though, understands that, given that the tefillin shel yad do not require being exposed, they must be directly on the skin, like the garments of a kohen must be, thus forbidding a chatzitza (separation).
How broadly does chatzitza apply to tefillin? The Rashba (to Megilla 24b) raises the real possibility that it does not apply to a shel rosh or to the shel yad’s retzuot (straps) (Shut Harashba I, 827). However, he concludes (ibid.) that the practice is to be careful on the shel rosh, the shel yad, and the retzuot. The Rama (Orach Chayim 27:4) says that chatzitza is not a problem for retzuot. However, many commentaries (including the Taz 27:4 and the Magen Avraham 27:5) take issue on this claim, based on the Rashba’s conclusion that practically we do not allow chatzitzot. The Mishna Berura (27:16) accepts the following distinction (found in the Levush, OC 27:4 and Taz ibid.). There must not be a chatzitza under the part of the retzuot that are needed to tie the batim (tefillin boxes) down; chatzitza is not a problem for the rest.
There may also be other distinctions that are instructive here. The gemara (Menachot 35b) states that the retzuot must be long enough to be wrapped three times around the finger. Although there is a minority approach that this is just the required length of the retzuot but there does actually have to be such a wrapping (see Darchei Moshe, OC 27:5), the broad consensus is like the Rambam (Tefillin 3:12) that the finger wrappings are required based on this gemara (Shulchan Aruch, OC 27:8). In contrast, the idea of wrapping six or seven times on the forearm is only a post-Talmudic minhag, not a halacha (Beit Yosef, OC 27). Therefore, there is logic to claim that a watch on the wrist (bottom of the forearm) is a less problematic chatzitza than on the fingers (see Teshuvot V’hanhagot II:26). If, as is easy to do, one gets in the seven wrappings before passing over the watch, it is even better (Yabia Omer II, OC 2).
The ring also has special leniencies. Presumably, it is on the ring finger, and the retzuot go on the middle finger. Although many people do a wrap or a semi-wrap over the ring finger, this minhag is not found in the main halachic sources. Furthermore, the minhag is likely in order to “spell out” a dalet or a shin, not for the regular need to wrap the finger with tefillin (see Piskei Teshuvot 27:17). Therefore, it may make little or no difference if there is a chatzitza on the ring finger.
Additionally, it may be possible to put the retzuot beyond where the ring is. If there is only a slight overlap, then the Magen Avraham (27:5) raises a distinction (within the Rama’s opinion) between a large and a small chatzitza. On the other hand, this distinction does not seem accepted (see Mishna Berura 27:14). The idea of leaving the ring on all the time, which helps regarding netilat yadayim, likely does not help here (see Dirshu 27:(12)).
Despite all of the reasons for leniency, people are generally careful to remove their watch before wrapping on their tefillin. This is either a chumra or a way of showing extra reverence toward the dear mitzva of tefillin and is recommended by poskim (Teshuvot V’hanagot ibid.; Doveiv Meisharim II:37; see Pri Megadim, MZ 27:4). However, when there is any good reason to need to keep the watch or ring on (even more so if he is able to apparently avoid overlap with the ring), he may be lenient as is fine according to the regular application of halachic rules (Yabia Omer ibid.).
When a Non-Jew “Clicks” a Door Open on ShabbatMy shul has a guard station near the entrance. The non-Jewish guard has instructions that, on Shabbat, he should get up to open the door for people manually. Sometimes he electrically clicks the door unlocked. When that happens, may I enter, or should I wait for him to get up and open the door?
A Jew may not benefit from melacha done by a non-Jew on behalf of a Jew even if the non-Jew decided to do so unprompted (mishna, Shabbat 122a). It is permitted to benefit if the Jew told him not to do so (Mishna Berura 276:35). However, if the guard disregarded his instructions over a long period of time without recourse, the stipulation loses its relevance.
However, according to most poskim, we have no problem with the guard clicking the door open for the following reason. A Jew may request of a non-Jew to provide something for him on Shabbat if it is feasible for the non-Jew to do so without violating Shabbat, even if we expect him to choose the more convenient way that includes doing a melacha (Orchot Shabbat vol. 2 p. 466; see Mishna Berura 276:31; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata does not discuss this concept).
However, the fact that a non-Jew’s melacha for a Jew does not involve a Jew’s improper involvement does not necessarily mean the Jew may afterward benefit from it on Shabbat. First, the aforementioned mishna includes cases of no Jewish pre-knowledge. Also, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 252:4) says that if a Jew promises a non-Jew “pay per the job” for work he does not have to do on Shabbat, it is not a problem if he does it on Shabbat, and even if he does, the Jew may benefit right away. However, the Rama (ad loc.), while agreeing the setup is fine, forbids the benefit on Shabbat (except for in cases of need).
How does our case fit in? The prohibition on benefit applies only when the non-Jew acted on behalf of a Jew (Shabbat ibid.), and your type of case is difficult to categorize. If one asked him why he clicked the button, he would say: “To let the congregant in.” If you asked why he did it by means of clicking rather than manually, he would answer: “Convenience.” This is roughly parallel to the Rama's case – he did the work for a Jew/to get paid, and he did it on Shabbat for his own convenience – yet, the Rama forbids benefit.
Nevertheless, Orchot Shabbat (22:57), regarding our exact case, permits the setup without stipulations (he agrees with your shul that the guard should be told to open the door manually to avoid “degrading Shabbat”). He does not explain why benefit is not a problem, and we will now discuss possible reasons.
1. In many areas of Halacha, there is a distinction between positive benefit and the removal of an impediment from benefit. Some of our time’s major poskim (see Melachim Omnayich p. 525) disagree whether unlocking a door is removing an impediment (i.e., no prohibition of benefit) or providing entry (i.e., can be prohibited).
2. Not only is the Shulchan Aruch (OC 252:4) the simpler opinion, but the Rama is lenient in cases of need, which implies his opinion is a stringency. Furthermore, the Biur Halacha (ad loc.) says that the Rama only applies to cases where Torah-level melacha was done, which we assume does not occur by electrically unlocking the door. Therefore, the closest source we found for stringency likely does not apply here.
3. Finally, there is no benefit to speak of here, as the door will be open the same manually or electrically (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 276:4). Admittedly, in all likelihood, clicking gets you in a few seconds faster. But in the case poskim discuss (see Orchot Shabbat 23:53) of having a hotel worker bring an item to the room by elevator, when he could have walked, although the elevator is often quicker, the Jew can take the item immediately. In general, in Halacha, when getting something at a later time is significant depends on context (development of this idea is beyond our scope), and here, a few seconds seems insignificant.
Based on all we have seen, when the guard clicks you in, you may open the door and enter without delay.
Lighting Candles when Staying at Another’s HouseI am traveling to the US on Chanuka; my wife will be staying home. When I will be staying with family and/or friends, can/should I light there regularly?
The gemara (Shabbat 23a) states that an achsenai (guest) is obligated in Chanuka lighting. It then tells of Rav Zeira as a guest, who as a single man, would pay a small sum toward the homeowner’s oil/lighting to be included in his lighting, and as a married man would fulfill the mitzva with his wife’s lighting at home. This ostensibly gives you two valid options – 1. Fulfill your mitzva with your wife’s lighting in your house; 2. Give money to your host so that his lighting counts for you. We add the option you suggest: 3. Light yourself at your host’s house. We will investigate each before summarizing.
Wife lighting – The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 677:1) confirms that a traveler can fulfill the mitzva with his wife’s lighting, but does not say if this is best. The Terumat Hadeshen (I:101) recommended, based on the idea of mehadrin, i.e., it is proper that everyone lights their own candles, that the traveling husband also lights where he is with a beracha. The Maharshal )Shut 85) says that if one knows his wife is lighting at home and he thereby fulfills his mitzva, he cannot choose to light with a beracha. Although we allow, based on mehadrin, the children of the house to light after their father already lit, which can fulfill their mitzva, many posit that mehadrin does not apply to a husband and a wife, because they form a more cohesive unit (Eliya Rabba 671:3). On the other hand, some say that this cohesiveness is only when they are together (see Terumat Hadeshen ibid.; Am Mordechai, Mo’ed 24).
A major factor, which was once rare and not discussed by early poskim, is the matter of time zones. When your wife lights, it will be the previous daytime for you, when you are not obligated in lighting. When your obligation comes along, can you say that you already fulfilled the mitzva, before the mitzva applied where you were, because it was the right time for your house (and for your wife)? In Living the Halachic Process VI, D-8, we referred to a major machloket on the matter, and leaned toward the opinion that it does not work (see Minchat Yitzchak VII:46).
Contributing toward the hosts – The aforementioned gemara and Shulchan Aruch confirm that this works when he joins up with the household of the home in which he is presently staying. Most say that the money is to acquire a part in the oil that will be lit, and therefore if he is given permission to lift it up (a kinyan) and acquire some, it suffices without paying (Mishna Berura 677:3).
Lighting yourself: There are opinions that it is better if the guest lights on his own than to rely on his part with the homeowner (ibid.). In Sha’ar Hatziyun (ad loc. 10), he explains that it is in deference to the opinion that, given that nowadays everyone lights, if the guest does not light separately, it looks as if he is not taking part in the lighting. However, it is far from clear that such a technical rationale for a separate lighting would justify a beracha. It is true that when all the members of the household light, all make a beracha even though they could be yotzei with the head of the household, but this might be because they have kavana not to be yotzei with those who lit before them (Shut R. Akiva Eiger II:13). While you could do this also, having in mind not to be yotzei would be risky. Not all agree that you can fulfill the mitzva yourself since you are not a member of the household (see Am Mordechai ibid. in the name of Rav Soloveitchik).
Recommendation: Give the peruta to your hosts and have in mind to be yotzei with the lighting and berachot done there. Light again, using the berachot to which you answered amen as the berachot for your lighting (without speaking between the berachot and your lighting), in case such a lighting is a worthwhile additional act of Chanuka lighting (see Mishna Berura 677:16).
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