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Daily Halacha Podcast - Daily Halacha By Rabbi Eli J. Mansour
Rabbi Eli J. Mansour
Daily Halacha Given Daily by Rabbi Eli J. Mansour. Please check back frequently to get the latest Halacha.
13 hours ago
The Time For Ending Shabbat
Determining the time for starting Shabbat is relatively simple – as we know, we begin Shabbat 18 minutes before sunset, in fulfillment of the requirement of Tosefet Shabbat (adding time onto Shabbat). The time for ending Shabbat, however, is less clear. The Gemara instructs that Shabbat ends when three medium-sized stars are visible in the sky. Later Rabbis figured that since people nowadays cannot distinguish between the stars of different sizes, we should wait until the sighting of three small stars. Of course, this does not help much, either, because most of us cannot identify small stars, and, besides, in many places the stars are not visible because of artificial lighting, and on some nights the stars are not visible because of cloud cover. The standard custom follows the view of the Vilna Gaon (Rav Eliyahu of Vilna, 1720-1797), based on the Geonim, that the period of Ben Ha’shemashot (Halachic "twilight") begins after what we call sunset – when the entire sun dips below the horizon – and Shabbat ends after Ben He’shemashot. In Israel, where it becomes dark rather quickly after sundown, Ben Ha’shemashot is presumed to be approximately 20 minutes, whereas here in Tri-State Area, the period of Ben Ha’shemashot ranges from 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the time of year. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Russia-New York, 1895-1986) maintained that in this area, it is preferable to wait until 50 minutes after sunset all year round. Some people end Shabbat 35 minutes after sunset, but this practice is incorrect, as it follows the custom observed in Halab (Aleppo, Syria), where it becomes dark sooner after sunset than it does here in our area. According to the accepted custom, then, Shabbat ends some 40-50 minutes after sunset, depending on the time of year. The Shulhan Aruch (Yoreh De’a 261), however, follows a different opinion regarding the conclusion of the Halachic day. He accepts the position of Rabbenu Tam (Rav Yaakob Tam, France, 1100-1171), who ruled that the point which we call sunset begins the onset of Halachic sunset, which concludes only 58.5 minutes later. Only then does the 13.5-minute period of Ben Ha’shemashot begin, such that the onset of Halachic night does not occur until 72 minutes after sunset. The Shulhan Aruch rules that one can begin Shabbat anytime on Friday evening until close to one hour after sunset (though several minutes must be added for Tosefet Shabbat). This would mean that if, in the summertime, the sun sets at 8:28pm, one may accept Shabbat as late as 9:20pm or so. Of course, common practice does not follow this opinion, and requires accepting Shabbat before sunset, just as common practice does not follow this opinion with regard to the end of Shabbat, and does not require waiting until 72 minutes after sunset to end Shabbat. However, Hacham Ovadia Yosef writes (in Yabia Omer, vol. 2, and in Yalkut Yosef) that it is proper for those who are meticulous in their Halachic observance to follow this stringency when it comes to ending Shabbat. Violating Shabbat constitutes a capital offense, and Hacham Ovadia counts no fewer than 30 Rishonim (Medieval sages) who agree with Rabbenu Tam’s understanding of the conclusion of the Halachic day. And so, although common practice follows the Geonim’s view, those who seek to be meticulous in their Halachic observance should follow Rabbenu Tam’s view, and end Shabbat only 72 minutes after sundown. Hacham Ovadia writes that this applies primarily to acts which are forbidden on Shabbat by force of Torah law. Due the special gravity of Shabbat desecration, these acts should, preferably, not be performed until 72 minutes after sundown. When it comes to acts that are forbidden only Mi’de’rabbanan (by force of Rabbinic enactment), there is greater room to permit ending Shabbat 40-50 minutes after sundown. Hacham Ovadia notes that a number of prominent Poskim made an effort to impress upon people the importance of delaying the end of Shabbat until 72 minutes after sundown. Some, such as Rav Haim Abulafia and Rav Shmuel Laniado imposed a Herem (edict of excommunication) upon those who ended Shabbat earlier. Hacham Ovadia said that he would not go that far in enforcing this policy, but he does encourage people to follow this opinion of Rabbenu Tam and many other Rishonim. Other prominent Rabbis who urged people to adhere to this ruling include Hacham Eliyahu Shama Ha’levi (Chief Rabbi of Aleppo, d. 1814), Rav Yosef Haim Sonnenfeld (1848-1932), and Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer (1870-1953). Rav Yaakob Paragi (17th century), a Rabbi in Egypt, wrote in a responsum that he tried for 50 years to convince his community to end Shabbat according to the view of Rabbenu Tam, but not even his wife followed this practice. He finally decided to give up, until he was told in a dream that this is an important matter that is worth continuing to advocate for. Hacham Shalom Mesas (Morocco-Jerusalem, 1909-2003), interestingly enough, disagreed with Hacham Ovadia in this regard, insisting that it is perfectly legitimate to follow the widely-accepted custom, and that there was no need to urge people to follow the stringent view of Rabbenu Tam. But Hacham Ovadia countered that since so many Rishonim agreed with Rabbenu Tam, and we are dealing with the possibility of Shabbat desecration, stringency on this matter should be encouraged. (There is a separate question as to whether Rabbenu Tam’s view requires waiting 72 minutes, or if perhaps he requires waiting longer during the summer months. Hacham Ovadia seems to imply that in the summertime, Rabbenu Tam requires waiting as much as 90 minutes after sunset. This issue, however, requires a separate discussion.) Summary: The accepted custom is to end Shabbat in the Tri-State Area around 40-50 minutes after sunset. Although this is an acceptable practice, it is proper to refrain at least from activities which are forbidden on Shabbat on the level of Torah law until 72 minutes after sunset.
1 day ago
Torah Reading on a Fast Day in a Minyan of People Who are Not Fasting
This year (5780/2020), due to the coronavirus pandemic, there will likely be some Minyanim on Shiba Asar Be’Tammuz consisting of people who are not fasting. Patients who are sick with the virus, and patients recovering from the virus who still experience weakness or other symptoms, are certainly exempt from the fast. And given that people now are praying in small Minyanim, it is very possible that there will be some Minyanim consisting entirely, or mostly, of people who are not fasting. Normally, on a fast day, if a Minyan does not have at least ten men who are fasting, then the Torah reading of "Ve’yehal" is not read. This ruling appears in the Mishna Berura (566:14). This year, however, Shiba Asar Be’Tammuz falls on Thursday, when in any event we read the Torah. Therefore, Hacham Bension Abba Shaul (Israel, 1924-1998) ruled that if even just six men in the Minyan are fasting, this suffices to allow reading "Va’yehal," and if fewer than six men are fasting, then they read the regular weekly Torah portion, which in this case would be Parashat Pinhas, as they would if Thursday was not a fast day. Of course, this would apply also when a fast day falls on Monday – the other weekday when the Torah is read. This is applicable only at Shaharit, when the Torah would be read even if it weren’t a fast day. At Minha, however, if there are fewer than ten people fasting, then the Torah is not read at all, even on a Monday or Thursday. If ten men are fasting during Shaharit, and thus "Va’yehal" is read, then somebody who is not fasting may not be called for an Aliya. In fact, the Shulhan Aruch rules that if on a fast day the only Kohen in the synagogue is not fasting, then he is asked to leave the synagogue, and three Yisraelim receive the Aliyot. According to the Magen Abraham (Rav Abraham Gombiner, 1633-1683), when a fast day falls on a Monday or Thursday, somebody who is not fasting may receive an Aliya to the Torah, since the Torah would be read even if that were not a fast day. Others, however, disagree, and so Hacham Bension rules that even when a fast day falls on a Monday or Thursday, when "Va’yehal" is being read, somebody who is not fasting should not receive an Aliya. Summary: If a fast day falls on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, then the section of "Va’yehal" is read only if there are at least ten men in attendance who are fasting. If a fast day falls on a Monday or Thursday, then at Shaharit, "Va’yehal" is read if at least six men are fasting, and if fewer than six men are fasting, then the weekly Torah portion is read. At Minha, even on a Monday or Thursday, ten people who are fasting must be in attendance for "Va’yehal" to be read. Whenever "Va’yehal" is read on a fast day, only those who are fasting may receive Aliyot to the Torah.
2 days ago
Does a Minor Recite Birkat Ha'gomel?
If a child below the age of Bar-Misva experiences a situation of danger that for an adult would require the recitation of Birkat Ha’gomel – such as being bedridden with an illness, or traveling overseas – does he recite this Beracha? The Magen Abraham (Rav Abraham Gombiner, 1633-1683), in Siman 219, cites the ruling of the Mahari Mintz (Rav Yehuda Mintz, Italy, d. 1508) that a minor does not recite Birkat Ha’gomel. In this Beracha, one thanks G-d "Ha’gomel La’hayabim Tobot" – for performing kindness to "Hayabim," which seems to refer to those who are obligated in Misvot, or who are deserving of punishment for their misdeeds. As a minor is neither obligated in Misvot nor held accountable for his wrongdoing, the Mahari Mintz contends, he cannot recite this Beracha. Many others, however, including Hacham Bension Abba Shaul (Israel, 1924-1998), in his Or Le’sion (2:46), understand the word "Hayabim" in this Beracha differently, explaining that it refers to those who are "indebted" to G-d because of all the goodness He bestows upon them. Of course, this includes people of all ages, as all creatures are beneficiaries of G-d’s kindness. Hacham Bension adds that the accepted practice among Sepharadim is for minors to recite Birkat Ha’gomel, just like adults. This is also the view of a number of earlier Poskim, including the Hida (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806). The Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) writes that this depends on communal practice, but Hacham Bension disagrees, and maintains that all Sepharadim follow the practice of children reciting Birkat Ha’gomel if they were in a situation that requires reciting this Beracha. This is the ruling of Hacham David Yosef, in Halacha Berura (219). Summary: If a child below the age of Bar-Misva experiences a situation of danger that for an adult would require the recitation of Birkat Ha’gomel – such as being bedridden with an illness, or traveling overseas – then, according to Sephardic practice, he recites Birkat Ha’gomel, just as an adult would.
3 days ago
If a Boy Ate a Meal and Recited Birkat Ha'mazon Just Before the Moment He Becomes Bar-Misva
Rabbi Akiba Eger (1761-1837), in his notes to the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 186), addresses the case of a boy who eats a meal with bread, and then recites Birkat Ha’mazon, at the very end of the final day before his 13th birthday, just before he becomes a Bar-Misva. If he still experiences satiation after dark, Rabbi Akiba Eger asks, is this boy now required to repeat Birkat Ha’mazon? The reason to require him to repeat Birkat Ha’mazon is because when he recited it, he was obligated in this Misva only by force of the Rabbinic requirement of Hinuch (training in Misvot). Once night falls, and he becomes a Bar-Misva, his experience of satiation seemingly imposes upon him the Biblical obligation of "Ve’achalta Ve’sabata U’berachta" ("You will eat, you will be satiated, and you shall bless" – Debarim 8:10). Since he had recited Birkat Ha’mazon before he was required by force of the Biblical obligation, one might argue that now, when he is required by force of the Biblical obligation, he must repeat Birkat Ha’mazon. Rabbi Akiba Eger discusses the various sides of this question, and leaves it unresolved. The Meshib Dabar (Rav Naftali Sevi Yehuda Berlin of Volozhin, 1816-1893) advanced an argument to prove that the boy in this case does not need to repeat Birkat Ha’mazon. The Rama (Rav Moshe Isserles of Cracow, 1530-1572), in discussing the laws of prayer (Orah Haim 53), writes that if a boy becomes Bar-Misva on a Friday night, and the congregation prays Arbit before sunset (as many communities do in the summer), then this boy should not be the Hazzan for Arbit. The fact that the congregation begins Shabbat early, the Rama explains, does not mean that this boy becomes a Bar-Misva at that point, before nightfall on his 13th birthday. Therefore, he is not qualified to serve as Hazzan. The Meshib Dabar notes that the Rama does not seem to have a problem with the boy reciting Arbit before sundown, fulfilling his obligation to recite the Arbit prayer. It was clear to the Rama that the boy fulfills his Arbit obligation that night even though he recites the prayer before becoming a Bar-Misva; the problem is only his eligibility to serve as Hazzan. By the same token, the Meshib Dabar writes, a boy who recites Birkat Ha’mazon after eating just before dark on the evening of his 13th birthday fulfills his obligation even after he becomes a Bar-Misva when night falls. Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in Yabia Omer, refutes this proof suggested by the Meshib Dabar. He notes that unlike the Misva of Birkat Ha’mazon, the obligation to recite Arbit is not a Biblical requirement; it was enacted by the Sages. Hence, when a boy recites Arbit before sundown on the evening of his 13th birthday, he recites Arbit as a Rabbinic obligation (due to the requirement of Hinuch) – just as he would even after becoming a Bar-Misva at nightfall, since Arbit is a Rabbinic obligation. And for this reason, he fulfills the obligation by reciting Arbit even before nightfall. This is quite different from the case discussed by Rabbi Akiba Eiger, which involves the Biblical obligation of Birkat Ha’mazon. In this case, one could argue that the boy’s recitation of Birkat Ha’mazon before nightfall, which fulfilled his Rabbinic obligation of Hinuch, does not suffice for the Biblical obligation which takes effect at nightfall. As for the final Halacha, Hacham David Yosef writes in his Halacha Berura (Siman 186) that since Rabbi Akiba Eiger’s question has not been conclusively answered one way or another, there is no clear-cut Halachic ruling. As such, if a boy ate a meal and recited Birkat Ha’mazon just before nightfall on the evening of his 13th birthday, and he still feels satiated after nightfall, he should preferably eat another Ke’zayit of bread and then recite Birkat Ha’mazon. Summary: If a boy ate a meal and recited Birkat Ha’mazon at the very end of the day before his 13th birthday, and after nightfall, when he becomes a Bar-Misva, he still feels satiated, it is possible that he must repeat Birkat Ha’mazon. Therefore, in such a case, the boy should eat another Ke’zayit of bread and repeat Birkat Ha’mazon.
4 days ago
May One Violate Shabbat to Protect His Property From Looters?
The Gemara in Masechet Erubin states that if enemies of the Jews wage battle against a Jewish community on Shabbat, then everything necessary to effectively respond to the threat and defend the community should be done, even if this requires violating Shabbat. However, the Gemara says that this applies only if the enemies seek to kill Jews. If their intent is to seize the Jews’ property, then the community is required to surrender their money. The Shabbat prohibitions are waived for the sake of saving human life, but not for the sake of protecting property, and so desecrating Shabbat is not allowed if enemies come to destroy or seize Jews’ property. However, the Rosh (Rabbenu Asher Ben Yehiel, Germany-Spain, 1250-1327) cites the Or Zarua (Rav Yishak of Vienna, 13th century) as ruling that nowadays, even if gentiles attack to destroy or seize Jews’ property, there is reason to fear that they are prepared also to kill. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (82) addresses the case described by the Torah of "Ha’ba Ba’mahteret" – a burglar who breaks into one’s home to steal, and whom the Torah allows the homeowner to kill. Although the burglar’s intent is to rob, the Gemara explains, the Torah nevertheless permits the homeowner to kill the burglar because the burglar anticipates the possibility of a violent confrontation. The burglar breaks into the house knowing full well that if he is detected, the homeowner will defend his property and put up a fight. As such, the burglar comes in anticipating the possibility of having to kill the homeowner. This anticipation renders him a "Rodef" ("pursuer"), who seeks to kill, and the Torah therefore allows the homeowner to kill the burglar in self-defense. The Or Zarua applied this concept to situations where violent groups seek to loot and rob. Since they anticipate the likelihood of resistance, they can be presumed to be prepared to kill. Therefore, if they come on Shabbat, affected communities may violate Shabbat in order to protect their property – as they are in effect protecting their lives, as well. The Shulhan Aruch cites the Gemara’s ruling, and then adds, "There is one who says" (referring to the Or Zarua) that nowadays, one may violate Shabbat to defend against groups who come to seize property, given the potential risk to life. The Kaf Ha’haim (Rav Yaakob Haim Sofer, Baghdad-Jerusalem, 1870-1939) writes that when the Shulhan Aruch uses the expression "Yesh Mi Sh’omer" ("There is one who says"), he accepts that ruling. Thus, the accepted Halacha permits violating Shabbat to protect a community from looters, even if the looters intend only to rob, because they mighty also perpetrate acts of violence in the process. The Magen Abraham (Rav Abraham Gombiner, 1633-1683), cited by the Mishna Berura (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933), maintains that this applies only if a community comes under attack. If people come to steal from only one Jew, the Jew may not violate Shabbat for the sake of defending his property. As for the practical Halacha, then, when groups of rioters are looting in Jewish neighborhoods on Shabbat, it would be permissible to violate Shabbat in order to protect the threatened property, given the real possibility of a threat to life. Summary: If groups of rioters are looting in a Jewish neighborhood on Shabbat, it is permissible to violate Shabbat in order to protect the threatened property, given the possibility that the looters might resort to life-threatening violence.
5 days ago
Praying at the Graves of the Righteous
We find in the Talmud and Midrash two sources showing that praying at the graves of the righteous is beneficial. The first is the Sages’ remark that Kaleb, one of the spies sent by Moshe to tour Eretz Yisrael, prayed at the graves of the patriarchs in Hebron. The Torah tells that when the spies went on their excursion, "Va’yabo Ad Hebron" – "He came to Hebron," implying that just one of the spies went to that city. The Talmud explains that this refers to Kaleb, who went to pray at Me’arat Ha’machpela to beseech G-d to give him the strength he would need to oppose the scheme of his fellow spies. (Rav Hai Havita Ha’kohen of Djerba noted that the letters of the word "Va’yabo" represent the phrase "Be’kibreh Abraham Yishak Ve’Yakaob" – "at the graves of Abraham, Yishak and Yaakob.") Secondly, the Midrash tells that at the time when G-d destroyed the Bet Ha’mikdash, he urged the prophet Yirmiyahu to go to Hebron and beg the patriarchs to plead to G-d on behalf of their descendants, and Yirmiyahu indeed went to Me’arat Ha’machpela to pray. The Rama (Rav Moshe Isserles of Cracow, 1530-1572) writes that it is customary to visit the graves of righteous people on Ereb Rosh Hashanah and pray there. The Be’er Heteb commentary explains that the gravesites of pious people are sacred, and prayers recited at those locations are more readily accepted. Therefore, before Rosh Hashanah, it is appropriate to pray at these sites to beseech G-d for a favorable judgment. Rav Nissim Peretz (Bnei-Brak, 1946-2012) was asked whether there is value in going through the trouble to visit the graves of Sadikim, instead of just staying in one’s place and learning Torah. He explained that the special sanctity of these gravesites makes such visits exceedingly impactful, and therefore, at the right times, this is something which is very significant and worthwhile for one to do. Two different opinions exist as to how precisely a person should pray at the grave of a Sadik. The Be’er Heteb, in the aforementioned passage, writes that one should not address the Sadik while praying at his gravesite. The concept of praying at a righteous person’s grave is that we invoke his merit as we beseech G-d to help us and grant us our wishes. By contrast, the Peri Megadim (Rav Yosef Teomim, 1727-1793) writes (581), citing the work Ma’aneh Lashon, that when we pray at a righteous person’s grave, we should ask the Sadik to intercede on our behalf. According to this opinion, we indeed speak to the Sadik, asking him to serve as our advocate before G-d. Before praying at the gravesite, it is proper to give some charity and pray for the benefit of the righteous person’s soul. Rav Eliezer Papo (1785-1828) writes in his work Hesed La’alafim that according to Kabbalistic tradition, it is proper to put one’s left hand on a righteous person’s grave, and not the right hand. Among non-Jews, it is customary to place flowers on a person’s grave. Hacham Ovadia Hedaya (1889-1969), in his Yaskil Abdi, strongly opposes this practice, arguing that it was brought to Israel by the Europeans, and actually constitutes Kefira (heresy). Adorning the grave with flowers, he writes, expresses the view that death is joyous and festive like a wedding, when in truth a person who passes on faces judgment for his conduct during his life. Placing flowers on a grave gives the impression that there is no judgment, and that everyone goes straight to the bliss of the Gan Eden, without being judged. Hacham Ovadia Yosef, on the other hand, writes that this practice is not forbidden, though it should be discouraged. He found two sources in the Gemara indicating that there was once a custom to place Hadasim (myrtle branches) on graves, thus proving that this is not a strictly gentile practice that is thus forbidden. Nevertheless, since it is not customary among Jews, Hacham Ovadia writes that we should politely and respectfully try to convince people not to observe this practice. A number of Poskim addressed the question of how reconcile the widespread practice to pray and learn at the gravesites of Sadikim with the explicit ruling of the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 71) forbidding performing Misvot in a cemetery. Performing Misvot in the presence of the deceased is considered "Lo’eg La’rash" ("taunting the pauper"), as though we’re showing that we are capable of performing Misvot and they aren’t, and is thus prohibited. How, then, is it permitted to pray and study Torah at gravesites of righteous people? Different theories have been proposed to answer this question. The Minhat Elazar (Rav Haim Elazar Spira of Munkatch, 1868-1937) suggests that the prohibition of "Lo’eg La’rash" applies only at the graves of people who were obligated to perform Misvot during their lifetime. Therefore, it does not apply to the graves of the patriarchs, and of our matriarch Rachel, who lived before Matan Torah and were thus not obligated in Misvot. (Of course, this does not justify praying and learning at the gravesites of other Sadikim, who lived after Matan Torah, such as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai and Rabbi Meir.) The Minhat Elazar adds that in most cases, the area where people pray is distant from the body, which is usually far below the place where visitors come and stand, and so their prayers do not violate the prohibition of "Lo’eg La’rash." Others explain that anything done for the purpose of the soul of the deceased does not violate "Lo’eg La’rash." In fact, tradition teaches that after the passing of King Hizkiyahu, a yeshiva was built at his gravesite in his honor. Learning and praying for the benefit of the deceased’s soul helps him, and thus is not considered "taunting" in any way. However, this fails to explain why it is permissible to pray Minha, for example, at a gravesite, as this is a standard prayer, and not a special prayer for the deceased’s soul. Interestingly, it is told that when Rav Shmuel Salant (Jerusalem, 1816-1909) was present at a gravesite and a Minyan was formed for prayer, he would move off to the side, so as not to pray right next to the grave. In any event, as Hacham David Yosef notes in his Halacha Berura, the practice to pray at the gravesites of Sadikim is widely accepted, notwithstanding the potential issue of "Lo’eg La’rash." Summary: There is a longstanding, well-documented tradition to pray at the gravesites of righteous people, which are considered sacred places, such that prayers at these sites are especially powerful and effective. According to some opinions, when praying at the gravesite of a Sadik one should ask G-d for help in the merit of the Sadik, and according to others, one should ask the Sadik’s soul to advocate on his behalf before G-d. Before praying at a Sadik’s gravesite, it is proper to give charity and learn Torah for the benefit of the Sadik’s soul. One should not place flowers on a gravesite.
Jul 1, 2020
The Prohibition Against Taking A Short Cut Through a Synagogue
The Gemara discusses the prohibition against using a synagogue as a "Kapandria" – a shortcut. This means that one may not cut through a synagogue in order to shorten his route when walking. This prohibition is codified by the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 151:5). Some explain that this is forbidden because it is disrespectful to the synagogue, whereas others explain that since a synagogue is designated for Misva purposes, it is forbidden to use it for the mundane purpose of shortening one’s trip. There is, however, one important exception to this rule. Namely, if one entered the synagogue to pray or to learn, then he is permitted to leave from a different door than the one he used to enter in order to shorten his trip back home or wherever he is going. Since he used the synagogue for the purpose of praying and learning, he may then use the most convenient exit, and he is not considered to be using the synagogue as a shortcut. In fact, the Mishna Berura (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933) adds that it is a Misva to exit the synagogue from a different door than the one used to enter. In the times of the Bet Ha’mikdash, visitors would enter through one gate and then exit through in order, so that the Bet Ha’mikdash would not become dull, and the experience of visiting would remain exciting. By the same token, then, there is a special Misva to enter the synagogue through one door and then exit through another. The Poskim debate the question of whether one may use the synagogue as a shortcut, but stop in the synagogue for a few moments and recite a chapter of Tehillim. The Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) writes that this is permissible, and thus one who wishes to cut through a synagogue may do so if he reads a chapter of Tehillim or even just sits for a few moments in the synagogue, which is in itself a Misva. Preferably, the Ben Ish Hai writes, one should do both – sit for a few moments, and recite Tehillim. Since the person used the synagogue for a Misva, it is permissible to use it a shortcut. This is also the ruling the Bi’ur Halacha (essays accompanying the Mishna Berura). Hacham Ovadia Yosef, however, in his Halichot Olam, and as cited by his son, Hacham David Yosef, in Halacha Berura, disagrees. He maintains that it is only when one’s primary intention is to pray or learn in the synagogue that he is then allowed to leave through the door which shortens his walk back home. But one may not plan to use the synagogue as a shortcut, even if he spends a few moments in the synagogue reciting Tehillim. Another question arises in the case where people wish to cut through the sanctuary in order to get to a different room for prayers or Torah study. Is it permissible to cut through a synagogue for the purpose of a Misva? The Bi’ur Halacha cites the ruling of the Peri Megadim (Rav Yosef Teomim, 1727-1793) that cutting through a synagogue for a Misva purpose is permissible. However, the Bi’ur Halacha himself disagrees. He notes the formulation of the Rambam (Rav Moshe Maimonides, Spain-Egypt, 1135-1204) in presenting this Halacha, which implies that only if one enters the synagogue for a Misva purpose is he then allowed to leave through the most convenient exit, since his initial entry into the synagogue was for a Misva. This does not mean that one can from the outset cut through a synagogue in order to perform a Misva. There are those who suggest that even according to the stringent view of the Bi’ur Halacha, it would be permissible to cut through a synagogue for the purpose of going to a different room when a Minyan is held to pray. Since the person is on his way to pray – which is, of course, the primary purpose of a synagogue – it is acceptable to cut through a synagogue. This is analogous to the case addressed by the Magen Abraham (Rav Abraham Gombiner, 1633-1683) of one who uses a Sefer (book of Torah literature) as a stand, to prop up the Sefer which he wishes to read. The Magen Abraham writes (in Siman 154) that although generally one may not use a Sefer in this manner, as a stand, this might be allowed if it is used to facilitate learning of a different Sefer. By the same token, perhaps, we can argue that cutting through a synagogue to reach a different room of prayer is not disrespectful to the synagogue, since he uses the synagogue as a shortcut to the place where he will pray. In any event, different views exist in this regard, and so it is preferable not to cut though a synagogue to go to a different room where one wishes to pray, especially if different routes are available. Certainly, though, one must ensure not to cut through a synagogue for a different purpose. This entire discussion underscores the Kedusha of synagogues and the importance of treating them with the utmost respect and reverence. Summary: It is forbidden to use a synagogue as a shortcut. However, if one goes to the synagogue for prayer or study, he may then leave the building through the most convenient exit. In fact, it is a special Misva to leave the synagogue through a different door than the one through which one had entered. One may not use the synagogue as a shortcut even if he stops for a few moments in the synagogue to recite Tehillim. It is questionable whether one may cut through the sanctuary in order to reach a different room in the building where he wishes to pray, and it is preferable to be stringent in this regard.
Jun 30, 2020
Eating a Special Meal on Rosh Hodesh
The Tur (Rabbenu Yaakob Ben Asher, Germany-Spain, 1269-1343), in Orah Haim (419), draws three proofs to the fact that one is obligated to have a special Se’uda (meal) on Rosh Hodesh. His first proof is from the comment of the Talmud Yerushalmi (Megilla) that one is allowed to "delay the Rosh Hodesh meal." The Korban Ha’eda commentary to the Yerushalmi (by Rav David Frankel, Germany, 1704-1762) explains this remark to mean that if Rosh Hodesh falls on Shabbat, such that one eats special meals in honor of Shabbat, and there is no indication that one eats a meal in honor of Rosh Hodesh, he delays the Rosh Hodesh meal until Sunday. Somewhat similarly, the Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) writes that the Ya’abetz would add a special portion of food to the Melaveh Malka meal on Mosa’eh Shabbat when Rosh Hodesh fell on Shabbat, in honor of Rosh Hodesh. The Ben Ish Hai writes that this is a proper practice to follow. In any event, the Yerushalmi clearly works off the assumption that there is a requirement to eat a special Se’uda on Rosh Hodesh. The second proof comes from the story told in the Book of Shemuel I (20) which is read as the Haftara on Shabbat Ereb Rosh Hodesh. We read that King Shaul was hostile to David, and so David decided that he would not be present at Shaul’s table on Rosh Hodesh. He asked his friend, Yehonatan – Shaul’s son – to tell Shaul that David could not be present because he had a family feast that day. The Tur notes that this appears to indicate that it was customary for families to have special feasts in honor of Rosh Hodesh. (The Bet Yosef clarifies that if it were not customary for families to have a special Rosh Hodesh meal, then this would not have been a plausible excuse for David’s absence from the royal palace on Rosh Hodesh.) The Tur’s third proof is a verse in the Book of Bamidbar (10:10) which requires blowing the Hasoserot (trumpets) "Be’yom Simhatchem U’be’mo’adechem U’be’rosheh Hodshechem" – "on your days of joy, on your festivals, and on your Rosh Hodesh days…" This verse clearly links Rosh Hodesh with the Yamim Tobim, suggesting that just like there is an obligation to have a special meal in honor of Yom Tob, one is similarly obligated to have a special meal in honor of Rosh Hodesh. Interestingly enough, the Shulhan Aruch sets aside an entire Siman (chapter) – Siman 419 – to tell us this brief Halacha, that one is required to have a special meal on Rosh Hodesh. The Shulhan Aruch similarly makes a special Siman earlier – 300 – to teach us the obligation to eat a Melaveh Malka meal on Mosa’eh Shabbat. It seems that these two meals were commonly neglected, and so the Shulhan Aruch found it necessary to make a special Siman for each Halacha, in order to impress upon us the importance of having a meal on Mosa’eh Shabbat and a meal on Rosh Hodesh. (When Eliyahu confronted the prophets of the idol Ba’al at Mount Carmel, he turned to the people and asked, "Ad Matai Atem Posehim Al Sheteh Ha’se’ifim" – "Until when will you be straddling both sides of the fence?" (Melachim I 18:21). One Rabbi said that this could also be read as, "Until when will you skip the two Se’ifim" – referring to the two Se’ifim (passages) in the Shulhan Aruch that talk about these two meals, Melaveh Malka and the Rosh Hodesh Se’uda…) The Mishna Berura (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933) writes that one is not required to eat bread with his Rosh Hodesh meal, whereas the Kaf Ha’haim (Rav Yaakob Haim Sofer, Baghdad-Israel, 1870-1939) writes that one must eat bread, and one should even use two loaves as "Lehem Mishneh," like on Shabbat. The Pesikta comments that on Rosh Hashanah, G-d determines a person’s livelihood "from Tishri until Tishri" – for the entire coming year – except for "Tishri," meaning, except for "Torah," "Shabbat," "Rosh Hodesh" and "Yamim Tobim." That is to say, the money we spend for Torah education, and for our meals on Shabbat, Yom Tob and Rosh Hodesh, are on "G-d bill," so-to-speak. These funds are not taken from the amount we are decreed to have, and we are guaranteed to be fully reimbursed for whatever we spend to fulfill these Misvot. Summary: There is a requirement to eat a special meal on Rosh Hodesh. According to some views, one is not required to eat bread with the Rosh Hodesh meal, whereas other require having two loaves of bread, like on Shabbat. Some Poskim ruled that when Rosh Hodesh falls on Shabbat, it is proper to add a portion of food to the Melaveh Malka meal on Mosa’eh Shabbat in honor of Rosh Hodesh.
Jun 29, 2020
Answering "Amen" to Birkot Ha'Torah
The daily Birkot Ha’Torah blessings, which we recite each morning to thank Hashem for the Misva of studying Torah, consists of several sections. It begins with the brief Beracha, "Baruch…Asher Kideshanu Be’misvotav Ve’sivanu Al Dibreh Torah," which is followed by the lengthier Beracha, "Ve’ha’areb Na…" Birkot Ha’Torah concludes with the Beracha of "Baruch Ata…Asher Bahar Banu…Baruch Ata Hashem Noten Ha’Torah." The second of these sections – "Ve’ha’areb Na" – begins with "Ve" ("And"), which clearly indicates that it continues the previous blessing. As such, one might think that "Ve’ha’areb Na" does not begin a new Beracha, but is rather just the continuation of the first Beracha. Although this is, in fact, the opinion of some Poskim, Sephardic tradition follows the view that Birkot Ha’Torah consists of three separate Berachot, and "Ve’ha’areb Na" begins a new Beracha. Therefore, as Hacham David Yosef rules in Halacha Berura (vol. 3, p. 380), if one hears his fellow reciting Birkot Ha’Torah, he answers "Amen" three times – after "Al Dibreh Torah," after the conclusion of "Ve’ha’areb Na" (meaning, after "He’melamed Torah Le’amo Yisrael"), and after "Baruch Ata Hashem Noten Ha’Torah." Summary: The various sections that comprise Birkot Ha’Torah are considered three separate Berachot. Therefore, if one hears his fellow reciting Birkot Ha’Torah, he answers "Amen" three times – after "Al Dibreh Torah," after the conclusion of "Ve’ha’areb Na" (meaning, after "He’melamed Torah Le’amo Yisrael"), and after "Baruch Ata Hashem Noten Ha’Torah."
Jun 28, 2020
If One Remembered During the Beracha of "Yoser Or" That He Had Forgotten to Recite Birkot Ha'Torah
The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 47:7) rules that if one forgot in the morning to recite Birkot Ha’Torah – the special blessings over the study of Torah – he has the opportunity to fulfill this obligation through the recitation of the "Ahabat Olam" blessing before Shema. Both in Shaharit and in Arbit, we recite a Beracha – "Ahabat Olam" – which speaks of the study of the Torah, and the Shulhan Aruch writes that one who forgot to recite Birkot Ha’Torah can fulfill the requirement through the recitation of "Ahabat Olam." The only condition is that one learns – even just a couple of verses of Humash – immediately after completing his prayer. Some authorities require him in this case to read verses immediately after the Amida prayer, whereas others maintain that it suffices to learn after the completion of the entire service, at the conclusion of "Alenu." Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in his Yabia Omer (vol. 4, Orah Haim 7:5), addresses the case of one who remembers his mistake before "Ahabat Olam," during the preceding Beracha, of "Yoser Or." He writes that although one may not interrupt during the recitation of this Beracha, he should, after concluding this Beracha (meaning, after reciting, "Yoser Ha’me’orot"), recite Birkot Ha’Torah. Rather than proceeding to "Ahabat Olam" and having in mind for that Beracha to satisfy the requirement of Birkot Ha’Torah, the individual should instead recite Birkot Ha’Torah in between the Berachot of "Yoser Or" and "Ahabat Olam." Hacham Ovadia compares this situation to the case addressed by the Magen Abraham (Rav Abraham Gombiner, 1633-1683) of one who hears thunder while reciting the Beracha of "Yoser Or." The Magen Abraham ruled that the individual in this case should recite the Beracha over thunder ("She’koho U’gburato Maleh Olam") in between the Berachot of "Yoser Or" and "Ahabat Olam." By the same token, Hacham Ovadia ruled, one who realized while reciting the Beracha of "Yoser Or" that he had forgotten to recite "Birkot Ha’Torah" that morning should do so after completing "Yoser Or," before beginning "Ahabat Olam." Interestingly, Hacham Ovadia’s son, Hacham David Yosef, disagrees with his father’s ruling. In his Halacha Berura (vol. 3, p. 392), Hacham David writes if one realized while reciting the Beracha of "Yoser Or" that he had forgotten to recite Birkot Ha’Torah, he should continue as usual and have in mind during "Ahabat Olam" to fulfill his requirement of Birkot Ha’Torah. In practice, it seems that we should follow Hacham Ovadia’s position, that a person in this case should recite Birkot Ha’Torah upon completing the Beracha of "Yoser Or," before beginning "Ahabat Olam." Summary: If one forgot to recite Birkot Ha’Torah in the morning, he can fulfill his requirement through the recitation of "Ahabat Olam" before Shema, and then reading some verses immediately after the prayer (either after the Amida, or after "Alenu"). However, if he realized his mistake before he began "Ahabat Olam," during the Beracha of "Yoser Or," then he should recite Birkot Ha’Torah after concluding the Beracha of "Yoser Or," before he begins "Ahabat Olam."
Jun 26, 2020
Reciting "Va'ani Tefilati" and "Mizmor Shir" When Praying Minha Privately on Shabbat Afternoon
When one prays Minha privately on Shabbat afternoon, does he recite the verse, "Va’ani Tefilati" which is recited in the synagogue when the Torah is taken from the ark? And does he recite the Psalm of "Mizmor Shir" which is recited in the synagogue after the Torah reading? To answer this question, we need to understand the reasons for these customs. As for "Va’ani Tefilati," the Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) gives two explanations for why we recite this verse during Minha on Shabbat. The first is based on the tradition that King David noted to G-d the greatness of Am Yisrael, that on their day of rest, after feasting, they return to the synagogues and study halls to pray and to study. This is in contrast to people of other nations, who, on their day of rest, become inebriated and engage in frivolous matters. When we pray on Shabbat afternoon, that time becomes an "Et Rason" – a time when we earn special favor in Hashem’s eyes, and so we recite the verse, "…
Jun 25, 2020
Does Someone Count for a Minyan If He is in a Different Room?
The Shulhan Aruch rules (Orah Haim 55) that ten people form a Halachic Minyan only if they are present together in one room. If nine people are in a room and a tenth is outside in the hallway, or even in the women’s section, then they do not form a Minyan, even if the tenth person can see the other nine. The Mishna Berura (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933) rules more leniently, allowing one to count for a Minyan even if he is in a different room, as long as he can see the others. However, we follow the stringent ruling of the Shulhan Aruch, that the ten people must be present in the same room. Ten men in one room form a Minyan even if they cannot see one another. This Halacha refers only to the question of forming a Minyan, requiring that ten people are present in the same room. If, however, there already are ten men in one room, then people situated outside that room – such as in the hallway, or in the ladies’ section – are allowed to answer "Amen" to the Berachot o…
Jun 24, 2020
Appreciating Birkat Kohanim
Surprisingly, the custom among Ashkenazic communities outside Israel is to recite Birkat Kohanim (the priestly blessing) only during Musaf on Yom Tob. Although the Halacha seems very straightforward, that the Kohanim are to bless the congregation every day, nevertheless, the custom among Ashkenazim is for this Beracha to be pronounced only during Musaf on Yom Tob. This custom is mentioned already by the Rama (Rav Moshe Isserles of Cracow, 1530-1572), in his glosses to the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 128). He suggests that the reason might be that this blessing must be recited with love and joy, as the Kohanim say in the introductory Beracha, "Asher Kideshanu…Ve’sivanu Le’barech Et Amo Yisrael Be’ahaba" – "…who has sanctified us…and commanded to bless His nation, Israel, with love." (Rav Eliezer Papo, in his work Elef Ha’magen, suggests that the source of this concept is G-d’s instruction to Moshe, "Amor Lahem" – to tell the Kohanim about the Misva of Birkat Kohanim. A…
Jun 23, 2020
Is There an Obligation to Live in Eretz Yisrael?
The Ramban (Rav Moshe Nahmanides, Spain, 1194-1270), commenting on the verse, "You shall possess the land and reside in it" (Bamidbar 33:53), understood that the Torah here introduces an affirmative command to live in the Land of Israel. In the Ramban’s view, this command is relevant even after the destruction of the Bet Ha’mikdash. The Ramban articulates this position also in his critique of the listing of the 613 Misvot by the Rambam (Rav Moshe Maimonides, Spain-Egypt, 1135-1204). He objects to the Rambam’s omission of this Misva from his list, insisting that living in the Land of Israel is among the 613 Biblical commands. The Megilat Ester commentary to the Rambam’s Sefer Ha’misvot (by Rav Yishak de Leon, 15th century) understood that the Rambam does not list living in Israel as a Biblical command because he felt that there is no obligation to live there after the destruction of the Bet Ha’mikdash. Once we were driven into exile, we are to remain in exile until Mashiah…
Jun 22, 2020
May a Woman Return Home From the Hospital on Shabbat After a "False Alarm"?
If a woman was taken to the hospital on Shabbat because she thought it was time to give birth, but the hospital staff examined her and determined that the time had not yet come, is she allowed to return home, or must she wait until after Shabbat? The Poskim rule that if the hospital offers the woman a room where she can comfortably remain until after Shabbat, then she should stay there in the hospital until after Shabbat. Far more commonly, however, the hospital staff does not offer her a room if she is not yet ready to give birth, and the choice is thus either to be driven home or to remain in the lobby until Shabbat ends. A woman in her ninth month pregnancy clearly has the status of a Holeh (ill patient), for whom rabbinic prohibitions are, as a general rule, suspended when necessary to assist the patient. Therefore, it would certainly be permissible for the woman to be driven home by a non-Jew so she can be comfortable at home. This is especially true if she has young children at…
Jun 21, 2020
Revoking Rabbinic Edicts of Past Generations
The Rambam (Rav Moshe Maimonides, Spain-Egypt, 1135-1204), in Hilchot Mamrim, writes that Bateh Din (rabbinic courts) of every generation have the authority to issue edicts which they feel are necessary for their communities. However, the Rambam adds, before issuing an edict, the Rabbis must carefully assess whether or not the people are capable of abiding by such a rule. If they issue an edict which the majority of people found too difficult to uphold, such that it was not followed by the majority of the community, then the Takana (edict) is automatically void. Since it was never accepted, it is not binding at all. If an edict was accepted, and followed by the majority of the community, then it is binding even upon future generations. If, in a later generation, the Rabbis see that the reason for this edict is no longer relevant, or that it has fallen into widespread neglect, they have the power to annul the edict. Even if this Bet Din is of a lesser stature than the original group of…
Jun 19, 2020
Customs When Announcing Rosh Hodesh in the Synagogue on Shabbat
On the Shabbat immediately preceding Rosh Hodesh, the Hazan or Rabbi announces in the synagogue which day or days that week will be observed as Rosh Hodesh. It is proper for the Hazan or Rabbi to have in mind at that time the configuration of the Divine Name which corresponds to the new month. The Name of "Havaya" (spelled "Yod," "Heh, "Vav" and "Heh") has four letters, which can be arranged in 12 different ways. Each configuration of the four letters corresponds to one of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar, and each month’s configuration should be announced together with the announcement of Rosh Hodesh on the preceding Shabbat. (For example, the configuration corresponding to the month of Sivan is "Yod" and "Vav," followed by "Heh" and the other "Heh." The first of these two pairs – "Yod," "Vav" – are the letters which represent masculinity, whereas the two "Hehs" represent femininity. At the beginning of the month of Sivan, in preparation for Matan Torah, G-d instructed t…
Jun 18, 2020
Accompanying a Woman in Labor to the Hospital on Shabbat
If a woman goes into labor on Shabbat and must be taken to the hospital, may her husband and mother join her? The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 330:1) writes that a woman in labor has the status of a "Holeh She’yesh Bo Sakana" – an ill patient in a condition of potential risk to life. As such, the Shabbat prohibitions are waived for anything that is necessary to help her, which includes anything necessary to keep her calm and relaxed. Halacha permits turning on the lights for a woman in labor on Shabbat even if she is blind, and will not directly benefit form the light, if she will be comforted knowing that the room is illuminated. This demonstrates Halacha’s understanding of, and sensitivity to, the emotional wellbeing of a seriously ill patient, and its recognition of the importance of keeping the patient at ease. Certainly, then, anyone whom the woman wishes to accompany her to the hospital for her comfort and peace of mind may do so. Preferably, a non-Jew should drive, because…
Jun 17, 2020
May a Husband be Present During His Wife's Labor and Delivery?
Nowadays, it has become accepted that when a woman is in labor, her husband is with her in the delivery room, and remains there for the delivery. Very often, the wife wants her husband there for moral support and encouragement as she endures the excruciating pain of childbirth. Is this Halachically permissible, or should the husband stay outside the delivery room? This question was addressed already by Rav Moshe Feinstein (Russia-New York, 1895-1986), in Iggerot Moshe (Y.D. 2:75), where he writes that there is no Halachic basis to forbid the husband from being present when his wife gives birth. However, the wife becomes a Nidda during labor, and so the husband must observe all the restrictions that apply when his wife is a Nidda, such as ensuring not to see normally concealed parts of the body, and not to touch her. If the wife needs somebody to hold her hand, another woman, such as a nurse or doula, should be brought to her for this purpose. (In theory, if the wife would be in danger…
Jun 16, 2020
May Expectant Parents Find Out the Fetus' Gender?
It is standard medical procedure for expectant mothers to undergo periodic ultrasound examinations, during which the physicians see the fetus so it can be carefully examined to ensure it is developing properly. During this examination, the doctor can easily identify the fetus’ gender, and doctors generally pass on this information to the parents. The question arises whether it is proper, from a Torah perspective, for the parents to learn the fetus’ gender during pregnancy. The Torah commands, "Tamim Tiheyeh Im Hashem Elokecha" ("You shall be innocent with Hashem your G-d" – Debarim 18:13), which is understood as an obligation not to concern ourselves with the future, to conduct ourselves the way we see fit, placing our trust in Hashem, without trying to access information about the future. Does finding out a fetus’ gender violate this principle? We do not find any clear-cut basis in Halachic literature to forbid such a practice, and it would appear that learning a fetus’ gen…
Jun 15, 2020
When Should Women Light Candles on the First Night of Yom Tob?
It is customary every week on Ereb Shabbat to light candles approximately 18 minutes before sundown. On Ereb Yom Tob, however, different customs exist. On Yom Tob, unlike on Shabbat, it is permissible to light a candle from a preexisting flame, and so technically speaking, candles may be lit even after sundown. Indeed, on the second night of Yom Tob, according to all opinions and all customs, women light the Yom Tob candles after dark, before the meal, because it is forbidden to make any preparations for the second day of Yom Tob on the first night of Yom Tob. On the first night, however, it is unclear whether the women should light before sundown, as they do before Shabbat, or if they should light after dark, before the meal, as they do on the second night of Yom Tob. This question actually has a fascinating history, beginning with a passage in the introduction to the Derisha, a work on the Tur by Rav Yehoshua Falk (1555-1614), a great Rabbi in Poland who also authored the Sama ("Sef…
Jun 14, 2020
How Many Days of Yom Tob are Observed by Visitors in Israel From Abroad?
Many Halachic authorities grappled with the well-known question as to how many days of Yom Tob one should observe if he visits Israel for the holidays and plans to return home. Does he observe one day, like permanent Israeli residents do, or does he observe two days, like he does back home in the Diaspora? This question was addressed by Rav Yosef Karo – "Maran," author of the Shulhan Aruch – in his work of responsa, Abkat Rochel (106). Maran writes unequivocally that a person in this case observes two days of Yom Tob, like he would back home, and Maran adds that this was, in fact, the practice in his time. Visitors from abroad would observe two days of Yom Tob, and would have Minyanim on the second day with Hallel, Torah reading and Musaf. The Hacham Sevi (Rav Sevi Ashkenazi, 1656-1718) famously argued, and contended that the visitor in such a case observes only one day of Yom Tob, like the permanent residents of Israel. He acknowledges that one might seek to challenge his positi…
Jun 12, 2020
Insights and Customs Relevant to the "Nishmat" Prayer
Our tradition teaches that we receive a "Neshama Yetera" ("extra soul") on Shabbat. We receive this soul on Friday night in three distinct stages, and we then receive a higher-level soul on Shabbat morning, also in three stages. On Friday night, we receive the "Nefesh" component of the extra soul when we recite "Lecha Dodi," specifically, when we recite, "Bo’i Kalla." The second component, "Ru’ah," is received at the time of "Barechu," and we receive the third component – "Neshama" – when we recite in "Hashkibenu" the words, "U’fros Alenu." On Shabbat morning, we receive the "Nefesh" aspect when we recite the "Nishmat" prayer; "Ru’ah" when we begin the Amida and recite "Ado-nai Sefatai Tiftah"; and the "Neshama" component when we recite "Ayeh" in the Kedusha of Musaf. The Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) writes that there are several Kavanot ("intentions") that even ordinary laymen should try to have during the recitation of "Nishmat." First, one should h…
Jun 11, 2020
The Special Significance of the "Nishmat" Prayer
The Tur (Rabbenu Yaakob Ben Asher, Germany-Spain, 1269-1343) writes (Orah Haim 281) that after reciting "Az Yashir" on Shabbat morning, it is customary to recite the special "Nishmat" prayer which gives praise to G-d. The Lebush (Rav Mordechai Yaffe, 1530-1612), citing from the Zohar (Vayakhel, 205b; listen to audio recording for precise citation), explains that this recitation was instituted because of the "Neshama Yetera" – the "extra soul" with which we are endowed on Shabbat. As we receive an extra soul on Shabbat, we recite this special prayer to give praise to G-d. Noting the special significance of this prayer, the Hida (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806), in his work Tov Ayin (18:35), writes that as this prayer is mentioned in the Zohar, it must have preceded even the Mishnayot, and is thus a very ancient prayer. The Hida adds that the text of "Nishmat" is very deep and contains numerous references to the sacred Names of G-d. Rav David Pardo (1718-1790), in his Michtab…
Jun 10, 2020
Is it Permissible to Repeat Sections of the Torah Reading to Add Aliyot?
The Mordechi (Rav Mordechai Ben Hillel, Germany, 1250-1298), in Masechet Megila, tells that there was a synagogue in Europe that on Simhat Torah would repeat a section of the Torah reading many times over, and Rabbenu Efrayim (Regensburg, Germany, 1110-1175) strongly condemned this practice and angrily left the synagogue. However, Rav Hai Gaon (939-1038) proved from several passages in the Talmud that it is permissible, when necessary, to repeat segments of the Torah reading. For example, on Rosh Hodesh we repeat the verse "Ve’amarta Lahem," and on Hol Ha’moed Sukkot and Hannukah we repeat text during the Torah reading. According to Rav Hai Gaon, then, it is entirely permissible to repeat text of the Torah reading for the purpose of adding Aliyot, and Berachot may be recited over these Aliyot. Of course, even according to this view, repeating text cannot count towards the seven required Aliyot on Shabbat. However, if it is necessary to add to the seven Aliyot, Rav Hai Gaon permits…