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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.
12 hours ago
Instructing a Non-Jew During Twilight
The Halacha prohibits instructing a non-Jew on Shabbat to perform a Melacha forbidden from the Torah, even for the purpose of a Misva. Therefore, one may not tell a non-Jew to turn on the lights to learn Torah on Shabbat. However, the exception to this rule is telling the non-Jew during Ben HaShmashot (twilight-defined as the 13.5 minutes after sunset). For example, if the Shabbat hot plate was not plugged in, a non-Jew may be utilized during that period of time, even though the woman has already lit candles and accepted Shabbat. During Ben HaShmashot, any Melacha, even If prohibited by Torah law, may be performed by the non-Jew for the sake of a Misva. This principle applies to the twilight at the end of Shabbat, as well. For example, if sunset is at 6 PM and Shabbat concludes 42 minutes later, at 6:42 PM, and the lights went out in the synagogue during that period, a non-Jew may be called to turn them on, since it is for the sake of a Misva. SUMMARY During Ben HaShmashot of Ereb Shabbat or Mosa'eh Shabbat, any Melacha, even If prohibited by Torah law, may be performed by a non-Jew for the sake of a Misva.
1 day ago
May One Instruct a Non-Jew to Perform a Torah Violation of Shabbat in an Unusual Manner?
The Halacha permits instructing a non-Jew to perform a Melacha for the sake of a Misva only in a case of "Shvut D'shvut"- a double Rabbinic prohibition. Asking the non-Jew in itself is a Rabbinic prohibition, but the Melacha he is being asked to perform must also be only a Rabbinic violation. The double leniency of two Rabbinic prohibitions allows instructing the non-Jew. Therefore, asking a non-Jew to turn on a light, even for a Misva such as learning Torah, is prohibited, since turning on lights, according to most authorities, is a Torah prohibition. However, the Pri Megadim (R. Yosef Ben Meir Teomim, 1727-1792, Poland-Germany) has a Hidush (novel Halachic approach) and permits instructing a non-Jew to perform a Torah prohibition with a Shinui (in an unusual fashion). He applies this to telling a non-Jew to pick an Etrog off the tree (A Torah violation) with his teeth (a Shinui) to perform the Misva of Lulav and Etrog. The Shach (R. Shabtai b. Meir HaKohen, 1621–1662, Eastern Europe) in his Nekudot HaKasef (198:18) deals with a case of a woman who needs to immerse in the Mikveh on Friday night forgot to cut her nails before Shabbat. He permits her to instruct a non-Jew to cut her nails with a Shinui. A practical example would be telling a non-Jew to turn on the lights by flicking the switch with his elbow in order for the Jew to learn Torah. All these cases are permitted since a Melacha is only a Torah prohibition if performed in the standard method. Even if a Jew would turn on the light switch with his elbow, it would only be a Rabbinic prohibition. Therefore, performing an act classified as a Torah prohibition in an unusual fashion constitutes a "Shvut D'shvut." The Mishna Berura (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933), concur with this ruling, whereas the Melahayich Omnayich cites Rav Elyashiv as being stringent. Hacham Ovadia (in Hazon Ovadia) and Hazon David rules in accordance with the lenient opinion. This leniency is a solution for the elderly who live on high floors in a building and are unable to walk down all the stairs to attend Bet Knesset. While it is prohibited to instruct a non-Jew to operate the elevator on their behalf, it would be permitted to tell the non-Jew to press the button with a Shinui, such as with their elbow. The elderly person would also be permitted to ascend in the elevator after Tefila in the same manner. Even though he has already completed the Misva of Tefila, remaining in the lobby for the rest of Shabbat is considered Sa'ar (suffering) which is tantamount to a Misva. When applying leniencies such as this, Hacham David recommends instructing the non-Jew before Shabbat. It should be emphasized the leniency only applies to cases of Misva or Sa'ar (suffering), but not to someone who wants a light to read secular books and magazines! SUMMARY It is permitted to instruct a non-Jew on Shabbat to turn on a light with his elbow to enable someone to learn Torah or pray.
2 days ago
Is it Permissible on Shabbat To Talk About Performing a Melacha which is a Misva?
The Halacha prohibits talking on Shabbat about doing activities that are a violation of Shabbat. For example, it is prohibited to say, "Tomorrow, I am flying to Miami for a vacation." The Aharonim discuss whether it is permitted to talk about forbidden activity which is a Misva. For example, may one say, "Tomorrow I am going to write a Sefer Torah," or "Tomorrow I am going to circumcise a child" or "Tomorrow I am going to fly to Los Angeles to attend a wedding"? The Magen Abraham (Rabbi Abraham Gombiner, Poland, 1637-1682) rules that talk regarding a Misva is no exception and is prohibited. The Elyah Rabah, as well as the Birkeh Yosef (The Hid"a-Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806) disagree and are lenient. The Aruch Hashulhan (Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein of Nevarduk, 1829-1908) concurs with the lenient position and reasons that just as "Hefse Shamayim" are permitted, i.e. it is permitted to walk to the city limit on Shabbat for the sake of doing a Misva on Mosa’eh Shabbat, so too it is permitted to talk for the sake of Misva. He argues, why should doing an action to prepare for a Misva be more lenient than talk about a Misva. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aeurbach (Israel, 1910-1995) , as cited by Shemirat Shabbat K'hilhata, refutes that analogy by distinguishing between walking to the city limit which is already accomplishing part of the Misva and talking about performing the Misva which does not accomplish anything. The Mishna Berura (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933) solves this problem by suggesting a compromise. He permits talking about performing a Misva if it will motivate him to be diligent in performing it. Hacham Ovadia concurs with the Mishna Berura's position. SUMMARY It is prohibited to talk on Shabbat about performing activities which are not allowed on Shabbat. This includes even activities which are a Misva, unless talking about the Misva will motivate him to actually perform the Misva.
3 days ago
Is It Permissible to Announce Lost Mukseh Items on Shabbat
The Shulhan Aruch (Siman 306) permits announcing lost objects on Shabbat, even though the lost item is Mukseh. For example, one may announce that a cell phone was found during the week, and whoever lost it may claim it in the office after Shabbat. Even though this is speech connected to violating Shabbat, it is permitted because it is considered "L’sorech Misva"-for the Misva of returning lost property. Rav Elyashiv (Jerusalem, 1910-2012) is quoted in the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilhata (Ch. 20, Note 29) as ruling that if one finds his friend’s wallet in the public domain on Shabbat, he is not required to stand guard by the wallet until after Shabbat, even if he would do so for his own wallet. The reason is that the Misva of "Hashavat Aveda"-returning lost property does not become incumbent upon him until he actually picks up the object. There is no obligation to watch a lost object. Of course, if one wants to be a Hasid, he may stand watch. SUMMARY: It is permitted to announce lost property which is Muksa on Shabbat. There is no obligation to stand guard over a lost Muksa item, in order to return it after Shabbat.
5 days ago
Sefirat Ha'omer - The Proper Way to Respond if Somebody Asks Which Day to Count
It happens quite commonly during the period of Sefirat Ha’omer that somebody asks his friend after sundown which number should be counted that evening, before the friend has himself counted the Omer. It might appear, at first glance, that if the friend responds, then he effectively fulfills the Misva, and then cannot count the Omer later with a Beracha. What is the proper way to respond to such an inquiry to avoid forfeiting the Beracha over this Misva? Hacham Ovadia Yosef rules that in order to avoid all potential problems and complications, it is preferable to respond to the inquiry by informing the questioner of the previous night’s counting. For example, if somebody asks his friend after sundown on the fourteenth night of the Omer which day he should count (and the friend has not yet counted), it is best for the friend to respond, "Last night was the thirteenth day." This response avoids all potential Halachic complications, and the friend can, according to all authorities and without any doubts, later count the Omer properly with a Beracha. Another option is to answer the question directly, stating that night’s counting, but with the clear, explicit intent not to fulfill the Misva of Sefirat Ha’omer with this response. If a person performs a Misva act with the specific intention not to fulfill the Misva, then he does not fulfill the Misva. Thus, for example, on Sukkot, when we must recite the Beracha over the Arba Minim (four species) before fulfilling the Misva, one may lift the Arba Minim with the specific intent not to fulfill the Misva, and then recite the Beracha. (Others first lift the Lulab without the Etrog, and then lift the Etrog only after reciting the Beracha.) Here, too, if a person specifically has in mind not to fulfill the Misva of Sefirat Ha’omer when he responds to his friend’s inquiry, "Today is such-and-such day of the Omer," then he does not fulfill the Misva, and he may thus count again later with a Beracha. If a person did not employ either of these options, and instead answered the question directly without explicit intent not to fulfill the Misva, has he forfeited the Beracha, or may he still count with a Beracha despite having already stated the day of the Omer? Hacham Ovadia rules that the Halacha depends on the particular situation. If this occurred during the first six days of the Omer, when the counting entails simply stating the number of days, as there are as yet no complete weeks to count, then one indeed forfeits the Beracha if he gives an explicit answer. Meaning, if a person informs his friend, "Tonight is the fifth night," then he may not count with a Beracha that night. Even though he counted in English, his counting is valid and he has fulfilled the Misva, and so he cannot count again with a Beracha. Needless to say, he resumes counting with a Beracha the next night. If, however, he responded by simply stating the number – "Five" – without stating, "Tonight is the fifth night," then he may still count that night with a Beracha. Hacham Ovadia ruled that we may employ in this situation a "Sefek Sefeka," or "double doubt." First, it is possible that he has not fulfilled the Misva since he did not intend to fulfill the Misva through his response, and it is possible that the Misva cannot be fulfilled without the intention to do so ("Misvot Serichot Kavana"). And even if we accept the premise that Sefirat Ha’omer, as a Rabbinical obligation (as opposed to a Biblical obligation), does not require intent, it is possible that one cannot fulfill the Misva without explicitly stating, "Today is…" Hence, as there are two uncertainties concerning the status of the individual’s response, he is allowed to count again properly with a Beracha in this case. Starting from the seventh day, and through the end of the Omer period, one may count with a Beracha even if he had explicitly informed his fellow of that night’s counting, such as if he explicitly stated, "Tonight is the fourteenth night." After the sixth day, this individual will always be in a situation of "Sefek Sefeka," since according to some authorities one does not fulfill the obligation of Sefirat Ha’omer after the sixth day if he counts only the days, without counting the weeks. And since, as mentioned, we may also take into account the possibility that the Misva is not fulfilled without intent, a person may count with a Beracha even if he had given a direct response to his friend’s inquiry. It must be emphasized that this applies only after the sixth night of the Omer, from the seventh night of the Omer until the end of the Omer period. (Of course, one certainly should not respond by stating both the days and the weeks; for example, one should not say, "Tonight is the fourteenth night, which is two weeks." If he does, then he may not then count with a Beracha that night.) As mentioned, however, it is far preferable to respond to such an inquiry by mentioning the previous night’s counting. Besides avoiding all complications, it also makes it clear to the questioner that one should not respond directly to such a question before one has counted. If one answers directly, even in a permissible manner, as outlined above, the questioner, who is unfamiliar with these Halachic intricacies, might mistakenly assume that one may always respond directly to this question without it affecting his recitation of the Beracha later on. For this reason, too, it is best to respond indirectly, by mentioning the previous night’s counting. Summary: If a person is asked after sundown which night of the Omer it is, and he has yet to count the Omer that night, he should respond by noting the previous night’s counting, rather than answering directly. This is the preferred method of answering such a question. Another, though less preferred, option is to answer directly with specific intent not to fulfill the Misva. If one answered the question directly, by stating "Today is such-and-such day," without the specific intent not to fulfill the Misva, he may nevertheless count that night with a Beracha. If, however, this occurred on one of the first six nights of the Omer, then he cannot count later with a Beracha, unless he had only stated the number, without saying, "Today is…"
6 days ago
Guidelines for One Who Forgets to Count the Omer or Cannot Remember if He Counted
The Mitzva of Sefirat Ha'omer requires counting the proper number each night during the Omer period. If a person forgot to count the Omer one night, then he should count during the following day without a Beracha, and thereafter continues counting each night with a Beracha, as usual. Even if a person forgot to count the Omer on several successive nights, so long as he counted during the day in each instance he continues counting the Omer with a Beracha. If, however, a person forgot to count the Omer one night and did not count at all during the following day, then he may no longer recite the Beracha over the counting of the Omer. He should continue counting each night, but without reciting a Beracha. For this reason, many congregations have the practice to count the Omer aloud – without the Beracha – each morning during Shacharit, after the Kaddish following the Chazan's repetition. This is intended to ensure that anyone who forgot to count the Omer the previous night will at least count that day, so that he may resume counting the subsequent night with a Beracha. It should also be noted that although praying with a Minyan is of great importance throughout the year, it is particularly critical during the Sefira period, as one is far more likely to forget to count the Omer when he prays privately than when he prays with a Minyan. If a person cannot remember whether or not he counted the Omer one night, and he did not count during the following day, does he continue to count with a Beracha, or must he count without a Beracha, given the possibility that he missed a day? Chacham Ovadia Yosef, in his work Chazon Ovadia (Laws of Yom Tov, p. 238), rules that a person in such a case continues to count with a Beracha, as this situation involves a "Sefeik-Sefeika," or "double doubt." First, there is the question of whether or not the person indeed neglected to count the Omer. But in addition, even if he had neglected to count, it is unclear whether or not Halacha follows the opinion that one who misses a day of counting can no longer count the subsequent nights. According to some authorities, each night of the Omer constitutes an independent Mitzva, and thus forgetting to count one night does not affect one's obligation on the subsequent nights. Hence, in a situation where one is unsure whether or not he counted, two points of uncertainty are involved, in which case we may be lenient and allow the individual to continue counting the Omer with a Beracha. Chacham Ovadia adds yet another factor, namely, the position of the Rif (Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi, Morocco, 1013-1103) and the Rambam (Rabbi Moshe Maimonides, Spain-North Africa, 1135-1204) that counting the Omer constitutes a Torah obligation even nowadays. With regard to Torah law, we rule stringently in situations of uncertainty. Thus, according to the view of these authorities, a person who is unsure whether or not he must count the Omer is obligated to do so. Although we generally do not follow this position of the Rif and the Rambam, their view represents yet another consideration for requiring a person in such a situation to continue counting the Omer with a Beracha. Summary: A person who forgets to the count the Omer one night should count during the following day without a Beracha, and then resume counting that night with a Beracha. If one forgets to count one night and does not count during the following day, either, then he resumes counting the subsequent night without reciting a Beracha. If one cannot remember whether or not he counted one day, he continues counting with a Beracha.
May 11, 2022
Sefirat HaOmer: If One Counted the Days but Not the Weeks
The Torah clearly states that the Misva of counting the Omer is to count both the days and the weeks of the 49-day period. Maran (489:1) writes that when one reaches the seventh night, he adds that it is one week to the Omer. If on the seventh night, he forgot to count the week and only counted the days, what is the Halacha? The Mishna Berura (489:7) discusses this and cites opinion of the Magen Abraham (Rav Abraham Gombiner, Poland, 1637-1682) that he fulfilled the Misva B’diavad (after the fact). He then cites the opinions that he did not fulfil the Misva whatsoever, and must count again. His conclusion is to count again without a Beracha, since the disagreement generated a Safek (uncertainty). He should correct himself at night or even during the day. However, if he did not count again, he may continue counting the rest of the nights with a Beracha.
May 10, 2022
Sefirat Ha'omer - If a Person Counted Either the Days or Weeks Incorrectly
The Talmud states, "U’mi’talmidai Yoter Mi’kulam" – meaning, a Rabbi learns more from his students than from his own Rabbis. I recently experienced this axiom firsthand, when an astute reader noted that a ruling presented in an earlier edition of our Daily Halacha series runs in opposition to an explicit ruling of Hacham Ovadia Yosef. The issue under discussion is a situation where one counted the Omer and made a mistake in his counting of either the days or the weeks, but not both. For example, on the 15th night of the Omer, he said, "Hayom Arba’a Asar Yom…She’hem Sheneh Shabuot Ve’yom Ehad" ("Today is the 14th day…which is two weeks and one day"), or "Hayom Hamisha Asar Yom…She’hem Sheneh Shabuot" ("Today is the 15th day…which is two weeks"). Meaning, he counted either the days or the weeks correctly, but the other was counted incorrectly. In our previous posting, we concluded that in such a case the individual is considered as though he missed a day of counting, and may thus no longer count the Omer with a Beracha. Unless he counted again, correctly, at some point that night or the following day, we said, he does not recite a Beracha when counting the Omer henceforth. It was pointed out to me, however, that this is not the ruling of Hacham Ovadia Yosef. In Hazon Ovadia – Sefirat Ha’omer (p. 251), Hacham Ovadia writes that as long as one counted either the days or the weeks correctly, he may continue counting with a Beracha. This is also the ruling of the Mishna Berura (489:38, as Hacham Ovadia mentions in note 36). Therefore, I would like to retract the ruling issued in the previous posting, as the correct conclusion, following the ruling of Hacham Ovadia, is that in such a case one continues counting with a Beracha. Needless to say, one should make an effort to count both the days and weeks correctly, but nevertheless, if one counted either one of them incorrectly, as long as he counted the other correctly, he continues counting with a Beracha. Summary: If one made a mistake in only part of the Sefirat Ha’omer counting, that is, he counted either the days or the weeks incorrectly, but counted the other part correctly, he continues counting with a Beracha henceforth, and is not considered as having missed a day of counting.
May 9, 2022
If One Forgets or Doesn't Remember If He Counted The Omer
The Terumat Ha’deshen (Rabbi Yisrael Isserlin, Austria, 1390-1460), in his responsa, addresses the situation of a person who cannot remember whether or not he counted the Omer on one of the days of the Omer period. It is well-known that if a person missed a day of counting, then on the subsequent nights of the Omer he counts without a Beracha. The question addressed by the Terumat Ha’deshen is whether or not this applies also to a person who is unsure whether or not he counted one day. Must he now count without a Beracha, in case he actually missed a day of counting, or do we treat this case differently, since the individual is not certain that he missed a day? The Terumat Ha’deshen ruled in such a case, the individual continues counting with a Beracha. He explains that this situation is one of "Sefek Sefeka," or a "double doubt." The first doubt is whether or not he indeed missed a day of counting. But even if he did miss a day, there is still a question as to whether or not this affects his counting on the subsequent nights. There are some authorities who maintain that each night’s counting constitutes an independent Misva and is unaffected by the counting on previous nights. Normally, because of the different views that exist in this regard, one who missed a day of counting continues counting without a Beracha. But if a person does not know for certain that he missed a day, then we have two points of uncertainty, and therefore, the Terumat Ha’deshen rules, since there are two possible reasons for him to continue counting, he may count with a Beracha. This Halacha also applies in a case where one does not remember whether he counted correctly. For example, a person thought in his mind that it was the twenty-fifth night of the Omer, but then he heard the Hazan count twenty-six days. After leaving the synagogue, the person could not remember whether he counted the number that he had in his mind, or the correct number that he heard from the Hazan. (Ideally, of course, he should then count again, without a Beracha. The question we address here is if he did not count again that night or the next day.) This instance, too, is a situation of "Sefek Sefeka": he may have counted correctly, and even if he did not count correctly, it is possible that Halacha follows the view that the Misva on each night is independent of the Misva on the previous nights. Therefore, he continues counting with a Beracha. A third situation of "Sefek Sefeka" relevant to the Sefirat Ha’omer involves a person who forgot to count the Omer one evening, and he wakes up in the middle of the night and remembers that he forgot to count. He cannot determine, however, whether it is already Alot Ha’shahar (daybreak). Halacha allows counting with a Beracha until Alot Ha’shahar, but if one did not count the Omer before that point, then he counts without a Beracha (but the following night he resumes counting with a Beracha). If one is unsure whether Alot Ha’shahar has arrived, then he counts with a Beracha, because of the rule of "Sefek Sefeka." It is possible that it is still nighttime, such that he may count with a Beracha, and even if Alot Ha’shahar has already passed, it is possible that Halacha follows the view that one may count the Omer with a Beracha even during the day. Therefore, in such a case, one may count the Omer with a Beracha. This is the ruling of Hacham Ovadia Yosef, as recorded in Yalkut Yosef (listen to audio recording for precise citation). The Beracha over Sefirat Ha’omer differs in this regard from other Berachot. Normally, we do not recite a Beracha in situations where it is uncertain whether the Beracha is warranted, even in cases of "Sefek Sefeka," where there are two possibilities that warrant the recitation. This point is made by Rav David Pardo (1718-1792), in his work Michtam Le’David, where he discusses the principle of "Safek Berachot Le’hakel" – which means that we do not recite Berachot in situations of uncertainty. Rav David Pardo notes that at first glance, this rule is superfluous. After all, nearly all Berachot are required only Mi’de’rabbanan (on the level of Rabbinic enactment, as opposed to Torah law), and there is already a famous rule of "Safek De’Rabbanan Le’kula," which means that with regard to obligations required Mi’de’rabbanan, we may assume the lenient possibility in situations of uncertainty. Seemingly, then, there was no need for the Sages to establish the rule of "Safek Berachot Le’hakel," since in any event most Berachot are required Mi’de’rabbanan, and Rabbinic obligations are treated leniently in situations of doubt. One answer to this question is that the rule of "Safek Berachot Le’hakel" establishes that one may not recite a Beracha in situations of uncertainty, even if he wishes to do so, as opposed to other Rabbinic obligations, where it is permissible and even praiseworthy to act stringently. Additionally, however, Rabbi David Pardo explains that the rule of "Safek De’Rabbanan Le’kula" applies only when there is a single point of uncertainty. If there are two points of uncertainty, such that there are two possible reasons for the obligation to apply, then one must act stringently and full the obligation, even though it is Rabbinic in origin. In the case of Berachot, however, we refrain from reciting a Beracha even if there are two possible factors warranting its recitation. Generally speaking, then, we do not recite a Beracha in any situation of uncertainty, even in cases of "Sefek Sefeka" where there are two points of uncertainty, each of which presents the possibility that the Beracha is required. When it comes to Sefirat Ha’omer, however, one recites the Beracha in situations of "Sefek Sefeka." This distinction is due to the position of the Rambam (Rabbi Moshe Maimonides, Spain-Egypt, 1135-1204), who was of the opinion that Sefirat Ha’omer constitutes a Torah obligation even nowadays, in the absence of the Bet Ha’mikdash. Although Halacha does not accept this view, and we generally treat Sefirat Ha’omer as a Rabbinically-ordained obligation nowadays, nevertheless, the possibility that it applies on the level of Torah obligation changes the way we handle situations of uncertainty. As Sefirat Ha’omer may entail a Torah obligation, we treat it as a bona fide requirement in situations of Sefek Sefeka and thus one recites a Beracha in such cases. Summary: One who missed an entire day of counting during the Omer does not recite a Beracha when he counts on subsequent nights. If one is uncertain whether he counted on a certain day, or whether he counted correctly on a certain day, then he continues counting with a Beracha. A person who did not count at night but remembers during the next day, he counts without a Beracha and then resumes counting with a Beracha that night. If a person wakes up in the middle of the night and realizes that he had not counted the Omer, and he cannot ascertain whether Alot Ha’shahar (daybreak) has passed, he counts with a Beracha.
May 8, 2022
Announcing the Transition to "Mashib Ha'ru'ah" on Shemini Aseret
We begin reciting "Mashib Ha’ru’ah U’morid Ha’geshem" in the Amida in place of "Morid Ha’tal" during Musaf on Shemini Aseret. A number of Poskim addressed the question as to whether one who mistakenly recited "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" during Arbit on the night of Shemini Aseret, or during Shaharit on Shemini Aseret morning, must repeat the Amida. (This question is discussed by the Kaf Ha’haim, Orah Haim 114:7; and by the Erech Ha’shulhan.) As for the final Halacha, Hacham David Yosef, in Halacha Berura, and Hacham Yishak Yosef, in Yalkut Yosef, rule that if one realized his mistake before concluding that Beracha of the Amida (with the blessing of "Mehayeh Ha’metim"), then he should go back and correct his mistake by reciting "Morid Ha’tal." But if he realized his mistake only after concluding that Beracha, then he does not repeat the Amida. The Shulhan Aruch rules that the congregation does not make the transition from "Morid Ha’tal" to "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" unless an announcement is made in the synagogue to begin reciting "Mashib Ha’ru’ah." This is why it is customary to make a special declaration and conduct a ceremony of sorts before Musaf on Shemini Aseret, announcing the transition from "Morid Ha’tal" to "Mashib Ha’ru’ah." If one prays at home on Shemini Aseret, such as in the case of an ill patient who cannot come to the synagogue, he should not make the transition to "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" until the time the announcement is made in the synagogue. Hacham David Yosef writes that if there is a Minyan in the neighborhood that prays early, at sunrise, then the ill patient praying at home may recite Musaf with "Mashib Ha’ru’ach" at the time the announcement is made in that Minyan. Even though this person does not normally pray at that Minyan, and prays instead at a Minyan which begins later, nevertheless, he may recite "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" once the announcement is made at the early Minyan. If, for whatever reason, the announcement was not made in the synagogue before Musaf, then "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" is not recited during the silent Amida. In such a case, the Mishna Berura writes, the Hazan recites "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" in his repetition of the Amida, and this public recitation of "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" takes the place of an announcement. Hacham David Yosef adds that if possible, during the recitation of the silent Amida, the Hazan should recite the first blessing of the Amida quickly and then recite "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" aloud. This would suffice as an announcement, such that the congregation may then recite "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" in their silent prayer. Summary: On Shemini Aseret, an announcement is made in the synagogue before Musaf to transition from "Morid Ha’tal" to "Mashib Ha’ru’ah U’morid Ha’geshem." The congregation then recites "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" in the silent Amida of Musaf. If one mistakenly recited "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" during the Arbit prayer the previous night, or during Shaharit that morning, he does not repeat the Amida. One who prays at home may recite Musaf with "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" from the time when the announcement is made in the earliest Minyan in the town. If the announcement was forgotten before Musaf, then if possible, the Hazan should recite the first blessing of his silent Amida quickly and then recite "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" aloud, and this suffices as an announcement. If not, then the congregation recites "Morid Ha’tal," and the Hazan recites "Mashib Ha’ru’ah" during the repetition of the Amida, which serves as the public announcement.
May 6, 2022
May One Use an Electric Drier to Dry His Hands After Netilat Yadayim?
After a person washes Netilat Yadayim for bread, must he dry his hands with a towel or other material, or is it acceptable to use an air drying machine for this purpose? Does Halacha require one to perform an act of drying after Netilat Yadayim – as opposed to using an air drying machine, where one simply places his hands in front of the machine – or may the hands be dried through any means? Hacham Ovadia Yosef rules (listen to audio recording for precise citation) that one may dry his hands after Netiat Yadayim through any means. There is no requirement to actively dry one’s hands, and thus one may dry his hands with an electric drying machine, or, for that matter, he may have somebody else dry his hands for him.
May 5, 2022
Netilat Yadayim When One Uses the Restroom Immediately Before Eating Bread
It often happens that a person uses the restroom before beginning a meal (in fact, it is proper to ensure before beginning a meal that one does not need to perform his bodily functions). Halacha requires washing one’s hands after using the restroom, and also before eating bread, and thus if one uses the restroom immediately before eating bead, he must wash his hands both because he just used the restroom, and in preparation for eating bread. What is the proper procedure for the hand washing in such a case? The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 165) writes that in such a case, one should wash his hands twice – once for having used the restroom, and a second time in preparation for eating bread. However, if he prefers not washing twice, such as if he is rushing because everyone else already washed Netilat Yadayim and is waiting for him at the table, then he may wash just once to cover both requirements. However, we find disagreements among the Poskim regarding both situations – when one washes twice, as is preferred, and also when washes just once because he is hurrying. Regarding one who washes twice, the Shulhan Aruch states simply that the person washes, recites Asher Yasar, and then washes a second time and recites the Beracha of "Al Netilat Yadayim." A number of Poskim raised the question of how one can wash a second time, and recite a Beracha over this second washing, if his hands are already clean. Seemingly, once the person had washed his hands, his second washing has no Halachic significance, and thus he cannot recite a Beracha over this washing. In light of this question, the Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) writes (Parashat Shemini, Halacha 9) that after the person recites Asher Yasar, he should then soil his hands so that he requires a second washing. He can do this by touching a part of the body that is normally covered, or touching his shoes. This way, he can wash a second time and recite "Al Netilat Yadayim" without concern. Some Poskim questioned this ruling, claiming that it seemingly constitutes "Gorem Beracha She’ena Sericha" – unnecessarily putting oneself in a situation that requires the recitation of an extra Beracha. Others, however, defended the Ben Ish Hai’s ruling by noting that in this instance, one has no choice but to put himself in a situation requiring an additional Beracha, because of the Halachic dilemma presented by having to wash both for having used the restroom and also in preparation for eating bread. There is also a second solution, one which, ironically, emerges from the Ben Ish Hai’s ruling in a separate context. In his work Od Yosef Hai, the Ben Ish Hai writes that a person does not need to wash his hands with a cup after using the restroom, as one does when washing before eating bread. In fact, Hacham Ovadia Yosef’s children have reported that their father followed this view, and would wash his hands after using the restroom without a cup, running his hands under running water three times in alternating fashion. (Washing one’s hands three times in alternating fashion is necessary in order to eliminate the "Ru’ah Ra’a" – evil spirits – which descend upon one’s hands in the restroom.) Accordingly, in the case of one who uses the restroom immediately before a meal, he can simply wash first without a cup, following the Ben Ish Hai’s view, and then, since this washing does not satisfy the requirement of washing before a meal, wash a second time with a cup, and recite the Beracha of "Al Netilat Yadayim." This would be the best course of action in this case. (It should be noted, though, that some Poskim – such as Rav Shlomo Amar, in his Shema Shelomo – indeed require washing with a cup after using the restroom. This was also the opinion of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, however, Rav Shlomo Zalman maintained that in this case, where one uses the restroom before eating bread, he should rely on the lenient position and first wash without a cup in order to resolve the Halachic predicament he faces.) Some Poskim propose a different option – to first wash with less than a Rebi’it of water, as this small quantity does not satisfy the requirement of washing before eating bread. However, this solution is not very practical, and thus the preferred method is to first wash without a cup. As mentioned, if one is rushing and does not want to wash twice, he may wash just once. The Ben Ish Hai writes that one who chooses this option should wash his hands three times in alternating fashion with a cup, recite the Beracha of "Netilat Yadayim," and then recite "Ha’mosi" over the bread and eat. He does not recite "Asher Yasar," according to the Ben Ish Hai, until after eating a Ke’zayit of bread. The Ben Ish Hai recommends this sequence – delaying the recitation of Asher Yasar – so that one does not speak between Netilat Yadayim and eating bread. Although the Shulhan Aruch rules that strictly speaking, it is permissible to speak in between Netilat Yadayim and eating bread, the Zohar writes that this is forbidden. Therefore, the Ben Ish Hai felt that in this case, it is preferable to delay the recitation of Asher Yasar until after eating the bread, so that one does not make an interruption between Netilat Yadayim and eating bread. Hacham Ovadia Yosef disagrees with this ruling, arguing that the person in this case may follow the Shulhan Aruch’s position that, according to the strict Halacha, speaking is allowed in between Netilat Yadayim and eating bread (though obviously one preferably should not speak). According to Hacham Ovadia, the individual in this case should wash, recite "Al Netilat Yadayim," followed by Asher Yasar, and the proceed to recite "Ha’mosi" and eat the bread. Hacham David Yosef, in his Halacha Berura, writes that this option may be followed even Le’chatehila (optimally) in a case where one uses the restroom before eating moist fruits or vegetables. Halacha requires washing one’s hands without a Beracha before eating moist fruits or vegetables, and thus one who uses the restroom immediately before eating such a product faces a similar dilemma as one who uses the restroom immediately before eating bread. However, since no Beracha is recited, there is no need to avoid a Hefsek (interruption) in between washing and eating as there is in the case of washing before bread, when one should try to avoid a Hefsek between the Beracha of "Al Netilat Yadayim" and eating bread. Therefore, Hacham David writes, if one uses the restroom immediately before eating moist fruits or vegetables, one may Le’chatehila wash just once, recite Asher Yasar, and then recite the Beracha over the fruit or vegetable. In conclusion, it should be noted that regarding the case of one who uses the restroom before eating bread, Hacham David introduces a surprising stringency. He writes that the most preferred option is to wash first without a cup, as discussed above, and then to soil one’s hands before washing a second time in preparation for eating bread. Curiously, Hacham David recommends following both solutions – the Ben Ish Hai’s solution, to soil one’s hands before the second washing, and the other solution, to wash the first time without using a cup. It is unclear why Hacham David felt it appropriate to follow both solutions. Summary: If one uses the restroom right before eating bread, he should, preferably, wash his hands without a cup, recite Asher Yasar, and then wash a second time with a cup and then recite the Beracha of "Al Netilat Yadayim." According to one view, before the second washing the person should soil his hands by touching a part of the body that is normally covered, or touching his shoes. If one is rushing (such as if people are waiting for him at the table), then he should wash just once, with a cup, recite the Beracha of "Al Netilat Yadayim," and then recite "Asher Yasar" before reciting "Ha’mosi" and eating the bread.
May 1, 2022
The Status of Charity Money That Does Not Reach the Intended Recipient
What is the status of a coin or bill that one gives to charity but is then refused? Occasionally, a person collecting charity might refuse a donation of money, such as if he feels insulted over the small amount. Does that money retain its status as charity money, requiring the individual to give it to a different charity, or may he now keep that money? The Taz ("Turei Zahav," a commentary to the Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi David Halevi, Poland, 1586-1667) addresses this question and claims that once the donation is refused, it retroactively loses its Halachic status as Tzedaka money. It is therefore permissible to make personal use of that money, and it need not be given to charity. A slightly different case involves a person who sees somebody collecting charity in the synagogue and pulls out a bill or coin with the intention of giving the money to the collector, who then leaves the synagogue without ever receiving the money. Must the individual give that coin or bill to charity? The Halachic authorities rule that in this case, since the donation was not rejected, but simply did not reach the hands of the intended recipient, it retains its formal status as charity money. If the person collected for himself or for another individual, then the donor should give the money to an individual; if the collector was soliciting on behalf of an institution, then the money should be given to an institution. One can easily avoid this problem by stipulating – either verbally or mentally – that anytime he pulls out money to give to a collector, the money does not attain the status of Tzedaka money until it reaches the recipient's hands. A person can make this stipulation just once in his lifetime, and it remains in effect from that point onward such that any money he takes out of his pocket to give to charity is not endowed with the status of Tzedaka money until it reaches the recipient. If it then happens that a collector leaves before receiving the money, the donor can keep the money for personal use. Summary: If a person gives charity and the recipient refuses it, the returned money may be used for personal use and need not be given to another charitable cause. If a person takes money from his wallet with the intention to give it to a collector but the collector leaves before receiving the money, the money must be given to charity. One can avoid this problem by stipulating – even just once in his lifetime – that any money he pulls out to give to charity does not attain the formal status of charity money until it reaches the recipient.
Apr 29, 2022
Does Money Used For A Sefer Torah Count As Ma'aser
There is a Torah command upon each and every Jew to write a Sefer Torah (or to hire somebody to write one for him). The Sages inferred this Misva from the verse in the Book of Debarim (31:19), "And now, write for yourselves this Shira [literally, ‘song’]." Even if a person inherited a Torah scroll from his father, he is nevertheless obligated to write his own Sefer Torah. One does not recite a Beracha over this Misva. If somebody hires a Sofer (scribe) to write a Sefer Torah for him, he does not recite a Beracha "Al Misvat Ketibat Sefer Torah" when the Sofer completes the Torah. Likewise, one does not recite the Beracha of "Shehehiyanu" on the completion of a new Sefer Torah. Nevertheless, it is customary at a dedication ceremony for a new Sefer Torah that the donor who funded the project wears a new suit and recites "Shehehiyanu" over the suit, having in mind for the Beracha to apply as well to the new Torah scroll. The work "Me’il Sedaka" rules that one may count the money ex…
Apr 28, 2022
Can A Congregation or Community Rely On A Designated Charity Fund and Restrict People From Soliciting From Individuals
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei'a section, 256:1; listen to audio clip for precise citation) writes that every Jewish community bears the obligation to establish a "Kupa" – a fund that collects money from every member of the community and distributes it to those in need on a weekly basis. Beyond the required Kupa, the Shulchan Aruch adds, some communities also maintain a "Tamchui," a soup-kitchen that provides food for the poor on a daily basis. The Shulchan Arukh rules that whereas the establishment and maintenance of a communal Kupa is mandatory, a community does not bear a strict obligation to run a Tamchui. The question arises as to whether a community with a Kupa fund is entitled to bar a needy person from soliciting from individuals. May the managers of the communal fund tell the individual that after receiving money from the fund he is no longer entitled to go door-to-door to collect money from the community members? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Russia-New York, 1895-1986), in his I…
Apr 26, 2022
Giving Sedaka in the Proper Manner and at the Proper Time
The Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909), in Parashat Vayigash, presents a number of guidelines concerning the preferred way to give charity (listen to audio recording for precise citation). He writes that whenever one gives charity, he should do so while standing, for reasons related to Sod (Kabbalistic teaching). Additionally, when a poor person comes to one’s home to collect charity, it is preferable not to give him directly, but rather to give the money to another member of the household who should then give it to the person collecting. Giving charity has a certain "Tikkun," an effect in the upper worlds, which occurs through an intermediary. It is therefore proper to give charity through an intermediary to correspond to the effects that charity has in the upper worlds. When a person gives charity, the coin corresponds to the letter "Yod" at the beginning of the Divine Name of "Havaya." The donor’s hand – which contains five fingers – corresponds to the lette…
Apr 25, 2022
Is a Non-Verbal Commitment to Charity Binding?
The Rishonim (Medieval Halachic scholars) address the question regarding the status of a commitment to charity made in one’s mind, without being verbalized. If a person made a decision to give a certain amount of money to charity, but he did not verbally express this commitment, does this non-verbal pledge have the status of a Neder (vow), such that one is obligated to fulfill the pledge? The Rosh (Rabbenu Asher Ben Yehiel, Germany-Spain, 1250-1327), in one of his responsa, writes that a pledge to charity is binding only if it is verbalized. A commitment made in one’s mind, without being stated verbally, is not binding. However, in his commentary to the Talmud, the Rosh takes the opposite view, stating that even non-verbal pledges are binding and must be fulfilled. The Rosh cites a verse in Dibreh Hayamim – "Kol Nedib Leb Olot" – referring to a voluntary commitment made in one’s heart to bring Olot (burnt offerings) to the Bet Ha’mikdash. Based on this verse, the Rosh rul…
Apr 21, 2022
If One is Unsure Whether or Not He Counted the Omer
If a person is unsure whether or not he counted a day of the Omer, and cannot determine conclusively if he had counted or if he had missed that day, he continues counting the Omer each night with a Beracha. This is the explicit ruling of the Shulhan Aruch. However, this Halacha applies only in cases of general uncertainty whether or not a day of counting was missed. But if a person knows for certain that he did not count one night, and is unsure whether or not he counted during the next day, then he continues counting without a Beracha. This is the ruling of the Erech Ha’shulhan (Rabbi Yishak Taib, Tunisia, 1786-1828). Since he knows with certainty that he had not counted at night, he may not count with a Beracha unless he knows for certain that he counted during the next day. If a person knows for certain that he counted, but is unsure whether he counted the correct number, as he suspects that he might have counted incorrectly, he may continue counting with a Beracha. This is the…
Apr 20, 2022
May One Purchase and Wear New Clothing During the Omer Period?
There is some discussion among the Halachic authorities regarding the recitation of the Beracha of "Shehehiyanu" during the period of Sefirat Ha’omer, until Lag Ba’omer. Rav Haim Palachi (Turkey, 1788-1869), in his work Mo’d Le’chol Hai (6:12), writes that one should not recite "Shehehiyanu" during the Omer period, and therefore one should not purchase a new garment during these weeks. Likewise, one should not eat a new fruit during this period, in order not to have to recite this Beracha. Others, however, disagree, and maintain that there is no prohibition against reciting the Beracha of "Shehehiyanu" during the Omer period. This is the position taken by Hacham Ben Sion Abba Shaul (Israel, 1923-1998), in his work Or Le’sion (vol. 3, 17:2). As for the final Halachic ruling, Hacham Ovadia Yosef writes that strictly speaking, it is permissible to wear a new garment and eat a new fruit during the Omer period and recite "Shehehiyanu." Nevertheless, it is preferable to satisfy th…
Apr 19, 2022
Sefirat Ha'omer - Training Children in the Misva; The Status of Women Vis-a-vis Counting the Omer
There is a Misva to train children to count each night of the Omer with a Beracha. Each night throughout the Omer period, a parent should recite the Beracha over Sefirat Ha’omer with the children and count with them, to train them in the Misva. Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in his work Yabia Omer (vol. 2, Siman 13), writes that a parent should have the child count the Omer with a Beracha even if the child had missed a day of counting. When it comes to adults, as we know, somebody who missed a day of counting continues counting the subsequent nights without reciting the Beracha. However, Hacham Ovadia rules that this does not apply to children, and they should recite the Beracha over Sefirat Ha’omer even if they had missed a day. He explains that the prohibition of reciting a Beracha Le’batala (a Beracha in vain), which is derived from the verse, "Lo Tisa Et Shem Hashem Elokecha La’shav," does not apply to children. Children may recite Berachot as part of their training, even in situati…
Apr 18, 2022
If One Remembers After Sundown That He Had Not Counted the Omer
If a person forgot to count the Omer at night, and also forgot during the following day, but remembered shortly after sundown, may he still count the Omer? Let us take the example of a person who forgot to count the 26th night of the Omer, and forgot also the following day, until a few minutes after sunset. It is obvious that he cannot count with a Beracha, since one does not recite the Beracha if he forgot to count at night and counts the following day. The question, however, is whether he can count the 26th day without a Beracha and then count the 27th day that night, after dark, with a Beracha, just as one would if he counted during the day before sundown. The 13.5-minute period immediately after sunset, which is called "Ben Ha’shemashot," is a time of "Safek" (uncertainty), which means that it is uncertain whether it is regarded as daytime or nighttime. The question thus becomes whether counting the Omer during this period fulfills the previous day’s counting, or whether we mus…
Apr 15, 2022
Pesach - Habdala When the Seder is Held on Mosa'eh Shabbat
When the Pesah Seder is held on Mosa’eh Shabbat, a special Kiddush is recited, one which incorporates Habdala. The sequence of this Kiddush is known by the acrostic "Yaknehaz," which stands for: 1) Yayin – the Beracha over the wine ("Boreh Peri Ha’gefen"); 2) Kiddush – the regular Beracha of Kiddush ("Asher Bahar Banu"); 3) Ner – the Beracha over the candle ("Boreh Me’oreh Ha’esh"); 4) Habdala – the Beracha of "Ha’mabdil," concluding with "Ha’mabdil Ben Kodesh Le’kodesh"; 5) Zeman – the Beracha of "She’hehiyanu." Maran (Rav Yosef Karo, author of the Shulhan Aruch), in his Bet Yosef (Orah Haim 473), tells that one of the Rishonim, the Orhot Haim, once mistakenly recited the standard Kiddush on the night of the Seder, forgetting that it was Mosa’eh Shabbat, and so he did not recite Habdala. He did not realize his mistake until the middle of the Maggid section. The Bet Yosef rules that in such a case, one should complete Maggid, through the recitation of the…
Apr 14, 2022
Pesah - The Prayer Service When Seder Night Falls on Shabbat
When Seder night falls on Friday night, we recite "Mizmor Le’David" and welcome the Shabbat with the recitation of "Lecha Dodi" just as we do on an ordinary Friday night. There are those who maintain that these should not be recited when Friday night is Yom Tob, arguing that it would be disrespectful to the Yom Tob to welcome Shabbat with a special greeting without also greeting Yom Tob. This is akin to extending a greeting to only one guest when two guests arrive. Hacham Ovadia Yosef, however, contends that we extend a "greeting" to Yom Tob when we announce Rosh Hodesh on the Shabbat preceding that month. On the Shabbat before Nissan, for example, when we announce the onset of the new month, we in effect "invite" the Yom Tob of Pesah which falls during that month. Thus, we do not need to be concerned about extending a specific greeting to Shabbat when the Seder night falls on Friday night. After the Amida, we recite "Vayechulu" just as we do on an ordinary Friday night. There is c…
Apr 13, 2022
Pesah- Laws of Ereb Pesah
One may not eat Masa on Ereb Pesah. This restriction begins from dawn, but it is permitted the night before. Only Masa that is fit to fulfil the Misva of the Seder night is prohibited to eat. Therefore, one may eat a dish made with boiled Masa, since cooked Masa is not fit for the Misva. The Poskim debate whether fried Masa may be consumed on Ereb Pesah. Hacham Ovadia is lenient, based on the Hida who ruled that frying is considered cooking when it comes to the prohibiton of cooking meat and milk. Hacham Bension, on the other hand, prohibits it. They also disagree whether one may eat Masa which was not made "Lishmah"-for the sake of the Misva. Again, Hacham Ovadia is lenient, and Hacham Bension is strict. There is no problem eating Masa on the first day of Yom Tob, even though it is the prelude for the second Seder. However, when it falls on Shabbat, the custom is to eat Seudah Shlishit early, to build an appetie for the Seder. All agree that one may eat "Masa Ashira"-Egg Masa, since…
Apr 12, 2022
Pesah- Determining the Measurement of Kezayit
When the Torah commands us to eat something, "Ain achila pachot m'kezayit," the minimum amount required is a "Kezayit." Kezayit literally means like the size of an olive. The Mishna in Masechet Keilim formulates the definition as a "Kezayit beinoni," a medium sized olive. Yet, how is this amount calculated in today’s measurements. The Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909,Parshat Pikudei and Parshat, Tzav) calculates the Kezayit as a weight measure of nine Dram. We know that one Dram is equivalent to three grams. Therefore, according to the Ben Ish Hai, a Kezayit equals 27 grams. That is why many old siddurim state that the minimum amount of food requiring a beracha achrona is between 26-30 gram. Hacham Ben Sion Abba Shaul (Israel, 1923-1998, Or L’sion, Vol. 3, Introduction) raises a number of difficulties with the opinion of the Ben Ish Hai. One of the issues he discusses is the opinion of Maran in this matter. In Hilchot Pesach, Maran clearly holds that a Kezayit eq…