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Difficulty in Returning Stolen FundsYears ago, when I was working for a consulting firm, my bosses had me inflate hours we charged clients. (I received a set monthly salary). I now feel bad that I stole from my clients. I would want to return that money, but it is too hard to track down the clients and know how much to pay each. I understand that in such cases, one can donate money for public needs, so that those who are owed benefit. How do I do that, considering that many clients probably now live throughout the country and likely the world?
When one stole from a group of people but does not know how much from whom, if the victims also do not know, beit din cannot force the thief to pay more than he admits, but he does not fulfill his moral obligation until he removes all the doubt (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 365:2). Therefore, if one wants to do the right thing and can track people down, he should do so, even if it means paying more than he owes.
However, there is a different halacha to deal with cases where the range of possibilities is so broad that it is unfeasible to pay everyone who might possibly deserve it. The gemara (Bava Kama 94b) says that shepherds (who grazed in others’ fields) and tax collectors (who took more than they were entitled to) who cannot remember who they owe should use the money due for communal needs. An example is digging publicly accessible water holes. Others (see Pitchei Choshen, Geneiva 4:(50)) give the example of giving sefarim to the local beit midrash. While you have the problem that people may have moved away (and anyway may have never lived in the same community), technology now makes it possible to try to help people throughout the world simultaneously. Do realize, though, that even if you did this successfully (perhaps easier said than done) it is not considered full payment (S’ma 231:34), and if one were able to figure out later who he owes, he would have to pay them (see Pitchei Choshen ibid.).
However, the above does not apply to you. On a certain level you were an accomplice to the deceit of your clients (and you may have lied to them), and this warrants teshuva. However, the decision to deceive your clients was made by your bosses, you did not (we assume) physically take money from them, and the money did not go to you (but likely the firm’s bank account). So even though there is a concept of ein shaliach lid’var aveira – according to which if one’s boss tells him to steal, the worker alone is responsible (Bava Kama 79a), that is in a case where the subordinate actually takes the money from the victim and it is initially in his possession. At this point, it does not seem practical to “open a can of worms” by taking on your former firm and trying to make them research and return whatever money they can (We do not volunteer to attempt this mitzva of rebuke and hashavat aveida). There is even a concept that when someone has stolen a lot and now wants to do teshuva, his victims should not accept the return of what he owes them, for this would discourage him from doing teshuva (Bava Kama 94b).
In regards to you, we are not experts in the perfect steps to take to rectify and receive atonement for each aveira in each circumstance. Certainly, the basics are admitting one’s misstep, regretting it, and not returning to it (Rambam, Teshuva 2:2), and it seems that you have done these. From the time it was decreed on Adam to need to work hard to earn a living, a major part of that involves not allowing one’s job to cause him to sin, whether it be in regard to Shabbat and chagim, relationships with co-workers, or in matters of business ethics (stemming from his bosses’ inclinations or his own). Certain fields lend themselves to bigger challenges in one or more areas. May you and others be zocheh to have not only a sufficiently profitable job but also “a clean and easy” job (see Kiddushin 82a) from the moral perspective. The best ways to increase the likelihood include: tefilla, good training, setting priorities, and being willing to quit if the situation warrants it.
Using Tzedaka Funds for Grandchildren’s EducationCan one use ma’aser money to pay for their grandchildren’s education? Is there a distinction between grandsons and granddaughters or Judaic studies and general studies? If it is permitted, may I putting money in a 529 fund (which earmarks savings for education, primarily post-secondary in return for tax breaks for the donor in the US)?
There are two major channels for use of ma’aser funds. The classic one is to help provide essentials for the poor (Ahavat Chesed II:19). Another is to enable the fulfillment of mitzvot. There appears to be a machloket if ma’aser money can be used for mitzvot (see Rama, Yoreh Deah 249:1; Shach ad loc. 3). In practice, only if the donor is not required to finance the mitzva is he allowed to use ma’aser funds (see Beitza 19b).
It is a complicated question whether the parents are able to count their children’s tuition toward ma’aser since it is their obligation to educate their children (see Igrot Moshe, YD II 113). Regarding Torah education, it is likely permitted after bar mitzva (Tzedaka U’mishpat 6:14). Without getting into a discussion about what the Torah considers the ideal secular education, schooling is generally included in the positive matter of teaching a child a profession, and the obligation is on the father alone (see Kiddushin 29a). It is unclear to what extent this would be considered like a classic mitzva, like teaching Torah, which would justify one using his ma’aser money on it. However, if due to lack of funds, the child would be forced to go to public school unless someone pays his day school tuition, then the secular tuition, of boys or girls, can be taken from tzedaka funds, whether from the community or from grandparents’ ma’aser, as this is a critical mitzva. This could apply to a college education in the framework of a makom Torah as well.
Grandfathers have a mitzva to teach Torah to their son’s sons (see Rambam, Talmud Torah 1:2). It is unclear whether this includes paying for yeshiva (see Kesef Mishneh, Talmud Torah 1:2; Igrot Moshe YD II, 110), but the Shach (YD 245:1) and Shulchan Aruch Harav (Talmud Torah 1:8) assume that he is obligated. Thus, a son’s son’s Torah education before bar mitzva might not be able to be taken from ma’aser.
The way to justify using ma’aser funds for a grandchild’s college education is to focus on his parents’ needs. If from one’s child’s perspective, he needs to provide a college education that he cannot afford, then that middle generation could be considered poor for such matters (poor is whoever cannot afford that which is subjectively considered a necessity in his healthy milieu – Ketubot 67b). The needs of a close relative are a tzedaka precedence compared to people with less connection (Shulchan Aruch, YD 251:3). While it is possible that one who can afford to support his poor parents cannot use ma’aser for that purpose (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, YD 240:5), one may give ma’aser money to a son who should normally be financially independent (Tzedaka U’mishpat 6:4).
Now we present crucial questions you need to answer yourself. Is your child unable to afford his children’s education? To what extent is the planned education a necessity (e.g., they want their son to go an expensive university, which might not improve his future significantly compared to a cheaper alternative)? Setting up a 529 fund might complicate the answers to these questions, as one may not know when putting the money aside what the situation will be when it will be time to use it (it is difficult to reassign the funds later).Let us hint in closing that many people who give ma’aser are already acting beyond their basic obligation, by not using legitimate leniencies to greatly lower their ma’aser obligations. They, therefore, have a right to rule leniently on ma’aser questions. On the other hand, the more one is noble and generous about giving tzedaka (within limits) the greater his merit and blessing (see Taanit 9a), which all who can afford it deserve.
Where Should the Tzitzit Be Connected to the Tallit?I have learned that the tzitzit should be laying on the outside of the tallit, but I do not see that people are careful about it. How important is it for it to be done properly?
The gemara (Menachot 42a) cites Rav Giddel who learns from the pasuk’s words of “on the corners of their garments” that the tzitzit need to be resting (likely translation) on the corner of the garment, (as opposed to hanging down over only the ground – see illustration).
This looks like a Torah law, which would ostensibly make it crucial. However, you are right that people are not careful about it, and this phenomenon is reported (without alarm) already by the Sha’arei Teshuva (Orach Chayim 11:26). This laxness could be horrible, but it could also be telling. Let us search for further indications.
There are other indications that not being careful about this does not ruin the mitzva. The Darchei Moshe (OC 8:3) introduces the minhag not to make a beracha on a tallit katan (i.e., tzitzit) out of concern that it might be too small, but to make it on a tallit. If hanging from the incorrect side disqualifies, it might be more of a problem for a tallit (see below). Also, we are instructed to check that the strings of the tzitzit have not ripped before putting them on, so as not to make a beracha l’vatala (Shulchan Aruch, OC 8:9), whereas our issue, which is much more common, is not mentioned.
There are actually different explanations as to the gemara’s (ibid.) intention. Rabbeinu Gershom (ad loc.) and others explain it, that the knot should not be attached to the garment too close to the corner but further up and in. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 11:15) introduces the halacha as you described it with “there are those who say…,” although he does pasken that way, as he does not cite dissenters. The Sha’arei Teshuva (ibid.) suggests that people are not careful about this because some of the Rishonim who raised the issue were not resolute about it.
Actually, the Levush (OC 11:15), Magen Avraham (11:24), and Mishna Berura (11:72) posit that even those who understand the gemara to be referring to our case, posit that it does not disqualify the tzitzit. The Tehilla L’David (OC 11:11) argues that the issue is only at the time that one ties the tzitzit to the garment. The Levush and Magen Avraham say that the bigger issue is to avoid having the knot attached right on the garment’s vertex because it looks like he is trying to have on “eight corners” or because this was the Karaites system.
For rectangular tzitzit, the place to put the knot is on the long side. On the square tallit, the matter is more complicated. While the back side hangs similarly to the strings of tzitzit, the front part is draped over the shoulder and chest, and initially wrapped over one’s head. It is likely, then, that it usually ends up resting on the corner when it is put on the side that is horizontal before putting it on. Assuming, as we do, that the issue has to do with the time of wearing, this is where most poskim recommend to have it (see Bi’ur Halacha to 11:15). Thus, it turns out that the proper position can actually change during a given wearing based on how the garment is positioned. Perhaps this is a reason that the poskim assumed that this could not be a problem that disqualifies the mitzva.
A Late TachanunThe chazan skipped Tachanun, and everyone assumed there was a chatan or a brit. After davening, the chazan said he just forgot Tachanun. People disagreed about whether we could/should say Tachanun at that point. What is the halacha?
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 131:1) says that one must not speak between Shemoneh Esrei and Tachanun, based on “students of the Rashba’s” (see Beit Yosef, OC 131) comment on the following gemara (Bava Metzia 59b). After Rabbi Eliezer’s major dispute with his brother-in-law, Rabban Gamliel, the former’s wife was afraid that the intensity of his Tachanun could cause harm to her brother, so she always interrupted him when it was time for Tachanun. The Rashba reasons that she could not have prevented him from saying Tachanun all day, but just made him stop and/or speak at the right time, to lower its efficacy. This taught the Shulchan Aruch and others of the danger of interruptions at that time.
What does the above teach us about the required level of connection between Shemoneh Esrei and Tachanun? The conviction that a break makes Tachanun less effective does not necessarily mean that Tachanun need not or should not be said after such a break or that it lacks value. The Rashba/Shulchan Aruch’s understanding of the story of Rabbi Eliezer strongly implies that R. Eliezer recited Tachanun after the break. The Rivash (412) claimed that his wife bothered him until he forgot to say it, also implying he would have said it later. Thus, at this point, we would say: “Better late than never.”
The Taz (OC 131:10, which seems to contradict Taz, Yoreh Deah 376:2) complicates the matter. He discusses whether non-mourners who daven at an avel’s house, where Tachanun is omitted because the presence of “strict judgment” makes it not worthwhile to recite Tachanun there, should make it up when they get home. He says not to do so based on the halacha that Tachanun should come without an interruption after Shemoneh Esrei. It is unclear if that means it is not required or wrong (there are kabbalistic sources for such a possibility – see Shulchan Hatahor 131:16), unnecessary, or somewhere in between. This seemingly indicates that you would not say Tachanun, in your case, at the end of tefilla. (Change of place does not seem to be the issue – see Magen Avraham 131:1).
However, the Taz’s claim is surprising, considering the indications from the gemara and the p’sak (Mishna Berura 131:2) that b’di’eved, if one made a break, he says Tachanun anyway. How could the gemara’s case be a model for a ruling not to say Tachanun at all? The L’horot Natan (VI:7) raises the possibility that continuing tefilla is worse than talking, and in the Taz’s case (and ours), it could be too late for Tachanun, not just of reduced value. However, he posits that this is not so and that the Taz would agree in our case to say Tachanun. Here, at the time of Tachanun, there was an obligation to recite it, which was pushed off on technical grounds (the chazan’s mistake). The Taz spoke only about a case that at the correct time, there was no obligation (albeit based on the circumstances). What he says is that it is not created later at an unnatural time (which, in turn, we learn from the halacha that it is important not to break).
The Derech Hachayim (42:(7)) implies that the Taz would not say Tachanun after any break. However, the Derech Hachayim (42:1) and Eliya Rabba (OC 131:1), who are accepted by the Mishna Berura (131:2), reject this view. Rav SZ Auerbach is also cited (Halichot Shlomo 11:2) as instructing to say Tachanun if it was accidentally skipped, even after laining, and presumably also after davening.
Some contemporary poskim (Ishei Yisrael 26:(1); Dirshu 131:3) cite an account about the Chazon Ish and a very cryptic reaction of Rav Chaim Kaniefsky which may indicate to not say Tachanun once Chatzi Kaddish was said. While the stakes are low (see Rivash ibid.) in both directions, we recommend saying Tachanun if it was skipped by mistake, as this approach has a stronger basis in the sources/logic.
Kedushat Beit Knesset of a Rented BuildingClients of mine want to rent out a building that has served for a family business to a religious group, who will use part of it as a shul. They are concerned that if things do not work out, they will get back control of the building with some of it having the restrictions of a shul, which would restrict their use of it. Is this a problem, and if so what can be done to obviate the problem?
[The laws of removing kedusha from a shul are very complicated, and therefore we ask our readers not to extrapolate too freely.] The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 154:2) rules that a structure that is used as a shul but is not owned by the congregation but is just rented to it does not have the halachot of a beit knesset.
This important source does not totally remove the question. First, the Bi’ur Halacha (ad loc.) cites those who limit the scope of this rule for the following reason. The Shulchan Aruch is based (as is evident from the Beit Yosef, OC 154) on Mahari ibn Chaviv who says that certain normal prohibitions surrounding a beit knesset do not apply to the shuls in Turkey of his time. He explains that because the authorities could take them away at any time, anything that was done there was temporary and the halachic status is therefore missing. The Mahari ibn Chaviv’s does not require the shul to be the highest building in town and allows living above the shul as long as one does “clean things” there. He describes the situation as one of total insecurity as far as where Jews could live, so that the situation was very temporary. Some Acharonim claim, says the Bi’ur Halacha, that if a congregation has a reliable mid-term or long-term lease, then the laws of a beit knesset do exist. Also, even according to the Mahari ibn Chaviv, one is not allowed to use it for “dirty things.”
Yet, there are significant reasons to say that your client would not have to worry about these reservations about the leniency of rental. First, it is quite clear from the Shulchan Aruch’s language that he learned the Mahari ibn Chaviv broadly. Secondly, the Mahari ibn Chaviv and the early Acharonim who question or limit his ruling (see Mor U’ktzi’a 154:1; Maharit II, Yoreh Deah 4) are referring to the status during the time that it is still being rented and used as a shul. Some (see Mor U’ktzi’a ibid.) invoke the idea, as reason for chumra, that during the time it is rented, it is as if it is owned by the renter. However, regarding many halachot, if a renter does something to property while it is his, including sanctifying it for Beit Hamikdash use, once the rental is over that status ceases to be in effect (see Tosafot, Arachin 21a). Indeed, the Maharit (II, Yoreh Deah 4) says that the fact that it is a rental is enough to have the kedusha cease when the shul is no longer used, even though when it is in use it is to be treated with the rules of a shul.
However, these indications do not remove all liability according to all opinions. The Maharsham (III:206) says that even though the end of the rental period removes the main status of beit knesset, it still remains forbidden to use the beit knesset section for disgraceful uses. The Maharit (ibid.) seems to treat the end of the rental as equivalent to one who made a condition that the shul should not become holy. Not only does the condition work only after it is no longer used (Shulchan Aruch, OC 151:11), but it also does not make it permitted to use for disgraceful matters (ibid.). On the other hand, one might argue for more leniency because the original purpose of the building was not for a shul (see Rama, OC 151:12).
In summary, if the rental fell through before the building was actually used as a shul, there is no problem (Shulchan Aruch, OC 153:8). Once it will be properly used as a shul, upon receiving it back, they could use it for most commercial purposes, but at least some authorities would demand that it not be for degrading matters. If your clients were then to sell it to someone else, almost all limitations would fall off (see ibid. 9).
Chanuka Candles Inside and Outside?I grew up lighting Chanuka candles inside the house. In my community, the uniform practice is to do so outside. I think that is great, but I miss seeing them inside my house. Is it permitted to light a second chanukia indoors (could it be bal tosif)? If permitted, what is the best way to do it?
Little is written about whether lighting halachically unneeded candles on Chanuka is bal tosif. We will start with general rules regarding mitzvot.
Rishonim ask why it is permitted to blow beyond the first set of tekiot on Rosh Hashana. Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 16b) answers that just repeating a mitzva is not bal tosif. The Rashba answers that it is permitted because it follows Rabbinic instruction. (There is a machloket whether the Rashba also accepts Tosafot’s answer – see Minchat Chinuch #454 and Pri Megadim, Orach Chyaim, Intro. I:40.) There are also opinions (see Ra’avad, arguing on Rambam, Lulav 7:7) that using more of a correct mitzva object than required (e.g., two etrogim), is permitted. It is more lenient when the two objects are used in separate places (see Sukka 31b). On the other hand, maybe the fact that they are both on legitimate parts of one’s house connects them (see later). According to Tosafot and the Ra’avad, then, there is no problem lighting extra chanukiyot, and the Pri Megadim (ibid.) suggests that bal tosif never applies to Rabbinic mitzvot.
There are more basic grounds to say that extra chanukiyot is fine. Even those who argue with Tosafot do not forbid bal tosif for doing more than required regarding every mitzva. Is it forbidden to say Kri’at Shema or mention the Exodus more than required?! Sometimes, more is a good thing. Classical sources and minhagim support the thesis that we look positively on more pirsumei nisa than required by strict Halacha. The Terumat Hadeshen (I:101) says that a man away from home who can fulfill the mitzva with his wife’s lighting can prefer to light himself based on the concept of mehadrin. Also, when one has lit in the correct place but there is a side of the house where the candles cannot be seen, he should light there too (Shulchan Aruch, OC 671:8). We do this without a beracha, apparently because it is not a real mitzva (Rama ad loc. based on the Ran, Shabbat 10a of Rif’s pages). There is a minhag to light candles in shul for Shacharit, without any halachic mandate. These are indications (not proofs) that strengthen the logic that bal tosif should simply not apply to Chanuka lightings, which would explain the near silence on the topic. Therefore, Rav Carmel (one of our roshei kollel) ruled that you need not be machmir and can light freely without a beracha to enhance your experience.
For one who is concerned, despite the above, that there could be a problem, we tersely present some practical ideas. Many posit that if one repeats a mitzva “with a twist” to remove a doubt, there is no bal tosif. (The Shulchan Aruch’s (OC 34:2) idea of putting on Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam tefillin at the same time is different because they are mutually exclusive, whereas inside and outside lighting can both be fulfillments.) See (Bemareh Habazak IX:35.) a machloket about putting mezuzot on both doorposts when one is unsure of the correct side. If you have some doubt if your lighting outside is definitely done in the right place/way (see our discussion of the pros and cons on the inside-outside question in Living the Halachic Process, III, D-11) this might eliminate bal tosif questions (see Divrei Yatziv, OC 287). This works better if your wife hears your beracha outside and then lights inside, with the two of you having in mind to be yotzei with the better lighting.
If the lighting is as an extra, other “machmir” ideas include lighting without kavana for a mitzva before the mitzva’s time or after the real candles go out. We discourage putting the extra chanukiya in the window, as it goes against the local practice of one, outside lighting, and to use the type of artistic chanukiya (see LTHP, I, D-10) that people like you would use for atmosphere, not mitzva.
Switching Chazanim at AshreiIn my small, Ashkenazi Shacharit minyan (without a rav), we now have two aveilim. They have been switching being chazan at Ashrei, but recently some people (mainly Sephardim) raised objections. I thought it was a standard practice. Is there a problem with it?
There is a consensus that Kaddish Titkabel (after U’va L’tziyon), including the line that Hashem accept our prayers, relates to chazarat hashatz. For example, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 123:5) says that a chazan does not take three steps back after chazarat hashatz, as one does after the silent amida, because he will do so at Kaddish Titkabel (Mishna Berura 123:18). (For this reason, the chazan should not talk between the end of chazarat hashatz and Kaddish Titkabel (ibid.).) The Rama (OC 55:3) says, regarding the rule that when the minyan quorum is lost in the middle of a unit we finish up the unit, that this rule allows saying KaddishTitkabel if chazarat hashatz began with a minyan. Therefore, your shul’s dissenters have logic to posit that one who did chazarat hashatz should finish the Kaddish that completes it. On the other hand, it is possible to split units among people. If needed, the chazan can be switched even in the middle of chazarat hashatz without returning to the beginning (Shulchan Aruch, OC 126:2).
The question is whether a shul should ever choose to do this. An early source providing a scenario when this is called for is the Rama in the laws of aveilut (Yoreh Deah 364:4). In promoting the idea that an avel being chazan provides better virtue for the deceased than his reciting Kaddish, the Rama says that if an avel is not a fluent davener, he should be chazan for “Lamenatzei’ach and U’va L’tziyon.” Poskim assume that he means that the new chazan will recite Kaddish Titkabel. The Bi’ur Halacha (siman 132 in Kuntras Ma’amar Kaddishin, which deals with questions of preference in being chazan/saying Kaddish) says that with two mourners with the same level of precedence, one davens until Ashrei, at which point a second mourner takes over. Thus, the central decisors of Ashkenazi tradition uphold the practice of switching chazanim when there are multiple mourners. While I have heard Ashkenazi poskim (including in the name of the Aderet) not being pleased with this practice, it is a long-held, broad Ashkenazi minhag as found in sources and as I have seen in many places. (As the percentage of mourners at minyanim decreases, mourners often find a minyan to be the exclusive chazan, and this accepted minhag is used more sparingly.)
The issue in your shul arose because of the knowledge and experience of the Sephardi members. The broad Sephardi minhag is to not switch chazanim and have the second one recite Kaddish Titkabel (see Yalkut Yosef, OC 123:9; Yaskil Avdi VIII:20). Yaskil Avdi posits that the Ashkenazi minhag is simply wrong and should be stopped. He is most concerned with the line of “Titkabel …,” which relates to the chazan’s chazarat hashatz. Yalkut Yosef, while confirming the Sephardi minhag, says the Ashkenazi minhag is justifiable. First of all, the chazarat hashatz applies to the new chazan, as part of the tzibbur (and especially if he was attentive). The Asheknazi version of Titkabel is also more general than the Sephardi one. There are also opinions and indications that Titkabel applies to the silent Shemoneh Esrei, as it does at Ma’ariv, which has no chazarat hashatz.
Interestingly, Sephardim are consistent in their minhag in the following way. To them, an avel’s main obligation is to recite Kaddish, whereas many do not serve as chazan. Therefore, the need to “share the amud” is smaller. Note that the now almost universal minhag that all mourners recite Kaddish together started with Sephardim, who, again, stress Kaddish.Several poskim rule that if a chazan will be replaced at Ashrei, he should take the three steps back at the end of chazarat hashatz (see sources in Ishei Yisrael 24:(158)). The same is true of reciting Yiheyu L’ratzon at the end of chazarat hashatz (Dirshu 123:25).
Heating Pad on ShabbatI have muscle pain in my back, which sometimes becomes severe. Going to bed with a heating pad has made a big difference sometimes. May I use it on Shabbat, or is it a problem of muktzeh?
There are a few issues of muktzeh involved here. One is whether to consider a heating pad a kli shemelachto l’issur or a kli shemelachto l’heter. On the one hand, in order to use it, one must put it on, which it is forbidden on Shabbat. On the other hand, if one prepared it before Shabbat (by keeping it on or setting a Shabbat clock), then further use does not include melacha. (We are not delving into issues of medical activity on Shabbat. While not a trivial question, with the level of need involved, there are ample grounds to permit it – see The Halachos of Refuah on Shabbos, p. 26.). Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim III:49, regarding an electric fan) treats such items as kli shemelachto l’issur. However, regarding a case very similar to ours, an electric blanket, he raises the serious possibility that it is a kli shemelachto l’heter. This is also the opinion of Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo I:9) and Rav Asher Weiss (Shut Minchat Asher I:33), although none of them was willing to rely on this heter alone. In any case, it is permitted to use a kli shemelachto l’issur for a permitted use (l’tzorech gufo) (Shulchan Aruch, OC 308:3) and this would be a classic example.
A further problem is the fact that the heating pad has a filament that becomes glowing hot. In certain areas of halacha, this is considered like fire (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:4 regarding using an incandescent light for hadlakat neirot Shabbat in a case of need). We find that a lit ner (oil cup) is full muktzeh, which cannot even be moved for a permitted use (Shabbat 47a). This is because the flame is muktzeh (more than a kli shemelachto l’issur), and the oil and cup are a bassis l’davar ha’asur (something which is supporting that which is muktzeh). So ostensibly, the whole pad is a bassis for the heat-emitting electrical wires, which are the heart of the device (Orchot Shabbat 19:(246)).
We must understand why the gemara posits that a flame is muktzeh. One answer in the Chazon Ish (OC 41:16) is that the fact that one does not move a flame on Shabbat (since it can go out) makes it muktzeh. Another answer he suggests is that the flame is considered nolad, something that did not exist before, as the flame is constantly renewing. Rav Asher Weiss (in a letter to Zomet) says that it is because a flame is a separate unit that does not fit into one of the categories that would make it not muktzeh (i.e., food, a utensil).
Even according to the Chazon Ish’s explanations, the heat-producing electricity might not be like a flame (see Minchat Shlomo I:14, who analyzes this Chazon Ish). In any case, several contemporary poskim posit (including Igrot Moshe, OC III:50), mainly in the context of an electric blanket, that we do not view the heated wires and the electricity therein as a separate unit like a flame is. Rather, it is subsumed under the overall utensil of the blanket, which is either a kli shemelachto l’heter or kli shemelachto l’issur (see above), but, either way, it can be moved as part of its use. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Da’at V:28; see also Chelkat Yaakov, OC 118) adds also that the electricity in the wires are not comparable to a flame because the results are not visible. However, many, including Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo I:14), permit to move even lamps whose electricity gives off a noticeable light. In the final analysis, then, it is permitted to use the heating pad.
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe ibid.) required attaching a reminder to the controls and the wall socket so that one not change the setting or unplug it. Rav Ovadia (Yechaveh Da’at ibid.) considers that a new gezeira and therefore unnecessary, although he also wrote that it does not hurt to be stringent. All agree that one does not have to be concerned lest he inadvertently pull it out of the wall, against his intention.
Partial Participation in a WeddingIf one does not have enough time to take part in a whole wedding, is it better to come for the chupa or for the meal?
Although they are sometimes discussed interchangeably, there are two distinct, albeit closely related, mitzvot in which non-principals at a wedding should try to take part.
The gemara (Ketubot 17a) discusses the mitzva of hachnasat kalla – joyously escorting the kalla from her father’s house to the place of the “chupa.” A large part of the townspeople were expected to join in, and this is important enough to warrant suspending Torah study and gaining right of way over a funeral procession (ibid.). It is a sign of kavod (see Tosafot ad loc.) for the participants in the important institution of marriage (there is a machloket whether marriage is a formal mitzva). While we no longer escort the kalla through the streets, poskim identify parallel events in today’s wedding ceremony in which one can fulfills this (see Taz, Even Haezer 65:2).
Presumably, one who is a full participant in a wedding ceremony fulfills this element of showing respect. There is not much precedent for a formal mitzva to watch the performance of mitzvot (while appreciation of mitzvot is generally a nice thing). However, if the chupa is not well attended or people are not attentive or are talkative (I have seen both), it is a zilzul to the institution of marriage, the chatan/kalla, and the families, who rightfully expect interest in the momentous moments.
Chazal held the celebratory seuda after the chupa in very hard regard. Regarding the provisions, significant time should be used to prepare for it (Ketubot 2a) and a burial of a parent can be pushed off so that the provisions are not wasted (ibid. 4a). The music is seen as deserving of far-reaching leniencies (see Rama, Orach Chayim 338:2; Igrot Moshe, OC II:95). Regarding participants’ mandate to be mesame’ach (bring joy), we find great rabbis praised for compromising their honor (Ketubot 17a) and relaxing the standard level of tzniut in dancing before the kalla and praising her (ibid.), including the controversial Chassidic minhag (with earlier sources – see Beit Shmuel 21:11) of the mitzva tantz. The gemara (Berachot 6b) warns of Hashem’s disapproval of one who “benefits from the feast of a chatan and is not mesame’ach him” and praises those who are mesame’ach. The Perisha (Even Haezer 65:2) limits this obligation to one who benefits from the meal. The Beit Shmuel (65:1) says that one should go to the wedding in order to be mesame’ach. The Tiv Kiddushin (EH 65:1) suggests that all can agree on a middle position – there is a mitzva to go, but only one who benefits and is not mesame’ach is criticized.
How each individual is mesame’ach is subjective (Ezer Mikodesh to EH 65:1), but it can include appropriate words, presents, dancing, or the very presence of an important person (ibid.). If one has a relationship only with the couple’s parents, one can presumably be mesame’ach the couple vicariously.
Let us return to the question of preferences. Regarding a brit mila, the famous idea of not inviting actually refers to the seuda, not the brit itself (Tosafot, Pesachim 114a; Rama, Yoreh Deah 265:12). The Rama cites this idea of angering Hashem by failing to take part only regarding a brit, as we generally assume, but Tosafot also applies it to the seuda of a wedding of a talmid chacham. This points to the prominence of participation in the seuda. On the other hand, the Tiv Kiddushim (ibid. 3) says that the idea of suspending Torah study is for the escort, not the meal. Perhaps, though, that is because escorting when the procession passes one’s place was likely not very time-consuming.We have thus seen the importance of various elements of participation at a wedding. No element seems to have a clear advantage over others, so subjective factors can be decisive. The factors can relate to the guest (e.g., convenience, whether he is better at dancing or verbal encouragement) or the couple/families (e.g., ask what they prefer; their budget).
Bankruptcy in Halacha – part III have $30,000 of credit debt (in the US). I lost my job, and my new job pays less. I do not see how I can pay the debt. What does Jewish law say about filing for bankruptcy?
[We responded to the querier regarding his situation but are broadening (in brevity) the discussion. Last time we saw reasons for and against accepting the discharge of debt even though the original halacha disallows it. This time, we will explore practical issues including distinctions between cases. We cannot cover all elements and cases.]
Poskim are quite lenient regarding debts owed by corporations. The Pitchei Choshen (Halva’ah 2:(63)) says that all agree that in doing business with a corporation, which are defined by corporate laws, people expect that the law of the land will govern, even if the owners and officers are religious Jews. This obviously applies to investors in a corporation, but it also should apply to suppliers and even workers. When an individual owes money to a financial institution (e.g., banks, credit card companies), the laws of bankruptcy apply. After all, they plan based on the expectation that a percentage of their debtors will go bankrupt, and they factor this is when setting interest rates. Bankruptcy is valid in regard to corporate as well as non-Jewish creditors, since the governing law in their regard is the law of the land.
The matter is more complicated when an individual Jew lends money to another Jew, especially based on the latter’s need (see more on this distinction in Chelkat Yaakov, Choshen Mishpat 32) supplies goods to him on credit, or employs him. (When a creditor has a connection to the debtor or is a charitable person and can afford it, he could decide to forgive the money and count it as tzedaka, but that is his decision. We should also remember that the idea of forgiving debt is not foreign to Judaism, as according to Torah law, every seven years, debt is forgiven. When this is practically applicable is beyond our present scope.) If the one who is owed money did not make actuarial calculations and reasonably believed the debtor felt obligated to pay his debt, the matter of acting based on local practice is not so applicable. It is also unclear if the law, whose rationale is most societally compelling for growing the economy, is justified to contradict Torah law regarding personal consumer debt. Also, often a debtor knows he will be able to pay, just with difficulty. It is possible that the hardship of paying is not much greater than the hardship of loss to the creditor, and there are not moral grounds to not fulfill one’s obligation. If an individual debtor fully regains his ability to pay, it is morally correct to pay his fellow individual even if bankruptcy law does not require it.
Bankruptcy applies in regard to all of one’s creditors. During the process, one is forbidden to pay creditors selectively; the court dictates payment. Therefore, if one has a moral right to file for bankruptcy due to corporate debt, the loss to the individual creditor is a necessary casualty, at least initially. However, nothing legally prevents the debtor, after the receiver takes assets as instructed by the court, from paying those to whom he feels a higher moral obligation, which he should do as possible. (It can be difficult to deal with a case in which there are multiple such creditors and insufficient funds for them all.)Bankruptcy is an important tool of survival for an honest debtor. Unfortunately, some abuse the right, sometimes illegally by deceiving the court in a variety of ways. Even without deception, not every bankruptcy filing is halachically or ethically proper, and this can often create a chillul Hashem as well. These factors should play a major role in determining whether bankruptcy is called for. Therefore, one who is considering filing should not only consider its impact on his financial future and discuss legality and process with a competent and ethical lawyer, but it is proper to also discuss the details with a rabbi or other moral advisor.
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