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An Israeli Being a Chazan Abroad Before Dec. 5If a “chiyuv” to be a chazan is abroad between 7 Cheshvan and Dec. 5th, is it okay for him to be a chazan? Does he say “v’ten tal umatar livracha,” (=vtum) during his silent Shemoneh Esrei (=SE) and chazarat hashatz?
We discussed the matter of travelers to chutz la’aretz during this time of year in Living the Halachic Process (II:A-11), and we start with a summary. If an Israeli is abroad on 7 Cheshvan and will be returning during the year, he should start asking for rain on 7 Cheshvan. While some say to do so in its regular place, it is preferable to make the request during the beracha of Shomeiah Tefilla, due to a machloket on the matter. If he started reciting vtum in Israel and traveled later, it is even clearer that he should continue doing so, and there is more reason for him to do so at its regular place.
One can question permissibility to be chazan on two grounds. One is the question whether someone who is obligated in one form of SE can function on behalf of a tzibbur that is obligated in a different form. Regarding the matter of an Israeli being chazan for a chutz la’aretz community on second day of Yom Tov, this is a daunting halachic problem (see Bemareh Habazak II:36). One can claim the same issues apply here. However, stringency requires making several assumptions (see responsum of Rav C.P. Scheinberg in Yom Tov Sheni K’hilchato, p. 415-423), and it is very unlikely that all of them are correct. The great majority of poskim say that this is not a problem (see Minchat Yitzchak X:9, Yom Tov Sheni 10:6). Therefore, he can serve the tzibbur according to their needs, which is to not say vtuv. (Yalkut Yosef (5745 ed., vol. I, p. 264) says that even within chazarat hashatz he should unobtrusively whisper vtuv during Shomeia Tefilla. However, that is practically and halachically problematic, and is not accepted practice.)
Another issue is how the chazan deals with his conflicting needs during silent SE. On the one hand, he is obligated to have a SE that includes vtum. On the other hand, Chazal instituted silent SE for a chazan who is about to recite chazarat hashatz (which is a valid SE), in order to practice for that task (Rosh Hashana 34b). If our traveler says vtum in its regular place, he is practicing in a way that would ruin his chazarat hashatz, which makes his SE self-defeating. Yet, the Birkei Yosef (117:8) says that this is what he does. He cites as a source the Taz’s (117:2) idea that a community that needs rain at a time when vtum is not said can ask in Shomeia Tefilla (including the chazan) even though chazarat hashatz cannot be done that way.
Several poskim see this setup as not problematic at all (see opinions in Yom Tov Sheni K’hilchato 10:(17)), while others prefer avoiding the situation (see B’tzel Hachochma I:62; the Birkei Yosef also implies it). It likely depends on whether we say the idea of practicing is just the original reason to institute silent SE or that it remains the practical guide for how the chazan does the SE. Another application is the question whether a chazan uses his own nusach for silent SE when leading a shul with a different nusach. The Minchat Yitzchak (VI:31) justifies what he claims the minhag is to use one’s own nusach, by saying that it is enough that he does chazarat hashatz from a siddur. In contrast, Igrot Moshe (OC II:29) posits that the practice SE should be done as chazarat hashatz will be, i.e., like the tzibbur.As a chiyuv, you have certainly have the right to be a chazan, whether because of the opinions that there is no problem or because being precluded from being chazan is a b’dieved situation. We add the following suggestion (not requirement). If the chazan adds personal requests in Shomeia Tefilla, he should say vtum along with them instead of at its regular place, with the following logic. Some poskim say to do so even when not a chazan, he certainly fulfills his obligation, and since the chazan never adds requests in chazarat hashatz, saying vtum will not cause a mistake.
Color of the Inside of the Retzuot (Tefillin Straps)Until recently, I had only seen tefillin retzuot blackened on one side, but when I went to buy tefillin for my son, the sofer suggested retzuot that are black on both sides. He says these are now common and preferable, and the price difference is modest. Which is better to buy?
The gemara (Menachot 35a) says that there is a halacha l’Moshe miSinai that retzuot must be black and asks from sources that if the batim are not black (yes, many say this is possible – see Shulchan Aruch, OC 32:40), the retzuot should be the same color. The gemara answers that the alternative color is on the retzuot’s underside.
The Rambam (Tefillin 3:14) rules: the underside can be any color (other than red, which is degrading if turned over); it should be the same color as the batim; it looks nicest if the batim and the entire retzuot are black. There is a machloket (see Radbaz and Rabbeinu Manoach ad loc.) in understanding the Rambam, whether, when the batim are black, the retzuot’s underside must be black or it is just nicer. However, he certainly at least prefers our retzuot being black on both sides. On the other hand, the Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 33), Rama (Darchei Moshe ad loc.), and Mishna Berura (33:21) have no qualms with the widespread minhag to ignore this opinion.
Some Acharonim cite the Arizal as positing that there are important kabbalistic grounds for the retzuot to be black on both sides. We do not deal with kabbalistic issues and have nothing to add on this.
There are two other advantages to black on both sides. It is deemed very negative for the parts of the retzuot that fasten down the tefillin to turn over and preferable that no part of the retzuot do so (Shulchan Aruch 27:11 with Mishna Berura 27:38). This is not a problem, or is less of a problem, if the bottom side is black (see Biur Halacha 33:3). Also, some note that the way retzuot are blackened on both sides is by soaking them through and through. This is advantageous in that even if the layer of black paint peels or cracks in a way that affects the retzuot’s validity, the general blackness saves it.
On the intrinsic level, we know no reason to object to fully blackened retzuot. Yet, my retzuot are natural color on the bottom, and I and many others have no plans to replace them anytime soon – based on minhag. Let’s understand what that means in this context. Very often, each minhag on a matter has advantages and disadvantages, so that changing minhagim means adopting a practice with intrinsic negative elements. In contrast, here the negative elements are missing.
Still there are several related issues – yuhara (holier-than-thou haughtiness); casting aspersions on others in the past or present; causing machloket. These general issues have many classical sources to which we cannot presently do justice, but one can start with the Shulchan Aruch, OC 34:3 and ibid. 468:4. Therefore, we discourage people from trendsetting in this matter, especially because the advantages we have mentioned are merely preferences and are not halachically compelling (see Mishna Berura 468:23).
Veteran sofrei stam can testify about a mushrooming of hiddurim/chumrot for standard upper-echelon tefillin over the last 50 years (sociological analysis is interesting). Many youngsters have more mehudar tefillin than their fathers and rabbis, and none of the mentioned problems have resulted. The difference is that the coloring of the retzuot are noticeable, and the advertisement (even, unintentional) of the stringency/hiddur turns into a real potential problem (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 468:4).So, here is our recommendation. Get for your son that which is normal for his peer group. Do not be one who spreads a new practice due to the above reservations. On the other hand, to the extent that the practice has spread in your surroundings, it is not your doing. Every generation brings changes, and, in retrospect, many of them are fine. Your young son need not be a minhag-preservation purist and should not feel that his tefillin are sub-standard among his peers.
Moving Fallen Decorations on SukkotI know that there is a halacha about sukka decorations being muktzeh throughout Sukkot because they are set aside for a mitzva. Does that mean I should leave them where they fell and, if so, do the halachot apply to both Shabbat/Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed?
There are different levels of muktzeh l’mitzvato. The gemara (Sukka 9a) derives from shared terminology between a sukka and korban chagiga that just as the latter is off limits for people due to its holy status, so too the “wood of sukka” becomes forbidden. This is a Torah-level law (Tosafot, Beitza 30b). There is a machloket whether it applies only to the s’chach (Rosh, Sukka 1:13) or even to the walls (Rambam, Sukka 6:15). There is also discussion about if it applies only to the minimum size of the sukka and whether it applies after it has fallen down (see Tosafot, ibid.; Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 638).
However, there are Rabbinic extensions of this basic concept. The gemara (Shabbat 45a) discusses the Rabbinic prohibition of muktzeh in regard to leftover oil from Chanuka candles and sukka decorations (noyei sukka), due to the fact these are set aside for mitzva use. A gemara earlier in Shabbat (22a) implies that the reason it is forbidden to use noyei sukka for other things is bizuy (degrading a) mitzva. Tosafot (ad loc.) says that both reasons are needed, as muktzeh does not apply on Chol Hamoed and bizuy does not apply after they fall. The Ran (Beitza 17a in the Rif’s pages, citing the Ramban) distinguishes between the categories as follows: the wood of the sukka is forbidden based on Torah law, use of the objects during the chag is because of bizuy mitzva, and muktzeh explains why the prohibition continues throughout the eighth day.
The Rama (638:2) points out that on Shabbat and Yom Tov, the decorations’ muktzeh status precludes moving them, like other forms of muktzeh. The Gra (ad loc.) explains that anything from which one may not get personal benefit is muktzeh (apparently, unless its mitzva use includes movement (e.g., an etrog)). Paradoxically, if the decoration fell, one should not move it on Shabbat/Yom Tov even if one could have thereby returned it to use as a noy sukka. Similarly, one cannot move them to protect from the rain, thus enabling future use. The Biur Halacha (ad loc.) discusses the case of decorations falling on the table and disrupting the Yom Tov meal – whether they can be moved directly or indirectly to facilitate the continuation of the meal.
Regarding the Torah-level or Rabbinic-level prohibition against use of objects connected to mitzvot, there is no issue with moving the object per se except on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Thus, one may move decorations on Chol Hamoed or leftover Chanuka oil other than on Shabbat. (There is a machloket among contemporary Acharonim whether decorations may be removed from the sukka on Chol Hamoed when one is not going to use them for something else – see Dirshu, ftnt. 638:19. Presumably, it should be fine to remove them in order to protect and later return them – see ibid. and Piskei Teshuvot 638:7).
There is a way to be able to remove and even use noyei sukka (not the sukka itself) for other things. The gemara (Beitza 30b) says that one can make an oral condition to “not separate himself from use of the objects when the days of Sukkot begin.” When one does so, the decorations never develop the connection to the mitzva of sukka, and it is permitted to remove them from the sukka or use them for other things, even if they did not first fall (Shulchan Aruch, OC 638:2; Mishna Berura 638:19). Consequently, on Shabbat/Yom Tov, as well, they are not muktzeh. (That being said, many decorations are attached to the sukka in a way that forbids them from being taken from where they are attached due to melacha considerations. This applies on Shabbat and Yom Tov and, in some cases, even on Chol Hamoed.) There are requirements for how to make such a condition, and for that reason the Rama (638:2; see dissenting view in Mishna Berura 638:23) prefers that people not rely upon it.
Non-Leather Footwear on Yom KippurIs it permitted and proper to wear comfortable non-leather footwear on Yom Kippur?
The Torah commands us to afflict ourselves (“initem”) on Yom Kippur, and Chazal derived from p’sukim the forbidden activities this entails. The gemara (Yoma 77a) cites p’sukim describing people in states of mourning who went “yachef” and determine this means shoeless.
The gemara (ibid. 78a) asks whether one can wear a shoe of sha’am (a sort of plant) and answers with stories of Amoraim who wore such shoes. On the other hand, Rava implies that a wooden shoe is forbidden. As the Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 614) summarizes: the Rif says that only leather (or leather lined) shoes are forbidden. The Ba’al Hamaor says that the gemara’s conclusion is that whatever functions as a shoe is forbidden, regardless of the material. Rashi says that only leather and wooden shoes (which are strong and protective) are forbidden. The Beit Yosef/Shulchan Aruch accepts the Rif’s lenient opinion. The Magen Avraham (614:2) reports that this is the minhag, and the Taz (614:1) criticizes anyone who forbids non-leather shoes, considering that Amoraim were personally lenient.
The Mishna Berura (614:5) confirms that the primary ruling permits all non-leather shoes. However, he also encourages those who want to be stringent to not wear (especially, while indoors) wooden shoes and even any shoe that protects the foot well and prevents the wearer from feeling the ground.
Unquestionably, the present-day widely accepted practice among observant communities is to allow any shoe that does not have leather. (Admittedly, it is hard to talk about a minhag regarding the uncommon wooden shoe). Let’s be as clear as possible. We reject any suggestion to change this standard ruling for our communities.
On the other hand, if there is any day when personal stringencies should not be criticized as “holier than thou,” Yom Kippur is that day. Therefore, for the benefit of one who has such an inclination or conviction, let us discuss the relative logic of stringency for different footwear.
Comfortability of footwear is not an issue, as the gemara (Yoma 78b) makes clear. Thus, even if someone loves wearing fabric/thin-rubber-sole slippers or flip-flops, there is no reason to avoid them. (Although many people would take off their shoes in shul every Shabbat, if protocol allowed it, comfortable (non-leather) socks are permitted according to all opinions (see Yevamot 102b.))
Crocs are slightly more like shoes, and there was an uproar when Rav Elyashiv was quoted as saying that it is worthwhile to not wear them on Yom Kippur (he did not said they were forbidden). Crocs are pretty good at preventing wearers from feeling the ground, but, in addition to not being leather, they do not give the type of support and protection that normal shoes do, which are crucial for the main stringent opinions.
Sneakers are much more shoe-like than the above, which makes them a candidate for stringency according to the minority of classic poskim who say that leather is not the only factor. Even so, they are often thinner and flimsier (which has some advantages for sports), which make them less shoe-like.
Chumra is most logical regarding shoes that look and function like standard shoes, but for whatever reason (including production price) are made with a substitute material. It is possible (not necessarily correct) that even the majority opinions who forbade only leather shoes may be stringent here. First, some argue that there is a problem of marit ayin (Minchat Shlomo II:53; Rav Elyashiv is cited as being lenient on this point). Second, if leather shoes were singled out because their characteristics made them normal shoes, it is possible that in whatever time and place one is in, standard looking/feeling shoes are forbidden. (Analysis of this point is fascinating but beyond our present scope). Therefore, not wearing normal shoes that happen to be synthetic is the most logical of the stringencies on this matter for those inclined to stringency (see Dirshu footnotes 614:9).
Questions about Simanim on Rosh HashanaI have some questions about the simanim (symbolic foods) we eat on Rosh Hashana. Should we have them both nights? Is it done before or after washing, and how does this impact on the berachot made on them?
There are various credible minhagim on these matters. We will mainly explain the issues, although we will show mild preferences for certain practices for those who lack a clear minhag.
The gemara (Kritot 6a) says that since symbolism has significance, one should “be in the practice” of eating (some texts – “seeing”) certain foods (dates and four vegetable simanim) in the “head of the year.” While some say that “being in the practice” refers to all Rosh Hashana meals and some say that it is only for the year’s first meal, the more accepted practice is to eat the simanim at both night meals (see discussion in Mishneh Halachot XIII:80; Torat Hamoadim, Yamim Noraim 4:1).
The more prevalent minhag (in homes and among poskim) is to eat the foods after Hamotzi (see Tur, Orach Chayim 583; Magen Avraham 583:1; Taz 583:2). Besides the logic of eating the foods during the meal, some poskim claim it solves a halachic problem (see Torat Hamoadim ibid. 2). If one eats them before the bread, we have the same question about needing a beracha acharona as after eating karpas before matza. While we solve that problem by eating less than a k’zayit of karpas (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 473:6), many people want to eat more than a k’zayit (combined) of the simanim.
Actually, eating the simanim after bread raises other beracha questions. The poskim assume that one makes a beracha rishona on the fruit simanim even though it is during the meal, which is not simple. While fruit eaten for desert requires a beracha rishona, fruit served as an “appetizer” gets no beracha (see Mishna Berura 174:39; V’zot Haberacha, p. 77). Perhaps the fact that it is eaten for ritual, not culinary, reasons is a contributing factor to justify a beracha (see Divrei Yatziv, OC 252).
A related question is whether to recite Borei Pri Ha’adama on a vegetable siman. As a rule, we do not do so on vegetables during a meal, as they “accompany the main meal.” In our case, there are varied opinions. The more common practice is to make the beracha, perhaps because they are eaten as simanim, but some argue that this makes no difference (Teshuvot V’hanhagot II:269; Torat Hamoadim, ibid.). Some (see Halichot Shlomo, Moadim II:1:18) compromise by saying to make the beracha on the least “normally eaten” of the vegetables, which some assume is kara (gourd family). (Piskei Teshuvot (583:(13)) cites Rav Diblitski as suggesting a safe although unnatural idea – first eat from a Borei Pri Ha’adama fruit (e.g., watermelon, banana), which certainly requires a beracha.)
Another question of minhag vs. regular rules of berachot relates to the order of berachot. When one plans to eat multiple fruit, he makes the Borei Pri Haetz on a fruit of “the seven species” (including dates and pomegranates, in that order, based on their order in the pasuk – Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 211:1,4). Yet, the common minhag for Ashkenazim is to eat – with a beracha and Yehi Ratzon – the apple dipped in honey first. (It is hard to know how the minhag developed. Is the idea of “shana tova u’metuka” more central (even though it is post-Talmudic) and warrant precedence?) Some take the purist approach, making Borei Pri Haetz on the date, and have the apple later (Halichot Shlomo ibid.). A way to keep the order of the Yehi Ratzon yet follow the regular rules of berachot is to have the dates and pomegranates off the table, while having them in mind, when making the beracha on the apple (ibid.). One can also make the beracha on the date, eat a small amount, then eat the apple, pomegranate, and date with the order that fits his Yehi Ratzon preference.Despite contrary common practice, poskim recommend taking a small bite from the food(s) that gets a beracha right after the beracha, with the Yehi Ratzon being said before further eating (Mishna Berura 583:4).
Garbage Disposal on ShabbatMy neighborhood’s garbage is collected on Shabbat. Isn’t it a problem having a non-Jew do melacha for me on Shabbat? What would the basis for leniency be, if there is any?
We will start with your assumption – that melacha is involved. The workers carry 4 amot in a public domain and into a private domain (the truck), which is a melacha, but only if there is no eiruv. It is possible that no part of the operation of the truck is done specifically for you (it would be a problem if the whole area is Jewish). The Rabbinic violation of muktzeh is a problem regarding garbage. While it is often permitted to take out garbage on Shabbat, e.g., leaving it in the home will likely cause a bad smell (see Orchot Shabbat 19:88), it usually need not be a bother in a garbage can outside.
So assuming it is forbidden for a Jew to throw the garbage into the truck on Shabbat, can non-Jewish workers do it for us? The critical factor for leniency is that the Jew does not tell, or, in this case, even care if the non-Jew does the work specifically on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 247:1). You too presumably do not care if the pickup is specifically on Shabbat. (This might not be true if they have not come in several days, they never work after sunset or on Sunday, and residents would have significant hardship and complaints if they did not come on Saturday.)
However, that leniency helps only if it is halachically considered that the work the crew is doing at that time is for their sake, not for yours. The most common way to fulfill this condition is when the worker is paid per job (kablan), so that we consider it that he is doing it for the money he receives (ibid.; see Mishna Berura ad loc. 1). If, though, he is paid by the day or other unit of time (po’el), he is considered to be paid money to fulfill the Jew’s requests, explicitly or implicitly, which is forbidden (ibid., based on Avoda Zara 21b).
The analysis of a sanitation crew’s categorization is not simple. They are presumably paid by the day/month (po’el) and not, for example, by the amount of garbage they remove. On the other hand, maybe we should look at the relationship between the homeowner and the municipality. The homeowner pays (usually with municipal taxes) for a host of services, including garbage disposal, which makes the municipality kablanim. The sanitation workers are working for the municipality, not the homeowners, and therefore the worker’s pay scheme is not relevant. There is another reason to consider them kablanim. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 244:5; see Mishna Berura ad loc. 24) says that if one has a long-term worker whose responsibility is to do one specific job, he is equivalent to a kablan. This is provided the Jewish employer does not complain if he takes off days here and there as long as the job gets done.
One can ask that it is forbidden for the non-Jew to work for a Jew on the Jew’s property (Shulchan Aruch, OC 252:2), due to marit ayin (people will think he is violating Shabbat – see Mishna Berura 252:17). Here, though, people usually put the garbage cans in the public domain before pickup. One might argue that this is a technicality, as the workers are still clearly doing work for the homeowner. However, since everyone knows that the homeowner has no special arrangement with the crew, and the general setup is permitted, marit ayin is not a problem (see ibid.). We are also not supposed to have non-Jews take things on Shabbat from a Jew’s house even when there is no intrinsic violation (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 252:1). However, this too is due to marit ayin issues, which should not apply.
It is permitted to put out the garbage even on Shabbat (when muktzeh is not a problem), but there are likely advantages to doing so before Shabbat (beyond our present scope).There is similar analysis of the topic in Minchat Yitzchak (V:105) and Teshuvot V’hanhagot (I:278). We have also simplified several nuances in these matters. The bottom line is that, in standard cases, it is permitted for the garbage pickup to be on Shabbat.
Answering Monetary Questions – part IIQuestions of consistency on this topic go way back. Many of the “fathers” of the prohibition to answer questions about conflicts without hearing both sides seem to violate it in other teshuvot. Perhaps the most important compilation of distinctions is found in the Pitchei Teshuva, Choshen Mishpat 17:11, upon which much of the below is based.
First, it is standard, recommended practice for dayanim who are unsure of the proper ruling to send the case’s details to get a greater authority’s opinion (Shulchan Aruch, CM 14:1). The dayanim are responsible for presenting the claims accurately and ruling; the expert may rely on them.
The Me’il Tzedaka (53) cites sources and a broad practice for a talmid chacham to answer when he knows the querier and is confident he wants to know the truth and will not formulate false claims. (The Me’il Tzedaka rejects this leniency unless the respondent believes the case does not apply to the querier.)
Other sources for leniency refer to various cases with great need to get involved, such as: 1. The information is needed to save people from sin (Shut Maharashdam, Yoreh Deah 153). (There are many teshuvot about poskim who got involved when there were suspicions about a shochet.) 2. Someone was attacking the integrity of a talmid chacham (Shvut Yaakov III,99). 3. The opinion was needed for the mitzva of helping a widow (Shut Maharshal 24).
Another type of case where some permit discussion is where the question relates to general halachic issues and not to factual background about which everyone agrees (Shut HaRama 112). In a related justification, poskim will often also say that they are not suggesting a ruling for the case, but are just explaining gemarot or general halachic issues to interested parties, and it is not their responsibility what conclusion those who now understand the halachic topic will say about their case.
The Pitchei Teshuva also cites an exception when the question is about which beit din has jurisdiction. The logic is that the alternative of addressing the matter formally before beit din does not apply if they cannot agree on a beit din.
While some of the cases where we are lenient are based on one of the above, our most common justification to express tentative opinions is in cases where there are not clear litigants. (Most of the sources discuss those who are or are expected to be litigants.) For example, a person does not want to go to beit din and is happy to pay or forgo the money if he is wrong. We often say: “We cannot tell you that you are right, but only if you are wrong” (see Living the Halachic Process, vol. I, J-1), and even then only when we know the person or have indications that he is sincere on this point. When it appears that someone wants to adjudicate, and we feel that he will create enemies and head/heart aches with a small chance of winning, we often will advise in general terms (and with a lack of certainty) that he would be wise to drop the matter.The above are some of our guidelines. We request of those who turn to us: if you believe you belong to the exception, not the rule, and we are not convinced, respect our right to be more machmir than you were expecting or are used to. We think this is proper for an organization serving anonymous people about whose circumstances we know little and which runs a Beit Din which pursues ethical excellence, including impartiality, even when the advice-seeker wants answers.
Answering Monetary Questions – part IPeople often ask us questions about financial disputes they are involved in. We respond that we do not get involved in practical monetary situations that affect another side whose view we have not heard. Most take this in stride. Others take offense. One pointed out that there are monetary discussions on our site. So, I decided to discuss our approach in more detail.]
Our policy is based on the Rama (Choshen Mishpat 17:5, based on the Rashba III:98 and the Rivash 179). The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) says that one may not listen to the claims of one litigant while the other side is not present. The Rama says that this refers to one who is a dayan in this case. However, he continues that a talmid chacham should never express even a tentative opinion (“if indeed …”) on a case without hearing both sides.
The first reason cited is that the presentation might teach the litigant which claims to make, including false ones. Our contemporary experience teaches us the following. While the sources speak of falsehood, it is not limited to premeditated lying, but includes describing the nuances of a gray situation in a slanted manner. Even honest people can do this under the pressure of litigation, where significant money and stature are on the line.
The Rama also explains that due to what surfaces in the trial, the ruling may appear to contradict the talmid chacham, which could discredit him. We note that the concern is not just for the non-dayan’s credibility. Our beit din’s staff have received post-ruling complaints: “I asked my rabbi about the case, and he said beit din was wrong, so the dayanim are either incompetent or biased.” Of course, two rabbis can have different views without either being incompetent or biased, which is why we bother having three dayanim. The disgruntled litigant does not care that we heard and interrogated both sides and spent dozen of hours analyzing and researching, while he may have asked his rabbi while he was folding up his tefillin. (Since we offer an option of appeal (with an added fee to avoid it being automatic), we do not object to a litigant showing our ruling to a talmid chacham for his advice on whether it is worthwhile to appeal.) The point is that even provisional statements made prior to adjudication can be used by otherwise respectable and respectful people to decide that they are right and that there is something wrong with anyone (litigant, dayan, or whoever) who does not agree with what they understood from what they were told.
Our experience makes us concerned about another issue that the Rama does not discuss (it is likely that he was not addressing that case – see part II). There are times that the sides prefer to avoid the trouble of litigation, which we applaud on fundamental and practical grounds. The well-intentioned “non-litigant” may ask us or another rav the question, as he honestly but subjectively sees it, and may even be willing to inform the other side if we said he was wrong. However, if we answer that “based on your description, you are right,” since he knows that he is not a liar, he is likely to say, “I asked a dayan, and he said I am right.” Now, the other side is at a disadvantage. Is he to question the dayan or call his neighbor, friend or business partner a liar? Will he know and choose to say: “If the dayan did not hear me describe the case in my own words, he could/should not have said, ‘You are right’”?
Two of our “hats” are: an “Ask the Rabbi” service, where we try to be responsive to all, and a beit din, where we make very strong efforts to be ethical, impartial, and cautious. (One fear is that our present anonymous querier will be our future litigant.) The correct policy, in our opinion, is to almost always refuse to answer questions of one side that have a hint of being related to practical dispute resolution. We regret that some people are resentful; that is part of the price of being principled.Next week we will discuss some exceptions to this rule.
Eating before KiddushAs a nursing mother, I sometimes get very hungry or thirsty between when I light candles and when my husband comes home from shul. When this happens, is it permitted for me to eat or drink?
We start with a look at the halachic indications when there are not extenuating circumstances. Then we can look for the best solutions based on need.
The gemara (Pesachim 106b) cites a machloket on whether one who ate before making Kiddush is able to make Kiddush afterward. We accept the opinion that he may (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 271:4). However, all agree with the implication that it is wrong to eat, even small quantities, before Kiddush (ibid.).
Often, prohibitions on eating do not apply to drinking water, including before Havdala (ibid. 299:1). The Rosh (Shut 25:2) explains that due to the concept that any eating done on Shabbat has importance, it is forbidden to drink water before Kiddush. However, there is a machloket whether this concept applies during twilight, and thus it is not clear whether one may drink water at that time (Da’at Torah, OC 271:4).
When does the basic (Rabbinic) prohibition begin? The poskim assume that once it is possibly Shabbat (from sunset) or one accepted Shabbat, it is forbidden to eat (Bach, OC 271; Mishna Berura 271:11). When women light Shabbat candles, they accept Shabbat (Rama, OC 263:10). Therefore, most assume that it is forbidden for a woman to eat or drink after lighting candles before making Kiddush (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:45).
The Dagul Meirevava (to Shulchan Aruch, OC 261:4) says that while davening Ma’ariv makes it Shabbat in regards to all Shabbat prohibitions, it is questionable whether other forms of accepting Shabbat early obligate one to adhere to all Rabbinical laws (Shulchan Aruch, OC 393:2). The Minchat Yitzchak (VIII:18) entertains the possibility that it would be permitted to eat after candle lighting before Ma’ariv. However, he is unwilling to be practically lenient without the presence of other reasons for leniency (e.g., the case he discusses, where one is drinking water to swallow medicine). The Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (43:46) is willing to be lenient for a woman who is thirsty to drink water and, in a case of need, tea.
As mentioned, candle lighting likely makes it forbidden for a woman who lit to eat because, with it, she accepts Shabbat. It is generally accepted conceptually that a woman can have explicitly in mind to not accept Shabbat with her lighting (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 263:10). In practice, because this is not a unanimously accepted possibility, poskim rely on such a condition only in cases of significant need (Mishna Berura 263:43). Along these lines, Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (43:47) allows a woman who is feeling weak or who is nursing to eat as she likes after candle lighting if she made that condition.
However, these leniencies of the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata’s are only if she finishes eating before sunset. What if a woman gets particularly hungry after that, especially if she is nursing? While there are significant leniencies for nursing mothers so that their milk supply should not be affected, waiting an hour is unlikely to affect that. However, she is still the type of person who, in many cases, may have unusual tza’ar if she cannot eat when the feeling hits her. Nevertheless, in almost all cases, it is hard to be lenient, and that is because she almost always has a great alternative – to make Kiddush before her husband comes home (see Minchat Yitzchak ibid.). There is no halachic reason not to do so. Even if it is not accepted in the family, hopefully a simple discussion with her husband, with the pertinent information, should convince all that her making Kiddush is better than her eating or drinking after sunset before Kiddush. On the other hand, every rule has exceptions, and when there is an acute need, one can be lenient soon after sunset as well, especially to drink any amount of water.
How Many Eggs Should be Boiled Together?When making hardboiled eggs, may one cook one or two eggs or must there be at least three? Also, does it make a difference if there is an even or odd number?
There are sources and traditions about boiling at least three eggs together. While at first glance the practice flies in the face of halachic logic, the laws of blood spots in eggs are unique, as we will see.
A blood spot in an egg can be the beginning of an embryo, in which case the egg is forbidden, while there is a machloket if it is based on Torah law or Rabbinic law (see Tosafot, Chulin 64b; Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 66). If the blood comes from the hen, the blood is forbidden (Rabbinically), but the egg is permitted and can be eaten after the blood is removed (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 66:2-3). Poskim provide physical signs of when it is more likely that the blood belongs to one category or the other, but after the egg is handled, it can be difficult to recognize these signs.
We assume that in a case where only the blood is forbidden, there will be 60:1 ratio of permitted material to forbidden to nullify (bitul) the blood (see Darchei Teshuva 66:40). However, if the whole egg is forbidden, bitul requires 60 times more permitted material in the pot against the volume of the egg, and three eggs will not help too much.
There are times that bitul takes place by means of a simple majority. When the minority forbidden food and the majority permitted food are of the same type (min b’mino) and they are “combined” yavesh b’yavesh (separate solid items that are intermingled only in that the identity of the forbidden food is not known), all the pieces are permitted (Shulchan Aruch, YD 109:1). However, this will not help for two kosher and one non-kosher eggs being boiled together because boiling causes their tastes to mix, making a ratio of 60:1 necessary for bitul (ibid. 2).
Rather, the logic of having three eggs is based on the following Rama (YD 66:4). The Shulchan Aruch (ad loc.) discusses cases of opened raw eggs that have been mixed together and blood was found, and he rules how much has to be thrown out in each case. The Rama adds that this is only when the signs of the blood indicate that the entire egg is forbidden. However, if there is a doubt whether the whole egg is forbidden, we “permit the mixture, since in any case, one [forbidden egg] is batel in two [permitted eggs].” The Taz (ad loc. 5) explains that even though in lach b’lach (physical mixtures, like the contents of eggs mixed together) a 60:1 ratio is needed for bitul, the Rama is more lenient for an egg with a blood spot. The reason is that he holds that the egg is at worst forbidden Rabbinically, and when the type of blood spot is questionable, we do not forbid the mixture when a majority of it is permitted. This leans on the fact that the requirement of 60:1 for lach b’lach of min b’mino is itself only a Rabbinic law (a majority suffices by Torah law).
The Yad Yehuda (66:7) explains the practice in question as follows. With two eggs boiling, there is not a permitted majority for bitul if one has a blood spot, and the taste coming from the forbidden egg would render the other egg not kosher. The water in the pot does not help because it is of a different food type. Therefore, three eggs will help you if you find a blood spot after peeling the boiled eggs. The more eggs, the better the chance of a majority, and odd numbers help slightly statistically. The number of eggs is thus not required but suggested.
Almost all egg producers separate roosters and hens, rendering the chances of a blood spot coming from an embryo and forbidding the entire egg very small. Igrot Moshe (Yoreh Deah 1:36) says that since eggs are cheap, we should, as a chumra, throw out the egg for any blood spot. However, he says that we need not throw out another egg cooked with it or require hagala for the pot in which a blood-spotted egg was boiled. While some continue the old practice of using three eggs (see Teshuvot V’hanhagot II:384), this is not halachically called for.
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