Home > Ask The Rabbi
ASK THE RABBI
Do not hesitate to ask any question about Jewish life, Jewish tradition or Jewish law.
Al Hamichya on a FruitI ate a fruit that requires the beracha acharona of Al Ha’eitz but, due to a lack of concentration, I recited Al Hamichya. Do I have to subsequently recite the correct beracha acharona?
It actually depends which fruit you ate. We will start, though, with the Levush’s (Orach Chayim 208:17) overview of the various berachot acharonot and of one reciting the wrong one.
Birkat Hamazon is a Torah-level obligation (see Devarim 8:10), prescribed by the Torah for bread, which is filling and is the staple of a classic diet. The Rabbis modeled a Birkat Hamazon-style beracha (Me’ein Shalosh) for the seven foods that are mentioned in the p’sukim around the one on Birkat Hamazon. (There are opinions that this too is a Torah-level obligation.) Within the versions of Me’ein Shalosh, the highest level (and thus the first mentioned when one makes a beracha on multiple Me’ein Shalosh foods) is Al Hamichya because it is for grain-based foods, which are generally more filling than fruits. Afterward, wine (Al Hagefen) is more important, followed by Al Haeitz for grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The Levush explains that it is obvious that a lower-level or an inaccurate beracha is insufficient for that which requires a higher-level one. Additionally, a higher-level beracha does not cover foods which call for lesser praise because an exaggerated beracha is not of value. Thus, for example, reciting Birkat Hamazon for vegetables, as if it constituted a meal, is valueless, and Borei Nefashot must still be said.
Two exceptions to this rule are dates and wine. The gemara (Berachot 12a, as understood by Rishonim – see Beit Yosef, OC 208) says that if one recited Birkat Hamazon after eating dates, he fulfilled his obligation because dates are particularly filling. Another gemara (ibid. 35b) says similarly that wine is filling and would have required Birkat Hamazon if not for the fact that people rarely make it the basis of a meal. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 208:17) rules that Birkat Hamazon is valid after-the-fact for dates and wine. All other foods that require Me’ein Shalosh are not exempted by Birkat Hamazon that was recited on them outside the framework of a meal with bread (ibid.).
What about when the mistake was to recite Al Hamichya instead of Al Haeitz (or Al Hagefen)? The Levush (ibid.) assumes that regarding dates and wine, if Birkat Hamazon is not too much of an exaggeration, then certainly Al Hamichya is not, and one would not have to repeat Me’ein Shalosh. The Taz (OC 208:16, see Pri Megadim ad loc.) disagrees. He argues that Birkat Hamazon contains the word zan (roughly, sustain), which is appropriate for dates and wine, whereas michya (roughly, food that gives life) is a different quality, which does not apply to them. The Malbushei Yom Tov (208:11) reasons that the fact that the halacha of fulfilling the beracha on dates with the wrong beracha acharona was said in regards to Birkat Hamazon implies that Al Hamichya is invalid even after-the-fact, and the Eliya Rabba (208:26) does not discount this possibility. However, the majority of Acharonim assume that after Al Hamichya for dates or wine, one does not need another beracha (see Minchat Shlomo 91, V’zot Haberacha p. 48). Since the general rule is that when is in doubt, he does not make another beracha, this is the proper ruling to adopt.
The question of Al Hamichya sufficing for dates and wine is much more complicated when one had both grains and dates or wine and mentioned “al hamichya” without the other elements. In that case, we assume that the person, when omitting the other elements, demonstrated that he did not remember the need to have the beracha cover them. Therefore, the stronger view in that case is to repeat Me’ein Shalosh with just the missing element (see discussion in Har Tzvi, OC I:108; Yalkut Yosef, OC 207:(2)).
The clear consensus is that one does not fulfill his beracha acharona obligation on grapes, figs, pomegranates, and olives with Birkat Hamazon or Al Hamichya (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 208:17).
Maariv Around the Time of ChatzotWhen I have the chance to daven Maariv only close to chatzot (astronomical midnight), dilemmas arise. Sometimes I have time to either recite Kri’at Shema or Shemoneh Esrei before chatzot, but not both; which has precedence? Other times, I can daven all of Maariv before chatzot at home, but if I go to our local “minyan factory,” the minyan misses chatzot; which is better?
The answer to the first question is clear for a few reasons. First, we accept the opinion that while by Torah law, one may recite Kri’at Shema until the morning, the Rabbis instructed us to do so by chatzot (Berachot 2a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 235:3), whereas not all agree whether Maariv has to be said by chatzot, as we will discuss. Second, Kri’at Shema at night is a mitzva from the Torah, whereas Maariv is at best a Rabbinic mitzva (see Rambam, Tefilla 1:1), and we rule that it is an originally optional tefilla that became accepted (ibid. 6). Third, while there are times it is justified to say Shemoneh Esrei before Kri’at Shema and its berachot (Shulchan Aruch, OC 236:3), we prefer not switching the accepted order (ibid. 2). Therefore, if it is close to chatzot, start with Kri’at Shema even if Shemoneh Esrei turns out to be after chatzot.
The more serious question is the relative importance of davening all of Maariv by chatzot vs. davening with a minyan. (Certainly, one should recite Kri’at Shema without its berachot before chatzot, even if means coming late or missing a post-chatzot minyan, as a minyan does not override even Rabbinic obligations. The question is whether he should go to a minyan and repeat Kri’at Shema within Maariv.)
The mishna (Berachot 26a) says that there is no set time of night for Maariv, and the Rambam (ibid. 6) mentions having all night for it without distinguishing between before and after chatzot. The Levush (108:3) is perhaps the earliest source to imply otherwise, as follows. One can do tashlumin (makeup) for a missed tefilla only during the next tefilla time slot (Shulchan Aruch, OC 108:4). The Levush comments that one who missed Mincha makes it up during Maariv time, but not the whole night. While the Malbushei Yom Tov argues with the Levush, one suggestion of the Eliya Rabba (108:4) is that the Levush limits the makeup time until chatzot, as it makes sense that the time of Maariv is limited like that of Kri’at Shema, which is a component of Maariv. The Pri Megadim (108, MZ 3) prefers the Eliya Rabba’s other suggestion, that the Levush only meant to say Maariv by alot hashachar (dawn), even though the night arguably continues beyond that. The Mishna Berura (108:15) cites both opinions without a clear preference.
The Tzelach (Berachot 26a) understood from the silence of the early poskim that there is no chatzot limit and wonders why not. After all, the reason regarding Kri’at Shema, that we want to avoid situations where people will forget, should apply to tefilla as well! He gives two main answers: 1. Tefilla is modeled after placing certain korban parts on the altar, which can be done all night. 2. Since Maariv is not a full obligation, they were less concerned about mistakes.
Because there are significant opinions who say that one should say Shemoneh Esrei by chatzot, we find contemporary poskim who say that Maariv by chatzot takes precedence over a minyan (Ishei Yisrael 28:15; Ohr L’Tzion II:15:9). This makes a good deal of sense from a purist perspective. However, not all agree (see Tefilla K’hilchata 3:53). Since all agree that one may daven after chatzot and the question is whether it should, l’chatchila, be done by chatzot, it is logical to let the individual decide which setting is better for his tefilla. Consider that these matters are not just about fulfilling obligations, which is accomplished in any case, but of having the best tefilla. Time plays a role, but so do other things. Realize that a minyan is impactful in having the tefilla accepted, by joining with other Jews (see sources in Living the Halachic Process II:A-5).
Mezuzot on Both Doorposts?I am unsure to which doorpost to affix a mezuza. May I affix one on both sides, or is that prohibited as bal tosif (adding on to a mitzva)?
We will start with some of the basic rules/opinions of bal tosif. Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 16b) asks how we can blow shofar both before and during Musaf without violating bal tosif and answers that there is no bal tosif on repeating a mitzva more times than necessary. The Rashba (Rosh Hashana 16a) says that one does not violate bal tosif if the additional activity is mandated by Chazal. (The Rambam (Mamrim 2:9) says that if the Rabbis formulate their Rabbinic law as if it is a Torah obligation, they are in violation of bal tosif.)
Many Acharonim compare the matter of two mezuzot due to a doubt to that of two sets of tefillin due to a doubt, and the latter is the subject of much discussion. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 34:2) says that one who wants to don the “tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam” in addition to “the tefillin of Rashi” should, if possible, don both pairs at the same time. The Shulchan Aruch just requires avoiding bal tosif by having in mind that while whatever is really the correct tefillin is for the mitzva, the other one is “no more than straps.” (Tosafot Yeshanim, Yoma 57a says that adding to a mitzva just for the purpose of eliminating doubt is not subject to bal tosif, but this is not the accepted opinion.) The Tur (OC 34) rejects the relevance of bal tosif more fundamentally, saying that it applies, for example, when one has five compartments in the tefillin, but not by wearing two separate pairs of normal tefillin.
Many take issue with the Tur based on a gemara in Eiruvin (96a), which says that one who finds tefillin on Shabbat outside an eiruv and wants to wear them so that he can bring them to safety may not wear two pairs at a time, among other reasons, because of bal tosif. While we cannot summarize all the discussion on the matter, we mention that the Magen Avraham (34:2) says that one can don two pairs of tefillin only if one of them is not kosher. The Mishna Berura (34:8) says that the Shulchan Aruch’s case is permitted only because it has two factors that minimize bal tosif: 1. the extra element is separate from the basic one (see Sanhedrin 88b); 2. one of the entities is unfit for the mitzva. Even then, one should intend that only one of them (we do not know which) is for the mitzva.
Along the lines of the gemara, the Pitchei Teshuva (Yoreh Deah 291:2) says that one who puts two mezuzot on the same doorpost violates bal tosif. This is not as strange an occurrence as one might think. Poskim discuss, for example, one who rents an apartment from a Jew who is not very careful about mitzvot who has a tiny mezuza case covered by paint, which the renter does not have permission to remove. Then, the question is whether he can affix another one.
Regarding your question of putting mezuzot on two posts, where only one can be obligated in a mezuza, Acharonim disagree. The Binyan Tzion (99) says that the mezuza that is on the wrong door post has no more halachic significance than the wrong pair of tefillin, and therefore the Shulchan Aruch’s idea of donning two pair of tefillin can be applied to mezuzot on the two questionable posts. The Maharam Shick (Yoreh Deah 287) argues that a kosher mezuza affixed to a door post, even when it is to the doorpost that does not have an obligation, falls within the realm of the mitzva, making it subject to bal tosif when it is opposite a mezuza in the right place.
Among contemporary poskim, while there is no clear consensus (see Yabia Omer VI, OC 2), the stronger opinion is to not sanction mezuzot on opposite door posts, whether as a clear ruling (Minchat Yitzchak I:9) or as a practical preference (Shevet Halevi III:150; Bemareh Habazak (IX:35). In addition to formalistic bal tosif issues, it is problematic policy to create a an odd-looking new phenomenon of two mezuzot, even if it is out of a desire for stringency/covering all bases, which itself is very often a two-edged sword.
Roasted Foods on PesachIs it permissible to eat roasted food at the seder, and if not, what is included?
Eating roasted meat at the seder is one of the cases that the mishna (Pesachim 53a) says depends on the local minhag. However, in this matter there is presently quite a bit of uniformity in minhag among edot (communities based on ethnic origin, which, these days, is more important than locality).
The gemara (ibid.) explains that we do not want to do things that look like we have sanctified something as a korban in place of the Korban Pesach. It says that all agree that it is forbidden to eat a roasted complete lamb or to say that an animal or piece of meat is set aside for Pesach (which has a double meaning – the holiday or the korban). Those who have the minhag not to eat any roasted meat on this night extend the reach of this concern further than those whose minhag is to eat most roasted meat. Interestingly, while the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 476:1-2) presents both minhagim, he does not take clear sides, nor does the Rama. However, Acharonim, both Ashkenazi (Mishna Berura 476:1) and Sephardi (Chazon Ovadia, Pesach II, p. 103) say unequivocally that the minhag is to not eat roasted meat. (I understand that Yemenites do eat roasted meat.)
There are some important details to add, including some about which there is not unanimity. The prohibition is on all meat that requires shechita, which includes poultry but not fish (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 2). The standard approach is that pot roast (without the addition of a significant amount of liquid – see Shevet Halevi IX:120) is considered roasted (Magen Avraham 476:1 Mishna Berura 476:1). When the meat was both roasted and cooked, we usually follow the last process that was done, as it determines how the meat appears, which is the main issue (ibid.). While this approach sometimes indicates strictness and sometimes leniency (depending on which was last), there is room for leniency in cases of need (ibid.), which makes sense considering the whole topic is a minhag. (If meat was first totally cooked and was then only heated up without gravy, this is not a problem (see Shaarei Teshuva 476:1 and Chazon Ish OC 37:14), as long as the reheating did not alter its texture to the point that it might seem roasted.)
There is some question as whether the prohibition is only at the seder (or sedarim in chutz la’aretz – Mishna Berura ibid.) or even the next day (see Ben Ish Chai I, Tzav 30). However, the consensus is that it is only at seder night – the time that the Korban Pesach would have been eaten (Mishna Berura ibid.; Yechaveh Da’at III:27).
There is an interesting dilemma regarding foods from the seder plate, specifically the z’roa (forearm) of an animal and an egg, which are reminders of the Korban Pesach and Korban Chagiga, respectively (Shulchan Aruch, OC 473:4). The Shulchan Aruch says that the z’roa is roasted and the Rama says that the egg is roasted, as well. Because the z’roa is roasted, it should not be eaten at the seder (Yechaveh Da’at ibid.), whereas the egg can be eaten because it is not meat (Mishna Berura 473:32). According to those who cook the z’roa, the Pri Megadim (473, MZ 4) says that it is still forbidden because the fact that it represents the Korban Pesach increases the chance of confusion with it. He says that we don’t forbid eating the egg even though it represents another korban because the egg has other significances (see Rama, OC 476:2). However, one may be lenient if indeed the z’roa was cooked and not roasted (Yechaveh Da’at ibid.).
The prohibition on eating the z’roa raises another issue (although not this year, when the seder is on Shabbat). If one did not roast the z’roa before Yom Tov, there is a question how one can roast it at night, given that one can only cook things on Yom Tov that he will eat (Magen Avraham 473:8). The Magen Avraham says that in such a case, one should have in mind to eat it during the day meal. The Maharshal (cited, ibid.) suggests to cook it, rather than roast it, and then eat it that night.
Working at a Bakery on Chol Hamoed PesachI am the only religious Jewish worker at a bakery owned by non-Jews that has a hashgacha during the year but not for Pesach. I believe that if I take off for Chol Hamoed, they will fire me. May I work then?
Concerning work on Chol Hamoed per se (e.g., Sukkot), one of the broad leniencies is davar ha’aved (significant loss) (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 537:1). Therefore, you may go to work if the alternative is losing your job (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 67:11).
Working with chametz on Pesach, though, raises serious problems. In one of our columns (B’ha’alotcha 5775; please read it), we discussed parameters for working with non-kosher food in various capacities. We dealt with various opinions on a few issues: the possibility the worker will eat the non-kosher food, commerce in non-kosher food, and sometimes lifnei iver (facilitating an aveira). According to our analysis, we would rarely condone holding a job such as waiter at a non-kosher restaurant, for a combination of reasons. While there are differences between the cases in different directions, working directly with chametz on Pesach has obstacles that are even harder to overcome.
First, the level of concern about eating chametz is more severe than for other forbidden foods. The Rama (OC 450:6, based on the Rivash 401) forbids buying chametz for a non-Jew on Pesach, which we do not find for most non-kosher foods. One of the reasons is the concern the Jewish buyer might come to eat it (Rivash; Mishna Berura 450:21). This is in line with the halacha that one who is watching a non-Jew’s chametz in his house (without accepting monetary responsibility) must make a partition in front of it, which, again, we do not find everywhere (Pesachim 6a; Mishna Berura 440:13). It is certainly, then, forbidden to work with ongoing direct physical contact with chametz on Pesach (see also Yabia Omer IV, YD 6).
There is another reason to forbid work dealing with chametz. It is forbidden not only to eat but also to benefit from chametz (Pesachim 21a). The most direct applications of this prohibition are direct physical benefit and selling chametz. However, there are much broader applications of benefit, which are placed under the name of rotzeh b’kiyumo (one wants the forbidden object to exist). The Talmudic sources (see Avoda Zara 63b) discuss rotzeh b’kiyumo mainly, but not only, in the context of yayin nesech (strictly forbidden wine), and almost all Rishonim and poskim say it also applies to chametz. See many examples in Orach Chayim 450, including ones with indirect and minor interest in the chametz. For example, the Magen Avraham (450:10) explains that the aforementioned Rama about buying chametz for a non-Jew as being forbidden also because of rotzeh b’kiyumo.
Is it rotzeh b’kiyumo if you forgo pay for your work on Pesach, and thus ostensibly do not benefit? Regarding yayin nesech, this does not help, as one may not even watch yayin nesech for free and without responsibility to pay for loss because a watchman feels bad if he does not do his job well (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 133:6). Acharonim disagree to whether one can be in a situation in which he suffers when chametz is lost but does not gain positively from its presence. Some forbid this only for yayin nesech, assuming that it is more stringent than chametz in these areas (see Makor Chayim 450:7). Distinctions are made to reconcile apparent contradictions on the matter. According to a particularly pertinent distinction, one may not do an action of interaction with the chametz on Pesach (Maharam Shick, OC 225). In your case, almost all opinions will consider your work forbidden due to rotzeh b’kiyumon, as you would be actively working with chametz. Even if you artificially relinquish the pay you are due, your right to continued employment and future pay as a result is a benefit of your agreement to work with the chametz.Therefore, we believe you are forbidden to work with the non-Jews’ chametz on Pesach, both because of the possibility of eating and/or because of the semi-direct benefit.
Tricking a CheaterIf someone asks me for an answer during a test, can I tell him the wrong answer? (Response to follow-up question – I prefer not to refuse either to not suffer socially or so the cheater gets what he deserves.)
Cheating on a test is an example of geneivat da’at (deception) (Igrot Moshe, Choshen Mishpat II:30), which is forbidden whether one fools a Jew or a non-Jew (Chulin 94a). Many consider this a Torah prohibition, under the rubric of stealing (Ritva ad loc.). It is highly destructive to one’s moral standing (Sha’arei Teshuva 3:184) and distances him from the path of He whose “seal is truth” (Shabbat 55a). We cannot but mention that the amount of cheating that occurs in far too many of our schools is tragic, and is sometimes done even by morally/religiously “quality students.” Your frustration is justified, but your suggestion is flawed on several important grounds. We will divide the discussion based on the motivations you mention.
Geneivat da’at applies to such innocuous situations as making someone think you did him a bigger favor than you did (Chulin 94a). Rashi (ad loc.) explains that it is because he makes the recipient unnecessarily grateful. One can ask: is the deceptive act intrinsically forbidden, or is the prohibition dependent on the deceiver eventually receiving more than he deserves. While I cannot explain it succinctly, it is clear to me that the deception is intrinsic as long as he intends it to be impactful, even if that never comes to fruition (see Igrot Moshe ibid.). Thus, for example, every deceitful test answer is forbidden even if the examinee’s final grade (including F) was not improved by the cheating.
Based on the above, the cheater violates geneivat da’at even if you give him the wrong answer, meaning that you will violate lifnei iver (sometimes, by Torah law and sometimes Rabbinically) by facilitating his aveira by providing an answer other than his own. “Giving him what he deserves,” does not justify your lifnei iver of aiding in his aveira or in deceiving him even if it were moral (our next topic).
Ideally, you should rebuke the perpetrator, acting out of not only love of the mitzvot but also of the unfortunate sinner, who needs guidance (see Rambam, De’ot 6:7). Even if this is not feasible (see Yevamot 65b), you should not give the impression of agreeing with cheating, which may be a form of lifnei iver (see Shach, Yoreh Deah 151:6) and a chillul Hashem. Also, while there are cases it is justified to be deceitful with the deceitful (see Tehillim 18:27 and Yaakov-Lavan story), there seems to be little need/gain/justification for you to lie.
The matter of concern for your social standing, which can sometimes be a serious problem, makes a better question. The gemara (Berachot 19b) allows significant halachic leniency to avoid embarrassment. Just as we suggested that one is not required to snitch on fare-beaters to a bus driver (Living the Halachic Process III:I-8), your fear can be an excuse to not tell the proctor about the cheating. However, to take part in the cheating (even with the wrong answer) is more difficult. One might claim that if the cheater could cheat from someone else, you would only be violating a Rabbinic version of lifnei iver (see Shach ibid and that there are times that one may violate Rabbinic prohibitions to avoid extreme embarrassment (Berachot ibid.)). However, such leniencies apply when there is a conflict by chance between one’s dignity and a Rabbinic prohibition. Here, the embarrassment is that one will scorn your halachically mandated morality. Therefore, even if many peers tragically rationalize or otherwise fail to keep this halacha, you must stand your ground and refuse to take part. It is similar to one whose friends invite him to eat (even Rabbinically) non-kosher food and will ridicule him if he refuses. We expect him to stick to his principles, as obligated.
We wish you hatzlacha in protecting yourself from the moral corrosiveness of cheating and from the barbs of those who cheat – but in the right way.
Kohen and Others Joining for a Minyan “In” a CemeteryI was in a cemetery with several people (nine men) at different graves. Someone wanted to make a Kaddish, and a woman said her husband, a kohen standing on a path 50 meters away beyond a 2 ft. wall, would recite it (loudly). Were we right in doing such a Kaddish, considering he was forbidden to come to us?
Most of the halachot of tziruf (joining together) for a minyan involve people in adjoining rooms or courtyards or some people being inside and some outside. There the main factor is whether they are in the same domain (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 55:13, ibid. 18), although other factors can cause tziruf (see ibid. 14, 15).
Regarding the tziruf for zimun in Birkat Hamazon, visual contact between the people connects them even if they are in different domains (Shulchan Aruch, OC 195:1). A major question is whether visual contact combines people for the apparently stricter matter of a minyan for tefilla, as well. The Rashba (Shut I:96) was asked why a chazan standing on a bima that is a halachically separate domain joins up with the others. He gives two answers: 1. A bima is made to serve as an integral part of the shul; 2. If some people in one domain see people in the other one, they constitute one unit. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 55:19) cites only the Rashba’s first answer as halacha regarding tziruf for a minyan. There is a major machloket among Acharonim whether one can also rely upon visual contact for tefilla (see Sha’arei Teshuva 55:15). The Mishna Berura (55:48, 52) cites both opinions and seems to prefer the lenient one. The Kaf Hachayim (ad loc. 70) accepts the stringent opinion.
What should be the determining factor when all the people are outside? Mishneh Sachir (I:12) and Minchat Yitzchak (II:44) say that if they can see and hear each other, this creates tziruf. These conditions were fulfilled in your case. However, you likely failed another condition. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 195:1) cites an opinion that a public path that separates between the parts of the group prevents tziruf for zimun, even if they see each other and/or are served by a common waiter (Mishna Berura 195:8). The Taz (195:2) says that even a minor private path separates. (See Teshuvot V’hanhagot I:163 for an extremely strict approach on what is considered a path, but even assuming we reject it, it is unclear what the cut-off point is). You do not describe, other than the insignificant low wall, what was in between your group and the kohen, but it is likely that within 50 meters in a cemetery there are pathways, and the Mishneh Sachir and Minchat Yitzchak say this prevents tziruf.
We can suggest that if the cemetery is fenced in, internal minor paths do not separate people. There is also logic to accept lenient opinions in our context. For one, it is emotionally important for people to be able to say Kaddish for their loved ones. Secondly, a possibly unauthorized Kaddish is not comparable to a possibly unauthorized beracha (l’vatala). A beracha l’vatala includes saying Hashem’s name improperly, which is either a Torah-level or at least a serious Rabbinic violation (see Tosafot, Rosh Hashana 33a). In contrast, we find poskim who say that one can be lenient in questionable cases of Kaddish (see Mahrashag II:40, regarding leniency to count a child as a tenth person for a minyan for Kaddish.)
The fact that the kohen was forbidden to come to where the majority of you were standing is not an issue. First, we are unaware of a source that a problem exists in this context. We do find a parallel application of your logic. If three people eat together in a manner that each may not, for halachic reasons, eat from the other’s food, there is no tziruf for zimun (Shulchan Aruch, OC 196:3). However, it is enough that Reuven can eat from Shimon’s food, even if Shimon cannot eat from Reuven’s. In your case, you could have gone to where the kohen is. Actually, you probably should have gone to where the kohen was, as Kaddish does not have to be said right next to the grave of the deceased you want credited.
Returning a Loan Complicated by Currency ChangesTwo years ago Reuven, an American, sent $4,500 to Shimon, who lives in Israel, so that he could convert the money into shekels (then, 15,400 shekels) and lend it to Levi, a needy Israeli. Levi returned a quarter of the shekel sum every six months and believes he has finished repayment. Shimon now wants to return the money to Reuven, but the amount he received is worth only $3,990. Should Shimon give Reuven $4,500, or the dollar equivalent of what he received?
We cannot respond to the question’s “Choshen Mishpat” element without hearing both sides. We will focus on the Yoreh Deah question of ribbit on the loan, which depends on the possibilities of what the arrangements between the parties were (we will relate to the major ones).
It sounds like Levi accepted the responsibility to repay a 15,400 shekel loan. If Shimon was but an agent who followed expectations, he returns only the dollar equivalent of what Levi paid. If Shimon accepted responsibility for payment, he was either an arev (guarantor) or there were two separate loans (Reuven-Shimon, enabling Shimon-Levi).
If there were two loans, Shimon must return his $4,500 loan from Reuven. Is this permitted when the value went up? The rule is that it is Rabbinically forbidden to lend an object so that it be replaced by an object of the same type, due to the chance that its value will rise over the course of the loan (i.e., he will return more value than he borrowed). However, since we halachically view currency as a constant (even if its value, as compared to commodities and other currencies, changes), $4,500 can be returned even if its shekel equivalent increased. Admittedly, currencies are considered commodities outside their country, and the leniency that dollars have a special status in Israel no longer applies (see Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah III:37). However, when an American in America transfers dollars and wants dollars returned, one cannot say that this is not currency (see ibid.). Thus, under these circumstances, Shimon can return $4,500 to Reuven.
If there is one loan and Shimon is an arev, we should consider the three types of arev. 1) Simple arev – he pays only if the borrower defaults; 2) Arev kablan – the lender can choose to take payment either from the borrower or the arev; 3) Arev shlof dotz – the lender receives payment specifically from the arev.
The gemara (Bava Metzia 71b) says that if a non-Jew lends to a Jew and takes payment with interest from the Jewish arev, the borrower may not reimburse the arev for the interest. The gemara explains that since the non-Jewish practice is to go directly to the arev, it is considered as if the arev borrowed from the non-Jew and then lent the principal to the borrower. Therefore, the arev must not take back more money from the borrower than he gave him. There is a machloket among Rishonim and two opinions in the Shulchan Aruch (YD 170:1) if this prohibition and analysis of the loans is true only for an arev shlof dotz or even for an arev kablan. In our case, if Shimon is a simple arev or probably even an arev kablan, it is considered a loan between Reuven and Levi, and one that obligated Levi in terms of shekels. If so, neither Levi nor Shimon can give $4,500, unless one of the leniencies of this Rabbinic form of ribbit apply (see Shulchan Aruch, YD 162:2 and see whether the most common one applies). If Reuven indicated he was giving a dollar loan, he deserves to receive $4,500. If Shimon wants to take responsibility, especially if he failed to relay this fact to Levi, this is appropriate.
If Shimon is an arev shlof dotz, it is likely the loan was in dollars, in which case, Shimon may and should pay $4,500 (see Netivot Shalom, p. 349). He can decide, based on his discussions with Levi, whether to ask for reimbursement from him.
Fine nuances can affect the way to view these matters. It is laudable (not required) for Reuven to waive the possible right to full payment, for halachic safety but especially for higher moral ground. (His dollar loss counts as tzedaka).
Early Reading of Megillat EstherI am working on a Megilla reading program to attract families with children (not consistent shul-goers) for Purim evening (the children attend public school in the morning). Due to daylight savings time and our geographic position, tzeit hakochavim will not be until around 8 PM, a time that would discourage families from coming. May we read the Megilla from plag hamincha (11/4 hours before sunset)?
The gemara (Berachot 27a) says that one may accept the opinion that Ma’ariv can be prayed after plag hamincha. Rabbeinu Tam (Berachot 2a) says that the same is true of Kri’at Shema of the evening. Based on these opinions, the Terumat Hadeshen (109), accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 692:4), says that in a case of need, one may read Megillat Esther from plag hamincha. Since you describe a case of significant need, this seemingly gives you permission to make the reading from plag hamincha.
However, not everyone accepts the Terumat Hadeshen/Shulchan Aruch. The Pri Chadash (ad loc.) strongly disagrees. He argues that we do not accept Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion about reading Kri’at Shema from plag haminchan (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 235:1). Also, the gemara (Megilla 4a) derives the night reading from, “I will call out to You in the day … and at night” (Tehillim 22:3). The Pri Chadash says that since night is needed, plag hamincha, which is only close to night, is insufficient, and the time begins with tzeit hakochavim. The Gra (to Shulchan Aruch ibid.) cites the Pri Chadash, and the Chayei Adam (155:5) and the Aruch Hashulcan (692:8) rule like him.
The Mishna Berura (692:14 and Be’ur Halacha) does not clearly decide between the opinions but says that in a case of great need (not the moderate need the Shulchan Aruch refers to), one can read before nightfall. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer I, OC 42) ruled to rely on the lenient opinion, under the following fascinating circumstances – the British placed a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew in Yerushalayim on Purim of 1947, making reading Megilla from plag hamincha the most feasible option. One of the factors he weighed was that according to prominent (although far from unanimous) opinions, the main reading, as mandated by the Megilla itself, is in the daytime, with the night reading being only Rabbinic and thus more lenient.
From a purist halachic perspective, it is hard to quantify what number of extra people coming for early Megilla reading (with more pirsumei nisa) over at the classic time justifies the change. However, your community has a strong kiruv element, which is an overriding consideration, certainly when the lenient position you want to rely upon is accepted by no less than the Shulchan Aruch. You should consider such things as the extent to which, if at all, this leniency affects the community in other ways (e.g., will it dampen the resolve to continue keeping mitzvot carefully if practices that were not previously practiced locally are now accepted?).
Is reading after sunset (a little after 7:30) preferable to plag hamincha? From a purist perspective, it is unclear, as the Pri Chadash’s approach requires tzeit hakochavim. However, we, to a certain extent, treat bein hashemashot, starting with sunset, as a safek of night. There may also be significant communal/educational advantages to changing in the least noticeable way. So you should consider whether that is early enough.
From a purist perspective, there is ample halachic basis to do an early reading without a beracha, as the fulfillment of the mitzva at that time is uncertain. However, the correct desire to have the reading carry its full spirit and impact presumably includes the berachot (see Rav Ovadia’s formulation, ibid.), and the lenient opinions include making them. It is appropriate for you to reread the Megilla at the normal time, without a berachot. Subjective communal/educational factors, which you know better than we, should determine if and whom you should invite to join you.
May you continue to bring “ora v’simcha sason viy’kar” to your community.
Halachic Status of Bitcoin[Bitcoin, often called a cryptocurrency, has money-like functions without any coins or bills. Rather, it is a unit to exchange value used by probably millions of people internationally. When one transfers bitcoins as pay for a commodity or service, the seller informs the network of the transaction, and a bitcoin address is created with the information including the code (key) that the buyer will need to control the bitcoins. Within minutes, the network ledger (called the block chain) updates the new status of ownership of the bitcoins. One of bitcoin’s advantages is that it enables quick, inexpensive transfer of “money” between people worldwide. (There are now over 450 million transaction “addresses,” with some people owning multiple addresses). The system is self-regulated by the community of users. It is viewed in widely different ways within the financial world, governments, and legal systems.] Question: I have been learning about bitcoin. Is it considered like money or a shtar (document) for a variety of halachic issues, e.g., marrying a woman, buying property?
We will not express a view about the value or danger (there are claims of links to money laundering and other criminal activity, dangerous volatility, …) but will look at a few areas in halacha in which determining bitcoin’s status would be significant.
Kiddushin can be accomplished by a groom giving a bride anything of value, whether a currency, a commodity (Kiddushin 2a), or theoretically even a service (see the complication discussed in Kiddushin 63a and Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 28:15). If a groom transfers to the bride rights to a debt a third party owes to him, even if done by speech without handing her a shtar, it can still work (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 13). The important thing is that he provides value, as long it is done positively, as opposed to something such as forgiving payment of a debt (ibid. 10). Even in the latter case, if one says he is marrying her with the benefit she receives by forgiving the debt, it is valid (ibid.). Therefore, with the right wording, a bitcoin transfer from groom to bride can work (it is a good question at what point in the electronic process the kiddushin would take effect).
It is unclear what you mean by shtar. A shtar for kiddushin or for land sale states that it is coming to effectuate that matter. Bitcoin is obviously not that. It is also unlike a shtar of debt with Shimon owing Reuven and Reuven using that shtar as payment to Levi. Bitcoin is not an individual’s promise of payment, nor is it legal tender or a bank note, in which a country or a financial institution stands behind the note. Rather, it is an unusual commodity. It is not a physical object that one can use, but one wants to possess it because others are willing to pay for it (a monetary use, in place of legal currency, which is also reminiscent of a pyramid scheme). Many commodities, e.g., oil, gold, have both functions.Halacha distinguishes between currency (tiv’a) and commodities (peiri). One contemporary application relates to the kinyan of chalifin (appr., barter), which applies to commodities and not money(see Bava Metzia 44a-45a). Another is in terms of a Rabbinic form of ribbit (usury) called se’ah b’se’ah. That is, that it may be (depending on complicated parameters) forbidden to lend a certain amount of a commodity, demanding that it be replaced by the same amount of that type of commodity. This is because loans are defined in terms of currency. If one borrows 5 lbs. of apples costing $10, he is to return $10 in some form (including apples), and not 5 lbs. of apples, if the price has changed. If one borrows $100 of cash, he is to return $100, even if the dollar’s value has gone up or down. In these regards, bitcoin is a commodity, not a currency. The clearest reason is that bitcoin is not presently universally accepted as payment (Bava Metzia ibid.). Even a national currency has that status only in a country in which it is widely accepted among people. Bitcoin is not yet close to achieving that.
Top of page
Send to friend