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Davening Late with a MinyanI went for Shabbat for a family simcha to a community with one shul, which started tefilla at 10:00 AM, after sof z’man tefilla. Was it better to daven with a minyan or by myself at the right time?
There is a machloket Tannaim (Berachot 26a) whether the last time to daven Shacharit is chatzot (astronomical midday) or the end of four “proportional hours,” some two hours before. The earlier opinion is accepted (ibid. 27a). Only if one failed to daven by that time may he b’di’eved daven until chatzot (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 89:1). Thus the tefilla was not bizmana (at its time).
Tefilla bizmana is important enough to trump several tefilla preferences. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 90:10) discusses the prohibition to recite Shemoneh Esrei in shul before the tzibbur does. However, if the tzibbur will not be getting up to Shemoneh Esrei bizmana, one should go ahead of them. (If he can, he should do so outside shul– Mishna Berura ad loc. 36.) This ruling assumes not only that davening bizmana overcomes the problem of davening before the tzibbur, but that davening without a minyan at the right time is preferable to davening with a minyan not bizmana. There is an opinion (Leket Hakemach (Katz) 89:11) that the Shulchan Aruch refers to a case where they are before chatzot, after which one cannot daven at all, but that it is better to daven with a minyan after the fourth hour than alone bizmana. However, that is a difficult reading, and the accepted ruling is that tefilla before the end of the fourth hour is preferable to a minyan (see Mishna Berura 46:32; Ishei Yisrael 13:10; Tefilla K’hilchata 3:(80)).
How important is it to follow this preference? Does waiting cause special problems? If one did not recite Kri’at Shema bizmana (by the end of the third hour), he recites it with its berachot during the next hour (Shulchan Aruch, OC 58:6). There is a machloket whether this applies after the fourth hour. The Rambam (Kri’at Shema 1:13) says that the berachot can be recited with Kri’at Shema all day; the Rosh (Berachot 1:10) allows the berachot only during the fourth hour, when the full effect of tefilla is present. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) rules like the Rosh. On the other hand, the Biur Halacha cites some Acharonim who accept the Rambam’s opinion, particularly if the delay was due to extenuating circumstances (see Living the Halachic Process, I:A-9).
One might argue that on Shabbat the matter is much more problematic. The gemara’s (Berachot 26a) discussion of davening after zmana and davening tashlumin (a make-up for a missed tefilla during the next tefilla period) can be read to equate the two. Tashlumin is not done if one purposely, without an excuse, missed the tefilla (Shulchan Aruch, OC 108:7), and if one wants to make it up, the make-up Shemoneh Esrei must be done as a nedava (voluntary tefilla). Combining the two, some say that one who purposely waited to do Shacharit until after the fourth hour should intend that if a later Shacharit it is not called for, it should be a nedava (Mishna Berura 89:6). Since tefillot nedava cannot be done on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, OC 107:1), one could argue that it is forbidden to purposely daven Shacharit on Shabbat after the fourth hour. However, this is apparently not true. The main opinion allows davening until chatzot even when the conditions for tashlumin are missing – the idea of intending for a nedava if necessary was just a stringency when possible (Ishei Yisrael 13:(15)). Secondly, in this case, you and others davening at that time believed it was okay, and one who misses a tefilla by mistake can do tashlumin (Shulchan Aruch, OC 108:1).All things being equal, it would have been better for you to daven on time without a minyan. However, if one lives in a place where the best thing for the community is believed to be to have a late Shacharit, one should respect that decision and take part. Likewise, a guest who has a reasonable chance of insulting the host if he does not daven with the shul also has grounds to follow the tzibbur.
Moving Kugel into a Cholent Pot – RevisitedMay I take a potato kugel that was on a hot plate on Shabbat and put it into a cholent that is in a crock pot?
[In discussing the matter weeks ago (Bo 5779), we neglected to discuss (as pointed out by a reader) a topic that we will develop below. We also note that a discussion of the general use of a crock pot on Shabbat can be found on Eretz Hemdah’s website in Hemdat Yamim archives – Teruma 5772 or by searching in the Ask the Rabbi section with the keyword: crock pot. We already saw that the permissibility of chazara from a hot plate depends on the machloket on a hot plate’s status and that there are ways to ensure that hatmana will not be a problem.]
Although we made the whole discussion contingent on all the food involved being fully cooked before making the move, we must see if there is a problem that the kugel was baked and now is going into a pot in which food is being cooked. There is a broad rule that ein bishul achar bishul (see 145b) – once a food has been (fully) cooked, further cooking is permitted, but this rule may have exceptions. There is a machloket whether this is true if one wants to reheat a liquid that has cooled down (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Orach Chayim 318:4). Another machloket is whether a baked food can be put into a hot liquid, in which it can become cooked (ibid. 5). Why should added cooking be forbidden if the food is already halachically cooked (note that the melacha listed among the 39 melachot is ofeh (baking) –Shabbat 73a)?
The gemara (Berachot 38b) cites a machloket Tannaim whether matza that was subsequently cooked can be used for the mitzva of matza and surmises that those who say that cooking changes the matza’s status would also say that it changes its beracha status. However, the gemara concludes that matza is special in that it requires “the taste of matza.” This implies that later cooking does not change a baked good’s halachic statuses. Similarly, a gemara (Pesachim 41a) says that a Korban Pesach that was properly roasted could be ruined by a subsequent cooking, but concludes again that this is an exception due to the nature of Korban Pesach. Nevertheless, the Yerei’im (274) posits that the change caused by cooking a baked food is prohibited on Shabbat, probably even on the level of Torah law. The Shulchan Aruch and Rama (OC 318:5) cite both the Yerei’im and those who argue with him. Their conclusions are not fully clear, but the practice, at least of Ashkenazim, is to be stringent.
Many Acharonim are troubled how the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 15) allows placing cooked food opposite a fireplace, since this is, in effect, an act of roasting (see Biur Halacha ad loc.). The Chazon Ish (OC 37:14) answers that if the fire just heats and slightly dries up cooked food but does not give the taste of roasting, it is permissible. The Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (1:60) forbids putting cooked (as opposed to baked/roasted) foods on the top of a pot on the flame, even though he cites several who are lenient. The Orchot Shabbat accepts the lenient position, and this is the prevalent minhag.
Thus, putting a food that was cooked in a roasting/baking situation but without impactful change, and probably vice versa, are permitted. What happens to potato kugel in a crock pot with cholent? The answer may depend on various factors: how liquidy the cholent is; whether there are big holes in the aluminum foil; where the kugel is situated; the level of interaction, etc. In most cases, the taste changes due to the interaction, but for our purposes the texture change is the real issue. It is hard to know exactly where to draw the line, and again the answer can change from kitchen to kitchen.
When considering all the questions that have arisen, many of which depend on the specifics of each case, it is hard to encourage putting the kugel in the crock pot on Shabbat, even while it is not correct to outright forbid it. Therefore, we recommend that if one wants to have potato kugel sit in the cholent pot overnight, put it in before Shabbat.
Is Partial Compliance to Choshen Mishpat Helpful?If a court case is being tried in the secular court system in Israel (against Halacha), is there an advantage if some laws of Choshen Mishpat (section of Shulchan Aruch dealing with monetary law) are followed, or is it all-or-nothing? [Upon inquiry as to what specifically the querier was referring to, he mentioned a matter of public interest. We fielded that matter privately; publicly, we will discuss the principle.]
[Some of the basics of the matter of adjudication in secular court are discussed in, among other places, Living the Halachic Process V:I-2.]
The poskim identify two complementary problems with going to secular court instead of beit din: 1. If the ruling of the court is different from that which beit din would render, then one of the sides is extracting or withholding money rightfully belonging to the other side. 2. Preferring a judicial system based on something other than Torah is damagingly insulting to the primacy of the Torah (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 26:1, based on the Rashba). (Incorporating specific Israeli laws based on dina d’malchuta dina (the law of the land), as our beit din often does, is not following a non-Jewish system. It is even halachically permissible to legislate takanot based on contemporary societal needs. Basing the system as a whole on Ottoman and British law is not proper.)
There are practical differences (some certain, some possible) between these elements, with each one applying to cases the other might not. The matter of taking money in an unauthorized manner might not apply when: 1. Both sides prefer the secular courts and thereby authorize the other side to receive the “fruits” of their ruling. 2. The side that won checked responsibly with halachic experts (including by telling all of the arguments the other side could raise) that he deserves the court’s award. The matter of preferring another judicial system may not apply if: 1. There is no beit din available to adjudicate (see Living the Halachic Process V:I-2). 2. From the perspective of one litigant, he had no choice because the other litigant refused to go to beit din.
If one has already received a favorable ruling from a secular court, is he allowed to accept the award without further investigation? The matter of disgracing the Torah has already occurred – in some cases he or both sides were at fault; in other cases, the other side forced him. The question is, in each of the scenarios, what to do about the money which he might have or might not have been awarded in beit din. See opinions on the matter in Techumin vol. XXV, p. 249-253 and Eretz Hemdah’s position paper from 5774.
Would it make a difference if the specific matter is something in which the secular courts follow Choshen Mishpat? As long as the system is based on a different judicial authority, the problem of disgrace remains. The Shulchan Aruch (CM 26:1) rules that one is not allowed to go to a non-Jewish court even regarding a topic in which their laws are identical to Halacha. The Tzitz Eliezer (XII:82), in expounding on a letter by Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, says that the situation is not better and is, in some ways, worse regarding Jewish courts that adopt a non-Jewish system. In such cases, the matter of taking money not coming to the litigant is less likely to be a problem. On the other hand, those who are not trained in Halacha cannot be trusted to implement its rules correctly. Rav Yaakov Ariel (Techumin vol. I, p. 319-328) argues that accepting certain rulings based on halachic sources (what Israeli academia calls Mishpat Ivri) does not remove the halachic and philosophical problems of going to a secular court. On the other hand, purposely and increasingly adopting elements of Choshen Mishpat would (if it occurred) lessen the sting of rejecting Torah-based justice.
In summary, there are small gains when secular law adopts halachic laws and principles, but it does not remove or dramatically alter the halachic and philosophical problems of adjudicating before their courts.
Trying on Tefillin at NightMay one try on tefillin at night, or does that fall under the category of not putting on tefillin at night?
I have not found this exact question in the poskim, so we will extrapolate based on the principles and similar cases,
The gemara (Menachot 36b and several other places) cites a machloket between Tannaim whether the night and/or Shabbat and Yom Tov are times during which one wears tefillin. Much depends on the pasuk (Shemot 13:10), ending off the section of “Kadesh li,” referring to mitzvot commemorating yetziat Mitrayim, including tefillin: “You shall guard this statute at its time from days to days.” Some understand it to indicate that there are times of the day (daylight) and certain days (not Shabbat) in which tefillin is worn, and others not. Some Amoraim (ibid.) say that one who dons tefillin at night violates a Torah prohibition, either a positive one and or even a negative one. The Rambam (Tefillin 4:10) accepts the latter opinion.
However, most Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 30) and the Shulchan Aruch (OC 30:2) follow what the gemara apparently learns from a story about Rav Ashi, that he posited that fundamentally one can fulfill the mitzva of tefillin at night. The gemara does conclude that we do not teach people to do this. Rashi (Menachot 36b) and many others explain that there is a concern that if one wears tefillin at night, he might fall asleep with them on, which is forbidden lest one pass gas (Sukka 26a).
The gemara (Eiruvin 95a, Menachot 36b, Beitza 15a) discusses the possibility of wearing tefillin under non-standard circumstances and intentions at night and/or on Shabbat/Yom Tov. The main case is when it is required to bring the tefillin to a safe place. It seems to be permitted whether or not these times are fundamentally slated for tefillin to be donned (Eruvin 95b). Even the Rambam (ibid. 12) can allow a potential Torah violation either because he does not intend to wear them for the purpose of a mitzva or because he is only keeping them on rather than putting them on (see Shaagat Aryeh 43).
The leniencies of not intending to fulfill the mitzva and only keeping them on actually do not seem to apply according to the approach that the reason we don’t wear tefillin at night is only Rabbinic. After all, that does not reduce the chances of falling asleep. Therefore, the logic behind permission to wear tefillin to protect them is connected to the need to protect holy articles from loss or disgrace, which is often a halachic factor (see Shabbat 115a). The gemara (Menachot 36a) does also allow one who is leaving his house too early for tefillin to put them on and make the beracha when the right time comes. Another important factor seems to play a role – this is his only viable way of fulfilling the mitzva (see Mishna Berura 30:10).
However, many (including Shulchan Aruch, OC 30:3) identify another factor, which we should consider in our case. We are referring to one who has woken up for the day (albeit, early), and therefore, we do not need to be concerned that he will fall back asleep. Similarly, one might argue that one who is just trying on tefillin should not be concerned he will forget about them until he falls asleep, at least if it is not late at night. However, this apparently is not sufficient to allow putting on tefillin for this reason. Chazal and classical poskim set the parameters for when one has to be concerned about sleep. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 5), for example, says that if one has already davened Maariv before nightfall, it is forbidden to put on tefillin because it is halachically night. The Mishneh Sachir (I:13) remarks that the halachic categorization of night is the factor, not the likelihood of sleep. Therefore, it is difficult to argue that the fact one plans to take off the tefillin quickly makes a difference. However, it is conceivable that one would give a lenient ruling if it is crucial for him to do so specifically at night (e.g., it is the only time someone is available to adjust the tefillin for a bar mitzva boy).
Restrictions on a Former EmployeeA long-time rebbe at Yeshiva A left his job and now teaches at Yeshiva B, which caters to a similar population. May he approach Yeshiva A alumni, with whom he developed a relationship at Yeshiva A for assistance (money, ideas) in promoting his work at Yeshiva B? May he raise money for an NPO he formed personally? Do note that the rebbe had been unwilling to raise money for Yeshiva A when he worked for them. (The question is not intended to be used in deciding a dispute between the sides.)
We are unsure if the question is coming from the concerns of Yeshiva A’s administration, the laudable conscience of the rebbe, or a third party. We will give a general approach to the topic, while stressing that we do not know how it relates to the specifics of a case we know little about.
Most of the answer is based on logical analysis of the morality of the situation, but we will start with a source. Jewish workers/employers are not allowed to build relationships that resemble slavery (we are servants only to Hashem – see Bava Metzia 10a). Included in this halacha is that a worker may quit his job without being financially penalized (ibid. 77a – see Rashi ad loc.).
Therefore, a worker (including a dedicated teacher) may quit his job, and under normal circumstances is fully permitted to take a job with a rival of the first employer. If someone could not work in the same type of field and region, this would be restricting his livelihood and thus penalizing him significantly.
What about using “resources” he acquired in the first job? Part of the fringe benefits of many jobs are the skills, experience, and contacts acquired. Your question focuses on using the contacts. There is nothing wrong with doing so in a normal fashion. One does not steal anything from the first job. Everyone develops friends and contacts over the years, and one does not have to “erase” them upon leaving a job where some were cultivated.
In some ways, the matter is even clearer for rabbeim, for the following reason. Part of a rebbe’s job is to develop real, lasting relationships with his students. Real relationships are real relationships. Let’s say that ten years after teaching a student, the student sought out guidance or emotional support from his rebbe due to a life crisis. Imagine if the rebbe said: “I don’t work anymore in the yeshiva where I taught you; I have no time for you.” Imagine if his new employer said: “You may not help students from your past; they are a drain on your allegiance to us.” My words of criticism for one who would utter either statement are best to remain unwritten. (We are referring to cases in which time spent with old talmidim does not prevent the rebbe from fulfilling his present responsibilities competently.) A rebbe’s responsibility for life stems not from his employment by a yeshiva but from Hashem who entrusted him to teach His Torah to children and students (=children; see Rambam, Talmud Torah 1:2; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 245).
Talmidim also have responsibilities toward their teachers (see Shulchan Aruch, YD 242). While a rebbe should consider carefully how to “use” their respect and gratitude, others do not have a right to intervene. This is more so when the help is requested for a good cause. All have a responsibility to help good causes and those to whom they owe a debt of gratitude, whether monetarily or with their time, talents and energy. A tzedaka recipient cannot prevent another from asking for tzedaka from his benefactor because it may cause him to receive less. The donor makes his own choices. Similarly, if the rebbe asks his students for help in new projects, they can be trusted to decide how much to help Yeshiva B and Yeshiva A, and hopefully many other good causes.
A former employee should be particularly careful not to bad-mouth his former employer. He should also not take private information which he was privy to as an employee, (e.g., a detailed donor list of Yeshiva A). Working on a future job while still employed at the old one raises many questions and gray areas.
Making Up a Skipped Beracha during Shemoneh EsreiAfter Kedusha of chazarat hashatz, the chazan went to “R’ei v’onyeinu” instead of “Ata chonen” and finished the beracha before people succeeded to correct him. He went back to “Ata chonen.” When he got up to “R’ei v’oyneinu,” he did not recite it, reasoning that it was incorrect to repeat it. Was he correct, and why?
Dealing with skipping berachot of Shemoneh Esrei is the subject of a machloket between Amora’im and apparently Rishonim. Rav Huna (Berachot 34a) says that when one makes a significant mistake during any of the sections of Shemoneh Esrei (first three; next thirteen; final three), he returns to the beginning of the section. Rav Asi agrees regarding the first and last sections, but regarding the middle one, he does not require going back to the beginning (Ata Chonen). He expresses his opinion as follows: “The middle ones have no order,” and the Rishonim accept the opinion of Rav Asi. (In your case, either way he had to return to Ata Chonen, which is the one he skipped).
Rashi (ad loc.) seems to take the gemara’s language quite literally, and says that since the middle berachot do not have an order, if one skipped a beracha, he can make it up at whatever point he catches the mistake. In other words, after saying the beracha that he missed, he continues with the next beracha that he had been up to before his realization. For example, if he skipped #6 and realized after #8, he would recite #6 after #8 and then jump back to #9, without repeating #7-8. In your case, the chazan went from #3 (Ata Kadosh) to #7 (R’ei). Therefore, Rashi would have him make up #4-6 and then skip over #7 to continue with #8. (A minority of Acharonim learn Rashi differently.) This is exactly what the chazan did, when he skipped R’ei because he had already recited it.
Tosafot (ad loc.) disagrees, and says that after going back to the beracha he skipped, he continues straight from there, even though it means that he will repeat whatever he recited between making the mistake and discovering it. In the example above, after going back to #6, he continues with #7 and continues forward, thereby reciting #7 and #8 twice. Tosafot posits that the importance of saying the berachot in order is important enough to justify repeating berachot. We are used to repeating berachot when something was done wrong the first time. If one forgot something, for example, Ya’aleh V’yavo, he goes back to R’tzei and continues straight. In your case, the chazan should have recited R’ei another time.
Tosafot deals with the language of the gemara by saying that the lack of order is only in comparison to the halacha found regarding the first and last berachot. While there, one has to go back to the beginning of the set, this is not necessary in the middle ones (rather, one starts with the one he skipped). Tosafot bring a strong proof that the order of all the berachot is important. The mishna (Megilla 17a) says that if one read Megillat Esther out of order, he does not fulfill that mitzva; the gemara says that the same is true for Hallel, Kri’at Shema, and tefilla. This indicates that this is an absolute requirement even b’dieved and therefore justifies repetition to get the order back in synch. (One does not have to go back to the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei, but rather ignores the berachot already recited out of order.) Indeed, the gemara (Megilla 17b) says that Anshei Knesset Hagedola instituted eighteen berachot “al haseder” (according to an order). The gemara then goes on to bring p’sukim to show the logic of each beracha following the one before it. There are other sets of berachot regarding which the order is not critical, such as most of the sheva berachot (see Ba’er Heitev, Even Ha’ezer 62:1) and Birchot Hashachar (Mishna Berura 46:20).The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 119:3) follows the predominant opinion of the Rishonim like Tosafot. Therefore, the chazan in question did the wrong thing. Had this been realized any time during chazarat hashatz, he should have returned to R’ei and continued from there.
Davening in Front of a MirrorIs the prohibition against davening in front of a mirror or reflective glass a chumra or a serious halacha?
The matter of not davening in front of a mirror is not a Talmudically mandated halacha, but it is modeled after, an extension, or perhaps even an application of one or more halachot of Chazal.
The Radbaz (IV,107), in discussing davening facing the image of a lion, says that since we forbid davening in front of a mirror because it looks like he is bowing to himself, it is certainly forbidden to daven in front of an image of a lion (which is found in the kisei hakavod). He connects this to the halacha of not davening behind one’s rebbe (Berachot 27b), which, he posits, is in order not to look like he is bowing to him (as one suggestion in Tosafot ad loc. has it). Although he mentions looking like “bowing,” which we do only during Shemoneh Esrei, it likely applies throughout davening (see Machatzit Hashekel 90:37).
Others connect this practice to a different halacha. The gemara (Berachot 5b) says that one should not have a break between himself and the wall when he is davening. The poskim understand that it has to do with creating a distraction (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 90) and posit that it is likewise improper to have colorful pictures or wall hangings in front of him (Shulchan Aruch, OC 90:23). The Machatzit Hashekel (ibid.) says that this is an additional reason not to daven in front of a mirror. (Da’at Torah, OC 90 suggests that only the latter concern is correct.) This problem can be solved by closing one’s eyes or looking only at one’s siddur (Mishna Berura 90:63), which will not work for looking like bowing (Mishna Berura 90:71).
There is some logic for a reason that combines the two (admittedly, this does not seem to be the Radbaz’s intention). When one looks at himself when davening, we view this self-absorption as antithetical to the mindset one should have in davening. While this is not literally bowing to himself, there is an element of it, figuratively.
This “prohibition” is not mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch (Rav Yosef Karo met the Radbaz late in life (in Safed) but apparently did not have access to his scholarship when writing his sefarim). However, many of the classical commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch and related works cite it as a halachic fact (see Mishna Berura ibid.). Therefore, while it may not have the full force of a formal Rabbinical prohibition, it is an accepted minhag related to full halachot, which we do not consider a chumra.
This status makes it more reasonable to look for leniency in cases that are close but not identical to the classic case, when logic so dictates. Several Acharonim are lenient when one can see his image but not in a mirror per se. The Shevet Halevi (IX, 21) justifies the minhag to daven before reflective objects when that is not the object’s purpose (he discusses a “Shiviti Hashem l’negdi tamid” sign situated in front of the chazan). Ohr L’tzion (II, 7:11) says that it is permitted to daven in front of a window, even if the lighting makes his image clearly visible, as long as he closes his eyes or angles himself so he does not see it. The apparent logic is that fear of looking like davening to himself only applies when he puts himself in front of a mirror, which makes him look interested in looking at himself as he davens. However, when the ability to see is incidental, no one will think that one is davening to himself. Admittedly, some poskim are machmir even in the case of davening before a window at night (see Ishei Yisrael 9:(66)).
It would seem that one difference of this not being a full-out Talmudic prohibition could be in a rare case where the only way to daven is opposite a mirror. If it were a full-fledged prohibition based on the first reason, it might be better not to daven at all. Although I did not find sources on the matter, it would seem that indeed it would be better to daven (although he should certainly not look) than not to daven at all, if this is his only option.
Sefarim under SeatsIn our shul, the seats have drawers underneath them to store chumashim, siddurim, etc. Thus, we sit over these books. Is that allowed?
A few gemarot are relevant. One (Berachot 18a) forbids putting a sefer Torah under one’s saddle when riding an animal unless it is necessary to protect it. Another gemara (Menachot 32b) cites an opinion (accepted by the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 282:7) that one may not sit on a bed that has a sefer Torah on it. A final gemara (Berachot 24b, see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 40:3) discusses having tefillin that are incased in coverings under him as one lies in bed. It is a forbidden disgrace if they are under his feet. It is more lenient if they are by his head, especially if not directly below it.
To which case should we compare a storage box underneath a seat? The Rama (Shut 34) compares it to sitting on the same bed with a sefer Torah and forbids most cases. Ohalei Yaakov (Sassportas, 1) compares sitting over something to putting it under his feet, i.e., it is more degrading than having it by his head, and, at first, he forbids it.
Yet, there is some room for leniency because one does not sit on it but above it. As Bnei Yonah (YD 282:7) points out, it is certainly permitted to walk in a room directly above a sefer Torah on the floor below. In that, there is a clear break between where one is sitting/standing and the holy article. In contrast, not all agree that being directly under the top of “storage box” creates such a separation (Rama, ibid.; Taz, YD 282:4). A very large box, (containing 40 se’ah – approximately the size of a person) makes it considered a separate domain and permitted to sit above (ibid.).
The gemara does mention that the tefillin are beyond disgrace if they are three tefachim (around ten inches) above or below where the person is lying. However, not all agree that so much space is necessary. The Ohalei Yaakov (2) suggests the following based on a comparison to sitting next to a sefer Torah. If the Torah is not directly on the bed but rests on something of even minimal height which is on top of the bed, one may sit elsewhere on the bed. So too, when sitting on the storage box, if there is any noticeable space between the tefillin and the bottom of the seat, it is permitted because of the separation. The Mishna Berura (40:13) cites the stringent and lenient as equals; if there is a tefach of space, he permits it. The Tiferet L’Moshe (YD 282; see Pitchei Teshuva, YD 282:8) says that the matter depends whether the bottom of the cover/seat touches the tefillin [case]. His distinction probably is not about separation but about connection. The gemara talks about soft coverings around the tefillin, so that one’s weight presses on them and thus disgraces them. When they do not touch/press, there is less disgrace. Ohalei Yaakov also suggests that in a crowded shul, the idea of protecting the holy article might apply.
One might argue for more leniency when discussing, not a sefer Torah or tefillin, but printed Torah texts. However, this does not create automatic permission (at least for Ashkenazim – see Yabia Omer IX, YD 22) without strong reason for leniency (see Ohalei Yaakov 1). Some say it is better if non-kodesh objects are also present (Pitchei Teshuva ibid.).
Physical distinctions may be significant. Most of the poskim discuss sitting on the box’s cover. The Taz, who was generally machmir, says that if the furniture is connected to the wall, it is permitted. Presumably, the same is true if the bench is drilled into the floor. If the box is separate from the bench, it is likely not considered that one is sitting on the sefarim below. What you describe as a shelf connected to the bench seems equivalent to what the poskim discuss (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 20:35 regarding muktzeh in the drawer of a table).
In summary, leniency is certainly legitimate in your case, with it being somewhat better if: you do not have tefillin in there; there is room between the top sefer and the seat above; non-kodesh objects are also present.
Moving Kugel into a Cholent PotMay I take a kugel that was on a hot plate on Shabbat and put it into a cholent that is in a crock pot?
In addition to making sure the kugel and cholent are fully cooked before the transfer, two issues need to be addressed.
One issue is chazara – the prohibition on putting, on Shabbat, a food that was off a heat source onto one unless factors exist that make it considered an innocuous return to its place (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 253:2). The main factors are: the heat source must be in a state that raising the heat is unlikely; the food was removed from a heat source with the intention of returning it; one did not put it down (ibid.). When these conditions are met, one may transfer the food from one heat source to another, even if the latter is hotter (Rama, OC 253:2 and Mishna Berura 253:62). Thus, it would seem okay to take food from a hot plate to a crock pot assuming the steps were taken to reduce the chance of raising the crock pot setting (which is a separate discussion).
However, the matter depends on an important machloket: Is it permitted to move food from a refrigerator on Shabbat morning to a hot plate? Let us briefly explain the opinions and the connection. There are two Rabbinic concerns about returning food to a heat source: one may “stoke the coals” (i.e., raise the setting); placing the food looks like cooking. “Shabbat hot plates” have only one setting, eliminating the concern of adjusting. Regarding looking like cooking, some (Halachos of Shabbos (Eider), p. 313; Am Mordechai, Shabbat 7) argue that since hot plates are made only for reheating, no one will make a mistake. Rav Ovadia Yosef adds that the fact that a hot plate is known to be used only for reheating on Shabbat improves the situation, as does the fact that there is space between the heating element and the metal upon which the pot sits (Yechaveh Da’at II:45). They, thus, posit that the hot plate is not halachically considered “on the fire.” The Orchot Shabbat (2:(117)) argues cogently that if someplace is considered “on the fire” enough to forbid taking food from the refrigerator onto it, then one may move food from there to anywhere “on the fire.” However, if a place is categorized as “off the fire,” such that one may put food from the refrigerator onto it, then it is forbidden to move from that place to a full heat source. It is difficult to argue with this thesis, for if it is wrong, one could take food from the refrigerator to even a stove top with a blech in two steps. First, put it on a weak heat source, and from there move it to a full heat source.
Thus, if you follow the lenient opinions above, regarding the hot plate, you could not move the kugel from there to a crock pot, for the latter is a full heat source, as it is used for cooking food from scratch. If you follow the stringent opinions regarding placing food on a hot plate on Shabbat (such as Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 1:25), the laws of chazara would not preclude your moving a kugel from a hot plate to a crock pot. (If one is stringent for a hot plate only out of doubt/chumra, then it would be a problem to treat as a real heat source in order to allow moving from there to a crock pot.)
Another issue is hatmana – insulating something to keep it hot, which is forbidden on Shabbat and sometimes even before Shabbat (see details in Shulchan Aruch, OC 257-8). If the kugel is wrapped in aluminum foil or the like and put in the cholent, with the latter keeping it warm, it seems a candidate for this prohibition. (Food directly within other food is not a problem (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 1:72).) However, there are at least two ways to solve all problems. First, if the kugel is not fully submerged, it is not hatmana (see Mishna Berura 258:2). Second, if one makes holes in the aluminum foil, so that taste of cholent is expected to enter the kugel, the cholent and kugel are considered united enough for hatmana not to apply (Orchot Shabbat 1:93). (Additional grounds for leniency regarding hatmana are beyond our present scope.)
For the conclusion of the discussion see Moving Kugel into a Cholent Pot – Revisited
Donating a Sefer Torah to a ShulPeople who own sifrei Torah often lend them to a shul. Is there any reason they cannot donate them (which can get them a tax credit)?
The 613th mitzva in the Torah is, “Write for you (plural) this song,” which refers to the Torah (see the Rambam’s formulation of Chazal’s derivation – Sefer Torah 7:1). Not many people fulfill the mitzva of writing a sefer Torah, which is either very difficult and time-consuming (to do oneself) or expensive (to hire a sofer). There are two almost opposite justifications for why not. The Sha’agat Aryeh (36) and Chatam Sofer (Shut Orach Chayim 52) say that we anyway cannot assume that a sefer Torah will be valid since there are certain words that even Chazal were not sure how to spell. The Rosh (Sefer Torah 1) views the mitzva much less formalistically – the idea is to have text material for Torah study, and therefore having a good library of Torah sefarim is a better way to fulfill the mitzva than having a sefer Torah which is used “only” for laining. You are asking about someone who wants to fulfill the mitzva in the classical way but would prefer to give it to a shul, where it is used these days, rather than keep it in his home.
There is a chakira that is critical to answer your question. Is the mitzva to write a sefer Torah or to have a sefer Torah? The pasuk refers to writing, but maybe that is just the description of how one gets a sefer Torah (note that the Torah also says to write mezuzot on one’s doorposts, yet we fulfill the mitzva not by writing one but by attaching the text).
Rava says that if one inherits a sefer Torah, he does not fulfill the mitzva and must write one anyway (Sanhedrin 21b). That sounds like the mitzva is to write. A different gemara (Menachot 30a) says that one who buys a sefer Torah is like one who “grabs a mitzva from the marketplace.” Rashi says that this means that he fulfills the mitzva in a not optimal way. In contrast, the Rama (Yoreh Deah 270:1) says that one does not fulfill the mitzva. The Beit Halevi (I:6) reads the Rambam (ibid.) like the Rama, and explains that Rashi understands that the two gemarot above argue on each other.
Thus, there seem to be formidable opinions on both side of the chakira. Should we claim that if the mitzva is to write the sefer Torah, it does not make a difference what happens afterward? The gemara (Megilla 27a) says that it is forbidden to sell a sefer Torah (except under specific circumstances). However, the issue there is apparently not because it will leave one without a sefer Torah (Rashi ad loc. says the gemara is referring even to a case where he has another sefer), but rather that it is a disgrace to sell a sefer Torah (see Aruch Hashulchan, YD 270:14). Indeed, your idea of donating to a shul does not have that problem.
However, it is possible that the above chakira is one-sided. In other words, it is a question whether ownership is enough to fulfill the mitzva, as it might be necessary that one’s sefer Torah is one that he wrote or was written on his behalf (see formulation of Sha’agat Aryeh 36). But, argues the Torat Chaim (Sanhedrin 21b), everyone agrees that if one no longer owns his former sefer Torah, including if he donated it to a shul, the mitzva to “write it” ceases to be fulfilled and he is obligated anew. On the other hand, the Pitchei Teshuva (YD 270:3), after citing this opinion, cites other opinions that even if one writes and then donates and perhaps even if he loses his sefer Torah, he has fulfilled the mitzva.
In summary, there is value to writing a sefer Torah even if one will then donate (preferably to a shul that can use it). If one can only afford doing so if he gets a tax break for a donation, this can be a good move. It is not clear, though, whether he will still be in fulfillment of the mitzva of writing a sefer Torah. If he will give it away, it is critical that he commissioned the writing (at least the end of the sefer – see Menachot 30a). After all, if he bought and then donated, he is lacking according to both sides of the chakira.
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