Home > Ask The Rabbi
ASK THE RABBI
Do not hesitate to ask any question about Jewish life, Jewish tradition or Jewish law.
Fulfilling Kiddush from One Who Did Not EatIf the person making Kiddush in shul does not eat after Kiddush, is his Kiddush valid?
We must distinguish between a valid Kiddush for the person who made Kiddush and for those who listened to Kiddush and then ate.
We accept Shmuel’s opinion (Pesachim 101a) that Kiddush is valid only in the place of a meal (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 273:3). Therefore, if Kiddush is made and no one eats, the Kiddush is in vain.
According to the great majority of poskim (see Sha’arei Teshuva 273:7; Pri Megadim, MZ 273:1; Living the Halachic Process II, C:3), if some eat the food required for a seuda and others do not, only those who ate are yotzei with Kiddush. Thus, at first glance, the person making Kiddush was not yotzei. Therefore, although the mekadesh is usually advised to drink a m’lo lugmav (app. 2 ounces) (Shulchan Aruch, OC 271:14), if he will not eat afterward, he must not drink from the wine, if he has not yet made his own Kiddush (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 4). On the other, if he is willing to drink a revi’it (a little more than 3 oz.), this counts as his meal according to most authorities (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 5; Mishna Berura 273:22, 27).
In certain contexts, it is common for the one making Kiddush to not eat anything. For example, a rabbi at a hospital may go from ward to ward making Kiddush without eating in each place. An older practice is of one making Kiddush in shul even though he is going to eat only at home (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 279:1). The gemara (Pesachim 101a) already mentions this practice and asks how it is possible considering that the person who makes Kiddush does not eat in shul. The gemara answers that it was instituted to fulfill the mitzva of Kiddush on behalf of guests who eat and sleep in the shul. Many Rishonim (see Tur and Beit Yosef, OC 279) are bothered by the situation in which there are clearly no such guests and we continue to make an ostensibly pointless Kiddush. However, when there are indeed such people who want to be yotzei with the person making Kiddush in shul, all assume there is no problem for the Kiddush to be done by one who is not eating on behalf of one who is eating. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 54:6, citing the Pri Megadim (ibid.), says that in the case you describe, the people listening to Kiddush and then eating fulfill the mitzva of Kiddush, while the one making Kiddush but is not eating does not fulfill it.
The possibility to do the mitzva for others while not fulfilling the mitzva oneself is a straightforward application of the rule of arvut (responsibility for others) in mitzvot. The more famous application is when one has already fulfilled a mitzva and wants to do it a second time for one who has not yet fulfilled the mitzva (Rosh Hashana 29a). The Dagul Me’reveva does raise the possibility, based on a surprising line in the Rosh (Berachot 3:13), that a man cannot do so on behalf of a woman. However, Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Shut I,7) convincingly argues that there is no difference between men and women in regards to arvut (he reads the Rosh differently). The Mishna Berura (Sha’ar Hatziyun 271:9) posits that Rabbi Akiva Eiger is correct.
Generally, arvut applies only to mitzvot and their berachot, which are obligations for the one who is in need of fulfillment and not to berachot on food, which the person is not required to eat (Rosh Hashana ibid.). However, the gemara concludes (ibid. 29b) that when the beracha on food is itself a mitzva (e.g., the wine for Kiddush) then arvut applies to it as well. Therefore, it is not required that the mekadesh drink the wine of Kiddush, as long as someone else is drinking the required amount (Shulchan Aruch, OC 271:14 – there is a question whether the m’lo lugmav can be reached by adding up what more than one person drank). This is even possible when others are drinking from a different cup of wine (Mishna Berura 271:77), although it is normally best for the one making Kiddush to drink the proper amount from the Kiddush cup (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 48:14).
Answering Amen to Hamakom YenachemShould a mourner (or others present) answer Amen to the words of consolation, “Hamakom yenachem etchem b’toch she’ar aveili Tzion v’Yerushalayim”?
The nature of amen changes with the context of the statement to which one is responding. Most classic berachot praise Hashem for providing one of many things for man (e.g., food, seeing something noteworthy, providing something historical). If one hears someone praising Hashem, he is required to express his agreement (Berachot 51b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 215:2).
The Magen Avraham (215:3; also, Mishna Berura 215:9) refers to a midrash that if one hears someone blessing a fellow Jew, he is required to answer amen, even if Hashem’s Name is not invoked. This, as opposed to the first element, is a mitzva between man and fellow man – to add one’s voice in requesting Him to do good for someone. Several Acharonim assume that this is a proper thing rather than an absolute obligation (see Yechaveh Da’at III:9 citing the Netziv; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 215:1).
If one blesses you, it makes sense to answer Amen, as your voice in request for yourself has value, as we know from davening. It may be even more appropriate here because it is possible that the good wishes extend beyond the mourner. Some have the practice to say Hamakom … in the plural even if there is one mourner present, and the most common explanation is that it includes the deceased (see Nitei Gavriel, Aveilut I:1). Indeed, the Rambam (Avel 14:7) wrote that nichum aveilim helps the mourners and the deceased. The connection of the mourner to those who mourn for Jerusalem, which different authorities understood with minor variations, may mean that we are also blessing all of the nation - that we should soon see its rebuilding, which makes answering Amen appropriate.
On the other hand, it is possible that Hamakom is not a good wish but a philosophical message to the mourner, along the following lines. It is hard to come to terms with the loss of a close relative, but just as the Jewish People has learned to deal with the destruction of the Temple and believe in its rebuilding, so too the mourner should accept the Divine decree, believe that it was for the best, and look forward to the deceased’s return with techiyat hameitim. Most authorities, though, seem to understand Hamakom as a prayer/blessing. This is certainly the case for the Sephardic saying of “you shall be comforted from the Heaven” and for the increasingly popular addition of “and you shall not continue to have pain anymore.”
There is also logic to say Amen to fulfill the concept that some Acharonim discuss (see Divrei Sofrim 376:1) of accepting the consolations. On the other hand, there can be ways other than saying the word Amen to do that. I saw a citation of Rav Moshe Feinstein preferring not to say Amen because it is as if the mourner is waiting to be a mourner again. It is not clear what in the words implies that and, if so, why it is okay for the consoler to say so.
My experience at shiva homes over the decades is that mourners did not usually say Amen (as I have seen in the name of Rav Chaim Kaniefsky). However, several contemporary works encourage it, based on the opinion of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (see Nitei Gavriel ibid. 2; P’nei Baruch 11:5; Teshuvot V’hanhagot V:309.19) and based on halachic logic and this is not a rare occurrence. We have no problem with this developing into the minhag, but in deference to what has apparently been the more prevalent practice, we would not make a ruling that an avel should say it. (Actually, none of the sources we saw, in either direction, use terms of imperative.)
It is less common for other consolers to answer Amen. There is two-pronged logic for other consolers to not answer Amen: 1) Although most use the same standard statement, it is a private matter between the consoler and the mourner, which not everyone should be expected to listen to (some people are shy); 2) The consoler will be saying the same thing soon, and therefore it is not crucial to do it now.
Reciting Kri’at Shema at the Very End of its TimeMy shul sometimes misses sof z’man Kri’at Shema (=szKS) by a few minutes. The rabbi instructs people to say the three parshiyot of Shema before davening, but I usually go ahead to make Kri’at Shema on time and wait during the following beracha for the tzibbur to catch up. Is that an improvement and/or a perfect system?
Those who listen to the rabbi do Kri’at Shema on time. They also repeat Kri’at Shema, and can say the berachot, based on the gemara (Berachot 10b). So the system of reciting Kri’at Shema before davening is responsible (see Rama, Orach Chayim 46:9). However, several Acharonim point out that the recital of Kri’at Shema that is used to fulfill the mitzva is best done along with its berachot (see Mishna Berura 46:31).
But there are two ways to understand that preference: 1. Like there is a full requirement to finish Kri’at Shema by szKS, so there is a preference to recite its accompanying berachot by then. 2. A complete Kri’at Shema requires being sandwiched by its berachot. Your practice’s advisability depends on this question. After doing Kri’at Shema at its time, you complete it with its final beracha only a few minutes later, so according to #2, you are fine. According to #1, you did not finish the last beracha in time. Another test case is if one recites Kri’at Shema before davening but the second time and its berachot end up being on time. The Acharonim (ibid.) say that it is still best to not have had intention to fulfill the mitzva the first time; this proves that #1 was their intention.
But could #2 also be true – that the berachot are best when done before szKS? Consider the machloket whether one has one more hour to recite the berachot, until chatzot, or all day (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 58). Rav Hai Gaon, accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (OC 58:6) takes the strict opinion. If the berachot need not be by szKS, why can’t they be all day? Many answer that it is parallel to the end time of tefilla (Mishna Berura 58:25), and very likely because the berachot are not as linked to Kri’at Shema as they are to tefilla (ibid.), whose time ends a (halachic) hour after Kri’at Shema’s (Shulchan Aruch, OC 89:1). If this is the whole story, your system solves the problem because you finish the berachot before the end time of tefilla. Yet one can still argue (as there are indications) that there are two elements of birchot Kri’at Shema – it is related both to Kri’at Shema and to tefilla. One can then argue that while one can say the berachot after szKS, this is because of tefilla, but the Kri’at Shema element has been lost.
The Levush (OC 58:6) explains Rav Hai Gaon’s requirement by the end of the fourth hour by saying that it is somewhat the time of waking (which is the rationale for szKS). The Malbushei Yom Tov (ad loc.) argues that there is no source for a later “semi-wakeup” time. We suggest the following to explain the Levush. When saying that szKS, which is a Torah-level law, is when the last people wake up, we need to give those people time to do all they need to get up to Kri’at Shema, which now includes much of Shacharit, on time. Perhaps the Levush meant that Chazal wanted everything related to Kri’at Shema to be in the direct post-wakeup-time, but with Kri’at Shema already out of the way, the fourth hour is “spillover time” in this regard. Thus, even if we relate birchot Kri’at Shema’s time to Kri’at Shema’s, we can still say that the fourth hour is l’chatchila because it is in spillover time.
Your system is recommended, in certain circumstances, by a few Acharonim (see Tefilla K’hilchata 3:24). Considering that I did not find in those or other sources that one should try to finish Ga’al Yisrael by szKS, your system is fine in this regard. (The system requires sophistication and planning to: get ahead, be at a good place during Kaddish/Barchu, wait without hefsek after Kri’at Shema. Thus, this is not for everyone. Acting differently from your surroundings can also be an issue. So you might want to discuss with your rabbi if and how to use your system.)
Secrecy in Beit Din[We received the following question from an official in Israel’s judicial system. Below is a free translation of our answer.] In Israeli government courts, records of the proceedings are open to the public, but the proceedings in arbitration courts (including batei din) are supposed to be private. Is there halachic basis for this distinction?
We begin with what can be learned from classical sources about privacy norms in beit din.
Several sources in Chazal indicate that beit din proceedings were at least often open to the public. Gemarot (including Shvuot 31a; see Rambam, Sanhedrin 22:3) describe the situation of students following the proceedings of their teachers who were dayanim.
There was a strong rationale for at least the results of the proceedings to be known to the broad public. Chazal assumed that a divorce would be known to the public, as it was important for people to know their change in status for several reasons (see Gittin 81a).
Knowledge of transactions and adjudication about ownership and monetary obligations was critical to the public especially in regard to land acquisition. If someone wants to buy land, he needs to know whether the seller’s ownership is accepted. He also needs to know if the seller is a debtor, as this often creates a lien on all of his land. Now the land registry (in Israel, Tabu) clarifies ownership and allows notations about liens, adjudication, etc. At a time when formal registries did not exist, common public knowledge was critical. Therefore, witnesses to loan contracts who told people about the documents’ content were not gossipers but doing a civic duty (see Bava Batra 175b). This was also true of awareness of legal proceedings. This is why the gemara assumes that the public found out about monetary legal processes before beit din almost instantaneously (see Gittin 18a). Again, this allowed a potential buyer or a lender to perform due diligence. Secrecy often damaged social welfare.
Sources also discuss the idea that as a result of a dispute going to beit din, witnesses unknown to a litigant could hear of the dispute and come forward to testify (see Tosafot, Ketubot 2a). Since people would invite others to witness agreements, contracts, etc., if someone was caught doing something unethical that invalidated him as a witness, beit din had a process to inform the public not rely on him (Shulchan Aruch, CM 34:23).
At least one element of the beit din process required secrecy. When dayanim disagree on a ruling, none of them may divulge who agreed with which side (Sanhedrin 29a).
There are differences between set and ad hoc batei din accepted by the litigants of their own will. The main differences involve jurisdictional questions (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat siman 13&14). We do not find major differences in the manner in which the hearings and rulings are carried out, including secrecy.
That being said, litigants can agree to significantly change the rules of adjudication. They can accept a dayan or a witness who should have been disqualified to serve in their case (ibid. 22:1). They can transfer the need to make an oath from one side to the other (ibid. 3). They also have the ability to agree that the process should be private (at least when it does not directly contradict the need of the public to know). This is less likely to cause problems to the public in our days. The Law of Arbitration makes it possible for one to have non-governmental options available for adjudication, and when there is a requirement to have an arbitration agreement to make the decisions legally binding, it makes sense that they include rules that look out for the welfare of the litigants. In most cases, litigants prefer secrecy, and therefore a beit din like ours is happy to protect their privacy. However, had the law required public transparency for adjudication in a beit din operating according to arbitration law, Halacha would have been fine with that.
Kaddish Rights – According to the Deceased or Mourners?I am in the midst of the year of Kaddish/chazanut for a parent. Two brothers have been davening due to shloshim. After they finish shloshim, should we have a rotation of three or, considering that our recitations are to bring merit for the deceased, should I be chazan half the time? (We will not fight over it but would like to do the correct thing.)
Indeed, the most important principle is to avoid machloket on such matters, as quarreling is antithetical to the merit one is trying to bring to the deceased (P’nei Baruch 34:48).
The Rama (YD 376:4) rules that it is proper for sons of the deceased to bring parents merit by saying Kaddish and being chazan during the 11 months after death. Yet, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 53:20) says that the congregation may choose another chazan over a mourner if they so desire. A mourner’s absolute right applies only to the Kaddeishim designed for them (Mishna Berura 53:60). However, the congregation has a mitzva to allow the mourner to be chazan under normal circumstances.
Those who are not able to be chazan were allotted Kaddeishim to aid them in bringing merit to their parents. Halachically preferably and originally practiced, one mourner alone recites each Kaddish. To deal with cases of too many mourners, the Acharonim arrived at detailed rules of kedimut (prioritization). Over the last few hundred years, to ward off quarreling, the minhag has spread almost universally to allow multiple people to say Kaddish together. Thus, the rules of kedimut are limited now to choice of chazan, about which you are asking.
The earliest source on your question is the Maharam Mintz (Shut 80), accepted by the Rama (ibid.), written as part of guidelines to nip potential disputes in the bud. He posits that each mourner has equal rights in receiving turns, even if his parent is “represented” in the shul by multiple siblings. The Maharam Mintz is clear about the reason. The rights of reciting Kaddish relate to the avel, who is acting in fulfillment of the mitzva of kibbud av va’em. Although ultimately it benefits the parent, the rights relate to the live son(s).
This approach has many ramifications. One brother can demand of another to share chazanut equitably, allowing each to honor their parent, even if there is no net gain for the deceased. Much of the discussion on the matter relates to the minhag of some communities to give precedence to an avel who is a local and/or a dues payer over a guest. In such a place, how do we view an avel who is a visitor in the deceased’s shul? The Maharam Mintz (ibid.) and the Shach (YD 376:12) say that the son’s own status is the deciding factor, i.e., he is a visitor, and not treated as the “agent” of the newly deceased community member.
The Avodat Hagershuni (63) says that while everyone agrees that each brother has full, not shared, rights, there is another opinion regarding the reason. He cites the Maharil as saying that the parent is the determinant, but that a deceased with multiple sons has been merited by Hashem with having the advantage of multiple “Kaddish reciters.” This extra privilege should not be taken away from him by having it evened out with other deceased.
While it seems strange to attribute extra rights to one deceased over another, consider the following perspective. If five brothers lived separately, a fellow mourner could not tell any of them: “I am an only child; you should let me be chazan any day that any of your brothers is chazan in his community.” Rather, on many days, that parent would be getting multiple tefilla merits. Why, then, should the deceased be deprived of that just because his sons daven in the same shul? Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Shut II:4) says that the Maharam Mintz and Maharil’s reasons are both true, and therefore one can have rights as a local either through the parent or through the son. If there is a conflict between an avel with one “right” and one with both, the one with both should daven two thirds of the time.
In your case, though, all agree that you should be chazan one third of the time.
Kri’at HaTorah at MinchaWhen it is not possible to get a minyan together for a weekday Shacharit, may we lain at Mincha?
The matter hinges on whether the Rabbinic enactment of weekday kri’at haTorah was made specifically for Shacharit or that it is just the preferred time. The mishna (Megilla 21a) lists times for kri’at haTorah, starting with: “Monday, Thursday, and Shabbat Mincha.” While some believe the order hints whether Mincha is or is not a possibility for weekdays (see Yehuda Ya’aleh, Orach Chayim 51; Beit She’arim, OC 50), it is more likely that we cannot make a reliable inference (Shut Maharshag II,92). In the Rambam (Tefilla 12:1), we find weekday kri’at haTorah attached to Shacharit. However, there are variant texts (Kesef Mishneh ad loc.), and perhaps he only means that Shacharit is the time l’chatchila (Shevet Halevi IV,15).
The rule (see Megilla 20b) is that mitzvot for a certain day can be done (at least b’di’eved) all day, unless there is a reason/source to limit them (e.g., Kri’at Shema; each of the daily tefillot). Regarding weekday laining, the Maharshag (ibid.) finds no reason to limit it. Some Acharonim, though, provide spiritual reasons. Yabia Omer (IV, OC 17) cites those who connect weekday kri’at haTorah to the idea that Monday and Thursday mornings are effective times for supplications (i.e., long Tachanun). In contrast, afternoons (except on Shabbat) are times of strict judgment. Goren David (OC 5) posits that public kri’at haTorah must resemble how Moshe instituted it – when all Jews were together. Nowadays, that is lacking, but it is important that all Jews do it at one time period. He leaves it up in the air as to whether different time periods on the correct day are considered a unified time.
There are 250 year-old sources on a similar case. The Dagul Mei’revava (to OC 135:2) rules that if a shul was unable to lain the parasha on Shabbat morning, they should do so that Shabbat afternoon. The Chida (Chaim Sha’al I, 71) disagrees, saying that one can read a whole parasha only on Shabbat morning; rather, one should read two parshiyot the next Shabbat. There are different indications as to whether the Zohar is in line with the Chida or it is not conclusive (see Yabia Omer ibid.). The Mishna Berura (135:5) and most Ashkenazi poskim accept the Noda B’Yehuda, whereas the Kaf Hachayim (OC 135:9) is among Sephardi poskim who rule like the Chida.
At first glance, regarding our case, the Dagul Mei’revava should say to lain at Mincha, and the Chida should say not to. However, there are distinctions in either direction (see Yabia Omer ibid.). On the one hand, Shabbat Mincha is a time for kri’at haTorah of some sort, which may not be true of weekday Mincha. On the other hand, Shabbat Mincha is the time for a different type of laining and the next Shabbat is a valid alternative, whereas all day Monday/Thursday is likely valid for laining and doing it on a later day is a problem because of the idea of three days without Torah (see Bava Kama 82a).
The explicit sources regarding our question begin around 200 years ago, with accounts that the Chatam Sofer, Rav Yehuda Assad, and others arranged Mincha laining for themselves when travelling (see Goren David and Yehuda Ya’aleh ibid.). Most poskim, including the Mishna Berura (135:1), assume that this is fundamentally correct (see also Shevet Halevi IV,15). Some argue that the case is not strong enough to introduce such a strange-seeming innovation (Beit Shearim, OC 50), and therefore it is better to refrain from it (this is also Rav Ovadia Yosef’s conclusion (Yabia Omer ibid.).What is clear from many of the sources (not all quoted here) is that in practice, a few subjective factors are important: whether it was at all possible to do it at Shacharit (see Yabia Omer ibid.); if it is on a regular basis (see Tzitz Eliezer XIII, 27); how people will react (Maharshag ibid.). It is unclear if it makes a difference how many people missed morning laining (see Yabia Omer ibid.). Therefore, each specific case behooves rabbinic guidance.
Reheating Liquids on ShabbatRegarding the prohibition to reheat liquid foods on Shabbat (in cases where there is not a problem due to returning food to a heat source), what constitutes a liquid?
It is noteworthy that your premise of a prohibition is not obvious. The mishna (Shabbat 145b) teaches us that ein bishul achar bishul (=ebab – once a food has been (fully?) cooked, there is no further prohibition of cooking), and no gemara clearly distinguishes between solid and liquid. The distinction begins with Rashi (Shabbat 34a) on the topic of hatmana (insulating food) on Shabbat, who raises a concern one might heat up the food before insulating and thus violate bishul. The Rosh (Shabbat 3:11) in reconciling the two sources above posits that Rashi’s problem refers to food with liquid. Many poskim have offered suggestions why liquid is worse. Perhaps the most accepted is that the change in the food from the first cooking is less noticeable regarding liquids that have cooled off (see Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim 37:13).
Several Rishonim, including the Rambam, Rashba, and Ran, apply ebab even to liquids (see Beit Yosef, OC 318). Yet, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 318:4) is stringent on the matter. The Rama (ad loc. 15) cites those who are lenient on reheating liquid and concludes that it is permitted unless the food cooled off totally. The more accepted explanation of this compromise is that the Rama fundamentally accepts the lenient position, but is stringent Rabbinically when it is cooled off because it is unnoticeable that it was already cooked. Even for Sephardim, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer X, OC 26) posits that the Shulchan Aruch did not totally discount the lenient position. This leads the way for various leniencies. For example, he ruled that if one did reheat a liquid on Shabbat, it does not become forbidden to eat and that it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to reheat a liquid on his behalf.
There are broad differences between opinions on the parameters of a liquid. The Beit Yosef (OC 318) cites Rabbeinu Yona as saying that it depends on the majority of the food. This seems surprisingly lenient; after all, even if the prohibition does not apply to the solid part, how can one ignore the cooking occurring to the liquid? There are a few approaches to explain. One is that we find elsewhere regarding the laws of Shabbat that an object is defined by its majority. Also, the food was already cooked, just that we say that the process was “lost” when it cooled down. Therefore, if regarding the object’s majority the cooking is not lost, we can apply the rule of ebab. Also, whether the cooking is positive or negative may depend on majority. Yabia Omer (VII, OC 42) follows this lenient position, and Igrot Moshe (OC IV, 74 Bishul 7) allows it in a case of great need.
The Chatam Sofer (Shut OC 74) says that any amount of (external?) surface liquid makes reheating forbidden. Most classical sources (see Rosh, Shulchan Aruch ibid.) seem to take an in-between approach, referring to “have liquid in it”. Unfortunately, few poskim go into detail of what that entails.
Orchot Shabbat (1:22) distinguishes between liquid sitting on the solid and that which accumulates separately. How would cholent with a little liquid that accumulates mainly near the bottom be considered? It seems logical on this matter of machloket to forbid only cases in which the liquid part has significance (see similar language with a different understanding in The 39 Melochos, p. 594). This can be when one will purposely eat the gravy, or when he wants it there to make it easier to heat up the whole food. Many cholents would be considered to have a significant liquid element, especially at night (at night, there is usually not a problem because one returns it when it is still hot). However, when reheating chicken, meat, or an oily kugel, one would not have to worry about a small pool of gravy that inadvertently appears next to meat. (We are not getting involved now in the discussion of the status of congealed gravy that becomes liquid after being heated).
Lying to Avoid EmbarrassmentIf someone asks you a tactless, unnecessary question, the answer to which is embarrassing, and refusing to answer is like admitting the truth, is it permitted to lie?
The broadest of the Torah prohibitions against lying (even without language of oaths) is “mid’var sheker tirchak” (distance yourself from a matter of falsehood) (Shemot 23:7). Philosophically, we abhor dishonesty. We are to emulate Hashem, about Whom it is said: “Hashem’s signet is truth” (Sanhedrin 64a).
Yet, gemarot spell out cases in which one may and/or even should lie. One gemara (Yevamot 65b) says that one may lie to preserve peace. One precedent it cites is that Hashem inaccurately related to Avraham what Sarah had said about their chance of having a baby at an advanced age. Another (Bava Metzia 23b) lists three things about which it is appropriate for a scholar to lie. The third example is not to publicize that one’s host was very welcoming, if it will cause unwanted guests to flock to him (see Rashi ad loc.).
In all of these cases, the untruth was said to protect someone else, unlike in your question. However, the above sources include cases of self-protection. The first gemara also gives the example of Yosef’s brothers trying to ward off his enmity with a lie. Another example in Bava Metzia is lying about what one is learning/has learned. Rashi explains it as minimizing one’s scholarship out of humility; the Lechem Mishneh’s understands the Rambam (Aveida 14:13) as avoiding people testing him on a weak topic to avoid embarrassment. This last source is equivalent to your question. But even Rashi’s case makes us think why one can do an ostensible aveira for humility’s sake!
The simplest answer is that the prohibition of lying refers to different types of cases. The pasuk’s context is beit din proceedings, in which the pursuit of truth is at a premium. The Yereim (mitzva 235), while extending the mitzva somewhat, limits it to lies which harm someone. This matter seems to depend on the machloket between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel (Ketubot 17a). Beit Hillel encourages singing the praises of a bride, even when they are untrue. Beit Shammai argues that this violates “midevar sheker tirchak.” Beit Hillel makes a moral argument based on concern for the feelings of others, but, how does that sentiment dispose of Beit Shammai’s pasuk? Apparently, the argument is whether the Yereim is correct, and we pasken like Beit Hillel (see Rav Perlow on Rasag’s Sefer Hamitzvot, Aseh 22). The other possibility is that even if lying about something innocuous is forbidden from the Torah, Chazal understood, perhaps based on the precedents in Tanach, that in the case of important counter-factors, it is waived.
We have dealt (Living the Halachic Process V, H-2) with poskim’s permission to stage a fake pidyon haben if needed to save a couple from embarrassment about the wife previous pregnancy. K’vod haberiyot (human dignity) justifies significant halachic leniency (Berachot 19b), which far exceed some of the factors that, we have seen, justify lying.Do note that regarding k’vod haberiyot, the degree of breach of human dignity helps determine the level of leniency (Tosafot, Shvuot 30b), so that there is no blanket permission. Furthermore, even when speaking untruthfully is permitted, it is noble to raise one’s level of honesty to the point that he lies or even distorts (as Yaakov did to receive Yitzchak’s blessings) only when it is clearly morally called for. Sometimes, a little embarrassment from answering a tactless question honestly is not so bad, and sometimes the truth will actually teach the person a lesson. Sometimes the insult to the tactless person (some of whom may have problems) of refusing to answer itself compromises shalom. There are far too many circumstances and factors to address in a general presentation. However, the basic conclusion is that a “white lie” to protect one’s own dignity is often permitted, but, on the other hand, should be weighed carefully.
Sitting Next to Someone Who Is Davening on the BusI was sitting next to my wife on a bus, and she was davening. Was I was allowed to remain seated when she got up to Shemoneh Esrei?
There are two similar halachot having to do with the 4 amot around one who is davening Shemoneh Esrei, which people often confuse, but their parameters and reasoning could be important here. One is not walking in front of one who is davening Shemoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 102:4-5). The other is our issue of sitting within the 4 amot of one who is davening Shemoneh Esrei (ibid. 1-3).
The source of the latter halacha is the gemara (Berachot 31b), which in discussing how Eili Hakohen was near Chana who was standing in prayer, derives that he was not sitting too close to her. The main reasons given for this halacha are: 1. It looks as if the one who is sitting does not relate respectfully and thus believe in the davening around him (Tur, OC 102). 2. When one davens, he creates “holy ground” around him, and it is forbidden to take that area lightly by sitting down in it. (Taz, OC 102:3). This differs from the way most explain the former halacha – that walking in front of one who is davening disturbs his concentration.
There are two areas in which to consider leniency. One is based on the difficulty or inappropriateness of standing up. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 102:2) says that if the davener’s neighbor is weak, he may sit. The Mishna Berura (102:10) explains that the logic of looking like one does not agree does not apply when people can tell he is weak. Similarly, since, due to needs of comfort and safety, people avoid standing on a bus, the same leniency applies. Also, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 3) says that if one is sitting before his friend starts davening next to him, he is not responsible to get up, at least when the setting is not a shul (Mishna Berura 102:13). However, this latter point is not too helpful in your case. The reason one does not have to get up is because we blame the davener, who should have picked a different place (ibid. 12). Especially here, where the matter is less on the negative impact on the davener but in disgracing Hashem, that would mean that your wife would be at fault for the situation, which you do not want.
Another point is that perhaps it is not problematic to sit next to someone davening if they themselves are sitting. While the K’tzot Hashulchan (20:(26) posits simply that there is no difference, some suggest (see Tzitz Eliezer IX:7) that if the halacha is based on not looking like he respects, it is not a problem if they are both sitting. If it has to do with “holy ground,” then it should not make a difference. While the gemara does not hint at a distinction, the Rambam (Tefilla 5:6) can be read as limiting the halacha to the case of a standing davener. The Meiri, who says that the reason not to sit is to not disturb the davener, is clearer that it applies only when the davener is standing. The Tzitz Eliezer (ibid.) suggests another idea. Sitting for Shemoneh Esrei is on a lower level than standing, to the extent that the Shulchan Aruch (OC 94:9) says that if one had to daven sitting and then has the opportunity to stand, he should daven again. Although we do not follow this (Mishna Berura 94:27), the basic premise is agreed upon. Therefore, maybe the level of holy ground is missing if one sits.
While it is not great to daven on a bus (for the above reason and others), many women are so time-pressed, so that there is little choice but to do so. It seems weird to suggest that such a woman’s husband should not sit next to her, stand, or move away. It is anyway likely that someone will just take his place. As we have seen, there are strong grounds for leniency. There is, though, a win-win idea for a husband in this situation. Some say that if the davener’s neighbor is learning Torah during his Shemoneh Esrei, he does not have to stand (Shulchan Aruch, OC 102:1). So learning would be a good thing, on multiple levels, to do at that time.
When to Make a Beracha for InheritanceThe executor of my mother’s will is starting to distribute funds. I saw in P’ninei Halacha (online) that the beneficiaries should say Hatov V’hameitiv when they receive the funds. In our case, distribution will be piecemeal. When/how often should I recite the beracha?
The gemara (Berachot 59b) says that when one’s father dies and leaves an inheritance, he recites “Baruch … dayan ha’emet” and then a beracha for inheriting, (Hatov V’hameitiv for multiple inheritors; Shehecheyanu for a lone inheritor). The Rashba (Shut I:245) explains the shocking idea of employing an upbeat beracha due to a loved one’s death – these berachot are not for happiness, which should not exist no matter the inheritance’s size, but for practical gain. The Ktav Sofer (Yoreh Deah 123) explains that we view the death and the financial acquisition as separate, as only “by chance” were significant funds acquired due to a death.
While the gemara is accepted in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 223:2), its practical application has raised pertinent questions. Classical sources imply that these berachot are done right after witnessing or hearing of the death, which is usually when the son is an onen (one before his close relative’s funeral), who may not make berachot. So why does he make this beracha? The Gesher Hachayim (18:2.3) says that the beracha is indeed recited after the burial, but Rav Auerbach (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 64:(8)) is cited as disagreeing.
Another problem relates to the present minhag that people recite Dayan Ha’emet only soon before the burial. But it makes sense to recite the beracha on inheritance at the time it occurs halachically (the moment of death)! Several poskim (see ibid.; Shevet Halevi VIII:35) posit that it is unseemly for the first religious acknowledgment of a parent’s death to be upbeat; so even nowadays, Dayan Ha’emet must be first. But when? There are logic and textual indications (both beyond our present scope) that the two berachot were meant to go together, so that the inheritance beracha could be right after Dayan Ha’emet (at the funeral). But then it is not connected to any stage in inheritance (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata ibid.), and, worse, I have never heard (or heard of) anyone doing it at that time. Another alternative, with similar problems, is soon after starting aveilut at home (it is permitted during shiva – Mishna Berura 551:98).
Therefore, the P’ninei Halacha’s idea is appealing. One thereby distances the beracha from the death and pain, with emotional and maybe halachic gain (see Teshuvot V’hanhagot II:140). By waiting for a financially significant time, the beracha is linked to the inheritance.
However, while not arguing, we will point out problems with this approach. In the gemara’s time, the main inheritance, real estate (see Ketubot 91a), often took a while to be sorted out (divided up by the brothers), and yet the gemara implies that the beracha was made right away. Since according to most, Shehecheyanu of this type is not obligatory (see Mishna Berura 225:9), there is less need to say it if there is doubt. (If one makes the beracha when receiving personally, Shehecheyanu, which is anyway the safer beracha (Biur Halacha 223:5), not Hatov V’hameitiv, is correct even if he has brothers.). There is also a minority opinion (see Ba’er Heitev 223:7) that one makes the beracha only if he was surprised to find out that he was left an estate. Not always is it clear that the inheritance, especially after paying parents’ debts (see Chashukei Chemed, Ketubot 90b) bring enough happiness/benefit for a beracha. Above all, the minhag seems to be not to make the beracha. Although the minhag’s origins are not fully clear, we have seen enough reasons to consider it reasonable. While it is legitimate to follow the P’ninei Halacha’s recommendation or make the beracha earlier, one need not feel compelled to make the beracha. If he decides to make it, it is unjustified to do so on every installment. The first or largest expected installment would be the time.
Top of page
Send to friend