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When to Make Up P’sukei D’zimraSomeone in shul did something I see as strange. He came late, skipped to Yishtabach when the tzibbur got up to it, but then was making up few p’sukim of P’sukei D’zimra at each of the pauses in Birchot Kri’at Shema and during chazarat hashatz (we barely had a minyan, and it was unclear to me how often he was answering amen). Is that the right way to do things?
Your shul-mate was correct to skip parts of P’sukei D’zimra in order to daven with the tzibbur, preferably finishing Yishtabach together and, more crucially, starting Shemoneh Esrei together (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 52:1). For Sephardim, one may even skip all of P’sukei D’zimra, including Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach (ibid.), whereas Ashkenazim should say at least those berachot and Ashrei (Mishna Berura 52:6).
However, it was wrong to say parts of P’sukei D’zimra during pauses in Birchot Shema, during which one may not speak non-crucial things. There are two sets of rules of speech at that time: in between berachot and sections of Kri’at Shema (bein haperakim), and in their midst (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 66:1). Actually, most of the “pauses,” i.e., when we wait for the chazan, are in the midst of berachot of Kri’at Shema or other times when it is particularly bad to speak, even for mitzva purposes. (The exception is after “…yotzer hame’orot.”)
Even bein haperakim, the list of permitted recitations is very limited. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) rules that one who did not put on tallit and tefillin previously may do so with a beracha during bein haperakim. However, the Rama cites an opinion that one does not recite the beracha until later, even though putting on tefillin at that time is important (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 25:4), and rules this way regarding tzitzit/tallit. The Mishna Berura (66:15) explains that since having a tallit on at that time is only desirable and not a real requirement, the beracha is an unjustified interruption during the Kri’at Shema section.
How critical is P’sukei D’zimra at that point? For one who skipped all of P’sukei D’zimra (see above), arguably, if he now realizes that he can fit it in bein haperakim, it might be important enough to do. After all, according to the Shulchan Aruch, a make-up P’sukei D’zimra will be without Baruch She’amar/Yishtabach. We find a machloket whether a passing opportunity to make a non-critical beracha (see Mishna Berura 66:19 regarding the beracha on lightening) justifies recitation bein haperakim. However, assuming the person said a shortened P’sukei D’zimra, why recite individual mizmorim at this sensitive point? After all, there already was a basic pre-tefilla praise of Hashem (P’sukei D’zimra’s main function), and the fact that one may shorten it shows the rest is not critical. Whatever he recited was out of its normal framework (i.e., between Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach), and the mizmorim can and should be done after tefilla. There is a better idea, for one who hopes to get in more of P’sukei D’zimra than if he just skips to Yishtabach and knows he davens faster than the chazan. He can continue P’sukei D’zimra, answering Kaddish and Barchu while in its midst, and then catch up to the tzibbur during Birchot Kri’at Shema (Mishna Berura 52:6).What about P’sukei D’zimra during chazarat hashatz? The basic halacha is that it is only forbidden to speak mundane matters during chazarat hashatz (Shulchan Aruch OC, 124:7). However, poskim consider it bad precedent to even learn Torah or recite supplications when people should be concentrating on chazarat hashatz (Mishna Berura 124:17). If it is unclear if there are ten (perhaps, nine – see Living the Halachic Process vol. I, A-10) people listening to every word (Igrot Moshe, OC IV 19) then it is certainly wrong to be involved in anything else. If (as is likely) recitation of P’sukei D’zimra will cause him to miss answering some amens and this may cause the loss of the quorum for amen during some berachot (others in shul likely also sometimes lose concentration), this is severe (Shulchan Aruch, OC 124:4).
Receiving Credit Card Benefit on Purchase for Someone ElseReuven paid for Shimon’s plane ticket using his credit card and was to be reimbursed. Is it considered that Reuven lent money to Shimon, so that if Reuven receives more than he gave because of credit card points he earned, it is ribbit (forbidden usury)? Also, who deserves to get the points, i.e., should Reuven credit Shimon for his gain?
When Reuven gave money to the airlines via his credit card based on Simon’s request, it is indeed considered as if he lent money to Shimon. This is based on a broad concept known as arvut (guarantorship). By means of arvut, the one who becomes obligated is not the one who received the money (the airline) but the one who requested the money to reach the party he specified (Shimon) (Kiddushin 7a). This concept can be used in creating loan obligations, kiddushin, and transactions. Thus, if Shimon would refuse to pay Reuven back because Reuven did not directly give him anything, we would say “Are you kidding?! When asking Reuven to pay the airlines, you said (or implied) you would pay Shimon back.”
Now that we have determined that Reuven has, effectively and halachically, lent money to Shimon, the question is whether Reuven can receive benefit as a result of the transaction. Indeed, ribbit is not only when a lender receives money straight from the hand of the borrower. If, for example, the borrower wanted to give the interest to the lender by means of a shaliach (agent), it would also be forbidden.
However, the problem is only if the benefit that Reuven receives is, in some way, coming from Shimon (Bava Metzia 69b). This case is different because of the nature of the benefit the credit card company gives Reuven. Because credit card companies benefit when their card is used more times/for larger sums of money, they sometimes give incentives to cardholders to use their card as much as possible. The company, thus, gives benefit to the cardholder, i.e., because Reuven decided to use their credit card; they are certainly not doing it at Shimon’s behest. Therefore, there is no problem of ribbit.
Is Reuven, though, required to give or share the gain with Shimon, and, then, if Shimon waived his rights, would that waiver not be considered ribbit? The gemara (Ketubot 98b) asks about a case in which someone serves as an agent to buy a certain amount of a commodity for a buyer for a certain price, and the seller decides to give more commodity than was requested. The gemara says that if the object does not have a set price, we say that the buyer’s money ended up bringing him more than expected. If, though, there was a set price, we view the extra as a present.
Who receives the present? The gemara accepts the opinion that it is divided equally between the buyer and the agent. Rashi explains that this is because there is a doubt for whom the present was intended. Based on this, the Rama (Choshen Mishpat 183:6) says that if the seller specified that he added on for the agent, the agent keeps the whole surplus. The Rif (Ketubot 57b of his pages) says that even assuming the agent was the intended recipient, the buyer deserves a share because the benefit came through him. The Beit Yosef prefers the Rif’s opinion, and the Shach (183:12) wonders why the Rama wrote according to Rashi as if it is agreed upon.
One might have claimed that our case depends on the machloket of the Rif, Rashi et al., as Reuven got the benefit because of Shimon’s purchase. However, in this case, Shimon is less directly involved with the credit card company than the gemara’s seller is to the buyer. Also, the “present” is part of an ongoing deal between company and client (Reuven), to which Shimon is not a party. The Rashba (Meyuchas L’Ramban 60; see K’tzot Hachoshen 283:7) says that when the present is because of the agent’s relationship with the seller, the agent receives the whole benefit.In summary, based on your description, Reuven need not credit Shimon for the points benefit, and there is no problem of ribbit.
Joining a Shushan Purim SeudaAt my Purim seuda this year (Friday, in Yerushalayim), I will be hosting my children from outside the city. Are there any limitations on their participation considering that it is Erev Shabbat?
While the main halacha of refraining from serious eating before a holy day is before Pesach (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 471:1), it is proper to refrain from even a moderate meal during the last quarter of Friday day (ibid. 249:2). It is also prohibited to make, anytime on Friday, an especially big meal. However, this is permitted for seudot mitzva that fall specifically on this day (Rama ad loc.), including a Purim seuda (Rama, OC 695:2).
At first glance, since the Purim seuda does not apply, halachically, to your visiting family, they do not have an excuse to do that which is normally forbidden. However, one can argue cogently to the contrary. One who makes a brit or pidyon haben on Friday makes a seuda (Rama ad loc.), and standard sources do not limit whom he can invite. It follows that whoever joins the seuda is properly contributing to the occasion’s festiveness. Similarly, we cite for those for whom it is not intuitively obvious, that important sources (including Eliya Rabba 695:4; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 696:3) write that Purim is properly celebrated in the context of a broad gathering of family and friends.
We would not, though, say that this is a proof that your out-of-town guests have no more restrictions than you. Consider that the nature of a seudat brit is that the ba’alei simcha invite and rely on guests who are not ba’alei simcha. In contrast, it is plausible that since one’s whole community is celebrating Purim, participation is a mitzva only for such people. On the other hand, some festivity is appropriate for all Jews on both Adar 14 and Adar 15 (Rama, OC 695:2).
It is even likely that the “prohibition” on eating a big meal in the morning is not a problem at all for your guests. The source to refrain from it is a gemara (Gittin 38b), which tells that a family that set a meal on “Erev Shabbat” was punished. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that their main Shabbat meal was Friday night, but most say it is referring to a seuda on Friday day. However, some say it is a problem only if it is on a regular basis (Ramban, Gittin 38b)); some say any occurrence of a big meal even in the morning can ruin one’s appetite (Shulchan Aruch, OC 249:2); others (Rashba in name of Rach; Pri Megadim, EA 249:4) say that is to not take away from Shabbat preparations (here, the seuda and Shabbat organizers are Shushan Purim people). Thus, only according to one approach (albeit, the Shulchan Aruch’s) should it be a real problem for the guests in the first place.
In the final analysis, based on multiple grounds, we posit that it is appropriate to include your children in the seuda. The question remains whether any limitations are appropriate.
While most years, the Purim seuda is preferably held in the afternoon, on Friday it is preferable to start it in the morning so that one will have enough time to recover his appetite by Shabbat (ibid.). (There is an opinion that it is enough to start before the last quarter of the day (Shut Maharil 56, cited as a secondary source in Mishna Berura 695:10).) There is a serious albeit minority approach to hold the seuda at the end of the day and have it turn into a Shabbat meal (contact our office for guidelines). The involvement of out-of-town guests is an added reason to prefer an earlier meal, as serious eating close to Shabbat is clearly problematic, and the advantages of enhancement of Purim by eating later do not apply directly to them. Therefore, having the meal in the morning (starting is enough - Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 42:(96)) is significantly preferable for the guests.
If the guests want to be stringent, there is logic for them to eat less than they might have. It is not justified for them to get drunk or even drink a lot of wine. (Any year, it is hard to justify getting drunk when it is not his Purim, nor do we ever favor drunkenness on Purim.)
Tefillin on a Semi-Permanent ToupeeMy balding at a young age is having a major effect on my dating and my self-image. I am considering getting a toupee that is glued down to the scalp, which lasts for 3-6 months. Would I have a problem of a chatzitza (separation from the body) for my tefillin?
The Rashba (Shut III:282) believes that the laws of chatzitza do not apply to the tefillin shel rosh. However, the accepted opinion is that chatzitzot are a problem, although possibly only for the bayit and not the retzuot (straps) (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Orach Chayim 27:4 and Mishna Berura 27:16).
Many poskim (including Igrot Moshe, OC IV:40.18; Aseh Lecha Rav III:3; Yalkut Yosef, OC 27:14) posit that a removable toupee is a chatzitza. However, Rav Moshe posits that transplanted hair is not a chatzitza since it is a permanent, desired part of his body. Furthermore, he writes that is also true for a permanently glued-on toupee. Is a toupee that is glued down for a matter of months a temporary or permanent appendage to the body?
Matters of chatzitza on appendages that remain for an extended period are discussed regarding items such as removable stitches and temporary fillings for women going to the mikveh. In that context, many poskim (see opinions in Badei Hashulchan 198:179 and The Laws of Nidda (Forst), vol. II, p.313-4) are lenient to allow tevilla. One of the lenient factors (see Igrot Moshe, YD I:97) is that the ostensible chatzitza is something that is specifically needed for medical reasons for a significant amount of time. This factor is missing in our case. However, several poskim are lenient in a case of aesthetic need to allow a married woman to have braces on her teeth (see The Laws of Nidda ibid.), and that is parallel to our case. Our case is also better than braces in that people want to remove the braces as soon as possible, whereas you would want to keep the toupee as long as you can.
There are various opinions regarding how long the item needs to remain on the body: six months; a month; a week (see ibid.). Finally, if, for example, the required time is a month, then according to some opinions, the appendage becomes a chatzitza a month before it will be removed; others say that if it is on for a month, it is okay until it is removed (see ibid.). Your situation is better if the toupee is being removed to be re-glued rather than replaced. A woman who wants to follow the stringent opinion can accordingly synchronize going to the mikveh and removing the appendage; a man who has to put on tefillin every day cannot.
Let us halachically contrast tevilla and tefillin. On the one hand, tevilla is needed to remove a more stringent halachic matter than tefillin. Also, we saw an opinion that chatzitza is not a problem for the tefillin shel rosh. Yet, in other ways, your case is more severe. A chatzitza on a minority of the body (as in the cases above) is no worse than a Rabbinic disqualification (Nidda 67b). In contrast, the entire area of the tefillin is covered by a toupee, and there is thus the potential for a Torah-level disqualification (see Ran to Rif, Sukka 13b). Some even argue that the parameters of chatzitza for tefillin are broader than for tevilla (see Rivevot Ephrayim III;38), and some claim that even one’s own hair that is under the tefillin in an unnatural way is a chatzitza (Machatzit Hashekel 27:4). A toupee should be no better than that.In summary, it is likely that the toupee in question would not be a chatzitza (and one could make a beracha on the tefillin while it is on) as long as it is still considered desirable. However, we cannot deny that according to significant opinions, the mitzva of tefillin could be compromised. In the following way a removable toupee has an advantage. Several poskim allow one who will be embarrassed to remove it publicly to put on tefillin at home without the toupee, say Kri’at Shema, and then daven in shul with tefillin on the toupee without a beracha (Igrot Moshe ibid.; Aseh Lecha Rav, ibid.).
Leaving Money for Tzedaka in a WillHow much could or should one leave in a will for tzedaka before dividing the rest among the children?
First, realize that there is absolutely no requirement to leave anything in a will for tzedaka. The obligation to give tzedaka applies during and throughout one’s lifetime. When he dies (may it be at 120), he is exempt from it like other mitzvot and does not have to make provisions before his death. It becomes the inheritors’ obligation to give tzedaka from the money they inherit (Tzedaka U’mishpat 5:4).
The question the poskim deal with is whether it is permitted to leave money for tzedaka. Chazal frowned upon (at least; perhaps, forbade!) giving money slated for his inheritors to others or giving the share of one inheritor to another (Bava Batra 133b). This is called avurei achsanta (=av ach). This is even if there is a logical reason, e.g., one child is more “deserving” than another (ibid.). This certainly applies when it is done or takes effect at the end of his life, when the laws of inheritance were to apply. The gemara (Ketubot 53a) says that one who gives an exaggerated dowry for his daughter is considered av ach. This indicates that giving at least an amount of money that is appropriate to serve as an inheritance can be considered av ach even during his lifetime.
The gemara in Bava Batra (ibid.) indicates that giving money as a mitzva (e.g., hekdesh) can still be forbidden as av ach. It is thus hard to know where to draw the line. Could it be prohibited to give a nice present to anyone, including tzedaka (beyond the recommended amount)?! On the one hand, the gemara (Ketubot 50a) says that one may not give more than 20% of his property/earnings to tzedaka. However, the reason is concern that he might need the money, not because it deprives his inheritors, and it is permitted to give it “after he dies” and thus will not be needing the money (Ketubot 67b).We will present some of the distinctions raised to reconcile the sources.
Several poskim posit that if one leaves significant amounts of money for his inheritors, then he can give major tzedaka donations (see Pitchei Teshuva, Choshen Mishpat 282:1; Yabia Omer VIII:9). In fact, the gemara (ibid.) tells that Mar Ukva donated half of his assets to tzedaka soon before his death, after declaring it is prudent considering his insufficient merits (he was an Amora!!) for his judgment in Heaven. Some claim that since Mar Ukva was wealthy, his inheritors were anyway well provided for (see Pitchei Choshen, Yerusha 4:(9)).
Let us move to the related question of when it is appropriate to leave money to tzedaka. The Chatam Sofer (CM 151) discussed one who was dying without children and wanted to leave huge amounts of money to tzedaka. He posits that while it is problematic to give to others (even tzedaka) so that his inheritor not receive much, there is justification to give to tzedaka if he feels, especially without the merit of leaving children, that he is need of the merit of tzedaka.One should consider a few more things. Often one’s children are very worthy recipients of all of the inheritance money by virtue of their needs (which can verge on tzedaka) and the good things they can do with it (e.g., pay day school tuition, afford to live in a religious neighborhood). Not only may tzedaka be given to the needy in the family, but they have precedence (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 251:3). Also consider that while when the money one earned and saved through hard work goes to tzedaka, it is a significant posthumous merit, leaving it in a will is not the full mitzva of tzedaka (Tzedaka U’mishpat 1:(7)). After all, a major part of the mitzva is to give to others rather than spend on oneself. Here, giving away to others money slated for one’s children, when he cannot use it himself, does not have the full effect. Fortunate is one who can trust his children to use an appropriate amount of the money they inherit for tzedaka and mitzvot. One can seek the right balance for his situation with the help of a sensitive rav who knows the family.
Finishing Time for MinchaAm I correct that l’chatchila, it is proper to start Mincha early enough to finish before shekiah? If so, what are the key sources on the matter?
Question: Am I correct that l’chatchila, it is proper to start Mincha early enough to finish before shekiah? If so, what are the key sources on the matter?
Answer: There are two opinions in the gemara (Berachot 27a) about the end time for Mincha – until plag haMincha or the erev (evening). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 233:1) says that the latter opinion, which most people now regularly follow, is until layla (night), which for the Shulchan Aruch (see Mishna Berura 261:20) is around an hour after sunset. (There are two major approaches in the poskim whether what the gemara calls shekiah, which is the first part of the break-off point between day and night, is what we call sunset or is when the sun is well under the horizon. This machloket has many direct and indirect halachic implications, and this is one of them.) The great majority of us (except those who follow the much later opinion for the end of Shabbat and the time to start Ma’ariv known as Rabbeinu Tam/Magen Avraham) follow the opinion (often called the Gra’s opinion) that halachic shekiah is sunset. The Rama (ad loc.) is more specific, saying that this means tzeit hakochavim (stars coming out).
The Mishna Berura (233:14) points out that they do not mean full night, i.e., tzeit hakochavim. Rather, the intention is for approximately a quarter hour before, when bein hashemashot starts and it is a doubt whether it is night or day. Furthermore, he contends that many disagree with the Shulchan Aruch and follow sunset like the Gra. Therefore, indeed shekiah is the presumed cut-off point. Because there are opinions that later is sufficient, there is room for leniency in times of great need (Mishna Berura, ibid), especially within the first thirteen and a half minutes, which is no later than bein hashemashot (see also Shevet Halevi IX:48).
Does one only have to start or also finish in time? Most poskim posit that, as a rule, things must be finished by their time limit, and this rule also applies to Mincha (Mishna Berura ibid., Ishei Yisrael 27:6). A minority say the beginning is enough (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 110:5; see sources in Ishei Yisrael 27:(12)). Therefore, many poskim (Mishna Berura ibid., Ishei Yisrael 27:6) say that it is better to daven without a minyan before shekiah than to finish it after shekiah with a minyan (ibid.). One could claim that given the minority opinions above and here, there is more reason for leniency if one starts soon before and ends soon after sunset (see Piskei Teshuvot 233:7). This, though, is not simple for those who do not heed Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion at all.
Fundamentally, there is little difference between Shemoneh Esrei and chazarat hashatz, which, after all, is supposed to be Shemoneh Esrei for certain individuals and/or the tzibbur. On the other hand, if everyone already got in their own Shemoneh Esrei, the stakes regarding chazarat hashatz are lower. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that there is a machloket among Acharonim whether it is better to do a shortened chazarat hashatz (heiche Kedusha) or to finish chazarat hashatz after shekiah (see Ishei Yisrael 27:40). Thus, it is quite important to finish chazarat hashatz in time. However, several poskim say that if one is in a shul in which chazarat hashatz is being done after shekiah, even one who does not accept that approach may answer Amen (see Maharam Shick, OC 91; Shevet Halevi IX:20; Tefilla K’hilchata 18:33).While we do not put our heads down for Tachanun at night, the Mishna Berura (131:17) says that it can be done during bein hashemashot (certainly including thirteen and a half minutes after sunset). He also says (ibid. 16) that one can say the words of Tachanun without putting his head down even at night. We note, though, that several report a minhag Yerushalayim not to recite Tachanun after shekiah (see Halichot Shlomo 13:4). Reciting Kaddish Titkabel (after chazarat hashatz) after shekiah is not a problem whether one finished chazarat hashatz before or after shekiah (see Ishei Yisrael 27:39).
Use of Salad Slicers on ShabbatMay I use a salad slicer (approximately, a hand-operated food processor) on Shabbat?
The gemara (Shabbat 74b) states, according to the explanation of several Rishonim, that cutting certain vegetables into small pieces is a Torah-level violation of tochen (grinding).
There are several lenient opinions that limit the scope of this prohibition on cutting. Some say (see Tosafot ad loc.) that it applies only to foods that are not edible whole, which makes cutting them into small, edible pieces a significant and thus forbidden change. The Rambam (Shabbat 21:18) implies that it is only when it is cut up in preparation for its being cooked. These two possibilities, and especially when one connects them, logically make cutting comparable to grinding grains to be used for baking bread. A further leniency is cited by many, including the Rama (Orach Chayim 321:12), in the name of the Rashba (Shut IV:75). The Rashba says that cutting done soon before consumption is considered part of the eating process and not a forbidden melacha, similar to the distinction regarding borer (selecting).
If one makes a standard salad right before the Shabbat meal it would thus seem that there should be several grounds to permit the matter. However, there are a few difficulties in allowing use of a salad slicer on Shabbat. First, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 321:12) considers the cutting into small pieces of all vegetables, even not for the purpose of cooking, as a full-fledged violation of tochen. Furthermore, the Magen Avraham (321:15) is among those who are unhappy with the leniency of cutting soon before eating (see Mishna Berura 321:45), at least when the vegetables are cut very small.
In this regard, a simple compromise is to indeed turn the device only enough for the vegetables to, by and large, be cut into relatively large pieces. Many poskim point out that there are no exact dimensions for what is considered small, and that the matter is relative to the normal preparation of the salad (see Dirshu 321:59). There is also a machloket about when a vegetable is cut thin in one dimension but remains larger in the other two dimensions (and thus, for example, the pieces still need to be chewed before swallowing). Igrot Moshe (OC IV, 74) is lenient on the matter, while some others say that cutting thin in any dimension is a problem (see Orchot Shabbat 5:(12)).
However, it is still a problem to use a salad slicer because it is a utensil that is made for the purpose of cutting into small enough pieces to be considered tochen. The Biur Halacha (to 321:12) follows the comparison that the Rashba made to borer. For borer, it is not enough that the selecting is done for short-term use, but it also must not use a utensil because that makes it more work-like. Using a regular knife that is used for cutting of all shapes and sizes does not impact the permissibility because that is the way that permitted cutting is done as well. However, when one uses a special set of blades which is made for making salads of small pieces, it is forbidden even if he limits the use so that it does not, in this case, produce small pieces (ibid.). This is on two possible grounds. One is that it turns the action into one which is closer to classic tochen. The other is that use of such a special preparing machine is a violation of uvdin d’chol, weekday-like activity, even in cases when the melacha of tochen does not apply to the object being cut (Shulchan Aruch, OC 321:10).There are some types of salad preparation gadgets that always leave the pieces quite large. It that case, it is possible (some require that the pieces be bigger than usual) that there is neither a direct prohibition of tochen nor a problem of uvdin d’chol (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 6:3). We cannot give you an opinion without seeing the operation of the specific appliance. In general, it is a good idea to either prepare the salad before Shabbat or use a regular knife.
Doubt Whether you Recited Birkat HaTorahI usually recite Birkat HaTorah on the way to shul. This morning, I was mentally preoccupied, and I have reason to suspect I did not say it. I thought of this when I came home and asked my wife, who had not yet recited it, to do so with me answering Amen. Did that cover my obligation?
The gemara (Berachot 21a) cites the pasuk of “When I call out Hashem’s Name, give greatness to our G-d” (Devarim 32:3) as the source for Birkat HaTorah. Given the apparent Torah-level of Birkat HaTorah, most poskim (see Shaagat Aryeh 46) posit that although usually in the face of a doubt about whether one is obligated in a beracha we refrain from it, we require a Birkat HaTorah when there is doubt (see Mishna Berura 47:1). Some prominent opinions prefer not to make Birkat HaTorah when one suspects he might have already recited it, due to the opinions that Birkat HaTorah is Rabbinic (see ibid.). However, if there is no other option, one should recite only the second beracha (“… asher bachar banu”) (ibid.; Ishei Yisrael 6:10).
There are usually other options. The gemara (Berachot 11b) says that if one realized he did not recite Birkat HaTorah and it is now after davening, he is exempt because he fulfilled the mitzva by reciting Ahava Rabba (before Kri’at Shema), which expresses our appreciation of Torah study. It does not mention a need for special kavana to thereby fulfill Birkat HaTorah. Thus, since you are after davening, you would seem to have no problem. However, the Yerushalmi (cited by Tosafot, ad loc.) says that this works only if one learned “directly after” Ahava Rabba. Some say that Kri’at Shema, which are words of Torah, counts for this. Others require other words of Torah, although these can be recited right after davening (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 47:7-8). Unless you learned something not “davening-related” before you left, your status depends on this unresolved machloket.
It is agreed that women are expected to recite Birkat HaTorah (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 14). This is surprising considering that women are exempt from Torah study (Rambam, Talmud Torah 1:13) and Sephardi women do not recite a beracha for a mitzva in which they are not obligated (Shulchan Aruch, OC 589:6). The Beit Yosef (ad loc.) and Magen Avraham (47:14) explain that women need to make Birkat HaTorah because there they are required to learn how to perform the many halachot that apply to them and because there are Torah passages in their davening. The Gra (ad loc.) posits that women are not obligated in Birkat HaTorah, as they lack the normal obligation to learn Torah, but that they are still permitted and expected to recite it anyway. The Biur Halacha (to 47:14) says that one consequence of the various explanations is whether women can enable men to fulfill their obligation. According to the Beit Yosef/Magen Avraham they can because both are obligated in Birkat HaTorah. According to the Gra, a woman’s voluntary beracha cannot count for an obligated man (see Rosh Hashana 29a). So whether your wife’s beracha helped you once again depends on a machloket.
There is another reason for leniency in your case. Your routine, which you took part in, includes Birkat HaTorah. Regarding someone who is not sure if he said the right rain-related matters in Shemoneh Esrei, we assume he followed his norm, which depends on how long has passed since the change to the present version (Shulchan Aruch, OC 114:8). This would indicate that you did recite Birkat HaTorah. Furthermore, the Mishna Berura (114:38) rules that if a person’s doubt whether he made a mistake arose only after davening is over, he can assume he did it right. You starting doubting yourself only after davening was over, well after the omission would have taken place. Therefore, you may assume you did things right (even if not with the greatest kavana) unless you have a conviction to the contrary.
Putting all the indications together, you are not required to look for someone else to recite Birkat HaTorah for you again and certainly should not do it yourself.
Approach to Kidney DonationIs it a requirement, a proper thing, or an improperly exaggerated act of chesed to donate a kidney to someone with whom the only connection is that you both are Jews?
[People often ask whether our questions are sent in or whether I make them up. Actually, the great majority are sent in. However, this question is one I asked myself for myself. Also, I did not answer it in our usual style. A little background: after deciding I wanted to donate a kidney, I asked my posek this question. His conviction is that while one is not required to donate, it is a very big mitzva to exceed one’s chesed obligation and do so. He also ruled that if I donate, I am obligated to share this fact with as many people as possible to encourage others (very healthy middle-aged men and women) to consider it. I have decided that after a very brief discussion of the halachic issues, I will share a unique Torah-based approach (not ruling) that motivated me (intellectually).]
The Radbaz (III:627) was asked whether one who can save a Jew’s life by agreeing to sacrifice a limb should do so. He responded that one is not required to make such a life-altering sacrifice but that doing so would be an “act of chasidut.” He continues that if giving the limb endangers his life (as he assumes), only a “chasid shoteh (crazy)” would agree. There seem to be differing opinions within Chazal about endangering oneself to save someone in great danger (see S’ma 426:2).
There are decades-old teshuvot (Minchat Yitzchak VI:103; Tzitz Eliezer IX:45) that discourage kidney donation due to perceived dangers. However, the present consensus encourages it, as Rav Yisraeli did decades ago (Chavot Binyamin 109). All surgery has some danger, but these days it is negligible for healthy people. There are slight disadvantages to having one kidney. It can be life-threatening, but uncommonly so for those who pass the rigorous pre-donation testing. However, it is unclear, based on what we have learned (so far) in the last few decades, whether the Radbaz would consider a donor a chasid shoteh. Poskim (see Pitchei Teshuva, CM 426:2; Mishna Berura 329:19) and the Radbaz elsewhere (see Chavot Binyamin ibid.) urge people not to exaggerate self-concern when others need saving.
When there is a communal danger from attackers, Jews are expected to come, even on Shabbat with weapons, to defend their counterparts (Eruvin 45a; Shulchan Aruch, OC 329:6-7). Considering that there must be some danger to the defenders, doesn’t this contradict the Radbaz?
The following approach is based on the way I was taught at Eretz Hemdah and by Rav Yisraeli to view communal needs, especially in the State of Israel. Members of Israeli society face many dangers – hostile countries, criminals, national disasters, etc. People (soldiers, policeman, firefighters, etc.) risk their lives to protect society. Nationally, we are far better off with an apparatus of protection than to have everyone fend for themselves. But who should risk his life? We draft, appeal to, and/or provide incentives for people to take these positions. I believe that no posek would forbid being an Israeli soldier or policeman based on the Radbaz.
Similarly, if society, as guided by doctors, lawmakers, and poskim, has to decide whether to encourage healthy people to accept difficulties and minor risks to save recipients from extended dialysis and/or death, the logical answer is, “Yes!” It is just a matter of finding the right number and profiles of donors. The government provides incentives (including modest “financial gratitude”), the most important being that the donor’s family goes to the top of the list of future recipients if needed. It also ensures careful screening. When organizations (e.g., Matnat Chaim), rabbis, and others (I am hereby trying) succeed in presenting the matter to the public eye, our philanthropically-minded nation will respond appropriately. We’re getting closer to providing the desired number of donors but need more work. If Israel is not the world leader yet, let us be soon!
Is Raising Children a Mitzva? – part IIIs it a mitzva to care for one’s own children: feeding, changing diapers, getting them to bed, etc.? If so, what is the source? Does it apply equally to men and women? If it is not a mitzva, wouldn't any mitzva take precedence over such activities?
[Last time we saw that even if taking care of one’s children were not a mitzva, it would be a proper, central reality of life, to be done even when it takes away from one’s ability to perform certain mitzvot and delays others. Now we will see sources that indicate that it is a mitzva in its own way.]
The gemara (Ketubot 50a) states: “‘Praiseworthy is one who guards justice, who does tzedaka every moment’ (Tehillim 106:3). Is it possible to do tzedaka every moment? Our rabbis in Yavneh said that it refers to one who supports his sons and daughters when they are young.” Let us consider two difficulties in this gemara: 1. Why is supporting one’s own children considered tzedaka? (The gemara’s next opinion attributes the pasuk to raising orphans). 2. How is supporting one’s children “every moment”? Rashi answers both questions: 1. It is talking about an age at which there is no full obligation to support. The support of close family members actually has tzedaka precedence over others, unless there is a halachic obligation (e.g., a husband to a wife) (Shulchan Aruch, YD 251:3). 2. “Always, day and night, they are his responsibility.” I understand “day and night” that it is not just giving money, which one can do in a moment, but that whatever needs arise can and often do fall upon him.
The gemara (Makkot 8a) says that a father is exempt from the consequences of injuring his son while disciplining him because it is a mitzva. It does not make sense that discipline is a mitzva and positive elements of child-rearing are not. Thus, we have another indication of a mitzva to raise children.
However, one will not find this mitzva in one of the “lists of mitzvot,” as it is not a free-standing mitzva. The Rambam (Avel 14:1) lists several acts of kindness as Rabbinic positive mitzvot, including visiting the sick, comforting mourners, involvement in a funeral, and escorting a guest, among other acts. He concludes: “Although all of these mitzvot are of Rabbinic origin, they are included in ‘v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha’ (You shall love your friend like yourself) (Vayikra 19:18).” This formulation is paradoxical. On the one hand, if these mitzvot are Rabbinic, they are not from the Torah, but on the other hand, they are included in a mitzva of the Torah! This apparently means the following. The Torah requires one to do his fair share of acts of kindness. One person could fill his whole kindness quota on, say, visiting the sick, and never take part in funerals or have guests. Therefore, the Rabbis instituted an independent obligation in each of the matters listed.
Actions of raising children are not on the list above although the Rambam does mention applications elsewhere in his work (Matanot Ani’im 10:16 for one). It is possible the list is not exhaustive. It is also possible (see part I) that not only the Torah but even the Rabbis left these matters for a person to do voluntarily, in principle, even though practically, from a human perspective, they are activities that are incumbent upon him. Indeed, if one is not able (for various reasons) to do a lot of the caring for children, he/she can arrange for others (e.g., pre-school, day care) to take major parts in providing the child’s physical, educational, and emotional needs. However, when a mother or father acts normally, which includes a tremendous amount of work raising his children, this is a fulfillment of “v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha.” This fundamentally applies equally to men and women; in practice, reason and practicality should guide a family how to share these responsibilities. It is unlikely that a father will have to miss putting on tefillin one day because he is too busy tending to his children. But he might legitimately put them on later and miss minyan because a child is sick.
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