Home > Ask The Rabbi
ASK THE RABBI
Do not hesitate to ask any question about Jewish life, Jewish tradition or Jewish law.
Animal ExperimentationI am working for a medical researcher, and a lot of it includes experimentation on rodents. Let’s just say that these animals’ lives are not always pleasant. Is this permitted, or is it tza’ar baalei chayim (causing pain to animals)? How should I feel about my involvement?
There is a machloket in the gemara (Bava Metzia 32b) and poskim whether tza’ar baalei chayim is a Torah law or a Rabbinic one, and it is possible that it is a quasi-Torah law (see Encyclopedia HiIchatit Refuit, VI, p. 525). Many mitzvot in the Torah (at least according to some commentators) and Rabbinic laws are based on concern for animals and are to avoid cruelty to them. When and why can this be waived for human purposes?
The simple reading of Tosafot (Avoda Zara 11a) is that tza’ar baalei chayim can be waived only to facilitate an important mitzva. However, the halachic consensus is along the lines of the following Rama (Even Haezer 5:14, based on the Issur V’heter and Terumat Hadeshen): “Anything that is needed for medicine or for other things does not have a prohibition of tza’ar baalei chayim. Therefore, it is permitted to pluck feathers [for quills] from live geese, but the world is careful about that because of cruelty.”
There are at least two approaches to why the prohibition falls in the face of human need. One is that the prohibition is only for being needlessly insensitive. We find regarding bal tachshit (not destroying things) that “destroying” something for a positive reason is permitted because it is, in context, not destructive. Indeed the two mitzvot may be connected as the gemara (Chulin 7b) says – killing an animal for no good reason is ba’al tashchit; keeping it alive but in pain is tza’ar baalei chayim. Thus, if done for a good reason, it is not destructive/cruel.
A second, complimentary approach, is that the Torah teaches us, explicitly and implicitly, that animal rights do not compare to human needs. There are several Torah statements along the line of “Have dominion over the fish … birds …” (Bereishit 1:28). Furthermore, we are permitted to take an animal’s life simply because we desire to eat meat. We may enslave animals to do hard labor, with some restrictions (not Shabbat, muzzled).
There are a few important possible distinctions. Permissibility may depend on the level of pain to which the animal is subjected. Normal agricultural work is not torturous and is permitted. However, the Rama above calls plucking feathers from a live bird cruelty, and says we do not do such things (see Shvut Yaakov III:71). The level of need is also a variable. Some rule that earning extra money is not an excuse (see opinions cited in Minchat Yitzchak VI:145), and while most authorities say that it is a valid reason, it may depend on how painful it will be for the animal (ibid.).
Rav Yaakov Emden (Sheilat Yaavetz I:110) says that tza’ar baalei chayim applies only to animals with which man works (e.g., cattle, horses, donkeys) or perhaps relatively highly cognitive animals (dogs, cats), but not to “lower creatures,” who experience pain differently. According to these opinions, it does not apply to insects, and likely not to rodents.
Looking for cures and treatments for human illnesses is certainly a very valid reason to allow animal experimentation. As several poskim point out, real efforts should be made to ensure the importance of the experimentation, limit the number of animals used, and minimize pain (including using lower species). Suffering animals should be euthanized as promptly as possible. Thankfully many countries have rules to monitor such things, and unfortunately few do a good enough job.
Personally, if you are involved for a short time, it is appropriate to feel somewhat uncomfortable, even if the practice is right (see a scary story about Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi – Bava Metzia 85a). A professional researcher can’t be expected to constantly live with guilt, but it is appropriate to seek ways to heighten sensitivity, emulating Hashem, whose mercy is on all of His creations (see Tehillim 145:9).
Sending Packages on Shabbat or Yom TovI often send packages with UPS. May I have them do a pick up on Shabbat or Yom Tov, when everything was done from beforehand, and they take it without my involvement?
There are two main issues to deal with: whether they are considered doing work on your behalf; whether there is a problem of marit ayin.
In this case, UPS is doing melacha on your behalf, at least in regard to driving to the pick-up point and perhaps other matters. (It might be somewhat of a lenient case since you do not interact with the person who is doing the work – see Mishna Berura 307:24.) It is generally permitted to have a non-Jew do work for you on Shabbat if they are doing it for their own purposes. When one pays the non-Jew to do work that the Jew wants, the major distinction is as follows. If the non-Jew is paid by time, it is considered doing work for the Jew; if he is paid per the job, it is considered that he is working on his own behalf (for the pay) (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 247:1). UPS obviously gets paid for the job, which is good. On the other hand, even in that case, if one instructs him, explicitly or implicitly, to do the work specifically on Shabbat or Yom Tov, it is forbidden (ibid.).
Therefore, you would have to give them a time for pick-up that would not necessarily be on Shabbat or Yom Tov (i.e., they have time before or after). From a look at their site, it seems that one’s request can be made for anytime (24/7). On the other hand, in a response to my written question (I cannot gauge the expertise of the specific customer service worker), pickups are generally done from 9 AM to 7 PM. Accordingly, during some of the year, if you allowed them to come all day, it would not necessarily be on Shabbat/Yom Tov and at other times, it would be on the same halachic day. The halacha is that it is not enough to provide them a theoretical alternative to work on Shabbat, but it must be practical (Mishna Berura 307:15). (You could ostensibly give them a two-day window to come on, but your question implies that you have a reason for it to be on one specific day and not the day after. The day before would also be fine.)
An interesting consideration arises with two days of Yom Tov. Is it permitted to tell them to come, say, anytime on Monday, when Monday is the first day of Yom Tov and Monday evening starts the second? This should be fine for any Yom Tov other than Rosh Hashana. That is because we treat each day as a mutually exclusive doubt. Namely, if the first day is holy, the second is not. If the second is holy, the first is not (Shulchan Aruch, OC 513:5). So if they have all day and part of the night of Monday, they have the opportunity to pick up on chol. Rosh Hashana, in contrast, is treated as two definite days of Yom Tov (ibid.).
There is still a problem, due to the halacha that one is not allowed to have a non-Jew take an object from a Jew’s home on Shabbat, unless he took it unexpectedly (Shabbat 19a). All explain that it has to do with marit ayin, but differ as to what people will think. The Shulchan Aruch (246:2) says that one will think that the Jew told him to carry it out for the Jew’s benefit into the public domain. If that is the case, then if the non-Jew lives within the same eiruv as the Jew’s home, there would be no problem, and it is possible that the same would be true of at least some cases on Yom Tov even without an eiruv (Taz 246:3). The Rambam (Shabbat 6:19) says that people will think that the Jew improperly sold or the like to the non-Jew on Shabbat. In that case, it applies even within an eiruv (Magen Avraham 246:6; see Sha’ar Hatziyun 246:7). In this case, it would seem that according to everyone there should be marit ayin because one who sees the non-Jew taking it on Shabbat or Yom Tov will not realize that he did not tell him to come specifically on the holy day (see Mishna Berura 252:17). Therefore, if you want the pick-up, in addition to including a possibility of chol pick up, you should also have it picked up from a non-Jewish neighbor’s house.
Whose Minhag About Being Chazan Should an Avel FollowI was in an (Ashkenazi) shul on Rosh Chodesh morning, when a visitor who is an avel asked if he could be chazan for Shacharit or whether there were other avelim. The gabbai said that there were no other avelim but that normally avelim are not chazanim on Rosh Chodesh. The avel said that he received a psak to serve as chazan, which he proceeded to do until Hallel. Was that the right course of action?
We have to deal not only with the question of whether an avel should be chazan on Rosh Chodesh, but with whose call it is – the shul’s or the avel’s.
The Maharil (Shut 22) is the primary source about limiting when an avel can be chazan. He says that an avel should not be chazan on Shabbat, Yom Tov, and for Hallel because of the simcha associated with those tefillot. The Rama (Yoreh Deah 376:4) cites this idea only in regard to Shabbat and Yom Tov, writing that the practice is for them not to be chazan although it is not forbidden, but Ashkenazi Acharonim accept it for Hallel as well. There is quite an even set of opinions and varied practices regarding the rest of Shacharit as well as Mincha and Maariv on days when there is Hallel (Rosh Chodesh, Chanuka) and Purim (see a survey in Divrei Sofrim, YD 376:94). Therefore, both practices are legitimate, and that is not our main interest.
The minhag is related to a discrepancy between the festivity of the tefilla and the avel’s sadness (or an aura of strict judgment – see Taz, OC 660:2). But who are we trying to “protect”? If we are protecting the congregation from an avel who is not capable enough to elevate them to the proper mood, then it is clearly the shul’s call, and ostensibly the avel (unintentionally) acted improperly. If it is that it is wrong for the avel to thrust himself into the midst of excitement that is incongruous with his avelut, the matter likely depends on his rabbi’s ruling.
Sources that connect the matter to the suitability of the avel to act as a shaliach (agent) of the tzibbur include the Taz (ibid.) and Zera Emet (III:164). My reading of the Maharil itself and of the Maharam Shick (OC 183) indicates that it is a matter of inappropriateness for the avel’s mourning obligations. (I am not convinced my reading is correct; it is not feasible to share the nuances in this forum.) It is possible to distinguish between specific cases. Perhaps regarding Shabbat and Yom Tov and Hallel, the community demands festivity the avel lacks. Perhaps, though, the rest of Shacharit has no special requirements for the chazan, just that involvement in the public service of such a happy day is improper for him. Therefore, we leave the fundamental unconcluded.
Some of those against an avel being chazan for any part of Shacharit, including the Gra (see Chayei Adam II, 138:4) and the Chatam Sofer (see Maharim Shick ibid.), “protested” against those who wanted to be chazan. Why protest what someone else wants to do if there are respected opinions to permit it? One explanation is that they indeed held that it affected the community, whom they represented, more than the avel. Another is that even regarding matters that affect the individual, it is innately wrong to contradict a local minhag (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 468:4). A third possibility, which I find difficult, is that these poskim were so convinced that the other practice was wrong, that they felt a need to save the mistaken person.
Our practical advice is as follows. An avel should ask the rabbi or gabbai if they/the community minds, as publicly conforming is important generally but especially about things having to do with their chazan (see Rama, OC 53:22). If not, there should not be a problem for him to do the part of davening of Rosh Chodesh that he wants. However, if the shul’s minhag is a strongly held one, then whether it is the community’s specific prerogative or a matter of the general rule of not differing publicly from those around him, he should not have been chazan.
Halachic Consequences of Use of Medical MarijuanaAfter years of unsuccessful ‘conventional’ treatment for debilitating pain, the medical marijuana my doctor has prescribed for me has proven more effective and with lesser side effects. My license is only for "leaves," not pills or oil. Obviously, I can't smoke on Shabbat, so I baked a batch of “cannabis brownies” to eat. These take effect about 90 minutes after ingestion. Can I eat one of these brownies before shul? If so, should I make Kiddush first? Also, can one do Birkat Kohanim while using medical marijuana (although it affects coordination briefly and I feel a bit drunk, I am not drunk, and it does not impair my thinking ability)?
[We trust that our readership is aware of the great distinction between drug abuse and between responsible use of medical marijuana – as prescribed by a doctor in a place it is legal, for those in great need].
It is generally forbidden to eat anything before davening except for water and, for some, tea and coffee (with various opinions about sugar – see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 89:3 and Mishna Berura ad loc. 22). However, it is permissible to eat food for a health need, even when one is not fully sick (Mishna Berura 89:24). Anyone who has a prescription for medical marijuana is sick enough to be justified to ingest his treatment as needed.
Regarding Kiddush, there is a quandary. Assuming the brownies have a decent taste, they require a beracha, even though their main purpose is medicinal (Mishna Berura 204:42). Therefore, the halacha is that you should not eat it before Kiddush. On the other hand, you don’t need the Kiddush wine for health reasons, so what justifies Kiddush before davening? The Be’ur Halacha (to 289:1) says that one makes Kiddush before pre-davening eating for health purposes. The Igrot Moshe (OC II:26) disagrees in a case where not all halachic opinions agree that the food lends itself to Kiddush, which raises the purpose that the wine was not justified. However, assuming the brownies are real flour-based cookies and you are having a k’zayit of them, Kiddush is in place (see Mishna Berura 273:25).
Is it preferable to ingest the active ingredient as a non-food, to avoid the undesired situation of eating and Kiddush before davening? This “improvement” makes the halachic situation worse regarding medicines on Shabbat, which are permitted in a food form that is not recognizable as medicinal (see Orchot Shabbat 20:132). While the need likely justifies taking medicine (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 328:17), the halachic issue of eating before davening is easier to waive than that of taking medicine on Shabbat. In the absence of a net gain by an alternative, the medicated brownies are fine.
Now to Birkat Kohanim. The gemara (Ta’anit 26b-27a) derives from a connection between Birkat Kohanim and both nazir and service in the Beit Hamikdash that it is forbidden to duchen when drunk. The gemara indicates this is only a Rabbinic derivation/halacha. A nazir is forbidden only in grape products and service is fully forbidden only after drinking wine (see Kritot 13b). Therefore, some say that there are no restrictions on Birkat Kohanim after consuming something intoxicating unless he is as drunk as biblical Lot was (Magen Avraham 128:55). The Taz (128:35) disagrees and disqualifies one who has drunk anything that makes him unfit to “speak before a king,” and we are stringent to follow this opinion (Mishna Berura 128:141). The halachic cut-off point wine of a revi’it (Shulchan Aruch, OC 128:38) does not apply to other drinks. While the Taz says one should therefore not drink anything intoxicating before Birkat Kohanim, this is reasonable for those who are drinking recreationally, not for one whose use of something “intoxicating” is medically necessary. (see Chayei Adam I, 32:7 regarding Kiddush on a small amount of whiskey before Birkat Kohanim.) Therefore, assuming you will make Kiddush on grape juice and that during Birkat Kohanim you will be acting in a fully presentable manner, you should perform the Torah-level mitzva of Birkat Kohanim.
Kabbalat Shabbat of Part of the CommunityMy community has a small minyan for Kabbalat Shabbat that accepts Shabbat early, and no second minyan (there is a larger minyan for the rest of Shabbat). Must I accept Shabbat at the time the early minyan does, which is sometimes difficult for me?
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 263:12) rules, based on the Mordechai, that at whatever time the majority of the community accepts Shabbat, individuals, even those who have not come to shul, must accept it as well.
The acceptance of the community (according to most, at the end of Lecha Dodi – Mishna Berura 261:31) does not make it Shabbat for all in the fullest sense but creates a prohibition to do melacha. Those who have not yet accepted Shabbat may daven Mincha during this time, just not in the place the majority are davening Ma’ariv (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 15; see Biur Halacha ad loc.).
Let us see exceptions to the rule of communal acceptance, as perhaps one applies here. The Magen Avraham (263:24) says that in a community with multiple batei knesset, the first shul to accept Shabbat does not impact other shuls, even if it contains a majority. According to many, this applies also to two minyanim in the same shul (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 46:(43)). However, some say that a clearly central shul sets the tone for the entire community (Eliya Rabba 263:26). Private minyanim, i.e., those held in houses, are overpowered by a public one that contains a majority of the community (Mishna Berura 263:51).
A member of a shul (even if it does not have a community majority) is included in its Shabbat acceptance even if he or she was not there (Machatzit Hashekel 263:24), unless he decided to go to another shul that week (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 263:28). If most of the community’s members are not in shul, the shul does not draw along the community (Mishna Berura ibid.).
In determining the majority, who is included in the community? Poskim posit that it refers to Shabbat-observant Jews (see Shevet Halevi IX:56). This makes sense, as in trying to figure out the time at which Shabbat will be accepted, you should ask those who will practically accept it. Someone who is careful about Shabbat but may not keep every halacha or be a regular shul-goer likely counts, unless perhaps if he is socially divorced from the community of Shabbat observers. It is unclear from your question if those who accept Shabbat early in your community are the majority based on this perspective. The case for not having a single shul cause a whole area to accept Shabbat early is stronger in Israel, where the public announcement of Shabbat times, the end of bus service, etc. follow the regular time. (The boundaries of a community are not always easily set – is there a division between Rechavia, Shaarei Chesed, and Nachlaot, and if so, where? Are Teaneck and Bergenfield one or two communities?)
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC III:38) and the Be’er Moshe (II:17) present a novel but logical distinction. The idea of accepting Shabbat early in a way that binds others makes sense when done in an effort to increase the time of sanctity or distance people from Shabbat desecration. However, where early minyanim are done only in the summer, when late nightfall creates technical problems, these halachot likely do not apply. This distinction seems to assume that the halacha is based on the nature of the acceptance of Shabbat. If, though, the halacha is a matter of avoiding degrading by doing melacha the Shabbat of the majority of the community who are already celebrating Shabbat (Shevet Halevi ibid.), it shouldn’t make a difference what the motivation is. Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (46:(42)) cites this opinion without accepting or rejecting it, and it may be pertinent that the halacha of getting pulled into Shabbat by the tzibbur is ostensibly only Rabbinic.In a case of need, it is legitimate to rely on Rav Moshe’s leniency. For several reasons, though, it is preferable to try to make it to the Kabbalat Shabbat minyan and then accept Shabbat with them.
Stopping Kohen Before Second AliyaThe gabbai did not realize that a levi was present in shul and called on the kohen to have a second aliya. As the kohen was about to start, the levi made his presence known. Was the levi supposed to replace the kohen in that case?
The halacha is that it depends. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 135:6-7) discusses two parallel cases in which the incorrect person is set to do the aliya. One is when it was not known that a kohen was present, and a yisrael was called for the aliya. The second is your case, when a kohen was called for a second aliya and it turns out that there was a levi present. The halacha in both cases is that if the person called started the beracha, he continues it, but if he had not started, then we switch to the correct person.
The logic of switching is two-fold in the respective cases. Giving a second aliya is an exceptional act (needed to protect the reputation of the kohen – see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 8 and Mishna Berura ad loc. 28), as is giving a first aliya to a non-kohen (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 4). Therefore, this is to be avoided when there is no important reason. We are also not hurting the person who is being asked to step aside for the following reasons. The kohen who has already had an aliya is just being held back from doing a second one, which no one else can have, and it cannot be construed as questioning his standing as a kohen. The yisrael who is passed up for a kohen never had claims to the first aliya, and, to not insult him, we keep him at the bima until his time comes to get the third aliya, which is the first available to a yisrael (Shulchan Aruch, ibid. 6).
In the case that the beracha has already been begun and we stick with the “wrong person,” we cannot stop him because of the problem of beracha l’vatala (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 135, in the name of the Avudraham; Mishna Berura 135:20). While beracha l’vatala is a serious problem, the concern that, when a yisrael was called up instead of a kohen, people will think there is something wrong with the kohen’s lineage, is not severe. People can understand that a mistake occurred (ibid.). We do not call up the kohen afterward because that would actively be making him look like a non-kohen, as a kohen does not get the second aliya if a yisrael got the first one (ibid.).
A not simple point becomes evident from the case of the kohen not being replaced after starting his second aliya. That is that even in the case that he really should not have received this exceptional second aliya, that second aliya still counts toward the number of required aliyot.
What is considered having started the aliya is noteworthy. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 6) rules that Barchu is not considered the beginning, so that the correct person can switch with him after Barchu. That is because if one commands the tzibbur to bless Hashem (which is Barchu’s role) and they do so (“Baruch Hashem Hamevorach…”), this is something of value in and of itself (Mishna Berura 135:21). According to most, the correct person who takes over repeats Barchu before his aliya (ibid.). Although some say this is unnecessary (including Aruch Hashulchan, OC 135:15), it is not a problem to do an arguably extra Barchu (Kaf Hachayim, OC 135:39).
Regarding the opening beracha itself, the Magen Avraham (135:8) says that until one has said Hashem’s name (third word), it is still permitted and correct to stop the beracha. Once he says Hashem’s name, he continues. Although there is a remedy to end a beracha at that point by turning the beracha into the pasuk “Baruch ato Hashem lamdeini chookecha” (Tehillim 119:12), this remedy is not perfect and is not justified in a case like this, so the one who started the beracha continues. There is an opinion that the above is true only when the correct person just came in, but if he was there but was not noticed, we would stop the beracha after three words and add “lamdeini chookecha” (Be’er Moshe IV:18). However, the consensus of poskim is to not make such a distinction.
Paying for Job One Thought Was FreeMy child’s friend (under bar mitzva) has joined my son in helping me with various chores and projects. He has asked many times if I will pay him and I say, “No.” I have never demanded him to help, although I appreciate it. Now he has come to me with the claim that I owe him money for all he has done. Could he have a halachic right, or may I just brush it off?
In our eyes, the most important issue is the social, educational one. I would not be happy if my child was, apparently, obsessed with getting paid in situations in which it is not standard and argues about it with his friend’s parent. If his parents are involved healthily in their child’s character development and interact reasonably with you, it pays to discuss the matter with them for the child’s welfare. It is best if you and they develop a practical plan together. It might be best to pay something so that he not feel that adults take advantage of him. On the other hand, he might deserve to be put in his place. I am not a child psychologist and do not know the child, so I trust you to handle this important matter wisely and sensitively.
We will deal with the halachic element with the assumption that it is just a point of reference for you. You may not cite it as a ruling, as we have not heard both sides. (We don’t suspect that you are going to a din Torah or a court case with this child.)
This is a case where a “worker” works without waiving any pay due him and the “employer” is aware of the work but has refused to pay if he is not required to. There are two elements that can require one to pay for work done on his behalf: agreement (explicit or implicit); neheneh (benefit from the work). You did not agree to pay, but we must look at the issue of neheneh.
The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 264:4) discusses one who, along with a friend, was in jail and used his resources to secure the release of both of them. The Rama says that if he added resources to include his friend’s release or if he used his resources with both of them in mind, his friend must pay him. He then creates a general rule: “Anyone who does an action or a favor for his friend, [the friend] cannot say: ‘You did it for free because I did not tell you to do it,’ but rather he must pay his wages.” Since no pay was discussed, he pays according to the lower end of the salary scale (K’tzot Hachoshen 331:3). If that which was done is generally done for free, the worker is not paid (Pitchei Choshen, Sechirut 8:31). This depends not only on the type of work but also on the circumstances (e.g., a young child at his friend’s house does not usually get paid). However, this limitation does not apply when the child expressed his expectation to be paid.
After your initial protest, does your stance improve, as the Rama refers to a case where the recipient of the favor said nothing in advance regarding payment, whereas you said you were unwilling to pay? Although he raises that possibility, the Pri Tevu’ah (cited in Pitchei Teshuva, CM 264:3) rules that if the worker intended to get paid and there was neheneh, the recipient still normally has to pay.
On the other hand, Shut Mahari Halevi (151) says that it does not make sense that one must pay after he told his counterpart in advance that he refuses to pay. If there are differing halachic opinions, it is difficult to extract money. The Pitchei Choshen (Sechirut 8:(64)) says that the Pri Tevu’ah was talking about a case where the recipient expressed only dissatisfaction at the idea of paying and wanted the work done, but if he conclusively refused to pay, all would exempt him. This distinction might be pertinent in your case.
There might be another reason to exempt you. Considering the work was being done by you and your children, it sounds likely that it would have been done anyway without your spending money, and thus there is little or no neheneh (see Shach, CM 246:11). Therefore, any payment would be minimal. Another complicating factor for the child is that if anyone has a halachic right, it is likely his father (Rama, CM 370:2).
Nichum Aveilim by Phone and by EmailIf it is difficult for me to do nichum aveilim in person, may I do it by phone or by email, and is one better than the other?
Nichum aveilim is on the Rambam’s (Avel 14:1) list of Rabbinic obligations that are fulfillments of the Torah commandment to love one’s friend like himself. The Rambam (ibid. 7) posits that it has precedence over another mitzva on that list, visiting the sick, in that it is an act of kindness both to the live (mourners) and the deceased. Many provide a source that it serves the deceased from the halacha that if one dies without relatives to sit shiva, ten people “sit in the place of the deceased” and are visited (Shabbat 152a; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 276:3).
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim IV:40) is among the consensus that nichum aveilim by phone does not impact on the deceased and thus cannot be as good as physically coming. Therefore, anyone who should be menachem avel (parameters beyond our present scope) must do so in person if he can (see also Pnei Baruch 11:12; Yalkut Yosef, Kitzur YD 26:9).
Even in regard to chesed for the mourner, coming personally has advantages. The Perisha (YD 393:3) in finding justification for those who only say the “nichum formula” when visiting, posits that “coming in and sitting down to honor is considered nichum aveilim.” While picking up the phone is worth something, it is not as demonstrative an act of honor and empathizing (speaking by phone to a chatan/kalla is not like being at the wedding).
Before expressing a preference between phone or email, we will analyze a halacha of shiva house protocol. Consolers may not speak until the mourner “opens,” as Iyov’s friends did (Moed Katan 28b). What is the logic of this halacha, which has not has been observed uniformly for centuries (which might be important)? The Levush (YD 276:1) explains that we wait to see that the mourner is in distress. Experience makes it difficult to imagine requiring an indication that the mourner is upset, and the Divrei Sofrim (376:2) suggests that our certainty can explain why many do not wait. The Aruch Hashulchan (YD 376:1) explains that nichum aveilim has to do with tzidduk hadin (accepting divine judgment), and the mourner should start the process, as Iyov did. Rav Y.M. Lau pointed out that we usually wait for the avel to say anything and suggests that it might suffice for the mourner to have done so once before all can then start speaking (see also a letter from the Tzitz Eliezer in P’nei Baruch. p. 472).
Presumably, this halacha is not a technical problem in our times when one calls or emails, especially since the avel speaks into the phone first and since pressing on an email is like inviting one to “speak.” However, extending the Levush’s approach, one wants to know not just that he should speak to the mourner but should pick up on how to do so best. The Chofetz Chaim (Ahavat Chesed III:5) says that while one nominally fulfills nichum aveilim by saying “Hamakom yenachem …,” it is intended to touch the heart and lessen pain. He stresses (see also Minchat Yitzchak II:84, in a parallel context) the words’ practical effectiveness. Sizing up the mourner’s mood by observing and listening enables the menachem to calibrate his own speech.
Phone has greater potential and risk than email. The positive – the interaction of conversation allows you to have a good guess of what to say. The negative – you do not see body language and do not know if your call has spoiled a good dynamic that menachemim are in the midst of, as it is difficult to time the call well. Email is usually shallower (barring a masterpiece), but it allows you to “drop the message off” after choosing the words carefully and have the avel choose when to read it (after shiva is also fine).
We propose with conviction that people who are close to an avel but cannot make it should call because their maximum potential is worth the disruption. People who are not close should use email instead (unless he knows there are few menachemim or can keep his call very short).
Berachot on Snacks and Drinks Throughout a HouseWhen I am home for extended periods, I take snacks and drinks on no particular schedule, and I move from room to room and floor to floor. A similar situation exists at work, where I am based in one office but also go to other rooms. Should I make berachot each time I eat or drink?
The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 273) deals with an apparent contradiction between the Bavli and Yerushalmi regarding making Kiddush in one place and eating in another. The Yerushalmi says that if this was his original intention, the Kiddush is valid, whereas the according to the Bavli, it is invalid. Rabbeinu Nissim (see Rosh, Pesachim 10:5) says that there is no machloket, as it depends on location. Under one roof, even in separate rooms and separate floors, intention to go from one to another connects the locations, whereas it does not help for different houses or from indoors to outdoors. The Ran says that there is a machloket, and we accept the Bavli that intention does not waive the requirement to eat in the room where he made Kiddush.
The Rama accepts Rabbeinu Nissim (OC 273:1) and, based on that, rules that one can make a beracha in one room or floor with the intention to exempt food he ate in a different one (OC 178:1). If you regularly move around the house, that counts as your standard intention (see Mishna Berura 206:20). If you normally eat in those other places, you do not need a new beracha if under the same roof (ibid.). If you usually eat only in one room and did not intend otherwise, you would need another beracha to eat in a different room not visible from the first (see Mishna Berura 178:12). However, going normally to other rooms does not obligate you in a new beracha upon return (Mishna Berura 178:3).
Although the Shulchan Aruch is non-committal about Rabbeinu Nissim regarding Kiddush (OC 273:1) and is silent on the matter in OC 178:1, the above seems true for Sephardim. Yalkut Yosef (OC 273:5) relies on Rabbeinu Nissim b’di’eved regarding Kiddush and rules like the Rama in OC 273:1 (ibid. 178:9), as the Shulchan Aruch (OC 178:3) implies.
After seeing the beracha can extend, we should consider how to best time the berachot. We wrote about berachot strategy during sporadic drinking during a hike in Living the Halachic Process (II, B-4) and will summarize what we need to know to get started here. There are a couple of halachic doubts regarding breaks in drinking: If one does not continue before becoming thirsty again, does the beracha rishona’s efficacy cease? After how long should we assume one becomes thirsty? Should one make a beracha acharona when he finishes a round of drinking and the next round is not far away, and how does that affect the beracha rishona?
Regarding a hike, we distinguished between “frequent sippers” and “occasional gulpers.” Frequent sippers should make one beracha in the beginning and one beracha acharona at the end (if they drank a revi’it in one shot at some point). Occasional gulpers are to make a set of berachot for each drinking.
While indoors without exertion, one is likely to eat and/or drink less frequently, but on the other hand, he will probably not get as hungry/thirsty as quickly, which “extends the life” of the beracha rishona and allows one to wait for the beracha acharona. Assuming people will not eat or drink very often, the standard practice should be to make a set of berachot for each “unit” of eating and drinking. Despite this, one should train himself to expect to move around before finishing each food session and not make additional berachot necessary. Regarding cups of tea, coffee, or water, it is halachically preferable to drink a revii’it at one point so that he can make a beracha acharona at the end of a cup and thereby also solve any beracha rishona questions as well. If that does not suit his needs, it is usually best (except for “chain drinkers”) to have in mind that the beracha is effective for just one cup and then (plan to) not take another cup until at least a couple dozen of minutes pass, so that a new beracha is appropriate then.
Respect for the ElderlyIs one required to give special respect to an individual between 60 and 70 years old? I remember that one stands up only for those over 70.
While we should be respectful of people in general and certainly older people, the specific mitzva regarding older people is standing for them. The Torah commands: “Stand up before seiva, and honor the presence of a zaken” (Vayikra 19:32). The gemara (Kiddushin 32b) brings opinions as to who these recipients of respect are. The first opinion is that it is a Torah scholar. Isi ben Yehuda says that seiva refers to an elderly person, even if he is devoid of other special qualities. The gemara (ibid. 33a) says we accept Isi ben Yehuda’s opinion, as does the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 244:1).
Who is old enough to deserve rising in their presence? The Rambam (Talmud Torah 6:9) writes that this is one who is “extreme in oldness,” without giving a specific age. The Rosh (Kiddushin 1:53) says it refers to a 70-year-old. Many point out that this is in line with the mishna in Avot (5:21) that lists characteristics of different ages and says that 70 is the age of seiva, the word the Torah uses for one deserving to be stood for. This is also the age that the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) writes, so your recollection is well-founded.
Yet, there are also sources that refer to 60. The Birkei Yosef (YD 244:4) cites the Arizal that we should stand for people above 60, and the Birkei Yosef says that this is based on Kabbalistic reasons. However, others provide more standard sources for the significance of 60. Unkelus translates the above pasuk so that “seiva” refers to a Torah scholar and “zaken” refers to an older person. The Rashbetz (commentary on Avot ibid.) says that according to Unkelus, that “zaken” refers to the elderly, the age is 60, as the mishna says that 60 is the age of zikna. As we have seen, the Shulchan Aruch accepts the age of 70. This makes sense because we halachically prefer the gemara to Unkelus and because it is possible that Unkelus agrees that the word for an older person is indeed “seiva” (see Ramban, Vayikra 19:32).
Despite the preponderance of standard halachic sources that the age for deserving to be stood up for is 70, there are a few reasons why it might be worthwhile to do so from 60. There are early sources, such as Tikkunei Hazohar, who say that seiva is from 60, and the Gra says that they argue on the mishna in Avot (see Yabia Omer III, YD 13). In any case, it may be laudable to follow the Arizal, whatever his reason is (see ibid.; Divrei Shalom, YD 93), or just to be more careful than required. There is also an interesting compromise that includes some 60-year-olds. Some Acharonim understood the classical sources as saying that to deserve honor just based on age, one must be 70, and to deserve it just based on scholarship, one needs to be a notable talmid chacham. However, a minor talmid chacham who is 60 deserves honor (see Tzemach Yehuda VI:35).These halachot are difficult to implement in a society where it is not standard, even for observant Jews, to stand out of honor for older people (poskim have bemoaned this for centuries). One justification is that one may waive his honor, and perhaps we can assume that many do so, which may be correct, given the situation (see Radbaz VIII:167). It is also hard to know when it is appropriate. One does not always know if someone is 70 (Yabia Omer ibid. – in a case of safek on this Torah law, from age 70, one should be stringent) or even 60. Many 70 year-olds these days are in excellent shape and resent being treated as old. (One can even claim that 70 years old no longer meets the Rambam’s description of extreme age, but I did not find this claim in poskim). Certainly we do not want to insult someone whom we are trying to honor. If one really wants to do this mitzva well, we suggest developing a style of standing up and approaching older people (or, for that matter, anyone) to greet them in a natural manner that does not scream, “I am rising in your honor because you are elderly and it is a mitzva.”
Top of page
Send to friend