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Switching the Location of a MezuzaI noticed that a storage room jointly owned by several residents of our apartment building in Jerusalem does not have a mezuza. I bought a mezuza myself, and because it is nicer than some of those in my home, I thought of taking the new one for myself and moving one of my apartment’s mezuzot to the storage room. Is there any problem doing that?
Yasher koach for taking care of the mezuza. The responsibilities of multiple people can often be neglected (see Bava Batra 24b). Since you bought the mezuza yourself, unless you had in mind to formally acquire it on behalf the group, you do not need permission from anyone from a monetary perspective.
The issue has to do with the nature of the obligation to have a mezuza in a storage room. In this column (Toldot 5783), we presented a machloket Rishonim whether a storage room that is not part of a home’s daily activity requires a mezuza. Although the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 286:2) rules it is required, we accepted the opinions of several poskim (see Yalkut Yosef, YD 285:28) that there is enough doubt to recommend not reciting a beracha when attaching a mezuza to a storage room. The fact that it is jointly owned does not raise additional doubt (Chulin 135b; Shulchan Aruch, YD 286:1), unless there are non-Jewish partners (Rama ad loc.) – of course, we do not know your neighbors.
Moving a mezuza from a location where it is definitely part of a mitzva to one in which the obligation/mitzva is doubtful could potentially violate the rule of ma’alin bakodesh v’lo moridin (=mbkvlm; one is forbidden to lower the status of a sacred object). This concept is derived from p’sukim (Menachot 99a) in the context of increasing and not decreasing the honor of holy objects in the mikdash, and there are varied opinions on whether this is an authentic Torah law or a Rabbinic asmachta (see Be’ur Halacha to Orach Chayim 42:1). Additional Talmudic applications of mbkvlm vary greatly (including: a temporary kohen gadol not returning to serve as a simple kohen (Yoma 73a); increasing the number of candles as Chanuka progresses (Shabbat 21b); not using something from tefillin shel rosh for a shel yad (Menachot 34b)). It is likely that some applications represent the heart of the halacha and others are only related concepts (unpublished shiur by Rav Asher Weiss).
The following, cited by the Mishna Berura (15:1), is the closest case to ours that is discussed by classical Acharonim. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 15:1) permits moving tzitzit from one garment to another. The Pri Megadim (EA 15:2) is unsure whether it is permitted to move them from a garment with a Torah-level obligation to one with only a Rabbinic one. The Artzot Hachayim (15:5) permits it, whereas he forbids taking them from the garment of an adult to that of a child. (Their short pieces mention the possibility of bizuy (disgrace) to the tzitzit, not the concept of mbkvlm).
It is unclear whether we can extrapolate from these sources to our mezuza question. There is a machloket whether mbkvlm applies only to matters related to kedusha or even non-kedusha-related mitzva objects (see Beit Yosef, YD 259). Mezuza is in the kedusha category, whereas tzitzit are not (Megilla 26b). We also have to consider to what extent the change in the mezuza’s location impacts on its sanctity, as one can argue that wherever a mezuza is, it itself has the same kedusha irrespective of the mezuza-obligation status of the doorway (see discussion in Kvi’at Mezuza K’hilchata 14:5).
In any case, (among?) the first to write about taking a mezuza from a doorway that fully requires a mezuza to one in which it is only a safek are contemporary poskim. The very influential Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo II, 97.24) reasons that it is forbidden because of mbkvlm, as does Teshuvot V’hanagot (I:649). In the absence of anyone of such prominence disagreeing with them, it is difficult to allow the move. On the other hand, it is reasonable to argue that one should be able to rely on the majority opinion that a storage room’s mezuza obligation is definite.
Naming for One, Thinking of AnotherSometimes a man dies and his widow offers family members a monetary gift if they name a baby after him. If someone wants to do so, to be nice and also for the money, but they do not want to connect their son spiritually to the deceased (let’s call him Uncle David), may they tell everyone they are naming for U. David but intend for David Hamelech?
We must warn about two limitations: 1. There are differences between similar cases; 2. We are not experts in the kabbalistically-oriented elements of giving a name. But we can generally discuss the value of naming after a deceased person, questions of honesty, and practicalities.
Names have significance in different ways. Chazal (including in Berachot 7b) focus on the meaning of the name’s impact on a person’s life for good or bad. More recent sources mention the idea of tapping into the good qualities of the one named after and bringing benefit to the deceased (see sources in Otzar Habrit 6:4). Poskim discuss how naming after a parent and, likely, a grandparent (not an uncle) falls under the mitzva of kibbud av va’em (see B’tzel Hachochma I;35). It is clear from sources and logic that intention connects the baby to the person he is named for (the benefit to the deceased is not shared by every departed David).
We will not advise parents whether to name their babies based on ideas, sound, a relative, or a tzaddik. Hopefully, monetary gain is not a major factor but “a factor” in choosing between names under consideration. It is common and not controversial to have in mind for both a relative and a tzaddik(a) who originally inspired that name’s use. It is very possible that this brings credit to the former and blessing to the child due to the latter. (We make no promises or predictions.)
For what is the aunt paying? Three main things deserve appreciation: 1) The parents’ sacrifice by not giving a name they prefer (assuming David is not their preferred name).
2) Honoring and creating a living remembrance of U. David, which has innate value and can bring psychological solace to the living. This exists as long as the parents are consistent in telling the family the baby is named in U. David’s honor.
These two are unaffected by the parents’ intentions, and if this is what the aunt has in mind, there is no problem.
3) The prospect that the naming will benefit U. David’s neshama. If this segula element is the (or a significant part of the) aunt’s intention, then it would be geneivat da’at to not intend for the baby to be named after U. David in a significant (not necessarily exclusive) way and take the money. One violates that prohibition when he gives the impression of a bigger favor than is true when it might bring reciprocity (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 228:6; see this column, Lech Lecha 5778), all the more so when a gift is promised. While one does not violate geneivat da’at over the recipient’s needless assumptions, a certain level of spiritual intention for the deceased is a valid assumption.
Two principles regarding doing things that make others feel good may compete. On the one hand, there is the halacha of geneivat da’at. On the other hand, one wants to make the recipient feel good and certainly not be insulted (see Yevamot 65b). Out of concern for honesty, should someone say: “Don’t think my Shabbat invitation is because we are friends but because the rabbi told me no one else is willing to invite you”!
If they are unwilling to have basic intention for U. David and the aunt cares about #3, the parents should give their preferred name and explain that it was important for them. If multiple relatives have turned down the offer, insult should be weighed versus deceit. A good solution is to give a double name, with intention that the David part is for U. David. This shows willingness to be connected to him, dispels a misconception of his exclusivity, and “protects the child” from unwanted connection (see Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim IV:66; Otzar Habrit 6:8)
In real cases, parents can seek family and/or rabbinic guidance to reach a balanced solution.
Dissolving Colored Pill in Contact Lens Solution on ShabbatI have instructions to put my contact lenses between uses in a solution in which one is supposed to put in a tablet, which dissolves and gives the liquid a tinge of yellow (the color has no significance). Is the dissolving or the turning of colors a halachic problem on Shabbat?
Actually, if the contact lenses are “soft,” the biggest problem is putting the lenses in the solution. There is a machloket on that question, which we would be remiss not to address at all.
One is allowed to wash non-absorbent materials (e.g., dishes). One is forbidden to wash absorbent fabrics, even if one only soaks or scrubs, or squeezes out the fabric (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Orach Chayim 302:9). Washing applies to leather to some degree, but putting water on it alone is permitted; there may also be distinctions between soft and hard leather (see Mishna Berura 302:39). To simplify the machloket among recent poskim, the main questions are how to categorize the somewhat absorbent plastic of soft contact lenses, and whether the fact that one is not cleaning away noticeable dirt makes a difference. You are assuming, like most, that it is permissible to soak lenses between uses in a solution which keeps them moist, helps remove impurities, and disinfects them, and that is perfectly fine (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 15:83).
Your question deals with two concerns; we will start with dissolving a pill. Making a solid break down into small particles sounds like tochein (grinding), but it is not forbidden on those grounds. For one, pills are formed from crushed particles, so crushing pills is only returning them to their previous state (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 33:4). This is permitted under the rule of ein tochein achar tochein (Rama, OC 321:12). Presumably, dissolving in a liquid does not fit into tochein in any case.
It is forbidden to change an object’s phase, e.g., crushing ice into water, but that is only when one crushes directly, not if he puts it in a place where it dissolves itself (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 320:9; Mishna Berura ad loc. 34). When it dissolves in a liquid, some say it is permitted even to crush (ibid.) and it removes questions of nolad (a form of muktzeh) (ibid. 35). Additionally, the particles do not change in form to become liquid, but are just suspended in it. Assuming the final solution is not thick, there is no problem of lisha (kneading).
Sometimes it is permitted to mix things in a way that one gives color to the other; sometimes it is forbidden. One rule that can justify many cases is – ein tzvi’ah b’ochlin (coloring involving foods is permitted). The Beit Yosef (OC 320) brings this from Rishonim, and seems to accept it in Shulchan Aruch, OC 320:20. While this is rule is basically accepted (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 318:64), the idea is more of a sign that context is crucial regarding coloring than as an independent rule. Another factor that can play a role specifically regarding coloring is: if the coloring is done “cleanly” or in a “manner of dirtying” (e.g., using a rag to clean up a colorful spill – see Mishna Berura 320:59). These leniencies will not help in our case, but the following may: 1) The colored object will not last (or keep its color) for long (see Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 14:19). 2) The object is not the type whose color makes a difference (see Orchot Shabbat 15:(88)). This is in addition to leniencies that apply throughout the laws of Shabbat. Specifically, p’sik reishei d’lo niche lei (a person lacks intention or interest for the result of a melacha that will definitely happen). While we do not pasken to permit it alone, it is a strong mitigating situation (see Yabia Omer I, Orach Chayim 19.). It might also be possible to add the leniency of things done for medical reasons (i.e., avoiding eye infections). Considering all the above (undesired color in a thing that is not made to be colored or kept), the tablet in the contact lens solution is not forbidden due to coloring.Therefore, it is not problematic to put the tablet into the contact lens solution.
Building a Sukka on Public PropertyMay one build a sukka in front of his house but on public property?
Most of our discussion will focus on the ability to fulfill the mitzva, but civic considerations are crucial regarding the mitzva as well as on their own.
Rabbanan rule that one does not need to own the sukka he uses, but that it must not be stolen (Sukka 27b). The gemara (ibid. 31a) says that Rabbanan hold that not every sukka connected to an element of theft is disqualified. For example, a sukka on another’s property, including public property, is not disqualified as stolen because “land cannot be stolen,” meaning that land is seen as remaining in possession of its owner even if someone else is occupying it.
However, the Rama (Orach Chayim 637:3 and citing a Yerushalmi in Darchei Moshe, OC 637:1) forbids building a sukka in the public domain or on a counterpart’s property without consent, saying that only b’di’eved one fulfills the mitzva in those circumstances. The Magen Avraham (637:3) posits that although land is not “stolen enough” for the aveira to disqualify the mitzva (mitzva haba’ah ba’aveira), that concept does preclude making a beracha on such an unauthorized sukka (see Machatzit Hashekel ad loc.). We find a precedent regarding arba minim that were stolen and acquired by the thief – the mitzva can be fulfilled, but it is disgraceful to make a beracha in such a case (Shulchan Aruch, OC 649:1) The Eliya Rabba (637:4) distinguishes between the cases – theft caused switched ownership for the arba minim, whereas here the sukka’s ownership is unchanged. He also claims that even if one should not make the beracha, it would not be l’vatala since the mitzva is valid. The Mishna Berura (637:10; Be’ur Halacha ad loc.) prefers the Eliya Rabba’s ruling when there are no good alternative places for a sukka.
There are grounds to distinguish between public ground and a neighbor’s property. There is greater chance the public implicitly agrees to such use of their land, as it belongs to and is used some ways by all residents. This logic explains why poskim do not usually require permission from neighbors to use part of the joint property for a sukka (Chut Shani, Sukkot, p. 223). While a neighbor may be happy for someone to use his sukka while he is away (Mishna Berura 637:9), this is not true of building a sukka on his property without permission (Pri Megadim, EA 637:7). Poskim are unhappy about using a sukka (see Dirshu 637:12) on an illegally built a mirpeset (balcony), although seemingly after years of quiet on the matter, we can probably assume permission to use the mirpeset as one wants, at least in the meantime. In a Jewish community or even many friendly non-Jewish ones, it can often be assumed that people understand the use of the area near one’s house for his sukka (Chut Shani ibid). Eshel Avraham (Butchach, siman 637) says that even in non-Jewish countries, lack of opposition is equivalent to permission. Rav S.Z. Auerbach is cited (Halichot Shlomo, Sukkot 7:11) as being more provisional in allowing such a sukka – there should be general permission from the locale and it should be done in a way that it does not impinge on use of the street/sidewalk. It is worthwhile for a rabbi to ascertain if (and perhaps influence that) the appropriate powers-that-be generally allow people to use the relevant public property.
When to assume permission depends on different things. Regarding place, attitude to religious Jews is a factor, as is socio-economics. Fancier neighborhoods are often more particular about nuisances and eyesores; how much space people have on their own property is also a factor. The size and positioning of the sukka are also important, as one should not take advantage even when there is general permission. Choosing between a smaller sukka on one’s own property and a bigger one on a public area can be difficult, and both the kashrut of the sukka and mentchlachkeit are important factors. An important rule is – you can be machmir on yourself but must judge others (i.e., those who are using public land) favorably.
How/When to Start Breaking Yom Kippur FastI (a religious doctor) am often consulted about those who cannot fast all of Yom Kippur. Is there a halachic preference for such people to start eating/drinking earlier “with shiurim” (small installments) or to wait longer but then necessarily have the amount of full “violation.”
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 618:7, based on Kritot 13a and Yoma 83a) rules that those who need to eat on Yom Kippur should eat less than the amount (within the given time) that fully violates the fast.
However, some Acharonim questioned whether slower is always better, i.e., when in order to eat slowly, one must start eating earlier than one would need to if he could eat normally. This question relates to other cases of a choice between allowing forbidden things before they are critical in order to avoid the need for a “bigger” allowance later. The S’dei Chemed (vol. IX, p. 121) brings a machloket Acharonim if one should fast on Tzom Gedalia if it will prevent him from fasting Yom Kippur. He connects this to the machloket (see Ba’er Heitev 90:11) whether a prisoner who received permission to be visited by a minyan should take the first opportunity or wait for the most significant one. A closer parallel case is whether one who will be allowed to do melacha on Shabbat because of pikuach nefesh but can preempt the need by doing so on Friday that is Yom Tov. The Netziv (Harchev Davar, Bamidbar 17:12) opts to violate the less severe Yom Tov, before it was necessary. However, some disagree with this approach (see Torat Hayoledet 50:(14)).
A few halachic questions influence applying these rules to our case. 1) When we say that one who eats less than a prohibition’s shiur still violates a Torah prohibition (Yoma 73b), is it a similar-level prohibition other than regarding punishment (see Encyclopedia Talmudit, “Chatzi Shiur,” ftnt. 18-20) or is the prohibition of a vastly lower level (see Tosafot, Shavuot 23b)? 2) Does one who eats small amounts remove himself from the status of fasting (v’initem) (Pri Megadim, MZ 612:4), or is he still considered fundamentally fasting (see Binyan Tzion 34; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata, 5760 ed., 39:(92))?
While there are respected poskim who rule to delay the eating until needed at the price of eating more than a shiur later (see Torat Hayoledet ibid.), the standard approach is to eat with shiurim (Igrot Moshe, OC IV:121; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata ibid.). This is the clear minhag (this is what Matnat Chaim’s posek recommends for recent kidney donors). It is also the clear implication of classical poskim’s acceptance without stipulations of the Shulchan Aruch’s rule (above) of eating with shiurim. After all, it is rare to be able to eat with shiurim, but not be able to wait, say, a half hour longer if he can then eat regularly!
What we can briefly explore is whether there are rare cases when it makes sense to delay breaking the fast. First, realize that it is difficult to give an exact time in the morning to wait until, but the night is a good breakoff point; the average person (not everyone) who cannot fast, can wait until the morning. Also, healthy people who must not fast as a precaution based on worst-case scenarios might be exceptions. If the danger can come unnoticed until it is too late (like for those with kidney problems or diabetes), standard rules apply. But, for example, the Shevet Halevi (VII, 81) ruled that soldiers who will be active outside for too long to fast should wait until they need to drink, for two reasons: if plans change, the need to drink never came to fruition; they should not drink when they lack a status of a potential endangered choleh (see Kiryat Sefer, Maachalot Assurot 14). Also, when there is a clear trigger/sign (e.g., weakness, nausea), and there is sufficient time afterward to remedy the situation without danger, those who prefer waiting have a solid argument. However, doctors and rabbis will agree that it is usually easier and safer to give clear guidelines to start earlier rather than later; that is the proper strategy for any borderline case.
Shofar Blowing during the Silent AmidaI will be the chazan for Musaf at a small, quite new minyan. The one thing that is “foreign” to me, is that they blow 30 kolot (blasts) during the silent Amida (=Amida). They are willing to not blow shofar for my sake, since the existing group anyway has mixed feelings about the minhag. Should/may I accept their offer? If not, how does it affect my own Amida?
The gemara (Rosh Hashana 16a-b) speaks about blowing shofar when sitting (before “Shemoneh Esrei”) and also when standing (during Shemoneh Esrei). The idea of 100 kolot is apparently post-Talmudic (see Tosafot, Rosh Hashana 33a).
Although the gemara is not explicit as to when to do the latter tekiot, another gemara (Rosh Hashana 34b) implies it. Rav Papa bar Shmuel told his assistant to blow the shofar when he hinted during davening to do so. Rava corrected him, saying: the shofar is to be blown only in chever ir (the group of the city). The Rambam (Shofar 3:10, see Maggid Mishneh, ad loc. 12) is apparently among those who understand and accept Rava as saying that this refers to chazarat hashatz. Two problems to discuss about blowing in the Amida are the possibility of hefsek and confusion for those who are not at the right place when the kolot are blown (see Shut Radbaz I:347). Some early sources (see citations and application in Yechaveh Da’at VI:37) maintain the Amida of Musaf has only seven berachot (i.e., Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shofarot are only in chazarat hashatz). Since these berachot are connected to shofar blowing (Rosh Hashana 34b), these opinions apparently assumed no shofar blowing in the Amida.
On the other hand, we do recite nine berachot during the Amida. Also, even if in the original obligation for the standing tekiot was in chazarat hashatz, now, with 100 kolot, Amida may be a logical time, which might be enough reason to calm concerns for hefsek in Shmoneh Esrei (see Eshel Avraham (Butchatch) to OC 592). In fact, the Aruch (a Rishon) quoted by Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 33b), the Tur (Orach Chayim 592), and others, talks of 30 kolot during Amida.
Still, the Shulchan Aruch relates to tekiot regarding chazarat hashatz (OC 592:1) and not Amida (OC 591), the Rama does not comment, and the Magen Avraham (intro. to OC 592) says that it is better not to blow during Amida. What apparently changed the practice was the fact that the Arizal recommended blowing 30 during the Amida (leaving 10 at the end of davening). As often happens, many Sephardi (see Yechaveh Da’at ibid.) and Chassidic communities follow the kabbalistically preferred approach (especially regarding something with mystical overtones like tekiat shofar). Non-Chassidish Ashkenazim, by and large, especially those who daven Nusach Ashkenaz, follow the stronger halachic sources, and do 30+10 after chazarat hashatz.
This breakup by affiliation is not complete. A small minority of Nusach Ashkenaz shuls blow in Amida. The Avnei Nezer (OC 445), the Rebbe of Suchochov, opposed tekiot in Amida, but in practice most Chassidic shuls blow in Amida. The group with the most variance in practice is those who daven Nusach Sephard but are not Chassidic.
Poskim (see Yechaveh Da’at ibid.) generally justify both approaches and recommend that shuls keep their minhag. In your case, you could claim that a relatively new minyan, with the participants unsettled on the matter, can change based on (a) new arrival(s). However, I would not want to be the catalyst for such a change, which could be divisive at a time we want to heighten unity (e.g., Rosh Hashana). You need not be concerned, as just listening is not a hefsek (see Radbaz ibid.).Now, for instructions. If you finish a beracha before its tekiot, wait at that point (Nitei Gavriel, Rosh Hashana 64:7). If you are behind them when they blow, listen quietly, and they will count for you (ibid.). Although those with this minhag will say Hayom Harat Olam when they finish each beracha, you do not need not do this as practice, as in your regular practice, you would also say it in chazarat hashatz but not in Amida (see Igrot Moshe, OC II:29).
The Chazan’s Pre-Birkat Kohanim PracticeIn chutz la’aretz, I was taught that the chazan says the whole Elokeinu Veilokei Avotainu prayer quietly except for calling out the word “kohanim.” In Israel, someone else says “kohanim.” Does the chazan still recite the whole prayer quietly? What is the logic of the two practices?
The main point of the prayer of Elokeinu Veilokei Avotainu (=EVA) is to beseech Hashem for the benefits of the berachot that constitute Birkat Kohanim in lieu of the kohanim carrying out their mitzva (Rav Amram Gaon, cited in the Tur, Orach Chayim 127). Although EVA is apparently a post-Talmudic institution (see Tosafot, Berachot 34a), it is accepted that this is not a hefsek in chazarat hashatz. Realize that Birkat Kohanim is supposed to be incorporated in chazarat hashatz, with the gemara (Megilla 18a) explaining its appropriateness at that exact juncture. The chazan is expected to recite the berachot’s words to prompt the kohanim, and that too is not a hefsek (Rashi, Berachot 34a; Rambam, Tefilla 14:8). Similarly, the Birkat Kohanim stand-in is appropriate for the chazan. Tosafot (Berachot 34a) also infers from the mishna (ad loc.) that were it not for concern that he might confuse himself, the chazan could have answered amen to the Birkat Kohanim.
The disagreement begins in regard to the chazan’s involvement when there is Birkat Kohanim. Rabbeinu Tam (cited by Tosafot, ibid.; Rosh, Berachot 5:17) posits that despite the fact that leading Birkat Kohanim is not a hefsek for the chazan and that someone needs to call the kohanim, a gabbai should call them instead of the chazan (note that in the gemara and other early sources, the word chazan is what we call a gabbai).
The Rosh (ibid.) cites the argument of the Ri that the objection to the chazan calling the kohanim may have disappeared once the prayer of EVA was instituted. That is because now the chazan can use the recitation of the word “kohanim” within the text of EVA to call them. The Tur (OC 128) and others report that the Maharam MeiRutenberg used to do this, and that he said all of EVA silently except for “kohanim.” Perhaps when only that word is said out loud, it is more discernable as a call to the kohanim in addition to part of a prayer. (When someone other than the chazan prompts, he immediately says that one word, so that the Maharam’s system slightly delays the beginning of Birkat Kohanim). On the other hand, others report (see Hagahot Maimoniot Tefilla 14:7) that the Maharam changed his practice, and as chazan, no longer recited EVA or called out to the kohanim.
Concerning practical Halacha, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:8), following the Rambam (ibid.), has the chazan calling out Kohanim without EVA, and this is the Sephardi minhag (Yalkut Yosef, OC 127:2 and 128:35). The Rama (ad loc.) cites as the minhag the earlier practice of the Maharam, that the chazan says EVA quietly, except for “kohanim” out loud. This is the minhag that you grew up with in chutz la’aretz, where it is still prevalent for Ashkenazim. The Gra (Ma’aseh Rav 168) follows Rabbeinu Tam – a gabbai should call out kohanim, whereas the chazan just recites the Birkat Kohanim itself before the kohanim. As not infrequently happens, the minhag of the Gra became the minhag of the Ashkenazim of Eretz Yisrael.
It is theoretically possible to posit that even according to the minhag that a gabbai calls out kohanim, the chazan still says EVA quietly. One can even argue that this has an advantage in making the chazan’s word-by-word prompting of Birkat Kohanim less of a hefsek, as it is incorporated into the text of EVA. However, since the consensus is that in the time of Chazal, before the prayer of EVA was used at all, the chazan led the kohanim in Birkat Kohanim, it must not be a problem of hefsek at all. Such a practice does not fit in with any of the three main minhagim. (Perhaps, some chazanim, especially those who are used to the minhag of chutz la’aretz, say all of EVA quietly before Birkat Kohanim. However, this is a mistaken practice, albeit, not a critical one.)
Shehecheyanu on Winning a Court CaseAs a lawyer, it is clear to me that a client who wins a court case should recite Shehecheyanu, and one who loses should recite Dayan Ha’emet. After all, a court victory is truly good news and involves much more money than a suit! Am I correct?
There are different types of triggers for Shehecheyanu: cyclical mitzvot, holidays, and fruit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 225); acquisitions of significant objects (ibid. 223); finding out good news (mainly, ibid. 222). In your question, you use the latter two interchangeably; we will separate them.
The parameters of acquiring a house or “important” clothing or furniture are quite defined, and when they are met, one does not need to be overjoyed for Shehecheyanu to be called for (it applies even when one pays top dollar). We do not say Dayan Ha’emet when such items are lost or broken. A court award rarely meets the classic parameters.
Because good news (ibid. 222:1) and bad news (ibid. 2) are very broad, the beracha trigger must elicit strong feelings. Most types of Shehecheyanu, according to most, are not obligations, but are voluntary and recommended when applicable (see Rama, OC 223:1; Mishna Berura 223:7). In cases where it is unclear whether they are warranted, most poskim (see Mishna Berura 223:12) apply safek berachot l’hakel (refrain when in doubt); some say it does not apply to such a subjective beracha when one feels the urge to recite it (see Tzitz Eliezer XIV:67). The above may explain what the Mishna Berura reports – most people do not make berachot over good and bad news. (The minhag is that one recites Dayan Ha’emet as a full beracha only for the death of a close relative – see Mishna Berura 223:8).
One could solve beracha l’vatala questions by combining it with a Shehecheyanu on clothing (Shulchan Aruch, OC 600:2) or by omitting Hashem’s Name. However, people have the right and maybe should (see Mishna Berura ibid.) make the berachot according to the opinions that when there is true happiness from good news (and sadness from bad), one makes a full beracha. This can include a variety of significant financial events (see Mishna Berura 222:1). However, your clients should be consistent. Take a real estate agent who does not make Shehecheyanu when he makes a sale. Should he recite it only when his fee was questioned, and he wins the same amount of money in adjudication?! In fact, as a dayan, I see several reasons why a ruling in adjudication should not bring on Shehecheyanu or Dayan Ha’emet.
Many rule not to recite Shehecheyanu on a fruit that was grown in a forbidden manner (see Yabia Omer V, OC 19) – that is not supposed to make you happy. Adjudication at times includes aveirot, e.g., going to a secular court; lying or misrepresentation; improperly insulting one’s “opponent.” If one thereby received money he did not deserve, there should not be a beracha. If one lost the case, he should usually assume he deserved to lose, in which case Dayan Ha’emet is not appropriate, as he did not really lose anything.
In cases where one side is clearly right, the ruling reveals the obvious; it is likely different from the Mishna Berura’s (ibid.) retrieving property from a thief. If both sides have strong logic, making the ruling significant, one could factor in that his good fortune is at the expense of another, who is now upset (compare to the Ra’avya, Shabbat 289, who says not to make Shehecheyanu at a brit because of the baby’s pain).
There are other complications. In many cases, rulings include elements of winning and losing for both sides. Also, timing is not simple, considering that one: receives a ruling, there is time for appeal, and receiving payment can be a process (see Aruch Hashulchan, OC 223:4 on not making Shehecheyanu at a wedding).
I have not seen classical poskim suggest these berachot for adjudication, and the minhag is not to do so. Finding a different way to thank Hashem, and contemplating how to be a most moral litigant or not be one at all, may be wiser than solving a halachic doubt by including a new suit.
Whose Responsibility Is Raising the Wall?I built my house years before the next-door property was developed, with an approximately meter-high wall between properties. My property is 2 meters higher than the next one; now they are excavating to build the other house, there will be a 5-meter drop, which I feel makes it dangerous for my children. [He seems to be building according to the permit he received.] My neighbor had agreed to pay for raising the wall, but now is unwilling to pay the significant cost. We cordially disagree whether it is his obligation. Have I misjudged the matter?
We praise you for asking sincerely. Generally, we do not comment on active monetary disagreements (see Rama, Choshen Mishpat 17:5). However, after hearing your situation, we felt this would be a case where it was proper to make an exception (see Pitchei Teshuva ad loc. 11; our column from Ki Teitzei 5776), which may be clearer at the end. We are neither interested nor able (due to a lack of information) to present clear conclusions but rather halachic ideas about this type of case.
One important question is whether the present wall meets safety codes for the emerging situation, as these are generally legally and halachically binding to obligate and exempt from further steps (see Emunat Itecha #139, p. 87-96). This is not unlikely considering you received a Tofes Arba (occupancy permit) despite a significant drop and municipal plans for a future further drop. If so, if your very understandable concern for your children makes you want more, your decision will obligate you.
Most questions about paying for a wall between properties of different elevations concern its serving as a kir temech (retaining wall). In most cases, the wall serves both homeowners, preventing collapse of parts of the ground that support the higher property from falling into the lower property. In such cases, the two owners are to pay for it jointly (see ibid.). The need for /benefit from a kir temech is not always identical, which can impact on the division of payment. You have not told us how the two of you have dealt with the construction of a kir temech and how it is connected to the wall you mention.
Regarding concern for falling, your wall was needed as a ma’akeh. While the formalistic mitzva requires a 10-tefach high fence for a roof (Shulchan Aruch, 427: 1,5), there is a broader and more fluid requirement to avoid danger (ibid. 7-8). While you seemed confident that it had been doing its job (according to most opinions, a meter is more than 10 tefachim), you view your neighbor’s excavating as creating a dangerous situation that requires more than the existing level of caution.
Questions of damaging situations created by what neighbors do on their own property are governed by the often difficult-to-apply halachot of nizkei shcheinim. A broad question with many applications is whether the need to remove the danger/damage falls on the potential victim (nizak) or damager (mazik). Important determining factors are whether the damage comes immediately and directly (Shulchan Aruch, CM 158:32), the damage’s significance (Shut HaRosh 108:10), and whether the nizak is capable of avoiding the damage (ibid.). We will not analyze your case’s details in these regards because danger of falling has its own prototype – bor (a pit or cistern).
One whose bor’s opening is on the border of another’s property must pay for damage to those who fall in (Shulchan Aruch, CM 410:6). For you, a pertinent question is the drop’s proximity to your property (see S’ma 410:7). It is also possible that the fact that the drop is a result of natural topography and permitted building removes responsibility (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 9 and commentaries). Also, a 10-tefach wall remedies a bor (Bava Kama 50a). Finally, cheaper methods might be feasible to remove the danger.
Therefore, it is unlikely that your neighbor needs to pay significantly to extend your wall. We trust that these ideas will impact your conversations with your neighbor and are optimistic you will enjoy a good relationship.
An Ashkenazi Joining Sephardi SelichotMy neighborhood’s small Sephardi beit knesset has difficulty maintaining an (early-morning) Elul Selichot minyan. I (an Ashkenazi) have joined them a few times during Elul and found it uplifting, but someone claimed that I cannot count for a minyan because according to my minhag, I am not obligated in Selichot then. Do I count toward the minyan, and is it a good idea to spend time and energy on it? May I continue with them after Ashkenazim start Selichot?
Selichot consist of supplications to Hashem to have mercy on us despite our shortcomings and are an aid to our regimen of teshuva. They are said at times when there is heightened need (e.g., on fast days over national tragedies and Behab, anticipating the need for teshuva) and/or heightened chance of success (during the days around the Yamim Noraim – see Rambam’s (Teshuva 2:6) formulation about this period).
There do not appear to be sources indicating Selichot are ever an independent obligation, certainly not found in Chazal but not even as a formal, binding, post-Talmudic minhag. On fast days, it is a way of strengthening Shemoneh Esrei’s request for forgiveness –some even inserted it there (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 566:4). Selichot around the Yamim Noraim may be a more independent tefilla (see Batei Yosef 581:2, in the name of Rav Soloveitchik). Even so, it was not formally instituted as an extra tefilla like Ne’ila. Rather, it is a spiritual tool Hashem provided to use at our discretion (see Rosh Hashana 17b), which has developed a schedule over the centuries. All agree that from the beginning of Elul until Yom Kippur is a time for heightened spiritual steps. We start blowing shofar and reciting L’David Hashem Ori. The Ashkenazi minhag of having at least 10 days of Selichot beginning slightly before Rosh Hashana (this is tellingly fluid) is the same basic minhag as the Sephardi one that begins earlier. Therefore, there is no issue of your not being obligated. On the one hand, no one is obligated (see Yechaveh Da’at III:44 on when Sephardim do not have to do Elul Selichot), and everyone is strongly recommended to take part when appropriate.
Note also that while consisting of different texts, Ashkenazim and Sephardim share the structure and critical parts of Selichot. There is Ashrei and Chatzi Kaddish, then many supplications, separated by the 13 Middot, then there is a viduy, and final supplications; we finish with Kaddish. The parts that require a minyan (devarim shebekdusha), Kaddish and the 13 Middot, do not need ten people to recite the identical text beforehand to precede it (see Igrot Moshe, OC IV:33; this column, Shemini 5777), but must just be united for the devarim shebekdusha. Therefore, even one who (quietly) recites Ashkenazi piyutim counts for the minyan if he joins the Sephardi tzibbur for the 13 Middot.
We applaud your joining your neighbors for a few reasons. First, you help people “use a powerful tool,” as Selichot’s devarim shebekedusha parts must have a minyan, and everything is accepted better with a minyan (see Rosh Hashana 18a). Also, while Ashkenazim start Selichot later in Elul, you receive spiritual benefits for the early ones (we cannot evaluate any price you might pay). Learning new, beautiful liturgy is also a positive experience. Finally, although there are many “bridges” between Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities, more achdut experiences are always welcome, especially at times when we need z’chuyot.
Do things change when Ashkenazi Selichot have begun? Their difficulty in finding a minyan is a crucial factor, which can outweigh the modest advantages of keeping one’s own nusach hatefilla (see Igrot Moshe ibid.). It is possible but not required (a matter of taste and circumstances) for you to recite some Ashkenazi piyutim in between the 13 Middot. It is particularly appropriate to daven with them if yirat shamayim concerns so dictate (ibid.), although if it insults one’s natural community, that is also a serious factor.
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