Monthly Archives: October 2010

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Av 5763 – Tearing Kriah at the Kosel

1 Menachem Av, 5763

L’chvod HaRav,

What is the halacha l’maaseh for tearing kriah in Yerushalayim when you haven’t been there in a long time? I’ve heard it’s best to go to somewhere overlooking both the Har HaBayis, and the Kotel, but if you’re not going to, what should be done? Are you supposed to do it when you enter the Old City, or when you see the walls of the Old City, or when you approach the Kotel? What exactly are you supposed to recite? How should kriah be done? Thank you very much.

Name & Seminary Withheld

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Dear JemSem Reader,

Thank you for an interesting and important question. The Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 561:2) states, “When someone seen Yerushalayim in its destruction, they should say ‘Tzion has become a desolate desert’, and when they see the Bais HaMikdash, they should say ‘Our house of holiness and glory, in which our forefathers sang praise to you, has been burnt, and all that we hold dear and precious has been destroyed’, and they should tear (their clothing).” The Be’er Heitev and the Mishna Berura both quote the Bais Yosef as saying that the criteria for Yerushalayim being considered in a state of destruction is that non-Jews have control over it, in which case it is considered in a state of destruction even if Jews live there. Rav Moshe Feinstein Zazta”l, in Iggros Moshe (Orach Chaim Vol. 4, Siman 70:11) states that therefore today a person is not obligated to tear their clothing when seeing Yerushalayim, since through the kindness of Hashem Yisborach it has been under Jewish control since 1967, and has “been rebuilt in glory”. However, when seeing the Kosel or the actual Har Habayis, a person is still obligated to tear Kriah on their clothing. The Har HaBayis is considered to be in a state of destruction until the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt.

One way of doing this would be to go to a place from which you can see into the Har HaBayis, and recite the above statement (“Our house etc.”- it can be said in in either Hebrew or any language you understand. I will quote the Hebrew text below for your convenience), and tear your top garment. A special shirt or blouse may be worn on top of your clothing for this purpose. If this is not practical, you can do this when you first see the Kosel. In my experience, it has not been the best idea to do this when you are approaching the Kosel in public, for a number of reasons. The best way is to go to a secluded area overlooking the Kosel Plaza, and tear Kriah there. If you are coming through the Jewish Quarter (Rova HaYehudi), there is a very good spot just off of Rechov Misgav Ladach. Right before you start going down the Kosel steps (next to Yeshivat HaKotel), make a left and go down Rechov Misgav Ladach almost until the end. You will see the overlook on your right side.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Hebrew text to be recited when tearing Kriah upon seeing the Kosel or Har HaBayis:

“Beis Kodsheinu V’Tifarteinu Asher Hillelucha Bo Avoseinu Haya L’Sreifas Aish, V’Chol Machmadeinu Haya L’Charava”.

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Tammuz 5763 – Bracha on Thunder and Lightning

1 Tammuz 5763

L’chvod HaRav,

What is the halacha in terms of making a bracha on lightning and thunder? Do you have to wait to encounter both of them or can you make the brachos one at a time?

Thank you very much.
Name & Seminary Withheld

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Dear Name Withheld,

Thanks for your questions. This issue is discussed in the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 227:1 and the Mishna Berura there (5), as well in the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch 60:2. Based on what it says there, it seems that the correct way to make the Beracha is as follows:

If you see lightning, the Beracha of “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis” should be recited. Upon hearing the thunder afterwards, the Beracha of “Shekocho U’Gevurosos Molay Olam” should be said. If the thunder and lightning come simultaneously, or with the thunder immediately following the lightning only one Beracha should be said on both of them. Both Berachos are effective on thunder and lightning, so the Mishna Berura states that although the preferred Beracha in this case is “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis,” if you made a “Shekocho U’Gevurosos Molay Olam” you have fulfilled your obligation to make a Beracha.

It seems clear from the Mishna Berura and the Kitzur that, according to Halacha, they can and should be made one at a time, and there is no need to wait for both of them. It seems to me that the prevailing Minhag is to
actually wait for both, and then make both Berachos. I’m not sure what the source of this is. Perhaps, since there is no obligation to make a Beracha on heat lightning which does not have accompanying thunder, as stated in the Chayei Adam quoted in the Mishna Berura there, the Minhag has developed to wait for the thunder to be certain that a Beracha is required on the lightning.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

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Sivan 5763 – Cake Icing Letters on Shabbos

1 Sivan 5763

L’chvod HaRav:

Are you allowed to break the letters on top of a cake on shabbos? How about between the letters? If the letters are script and therefore connected can you cut between the letters? If it is an ice cream cake is it considered a “davar sheaimo miskayaim” and therefore maybe permissible to cut? If a parent tells you to cut the cake, and they tell you that you have to break through the actual letters, do you listen?

Thank you for your help,
Name and Seminary Withheld

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Dear Name Withheld,

Thank you very much for your questions. I generally prefer giving straightforward yes and no answers to such questions, however, it is not clear that this is forbidden, nor is it clear that it is permitted, as I’ll explain. In this case, when dealing with a Rabbinic law such as this (since the purpose of erasing is not to re-write on that spot it does not qualify as a Torah prohibition), it is preferable to be stringent if possible, but if this would cause discomfort, i.e. defying a parent as in your case, or a child would be disappointed by not having a birthday cake, I believe a person may cut it.

The Mishna Berura (340:15-17) states that there are three possible situations where it would be clearly permitted to erase writing on food: 1. If the writing is from the same ingredients as the food, such as a biscuit or chocolate bar that has the name of the company that produced it on it. 2. If the writing is done with “honey diluted with water or other fruit juices”, it is permitted, since it is not Miskayem – everlasting. 3. If the writing is erased in the actual process of eating, i.e. with your teeth. Therefore, it is permitted to bite into a cookie or piece of cake even if the writing on it is from a different type.

What is not clear from the Mishna Berura is what he holds in a case where the writing is from the same type as the background, but a different color, such as in the case of a birthday cake with icing. Is the fact that it is a different color a problem, or do we say that icing is icing no matter what the color? Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatza’l in Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso (11:7) seems to forbid cutting the cake unequivocally, although he does not discuss this case directly. He does seem to indicate there (footnote 31) that the reason why we distinguish between writing from the background material itself as opposed to writing with something foreign is because if it is from the same material this indicates that it is all one item, and cannot be considered erasing. According to this, it would seem that the fact that it is a different color should not be a problem.

Additionally, the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 340:23) states that any writing done with something edible is not considered writing. According to him, it would be permitted even when the writing is done with two different types.

Therefore, although there is nothing wrong, and it is even preferable, for a person to be stringent on himself and be concerned that the Mishna Berura can be _interpreted_ to be saying that cutting a birthday cake with icing is forbidden, he should definitely not be stringent at the expense of others.

>>How about between the letters?

Rav Shlomo Zalman Zatza”l is clearly lenient in this situation, quoted in Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso 9:48. Obviously it would also be permitted to cut between the words.

>>If the letters are script and therefore connected can you cut between the letters?

This would be the same as cutting the actual letters.

>>If it is an ice cream cake is it considered a “davar sheaimo miskayaim” and therefore maybe permissible to cut?

It would seem that even if the Mishna Berura would forbid cutting the icing on the cake, the reason that he is Mattir “honey and fruit juice” is because it is not Miskayaim. Consequently, it is probable that even according to that opinion you could be lenient regarding an ice cream cake.

>>If a parent tells you to cut the cake, and they tell you that you have to break through the actual letters, do you listen?

See above. Assuming that this is all that they are requesting from you, it would seem proper to be lenient (see the Mesilas Yesharim, Perek Mishkal HaChassidus). However, if their ultimate goal is to cause you to transgress other Halachos, a competent Rav must be consulted who can assist you in finding a proper course of action in this situation. I hope that this has been helpful.

Rabbi Aaron Tendler

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Iyar 5763 – Electricity on Shabbos

1 Iyar 5763

L’chvod HaRav:

I have been searching for 4 years for the answer to why electricity is forbidden on Shabbos. I have been given 3 incorrect answers: (1) Electricity=Fire (2) The melacha of “building” or “creating” a circuit by completing it (3) Separating Shabbos from yom chol.

I am also wondering where the decision was made, since I am sure it was a relatively recent decree/ruling by rabbis, and not just spontaneously decided upon.

Thank you,
Name and seminary withheld.

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Thank you very much for submitting your interesting question. Many articles have been written on this topic, both in Hebrew and in English. Most notably, the Encyclopedia Talmudis has an interesting and extensive entry on this topic under the heading “Chashmal” in Vol. 18 (pages 163-174). In English, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society (Published by Rabbi Jacob Joseph School) Vol. 21, Spring 5751/1991 also deals with this issue extensively. I will summarize much of what is said there, but if possible it is worthwhile getting a reading the original articles yourself.

There are many various issues involved in this discussion. There are many different types of appliances that have different reasons as to why they may be forbidden. However, all Halachic authorities agree that generally use of electricity is forbidden on Shabbos. However, in certain situations of absolute necessity (e.g. for the needs of a sick person), some electrical appliances may be used – preferably employing a Shinui, turning them on in an abnormal manner.

First of all, all Halachic authorities agree that turning on a switch that lights an incandescent bulb is forbidden by the Torah, because of the Melacha of Mavir – kindling. Extinguishing such a light is likewise forbidden. Similarly, running an electrical machine that is powered by a combustion generator (car, lawn mower) is also forbidden by the Torah. It makes no difference whether the electricity is coming from a battery or power plant source.

If creating the electrical circuit does not kindle a light, but ignites a LED or LCD display, although there may not be a Torah prohibition of kindling, there is at least a Rabbinic prohibition of writing involved. The reason that this would qualify as a Rabbinic prohibition rather than a Torah prohibition is because such writing is temporary.

However, the primary issue regarding actual electricity use, which I suspect is the one that you are more concerned about, is turning on an electrical appliance without any lights of displays, for example a simple fan or portable vacuum cleaner. This issue has been discussed extensively by Halachic authorities over the past 150 years since electricity was harnessed for everyday use. Again, although all are in agreement that it is forbidden, there are major disputes as to why. The following is a quick synopsis of some of these reasons:

1. Molid – creating something new that wasn’t there prior to Shabbos. This is the position of the Bais Yitzchak, Rabbi Yitzchak Schmelkes. According to this position, there is no Torah prohibition involved, it is a Rabbinic prohibition, similar to the prohibition by our Rabbis to perfume clothing, a common practice in previous times.

2. Boneh – building, or connecting to a building. “Completing a circuit renders a previously useless wire into a functional wire, and this is analogous to completing a building or a wall. In addition, completing a circuit is analogous to assembling an appliance composed of numerous parts – which Halacha defines as building – and is thus prohibited on Shabbos.” This is the position of the Chazon Ish. According to this, it is a Torah prohibition.

3. Maakeh B’Patish – literally the “final hammer blow”, but actually meaning the final act in finishing any product and making it useful. This is also a Torah prohibition. Since an electrical appliance is useless before electricity is added to it, the introduction of an electric current causes it to become a useful piece of equipment, and is therefore prohibited because of Makeh B’Patish.

4. Metaken Manna – a Rabbinic sub-category of Makeh B’Patish. The Rabbis who take this position argue that Make B’Patish must be a permanent, final act, whereas completing an electric current is by no means permanent! However, this lesser Rabbinic prohibition does not require permanence, and is prohibited even when the act is going to become undone (For example, it is Rabbinically forbidden to assemble and dissemble a portable bed on Shabbos.) (Rabbi Henken Zatza”l).

5. Although technically there is no prohibition to use electricity if no light and heat are generated, and no writing occurs, it has been accepted as the custom not to do so, since too much confusion could arise regarding what appliances are permitted, and which are forbidden. A Jewish custom is binding on all, and may only be relaxed in cases of urgent need. This is the position of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatza”l (in his work Minchas Shlomo).

There are other reasons cited in the abovementioned articles, some Torah prohibitions and some Rabbinic. The following is a summary of this chapter in the RJJ Journal – “The reasons advanced to prohibit the use of electricity on Shabbos when no light or heat are generated are quite diverse. They range from the biblical prohibition of building, to the rabbinic prohibition to create something new (Molid) or to tradition without any precise basis in the laws of Shabbos. Whatever the basis, accepted practice generally prohibits the use of electricity on Shabbos even when no light or heat is generated.”

I hope this has been helpful.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

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L’chvod HaRav,

Thank you very much for your thorough answer about electricity on Shabbos. You mention an old practice of perfuming clothing – what is that and how does it fall under the melacha of ‘molid’?

Name & Seminary withheld

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The Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chaim 511:4) states that you are not permitted to put perfume on clothing (this would include a Shaitel) on Shabbos. Apparently, in the times of Chaza”l it was common for people to leave their clothing hanging in a closet with incense in it, to make their clothing smell nice. At any rate, Chaza”l felt that this looks like a Melacha, even if it technically isn’t, and forbade it because of “Molid Re’ach”- creating a scent in the clothing that hadn’t previously been there (on the skin doesn’t create such an appearance, apparently, and wasn’t forbidden). The Poskim say there an interesting thing, that many people have a Minhag to keep their Esrogim after Succos in their clothing drawers, so that their clothing should smell good. If you had one there before Shabbos, and for some reason took it out on Shabbos, you are allowed to return it- it isn’t included in this Issur. I find this interesting, because this is apparently a Minhag in my wife’s family, that I had never heard about before I got married.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

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Nissan 5763 – Coffee & Starbucks

1 Nissan 5763

L’chvod HaRav,

I recently got into a discussion about something I took upon myself and the person said that it was a Chumrah I shouldn’t have started. The issue is that I don’t go to Starbucks because there are problems with the hechsherim of flavored coffees. I’m concerned that someone might see me in a shop and assume that I was having a one, rather than a just a plain coffee.
Also, since I’m a teacher in a day school, I thought there might be a problem withMaras Ayin–since many people in the community probably think there’s nothing wrong with ordering any kind of drink there. Was I wrong?
Another related question — is a person is allowed to go into a McDonald’s or other non-kosher restaurant to use the bathroom?
Thank you so much for your help!

Sincerely,
Name and Seminary Witheld by Request

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Thank you for your questions.

Regarding going into Starbuck’s, I really can’t tell you that this is an unnecessary “Chumrah”. I think that you are right in avoiding going in, and this displays a sensitivity towards Mitzvos and others in your community who unfortunately don’t know as much as yourself regarding Kashrus.

By the way, the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch (38:12) states that a “Shomer Nafsho” should not drink coffee made by a non-Jew because of Bishul Akum, and even if one wishes to be lenient Derech Arai – “in a temporary fashion”- (e.g. while on the road), there is no Hetter to do so Derech Keva- “on a regular basis”. To the best of my knowledge, Starbuck’s are not careful regarding Bishul Akum, and therefore it would not be Halachically proper to regularly go there and order even what you are certain is Kosher coffee.

It is important to note that many of the flavors used is coffee can have serious Kashrus problems, and a person should not purchase any flavored coffee anywhere without reliable certification. A person should not rely on “word of mouth” or the fact that “everyone buys this flavor”.

A person may go into McDonald’s etc. to use the rest room if they are travelling, as it is well known that people will go in to use the rest room or even just to purchase a Kosher soft drink or coffee while they are traveling (as above, “in a temporary fashion”). I believe that regarding this McDonald’s would be different from Starbuck’s, since most of the coffee they sell is regular or decaf Kosher from urns designated specifically for coffee, and even if they do have other flavored coffees available, it isn’t likely that people will jump to the conclusion by watching you that the other flavors are Kosher also. In Starbuck’s, most people primarily buy flavored coffee.

Take care,

Rabbi Aaron Tendler