Category Archives: I Didn’t Know That!! Halacha Tidbits

halacha

Av 5771 – The One Day A Year We Avoid Shalom…?

The One Day A Year We Avoid Shalom...? Av 5771
The One Day A Year We Avoid Shalom…?
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

Perhaps the most difficult halacha to remember on the day of Tisha B’Av is the rule that we are not allowed to greet others throughout the day. For most of, saying, “Hi, how are you?” is so natural and habitual that it is almost like second nature when meeting an acquaintance or friend. At the same time, the constant stopping of oneself from such a normal action serves as a powerful reminder of the tone of the day. Even though this is the time of the year that we actively work on our bein adam lichaveiro and interpersonal interactions, the mourning of the day transcends these niceties and requires us to conduct ourselves as mourners. I wanted to briefly examine some of the halachos of the prohibition of “she’eilas Shalom” on Tisha B’Av.

– The Shulchan Aruch writes that on this day, one is prohibited from offering a greeting of “Shalom” to anyone else. The Mishna Berura includes saying “good morning” or the like.

– The later poskim explain that this includes any type of normal greeting or salutation, like “hello” or “how are you?” or any other form of accepted greeting phrase.

– Even greeting someone with a nod of the head, or other form of acknowledgement, is prohibited.

– When one answers the phone on Tisha B’Av, one should not say “hello.” One may answer by saying, “Rosenstein family,” or “Moshe speaking,” or something of that nature. [It is a good idea to substitute your name in the phrase, however, so people won’t get confused.]

– If someone who is not aware of the halacha opens with a greeting, it is permissible to answer, so as not to be rude. However, one should answer in a subdued fashion.

– The Mishna Berura writes that giving a gift on Tisha B’Av is also prohibited, as it is also a form of wishing a person well in this way.

– Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l held that one is allowed to genuinely ask how someone else is doing or feeling on Tisha B’Av. Meaning, saying “how are you?” as a greeting is prohibited, as it has more or less become an accepted greeting statement, but asking someone how they are, not as a greeting, is permissible.

– These halachos apply throughout the day of Tisha B’Av, until after the time the fast ends. [Incidentally, as there is sometimes confusion regarding this, the only halacha that changes at chatzot hayom, midday, is the requirement to sit on a low stool. After midday, one is allowed to sit on a regular seat or chair. All other halachos of the day – eating, drinking, washing, shoes, marital relations and saying hello – apply throughout the day.]

I will end with a tefillah to Hashem that we should not have to know these halachos this year, and Hashem should bring us all home and end our individual and collective tzaros once and for all, together with the rest of Klal Yisroel, amen!

 

halacha

Kislev 5772 – Chanukah Timing Tips 5772

Kislev 5772
Chanukah Timing Tips 5772
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

Chanukah Timing Tips 5772

It is hard to believe that Chanukah is almost here. As we look forward to this time filled with simcha and chizuk, as well as get togethers with family and friends, I thought it would be a good time to go over some of the common, but sometimes overlooked, halachos that come up over Chanukah.

The Proper Time to Light Candles

· There are different minhagim regarding what the best time, lichatchila, to light Chanukah candles is. Here in Yerushalayim, the minhag is to light the Chanukah candles at shkiah, sunset, or as close to it as possible. Most communities in Chutz LaAretz, where the amount of time in between sunset and nightfall (tzeis hakochavim) is significantly longer, light somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes after shkiah. A person should follow the accepted practice in her home or community.

· Chanukah candles must be lit at a time when there are still people out on the streets that will see the menorah lit. The poskim say that for an hour or so after the stores in an area close, it is still a time time that people are considered to be out on the streets. Seeing as most retail stores close in the 7-9PM vicinity, depending on the area, the latest time for lighting could be 10 or 11pm; in big cities it could be much later. If one lights later than this time, they should light without reciting the brachos. If one is lighting inside the house, then the lighting is primarily serving to publicize the mitzvah to those who are at home in the house. As long as one other person is awake to see the candles lit, one may light with a bracha even very late at night.

· If someone is unable to light at the proper time (around sunset), she should light later when she is able to. As long as she will still be lighting at a time that she can make a bracha (as explained above), it is better to wait until they are able to light and not light earlier than shkiah.

· If one will not be able to light later at all (if she is traveling or will not be back home until it is too late to light), one may light the candles earlier than sunset – provided it is later than plag hamincha. Before plag hamincha, one may not light the candles, and if one did so, it is invalid and the mitzvah must be done properly later.

· If a person lives together with other people (family, roommates, etc.), or if there is someone who will be fulfilling the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah in her current residence, she can ask someone who will be lighting on time to light on her behalf as well (making her friend her “shaliach” for this mitzvah). In fact, the poskim say that this preferable to a person lighting earlier than shkiah.

· Regardless of what time a person lights, there must be enough oil (or a long enough candle) for the Chanukah candles to burn until at least 30 minutes after tzeis hakochavim.

To get a better idea of what this all means, I have included here a few different locations with their zmanim on the first night of Chanukah (the night of December 1) – the zmanim get slightly earlier throughout Chanukah.
Baltimore
Plag: 3:47 Shkiah: 4:46 Tzeis: 5:30
Chicago
Plag: 3:25 Shkiah: 4:22 Tzeis: 5:08
Cleveland
Plag: 4:02 Shkiah: 4:59 Tzeis: 5:45
London
Plag: 3:04 Shkiah: 3:53 Tzeis: 4:51
Los Angeles
Plag: 3:45 Shkiah: 4:47 Tzeis: 5:28
New York
Plag: 3:33 Shkiah: 4:31 Tzeis: 5:16
Yerushalayim
Plag: 3:33 Shkiah: 4:36 Tzeis: 5:15

Activities that Should not be Done Until a Person Lights

It is important to note that in order to make sure that a person does not unnecessarily delay the lighting and then perhaps forget to light, there are certain activities that are prohibited from the time the sun sets until a person has fulfilled the mitzvah.

· Activities that are time consuming and distracting should not be started within a half an hour before shkiah. These activities include getting a haircut, going to exercise or swim, business or purchasing interactions that have the potential to take a long time (going to buy a car, or a sheitel, or meeting with the photographer for the wedding, or going to a store to decide which items to register for, etc.). Even if one began one of these activities earlier, when shkiah comes she should, if she can, stop until she is able to light.

· “Minor” activities that do not continue indefinitely, or that are commonly interrupted in the middle and then continued later, are permissible. Therefore one may write an email, take a shower or the like during this time, even before she lights.

· A person may not eat a meal. This means that a person may not eat a substantial amount of bread (meaning more than a slice of bread or so), or an amount of mezonos that would constitute “a meal.” Snacks are permissible. Small amounts of mezonos foods, rice, and any foods that you make any other bracha on are permissible. But sitting down to a proper seudah with bread (like a family get together) should not be done until one has lit.

· Sleeping is not permissible beginning from 30 minutes before shkiah. Even putting one’s head down for a brief nap is not permissible until one has lit candles.

· IN ANY OF THE ABOVE SITUATIONS: If a person has set up a reminder for herself, to make sure that she does not forget to light, it is permissible to engage in any of these activities. This includes setting up a friend (who herself did light candles already on time) or setting an alarm to remind you to light when you get home. A person can set a reminder on a cell phone or PDA that she will get later that night, at a time she will be able to light.

I would like to finally note that there is no doubt that the best possible way to fulfill the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is to light the menorah at the appropriate zman (shkiah or some 2-30 minutes thereafter). While there are halachos regarding what to do if this is not an option, and one can fulfill the mitzvah by lighting later or earlier, a rebbe of mine once commented that he felt that people should put real thought into making their Chanukah plans. Why should we set ourselves up, on the holiday of celebrating the mesiras nefesh of Klal Yisroel, to fulfill a mitzvah in a less than optimal way. It is very much in the spirit of Chanukah for a person to schedule her engagements during the week in such a way that she is able to fulfill the mitzvah bizman. May we all be zoche to see yeshuos Hashem bikarov.

Have a very happy and halachic Chanukah!

 

halacha

Shevat 5772 – Men / Women – Thoughts / Seeing / Gazing

Men / Women - Thoughts / Seeing / GazingShevat 5772
Men / Women – Thoughts / Seeing / Gazing
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

I received a question recently from a student regarding a class I had taught a few years ago. Because it is a topic that affects every one of us, I figured I would expand the answer I sent in reply and, since for many it certainly falls into the category of “I didn’t know that!” Halachos, I thought I would share the thoughts with all of you. In addition, these weeks of Shovavim [the weeks of the parshiyos beginning with Parshas Shemos (the “Sh” of Shovavim) and continuing through Va’Eira, Bo, Bishalach, Yisro, and Mishpatim – the Roshei Teivos spell “Shovavim”] are traditionally a time that Klal Yisroel uses specifically to focus on our growth and sensitivities in areas having to do with tznius and male/female interactions in general.

The question I received was: Is there a source for Shmiras HaAynayim (a man’s requirement to “guard” his eyes)?

The reason that this question is so important is because, at least from a strictly Halachic standpoint, this requirement is at the core of the halachos that define how a woman may be dressed in the presence of men who are not her immediate family members. Therefore I would like to briefly outline the background, and some specifics, of this Halacha.

Mitzvot Lo Taasei that appear in the Torah

1 – “Vi lo sasuru acharei… eineichem” [Bamidbar 15] The literal translation of the pasuk (that we say every day in Krias Shema) is, “And you shall not be swayed after your hearts or after your eyes.” Chazal write that this is specifically referring to “z’nus” – the seeing of immodestly dressed women or other such inappropriate scenes. The Gemara in Brachos 12b refers to this as Lo Ta’aseh as does the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 4, 1 and 4, 4), Rabbeinu Yona (Igeres HaTeshuva 14 and Shaarei Teshuva Shaar 3, 64), and the Beis Yosef (Even HaEzer Siman 21). This Lo Ta’aseh is brought in the Shulchan Aruch in Even HaEzer Siman 21, 1 and referred to by the Mishna Berura on the very first page of the Mishna Berura, in the second Be’ur Halacha in his discussion of the 6 Constant Mitzvos.

2 – “Vinishmarta mikol davar ra” [Devarim 23] Literally, “And you shall guard yourself from every bad thing.” The Gemara in Avodah Zara 20a explains this pasuk to also specifically be referring to a man’s responsibility to “guard” himself from seeing in appropriate scenes. There is a discussion in the Rishonim regarding the exact “status” of this issur – whether it is an issur Min HaTorah (Sefer Mitzvos Ketanos 30) or possibly not (Ramban on the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzovs, the “extra” Lavin 11) or referring to a man’s having illicit thoughts about women, but not specifically related to his “seeing” women per se (Rabbeinu Yona in Igeres HaTeshuva and Tosafos on the Gemara in Avoda Zara). Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l understood that applied to illicit thoughts about women, as well as the seeing of anything that would bring a man to have illicit thoughts.

What are the halachic parameters of this? The way it works is as follows: There are basically two types of looking that a person does. For our purposes, lets refer to one as “seeing” and one as “gazing.” Seeing is what we do most of the time when we are not specifically focusing our vision on any one thing in particular. Gazing is when one consciously focuses his or her attention and, if it is a pleasant thing to look at, derives enjoyment or satisfaction out of the what he or she sees. This distinction is something that comes up in other areas of halacha as well. For example, without getting into all the details right now, a person is not supposed to “look at” the moon. Or a rainbow. The poskim say that this means to gaze at it with intent and focus. Simply to look up and “see” the moon is not a problem. This distinction plays an important role in the halachos regarding “Shemiras HaEynayim.”

Gazing

It is forbidden for a man to gaze at a woman, even if she is dressed completely appropriately, and even if he is only gazing at a specific part of her body that is not supposed to be covered (the example given is a pinkie). This prohibition is brought by the Gemara, the Rambam (I”B 21, 2), the Shulchan Aruch (EH”E 21,1) and Mishna Berurah 75, s.k. 7. Regarding this prohibition, unless a woman is doing something specifically to attract attention, like wearing something attention-grabbing or interacting in such a way that is causing the man she is interacting with to look closely or specifically focus his attention on her, a woman is not responsible if a man were to gaze at her.

Excluded from this prohibition (meaning a man may specifically focus his attention and look) are any blood relatives (parents, siblings, children, grandparents, grandchildren), a man’s wife or a potential shidduch.

Seeing

When it comes to seeing, however, the halacha is different. The Mishna Berura (75 s.k. 7) writes that if there is nothing inappropriate around, there is no prohibition for a man to “see” women. He writes that with the exception of those who wish to be extra careful and pious in this area and not even see women at all, it is permissible for a man to see and interact in the presence of women. However, this is only if there is no exposed “ervah” present. An area of the body that is halachically required to be covered by women is prohibited from even being seen by a man, even if he is not specifically focusing his attention on what he is looking at. So even if a woman is not dressed in such a way that she is seeking to specifically attract attention, if she is in the presence of men, she has to see to it that she is not dressed in such a way that a man would even see the parts of her that are supposed to be covered. [Without going into the specifics now, the consensus among the poskim is that this includes any area of a woman from her neckline to her elbows to her knees and, depending on the neighborhood and accepted practice, possibly her calf as well.]

 

Kislev 5771 – Chanukah Timing Tips

Chanukah Timing Tips Kislev 5771
Chanukah Timing Tips
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

It is hard to believe that Chanukah is almost here.  As we look forward to this time filled with simcha and chizuk, as well as get togethers with family and friends, I thought it would be a good time to go over some of the common, but sometimes overlooked, halachos that come up over Chanukah.

The Proper Time to Light Candles

·         There are different minhagim regarding what the best time, lichatchila, to light Chanukah candles is.  Here in Yerushalayim, the minhag is to light the Chanukah candles at shkiah, sunset, or as close to it as possible.  Most communities in Chutz LaAretz, where the amount of time in between sunset and nightfall (tzeis hakochavim) is significantly longer, light somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes after shkiah.  A person should follow the accepted practice in her home or community.

·         Chanukah candles must be lit at a time when there are still people out on the streets that will see the menorah lit.  The poskim say that for an hour or so after the stores in an area close, it is still a time time that people are considered to be out on the streets.  Seeing as most retail stores close in the 7-9PM vicinity, depending on the area, the latest time for lighting could be 10 or 11pm; in big cities it could be much later.  If one lights later than this time, they should light without reciting the brachos.  If one is lighting inside the house, then the lighting is primarily serving to publicize the mitzvah to those who are at home in the house.  As long as one other person is awake to see the candles lit, one may light with a bracha even very late at night.

·         If someone is unable to light at the proper time (around sunset), she should light later when she is able to.  As long as she will still be lighting at a time that she can make a bracha (as explained above), it is better to wait until they are able to light and not light earlier than shkiah.

·         If one will not be able to light later at all (if she is traveling or will not be back home until it is too late to light), one may light the candles earlier than sunset – provided it is later than plag hamincha.  Before plag hamincha, one may not light the candles, and if one did so, it is invalid and the mitzvah must be done properly later.

·         If a person lives together with other people (family, roommates, etc.), or if there is someone who will be fulfilling the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah in her current residence, she can ask someone who will be lighting on time to light on her behalf as well (making her friend her “shaliach” for this mitzvah).  In fact, the poskim say that this preferable to a person lighting earlier than shkiah.

·         Regardless of what time a person lights, there must be enough oil (or a long enough candle) for the Chanukah candles to burn until at least 30 minutes after tzeis hakochavim.

To get a better idea of what this all means, I have included here a few different locations with their zmanim on the first night of Chanukah (the night of December 1) – the zmanim get slightly earlier throughout Chanukah.

Baltimore
Plag: 3:44  Shkiah: 4:44  Tzeis: 5:28
Chicago
Plag: 3:22  Shkiah: 4:21  Tzeis: 5:06
Cleveland
Plag: 3:59  Shkiah: 4:58  Tzeis: 5:43
London
Plag: 3:04  Shkiah: 3:55  Tzeis: 4:52
Los Angeles
Plag: 3:41  Shkiah: 4:44  Tzeis: 5:24
New York
Plag: 3:30  Shkiah: 4:30  Tzeis: 5:15
Yerushalayim
Plag: 3:31  Shkiah: 4:35  Tzeis: 5:10

Activities that Should not be Done Until a Person Lights

It is important to note that in order to make sure that a person does not unnecessarily delay the lighting and then perhaps forget to light, there are certain activities that are prohibited from the time the sun sets until a person has fulfilled the mitzvah.

·         Activities that are time consuming and distracting should not be started within a half an hour before shkiah.  These activities include getting a haircut, going to exercise  or swim, business or purchasing interactions that have the potential to take a long time (going to buy a car, or a sheitel, or meeting with the photographer for the wedding, or going to a store to decide which items to register for, etc.).  Even if one began one of these activities earlier, when shkiah comes she should, if she can, stop until she is able to light.

·         “Minor” activities that do not continue indefinitely, or that are commonly interrupted in the middle and then continued later, are permissible.  Therefore one may write an email, take a shower or the like during this time, even before she lights.

·         A person may not eat a meal.  This means that a person may not eat a substantial amount of bread (meaning more than a slice of bread or so), or an amount of mezonos that would constitute “a meal.”  Snacks are permissible.  Small amounts of mezonos foods, rice, and any foods that you make any other bracha on are permissible.  But sitting down to a proper seudah with bread (like a family get together) should not be done until one has lit.

·         Sleeping is not permissible beginning from 30 minutes before shkiah.  Even putting one’s head down for a brief nap is not permissible until one has lit candles.

·         IN ANY OF THE ABOVE SITUATIONS:  If a person has set up a reminder for herself, to make sure that she does not forget to light, it is permissible to engage in any of these activities.  This includes setting up a friend (who herself did light candles already on time) or setting an alarm to remind you to light when you get home.  A person can set a reminder on a cell phone or PDA that she will get later that night, at a time she will be able to light.

I would like to finally note that there is no doubt that the best possible way to fulfill the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is to light the menorah at the appropriate zman (shkiah or some 2-30 minutes thereafter).  While there are halachos regarding what to do if this is not an option, and one can fulfill the mitzvah by lighting later or earlier, a rebbe of mine once commented that he felt that people should put real thought into making their Chanukah plans.  Why should we set ourselves up, on the holiday of celebrating the mesiras nefesh of Klal Yisroel, to fulfill a mitzvah in a less than optimal way. It is very much in the spirit of Chanukah for a person to schedule her engagements during the week in such a way that she is able to fulfill the mitzvah bizman.  May we all be zoche to see yeshuos Hashem bikarov.

Have a very happy and halachic Chanukah!

halacha

Teves 5771 – What Do We Do With The Wicks?

Wicks Teves 5771
What Do We Do With The Wicks?
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

As Chanukah draws to a close, and we prepare to light our final Chanukah candles, we notice that the area of the Menorah is scattered with oil, wax, wicks and other items used in the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah. I thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the halachos regarding what to do with items that were used for a mitzvah, once we no longer have a use for them because we have completed the mitzvah they were used for.

The Shulchan Aruch writes that if a man’s Tzitzis strings snap, he may discard them in the garbage. On this the Rema comments that the minhag in Ashkenaz is not to throw out any items used for a mitzvah and that one should not discard them in a way that is a “bizayon,” a disgrace, for them. The Mishna Berura points out that this will apply in any situation that an item is either no longer usable (like the snapped Tzitzis strings) or that the mitzvah is completed. He therefore lists several examples of such items including schach after Succos, the lulav and esrog, an old shofar – even the walls of a succah – that should not be thrown directly in the garbage, but rather should be wrapped up before being put into the dumpster, or placed by the side of the dumpster so that we are not throwing it out directly. The later Sefaradi poskim [the Ben Ish Chai and Kaf HaChaim] agree with the Rema and say that Sefaradim too should be careful not to treat such items in a disgraceful way.

When it comes to the leftover candles, wicks and oil on Chanukah, the halacha is as follows:
– Leftover wicks at the end of Chanukah should either be wrapped up before being discarded or burnt in a fire that one does not get any benefit from. While the halachic requirement is filled by simply burning the wicks, there are some customs regarding the burning of these wicks. Chassidim make a whole ceremony out of burning the leftover oil after Chanukah while singing the perek from Tehillim “Laminatzeich Baneginos.” Others keep the wicks and burn them together with their chametz several months later.

– Leftover oil that was from the candles that were lit has the following halachos: If there was just enough oil to burn for the actual mitzvah, meaning enough oil for the candle to burn for 30 minutes after tzeis hakochavim, and the candles burned out in the middle, that oil may only be used again for the Chanukah candles during that Chanukah. If there is such oil left over after the last night, it too must be burned like the wicks above. If one put more oil than was absolutely necessary for the mitzvah (as is usually the case), one should make “a tenai” – a halachic stipulation, that only the oil necessary for the actual zman of the mitzvah should become sanctified. If one made such a stipulation and the candles always burned past the minimum zman of the mitzvah, the remaining oil may be discarded in the garbage regularly. If one did not make such a stipulation, there is a machlokes in the poskim what to do with the remaining oil. One should either ask a shailoh or simply burn it like the wicks are burned. [Wrapping oil and discarding it may also be done, but it must be wrapped in such a way that the oil does not leak out of the wrapping. Therefore, for liquid oil, burning is the better solution.]

– Leftover wax or not fully burned wax candles have the same status as the oil. One should stipulate that only the minimum amount should be sanctified, and the rest may be discarded.

– Oil left in the bottle that was never poured into the candles, or wax candles that were left in the box and never lit may be discarded, as they were never involved in the mitzvah at all. Likewise, the matches or candles used to light the Chanukah candles may be discarded in the regular fashion.

– Some poskim maintain that all these halachos pertain also to the candles and oil lit by a child that has reached the age of chinuch.

I will end with one last interesting halacha. There are those who are careful with the leftover wicks from Shabbos candles as well. While there are many poskim who recommend this practice, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l maintained that one may throw out the leftover oil, candles or wicks from the Shabbos candles. Unlike the Chanukah candles where the candles themselves are the actual mitzvah, the mitzvah of Shabbos candles is to provide light. The candles, wicks and oil are the way in which we do that, but they themselves do not become sanctified as objects of kedusha in the process.

Wishing you a Chodesh Tov and a wonderful end to your Chanukah.