Category Archives: Archives 5771

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.

halacha

Shevat 5771 – Kosher Loans

Kosher Loans Shevat 5771
Kosher Loans
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

There are times that people find themselves in need of some small amount of money that they does not have on them at the moment. People will often turn to their friends or acquaintances and ask to borrow money – sometimes even seemingly insignificant amounts – in order to buy a drink or pay a parking meter or the like. What many people do not realize is that there are some important halachos regarding borrowing money under these circumstances.

From the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch it is clear that it is only permissible to loan another person money if there are witnesses present. There are two reasons for this: 1) If there is no testimony to the loan, the borrower may be tempted to deny ever having taken the loan and then the lender will have been in violation of “Lifnei iveir lo titein michshol” – placing a stumbling block in front of someone. By leaving the “option” of denying the loan open to the borrower, the lender has violated this law. 2) Lending without proof is detrimental to the lender himself. If he attempts to collect on this loan and the borrower forgets that he had borrowed the money, people will curse the lender, accusing him of unjustly demanding money from his friend. The Gemara concludes that having witnesses to testify to the validity of the loan takes care of both of these issues.

Several poskim take note of the fact that it seems many people are lax in their fulfillment of this halacha, and offer a few options to lend money in a halachically acceptable manner:

– The poskim permit one to write an “IOU” note as evidence of the loan. If the lender keeps this as proof and it is recognizable as the writing or the signature of the borrower, then one may loan money without witnesses.

– If one lends the money with a check (made out to the name of the borrower) it is permissible, as that itself is evidence of the loan.

– If the lender is willing to completely forgive the loan and decides at the time of the loan absolutely that should the borrower forget the loan, he will not collect on it and completely write it off, then it is also not a violation of this halacha.

Rav Yosef Chaim Zunnenfeld zt”l, in the sefer Teshuvos Salmas Chaim, after addressing possible alternatives to lending without witnesses, concludes his teshuva regarding this matter by saying, “none the less, the best thing to do is to fulfill the words of Chazal as they were established – to not lend without witnesses or a document, if possible.”

halacha

Adar I 5771 – But Can’t I Use It – Just This Once?

But Can't I Use It - Just This Once? Adar I 5771
But Can’t I Use It – Just This Once?
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

The Halacha is clear that, in general, borrowing something from someone without her permission is considered by the Torah to be gezel, theft. Certainly when it comes to taking something that gets used up by using it – like food, drinks or tissues, for example – it is considered theft to take it without permission. But even if a person takes something very briefly and returns it, or even if it is only being taken as “a joke” with the intention of being immediately returned, it is considered stealing and is therefore prohibited. Believe it or not, this is true even if I am 100% certain that my friend will not mind if I use her stuff without asking; and even if I am 100% certain that when she finds out she will be happy that I used it. All the while that I did not get permission to use it, I am not allowed to do so. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Let’s take a look at some of the circumstances that I am allowed to use an item that belongs to someone else without her explicit permission right now.

– Based on past permission granted. If one has told you in the past that she does not mind for you to use a particular item without her permission in the future, it is permissible to rely on that permission. Therefore, if one made an explicit statement, such as “Please feel free to use my shoes/sweaters/hair iron/cereal/car/etc. whenever you want,” it is permissible to use it until that permission is revoked.

– Based on a precedent. If in the past, this friend has allowed you to use this item, and you are certain that the current circumstances are the same enough that she would let you use it again, it is permissible. This comes up often among siblings or roommates. If they let each other borrow items freely, and they are sure that in this situation it would also be fine, it is permitted. It is still best, however, for there to be an explicit statement of permission; that way there is no ambiguity and it is clearly permissible to use in the future.

– For use in the performance of a mitzvah. An item that is being used for a mitzvah is permissible to take, use and return without permission from the owner. This means that one would be allowed to use someone’s siddur, Tehillim or sefer without asking. There are two exceptions to this, however. 1 – If the item was found “put away” in a place that it is clear that the owner is not interested in other people using it, it is not permissible to take it. 2 – The item certainly cannot be used up (like grape juice for Kiddush) or ruined in any way – and must be put back exactly the way it was found. The Shulchan Aruch haRav from the Baal HaTanya writes that if one does not return the item properly, then the regular halacha of theft kicks in and one is very likely not even yotzei the mitzvah they were trying to perform!

halacha

Adar II 5771 – Pre-Purim Prep

Pre-Purim Prep Adar II 5771
Pre-Purim Prep
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

With Purim just around the corner, why don’t we take a brief look at some of the halachos of this time of the year.

Taanis Esther – Thursday, March 17 – This year, Taanis Esther is a few days before Purim. Since Purim is on Sunday, the normal date of Taanis Esther would fall out on Shabbos. Since fasting on Shabbos is not an option, we move the fast to a different day. Usually when a fast falls out on Shabbos (with the exception of Yom Kippur), we push the fast off to Sunday, because we do not like to make the remembering of tragedies earlier. However, Taanis Esther is not a commemoration of a sad event. It is a day of fasting and tefillah set up as a commemoration of Esther’s and Klal Yisroel’s tefillos that were answered by Hashem. But why do we make Taanis Esther on Thursday, and not just one day earlier on Erev Shabbos? The Tur explains that the tefillos on Taanis Esther are so powerful and important that if Chazal would have allowed people to fast and daven on Erev Shabbos, they would be so involved in their tefillos that they would forget to prepare for Shabbos. This gives us a little bit of an indication of how important tefillah is on Taanis Esther.

The halachos of Taanis Esther are the same as any of the “regular” fast days. Eating and drinking are not allowed. Some poskim permit one to brush teeth, rinse out her mouth or use mouthwash, provided she tries not to swallow anything. Pregnant or nursing women do not need to fast. If someone is fasting and is not feeling well, she should ask a shailoh, as it is very possible that she would be able to break their fast.

Shabbos Parshas Zachor – There is a mitzvah in the Torah to remember what Amaleik did to us in the Midbar (and a lo sa’aseh to not forget it). We are mikayeim this mitzvah once a year by leaining the end of Parshas Ki Teitzei as the maftir on the Shabbos before Purim. The custom is for women to attend the reading of Parshas Zachor as well, if at all possible.

Motzei Shabbos – Purim Night – In chutz la’aretz, Purim begins when Shabbos ends. One must be careful not to do anything to prepare for Purim while it is still Shabbos. If one would like to bring a book of the Megillah to shul on Shabbos for use after Shabbos, it is preferable that she learn or read from the Megillah while it is still Shabbos. Obviously, any noise makers would not be permissible to handle before Shabbos is over.

Al HaNisim – One must make sure to remember to add “Al HaNisim” in Shmoneh Esrei, beginning with Maariv. If one forgot to say it, they made add it in at the end of Shmoneh Esrei in “Elokai Nitzor,” right before “Yihyu liratzon imrei fi…” if one already took her three steps back, Shmoneh Esrei should not be repeated.

The Reading of the Megillah – There is a mitzvah on every Jew, men and women alike, to “read” the Megillah two times on Purim – once at night, and once during the day. We fulfill this mitzvah through “shomeah k’oneh” – listening to someone else read it. therefore, when listening to the Megillah, one must have in mind to fulfill this mitzvah through the leining of the baal koreh and must also follow along with the reading very carefully. It is best if one follows along inside a Chumash or Megillah to make sure that every word is heard. If a person looses focus in the middle, if she tuned out to the extent that if someone would ask her what the last word just said was, she would not be able to answer, then she is not yotzei the mitzvah. Likewise, one may not speak at all during the Megillah leining. If one missed a part of the Megillah, by either spacing out or speaking, she should read inside audibly but quietly and catch up to the baal koreh. The Rema writes that on the night of Purim, there is an “inyan” to add a little something to one’s meal in honor of Purim. One may not fulfill any of the other Purim-related mitzvos at night.

Purim Day – Purim is an extraordinarily powerful day for tefillah. Rav Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin mentions that just as we have a law on Purim, “kol haposhet yad, nosnim lo, anyone who holds a hand open to you, give to him” [see below], so too Hashem fulfills this mitzvah and all tefillos on Purim are answered, in some way or another. Among all the other mitzvos and activities of the day, it is critical that a person makes time for davening properly. In the morning, everyone is required to hear the Megillah for a second time. [When listening and answering amen to the bracha of “Shehechiyanu” the the baal koreh says before starting the Megillah, one should have in mind that the bracha is for all the unique mitzvos of Purim.]

Mishloach Manos – Every adult male and female is required to give two “manos” to one person. This is to add a sense of friendship and goodwill on Purim, to show our unity. One must give another person two types of food or drink. Contrary to popular belief, there is no need at all for the two foods to be two different brachos. They just need to be recognizable as different items. [So, for example, an apple and an orange, or a chocolate bar and a soda would be fine. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l even discusses whether two pieces of chicken, one dark meat and one white meat, would work. It is important that you give something that is actually yours. If you take food from your parents’ home, it is important to make sure you actually acquire it and make it yours before giving it to someone else. Many poskim maintain that the same is true for a married woman. It is preferable for her to actually acquire the foods from her husband before giving them to someone else. Others are lenient in this regard, when it comes to a married woman.

Matanos L’Evyonim – There are two aspects of giving tzedakah on Purim. One is that every man and woman is required to give charity to at least two needy people. The poskim say that the minimum amount for each is around $5. One may not use maser money for Matanos L’Evyonim. That is as far as the mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim goes. But there is an additional aspect to Purim that, as mentioned above, “kol haposhet yad, nosnim lo,” anyone who asks for charity on this day, we are supposed to give something. Purim is therefore a day that is miyuchad for giving tzedakah, and one should give what they can on this day. The Rambam writes that one should be careful to spend more money on Matanos L’Evyonim than on Mishloach Manos.

Purim Seudah – There is a mitzvah for every man and woman to have a proper seudah on Purim day. This means that someone must wash on bread and have meat. The seudah is a festive meal, enjoyed with family, in celebration of the salvation of Hashem, bayamim haheim baz’man hazeh!