Category Archives: Archives 5771


Iyar 5771 – Counting on Getting it Right this Year!

Counting on Getting it Right this Year! Iyar 5771
Counting on Getting it Right this Year!
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein


On the one hand, the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer is relatively easy – it takes only a few moments, it doesn’t cost a thing, and it takes no skill or training to perform. Yet, on the other hand, it is something that many people invariably find themselves not being able to complete from beginning to end. So much so that the poskim write that if a woman is uncertain whether or not she will be able to count the whole way through, she should begin the counting from the first night without a bracha. As many misconceptions abound regarding these halachos, it would be instructive to review some of these halachos for this year’s count. [Any discussion of a bracha being recited does not apply to Sepharadi women; they do not make a bracha on this mitzvah at all.]

The Torah tells us [Vayikra 23:15] that starting on the second day of Pesach, we are to count 7 full weeks until Shavuos. There is a well known machlokes between the Baal Halachos Gedolos, usually known as the BAHAG, on the one hand, and Tosafos on the other, regarding how to look at the mitzvah of sefirah. The Torah tells us that the counting has to be for “Sheva shabbasos temimos,” seven full weeks. [If you find this explanation complex and you would like to see what the bottom line halacha is, there is a summary at the end.]

We can see this mitzvah in one of two ways:

· Approach number one: Sefiras HaOmer is one long mitzvah. This is the understanding of the BAHAG.

When a person counts each night, he or she is counting in order to fulfill one “seven-week-long mitzvah.” We do not look at each act of counting as its own separate mitzvah. One fulfills the mitzvah only upon completing the full seven weeks of counting.

According to the BAHAG if a person skipped a day of counting, he has lost the mitzvah. Even if he continues from then on, since one day was missed, his seven week counting is not complete. According to the BAHAG, the mitzvah of sefiras Haomer is “all or nothing.” The BAHAG holds that once a person missed a night, there is no reason at all to go on counting for the rest of sefirah.

When to count according to the BAHAG – According to the BAHAG, a person can count at any point during the Hebrew calendar date (from evening through the following daylight hours). As long as a person counts each day of the 49 days, the mitzvah is completed.

· Approach number two: There are 49 separate and distinct mitzvos. This is the understanding of Tosafos.

This approach disagrees with the BAHAG and sees the mitzvah in the Torah as a commandment to count each and every night of the seven weeks. Since each night is required to be counted, each night is considered to be its own, distinct mitzvah. Over the course of the seven weeks, according to Tosafos, we actually get 49 separate mitzvos! So, according to TOSAFOS, because each night is its own mitzvah, even if a person skipped a night, he would be required to go on counting on all the later nights. Since each mitzvah stands on its own, it makes no difference what happened on other nights. Each night is a brand new mitzvah.

When to count according to Tosafos – As opposed to the BAHAG who requires the entire seven weeks of counting to be “temimos,” complete, according to Tosafos the counting of each and every night has to be complete. Meaning, one has to count at the beginning of the evening so that each day’s count is a count of a complete day. According to TOSAFOS, one is not allowed to count sefira during the day. It is too late. Once the night has already passed, it is too late to count a tamim, complete day.

So we see that based on their perspectives of the mitzvah of sefirah, there are two halachos that the BAHAG and Tosafos argue on.

1. The first is regarding what happens if a person missed a day. According to the BAHAG, if a person skipped a full day, he does not continue to count after that. According to Tosafos, he would still have to count every night until the end. In fact, according to Tosafos, even if a person missed the whole sefirah until the very last night, he still is required to count then.

2. The second halacha that the BAHAG and Tosafos disagree on is when during the day or night a person can count. According to the BAHAG, a person can fulfill the mitzvah of counting anytime of the night or following day. As long as that day of the omer was counted, it does not matter when a person counts. According to Tosafos, a person can only count at night. There is no mitzvah to count during the day at all.

Which opinion do we follow? What is the halacha if a person missed a day of sefirah? Is a person allowed to count during the day time?

The Shulchan Aruch [Orach Chaim 489:8] tells us that the halacha is as follows:

We are required to fulfill the mitzvah of counting any time either opinion holds we should count. That means, if we forget to count at night and remember the following morning, we will count. Even though Tosafos say there is no mitzvah then, in that situation we will count because according to the BAHAG there is a mitzvah to count during the day time.

Likewise, if a person missed a whole day, he will continue to count on all other nights. Even though the BAHAG holds there is no more mitzvah if a person missed a day, the halacha is that we continue to count because Tosafos holds that we should.

That is the halacha regarding counting.

When it comes to making a bracha on the counting, however, the Shulchan Aruch tells us something different. The Shulchan Aruch writes that we only make a bracha if both the BAHAG and Tosafos agree that there is a mitzvah then. This is because of the general rule of safeik brachos lihakeil – meaning, any time we have a situation where there is a question regarding the bracha, we do not say the bracha.

Take, for example, a person who did not count at night. We saw that the halacha is that he should count during the day, in accordance with the opinion of the BAHAG. But when he counts, he will not make a bracha. Likewise, if a person missed a full night and day of counting, he will continue to count every other night – like the opinion of Tosafos, but he will not make a bracha on those nights.

· Summary of the halachos:

1. A person should count every night of the Omer, in the evening, as close to nightfall as possible. If one counts anytime from sunset to dawn, she recites a bracha.

2. If one forgot to count at night, she is required to count at some point during the following day. this counting is done without a bracha. However that evening (meaning the following “day’s” count), and any evening thereafter, a bracha must be said on the counting.

3. If one missed an entire count – meaning not only was the counting not done at night with a bracha, but it was forgotten the entire next day as well, and only realized after sunset – she is required to continue counting.

It is very important to remember that even if one missed a count and is no longer making a bracha, the Shulchan Aruch maintains it is still a requirement to continue counting each subsequent night. Unfortunately, some people are discouraged by the fact that they are no longer making the bracha and drop the counting all together. What a shame! Such an easy, accessible mitzvah that we can do every day between Yitzias Mitzrayim and Kabbalas HaTorah!



Sivan 5771 – To Cook By The Book

To Cook By The Book Sivan 5771
To Cook By The Book
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein


We all know that the laws of Shabbos are complex, and many of us have spent a significant amount of time on working to understand and remember them. Then, all of a sudden, Yom Tov comes and we are thrown for a loop – we know that many things that we can’t do on Shabbos are permissible on Yom Tov, but it is not always so clear exactly what these things are and when can or cannot do them. I would like to focus on just one area of the laws of Yom Tov for this month. Since the melacha that probably comes up the most over the course of a Yom Tov is bishul, cooking, I wanted to outline those halachos here.

The General Concept

While melacha in general is prohibited on Yom Tov, there are certain melachos, that under certain circumstances, we are allowed to do. Melachos that are done for purposes of “ochel nefesh,” basic human comfort, are at times permissible. Cooking is one such melacha. Since cooking food is considered a basic human need, the melacha of bishul, cooking, is permitted on Yom Tov. But even those melachos that are permitted, there are certain rules that must be adhered to. We will outline some of the basic halachos of when it is and is not permissible to cook food on Yom Tov.

· The cooking must be done for the benefit of a Jew. Since the prohibition of any melacha of Yom Tov is only lifted for ochel nefesh of another Jewish person, no melacha whatsoever may be done for the benefit of non-Jews. [Similarly, if one has a pet, one may not do any melacha whatsoever for the benefit of the animal.] In fact, because cooking for a non-Jew on Yom Tov is a full melacha min haTorah, and it is something that a person can easily forget about, Chazal instituted a rule that one is not permitted to explicitly invite a non-Jew to his or her home on Chag. This often comes up when a person is looking to undergo a conversion, but is still halachically a non-Jew. Members of the community are not permitted to invite the prospective convert to Yom Tov meals. Many poskim permit one to inform the Ger-to-be of the time and place of the meal, and if he shows up, one is not required to send him away and he may partake of the meal, even if it was cooked on Yom Tov. As long as no melacha at all is done for him, it is permissible for him to stay and eat. But the host must be careful to not accidentally do any melacha – even pouring hot water on a tea bag is an act of bishul that is only permissible for another Jew on Yom Tov. [Note: On Shabbos, since all melacha is prohibited anyway, there is no need for this gezeirah. It is therefore permissible to invite a Gentile to a meal on Shabbos. This can make a good Yom Tov Seudah riddle: In what situation are the exact same words said to the exact same person prohibited on Yom Tov but permissible on Shabbos…?]

· The cooking must be done for use on that day of Yom Tov. The dispensation for doing melacha on Yom Tov is only if the melacha being done will enhance one’s ability to enjoy Yom Tov. Melacha that is done for after Yom Tov is prohibited, once again, min haTorah. It is important to note that “after Yom Tov” means any time after that day of Chag. Meaning, while one may do melacha at night for use the next morning or day, one may not do melacha any time throughout the day, if one’s intention is to benefit from that melacha after sunset of that day. This is regardless of whether the next “day” (beginning at sunset/nightfall) is a regular weekday (like following the last day of any Yom Tov), Chol HaMoed (like after the first days of Succos or Pesach), or even a second day of Yom Tov. One may only do melacha for use on that day itself. This is something that one must keep in mind as the evening draws near. One is not permitted to heat up water or do any melacha if it will only be benefitted from after sunset. In addition, between sunset and nightfall (between shkiat hachamah and tzeit hakochavim) one should not do any melacha at all. Because during this time it is unclear which day it is, melacha done at that time may very well end up being enjoyed only once it is halachically the next day – which in this situation may be the very next instant. [The exception to this rule is when Yom Tov falls on Erev Shabbos and one made an Eiruv Tavshilin – but we have a couple of years before we need a column on that.]

When is cooking more than one needs for Chag allowed?

Looking at these halachos, one may ask what the halacha is if there are leftovers from what one cooked on Yom Tov. If there is food left over after Yom Tov ends, it turns out that that food was actually cooked on Yom Tov, but never enjoyed during it – does that mean that that cooking that extra food was an aveirah? The answer is that it depends. Extra food may be cooked only if the following three conditions are met:

1. There is only one act of cooking being done. Since the actual placing of the food onto the fire is the melacha of bishul, one would not be allowed to do two “acts” of cooking unless all the food is being planned to be eaten on Yom Tov. An example would be placing a pan of chicken into the oven even though there is extra chicken in the pan that will not be eaten on Yom Tov. If, however, there is too much chicken to fit into one pan, one may not put the extra, unneeded pan of chicken into the oven at all.

2. There is no specific,extra effort involved. In the above example of putting many pieces of chicken into a pan and then cooking them, not only was there just one act of cooking involved, but there was also no extra effort exerted for the preparation of the extra food. If, however, making extra food for after Yom Tov will require a specific extra action in order to have the extra food prepared, it is prohibited. So, for example, one would be allowed to make a large cake, even if a portion of it is to be used after Chag. But extra cookies would not be permissible. Since each individual cookie needs its own effort, one may not make cookies that are not planning on being used on Yom Tov. This same rule applies to breading and frying pieces of schnitzel, making latkes or blintzes, or even making a larger-than-necessary potato kugel – because each individual extra potato needs to be peeled. All of these situations would not be permissible if some of the food is being made with the intent to eat it after Yom Tov.

3. There is no verbal mention of the fact that some of this cooking is being done for after Yom Tov. Finally, even if one is only doing one act of cooking, and even if there is no extra effort involved, one is not permitted to verbalize that there is food being prepared for after Yom Tov.

Wishing you a wonderful and uplifting kabbalas haTorah! Good Yom Tov!



Tammuz 5771 – But Everybody’s Talking About It!!

But Everybody's Talking About It!! Tammuz 5771
But Everybody’s Talking About It!!
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein


With Rosh Chodesh Tamuz here and the summer in full swing, we know that the time of Bein Hametzarim is at hand. As we know, beginning on Shiva Asar BiTamuz Klal Yisroel enters into a period of collective mourning. And we also know that this is a time for focusing our efforts on rectifying the sins that caused the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash – the halachos Bein Adam Lichaveiro, and specifically, Lashon Hora. It would be a good time to review some of the known, and less well-known halachos of this halacha that is so central to our Bein Adam LiChaveiro growth.

Isn’t it Common Knowledge?

Many times people assume that Loshon Hora that is already known is permissible to repeat. It is true that if someone spoke Loshon Hora about another person in a “public” setting, there are times when repeating that Loshon Hora will not be a assur. However, there are many details and criteria that must be met for this to be permissible. While we will discuss the laws that pertain to this, it is vital to point at first that due to the complexity of the parameters that govern this exception, one should exercise great caution before relying on this. When possible, one should abstain altogether from speaking, even if all the criteria below are met.

The Halachic Background

The general rule we will discuss relates to the permissibility of repeating Loshon Hora that was originally said in front of at least three people. This concept is known as Loshon Hora that was said “bi’apei tlosa,” in front of three. The underlying concept is that since the original Loshon Hora was related in such a way that makes it inevitable that it will be publicized, there is no prohibition in repeating it to someone else. We can assume that the person now hearing it would have heard it anyway.

There are two aspects of the Lashon Hora that may permit one to repeat it:

· The way in which the original Loshon Hora was said

· The way in which the Loshon Hora is later repeated to others

We will look at each of these separately.

The Way in Which the Original Loshon Hora was Said

The original Loshon Hora had to have been said in front of three people. The original speaker of this Loshon Hora is unquestionably in violation of the prohibition against speaking Loshon Hora, and his sin is compounded by the fact that he said what he said in front of more people. There is no dispensation whatsoever to speak Loshon Hora in front of three people. The laws discussed below pertain only to the repetition of the Loshon Hora already spoken in violation of the halacha.

There are three parameters that must be met regarding the situation in which the Loshon Hora was said to the original three people:

1 – Three people had to have heard the Loshon Hora.

Even if two people spoke the same Loshon Hora to two other people, in each other’s presence, this does not work. There must be three people listening, independent of any of the speakers of this Loshon Hora for this rule to apply.

2 – The three people hearing the original Loshon Hora are the type of people who would repeat this information to others.

Because this dispensation “relies” on the fact that the original three listeners to the Loshon Hora will spread this around, if there is any reason for us to believe that any of the original three listeners will not in fact repeat this, there is no longer any dispensation. If there were only three listeners in the original group, if even one of the three would not repeat the Loshon Hora, then it is not permissible for any of them to repeat it. There are several examples of people who we must assume would not repeat the Loshon Hora:

1 – Family members of the one whom the Loshon Hora is being spoken about.

2 – Friends of the one whom the Loshon Hora is being spoken about.

3 – Generally G-d fearing people for whom it is not the norm to spread gossip.

If even one of the three listeners is from one of the groups above, it is not permissible for any of the others to repeat the Loshon Hora. If, however, the original group was more than three people, even if family or friends were present, as long as there are three listeners who would feasibly repeat what they had heard (i.e. the other listeners are not in the above categories), this dispensation would still apply.

3 – The original speaker of the Loshon Hora did not specify to the three listeners that he did not want this Loshon Hora repeated.

If the original speaker of the Loshon Hora explained to the listeners that he did not want his gossip to be repeated to others, even if the listeners under other circumstances would be the type to repeat what they had heard, because he asked them not to repeat it, we must assume that they will honor his request. We therefore can no longer rely on the assumption that three people will be spreading this Loshon Hora. Therefore, it is not permissible for any of them to do so.

The Way in Which the Loshon Hora is Repeated by the Listeners

Once three people have heard Loshon Hora spoken regarding another person, under certain circumstances it will be permissible for them to repeat what they had heard. However, under no circumstances are they permitted to believe what they heard – what was spoken was pure Loshon Hora and is fully subject to the prohibition of believing Loshon Hora.

There are five parameters that must be met regarding how and when this Loshon Hora is repeated:

1 – It is not permissible to repeat this Loshon Hora with the intent to spread the word further. It is only permissible to mention in a “tangential” fashion.

This would include mentioning this Loshon Hora as an anecdote as it pertains to a topic being discussed or using it to illustrate a point. However, to simply repeat what was heard for the sake of informing others who have not yet heard this Loshon Hora is forbidden and not subject to this heter.

2 – It is only permissible for the original three listeners to repeat what they had heard.

Someone who only heard this Loshon Hora from one of the original three is not included in this heter. Only the original three who actually heard the Loshon Hora being said can repeat it. If the original listener, however, repeated the Loshon Hora in front of another three people, they now have the status of three that heard Loshon Hora and be subject to the rules discussed here.

3 – It is not permissible to add even one word to the original Loshon Hora that was said.

Since the entire premise of this halacha is based on the idea that this Loshon Hora will inevitably be spread, this can only be the case if the exact Loshon Hora is repeated as heard. If even one word is added, this becomes new Loshon Hora and is therefore not subject to this dispensation. There are several applications of this rule:

Any intonation or gesturing that was not part of the originally spoken Loshon Hora is prohibited.

Any commentary offered on the part of the one repeating the Loshon Hora is prohibited.

Repeating the Loshon Hora in a context where there is an implication of negativity that was not part of the original statement made.

In addition, by one adding his own commentary or “spin” on the original Loshon Hora, he is clearly indicating that he has accepted the original Loshon Hora and believes it.

4 – It is only permissible to repeat the Loshon Hora somewhere that this information could feasibly spread.

If the original Loshon Hora was said in a certain town or location, one may not repeat it in a different locale that does not normally hear the news and gossip from the town where the Loshon Hora was spoken. In our times where it is the norm for people from all around the world to talk with each other, it is difficult to give this rule strictly geographical limitations. Rather, the Loshon Hora can only be repeated to people that the original three listeners have a line of communication with and can readily assume the word will spread to.

An exception to this rule is when the matter being discussed is of a nature that it is normal for it to spread beyond geographical or social boundaries. If the original Loshon Hora pertained to something so out of the ordinary or so egregious, it is considered to be the norm for it spread more than “ordinary” gossip would spread. In such a case it can be assumed that this gossip would extend its reach farther than usual.

5 – If the new listener is the type of person who will believe the Loshon Hora to be true, it is not permissible to repeat it.

As mentioned above, it is not permissible for the original three listeners to believe what they heard. What was spoken was true Loshon Hora and is therefore subject to the prohibition of believing Lashon Hora. Therefore it is not permissible for them to repeat this Loshon Hora – even if all the above parameters are met – if they are saying it in the presence of someone who will believe it to be true.



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!


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.

Plag: 3:44  Shkiah: 4:44  Tzeis: 5:28
Plag: 3:22  Shkiah: 4:21  Tzeis: 5:06
Plag: 3:59  Shkiah: 4:58  Tzeis: 5:43
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
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!