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


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.


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.”


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!


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!


Nissan 5771 – We Are All Seekers: Laws of Bedikas Chametz

We Are All Seekers: Laws of Bedikas Chametz Nissan 5771
We Are All Seekers: Laws of Bedikas Chametz
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein


By this time, Pesach cleaning has already been long underway (right…?). In the spirit of preparing ourselves for Pesach, let’s take look at the halachos of Bedikas Chametz.

Once we have cleaned the house, office and car, what is the “Bedikah” for?

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים תלג’ יא’ – המכבד חדרו בי”ג בניסן ומכוין לבדוק החמץ ולבערו, ונזהר שלא להכניס שם עוד חמץ – אף על פי כן צריך לבדוק בליל י”ד. [הגה: וכל אדם צריך לכבד חדריו קודם הבדיקה [It is a mitzvah in its own right and it has its own specific halachos:- Must be done “for the sake of” the Bedikah- It must be done “by the light of a candle”- It should be done on the night of the 14th of Nissan (following the daytime of the 13th)- A bracha is recited on this Mitzvah when it is done at the proper time.

One can cut down on the time it takes to do the bedikah during “Pesach Cleaning”:

If one meets the following requirements, the mitzvah of the Bedikah is considered to have already been fulfilled:- After the cleaning, the room was thoroughly checked over “for the sake of” the mitzvah of the Bedikah.- A flashlight, or other form of directed light is used to check the dark areas and corners, as well as knapsacks, suitcases, pocketbooks, car glove compartments, etc.- One makes 100% sure not to allow any more chametz into that room/area.

What about renting to a non-Jew?

Any area sold or rented for Pesach does not require a bedikah. The Poskim suggest that if one is selling their whole home for Pesach that they leave out an area from the sale so that they are able to fulfill the mitzvah.

When should the bedikah be done?

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים תלא’ א’ – בתחילת ליל י”ד בניסן בודקין את החמץ לאור הנר בחורין ובסדקין, בכל המקומות שדרך להכניס שם חמץ. The Lichatchilah time for the mitzvah of the Beikah is the night of the 14th of Nissan, immediately after Tzeit HaKochavim.

If one will not be at the place of the bedikah on the night of the 14th:

Any property that a person is in within 30 days before Pesach that is not being sold/rented to a non-Jew must be checked through the “official” Bedikah on the night of the 14th. If one will not be there on the night of the 14th:- One must do the Bedikah (with all of the halachot outlined above) the night before they leave, without a bracha. Or, one can set up a “shaliach,” a representative, who will be there the night of the 14th to do the Bedikah for them. The second option, doing the mitzvah at the proper time and with a bracha through another person is preferable to doing the mitzvah earlier. If no one will be there on the night of the 14th, then the responsibility falls on the last person to leave the area. Those who leave earlier should appoint the remaining person to do the mitzvah for them also as a shaliach.

Procedure for the Bedikah itself:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים תלא’ ב’ – יזהר כל אדם שלא יתחיל בשום מלאכה ולא יאכל עד שיבדוק, ואפילו אם יש לו עת קבוע ללמוד לא ילמוד עד שיבדוק. ואם התחיל ללמוד מבעוד יום אין צריך להפסיק (ויש אומרים שצריך להפסיק, וכן נראה לי עיקר). Prior to the Bedikah, beginning from 30 minutes before Tzeit HaKochavim, one is prohibited from doing things that would distract them from beginning the Bedikah on time:  A meal is prohibited – even if one began the meal earlier, unlike other mitzvos, here they must stop at 30 minutes before Tzeit HaKochavim- A snack should not even be had- Learning Torah deeply- Cleaning/Kashering/cooking etc.

The Bracha:

The goal of this mitzvah is to find, and ultimately destroy, any chametz in the house. The Bedikah takes place at night, and the Biur, destruction, takes place the following morning. Since the mitzvah in the Torah is to destroy the chametz, the bracha reflects that and the bracha is “Al biur chametz.”.- If one knows for certain that an area was cleaned of chametz completely, they perhaps cannot recite the bracha on the Bedikah, as they will not end up finding anything. · שולחן ערוך אורח חיים תלב’ ב’ – הגה: ונוהגים להניח פתיתי חמץ במקום שימצאם הבודק כדי שלא יהא ברכה לבטלה(מהר”י בר”ן). ומיהו, אם לא נתן לא עכב – דדעת כל אדם עם הברכה לבער אם נמצא(כל בו). It is for this reason we have the practice of putting out ten pieces of bread.· שולחן ערוך אורח חיים תלב’ א’ – קודם שיתחיל לבדוק יברך אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על ביעור חמץ (ואם התחיל לבדוק בלא ברכה יברך כל זמן שלא סיים בדיקתו(כל בו)). ויזהר שלא ידבר בין הברכה לתחילת הבדיקה, וטוב שלא ידבר בדברים אחרים עד שיגמור כל הבדיקה כדי שישים אל לבו לבדוק בכל המקומות שמכניסין בו חמץ One may not speak until the entire Bedikah is completed. Talking related to the Bedikah itself is permissible. Many Poskim rule that even though students living in a dorm room are required to do a Bedikah, they do not recite the bracha on it.

The Candle:

While a candle is mentioned explicitly in the Gemara, a flashlight or other directed light works as well. Because the Gemara mentions a candle specifically, and includes pesukim to show the special status of an actual flame, some have the practice to recite the bracha and begin the Bedikah with a candle, and then switch to a flashlight after a few minutes or finding one of the pieces of bread.

The Bitul:

After the Bedikah is completed, one recites the “Kol chamira vichamiya” statement nullifying any chametz that they do not know about. The following day, at the Biur itself, all chametz, known or not, is made nullified.

May Hashem bless you with a Chag Sameach and Kasher!