15 Menachem Av 5759
I would like to make sure I understand the answer to the question about Bishul Akum fully, as it applies to a different situation:
My babysitter is not Jewish. Although she does not cook for my children, must I kasher the pots she uses to make her own lunch? Does this apply to pre-cooked foods as well (i.e. a hot dog cooked in the microwave)?
Thank you for bringing this to my attention!
You are bringing up an important application of the law we touched upon regarding the barbecue. When the Rabbis prohibited us to eat food that was cooked by a non-Jew, they included in the ruling the natural extension, which is the pots used for the cooking.
It is important to understand, though, exactly in which situations the food and the pots actually become unkosher. The non-Jew must alone complete the entire cooking process. This means that if a Jew did so little as light the pilot light of the stove, or stir the cooking food even a little, that is no longer considered food cooked by a non-Jew and is therefore permissible to eat. If, though, the non-Jew does absolutely everything, and nothing is done by a Jew, both the food and the pot are considered unkosher and the pot needs to be kashered.
Thanks for your question.
1 Menachem Av 5759
I was just wondering if one is allowed to learn Torah or listen to Jewish music (that are p’sukim and Divrei Tefilah) after saying Krias Sh’ma al HaMitah, and if one is allowed to listen to music in the morning before saying Birchas HaTorah?
[Name withheld upon request]
Ideally, Krias Sh’ma and its accompanying verses should be the last thing you say before falling asleep. If one does not immediately fall asleep, the Mishna Brurah writes that one should repeat Krias Sh’ma again or think about divrei Torah. This would certainly include reading a sefer or reviewing notes from a recent class etc. Listening to music potentially poses different problems since the Shulchan Aruch writes that one should not listen to music since the destruction of the Temple. The custom is not to be stringent with this and it is permissible to listen to music when going to sleep and any other time during the day.
Before saying Birchas HaTorah in the morning, you are only prohibited from speaking divrei Torah. Listening and thinking about divrei Torah are permitted. Listening to music would be included in this permission.
Thanks for asking.
15 Tammuz 5759
What is the Torah approach to managing stress? Is meditation permitted or is it considered chukos hagoyim (especially of the eastern religions)?
[Name & seminary withheld upon request]
Meditation is a complex topic as it is somewhat difficult to define. Meditation, in the form it is practiced in eastern religions is almost definitely a form of either chukos hagoyim at best, or perhaps even avodah zarah (idol worship). There is, though, a very Jewish form of meditation. This can take many different forms but the general concept is that the focus is on enhancing my relationship with Hashem and my performance of His Mitzvos. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe shlit”a speaks often of the need for a person to engage in “hisbonenus” or introspection which is most definitely a form of meditation. The Duties of the Heart also discusses at length the need for a person to delve deeply into nature in order to truly appreciate Hashem’s goodness to us. The difference between this and many forms of meditation is that in Judaism, there is always a very distinct goal, which is drawing closer to Hashem.
It almost goes without saying the important place Tefilah can and should play in effective stress management. We are given an opportunity, several times a day, to stop everything around us and evaluate our priorities, our goals, and our dreams. We can take an accounting of things going on around us and draw closer to the Source of our salvation. When taken seriously, Tefilah can, in and of itself, be a tremendous balance in a life of stress. It is also imperative to take time every day to study some mussar sefer. Take some time to find a sefer that speaks to you and your feelings and commit 20-30 minutes a day to work on it. You might only cover one sentence in that time and it might even take days, but the growth you will experience is immeasurable.
1 Tammuz 5759
Is it Halacha to have a mechitza at a wedding, or any other time that there will be dancing? I have been asked this question many times, and I really have nothing to answer. I know the Tznius aspect, but years ago did they have walls separating the dancing? I assume they had separate circles, but did they have a mechitza? And do they same halachic status of a mechitza in shul apply to a mechitza at a wedding?
Thank you in advance for answering my question. Also thank you in general for giving of your time to answer the questions sent to you through JEMSEM.
[Name withheld upon request]
B’not Torah Institute 5758
The law requiring a mechitza between men and women during times of dancing and other types of merriment goes back, at the very least, to the Beis HaMikdash. The Mishna describes that on the evening after the first Yom Tov of Succos they created a special separation between the men and the women for the dancing of the Simchas Beis HaSho’eva. This was even though the women weren’t dancing! All the more so is the requirement if the women are dancing themselves, as is the case in a wedding. The Gemara in Succah goes further and says that any time there is a gathering of men and women where they will be together for some length of time (the Gemara discusses a funeral) there needs to be a separation between them. It isn’t clear if in this circumstance we need to go so far as to place a mechitza, but the Gemara is clear that for occasions that will lend themselves to “Kalos HaRosh” or “light-headedness” it is imperative that there be one. HaRav Moshe Feinstein zatza”l even considers the possibility that this obligation might be D’Oraisa in nature.
I can’t claim a knowledge of what was done in Europe but it is clear the accepted custom in all Orthodox circles is to have a mechitza during the dancing at weddings, and this is certainly backed up by the halachos presented in the Gemara.
It is important to point out, though, that weddings are very emotion-laden experiences that often accentuate differences in religious observance between children and their parents. It is crucial to discuss these issues in detail with a Gadol so as to insure the appropriate observance of Halacha and at the same time balance the protection of Shalom between children and their parents.
Thanks for asking.
15 Sivan 5759
We are sharing a brand new barbecue with a non-Jew. Is it kosher if we use our own metal racks in the grill? Or, do we need to convince her to use kosher meat? Or, can we share the same racks even if she uses non-kosher meat. Once we cook meat or chicken on the grill, does this render any fish or vegetables fleishig, even if those are cooked in aluminum foil?
Esther R J Walzer
There are several different complexities involved in answering your question. Let’s deal with the simple issue first. Once non-kosher meat is cooked in that barbecue, it renders the entire apparatus non-kosher. Even if you were to switch grates, the “non-kosher” status of the barbecue itself would make meat cooked on any grates non-kosher. So, if they are going to be cooking non-kosher meats, even on their own grates, it is prohibited for you to eat any meat cooked there, even on your own racks.
But, what if they are going to be cooking kosher meat on the grill? Then there is a different problem. Not only is kosher food, when cooked by a non-Jew, prohibited to eat but even the vessel itself needs to be “kashered.” So, even if your non-Jewish friends will be cooking kosher meat on the grill, it would still render the grill non-kosher for you to use.
Lastly is the issue of cooking fish or vegetables on a grill that was used to cook meat. The problem is uniquely difficult in the case of a barbecue since the meat is placed directly on the rack and the racks often are caked with pieces of meat on barbecue sauce. (If I remember my bar-b-q days correctly.) If you scrape the grate of the caked on “shmutz” such that all that is left is inedible black ash, then the vegetables would have the same status as something cooked in a clean “fleishig” pot. It should not be eaten with milk, but does not render you “fleishig” so you would have to wait before eating milk.
Regarding the separation between fish and meat, a cleaning such as the one just described is sufficient to allow you to eat fish cooked there as well.
Thanks for your question.