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Select Halachos of the Days Surrounding Tisha B’Av

This article will discuss some of the halachos of Shabbos Chazon, Tisha B’Av itself, and the day after Tisha B’Av. Since this year Tisha B’Av is observed on Sunday, we do not eat the regular Seudah Hamafsekes immediately before the fast and I have, therefore, omitted the laws concerning that meal.

WHAT PRACTICES DO WE OBSERVE ON SHABBOS CHAZON?

The poskim dispute whether one demonstrates any signs of mourning on Shabbos Chazon. To understand this dispute, we must first explain the observances of Shabbos during shivah week.

Although Shabbos is technically part of the shivah week, it is forbidden to show any public signs of mourning on Shabbos. However, for what others do not see, one keeps the halachos of shivah. Thus, one wash enough that it is not obvious others that he has not washed. Similarly, marital relations are prohibited during the Shabbos of shivah week. Similarly, a mourner does not learn Torah on Shabbos of shivah week, unless it would be noticeable publicly that he is not learning Torah.

A mourner may not be called to the Torah during shivah, even on Shabbos, because he is not permitted to learn Torah. However, since Rabbeinu Tam was called to the Torah every Shabbos, he insisted on the aliyah when he was observing shivah. Since he was called up every Shabbos, missing it would be a public demonstration of mourning, which is prohibited on Shabbos. Similarly, Rav Gifter once paskened for someone to attend a shiur on the Shabbos of shivah because he never missed.

Concerning Shabbos Chazon, the poskim disagree whether mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash has the same rule as private mourning. Rema contends that mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash does not violate public mourning on Shabbos. According to his approach, weekday garb is worn on Shabbos Chazon (Rema, Orach Chayim 551:1) and melancholy tunes are sung in shul.

The Vilna Gaon disagrees, contending that there is no qualitative difference between mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash and a private loss. In both instances, it is prohibited to have a public display of mourning on Shabbos (Mishnah Berurah 551:6). Those following this approach wear Shabbos clothes on Shabbos Chazon and sing regular tunes in shul.

V’ATAH KADOSH

After completing Eicha on Tisha B’Av night, we recite the prayer V’atah Kadosh, even when Tisha B’Av does not fall on Motzaei Shabbos. An almost identical version of this prayer is also recited on weekdays at the end of shacharis (and Shabbos and Yom Tov in mincha), adding two introductory pesukim. It is also recited at night every Motzaei Shabbos, Purim and Tisha B’Av. Why is this prayer recited on these occasions?

Uva L’tziyon includes one of the four daily recitations of kedusha. Two of the others are said in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, one in Shacharis and one in Mincha, and the other time is part of the Birkos Keri’as Shema in Shacharis. The words of Kedusha parallel the exalted, sublime praise recited by the angels. Singing Hashem’s praises in this fashion demonstrates our ability to rise to the level of the angels.

Uva L’tziyon, the third recital of Kedusha during Shacharis, is an extremely important prayer. The Gemara asks, “Now that the Beis HaMikdash is destroyed, in what merit does the world exist?” The Gemara answers that the world continues to exist in the merit of two prayers: The Kedusha said during “Uva L’tziyon” at the end of Shacharis and the Kaddish recited after public learning (Sotah 49a). Both these prayers include two highly important mitzvos – learning Torah and declaring the sanctity of Hashem through Kedusha and Kaddish (Rashi ad loc.). Why are these two mitzvos special? Studying Torah is our feeble attempt to understand a glimmer of the brilliant blueprint with which the world was created. Reciting Kedusha and Kaddish is our attempt to create the highest form of praise recited in Hashem’s honor. By combining these two concepts, we literally maintain the world’s existence.

When this special prayer is recited at night, its two opening verses are omitted because they begin by saying, “Uva L’tziyon go’el,” “And the redeemer will come to Tzion,” a prayer that is inappropriate at night, because the redemption will occur during the daytime.

WHY IS THIS PRAYER RECITED ON TISHA B’AV?

The verse “V’atah kadosh yosheiv tehillos Yisroel,” “And You are holy, enthroned by the praises of Yisroel” (Tehillim 22), that introduces this prayer (at night) means that the sanctity of Hashem depends on the praises of Klal Yisroel. A second factor in manifesting Hashem’s sanctity is the redemption of the Jewish people. Therefore, on Purim we recite this prayer immediately after completing Megillas Esther, expressing the manifestation of Hashem’s kedusha that resulted from our redemption. We recite this prayer on the night of Tisha B’Av because it is a special time to pray for the ultimate redemption when Hashem’s kedusha will be finally recognized (Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 693:1).

DO WE WEAR TEFILLIN ON TISHA B’AV?

A mourner does not wear tefillin on his first day of mourning. This is derived from the Book of Yechezkel (24:17), where Yechezkel received a prophecy that his wife will die and that he will not be permitted to observe the laws of mourning for her.  Among the instructions Yechezkel received was, “Pe’ercha chavosh alecha,” “Your ornament shall be worn on your head.” This meant that he had to continue to wear his tefillin. From here we derive that only Yechezkel, who was forbidden to mourn properly, had to continue to wear tefillin after his wife’s passing, whereas a regular mourner must remove his tefillin under similar circumstances. (This rule only applies on the first day of mourning. A mourner does wear tefillin for the rest of the shivah. It should be noted that there is a dispute among poskim whether a mourner wears tefillin on the first day of mourning when it is not the actual day of death. There are various customs concerning this matter.)

What is the status of Tisha B’Av? Is it like the first day of mourning, since this is the very day that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed? Or is Tisha B’Av different from regular instances of mourning since it is not the actual day that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed but only commemorative of the event? This is a dispute among poskim. Some poskim ruled that the loss of the Beis HaMikdash is far greater than regular mourning and that one may not wear tefillin at all on Tisha B’Av (Maharam, quoted by Tur Orach Chayim 555; Rabbeinu Yerucham, quoted by Beis Yosef ibid.).

On a homiletic level, one could explain that wearing tefillin on Tisha B’Av is a contradiction. The Torah states that the Jews removed the ornaments they had received after worshipping the golden calf. Rav Hirsch (Shemos 33:4) explains that these ornaments were tefillin that are, after all, the only truly Jewish ornament. Just as the Jews at that time removed their tefillin out of embarrassment from their sin, so we should not wear tefillin as a sign of our embarrassment over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

One opinion contends that one should not wear tefillin of the head on Tisha B’Av, but that one may wear the tefillin of the arm. This is because the “pe’er” (glory) mentioned in Sefer Yechezkel (24:17) refers only to the tefillin worn on the head.

Many poskim, however, contend that Tisha B’Av is not considered the same as the first day of mourning and that one must wear tefillin (Rosh, quoted by Tur).

As a compromise, the Ashkenazic practice is to refrain from wearing tefillin until Mincha. Thus, the morning is treated like the first day of shivah, while the afternoon is treated as the middle days of shivah when it is permitted (and obligatory) to wear tefillin.

Some Sefardim follow the Ashkenazic practice just mentioned, whereas others wear tefillin during shacharis and remove them before reciting kinos. Still others don tefillin at home before leaving for shul in the morning, but do not wear tefillin in public.

DOES ONE WEAR TZITZIS ON TISHA B’AV?

The Tur, quoting Maharam, reports that there were different customs regarding the

wearing of tzitzis on Tisha B’Av. Some men did not wear tzitzis at all, while others wore

a tallis katan under their clothes and did not wear a tallis gadol.

However, the poskim note that no halachic sources forbid a mourner from wearing tzitzis. Thus, they find it strange why the custom was to refrain from wearing a tallis on Tisha B’Av. However, there is a medrash on Eicha that implies that one does not wear tzitzis on Tisha B’Av. Because of this medrash and the custom mentioned by the Tur, it is accepted Ashkenazic practice to delay wearing the tallis gadol until Mincha. In addition, many have the custom to leave the tzitzis of the tallis katan under one’s clothes until after midday (even if they usually wear the tzitzis on top of their clothes). At Mincha, one puts on the tallis gadol.

STUDYING TORAH ON TISHA B’AV

There is a dispute among poskim whether children may study Torah on Tisha B’Av. The Gemara states that the chadorim (Torah elementary schools) must be closed. However, some poskim rule that children may study Torah on Tisha B’Av because they learn Torah out of coercion and not because they enjoy it (Taz, Orach Chayim 554:1). According to this logic, a child who wants to learn Torah on his own on Tisha B’Av should not be discouraged from doing so, since his learning is not out of enjoyment (Biur Halacha ad loc.). On the other hand, other poskim rule that children are forbidden to learn Torah, like adults (Bach and Magen Avraham).

DO WE RECITE THE SECTIONS OF DAVENING THAT INCLUDE THE STUDY OF TORAH?

The Ramban mentions that some people had the custom of skipping “Eizehu Mekomam” and the verses of korbanos on Tisha B’Av, because their reading constitutes studying Torah. However, he rules that one should say everything that is part of the daily davening. An additional reason to recite the korbanos is because their verses are a substitute for the morning korban tamid of the Beis HaMikdash (Ramban, quoted by Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 554:4).

SELECT LAWS OF FASTING ON TISHA B’AV

The Gemara rules that all women must fast the entire Tisha B’Av, even if they are pregnant or nursing (Pesachim 54b), provided that they are not ill and that there is no danger to the baby. Some contemporary poskim rule that, today, pregnant women should not fast because the chance of endangering the baby is high (Even Yisrael 9:61). According to all opinions, a woman less than 30 days since childbirth is not required to fast on Tisha B’Av. A sick person is forbidden to fast on Tisha B’Av, even if one’s illness is not life threatening (Shulchan Aruch,Orach Chayim 554:6).

On other fast days (Shivah Asar B’Tammuz, Asarah B’Teves, Tzom Gedalyah) there is a dispute whether a pregnant woman is required to fast. (It should be noted that Taanis Esther is treated more leniently than the other fast days.) Rabbeinu Yerucham rules that pregnant women are not permitted to fast on these fast days because this causes the fetus to suffer, whereas the Maharam rules that pregnant women must fast unless they themselves are suffering. A third opinion, Rabbeinu Tam, rules that a pregnant woman may fast but is not obligated to do so (Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 554). In practice, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 554:5) rules that pregnant women and nursing mothers are not required to fast, while the Rema concludes that the custom is that they fast unless they are very uncomfortable (Orach Chayim 550:1; 554:6). Obviously, a woman who is ill or who risks danger by fasting is forbidden to fast. The prevalent accepted practice today is that pregnant women and nursing mothers do not fast.

SHOULD SOMEONE WHO IS NOT FASTING ON TISHA B’AV EAT IN SMALL QUANTITIES?

There are several halachic differences between fasting on Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur. One difference is germane to the halacha of eating pachos m’keshiur, eating less than the minimum amount. If fasting might endanger a person’s life, he/she is forbidden to fast. On Yom Kippur, if a small amount of food or beverage removes the danger (as is usually the case), one should only eat very small amounts of food and beverage at one time because of the halacha of pachos m’keshiur. Simply stated, this means that eating minute amounts of food and beverage at one time is a smaller Yom Kippur infraction than eating a full measure.

Therefore, if the potential danger is eliminated by eating or drinking pachos m’keshiur, one is permitted to eat and drink only that much. (It should be noted that a regular person is forbidden min haTorah to consume the tiniest amount of food or liquid on Yom Kippur. The rule of pachos m’keshiur only applies to someone who is forbidden to fast.)

The halacha concerning eating small quantities applies to Yom Kippur and not to Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch 554:6). A sick person is completely excluded from the mitzvah of fasting on Tisha B’Av. Therefore, he is not required to try to consume less than the minimum amount.

There is a Biur Halacha who quotes from the Pesach Hadvir that when eating because a

cholera epidemic poses a risk to life, someone should eat pachos m’keshiur on Tisha B’Av. Some have compared this ruling to pregnant or nursing women who are not fasting on Tisha B’Av. However, this is not an accurate comparison. The Biur Halacha is discussing someone completely healthy and, therefore, included in the takanas Chazal, but it is dangerous to fast. All the other cases involve someone not fully healthy who is not permitted to fast.

MAY ONE GO TO WORK ON TISHA B’AV?

The Mishnah states that it is permitted to work on Tisha B’Av, provided that one lives in a place where this is the accepted practice (Pesachim 54b). In many places, the minhag was that people did not work. The Mishnah concludes that Torah scholars customarily do not work on Tisha B’Av, even if they live in a community where the practice is to be lenient. Furthermore, the Gemara (Taanis 30b) states that an individual will not see any blessing from work performed on Tisha B’Av. This is explained by the poskim to mean that whatever profit he gains from such work will be lost in some other way.

The Mishnah continues with a second dispute. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel rules that it is meritorious for a regular person to imitate Torah scholars and refrain from working on Tisha B’Av. The Sages, however, disagree, arguing that it is pretentious for someone who is not a Torah scholar to act as if he is a Torah scholar. Although Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel agrees with the Sages that it is forbidden to behave pretentiously, he argues that not working on Tisha B’Av does not demonstrate pretentious behavior – why should people assume that he has work to do that day? (Pesachim 55a; Berachos 17b).

This discussion teaches that it is forbidden to perform mitzvos ostentatiously (Pesachim 55a; Berachos 17b; see also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 34:3). The Gemara refers to this prohibition as yohara, showing off, allowing the yetzer hora to masquerade as yetzer tov. (A person thinks he is behaving righteously by being machmir, when in reality his yetzer hora is encouraging him to show off.)

WASHING FLOORS ON TISHA B’AV AFTERNOON

In some places there is a custom to wash the floors and clean the house on the afternoon of Tisha B’Av. This custom is based on a mesorah that Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av afternoon and that it is therefore appropriate to commemorate the redemption and strengthen people’s hopes and prayers (based on Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 554 and Kolbo). Although this seems like unnecessary work on Tisha B’Av that should be postponed, poskim rule that one should not discourage those who follow this custom (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 559:7).

MAY ONE SCHEDULE A WEDDING FOR THE DAY AFTER TISHA B’AV?

The Mishnah states, “Mishenichnas Av, mema’atim b’simcha,” “When the month of Av begins, we decrease our happiness” (Taanis 26b) and this includes not making weddings. An additional reason cited to forbid weddings during the first nine days of Av is that since Av is a month of bad mazel for Jews, one should postpone a wedding to a more auspicious date (Beis Yosef 551; Magen Avraham 551:8). However, it does not state how much time one must wait to make a wedding after Tisha B’Av. In practice, this is a subject of dispute among poskim and various customs. In most places, the custom is to allow weddings from the beginning of the eleventh of Av, while in some places they delayed scheduling weddings until after Shabbos Nachamu.

The prophet Yeshaya declared: “Exult with Yerushalayim and rejoice over her, all those who love her. Rejoice with her rejoicing all those who mourned over her,” (Yeshaya 66:10). “From here we see,” says the Gemara, “that whoever mourns over Yerushalayim will merit to see her happiness, and whoever does not mourn over Yerushalayim will not merit to see her happiness” (Taanis 30b).

May we all merit experiencing the happiness of Yerushalayim very soon!




Explaining the Laws of the Three Weeks

The three-week period between Shiva Asar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av is kept by Klal Yisrael as a time of mourning. In this article, we will review and explain the halachos that apply during the Three Weeks. In a subsequent article, we hope to review the halachos that apply during the Nine Days that begin with Rosh Chodesh Av.

WHAT HAPPENED ON SHIVAH ASAR BETAMMUZ?

The Mishnah (Ta’anis 26) teaches that five tragic events occurred on the 17th day of Tammuz:

1.      The luchos (tablets) containing the Aseres Hadibros were destroyed.

2.      The daily korbanos offered in the First Beis Hamikdash were stopped (see Rambam, Hilchos Ta’anis 5:2).

3.      The walls of the city of Yerushalayim were breached, leading to the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdash (Ta’anis 28b).

4.      The wicked Apostomus, a Greek officer, burned the Torah near a bridge in Eretz Yisrael, during the period of the second Beis Hamikdash (see Talmud Yerushalmi and Tiferes Yisrael).

5.      An idol was placed inside the Beis Hamikdash. According to Rashi, this was done by the evil King Menashe. Others explain that this incident occurred during the Second Beis Hamikdash time period (Rambam, Hilchos Ta’anis 5:2). These two interpretations reflect two opinions recorded in the Talmud Yerushalmi.

To commemorate these tragic events, the Jewish people observe the 17th of Tammuz as a fast day (see Rosh Hoshanah 18b; Rambam, Hilchos Ta’anis 5:1-4). In addition, the custom developed to observe some mourning practices from this day until Tisha B’Av. This three-week season is referred to by the Midrash Rabbah (Eicha 1:3) as the period of Bein Hametzarim.

It is noteworthy that neither the Mishnah nor the Gemara associate any mourning practices with the Bein Hametzarim period. Rather, the Mishnah mentions that the mourning of the Tisha B’Av season begins on Rosh Chodesh Av by “decreasing simcha” (Ta’anis 26b). The Mishnah does not explain what activities are curtailed in order to decrease simcha.

The Gemara (Yevamos 43a, as explained by the Ramban and Tur; cf. Rashi, who understands the Gemara differently) refers to four activities that are prohibited during this period, presumably to manifest this decreasing of simcha:

1.      Business activity is decreased. (There is a dispute among poskim what types of business activity are intended; see Mishnah Berurah 551:11.)

2.      Construction and planting for a simcha are not done (Yerushalmi, Ta’anis, cited by Tosafos, Yevamos 43a s.v. Milisa).

3.      Weddings are not conducted. (An additional reason is cited to forbid weddings during these nine days: since this is not a good season for Jews, one should postpone a wedding to a more auspicious date [Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 551; Magen Avraham 551:8].)

4.      One may not make a festive meal to celebrate an erusin. This was the approximate equivalent to our making a tenaim or vort to celebrate an engagement. The Gemara permits making the erusin, itself, provided one does not make a festive meal to celebrate it. It is permitted to become engaged during the Nine Days, and even on Tisha B’Av itself (Magen Avraham 551:10; Tur, quoting Rav Nissim; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:2).

Although the Mishnah and Gemara make no mention of beginning the mourning period any earlier than Rosh Chodesh Av, accepted minhag Ashkenaz is to begin the aveilus from the 17th of Tammuz. Thus, the Rema (Darkei Moshe, Orach Chayim 551:5 and Hagahos 551:2) reports that Ashkenazim do not make weddings during the entire period of the Three Weeks, a practice that has become accepted by many Sefardic communities (Knesses Hagedolah; Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devarim #4). However, many Sefardic communities permit making a wedding until Rosh Chodesh Av, and, under certain circumstances, even later (Shu’t Yabia Omer 6:Orach Chayim #43. See also Sedei Chemed Vol. 5, pg. 279 #14 who states that it depends on the custom of the community.)

MAY ONE SCHEDULE A VORT DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

It is permitted to celebrate an engagement during the Three Weeks, provided there is no music or dancing (Magen Avraham 551:10). Until Rosh Chodesh, one is allowed to celebrate the engagement with a festive meal (Mishnah Berurah 551:19), but from Rosh Chodesh, one should serve only light refreshments (Magen Avraham 551:10).

IS DANCING PERMITTED DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

Most dancing is prohibited during the Three Weeks (Magen Avraham 551:10; Elyah Rabbah 551:6; Mishnah Berurah 551:16). However, there are authorities who permit dancing at a sheva brachos.

MAY ONE GET MARRIED ON THE NIGHT OF THE 17TH OF TAMMUZ?

When the 17th of Tammuz falls out during the week, one who chooses to get married on this day should begin the wedding on the daytime of the 16th. There are poskim who contend that this is permitted only under extenuating circumstances (Piskei Teshuvos 551: 7 footnote 51).

When the 17th falls out on Sunday, most poskim prohibit making a wedding on the night of the 17th (Motza’ei Shabbos), since they consider that the period of mourning begins already at night (Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 10:26). Many poskim contend that the night of the 17th should be treated even more strictly than the Three Weeks; it should be treated with the stringencies of the Nine Days (Elyah Rabbah; Shu’t Chayim Sha’al #24; Biur Halacha 551:2). However, Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that, under extenuating circumstances, it is permitted to schedule a wedding on the Motza’ei Shabbos of the 17th of Tammuz (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:168).

WHAT ARE THE LAWS ABOUT HAVING HAIRCUTS AND SHAVING DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

The Mishnah (Ta’anis 26b) rules that it is prohibited to cut one’s hair from the Motza’ei Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av until Tisha B’Av. (These days are referred to as “shavua shechal bo Tisha B’Av”, the week in which Tisha B’Av falls. We will refer to these days as “the week of Tisha B’Av.”) This includes both shaving one’s beard and getting a haircut (Ran). Thus, according to the takkanah of Chazal, it was permitted to have a haircut or shave up until a few days before Tisha B’Av. However, the Rema notes that the custom among Ashkenazim is that we do not cut our hair during the entire Three Weeks (Darkei Moshe, Orach Chayim 551:5 and Hagahos 551:4).

There are different customs among Sefardim regarding having haircuts during the Three Weeks. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim (551:3) rules that it is prohibited to have a haircut only in the week of Tisha B’Av, as is recorded in the Gemara, and this is the Sefardic practice according to Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:36). However, other Sefardic poskim note that it is dependent on custom (Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devorim #12)

Rav Ovadia Yosef paskens that Sefardic bachurim learning in an Ashkenazic yeshiva are permitted to shave until Rosh Chodesh. Even though most of the students in the yeshiva follow the Ashkenazic practice of not shaving during the entire Three Weeks, it is permitted for the Sefardim to follow their custom and shave (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:36). Although there is a general rule that a community should follow one halachic practice, this is true when the community has one rav or follows the guidance of one beis din. However, Sefardim and Ashkenazim are considered communities with different rabbonim and batei din; therefore, each community may follow its own halachically accepted practice (Yevamos 14a).

There are a few exceptions to the ruling regarding when Ashkenazim are permitted to shave or get a haircut during the Three Weeks. For example, it is permitted to trim one’s mustache, if it interferes with eating (Ran; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:13).

Shu’t Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah #348 s.v. Ve’i golach) rules that a person who shaves every day is permitted to shave on Friday during the Three Weeks, in honor of Shabbos. Furthermore, he also implies that someone who is very uncomfortable because of his beard stubble is permitted to shave during the Three Weeks, except for the week of Tisha B’Av (see She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha 122:5). Both of these rulings are controversial, and one should not rely on them without receiving a pesak from a rav.

Rav Moshe Feinstein permits shaving during the Three Weeks, if someone may lose his job or may lose customers because he does not shave. However, if the only concern is that people will make fun of him, he is not permitted to shave. Rav Moshe Feinstein contends that when the prohibition against shaving is only because of minhag (as it is prior to the week of Tisha B’Av), there is no minhag to prohibit shaving if he will suffer financially as a result. However, if he will suffer only embarrassment or harassment, but no loss of income, he is required to remain unshaven.

In any case, shaving is prohibited during the week of Tisha B’Av not because of minhag but because of takkanas chachomim, which forbids shaving, even if one suffers financial loss (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 1:93 and Orach Chayim 4:102).

If a bris falls out during the Three Weeks, the father of the baby, the mohel and the sandek are permitted to shave or have a haircut (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim #158). The Chasam Sofer permits a haircut and shave even during the week of Tisha B’Av, whereas other poskim disagree and permit this only until the week of Tisha B’Av (Shu’t Noda Biyehudah 1:28; Sha’arei Teshuvah; Sedei Chemed 5:278:3) or only until Rosh Chodesh (Be’er Heiteiv 551:3).

Some poskim permit a haircut or shave only on the day of the bris itself (Shu’t Noda Biyehudah 1:28). According to some authorities, the kvatter and the sandek me’umad (also called “amidah lebrachos”) are also permitted to shave and have a haircut (She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha, Kuntrus Acharon 120:8, based on Elyah Rabbah 551:27 and Beis Meir, Orach Chayim 551). However, most poskim do not permit them to shave, and restrict the heter of shaving and haircutting in honor of the bris to the mohel, the sandek, and the father of the baby.

Adults may not give children a haircut during the week of Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:14). The poskim disagree whether a minor may have a haircut during the part of the Three Weeks before Shabbos Chazon. Some contend that since the prohibition against haircuts during these weeks is only a custom, children are not included (Mishnah Berurah 551:82, quoting Chayei Adam), whereas others rule that children are included (Elyah Rabbah 551:28).

Although some poskim permit scheduling an upsheren (chalakah) during the Three Weeks, if that is when the child’s birthday is, the prevalent practice is to postpone the upsheren until after Tisha B’Av (Piskei Teshuvos 551:44).

Some recent poskim have suggested that a bar mitzvah bachur who needs a haircut may have one during the Three Weeks, as long as it is not during the week of Tisha B’Av. The She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha concludes that it is more acceptable, halachically, for the bar mitzvah to have a haircut the day before he turns bar mitzvah and rely on the opinion that a minor may have a haircut during the Three Weeks, before the week of Tisha B’Av (Kuntrus Acharon 120:8).

The authorities disagree as to whether a woman may have her hair cut during the Three Weeks. Mishnah Berurah rules that a woman may not have her hair cut during the week of Tisha B’Av. He suggests that it may be permitted for her to trim the hair on the temples (Mishnah Berurah 551:79). Many poskim rule that a woman may tweeze her eyebrows and perform similar cosmetic activities, even during the week of Tisha B’Av (see Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:137; Halichos Beisah, Chapter 25, footnote 70).

MAY I CLIP MY FINGERNAILS DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

It is permitted to clip fingernails during the Three Weeks, according to all opinions. There is a dispute whether one can clip nails during the week of Tisha B’Av (Magen Avraham, 551:11 permits, whereas Taz, Orach Chayim 551:13 and Elyah Rabbah 551:7 prohibit).

WHAT ARE THE HALACHOS ABOUT PLAYING AND LISTENING TO MUSIC DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

Playing or listening to music for enjoyment is prohibited during the Three Weeks (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim Vol. 4:21:4). Many poskim prohibit listening even to recorded music (Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33).

It is permitted to play music for non-Jews for parnasah or to teach music for parnasah, until the week of Tisha B’Av (Biur Halacha to 551:2 s.v. Memaatima, based on Pri Megadim). Similarly, it is permitted to take music lessons that are for parnasah. Some poskim permit taking lessons, if the lessons are not for pleasure and there will be a loss of skill because of the time lost (Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 16:19). However, the Kaf Hachayim (551:41) writes: “Those who teach music during these days should teach sad songs, and it would be even better if they did not teach any music at all.”

IS SINGING PERMITTED DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

Sedei Chemed discusses this question (Volume 5, page 376:10). He feels that it is permitted, but quotes sources who seem to forbid it, and therefore is inconclusive. It is permitted to sing sad or moving songs, similar to what we sing on Tisha B’Av. Since it is uncertain that it is prohibited, one need not tell someone who is singing that he is doing something halachically wrong.

MAY ONE RECITE SHEHECHEYANU DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

There are three opinions among the poskim:

1. Shehecheyanu should not be recited during the Three Weeks, even on Shabbos (Arizal);

2. Shehecheyanu should not be recited on weekdays, but may be recited on Shabbos (Sefer Chassidim #840);

3. Shehecheyanu may be recited even on weekdays (Taz and Gra, Orach Chayim 551:17).

Most halachic authorities rule like the middle opinion, permitting shehecheyanu to be recited on Shabbos, but not on weekdays (Magen Avraham, Elyah Rabbah, Chayei Adam; Mishnah Berurah). In general, laws of mourning do not apply on Shabbos. Thus, shehecheyanu may be recited on Shabbos. (Rav Akiva Eiger rules that shehecheyanu may also be recited on Rosh Chodesh.)

An alternative approach to explain this opinion contends that it is a mitzvah to benefit from the world and make a shehecheyanu. Fulfilling this mitzvah supersedes the concern about reciting shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks—but it is appropriate to push it off to Shabbos (Mekor Chessed commentary to Sefer Chassidim #840; based on Yerushalmi at end of Kiddushin).

According to the Ari, the reason for not saying a shehecheyanu is not on account of the mourning, but because it is inappropriate to recite a blessing that we should be rejuvenated to this time, which is a very inauspicious period. This reason not to recite shehecheyanu applies even on Shabbos (Magen Avraham; Shu’t Chayim Sha’al #24).

The Gra contends that no halachic source prohibits a mourner from reciting shehecheyanu. Apparently, he also disagrees with the reason attributed to the Ari.

MAY ONE RECITE SHEHECHEYANU ON THE NIGHT OF THE 17TH?

Most poskim hold that one should not (Shu’t Chayim Sha’al #24; Sedei Chemed Vol. 5, pg. 277; Biur Halacha 551:2). However, Rav Moshe Feinstein contends that the mourning period does not start until morning, implying that one may recite a shehecheyanu at night (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:168).

MAY A CHILD RECITE SHEHECHEYANU DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

This depends on the age and maturity of the child. If the child is old enough to appreciate the aveilus that is observed, then we should train him not to say shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks. However, if he or she is not old enough to appreciate the aveilus, but is old enough to recite the shehecheyanu, one may allow him or her to recite the shehecheyanu (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 551:9). There is no need to be concerned that the child is wishing this season to return.

Mishnah Berurah (511:99) permits a pregnant woman or an ill person to eat a new fruit without reciting the shehecheyanu.

According to all opinions, one recites a shehecheyanu when performing the mitzvos of pidyon haben or bris milah (for those who recite a shehecheyanu at a bris). The Rema rules that one may also recite a shehecheyanu on a new fruit that will not be available after Tisha B’Av. Otherwise, one should wait until after Tisha B’Av to eat the fruit or to buy the clothing upon which one would recite shehecheyanu. It is permitted to purchase clothes that do not require a shehecheyanu.

MAY ONE PURCHASE A NEW CAR DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that if the car is being purchased for pleasure or convenience, one should wait until after the Three Weeks to buy it. If, however, it is necessary for parnasah, one may purchase it during the Three Weeks, but one should not recite shehecheyanu until after the Three Weeks (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 3:80). Some poskim permit buying any necessary appliance, such as a refrigerator or washing machine, to replace one that broke during the Three Weeks (Piskei Teshuvos 551:11).

OTHER HALACHOS OF THE THREE WEEKS

One should not engage in dangerous activities during the Three Weeks (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:18). For this reason, some do not schedule elective surgery until after Tisha B’Av (Piskei Teshuvos 551:1).

One may bathe, shower, go swimming or go to the beach between the 17th of Tammuz and Rosh Chodesh Av, even if one has not gone swimming yet this season. Although people say that one may not go swimming for the first time during the Three Weeks, there is no halachic source for this practice. It is, therefore, not considered a binding custom, and it is permitted without hataras nedarim (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:263).

Some forbid hikes, trips to the beach and other entertaining activities during the Three Weeks (see Sedei Chemed, Vol. 5, pg. 376:10). Some authorities suggest not swimming in dangerous places or in water deeper than one’s height (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:263).

FOCUS OF THE THREE WEEKS

The most important aspect of the Three Weeks is to focus on the tremendous loss we suffer because of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.Some tzaddikim make a point of reciting tikkun chatzos, wherein we mourn the galus of the Shechina, every night..

Some Sefardic communities in Yerushalayim have the custom to sit on the floor, just after midday, on each day of the Three Weeks, and recite part of tikkun chatzos. To further convey this mood, Yesod Veshoresh Ha’avodah prohibits any laughing and small talk during these weeks, just as a mourner may not engage in laughter or small talk (Sha’ar 9, Chapter 11-12).

Although we may not be on such a spiritual level, we certainly should contemplate the tremendous loss in our spiritual lives without the Beis Hamikdash. Let us pray intently for the restoration of the Beis Hamikdash and the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim, speedily in our days!




Joining Gentiles

Question #1: Client’s celebration

A non-Jewish client is marrying off his daughter and expects his business associates to attend the reception. Knowing him, he expects me to spend a considerable amount of time there. Is this permitted, and, while there, may I eat or drink something that is kosher?

Question #2: Meeting a new client

My boss asked me to attend a lunch meeting with a new client in a non-kosher restaurant. Is this permitted, and, if it is, may I order a cup of coffee or a fruit plate?

Question #3: Company picnics and parties

May I attend the company end-of-year parties and picnics?

Answer:

Each of the above questions involve situations that may arise in today’s professional work environment. The Gemara teaches that the injunctions created by Chazal are dearer to Hashem than Torah laws. In this context, we can explain the vast halachic literature devoted to the many prohibitions created to protect the Jewish people from major sins. These include bishul akum, the prohibition against eating food cooked by a non-Jew, pas akum,which, under certain circumstances, prohibits bread baked by a non-Jew, and sheichar akum, which prohibits drinking certain types of beer in a non-Jew’s home or tavern.

The Rambam codifies these laws as follows: “There are activities that have no basis in the Torah that our Sages prohibited… to make sure that Jews and non-Jews do not … intermarry. These are the prohibitions: They prohibited drinking with them even when there is no concern about sacramental wine [yayin nesech]. They prohibited eating their bread or what they have cooked even when there is no concern that there are non-kosher ingredients or flavors added. What is an example of this prohibition? A person may not drink in a gathering of non-Jews even cooked wine that is not prohibited [as stam yeinam, wine handled by a non-Jew], or even if the Jew drinks only what he brought himself. If most of the assemblage is Jewish, it is permitted. It is prohibited to drink beer made from dates or figs or anything similar. But this prohibition [drinking beer] is prohibited only where it is sold. If he brought the beer home, it is permitted to drink it there, because the primary reason for the decree was that he should not come to eat a meal at a non-Jew’s house” (Rambam, Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros 17:9-10).

Why is beer different?

There is a very obvious question here: The three other prohibitions mentioned here because of concerns of social interaction – bishul akum, pas akum and stam yeinam – are not dependent upon where you are. Consuming these items is prohibited, regardless of your location. However, the prohibition concerning the beer, as well as the prohibition of eating and drinking with non-Jews, applies only in the non-Jews’ venue.

Among the rishonim, we find several approaches to explain this question. I will present just one approach, that of the Tosafos Rid (Avodah Zarah 65b), who explains that, in the instances of wine, cooked food and bread – the main concern is that you will find the foods served by the non-Jew to be very tasty, and this eventually might lead to inappropriate social interactions. However, in the instance of beer, the concern is not the food, but the socializing – and prohibiting drinking beer where the non-Jew lives and works is a sufficient safeguard to discourage the inappropriate activity.

I have written previously many times on the topics of bishul akum, pas akum, stam yeinam and sheichar akum that are mentioned in this Rambam. I have also written about the questions germane to mar’is ayin implicit in several of the opening questions. However, I have never written on what the Rambam prohibits here: not to drink kosher beverages “in a gathering of non-Jew’s,” nor “to eat a meal at a non-Jew’s house.”

This ruling of the Rambam is subsequently quoted and accepted by all the halachic authorities, including Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Derisha, Shach, Taz, Pri Chodosh, Or Hachayim, Darkei Teshuvah, Chasam Sofer and Igros Moshe.

Rambam’s source

There is much discussion among later authorities attempting to identify the source in Chazal whence the Rambam inferred this prohibition. Among the acharonim, we find several suggestions for the Rambam’s ruling, including mention of some passages of Gemara. Let us examine these sources.

The first instance cited is based on a Mishnah that prohibits many types of financial dealings with an idolater on the days near a pagan holiday, out of concern that he will thank his deity for the business. If this happens, the Jew has “caused” the pagan to worship idols. Bear in mind that being a “light unto the nations” precludes causing someone else to violate his commandment.

The conclusion of this Mishnah states, “When an idolater makes a celebration in honor of his son, it is prohibited to deal only with that man on that day (Avodah Zarah 8a). This conclusion is cited by the halachic authorities (Rambam, Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 9:5; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 148:7).

The Gemara adds the following to the discussion: “Rabbi Yishmael said: Jews living in chutz la’aretz are idol worshippers who think that they are acting properly. Why is this? An idolater makes a party to celebrate a family event and invites all the Jews in his town to attend – even if they eat their own food and drink their own beverages and their own waiter serves them, the Torah treats it as if they ate from the offerings of idols.” This passage is also cited by the halachic authorities (Rambam, Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 9:15; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 152:1).

At the end of his censure, Rabbi Yishmael quotes the Torah as the source for his ruling: And he calls to you and you eat from his slaughter (Shemos 34:15). The halachic authorities disagree whether this quote demonstrates that this prohibition is min haTorah (Taz, Yoreh Deah 152:1) or only rabbinic (Nekudos Hakesef ad locum).

A potential difference in halacha resulting from this dispute is whether one may attend the event if missing it might antagonize the host (mipnei eivah). The rishonim note that, despite the fact that the Mishnah, quoted above, prohibits dealing with a non-Jew near his holiday, this prohibition does not apply in our day since the non-Jews among whom we live do not worship idols (Rishonim to Avodah Zarah; Tur, Yoreh Deah 148). In addition, even in a situation in which the Mishnah’s concerns are applicable, it is permitted when there are concerns of eivah (Tur, Yoreh Deah 148). The Derisha conjectures whether the prohibition against attending a party applies in a situation of eivah (Derisha, Yoreh Deah 152:1). As we will soon see, Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled leniently in this last issue.

Achashveirosh’s party

A different source cited as basis of the Rambam’s ruling is a passage of Gemara which states that the reason why the Jews in the era of Haman deserved to be destroyed (before they did the teshuvah brought about by Mordechai and Esther) was because they enjoyed the party thrown by Achashveirosh (Megillah 12a).

Several later authorities question whether these sources are indeed the origins of the Rambam’s prohibition (cf. Lechem Mishneh; Mirkeves Hamishneh; Aruch Hashulchan; Tzafnas Panei’ach). However, whether or not we know the source of the Rambam’s ruling, all authorities accept it to be binding.

How did the Rambam ascertain that this prohibition exists only when a majority of the people at the meal are not Jewish? The following passage of Gemara is quoted as a possible source: Shmuel, the great amora, and Avleit, a non-Jewish friend of his who is mentioned frequently by Chazal (Shabbos 129a, 156b; Avodah Zarah 30a; Yerushalmi, Shabbos 3:3 and Beitzah 2:5; Midrash Lekach Tov, Parshas Shoftim), were eating a meal together when they were brought some yayin mevushal, wine that had been cooked. Avleit, who was familiar with his friend’s Jewish customs, adjusted himself so that he would not touch the wine and prohibit it for Shmuel. Shmuel then explained to Avleit that the prohibition against using wine handled by a non-Jew does not apply to yayin mevushal. The question raised by some authorities is, how could Shmuel have been enjoying a repast together with Avleit when it is prohibited to eat a meal or drink wine at a non-Jew’s house? The Lechem Mishneh answers that since only Shmuel and Avleit were eating, there was no non-Jewish majority at the meal and, therefore, it was permitted (Avodah Zarah 30a).

However, this argument is weak for a few reasons, as noted by several later authorities. For one matter, there is nothing to indicate that Shmuel and Avleit were at a non-Jew’s venue? Furthermore, is two people eating together considered a party (Aruch Hashulchan)? We would usually assume that a “party” involves a large number of people — although from Esther’s party, mentioned in the Purim story, we can derive that three is not only company but also a party.

In this context, Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked the following question: May a yeshiva conduct a parlor meeting in the home of a non-Jew? Rav Moshe prohibits this although he permits attending a personal celebration of a non-Jew conducted in a non-Jewish venue where it is difficult to provide a good excuse for one’s absence. Rav Moshe permits this so as not to antagonize the non-Jew. Since this is why one may attend, Rav Moshe permits drinking kosher beverages, and presumably would also permit eating kosher food. However, this does not permit conducting a parlor meeting in a non-Jew’s home, since Jews are choosing to conduct this celebration there (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:117).

Client’s celebration

At this point let us examine one of our opening questions: “ A non-Jewish client is marrying off his daughter and expects his business associates to attend the reception. Knowing him, he expects me to spend a considerable amount of time there. Is this permitted, and, while there, may I eat or drink something that is kosher?”

According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, I may attend the wedding and eat and drink kosher food while there if my absence might antagonize the client.

Company picnics and parties

May I attend the company end-of-year parties and outings?

The reasons why it might be permitted to attend these functions include offending people and loss of livelihood. It would seem to be permitted if you do not eat or drink there with everyone else. A talmid chacham I know went to the company’s annual picnic and spent his time while there on the ball fields. The other employees assumed that he was a baseball enthusiast, while his family was surprised to discover that he owned sneakers and a baseball glove!

Mostly Jews

Here is another heter that sometimes applies: Because the Rambam wrote, “If most of the assemblage is Jewish,” the Pri Chadash permits this when there are more Jewish attendees than non-Jews.

Conclusion

We are meant to be “a light onto the nations,” which charges us with the responsibility to act in a manner that we create a kiddush Hashem. However, Chazal clearly felt that there is a difference between acting as a role model while behaving according to Hashem’s wishes, and social interactions, which can lead to undesirable outcomes.




Must I Immerse a Candy Dish?

Both parshiyos Balak (read this week in Eretz Yisrael) and Chukas (read in chutz la’aretz) discuss relationships with non-Jews, and therefore are appropriate parshiyos to discuss the mitzvah of tevilas keilim.

Question: A Sweet Saga

Avraham Sweet, the proprietor of Candy Andy, wants to know.

“I have a gift business in which I sell glass candy bowls filled with candies, fruits, and nuts. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

Introduction:

In Parshas Matos, the Torah teaches: Regarding the gold and the silver; the copper, the iron, the tin and the lead: any item that was used in fire needs to be placed in fire to become kosher, yet it must also be purified in mikveh water. In addition, that which was not used in fire must pass through water” (Bamidbar 31:22-23). From these verses we derive the mitzvah of tevilas keilim — The mitzvah to immerse metal implements in a mikveh or spring prior to using them for food. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) notes that this immersion is required even if the vessel has never been used. In other words, this mitzvah is unrelated to the requirement of koshering equipment that was used for non-kosher food or to the laws related to purifying implements that became tamei.

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 75b) further states that in addition to metal items intended for food use, we are also required to immerse glass dishes, because both metal and glass share a similarity – they are repairable by melting and reconstructing, or, as we would say, they are recyclable. This renders them different from vessels made of stone, bone, wood or earthenware, all of which cannot be repaired this way.

What types of dishes must be immersed?

The Gemara cites a highly instructive dialogue about the mitzvah of immersing vessels:

“Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabbah bar Avuha: ‘One can derive from the verse that one must immerse even brand new items, because used vessels that were purged in fire are as kosher as those that are brand-new, and yet they require immersion.’

Rav Sheishes then asked him: ‘If it is true that the mitzvah of immersing vessels is not because of kashrus concerns, maybe one is required to immerse even clothing shears?’

Rav Nachman responded: ‘The Torah only mentions vessels that are used for meals (klei seudah)’“ [Avodah Zarah 75b].

Rav Sheishes suggested that if immersing utensils has nothing to do with kosherizing utensils used for non-kosher, perhaps this mitzvah applies to all paraphernalia — even cameras, cellphones and clothing shears!

To this, Rav Nachman retorted that since the Torah mentions only implements used for a meal, the mitzvah of tevilas keilim applies only to utensils used for preparing and consuming food, not those intended for other purposes.

Klei seudah – appliances used for meals

Rav Nachman did not require that all food preparation utensils be immersed, only klei seudah, items used for meals. Soon, we will see how this detail affects many of the halachos of tevilas keilim. But, what exactly are considered klei seudah, and how is this different from simply saying that all food preparation utensils must be immersed?

Klei sechorah — “merchandise”

The halachic authorities note that a storekeeper is not required to immerse vessels he has for sale, since for him they are not utensils with which he intends to prepare food or eat. Later authorities coin a term “klei sechorah,” utensils used as merchandise, ruling that these items do not require immersion until they are purchased by the end user (see Taz, Yoreh Deah 120:10). Furthermore, several halachic authorities contend that not only is the storekeeper not required to immerse the utensils prior to sale, if he immerses them, it is not valid, since there is, as yet, no requirement to immerse them (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak 8:70). This is based on a comment of the Rama implying that tevilah performed before the obligation to immerse a utensil exists, such as while it is still owned by the non-Jew, does not fulfill the mitzvah, but must be repeated after the utensil becomes the property of a Jew (Rama 9). Thus, reciting a beracha on this too-early tevilah would be a beracha levatalah.

Based on this discussion, we can now address one of our above-mentioned questions:

“I have a gift business in which I sell candy bowls filled with candies, fruits, and nuts. Must I toivel these dishes before I fill them?”

This question is a modification of a situation in which I was once involved. We received a glass candy bowl as a gift from someone with a note that the proprietor had already toiveled the bowl. I called the owner of the business to inform him that, in my opinion, not only is he not required to toivel the dish, but I suspect that the tevilah does not help. My reasoning is that, although the proprietor fills the bowls with nuts and candies, from his perspective this is merchandise that he is selling. The dish therefore qualifies as klei sechorah that one need not immerse, and immersing them does not fulfill the mitzvah. As a result, not only is the proprietor not obligated to immerse the dishes, but doing so fulfills no mitzvah, and it is a beracha levatalah for him to recite a beracha on this tevilah. Including a note that the dish was toiveled is detrimental, since the recipient will assume that he has no requirement to toivel this dish, when the end-user is required to immerse it. For these reasons, I felt it incumbent on myself to bring this to the attention of the owner of the business.

The proprietor was very appreciative. He told me that, in truth, it was a big hassle for him to toivel the dishes, but he had been assuming that halacha required him to do so before he could fill them.

Shortly after writing these words, I received the following shaylah:

“I want to ask you whether one must toivel an item that is being given away as a present. When I studied the topic, I concluded that, even if I purchase a utensil that requires tevilah, but I am planning on giving it to someone, it does not have a chiyuv tevilah until it reaches the recipient’s hands. Only then does it become kli seudah. This would also apply, for example, if someone gave a shalach manos bowl filled with candy, etc; the utensil wouldn’t require tevilah until the person receives it. What do you think?”

To which I answered:

“It seems to me that since one is purchasing the item for someone’s personal use, and not to sell, that it should have a chiyuv tevilah at this point. Only items meant to be merchandise are absolved from tevilah.”

I received the following response:

“Who says that the recipient is going to use the utensil at his table? Indeed, I had the very same shaylah tonight. My wife took a small receptacle that was holding a plant, filled it with nuts and dried fruit, and brought it to someone as a present. Who said that the recipient will use it afterwards for food? Maybe it will be a candle holder, a decorative piece, etc. It doesn’t become kli seudah until she decides what she will use it for.”

The point the correspondent is making is that it may indeed be that this item will never be a food utensil, and therefore never be required to be immersed. Only the end user determines whether the item is indeed a food utensil, and therefore until he decides what to do with it, there is no requirement to immerse it.

Conclusion

According to Rav Hirsch, metal vessels, which require mankind’s mining, extracting and processing, represent man’s mastery over the earth and its materials. Whereas vessels made of earthenware or wood only involve man shaping the world’s materials to fit his needs, the manufacture of metal demonstrates man’s creative abilities to utilize natural mineral resources to fashion matter into a usable form. Consuming food, on the other hand, serves man’s most basic physical nature. Use of metal food vessels then represents the intellectual aspect of man serving his physical self, which, in a sense, is the opposite of why we were created, which is to use our physical self to assist our intellect to do Hashem’s will. Specifically in this instance, the Torah requires that the items hereby produced be immersed in a mikveh before we use them to endow them with increased kedusha before they are put to food use. This demonstrates that although one may use one’s intellect for physical purposes, when doing so one must first sanctify the item to focus on the spiritual.




Separating Terumah and Maaser

Shampooed Tevel

“I have been looking for a specialty shampoo that contains oat bran. Someone found it in a very expensive store, and it does exactly what I want. One day, after showering, I noticed the label says that it is made in Israel! Does this mean that it is prohibited as tevel (produce that did not have terumah or maaser separated)?”

Introduction

The end of parshas Korach contains many references to various mitzvos that the Torah calls “terumah.” In Modern Hebrew, any charitable donation is called a “terumah,” but, in the Torah, this word means an “elevated portion” and can refer to numerous sanctified foods, including korbanos, challah, bikkurim, maaser, and what we usually call terumah and terumas maaser. The fact that the term “terumah” may refer to so many different things is one reason why a superficial reading of the end of parshas Korach can be confusing, unless you study it with Rashi or a different commentary (such as that of Rav Hirsch) that explains the parsha according to the Torah she’be’al peh.

The pesukim in parshas Korach that discuss what we call terumah read as follows: “And Hashem spoke to Aharon: Behold, I have hereby given you the guarding of my terumah… Of the best of the oil, of the best of the wine (tirosh) and grain, the first of what is given to Hashem I have given to you (Bamidbar 18, 1,12).”

Note that the Torah mentions terumah of oil, referring to the olive crop, of tirosh, usually understood to mean as yet unfermented wine (also known as unpasteurized grape juice), and of grain. This implies that the mitzvah min haTorah of separating terumah applies only to olive oil, wine and grain. Indeed, most authorities understand that, min haTorah, the requirement to separate terumos and maasros applies only to the five species of grain (wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats), grapes, olives, grape juice, wine and olive oil (see Sifra). The requirement to separate terumos and maasros on other fruits and vegetables is rabbinic.

In Chazal’s terminology, the various gifts provided to the kohein and others are called matanos, gifts. These matanos have varying levels of sanctity:

A. Very holy, that may be eaten only by male kohanim in the Beis Hamikdash and only when someone is completely tahor;

B. Somewhat less holy, that min haTorah may be eaten anywhere by a kohein’s immediate household, provided that they are completely tahor;

C. Lesser sanctity that may be eaten by anyone, but only in Yerushalayim and when tahor;

D. No sanctity at all, and, although required to be donated, may be eaten by anyone.

Seven of these “gift” agricultural mitzvos or matanos can be organized in the following way:

1. Bikkurim (sanctity level: B)

The first fruits of the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael is lauded, which are brought to the Beis Hamikdash. These are treated with the same level of sanctity as terumah¸ which we will explain shortly.

2. Terumah gedolah, usually called just “terumah(sanctity level: B)

The separation from produce grown in Eretz Yisrael that the Torah requires we give to the kohein. There is a requirement miderabbanan to separate terumah and maasros also outside Eretz Yisrael, but, according to most authorities, only in lands that are adjacent to Eretz Yisrael. (Because of space considerations, we will not be discussing the vast halachic literature that debates whether there is a requirement to separate terumos and maasros today in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, which border on Eretz Yisrael. For the same reason, we will not discuss where the borders of Eretz Yisrael are, germane to these mitzvos.We will also not discuss the question as to whether there is a mitzvah to separate terumos and maasros on produce grown by a non-Jew on a non-Jew’s land, because the accepted practice, going back hundreds of years, is to be lenient.)

How much terumah?

Min haTorah, there is no minimal requirement how much terumah one must give to a kohein; to quote Chazal, one wheat kernel given as terumah exempts an entire silo. In the days when the kohein could become completely tahor and then eat the terumah, Chazal instituted a minimal percentage of the crop that should be designated as terumah (one part in sixty, or 1.67%), but preferred that an individual give more. They allowed the individual latitude to decide how much he wants to donate as terumah: one part in forty (2.5%), one part in fifty (2%), or the minimum I mentioned above, one part in sixty (1.67%).

Produce that has not yet had terumos and maasros separated is called tevel, and may not be eaten or used.

We should also note that, according to accepted halacha, the obligation of separating terumos and maasros today is only miderabbanan, even on grain, grapes, and olives, until such time that most Jews, again, live in Eretz Yisrael.

3. Maaser rishon (sanctity level: D, but only after the terumas maaser is separated)

The first tithe (one tenth), given to the levi.

4. Terumas maaser (sanctity level: B)

A tithe separated by the levi from the maaser rishon that he receives, which the levi then gives to a kohein. Since the levi receives ten percent of the crop after terumah has been separated, and he, in turn, is separating ten percent of what he receives, terumas maaser adds up to one hundredth, 1%, of the crop.

Terumah and terumas maaser have the same sanctity, which means that, min haTorah, both of them may be eaten anywhere, but only by a kohein and most of his family and household members and only when both they and the terumah are completely tahor.

The accepted halacha is that the remaining maaser rishon has no sanctity, and may be eaten by anyone, notwithstanding the fact that there is a dispute among tana’im concerning this issue. If the levi chooses to, he may sell the maaser or give it away to whomever he chooses. Furthermore, none of the restrictions we will discuss shortly regarding redemption or use applies to maaser rishon.

A kohein or levi who has his own produce must separate terumos and maasros, although he may then keep what he is entitled to as a kohein or levi (Rambam, Hilchos Maasros 1:13; for details of this law, see Mishpetei Aretz, Terumos Umaasros 13:9).

5. Maaser sheini (sanctity level: C)

A second tithe, separated in the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the seven-year shemittah cycle, that the owner keeps with plans to eat in Yerushalayim when he is tahor. Alternatively, the owner may redeem the maaser sheini’s kedusha onto coins. The coins are brought to Yerushalayim and used to purchase food that is eaten in Yerushalayim. Maaser sheini that is tahor may be eaten by anyone who is tahor and maaser sheini that is redeemed may be eaten by anyone and does not need to be kept tahor.

6. Maaser ani (sanctity level: D)

A different form of “second tithe,” given in years when there is no maaser sheini (i.e., the third and sixth years of the shemittah cycle), that is given to the poor. Once separated, this maaser has no special sanctity and may be eaten by anyone, even by someone who is tamei, but it is property of the poor. The owner of the field decides to which poor person he gives the maaser ani.

Since shemittah produce is ownerless, there are, usually, no terumah and maasros separations that year. In the unusual instances where there are, which is a topic for a different time, there is extensive halachic discussion whether one separates maaser sheini or maaser ani.

7. Challah (sanctity level: B)

A portion given to the kohein separated from dough. This “gift” has the level of sanctity of terumah.

Separating and giving

In general, most of these matanos require two stages to fulfill the mitzvah. The first stage is the proper separation, usually preceded by a brocha, and the second stage is giving the matanah to the appropriate party. As I mentioned above, in the case of maaser sheini, the owner keeps or redeems the produce (rather than giving it to someone). After redeeming maaser sheini, the fruit has no more sanctity.

There are several situations in which there is a mitzvah to separate terumos and maasros, but there is no mitzvah to give the matanah to a kohein, levi or poor person. The most common situation is when it is uncertain, a safek, whether there is a requirement to separate terumos and maasros. We will discuss shortly one such example. In these instances, you are not required to give away the terumos and maasros. They are yours to sell, or even to eat, if there is no sanctity involved, such as maaser rishon or maaser ani (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 371:1).

There is another practical halachic difference when it is uncertain if there is a requirement to separate terumos and maasros: no brocha is recited prior to separating the terumos and maasros.

Using terumah

In today’s world, terumah has relatively little market value. Terumah tehorah may be eaten only by a kohein or his family members who are tehorim. Since we have no parah adumah, we cannot become fully tehorim today and therefore, no one can eat terumah tehorah.

Although terumah may not be eaten today, there are still two potential uses that may be made of terumah. Terumah olive oil may be kindled, but the light must be used by a kohein. If the terumah olive oil is tehorah,care must be taken not to make it tamei. Terumah temei’ah may be used by a kohein for kindling without this concern.

There is also the possibility of using terumah for feeding animals owned by a kohein, a topic that I will leave for a different time, because of space considerations.

The question now becomes what to do with terumah tehorah that has no practical use.

At the beginning of this article, I quoted the pasuk that Aharon was instructed regarding the guarding of my terumah. The term guarding, mishmeres, means that one is required to make sure the terumah is not actively destroyed or made tamei.

Since no one is tahor today, terumah may not be eaten. If the terumah is itself tamei, it is destroyed, preferably by burning it. If the terumah is tehorah, we are neither permitted to eat it nor to destroy it because of the law of mishmeres. What does one do with it?

This is a dispute among halachic authorities, and one of the unusual situations in which Rav Moshe Feinstein disagreed with the opinion of rishonim, without finding a source in rishonim that agreed with him. According to the Sefer Haterumah and the Tur (Yoreh Deah, 331), the halacha requires that terumah tehorah be buried, so that no one mistakenly eats it. Rav Moshe rules that this is considered destroying terumah, since this causes the terumah to rot, which is prohibited. Instead, he requires placing the terumah tehorah in a place where it will be left undisturbed until it decays (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 3:129). A bin or box set aside for this purpose is called a pach terumah, where the terumah tehorah remains until inedible. When it decomposes to this extent, one may dispose of the produce in the regular garbage.

Why is this true?

Once terumah or tevel can no longer be eaten,  it loses its sanctity. Although the concept that decay eliminates sanctity seems unusual, this is only because we are unfamiliar with the mitzvos where this principle applies. Other mitzvos where this concept exists are shevi’is, terumah, challah, bikkurim, maaser sheini and reva’ie (Rambam, Hilchos Terumos Chapter 11; Hilchos Maaser Sheini 3:11; Hilchos Shevi’is 5:3). We burn the special challah portion after separating it only because it has become tamei. If the challah did not become tamei, one may not destroy it but must place it somewhere, until it decays on its own.

Shampooed tevel

At this point, we can discuss our opening question:

“I have been looking for a specialty shampoo that contains oat bran. Someone found it in a very expensive store, and it does exactly what I want. One day, after showering, I happened to look at the label and noticed that it says that it is made in Israel! Does this mean that it is prohibited as tevel?”

Indeed, our questioner may have surmised correctly that the oat bran mighthave once had the status of tevel. If the oats were grown for food, one would be required to separate from them terumos and maasros, and the oats would have a status of tevel until these are separated. However, if the oats were grown for animal feed, there would be no requirement terumos and maasros and no status of tevel. because oats are commonly grown as forage.

More germane to our discussion is that, even if the oats were grown for food, once mixed into the shampoo as an ingredient, they become inedible and lose their status as tevel. Whether they naturally decayed to a stage where they became inedible or were processed or mixed until that point, the kedusha of tevel, terumos and maasros is lost. So, our consumer may continue using the shampoo without any halachic concerns.

Other terumah rules

Cultivated food items, other than grain, grapes and olives, that grew in Eretz Yisrael are obligated in terumos and maasros miderabbanan. There are a few interesting exceptions: for example, there is no obligation to separate terumos and maasros from mushrooms; since they are fungi, they are not considered as growing from the ground. This also affects their brocha, which is shehakol and not ha’adamah.

If I might digress, here is an interesting nifla’os haborei experiment that you can perform yourself. Take some raw vegetables and microwave them for two minutes, and then do the same with some raw mushrooms. When you microwave the mushrooms there will be a considerable amount of water, which does not happen when you microwave the veggies. The reason is that vegetables draw water from the earth through their root, and therefore have no need to store a lot of water in the plant itself. However, mushrooms have no means to draw nutrients, including water, from the soil, and therefore store the water that they need in their cells. When you microwave them, this water is now released.

Ownerless produce

There is no requirement to separate terumos or maasros from produce that is ownerless, such as wild-growing wheat. Similarly, that which grows during shemittah year and is treated as hefker is exempt from terumos and maasros.

Plants grown as fodder, borders, cloth, seed, dyes or anything other than food are exempt from terumos and maasros. If part of the plant is eaten, but the seeds are usually not, the seeds are exempt from terumos and maasros. Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach ruled that produce such as barley, oats and corn (maize), which are predominantly grown as fodder, are exempt from terumos and maasros, unless they were originally planted for human consumption. In his opinion, if they were planted for food, and the farmer subsequently changed his mind and decided to use them as fodder, they are still obligated in terumos and maasros, since they were originally planted for food (Maadanei Aretz, Terumos 2:7:2).

Herbs and spices

As a general rule, plants grown for use only as herbs, spices or tea are exempt from terumos and maasros. It is disputed whether plants whose product is sometimes eaten as a dip is exempt from terumos and maasros. Therefore, accepted practice is to separate terumos and maasros from them without reciting a brocha first, and the owner may then keep the terumos and maasros, as explained above.

What does this mean in practice? Plants such as aloe vera (usually not eaten, but even when consumed, only as an herb), cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are all exempt from terumos and maasros. However, mustard, ginger and fenugreek should have terumos and maasros separated without a brocha. Although all three of these are used as spices, they also are made into dips or other foods, such as prepared mustard, candied ginger, or chilba, a popular Yemenite dip whose main ingredient is fenugreek.

Peels and shells of fruit that was not maasered are exempt from terumos and maasros if the peels and shells are usually not eaten. However, the peels of apples, pears and plums must be maasered, either as part of the entire fruit, or by themselves. In places where watermelon seeds are considered a snack food, as in Eretz Yisrael today, they are obligated in terumos and maasros. The Chazon Ish ruled that candied orange peel is exempt from terumos and maasros because oranges are not grown for the peel; it is a by-product that someone figured out how to make useful.

Many years ago, when I was involved in kashrus supervision in North America, a similar shaylah was raised. A company that I was overseeing produced, predominantly, various citrus and mint flavors and products, many of them extracted or distilled. Among the many raw materials that were used were oils extracted from the peels of various citrus fruits, which were then processed and used as flavors. Some of the oils were extracted from Israeli produce, and the question was whether there was a requirement to separate terumos and maasros from these peels. The poskim of the kashrus organization ruled that there was no requirement to do so, since peels of citrus fruits are not usually eaten.

Conclusion

Many generations had to be content with reading about Eretz Yisroel and imagining what it might be like to visit. We are fortunate to live in a time when visiting and living in Eretz Yisroel is a reality, and we should be filled with hakoras hatov that we can traverse the land that was promised to our forefathers. Inhabiting our native land includes many special laws that apply within its borders, and we should all be familiar with these special laws. Eretz Yisroel and its special mitzvos provide us with a direct relationship with Hashem, for which we should all strive.




Grand Opening!

Question #1: Aramaic or Arabic?

Why is Kaddish in Aramaic? Isn’t it prohibited to pray in Aramaic and Arabic?

Question #2: Doing it right

In which arm does a lefty hold the sefer Torah?

Question #3: Caught in the act

Do I join everyone in reciting Berich She’mei when I am in the middle of pesukei dezimra?

Background

The structure of most of our prayers, including the Shemoneh Esrei and the berachos we recite surrounding the Shema, was created by the Anshei Keneses Hagedolah, 120 great leaders of the Jewish people who lived during the beginning of the second Beis Hamikdash. Many of these leaders had been exiled to Babylonia before the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash. This venerable group included such great leaders as Ezra, Mordechai, Nechemiah, Daniel, Chanaya, Mishael, Azaryah, Zerubavel, Shimon Hatzadik (of the famous story with Alexander the Great), Chagai, Zecharyah and Malachi (the last three prophets of the Jewish people). The Anshei Keneses Hagedolah authored and edited the last volumes of Tanach and organized it into its final form (Baba Basra 14b-15a).

Perhaps one way to recognize how great the leaders of this generation were is by realizing that Mordechai, whom we all knows was a great gadol, was not the greatest of his generation. All agree that this distinction belongs to Ezra.

Chazal tell us that Ezra was so great that he should have returned to Eretz Yisrael accompanied by the same types of miracles that occurred when Yehoshua led the Bnei Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael. Then, the Bnei Yisrael experienced many overt miracles including what happened when the Jordan River was crossed, when Yericho was conquered, and when the Canaanite kings were eliminated (Berachos 4a). Unfortunately, the Jewish people in the days of Ezra were not on a high enough level to warrant such miracles, but the statement of Chazal provides an appreciation for the greatness of their leaders.

Ezra, fully aware of the problems that Kelal Yisrael faced in so many major areas — from intermarriage (see Ezra, Chapter 9), to Shabbos observance (see Nechemiah,Chapter 13), to knowledge of the laws germane to the Beis Hamikdash (see Chaggai, Chapter 2; Pesachim 17a) — instituted many takanos to assist the rebirth of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael in his time (Bava Kama 82a). Among the many improvements he made was adding to the takanah made by Moshe Rabbeinu to read the Torah three times every week. After Ezra’s additions to this takanah, three people are called up every time the Torah is read, and it is read also at Mincha on Shabbos. Thus, in his day, the practice of reading the Torah already resembled the way we fulfill thismitzvah.

Berich She’mei

In last week’s article, I discussed some of the halachos and customs that we observe when we remove the sefer Torah from the aron hakodesh. We discussed the beautiful Aramaic prayer that begins with the words Berich She’mei. This prayer, whose source is in the Zohar (Parshas Vayakheil #206a\#225), was written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the tanna quoted all over the Mishnah and Gemara simply as Rabbi Shimon, whose burial place on Har Meiron is the focus of much celebration, poetry, and three-year olds’ haircuts on Lag Be’Omer.

Bowing during Berich She’mei

In many communities, the custom is to bow before the sefer Torah when reciting the words desagidna kamei, “When I bow before Him,” during Berich She’mei. The authorities dispute whether this custom is proper. The Riaz, a rishon, is among those who contend that one should not bow other than to Hashem, not even toward the aron hakodesh or a sefer Torah (quoted by Shiltei Hagiborim, Kiddushin 14b note #1 and by Keneses Hagedolah, Yoreh Deah 282). Rav Yisrael Binyamin, an esteemed 16th century posek, also questioned this practice, contending that it might be forbidden because of the prohibition of worshipping idols (see Shu’t Ohalei Yaakov #57)!

The Kaf Hachayim concludes that we should not bow during Berich She’mei, since bowing when the sefer Torah is taken out is not mentioned in the Gemara, and the Gemara rules that we are to bow at specified points during the Shemonei Esrei – and not at any other time. This position is well-known as the opinion of the Vilna Gaon, who contended that we should not bow anywhere except when dictated by Chazal, not only during the Shemoneh Esrei, but also during such prayers as Kaddish and Aleinu (Biur Hagra, Orach Chayim 56:10).

On the other hand, the Maharikash, a highly respected 16th century posek, rules that it is correct to bow before the sefer Torah (Shu’t Ohalei Yaakov #57), because otherwise we are stating something untruthful when we declare (while saying Berich She’mei) desagidna Kamei — that we bow to Hashem but we do not. The Chida accepts this conclusion (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 134:3), which is subsequently followed by Rav Ovadyah Yosef (Shu’t Yabia Omer,Volume 5, Orach Chayim #8) who explains that bowing towards the sefer Torah is a sign of respect to Hashem, just as standing up for a sefer Torah is. This latter distinction is expressly opposed by the Riaz, who contends that it is required to stand up for a sefer Torah, but prohibited to bow to it.

A similar discussion is applicable regarding bowing when reciting Aleinu. Our custom is to bow when we say the words va’anachnu kor’im umishtachavim umodim¸ in which we say that we bow to Hashem. (Sefardim recite a shorter version here: va’anachnu mishtachavim.) Again, if we do not bow when we say these words, it appears as if we are being hypocritical and untruthful – we claim to be bowing, but we aren’t!

Language

Much halachic literature is devoted to the fact that Berich She’mei is recited in Aramaic. In general, we discourage prayers in Aramaic, although there are major exceptions, such as Yekum Purkan, some selections in our selichos, and, of course, Kaddish. Some even question why we sing the beautiful Shabbos zemer, Kah ribbon alam, written in Aramaic by the great posek and mekubal, Rav Yisrael Najara, which includes prayers and requests (Shu’t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim #64). (By the way, there is no mention of Shabbos in Kah ribbon alam, and some Sefardim recite it as part of the daily davening, somewhat similar to the way we say Adon Olam or Yigdal.)

No Aramaic

The Gemara states that a person should not request from Hashem in the Aramaic language when he is praying by himself (Sotah 33a; Shabbos 12b). Many reasons are offered to explain this ruling (Elyah Rabbah 101:9); a more in-depth study of this topic will be postponed to a future date. For our purposes, I will share three approaches to the question, since there is an interesting halachic ramification that results.

A. Aramaic was viewed as a type of pidgin Hebrew, and therefore not acceptable for dignified procedures, such as davening (Ma’adanei Hamelech). As some authorities note, Arabic is also considered a slang offshoot of Hebrew, and, therefore, it would be prohibited to daven in Arabic, in private (Elyah Rabbah 101:9).

B. In the days when Aramaic was the common spoken language, there was concern that if Jews prayed in Aramaic, they would forget whatever Hebrew they still maintained (Tamim Dei’im, quoted by Elyah Rabbah 101:9).

C.Hashem made certain that the angels do not understand Aramaic, so that they would not get jealous of some of the beautiful Aramaic prayers we recite (Tosafos, Berachos 3a s.v. Ve’onin; Be’er Sheva, Sotah 33a).

According to the second and third reasons I cited, an individual could pray in Arabic, but not in Aramaic, whereas, according to the first reason, he should not pray in Arabic either.

We should also note that, since the prohibition against praying in Aramaic is only when praying privately, two of the three prayers we have mentioned, Kaddish and Berich She’mei, are not concerns, since they are recited only with a tzibur.

Reciting Berich She’mei during pesukei dezimra

What should someone do if he is in the middle of reciting pesukei dezimra when the sefer Torah is taken out? Should he recite the prayer of Berich She’mei, or does this constitute a prohibited interruption? Rav Shimon Greenvald, a greatly respected authority in pre-war Hungary, was asked this question, ruling that our davener should not interrupt pesukei dezimra to join the tzibur for Berich She’mei or any of the other prayers recited when the sefer Torah is taken out (Shu’t Maharshag 1:52:2). However, if he has completed the brocha of Yishtabach and has not yet begun the brocha of Yotzeir Or, nor has he yet answered Borchu, he may recite Berich She’mei and the other prayers, together with the tzibur (Shu’t Yabia Omer,Volume 5, Orach Chayim #8).

The reason for this ruling is that, although it is prohibited to interrupt between Yishtabach and Borchu, a very important matter may be performed at this time, and it is better to do it at this point in the davening than during the alternative options. For example, someone who did not have tzitzis or tefillin available before davening, or it was too early, then, for him to put them on, should put them on immediately after Yishtabach and, at that time, recite the appropriate berachos.

The basis for this is found in earlier authorities, who discuss whether mitzvah requirements or community needs are permitted to be discussed between Yishtabach and Borchu. The Tur (Orach Chayim 54) rules: “One may not interrupt between Yishtabach and Yotzeir, unless it is for community needs or (to solicit) for someone who needs to be supported from charity.” The Rema discusses this question at length (Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 54:1) and codifies the ruling of the Tur in his comments to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 54:3), although he concludes that it is best to attempt to avoid any interruption at all. Thus, we see that, when there is a necessity to interrupt, it is better to do so between Yishtabach and Borchu than either earlier or later.

Berich She’mei and Rabbeinu Tam tefillin

Many men have the practice of removing their regular tefillin, which they refer to as Rashi tefillin, toward the end of davening and then putting on a different pair of tefillin, called Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. (A discussion of this topic will need to wait for a different time.) The question is what to do on Rosh Chodesh, since, according to some kabbalistic sources, tefillin should not be worn any time after Musaf, thus limiting strongly the opportune times for putting on Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. Some authorities permit putting on Rabbeinu Tam tefillin while reciting Berich She’mei (Yalkut Yosef 34:9), and wearing them through the reading of the Torah.

Being in the right

Returning to the laws of taking out the sefer Torah – the sefer Torah should be removed from the aron hakodesh using the right hand primarily and carry it by resting it against the right shoulder. This is because (1) the right hand and arm are used for most mitzvah actions. In addition, (2) various pesukim, such as, “His right hand embraces me” (Shir Hashirim 2:6) refer to our relationship with Hashem and the Torah in terms of the “right” hand.

Sefer Torah for southpaws

What should a left-handed person do? Should he pick up the sefer Torah primarily with his stronger hand and rest it against his stronger shoulder, or should he do both with his right hand and arm?

It should make a difference which of these two reasons is primary. If a right-handed person is to hold the Torah with his right hand because he uses it more to perform mitzvos, a left-handed person should take and hold the sefer Torah with his left hand, which is the one he uses to perform mitzvos. On the other hand, if the right hand is preferred because pesukim place emphasis on the right, a lefty should use his right hand, as in the pesukim.

We find different approaches among the halachic authorities. The Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 134:5) is uncertain whether a left-handed person give the left hand preference when taking out the Torah, and seems more inclined that he should. On the other hand, the Sha’ar Efrayim concludes that a left-handed person may emphasize either hand as he takes the Torah out, but he should rest it in his right hand against his right shoulder, notwithstanding that this is his weaker hand and arm, unless he is afraid that he might drop it (Sha’ar 10:2). The Mishnah Berurah (282:1) rules that when a sefer Torah is handed from one left-handed person to another, they should both emphasize use of their right hands.

Shabbos versus Yomim Nora’im

On weekdays, when the chazzan receives the sefer Torah, he invites the community to join him, reciting the posuk, Gadlu laHashem iti uneromemah Shemo yachdav (Tehillim 34:4), “Join me in declaring the greatness of Hashem: thereby, we shall exalt His Name, together.” On Shabbos and Yom Tov, two other pesukim are recited before the posuk Gadlu, both of which are recited first by the chazzan and then by the community in unison: the posuk of Shema Yisrael, and then the praise Echad Elokeinu, gadol Adoneinu, Kadosh Shemo, “Our G-d is one, Our Lord is great, His Name is Holy.” This last passage is not a pasuk in Tanach, but a praise that has its origin in Mesechta Sofrim (Chapter 14). (We should note that the procedure described in Mesechta Sofrim varies somewhat from our practice.)

On Shabbos, these two pesukim are recited only in the morning, but not at Mincha. The Aruch Hashulchan writes that he is uncertain why this is so (Orach Chayim 292:2).

When the chazzan recites the word Gadlu, he should bend over a little bit, reminiscent of bowing (Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 282:1), although other authorities disagree with this practice, noting that one is not permitted to add additional bowings to our davening (Biur Hagra, Orach Chayim 56:10).

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the practice is to add the word venora (awesome) to the posuk Echad Elokeinu, so that it reads Echad Elokeinu gadol Adoneinu, Kadosh veNora Shemo. “Our G-d is One, our Lord is Great, His Name is Holy and Awesome!” Notwithstanding that our standard practice is to add the word veNora only on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many authorities contend that the word veNora should be added also on Shabbos and other Yomim Tovim (Elyah Rabbah 134:4; Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 134:4). Mesechta Sofrim, the major source introducing this praise, mentions this practice, as does Rav Amram Gaon.

Follow the leader

The Shulchan Aruch mentions a practice, followed in most Sefardic congregations, that the entire tzibur follows the sefer Torah as it is removed from the aron hakodesh and brought to the shulchan from where it will be read. This is an honor for the sefer Torah, in that everyone follows it like an honored guest. The source for this practice is in Mesechta Sofrim (Chapter 14). However, when this is not a standard custom in the shul in which you are davening, there are authorities who feel that it is better to refrain from this practice, because it gives an impression of yohara, halachic conceit (Aruch Hashulchan 282:1).

Stand up for the Torah!

While the sefer Torah is moving, there is a requirement min haTorah to stand up and remain standing in its honor. This is derived by the Gemara (Kiddushin 33b) in the following way: The Torah requires that we stand when a talmid chacham walks by. The source for this law is the words in parshas Kedoshim, takum vehadarta pnei zakein, “You must rise and treat with respect the presence of an elder,” and Chazal explain that the term “elder” means someone worthy of respect because of his learning, even if he is still young. On the basis of a kal vechomer, the Gemara proves that it is a mitzvah min haTorah to show the same level of respect for the Torah itself: if we must stand for someone who studied the Torah, we must certainly stand for the Torah itself.

Conclusion

In the introduction to Sefer Hachinuch, the author writes that the main mitzvah upon which all the other mitzvos rest is that of Talmud Torah. Through Torah learning, a person will know how to fulfill all of the other mitzvos. That is why Chazal instituted a public reading of a portion of the Torah every Shabbos, twice, and on Mondays and Thursdays. Knowing that the proper observance of all the mitzvos is contingent on Torah learning, our attention to keriyas haTorah will be heightened. According the Torah reading the great respect it is due should increase our sensitivity to the observance of all the mitzvos.




Taking out the Sefer Torah

Question #1: Confused genealogist asks: Which?

Which Keil erech apayim should I say?

Question #2: Caring husband/son asks: Who?

My wife is due to give birth shortly, and I am saying kaddish for my father. On the days that the Torah is read, should I lead the davening (“daven before the amud”), open the aron hakodesh, or do both?

Question #3: Concerned davener asks: When?

When do I recite Berich She’mei?

Background

Prior to taking the sefer Torah out of the aron hakodesh, various prayers are recited, all of which have been part of our liturgy for many hundreds of years. This article will discuss the background and many of the halachos of these prayers.

Introduction

Reading the Torah, which is a mitzvah miderabbanan, is actually the earliest takanas chachamim that was ever made. It was instituted by Moshe Rabbeinu in his capacity as a community leader, which placed on him the responsibility of creating takanos when necessary. As a matter of fact, one of Moshe Rabbeinu’s names is Avigdor, which refers to his role as the one who created fences to protect the Jewish people (see Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 1:3). In this instance, after he saw what happened at Refidim (see Shemos 17:1), he realized that three days should not go by without an organized studying of the Torah. Therefore, he instituted that the Torah be read every Monday, Thursday and Shabbos (Bava Kamma 82a; Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 12:1).

Over a thousand years later, Ezra expanded this takkanah, including a reading on Shabbos Mincha, to provide those who did not study Torah regularly an extra boost of Torah learning. Ezra also instituted that, when the Torah is read, three people are called up, each aliyah contains at least three pesukim, and the entire reading should add at least one additional pasuk, for a minimum of ten pesukim. (There is one exception to this last rule — on Purim, Ashkenazim read the story of Vayavo Amaleik that is exactly nine pesukim. This is because the topics both before and after this section have nothing to do with the Amaleik incident, and it is therefore better to keep the reading focused rather than add an extra pasuk. Ashkenazim read just the nine pesukim, whereas Sefardim repeat one of the pesukim, in order to extend the reading to ten pesukim.)

Keil erech apayim

On weekdays on which tachanun is recited, prior to removing the sefer Torah we say a short prayer that begins with the words, Keil erech apayim, “Hashem, You who are slow to anger and are full of kindness and truth, do not chastise us in Your anger! Hashem, have mercy on Your people (Israel), and save us (hoshi’einu)from all evil! We have sinned to You, our Master; forgive us, in keeping with Your tremendous compassion, O, Hashem.” The Keil erech apayim prayer should be said standing, because it includes a brief viduy, confession, and halacha requires that viduy be recited standing (Magen Avraham, introduction to Orach Chayim 134).

Am I a German or a Pole?

In virtually every siddur I have seen, two slightly variant texts are cited, the one I quoted above, which is usually labeled the “German custom” or “German version,” and a slightly variant version described as the “Polish version.” Some siddurim provide greater detail, presenting the “first” version as the “custom of western Germany, Bohemia and parts of ‘lesser’ Poland,” and the “second” version, as the “custom of ‘greater’ Poland.” In one siddur, I saw the following, even more detailed explanation, describing the “first” version as the custom of the areas in and near “western Germany, Prague, Lublin and Cracow,” and the second text for the areas around “Posen and Warsaw.”

But, if your family came from somewhere other than Germany, the Czech Republic (where Bohemia and Prague are located) or Poland, which one do you recite? Many people are bothered by this question, myself included, since my father was born in Ukraine, as were all my grandparents and great-grandparents on his side of the family, and my mother’s side of the family is from Lithuania.

Eidot hamizrah

A more intriguing question is, that both versions of this prayer are in Eidot Hamizrah siddurim, and their custom is to recite both, “German” version first. I found this or a similar custom mentioned in several rishonim from very different times and places – in the Machzor Vitri, of 11th century France; the Kol Bo,of 13th century Provence, and the Avudraham, of 14th century Spain. Some rishonim record a custom of reciting both versions, but having the chazzan recite the first and the community respond with the second (Machzor Vitri). According to either of these approaches, the question is why recite both prayers, since they are almost identical.

The answer given by the Machzor Vitri is that the first version uses the word hoshi’einu, whereas the second uses the word hatzileinu. Both of these words translate into English as “Save us.” However, their meaning is not the same; hoshi’einu implies a permanent salvation, whereas hatzileinu is used for a solution to a short-term problem. The Machzor Vitri, therefore, explains that the first prayer is that Hashem end our galus. After requesting this, we then ask that, in the interim, He save us from our temporary tzoros, while we are still in galus.

Ancient prayer

The facts that these prayers are in both Ashkenazic and Eidot Hamizrah siddurim, and that rishonim of very distant places and eras are familiar with two different versions, indicate that these prayers date back earlier, presumably at least to the era of the ge’onim. Clearly, although our siddur refers to a “German” custom and a “Polish” one, both versions were known before a Jewish community existed in Poland – earlier than when the words “Polish” custom could mean anything associated with Jews!

Atah hor’eisa

In some communities, reading of the Torah was introduced by reciting various pesukim of Tanach, the first of which is Atah hor’eisa loda’as  ki Hashem Hu Ha’Elokim, ein od milevado, “You are the ones who have been shown to know that Hashem is The G-d, and there is nothing else besides Him” (Devarim 4:35). The practice among Ashkenazim is to recite the pesukim beginning with Atah hor’eisa as an introduction to kerias haTorah only on Simchas Torah. However, in Eidot Hamizrah practice, Atah hor’eisa is recited every Shabbos, just before the aron is opened, and a shortened version is recited any time that no tachanun is recited. (Essentially, these pesukim are said instead of Keil erech apayim, which is recited only on days that tachanun is said.) According to the Ben Ish Chai, as many pesukim should be recited as people who will be called to the Torah that day: On Shabbos, the pasuk Atah hor’eisa is the first of eight pesukim; on Yom Tov, the first two pesukim, including the pasuk  of Atah hor’eisa, are omitted (Ben Ish Chai year II, parshas Tolados, #15); on weekdays when no tachanun is recited, only three pesukim are recited, beginning with the pasuk, yehi Hashem Elokeinu imanu ka’asher hayah im avoseinu, al ya’az’veinu ve’al yi’tesheinu (Melachim I 8:57). The Ben Ish Chai emphasizes that, apparently because of a kabbalistic reason, it is incorrect to recite more pesukim than the number of people who will be called to the Torah that day. Most, but not all, Eidot Hamizrah communities follow this approach today.

Opening the aron

Having completed the recital of either Keil erech apayim, Atah hor’eisa, neither or both, the aron hakodesh is opened. The poskim rule that the aron hakodesh should not be opened by the chazzan, but by a different person, who also removes the sefer Torah. (In some minhagim this is divided between two honorees, one who opens the aron hakodesh and one who takes out the sefer Torah.) The chazzan himself should not remove the sefer Torah from the aron hakodesh because it is a kavod for the sefer Torah that someone else remove it from the aron and hand it to the chazzan. The honor is that the extra people involved create more pomp and ceremony with which to honor the reading of the Torah (Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 282:1, based on Mishnah, Yoma 68b).

The opener

A minhag has developed recently that the husband of a woman who is in the ninth month of pregnancy should open the aron hakodesh to take out the sefer Torah and close it after kerias haTorah. The idea that opening the aron is a segulah for a smooth and easy opening of the womb is recorded in kabbalistic authoritiesof the Eidot Hamizrah (Chida in Moreh Be’Etzba 3:90; Rav Chayim Falagi in Sefer Chayim 1:5(.

To the best of my knowledge, this custom was unheard of among Ashkenazim until the last forty or so years. So, as I see it, this custom has value in that it ameliorates a husband’s feelings since he is now doing something to assist his poor wife when she goes through highly uncomfortable contractions. And, it also makes his wife feel that he did something for her, so there is a sholom bayis benefit.

Caring husband

At this point, let us address the second of our opening questions:

“My wife is due to give birth shortly, and I am saying kaddish for my father. On the days that the Torah is read, should I lead the davening (“daven before the amud”), open the aron hakodesh, or do both?”

Let me explain the question being asked. Well-established practice is that an aveil davens before the amud on days other than Shabbos or Yom Tov, as a merit for his late parent. (There are many variant practices concerning which days are considered a “Yom Tov” for this purpose; discussion of this issue will be left for another time.) Based on the above information, our very caring husband/son is asking: since he should not take both honors of leading the services and of opening the aron hakodesh, which honor should he take? Or perhaps he should do both?

In my opinion, he should lead the services, which is a custom going back hundreds of years, whereas the custom of taking the sefer Torah out of the aron hakodesh is mentioned much more recently, and was not even practiced by Ashkenazim until a few years ago. And, as we mentioned in the name of the Aruch Hashulchan, one person should not both lead the services and take the sefer Torah out of the aron hakodesh.

Berich She’mei

At this point, we can discuss the third of our opening questions: “When do I recite Berich She’mei?

The Aramaic words of Berich She’mei are a prayer that is recorded in the Zohar (parshas Vayakheil). When we trace back the customs on which days this prayer is recited, we find many different practices:

1. Recite it only before Shabbos Mincha reading.

2. Recite it on Shabbos at both morning and Mincha readings.

3. Recite it not only on Shabbos, but also on Yom Tov.

4. Recite it on Shabbos, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh, but not on weekdays or fast days (other than Yom Kippur).

5. Recite it whenever the Torah is read.

6. A completely opposite custom — never recite it at all.

Allow me to explain the origins of these various practices.

1. Only Shabbos Mincha

Although I saw different sources mention this practice, I did not see any explanation.

I can humbly suggest two possible reasons for this custom. One is that, as we explained above, the kerias hatorah of Shabbos Mincha was not part of the original takkanah of Moshe, but was established subsequently to provide those who did not learn Torah during the week the opportunity to study some extra Torah while they were in shul for davening. Thus, this kerias hatorah represents the entire Jewish people studying Torah together, creating a level of kedusha that justifies recital of the beautiful prayer of Berich She’mei.

Another possible explanation: Shabbos has three levels of sanctity, Friday evening, Shabbos morning and Shabbos afternoon. There are several ramifications of these different levels, including that the central part of the three shemoneh esrei tefilos of ShabbosMaariv, Shacharis and Mincha — are three completely different prayers (as opposed to all other days when the main parts of these three tefilos are identical). These three tefilos represent three historical Shabbosos and their spiritual ramifications. Maariv, or, more accurately, the Friday evening part of Shabbos, represents the Shabbos of creation, Shabbos morning represents the Shabbos of the giving of the Torah, and Shabbos afternoon represents the future Shabbos of the post-redemption world. These three aspects are also manifest in the three meals of Shabbos, and, for this reason, seudah shelishis is traditionally approached as having the pinnacle of spirituality. This would explain that Shabbos Mincha is the time that the prayer, Berich She’mei, addresses.

2. Only Shabbos, but both morning and Mincha

This approach is quoted in the name of the Arizal – presumably, it has to do with a certain level of kedusha that exists only on Shabbos. (See also Magen Avraham, introduction to 282).

3. Only Shabbos and Yom Tov

and

4. Only Shabbos, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh

These two customs are both based on the concept that Berich She’mei should not be recited on a weekday, but is meant for a day when there is special sanctity. This is based on the words in Berich She’mei, Berich kisrach,“May Your crown be blessed.” In kabbalistic concepts, we praise Hashem in this special way only on Shabbos and Yomim Tovim, and that is why the kedusha in nusach Sefard for Musaf begins with the words keser yitnu, which refers to Hashem’s crown.

I saw this practice quoted in the name of the Arizal and the Chida, and most Eidot Hamizrah siddurim mention Berich She’mei prior to the Shabbos and Yom Tov readings, but not prior to weekday reading.

Many authorities note that those who follow this practice regarding Berich She’mei should also recite it on Rosh Chodesh, since they recite the words keser yitnu also as part of the kedusha of Rosh Chodesh (Ben Ish Chai year II, parshas Tolados, #15).

5. Always

This is the common practice among Ashkenazim and in nusach Sefard (Elyah Rabbah, 141; Be’er Heiteiv, Pri Megadim, Machatzis Hashekel, Mishnah Berurah; all at beginning of 282).

The Seder Hayom, an early Sefardic kabbalist, mentions the laws of reciting Berich She’mei when he discusses the laws of reading the Torah on weekdays. From this, the Elyah Rabbah (134:4) suggests that the Seder Hayom holds that Berich She’mei is recited whenever the sefer Torah is taken out of the aron hakodesh. In other words, he disagrees with the approach followed by the other mekubalim mentioned, the Arizal and the Chida.

6. Not at all

In some communities in Germany, the practice was not to recite Berich She’mei. There appears to be a historical reason why not, based on the words of the prayer Berich She’mei itself, which states, lo al bar elohin samichna, “We do not rely on the ‘sons of G-d.’” Apparently, some of Shabsai Tzvi’s proponents claimed that the term “sons of G-d” alluded to Shabsai Tzvi, and, for this reason, it was decided to omit the entire prayer. (Those who recite Berich She’mei assume that this term bar elohin refers to angels.) Several sources quote this position in the name of the Noda BeYehudah, although I have been unable to find any place where he wrote this. It is certain that the Noda BeYehudah was strongly opposed to the introduction of kabbalistic ideas into our tefilos; for example, he attacks very stridently the custom, which he refers to as “recently introduced and very wrong,” of reciting lesheim yichud prior to fulfilling mitzvos (Shu’t Noda BeYehudah Orach Chayim 2:107; Yoreh Deah #93).

When to say it?

When is the best time to recite Berich She’mei? In a teshuvah on this subject, Rav Moshe Feinstein notes that the words of the Zohar describing this beautiful prayer do not mention specifically whether it should be said before the Torah is removed from the aron hakodesh or afterward. However, the Shaar Efrayim,authored by Rav Efrayim Zalman Margoliyos, one of the great early nineteenth-century poskim, rules that the optimal time to recite Berich She’mei is after the sefer Torah has been removed from the aron hakodesh, and this is the conclusion that Rav Moshe reaches. In other words, it is preferred that the person being honored with taking the sefer Torah out of the aron hakodesh should do so as soon as practical, and then hold the sefer Torah while Berich She’mei is recited. Someone who was unable to recite Berich She’mei then can still say it until the sefer Torah is opened to lein (Seder Hayom, quoted by Elyah Rabbah 134:4).

For the conclusion of this article, see here.




Kiddush Levanah

Question #1: Cloud cover

“Can I be mekadeish the levanah when there is just a slight cloud cover?”

Question #2: Northern lights

“I live very far north, and in the summer months, there is only a short period of time from when it gets dark until it begins becoming light, and that period of time is in the middle of the night. Am I permitted to be mekadeish the levanah either before it gets fully dark or during the post-dawn, pre-sunrise morning hours?”

Question #3: Where’s the Rif?

“My chavrusa and I were studying Mesechta Sanhedrin and found the fascinating topic of kiddush levanah there. When we went to look at the Rif and Rosh on the topic, we easily discovered the comments of the Rosh, but could not find the Rif? Did he not write on this topic? Why not?”

Introduction

The Gemara introduces us to a mitzvah, created by Chazal, which we usually call kiddush levanah, which literally translates as sanctifying the moon. Although today Ashkenazim always refer to the mitzvah by this name, this term is of relatively late origin and is confusing for several reasons. First of all, we are not sanctifying the moon. Rather, this is a mitzvah to praise Hashem for the moon’s regular cycle. As we will soon see, there are other hashkafos related to this mitzvah, but these relate to the relationship of the Jewish people and our royal family, the malchus beis Dovid, to Hashem.

Another difficulty is that the expression kiddush levanah creates confusion with a different mitzvah, kiddush hachodesh, which translates into English as sanctifying the month. Kiddush hachodesh is a mitzvah min haTorah that Hashem gave in parshas Bo and requires the Sanhedrin, or its specially appointed committee, to calculate when the new moon will be visible, to receive witnesses who may have seen the first crescent of the newly visible moon, and to declare Rosh Chodesh. Unfortunately, since we no longer have a Sanhedrin, our calendar is set up differently. Hillel Hanasi (a distant descendant of his more famous ancestor Hillel Hazakein) created the calendar that we currently use, because the Sanhedrin could no longer function in Eretz Yisroel, a halachic requirement for fulfilling this mitzvah. But the mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh is not the mitzvah of kiddush levanah.

Therefore, it is somewhat unusual that we refer to the mitzvah by this name, kiddush levanah. The earliest use of the term kiddush levanah that I found was by the Mahar”i Bruno, a talmid of the Terumas Hadeshen, a prominent Ashkenazi posek in the fifteenth century.

Notwithstanding that the term kiddush levanah does not surface in the Gemara or the early authorities, the mitzvah most certainly does. It is called birkas halevanah by Rav Amram Gaon, the rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch, which is what the Sefardim call the mitzvah and is also the way the mitzvah is identified in the siddur of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch. In this article, I will use both terms, kiddush levanah and birkas halevanah.

Background

The background to the mitzvah of kiddush levanah, or birkas levanah, begins with the following passage of Gemara: One who blesses the moon in its correct time is as if he received the Shechinah… In Rabbi Yishmael’s beis midrash, they taught that, if the only merit the Jews have is that they received Hashem every month when they recited the birkas halevanah, this would be sufficient. (The Gemara does not explain — enough merit for what?) Abayei explained that, because birkas halevanah is such an important mitzvah, it should be recited standing. Mareimar and Mar Zutra used to lean on one another when they recited it (Sanhedrin 42a).

The reason why Abayei required people to stand when being mekadeish the levanah is because this is considered equivalent to receiving a monarch, which you would certainly do standing (Yad Ramah ad locum). Clearly, we are not sanctifying the moon; we are praising Hashem and using the moon’s cycles as our means of doing so (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 426:9). There is much more to this idea, and we will shortly explain some of its basics.

Leaning on one another?

What does the Gemara mean that these two great amora’im, Mareimar and Mar Zutra, used to lean on one another when they recited the birkas halevanah? I found two explanations to this practice. According to the first, it was very difficult for either of them to stand, but they felt it important as a demonstration of proper respect for this brocha. They leaned on one another to be able to stand up.

There is an important halachic principle implicit here. In general, halacha considers leaning on something to be akin to sitting, not to standing. Yet, for fulfilling the mitzvah of kiddush levanah, these two great scholars, Mareimar and Mar Zutra, treated leaning as standing, since it was difficult for them to stand (Bi’ur Halacha, 426:2 s.v. Umevoreich).

A practical, but not overwhelming, difficulty with this approach is that it is uncommon for two people who have difficulty standing to be able to help one another remain standing. Usually, they would have people who are sturdy provide them assistance.

An answer to the above question is found in the Yad Ramah, who explains that these two amora’im each had a servant prop them up to recite the birkas halevanah.

An alternative approach is that of the Tur, who understands that the two amora’im were both steady, but that the Aramaic expression used, mekasfei ahadadi, describes a very respectful way of presenting yourself in the honor of a special guest – in this instance, the Shechinah.

Receiving the Shechinah

What does the Gemara mean when it says that reciting this monthly brocha on the new moon is the equivalent of receiving the Shechinah? Did we suddenly become moon worshippers, G-d forbid?!

Use the phase to praise!

The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav 426:4) explains this to mean that the monthly phases of the moon teach us many things for which to praise Hashem, including that He decreased the size of the moon when it complained (see Rashi, Bereishis 1:16). The moon’s phases are also reminiscent of the royal family of David Hamelech, whose prominence has gone through many periods of waxing and waning. As the Pri Megadim concludes: “The entire brocha is praise to Hashem and it is always inappropriate to bless anything other than Hashem. We use the moon as a means for structuring a prayer to Hashem, for His greatness.”

Aleinu

Based on this explanation of the Pri Megadim, the Bi’ur Halacha explains the custom, common predominantly among those whose minhagim originate in Eastern Europe, of reciting Aleinu at the end of the kiddush levanah ceremony. The Bi’ur Halacha explains that to prevent anyone from thinking that this blessing is directed toward the moon, we clearly close the procedure with the prayer of Aleinu, which emphasizes that all our praises are only to Hashem.

What is the brocha?

The Gemara records a dispute as to what brocha one recites on the new moon. According to one opinion, the brocha is very simple: Boruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam Mechadeish Chadoshim, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who renews the months.”

The Gemara concludes that this is not a sufficient text of the brocha, but that the correct text is much longer. There are several versions with slightly variant readings, but these slight variations have major differences in nuance. Our standard accepted version translates as follows: Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who with His Word created the Heavens and, with the breath of His mouth, all the Hosts. He established rules and a time that they not change their roles. They rejoice and are happy to fulfill the Will of their Owner.

At this point, there are two variant texts, one which says in Hebrew, po’alei emes she’pe’ulasam emes, which translates as They are actors in the truth whose actions are true. This version means that these words refer to the moon and the other heavenly bodies, whose movements are highly predictable. The Pri Megadim prefers the following version, which is the most accepted text of this brocha: po’eil emes she’pe’uloso emes. I found two approaches how to translate these words. According to the Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 426:9), this text also refers to the moon, and means the moon’s path follows the dictates of Hashem and demonstrates to us Hashem’s greatness. Another approach is that it refers to Hashem and is a continuation of the previous sentence, meaning, They are happy to fulfill the Will of their Owner, the Worker of truth, Whose work is true (Hirsch Siddur).

Continuing the rest of the text of the brocha: And to the moon, He said that it should renew itself, a crown of glory to those (the Jewish people) who are burdened from birth, who, in the future, will renew themselves like the moon does, and to glorify their Creator in the Name of the glory of His kingdom. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who renews the months.

There are several versions of the closing text. For example, the Mesechta Sofrim (20:1) closes Boruch Attah Hashem, Mekadeish Roshei Chadoshim, He Who Sanctifies the new months.

What else do we say?

Practice has developed that we add many prayers to the procedure, including quoting many pesukim; in the Sefardic version, there are piyutim included. Many of these pesukim and short prayers are already mentioned by Chazal. For example, Mesechta Sofrim cites several of the passages that are customarily recited after the brocha. This passage of Mesechta Sofrim is quoted by rishonim and poskim, such as the Tur (Orach Chayim 426), Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 12), and the Rema (Orach Chayim 426).

Motza’ei Shabbos

Mesechta Sofrim (20:1) adds that one should recite birkas levanah when in a festive mood and while wearing nice clothes. According to the text of Mesechta Sofrim that we have, it also recommends that kiddush levanah be recited on motza’ei Shabbos. However, it is apparent from several rishonim that their editions of Mesechta Sofrim did not include mention of this practice. Nevertheless, most, but not all, poskim reached the same conclusion: it is preferable to recite kiddush levanah on motza’ei Shabbos (Terumas Hadeshen #35). It is well known that the Vilna Gaon disagreed, contending that it is better to perform the mitzvah at the first opportunity (Maaseh Rav #159). Most communities follow the practice of the Terumas Hadeshen.

Three or seven?

The Rema rules that one should not be mekadeish the levanah until 72 hours have passed since the molad, the exact moment calculated for the new moon. Sefardim and some Chassidim follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 426:2), who contends that one should wait until seven days after the molad to recite the birkas halevanah. This is one of the unusual places where the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling is based on kabbalistic sources (see Beis Yosef ad locum). The Shulchan Aruch rules, also, in accordance with the opinion of the Terumas Hadeshen that one should wait until motza’ei Shabbos to recite birkas halevanah. The Rema stipulates that this is true only when motza’ei Shabbos is before the tenth of the month. If one needs to be mekadeish the levanah on weekdays, first change into Shabbos clothes.

The light of the moon

The Zohar (parshas Ki Sissa) adds another insight and halachic requirement to the mitzvah: we should be able to benefit from the moonlight. Based on this Zohar, the Rema (Orach Chayim 426:1) rules that the mitzvah of kiddush levanah can be performed only at night, when you can benefit from the moon.

The early poskim discuss whether you can be mekadeish the levanah when there is a mild cloud cover. They conclude that when the outline of the moon can be seen clearly and some of its light shines through, you can be mekadeish the levanah.

There is a dispute concerning whether you can recite kiddush levanah when the moon is visible, but you estimate that, in the course of your reciting the brocha, it will slide behind a cloud cover. Some authorities rule that you can recite kiddush levanah under these circumstances, just as you can recite the brocha on seeing lightning or hearing thunder, and there is no concern that you will not hear or see them after you recite the brocha (Rav Chayim Sanzer’s notes to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 426). However, the consensus of opinion is that the rules for kiddush levanah are different from the rules for the other brochos mentioned. Proof of this is the halacha that you are not to recite kiddush levanah just for seeing the moon, but only when you can receive some benefit from its light (see Mishnah Berurah 426:3 and Bi’ur Halacha 426:1 s. v. Asher). There is no requirement that you benefit from thunder or lightning before reciting the brocha.

Before sunrise?

At this point, let us examine one of our opening questions: I live very far north, and in the summer months there is only a short period of time from when it gets dark until it begins becoming light, and that period of time is in the middle of the night. Am I permitted to be mekadeish the levanah either before it gets fully dark or during the post-dawn, pre-sunrise morning hours?

In other words, is it permitted to recite birkas halevanah when the moon is clearly visible, even when it is halachically considered daytime? Halachically, the day begins at alos hashachar (Brachos 2b), when there is some light across the entire eastern horizon. How long this is before sunrise depends primarily on the latitude you are at and the time of the year, although humidity, elevation, amount of light pollution and other details also factor. In Yerushalayim, it usually varies from between 72 to 96 minutes before sunrise.

Whether you can recite kiddush levanah when it is halachically daytime is debated by late authorities (see Hisorarus Teshuvah 1:199, authored by Rav Shimon Sofer, Erlau Rebbe; Shu”t Yaskil Avdi 8:20:53, by Rav Ovadiah Hadayah, a Sefardic mekubal and posek who lived in Yerushalayim; Chut Shani, Yom Tov, Shu”t #12 by Rav Nissim Karelitz). Those who need a definitive answer to this question should discuss it with their rav or posek.

Where’s the Rif?

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions:

“My chavrusa and I were studying Mesechta Sanhedrin and found the fascinating topic of kiddush levanah there. When we went to look at the Rif and Rosh on the topic, we easily discovered the comments of the Rosh, but could not find the Rif? Did he not write on this topic? Why not?”

Of the three major halachic authorities upon which Rav Yosef Karo, author of Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch, heavily relied, the Rif, the Rambam, and the Rosh, the works of the Rif and the Rosh are organized following the layout of the Gemara. As a rule of thumb, they discuss the halachic topic in the same place that the Gemara discusses it, but eliminate all but the final halachic conclusion. Nevertheless, there are a few places where their discussion is not in the same place that the Gemara discusses the topic, but placed elsewhere, where it fits more smoothly.

In general, the Rosh follows the system set up by the Rif, who preceded him by several hundred years. However, there are a few exceptions, one of which is the mitzvah of kiddush levanah. Although the Gemara discusses the topic in Mesechta Sanhedrin, the Rif chose not to discuss this within his comments to that mesechta, but, instead, to quote it among his comments on Mesechta Brachos. The Rosh chose not to follow the Rif in this instance, but to place his comments in Mesechta Sanhedrin, where the Gemara’s discussion is located. Thus, this question really should be why the Rosh chose not to follow the Rif in this instance. Since the Rosh never explains why he organizes his material as he does, it will be completely conjecture on our part to suggest an answer.

Conclusion

We understand well why our calendar involves use of the solar year – after all, our seasons, and the appropriate times for our holidays, are based on the sun. But why did the Torah insist that our months follow the moon? It seems that we could live just fine without months that are dependent on the moon’s rotation around the earth! The accepted calendar for all world commerce is the western calendar, which is completely solar, and all farmers use this calendar almost exclusively.

In parshas Bereishis, the Torah states that the moon will serve as an os, a “sign.” In what way is the moon an os? Rabbeinu Bachya (Bereishis 1:18) explains that this refers to birkas halevanah, when we have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah. As far as I understand, he means that the waxing and waning of the moon is symbolic of our own relationship with Hashem– which is sometimes better and, sometimes, less so. However, we know that we can always improve that relationship, just as the moon renews itself after waning and nearly disappearing.




The Milky Way

The custom of eating dairy on Shavuos has a long history; certainly, we should review the topic of…

Does Chalav Yisrael Apply Today?

Question #1:

Shirley mentions to her friend: “I do not understand why some people keep chalav Yisrael today. Do they really think that someone is adding pig’s milk?”

Question #2:

Muttie inquires: “My friend quoted his rav that it is more important to keep chalav Yisrael today than it ever was before. How could this be?”

Chazal (Bechoros 6b) derive from this week’s parsha a rule that whatever comes from a non-kosher species, such as eggs or milk, is also non-kosher. Thus, milk of mares, camels, llamas, donkeys or sows are all non-kosher. Still, people find chalav Yisrael a perplexing subject matter. We have all heard various authorities quoted that today use of chalav Yisrael is only a chumrah, whereas others rule that consuming non-chalav Yisrael foods is a serious infraction of halacha. The mission of this article is to provide appreciation of the issues involved. So, let us start from the beginning of the topic by understanding the origins of this proscription and then explaining the different approaches why it does or does not apply today.

Before we even begin our halachic discussion, we need some biological and food production information. The definition of a mammal is an animal that nurses its young with mother’s milk. (The Modern Hebrew word for mammal is yoneik, literally, that which nurses, meaning that the young suckles mother’s milk.) Hashem, who provides for all His creatures, custom-developed a formula that provides the ideal nourishment for the young of each mammalian species. This supplies the perfect “food pyramid” balanced diet with all the proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that a young growing foal, cub, kitten, puppy, kid, lamb, infant or calf need to thrive and mature until they are ready for an adult diet, which in many species is when they are ready to earn their own living.

There are thousands of species of mammals, yet each species’ milk is somewhat unique. The young of kosher animals require a certain protein, called casein, in higher proportions than do the young of non-kosher animals, and therefore Hashem made kosher milk with a higher proportion of casein. Non-kosher milk, of course, also contains significant amount of protein necessary for a young growing mammal, but most of this protein is categorized as “whey protein.” (When I use the term “non-kosher milk” in this article, I will be referring to milk from non-kosher species.) Kosher milk also contains whey protein, but in much smaller proportion to the casein.

The Origins of Chalav Yisrael

The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 35b, 39b) proscribes consuming milk that a gentile milked, unless a Jew supervised the milking, a prohibition called chalav akum. The Gemara notes that we are not concerned that the gentile is misrepresenting non-kosher milk as kosher — milk from non-kosher species looks different from kosher milk, and this would be easily identified. Rather, the prohibition is because the milk may have been adulterated with milk of a non-kosher species. The Gemara subsequently discusses how closely must the Jew supervise the milking; it concludes that, when the gentile has both kosher and non-kosher animals that could be milked, the Jew may be sitting in a place where he cannot observe the milking, provided that, should he stand up, he could. Since the Jew can stand up at any moment, we may assume that the gentile would not risk milking his non-kosher animal and losing the Jew’s business. Therefore, this milk still qualifies as kosher chalav Yisrael, milk supervised by a Jew.

On the other hand, should the gentile have only kosher species in his herd, the Gemara implies that less supervision is necessary, but it does not define exactly how much. The milking still requires the attendance of a Jew, but halachic authorities dispute the reason and purpose of the Jew’s presence. This dispute is what underlies the controversy alluded to above.

The most lenient approach

The most lenient approach is that of the Pri Chadash (Yoreh Deah 115:15), who contends that there are concerns about chalav akum only when non-kosher milk is less expensive than kosher, or when non-kosher milk is obtainable but difficult to sell. However, when kosher milk is less expensive than non-kosher, halacha has no concern that non-kosher product may contaminate kosher milk. The Pri Chadash reports that, at the time that he wrote his commentary, he was living in Amsterdam, and the vast majority of the Torah community there accepted this interpretation and drank milk sold by gentiles. He adds that he himself relied on this approach and drank the milk. The Pri Chadash explains that halacha does not require that a Jew observe the milking, nor is there any requirement to verify that non-kosher milk was not added. The Mishnah and Gemara require a Jew to supervise the milking only when it is financially advantageous for the non-Jew to adulterate milk.

Chasam Sofer’s approach

On the other hand, the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Yoreh Deah #107) opposed any lenience to use milk from gentiles. He maintained that Chazal required that a Jew actually supervise the milking, and that this sanction remains binding, even should its rationale no longer apply, until a more authoritative body retracts it (see Beitzah 5a). Since this has never happened, consuming unsupervised gentile milk remains prohibited. The Chasam Sofer requires that a Jew observe (or be able to observe) the milking, even when no incentive exists to adulterate the product.

Risk of snake bite

Chazal (Bava Basra 110a; Avodah Zarah 27b) invoke the verse uporeitz geder yishachenu nachash (Koheles 10:8) to mean thatsomeone violating a rabbinic injunction deserves to be bitten by a snake, indicating the importance of observing rabbinic prohibitions. The Chasam Sofer writes that someone who ignores the rabbinic prohibition of chalav akum and drinks milk, relying that the gentile would not add non-kosher milk, should be categorized as a poreitz geder deservant of the punishment of yishachenu nachash.

Furthermore, the Chasam Sofer contends that even should kosher milk be cheaper than non-kosher, since the Jewish people rejected the ruling of the Pri Chadash, unsupervised dairy products are prohibited because of the laws of nedarim, vows. Since Jews do not consume chalav akum even in places where non-kosher species are not milked, it is considered that they accepted a vow to prohibit unsupervised milk. As a result, the Chasam Sofer rules that it is prohibited min HaTorah, with the full stringency of a vow, to consume unsupervised milk.

A middle road

An approach between these two positions, that of Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 41:4), who contend that in a place where non-kosher milk commands a higher price than kosher milk, it is still prohibited to use non-supervised milk. However, Rav Moshe understands that the takanah did not require specifically that a Jew attend the milking, but that one must be completely certain that the milk has no admixture of non-kosher. When it is certain that the kosher milk is unadulterated, halacha considers the milk to be “supervised” (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:47).

How can one be certain? The Mishnah recommended the most obvious way: have a Jew nearby who may enter at any moment. Of course, we realize that even this method is not foolproof, but it is as thorough as halacha requires.

Is there another way that one can be certain? Someone runs laboratory tests on some unsupervised milk and concludes, with absolute certainty, that it is 100% sheep’s milk. Yet, no Jew supervised the milking. Is the milk kosher?

According to Rav Moshe’s analysis, this milk is certainly kosher since we can ascertain its source.

In his earliest published teshuvah on the subject, Rav Moshe explained that, when the government fines those caught adulterating cow’s milk, the fear of this consequence is sufficient proof that the milk is kosher. In later teshuvos, he is very clear that other reasons why we can assume that the milk is kosher are sufficient proof, including that normal commercial practice is that standard milk is bovine milk (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:48, 49). One should note that the Chazon Ish agrees with Rav Moshe’s approach. We should also note that this heter applies only where the absolute assumption is that the milk is from kosher species, but not anywhere where camel’s milk, mare’s milk or milk from other non-kosher species is commonly sold or available.

Being Stringent

Rav Moshe concludes that, even where one can rely that the standardly available milk is kosher, and there is therefore no prohibition of chalav akum, a chinuch institution should use only chalav Yisrael products, even when all the children come from homes that do not use chalav Yisrael exclusively. He notes that this is an aspect of chinuch – to teach the importance of following a stricter standard than halacha necessarily requires.

Contemporary Problem

There is another reason why some poskim require use of chalav Yisrael today. This is because of the common occurrence in the contemporary world of a veterinary problem affecting dairy cows called displaced abomasums, which is often treated in a way that may render this cow’s milk non-kosher. I will discuss this topic a different time.

At this point, we can answer Shirley’s question: “I do not understand why some people keep chalav Yisrael today. Do they really think that someone is adding pig’s milk?”

Indeed, even in the time of the Gemara, it was probably unheard of for anyone to add pig’s milk or, for that matter, for anyone to use pig’s milk, since sows are almost impossible to milk. Although most non-kosher species do not allow themselves to be milked (have you ever tried to milk a cat?), camels, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, and mares can all be milked and produce a palatable product. Contemporarily, there is extensive research at Ben Gurion University about use of antibodies found in camel’s milk for treatment of autoimmune diseases. I have been asked about using this milk, which is clearly non-kosher, but is permitted in case of a life-threatening ailment.

To answer Shirley’s question succinctly: Although we can assume that the milk on your supermarket shelf is unadulterated cow’s milk, the Chasam Sofer still rules that Chazal prohibited consuming this milk. In his opinion, this prohibition is in full effect today, even when the reason for the takanah no longer applies. Furthermore, he suggests that the prohibition to use this milk might even be min haTorah . Other rabbonim have voiced other concerns about the kashrus of unsupervised dairy cows.

Stricter than Ever?

At this point, let us examine Muttie’s question: “My friend quoted his rav that it is more important to keep chalav Yisrael today than it ever was before. How could this be?”

One obvious reason for this rav’s position is that he holds like the Chasam Sofer that using non-chalav Yisrael incurs a Torah prohibition of violating vows. Furthermore, he may feel that since being lenient on this issue is so rampant, one must demonstrate the importance of this mitzvah. He also may be concerned about the displaced abomasums problem, and holds that this prohibits the milk min haTorah.

In Conclusion

Notwithstanding that the Chazon Ish writes several reasons why unsupervised milk is permitted, he never allowed its use. Rav Moshe similarly advocates being strict, and himself did not rely on the heter. It is also well known that Rav Eliezer Silver traveled across North America by train and took his own chalav Yisrael milk with him as he went. (I have no idea why it did not spoil en route.) In conclusion, I suggest clarifying with your rav whether you should rely on using non-chalav Yisrael milk.




Missing the Reading II

Question #1: The Missing Speaker

The audience waited patiently for the guest speaker from America who never arrived, notwithstanding that he had marked it carefully on his calendar and was planning to be there. What went wrong?

Question #2: The Missing Reading

“I will be traveling to Eretz Yisrael this spring, and will miss one of the parshiyos. Can I make up the missing kerias haTorah?”

Question #3: The Missing Parsha

“I will be traveling from Eretz Yisrael to the United States after Pesach. Do I need to review the parsha twice?”

Question #4: The Missing Aliyah

“May I accept an aliyah for a parsha that is not the one I will be reading on Shabbos?”

Introduction:

As we explained in the first part of this article, this year we have a very interesting phenomenon: a difference in the weekly Torah parsha between what is read in Eretz Yisrael and what is read in chutz la’aretz for over three months  – until the Shabbos of Matos/Masei, the second of the Shabbosos during the Three Weeks and immediately before Shabbos Chazon. Since the Eighth Day of Pesach of chutz la’aretz, Acharon shel Pesach, falls on Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz, where this day is Yom Tov, we read a special Torah reading in honor of Yom Tov, beginning with the words Aseir te’aseir. In Eretz Yisrael, where Pesach is only seven days long, this Shabbos is after Pesach is over (although the house is presumably still chometz-free), and the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, which is always the first reading after Pesach in a leap year (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 428:4). On the subsequent Shabbos, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael already read parshas Kedoshim, since they read parshas Acharei Mos the week before, whereas outside Eretz Yisrael the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, since for them it is the first Shabbos after Pesach.

This phenomenon, whereby the readings of Eretz Yisrael and chutz la’aretz are a week apart, continues until the Shabbos that falls on August 6th. On that Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz, parshiyos Matos and Masei are read together, whereas, in Eretz Yisrael, that week is parshas Masei; parshas Matos was read the Shabbos before.

Re-runs

Anyone traveling to Eretz Yisrael during these three months will miss a parsha on his trip there, and anyone traveling from Eretz Yisrael to chutz la’aretz will hear the same parsha on two consecutive Shabbosos. Those from Eretz Yisrael who spend Pesach in chutz la’aretz will find that they have missed a parsha.

As I mentioned in the previous article, several halachic questions result from this phenomenon. Is someone who travels to Eretz Yisrael during these three months — who, as a result, missed a parsha — required to make up the missed parsha, and, if so, how? During which week does he perform the mitzvah of shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum, reviewing the parsha twice with the commentaries of Targum Onkelos and/or Rashi? Is someone who will be hearing a specific parsha on two consecutive weeks required to review the parsha again on the second week? Can someone receive an aliyah or “lein” on a week that is not “his” parsha? These are some of the questions that we will discuss in this article.

Searching for a Missing Parsha

At this point, let us examine one of our opening questions: I will be traveling to Eretz Yisrael this spring, and will miss one of the parshiyos. Can I make up the missing kerias haTorah?

To the best of my knowledge, all halachic authorities rule that there is no requirement upon an individual to make up a missing parsha (Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah page 239, notes 40 and 41, quoting Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, Rav Elazar Shach, and disciples of Rav Moshe Feinstein in his name). Nevertheless, there is a widespread practice to try to find ways of reading through the entire missed parsha. This can only be done if one finds a very accommodating minyan of people, or if ten or more people are together who will all be in the same predicament because of their travel plans. In other words, a group of people, all of whom will be missing one parsha, should try to read the parsha that they will otherwise miss. However, making up the missing parsha is not required.

Among the approaches I know how to do the makeup reading, once they are in Eretz Yisrael, is to read the entire missed parsha together with the kohein’s aliyah. In other words, they would begin reading the week’s chutz la’aretz parsha, even though they are now in Eretz Yisrael, and would read for the kohein aliyah the entire parsha of that week in chutz la’aretz. . They would then end the kohein’s aliyah at the place that, in Eretz Yisrael, his aliyah ends.

An alternative suggestion is that at mincha of the Shabbos before one leaves chutz la’aretz, one reads the entire coming week’s parsha, rather than only until sheini, as we usually do (Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah, page 241).

Individual versus tzibur

We should note that there is a major difference in halacha whether an individual missed a week’s reading, or whether an entire tzibur missed it.  There is longstanding halachic literature ruling that, when an entire tzibur missed a week’s Torah reading, a situation that transpires occasionally due to flooding, warfare, COVID lockdown or other calamity, the tzibur is required to make up the reading that was missed by reading a double parsha the following week (Rema, Orach Chayim 135:2, quoting Or Zarua).

Which parsha?

At this point, let us examine the next of our opening questions:

“I will be traveling from Eretz Yisrael to the United States after Pesach. Do I need to review the parsha twice?”

Let me explain the background to the question. The Gemara (Berachos 8a-b) states: “A person should always complete his weekly parshiyos with the community by reading the Scriptures twice and the targum once (shenayim mikra ve’echad targum).” The targum referred to here is the Aramaic translation of the chumash known as Targum Onkelus. I have written other articles discussing this mitzvah that are available on RabbiKaganoff.com.

Our questioner is asking as follows: He will have read each parsha according to the weekly schedule in Israel, and then he will be traveling to chutz la’aretz, where the previous week’s Eretz Yisrael reading will then be read. Does the requirement to read the weekly parsha “with the community” require him to read the same parsha again the next week, since, in that week, he is part of the chutz la’aretz community, notwithstanding that he just read through that entire parsha the week before?

This exact issue is raised by Rav Avraham Chaim Na’eh, one of the great halachic authorities of mid-twentieth century Yerushalayim. Rav Na’eh, usually referred as the Grach Na’eh, authored many Torah works, among them Shiurei Torah on the measurements germane to halacha, and Ketzos Hashulchan, which is an easy-to-read, practical guide to daily halacha. Aside from its being an excellent source of halacha that can be studied by both a layman and a skilled talmid chacham, the Grach Na’eh had a specific unwritten goal to accomplish in Ketzos Hashulchan. Whenever the Mishnah Berurah disputes an approach of the Gra”z, also known as the Rav Shulchan Aruch, the Grach Na’eh presents a brilliant approach explaining how the Gra”z understood the topic and thus justifying that position. The Grach Na’eh was himself a Lubavitcher Chassid, and, therefore, certainly felt a personal responsibility to explain any difficulty that someone might pose with a halachic position of the Gra”z, the founder of Chabad Chassidus.

Returning to our original question, the Grach Na’eh (Ketzos Hashulchan, Chapter 72, footnote 3) rules that a ben Eretz Yisrael is not required to read shenayim mikra ve’echad targum again a second time the next week, since he already fulfilled the mitzvah of reading it together with the Israeli tzibur. However, someone from chutz la’aretz who travels to Eretz Yisrael is required to perform the mitzvah of shenayim mikra ve’echad targum by reading both parshiyos the week he arrives in Eretz Yisrael. As part of the Eretz Yisrael tzibur, he must read the parsha of Eretz Yisrael, and he also must read the parsha of chutz la’aretz, because otherwise he’ll completely miss studying that parsha this year.

Which one first?

This last point leads us to a new question. Assuming that our chutz la’aretz traveler is now required to read through two parshiyos during the week that will be his first Shabbos in Israel, which parsha does he read first? Does he read the two parshiyos according to their order in the Torah, or does he first read the one being read in Eretz Yisrael, which is second in order of the Torah?

Why would he read the two parshiyos out of order?

The reason to suggest this approach is because the mitzvah is to read the parsha with the tzibur, and the Torah reading our traveler will be hearing that week is the second parsha, since Eretz Yisrael’s reading is a week ahead.

We find a responsum on a related question. The Maharsham, one of the greatest halachic authorities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, was asked the following by Rav Yitzchak Weiss, who is identified as a rav in Pressburg, Hungary. (You won’t find this city in any map of Hungary today, for two very good reasons: This city is known today as Bratislava, and it is the capital of Slovakia.)

The question concerns someone who did not complete being maavir sedra one week. Should he complete the parsha that he is missing before beginning the current week, in order to do his parshiyos in order, or should he do the current week first, and then make up the missed part of the previous week?

The Maharsham concludes that he should do the current week first and then the makeup (Shu”t Maharsham 1:213). If we consider our case to be parallel to his, then one should do the two parshiyos in reverse order. However, one could argue that our traveler has an equal chiyuv to complete both parshiyos, since he is now considered a member of two different communities regarding the laws of the week’s parsha. In this case, he should do them in order.

Which aliyah?

At this point, let us look at our final question. “May I accept an aliyah for a parsha that is not the one I will be reading on Shabbos?”

All halachic authorities that I have heard regarding this question hold that one may receive an aliyah and/or lein without any concerns. The basis for this approach is that Chazal did not require that we hear a specific Torah reading each week. The requirement is that there be a public Torah reading, and that these readings should do in order so that the tzibur (and also the individual) should eventually read the entire Torah. But there is no requirement that I hear or read specific pesukim on any given week.

Conclusion

We see the importance of reading through the entire Torah every year. We should place even more importance in understanding the Torah’s portion well every week and putting it into practice.