Traveling for Pesach

This week’s article is somewhat different from what I usually send. It is a combination of:

An interview that I responded to for a recent issue of Mishpacha in their Advice Line column and various questions I have answered via e-mail. Obviously, the answers are much briefer than the style I write for an article, and usually are not explained.

Advice question asked from Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question:

We are a young married couple with one child living in Eretz Yisrael. Both of our parents live in the States but about a 3-4 hour drive apart.  As Pesach approaches and we made our plans to visit them it became clear that only one set of parents was willing to pay towards our tickets to visit, and that they would pay half the airfare.  After taking this into account, we decided that we still wanted to visit and would pay the other half ourselves.  However, when deciding where to be over Yom Tov we are undecided how to divide our time for Yom Tov. Please help.

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff: There are no obvious halachic guidelines for such an issue; it falls into the category of the “fifth shulchan aruch.” I’m therefore offering you my personal thoughts and judgment. One family is paying for half of your tickets; the other side is not contributing. It does seem fair that you should spend some more time with the side that is putting up money. However there are several mitigating factors that must be kept in mind:

Firstly, I’m assuming that the side that isn’t paying is not doing so because they are stingy but rather because they simply don’t have the resources. This brings up an important question: Should a family be penalized for not having the financial wherewithal that another family has been blessed with?

Secondly, if one side has more resources than the other side, it’s probable that they come to visit in Eretz Yisrael on occasion, while the financially-strapped family probably comes rarely, if at all. This means that if you don’t go visit them, you may never see them.

All these factors point to the fact that you need to sit down and have an open, honest conversation about the issue and reach a decision together. Although such discussions are not easy, realize that the making of a strong marriage comes through discussing sticky situations and working out issues.

Try to depersonalize the discussion and really focus on the points that the other person is making. Sometimes, it’s helpful for you each to “plead” the other side. Let the spouse whose parents are paying enumerate why the Yom Tov should be split evenly and let the one whose parents aren’t able to chip in list the reasons why one should more time visiting the parents who are paying. Keep speaking until you reach a decision that you’re both comfortable with. I wish you much hatzlacha.

At this point, we are quoting some select e-mail shaylos I have received pursuant to Pesach

Pesach Cleaning

Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 10:36 PM
To: Rabbi Kaganoff
Subject: URGENT – cleaning toys, pens, etc for pesach!
Importance: High

Question: I just organised the toys today, without wiping any of them down. I did not see any crumbs, and even if there were, they certainly would not be edible. But I understand that we are supposed to actually wash in bleach anything that has a chance of ending up on our table during Pesach.

Please explain. I don’t want to waste precious time and energy on shtuyot – i don’t have that luxury this year – limited time, energy and finances.

Answer: I do not know the source of this misinformation. It sounds like what you are doing is 100% fine. My wife follows the same approach, with my approval.

Bedikas Chometz

Question from someone else:

We are renting out our apartment for pesach and the couple only needs one out of four bedrooms. Are we required to do bedikas chometz in the three remaining rooms?

Answer: If you want to avoid doing bedika in the other rooms, you can "close them off" by putting signs on the doors that they are sold/rented to the gentile and therefore not checked for chometz. Ask the rav who is doing your mechiras chometz to sell your chometz in these rooms on the 13th of Nisan.

Yom Tov Sheini in Israel Shaylah

Dear Rabbi Kaganoff

We have been in eretz yisrael for four years, and still keep two days. Essentially, it is still clear to us that we will go back to the USA and raise our family there. But we have no location picked out, no timetable when we intend to return there, and aside from a few things in my parents and in- laws house, we really have nothing in the USA.

Inertia is powerful, and who knows how long we will really be here. I cannot see that working out financially, or practically, but if the economy in the USA really collapsed, then I definitely would stay.

If I want to shop for a psak, I know what different poskim will tell me, and I could easily ask from the posek who will give me the answer I want. Am I mechuyav to go through the sugya, and make my own conclusion? Do you think we ought to keep two days this Pesach?

Thanks a ton!

Answer:

The Chazon Ish (Yoreh Deah 150:1) explains that in a situation like this, one follows one’s rebbe (which he defines there), and if one has no rebbe, one can be meikil by a derabbanan.

Another Yom Tov Sheini in Israel Shaylah

Question: My mother and sister are not religious and will be coming to us for all of Pesach from the U.S. How should I handle their second day Yom Tov?

Answer: Don’t plan on any family activities that require them to do work, but don’t say anything to them about their doing work. In other terms, don’t cause them to do melacha, since most poskim hold that they are required to keep the second day Yom Tov.

Question: What should I do about a second day seder for them? (They would have no interest in it on their own and find it a burden.)

Answer: Do nothing. You are not required to make a seder for them, and I do not see anything gained by attempting them to keep/attend a seder.

Question: My elderly father, who is not observant, will be having surgery during Pesach, and I will therefore be visiting them. This has therefore generated many questions:

1. Can I do laundry on chol hamoed for my parents (who will be at the time unable to do it for themselves)?

Answer: Do all their laundry before Yom Tov, and see that they have everything that they need for the entire Yom Tov. If they are short items, they should be purchased- preferably before Yom Tov, but if necessary they can be purchased on Chol Hamoed.

2. What can I purchase on chol hamoed? Can I buy something that could wait until after Pesach, but my parents would prefer to have it sooner?

Answer: If they will use it on Chol hamoed or Yom Tov, you may but it on CHol Hamoed if there is no time to purchase it earlier, or you were unable to purchase it earlier.

3. I read your article about not doing melacha on the 2nd day of yom tov while in chutz l’aretz.  If my mother would like a second seder, or to light candles for the second night of yom tov, am I allowed to do it for her? My mom lights shabbos candles, but not yom tov candles, but since it is yom tov for her, can I be motzi her? [the questioner lives in Eretz Yisrael and her parents in chutz la’aretz.]

Answer: You cannot be a shaliach for her to perform these mitzvos because you are not required to observe them.

Question: What about my making kiddush on the second night/day for them? 

Answer: Also not.

4. I will be bringing with me my nursing baby who is, as is my husband, a kohen. Since I do not know people where my parents live, it may be difficult for me to find a babysitter while I visit my dad after his surgery. May I bring my baby to the hospital?

Answer: Try to find a babysitter for him. If you cannot find a sitter, and it means not visiting your father, then bring the baby along. [I permitted this since there is a very small Jewish population in the city where her parents live. The halacha will be different in an area with a large Jewish population.]

Dental Cleaning on Chol Hamoed

Dear Rabbi Kaganoff,
Hope this finds everyone well.

Is it permissible to go to the dentist for a cleaning on chol hamoed Pesach. The dentist now only has a dental hygienist in the office on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I am at work all those days and can’t leave to go to the dentist.

Answer: One should not schedule this dental cleaning for chol hamoed.

All my best regards–

Could the Fruit on My Tree Be Arlah?

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Question:

Recently, our school had several fruit trees planted for decorative and educational purposes. Someone told us that we must carefully collect the fallen fruits and bury them to make sure that no one eats them. Is there really an arlah prohibition in chutz la’aretz, and is it possible that these fully grown trees are producing arlah fruits? If indeed we need to be concerned about arlah, do we also need to redeem the fruits of the tree in the fourth year?

Before we can answer these questions, we need to discuss the following topics:

I. Is there a mitzvah of arlah in chutz la’aretz?

II. Can a fully-grown tree possibly have a mitzvah of arlah? I thought arlah only applies to the first three years of a tree’s growth!

III. Does arlah apply to an ornamental tree?

IV. Does the mitzvah of reva’ie apply in chutz la’aretz?

I. ARLAH

Introduction: The Torah (VaYikra 19:23) prohibits eating or benefiting from fruit grown on a tree during its first three years. Those fruits are called arlah and the prohibition of the Torah applies whether the tree was planted by a Jew or a gentile, and whether it grew in Eretz Yisroel or in chutz la’Aretz, although many leniencies apply to trees growing in chutz la’Aretz that do not apply to those growing in Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Arlah 3:9). Arlah fruit must be burnt to guarantee that no one benefits from them (Mishnah Temurah 33b); in addition, Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, zt”l ruled that one must remove arlah fruits as soon as they begin to grow to prevent someone from mistakenly eating them (heard orally from Rabbi Shmuel Silinsky).

REVA’IE

The Torah (VaYikra 19:24) teaches that the fruit a tree produces the year following its arlah years has a unique halachic status called reva’ie. One may eat this fruit only within the area surrounded by the original city walls of Yerushalayim and only if one is tahor, a status that is virtually unattainable today as we have no ashes of a parah adumah. However, the Torah permitted us to redeem reva’ie by transferring its sanctity onto coins which must be treated with special sanctity. After performing this redemption, the reva’ie fruit lose all special reva’ie laws and one may eat them wherever one chooses to and even if one is tamei. We will discuss later whether reva’ie applies outside Eretz Yisroel.

Why does Arlah apply in chutz la’aretz? Is it not an agricultural mitzvah that should not apply outside Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Kiddushin 36b)?

The Gemara (Kiddushin 39a; Mishnah Arlah 3:9) teaches that arlah in chutz la’aretz has a special status. Although it is true that agricultural mitzvos usually apply only in Eretz Yisroel, a special halacha leMoshe miSinai teaches that the mitzvah of arlah applies in chutz la’aretz. (A halacha leMoshe miSinai is a law Hashem taught Moshe Rabbeinu at Har Sinai that has no source in the written Torah.) However, this particular halacha leMoshe miSinai came with an intriguing leniency.

QUESTIONABLE ARLAH

The usual rule is that in a case of doubt whether or not something is prohibited, one must rule stringently and prohibit the item a Torah law is involved (Gemara Avodah Zarah 7a). Even though arlah in chutz la’aretz has the status of a Torah prohibition, the halacha leMoshe miSinai teaches that any doubt concerning whether a chutz la’aretz fruit is arlah may be treated with a unique leniency. In Eretz Yisroel, one may not purchase a fruit in a market without first determining whether there is a significant possibility that the fruit is arlah. In the case of arlah from chutz la’aretz, however, one is not required to research if the fruit is arlah. Even more, the fruit is prohibited only if one knows for certain that it is arlah and if one is uncertain it is permitted. Thus, doubtful arlah grown in chutz la’aretz is permitted even though definite arlah is prohibited min haTorah.

This leads us to our next discussion point:

FULLY GROWN ARLAH TREES

II. Can a mature tree possibly have a mitzvah of arlah? I thought arlah only applies to the first three years of a tree’s growth!

Today someone living in chutz la’aretz may actually be the proud owner of a mature tree whose fruit is prohibited min haTorah because of arlah. How can this happen?

The Mishnah (Arlah 1:3) teaches that if a tree was uprooted and replanted, its arlah count sometimes begins anew. If the uprooted tree retained enough of its soil to survive, the old arlah count remains and if the tree was past its three arlah years its fruit are permitted. But if the tree’s soil was removed from its roots during the uprooting, it is considered as planted anew and its arlah count starts all over. Thus halacha can consider a fully mature tree that has been transplanted as newly planted.

What determines whether the tree is halachically new or old? The criterion is whether the tree can survive with the soil still attached to its roots. However, the Mishnah omits one important detail: for how long must the tree be able to survive with that soil on its roots? Obviously, if the tree continues to grow for a long time, the small amount of soil on its roots will be insufficient. How much soil must the tree have on its roots to maintain its post-arlah status?

The Rishonim dispute this question, some contending that soil for fourteen days is sufficient, while others require enough soil for considerably longer (see Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah 394; Chazon Ish, Arlah 2:10-12). Since we rule leniently on arlah questions in chutz la’aretz, one may be lenient and permit a tree that has only enough soil to live for fourteen days. In Eretz Yisroel, many poskim rule that one must follow the stricter opinion.

It is important to note that, according to all opinions, if one replanted a tree with little or no soil attached, the tree is halachically considered as newly planted and the next three years of fruit are arlah. The Torah not only prohibits eating these fruits, but even benefiting from them – or even giving them as a present to a non-Jewish neighbor.

HOW COMMON IS THIS?

How often is a mature, replanted tree considered new for arlah purposes?

According to the expert I contacted:

“In most parts of the United States, fruit trees sold in late winter and very early spring are usually bare root, meaning no soil around the roots but rather some material, like wood shavings, just to keep them moist. Unsold trees are then potted into bucket-size pots or bags of soil which begin to grow as spring progresses and the tree leafs out. The nurseryman is being perfectly honest when he says it is a three-year-old tree — except that for arlah count it is in year one because it was replanted without soil. This problem is very common with many varieties of fruit trees that lose their leaves in autumn such as pears, plums, peaches, cherries, apricots, and nuts.”

The same expert pointed out that there can be other arlah problems in chutz la’aretz, such as trees grafted onto a root stock that was cut down to less than a tefach above the ground. This case, which is apparently very common, is halachically arlah miderabbanan (see Gemara Sotah 43b). This would apply even with a potted tree that never lost its soil. The arlah count begins over from when the tree is replanted.

WHAT DO I ASK THE GARDENER?

When purchasing a fruit tree from a nursery or gardener, what questions should one ask?

According to the horticultural- halachic expert I asked, the most common, and unfortunately little known, problem is not arlah but kilayim, mixing of species, or more specifically, harkavas ilan, grafting of a fruit tree onto the stock of a different species –which also applies outside of Eretz Yisroel.

In regards to arlah, both of the previously mentioned problems could, and frequently do, happen: The tree may be replanted into your yard as bare-root, or it may be grafted onto a short stock that halachically qualifies the fruit that now grow as arlah.

Other arlah problems may occur. Here is a common case: Someone purchased a tree from a nursery where the soil was still attached to its root; the tree’s root ball was wrapped in burlap and tied. (This type of tree is called “balled and burlaped” in the nursery industry.) When purchasing such a tree, one should try to verify when the tree was planted, and also whether the soil ball fell off while replanting the tree, which is a common occurrence. All of these affect whether the fruits of the tree are arlah, and for how many years.

I will share with you one more case that some authorities consider an arlah problem. Some people grow fruit trees in pots and move them outdoors for the summer and back indoors for the winter. Some opinions contend that moving this tree outdoors is considered replanting it, particularly if the pot is placed on earth, and means that the fruit of this tree is always arlah!

III. ARLAH ON ORNAMENTAL TREES

If one plants a tree with no intention of using its fruit, is the fruit prohibited because of arlah?

The Mishnah (Arlah 1:1) rules that fruit growing on a tree planted as a barrier or hedge, for lumber, or for firewood are not arlah. The reason for this leniency is that the Torah states that the mitzvah of arlah applies “when you plant a tree for food” (VaYikra 19:23), and these trees are not meant for fruit. Perhaps the planting of our ornamental fruit trees is included in this leniency and their fruit is not arlah?

Unfortunately, this is not true. The Yerushalmi (Arlah 1:1) rules that this leniency applies only to trees planted in a way that makes it clear to an observer that they are not planted for their fruit. Examples of this are trees planted too close together for the proper growth of their fruit, or trees pruned in a way that the lumber will develop at the expense of the fruit. However, people usually do not grow ornamental trees in a way that demonstrates that they have no interest in the fruit.

Most poskim rule like this Yerushalmi (Rosh, Hilchos Arlah 1:2; Tur Yoreh Deah 294) including the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 294:23). (Note that the Rambam [Maaser Sheni 10:2] does not quote this Yerushalmi as normative halacha. Those interested in researching why the Rambam seems to ignore the Yerushalmi should research the explanation of the Rashas to the Yerushalmi and the comments of the Beis Yosef on the above-quoted Tur.)

Many years ago when I was a rav in Baltimore, someone asked me a shaylah that is very germane to this discussion. He had planted a hopvine and asked me whether there was an arlah or reva’ie prohibition involved in this plant. Knowing only that hops are used as an ingredient in beer, I asked him what a “hopvine” is and why would one plant it? He answered that it is an ivy runner that climbs the walls of a building. He had planted the vine primarily because he liked the ivy cover for his house, but also because he was interested in brewing his own beer using organically grown hops. At that time I was under the impression that there was certainly an arlah problem since he also planned to harvest the fruit. But what would happen if if the planter had no interest in the fruit and was simply interested in the vine’s aesthetics? Would that absolve the vines from the mitzvah of arlah? I leave it to the reader to ponder this issue.

I subsequently discovered that hops are not an arlah concern for a totally different reason: Although hops do not need to be planted annually, halachically they are not considered trees since their shoots die off in the winter and re-grow each year. Such a plant is called a herbaceous perennial plant, not a tree, and is not subject to the halachos of arlah. Nevertheless, the concept of planting a tree not for its fruit is very halachically germane.

IV. DOES REVA’IE APPLY TO FRUITS GROWN OUTSIDE ERETZ YISROEL?

Does the mitzvah of reva’ie apply in chutz la’aretz as the mitzvah of arlah does, or is it treated like other agricultural mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisroel? The Rishonim debate this question and its answer depends on two other interesting disputes. The first, mentioned in the Gemara (Brachos 35a), is whether the mitzvah of reva’ie applies only to grapes or to all fruits. According to some opinions, the mitzvah of reva’ie applies only to grapes (see Tosafos, Kiddushin 2b s.v. esrog); according to a second opinion, it applies to all fruits (see Gemara Brachos 35a); and according to a third approach, the mitzvah applies min haTorah only to grapes, but it applies midirabbanan to all fruits (see Tosafos, Kiddushin 2b s.v. esrog).

A second dispute is whether the mitzvah of reva’ie applies outside the land of Israel, like the mitzvah of arlah, or whether it follows the general rule of most other agricultural mitzvos and applies only in Eretz Yisroel (Tosafos, Kiddushin 2b s.v. esrog and Brachos 35a s.v. ulimaan; Gra, Yoreh Deah 294:28). The logical question here is whether reva’ie is an extension of the mitzvah of arlah, in which case the halacha leMoshe miSinai that arlah applies in chutz la’aretz extends to reva’ie. On the other hand, it may be that reva’ie is a separate legal concept totally unrelated to the mitzvah of arlah. If the latter is true, reva’ie should be treated like any other agricultural mitzvah and would not apply in chutz la’aretz.

We should bear in mind that even if we conclude that reva’ie applies in chutz la’aretz, it applies only when these fruits are definitely obligated in reva’ie. If the fruit might be from a later year, one may eat the fruit without any kashrus concern.

How do we rule?

There are three opinions among the poskim:

(1) Reva’ie applies to the fruit of all trees growing outside Eretz Yisroel.

(2) Reva’ie applies only to grapes, but not to other fruit trees of chutz la’Aretz. This opinion assumes that since there is an opinion that even in Eretz Yisroel reva’ie does not apply to species other than grapes, one may be lenient with regard to chutz la’aretz and treat the fruits as a safek.

(3) Reva’ie does not apply in chutz la’Aretz.

These last poskim contend that the halacha leMoshe miSinai forbidding arlah in chutz la’aretz applies only to arlah, but not to reva’ie, which is a separate mitzvah. Concerning reva’ie, the general rule that agricultural mitzvos only apply in Eretz Yisroel applies, thus exempting these fruits from the mitzvah of reva’ie.

How do we paskin?

Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 294:7) quotes the first and third opinions, but rules primarily like the first opinion that the mitzvah of reva’ie does apply outside of Eretz Yisroel. Rama and Gra both rule like the second opinion that it applies only to grapes outside of Eretz Yisroel and not to other fruits. Therefore, Ashkenazim may be lenient and need not redeem fourth-year fruits grown outside of Eretz Yisroel except for grapes, whereas Sefardim must redeem them.

HASHKAFAH OF TU B’SHVAT AND ARLAH

We all know that Tu B’Shvat is the “Rosh Hashanah” for trees, but what does that mean? Do the trees ignite fireworks on their New Year? Does Hashem judge their deeds and misdeeds and grant them a fruitful year or otherwise, chas v’shalom? (In actuality, the Mishnah in Mesechta Rosh Hashanah teaches that the judgment for trees is on Shavuos, not Tu B’Shvat!).

The truth is that the arboreal New Year does indeed have major halachic ramifications for man, who is compared to a tree (see Rashi, Bamidbar 13:20); these ramifications are intimately bound up with the arlah count that depends on Tu B’shvat. As Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains, by observing Hashem’s command to refrain from the fruits of his own property, one learns to practice the self-restraint necessary to keep all pleasure within the limits of morality.

While nibbling on the fruit this Tu B’Shvat, we should think through the different halachic and hashkafah ramifications that affect us.

The author thanks Rabbi Shmuel Silinsky for his tremendous assistance in providing agricultural information for this article.

Flavor and Fragrance – The Bracha on Fragrant Fruits

clip_image001In honor of the month of Shvat, and a bit before Tu Beshvat, I decided to send an article that explains the halachos of the bracha Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros “He who bestows pleasant fragrances in fruits.” Many authorities prefer the version Asher nasan rei’ach tov ba’peiros, in past tense, “He who bestowed pleasant fragrances in fruits” (Eliyah Rabbah 216:5; Mishnah Berurah 216:9).

Here are some curious questions about this bracha that we need to resolve:

1.  Do we recite this bracha on a food that is not a fruit?

2. Assuming that we recite this bracha on any food, do we recite this bracha on a seasoning that is not eaten by itself, such as cinnamon or oregano?

3. If I am eating a fragrant fruit, do I recite a bracha when I smell it while I am eating it?

4. Do I recite this bracha when smelling a delicious cup of coffee or a freshly-baked pastry? After all, the coffee bean is a fruit, and the flour of the pastry is a grain, which is also halachically a fruit. As we will see, the answer to this question is not so obvious.

ORIGINS OF THE BRACHA “HANOSEIN REI’ACH TOV BA’PEIROS”

The Gemara (Berachos 43b) teaches that someone who smells an esrog or a quince should first recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros.

Question: Why did Chazal institute a unique bracha for aromatic fruits?

Answer: Whenever one benefits from this world one must recite a bracha. Thus, Chazal instituted brachos that are appropriate for fragrances. However, all the other brachos on fragrance are not appropriate for smelling fragrant foods, since the other brachos praise Hashem for creating fragrances, whereas esrog and quince are not usually described as fragrances, but as foods that are fragrant. Therefore, Chazal established a special bracha for aromatic fruits (see Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim end of Chapter 297).

It is noteworthy that although quince is still considered a fruit for the purpose of this bracha even though it is not edible raw. More on this question later…

DO WE RECITE THIS BRACHA ON FRAGRANT FOODS THAT ARE NOT FRUITS?

This leads us to a fascinating halachic discussion with a surprising conclusion.

A BRACHA ON SMELLING BREAD?

Several early poskim contend that one should recite a bracha before smelling hot fresh bread (Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim Chapter 297, quoting Avudraham and Orchos Chayim). However, when discussing what bracha one should recite, these poskim contend that mentioning besamim (such as the brachos of Borei isvei besamim or Borei minei besamim) is inappropriate since bread is not a fragrance but a food that has a pleasant fragrance. It is also inappropriate to recite on it Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, since it is not a fruit. We therefore find some authorities who conclude that one should recite Hanosein rei’ach tov bapas, “He who bestows pleasant fragrance in bread.” Indeed, one contemporary posek rules that someone who smells fresh cookies should recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’ugah, “He who bestows pleasant fragrances in cake.”

However the Beis Yosef and other poskim disagree, contending that one does not recite a bracha before smelling bread or cake, pointing out that the Gemara and the early halachic sources never mention reciting a bracha before smelling bread. These poskim contend that we do not recite a bracha on smelling bread because its fragrance is not significant enough to warrant a bracha (Beis Yosef, Chapter 297).

This creates a predicament, since according to the “early poskim,” one may not smell bread without first reciting a bracha, whereas according to the Beis Yosef, reciting a bracha on its fragrance is a bracha recited in vain! The only way of resolving this predicament is by trying not to smell fresh bread, which is the conclusion reached by the Rama (216:14).

(Incidentally, the Rama’s ruling teaches a significant halacha about the rule of safek brachos li’kula, that we do not recite a bracha when in doubt. Although one may not recite a bracha when in doubt, one also may not smell a fragrance or taste a food without reciting the bracha because that would be benefiting from the world without a bracha. This halacha applies whenever someone has a doubt about reciting a bracha.)

The concept, introduced by the Beis Yosef, that one recites a bracha only on a significant fragrance is hard to define. What is considered significant? The following is an example in which poskim dispute whether a fragrance is considered significant.

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!

The Mishnah Berurah (216:16) rules that someone who smells fresh-roasted ground coffee should recite a bracha of Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros. However, the Kaf HaChayim (216:86), one of the great Sefardic poskim, rules that it is uncertain whether the fragrance of coffee is significant enough to warrant a bracha. Thus, most Sefardim will not recite a bracha prior to smelling fresh-roasted coffee, whereas those who follow the Mishnah Berurah would recite a bracha before smelling roasted coffee beans.

As we have discussed, although some poskim (Avudraham and Orchos Chayim) limit the bracha of Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros to fruits, other poskim contend that this bracha should be recited before smelling any fragrant food. This dispute influences the next discussion.

DO WE RECITE HANOSEIN REI’ACH TOV BA’PEIROS ON A FRAGRANT SEASONING?

The question here is what defines an edible fruit for the purposes of this bracha. Do we recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros only on fruit or do we recite it on any edible item? Furthermore, is a flavoring or seasoning considered a food for the purposes of this bracha or not?

Spices that are used to flavor but are themselves never eaten, such as bay leaves, are not considered a food. For this reason, there is no requirement to separate terumos and maasros on bay leaves even if they grew in Eretz Yisroel (Tosafos Yoma 81b; Derech Emunah, Terumos 2:3:32). A seasoning that is never eaten by itself, but is eaten when it is used to flavor, such as cinnamon, oregano, or cloves is questionable whether it is considered a food, and we separate terumos and maasros without a bracha; if eaten by itself, it does not recite a bracha of borei pri ha’eitz or borei pri ha’adamah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 202:16). What bracha do we recite before smelling a seasoning?

CINNAMON, SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE

What bracha does one recite before smelling cinnamon?

The Tur quotes a dispute between the Rosh, who contends that the bracha is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, and the Maharam, who contends that one should recite Borei atzei besamim. In the Rosh’s opinion, cinnamon should be treated as a food. Thus, we may assume that he contends that the bracha before smelling all spices is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, even though they are not eaten by themselves. We can also draw a conclusion from this Rosh that we recite the bracha Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros even on the bark of a tree that is eaten, such as cinnamon. Thus in his opinion, the word ba’peiros in the bracha should be translated as food rather than as fruit. (In truth, the word pri in the bracha Borei pri ha’adamah should also not be translated as fruit, since we recite it on stems, roots, and leaves when we eat celery, carrots, and lettuce.)

On the other hand, the Maharam contends that Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros is inappropriate, presumably because cinnamon is usually not eaten by itself. Alternatively, the Maharam may hold that Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros is inappropriate for cinnamon because it is a bark and not a fruit.

Either way, many Ashkenazi poskim rule it is a safek whether the bracha on cinnamon is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros or Borei atzei besamim and therefore one should recite borei minei besamim (Eliyah Rabbah 216:9; Mishnah Berurah 216:16). Many Sefardim recite Borei atzei besamim before smelling cinnamon (Yalkut Yosef 216:4). Everyone agrees that the bracha before smelling cinnamon leaf is Borei atzei besamim.

AND THE LEMON SMELLS SO SWEET!

But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat! Is the bracha before smelling a lemon Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros because it is after all a fruit, or do we recite a different bracha since it is too bitter to eat by itself?

Some poskim rule that one should recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros before smelling lemons (Ginas Veradim 1:42; Yalkut Yosef 216:7), whereas others contend that one should recited Borei minei besamim before smelling a lemon, treating the lemon as a safek as to whether it is considered a fruit or not (Ketzos Hashulchan 62:9 in Badei Hashulchan).

However, this latter opinion causes one to wonder why the bracha before smelling a lemon is different from the bracha before smelling an esrog? After all, the Gemara teaches that before smelling an esrog we recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, although an esrog is also too bitter to eat. Possibly, the esrogim in the days of Chazal were less bitter and were edible. This is implied by the Gemara (Sukkah 36b), which mentions that Rav Chanina took a bite out of his esrog, something difficult to imagine doing to a contemporary esrog.

An alternative approach is that an esrog is a fruit because it can be made edible by adding sugar. However according to this reason, a lemon should also be considered a fruit, since one can eat candied lemon, which I presume would require the bracha of Borei pri ha’eitz (Vezos Ha’beracha pg. 366). Similarly, some people eat the slice of lemon they used to season their tea, and lemon is also eaten as a pudding or pie filling. I presume that the bracha on these items when eaten alone would be Borei pri ha’eitz. The fact that lemon cannot be eaten unsweetened should not affect what bracha we recite before eating or smelling lemon just as the bracha before smelling fresh quince is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros even though it is also not edible raw.

Furthermore, we noted above that Chazal instituted the bracha Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros on fragrant fruits and foods because one cannot recite a bracha on them by calling them fragrances. Few people would describe lemon as a fragrance, but as a fruit.

Because of these reasons, I believe the bracha before smelling a lemon should be Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros, but I leave it for the individual to ask their rav a shaylah.

Incidentally, the correct bracha to recite before smelling citrus blossoms or flowers is Borei atzei besamim, since the flower is not edible.

As a side point, one should be very cautious about eating esrog today. Esrog is not a food crop and it is legal to spray the trees with highly toxic pesticides. Because of the rule of chamira sakanta mi’isurah (the halachos of danger are stricter than that of kashrus), I would paskin that it is prohibited to eat esrogim today unless the owner of the orchard will vouch for their safety. Thus, although Aunt Zelda may have a great recipe for making esrog jam, substitute lemon or lime instead. Incidentally, the bracha on eating lemon jam should be Borei pri ha’eitz, which is additional evidence that the bracha before smelling a lemon is Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros.

There is a major shaylah in halacha whether one may smell one’s esrog and hadasim during Sukkos. I have written a separate article on this subject.

EATING AND SMELLING A FRUIT

If I am eating a fragrant fruit, do I recite a bracha before I smell it even though I am not deliberately trying to?

One does not recite the bracha on fragrance if one is picking up the fruit to eat and happens to smell it at the same time (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 216:2). However, if one intends both to smell the food and also to eat it, then it would seem to be a question of dispute whether one should recites both brachos, Borei pri ha’eitz and Hanosein Rei’ach Tov ba’peiros. This issue is dependent on a dispute between poskim whether one recites a bracha on a fragrant item that is intended to be used for another purpose. I analyzed this subject in a different article in which I discussed when one should not recite a bracha before smelling a fragrance.

WHICH BRACHA SHOULD I RECITE FIRST?

The poskim disagree as to whether one should first recite the bracha on eating the fruit because one gains a more significant benefit than from smelling it (Olas Tamid), or whether one should first recite the bracha on smelling it, since one will smell the fruit before he eats it (Eliyahu Rabbah 216:6). The Mishnah Berurah (216:10) rules that one should recite the bracha on smelling the fruit first, although he also cites another suggestion: have in mind not to benefit from the fragrance until after one has recited the bracha on eating it and has tasted the fruit. Then, recite Hanosein rei’ach tov ba’peiros and benefit from the fragrance.

Many poskim state that the custom today is to not make a bracha on smelling a fruit unless it has a pronounced aroma (see Vezos Haberacha pg. 174). For this reason some hold that one should not make a bracha when smelling an apple since apples are often not that fragrant, but one could recite a bracha when smelling guava which is usually much more aromatic. (However, note that Rambam and Mishnah Berurah [216:8] mentions reciting a bracha before smelling an apple, although it is possible that the apples they had were more fragrant than ours.)

The Gemara (Berachos 43b) teaches “How do we know that one must recite a bracha on a fragrance, because the pasuk (Tehillim 150:6) says, ‘Every neshamah praises Hashem,’ – What exists in the world that the soul benefits from, but not the body? Only fragrance.”

Although the sense of smell provides some physical pleasure, it provides no nutritional benefit. Thus, smell represents an interface of the spiritual with the physical. Similarly, we find that we are to offer korbanos as rei’ach nicho’ach, a fragrance demonstrating one’s desire to be close to Hashem. We should always utilize our abilities to smell fragrant items as a stepping stone towards greater mitzvah observance and spirituality.

The author acknowledges the tremendous assistance provided by Rabbi Shmuel Silinsky for the horticultural information used in researching this article.

The Whys, Hows, and Whats of Eruv Tavshillin

clip_image002Although it is still a week and a half before our "three-day" Yom Tov, I thought it was a good time to understand some common and interesting Eruv Tavshilin shaylos.

Question #1:

Avrumie, who studies in a local yeshiva, asks me: “I will be eating my Yom Tov meals as a guest in different homes. Do I need to make my own eruv tavshillin?”

Question #2:

Michal and Muttie are spending Rosh Hashanah near his Yeshiva and are invited out for all the meals. They have found an available apartment for Yom Tov, but do not intend to use the kitchen there at all. Someone told Muttie that, although he should make an eruv tavshillin, he should not recite a bracha when doing so. Is this the correct procedure?

Answer:

In order to reply accurately to the above inquiries we need to investigate several aspects of this mitzvah that the Sages implemented – particularly, the whys, hows, and whats of eruv tavshillin.

WHY DO WE MAKE AN ERUV TAVSHILLIN?

Although one may cook on Yom Tov, one may only prepare food for consumption on that Yom Tov. There is, however, one exceptional situation — one may cook on a Friday Yom Tov for Shabbos, but only if one makes an eruv tavshillin the day before Yom Tov.

WHAT IS THE RECIPE FOR PRODUCING AN ERUV TAVSHILLIN?

It is fairly easy to make an eruv tavshillin:

1. INGREDIENTS

On Erev Yom Tov, set aside two prepared foods, one cooked and one baked, that one is not planning to eat on Yom Tov. Many people use a hard-boiled egg for the cooked item, but it is actually preferable to use something more significant (Mishnah Berurah 527:8).

(2. Someone who includes people outside his family in his eruv, such as the rav of a community, adds an additional step at this point: He has someone who does not usually eat with him, whom we will call the zo’che, lift the food used for the eruv tavshillin four inches or more. By lifting the food, the zo’che acquires ownership in the eruv for those who will forget to make an eruv tavshillin. The zo’che then returns the food to the rav [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 527:10- 12 and commentaries]. I will soon explain what the zo’che’s involvement accomplishes.)

3. PROCEDURE

One then holds the eruv tavshillin, recites a bracha, Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam asher ki’deshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu al mitzvas eruv, and declares:

This eruv permits us to bake, cook, wrap food to keep it hot, to kindle lights, and make all other food preparations on Yom Tov for Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 527:12).

(4. Those who include other people in their eruv, add the following clause to this declaration:

For ourselves and for all others who dwell in this city.)

5. INSTRUCTIONS

The foods that have now become the eruv tavshillin should not be consumed until one has completed all the Shabbos preparations.

6. YIELD

The eruv tavshillin allows the members of this household to prepare food for Shabbos. The rav’s eruv tavshillin will allow others who forgot to prepare food, subject to the details we will soon learn.

WHAT DO I DO WITH THE ERUV?

After one has completed preparing everything for Shabbos, there is no requirement to do anything with the eruv, although it is preferable to use the challah as the second loaf for the first two meals of Shabbos and to eat the entire eruv tavshillin as part of the third meal of Shabbos (seudah shelishis) in order to use the mitzvah item (that is, the eruv tavshillin) for other mitzvos, in this case the three Shabbos meals (see Mishnah Berurah 527:48). (For the same reason, many set aside the lulav and hoshanas after Sukkos to use as fuel for baking matzos or burning the chometz.)

If someone mistakenly ate the eruv tavshillin before Shabbos, one may continue the Shabbos preparations as long as at least an olive-sized piece of the cooked item remains, even if the entire baked item was consumed. However, if less than an olive-sized piece of the cooked item remains, one may no longer continue cooking especially for Shabbos, and should ask a shaylah how to proceed (Shulchan Aruch 527:15).

FORGOT TO MAKE AN ERUV

Someone who fails to make an eruv tavshillin may not cook or bake on Yom Tov for Shabbos, and needs to ask a shaylah how to prepare his Shabbos meals (see Shulchan Aruch 527:20- 22). The Rishonim dispute whether he may kindle lights on Yom Tov for Shabbos when he has no eruv tavshillin (Shulchan Aruch 527:19). This dispute will soon become significant to our discussion.

WHY DOES THE RAV INCLUDE OTHER PEOPLE IN HIS ERUV?

As mentioned above, someone who did not make an eruv tavshillin may not cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos. The Gemara narrates the following story:

Shmuel saw that someone was very sad on Yom Tov and asked him why. The man responded, “Because I neglected to make an eruv tavshillin, and therefore I will be unable to cook for Shabbos.” Shmuel explained that the man could rely on Shmuel’s eruv tavshillin.

The next year Yom Tov once more fell on Friday. Shmuel again noticed that the man was sad, and again the man mentioned that he had forgotten to make an eruv tavshillin. However, this time Shmuel advised him that since he had repeated the negligence, he may not rely upon Shmuel’s eruv (Beitzah 16b).

We see that the rav should include everyone in his city in his eruv tavshillin, lest someone forget to make an eruv, although everyone is required to create his/her own (Shulchan Aruch 527:7).

WHY DOES THE RAV HAND HIS ERUV TO SOMEONE ELSE?

A person must own or be a partner in the eruv tavshillin with which he fulfills this mitzvah. An eruv tavshillin automatically includes all regular members of this household, but how does it include other people? Having someone pick up the eruv tavshillin on their behalf makes them partial owners in this eruv tavshillin.

MUST I MAKE AN ERUV?

At this point, we can begin to analyze the two questions I mentioned at the beginning of the article. Let us begin by rephrasing Avrumie’s question: “I will be eating my Yom Tov meals as a guest. Do I make an eruv tavshillin?”

Avrumie, Michal, and Muttie will not be cooking on Yom Tov; does that exempt them from eruv tavshillin, or must they make one anyway? Is eruv tavshillin merely a license to cook for Shabbos on Yom Tov and therefore someone not preparing food has no need for one, or is there a rabbinic requirement to make an eruv tavshillin even when one will not be cooking? Avrumie will not be preparing food for Shabbos, whereas Michal will only be kindling the Shabbos lights. I will discuss soon whether this distinction affects our question. In the interim, I will discuss Avrumie’s situation by presenting two differing ways of understanding the function of eruv tavshillin, that I will describe as (A) matir, license or (B) chovah, obligation.

A. Matir

According to this approach, eruv tavshillin functions solely to permit one to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, so that one who is not planning to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos has no requirement to make an eruv tavshillin. This opinion compares eruv tavshillin to the mitzvah of shechitah. One is not required to shecht an animal; however, someone interested in converting a bird or animal into food must perform shechitah to make it kosher. Thus, shechitah is a matir; it permits one to eat the meat, but one is not required to shecht an animal if one does not want to eat it. Similarly, eruv tavshillin permits one to cook for Shabbos, but one who does not intend to cook does not need to make an eruv.

Those following this approach will note that the other types of eruv (eruvei chatzeiros and eruvei techumim) are both types of matir that permit either carrying or traveling that is otherwise prohibited, and may question why eruv tavshillin should be any different.

According to this approach, Avrumie has no need for an eruv tavshillin since he has no intention to cook for Shabbos. We will discuss shortly whether Michal’s kindling requires her to make an eruv tavshillin.

B. Chovah

On the other hand, one could argue that eruv tavshillin is different from the other two types of eruv, and is an obligatory act. This approach understands that Chazal created a rabbinic mitzvah requiring each individual or family to make an eruv tavshillin even if there is no intention to cook or bake on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Why should eruv tavshillin be different from the other types of eruv? To answer this question we need to explain the reason for the rabbinic mitzvah called eruv tavshillin.

WHAT IS THE REASON FOR ERUV TAVSHILLIN?

Why did Chazal establish this mitzvah? The Gemara records a dispute why Chazal introduced eruv tavshillin: Was it for the sake of honoring Shabbos, or for the sake of honoring Yom Tov (Beitzah 15b)?

A. For Shabbos

According to the first opinion, that of Rava, Chazal instituted eruv tavshillin to guarantee that one not become so involved in the Yom Tov feasting that one forgets to prepare proper meals for Shabbos. The eruv tavshillin therefore serves as a red “flag”: “Don’t forget to also produce delicious repasts for Shabbos!”

B. For Yom Tov

The other approach, that of Rav Ashi, contends that eruv tavshillin reinforces the sanctity of Yom Tov by emphasizing that without the eruv tavshillin one may not cook on Yom Tov, even for Shabbos. A person thereby realizes: if cooking for Shabbos (on Yom Tov) is forbidden without an eruv tavshillin, certainly one may not prepare food on Yom Tov for a subsequent weekday!

How does this dispute affect Avrumie, Michal and Muttie?

The basis for treating eruv tavshillin as a chovah, an obligation, and not merely a matir, is Rava’s opinion that eruv tavshillin’s purpose is to guarantee that one celebrates Shabbos properly. In other words, eruv tavshillin is to remind us to cook for Shabbos. Clearly, this is not a matir, but a chovah. In Rava’s opinion, eruv tavshillin is similar to the rabbinic requirement of kindling lights before Shabbos to ensure that one does not sit in the dark. Even someone who enjoys sitting in the dark is required to kindle lights before Shabbos since this is not a matir but a chovah. Thus, according to Rava, Avrumie must make an eruv tavshillin (or be included in someone else’s), even though he has no intention to cook, because eruv tavshillin is a requirement that Chazal placed on every individual to remind him to prepare appropriate meals for Shabbos.

DO WE FOLLOW RAVA’S APPROACH?

However, the halacha does not follow Rava’s opinion, but Rav Ashi’s position that the purpose of eruv tavshillin is for Yom Tov’s honor. As noted above, Rav Ashi contended that the reason for eruv tavshillin is to guarantee that people realize that Yom Tov is so holy that one may not cook on it for afterwards. According to this approach, one could argue that eruv tavshillin is simply a matir but that one who does not intend to cook for Shabbos need not make an eruv tavshillin, since if one is not cooking for Shabbos, it is unlikely that he will cook for the weekdays after Shabbos.

On the other hand, the usual halachic assumption is that when the Gemara quotes two disputing opinions, the disagreement only concerns the one point mentioned and no other issues. Thus, once we have demonstrated that Rava contends that eruv tavshillin is mandatory, we should conclude either one of the following two points:

1. That the issue of whether eruv tavshillin is a matir or a chovah is itself the focal point of the dispute between Rav Ashi and Rava.

2. That Rav Ashi and Rava agree that eruv tavshillin is mandatory and not merely a matir.

The difficulty with the first approach is that we see no evidence that Rav Ashi considers eruv tavshillin to be only a matir. On the contrary, the Gemara maintains that the dispute between Rav Ashi and Rava is whether eruv tavshillin is for the honor of Yom Tov or of Shabbos. Since Rava must maintain that eruv tavshillin is a chovah, and the dispute between them concerns only whether eruv tavshillin is for the honor of Yom Tov or of Shabbos, we should infer that Rav Ashi agrees that eruv tavshillin is a chovah. This analysis would conclude that Avrumie, Michal and Muttie are all required to make an eruv tavshillin. However, notwithstanding this analysis, I have found no early source who states that eruv tavshillin is obligatory for someone who has no need to cook for Shabbos.

LITERATURE

Having discussed whether eruv tavshillin is a matir or a chovah we can now research whether the halachic literature produces any evidence supporting either side of this question. Analysis of the position of one recognized halachic authority demonstrates that he felt that eruv tavshillin is a matir, not a chovah.

A respected commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, the Maamar Mordechai (527:18), discusses the exact issue that I posed as Michal’s shaylah:

Someone will not be cooking or baking on Yom Tov for Shabbos, but will need to kindle lights immediately before the entry of Shabbos. Does this person recite a bracha prior to making his/her eruv tavshillin?

The background to his question is the dispute of the Rishonim whether a person may kindle lights for Shabbos even if he did not make an eruv tavshillin. In other words, some Rishonim hold that an eruv tavshillin is not only necessary to permit cooking on Yom Tov, but it is also necessary to permit any preparations for Shabbos.

The Maamar Mordechai rules that since many authorities contend that kindling lights for Shabbos does not require an eruv tavshillin, someone not intending to cook for Shabbos should make an eruv tavshillin without reciting a bracha.

Implicit in the Maamar Mordechai’s conclusion is that the purpose of eruv tavshillin is exclusively to permit cooking and baking on Yom Tov, and there is no independent requirement to make an eruv tavshillin. If the Maamar Mordechai felt that eruv tavshillin is a chovah and not merely a matir, the dispute whether one can kindle lights without an eruv tavshillin is irrelevant to whether one recites a bracha or not. Whether one needs the eruv tavshillin or not, one would recite a bracha for performing the mitzvah that Chazal instituted! Thus, the Maamar Mordechai clearly holds that eruv tavshillin is only a matir, and that one recites the bracha only if the matir is required.

However, the Maamar Mordechai’s ruling is not obvious, even assuming that eruv tavshillin is only a matir and not a chovah. It is possible that one should recite a bracha on making the eruv tavshillin even if he has no intention to cook on Yom Tov, since the eruv permits him to cook should he choose to. Thus, the eruv tavshillin fulfilled its role as a matir in permitting him to cook, and for that alone he should be able to recite a bracha even if he has no intention to cook. Yet the Maamar Mordechai values the eruv tavshillin only if one intends to use it, whereas if one does not intend to use it, it is considered purposeless and warrants no bracha. Thus, according to the Maamar Mordechai, Michal and Muttie should make an eruv tavshillin without a bracha.

I was asked this exact shaylah once when the first day of Pesach occurred on Thursday. Those of us who live in Eretz Yisrael had no mitzvah of eruv tavshillin since, for us, Friday was not Yom Tov. However, we (my family) had several guests for Yom Tov who live in chutz la’aretz and observe two days of Yom Tov even while visiting Eretz Yisroel. For them, it was prohibited to cook on Yom Tov without an eruv tavshillin. I suggested that they make an eruv tavshillin with a bracha, but out of deference to the opinion of the Maamar Mordechai, instructed that those reciting a bracha should participate in the cooking for Shabbos that will transpire on Yom Tov at least in a small way. Of course, I suggest that those of you faced with the same shaylah as Avrumie, Michal or Muttie ask your own rav for direction. I would be curious to know whether he agreed with me and, if not, for what reason?

THE HASHKAFAH OF PREPARING FOOD ON YOM TOV

The Torah refers to the Yomim Tovim as Moed. Just as the word ohel moed refers to the tent in the desert which served as a meeting place between Hashem and the Jewish people, so too, a moed is a meeting time between Hashem and the Jewish people (Hirsch, Vayikra 23:3 and Horeb). Unlike Shabbos, when we refrain from all melacha activity, on Yom Tov the Torah permitted melacha activity that enhances the celebration of the Yom Tov as a Moed. Permitting the preparations of delicious, freshly prepared meals allows an even greater celebration of this unique meeting time with Hashem.

Make Our Mitzvos Count!

 

clip_image002Since many have the custom of studying the 613 mitzvos on Shavuos, I will address this topic:

We all know that the Torah contains 613 Mitzvos. However, most of us are unaware of the vast literature that debates, disputes and categorizes what exactly comprises these 613 Mitzvos, and the halachic ramifications resulting from these discussions. I will simply note that counting every time the Torah says to do or not to do something, will result in thousands of Mitzvos. Aren’t we shortchanging ourselves by limiting our mitzvah count to 613? Since the Mishnah (at the end of Makkos) states: Hashem wanted to provide Israel with much merit and therefore, provided them with much Torah and many Mitzvos, why do we limit the count to 613?

Why 613?

What is the source for the count of 613 Mitzvos?

The Gemara teaches: Rav Simla’i explained: “Moshe Rabbeinu was taught 613 Mitzvos, 365 negative Mitzvos equal to the number of days of the solar year, and 248 positive Mitzvos, corresponding to a man’s number of ‘limbs.’Rav Hamnuna said: “What verse teaches this to us: ‘Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morashah kehilas Yaakov’ Moshe taught us the Torah, which is an inheritance of the community descended from Yaakov. The Gematriya (numerical value) of the word Torah equals 611, and two Mitzvos of Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihyeh Lecha were taught to us directly by Hashem” (Makkos 23b).

Thus we now know that we have 613 counted Mitzvos, and yet there are thousands of places that the Torah commands us what to do. Obviously, some of the Torah’s commandments are not counted, but which ones? And why should the Gemara not want to count them? This question led many early authorities to calculate exactly what is exactly included in the 613 Mitzvos and thereby understand what the Gemara means. Several Geonim and Rishonim authored works that list the 613 Mitzvos of the Torah, and no two lists are the same. As a matte of fact, there are major disputes among the early authorities what are the rules that govern what we include in the count of the 613 mitzvos.

The Sefer Hachinuch

Most of us are familiar with the listing of the 613 Mitzvos of the Sefer Hachinuch. Actually, this author did not develop his own list of 613 Mitzvos, as he mentions himself several times in his work. He followed the calculation of the Rambam, who wrote a large work on the subject called Sefer HaMitzvos, which includes both the rules of when to count something as a mitzvah, and a list of the 248 Mitzvos aseh and the 365 Mitzvos lo saaseh, organized in a logical pattern.

Chronology versus Logic

The Sefer Hachinuch reorganized the Rambam’s list, numbering each mitzvah according to its first appearance in the Torah. Thus, the first mitzvah of the Torah, Pru Urvu, producing children, which is mentioned in Parshas Bereishis, is the first mitzvah; Bris Milah, mentioned in parshas Lech Lecha is counted as the second mitzvah, and Gid Hanasheh, taught in Parshas Vayishlach, completes the three Mitzvos mentioned in Sefer Bereishis. Parshas Bo contains a total of twenty Mitzvos, reflecting its significance as the first parsha in which Hashem directly commanded Mitzvos to the Jewish people, as Rabbi Yitzchak noted in the Midrash Rashi quotes in his opening words of his commentary to Chumash.

What Counts as a Mitzvah?

In the first section of the Sefer HaMitzvos, the Rambam details the rules that he used to determine what qualifies as a “mitzvah” in the count of 613. He establishes 14 rules, which include:

No Rabbinics

I. Any mitzvah that is only miderabbanan is not counted among the 613 Mitzvos. This rule may seem obvious since the Gemara is calculating the 613 Mitzvos that Hashem commanded us, and not those later added by the Sages. However, one of the greatest of the Geonim, the author of the Baal Halachos Gedolos, counts many Mitzvos derabbanan in his list of the 613, including kindling Ner Chanukah, reading Megillah on Purim, and Reciting Hallel. How could the Baal Halachos Gedolos include these in his list of Mitzvos that Hashem commanded us?

The Ramban, in his exhaustive commentary to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos, provides two answers:

A. There is an alternative text to the Gemara in Makkos, which reads, “The Jewish people are commanded 613 Mitzvos.” According to this wording, the Gemara there cites a Biblical verse not to imply that we derive these 613 Mitzvos from the Torah, but merely as a mnemonic device (based on the Gematriya of the word Torah) to remind us that there are a total of 613 Mitzvos of both Torah and rabbinical sources.

B. The Ramban contends that even the text of the Gemara that I quoted earlier, which states that Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded 611 Mitzvos, does not present an obstacle to the Behag’s approach, and could include Mitzvos introduced by Chazal. The Ramban cites many places where even though the Gemara states that “The Torah required…” or “Hashem said…” the statement refers to a rabbinic command, not a Torah requirement. In his opinion, Chazal used this terminology even in the context of Rabbinic requirements, since the Torah requires us to observe the Mitzvos that Chazal commanded.

Thus, although the Rambam insists that there are 613 Mitzvos that Hashem commanded the Jewish people, and his opinion is accepted by most authorities, there are substantive Torah leaders who understand that this list also includes Mitzvos introduced by the Sages.

Dispute the Rules

In addition to the above dispute, there are other authorities who disagree with almost all of the other thirteen rules that the Rambam used to define the Mitzvos. Nevertheless, since the Jewish people have come to accept the Rambam’s and Chinuch’s count of the Mitzvos, it is important for us to know and understand these rules.

II. Only What the Torah Says

The Rambam’s second rule is to not count any mitzvah that is derived hermeneutically, through a drasha, but only mitzvos that are mentioned outright in the Torah. Therefore, says the Rambam, we do not list the requirements to treat one’s stepfather or stepmother with appropriate respect as separate mitzvos, since these requirements are derived from the extra word es. Instead, these are included under the mitzvah of respecting one’s parents. Indeed, if we begin including these requirements as separate mitzvos, the list would be far greater than 613. Similarly, the Rambam rules not to count Visiting the Sick (Bikkur Cholim) or Comforting Mourners (Nichum Aveilim), as separate mitzvos, but includes them under the Torah’s mitzvah of emulating Hashem by acting in ways that imitate His acts of kindness.

III. Mitzvos are Forever!

One only counts a mitzvah that is everlasting, and not a mitzvah that is inherently temporary. For example, we do not count that a Levi may not serve in the Mishkan past his fiftieth birthday as one of the 613 commandments since this rule applied only in the Desert and not afterwards.

The reason for not counting these commandments is that the 613 Mitzvos bond an eternal relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people, and as such apply only to mitzvos that apply forever. However, many mitzvos unapplicable today due to the absence of the Beis Hamikdash still count in the list of 613. This is because these mitzvos are eternal commandments that are temporarily beyond our ability to observe.

IV. Torah, but Not the Whole Torah!

One should not count as part of the 613 any command that includes observing the entire Torah. For example, the Torah states: Be careful concerning all that I am telling you (Shemos 23:13) and Guard my decrees and observe my judgments (Vayikra 18:4). These and other similar statements are not counted among the 613 mitzvos. The Rambam explains that each of the 613 Mitzvos involves a different mode of developing our relationship with Hashem, while a pasuk that instructs to keep all the mitzvos is not indicating any specific way to grow.

V. No Reasons!

In the instances when the Torah provided a reason to observe a mitzvah, we do not count the reason as a separate mitzvah. Although these reasons are significant in understanding both our relationship with Hashem and why we observe His mitzvos, they do not obligate any additional actions with which to deepen our relationship with Hashem.

VI. Yes and No

When there are two commands pursuant to an activity, one a positive command (mitzvas aseh) and the other a negative mitzvah (mitzvas lo saaseh), we count the mitzvah twice, once among the 248 Mitzvos aseh and once among the 365 Mitzvos lo saaseh. There are numerous examples of this: For example, there is a positive mitzvah, “to keep Shabbos,” and a negative mitzvah, “not to perform melachah on Shabbos.” The situation is repeated concerning the observance of all the Yomim Tovim (seven times, or 14 more mitzvos), afflicting ourselves on Yom Kippur (which has both a positive and a negative commandment), and regarding all korbanos being salted before placing them on the mizbeiach (which also has a lo saaseh, Do not place unsalted korbanos on the mizbeiach).

VII. Details, Details

Details about when a mitzvah applies and how to fulfill it do not count as separate mitzvos. For example, for certain sins the Torah requires an atoning korban that has a sliding scale: a wealthy person offers an animal, a pauper offers only a grain offering, and someone in-between offers a dove or pigeon. All this counts as only one mitzvah, although there are many different ways of accomplishing it. Here again, there is one mitzvah that develops our relationship with Hashem, although depending on one’s financial circumstances, there are different ways to perform it. Dividing this into several mitzvos would send an erroneous message.

VIII. Not Every “No,” means “No!

There are instances where even though a verse might seem to be forbidding something, a careful reading of the verse indicates that the Torah is merely stating that something will not happen or does not need to be performed. Obviously, these instances do not qualify as mitzvos. For example, the Torah says that no prophet will arise who will be like Moshe. Although the wording of the Torah, Lo kam od navi kemoshe, might be read to mean, “No prophet should arise like Moshe,” which implies that we are commanded to make sure this does not happen, the translation of the verse is actually a prophetic Divine statement: “No prophet will arise like Moshe.” Thus, this verse is not a directive and does not count as a commandment.

IX. Five times One equals One.

When the Torah repeats a mitzvah many times, one does not count each time as a separate mitzvah, but we count it as one mitzvah. Therefore, although the Torah prohibits eating blood on several occasions, it counts as only one of the 613 mitzvos. As a result, in the Rambam’s opinion, someone who violates this prohibition is punished only as if he violated one lo saaseh, and not many.

According to this approach, when two similar mitzvos lo saaseh or two similar mitzvos aseh are both counted as mitzvos, this must be because one mitzvah is more comprehensive than the other is. Otherwise, this mitzvah would not be counted more than once.

Here is an example:

The Rambam counts two different mitzvos against owning chometz on Pesach, bal yera’eh, that chometz should not be seen, and bal yematzei, that chometz should not be found. Why does he count both of these mitzvos, whereas he counts only one mitzvah not to eat blood?

The answer is that these two mitzvos are not identical: bal yematzei includes cases that are not included under bal ye’ra’eh. Specifically, someone who buried chometz on his property does not violate bal ye’ra’eh, since the chometz cannot be seen. However, he does violate bal yematzei since the chometz can be found.

This distinction not only affects whether this mitzvah is counted once or twice among the 613, but also has other halachic ramifications. Someone who purchased chometz or mixed dough and allowed it to rise on Pesach thereby violates two different prohibitions. Since these prohibitions count as two separate mitzvos, the violater is punished for two different violations.

X. Prelimary Steps do not a Mitzvah Make

Preliminary steps involved in the performance of a mitzvah are not counted as a mitzvah on their own. For example, one does not count the statement that one should take flour to bring a korban mincha, a grain offering, as a mitzvah on its own. It is simply one stage in the performance of the mitzvah.

XI. Part of a Mitzvah is Equal to None

There are mitzvos in which several items are involved in successfully performing one mitzvah, such as taking the four species on Sukkos. The Rambam points out that one counts the taking of the four species as one mitzvah, not as four separate mitzvos, since taking each of them without the others, or even three without the fourth, does not execute any mitzvah.

XII. Completing one Part of a Mitzvah

Some mitzvos involve the successful completion of several other commandments, such as, the mitzvah to build the Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash, which involves the completion of many of the vessels, including the Menorah, the Shulchan, and the Altar. Each of these independent mitzvos is not counted separately: Since the purpose of all of them is the creation of the Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash, they are all included under the one mitzvah of building Hashem’s “house.”

XIII. Many Days are not Many Mitzvos

If a mitzvah persists for several days, one counts the mitzvah only once. It is interesting that the Rambam counts offering the Korban Musaf on Sukkos as only one mitzvah, even though the number of its bulls changes daily.

Included in this rule is that a mitzvah observed more than once a day is counted only once. Therefore, reciting Keriyas Shma every morning and evening is counted as only one mitzvah (Kinas Sofrim).

XIV. Punishments are not Mitzvos

When the Torah describes the punishment for violating a specific mitzvah, we do not count that punishment as a separate mitzvah in its own right.

Although almost every one of the Rambam’s rules has its disputants, this last rule is interesting because it entails a major dispute between the Geonim’s approach to counting mitzvos and the list of the Rambam. Several of the Geonim listed the 613 Mitzvos, and they counted everytime the Torah mentions a punishment for violating a certain command as a separate mitzvah. This is because the individual’s command not to violate this prohibition of the Torah counts as a mitzvah, and the Beis Din’s instruction to mete out a specific punishment to those who violate this prohibition is counted as a separate mitzvah. This understanding of the Mitzvos creates a list of 71 Mitzvos of the Torah that apply to the Beis Din.

As mentioned above, the Rambam disputes this approach and counts simply five Mitzvos for the Beis Din to fulfill, one for each of the four types of capital punishment Beis Din carries out, and one for malkus, lashes.

Other Lists

Among those who did not follow the Rambam fully, the one closest to the Rambam’s count of the 613 Mitzvos was Rav Moshe of Coucy, one of the Baalei Tosafos, whose magnum opus, the Sefer HaMitzvos HaGadol (often abbreviated to Smag) is a compendium of all the halachic conclusions of the Gemara, with a full analysis of the author’s decision, organized according to the list of the 613 Mitzvos. Although the book is not commonly studied today, and it is never used as the final halachic decision, at one time it was the major decisor of halachah for Ashkenazic Jewry.

What is interesting is that although he also organized the mitzvos in a logical fashion, similar to the approach of the Rambam, his list is in a very different order from that of the Rambam. Nevertheless, his count is so similar to the Rambam that in his list of 248 positive mitzvos, he agrees with the Rambam on 245 of them.

His extra three, which the Rambam does not count, include:

To accept Hashem’s judgment on anything that happens. Whereas the Smag counts this as one of the 613 Mitzvos, deriving it from a pasuk, the Rambam does not count this as one of the 613 Mitzvos.

The Smag counts one of the 613 mitzvos — calculating seasons and the heavenly bodies to know how to determine the Jewish calendar. The Rambam mentions in his second rule that one should not count this as a separate mitzvah, because it is derived from a drasha. The Smag does not accept this rule.

The Third Smag Addition:

The Smag counts as a mitzvah: To distance oneself from falsehood. I admit to having no idea why the Rambam does not count this as a mitzvah. He includes all the laws of the mitzvah under the mitzvas lo saaseh of “Do not bear a false story,” a lo saaseh that includes the laws of saying loshon hora. However, as we mentioned earlier, the Rambam contends that one counts overlapping mitzvos aseh and lo saaseh separately, so why does he omit the count of this mitzvah?

In conclusion, we have seen that much halachic literature is devoted to counting and understanding the various counts of the the 613 Mitzvos. Some people have the practice of reviewing the mitzvos that are included in the week’s Torah reading at the Shabbos table, a minhag that is not only praiseworthy, but also familiarizes us with all the 613 Mitzvos.

Hatzalah and Radios

clip_image002In a different article, I explained that one must desecrate Shabbos even if there is only a slight possibility of pikuach nefesh, a life-threatening emergency. One does not need a professional opinion that the situation is dangerous – on the contrary, if a lay person is uncertain whether the situation is dangerous or not, one desecrates Shabbos first and asks questions later (Shu”t Tashbeitz 1:54). Furthermore, the rav of a community and the halachic media are responsible to publicly teach these halachos so that people know them thoroughly. If people ask what to do, it indicates that the rav has been negligent in teaching these halachos (Yerushalmi, Yoma 8:5 and Korban HaEidah ad loc.). To quote Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 328:2): “It is a mitzvah to desecrate Shabbos for a dangerous illness. He who does so swiftly is praised; the person who asks what to do is a shedder of blood!” Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 328:13) reiterates, “Whoever is swift in desecrating Shabbos in a matter that involves danger is praised!

Please note that this rule applies equally on weekdays! If someone is uncertain whether a particular situation is life threatening or not, he/she must immediately seek proper medical attention. Delaying might be bloodshed!

This is the basic reason for the creation of Hatzalah; experience has proven that those motivated to save lives because of their devotion to mitzvos act much swifter and more devotedly than official emergency squads. Those curious to research Rav Moshe Feinstein’s instructions to Hatzalah will enjoy reading Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:80 and 5:25.

THE HATZALAH RADIO ON SHABBOS

As mentioned above, in every situation of pikuach nefesh one is required to act as swiftly as possible to save lives. Therefore someone responding to a call that might involve a life threatening situation must bring along his radio in case he needs to summon an ambulance or other assistance. The question that we are discussing here is whether one may carry or wear a Hatzalah radio when no emergency exists in order to be available should the need arise. This involves shaylos of muktzah and carrying on Shabbos.

IS A RADIO MUKTZAH? MAY ONE CARRY IT ON SHABBOS?

Of course, everyone’s immediate reaction is, “Of course, a radio is muktzah and may not be moved on Shabbos.” However, although it is definitely true that one may not move a radio on Shabbos for no purpose; carrying a Hatzalah radio may be permitted on Shabbos as I will explain. To understand this question, we first need an introduction to the basic laws of muktzah.

THE ORIGINS OF MUKTZAH

In the period of the construction of the second Beis HaMikdash, Nechemiah noticed that many Jews were extremely lax in Shabbos observance. In his own words, “In those days, I saw people in Judea operating their winepresses on Shabbos and loading their harvest on donkeys; and also their wine, grapes, and figs and all other burdens; and transporting them to Yerushalayim on Shabbos… the Tyrians would bring fish and other merchandize and sell them to the Jews” (Nechemiah 13:15-16). Nechemiah then describes how he succeeded in closing the city gates the entire Shabbos in order to keep the markets closed.

To strengthen Shabbos observance, Nechemiah established very strict rules concerning which utensils one may move on Shabbos. These rules form the foundation of the halachos of muktzah (Gemara Shabbos 123b). Initially, he prohibited using and moving virtually all utensils, excluding basic eating appliances such as table knives. We will call this Nechemiah’s “Original Takanah.” By prohibiting the moving of items even indoors he reinforced the strictness of not carrying outdoors on Shabbos (Gemara Shabbos 124b; Raavad, Hilchos Shabbos 24:13). Furthermore, the laws of muktzah shield people from mistakenly performing forbidden activities with these tools. In addition, these laws create a Shabbos atmosphere that is qualitatively different from the rest of the week even for an individual whose daily life includes no manual activity (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 24:12-13).

As the Jews upgraded their Shabbos observance, Nechemiah gradually relaxed the rules of muktzah, permitting limited use of some tools on Shabbos. These were Nechemiah’s Second Takanah, Third Takanah, and Fourth Takanah, the details of which the Gemara discusses (Shabbos 123b). Eventually, Nechemiah established rules whereby one may move and use most utensils on Shabbos when necessary, whereas objects that one would never utilize on Shabbos remained prohibited (except for unusual circumstances such as danger). When discussing the halachos of muktzah as they apply today, I will refer to Nechemiah’s “Final Takanah.”

THE CATEGORIES OF MUKTZAH

Nechemiah’s Final Takanah established four distinct categories:

1. Non-muktzah: Items that one may move without any reason whatsoever. This category includes food, sifrei kodesh and, according to many authorities, tableware (Mishna Berurah 308:23) and clothing (see Shitah La’Ran, Shabbos 123b s.v. Barishonah). Nechemiah never included these items even in his original, very strict Takanah, because they are in constant use.

2. Kli she’me’lachto l’heter is a utensil whose primary use is permitted on Shabbos, such as a chair or pillow. One may move this utensil if one needs to use it, if it may become damaged, or if it is in the way. (The Gemara calls this last case l’tzorech m’komo, literally, to use its place.) I may not move a kli she’me’lachto l’heter without any reason or even to help me perform a task I could perform without any tool (Gemara Shabbos 124a; Shaar HaTziyun 308:13). (I find that people are often surprised to discover this halacha.)

3. Kli she’me’lachto l’issur is a tool whose primary use is forbidden on Shabbos, such as a hammer, saw, or needle. One may move these items only if they are in the way or if one has a Shabbos-appropriate purpose for them, such as using a hammer to crack open a coconut or a needle to remove a splinter (Mishnah Shabbos 122b and Gemara Shabbos 124a). (However, one should be careful not to intentionally cause bleeding [Magen Avraham 328:32; see also Biur Halacha 308:11] and one may not sterilize the needle first [see Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 12:1].) One may remove a kli she’me’lachto l’issur that was left on a table, counter, or chair, if one needs to put something else there. However, under normal circumstances, one may not move a kli she’me’lachto l’issur if one is concerned that it may become damaged where it was left. Nevertheless, if one knows that he will need to use a kli she’me’lachto l’issur later that day and is afraid that it will be stolen, broken or ruined and unusable by then, he may save it (Tehillah LeDavid 308:5). This is because making sure that it is available for later use is considered using it.

4. Completely Muktzah. These are items that one may not move at all under normal circumstances. For our purposes, we will subdivide this category into two general sub-categories:

4A: Items that do not qualify as utensils or food at all, such as money, living animals, sticks and stones.

4B: Utensils that one has no reason to move on Shabbos, such as merchandize that one intends to sell.

4C: A possible third category:

According to many authorities, another category of muktzah utensils includes utensils whose use is only for prohibited purposes on Shabbos. In other words, one may move a kli she’me’lachto l’issur only when this specific utensil has an occasional use that is permitted on Shabbos, such as a hammer, which someone might use to open a coconut, or a pot, which although primarily used to cook food, is also used to store food after it is cooked. However, some poskim prohibit moving a candle on Shabbos, although it is halachically considered a “utensil,” since it is not suitable for any permitted use on Shabbos at all. These poskim contend that this type of utensil is considered muktzah and may not be moved even if it is in the way (see Pri Megadim, Aishel Avraham 279:12; Aruch Hashulchan 279:1; based on Tosafos, Shabbos 36a s.v. Ha Rabbi Yehudah and Baal HaMaor, Shabbos 154b). However, other poskim consider a candle and any other utensil to not always be muktzah, contending it may be moved if it is in the way or it has a Shabbos purpose (Magen Avraham 308:18; based on Rashba, Shabbos 154b).

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN KLI SHE’ME’LACHTO L’HETER AND SHE’ME’LACHTO L’ISSUR

After Nechemiah’s later takanos, both kli she’me’lachto l’heter and kli she’me’lachto l’issur have an interesting status: sometimes they are muktzah and sometimes not, depending on why one wants to move them. Both a kli she’me’lachto l’issur and a kli she’me’lachto l’heter may be moved if one needs the use of the appliance.

There are several halachic differences between a kli she’me’lachto l’issur and a kli she’me’lachto l’heter, most of which are not germane to our discussion about Hatzalah radios. However, there is one halachic distinction that is germane, as we will see: One may carry a kli she’me’lachto l’heter early in the day even though he does not anticipate needing it until much later that day (Taz 308:2). This is considered as using the kli. On the other hand, a kli she’me’lachto l’issur may only be picked up when one actually needs to use it (with the exception of when one is concerned that it may be broken or stolen as I mentioned earlier).

WHAT IS A RADIO?

Having explained the different categories of muktzah, under which category does a Hatzalah radio fit?

Clearly it does not fit into the first category of items that are excluded from the laws of muktzah and may be moved without any reason.

One could conceivably categorize a Hatzalah radio under the category of items that have no purpose on Shabbos since a radio under normal non-pikuach nefesh circumstances is not used on Shabbos. One who holds this way would still permit carrying the radio when there is an emergency; the shaylah is only whether one may carry the radio when there is no emergency.

It is far more likely that we should consider a Hatzalah radio either kli she’me’lachto l’issur because its typical use is prohibited on Shabbos or as a kli she’me’lachto l’heter because realistically one may need it on Shabbos. (One might categorize a Hatzalah radio as similar to a bris milah knife, which is usually considered muktzah, yet many poskim rule that it is not muktzah if the mohel has a bris to perform on Shabbos.) I want to point out that according to both of these approaches, one may carry the Hatzalah radio when one may need to use it, and one may move it if it may become stolen or broken and he may need it later today.

Also, as all Hatzalah volunteers know, one may only use the radio on Shabbos when a potential pikuach nefesh emergency exists and only to the extent necessary for the emergency.

ANTICIPATING EMERGENCIES

Until this point I have been discussing to what extent the Hatzalah radio is muktzah. We have not yet discussed whether wearing the radio is considered carrying and therefore forbidden outside an eruv when no emergency exists. In a future article I hope to address the question of whether one may supersede violations of the Torah because of the possibility that a pikuach nefesh situation may develop. For now, we will simply analyze whether one may wear a Hatzalah radio in a place that is not enclosed by an eruv.

CARRYING THE RADIO ON SHABBOS WHERE THERE IS NO ERUV

The Mishnah (Shabbos 63a) records a dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and the Chachamim whether one may carry weapons on Shabbos when there is no pikuach nefesh to carry them. Rabbi Eliezer rules that a man may carry a weapon outside an eruv on Shabbos because he considers it a tachshit, decorative attire. Although weapons are not inherently nice looking, since men wear weapons as a sign of importance they are considered tachshitin. The Chachamim disagree, noting that in the days of Moshiach men will no longer ornament themselves with weapons; therefore, they are not inherently tachshitin (Gemara Shabbos 63a). The Chachamim rally support to their approach from a famous pasuk, “And they shall pound their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks (Yeshaya 2:4),” demonstrating that in the times of Moshiach weapons will be meaningless. If weapons were indeed tachshitin, men in the Moshiach era would not destroy them.

In a teshuvah addressed to Hatzalah, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:81), permits Hatzalah members to wear radios on Shabbos clipped to their belts. Rav Moshe contends that one sees from the above-quoted Gemara that an item might be a tachshit even though it is not a garment and has no real aesthetic function, but is worn to show prominence. Although the Chachamim disagreed with Rabbi Eliezer’s ruling that a weapon is a tachshit, this is because they proved from the pasuk that weapons do not show inherent importance since they will have no value after Moshiach. However, a different item that shows importance, or is an identification of one’s profession, is considered a tachshit and may be carried on Shabbos, even according to the Chachamim. Rav Moshe contends that the Hatzalah radio shows that the wearer is involved in this important mitzvah of saving lives and is a badge of honor; it therefore qualifies as a tachshit. Similarly, according to Rav Moshe, a physician or medical student may walk the streets with a stethoscope draped around his or her neck since it is a sign of that he/she is qualified to practice a well-respected profession.

Others disagree with Rav Moshe’s comparing the Hatzalah radio to a weapon, contending that a weapon is indeed sometimes worn as a tachshit, as in the wearing of a military dress uniform in which a sword is part of the attire. However, Hatzalah volunteers do not wear the radio as an ornament (Rav Shimon Schwab).

Some rabbonim suggested a different approach to transport the Hatzalah radio, by making it part of one’s functional garment. To fulfill this approach, a Shabbos belt was designed in which the radio actually held the belt together. When removed the belt would fall off; thus, these rabbonim hold that this is a permitted method of carrying the Hatzalah radio (Nishmas Avraham, 5:175).

Others feel that since the radio is not really usually part of the belt, but is a separate valuable piece of equipment, including it in a belt as described above does not make it part of the belt (Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth; see Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasah 18:33). They would require a different means of transporting a radio on Shabbos, although they may agree to Rav Moshe’s psak that it may be clipped in the normal fashion to one’s belt.

Thus, the result is that one chapter of Hatzalah allows, or even insists, that its members wear radios clipped in the usual fashion on Shabbos, whereas others may insist that their members wear their radios in a “Shabbos belt.” All rabbonim and chapters agree that when following up an emergency the Hatzalah volunteer may carry his radio and must do so if it is necessary for the emergency.

Certainly each Hatzalah chapter should follow the instructions of its local rabbonim. As I mentioned earlier, the critical point to remember when faced with a Shabbos emergency that is beyond one’s expertise is to act first and ask questions later, and follow the instructions of those who are more medically knowledgeable.

The author thanks his brother, Rav Yehoshua Kaganoff of Passaic, NJ, as the source for many of the halachic opinions quoted in this article.

Preparing Food on Yom Tov

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The Torah teaches that although most melachos are forbidden on Yom Tov, cooking and most other food preparation are permitted. Nevertheless, some types of food preparation are prohibited on Yom Tov, such as catching fish, picking fruit, and squeezing juice. Why are these activities different from cooking, kneading, and the other food preparatory activities that are permitted on Yom Tov?

To understand the answer to this question correctly, we must imagine ourselves preparing a meal in the days of Chazal: Refrigeration and most modern methods of preserving food do not exist, and preparing a festive meal requires baking and cooking on the day of the occasion. Although it may seem strange to us, even shechitah and soaking and salting the meat are performed the day the meal is served. Thus, the Torah permitted any activity necessary to prepare a meal that will be served on Yom Tov. It is even permitted to skin the hide off an animal that has been shechted on Yom Tov since one cannot remove the meat properly without first removing the hide.

However, some food preparatory activities are usually performed in advance of the day you intend to serve the meal. Even in earlier days, one did not begin preparing the day’s meal by catching fish. One who planned fish for dinner would catch or purchase the fish the day before, and then leave the fish in water until it was time to prepare it. Therefore, one may not fish on Yom Tov, even if you intend to fry fish for the day’s meal.

Similarly, fruits are usually picked and squeezed when they ripen, and then the juice or oil is stored. Thus, picking and squeezing fruit is not permitted on Yom Tov, even though they are steps in the preparation of food. Even picking or squeezing a small amount of fruit is prohibited, since usually these activities are performed in quantity and stored for a longer period of time.

In a like manner, the day one prepares a meal is not the time to begin grinding the wheat into flour, and it is certainly not the time to harvest the grain or to thresh it. At an earlier date, one would grind the grain into flour and then store it for subsequent use. However, someone serving fresh bread or pastry prepares the dough the day the meal is to be served. Therefore, it is permitted to mix flour and water on Yom Tov. This subject leads us to a more extensive discussion about the melacha of kneading on Yom Tov.

Kneading on Yom Tov

One of the thirty-nine melachos of Shabbos is kneading, which includes any instance of combining fine particles together with a liquid until they stick together. Thus, one may not mix grains or powders with liquid to create an edible cereal on Shabbos. However, since one may knead dough on Yom Tov, all kneading is permitted on Yom Tov. Thus, one may prepare oatmeal, pudding, or baby cereals on Yom Tov the same way these foods would be prepared on a weekday. (One may not mix these foods in the usual fashion on Shabbos.)

Separating Challah

When one kneads dough on Yom Tov, the challah portion is separated even though it is Yom Tov (assuming that one kneaded a sufficient quantity of dough). However, one does not burn the separated challah portion on Yom Tov. Instead, one sets the portion aside to be burnt after Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch 506:4).

If one baked before Shabbos or Yom Tov, one may not separate the challah portion on Shabbos or Yom Tov. What happens if you realize on Shabbos or Yom Tov that you forgot to separate challah? The answer to this shaylah depends on whether the dough was kneaded in Eretz Yisroel or in chutz la’aretz. If the dough was kneaded in Eretz Yisrael, then there is no solution but to leave the bread until after Shabbos or Yom Tov, and then separate the challah portion. However, if this dough was kneaded in chutz la’aretz, then there is a different solution. One may eat the bread on Shabbos or Yom Tov as long as one makes sure that some of the bread remains until after Shabbos or Yom Tov. After Shabbos or Yom Tov, one separates the challah portion from the leftover bread. This separating “after the fact” is sufficient to fulfill the mitzvah of separating challah in a dough produced in chutz la’aretz (Rama 506:3). The reason for this distinction requires a bit of explanation.

Min HaTorah there is a requirement to separate challah only on dough that is made in Eretz Yisroel. (In actuality, the requirement is min hatorah only when all= Jews live in Eretz Yisroel.) The requirement to separate challah on dough mixed in chutz la’aretz is only out of concern that Jews living in chutz la’aretz should not forget that there is a mitzvah to separate challah. However, since the mitzvah is only midirabbanan, Chazal allowed the leniency of separating the challah portion “after the fact” (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 322:2-3).

==Grating, Grinding, and Mashing on Yom Tov

The melacha of grinding is different from the melachos previously discussed. Some foods are ground as you prepare the meal, whereas others are ground well before the meal is prepared. For example, when preparing a kugel, the potatoes are grated when you prepare the meal; similarly, a gourmet chef might crush fresh pepper and other spices specifically for the meal. These types of grinding are permitted on Yom Tov, as I will explain. On the other hand, one does not grind wheat the day one plans to bake bread, and it is therefore prohibited to grind flour on Yom Tov.

The laws of Yom Tov divide the various items that might be ground into four categories:

1. Items that are usually ground well in advance of preparing a meal, such as flour, may not be ground at all.

2. Items that might be ground while preparing the meal, but could have been ground earlier without affecting their flavor, such as salt, items may be ground on Yom Tov, but only by grinding them differently from the way one would usually grind them. For example, the Mishnah states that one may grind salt on Yom Tov with a wooden pestle rather than one of stone (Beitzah 14a). Therefore, if someone discovers on Yom Tov that they have no regular salt in the house, but have only coarse koshering salt, they may crush the salt on Yom Tov on the table but not with a mortar and pestle, or salt or pepper mill.

3. Items that taste better fresh, but are usable if ground before Yom Tov, may be ground or chopped on Yom Tov, but only by grinding or chopping them with a slight shinui (Rama 504:1), such as by placing a napkin on the plate or mortar on which they are being ground (Mishnah Berurah 504:19). Therefore, someone accustomed to freshly crushed pepper or spices may grind them on Yom Tov with a slight change but may not use a tabletop pepper mill.

4. Items that will become useless if ground or chopped before Yom Tov may be ground or chopped on Yom Tov in the way that they would usually be ground or chopped on a weekday. Therefore, one may mash avocado and banana, grate potatoes and onions, and dice salad and apples on Yom Tov the way one would on a weekday (Piskei Teshuvos 504:3).

Measuring

In general, it is prohibited to measure on Yom Tov, just as it is prohibited to measure on Shabbos. Thus, one may not measure out how much flour, sugar, or oil to use in a recipe (Shulchan Aruch 506:1). However, one may approximate how much flour, oil, or sugar is needed. It is permitted to use a measuring cup as long as one does not fill the cup exactly to its measuring points (Mishnah Berurah 506:3).

The Poskim dispute whether one may measure spices on Yom Tov, some permitting (even though it is prohibited to measure other items) because approximating spices may ruin the recipe if one errs (Beitzah 29a). However, Magen Avraham (504:10) contends that since most women cook without measuring spices on weekdays, but simply estimate how much they use, they may not measure spices on Yom Tov. Others contend that someone who measure spices on weekdays may measure them on Yom Tov.

Cooking that is Prohibited

One is permitted to cook and prepare food on Yom Tov only when one intends to eat that food on Yom Tov, but one may not cook for after Yom Tov or on the first day of Yom Tov for the second. For this reason, it is important that all preparations of meals for the second night of Yom Tov wait until the first day of Yom Tov is over. Thus, there was a custom in many communities in Eastern Europe to delay the davening the second night of Yom Tov in order to discourage beginning the meal preparations too early.

One may cook amply for the Yom Tov meal, knowing that there will certainly be leftovers that can then be served on the second day of Yom Tov. However, one may not prepare individual units of a food item knowing that one is preparing more than can possibly be eaten on Yom Tov.

One is not permitted to cook on Yom Tov for a non-Jew since he does not observe Yom Tov. Furthermore, Chazal forbade inviting a non-Jew for a Yom Tov meal out of concern that one might cook for him on Yom Tov. One may invite a non-Jew, such as domestic help, for whom you would not prepare a special dish. However, one may not cook for them on Yom Tov.

It is also forbidden to cook or do other melacha for an animal. Thus, although one is permitted to mix dry grains with liquid to create an edible cereal on Yom Tov, one may not mix these items to feed a pet.

Use of Stoves and Ovens on Yom Tov

Chazal prohibited kindling a new flame on Yom Tov (Mishnah Beitzah 33a). Thus, although one may turn up an existing flame, one may not strike a match on Yom Tov (Aruch HaShulchan 502:6), nor may one light a stove or oven by using an electric igniter, since this is considered lighting with a new flame (Igros Moshe 1:115). If someone has a stove or oven that does not light with a gas pilot, it is a good idea to have a twenty-four hour candle burning over Yom Tov to facilitate lighting the stove on Yom Tov. Another advantage to igniting this candle before Yom Tov is that it enables the lighting of the Yom Tov candles on the second night of Yom Tov.

One is permitted to lower a flame in order to cook on Yom Tov. However, there are poskim who rule that one may lower a flame only when there is no option for turning up or on a different flame. According to the latter opinion, if one is cooking on a stove and one wants to lower the fire so that the food does not burn or boil out, one can do so only if there is no option for turning on another flame (Magen Avraham 514:2). However, Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that it is permitted to lower a flame because one desires to cook with a lower flame or so that the food does not burn or boil out (Igros Moshe 1:115; 4:103).

Hashkafah of Preparing Food on Yom Tov

The Torah refers to the Yomim Tovim as Moed. Just as the word ohel moed refers to the tent in the desert which served as a meeting place between Hashem and the Jewish people, so too a moed is a meeting time between Hashem and the Jewish people (Hirsch, Vayikra 23:3 and Horeb). Although on Shabbos we are to refrain from all melacha activity, on Yom Tov the Torah permitted melacha activity that enhances the celebration of the Yom Tov as a Moed. Permitting the preparations of delicious, freshly prepared meals allows an even greater celebration of the festivities of the Yom Tov as we celebrate our unique relationship with Hashem.

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