Missing the Reading II

Question #1: The Missing Speaker

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

Question #2: The Missing Reading

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

Question #3: The Missing Parsha

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

Question #4: The Missing Aliyah

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

Introduction:

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

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

Re-runs

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

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

Searching for a Missing Parsha

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

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

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

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

Individual versus tzibur

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

Which parsha?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which one first?

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

Why would he read the two parshiyos out of order?

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

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

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

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

Which aliyah?

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

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

Conclusion

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

Missing the Reading

Question #1: The Missing Speaker

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

Question #2: The Missing Reading

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

Question #3: The Missing Parshah

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

Question #4: The Missing Aliyah

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

Introduction

The Jerusalem audience is waiting for the special guest speaker. The scheduled time comes and goes, and the organizer is also wondering why the speaker did not apprise him of a delay. Finally, he begins making phone calls and discovers that the speaker — is still in Brooklyn!

What happened? Well… arrangements had been made for the speaker to speak on Wednesday of parshas Balak. Both sides confirmed the date on their calendars — but neither side realized that they were not talking about the same date!

This year we have a very interesting phenomenon that affects baalei keri’ah, calendar makers, those traveling to or from Eretz Yisroel, and authors whose articles are published in Torah publications worldwide. When Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos in a leap year, there is a difference in the weekly Torah reading between what is read in Eretz Yisroel and what is read in chutz la’aretz – for a very long period of time – over three months  – until the Shabbos of Matos/Masei, during the Three Weeks and immediately before Shabbos Chazon. Although Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos fairly frequently, most of the time this is in a common year, and the difference between the observances of chutz la’aretz and of Eretz Yisroel last for only a few weeks.

Why the different reading?

When the Eighth Day of Pesach, Acharon shel Pesach, falls on Shabbos, the Jews of chutz la’aretz, where this day is Yom Tov, read a special Torah reading in honor of Yom Tov that begins with the words Aseir te’aseir. In Eretz Yisroel, where Pesach is only seven days long, this Shabbos is after Pesach (although the house is still chometz-free), and the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, which is usually the first reading after Pesach in a leap year (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 428:4). On the subsequent Shabbos, the Jews of Eretz Yisroel already read parshas Kedoshim, whereas outside Eretz Yisroel the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, since for them it is the first Shabbos after Pesach. Until mid-summer, chutz la’aretz will consistently be a week “behind” Eretz Yisroel. Thus, this year in Eretz Yisroel, the Wednesday of parshas Behar is the 10th of Iyar or May 11th. However, in chutz la’aretz, the Wednesday of parshas Behar is a week later, on the 17th of Iyar or May 18th.

This phenomenon, whereby the readings of Eretz Yisroel and chutz la’aretz are a week apart, continues until the Shabbos that falls on July 30th. On that Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz, parshios Matos and Masei are read together, whereas in Eretz Yisroel that week is parshas Masei, parshas Matos having been read the Shabbos before.

The ramifications of these practices affect not only speakers missing their engagements, and writers, such as myself, who live in Eretz Yisroel but write parshah columns that are published in chutz la’aretz. Anyone traveling to Eretz Yisroel during these three months will miss a parshah on his trip there, and anyone traveling from Eretz Yisroel to chutz la’aretz will hear the same parshah on two consecutive Shabbosos. Those from Eretz Yisroel who spend Pesach in chutz la’aretz will find that they have missed a parshah. Unless, of course, they decide to stay in Eretz Yisroel until the Nine Days. But this latter solution will not help someone who is living temporarily in Eretz Yisroel and therefore observing two days of Yom Tov. Assuming that he attends a chutz la’aretz minyan on Acharon shel Pesach, he will miss hearing parshas Acharei.

Several halachic questions result from this phenomenon. Is a traveler or someone who attended a chutz la’aretz minyan on Acharon shel Pesach required to make up the missed parshah, and, if so, how? During which week does he review the parshah shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum? If he will be hearing a repeated parshah, is he required to review the parshah again on the consecutive week? Can he receive an aliyah or “lein” on a Torah reading that is not “his” parshah? These are some of the questions that result from this occurrence.

Why doesn’t chutz la’aretz catch up earlier?

But first, let us understand why this phenomenon lasts for such a long time! After all, there are numerous weeks when chutz la’aretz could “double up” two parshios and thereby “catch up” to Eretz Yisroel. Why don’t they double up Acharei Mos/Kedoshim the week after Pesach, or Behar/Bechukosei, which is only a few weeks later, rather than reading five weeks of sefer Vayikra and virtually all of sefer Bamidbar, before straightening out the problem?

Even more, when Shavuos falls on Friday in Eretz Yisroel, or on Friday and Shabbos in chutz la’aretz in a common year. When this happens in a leap year, in chutz la’aretz the parshios of Chukas and Balak are combined in order to “catch up.” Why not follow the same procedure when acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos, instead of waiting until Matos/Masei.

As you can imagine, we are not the first to raise these questions. They are discussed by one of the great sixteenth-century halachic authorities, the Maharit (Shu”t Maharit, Volume II, Orach Chayim #4). He answers that the reason why chutz la’aretz does not double the parshah earlier is because this would make Shavuos fall earlier than it should. Ideally, Shavuos should be observed between Bamidbar and Naso, and combining either Acharei Mos with Kedoshim, or Behar with Bechokosai pushes Shavuos until after parshas Naso.

Shavuos after Bamidbar

Why should Shavuos be after Bamidbar? The Gemara establishes certain rules how the parshios should be spaced through the year. “Ezra decreed that the Jews should read the curses of the tochacha in Vayikra before Shavuos and those of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah. Why? In order to end the year together with its curses! [The Gemara then comments:] We well understand why we read the tochacha of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah, because the year is ending, but why is that of Vayikra read before Shavuos? Is Shavuos the beginning of a year? Yes, Shavuos is the beginning of a new year, as the Mishnah explains that the world is judged on Shavuos for its fruit” (Megillah 31b).

We see from this Gemara that we must space out our parshios so that we read from the beginning of Bereishis, which we begin on Simchas Torah, until parshas Bechukosai at the end of Vayikra before Shavuos. We then space our parshios so that we complete the second tochacha in parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashanah.

One week or two?

However, this Gemara does not seem to explain our practice. Neither of these parshios, Bechukosai or Ki Savo, is ever read immediately before Shavuos or Rosh Hashanah. There is always at least one other Shabbos wedged between. This practice is already noted by Tosafos (Megillah 31b s.v. Kelalos). The Levush (Orach Chayim 428:4) explains that, without the intervening Shabbos as a shield, the Satan could use the tochacha as a means of accusing us on the judgment day. The intervening Shabbos, when we read a different parshah, prevents the Satan from his attempt at prosecuting, and, as a result, we can declare: End the year together with its curses!

The Maharit explains that not only should we have one intervening Shabbos between the reading of the tochacha and the judgment day, we should preferably have only one Shabbos between the two. That is why chutz la’aretz postpones doubling a parshah until after Shavuos. (Indeed, parshas Naso is read in Eretz Yisroel before Shavuos in these years, but that is because there is no better option. In chutz la’aretz, since one can have the readings occur on the preferred weeks, Shavuos is observed on its optimal Shabbos reading.)

Why not Chukas/Balak?

However, the Maharit notes that this does not explain why the parshios of Chukas and Balak are not combined, although he notes that, in his day, some communities indeed did read the two together when Acharon shel Pesach fell on Shabbos. The Syrian communities followed this practice and in these years combined parshios Chukas and Balak together, and read Matos and Masei on separate weeks. There is no Jewish community in Syria anymore today that reads kerias haTorah according to this custom – for that matter, there is, unfortunately, no longer any Jewish community in Syria that reads kerias haTorah according to any custom. I am under the impression that the communities of Aleppo Jews currently living in Flatbush and in Deal, New Jersey, although they strictly follow the customs that they have practiced for centuries, do not follow this approach. I am not familiar with  the custom of other Syrian communities.

To explain the common custom that does not combine the parshios of Chukas and Balak, the Maharit concludes that once most of the summer has passed and the difference is only what to read on three Shabbosos, we combine Matos with Masei which are usually combined, rather than Chukas and Balak, which are usually separate. The two parshios, Matos and Masei, are almost always read together, and are separated only when the year requires an extra Shabbos reading, as it does this year in Eretz Yisroel. Truthfully, we should view Matos and Masei as one long parshah (making the combination the largest parshah in the Torah) that occasionally needs to be divided, rather than as two parshios that are usually combined.

The Maharit explains further that combining the parshios of Matos and Masei emphasizes that the reading for Shabbos Chazon should be parshas Devorim and for Shabbos Nachamu should be parshas Va’eschanan. This is important, because parshas Va’eschanan includes the section of the Torah that begins with the words Ki solid banim… venoshantem, which includes an allusion to the fact that Hashem brought about the churban two years early, in order to guarantee that klal Yisroel would return to Eretz Yisroel. Since this is part of the post-Tisha Be’Av consolation, it is appropriate that people see that our reading was doubled just now, for the sake of making these readings fall on the proper Shabbosos.

One could also explain this phenomenon more simply: Matos and Masei are read on separate weeks only when there simply are otherwise not enough readings for every Shabbos of the year.

In these occasional years when Matos and Masei are read separately, parshas Pinchas falls out before the Three Weeks — and we actually get to read the haftarah that is printed in the chumashim for parshas Pinchas, Ve’yad Hashem, from the book of Melachim. In all other years, parshas Pinchas is the first Shabbos of the Three Weeks, and the haftarah is Divrei Yirmiyahu,the opening words of the book of Yirmiyahu, which is appropriate to the season. The printers of chumashim usually elect to print Divrei Yirmiyahu as if it is the haftarah for parshas Matos, and then instruct you to read it, on most years, instead as the haftarah for Pinchas. What is more logical is to label this haftarah as the one appropriate for the first of the Three Weeks, and to print both after Pinchas. The instructions should read that on the occasional year when Pinchas falls before the 17th of Tamuz, they should read Ve’yad Hashem, and when Pinchas falls on or after the 17th of Tamuz, they should read Divrei Yirmiyahu. A note after parshas Matos should explain that when this parsha is read alone, they should read the second haftarah printed after parshas Pinchas. But, then, the printers do not usually consult with me what to do, electing instead to mimic what previous printers have done. This phenomenon affects practical halachah, but that is a topic for a different time. However, the printers’ insistence to call Ve’yad Hashem the “regular” haftarah for parshas Pinchas has lead to interesting questions.

Click here for part II of this article.

Prepared to DeLIVER

In many places, the Torah forbids the consumption of blood. In chutz la’aretz, this week’s parsha is Acharei, which is one of the places where this prohibition of blood is mentioned. In Eretz Yisrael, the reading is Kedoshim, in which there are nine references to blood, in the context of different prohibitions. This makes it an appropriate week to discuss the laws of preparing livers according to halacha.

Question #1: Just a sLIVER

May a liver be broiled whole?

Question #2: DeLIVERed Electronically

May I kasher livers on an electric grill?

Question #3: Special DeLIVERy

I was told that if I plan to fry the livers I receive from the butcher, I must tell this to him when I order them. Why?

Question #4: Not Chopped LIVER

How broiled does liver need to be before I cook it?

Introduction:

In ancient times, it was noted that liver could be used to treat night blindness. With time, it was discovered that liver contains an organic chemical called retinol, C20H30O, which was called a vitamin, because it helped life (vita-), and it was thought to be an amine (-amin). However, all amines contain nitrogen (think of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins), and retinol does not. Consequently, the term “vitamin” was redefined to mean complex, organic substances, naturally occurring in plant or animal tissue, that are essential for metabolism.

Missing letters

Since retinol was the first vitamin to be identified, it was given the name vitamin A. (Today, retinol is called vitamin A1, and is usually extracted from fish liver oils.) As other vitamins were discovered, they were identified by subsequent letters of the alphabet. Eventually, some, such as vitamins G and H, were recategorized as part of the “vitamin B” group, whereas others, such as vitamins F and I, were dropped from the vitamin list and categorized differently, which is why the vitamin list is missing letters. Vitamin F contains nitrogen and is now categorized as an amino acid, and vitamin I is now categorized as an anti-inflammatory.

Our own liver has many important functions, including the manufacture of cholesterol and bile and also removal of cholesterol from the blood. However, our article will discuss neither human nor fish liver, but the kashrus of beef and poultry liver. As we all know, the meat of these animals can be consumed when they have had a proper kosher slaughter, shechitah, and, in the case of beef, after certain fats, nerves (the gid hana’sheh, the sciatic nerve) and blood      vessels are removed via a procedure called nikur (in Hebrew), or traberen (in Yiddish, from the Aramaic word tarba, which means cheilev, non-kosher fat).

Poultry must also have its blood extracted, but the gid hana’sheh does not need to be removed from fowl, nor does any fat need to be removed.

Removing blood

In many places, the Torah forbids the consumption of blood. But all meat contains blood! After all, it is the hemoglobin in the blood that provides meat with its red color. And even poultry and other meats that are not red contain blood. So, how can we eat meat?

Chazal explain that the forbidden blood is extracted from the meat either by soaking and salting the meat, or by broiling. The salt or the fire extracts the forbidden blood from the meat, and whatever remains is not considered blood, according to halacha.

The blood of liver is usually removed by broiling. This article will examine when broiling works for kashering both meat and liver, and we will discover that there are early opinions that permitted preparing liver for the Jewish table without broiling it.

For most of mankind’s history, kashering meat and liver was always performed at home. However, in the last two generations, it became commonplace that the butcher takes care of it, and, within the past decade, meat is often kashered at the abattoir. Still, there are individuals who kasher their own meat, which allows them to follow certain practices that usually qualify as chumros, and which are impractical to follow on a commercial basis. (Our readership should be aware that, due to government regulations in certain countries, kashering meat on a commercial basis involves serious halachic compromises. In these countries, none of them in North America, arrangements should be made to kasher meat at home.) In addition, I have personally witnessed both meat and liver kashered inadequately or inappropriately in commercial facilities. However, a responsible hechsher will make certain that this does not happen.

Broiling meat

Halachically, it is perfectly acceptable to broil meat to remove its blood, rather than salt it. However, usually, it is soaked and salted. We should be aware that someone whose health requires them to be concerned about the elevated sodium content that results from kashering should explore with their rav or posek the possibility of purchasing unkashered meat and broiling it, without salt. (Although we salt meat slightly when kashering it by broiling, this salt may be omitted for someone who must be concerned about sodium consumption.)

Liver

The Gemara (Chullin 110b-111a) provides a lengthy and fascinating discussion whether liver, which is the bloodiest organ in the body, can be kashered by soaking and salting. To quote the Gemara: Abayei said to Rav Safra, “When you go to Eretz Yisrael, ask them what they do with liver.” When Rav Safra reached Eretz Yisrael, he asked Rav Zereika, who answered him, “I boiled liver to serve Rav Asi, and he ate it.” (We would find this strange, but this will be explained shortly.) Many months, or perhaps years, later, when Rav Safra returned to Bavel, he reported his findings to Abayei, who answered him: “I know that preparing liver this way is not a problem. The question I wanted you to find out was whether the blood of liver can be removed while you are kashering other meat.” Abayei then quoted a Mishnah (Terumos 10:11) that preparing liver in certain ways prohibits food upon which the blood splatters, but the liver itself is permitted. This is because, while extracting blood from the liver, it does not absorb blood (provided that the blood can drain; removing blood from meat or liver always requires that the extracted blood drains as it is salted or broiled). However, extracting blood from the liver might prohibit other meat that is kashered with it.

The story that Rav Zereika tells us is unclear. Was the liver that Rav Zereika cooked to serve Rav Asi already broiled? If it was, what new halachic idea was he teaching Rav Safra? Both of them were major Torah scholars, and Rav Safra presumably asked Rav Zereika a question that was now answered, even if this was not the issue bothering Abayei.

To resolve this question, Rabbeinu Tam explains that liver does not require salting or broiling, unless you want to cook it together with other meat (Tosafos, Chullin 110b s.v. Kavda). This appears to also have been Rashi’s approach. The reason is because the liver is basically blood, yet the Torah permitted its consumption. The assumption of Rabbeinu Tam is that the blood in the liver is permitted. This would explain the conversation of Abayei and Rav Safra.

The Tur (Yoreh Deah 73) cites this opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, but does not accept it.

Most authorities disagree with Rabbeinu Tam and understand that Rav Zereika soaked and salted the liver first, the same way we kasher meat, and then cooked it. Abayei’s question was whether it is permitted to cook liver that has been salted this way with other meat, or whether this will prohibit the meat with which it is cooked. According to the latter alternative, liver may be soaked and salted to serve as chopped liver, or may be broiled and eaten without any other ingredients. The reason we do not soak and salt liver is because, usually, we want to cook or fry it subsequently with other ingredients, and that is prohibited (unless you hold like Rabbeinu Tam).

Later, the Gemara (Chullin 111a) cites different authorities who would not eat liver prepared by soaking and salting, but only by broiling.

It is unclear what the Gemara concludes, as evidenced by the dispute among rishonim what to do. Practical halacha accepts that, whereas meat is usually kashered by soaking and salting, liver may kashered only by broiling (Rema, Yoreh Deah 73:5, Shach and Taz). The Rema does not rule like Rabbeinu Tam, and, furthermore, prohibits salting liver to remove its blood, out of concern that someone will forget that he kashered the liver this way, and will mistakenly cook it with other ingredients.

How long?

For how long a period of time must you broil liver until it is kosher?

The halacha is that, once most people consider the liver minimally edible, all the blood has been removed (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 76:5). “Minimally edible” is defined as half the time it usually takes to grill this piece of liver until it is fully cooked (Rema ad locum).

Not chopped liver!

If you do not intend to cook the liver after broiling, most authorities permit broiling an entire beef liver without cutting or slicing it, provided the prohibited cheilev is fully removed (Rema, Yoreh Deah 73:3). This is not relevant to kashering of liver at home, since a beef liver is much larger than most households want to broil as one piece, and, particularly, since broiling the whole liver will probably burn the thinner parts of the liver before its thicker parts are sufficiently broiled.

However, should you intend to cook the liver after broiling, most authorities rule that, before broiling, one must make incisions into the liver and place the sliced side down while broiling so that the blood drains properly (Taz, Yoreh Deah 73:5; Pri Megadim; Gra; Be’er Heiteiv; Darchei Teshuvah). An alternative, easier option is to cut the liver into slices and broil them until edible.

According to many authorities, broiling an entire unsliced beef liver and then cooking or frying the liver makes the food and the pot or pan non-kosher (Shu’t Mahari Asad, Yoreh Deah #115, quoted in Darchei Teshuvah 73:23. Note that the Darchei Teshuvah there quotes Shu’t Ateres Zekeinim, Yoreh Deah #6, who allows the individual posek to decide whether everything is non-kosher. Darchei Teshuvah also quotes Yad Yehudah, Peirush Ha’aruch 73:9, as ruling stringently in this matter, but I have not found where Yad Yehudah says this.)

Rule of 72

The Geonim enacted that meat must be salted within seventy-two hours of its shechitah. They contended that, after three days, blood inside the meat hardens and is no longer extractable through soaking and salting. Should meat not be soaked and salted within 72 hours, they ruled that the only way to successfully remove the blood is by broiling (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 69:12). It is also prohibited to keep meat for 72 hours without salting it, figuring that you will broil it to extract its blood. This is prohibited, because of concern that someone will forget that the meat is past its “good by” 72-hour timetable and wrongly attempt to kasher it by salting (Rema, Yoreh Deah 69:12 and Shach). Furthermore, it is prohibited to cook the meat if it passed 72 hours, even after the meat was broiled. (If, be’di’eved, it was cooked after broiling, the meat may be eaten [Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 69:12]. Although the Maharshal prohibits the meat, the Bach, Taz, Gra and many others agree with the Shulchan Aruch that the meat is permitted.)

72 and liver

Since we rule that liver can be kashered only by broiling, there is no halachic concern that someone will mistakenly attempt to kasher it via salting. Therefore, it is permitted to leave liver for 72 hours without broiling it.

Assuming that someone waited more than 72 hours after slaughter before broiling liver, may he cook the liver after broiling it? We mentioned above that, concerning other meat, you are not permitted to cook the meat if 72 hours have passed since shechitah, even if you broiled the meat first. (We noted above that if the meat was cooked, it is permitted to eat it.)

What is the halacha if you broiled liver more than 72 hours after shechitah? May you now cook it after broiling? This issue is disputed. The Kereisi Upeleisi, Chachmas Odom, Aruch Hashulchan all permit cooking the liver after it was broiled, whereas the Shach seems to prohibit it (see Mateh Yehonasan to Yoreh Deah 69:12), as do the Shu’t Tzemach Tzedek (#121, quoted by Minchas Yaakov 4:3), Pri Megadim and Darchei Teshuvah (Yoreh Deah 69:224).

Special DeLIVERy

At this point, we can address another of our opening questions: “I was told that if I plan to fry the livers I receive from the butcher, I must tell this to the butcher when I order them. Why should this be true?”

This question is based on the fact that kashering liver in certain ways makes it prohibited to cook or fry afterwards, at least according to some authorities. The person who told you that you need to tell this to the butcher is under the impression either that the butcher may kasher livers more than 72 hours after shechitah, or that he does not need to slice the beef livers when he broils them whole. As I mentioned above, since both of these matters are dependent on a dispute among halachic authorities, the local hechsher may be more lenient than your friend feels that you should be.  However, the butcher can provide you with the more mehudar broiled liver, in which case everyone permits you to cook it afterward.

Livery procedure

To kasher liver, we follow these steps.

1. Slice off any fat of the animal that is attached to the liver. This fat may be cheilev that, at times, is attached to the liver.

2. Slice the liver so that its blood drains properly. At home, it is usually easiest to cut the liver into slices, although, halachically, it is adequate to slice deeply into the liver both horizontally and vertically, and broil it with the sliced side downward so the blood drains.

Livers of chickens and other fowl do not require slicing. Since they are small, broiling extracts the blood properly even without slicing the livers. Just check that the gallbladder, which attaches to the liver, has been removed.

3. Rinse blood off the surface of the liver.

4. Place the liver onto racks or coals to broil.

5. Salt the liver somewhat as you place it to broil.

6. Broil the liver until it is minimally edible, which is about half the amount of time you would broil it to eat it without further cooking.

7. After the liver has broiled sufficiently, you may remove it from the fire or heat and rinse off the blood that is now on its surface.

8. Liver is now kosher. Should you desire to cook it, you may do so immediately; there is no requirement to wait until the liver cools off from the broiling.

DeLIVERed Electronically

At this point, we are prepared to consider a different one of our opening questions: May I kasher liver on an electric grill?

Let me explain the question. Since we rule that you may kasher liver only by broiling, this means that its blood can be extracted only via direct heat. Does this require the drawing abilities of an open fire, or is heat sufficient to extract the blood?

Proof of the halachic ruling in this case may be brought from a passage of the Noda Bi’yehuda in his commentary Tzelach (to Pesachim 74a). The Tzelach mentionsthat he was asked frequently whether liver may be kashered on the bottom of a hot oven after the coals have been swept out. The Tzelach rules that this is problematic because the blood cannot drain when it is extracted from the liver. Thus, the liver lies broiling in the blood, which prohibits it. (Shu’t Har Hacarmel, Yoreh Deah #14, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 73:1 permits this, but the Pischei Teshuvah himself is uncomfortable with this.)

However, the Tzelach rules that if the liver was placed inside an oven in a way that blood extracted by the residual heat in the oven has a place to drain, the liver is perfectly kosher. Thus, we see that it is acceptable to kasher liver on an electric grill, as long as the blood can drain off while the heat extracts it. In other words, no flame is required to extract the blood.

Conclusion

There is a very interesting comparison between two halachos that involve salt; one, the extraction of blood via salt, and the other, salting korbanos that are burned on the mizbei’ach. Although both items are salted in a similar manner, the purpose is very different. Whereas the salting of our meat is to remove the blood, and this blood and salt are then washed away, the salted offerings are burned completely with their salt. Several commentaries note that salt represents that which exists forever, and can therefore represent the mitzvos of the Torah, which never change.

An Unusual Haftarah

Question #1: Haftaras Tzav

Why do we read the haftarah that we do this week?

Question #2: Shabbos Hagadol

What does parshas Tzav have to do with Shabbos Hagadol?

Question #3: Purim Meshulash

What is Purim Meshulash and what does it have to do with this week’s parsha?

Answer:

Although every chumash has a haftarah printed for parshas Tzav, in reality, we rarely read this haftarah, for several reasons:

(1) In all common (non-leap) years, which are 12 of our 19-year cycle, parshas Tzav falls on the Shabbos immediately before Pesach and is Shabbos Hagadol. On this Shabbos, accepted practice is to read the haftarah that begins with the words Ve’orvoh laHashem at the end of Malachi that closes the book of Trei Asar, the era of the prophets, and the section of Tanach that we call Nevi’im.

According to the Abudraham, Levush (Orach Chaim 428: 4), Knesses Hagedolah, and Elyah Rabbah (428: 5), the reason Parshas Tzav generally falls out on Shabbos Hagadol is that it mentions the halachos of kashering keilim (Vayikra 6:21), albeit regarding the korban chatas, thus reminding people of the preparations necessary for Pesach. In leap years, parshas Metzora is usually Shabbos Hagadol, and this parsha mentions kli cheres yishaver, that earthenware dishes cannot be kashered, again an appropriate reminder for Pesach.

(2) In leap years, parshas Tzav usually falls on parshas Zochor, in which case its haftarah discusses the war that Shaul fought against Amalek and how Shemuel admonished him. This haftarah, which is in the book of Shemuel, is usually referred to as Pakadti, as the haftarah begins with the words Koh amar Hashem Tzevaos pakadti eis asher assah Amalek le’Yisroel.

(3) On the occasional leap year when parshas Tzav does not fall on parshas Zochor, it sometimes falls on parshas Parah, in which case its haftarah is from the book of Yechezkel, often called Ben Adam, the first words of the second posuk of the haftarah. (We call it by the words of its second posuk, since the first posuk reads simply Vayehi dvar Hashem eilai leimor, “and the word of Hashem came to me, saying,” an expression that shows up several dozen times in sefer Yechezkel alone, as well as appearing many times in the seforim of both Yirmiyohu and Zecharyah.)

Thus, notwithstanding that the chumashim all instruct you that the haftarah for parshas Tzav is from the book of Yirmiyohu, in reality, the only time that we read the haftarah printed in the chumashim for parshas Tzav is (1) in a leap year, and when parshas Tzav is (2) neither parshas Zochor (3) nor parshas Parah. The only leap year when parshas Tzav does not fall on either parshas Zochor or parshas Parah is when Purim falls on a Thursday or Friday. In these years, Zochor falls on the Shabbos before Tzav and Parah on the Shabbos after.

In summary, the haftarah printed in the chumash for parshas Tzav is read only in a leap year when Purim falls on Thursday or Friday.

Purim Meshulash

To make things even more unusual, in a leap year when Purim falls on Friday, in Yerushalayim a special haftarah is read. This is because, in Yerushalayim, Purim is observed on the fifteenth of Adar, a day later than outside Yerushalayim. In a year when this happens, Purim everywhere else falls on Friday, but, in Yerushalayim, Purim falls on Shabbos. This creates a very complicated combination of practices commonly called Purim Meshulash, literally, triple Purim, so-called because, in common practice, the observances of Purim are divided among three days.

The Megillah is read and the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim is observed on Friday, the same day everyone else is observing Purim.

On Shabbos, the fifteenth of Adar, in Yerushalayim recite Al Hanissim, read Vayavo Amalek for maftir and a special haftarah in honor of Purim. This is the same haftarah that everyone reads for Shabbos Zochor, Pakadti. (In Yerushalayim, the same haftarah is read on two consecutive weeks!)

The mitzvos of Purim seudah and shalach manos are on Sunday, thus earning the observance its moniker of Purim Meshulash.

For the purposes of our topic, in those years, residents of Yerushalayim miss reading the haftarah of parshas Tzav. As a result, the only time in Yerushalayim the “regular” haftarah for parshas Tzav is read is in a leap year when Purim outside Yerushalayim falls on Thursday and in Yerushalayim on Friday – which is the case this year. So, this year is one of the very rare years in which the haftarah printed in the chumashim for parshas Tzav is read everywhere.

Everyone reads the same haftarah

On the other hand, when there is no “special Shabbos” on parshas Tzav, it appears that all the various different customs that we have, Ashkenazic, Chassidic, Sefardic and Italian, all read the same haftarah. Even the Abudraham, who upon occasion cites a different choice or choices for haftarah than we are accustomed to, also cites the same haftarah for this week. Although, in all likelihood, there once were places in which the custom was to read a different haftarah for parshas Tzav, I am unaware of any such custom. If any readers are aware of a different custom that exists or once existed, I would appreciate if you would let me know.

What is the name of the haftarah?

Although haftaros do not have a “name,” most of them are called by the words that open them or are near their beginning, similar to the way we name our parshi’os. In this instance, the first words of the haftarah are Koh amar Hashem Tzeva’kos Elokei Yisroel oloseichem sefu al zivcheichem, ve’ichlu basar,“So said Hashem of Hosts, the G-d of Yisroel: Add your korbanos olah to your korbanos shelamim that you bring – and eat meat!” (Yirmiyohu 7:21).

Since the first words of the haftarah, Koh amar Hashem Tzeva’kos Elokei Yisroel, “So said Hashem of Hosts, the G-d of Yisroel,” are not particularly descriptive of the uniqueness of this haftarah, it is usually called Oloseichem sefu, which is a brief way of referring to the unique words at the beginning of this haftarah. It is interesting that the naming of the parsha is also similar in this way in that its title, Tzav, is not in the first posuk of the parsha, but in the second, since there is nothing unique in the first posuk, Vayedabeir Hashem el Moshe leimor.

Where is the haftarah?

The haftarah is taken from one of the most difficult sections of the book of Yirmiyohu. The haftarah itself is not a pleasant one to read. The difficulty is not because the words are hard to translate, but because we do not want to think of the level to which the Jewish people (that means us) had fallen and the extent to which Yirmiyohu Hanavi was required to rebuke them – and apparently they (we) did not listen!

It is interesting to note that the haftarah that we read closes with the very same pesukim that close the haftarah that we read every year on Tisha B’Av, which begins with the words Asof asifeim (literally, “I will completely destroy them”). The reason for this is that Asof asifeim, which is taken from the same rebuke that Yirmiyohu was required to deliver, closes with a positive ending, “The wise man should not glorify himself with his wisdom, nor should the powerful man with his power, nor the rich man with his wealth. Only with this should someone glorify himself – by studying and knowing Me” (Yirmiyohu 9:22-23). The reading of Oloseichem sefu would end with a very negative closing (I refer our readers to Yirmiyohu 8:3), and so, custom developed to skip ahead and read the closing of Asof asifeim, in order to end the haftarah on a positive note.

What is the theme of the haftarah?

Yirmiyohu is telling the people, sarcastically — since you are not observing the mitzvos properly, why bother offering korbanos olah? Instead, eat them, and at least get the protein benefit from eating meat!

In a korban olah, the entire animal, except for its hide, is burnt on the mizbei’ach. The korban is called olah, an elevation offering, because it goes “up” entirely to Hashem, and, when bringing this korban, a person is to look at himself as completely submitting to Hashem’s Will – thereby, he “goes up” to Hashem, the same way.

In the case of korbanos shelamim, it is a mitzvah to eat the meat of the korban – some of the meat is given to the kohanim, who eat it with their families, and some of it is given to the person who offered the korban. This facilitated a huge celebration, since his family and friends would gather to eat the korban in Yerushalayim.

Yirmiyohu Hanavi is talking to the Jews in a derisive way. He takes issue with what had, apparently, become a very stylish observance of the Jewish religion in the period just before the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash. People had taken a much dichotomized approach to religion. Outside the Beis Hamikdash, they did whatever they felt like doing. Even such serious crimes as murder did not disturb them. But they would bring korbanos to the Beis Hamikdash and treat it with respect. Of course, this is not an acceptable observance of Hashem’s Torah.

According to Rav Yosef Breuer’s commentary on the posuk: If the Sanctuary no longer bears the message… to proclaim the truths symbolically taught — that the olah expresses moral dedication to Hashem, and the shelamim declares a vow to dedicate all of life’s joy to Him — then the “sacrificial cult” that remains is throwing animal flesh into the fire for no useful purpose. Instead, add your olah to your regular meals, and at least enjoy a decent meal!

Second posuk of haftarah

The second posuk of the haftarah looks at a similar theme, but from a different vantage point: Ki lo dibarti es avoseichem velo tzivisim beyom hotzi osam mei’eretz Mitzrayim al divrei olah va’zavach, “Because I did not speak with your fathers, nor did I command them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt concerning the korbanos olah and shelamim.” The navi notes that the people have made the “sacrificial cult” of the korbanos into the most important aspect of their being Jewish. Yet, no mention of these mitzvos was mentioned when the Jews were redeemed from Egypt and became a nation! Korbanos are to be observed as part of a framework of keeping all the mitzvos – they are never the primary focus.

We don’t identify with this view that Judaism is a sacrificial cult, because we have no Beis Hamikdash. However, people who park their observance of Torah in shul, and do not allow it to spill over into their personal or business lives are guilty of the same fallacy! Someone who wears Jewish garb, but runs his business without constantly recognizing Torah, is guilty of the same crime.

Therefore, Yirmiyohu tells the people: Since you lack the basic acceptance of the values and requirements of the Torah, why not just eat the korban. At least this way, you are getting some nutrition from the animal, whereas when slaughtering as a korban without any commitment to the Torah, you are getting no benefit from the korban, and it is a complete waste.

Why this haftarah?

An obvious question is: Why was Oloseichem sefu designated as the haftarah for parshas Tzav? Before answering this question, we need to analyze why we read the haftaros altogether.

Haftarah History

Early sources present two completely different reasons for the origin of the mitzvah to read the haftarah.

Reason #1:

Some early sources report that, in ancient times, a haftarah was recited towards the end of Shacharis every day of the year. At the point of davening when we recite Uva Letziyon, they would take out a sefer Navi and read about ten verses together with their Aramaic translation, the common Jewish parlance at the time. Then, they recited the two main pesukim of kedushah, Kodosh Kodosh Kodosh Hashem Tzvakos melo kol ha’aretz kevodo, and Boruch kevod Hashem mi’mekomo, together with their Aramaic translation. In those days, all men used to study Torah for several hours after davening, before occupying themselves with their daily livelihoods. The Navi was recited to guarantee that people fulfilled the daily requirement to study some Biblical part of the Torah, in addition to the daily requirement of studying both Mishnah and Gemara (Teshuvas Ha’ge’onim #55).

Why did this practice end?

This daily practice of incorporating some “haftarah” reading ended when people needed to spend more time earning a living (Teshuvas Ha’ge’onim #55). To ensure that this practice of studying some Tanach daily at the end of davening would not be forgotten, they still recited the verses of kedusha, a practice mentioned in the Gemara (Sotah 49a). Around the recital of these two verses developed the prayer we say daily that begins with the pasuk “Uva Letzion.”

Although the daily “haftarah” ceased at this time, on Shabbos and Yom Tov, when people do not work, the haftarah readings continued. As a result, there is no need to mention Uva Letzion immediately after  kerias haTorah on Shabbos and Yom Tov, since that is when we recite the haftarah.  For this reason, Uva Letzion is postponed until Mincha (Shibbolei Haleket #44).

A second reason for the haftarah

Other, later authorities cite a completely different historical basis for reciting the haftarah. At one time in antiquity, the gentiles prohibited the public reading of the Torah, but they did not forbid reading from the Nevi’im in public. Therefore, in lieu of krias haTorah, Jewish communities began reading selections from the Nevi’im that would remind people of the Torah portion that should have been read that day (Abudraham). Many of the haftarah readings were chosen to remind people of the observances of the day, such as the special haftaros for the Yomim Tovim, the four parshi’os, Shabbos Hagadol, Shabbos Shuva, and mochor chodesh, or to remind and console people for the seasons. Examples of the latter include the three haftaros read during the Three Weeks, and the seven haftaros, called the shivah de’nechemta,that are read from the Shabbos following Tisha B’Av until Rosh Hashanah.

Although the gentiles eventually rescinded the prohibition against the public Torah reading, the practice of reading the haftarah continued, even after the reinstatement of the Torah reading. At that time, it was instituted that the person reading the haftarah should first receive an aliyah to the Torah, which we call maftir (Megillah 23a), in order to emphasize that the words of the Nevi’im are not equal to the Torah in kedusha or in authority.

It is noteworthy that although the second reason is better known and is quoted frequently by halachic commentaries (from the Bach, Orach Chayim 284, onwards), I found the first reason in much earlier sources. While the earliest source I found mentioning the second approach was the Abudraham, who lived in the early fourteenth century, the first source is found in writings of the Geonim, well over a thousand years ago.

I suspect that both historical reasons are accurate: Initially, the haftarah was instituted when the Jews were banned from reading the Torah in public; they instituted reading the haftaros as a reminder of the mitzvah of public Torah reading. After that decree was rescinded and the mitzvah of kerias haTorah was reinstituted, Jews continued the practice of reading the Nevi’im and even extended it as a daily practice to encourage people to study the Written Torah every day. When this daily practice infringed on people’s ability to earn a living, they limited it to non-workdays.

According to the second reason, each week’s haftarah should serve as a reminder either of the Torah reading that should have transpired or of some other special occasion that Chazal wanted us to remember.

Haftaras Tzav

At this point, we are in a position to answer our opening question: Why is it that we read specifically this haftarah this week?

Some answer that the reason is to teach people that we should not lose sight of the reason why the korbanos are offered. Someone might think that the korbanos are, inherently, of the greatest importance, without realizing that their purpose is to bring us closer to Hashem in our observance of all the mitzvos (Commentary of Rabbi Mendel Hirsch).

Conclusion

I remember, as a child, assuming that the word haftarah was pronounced half-Torah, because it was always much shorter than the Torah reading. Unfortunately, I occasionally hear adults mispronounce the word this way, too. Although there are several interpretations of the word haftarah, it is usually understood to mean completing, as in “completing the reading of the Torah” (Levush, Orach Chayim 284:1). Recital of the weekly Haftarah is an ancient custom and a takanas Chazal,and must be treated with respect. The entire purpose of its reading is to ensure our study of some of the Written Torah, and to incorporate its eternal messages into our lives.

The Shabby Cabby

At the end of parshas Vayikra, there is discussion about someone who is dishonest in his dealings.

It had already been a really tough day. Now, on top of that, Mrs. Gartenhaus (all names in this story have been changed) was very unhappy with the cab driver she had hailed. Aside from his discourteous behavior, she sensed a certain shadiness to his personality. She just couldn’t wait to get home and out of his vehicle.

To compound everything, on her way home Mrs. Gartenhaus realized that she had no more money in her wallet — and she also realized that Mr. Gartenhaus would not be home from his chavrusa for a while. She really did not want to disturb his learning, just because she had forgotten to bring enough money for the cab home. But what was she to do?

She wondered whether one of the neighbors might be home, and whether she could remember their phone numbers. Sure enough, Mrs. Horowitz’s phone number popped into her head — if only she was home. Mrs. G. dialed the number on her cell phone, and, Baruch Hashem, Mrs. Horowitz answered! Mrs. G. quickly explained her predicament, and Mrs. Horowitz answered, “No problem. I have a 100-shekel bill in my wallet. That will be more than enough for your fare.”

Mrs. G. breathed an audible sigh of relief. “The fare should actually not be more than 40 shekalim, so I don’t need to borrow that much,” she told Mrs. Horowitz.

“I happened to check my wallet this morning and noticed that I have only one single 100-shekel bill,” Mrs. H. replied. “But feel free to borrow it. I have to go to the bank later today, anyway, to withdraw some money. I’ll send my daughter Chanie outside to meet your cab.”

Mrs. Horowitz asked 13-year-old Chanie to fetch the bill from her wallet and meet Mrs. Gartenhaus’s cab. Mrs. G., who was very relieved to escape the sleazy driver’s vehicle, paid little attention to the bill that she transferred from Chanie’s hand to the cabby’s outstretched paw. Before receiving her change, she gratefully began to exit the cab.

“One minute,” the driver shouted gruffly, brandishing a 20-shekel bill in his hand, “you owe me another 20 shekalim!”

Mrs. Gartenhaus was at a loss. She had assumed that Chanie gave her the 100- shekel note her mother promised, but maybe there was some mistake. In the meantime, Chanie had returned home, the driver was hissing, and Mrs. G. just wanted to get home and climb into bed.

Noticing one of her neighbors on the curb, she embarrassingly called out the window, “Do you perhaps have 20 shekels I can borrow?” Having successfully borrowed the additional 20 shekels, she paid the cabby, and struggled into her house. Meanwhile, she was trying to figure out what went wrong in her communication with her wonderful neighbor, Mrs. Horowitz. And only later did she realize that she should have taken down the cabby’s license number and the name of his company.

After resting a while, she called Mrs. Horowitz to ask her if she could send one of her children over in order to repay her loan. “By the way, how much money did you send with Chanie?” she inquired.

“I sent 100 shekel,” came the swift reply. “Why? Was there some problem?”

Mrs. G. told Mrs. Horowitz what had happened. “I’ll check with Chanie, but I am pretty certain that all I had was one 100-shekel bill in my wallet.”

Chanie confirmed that she had found only one 100-shekel bill in the wallet.

How much must Mrs. Gartenhaus pay back to Mrs. Horowitz?

Does Chanie have any legal responsibilities in this case?

Mrs. Horowitz called Rav Cohen to ask how much Mrs. Gartenhaus owes her. Although it might seem like an open-and-shut case, the halacha is anything but obvious, as we will see.

Rav Cohen mulled over the case, thinking over the complicated halachic topics this event encompasses. Clearly, both women want to do what is correct. Is it clear that Mrs. Gartenhaus owes 100 shekalim?

Legally, in this case, the claimant, usually called the plaintiff, is Mrs. Horowitz. She is placing a claim that Mrs. Gartenhaus borrowed 100 shekalim that Chanie delivered. Mrs. Gartenhaus’s response is that she does not know how much money she borrowed. It might seem that Mrs. G. has a very weak defense: after all, Mrs. Horowitz is making a definite claim that Mrs. Gartenhaus owes her 100 shekalim, while Mrs. Gartenhaus’s only response is that she did not pay attention.

Halachically, Mrs. Horowitz’s definite claim is called a bari, a person with a certain claim. Mrs. Gartenhaus response that she is unaware how much she owes makes her a shema, a defendant who is uncertain. This case is the subject of a Talmudic dispute. Here is one case where this question is discussed:

Reuven borrowed a cow from Shimon and also rented a different cow. One of the cows died in a way that would make Reuven liable if he had borrowed it, but not liable to pay if he had rented it. Unfortunately, Reuven does not remember which cow was borrowed and which was rented, but Shimon is certain that the dead cow is the one that was borrowed and that Reuven is obligated to pay. Must Reuven compensate Shimon for the dead cow?

The halacha is that bari ve’shema lav bari adif, the certain claim of the bari is insufficient, on its own, to win the case. This rule is true even in a case where the shema should have known for certain whether the claim against him is valid, like in our situation (Bava Metzia 97b). Therefore, Reuven does not have to pay for the dead cow.

Applying the principal to our case, it could be that Mrs. Horowitz would have to prove that she loaned 100 shekalim in order to require Mrs. Gartenhaus to pay the full amount. But this is true only when the claim is challenged.

Ah, but you’ll tell me, Mrs. Horowitz has a witness on her side which Shimon did not have. Chanie can testify that the loan was indeed 100 shekalim!

By now, the yeshiva minds among us are racing with valid reasons why Chanie’s testimony is insufficient to prove her mother’s case. Firstly, a single witness is not enough. Secondly, Chanie is related to one of the interested parties. Furthermore, Chanie herself is an interested party, nogei’a be’eidus, in the litigation. If she denies that she received a 100-shekel bill from her mother, she exposes herself to a lawsuit from her mother that she received money, as an agent, that she cannot account for. Although the likelihood of Mrs. Horowitz suing her own daughter for 100 shekalim is slim, it is still sufficient reason for Chanie to be considered a nogei’a be’eidus, making her testimony inadmissible.

Mrs. Horowitz has not yet exhausted her legal approaches. She may still stake a claim against Mrs. Gartenhaus, based on either of the following reasons:

1. Modeh bemiktzas. Mrs. Gartenhaus agrees that she borrowed money, but is challenging the amount of the loan. The Gemara calls this modeh bemiktzas, acknowledging part of a claim. The Torah requires someone who acknowledges part of a claim, and denies part, to swear an oath he does not owe the balance (Bava Metzia 3aet al.). If he does not want to swear, he must pay the balance of the claim.

2. Shevuas heses. Based on Mrs. Horowitz’s definite claim that Mrs. Gartenhaus owes her 100 shekalim, Mrs. H. can insist that Mrs. G. swear an oath denying that she owes money. The Gemara calls this shevuas heses, an oath to discourage defendants from denying claims that lack sufficient evidence (Shevuos 40b; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 87:1).

We will examine each of these legal arguments. In the first argument, modeh bemiktzas, Mrs. Horowitz is claiming 100 shekalim. Mrs. Gartenhaus acknowledges that she owes 20 shekalim, but is uncertain about the remaining 80 shekalim. Thus, to fulfill the Torah’s requirement to swear an oath, Mrs. Gartenhaus would have to swear that she definitely does not owe more than 20 shekalim, something she cannot do. What is the halacha in this situation?

The Gemara discusses this exact case: Reuven claimed that Shimon owed him 100 dinarim. Shimon responds, “I know that I owe you fifty, but I do not know about the other fifty.” Is Shimon obligated to swear on the remaining balance? And if so, what does he swear?

The Gemara rules that since Shimon cannot swear that he does not owe the balance, he is obligated to pay the full 100 dinarim (Bava Metzia 98a).

Thus, Mrs. Horowitz seems to have her case wrapped up. Mrs. Gartenhaus cannot swear that she definitely does not owe 80 shekalim. Consequently, she should be required to pay the full 100 shekalim.

Except for one detail: Has Mrs. Gartenhaus paid back the 20 shekalim? If she already paid back 20 shekalim, the case is halachically different.  Now, Mrs. Horowitz is claiming 80 shekalim and Mrs. Gartenhaus is denying the entire claim. Thus, Mrs. G. is no longer modeh bemiktzas, someone who acknowledges part of the claim, but kofeir hakol, someone denying the entire claim. Although it may seem that there is not much difference between the two scenarios, halachically someone who acknowledges part of a claim must swear an oath min haTorah, whereas someone who denies the entire claim does not. The rationale for this distinction is beyond the scope of this article (Bava Metzia 3a).

This is where the other type of oath, shevuas heses, comes into play. Since Mrs. Horowitz claims that Mrs. Gartenhaus definitely owes her 80 shekalim, she can insist that Mrs. G. swear an oath about the claim.

But one minute! Either way, there would be a technical responsibility to swear an oath. What is the difference whether Mrs. Gartenhaus is being asked to swear an oath because of modeh bemiktzas or as a shevuas heses? Either way, there is an oath that she cannot swear!

However, there is a big difference in halacha between the two oaths, which makes a practical halachic difference in our case. If the oath is min haTorah, the fact that Mrs. G. cannot swear for certain to deny the claim works against her, as we explained above. However, if the oath is of the heses variety, which is only mi’derabbanan, it is sufficient for Mrs. Gartenhaus to swear that she is unaware how much she owes (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 87:1). Thus, Mrs. Horowitz cannot insist that Mrs. Gartenhaus pay her the full sum. She must be satisfied with 20 shekalim and an oath from Mrs. Gartenhaus that she does not know how much she borrowed.

Rav Cohen reflected over the fact that batei din do not usually insist on oaths, but instead will suggest some form of compromise. Not that these two well-meaning ladies were about to pursue this matter in a beis din setting — they merely want to do what is halachically correct.

The Rav asked Mrs. Horowitz to have Mrs. Gartenhaus give him a phone call.

The phone rings. Mrs. G. is on the phone. Rav Cohen asks her what happened, to see if the versions substantiate one another. They do. And it is also clear that Mrs. Gartenhaus wants to do what is correct.

“Is it true that you told Mrs. Horowitz that I don’t have to pay her back?” asked Mrs. G. “I feel really guilty about that. I can’t imagine that just because I didn’t pay attention to how much money Chanie gave me that she should be out 80 shekalim.”

“Actually, I was simply pointing out that the halacha is not obvious,” replied the Rav. “However, someone who wants to be certain that he has done the mitzvah correctly (ba latzeis yedei shamayim) should pay back a full 100 shekalim (Bava Kamma 118a). Thus, the correct thing to do is to offer her the full amount.”

Mrs. Gartenhaus paid the money in full, and, as you can imagine, she never heard from the cabby again. Besides the halachic principles gleaned from her story, an added lesson is to check before handing over a bill, especially to an unscrupulous cab driver!

Forgetting Shabbos Candles

Since we derive the laws of Shabbos from the construction of the Mishkan, this topic is unquestionably in order.

Question #1: Missed One

“After Shabbos began, I noticed that I had forgotten to light one of my candles. Must I light an additional candle in the future?”

Question #2: Unable to Light

“I was unable to light my Shabbos lights because of circumstances beyond my control. Must I begin lighting an additional candle every week in the future?”

Question #3: Already Add

“My mother lights only two candles all the time, but I have been lighting three. One week, I missed lighting; do I now need to light an additional one, for a total of four, even though I already light more than my mother does?”

Question #4: Electrified

“I did not light my Shabbos candles, but there was plenty of electric light in the whole house. Must I add an additional light in the future?”

Introduction

An accepted custom is that a woman, who misses lighting Shabbos candles one week, adds to her future lighting, either by kindling more lights, by adding more oil to her lamps, or by lighting longer candles. The basis for this practice is recorded relatively late in halachic literature. It is not mentioned anywhere in Chazal, nor in the period of the ge’onim or early rishonim. The source for this custom is the Maharil (Hilchos Shabbos #1), the source of most early Ashkenazic customs, particularly those of western Germany (sometimes called minhag bnei Reinus, those who lived along the Rhine River). Although the Rema refers to this custom as a chumra rechokah, an excessive stringency (Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 263), he notes that women observe this practice and, therefore, he rules this way in his glosses to the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 263:1), where he mentions the practice of adding a light.

In this instance, the custom reported by the Maharil was accepted and became established not only over all of Ashkenaz, including the eastern European world, but also by the Edot Hamizrah, the entire world of Sefardic Jewry. So, halachically, this has the status of a minhag Klal Yisroel. It is uncommon to find such a relatively late custom that has become so well established.

It is also curious that, although we would consider this a relatively minor custom, the halachic authorities devote much discussion to understanding its halachic ramifications, complete with many applications.

Lamp or candle

An important technical clarification is required. Although most women fulfill the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights with candles, we should be aware that the word “ner,” which today means “candle,” in the time of Tanach and Chazal meant the lamp in which you placed oil to light. Although candle manufacture goes back to antiquity, it was not commonly used in Eretz Yisroel and Bavel until long after the era of Chazal. In their day, unless the term ner shel sha’avah (wax lamp; i.e., a candle) or similar term is used, it should be assumed that the word ner refers to a lamp. Thus, the posuk, ki ner mitzvah veTorah or (Mishlei 6:23), means that a mitzvah functions as a lamp and the lights that burn inside it is the Torah.

Man or woman

Another introduction is in order. Technically speaking, the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights is incumbent on every member of a household. To quote the Rambam: “Everyone [emphasis is mine] is required to have a lamp lit in his house on Shabbos” (Hilchos Shabbos 5:1). Although it is usually only the lady of the house who kindles the Shabbos lights, she does so as the agent of the rest of the family and their guests(Levush 263:3; Graz, Kuntros Acharon 263:2). In other words, they have implicitly appointed her a shaliach to fulfill their mitzvah for them, just as they have appointed the man of the house to recite kiddush on their behalf.

The custom, going back to the time of the Mishnah (Shabbos 34a), is that a woman kindles the lights. The Zohar mentions that the husband should prepare the lights for her to kindle. Rabbi Akiva Eiger, in his glosses to the Mishnah, notes that the Mishnah also implies this when it states that a woman is responsible for kindling the lamp (Shabbos 31b), implying that someone else prepared it for her to kindle. The Magen Avraham, quoting the Arizal, notes that preparing the lamps for kindling is specifically the responsibility of the husband (Magen Avraham 263:7).

Thus, if there is no woman in the house, or she is unavailable to kindle the Shabbos lights at the correct time, a different adult should kindle the lamps and recite the bracha when doing so. (Some have the practice that the husband kindles the Shabbos lamps on the Shabbos after a woman gives birth, even when his wife is home [Magen Avraham 263:6; Mishnah Berurah 263:11 and Aruch Hashulchan 263:7].)

If a man was supposed to light candles — for example, he is unmarried — and forgot to light them one week, is he now required to kindle an extra light every week because of the custom mentioned by the Maharil? This question is disputed by late halachic authorities.

Kindled less

If a woman kindled less than the number of lamps that she usually does, is she required to add more lamps in the future?

This matter is the subject of a dispute between acharonim; the Pri Megadim rules that she is required to add more lamps or more oil in the future, whereas the Biur Halacha concludes that there is no such requirement.

Two or three

The Rema raises the following question about the custom of kindling an extra light: Although the Gemara makes no mention of kindling more than one lamp for Shabbos use, common custom, already reported by the rishonim, is that people kindle two lamps every Friday night. Many reasons are cited for this custom of lighting two lights; the rishonim mention that one is to remind us of zachor and the other of shamor. (Other reasons for this custom are mentioned in other prominent seforim,such as Elyah Rabbah [263:2]; Elef Lamateh [625:33]; and Halichos Beisah [14:57].) The Rema asks that when a woman kindles three lights, because she forgot once to light and is now adding an extra one to fulfill the Maharil’s minhag, it seems that she is preempting the custom of kindling two lights because of zachor and shamor.

The Rema responds to this question by quoting sources in rishonim (Mordechai, Rosh Hashanah #720; Rosh, Rosh Hashanah 4:3)that, in general, when a halacha requires a certain number, this is a minimum requirement, but it is permitted to add to it. Thus, for example, when we say that reading the Torah on Shabbos requires seven people to be called up, this means that we should call up at least seven people, but it is permitted to call up more, which is indeed the accepted halachic practice (see Mishnah Megillah 21a).

Based on these rishonim, the Rema explains that the custom is to kindle at least two lamps, and that adding extra because a woman forgot once to light is not against the custom (Darchei Moshe and Hagahos, Orach Chayim 263). This is why the fairly common practice of adding one lamp for each child of the household is not a violation of the custom of lighting two lamps for zochor and shamor. Furthermore, the custom that some have to kindle seven lights or ten lights every Erev Shabbos, mentioned by the Shelah Hakodosh and the Magen Avraham, does not violate the earlier custom of the rishonim of lighting two.

The prevalent custom is that a woman who kindles more than two lamps when at home kindles only two when she is a guest (She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha 75:13). Some late authorities discuss whether a woman who lights extra lights because she once forgot should do so also when she is a guest (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa, Chapter 43, footnote 31; see She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha 75:13, who is lenient).

Why do we light Shabbos candles?

Prior to answering our opening questions, we should clarify a few other issues basic to the mitzvah of kindling lights for Shabbos. The Gemara explains that kindling Shabbos lights enhances shalom bayis, happiness and peacef in the household. Specifically, the authorities provide several ways that lighting increases the proper Shabbos atmosphere.

(1) A place of honor is always properly illuminated, and, therefore, there should be ample lighting for the Shabbos meal (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 30:5; Rashi, Shabbos 25b).

(2) Not only is there more kavod for the Shabbos meal when it is properly lit, but it also increases the enjoyment of that meal (She’iltos #63). It is not enjoyable to eat a meal when it is difficult to see what you are eating.

(3) It also makes people happy to be in a well-lit area. Sitting somewhere that is dark conflicts with the Shabbos atmosphere (Rashi, Shabbos 23b).

(4) If the house is dark, someone might stumble or collide with something and hurt himself, which is certainly not conducive to enjoying Shabbos (Magen Avraham, 263:1).

There are circumstances when some of the reasons mentioned above apply and other reasons do not. For example, according to the first two reasons — to treat the Shabbos meal with honor and to enjoy it — one is required to have light only where one is eating; however, one would not necessarily need to illuminate an area that one traverses. On the other hand, the fourth reason, preventing a person from hurting himself, requires illuminating all parts of the house that one walks through on Shabbos. Since these reasons are not mutually exclusive, but may all be true, one should make sure that all areas of the house that one uses in the course of Shabbos are illuminated (Magen Avraham 263:1).

Husband does not want

What is the halacha if a woman would like to kindle extra lamps, more than her custom, but her husband objects, preferring that she light the number of lamps that is her usual custom. I found this exact question discussed in Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer,who rules that she should follow her husband’s directive, noting that the reason for kindling Shabbos lamps is to increase shalom bayis, which is the opposite of what this woman will be doing if she kindles lamps that her husband does not want (Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 13:26).

Atonement, Reminder or Compensation?

At this point, we can return to our specific discussion about someone who forgot to kindle Shabbos lights. The acharonim discuss the purpose of adding an extra lamp because a woman once forgot to light Shabbos lights. The Machatzis Hashekel (Orach Chayim 263:1) suggests three different reasons for the custom:

Reminder

The reason mentioned by the Bach and other acharonim for the custom is that kindling an extra light every week provides a permanent reminder to kindle Shabbos lamps (Bach, Orach Chayim 263; Magen Avraham 263:3).

Atonement

The Machatzis Hashekel suggests another reason, that kindling the extra light is atonement, kaparah, for not having fulfilled the mitzvah.

Compensation

Yet another reason is that not kindling Shabbos lights one week caused a small financial benefit. To avoid any appearance that we benefit from a halachic mishap, the extra lamp is kindled to make compensation.

(Yet another reason for the custom of adding an extra light is suggested by the Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 263:7).

Do any halachic differences result from these reasons?

Yes, they do. If the reason is because of “reminder,” it is appropriate only if she forgot to kindle, but if she was unable to light, she would not require a “reminder” for future weeks (Magen Avraham 263:3). The example chosen by the Magen Avraham is that she was imprisoned, although we could also choose an example in which a life-threatening emergency called her away from the house right before Shabbos.

On the other hand, if the reason is because of compensation, she should add  extra lamp.

The Magen Avraham and the Machatzis Hashekel conclude that we may rely on the first reason, that it is to remind her for the future, and that the minhag applies, therefore, only when she forgot to kindle, but not when she was unable to.

Unable to light

At this point, let us address the second of our opening questions: “I was unable to light my Shabbos lights because of circumstances beyond my control. Must I begin lighting an additional candle every week in the future?”

It would seem that it depends on what she meant by “circumstances beyond my control.” If she needed to be with one of her children in the emergency room at the time that Shabbos began and no one else in the house kindled lights, I would consider that a situation in which she is not required to light an additional lamp. On the other hand, if she ran out of time and suddenly realized that it is too late to light, this is clearly negligence and she is required to kindle an extra light in the future. Specific shaylos should be addressed to one’s rav or posek.

Already add

At this point, we can address one of our opening questions: “My mother lights only two candles, all the time, but I have been lighting three. One week, I missed lighting; do I need to light an additional one, for a total of four, even though I already light more than my mother does?”

The answer is that you are required to add one because of the custom quoted by the Maharil, in addition to the three that you already light (Elyah Rabbah 263:9).

Electric lights

It should be noted that all four reasons mentioned above for lighting Shabbos lights would be fulfilled if someone turned on electric lights. Notwithstanding that universal practice is to kindle oil or candles for Shabbos lights, most authorities contend that one fulfills the mitzvah of kindling Shabbos lights with electric lights (Shu’t Beis Yitzchok, Yoreh Deah 1:120; Shu’t Melamed Leho’il, Orach Chayim #46, 47; Edus Le’yisrael, pg. 122). There are some authorities who disagree, because they feel that the mitzvah requires kindling with a wick and a fuel source that is in front of you, both requirements that preclude using electric lights to fulfill the mitzvah (Shu’t Maharshag 2:107). The consensus of most authorities is that, in an extenuating circumstance, one may fulfill the mitzvah with electric lights (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 5:24; Shu’t Kochavei Yitzchak 1:2). It is common practice that women who are hospitalized, or in similar circumstances where safety does not permit kindling an open flame, may rely on the electric lights for Shabbos lamps. When one needs to rely on this heter, at candle-lighting time, she should turn off the electric light she will be using for Shabbos, and then turn it on for use as her Shabbos light.

Lighting in an illuminated room

The contemporary availability of electric lighting adds another interesting dimension to the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos lamps, which requires a brief introduction. The rishonim discuss whether one is allowed to recite a bracha over Shabbos lights in a room that is already illuminated, when the reasons for the mitzvah are accomplished already. Some maintain that, indeed, you cannot recite a bracha on the Shabbos lamps when they are basically unnecessary, whereas others rule that the extra light enhances the joyous Shabbos atmosphere and one is therefore allowed to recite a bracha on the candles (see Beis Yosef 263). After quoting both opinions, the Shulchan Aruch (263:8) rules that one should not recite a bracha in this situation because of “safeik brachos lehakeil,” whereas the Rema explains that minhag Ashkenaz allows reciting a bracha.

One of the practical halachic ramifications of this disagreement is whether one may recite a bracha over the Shabbos candles in a room that has electric lights. It would seem that, according to the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch, one should not, while the Rema would permit it. Contemporary poskim suggest avoiding the question by having the lady of the house turn on the electric lights in the dining room in honor of Shabbos immediately before lighting the Shabbos candles and recite the bracha, having in mind to include the electric lights (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 43:34). (The Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah suggests other options that accomplish the same thing.)

At this point, we can address the fourth of our opening questions: “I did not light my Shabbos candles, but there was plenty of electric light in the whole house. Must I add an additional light in the future?”

The question germane to our subtopic is: what is the halacha if a woman forgot to light Shabbos lights, but there were electric lights that were left burning anyway; does the penalty of the Maharil apply in this instance? I discovered a dispute in this matter among late halachic authorities, in which Rav Shmuel Vozner ruled that she is required to kindle another lamp in the future (Shu’t Sheivet Halevi 5:33), whereas Rav Ovadyah Yosef ruled that she is not (Yalkut Yosef 263:43; see also Shu’t Melamed Le’ho’il, Orach Chayim #46; Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 3:14:6; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah Chapter 43, footnote 30; Shu’t Avnei Yoshfeih, Orach Chayim 1:55:6.)

Conclusion

The Gemara states that one who is careful to use beautiful “neiros” for Shabbos will merit having children who are talmidei chachomim (Shabbos 23b). Let us hope and pray that in the merit of observing these halachos correctly, we will have children and grandchildren who light up the world with their Torah!

Sabra in Halacha

Question #1: Colonche and cladodes

I admit not knowing a colonche from a cladode, but is either of them kosher?

Question #2: Is it a pear or a fig?

What is the difference between cactus pears, Indian figs, and sabras?

Question #3: Bal tashchis

Someone has an Opuntia ficus-indica growing in his yard, which constantly sheds leaves. Whenever a leaf lands, it begins to grow roots and a new shrub begins growing. Is it bal tashchis for him to destroy the new plant, since it is a fruit-producing tree?

Introduction

This article is about the sabra, the most commonly cultivated cactus, and a fascinating and highly beneficial pear-shaped fruit, with some very interesting halachic ramifications. Its scientific name, Opuntia ficus-indica, includes the genus Opuntia, andis based on the ancient Greek city of Opus, where an edible plant created new shrubs by growing roots, even from a fallen leaf, one of the many interesting features of the sabra that has halachic ramifications. The name of the species, ficus-indica,means “Indian fig.” We will find out why the sabra, which we identify with Israel and Israelis, is called an “Indian” fig.

The origin of the word “sabra” is Arabic, where the word simply means a “cactus,” although it also translates as “patience.” Since Arabic originated from Hebrew, the origin of this word indeed has a Hebrew shoresh, סבל, which means “being patient.” Indeed, notwithstanding the many uses and health benefits that the sabra provides, it requires a good deal of patience to consume it, since the fruit, the flat, paddle-looking “branch” called a cladode, and the “trunk,” are all covered with small thorns and prickles (ouch!). The entire plant demonstrates incredible nifla’os haBorei; Hashem gave this shrub incredible tools for surviving in the unforgiving, dry desert.

Sabras are cultivated as a healthy food and fodder crop that needs little water and grows well in harsh conditions, particularly in places where other crops do not grow. As we will soon see, it is a plant that has a wide variety of commercial uses.

Native American

Most people do not realize that the sabra has American origins. Along with the bell pepper, cocoa, tomato, potato, corn (maize), soybean and innumerable other American goodies, this Mexican and Central American native was brought by the Spaniards to the Old World. Indeed, both the flag and the coat of arms of Mexico portray the sabra cactus.

The sabra’s western hemisphere origins explain why it is called an “Indian fig.” Remember, Columbus was looking for a route to India. This error is reflected in several misnomers, including one way of referring to Native Americans, the island group called “the West Indies,” and scientifically naming this fruit ficus-indica, which is what the sabra fruit is called in many languages.

Dessert in the Desert

The sabra is a very useful fruit and plant. Both the sabra fruit and its cladodes (branches) are edible, providing welcome nutrients in the desert. In Mexico, the cladodes are eaten as a salad green. In arid parts of Brazil, Opuntia ficus-indica is grown predominantly as forage for the country’s huge cattle herds. In Peru, it is grown predominantly as feed for the carmine beetle – a topic I will discuss shortly. In Morocco, sabras are processed extensively to create very expensive cosmetic oil. And in pre-1948 Eretz Yisrael, sabras were grown primarily to be a border between properties or to keep livestock from wandering.

Since the fruit does not ripen after it is harvested and spoils fairly quickly after picking, the Aztecs, the Mayas and many later producers used it in innumerable food products that are less perishable, such as sauces, juices, jams, candies, vinegar, flour, starches, pickled products, various healthy additives, and even a variety of pareve “cheese.” In addition, since there are several different colors of edible cactus fruit, they can be used as a very healthy food colorant for products like yogurts.

Colonche

In Mexico, sabras are fermented into colonche, a mildly alcoholic, red beverage, whereas in Italy they are processed somewhat differently into a liqueur called ficodi. (Please note that the liqueur called “Sabra” is made of citrus fruit and derives its name from Israelis, not the fruit.)

Colonche and cladodes

At this point, we have enough background to address our opening question: “I admit not knowing a colonche from a cladode, but is either of them kosher?” Who or what are colonche and cladode? Are they kosher?

By now, we know that colonche is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting sabra fruit, whereas cladode is the name for the “branch” of the tree, which looks more like a paddle than a branch. We also know that there are two alcoholic beverages fermented from the sabra, and we can ask whether they are kosher. For that matter, we can ask about all the various other processed foods that are made from sabras: sauces, juices, jams, candies, vinegar, flour, starches, pickled products, food colorants and pareve “cheese.”

The answer is that all these products might present kashrus issues and would require a hechsher, although they all can be produced with a proper hechsher, should a manufacturer be interested. So, for someone interested in setting up his son-in-law in a new business with an original market, an idea would be to manufacture genuine Mexican cuisine, using the sabra plant as its base. I even have a few suggestions for brand names and products: Prickly’s Fig Liqueur, Maya Mia, and Aztec Araque.

Medicinal, therapeutic and cosmetic uses

The sabra’s medicinal properties were discovered in antiquity, including its value as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic and antispasmodic agent. It is rich in vitamins, amino acids, fiber, pectin, flavonoids and antioxidants. The vitamin E content of prickly pear oil is the highest among all cosmetic oils. The sabra fruit is also high in vitamin C and was often packed onto ships to prevent scurvy. Medical research continues to this day, including, for example, recent clinical evidence that the sabra reduces human cholesterol levels.

The tiny seeds of the sabra have superb cosmetic value. Indeed, one of the countries that thrive on the growth of the sabra is Morocco, where the cactus arrived south of the Strait of Gibraltar as early as the sixteenth century, shortly after arriving in Spain. The Moroccans, who are almost exclusively Muslim and therefore officially do not consume alcohol, could not market the liquor produced from Opuntia ficus-indica, but developed a vast international market of natural cosmetics based on the seeds of this fruit. So, your son-in-law’s business can now expand its original offerings of authentic Mexican cuisine washed down with Maya Mia to include Israeli-grown natural vitamin C, natural medical remedies and expensive cosmetics.

Good fences make good neighbors

In some countries, Opuntia ficus-indica was used as a border-marker between neighbors. As mentioned above, left unhindered, its dropped leaves form new plants, each with thorns and spikes, thus becoming quite a nuisance to cross – far more efficient than the famous stone walls of rural New England.

Carmine red

In its natural habitat, the cactus provides a home to scale insects called Dactylopius coccus and Dactylopius opuntiae, which feed on the cladodes. These small creatures have proved invaluable as the source of a bright red dye called cochineal. A cousin of this beetle, native to Egypt, has been known since the time of Tanach for its use as a crimson dye. Indeed, the word carmil appears in Divrei Hayamim as the source of the tola’as shani red dye used in the Mishkan and for the garments of the kohanim. According to Radak, this insect is the source of the dye. This engendered much controversy in the era of the rishonim, when many held that the source of a dye in the Mishkan cannot be non-kosher (Ra’avad, Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 8:13; Rabbeinu Bachyei, Shemos 25:3).

As mentioned above, sabra is grown in Preu primarily as feed for the carmine beetle. The western cochineal provides a dye eight times stronger than its old-world version, and this pigment was worth more than its weight in gold, until the advent of artificial dyes. The use of carmine red preceded the European invasions of America by centuries, as both the Aztecs and Mayas farmed the insect and its dye. When the Spanish imported the dye to Europe, they kept its source hidden for many years, thereby assuring themselves of great profits. In 1620, King Philip III of Spain stated, “One of the most valuable fruits grown in our Western Indies is the cactus pear; it produces value equal to gold and silver.” Certainly so, since it is difficult to grow either gold or silver, minimizing their profits to a single use.

The redcoats are coming!

There is a fascinating historic twist to the cochineal saga. The British, whose uniforms were bright red (presumably to make them highly recognizable on the battlefield), felt that they were overpaying Spain for the gorgeous new-world crimson dye. But, even after their spies discovered the source for the carmine red that they were purchasing, they could not develop an industry, since cacti will not grow in wet, chilly England, and British colonies in the eastern and northeastern parts of North America were also too cold for Opuntia ficus-indica. Even Georgia, named for the British monarchs, was too cold for this undertaking. So, the British looked at the vast holdings of their empire and decided that the huge deserts in Australia would service the British armed forces by providing a ready supply of red dye, once Opuntia ficus-indica was planted and Dactylopius opuntiae imported.

Invasion!

Shortly after planting Opuntia ficus-indica all over Australia, they discovered that not every invasion is advantageous, even for the conquering party. Much of Australia’s climate is perfect for the cactus, and there are no natural enemies to hinder its advance. Opuntia formed dense infestations that hindered livestock’s access to feed. Opuntia thorns injured animals, damaged fleece and hides, and interfered with the transportation of sheep to the shearing. The cactus was also wiping out native flora, causing a mammoth economic and environmental catastrophe. The redcoats were not so concerned about the environmental impact of their actions, but the potential destruction of a different invasive species, sheep, was a major concern that required immediate addressing, since this was the main product that the colony was intended to bring to the royal crown.

The solution is interesting. They discovered that one desert environment which had been detrimental to Opuntia ficus-indica and its red-coated inhabitants was in southern Argentina. They worked to discover what made the arid parts of Argentina so uninhabitable to sabras, eventually discovering a moth, Cactoblastis cactorum, (note the cognates to the word “cactus”) that loves cactus and destroys it. Thus, they were able to save the Australian continent from their own invasion by introducing another foreign species. Fortunately for the Mexicans, Peruvians, Brazilians, Moroccans and dwellers of Eretz Yisrael, no one attempted to introduce Cactoblastis cactorum to their deserts, which could have ruined their liquor, salad greens, dye, forage, cosmetics, boundaries, and your son-in-law’s potential business, before it even got off the ground.

Scaling down

It is curious to note that in Morocco, the cochineal scale is an unwanted pest that destroys the cosmetic value of the sabra, whereas in Peru the cactus fruit is cultivated exclusively for the dye created by this scale. Cochineal use is expanding, today, as a food and lipstick colorant, with Peru its biggest exporter, as people are increasingly concerned about the safety of artificial food additives.

A pear or a fig?

At this point, we can discuss our next introductory question:

What is the difference between cactus pears, Indian figs and sabras?

Sabra fruit is called by several other names, including “prickly pear,” “cactus pear,” “Indian fig,” “Barbary fig” and “Adam’s fig.” It is called “Barbary fig” because, after the Spaniards planted it in Spain, it began spontaneously growing in arid climates of Italy and North Africa, presumably as a result of bird droppings after they ate the sabra fruit. Thus, in many places, it became associated with the coastal areas of northwestern Africa, called the Barbary Coast.

In other words, the answer to the question, “What is the difference between cactus pears, Indian figs, Barbary figs and sabras?” is how you spell it.

At this point, let us address some halachic curiosities germane to the sabra:

Orlah

“If Opuntia ficus-indica is planted as a boundary marker, may one benefit from the fruit that grows during the first three years of the cactus’s growth?”

The Mishnah (Orlah 1:1) rules that fruits growing on a tree planted as a barrier or hedge, or for lumber or firewood, are not orlah. The reason is that the Torah states that the mitzvah of orlah applies only “when you plant a tree for food”(Vayikra 19:23), and these trees are not meant for food. The Yerushalmi (Orlah 1:1) contends that this rule applies only when it is obvious that they are not planted for their fruit; for example, they are planted closer together than what is beneficial for fruit growth, or the trees are pruned in a way that their lumber will develop at the expense of the fruit. Most poskim rule like this Yerushalmi (Rosh, Hilchos Orlah 1:2; Tur Yoreh Deah 294; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 294:23).

Thus, whether sabra fruit is governed by the laws of orlah may depend on where the fruit is grown, but for an unusual reason. Those planted by the native population in Eretz Yisrael, where they were planted as boundary markers and natural fencing to keep the sheep and goats from wandering, are exempt from orlah. Those grown in Mexico for their fruit or for liquor produced from the fruit would be prohibited as orlah. And I’ll let you ask your rav whether those grown in Brazil or Peru are exempt from orlah.

Bal tashchis

At this point, let us address the last of our opening questions. As I was writing this article, a neighbor actually asked me this shaylah: He has an Opuntia ficus-indica growing in his yard, which constantly sheds leaves. Whenever a leaf lands, it begins to grow roots and a new shrub begins growing. Is it bal tashchis for him to destroy the new plant, since it is a fruit-producing tree?

It appears that there is no halachic concern to do so, since the new plant is not yet a tree, and all he is doing is preventing the tree from growing. Should the tree have begun to grow, the question becomes more serious. As I wrote in a different article, the rules governing when it is permitted to destroy a fruit-producing tree, such as a sabra, when there is benefit in doing so are complicated and controversial (Bava Kama 91b-92a; Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 6:8-9).

Tuna fish or fig?

We are all familiar with the word “tuna” as the name of a fish whose flesh is used for brown-bag lunches. The word “tuna” also carries another meaning; in Mexico, it is the name for the fruit that the Arabs call “sabra.”

Strange Coincidence

We know that there are no coincidences and that everything is part of Hashem’s plan. With that introduction, I will share with you what can be described as, perhaps, just a curiosity, or… perhaps, much more. The pasuk in Divrei Hayamim (II 3:14) describes the peroches as woven from techeiles, argaman, karmil, and butz, which is linen. This is the same peroches that the Torah describes in parshas Vayakheil (Shemos 36:35) and in parshas Terumah (Shemos 26:31) as made of techeiles, argaman, tola’as shani, and linen (Shemos 26:31). Similarly, when describing the artisans sent by King Chiram of Tzur to help Shelomoh Hamelech build the Beis Hamikdash, Divrei Hayamim (II 2:13) mentions karmil as one of the materials used in construction of the Mishkan, and omits tola’as shani. Obviously, karmil, cognate to the English words crimson and carmine, is another way of describing tola’as shani (see Radak and Ralbag ad loc.). The Radak (Divrei Hayamim II 2:6) and the Rambam explain tola’as shani to mean “wool dyed with an insect” (Hilchos Klei Hamikdash 8:13; although Rabbeinu Bachyei, Shemos 25:3, disagrees with them). Now, bear in mind that the cochineal scale insect, which is similar to the insect described by the Radak, was originally New World, but feeds, primarily, on a shrub that is now widely associated with Eretz Yisrael. How intriguing that the people of Israel are associated with a term that just “coincidentally” alludes to a dye used in the Beis Hamikdash.

Warming Food on Shabbos

Because the Mishkan and Shabbos are both mentioned in this week’s parsha

Question #1: Near Fire

“May I warm food on Shabbos by putting it near the stove?”

Question #2: Kugel on Pot

“May I take a kugel from the refrigerator on Shabbos morning and place it on the cholent pot to warm?”

Answer

All the questions above relate to the laws of how one is permitted to warm food on Shabbos. Unless specified otherwise, assume that this article is discussing food that is already fully cooked and dry, such as baked or barbecued chicken or a kugel. Cooked liquids, such as soup or gravy, that have cooled off may not be warmed on Shabbos because this might be considered cooking them, a topic we will not discuss in this article.

Introduction

Chazal prohibited placing food, even fully cooked, to warm on Shabbos on a heat source. This was prohibited because it looks like cooking. However, there are a few ways that Chazal permitted warming food on Shabbos.

Near the fire

One way that they permitted is to place the food near a fire, but not on top of it (Shabbos 37a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 253:1). This is permitted, because it is shelo kederech bishul, this is not a usual way to cook. If you build a bonfire or barbecue to roast hot dogs, steak or potatoes, you put the food in the fire or on top of it, but not alongside. On a chilly evening, people sit beside the fire to stay warm, specifically because they usually do not want to be cooked. Similarly, putting food alongside the fire is clearly meant to warm the food, not to cook it, and for this reason is permitted.

Other methods

The Ran permits several other methods of warming food on Shabbos. Some of these approaches are accepted by the other halachic authorities, whereas others are not. I am first going to mention two methods that he suggests that are not accepted by most other authorities:

Ketumah

In the context of a different but related prohibition called shehiyah, Chazal prohibited leaving cooking food on an open fire when Shabbos starts. This prohibition is to avoid the concern that someone might stoke the fire on Shabbos. However, Chazal permitted leaving cooking food on a fire covered with ashes, called ketumah. The Ran rules that once a fire is ketumah, it is permitted to return fully-cooked dry food to warm on that fire, even if the food is completely cold. However, most other authorities prohibit this (see, for example, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 253:2; Magen Avraham 253:25; cf., however, Rema 253:2).

Kugel on top of stove

I mentioned above that the Gemara permits warming food alongside a fire, because food is not cooked this way. The Ran permits taking a pashtida (something like a kugel) and placing it on top of a stove, because it is not usually cooked this way – pashtida was always baked in an oven, not atop a stove. This ruling is not accepted by other rishonim, presumably because they feel that Chazal permitted warming food only in a way that no one cooks any food, not this particular food. Although pashtida is not baked on top of a stove, this is the preferred way to cook many items, and therefore, this does not qualify as shelo kederech bishul.

Kli rishon

A third approach suggested by the Ran and other rishonim to warm food on Shabbos is in a kli rishon that has been removed from the fire. A kli rishon is a pot, pan or other vessel containing food that is very hot from being on top of a stove or inside an oven, or that was heated in a similar way from a direct source of heat. Since we are discussing warming food that is completely cooked and dry, no one cooks these foods in a kli rishon, and, for this reason, you may warm food this way, even if it become so hot that a person pulls his hand back when he touches it (yad soledes bo). Therefore, you may place a kugel or meat into a pot that was heated on the fire, but is no longer on the fire.

Although using this heter is not that common, I will present you with a situation in which it was used. A caterer was hired to serve a Friday night meal at 8:00 p.m., on a cold winter day. Obviously, there was interest in a hot main course, but placing chicken or meat to warm from before Shabbos would probably dry it out before it was served. The caterer’s suggestion was to place a pot of gravy warming on a fire or blech, and then, prior to serving the food, remove the gravy from the fire and then add the chicken to the pot containing the gravy. This allows serving a very hot, moist dinner, without violating any Shabbos laws.

On top of pot

Let us return to the words of the Ran that we have been discussing. Quoting an earlier rishon, the Rashba, the Ran permits a fourth method of warming food on Shabbos: warming cold food by placing it on top of a pot that is directly on the fire. His words are, “It is permitted to put food that was fully cooked before Shabbos, such as a pashtida or something similar, to warm on top of a pot containing hot food on top of the fire, even if it will reach the temperature of yad soledes bo, since this is not a usual way of cooking.” Many other rishonim accept this approach, and it is recorded in the Shulchan Aruch as accepted halacha, as we will soon discuss.

Things that cook easily

We should realize that none of the options of warming food that we have mentioned may be used for foods that have never been cooked. In some instances, heating raw foods that cook easily, called kalei habishul,is prohibited min haTorah. For example, placing a tea bag, raw spices or a raw egg into a kli rishon violates the melacha of bishul mide’oraysa (see Mishnah, Shabbos 42a). (As a matter of fact, kalei habishul will cook even in a kli sheini, which is the platter or bowl into which food was poured from a kli rishon. There is a halachic dispute whether you may place kalei habishul into a kli shelishi, a utensil into which something was poured from a kli sheini platter, bowl or cup, but this is not today’s topic.)

Returning to the fire

Thus far, we have discussed different methods of warming cold food on Shabbos. There is another way that Chazal permitted rewarming food on Shabbos called chazarah, but chazarah refers to food that was already hot on Shabbos and was removed from the heat source. For example, you decided to serve some of the food now, but you intend to return it to the source of heat in order to serve the rest later. Before addressing the opening questions, we need to analyze the rules governing when and how it is permitted to return food to the fire on Shabbos.

The most frequent contemporary example of this is removing a kettle from the blech to make a cup of tea on Shabbos, and then returning the kettle to the blech to remain hot. This heter applies even to liquid food, provided that it is completely cooked and still hot, or at least warm. It is permitted to return the food on top of the fire, but only when several conditions are met:

(1) The fire must be covered in a way that reduces its heat and will remind someone not to adjust its heat on Shabbos. Covering the fire this way is called ketumah, which means that the fire was covered with ash, as I mentioned above. Although some authorities dispute whether the following method is permitted, accepted contemporary practice is to accomplish ketumah by placing a metal sheet called a blech on top of the stove (Magen Avraham 253:31). In addition, it is preferable to cover the dials that adjust the temperature setting on the stove (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:93).

Still hot

Several other conditions should be fulfilled before returning food to the blech.

(2) The food must be fully cooked.

(3) The food must still be hot.

(4) The food must have been removed with the intent to return it.

(5) Preferably, the pot of food should remain in someone’s hands the entire time that it was off the fire.

Many Sefardim are lenient, maintaining that as long as the fire is properly covered, the pot may be returned to the blech even if there was no intent to return it to the fire and it was put down, as long as the pot of food was not placed on the ground. Ashkenazim can be lenient about returning the food to the fire, even if someone mistakenly forgot these last two requirements; that is, the food was removed from the fire without any intention to return it, and it was put down. Lechatchilah, these requirements should be observed.

How hot?

How hot must the food still be to permit returning it to the blech? In this question, Sefardim are stricter than Ashkenazim, contending that the food must be yad soledes bo in order to permit returning it. Ashkenazim rule that the food may be returned to the blech as long as it is still warm enough to eat.

Creating a “blech” on Shabbos

The Mordechai, a German contemporary of the Rashba, discusses the following case:

Someone leaves his cholent cooking directly on the fire when Shabbos started, without the use of a blech, which the Mordechai permits. (In fact, there is a dispute among rishonim whether it is permitted to leave your cholent when Shabbos started on a fire without a blech. Because of this dispute, most people always place their cholent on a blech.) When the person wakes up Shabbos morning, he notices that his cholent was beginning to burn. He needs to reduce the heat that is keeping the cholent warm, so that it does not become burnt, yet he wants it to remain hot for the Shabbos meal. The Mordechai permits taking an empty pot, placing it on top of the open fire, and then returning his cholent pot on top of the empty pot (Shabbos #456, page 80, first column).

A similar situation would be if the food was being kept warm on the blech or an electric hotplate, and someone wants to raise the food a bit above the flame so that it not burn, by placing an empty pan onto the blech and then placing the cholent pot on top of the pan. The Mordechai permits this, provided that the rules of chazarah were followed. However, he implies that it is not permitted to warm cold food on Shabbos by placing it on top of an empty pot on top of a fire or blech.

Controversy!

This ruling of the Mordechai appears to dispute the conclusion of the Rashba that we quoted above. To quote the Rashba again, “It is permitted to put food that was fully cooked before Shabbos, such as a pashtida or something similar, to warm on top of a pot containing hot food on top of the fire, even if it will reach the temperature of yad soledes bo, since this is not a usual way of cooking.”

A superficial glance at these two rulings would imply that they disagree. The Mordechai permits placing food atop a fire or blech only if the food is already hot and the conditions of chazarah are fulfilled, but not otherwise. On the other hand, the Rashba permits placing completely cold food atop a pot to warm on Shabbos, without concern whether the specifications of chazarah were observed. Yet, the author of the Shulchan Aruch quotes both rulings alongside one another in his Beis Yosef commentary and also cites both of them as authoritative rulings in his Shulchan Aruch. Apparently, he did not consider these two rulings to be contradictory. Thus, we need to understand why these cases are dissimilar in order to explain the halachic rulings. The answer that we provide to this question will have major practical ramifications regarding how one may warm food on Shabbos.

Full or empty?

A few approaches are provided to answer this question. The Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 253:33) explains that there is a difference between placing food to warm on an empty pot vs. on top of a pot that has been sitting on the stove or blech with food cooking inside. The Shulchan Aruch permitted warming cold food on Shabbos only when you are putting it atop a pot of cooking food, but not on an empty pot.

What is the difference between an empty pot and pot of cooking food? The Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 37:9, s.v. Hikshe) explains that when you are putting food on a cooking pot, it is being warmed by the steam that evaporates off the food and not directly by the fire. This is not included in the injunction that Chazal established not to heat food in a way that looks like cooking. However, if the pot is empty, the food is being heated by the fire itself, and this is included in what Chazal prohibited.

The Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halacha 253:3 s.v. Veyizaheir) makes the same distinction between placing the food atop an empty pot and a pot that contains food, but explains the reason for the halacha a bit differently. When placing the empty pot on the blech or fire, it is clear that the reason one is doing this is because you want the fire to heat the food. This is considered the same as putting cold food on the fire to warm, which is prohibited. However, when the pot is already full of hot, cooked food, placing a pot of food on top does not look like a normal way to cook food, and therefore was not included in the prohibition of Chazal.

Dry or liquid?

A third way to explain the difference between the two situations is that the Mordechai’s case involves food that contains a substantial amount of liquid, which is how cholent is usually made. In this instance, one cannot warm cold food on Shabbos, because this will be warming liquid food, which we do not do because of concern that one will be cooking it. Therefore, the Mordechai only permitted chazara, i.e., return of warm, cooked food to a situation in which it will stay warm. However, the Rashba was describing someone warming a dry food that is completely cooked. Since there is no possibility of cooking this food, it is permitted to warm it on Shabbos, as long as one does not do so in a way that people usually cook food (Machatzis Hashekel 253:34).

Thus, we have two different distinctions with which to explain how the Shulchan Aruch ruled. There is a major difference in halacha between the different approaches. According to the first approach, it is not permitted to warm food on Shabbos on top of an empty pan or pot, only on top of one that is already heating food. According to the latter approach, there is no halachic problem with taking fully cooked dry food and placing it to warm on top of an empty pot. Similarly, it is permitted to take a disposable pan, turn it upside down on top of the blech, and place food on top of it on Shabbos to warm. (Our intrepid readers who would like to see other approaches to explain the difference between the two rulings of the Shulchan Aruch are directed to the comments of the Tosafos Shabbos, the Gra and the Dagul Meirevavah.)

Conclusion

As we see, the rules Chazal established to allow proper Shabbos observance of hot food are extremely complicated. Yet, one should strive to eat a proper hot meal on Shabbos, enhanced by the fact that it was cooked and warmed following the myriad details of halacha. This is, indeed, the true oneg Shabbos, celebrating Shabbos through a meal that is delicious and also elevates the soul.

May I Keep the Skeletons in the Closet?

Or

What Personal Information Must I Divulge?

The Gemara (Zevachim 88b) teaches that the me’il of the kohein gadol atoned for saying loshon hora…

Two sample shaylos I have been asked:

Question #1:

Mrs. Weiss (for obvious reasons, not her real name) calls me to discuss the following sensitive matter:

“I was treated successfully for a serious disease that my grandmother also had. The doctors feel that my daughter is at risk for this same disease. She is now entering the shidduchim parsha. Am I required to reveal this family information to shadchanim and/or potential shidduch partners, and, if so, at what point am I required to reveal this information? I am truly concerned that this could seriously complicate her shidduchim possibilities.”

Question #2:

A prominent talmid chacham is not originally from a frum background. His son, who is well-respected in his yeshiva, was recently involved in a shidduch. At a certain point, the talmid chacham’s family felt responsible to reveal certain significant information: The talmid chacham was not originally Jewish, and he and his Jewish wife did not discover Torah until after this son was born. They disclosed this information to the family of the girl involved, and her family decided to discontinue the shidduch.

He is now inquiring: “Must we disclose this information to future potential shidduchim?”

Although these situations are somewhat atypical, we all have medical, personal, and/or genealogical issues that we want to keep private. What information must we reveal about ourselves while arranging shidduchim for our children (or for ourselves)? And at what point must we disclose it?

What halachic issues are involved?

Before we analyze these cases, we need to elucidate some halachic topics. We can divide the discussion into three subtopics:

I. Emes — Honesty

II. Geneivas daas – Misleading someone

III. Onaah – Fraud

I.  EMES — HONESTY

A person must maintain total integrity in all his dealings – after all, the Torah commands us to emulate Hashem in all our deeds, and His seal is truth (Shabbos 55a). Someone who is meticulously honest will merit receiving the presence of the Shechinah (see Sotah 42a).

One may not be untruthful without any reason, and certainly not when it deceives or causes someone personal or financial harm. For example, one may not deny damaging someone’s property. Similarly, one may not blame fictitious excess traffic for a tardy arrival at work, when it is simply because one left home too late. For the same reason, one may not deceive someone about a shidduch, by misinforming the other party. I will soon explain the details of this halacha.

HONESTY IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST POLICY

Notwithstanding the responsibility to be straightforward, there are specific situations where the Torah advises one to be imprecise. For example, it is more important to avoid (1) creating machlokes, (2) embarrassing someone, or (3) hurting his feelings or reputation than it is to disclose the entire truth (Bava Metzia 23b with Rif and Tosafos). In situations where a full exposé may cause one of these negative results, one should omit the detrimental information, although it is preferable to avoid fabricating a story (see Chofetz Chayim, Hilchos Rechilus 1:8). If there is no choice, it is preferred even to fabricate a story, rather than embarrass someone or hurt his feelings or reputation. If a correct answer may cause machlokes, one must modify the truth, rather than create ill feeling (Yevamos 65b).

Similarly, if I am asked about someone’s personal habits, I may modify my answer, if the truth might reveal private information that the person may not want to divulge (Maharal, Bava Metzia 23b).

II. GENEIVAS DAAS – MISLEADING SOMEONE

Geneivas daas, literally, “stealing a mind,” means creating a false impression – that is, deluding another person’s perception of reality. The Gemara (Chullin 94a) rules asur lignov da’as habri’os, “it is prohibited to steal someone’s mind.” One example of this is someone who acts as a big tzaddik in front of people, but is less halachically meticulous in private (Tosafos, Bechoros 31a s.v. ika). This unwarranted display of righteousness is a form of deception. Another example is a gentile who asked his Jewish landlord to place a mezuzah on his door; Rav Moshe Feinstein prohibited placing an invalid mezuzah on the door, because of geneivas daas (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:184).

A different type of geneivas daas is misleading someone to feel indebted when this is unwarranted. An example of this is to beg someone to join you for a meal, when you know he will not accept (Chullin 94a, as explained by Orach Meisharim 24:5), and you do not really want to invite him. The invited party feels obligated to reciprocate this false invitation.

Geneivas daas can happen in shidduchim situations, such as by implying that one intends to provide financial support for a yeshiva scholar, when one has no intention or ability to do so, or by implying that one is a big masmid or talmid chacham, when one is not (see Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Even Ha’ezer #82).

III. ONA’AH — FRAUD

Misrepresenting a product or service in order to make a sale is a form of cheating, such as painting an item to hide a defect. A modern instance of ona’ah is insider trading, purchasing or selling a stock or commodity on the basis of information that is unavailable to the public. This is forbidden, unless one notifies the other party of this information.

In shidduchim, the same rule is true: subject to some exceptions that I will explain shortly, one must notify the other party of information that might be of concern, which I will refer to as “blemishes,” although they are not blemishes in the usual sense.

MEKACH TA’US – INVALIDATING THE MARRIAGE

The most serious ramification of withholding required information about shidduchim, or worse, of being deceptive, is that this can even result (in certain extreme cases) in a halachically invalid marriage. (The same applies to any contracted arrangement – an unrevealed, serious blemish effects a mekach ta’us, because the two parties never agreed to the arrangement, as it indeed exists.)

Here are a few interesting examples:

If someone specifies that his new wife should have no vows (nedarim), and finds that she is bound by a neder to abstain from meat, wine, or nice clothes, the kiddushin is annulled (Kesubos 72b)! A husband wants his wife to enjoy life, and refraining from these activities may disturb the happiness of their marriage.

OTHER SERIOUS BLEMISHES

To quote the words of the Sefer Chassidim (#507): “When arranging matches for your children or other family members, do not hide from the other party medical issues, that they would object to enough to decline the shidduch, lest they afterwards choose to annul the marriage. Similarly, you should tell them about deficiencies in halachic observance that are significant enough that the other party would have rejected the marriage.”

CAN’T SMELL

Another example of unrevealed information that invalidates a marriage is a woman who failed to notify her future husband that she has no sense of smell, since this flaw hampers her ability to prepare tasty meals. Similarly, a man whose profession causes his body to have a foul odor is sufficient reason to invalidate the marriage (Kesubos 76a).

Withholding information concerning inability to have children is certainly a mekach ta’us. In this last situation, a physician who is aware that his patient cannot have children is required to reveal this information to the other side, even though this violates patient confidentiality (Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 16:4).

WHEN TO TELL?

In most instances, there is no requirement to notify the other party or a shadchan of any of these blemishes at the time that a shidduch is suggested. The Sefer Chassidim that I quoted above does not mention at what point one must notify the other party of the shortcoming. Contemporary poskim I spoke with feel that one should reveal this information after the couple has met a few times, about the time that the relationship is beginning to get serious. There is no requirement for the parties to tell a shadchan.

However, if one knows that the other party will reject the shidduch because of this blemish, I would recommend forgoing this shidduch to begin with. For example, if one knows that a particular family prides itself on a pure pedigree, don’t pursue a shidduch with them if you know that they will ultimately reject it when they discover that your great-uncle was not observant. A very serious blemish, such as the inability to have children, should be discussed in advance, since most people will invalidate a shidduch for this reason.

WHAT MAY ONE HIDE?

What type of information may one withhold?

KNOWN INFORMATION

It is halachically deceitful for a seller to withhold important information that the buyer cannot find out. However, the seller is not required to disclose a problem that the buyer could discover. Furthermore, as long as the buyer could have noticed something that may arouse attention, there is no geneivas daas and no ona’ah in making the sale (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:31). For example, if someone is selling a house with a drop ceiling, he is not required to notify the buyer that there was damage above the ceiling, since a drop ceiling in a residence arouses attention. Similarly, if the entire neighborhood is susceptible to flooded basements, the seller does not need to mention that his basement has a flooding problem. If the buyer asks directly, the seller must answer honestly (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:31).

A similar concept is true concerning shidduchim. For example, if the scandalous activities of a family member are well-known in one’s hometown, one need not tell the other party, since this information could be discovered by asking around (Shu”t Panim Meiros 1:35). Halachically, when the other party asks neighbors for information about this potential shidduch, the neighbors should share the requested details.

INSIGNIFICANT INFORMATION

A second category of information that need not be revealed includes factors that are insignificant to the buyer. One is not required to provide an in-depth list of every shortcoming that the merchandise has. Similarly, shidduchim do not require revealing every possible medical or yichus issue. The Chofetz Chayim distinguishes between a medical issue that one must reveal and a “weakness,” that one need not. Thus, someone need not reveal minor ailments that would not disturb the average person.

Although I know rabbonim who disagree with this position, I feel that juvenile diabetes is a malady that must be mentioned, whereas hay fever and similar allergies may be ignored. If one is uncertain whether a specific medical issue is significant enough to mention, ask a shaylah. My usual litmus test is: if the issue is significant enough that one might want to hide it, it is something that one should tell.

At this point, we can discuss Mrs. Weiss’s shaylah asked above:

“I was treated successfully for a serious disease that my grandmother also had. The doctors feel that my daughter is at risk for this same disease. She is now entering the shidduchim parsha. Am I required to reveal this family information to shadchanim and/or potential shidduch partners, and, if so, at what point am I required to reveal this information? I am truly concerned that this could seriously complicate her shidduchim possibilities.”

Most poskim with whom I discussed the shaylah contended that one should reveal this information to the other side, after the couple has gotten to know one another and is interested in pursuing the relationship. One rav I spoke to disagreed. He contended that since the problem can be caught early and treated successfully, one need not divulge this information at all. All opinions agree that one has absolutely no requirement to mention this information to a shadchan.

Now let us discuss the second case I mentioned earlier:

A prominent talmid chacham was not Jewish at the time that his son was born. Is he required to release this information to future potential shidduchim?

This question takes us into a different area of concern about shidduchim – yichus, a subject of much halachic discussion. Some poskim sometimes permit hiding this type of information, whereas others prohibit this under all circumstances.

This debate centers on the following story. The Gemara discusses whether someone who has a gentile father and a Jewish mother is considered a mamzer who may not marry a Jew or not. The Gemara concludes that he may marry a Jew, and most halachic authorities rule that he is fully Jewish.

Notwithstanding this ruling, the Gemara (Yevamos 45a) records two identical anecdotes where someone whose father was not Jewish was unable to find anyone in the Jewish community willing to marry him. Although it was halachically permitted for him to marry, people considered this yichus issue serious enough that they did not want him marrying their daughters.

He came to the local gadol — in one case, Rav Yehudah, and in the other, Rava — who advised him to find a wife by relocating to a community where no one knows his past.

The question is: If he is required to reveal that his father is not Jewish, what does he gain by relocating – once he reveals his blemish, people will, once again, be uninterested in his marrying into their family!

Several prominent poskim, therefore, conclude that he is not required to reveal his family blemish, since his lineage will not affect his ability to be a good husband (Shu”t Imrei Yosher 2:114:8; Kehillas Yaakov, Yevamos #38 or #44, depending on the edition). Others dispute this conclusion, contending that one must reveal information like this before a shidduch is formalized, and offering different explanations how he would find a match in the new community (Rav E. Y. Valdenberg, quoted by Nishmas Avraham,volume 3, page 26, 251- 252).

Whether the talmid chacham of our second question is required to reveal his family defect depends on this dispute. According to many authorities, there is no requirement to disclose that he was not born Jewish, whereas others disagree.

As I mentioned earlier, almost all of us have shaylos regarding what we are required or not required to disclose about shidduchim. May we all have only nachas from our children and their families!

Taking out the Sefer Torah

The Mishkan surrounds the Aron, which contains the Torah…

Question #1: Confused genealogist asks: Which?

Which Keil erech apayim should I say?

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

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

Question #3: Concerned davener asks: When?

When do I recite Berich She’mei?

Background

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

Introduction

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

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

Keil erech apayim

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

Am I German or a Pole?

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

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

Eidot hamizrah

A more intriguing question is that both versions of this prayer are in eidot hamizrah siddurim, and their custom is to recite both, “German” version first. I found this or a similar custom mentioned in several rishonim from very different times and places – in the Machzor Vitri, of 11th century France, the Kol Bo of 13th century Provence, and the

Avudraham of 14th century Spain. Some rishonim record a custom of reciting both versions, but having the chazzan recite the first and the community respond with the second (Machzor Vitri). According to either of these approaches, the question is why recite both prayers, since they are almost identical.

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

Ancient prayer

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

Atah hor’eisa

In some communities, reading of the Torah is introduced by reciting various pesukim of Tanach, the first of which is Atah hor’eisa loda’as  ki Hashem Hu Ha’Elokim, ein od milevado, “You are the ones who have been shown to know that Hashem is The G-d, and there is nothing else besides Him” (Devorim 4:35). The practice among Ashkenazim is to recite the pesukim beginning with Atah hor’eisa as an introduction to kerias haTorah only on Simchas Torah. However, in eidot hamizrah practice, Atah hor’eisa is recited every Shabbos, just before the aron is opened, and a shortened version is recited any time that tachanun is not said. (Essentially, these pesukim are said instead of Keil erech apayim, which is only recited on days that tachanun is said.)

According to the ruling of the Ben Ish Chai, as many pesukim should be recited as people who will be called to the Torah that day. Therefore, on Shabbos, the posuk, Atah hor’eisa, is the first of eight pesukim; on Yom Tov, the first two pesukim, including the posuk that beings with the words Atah hor’eisa, are omitted (Ben Ish Chai year II, parshas Tolados, #15). On weekdays when no tachanun is recited, only three pesukim are recited, beginning with the posuk, yehi Hashem Elokeinu imanu ka’asher hayah im avoseinu, al yaaz’veinu ve’al yi’tesheinu (Melachim I 8:57). The Ben Ish Chai emphasizes that, apparently because of a kabbalistic reason, it is incorrect to recite more pesukim than the number of people who will be called to the Torah that day. Most, but not all, eidot hamizrah communities follow this approach today.

Opening the aron

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

The opener

A minhag has developed recently that the husband of a woman who is in the ninth month of pregnancy should open the aron hakodesh and close it, afterward. The idea that opening the aron is a segulah for a smooth and easy opening of the womb is recorded in eidot hamizrah kabbalistic authorities (Chida in Moreh Be’etzba 3:90; Rav Chayim Falagi in Sefer Chayim 1:5(. To the best of my knowledge, this custom was unheard of among Ashkenazim until the last thirty or so years. As I see it, this custom has value in that it might ameliorate a husband’s feelings that he is at least doing something to assist his poor wife when she goes through highly uncomfortable contractions. And, it also makes his wife feel that he did something for her, so there may be a sholom bayis benefit. As to whether there is any segulah attached to this practice, I will leave that for the individual to discuss with his own rav or posek.

Caring husband

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

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

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

In my opinion, he should lead the services, which is a custom going back hundreds of years, whereas the custom of taking the sefer Torah out of the aron hakodesh is mentioned much more recently, and was not even practiced by Ashkenazim until a few years ago. However, I will leave it to the individual to discuss this issue with his rav or posek.

Berich She’mei

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

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

1. Recite it only before Shabbos Mincha reading.

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

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

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

5. Recite it whenever the Torah is read.

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

Allow me to explain the origins of these various practices.

1. Only Shabbos Mincha

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

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

Another option: Shabbos has three levels of sanctity, Friday evening, Shabbos morning and Shabbos afternoon. There are several ramifications of these differences, including that the central part of the three shemoneh esrei tefilos of ShabbosMaariv, Shacharis and Mincha — are three completing different prayers (as opposed to all other days when the main parts of these three tefilos are identical). These three tefilos represent three historical Shabbosos and their spiritual ramifications:

(1) Maariv, or, more accurately, the Friday evening part of Shabbos, represents the Shabbos of creation.

(2) Shabbos morning represents the Shabbos of the giving of the Torah.

(3) Shabbos afternoon represents the future Shabbos of the post-redemption world.

These three aspects manifest themselves also in the three meals of Shabbos, and, for this reason, seudah shelishis is traditionally approached as having the pinnacle of spirituality. This explains why Shabbos Mincha is the time that the prayer, Berich She’mei, specifically addresses.

2. Only Shabbos, but both morning and Mincha

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

3. Only Shabbos and Yom Tov

4. Only Shabbos, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh

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

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

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

5. Always

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

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

6. Not at all

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

Those who do recite Berich She’mei assume that this term bar elohin refers to the angels, and they certainly exist, just as it is certain that it is prohibited to pray to them.

When to say it?

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

Conclusion

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

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