Do People Live in the Zoo, Part II

PENTACON DIGITAL CAMERALast week, I raised the following questions:

Question #1: Checking inside the eruv

“Can the eruv fences, walls, and wires be checked religiously every week, yet the eruv is invalid?”

Question #2: Shabbos in a warehouse

“May one carry in a warehouse on Shabbos?”

Question #3: Do people live in the zoo?

What do the previous two questions have to do with the title of this article?

One may carry inside such an area only when it is no larger than 5000 square amos (Mishnah Eruvin 23a), which equals approximately 1000* square meters or 10,000-11,000 square feet. For the balance of this article, I will refer to an area larger than a beis sasayim, that is, one that contains more than 5000 square amos, as a large area, and any area smaller than this as a small area. There is another factor that must be met to permit carrying in a small area that is not enclosed for residential use – its length may not exceed twice its width by more than one amoh (Mishnah, Eruvin 23a).

We will now continue our topic from where we left it last week.

Water sources

If a body of water, such as a lake or stream, is within an enclosed area, is the area still considered mukaf ledirah? Similarly, if an area was mukaf ledirah and then became flooded, may one still carry there (Eruvin 24a-b)?

On the one hand, since people do not live under water one could argue that any area covered by water is, by definition, not suitable for human habitation. On the other hand, mankind cannot survive without water; a nearby source of potable water is definitely a residential need.

The halachah is that water covering the ground does not usually create a problem, but there are three factors to be considered:

The quality of the water – can people use it?

How large an area is covered by water?

How deep is the water?

If the water is deep, not usable and covers a large area (more than 2500 square amos), that area is not mukaf ledirah, and the enclosures surrounding it do not permit one to carry there.

How deep?

According to most authorities, one need be concerned only when the water is ten tefachim deep, which is about 80 centimeters or about 2.5 feet (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 358:11). Others are more stringent and are concerned when the water is only three tefachim deep (quoted in Biur Halachah ad loc.).

Water quality

What is meant when we say that the water is usable? This issue is a subject of dispute among both early and late halachic authorities. There are two basic approaches, a stricter approach, which defines usable water as being drinkable (Rashi, Eruvin 24b s.v. Dechazi), and a more lenient approach, which rules that water suitable for laundry and similar uses is considered usable (Rashba, Avodas Hakodesh, Beis Nesivos 1:14:90 and 3:3:144; Ritva, Eruvin 24a).

In today’s world, this dispute would, seemingly, have a very common application. The run-off from rainstorms in suburbia crosses fertilized and pesticide-treated lawns. This water is definitely unsafe to drink. As a result, water accumulating to an appreciable depth over a large area could invalidate an eruv. However, when the water looks clear and is therefore suitable for laundry use, the Rashba would rule that it would not invalidate the eruv, even if it is deep and covers a large area. Thus, whether this water invalidates the eruv should be dependent on the dispute between Rashi and the Rasha.

How do we rule?

There is an interesting halachic curiousity that results here. Two of the most respected late halachic authorities are the Aruch Hashulchan and the Mishnah Berurah. In the vast majority of halachic issues, the Aruch Hashulchan rules more leniently than does the Mishnah Berurah. However, this is one of the instances in which the Mishnah Berurah (Shaar Hatziyun 358:81) rules more leniently, permitting carrying within an enclosed area that contains non-potable water that may be used for laundry or for animals to drink. The Aruch Hashulchan (358:23) requires that the water be potable.

Water seclusion

What does one do if there is an area of land covered by water in a way that it has the halachic status of a carmelis? The halachah is that, as in the instance of other areas that are not mukaf ledirah, carrying is prohibited in the adjacent residential area only when the area covered by water is not separated by a mechitzah. For example, a stream that contains unusable water runs through an area surrounded by an eruv. Does this render the entire eruv pasul?

One possible solution: To construct a tzuras hapesach that separates the prohibited area from the permitted.

A second possible solution: If the banks of the stream are sufficiently steep, these banks themselves serve to divide the water area from the eruv area and no further adaptation is necessary.

The city eruv

At this point, let us examine the first question I noted above:

“Can the eruv fences, walls, and wires be checked religiously every week, yet the eruv is invalid?”

We now are equipped to answer this question. Indeed, if the area within the eruv includes a large area that is planted or contains non-usable water, that area must be cordoned off from the eruv area in a halachically acceptable fashion. This requires essentially creating some type of halachically-approved divider. Otherwise, the eruv is invalid, and one may not carry there.

Thus, even if an eruv’s perimeters somehow, miraculously, survived the onslaught of a hurricane of the magnitude of Sandy, one will still not be permitted to carry within the eruv if there are areas of deep, unusable water that are more than ~5500 square feet.

Planting and the city eruv

Some authorities rule that planting an area is less of a problem in a city eruv than it is in someone’s private area. This is based on the reasoning, mentioned in the Gemara, that planting in a karpif invalidates an individual’s residential “wall.” However, if an entire city was enclosed, the planting of one individual cannot invalidate the enclosure. (Shu’t Dvar Shmuel #259, who introduces this approach, described planting which, by its nature is temporary, inside a city wall. It may not follow that this can be compared to a modern city and its eruv.) There are authorities who dispute this approach and rule that planting invalidates any type of enclosure (Maamar Mordechai 358:14; Chazon Ish, Orach Chayim 88:25).

Does an overgrown area invalidate an eruv?

Thus far, we have learned how planting or water can invalidate an eruv. What is the halachah if an area becomes overgrown with weeds or other shrubbery? Will this invalidate an eruv?

The late authorities debate whether only a planted area invalidates an eruv, or even an area that becomes overgrown on its own. I leave this question for the local eruv committee to discuss with its halachic authorities.

Do people live in the zoo?

The preceding discussion about mukad ledirah serves as an introduction to understanding the question, “Do people live in the zoo?” a practical question that was raised as early as the eighteenth century. The author of a series of scholarly Torah works, the Ohr Chodosh, Rabbi Elazar ben Elazar, sent a halachic inquiry to his mechutan, the Noda Biyehudah, Rav Yechezkel Landau, the chief rabbi of Prague. Where the Ohr Chodosh was then rav, in Cologne, there was a menagerie of wild animals within the area that they wanted to include within the town’s eruv. Based on his analysis of the dfference between the cases that are considered mukaf ledirah and those that are not, the Ohr Chodosh wanted to permit the zoo area as mukaf ledirah. He begins his analysis with the question:

Why is a vegetable garden or wood storage area considered non-residential, and yet an area in which animals are penned (a dir) is treated as residential?

The Ohr Chodosh, himself, felt that the dwelling of an animal is considered a residential use, and that this is true even regarding the dwellings of wild animals. Therefore, if someone builds a zoo with enclosures for the tigers, lions, bears and other species, each enclosure has the status of mukaf ledirah and can be more than a beis sasayim without prohibiting carrying.

A different scholar, identified in the responsum simply as Rabbi Nissan, disagreed with the Ohr Chodosh, contending that animal pens are considered mukaf ledirah only when they include a hut or other type of residence where the shepherd lives. He notes that Rabbeinu Yonasan, the major commentary on the Rif on Eruvin, mentions this distinction. The Ohr Chodosh retorted that he found this restriction, that a dir is considered mukaf ledirah only when it contains a residence of sorts for the shepherd, in no other halachic source, and therefore concluded that Rabbeinu Yonasan’s ruling is a minority opinion. The Ohr Chodosh contended that most authorities would accept his analysis.

On Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5548 (1788), the Noda Biyehudah answered the letter of the Ohr Chodosh, siding with Rabbi Nissan. Although the Noda Biyehudah agrees that the other authorities may not accept Rabbeinu Yonasan’s requirement of a guard hut, the key difference between a dir and a vegetable patch is that a dir requires a human presence, whereas a vegetable patch does not require a human presence. The Noda Biyehudah contends that an enclosure for wild animals will not be considered mukaf ledirah, and will be prohibited if the area is more than a beis sasayim, since people do not dwell among wild animals.

In his responsum, the Noda Biyehudah does not discuss what is the exact difference between a dir and a ginah, but other authorities do. The Tosafos Shabbos explains the difference to be that a dir is used by people at night, whereas a ginah is used only during the daytime. The Biur Halachah explains the dissimilarity in a different way, contending that a dir is adjacent to the house, and includes milking and other uses that are domestic. Therefore, its use is incorporated with the use of the residence.

Roofed

From the case of burgenin and some others, it appears that even a roofed area can be considered not mukaf ledirah. This is the opinion of most halachic authorities, although one major authority feels that burgenin is an exception, and that most roofed areas can be considered mukaf ledirah.

Based on this discussion, one can ask whether a warehouse, larger than a beis sasayim, that does not contain any type of residence, is considered mukaf ledirah. The use of a warehouse is not domestic and therefore could be conceived as not mukaf ledirah.

This question involved a dispute between the Mishnah Berurah and the Chazon Ish. The Mishnah Berurah holds that since a warehouse is a strongly constructed building, it qualifies as mukaf ledirah, regardless as to why it was constructed and how it is currently used. The Chazon Ish challenges this position, insisting that unless a structure includes some place to be used for sleeping, it is not considered mukaf ledirah, unless it meets one of the categories that the Mishnah or Gemara qualify as mukaf ledirah.

The dispute between the Mishnah Berurah and the Chazon Ish should affect only the status of the warehouse itself, and that only if it is larger than a beis sasayim. However, since a warehouse is completely enclosed its status will not prohibit an adjacent area. Thus, the area within the eruv surrounding the warehouse will remain unaffected by its status.

Shuls, batei medrash and bathhouses

The Aruch Hashulchan notes that shuls, batei medrash and bathhouses are all buildings whose purpose is not for residential purpose. One is not permitted to use a shul or a beis medrash for personal use, and a bathhouse is also not used for typical residential use. The Aruch Hashulchan therefore concludes that all of these areas do not qualify as mukaf ledirah, unless they include some type of residence for the building’s caretaker.

Conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos in order to provide a day of rest. This is incorrect, he points out, because the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melachah, which implies purpose and accomplishment. Certainly no more calories are expended when carrying from a reshus hayachid to a reshus harabim than when carrying a heavier item a greater distance within a reshus hayachid; yet, the first activity desecrates Shabbos and the second is permitted.

The goal of Shabbos is to emphasize Hashem’s rule as the focus of creation by refraining from our own creative acts (Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Commentary to Shemos 20:11). Creating a beautiful Shabbos entails much planning and organization, realizing that preparation for Shabbos includes studying all the melachos of Shabbos. This helps us have a greater appreciation of Shabbos, and to get the maximum joy out of this special day.

* The measurements used in this article are meant only for rough calculation.

 

Do People Live in the Zoo?

PENTACON DIGITAL CAMERAQuestion #1: Checking inside the eruv

“Can the eruv fences, walls, and wires be checked religiously every week, yet the eruv is invalid?”

Question #2: Shabbos in a warehouse

“May one carry in a warehouse on Shabbos?”

Question #3: Do people live in the zoo?

What do the previous two questions have to do with the title of this article?

Answer: Invalidating an eruv from inside

With the direction of his rav, Yankel has joined the committee of makers and shakers working on building an eruv in his hometown. He now knows that the area in which he currently lives has the halachic status of a karmelis, an Aramaic word meaning an area in which one may not carry, but which can be enclosed to permit carrying. Creating the enclosure in a halachically approved way is what one does when building an eruv.

One of the benefits of his new project is that Yankel learns much about the laws of eruv. Among the laws he discovers is an entire area of halachah with which he was not familiar – that enclosing an area does not always permit carrying. Often, there is an area within the eruv that precludes carrying there. These areas are often called karpif, although Yankel discovers that this term is also not really accurate. As a result of his curiosity, he studies the relevant source material in the second chapter of Mesechta Eruvin, a topic that he, like most people, had never studied during his years in yeshivah.

What is a karpif?

Although min hatorah one may carry within any enclosed area, Chazal permitted carrying in a large area only when the enclosing of the area serves a residential purpose, which is called mukaf ledirah. If the enclosure was not mukaf ledirah, the area inside is also considered a karmelis in which one may not carry.

Technically, the word karpif means an enclosure outside the city in which one stores felled wood (Rashi, Eruvin 18a). However, the term is generally used to mean an enclosed area that is not mukaf ledirah.

Yankel learned that if an enclosure does not serve a residential purpose, one may carry within it only when it encloses an area that is no larger than the size of the courtyard of the mishkan, which was 50 amos (cubits) wide and 100 amos long, the size of 5000 square amos (Mishnah Eruvin 23a). An area this size is called a beis sasayim, an old farmers’ term based on how much seed they would plant there, and equals approximately 1000* square meters or 10,000-11,000 square feet. For the balance of this article, I will refer to an area larger than a beis sasayim, that is, one that contains more than 5000 square amos, as a large area, and any area smaller than this as a small area.

There is another factor that must be met to permit carrying in a small area that is not enclosed for residential use – its length may not exceed twice its width by more than one amoh (Mishnah, Eruvin 23a).

Why is a small karpif permitted?

Why may one carry in an area that is not mukaf ledirah when it is 5000 square amos or smaller? Was this size chosen arbitrarily?

Chazal permitted carrying in a small area, even when it is not mukaf ledirah, for the following reason: Since no one is permitted to live in the courtyard of the mishkan, the curtains that surround it do not make it mukaf ledirah. This would mean that carrying within the mishkan would be under the heading of a rabbinic prohibition. Yet this carrying was necessary on Shabbos for the regular functioning of the mishkan. Rather than treat the mishkan as an exception to the halachah, Chazal permitted carrying in any area that is this small, even when it is not mukaf ledirah (see Graz, Orach Chayim 358:3).

What is mukaf ledirah?

The definition of what qualifies as mukaf ledirah and what does not is, at times, not obvious. The Gemara (Eruvin 22a) itself states that there are instances when an enclosed area is roofed and resembles a building, yet it is considered not mukaf ledirah, and there are places that are open-air and yet have the status of mukaf ledirah. The Mishnah (Eruvin 18a) mentions four cases that qualify as mukaf ledirah, even though (according to Rashi) there is no roof over them. They are:

(1) Dir — a corralled area that one intends to plant eventually. At the moment, it is fallow, and one is grazing one’s livestock there, so that they naturally fertilize the field.

(2) Sohar, which is, according to Rashi, an area where the townspeople graze their animals, and, according to the Rambam, a prison.

(3) Muktzah — a backyard area.

(4) Chatzeir, a front yard.

The Ritva (Eruvin 22a) explains that the list is progressively more obvious; meaning that the first case, that of dir, is the least obvious “residential” area. Indeed, much halachic literature is devoted to explaining why an area enclosed for animals is considered residential, when, as we will soon see, areas enclosed for trees or vegetation are not.

Non-residential enclosures

Our next objective is to define what is considered a non-residential enclosure, eino mukaf ledirah, in which one may not carry unless it is small, as defined above. The Mishnah and the Gemara teach that several different types of enclosed areas are not mukafim ledirah. As I mentioned above, one of these is a karpif, an enclosure outside the city in which one stores felled wood (Rashi, Eruvin 18a). Similarly, a fenced-in orchard (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 16:1, based on Eruvin 25b), a vegetable patch or a grain field (Mishnah Eruvin 18a; Eruvin 23b) are not mukaf ledirah, even when they contain huts, called burgenin, for the watchmen (Eruvin 22a). In all of these instances, the fence built around the perimeter does not serve a residential need. Even the watchman’s hut is there not to serve as a residence, but to allow the watchman to remain nearby (Rashi, Eruvin 15a). (We should note that some authorities [Tosafos Shabbos, 358:1; Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 358:1] contend that if the watchman sleeps overnight in the hut, it is considered a residence. In their opinion, a burgenin is considered not mukaf ledirah because one uses it only in the daytime.)

We need to understand exactly why certain uses are considered residential, and others are not. However, prior to explaining these ideas, we need to clarify another aspect of this discussion.

Mixed neighborhoods

What is the halachah if an enclosure comprises both an area considered residential and an area that is not? For example, Yankel’s neighbor, Shmerel, has a large fenced-in backyard, which his family uses predominantly for barbecues and other recreation. It sounds as if this area should be treated as mukaf ledirah, even if it is larger than 5000 square amos. Indeed, its proximity to the house and its use would make this backyard mukaf ledirah.

However, this yard also includes a section planted with various spices and vegetables. As we learned above, a planted area is not mukaf ledirah. Do we consider the entire yard mukaf ledirah or not? May Shmerel’s family carry in the backyard? In the course of Yankel’s studying the laws of Eruvin, he discovered that carrying in his neighbor’s fenced-in yard might be prohibited!

A breached eruvNifratz bemilu’oh

To answer these questions, we need to explain a principle, called nifratz bemilu’oh, literally, breached in its entirety. Whenever an area in which one would otherwise be permitted to carry is open to an area where carrying is forbidden, the halachic result is that one may not carry in the otherwise permitted area (see Eruvin 25b). Thus, if it is prohibited to carry in the planted area, and the recreational part of Shmerel’s yard is nifratz bemilu’oh to the planted area, one cannot carry in any part of Shmerel’s yard (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 358:10). As we will soon see, this law has major ramifications for city eruvin also.

What is called “breached?”

Our next question, germane both to Shmerel’s yard and to our city eruv, is: How big a breach prohibits carrying?

There are two ways that a breach forbids carrying. One is when it is greater than ten amos, approximately seventeen feet or five meters. The other way is when the breach is smaller than ten amos but it comprises an entire side of the otherwise-permitted mukaf ledirah area. For example, if an otherwise-permitted rectangularly-shaped area is mukaf ledirah on three of its sides, but the remaining unwalled side opens to an area in which carrying is forbidden, even if the unwalled side is less than 10 amos wide one may not carry in the mukaf ledirah area.

In terms of Shmerel’s yard, this means that if the recreational part is not isolated from the garden, and the garden is large enough to prohibit carrying, the entire yard is prohibited. The same concept is true in a city eruv, as we will soon see.

How large a garden?

Before we can issue a ruling regarding Shmerel’s garden, we need one more piece of information. How large a garden will prohibit carrying?

The Gemara (Eruvin 23b-24a) states that if a planted area is larger than 5000 square amos, one may not carry in any part of the backyard. Even when the planted area is smaller than 5000 square amos, if the planted part is larger than the rest of the yard and the entire yard is larger than 5000 square amos, one may not carry in any part of it.

Healing a breach

Yankel and Shmerel measure the vegetable garden and the yard and discover that, lo and behold, one may not carry in Shmerel’s yard. Is there any way to fix the above problem to permit carrying within the recreational part of the yard?

Yes, there are at least two ways that one can do this. The first is to separate the recreational area from the planted area, and the second is to subdivide the planted area until it is small enough not to create a halachic issue. There are several ways of implementing either of these methods, but discussing them is beyond the scope of this article.

A flower garden

What is the halachah if Shmerel’s garden consists of a flower garden, rather than a vegetable patch? Does his flower garden invalidate the area for carrying, just as the vegetable garden did?

The halachic issue here is the following: People do not live in vegetable patches, but they do enjoy looking and smelling pretty and fragrant flowers. Is this a sufficient reason to consider a flower garden mukaf ledirah?

This matter is a subject of dispute, with different authorities on, shall we say, different sides of the fence. Although most authorities rule that a flower garden does not present a problem (see also Meiri, Eruvin 24a), the Divrei Chayim of Sanz (Shu’t Divrei Chayim, Orach Chayim 2:28) and the Sha’ul Umeishiv (Shu’t 3:131) were among the authorities who ruled that a flower garden will prohibit an eruv. Someone with a similar shaylah should refer it to his own rav or posek.

Fair lawn

As I mentioned above, the Gemara rules that a large, planted area for vegetables or grains will invalidate the eruv. Several halachic authorities say that a grass cover does not invalidate an eruv, since people relax by sitting or lying on the grass. However, can this logic apply when someone does not permit anyone to walk across their expensively tended lawn? This phenomenon, not uncommon in a modern suburban setting, implies that the contemporary lawn of this nature may not be considered mukaf ledirah and can therefore create a problem, if it is larger than a beis sasayim. I leave this question for the eruv movers and shakers to discuss with their posek.

Fenced first

Another halachic factor is that mukaf ledirah requires that the enclosure must have been constructed initially for residential use. This is called pasach u’le’besof hukaf, literally, he opened the entrance first and then afterwards enclosed the area (Eruvin 24a). However, if the area was enclosed when it did not yet have a residential use, providing it with a residential purpose later will not render the area one in which carrying is permitted.

For example, if Shmerel had originally decided to fence in his large yard because he wanted to plant vegetables, and only later decided to use it for domestic purposes, one may not carry in the yard, since its enclosure was originally not for domestic use. (There are ways to rectify such a situation, but this is a topic that we need to leave for a different time.)

Bitul mechitzos

We have yet to discuss another related question: What is the halachah if an area was originally mukaf ledirah, and then someone planted within the mukaf ledirah area? Does this now render the area a karmelis and prohibit carrying? As an example, let us imagine the following scenario: When Shmerel built the fence around his yard, his intention was for residential purposes, and it therefore had a status of mukaf ledirah. At this point, one could carry in the yard. Later, Shmerel decided to plant a large vegetable garden in the yard. Do we say that the yard remains permitted?

The halachah is that planting grain or vegetables invalidates the enclosure, and it is prohibited to carry in his yard.

However, there is an interesting halachah here. Not all planting invalidates the external walls. For example, the Gemara (Eruvin 23b) states explicitly that if one plants a large area of trees, one may continue carrying in the area. This ruling is very interesting, especially in light of the fact that a fence surrounding an orchard is not considered mukaf ledirah.

Trees versus veggies

What is the different between trees, which do not invalidate the eruv, and grain and vegetables, which do?

Rashi (Eruvin 23b) explains that people do not live in a vegetable patch; however, people will walk through an orchard to enjoy the shade. Thus, the planting of trees does not remove the designation of mukaf ledirah from the area.

As I noted above, the latter halachah applies only when one planted trees in an area that was already mukaf ledirah. In other words, there is a difference between enclosing the area, which requires that it initially is mukaf ledirah, and changing its status once it was mukaf ledirah. Enclosing an orchard is not considered mukaf ledirah.

We will continue this article next week…

* The measurements used in this article are meant only for rough calculation.

 

An Eruv Primer

This week’s parsha includes one of the major sources for prohibiting carrying on Shabbos, which provides a good opportunity to study some of the complicated halachos of carrying on Shabbos and the halachos of Eruvin. We cannot do justice to this vast and complicated topic in one short article. However, I will attempt to provide an introduction to some of the issues involved.

The Torah prohibits carrying from an enclosed area, called a “reshus hayachid,” to a public, non-enclosed area, a “reshus harabim,” or vice versa. It also prohibits carrying something for a distance of four amos (about seven feet) or more inside a reshus harabim. For our purposes, we will loosely define reshus hayachid as an area completely enclosed by walls, doors, or a combination of both, and a reshus harabim as an unenclosed area at least sixteen amos wide (about twenty-eight feet) meant for public use or thoroughfare. Many additional technical details define a reshus hayachid and a reshus harabim, some of which will be discussed later in this article.

A non-enclosed area that does not qualify as a reshus harabim is categorized as a “karmelis.” According to Torah law, one may carry inside, into and from a karmelis. However, Chazal ruled that a karmelis must be treated with the stringencies of both a reshus hayachid and a reshus harabim. This means that under most circumstances it is forbidden to carry inside, into, or from any area that is not completely enclosed. This is the way we are familiar with observing Shabbos – one does not carry in any unenclosed area. (I will later point out a significant halachic difference between a reshus harabim and a karmelis.)

Chazal also forbade carrying from one reshus hayachid to another when they are not owned by the same person. Thus, I may not carry on Shabbos from my house to my neighbor’s, even if both properties are completely enclosed. If both areas are owned by the same person, I may carry from one house to the other, as long as I don’t pass through an unenclosed area or an area owned by someone else. I may carry from my house to my neighbor’s if we make an “eruv” which allows the two areas to be treated as if they have common ownership.

BUT I THOUGHT “ERUV” REFERS TO A PHYSICAL STRUCTURE?

The word eruv refers to several different conventions instituted by Chazal. We just mentioned the “eruv chatzeiros” that permits carrying between different areas that are enclosed but have separate ownerships. We create this eruv by making the property owners partners in a loaf of bread or a box of matzohs, which for these purposes is sufficient to consider the properties jointly owned. Once this eruv chatzeiros is made, one may carry from one residence within the eruv to another, since the eruv gives them common ownership. Common practice is to make the eruv with matzohs since they last a long time. Custom is to renew the eruv every Erev Pesach so that it is not forgotten.

One must make sure that the matzohs remain edible. I know of instances where the eruv was forgotten about and long afterwards it was discovered that the matzohs were no longer edible. Who knows how long people were carrying in a prohibited way because no one had bothered to check the matzohs!

WHAT IF THE AREA IS NOT ENCLOSED?

Our discussion until now has been dealing with an area that is already fully enclosed. However, someone interested in carrying in an area that is not fully enclosed must close in the area before making an eruv chatzeiros. The most common usage of the word eruv is in reference to this enclosure.

HOW DOES ONE ENCLOSE AN AREA?

The area must be completely enclosed by halachically acceptable “walls” and “doors.” Walls, buildings, fences, hills, and cliffs can all be used to enclose an area. However, when using structures and land features that already exist, invariably there will still be gaps between the structures that must be filled in to complete the enclosure.

The most common method to bridge the gaps is to make a “tzuras hapesach.” A tzuras hapesach vaguely resembles a doorway, consisting of two sideposts and a lintel that passes over them, which are the basic components of a doorway. According to halacha, a tzuras hapesach is considered a bona fide enclosure. Thus, if all gaps between the existing “walls” are “closed” with tzuros hapesach, the area is regarded as fully enclosed.

Some opinions allow small gaps to remain within the eruv’s perimeter without a tzuras hapesach. Many eruvin in North America rely upon this leniency, whereas in Eretz Yisrael the accepted practice is not to.

A COMMON PROBLEM

The halacha is that a planted field the size of 5000 square amos (approximately 14,000 square feet) within an enclosed area invalidates the ability to carry within the eruv. Similarly, an area of this size that is so overgrown that one would not walk through it will invalidate an eruv. This is a very common problem that is often overlooked. Although every responsible eruv has mashgichim to check the perimeters of the eruv, there is also a need to check periodically within the eruv to see that no large areas are being planted or have become this overgrown. I know of numerous instances where, unfortunately, this problem existed for a while before it was detected.

OTHER DETAILS OF TZURAS HAPESACH

There are myriad details of how to make a tzuras hapesach, far more than can be detailed here. For example, most authorities accept the use of a wire for the lintel of a tzuras hapesach, although many opinions require it to be extremely taut (see Mishnah Berurah 362:66 and Shaar Hatziyun). Most eruvin use telephone wires as the “lintel” of the tzuras hapesach, although there are poskim who prohibit them (see Shu’t Yeshuos Malko, Orach Chaim #20). When telephone wires are used, posts or boards are placed directly below existing telephone wires, with care taken that the wire passes directly over the post. The lintel must pass directly above the sideposts, although the posts are not required to be tall enough to reach the “lintel” (Eruvin 11b). For example, if the wire used as lintel is twenty feet high and the side posts are only four feet tall, this is perfectly legitimate as long as the wire passes directly above the sideposts and that nothing intervenes between them. To guarantee that the wire remains above the posts, it is a good idea to use fairly wide “posts” and to periodically check that the wire is still directly above the posts. From personal experience I can tell you that as the posts or the telephone polls settle it is not unusual that they shift so that the post is no longer under the wire. This is also something that eruv mashgichim must periodically check but, unfortunately, often do not.

The tzuras hapesach is invalid if something intervenes in the gap between the top post and the side post. Thus, it is invalid to rest a side post against the side of a house and attach the top post to its roof, if any overhang of the roof extends below the lintel and above the side post. Similarly, the eruv is invalid if a sign intervenes between the sidepost and the wire being used as lintel.

I mentioned above that there is a major difference in halacha between a reshus harabim and a karmelis. A tzuras hapesach can only be used to enclose an area that is a karmelis where the prohibition against carrying is only rabbinic. It cannot be used to permit carrying in a reshus harabim where it is forbidden to carry min haTorah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 364:2).

This leads us into our next discussion.

CONTROVERSIAL ERUVIN

A strange phenomenon of hilchos eruvin is that although Chazal created the concept of eruv to facilitate peace among the Jewish people, probably no other mitzvah has been involved in so much controversy. Why is this?

The details of hilchos eruvin are extremely complicated and often subject to dispute. It is not unusual to find a situation where one rav forbids a certain eruv min HaTorah, while another rav rules that it is perfectly kosher. Although both decisions are based on the same Gemara and halacha, one posek condemns as chilul Shabbos what the other considers a mere chumrah or less.

This is not a new phenomenon. Let us share a halachic discussion that is over a thousand years old.

600,000 PEOPLE

There is a very old dispute whether a reshus harabim (min haTorah) only exists if the area is used by at least 600,000 people, just as the reshus harabim of Klal Yisrael in the desert was used by 600,000 people, the members of the Jewish nation. (Indeed, the question is raised that a reshus harabim should require several million people because the 600,000 count only men over twenty and did not include the women and children.)

Rashi (Eruvin 59a) writes that only an area with this number of people constitutes a reshus harabim that cannot be enclosed with a tzuras hapesach. This excludes all the towns and cities inhabited by Jews from the Middle Ages until fairly modern times. They did not have 600,000 people and could therefore be enclosed by a tzuras hapesach. However, many rishonim disagree with Rashi and rule that any street or marketplace sixteen amos wide is a reshus harabim and cannot be enclosed with a tzuras hapesach. This issue is made more confusing since the Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chayim 345:7 rules strictly, whereas in 303:18 he appears to rule leniently. Many major authorities follow the lenient interpretation (Magen Avraham; Taz in 345), and it was upon this basis that most Eastern European communities constructed eruvin. However, according to most authorities this lenience cannot be used as the basis to permit an eruv today since most large Jewish communities are in places with more than 600,000 people.

A FIGHT OVER AN ERUV

In the thirteenth century, Rav Yaakov ben Rav Moshe of Alinsiya wrote a letter to the Rosh explaining why he forbade a tzuras hapesach eruv in his town. In his response, the Rosh replied that Rav Yaakov’s concerns were groundless and that he should immediately construct an eruv. Subsequent correspondence reveals that Rav Yaakov did not change his mind and still refused to erect an eruv in his town. The Rosh severely rebuked him for this recalcitrance, insisting that if he (Rav Yaakov) persisted he would be placed in cherem. The Rosh also ruled that Rav Yaakov had the status of a zakein mamrei, a Torah scholar who rules against the decision of the Sanhedrin, which is a capital offense (Shu’t HaRosh 21:8)! All this demonstrates that heated disputes over eruvin are by no means a recent phenomenon.

OVER-RELYING ON AN ERUV

Although there are many obvious advantages to having a kosher eruv, we should always be aware that there are also drawbacks. One major drawback is that people become unprepared if the eruv goes down one week. Suddenly, they cannot take their reading glasses to shul and their plans of pushing the stroller so they can eat the Shabbos meals at someone else’s house are disrupted.

Another disadvantage is that people become so used to having a eruv that they no longer pay serious attention to the prohibition against carrying. Children raised in such communities, and even adults who always lived in cities with an eruv, sometimes hardly realize that there is any prohibition against carrying.

In Israel, where virtually every town has an eruv, the assumption that there is always an eruv can be a tremendous disadvantage as the following story illustrates:

A moderately-learned frum Israeli moved to an American city with no eruv. He was hired by a yeshiva as cook and was responsible for the everyday kashrus of the yeshiva’s kitchen. The first Shabbos on his job, the new cook went for an afternoon stroll with his family, baby carriage and all. This raised a whirlwind in the yeshiva — people were shocked that they had entrusted the yeshiva’s kashrus to someone who openly desecrated Shabbos! Only later was it clarified that the cook was unaware that a city might not have an eruv. Living his entire life in cities with an eruv, he had automatically assumed that every city with a Jewish community had such a fixture!

In conclusion, we see that disputes among poskim over eruvin are not recent phenomena. In practice, what should an individual do? The solution proposed by Chazal for any such shaylah is “Aseh lecha rav, vehistalek min hasafek,” “Choose someone to be your rav, and remove yourself from doubt.” The rav can guide you to decide whether it is appropriate for you to carry within a certain eruv, after weighing factors including what heterim were used in the eruv’s construction, care of eruv maintenance and family factors. The psak and advice of one’s rav can never be underestimated!

Must My Car and Table Observe Shabbos?

Question #1: Life of the Party, Inc.

Chayim is opening a party rental business, Life of the Party, Inc., renting out tables and chairs. Are there any potential halachic pitfalls that present themselves concerning items rented over Shabbos?

Question #2: Avi’s Rent-a-Car

Avi wants to open an auto rental agency that would be closed on Shabbos. He was advised to set it up with a non-Jewish partner who owns the business on Friday, even though they intend to close the business Friday before sunset. Why would Avi need a gentile partner?

Answer:

The Gemara (Shabbos 19a) quotes a beraysa that states:

A man may not rent his keilim to a gentile on Friday, but he may rent them to him on Wednesday or Thursday.

(Since the Gemara uses the word keilim to include a much broader category of items than does any of the English words utensils, tools or appliances, I will be using predominantly the word keilim, to avoid confusion.)

This beraysa poses a host of questions. What could possibly be the reason to prohibit renting your keilim to a gentile before Shabbos? As a gentile is not required to observe Shabbos, what does it matter if he uses the keilim on Shabbos? Furthermore, what difference does it make whether I rent them out on Friday or on Thursday?

We find many different approaches among the Rishonim to explain this beraysa. Indeed, answering these questions will provide an opportunity to study several important Torah topics. But first, an introduction.

Must my cow keep Shabbos?

The Torah requires that not only must we not work on Shabbos, but we must also allow our servants, and even our animals, to rest on Shabbos. These prohibitions are called respectively, shevisas avadim and shevisas beheimah. In practical terms, this means that I may not have my animal perform work for me. This prohibition is mentioned explicitly by the Torah: Do not perform work – not you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, your animal (Shemos 20:9). I am responsible to see that none of them performs melachah on my behalf.

Must my appliances keep Shabbos?

Since I may not have my animals work for me on Shabbos, the next question is whether I may have my appliances work for me on Shabbos.

Those who have never studied Mesechta Shabbos usually find it surprising to discover that there is actually a dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai on this topic (cf. Bach, Orach Chayim 246, who concludes that even Beis Hillel concurs that, under certain circumstances, one is required to allow one’s keilim to “rest” on Shabbos, and that the dispute is what type of shevisas keilim is forbidden). Beis Shammai rules that it is prohibited min haTorah to have one’s appliances perform melachah activity on Shabbos (Shabbos 18a). This prohibition is called shevisas keilim. According to Beis Shammai, having my mill grind grain on Shabbos is prohibited min haTorah, even if it operates completely automatically and requires no human intervention whatsoever. Similarly, Beis Shammai prohibits having a gentile rent or borrow my keilim on Shabbos, if he will use them for forbidden melachah activity (Tosafos, Shabbos 19a s.v. Lo). Thus, Beis Shammai forbids allowing my hoe or my automobile to remain in the hands of a gentile or not-yet-observant Jew over Shabbos, out of concern that he may use them on Shabbos. This ruling would definitely create a halachic problem for Avi’s Car Rental.

Beis Hillel disputes this ruling, contending that the Torah prohibited only having my animals work on Shabbos, but not my inanimate property. We therefore have an anomalous situation whereby having my keilim used for melachah on Shabbos is prohibited min haTorah according to Beis Shammai and yet may be completely permitted according to Beis Hillel.

Note that I wrote may be permitted. As we will soon see, there are other factors that need to be resolved, and it is these other factors that will affect Chayim and Avi.

Back to the beraysa

At this point, we will return to our original beraysa, which states: a man may not rent his keilim to a gentile on Friday, but he may rent them to him on Wednesday or Thursday.

Remember that we were puzzled why one may not rent items to a gentile on Friday. Several early authorities contend that this beraysa follows the opinion of Beis Shammai, that one’s keilim may not be used to perform work on Shabbos, even if the work is performed by a gentile (Rif and Rambam, as explained by Rosh, Ran, and Beis Yosef). Therefore, the beraysa prohibits giving my appliance to a gentile on Friday out of concern that he will use it in the performance of a melachah on Shabbos. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, the beraysa was only concerned about this happening if I gave him the appliance on Friday, but not if the gentile received the appliance earlier in the week (see Rosh, Shabbos 1:36).

Although, indeed, some early authorities understood that this beraysa follows the opinion of Beis Shammai, most authorities reject this approach. Among their concerns are:

(1) If this beraysa follows the opinion of Beis Shammai, then it does not reflect accepted halachah, which follows Beis Hillel. Usually, when a statement of a Mishnah or beraysa reflects an opinion that we do not follow, this point is noted by the Gemara, which is not the case in this instance.

(2) If the reason for this beraysa is that one is required to make sure that one’s keilim rest on Shabbos, why does the beraysa prohibit only renting your keilim to a gentile? It should be just as prohibited to lend him your keilim, since he might perform melachah with the loaned utensil!

Alternative approaches

To resolve these issues, other authorities present alternative reasons why one may not rent keilim to a gentile on Friday. Before presenting the next approach, we first need to understand a concept called sechar Shabbos.

Sechar Shabbos

Because Shabbos should be completely divorced from any mercantile activity (Rashi, Kesubos 64a s.v. Kisechar), Chazal prohibited receiving payment for something performed on, or that occurred on, Shabbos, even when the work involves no melachah, and even when I, myself, am not doing anything on Shabbos (Bava Metzia 58a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 306:4). For example, although it is permitted to work as a waiter on Shabbos, one may not be paid specifically for the work done on Shabbos. Another example: I may not rent out my tables on Shabbos to a gentile, even though I, myself, am not doing anything, and my tables are doing no forbidden melachah activity, but are just standing around, looking pretty.

So how do chazzanim get paid?

This leads to a question. If one may not be paid for Shabbos work, how does one hire a waiter, chazzan, baal keriyah, or babysitter for the work that they are going to do on Shabbos? Is one not paying him or her for work performed on Shabbos? The answer is that one must arrange that the person hired to perform work that will take place on Shabbos is also hired to perform work that he will do on a weekday, and that no calculation is made how much the Shabbos work is worth. The employee (waiter, chazzan, baal keriyah, babysitter, etc.) must be paid in a package deal that includes the Shabbos work. This method is called havlaah – absorbing or swallowing, as the pay for the Shabbos work is “absorbed” in the pay for the non-Shabbos work.

Therefore, a chazzan is paid a package deal that includes payment for his travel or preparation time, or for other non-Shabbos responsibilities. Similarly, a baal keriyah must be paid a package deal that includes the non-Shabbos time he spends preparing the reading. If one chooses to hire or work as a babysitter or waiter on Shabbos, one must hire or be hired in an arrangement that includes some non-Shabbos work, and the pay package may not be calculated on an hourly basis, since this will, therefore, include direct pay for Shabbos (see Rama, Orach Chayim 306:4 and Magen Avraham ad loc..) Instead, one must pay or be paid a “package” that does not have a per hour breakdown.

(We should note that there are some authorities who rule that there is no prohibition of sechar Shabbos when one is doing a mitzvah (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 306:5 and 526:5). According to those who are lenient, a chazzan, baal keriyah or baal tekiyah may be paid exclusively for his Shabbos work. A full treatment of this subtopic will need to wait for a different article.)

“Life of the Party” and Shabbos

At this point, we should discuss one of the questions raised above: Chayim’s party rental business, Life of the Party, Inc. Chayim asked if there are any potential halachic pitfalls that may present themselves concerning items rented over Shabbos. There is one problem that could come up if Chayim is not careful, but it is very easy to avoid. Let me explain.

Someone who rents property or equipment to a gentile may not charge specifically for Shabbos, since this includes sechar Shabbos. This will not be a problem if the rental rates are calculated according to calendar day; this is a form of havlaah, since Friday and Saturday calendar days both include parts of a day that are not Shabbos. However, this could become a problem when a Yom Tov falls on either Friday or Sunday, since the prohibition also applies on Yom Tov and the calendar day now includes only time when there will be a problem of sechar Shabbos/Yom Tov (see Tur, Orach Chayim 585). Chayim can avoid this problem, either by not charging for that extra day, or by charging a “weekend rate” that includes time that is neither Shabbos nor Yom Tov.

24-hour rentals

Rental operations usually charge a per diem 24-hour rental fee, from the time of pick-up until the time of return. Most of the time, this arrangement will not present Chayim with a problem, since part of the 24 hours will not fall on Shabbos. However, in a situation when the 24-hour rental time coincides exactly with Shabbos, one will be charging sechar Shabbos, which is a problem. In such a situation, one may extend that part of the rental day to include some time that is definitely not Shabbos. It would serve Chayim well to include this part of the arrangement in the fine print of his rental contract.

Tosafos‘s approach to the beraysa

By now, we have become so engrossed in the concept of sechar Shabbos that we may have forgotten that we were in the process of explaining a beraysa. Remember that our beraysa made the following statement: A man may not rent his keilim to a gentile on Friday, but he may rent them to him on Wednesday or Thursday. We were puzzled why the beraysa prohibited renting appliances or equipment to a gentile on Friday. Now that we fully understand the concept of sechar Shabbos, I will present a second interpretation of the beraysa, which is the approach of Tosafos and others.

Renting out appliances on Friday, even by means of havlaah, is prohibited, because it gives the appearance of receiving payment specifically for Shabbos. This rental is included in the prohibition of sechar Shabbos (Tosafos, Shabbos 19a). It is permitted to rent appliances on Wednesday or Thursday, even if the rental period is for several days, because this arrangement does not give the impression that I am trying to profit from Shabbos.

This approach explains well why the beraysa prohibited only renting appliances to a gentile, and not simply lending them, because when lending my appliances for Shabbos use, I am not receiving any remuneration (Tosafos, Shabbos 19a).

Life of the Party

However, we should realize that, according to this approach, Chayim, of Life of the Party rentals, will have an interesting shaylah. How can he rent out tables and chairs on Fridays, since renting any items to a gentile is prohibited according to the beraysa when it made its now-famous statement: A man may not rent his keilim to a gentile on Friday?

Rabbeinu Yonah’s approach

Before troubling Chayim with the possibility that he may have to rearrange the way he does business, let us examine a third approach, that of Rabbeinu Yonah, to explaining the original beraysa. This approach is based on the rabbinic prohibition against hiring a non-Jew to work for a Jew on Shabbos. The beraysa prohibits renting on Friday keilim that one uses to perform melachah to a gentile, since we know that if the rental would exclude permission to use these keilim on Shabbos, the gentile would be willing to pay only significantly less rent. Since the rent the Jew receives reflects the fact that the gentile will perform melachah with this appliance on Shabbos, the Jew is considered to be benefitting from the gentile’s work on Shabbos, which is why Chazal prohibited it (Rosh, Shabbos 1:36, quoting Rabbeinu Yonah).

Why only renting?

According to Rabbeinu Yonah’s approach, it is very obvious why Chazal prohibited only renting to the gentile on Friday but permitted lending the appliance to him. Only when the Jew benefits from the gentile’s activity does it appear that the Jew made the gentile into his agent (Magen Avraham). When the Jew does not benefit from the gentile’s activity, it is obvious that the gentile is working for himself and not as an agent of the Jew (see Graz).

Tosafos versus Rabbeinu Yonah

There is a major difference in halachah between Rabbeinu Yonah’s approach and that of Tosafos. According to Tosafos, that the prohibition is because of sechar Shabbos, the beraysa prohibits renting any appliance to a gentile on Friday. However, according to Rabbeinu Yonah, the beraysa prohibited only renting keilim with which one performs melachah, but not chairs, tables or any other items that one does not use for melachah. Thus, the halachah of this beraysa would not apply to Chayim’s party rental company.

How do we paskin?

The Rama, when ruling on this topic, specifies that one may not rent a gentile a plow on Fridays, thus ruling according to Rabbeinu Yonah that the prohibition applies only to appliances used for melachah. Therefore, according to the Rama’s halachic conclusion, as long as Chayim makes sure not to have a contract that violates the laws of sechar Shabbos, he has no halachic problems with his enterprise, and we wish him well in his endeavor.

What about Avi’s Rent-a-Car?

However, it would seem that one may not rent out an automobile on Erev Shabbos to a gentile. The rav who had advised Avi obviously felt the same way.

Because of my own curiosity on the topic, I sent out the question to a prominent halachic authority, to see whether he felt that Avi may rent out his autos to gentiles on Friday.

Maris Ayin

The authority I contacted ruled that Avi did not need to bring a gentile into his business, because of a very interesting reason. Most of us are familiar with the prohibition of maris ayin, avoiding doing something that may raise suspicion that one violated halachah. For example, one may not hang out to dry on Shabbos wet clothes that were used to mop up a spill, because neighbors might think that he washed the clothes on Shabbos. This is true even when all the neighbors realize that he is a meticulously observant individual.

Indeed, there are some halachic authorities who explain the beraysa to mean the following: You may not rent keilim to a gentile on Friday because of a concern that people seeing you rent the item may think that you have hired the gentile to work for you on Shabbos, and are supplying him with materials to do the job (Bach; Taz, Orach Chayim 246:2; Pri Megadim). Since this concern would not possibly exist on a clearly-marked rental car, the authority I quoted above ruled that there is no problem with a Jew renting out a car to a gentile on Friday. This posek felt that as long as Avi was careful about the laws of sechar Shabbos, he would not need to be concerned about renting vehicles on Friday.

Conclusion

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 20:10) notes that people mistakenly think that work is prohibited on Shabbos in order to provide a day of rest. This is incorrect, he points out, because the Torah does not prohibit doing avodah, which connotes hard work, but melachah, which implies purpose and accomplishment. On Shabbos, we refrain from constructing and altering the world for our own purposes. The goal of Shabbos is to emphasize Hashem’s rule as the focus of creation by refraining from our own creative acts (Shemos 20:11). By refraining from building for one day a week, we acknowledge the true Builder of the world and all that it contains.

Writing the Wrong Way

Question #1: Writing in the Air

“May I communicate with someone on Shabbos by making the motions of writing the letters?”

Question #2: Frosty Writing

“May I write my initials on a frosty window on Shabbos?”

Question #3: Asking a Gentile to Write.

Elisheva plans to attend a seminar related to the latest advances in her profession as a speech therapist. Part of the seminar will be given on Shabbos. May she ask one of the non-Jews attending the class to take notes for her?

Writing and erasing are two of the thirty-nine melachos of Shabbos that were performed in the building of the Mishkan. Each board used in constructing the Mishkan was marked so that it would be returned to its correct place when the Mishkan was reassembled (Rashi, Shabbos 73a; Gemara, Shabbos 103b). (The Talmud Yerushalmi [Shabbos 12:3] emphasizes the importance of each board being kept in the same place.) The numbers written on the boards were also sometimes erased, if a mistake was made. Thus, both writing and erasing are included among the melachos, since any important activity performed while constructing the Mishkan defines a category of work prohibited on Shabbos (Bava Kama 2a).

It is important to note that the erasing performed in the Mishkan was done specifically with the intention of rewriting. For this reason, erasing is a violation min haTorah only if one intends to rewrite or intends to effect some other direct, positive result (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 11:9; however, cf. Tosafos, Shabbos 73a s.v. hakosheir.)

Other writing was performed in the Mishkan when the names of the shevatim were engraved on the choshen, and also when calculating the donations and where they were used (Shu’t Avnei Nezer, Orach Chayim 199:10). Since our parsha discusses the donations and the construction of the Mishkan and also discusses the writing on Luchos, we will avail ourselves of this opportunity to discuss some of the halachos that pertain to writing and erasing.

Writing, when it is written with a permanent ink or dye on a surface that will hold the writing permanently is prohibited on Shabbos min haTorah. If the writing will not last permanently, the prohibition to write or to erase is only miderabbanan.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED PERMANENT WRITING?

Some poskim contend that writing is permanent if it will last until after Shabbos (Rambam and Magid Mishnah, Hilchos Shabbos 9:13). Others contend that it is considered permanent if it lasts the length of time people usually write notes (Rashba, Shabbos 115b, cited by Bi’ur Halacha 340:4, s.v. Bemashkin). According to both opinions, writing that disappears after a few hours is prohibited only miderabbanan.

Writing on one’s hand is prohibited min haTorah, even though it eventually disappears (Mishnah, Shabbos 104b). This is because the writing, itself, would be permanent, if it were not for the body’s warmth dissolving the ink. It is therefore treated as if it has been written permanently and then subsequently erased by body temperature.

IS IT PERMITTED TO WRITE ON A FROSTY WINDOW?

Although the Torah’s prohibition is violated only with permanent writing, Chazal prohibited temporary writing. Therefore, it is prohibited to write in spilled liquid that is lying on the table, in sand, or in the frost on a window (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 340:4 and commentaries).

IS IT PROHIBITED TO WRITE LETTERS IN THE AIR?

This is permitted, since no letters are being formed at all, even temporarily (Rama 340:4).

DISAPPEARING INK

Question: I was once told that there is no Torah violation in writing a message on Shabbos with ink that appears now, but will disappear shortly. Is this true?

As we mentioned above, there is no Torah violation in writing with ink that will disappear within a few hours. This halacha has major ramifications when dealing with the needs of a Jewish hospital. Recording data is necessary, but if disappearing ink is used until after Shabbos, the prohibition is only miderabbanan. Poskim rely on this, if a hospital cannot employ sufficient non-Jewish staff.

INVISIBLE INK

Does writing with an ink that cannot be read violate Shabbos?

Although it would seem that this is a modern shailah and a modern invention, we will be surprised to discover that this shailah is at least 1,800 years old. The Gemara tells us the following story, “Rabbi Chiyah bar Abba said ‘The people who live in the East are very clever. When they want to send a secret, they write the message with “Mei milin” (an ink that is not automatically legible). Subsequently, they pour a specially formulated ink on the paper, and presto! The message becomes legible!’” (Yerushalmi, Shabbos, Chapter 12).

The Gemara then asks, “If someone wrote this way on Shabbos, has he violated a Torah prohibition?” The Gemara concludes that pouring the ink violates a Torah prohibition on Shabbos because this makes the writing legible. Whether the first step violates Shabbos is disputed by the poskim. Shu’t Har Tzvi (Yoreh Deah 230) rules that it is prohibited min haTorah, whereas Pri Megadim (340:3 in Mishbetzos Zahav) rules that it is prohibited only miderabbanan.

This dispute has an interesting ramification. If this writing is prohibited only miderabbanan, writing that cannot be read immediately does not violate a Torah violation. Therefore, taking a photograph on film or recording information on a computer disk does not violate Shabbos min haTorah (Har Tzvi).

PHOTOGRAPHY ON CHOL HAMOED

Another difference in halacha between these poskim would be whether taking photographs is permitted on Chol HaMoed. In general, one is prohibited on Chol HaMoed from doing activities considered melacha unless they fulfill some Yom Tov or Chol HaMoed need, or they will avert financial loss. These rules notwithstanding, it would appear that according to Pri Megadim, one would be permitted to take photos on Chol HaMoed, since there is no melacha being performed. It would seem that this leniency would not exist according to Har Tzvi, and photography would be permitted on Chol HaMoed only if it somehow enhances the Yom Tov. According to both opinions, developing the photographs would not be permitted on Chol HaMoed, unless Yom Tov was thereby enhanced.

LET THEM EAT CAKE

Is it permitted on Shabbos to eat cake that has icing in the form of letters on top, since I am erasing the letters when I eat it?

Again, a seemingly very contemporary shailah goes back hundreds of years. The rishonim record a Shavuos celebration, for which cakes were decorated with the letters of the alef-beis and certain tefillos and words of bracha. In a special Shavuos ceremony, these cakes were served to the young children who were just beginning to learn Torah. The children would read the letters and the brachos, and then they would be rewarded by being served the special cake (Rokei’ach #296). The question was why eating the letters does not violate erasing on Yom Tov, since writing and erasing is prohibited on Yom Tov, just as it is on Shabbos (Mordechai, Shabbos #369).

Various reasons are suggested why this minhag does not violate the halacha. Some contend that eating is not considered an act of erasing (Taz 340:2), whereas others contend that the melacha of erasing does not apply to food (Shu’t Maharshag 2:41).

Others permit eating the cake for a more complicated reason that requires an introduction. Although eating the cake must result in the erasure of the letters, the person eating did not have intention of erasing. This is halachically categorized as a situation of a “psik reisha,” meaning that a prohibited consequence will definitely result from an act that is otherwise permitted. A psik reisha is usually prohibited; thus, in this case, although eating the cake would otherwise be permitted, its consequence, the erasing, is problematic.

Although a psik reisha is usually prohibited, when combined with other mitigating factors it is sometimes permitted. In this instance, there are several different reasons why no melacha min haTorah applies. Although the activity should still be prohibited miderabbanan, when several such mitigating factors combine, we are lenient.

The rationale behind this “heter” is that Chazal forbade certain activities to prevent one from violating, chas veshalom, a Torah law. However, when there are several different reasons why the Torah law is not violated, there is no need to prohibit this activity.

When someone eats letters, there are three different mitigating factors, each of which, on its own, removes the erasing from being a Torah violation.

First, the Torah law of erasing on Shabbos is violated only when one intends to write on the erasure, as mentioned above. Obviously, someone who eats letters cannot subsequently write on the “erasure.”

Second, Torah laws are violated only when the melacha has a positive result. In the case of erasing, a positive result would be that one can now write on the erasure, or that a mezuzah is rendered valid by the erasure. However, eating the cake does not result in any positive results from the erasure.

Third, this is not the way one usually erases. The halacha is that doing any melacha in an atypical way lessens the prohibition from a Torah violation to a Rabbinic injunction.

Therefore, since the erasing is unintentional, performed not in order to write, destructive, and an unusual way to erase, the resultant indirect erasing is permitted. This is the rationale applied by many poskim to explain the Shavuos custom cited above. According to this approach, it is permitted to eat the icing on a cake that includes lettering, without concern over whether one is changing or rendering the letters illegible in the process.

However, others rule that, although one should not eat these pieces of cake, it is permitted to serve the cake to the children and allow them to eat it themselves (Mordechai, Shabbos #369). Halachically, I need not prevent a young child from doing a prohibited activity for his own benefit (Yevamos 114a). According to this approach, only a child would be permitted to eat the letters on the cake, but not an adult (Rama 340:3).

Mishnah Berurah follows a compromise position between these two opinions, permitting someone to eat the cake while disregarding where the letters are, but suggesting that, when slicing the cake, one should cut between the letters and not through a letter. As we will explain, cutting between the letters is not considered erasing according to most opinions.

MAKING AN IMPRINT IN LIFE

Most shoes and boots have a manufacturer’s trademark or name engraved on the heel. Is it permitted to traverse snow or mud on Shabbos, knowing that I am making an imprint while I walk? Isn’t this writing on Shabbos?

The contemporary poskim discuss this shailah, and permit it for the same reasons that one was permitted to eat the lettering on the cake. For one thing, I am not intending to write; and for a second, it is not the normal way of writing letters; and for a third, most people consider the imprint in the mud or snow to be “damaging.” There is another mitigating factor here, in that the writing is temporary. Since walking is more of a necessity than eating cake, the poskim rule that one is permitted to walk on snow or mud and ignore the imprint made by the shoe or boot.

WHAT AN EXQUISITE MOUTH-WRITING YOU HAVE!

The following tshuvah shows up in early sixteenth century halachic literature. A scribe was writing exquisitely beautiful sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos. Unfortunately, this scribe had lost his hand in an accident and had taught himself how to write beautiful graphics with his quill in his mouth. Certainly, the he was an incredibly talented individual, and many people were using sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos written by this scribe. However, the shailah was raised as to whether these were kosher.

A great posek of the era, Rav Menachem Azaryah of Fanu (Shu’t # 38) ruled that all the sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos written by this scribe were invalid. His reasoning is that halacha recognizes only items written with one’s stronger hand. For this reason, someone who places a quill in his mouth on Shabbos and writes has not violated a Torah prohibition, since this is not the way people usually write (Mishnah Shabbos 104b). (It is prohibited miderabbanan to write this way on Shabbos.) Thus, even if someone has taught himself how to write beautifully by holding the pen in his mouth, it is not considered writing by the Torah, and does not fulfill the mitzvah of “writing” sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos.

Similarly, writing done by a right-handed person who writes with his left hand is not considered writing. For this reason, the Gemara rules that someone who writes with his left hand has not violated a Torah prohibition of writing on Shabbos (Shabbos 103a). (Again, this is prohibited miderabbanan.)

A WRITING COURSE

At this point, I would like to address the last of our opening questions: Elisheva plans to attend a seminar related to the latest advances in her profession as a speech therapist. Part of the seminar will be given on Shabbos. May she ask one of the non-Jews attending the class to take notes for her?

According to most poskim, this is prohibited on Shabbos or Yom Tov, since a Jew may not ask a non-Jew to do work for him that would be prohibited min haTorah for a Jew. This is because the non-Jew becomes your agent, and you are not permitted to have an agent work for you on Shabbos, even if the agent is not Jewish. Thus, it appears that Elisheva will not be able to have notes taken for her by her non-Jewish colleague.

However, according to the Minchas Yitzchak, there is a very simple solution to this problem. If Elisheva pays the non-Jew to do the work and specifies that it makes no difference whether the non-Jew performs the work on Shabbos or a weekday, then there is no halachic problem at all, even if the non-Jew did the work on Shabbos or Yom Tov. The reason is that once you pay the non-Jew, he is no longer working as your agent, because he has his own interest in doing the work. I am still not permitted to ask him to do the work specifically on Shabbos, but as long as he has the option to do the work on a different day, there is no problem if he actually does it on Shabbos (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 5:36).

CONCLUSION

Creating a beautiful Shabbos entails much planning and organization. The melachos of writing are a prime example of how a person must be fluent in all the halachos of Shabbos in order to understand its far reaching ramifications. Studying all the melachos of Shabbos helps us appreciate Shabbos more, and to get the maximum joy out of this special day.

Knotty Situations II

Mrs. Goldstein ties her tichel on Shabbos the way her mother always did. Her son Yankie explains that she should not tie or untie her tichel this way since it is a double knot. Must Mrs. Goldstein tie her tichel differently? And may she untie the knot that is holding the tichel on her head?

Yankie’s older brother Reuven returns from yeshivah and tells his mom that it is okay to tie the baby’s shoes with a double knot. Mom has never done this, always assuming that one cannot tie a double knot on Shabbos, even though baby Rivka’s shoes almost never stay tied on Shabbos as a result. Of course, Yankie does not miss the opportunity to disagree with Reuven and emphasize that one may not tie the shoes on Shabbos just as one may not tie the tichel.

What’s a mother to do?

She calls the Rav, who continues his explanation ….

In our last article we learned that some knots are prohibited min haTorah, others are prohibited midirabbanan, while others are completely permitted. Any knot that may not be tied may not be untied either. If tying it involves a Torah prohibition, then untying it is forbidden min haTorah (Mishnah Shabbos 111b). If tying the knot is only midirabbanan, then untying it is midirabbanan. If one is allowed to tie a particular knot, one may also untie it (Rambam Hilchos Shabbos 10:7). We learned that according to Rashi and most Rishonim, it is prohibited min haTorah to tie a permanent knot, midirabbanan to tie a semi-permanent knot, and that it is permitted to tie a temporary knot. Everyone agrees that Rashi permits tying any knot that will be untied within 24 hours from when it is tied (Beis Yosef 317). On the other hand, everyone agrees that Rashi forbids tying a knot that is left untied for a week or more. Authorities dispute whether Rashi prohibits tying a knot meant to last more than 24 hours but less than a week, some viewing this knot as semi-permanent and others as temporary (Rama 317:1). One may follow the lenient opinion under extenuating circumstances (Biyur Halacha 317:4 s.v. she’einam kevuim).

According to Rambam, a knot that is permanent is prohibited min haTorah only when it is a type of knot that a craftsman would use, called a “kesher uman.” A permanent knot that would not be used by a craftsman is only midirabbanan. In addition, a knot that a craftsman would tie but is not permanent is also only midirabbanan, whereas a knot that is neither permanent nor used by a craftsman is totally permitted. There is some uncertainty as to what is considered a “craftsman’s knot.” Because of this question, some poskim rule that one should not tie any knot very tightly even though one intends to untie it shortly (Shiltei HaGibborim).

According to both Rashi and the Rambam, one may tie a knot that will be untied within 24 hours if it is not extremely tight. Thus according to all opinions, one may tie a gartel on Shabbos or the belt on a bathrobe or any other garment that is usually untied as it is removed and is not tied very tightly. Similarly, a woman may tie her tichel in place because a woman always unties this knot when she removes it so that she does not dishevel her hair.

TYING A KNOT IN A PIECE OF STRING

Tying a knot with a piece of string or length of rope around itself so that it does not slip through a hole or unravel is usually prohibited min haTorah according to all opinions (Gemara Shabbos 74b; Rama 317:1). This knot usually remains permanent and thus is certainly a Torah violation according to Rashi. Even according to the Rambam that only a craftsman’s knot incurs a Torah transgression, this is a very tight knot that a craftsman would use for this purpose. (It is interesting to note that some people call this “a stevedore’s knot,” implying that it is a craftsman’s knot.) Thus, tying a knot on a threaded needle to hold it in place is prohibited min haTorah.

For the same reason, making a knot on the end of one’s tzitzis to prevent them from unraveling is prohibited min haTorah. Similarly, it is prohibited min haTorah to tie a balloon on Shabbos. Therefore, some authorities prohibit blowing up a balloon on Shabbos because of the possibility that one may mistakenly tie it.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED A CRAFTSMAN’S KNOT?

The definition of a craftsman’s knot is difficult to ascertain. Obviously it has to be very tight, but are there other requirements? Because of this uncertainty, a custom developed not to tie any knot on Shabbos that involves tying one knot on top of another (Shiltei HaGibborim; Rama 317:1) which is how most knots are tied. Thus, one might assume that Mrs. Goldstein may not tie her tichel with a double knot as Yankie told her.

However, most poskim permit tying the tichel as Mrs. Goldstein has been doing and as her mother did before her. This is because of a combination of several reasons:

Several poskim contend that the custom not to tie a double knot is only when one ties a knot very tightly (L’vushei S’rad and Pri Megadim on Magen Avraham 317:4; also see

Chazon Ish 52:17) whereas a tichel is tied fairly loosely. Other poskim contend that the custom not to tie a double knot is only if one intends to leave it tied for more than a day (Aruch HaShulchan 317:10). Thus there is substantive reason to permit tying a tichel with a double knot (Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah 15:ftn 167).

It should be noted that many poskim permit double knotting a child’s shoes for the same reason since the knot is not very tight. Others prohibit it because the reason for the upper knot is to make the lower knot and bow very tight and that is considered tying a double knot tightly (Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah 15:53).

ANIVAH

The Gemara concludes that it is permitted to tie an “anivah” on Shabbos. What is an anivah?

Any knot that can be untied without undoing the original knot by pulling on one side of the knot is an anivah and is permitted. This includes tying bows (without additional knots, see below) and slipknots (Mordechai, Halachos Ketanos #940). A slipknot is so called because it slips easily along the cord on which it is made.

The poskim dispute whether one may tie a temporary knot and then a bow on Shabbos. Does the bow make the knot more permanent and therefore a problem? Most poskim prohibit tying a bow onto a temporary knot, considering the knot thus created a semi-permanent knot that is prohibited (Rama 317:5; Taz; Magen Avraham ad loc.).

TYING RIBBONS AND BOWS

According to what we have explained, one may not tie a ribbon around a package on Shabbos in the usual fashion because this involves tying a double knot. However, one may tie the ribbon without a knot by making two bows even if one ties the bows very tightly (Mishnah Berurah 317:29; Biyur Halacha 317:5 s.v. anivah).

If someone forgot to tie the aravos and hadasim to the lulav before Yom Tov, one cannot tie with a knot and bow on top of it unless it is a type of knot that one unties every day. One may tie it with a bow on top of a bow (Taz 317:7).

SUMMARY OF KNOTS

We have learned that one may not tie a permanent or semi-permanent knot or a craftsman’s knot, and also that one may not tie one tight knot on top of another. According to many poskim, one may tie a loose knot on top of another loose knot and therefore a woman may tie her tichel with two knots one on top of the other. Tying a bow or slip knot is permitted since the knot is taken apart without undoing it but by pulling it apart. Thus, Mrs. Goldstein may continue to tie her tichel and there are poskim who even permit double knotting baby Rivka’s shoes. (Although others prohibit double knotting shoes.)

PERMANENT BONDING

Tying knots in a permanent way not only affects halacha but also has hashkafic ramifications. When Moshe Rabbeinu asked to understand Hashem’s ways, Hashem told him that as long as he was alive he would only be able to recognize Hashem “from behind.” Chazal explain that Hashem showed Moshe the knot of His tefillin, which represents the permanent attachment that exists between Hashem and the Jewish people.

Just as tefillin are tied with a permanent knot, so too Hashem’s relationship with the Jewish people is a permanent bond. And just as the tefillin straps tie what is below to what is above, so too their knot connects our mundane world below to the Heavenly world above.

Knotty Situations

clip_image002Mrs. Goldstein ties her tichel on Shabbos the way her mother always did. Her son Yankie explains that she should not tie or untie her tichel this way since it is a double knot. Must Mrs. Goldstein tie her tichel differently? And may she untie the knot that is holding the tichel on her head?

Yankie’s older brother, Reuven, returns from yeshivah and tells his mom that it is okay to tie the baby’s shoes with a double knot. Mom has never done this, always assuming that one cannot tie a double knot on Shabbos, even though baby Rivka’s shoes almost never stay tied on Shabbos as a result. Of course, Yankie does not miss the opportunity to disagree with Reuven and emphasize that one may not tie the shoes on Shabbos just as one may not tie the tichel.

What’s a mother to do?

She calls the Rav, who begins to explain….

As we see, these and many other shailos in regards to knots affect our weekly observance of Shabbos. We must learn these halachos thoroughly to be certain that we are keeping Shabbos correctly.

Tying and untying knots are two of the 39 melachos prohibited on Shabbos. Several types of knots were tied in the course of constructing the mishkan, which is our source for what is forbidden on Shabbos. For example, it was necessary to tie and untie the nets used to catch the chilazon that provided the techeiles dye. Also, the weavers of the mishkan curtains had to tie knots whenever a thread tore (Gemara Shabbos 74b).

KNOTTING MIN HATORAH

The Mishnah and Gemara teach that some knots are prohibited min haTorah, others are prohibited midirabbanan, while others are completely permitted. They also state that any knot that may not be tied may not be untied either. If tying it involves a Torah prohibition, then untying it is forbidden min haTorah (Mishnah Shabbos 111b). If tying the knot is only midirabbanan, then untying it is midirabbanan. If one is allowed to tie a particular knot, one may also untie it (Rambam Hilchos Shabbos 10:7).

Although several examples of prohibited and permitted knots are mentioned in the Mishnah and Gemara, exactly what defines a “prohibited knot” is never discussed. This issue is left for the Rishonim to discuss, who have two approaches to define the issue, that of Rashi and that of the Rif.

RASHI’S DEFINITION

Rashi and most Rishonim contend that it is prohibited min haTorah to tie a permanent knot, it is prohibited midirabbanan to tie a semi-permanent knot, and that it is permitted to tie a temporary knot.

But where does one splice between a prohibited semi-permanent knot and a temporary knot that is permitted? Although there are different opinions concerning this, everyone agrees that Rashi permits tying any knot that will be untied within 24 hours from when it is tied (Beis Yosef 317). A knot of such short duration is considered temporary and is permitted (Mishnah Berurah 317:6, quoting Pri Megadim).

On the other hand, everyone agrees that Rashi forbids tying a knot that remains for a week or more. This is long enough to be considered semi-permanent and tying it on Shabbos was prohibited by Chazal.

What Poskim dispute is whether Rashi permits tying a knot meant to last more than 24 hours but less than a week, some viewing this knot as semi-permanent and others viewing it as temporary (Rama 317:1). One may follow the lenient opinion under extenuating circumstances (Biyur Halacha 317:4 s.v. she’einam kevuim).

JUMPROPES AND SHOELACES

Thus, according to Rashi, tying two lengths of jump rope together to make a longer jump rope may be prohibited min haTorah since one might leave the knot permanently. Tying a knot attaching a boat to a pier is prohibited midirabbanan since it may be left for a long period of time. It is not prohibited min haTorah since it will definitely be untied eventually (Gemara Shabbos 111b with Rashi). One may tie shoes since they will be untied later the same day. (It should be noted that one may not put a new shoelace into a shoe on Shabbos because it is considered completing a vessel, see Magen Avraham 317:7).

RIF’S DEFINITION

The Rif and Rambam present a different approach why one may tie some knots on Shabbos but not others. In their opinion, a knot that is permanent is prohibited min haTorah only when it is a type of knot that a craftsman would tie, called a “kesher uman.” A permanent knot that would not be used by a craftsman is only midirabbanan. In addition, a knot that a craftsman would tie but is not permanent is also only midirabbanan, whereas a knot that is neither permanent nor used by a craftsman is totally permitted.

In the Rif’s opinion, there is no intermediate category for semi-permanent knots. According to most interpretations, he considers any non-permanent knot as temporary even if it remains tied for a long time. Thus, tying a knot and leaving it for several months will be permitted so long as it is not a craftsman’s knot according to these interpretations of the Rif’s opinion (Pri Megadim; Aruch HaShulchan 317:3; Avnei Nezer #178; Mishnah Berurah 317:5; However, compare Taz 317:1 and Graz 317:2).

Furthermore, according to this approach, tying a craftsman’s knot with intent to untie it after several months will only be midirabbanan according to the Rif because it isn’t permanent.

WHAT NOT TO KNOT

Here are some examples of knots that are prohibited min haTorah. In the time of the Mishnah, boatmen would tie a knot at the prow of a boat or ship that was never removed. Such a knot is prohibited min haTorah on Shabbos. According to Rashi, this is because the knot is permanent while according to the Rif it is only forbidden min HaTorah because of the additional factor that it is tied by trained boatmen.

Similarly, knots tied by shoemakers or sandal makers of Talmudic times were prohibited min haTorah (Gemara Shabbos 112a), since they were tied permanently (and according to the Rif because they were also craftsmans’ knots).

Tying knots of tefillin and tzitzis is a Torah violation since these are craftsman’s knots and permanent (Gemara Eruvin 96b; Shabbos 131a). Tightening the knots of one’s tzitzis may also violate a Torah prohibition.

Suturing stitches is prohibited min HaTorah because the knot tied after each stitch is a permanent skilled knot (Nimla Tal Kosheir #16). Therefore, whenever possible, a non-Jew should perform this suturing on Shabbos (see Rama 328:12).

WHAT KNOT TO KNOT

According to both Rashi and the Rif, one may tie a knot that will be untied within 24 hours. Thus according to all opinions, one may tie a gartel on Shabbos or the belt on a bathrobe or any other garment that is usually untied when the garment is removed. Similarly, a woman may tie her tichel in place because a woman always unties this knot when she removes it so that she does not dishevel her hair.

MAY I KNOT THIS KNOT?

In conclusion, there are three disputes between Rashi and the Rif.

PERMANENT, BUT NOT CRAFTY

1. According to Rashi, a permanent knot is prohibited min HaTorah even if it isn’t a craftman’s knot, since permanence is the only criterion for the Torah’s prohibition. However, the Rif will consider such a knot to be prohibited only midirabbanan if it is not a craftsman’s knot.

We should note that a knot that will never be untied is considered permanent even if one does not need the knot anymore. Rashi explains that the knot used to bind the aravos and hadasim to the lulav is considered permanent since one never bothers to untie it. This is true even though this knot will not be needed for more than a few days and then the lulav will be discarded.

Thus, knotting a bag of garbage on Shabbos violates a Torah prohibition according to Rashi since the knot will never be untied (see Rashi Sukkah 33b), whereas according to the Rif it is only midirabbanan unless one used a craftsman’s knot.

SEMI-PERMANENT, BUT NOT CRAFTY

2. We mentioned that tying a semi-permanent non-craftsman’s knot is prohibited according to Rashi, but permitted according to the Rif. Therefore, Rashi would prohibit tying a plastic bag with a simple single knot that is meant to last for more than a week (and possibly even for more than a day) since this knot is semi-permanent although it is certainly not a craftsman’s knot. The Rif would permit this since it is neither a craftsman’s knot nor a permanent knot.

However, we should note that the exact definition of a “craftsman’s knot” is uncertain. Because of this question, some poskim rule that one should not tie any knot very tightly even though one intends to untie it shortly (Shiltei HaGibborim).

CRAFTY AND TEMPORARY

3. A temporary craftsman’s knot is prohibited according to the Rif, albeit only midirabbanan, but is permitted according to Rashi (who considers a craftsman’s knot no different from any other knot). Thus, securing a rope in order to rappel down a hill is prohibited midirabbanan according to the Rif since one would certainly use a craftsman’s knot for this purpose. Rashi permits tying this knot if one intends to untie it after a few hours.

HOW TO WE PASKIN?

Most poskim rule that we should be stringent like both opinions (Rama 317:1). Therefore, one may not tie a craftsman’s knot even if it is temporary (even though Rashi permits this), and it is also prohibited to tie a semi-permanent knot even if it is not a craftsman’s knot (and would be permitted according to the Rif). Therefore, one may not knot a bag closed with a semi-permanent knot, nor may one tie a craftsman’s knot even for a few hours’ use.

Under extenuating circumstances, one may tie or untie a temporary knot even though it qualifies as a craftsman’s knot and rely on Rashi, or tie a non-permanent knot that is not a craftsman’s knot and rely on the Rif (Maamar Mordechai; see Avnei Nezer #178:6). In both of these situations the dispute is only whether tying the knot involves an issur dirabbanan. Although we usually rule stringently, as explained above, in an extenuating situation one may rely on the lenient opinion.

INTERIM SUMMARY OF KNOTS

We have learned that one may not tie a permanent or semi-permanent knot or a craftsman’s knot, and also that one may not tie one tight knot on top of another.

For the remainder of this discussion, see Knotty Situations II.

 

Hatzalah and Radios

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

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

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

THE HATZALAH RADIO ON SHABBOS

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

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

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

THE ORIGINS OF MUKTZAH

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

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

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

THE CATEGORIES OF MUKTZAH

Nechemiah’s Final Takanah established four distinct categories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

4C: A possible third category:

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS A RADIO?

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

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

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

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

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

ANTICIPATING EMERGENCIES

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

CARRYING THE RADIO ON SHABBOS WHERE THERE IS NO ERUV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only the Choicest of Wine – What’s Best for Kiddush and Arba Kosos?

clip_image002Yankel enters my study, with one of his inquisitive looks on his face.

“Rabbi,” he begins, “I have heard that it is best to use red, non-pasteurized wine at the seder. However, my father-in-law likes Chablis, which is a white wine, and my mother-in-law never drinks any wine. The grape juice she likes is from concentrate, and someone told me that one cannot use it for kiddush. What should I do?”

Knowing that Yankel likes very complete explanations, I prepared myself for a lengthy conversation.

“Let us divide your shaylah into its four constituent parts: Color, cooked (mevushal), alcohol, and concentrate. We’ll discuss each part of the shaylah separately and then we’ll see what is preferable to use.”

RED OR WHITE

The Gemara (Bava Basra 97b) quotes the following discussion: Rav Kahana asked Rava “May one use chamar chivaryin, white wine.” Rava answered him by quoting a pasuk in Mishlei (23:31), “Do not pay attention to how red your wine becomes,” (meaning focus your life on permanent, spiritual values and not on the transient and physical). The pasuk implies that the redder the wine, the better its quality.

This Gemara, which is discussing the requirements of wine for kiddush and other mitzvos, implies that one may not use white wine for kiddush, and indeed this is the way the Ramban rules (ad loc.). However, Rashbam concludes that the Gemara is discussing only whether white wine is kosher for nisuch (libation) on the mizbeiach, but it may be used for kiddush. Others reach the same conclusion that our white wine is acceptable for kiddush, but for a different reason. They contend that the Gemara is not discussing quality white wine, but inferior wine that has no color at all (Tosafos). (White wine is always light-colored or yellowish.) According to this opinion, quality white wine is acceptable even for the mizbeiach.

The halacha is that one should preferably use a red wine unless the white wine is better quality (Rama 472:11; Mishnah Berurah 272:10). At the seder, there is an additional reason to use red wine, because it reminds us of Pharaoh’s slaughter of Bnei Yisroel (Mishnah Berurah 472:38). Therefore, if one chooses to use white wine, some suggest mixing red wine into the white wine to give it a little red color (Piskei Tshuvos 472:10). When mixing the wine, it is preferred to pour the red wine into the cup first and then add the white. If one adds red wine to white wine he will color the white wine, which is prohibited on Shabbos and Yom Tov according to some poskim because of the melacha of tzove’a, dyeing or coloring (see Mishnah Berurah 320:56).

MEVUSHAL (Cooked)

Cooking wine harms it, and cooking grape juice affects its ability to ferment naturally. Indeed, some winemakers never pasteurize the juice from which they produce their wines because heating compromises the taste. For these reasons, halacha views wine that is mevushal as inferior, and this has several ramifications. The prohibition not to use wine touched by a gentile, stam yeinam, does not exist if the wine was mevushal before the gentile handled it (Gemara Avodah Zarah 30a). This is because no self-respecting idolater would consecrate cooked wine to his deity (Rambam, Hilchos Maachalei Asuros 11:9; cf. Rosh, Avodah Zarah 2:12 who explains the halacha somewhat differently).

Similarly, one may not pour cooked wine as a libation for a korban. Some poskim contend that mevushal wine is so inferior that one does not recite hagafen on it but shehakol, and that it is invalid for kiddush and arba kosos (see Tosafos Bava Basra 97a s.v. ileima; Tur Orach Chayim, Chapter 272). Although we recite hagafen on mevushal wine and rule that it is kosher for kiddush and arba kosos (Shulchan Aruch 472:12), one should try to use uncooked wine unless the mevushal wine is superior (Rama 272:8; Mishnah Berurah 472:39).

There is one situation where one must use mevushal wine, and that is when gentiles might handle open bottles of wine. This is why most hechsherim insist that all wine served in restaurants and at catered events be mevushal.

Incidentally, almost all bottlers in North America pasteurize their juice before bottling. Commercial pasteurization of juice products is usually at about 180° Fahrenheit.

BUT I HEARD THAT PASTEURIZATION DOES NOT NECESSARILY EQUAL BISHUL?

The early poskim state that heating wine until it begins to evaporate makes it mevushal (Shach, Yoreh Deah 123:7, quoting Rashba and Ran). How hot is this temperature? Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that 175° Fahrenheit is definitely hot enough to be considered mevushal (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:52; see also 3:31), although some poskim contend that wine must be heated to a much higher temperature (see Darchei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 123:15; Minchas Shlomo 1:25). Because of this dispute, some hechsherim rule that only wine and grape juice that is heated until boiling is considered mevushal, whereas others consider all commercially available grape juice as mevushal.

However, some poskim contend that the laws of mevushal wine do not apply to contemporary pasteurized juice since the processing is made in a way that the wine does not taste inferior (Shu”t Minchas Shlomoh 1:25). Thus, one could use wine made from pasteurized juice or pasteurized juice without any concern, but one should not use wine that was cooked after fermentation which definitely tastes inferior. According to this opinion, a gentile touching pasteurized wine or grape juice will make it prohibited.

At this point in my monologue, Yankel interjected a question:

“I am not sure if I understood you correctly. If grape juice is usually pasteurized, then according to Rav Moshe’s psak, it is all mevushal. And, since one should preferably not use mevushal wine, one should not use grape juice for kiddush or arba kosos?”

“That is correct,” I responded. “Actually, there is also another reason why it is preferable to use wine for arba kosos.”

WINE VS. GRAPE JUICE

One may use freshly pressed grape juice for kiddush, even though it contains no alcohol (Gemara Bava Basra 97b). However, one should preferably not use grape juice for the seder as I will explain.

In the time of the Gemara, wine was so strong that people diluted it with three parts water (per one part wine) before using it for kiddush and other mitzvos. The Gemara teaches that someone who drank the wine without dilution fulfills the mitzvah of drinking four cups of wine, but does not fulfill the mitzvah of cheirus, freedom (Pesachim 108b). This is because the complete mitzvah of arba kosos requires drinking wine with a pleasurable amount of alcohol. This undiluted wine is too strong and not pleasurable. We derive from this Gemara that wine is better for the seder than grape juice, because the alcoholic content of the wine provides the element of cheirus.

However, someone who cannot drink wine may fulfill the mitzvah of arba kosos with grape juice.

Yankel interjected another question. “My mother-in-law never drinks wine the rest of the year. If I tell her that she should drink wine, she will do it because of the mitzvah. How much wine must she drink?”

“She can use a small cup that holds exactly a revi’is of wine with very low alcohol content or even mix wine and grape juice in the cup so that one can barely notice the alcohol and she will fulfill this mitzvah,” I replied. “The poskim dispute how much is a revi’is, with different opinions ranging from three ounces to five ounces. This the minimum amount of wine for each of the four cups. She is required to drink only a little more than half the cup, although it is better if she drinks the entire cup. She should drink the entire last cup in order to recite the bracha acharonah.”

RECONSTITUTED GRAPE JUICE

Reconstituting grape juice involves evaporating at least 80% of the water that is naturally part of the juice, and then later adding water back. (Juice is concentrated and then reconstituted because it saves tremendous amounts of shipping and storage costs, and because the concentrate has a longer shelf life.) It is important to note that the concentrate is not drinkable before adding water.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach has a lengthy tshuvah whether reconstituted grape juice may be used for kiddush and whether its correct bracha is shehakol or hagafen. The basis of his discussion follows:

The correct bracha on all beverages except wine is shehakol. Wine merits a unique bracha because it is special in that it “makes man and Hashem happy” (see Mishnah and Gemara Berachos 35a). Men appreciate the intoxicating properties of wine, and in addition, it is the only liquid that the Torah commands us to pour on the mizbeiach every day. (Water, the only other liquid ever poured on the mizbeiach, is only poured on the mizbeiach during Sukkos.)

Grape juice does not have all of these qualities since it does not contain any alcohol. However, since it can potentially become wine, it merits the special bracha of hagafen and may be used for kiddush.

Rav Shlomo Zalman posed the following question: Do we consider natural grape juice as a mixture of the tasty part of the grape and plain water, or do we make no distinctions and consider grape juice as a mixture of everything inside the grape?

Obviously, everyone will conclude that grape juice is what grows inside the grape. Although natural juice is over ninety percent water, the water that grows inside the grape is considered grape juice, not water. However, water added to concentrate does not metamorphose into juice but remains water. Thus, he rules that the finished product is concentrate mixed with water and not pure grape juice.

“I understand that the water in a cup of reconstituted grape juice should not be counted and therefore you should not use it for kiddush,” Yankel interjected. “But I don’t see why there is a shaylah what bracha to make since you are tasting and drinking natural grape juice?”

“Good question,” I responded. “However, Rav Shlomo Zalman points out that the concentrate may not be considered grape juice since during the processing it becomes undrinkable. Therefore, the juice is no longer a prize beverage that warrants its own unique bracha, nor can it potentially become wine. This is why Rav Shlomo Zalman conjectures that even after the juice is reconstituted, its bracha may be shehakol, not hagafen (Minchas Shlomoh #4). Although some poskim disagree with Rav Shlomo Zalman’s conclusions, it is advisable not to use reconstituted juice for kiddush and arba kosos (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchok 8:14; ViZos HaBeracha pg. 116; Piskei Tshuvos, 272:2).

Yankel had one more question. “I was told that one should not drink a new wine during the seder meal that was not on the table at the beginning of the seder. Is this true, and if so, why?”

“Answering this question requires an introduction,” I responded.

HATOV VEHAMEITIV

When there is one wine on the table and the host serves another variety of wine, Chazal instituted a special bracha called “Hatov vehameitiv.” This bracha demonstrates our appreciation of the increased joy brought about by having varieties of wine (Mishnah Berurah 175:2). (Some authorities explain that the reason for this bracha is the exact opposite. To make sure that the additional wine does not cause too much frivolity, we recite a bracha that reminds us of the destruction of Beitar when the Romans crushed the Bar Kochba rebellion [Kad HaKemach]. Chazal instituted the fourth bracha of bensching, which is also called “Hatov vehameitiv,” when the Jews finally received permission to bury the thousands of people killed. Thus, the bracha on the new wine reminds us of the bracha recited because of that tragedy.)

Someone who brings out a new bottle of wine in the middle of the seder should technically recite the bracha of hatov vehameitiv. However, many poskim contend that reciting an extra bracha on a cup of wine makes it appear that one is adding another cup to the four that Chazal instituted (Maharil, as explained by Mishnah Berurah 175:2). Therefore, they ruled that one should not bring out a new variety of wine during the seder meal.

Yankel prepared to leave. “So which wine is choicest?” I asked him.

“One should drink a red wine that has never been cooked. However, if a white or cooked wine is better, one should use the better wine. Someone who does not like wine may mix grape juice with wine as long as they can still taste the alcohol, but they should not use reconstituted grape juice.”

“May we all have a Yom Tov of freedom and celebration!”

This is the Way We Bake Our Bread! – Some Practical Questions about Hilchos Challah

clip_image002Shaylah #1: Mrs. Ginsburg calls me with the following question:

“I like to separate challah with a bracha, but I do not have a bowl big enough to hold the minimum amount of dough necessary. Instead, I have been mixing the dough in two bowls, and draping a cloth over them. Someone told me that this is not a satisfactory method of combining the doughs and that I have been reciting invalid brachos as a result. What is the correct way to separate challah?”

Shaylah #2: Mrs. Bracha, Mrs. Ginsburg’s friend, was curious why Mrs. Ginsburg was trying to combine her two doughs. “After all, let her just ‘take challah’ on each bowl separately. Why all this hassle?” Which of the two good ladies is correct?

Shaylah #3: In preparation for Shalach Manos, Mrs. Lowenstein is baking her challahs in small batches and placing them in her freezer. Should she separate challah from them?

AM I BAKING CHALLAH OR “TAKING” CHALLAH?

In the last question, I used the word challah to mean two completely different things – our special Shabbos bread, and the consecrated portion that we separate from dough. Indeed a very strange misnomer has occurred in both Yiddish and English that often creates confusion. Whenever someone mixes a large dough or batter intending to bake it, he or she is required to separate a special portion called challah. In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, a generous portion was separated from each dough and given to a kohen. Only a kohen or his family and only when they were tahor could eat the challah, which had special sanctity. Today, since we are all tamei and cannot rid ourselves of this tumah, no one may eat the challah; therefore we separate a small piece, which we burn or dispose of respectfully.

On the other hand, the word challah also came to refer to our special Shabbos bread . To avoid confusion, I will refer to the special Shabbos bread as “bread,” rather than challah, and the word “challah” will refer to the consecrated portion separated from dough or bread to fulfill the mitzvah.

Indeed, it is a very important mitzvah for a woman to bake bread for Shabbos, rather than purchase it from a bakery (Bi’ur Halacha, Orach Chayim 242 s.v. vehu), and it is an even bigger mitzvah to bake enough to separate challah with a bracha (Rama, Orach Chayim 242). However, as we will see in discussing the questions raised above, these mitzvos can sometimes become complicated.

The Torah teaches us the mitzvah of challah in Parshas Shlach (Bamidbar 15:18-21). I quote some of the pasukim:

(18) Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, upon your entry to the land that I am bringing you there.

(19) And it will be when you eat from the bread of the land, that you should consecrate a special portion for Hashem’s sake.

(20) The first of your kneading bowls is challah; you should consecrate it just as you consecrate part of your grain.

Note that Pasuk 19 refers to separating challah when you eat bread, whereas Pasuk 20 mentions taking challah from your kneading bowls. This leads us to a question: Why does the Torah tell us to separate challah from bread if we already separated challah when we were kneading it? The two references imply that sometimes we must separate challah when kneading dough, whereas at other times we are not obligated to do so until it is already bread. Stay tuned to find out how this applies.

HOW TO SEPARATE

Before answering Mrs. Ginsburg’s question, we need to explain the basic method of challah taking.

The simplest method of separating challah is as follows:

1. Separate a piece of the dough that will become the challah portion, but do not intend that it should become challah yet. The custom is that the piece should be at least as large as a small olive (Rama, Yoreh Deah 322:5).

2. Touch the piece to the rest of the dough.

3. Recite the bracha Asher kidishanu bimitzvosav vitzivanu lihafrish challah. Many people have the custom of adding the words min ha’isah to the end of the bracha. (Others end the bracha with the words lihafrish terumah, lihafrish terumah challah, or lihafrish terumas challah instead of lihafrish challah.)

4. Declare that the piece is challah. If saying this part in Hebrew, simply say “Harei zu challah.” One can just as easily say in English: “This is Challah.” Technically, one does not need to declare the portion challah verbally; it is sufficient to simply think which piece becomes challah. (This last case is useful when someone serves you bread or cake and you are uncertain whether challah was separated. Simply have in mind now to designate part of the bread as challah and leave that part uneaten.)

5. One should treat the separated portion, which is now challah, as non-kosher and destroy it. One may wrap it up carefully in two layers of aluminum foil and burn it in one’s oven or on top of the stove. In our ovens, one may burn the challah while using the oven for cooking or baking, so long as one is careful that it does not unwrap. Even if it does unwrap, it will not prohibit anything baked in the oven at the same time; however if it touches the oven itself, that part of the oven will require kashering. Because of the latter concern, some people prefer to wrap it carefully and respectfully place it in the garbage.

MINIMUM AMOUNTS

To answer Mrs. Ginsburg’s question how she should separate challah, we must first appreciate that there is no mitzvah to take challah if one is baking only a small amount of dough. Referring back to our Pasuk, we will see why this is true.

When the Torah required separating challah from “your kneading bowls,” to whom was the Torah speaking? Obviously, the generation living in the Desert, who were eating man. The Torah (Shemos 16:32) tells us that each individual gathered one omer of man each day in the Desert. Since the “bowl” used by the Jews in the Desert contained one omer, we know that this is the size bowl that the Torah is describing.

How big is an omer? The Torah (Shemos 16:36) teaches that this was one-tenth the size of an eifah, but that does not help us if we do not know the size of an eifah. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 324:1) rules that an omer contains 43.2 eggs. By the way, the gematria of the word challah is 43, and the last letter of challah is a hei, whose gematria is five. This is a good way to remember that the minimum size of separating challah is a dough the size of 43 and 1/5 eggs (Shach 324:2).

However, today we are uncertain how much dough this means since eggs vary tremendously in size. For our purposes, I am suggesting an estimate. We will assume that less than eight cups of flour does not require separating challah, and that one should not recite a bracha before separating challah unless one uses at least five pounds of flour. Any amount in between requires separating challah but without reciting a bracha. These figures are estimates and your Rav may give you different amounts.

If you ask me why I gave the first measurement in cups and the second in pounds, the answer is very simple. Cups are a less accurate measure than pounds, but more commonly used. If a woman knows that every time she uses eight cups of flour she should take challah without a bracha she is unlikely to miss taking challah when necessary. On the other hand, a bracha requires a more accurate measure, and most poskim require a bracha over dough made from five pounds of flour, although many poskim rule that one should recite a bracha even if using less.

WHY SEPARATE CHALLAH WITHOUT A BRACHA?

One recites the bracha only when certain that the dough is large enough to fulfill the mitzvah. If the batch is too small to fulfill the mitzvah, then a bracha would be levatalah, in vain. On the other hand, if one is required to separate challah, then one may not eat the bread without separating challah. Since it is uncertain exactly how much flour requires challah, we separate challah on any dough without a bracha when it is questionable whether one is required.

Preferably, one should try to recite a bracha before performing a mitzvah. Therefore, it is preferred to make a batch large enough to separate challah with a bracha. However, if one does not need such a large amount and it will go to waste, one should make a smaller dough and separate challah without a bracha (assuming that the batch contains at least eight cups of flour). It is preferable to bake fresh bread for every Shabbos rather than bake a double-batch one week and freeze half for the next week, unless the frozen bread tastes as good as the fresh variety.

We have now answered Shaylah #2, the dispute between Mrs. Bracha and Mrs. Ginsburg whether one should try to combine doughs to recite a bracha on the mitzvah. Indeed, one should.

Furthermore, one may not deliberately make small doughs to avoid taking challah altogether (Gemara Pesachim 48b; Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 324:14). Therefore, someone making small batches should combine them into one larger batch in order to fulfill the mitzvah.

BATCHING TOGETHER

How does one combine different batches of dough or bread?

There are two general ways to combine different doughs into one “batch” in order to perform the mitzvah of separating challah. The first is by actually combining two doughs together; the second is by using a vessel to combine doughs or breads into what is now considered to be one batch.

HOW DO WE COMBINE DOUGHS?

One can combine two doughs by touching them together sufficiently that parts of one dough will join the other dough when separating them (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 325:1 and Taz). This sticking together is enough to make the different batches considered as one.

Thus, Mrs. Ginsburg could combine her two doughs by touching them until the doughs stick together. Although this is often a simple way to combine two doughs, Mrs. Ginsburg pointed out that this approach is impractical when her doughs are mixed in two separate bowls. However, a simple solution is to wait until after the doughs rise and then to place them both on the board or tray for braiding. At this point, she should touch the doughs together until they stick to one another and become considered one dough.

“Does this mean that I can never take challah until my dough is removed from the bowls?” asked Mrs. Ginsburg. “I would prefer to separate challah while the dough is still in the bowl.”

Indeed, there are two possible ways she could take challah from the dough while it is still in the bowl, although each approach has its potential drawbacks.

A. If the dough rises in the bowls until it is high enough that one can touch the two doughs together, one may separate challah from one dough for both of them after sticking the two together. Of course, this is only possible if both doughs rise until they are higher than the top of the bowl.

B. A second approach involves placing the two bowls in a sheet or tablecloth in a way that the two bowls are touching while inside the sheet or cloth (Mishnah Berurah 457:7). Then fold the sheet or cloth over the bowls until it covers the doughs, even partially. I will explain shortly why this combines the doughs together. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, I prefer method “A” to method “B.”

HOW DO WE BATCH BREADS?

Another method of combining either dough or bread from small batches into one large batch to fulfill the mitzvah of challah is to place them together in a basket or other vessel (Mishnah Challah 2:4; Gemara Pesachim 48b).

Why does a basket make two or more different batches into one batch? Refer back to the Pasukim that I quoted earlier:

Pasuk 19: And it will be when you eat from the bread of the land, that you should consecrate a special portion for Hashem’s sake.

Pasuk 20: The first of your kneading bowls is challah; you should consecrate it just as you consecrate part of your grain.

I noted above that Pasuk 19 refers to separating challah when you eat bread, whereas Pasuk 20 mentions taking challah from your kneading bowls, which implies that we already separated challah when it was dough. Why does the Torah teach us to separate challah from bread when we already separated challah when it was being kneaded? The answer is that sometimes a dough is too small to require separating challah, but placing the baked bread (from two or more such doughs) in a basket will create a batch large enough to perform the mitzvah!

AN EXCEPTION — A MIX THAT DOES NOT WORK

If one does not want to combine two doughs, for example, if one dough is whole wheat flour and the other is white, or one is bread dough and the other pastry, then combining the two batches does not work (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 326:1). These batches remain separate unless one actually mixes the two doughs together. Thus, even if one touched together hamantashen dough with bread dough and the two combined have the requisite amount to separate challah, they do not combine.

At this point, we can answer Mrs. Ginsburg’s shaylah, about combining two batches of dough mixed in separate bowls. I have suggested two methods whereby one can combine the two batches into a five-pound batch and recite a bracha before the separating:

1. Take the different doughs and touch them together until the edges stick to one another. Do this either while the dough is in bowls or any time afterwards before the bread is baked.

2. Place the doughs or breads together inside one basket, cloth, or vessel. Since they are all inside one container, this combines them into one batch. Preferably, the dough or breads should all touch one another (Mishnah Berurah 457:7).

We can now analyze Mrs. Lowenstein’s question whether her freezer combines the breads into one batch that requires her to separate challah?

DOES ANY VESSEL COMBINE BREAD INTO ONE BATCH?

Previously, we discussed how one can combine to batches together for mitzvas challah by placing them into one basket. Does putting breads or hamantashen from many small batches into the freezer together create a mitzvah of separating challah?

The Gemara (Pesachim 48b) teaches that a table with a rim around it combines small batches of bread together to create a mitzvah of challah. Thus, it seems that a basket is simply an example. However, many Rishonim imply that the mitzvah of challah is created by a vessel only while in the process of baking bread, but not afterwards (Rashi, Pesachim 48b; She’iltos #73; Eimek Shei’lah who explains these opinions meticulously). However, the Rosh (Beitzah 1:13) implies that if a large quantity of bread is mistakenly placed into one vessel later, it will become obligated in challah at this point, and therefore he recommends combining all the doughs together earlier and separating challah. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 457:1) implies that he rules like the first opinion, unlike the Rosh.

Although some poskim suggest that a freezer will combine just as a basket combines, most contemporary poskim rule that this is not a concern for a variety of reasons. These reasons include: 1) This takes place long after you finished making the bread. 2) You have no intent to combine the doughs together. 3) A freezer may not be considered a vessel at all because of its size and weight. 4) The doughs are all bagged before they are placed inside the freezer (see Machazeh Eliyahu #l11; Shu’t Nimla Tal).

We can now answer questions 1 and 3 that we posed at the beginning. 1) One should indeed try to combine different batches of dough or bread in order to separate challah from them, and in order to be able to recite the bracha. 3) Although a vessel or tablecloth will combine different doughs into challah, a freezer does not create a concern that requires separating challah, nor does it combine batches for challah taking.

Having discussed the halachic details of this mitzvah, it is worthwhile taking a glimpse at the following Medrash that underscores its vast spiritual significance: “In the merit of the following three mitzvos the world was created – in the merit of challah, in the merit of maasros, and in the merit of bikkurim” (Breishis Rabbah 1:4). Thus, besides gaining us eternal reward, this easily kept mitzvah helps keep our planet turning.

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