Calendar Controversy

When Yamim Nora’im “Fell” on Disputed Days

In the year 4681 (920), the greatest halachic authority in Eretz Yisrael, Rav Aharon ben Meir, proclaimed that the months of Marcheshvan and Kislev of the coming year (4682) would both have only 29 days. As a result, the next Pesach (4682) would begin on a Sunday and end after Shabbos, in Eretz Yisrael, and after Sunday, in Chutz LaAretz.

Prior to Ben Meir’s proclamation, all had assumed that Marcheshvan and Kislev that year would both be 30 days long, which would result in Pesach beginning two days later — on Tuesday, and ending on Monday, in Eretz Yisrael, and on Tuesday, in Chutz LaAretz. Thus, Ben Meir was pushing Pesach forward two days earlier than anticipated. Those communities that followed Ben Meir would eat chametz when it was still Pesach according to the original calculation!

Just as shocking, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur of 4683 would also be two days earlier. Ben Meir’s ruling had Rosh Hashanah beginning on Tuesday and Yom Kippur observed on Thursday. The original calculation had Rosh Hashanah on Thursday, and Yom Kippur falling on Shabbos.

That year, most communities in Eretz Yisrael and Egypt observed Pesach, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah following Ben Meir’s calendar; the communities of Syria, Bavel (today’s Iraq), Europe and the rest of North Africa observed these Yomim Tovim two days later!

Thus, on Shabbos before Sukkos of 4683, Ben Meir’s followers were reading parshas Ha’azinu and enjoying their Shabbos repasts; the other communities were fasting and observing Yom Kippur!

Why did Ben Meir observe the calendar differently? Why was his opinion rejected?

Creation of the Jewish Calendar

Our current Jewish calendar was instituted in the fourth century by Hillel Hanasi (not to be confused with his ancestor, the Tanna, Hillel Hazakein. Historians call Hillel Hanasi either Hillel the Second or Hillel the Third, but I will refer to him the way the Rishonim do.) Prior to this time, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin appointed special batei din that were in charge of determining the Jewish calendar, which included two areas of responsibility:

·         Determining whether each month is 29 or 30 days.

·         Deciding whether the year should be made into a leap year by adding the month of Adar Sheini.

A beis din of three judges representing the Sanhedrin, the main beis din of klal Yisrael, would meet on the “thirtieth” day of each month to determine whether this day was Rosh Chodesh and the previous month was only 29 days, or whether to postpone Rosh Chodesh to the morrow, which would make the day on which they met the last day of a 30-day month.

The determination of which day was Rosh Chodesh was based heavily, but not exclusively, on whether witnesses appeared in the special beis din on the thirtieth day to testify that they had witnessed the new moon.

In addition, the head of the Sanhedrin appointed a panel of judges who met during the winter months to deliberate and decide whether the year should have an extra month added and become a leap year. Many factors went into their considerations, including the weather, the economy, the condition of the roads, the shmittah cycle and, of course, whether the Jewish calendar year was early or late relative to the annual solar cycle.

In Eretz Yisrael

The Gemara (Berachos 63) states unequivocally that as long as there is a beis din in Eretz Yisrael that is qualified to establish the calendar, no beis din elsewhere is authorized to do this.

This system worked well for thousands of years – from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu until about 300 years after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, which was during the time that the Gemara was being written. However, by this time, severe Roman persecutions took a tremendous toll on the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael, and its yeshivos suffered terribly.

It was at this time that the head of the last main beis din functioning in Eretz Yisrael, Hillel Hanasi (usually assumed to have been a great-grandson of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi), established the Jewish calendar as we currently observe it. In establishing this calendar, Hillel Hanasi resolved that whether a year would be a leap year or not would be determined by a cycle of 19 years that includes a set schedule of 7 leap years.

He also decided that the months of Tishrei, Shevat, Adar Rishon (when there is one), Nissan, Sivan and Av are always 30 days, whereas Teves, Adar (or Adar Sheini), Iyar, Tammuz and Elul are always only 29 days. The two months of Marcheshvan and Kislev would vary each year, depending on when the next year’s Rosh Hashanah should be. The latter was based on a calculation of how long we estimate the moon to orbit the earth and decisions made by Hillel Hanasi regarding on what days of the week the Tishrei holidays should fall.

Hillel Hanasi’s established calendar allowed that a Jew anywhere in the world could make the calculations and determine the Jewish calendar. All he needs to know is the pattern of the 19-year cycle, and the information necessary to determine how long the months of Marcheshvan and Kislev are in a given year.

One noteworthy point is that, originally, each month’s length was determined primarily by the witnessing of the new moon, whereas in the calendar created by Hillel Hanasi, the length of the months is predetermined, regardless of when the new moon appears. Only Rosh Hashanah is determined by the new moon, and, even then, there are other considerations.

History has proved the unbelievable clairvoyance of Hillel Hanasi’s calendar. To understand what he accomplished, note that, at the time of Ben Meir, almost 600 years had passed since Hillel and Jewish communities had scattered across the entire known world. There were already, at this time, Jewish communities strewn throughout Europe and North Africa, what eventually developed into the Ashkenazim and the Sefardim, and throughout the Middle East and central Asia.

Yet, wherever Jewish communities lived, they observed the same Jewish calendar, whether they lived under the rule of Christians, Moslems or Zoroastrians. It is a fascinating historical fact that, although there was no absolute central authority to determine Jewish observance, Jewish communities that were spread out everywhere observed and continue to observe the identical calendar, without any error or dispute, probably without a single exception, other than the one incident we are discussing!

The Controversy

Rav Ben Meir was, without question, a gadol  be’Yisrael who, in any other generation, might have been the gadol hador. However, Hashem placed him in the same generation as one of the greatest talmidei chachamim in history, Rav Saadia Gaon.

Rav Ben Meir held that all of the Jewish people were bound to follow his ruling regarding Klal Yisrael’s calendar, since his beis din was the most qualified one in Eretz Yisrael. He contended that the final decision on determining the calendar still rested among the highest halachic authorities in Eretz Yisrael, and that Hillel Hanasi’s calendar had not changed this.

At the time of Hillel Hanasi, the Jewish community in Bavel had surpassed that of Eretz Yisrael, both numerically and in scholarship, producing the greater talmidei chachamim. This is why the period of the Amoraim essentially ended earlier in Eretz Yisrael than in Bavel, and why the Talmud Bavli is more authoritative than the Talmud Yerushalmi. The main headquarters of Torah remained in Bavel for hundreds of years, including most of the period when the Gaonim headed the yeshivos of Sura and Pumbedisa in Bavel.

However, at the time of this controversy, both yeshivos, Sura and Pumbedisa, were weak, and Rav Aharon Ben Meir, who headed his own yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, surpassed in learning the heads of both Babylonian yeshivos.

Enter Rav Saadia

At the time of the dispute, Rav Saadia Gaon was only 29 years old. Virtually nothing is known of his rabbei’im. We know that he was born in Egypt, probably the second largest Jewish community at the time (after Bavel). At about 23 years old, probably already the greatest Torah scholar of his era, he traveled eastward, visiting the various Jewish communities of Eretz Yisrael, Syria and eventually Bavel, becoming very familiar with the scholars there. Although very young, we see from later correspondence that he already had many disciples prior to leaving Egypt, with whom he maintained contact after he left.

Pronouncing his Verdict

About a year before he changed the accepted calendar, Ben Meir announced his plans. At the time, Rav Saadia was in Aleppo, Syria. When he heard of Ben Meir’s intentions, Rav Saadia immediately addressed a succession of letters to Ben Meir, explaining that the established calendar was correct and should not be tampered with. Simultaneously, the authorities of Bavel addressed a letter to Ben Meir, written with tremendous respect and friendship, but sharply disputing his halachic conclusions.

Apparently, Ben Meir was unimpressed by the letters from either Rav Saadia or from Bavel. It appears that he then formalized his planned calendar change with a pronouncement made on Hoshanah Rabbah, from Har Hazeisim. Because of its proximity to the Beis Hamikdash, the Torah leaders of Eretz Yisrael held an annual gathering on Har Hazeisim to perform hoshanos. At the same time, they used the occasion to discuss whatever issues faced their communities and decided on plans and policies. Apparently, Ben Meir used this opportunity to announce the decision of his beis din to adjust the calendar in the coming year.

Indeed, the communities of Eretz Yisrael, and several (if not all) of those in Egypt followed Ben Meir’s ruling and kept 29 day months for both Marcheshvan and Kislev.

After the two questionable roshei chadashim had passed, we find correspondence between Bavel and Eretz Yisrael, but now the letters are more strident. By this time, Rav Saadia had arrived in Bavel, and the next correspondence includes letters from the established leaders of Bavel to Ben Meir strongly rebuking his decision. Apparently, these letters were signed not only by the elders and scholars of the Bavel community, but also by a young Egyptian newcomer — Rav Saadia.

At the same time, the leadership of Bavel as well as Rav Saadia addressed circulars to the various Jewish communities, advising them to observe the established calendar, not that of Ben Meir.

Rav Saadia wrote his disciples in Egypt, advising them that all the leaders of Bavel had concurred to follow the old calendar and to proclaim Marcheshvan and Kislev as full months and to observe Pesach, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos accordingly. In his own words:

Close this breach! Do not rebel against the command of Hashem. None of the people would intentionally work on Yom Tov, eat chametz on Pesach, or eat, drink or work on Yom Kippur. May it be the will of Hashem that no stumbling block be placed in your community nor anywhere else.

Rav Saadia was barely 30 years old and already he was viewed with such esteem that the established Torah leadership of Bavel requested that he join them in their correspondence on the issue!

Ben Meir’s Retort

In reaction to the initial letters from the Gaonim and from Rav Saadia, Ben Meir sent his son to Yerushalayim to announce, once again, his planned calendar change. Ben Meir also wrote, in an aggressive and disrespectful tone, that final authority in all matters of the calendar lies with the Torah leadership of Eretz Yisrael. At this point, he began to write disparagingly about his antagonists.

Pesach was approaching and communities were bewildered as to what to do. Rav Saadia wrote a second letter to his disciples in Egypt. It should be noted that, notwithstanding the personal attack leveled against him by Ben Meir, Rav Saadia dealt specifically with the issue and refrained from any remark belittling his detractor.

Why did Rav Saadia not accept Ben Meir’s assertion that the Torah leadership of Eretz Yisrael had the final say about these matters?

Rav Saadia wrote that Ben Meir’s calculations were mistaken. The calculations that we use are all based on an old mesorah from Sinai, as can be demonstrated from the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 20). Thus, this is not a matter of opinion, but an error. Rav Saadia rallied support from the fact that, since the days of Hillel Hanasi, no one had questioned the accuracy of the accepted calendar.

Two Different Pesachs

Indeed, that Pesach, many communities followed Ben Meir, while others followed Rav Saadia and the Gaonim of Bavel. The controversy continued the next year, through the disputed Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos.

History has not bequeathed to us the final steps of this controversy, yet we know that, by the next year, the logic of Rav Saadia’s responsa swayed the tide against Ben Meir’s diatribes, and Rav Saadia became accepted as the gadol hador and its final arbiter in halacha.

Ben Meir blamed Rav Saadia for torpedoing his initiative, which probably is true. History knows nothing more of Ben Meir after this episode, and of no community that subsequently followed his approach. His opinion on any halachic matters is never quoted by later authorities.

Six years later, Rav Saadia was asked to assume the position of Gaon of Sura, the only time in history that the position was granted to an “outsider.” Indeed, we have Rav Saadia to thank that the Jewish world, everywhere, always observes Yomim Tovim on the same day.

Select Halachos of the Days Surrounding Tisha B’Av

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

WHAT PRACTICES DO WE OBSERVE ON SHABBOS CHAZON?

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

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

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

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

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

V’ATAH KADOSH

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

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

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

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

WHY IS THIS PRAYER RECITED ON TISHA B’AV?

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

DO WE WEAR TEFILLIN ON TISHA B’AV?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DOES ONE WEAR TZITZIS ON TISHA B’AV?

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

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

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

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

STUDYING TORAH ON TISHA B’AV

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

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

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

SELECT LAWS OF FASTING ON TISHA B’AV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY ONE GO TO WORK ON TISHA B’AV?

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

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

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

WASHING FLOORS ON TISHA B’AV AFTERNOON

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

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

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

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

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

Explaining the Laws of the Three Weeks

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

WHAT HAPPENED ON SHIVAH ASAR BETAMMUZ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY ONE SCHEDULE A VORT DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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

IS DANCING PERMITTED DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY I CLIP MY FINGERNAILS DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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

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

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

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

IS SINGING PERMITTED DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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

MAY ONE RECITE SHEHECHEYANU DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

There are three opinions among the poskim:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY A CHILD RECITE SHEHECHEYANU DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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

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

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

MAY ONE PURCHASE A NEW CAR DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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

OTHER HALACHOS OF THE THREE WEEKS

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

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

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

FOCUS OF THE THREE WEEKS

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

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

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

Kiddush Levanah

Question #1: Cloud cover

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

Question #2: Northern lights

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

Question #3: Where’s the Rif?

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Background

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

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

Leaning on one another?

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

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

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

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

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

Receiving the Shechinah

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

Use the phase to praise!

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

Aleinu

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

What is the brocha?

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

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

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

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

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

What else do we say?

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

Motza’ei Shabbos

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

Three or seven?

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

The light of the moon

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

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

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

Before sunrise?

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

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

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

Where’s the Rif?

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

The Milky Way

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

Does Chalav Yisrael Apply Today?

Question #1:

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

Question #2:

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

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

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

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

The Origins of Chalav Yisrael

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

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

The most lenient approach

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

Chasam Sofer’s approach

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

Risk of snake bite

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

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

A middle road

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

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

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

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

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

Being Stringent

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

Contemporary Problem

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

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

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

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

Stricter than Ever?

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

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

In Conclusion

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

Pesach Sheini

Question #1: Seder Pesach Sheini

“Could you please review for me the order of pesach sheini night?”

Question #2: Conversion

“I wanted to become Jewish before Passover, but it looks like it won’t happen. Is there any way for me to make up the korban Pesach that I will miss?”

Question #3: Bar Mitzvah

“I become bar mitzvah during the beginning of sefirah. Does this affect when I will bring korban pesach?”

Introduction

This week’s article explains the Torah’s mitzvah of pesach sheini, offering the korban pesach on the 14th of Iyar. I am not discussing any laws or customs germane to the observance of pesach sheini today, since we cannot offer the korban, a topic that I have discussed previously. Please note that, to avoid confusion, throughout this article, the holiday of Pesach will be capitalized, whereas the offerings, whether referring to the one offered on the 14th of Nisan or on the 14th of Iyar, will be lower case (except when the word begins a sentence or heading).

Parshas Beha’alosecha teaches the fascinating mitzvah of observing korban pesach a month later than usual, called pesach sheini. Someone unable to observe the mitzvah of sukkah during the current week does not accomplish anything positive by eating his mealsin a sukkah a month later. Someone unable to kindle the Chanukah lights does not have the opportunity to do so on the 25th of Teiveis, nor on any other “make-up” days after Chanukah. But in the instance of korban pesach, the Torah teaches: “And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, in the second year of their leaving the land of Egypt, in the first month [Nisan], saying: ‘The Bnei Yisroel shall offer the pesach in its correct time, on the 14th of this month, in the afternoon…. They shall prepare it, following all its laws and ordnances…’ There were men who were temei meis, thus, unable to observe korban pesach on the correct day, who approached Moshe and Aharon that day [the 14th], saying… ‘We are temei meis; why should we lose out and not be able to offer the korban of Hashem in its proper time, as part of Bnei Yisroel?’” (Bamidbar 9, 1-7).

Moshe responded that he would ask Hashem what to do. Hashem instructed that an individual who was either tamei or at a distance and therefore unable to offer the korban pesach, is commanded to offer it during the second month, Iyar, on the afternoon of the 14th. The Torah then proceeds, “It should be eaten together with matzos and bitter herbs. It should not be left over until morning, nor should any bone be broken; they should prepare it like all the laws of the pesach” (ibid. 11-12). This is very interesting, because, although the Torah appears to be comparing pesach sheini with the korban pesach usually offered on the 14th of Nisan, the Torah never teaches us how to observe the regular korban pesach. The only other description of the korban pesach in the Torah is when the Jews were still in Egypt, and describes the temporary mitzvah called pesach Mitzrayim, and not all of the laws of that offering apply to the korban pesach brought in the years after the Jews exited Egypt. The laws that apply to a regular korban pesach are taught by the Torah she’be’al peh.

Pesach rishon versus pesach sheini

The Mishnah (Pesachim 95a) states: “What are the differences between the korban pesach offered on Erev Pesach [hereafter called pesach rishon] and the one offered on pesach sheini? The prohibitions of bal yei’ra’eh bal yimatzei [against owning chometz] apply on pesach rishon, whereas when observing pesach sheini, he can have chometz and matzoh together in his house. The first korban requires reciting Hallel while eating it, and the second does not. Both require Hallel while the korban is offered, and are eaten roasted, eaten together with matzoh and bitter herbs. Furthermore, if the 14th falls on Shabbos, their shechitah (of both pesach rishon and pesach sheini) and other steps required in offering them supersede Shabbos.”

As we noted, the Mishnah states that it is permitted to have chometz in your house while offering and eating the pesach sheini. But are you permitted to eat chometz while eating the pesach sheini? The late halachic authorities dispute whether it is permitted to eat chometz together with the korban pesach sheini (Minchas Chinuch, Mitzvah 381; Meshech Chachmah, Bamidbar 9:10; Avi Ezri, 5: Korban Pesach Chapter 10).

More on pesach sheini

How else is this night of pesach sheini different from all other Pesach nights? The Tosefta (Pesachim Chapter 8) adds to the list supplied by the Mishnah that, when the pesach rishon is offered, those bringing it are divided into three groups, as described in the Mishnah, who take turns entering the Beis Hamikdash to offer the korban. Pesach sheini has no such requirement and all those interested in offering it are granted entry to the Beis Hamikdash at one time. Tosafos (Pesachim 95a s.v. mah) notes that the Gemara (Pesachim 90a) mentions another difference between pesach rishon and pesach sheini: the first pesach requires that the animal be selected and placed in your house four days before it is offered, on the tenth of Nisan, so that the animal can be observed for four days to ascertain that it has no blemish rendering it invalid. Pesach sheini has no such requirement, meaning that, it is sufficient to examine the animal carefully that it has no blemishes before offering it. There is no obligation to select it four days earlier and examine it frequently in the course of those four days.

As the Rambam and others explain, all the laws regarding when and how the korban pesach is eaten — that it is eaten only on the night of the 15th, that it is barbecued, whole, on a spit made of pomegranate wood and that it should be eaten to complete being satisfied, not when you are hungry (Rambam, Hilchos Korban Pesach 8:3-4) — apply equally to pesach rishon and pesach sheini. The individuals required to offer the pesach, either rishon or sheini must eat at least a kezayis of the korban pesach. It is worthwhile noting that, to the best of my knowledge, the only time a Jew is required min haTorah to eat meat is the kezayis of korban pesach, either on pesach rishon or pesach sheini. Otherwise, someone can freely remain vegan if he prefers.

Why is this night different?

In explaining why there are halachic differences between pesach rishon and pesach sheini, the Gemara returns to the above-quoted pesukim. The Torah states that the korban pesach sheini should be brought kechol chukos hapesach, “like all the laws of the pesach.” The Gemara asks why the posuk mentions, specifically, that pesach sheini should be eaten together with matzoh and marror, that no bone may be broken and that it should be consumed during the night and not left, uneaten, until morning. Are these not laws that apply to the first korban pesach and that there is, therefore, no need to repeat them?

The Gemara concludes that certain mitzvos related to pesach rishon apply to pesach sheini, even though they are not mentioned specifically in the Torah. These include the requirements of roasting the korban pesach and eating it in one place, since these halachos are details in the preparation and consumption of the korban pesach. On the other hand, halachos that are not details in the preparation and consumption of the korban pesach, such as the requirement to dispose of all of one’s chometz before offering the pesach, apply only to pesach of the 14th of Nisan and not to pesach sheini.

Other details

The posuk states that pesach Mitzrayim required that the lamb or kid to be offered as korban pesach is selected already on the tenth of Nisan, a mitzvah called bikur. The Gemara explains that pesach sheini does not require bikur.

Does a pesach offered on the 14th of Nisan require bikur? Although, as I mentioned above, Tosafos (Pesachim 95a s. v. mah) requires bikur of four days for pesach rishon but not for pesach sheini, other rishonim require bikur only for pesach Mitzrayim and the daily korban tamid, but not for either pesach rishon or pesach sheini (Rashba, Menachos 49b).

Seder pesach sheini

At this point, we can now address our opening question: “Could you please review for me the order of pesach sheini night?”

We are all familiar with the steps of our Seder night: Kadeish, Ur’chatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Magid, Rachtzah, Motzi, Matzoh, Maror, Koreich, Shulchan Oreich, Tzafun, Bareich, Hallel, Nirtzah. The question now is: how many and which of these steps does someone observe if he is bringing pesach sheini?

Kadeish

There is no recital of Kiddush on pesach sheini, since it is not Yom Tov. Furthermore, there is no mitzvah to have four cups of wine.

There is no mitzvah of magid, recital of the Exodus story, on pesach sheini. In other words, a person who was tamei or distant from the Beis Hamikdash, and, therefore, could not offer korban pesach, observes his Seder on Pesach rishon, the night of the 15th of Nisan, the way that we observe our Seder today without a korban pesach. On that night, he fulfills all the mitzvos of pesach night, including magid, matzoh, four cups of wine and Hallel. The only mitzvah of the night that is postponed for a month is offering and consuming the korban pesach,

Ur’chatz, Karpas

The purpose for the dipping of karpas and, therefore, the washing of hands that takes place before it, is to arouse the children’s attention, so that they should be alert to the events that we are discussing Seder night. But this is included within the mitzvah of magid, which does not exist on pesach sheini.

Yachatz

Splitting the matzoh in half so that the rest of it is eaten as the afikomen is to remind us that the korban pesach is eaten as the final item on the pesach-meal menu. Presumably, yachatz was not observed at all when the Beis Hamikdosh was standing, since we would be eating the korban pesach itself.

Magid

Since there is no mitzvah of magid, reciting the Exodus story, there is also no asking of the four questions at the Seder of pesach sheini. (However, see Sefas Emes, Pesachim 95a and Shu”t Benei Tzion 1:30.)

Rachtzah, Motzi, Matzoh, Maror, Koreich

All of these are part of the observances of pesach sheini.

Shulchan Oreich

There is no requirement of serving a festive Yom Tov meal, although there is a requirement to eat the korban pesach al hasova. There is a dispute between the Rambam and the Yerushalmi exactly what this requires. According to the Rambam, eating korban pesach al hasova means that you should eat of it as much as you want with gusto – you should not feel restricted from eating large portions of it,. According to the Yerushalmi (quoted by Tosafos, Pesachim 70a and Mahari Kurkus, Hilchos Korban Pesach 8:3), this means that you should not be extremely hungry when you eat the korban pesach. This is a rabbinic requirement to make sure that no one comes to break the bones of the korban pesach, in his haste to eat it.

Either approach should apply to pesach sheini. But a difference between the two approaches is that, according to the Rambam, there is no need to eat a meal with pesach sheini – it is adequate to serve matzoh and marror with the korban pesach and make that your full meal. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, enough of a meal should be served before the korban pesach so that people are not ravenously hungry when it is served (Mahari Kurkus).

Tzafun

See our discussion above regarding mitzvas afikomen.

Bareich

Since there is a requirement to eat matzoh, there is a requirement to bensch after the meal on pesach sheini. Yaaleh Vayavo is not recited, because it is not Pesach.

Hallel

As mentioned above, Hallel is recited only on the afternoon of the 14th of Iyar, when the korban pesach is offered, but not in the evening or the next morning, neither in shul, nor as part of the “Seder.”

Nirtzah

It seems to me that the customs of nirtzah all relate to the mitzvah of magid and the specific sanctity of the night of Pesach and not to the observances of pesach sheini.

Seder Plate

Does the pesach sheini Seder plate reflect this difference? It should contain marror and charoses, but there will be no need for any other items, since there is no mitzvah of karpas. Bear in mind that when we will again be able to offer korban pesach and korban chagigah, there will no longer be small roasted items on the Seder plate, what we usually call the zero’a and the beitzah, because the korban pesach is a full roasted lamb that will require a platter, and the korban chagigah is probably much larger.

Women and pesach sheini

There is a very major difference between men and women regarding pesach sheini. For women, offering pesach sheini is an opportunity, not a requirement. Therefore, if they were unable to offer pesach rishon and choose not to offer pesach sheini, there is no punishment of kareis. Also, they cannot bring their own pesach sheini, unless a man is involved who is required to do so.

Similarities

There are other ways, not mentioned in the Torah, in which pesach sheini has similar laws to pesach rishon. Both korbanos require that you stay overnight in Yerushalayim until the morning of the 15th of Nisan, a mitzvah called linah (Pesachim 95b). (If not for this requirement, someone could eat his korban pesach in Yerushalayim during the early part of the evening, and then sleep outside the walls of the old city [Rashi ad loc.].)

Both pesach rishon and sheini are offered on the afternoon of the 14th of the month, whether it is Shabbos or not (Pesachim 95b).

Violating either one intentionally incurs kareis, a characteristic these mitzvos aseih share with only one other positive mitzvah, bris milah.

Not tamei

Although the Torah mentions pesach sheini only in the context of someone who was either tamei or distant, the halacha is that pesach sheini applies to anyone who missed pesach rishon, whether it was because he was hospitalized, uncircumcised, ill, an onein (the first stage of mourning when he is not permitted to participate in korbanos) or even because he simply forgot. The reason the Torah singles out someone who was tamei meis or distant is because someone who failed to bring pesach rishon because of these two reasons and failed to bring pesach sheini is exempt from kareis, whereas anyone who missed pesach rishon for one of the other reasons and then missed pesach sheini intentionally is punishable by kareis (Piskei Hilchos Pesach Sheini Biketzarah). However, the exemption from kareis for a tamei is only for someone who could not have made himself tahor for pesach rishon.

A 12-year-old boy who turns bar mitzvah between the 15th of Nisan and the 14th of Iyar, or someone who converted to Judaism during those days should observe pesach sheini. However, if the child was already included in someone’s pesach rishon, he does not bring pesach sheini.

Someone who intentionally did not offer pesach rishon is chayov kareis for not having done so, but if he then brings pesach sheini, he removes the punishment of kareis from himself. But this is true only if he actually offers pesach sheini. If he was unable to offer pesach sheini, even if this was beyond his control, he is liable for kareis for not bringing pesach rishon intentionally.

This latter rule is true, also, regarding someone who is uncircumcised. If he could not bring pesach rishon because he was uncircumcised, received his bris milah sometime after Erev Pesach, and, intentionally, missed pesach sheini, he will be subject to kareis for not having offered the korban pesach.

Someone who brought pesach rishon and subsequently discovered that he was tamei and not permitted to offer the korban pesach is obliged to bring pesach sheini (Rambam, Hilchos Korban Pesach 6:12).

Only for the individual

When the Torah introduces the mitzvah of pesach sheini, it says ish, ish, repeating that the concept of pesach sheini is only for the individual. For this reason, should most of the community be tamei, there is no pesach sheini (Pesachim 79a; Rambam, Hilchos Korban Pesach, 7:1). There are many detailed rules that we will not discuss in this article that determine whether they will offer pesach rishon while they are temei’im, or will be exempt from korban pesach (and the punishment for not offering it) that year.

Conclusion

In explaining the mitzvah of pesach sheini, the Torah taught that several aspects of the laws of the korban Pesach are observed, but not all the laws of the Pesach holiday. This creates a very interesting combination. Although we have become accustomed to observing the holiday of Pesach without its unique korban, this is really one of the most important, if not the most important, observances of Pesach. It is actually so important that the men who were tamei and could therefore not be part of the communal korban Pesach, realized that they were deprived of a basic mitzvah observance. Indeed, they were correct, and the observance of korban Pesach is so important that it has a make-up a month later, something unique among mitzvos.

Eruv Tavshillin

At the end of Pesach, we must remember to prepare an eruv tavshillin.

Freeimages/Eitha

Question #1: Where?

“Is it true that eruv tavshillin is more common in chutz la’aretz than in Eretz Yisroel?”

Question #2: What?

“What is the reason that many people use a hard-boiled egg for eruv tavshillin?”

Question #3: When?

“In what way is the halacha of eruv tavshillin different on Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach from other Yomim Tovim?”

Foreword

With Shevi’i shel Pesach beginning on Thursday evening, the laws of eruv tavshillin are germane both to those living in Eretz Yisroel and to those living in chutz la’aretz. In order to reply accurately to the above inquiries, we must first examine several aspects of this mitzvah that Chazal implemented – particularly, the whys, hows, and whats of eruv tavshillin. Because of space considerations, this article will not be able to address all the issues of eruv tavshillin, but will answer the opening questions that were posed. However, there are other articles on the topic that may be read on RabbiKaganoff.com.

First, the basics: When Yom Tov falls on Friday, an eruv tavshillin must be made on erev Yom Tov to permit cooking and other preparations on Yom Tov for Shabbos. As it turns out, making an eruv tavshillin is much more common in chutz la’aretz than it is in Eretz Yisroel. Since, in our calendar devised by Hillel Hanasi, the beginning of Sukkos, Pesach and Shmini Atzeres never falls on Friday, the only time there is a need for an eruv tavshillin in Eretz Yisroel is when Shavuos or the seventh day of Pesach falls on Friday, or when Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday. On the other hand, in chutz la’aretz, in additional to these instances, often the two days of Yom Tov fall on Thursday and Friday.

Introduction

When discussing the laws of Yom Tov, the Torah teaches kol melacha lo yei’aseh bahem, ach asher yei’acheil lechol nefesh hu levado yei’aseh lachem,“No work should be performed on these days; however, that which is eaten by everyone (kol nefesh), only that may be prepared for yourselves” (Shemos 12:16). We see from the posuk that, although most melachos are forbidden on Yom Tov, cooking and most other food preparations are permitted. However, cooking is permitted on Yom Tov only when it is for consumption on that day. It is forbidden to cook on Yom Tov for the day after, and at times this is prohibited min haTorah. There is, however, one exceptional situation – when Yom Tov falls on Friday and an eruv tavshillin was made, it is permitted to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

To quote the Mishnah (Beitzah 15b), “When Yom Tov falls on erev Shabbos, it is prohibited to begin cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos. However, it is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, and, if there are leftovers, plan them to be for Shabbos. Furthermore, (there is a way in which it is permitted to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos) by preparing a cooked food from before Yom Tov which he leaves for Shabbos. According to Beis Shamai, this must be (at least) two cooked items, and, according to Beis Hillel, one cooked item suffices.” (As we are aware, we also set aside a baked item for the eruv tavshillin, but this is not essential.)

Prior to quoting the dispute between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel, the Mishnah has expressed three distinct concepts:

No cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos

1. It is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos (without making the eruv tavshillin).

Marbeh be’shiurim

2. It is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, planning to have leftovers for Shabbos.

Eruv tavshillin

3. Making an eruv tavshillin permits cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Each of these concepts, which we will explain one at a time, requires clarification:

1. No cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos

It is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Let me explain a question that is implicit here. If it is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, why does an eruv tavshillin permit it? Or, in other terms, there are three types of eruv that Chazal instituted, eruv techumim, eruv chatzeiros and eruv tavshillin. All three of these mitzvos have the status of a takanas chachamim, which means that they were instituted by Chazal to permit something that is otherwise prohibited because of a rabbinic injunction. An eruv techumim permits walking on Shabbos and Yom Tov beyond the techum Shabbos, the distance outside the city or other “Shabbos residence;” an eruv chatzeiros permits carrying on Shabbos from one individual’s jurisdiction to that of another. Both of these prohibitions permitted by their respective eruvin are rabbinic injunctions. An eruv, which is a rabbinic introduction, cannot permit something that is prohibited min haTorah, as the Gemara asks, “Can an eruv tavshillin permit a Torah prohibition” (Pesachim 45b)?

If cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is permitted min haTorah, and it is prohibited only because of a rabbinic injunction, we can understand how Chazal could create a rabbinic innovation called eruv tavshillin and thereby permit this cooking. To paraphrase this expression of the Gemara, since Chazal created the prohibition, they can also reverse it (ibid.). However, if cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is prohibited min haTorah, how do Chazal have the authority to permit that which the Torah forbade?

Two differing approaches

How we answer this conundrum is dependent on a debate between two amora’im, Rabbah and Rav Chisda (Pesachim 46b), which has major ramifications specifically for this coming Yom Tov, when Shevi’i shel Pesach falls on Friday.

Rav Chisda contends that, min haTorah, it is always permitted to cook on a Friday Yom Tov for Shabbos. This is called tzorchei Shabbos na’asin beYom Tov, literally, “Shabbos needs may be performed on Yom Tov.” Since Shabbos and Yom Tov both have kedusha, and are both sometimes called “Shabbos” by the Torah, cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is permitted min haTorah, just as cooking on Yom Tov is permitted for the same day (Rashi ad loc.). The prohibition not to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos is a rabbinic injunction; Chazal prohibited this in order to make sure that people do not cook on Yom Tov for a weekday, or on the first day of Yom Tov for the second, both of which might be prohibited min haTorah. Making an eruv tavshillin permits cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos, since a person thereby realizes that, without an eruv tavshillin, he cannot cook on Yom Tov even for Shabbos — therefore, he understands that he certainly cannot cook on Yom Tov for any other day.

The other position — ho’il

Rabbah contends that it is often prohibited min haTorah to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos. In other words, he maintains that tzorchei Shabbos einam na’asin beYom Tov – notwithstanding that Yom Tov is sometimes called Shabbos, it is still prohibited min haTorah to cook on Yom Tov for any other day, including Shabbos!

If that is true, how can an eruv tavshillin, which is a rabbinic solution, permit that which is prohibited min haTorah?

The answer is a halachic concept called ho’il, which permits cooking on Yom Tov min haTorah whenever you might have a need for extra cooked food on Yom Tov itself, even when you are not expecting to need the extra food and it is unlikely that such a situation will arise. For example, after finishing the Yom Tov day seudah, min haTorah it is permitted to cook another meal, provided it will be ready to eat before the Yom Tov day is over. This is because it is possible that unexpected guests may arrive at your door, and you now have a meal ready to serve them. The idea that perhaps something will happen is expressed as the word ho’il; this word is now used as a brief way of referring to a complicated legal concept.

Therefore, whenever it is possible that guests may yet arrive on Yom Tov, it is permitted to cook for them min haTorah. Although miderabbanan it is not permitted to rely on ho’il to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, since this is only a rabbinic injunction, eruv tavshillin can permit the cooking.

However, this heter applies only as long as the meal will be ready to be eaten while it is still Yom Tov. There is no heter to begin cooking a meal on Yom Tov that will not be ready until Yom Tov is over. In other words, according to Rabbah, when ho’il does not apply, it is prohibited min haTorah to cook. Under these circumstances, an eruv tavshillin will not permit someone to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Thus, there is a halachic difference between Rabbah and Rav Chisda that affects us! According to Rabbah, it is not permitted to put a cholent on the fire on Friday that will not be ready to eat until sometime on Shabbos. Usually, it is perfectly fine to cook food on Friday that will be left on a properly covered fire when Shabbos starts and not ready to eat until the Friday night seudah. However, this Yom Tov it is not permitted to do this, according to Rabbah. Since this food will not be ready to eat on Yom Tov, the law of ho’il does not apply. Since the rule of ho’il does not apply, there is no heter to cook the cholent on Yom Tov for Shabbos, even if one makes an eruv tavshillin! Thus, the menu for Shabbos may have to depend on what one is planning to cook, or, more accurately, on whether it will be cooked in a way that it can be eaten on Yom Tov.

How do we rule?

The Mishnah Berurah, in Biur Halacha (527:1), notes that it is unclear whether we rule according to Rabbah or according to Rav Chisda. He concludes, therefore, that it is preferred to be machmir and have the food cooked for Shabbos in a way that ho’il applies, particularly when we are dealing with a potential question of a Torah law, such as when the first day of Yom Tov falls on Friday, as it does this Shevi’i shel Pesach. This means that all the food cooked for Shabbos should be edible before Shabbos arrives. The Biur Halacha rules that, under extenuating circumstances, it is permitted to rely on the rishonim who rule according to Rav Chisda’s opinion, but it is preferable lechatchilah to have the food for Shabbos cooked in a way that it will be already edible on Friday.

When the the first day of Yom Tov falls on Thursday, and, therefore, Friday Yom Tov is miderabbanan, there is more latitude to be lenient.

Why is Shevi’i shel Pesachdifferent?

At this point, we can answer the third of our opening questions: Why is eruv tavshillin more significant on Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach than any other Yom Tov?

In the calendar we currently use, the first day of Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach never fall on Thursday, although they both often fall on Friday. When this happens, Friday is Yom Tov min haTorah, and it is important to plan the menu such that the meals cooked on Friday for Shabbos will be ready to eat when there is still time to eat them on Yom Tov.

Marbeh be’shiurim

At this point, we will examine the second point that we derived from the Mishnah, where it stated, “It is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, and, if there are leftovers, plan them to be for Shabbos.” In other words, even without having made an eruv tavshillin, there is a way to cook more than you need on Yom Tov in order to have plenty of leftovers, or, shall we call them, “plan-overs.” One may cook amply for the Yom Tov meal, knowing that there will certainly be leftovers that can be served on Shabbos. As a matter of fact, if one follows the halacha correctly here, it is even permitted to cook on the first day of Yom Tov planning to have enough leftover to serve on the second day, or even on a weekday. This is provided that each dish is, or could be, served at a Yom Tov meal on the day that it was prepared.

This plan-over preparation is called marbeh beshiurim, literally, “increasing the quantities,”which means that, while preparing food on Yom Tov, it is permitted to include a greater quantity while cooking, provided no additional melacha act is performed. For example, if you need to heat a small amount of water for a cup of tea, you may place a large pot of water on the fire, since only one act of heating water — placing a pot on the fire — is being performed.

However, it is prohibited if an additional melacha action is performed. For example, if the pot is already on the fire, you may not add extra water to it, since this involves a new melacha action.

Adding more

Here are other examples. You are making a cholent or cooking soup; you may add greater quantities of meat, beans or other ingredients than you will need for your Yom Tov meal into the pot before it is placed on the stove, because you place the entire pot onto the fire at one time.You may fill a pot with meat on the first day of Yom Tov, even though you need only one piece for the first day.

However, it is prohibited to prepare individual units of a food item, knowing that you are preparing more than can possibly be eaten on Yom Tov. For this reason, you may not fry more schnitzel or similar items than you will possibly need for a Yom Tov meal, since these involve separate melacha actions. Similarly, it is forbidden to bake more than what you will possibly need for the day (Beitzah 17a). Adding water or meat before putting the pot on the fire simply increases the quantity cooked, but does not increase the number of melacha acts, whereas shaping each loaf or roll is done separately, thus increasing the number of acts performed.

Why is this permitted?

Why is it permitted to cook extra on Yom Tov by use of marbeh beshiurim? We would think that cooking extra on Yom Tov is forbidden, just as in a situation of pikuach nefesh, where it is forbidden to cook more than what is necessary for the needs of the ill person. Why, then, is it permitted to cook extra on Yom Tov, as long as no extra melacha actions are performed?

The Ran (Beitzah 9b in Rif pages, s.v. Umiha) explains that there is a qualitative difference between the performance of melacha actions on Shabbos (or Yom Tov) to save someone’s life, and cooking on Yom Tov. Although saving lives is a huge mitzvah and supersedes Shabbos, the act performed is still an act of melacha. On the other hand, prohibited activities on Yom Tov are defined as melachos that are not food preparatory. Preparing food on Yom Tov involves no melacha activity whatsoever, and is as permitted on Yom Tov as it is to set the table on Shabbos. Since no melacha activity is performed, there is nothing wrong with adding more to cook while the Yom Tov meal is prepared, provided that no additional melacha action is done.

Hard-boiled eruv?

At this point, let us examine one of our opening questions: “Why do many people use a hard-boiled egg for eruv tavshillin?”

It is permitted to continue cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos only as long as the eruv tavshillin, or at least a kezayis of the cooked part of the eruv tavshillin, still exists. In the days before refrigeration, someone who prepared meat or a different food on Wednesday or Thursday for eating on Shabbos was faced with a practical problem. Once you cook food, it begins to spoil very quickly, if it is not refrigerated. Therefore, notes the Aruch Hashulchan, it was not uncommon that the eruv tavshillin was no longer edible when people were cooking on Wednesday for Shabbos, and an inedible eruv tavshillin is considered the same as one that no longer exists. If your eruv rots, there is no heter to permit cooking for Shabbos.

Using a hard-boiled egg for the eruv tavshillin resolved this problem, since an egg cooked before Yom Tov and kept without refrigeration will still be edible on Shabbos.

However, in today’s world, when you can place the cooked part of your eruv tavshillin in the refrigerator and it will last until Shabbos, it is preferred to use as eruv tavshillin a cooked delicacy that you intend to serve at the Shabbos meal. For this reason, my practice is to use for the eruv tavshillin the gefilte fish that will be served on Shabbos.

Conclusion

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

Chol Hamo’eid – Weekday or Yom Tov?

Question #1: My shoes tore on Yom Tov. May I have them repaired on Chol Hamo’eid?

Question #2: The supermarket has something on sale on Chol Hamo’eid that I need for after Yom Tov. May I purchase it?

Question #3: I am visiting my parents in Chutz La’aretz for Yom Tov. I know that cooking on Chol Hamo’eid is permitted only for Yom Tov and Chol Hamo’eid. Does the fact that I must keep two days of Yom Tov while in Chutz La’aretz permit me to cook on Chol Hamo’eid for their Simchas Torah?

Question #4: Someone told me that Chol Hamo’eid is sometimes stricter than Shabbos. How can that be?

Answering these shaylos provides an opportunity to discuss the important and complicated halachos of Chol Hamo’eid. As the Gemara (Mo’eid Katan 12a) points out, the halachos of Chol Hamo’eid are hard to categorize. Therefore, although a short article cannot possibly explain all the halachos of Chol Hamo’eid, I will present many of the principles and provide a basis for each individual to ask his or her own shaylos.

The Gemara (Chagigah 18a) implies that working on Chol Hamo’eid is forbidden min haTorah. Indeed, observing Chol Hamo’eid is included in the mitzvah of keeping Yom Tov, which is testimony of Hashem’s special relationship with the Jewish people (Pesachim 118a with Rashbam).

The Torah describes four mitzvos as an “Os,” a sign of Hashem’s relationship with us: Bris Milah, Shabbos, Yom Tov (including Chol Hamo’eid) and Tefillin. Because Chol Hamo’eid is included in this very special category, Jews should treat Chol Hamo’eid with great respect. Indeed, the Gemara states that disregarding the kedusha of the Yomim Tovim, including Chol Hamo’eid, is like idolatry (Pesachim 118a with Rashbam). Some commentators explain that this includes even someone who fails to serve special meals in honor of Chol Hamo’eid (Bartenura, Avos 3:11). Observing Chol Hamo’eid appropriately attests to our special relationship with Hashem.

DEFINING WORK ON CHOL HAMO’EID

Chol Hamo’eid is an unusual holiday. On the one hand it is Yom Tov, and we may not engage in many melacha activities. On the other hand, we may do many activities that enhance the celebration of Yom Tov.

The laws determining what is permitted and what is prohibited on Chol Hamo’eid are very detailed and technical. What really governs whether something is permitted on Chol Hamo’eid or not? The Gemara explains that the Torah prohibits doing some melachos on Chol Hamo’eid, yet “passed on to Chazal the rules of what melacha is prohibited and what is permitted” (Chagigah 18a).

What does this mean? Is the foundation of this mitzvah min haTorah, or is it miderabbanan? How could the Torah create a prohibition and “pass on to Chazal” what is prohibited?

Here are three basic interpretations of this Gemara:

1. Some rishonim (Tosafos, Chagigah 18a) explain that melacha on Chol Hamo’eid is an asmachta, meaning something the Torah implies that it does not want us to do, but does not expressly forbid (see Ritva, Rosh Hashanah 16a). According to this approach, the Torah did not want Bnei Yisroel to work on Chol Hamo’eid, but never prohibited it. Thus, when the Gemara implies that melacha on Chol Hamo’eid is prohibited min haTorah, it is presenting the Torah’s sentiment, not a commandment. Working on Chol Hamo’eid violates the spirit of Yom Tov, but does not violate the letter of the law. Chazal then implemented the Torah’s sentiment as law, by forbidding certain melachos on Chol Hamo’eid. Since Chazal created the prohibition, they also created the rules, prohibiting some activities and permitting others.

2. Other rishonim explain that the details of Chol Hamo’eid law are part of Torah Shebe’al Peh that Hashem gave Moshe Rabbeinu at Har Sinai for him to transmit orally (Ritva, Mo’eid Katan 2a). Thus, someone who violates the laws of Chol Hamo’eid is violating a Torah prohibition, just as someone who violated any other interpretation of a Torah law that is transmitted to us through Chazal.

3. A third interpretation is that although the Torah prohibited melacha on Chol Hamo’eid, it delegated to Chazal the power to decide what to prohibit and what to permit. Thus, even though Chazal formulated the rules that govern Chol Hamo’eid, someone who violates them abrogates Torah law (Rashi, Chagigah 18a).

Whether the prohibition of melacha is min haTorah or only miderabbanan, the purpose of Chol Hamo’eid is to devote one’s time to learning Torah (Yerushalmi, Mo’eid Katan 2:3). In addition, ceasing from certain melachos elevates Chol Hamo’eid above ordinary weekdays (Rambam, Hilchos Yom Tov 7:1).

This last reason is a theme that lies behind the complex details of the laws of Chol Hamo’eid: we desist from activity that detracts from the purpose of Yom Tov. For this reason, Chazal prohibited some activities on Chol Hamo’eid that are not necessarily melacha, but nonetheless detract from the Yom Tov experience. These prohibited activities include:

1. Commerce that is not necessary for the festival.

2. Moving to a new residence.

COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY

Chazal prohibited business activity on Chol Hamo’eid, unless it is to enhance the festival or to prevent financial loss (Mo’eid Katan 10b). Even business that is permitted should be conducted in a discreet way that does not disturb kedushas Yom Tov (Mishnah, Mo’eid Katan 13b). Thus, Chazal ruled that a clothing store may sell clothes to be worn on the festival, but that its main door to the street should be closed. If it has two doors to the street, one may be open and the other should be closed, in order to demonstrate that today is Chol Hamo’eid (Gemara ad loc.; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 539:11).

A store selling only perishable food items may remain open in the usual manner, since everything purchased there is for Chol Hamo’eid and Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 539:10).

Thus, according to the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch, a Jew may not open his store for business as usual on Chol Hamo’eid (see Shu”t Chasam Sofer #1, at end). In the modern world, this is a hardship for business owners who may lose regular customers to their competitors who do not observe Chol Hamo’eid. The poskim consider loss of regular customers as a davar ha’avud that allows the business to make some accommodations. Details of this halacha are discussed by the poskim, and each store owner should ask his rav what to do (see Biur Halacha 539:5).

MOVING

Although one could, theoretically, change dwellings in a way that involves no melacha, the move itself is very strenuous and distracting. Therefore, Chazal forbade moving on Chol Hamo’eid (Mishnah, Mo’eid Katan 13a). Sometimes, moving results in an enhancement of Yom Tov, under which circumstances Chazal permitted it. Again, if someone feels that his particular circumstances may be included, he should ask his rav.

EASY WORK

On the other hand, one is permitted to do melacha that does not detract from the atmosphere of Chol Hamo’eid. Therefore, Chazal permitted moving muktzah items on Chol Hamo’eid (Tosafos, Shabbos 22a s. v. Sukkah), since this does not disturb the purpose of the day. Similarly, many poskim permit performing an actual melacha if it involves little effort, even if it does not fulfill any festival purpose (Terumas Hadeshen #153). According to these opinions, one may strike a match or take a photograph on Chol Hamo’eid, even if no festival need is involved. There are poskim who dispute this and permit such activities only to fulfill a festival need (see Shu”t Radbaz #727).

FOOD PREPARATION

Chazal permitted activities that enhance Chol Hamo’eid and Yom Tov, such as cooking and shopping for Yom Tov and traveling for festival purposes. One may grind, select, knead and perform other standard kitchen activities for Yom Tov or Chol Hamo’eid meals, but should not prepare for after Yom Tov.

This presents us with a problem that many people overlook. Since one may not cook on Chol Hamo’eid for after Yom Tov, someone living in Eretz Yisroel who observes one day of Yom Tov may not cook on Chol Hamo’eid for one’s Chutz La’aretz guests the food for Acharon shel Pesach or Simchas Torah of Chutz La’aretz, because these days are no longer Yom Tov for a resident of Eretz Yisroel. Thus, one is cooking on Chol Hamo’eid for after Yom Tov. This can result in an interesting problem. The visiting guests need to be served a special Yom Tov meal on the evening of Acharon shel Pesach or their Simchas Torah, yet the host/hostess, who lives in Eretz Yisroel, may not cook this meal on Chol Hamo’eid.

This problem has a simple solution, if one plans in advance. One can either wait until after Yom Tov is over to begin cooking for the Chutz La’aretz guests, or one may cook a lot on Chol Hamo’eid for Shemini Atzeres (called Simchas Torah in Eretz Yisroel) or the Seventh day of Pesach, making sure to serve something from each course on the Eretz Yisroel’s Simchas Torah (Shemini Atzeres) or Shvi’i shel Pesach. Then one serves the “leftovers” on the last day.

MAASEH HEDYOT, UNSKILLED WORK

Chazal permitted making and repairing items that are needed on Chol Hamo’eid, provided one does not use a skilled method (meleches uman) to do so. For example, one may tune an instrument, if it requires no special skills (Shu”t Shevus Yaakov #25). Shulchan Aruch (540:5) rules that one may build an animal’s trough in an unskilled way. Similarly, one may perform household repairs that serve a festival purpose in an unskilled manner (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 540:1). However, they may not be performed in a skilled way, unless a financial loss is involved (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 537:1).

Many years ago, a talmid chacham visited me on Chol Hamo’eid and noticed that one of our front steps was damaged and somewhat dangerous. Ruling that repairing the step is a meleches hedyot, he proceeded to measure the step, purchased a suitable piece of lumber and nailed it in.

However, one may not do skilled work on Chol Hamo’eid. Therefore, one may not develop film (does anybody still do this?), even for a festival purpose, since this is skilled work. However, one may use a digital camera, even though the picture “develops” on Chol Hamo’eid, since no skill is involved. Similarly, one may not repair shoes on Chol Hamo’eid, since this is skilled work. Theoretically, one may repair them in an unskilled way or with a shinui, meaning in an unusual way; however, neither of these methods is a practical way to repair shoes. As we will see later, one may not have a gentile shoemaker repair them either.

MAY I REPAIR A GARMENT FOR YOM TOV WEAR?

One may repair a torn garment in order to wear it on Yom Tov or Chol Hamo’eid, but only if one sews it in an unusual way or it is sewn by an unskilled person (Mishnah Mo’eid Katan 8b). In this instance, Chazal permitted the use of a shinui (doing something in an unusual way) for the sake of Yom Tov or Chol Hamo’eid. However, a skilled person may not sew in a normal way, even to fulfill a festival need.

Why did Chazal draw a distinction between skilled and unskilled work, and with a shinui and without? Does requiring the use of a shinui to repair a garment enhance the spirit of Yom Tov?

It appears that Chazal felt that regulating how one performs this activity reminds a person that today is Chol Hamo’eid, even while engaged in a melacha activity. This enhances the spirit of Yom Tov that should imbue all the days of Chol Hamo’eid.

“A WORKER WHO DOES NOT HAVE FOOD TO EAT”

Chazal permitted a worker who cannot provide his family with meat and wine for Yom Tov to work on Chol Hamo’eid (Biur Halacha 545:3; cf., however, the Magen Avraham 542:1, who says that only a worker who cannot provide bread for Yom Tov may work.) It is self-understood why permitting this melacha enhances Yom Tov.

DAVAR HA’AVUD, FINANCIAL LOSS

One of the situations where Chazal permitted working on Chol Hamo’eid is when financial loss will result, if the job waits until after Yom Tov. This is allowed, because otherwise a person may worry about his loss and spoil his simchas Yom Tov (Ritva, Mo’eid Katan 13a).

Another application of preventing financial loss is that one may repair a broken lock or a broken alarm system on Chol Hamo’eid (Mishnah Mo’eid Katan 11a). Similarly, someone may remove a stain from a garment that might become ruined. An employee may go to work on Chol Hamo’eid, if taking vacation will jeopardize his job. However, if he can take unpaid vacation on Chol Hamo’eid without jeopardizing his job, he may not work.

Someone may purchase an item that he will definitely need after Yom Tov, if the item is on sale during Chol Hamo’eid. Poskim conclude that this is considered a davar ha’avud (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 539:9).

Because of davar ha’avud, the Mishnah (Mo’eid Katan 2a) permits watering an irrigated field on Chol Hamo’eid, if a week without water will harm the growing produce. However, one may not irrigate a field that receives adequate rain, even though it benefits considerably from additional water. The latter situation is one of creating profit, for which I may not do melacha on Chol Hamo’eid; one may do melacha only to avoid loss and not to avoid loss of profit (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 537:1). Thus, although one may not engage in commercial activity in order to generate new business, one may service existing customers.

The rationale for distinguishing between loss and potential profit is that people become upset when they lose something they already own and this then disturbs their Yom Tov, but people are bothered much less when they lose potential profit.

LAUNDRY

Chazal prohibited laundering, shaving and haircutting on Chol Hamo’eid, precisely in order to enhance Yom Tov. In earlier days, people did their laundry and shaved only occasionally and may have postponed doing them before Yom Tov. To enhance Yom Tov observance, Chazal prohibited laundering, shaving and haircutting on Chol Hamo’eid to guarantee that people would make sure to attend to such things before Yom Tov.

Chazal permitted laundering handkerchiefs and children’s clothes, since, even if they are washed before Yom Tov, they get soiled very quickly (Mishnah Mo’eid Katan 14a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 534:1).

Many poskim permit removing a spot from a garment on Chol Hamo’eid, contending that this was not included in the gezeirah. However, one may not have this garment dry cleaned, even at a gentile’s shop, since this would, indeed, violate the gezeirah against doing laundry. One may iron, because it is not included in the gezeirah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 541:3). However, one may not make a new pleat, because it involves skilled work [meleches uman] (Magen Avraham 541:5).

WORK THROUGH A GENTILE

May a gentile do a type of work on my behalf on Chol Hamo’eid that Chazal prohibited me to do myself?

In general, if I may not do something myself on Chol Hamo’eid, I may not have a gentile do it, either (Mo’eid Katan 12a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 543:1). However, if the non-Jew is a contractor paid by the job, there are some situations when I may allow him to work on Chol Hamo’eid.

WHY IS THIS CASE DIFFERENT?

When I pay someone by the job, it is halachically viewed as if he is working for himself and not for me. Therefore, when I hire a non-Jewish contractor and he chooses to work on Shabbos or Chol Hamo’eid, it is not considered that someone is working for me on these holy days. I may, therefore, allow him to work on Chol Hamo’eid, provided no one thinks that he is my employee.

Therefore, if I meet the following conditions, I need not prevent the gentile from working on Chol Hamo’eid:

1. I pay him a flat fee to complete the job, not an hourly or daily wage.

2. I hire him before Yom Tov and I do not instruct him to work on Chol Hamo’eid.

3. The gentile performs the work in a way that other Jews do not know that he is working for me. Thus, the gentile must work on his own premises and in a way and place that no one knows that he is working for a Jew.

I will explain this halacha with an actual case: Friedman’s Department Store, which is located outside a Jewish community, retains Tim McCartney as a contract gardener to maintain the lawn and hedges around the store. Must Mr. Friedman insist that his gentile gardener not work on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamo’eid, even when it fits his regular routine?

The halacha is that Mr. Friedman may allow Tim to work on Shabbos or Yom Tov, but must insist that he refrain on Chol Hamo’eid.

HOW CAN CHOL HAMO’EID BE STRICTER THAN SHABBOS?

Since Friedman’s Department Store is not within walking distance to any Jewish community, we may assume that no observant Jew will see Tim trimming the hedges on Shabbos and Yom Tov and think that Mr. Friedman hired him to work on Shabbos or Yom Tov. Therefore, since Tim is a contractor he may do the work (Mo’eid Katan 12a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 244:1).

However, on Chol Hamo’eid, since it is permitted to travel, a frum Jew might indeed see Tim mowing Friedman’s lawn and think that a Jew hired Tim to work on Chol Hamo’eid. Therefore, Tim may not mow the lawn or trim the hedges on Chol Hamo’eid (Mo’eid Katan 12a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 543:2). (The irony is that he may do so on Shabbos or Yom Tov since we can assume that no frum Jew will be in this neighborhood!)

Chol Hamo’eid provides many unique opportunities to experience our special relationship with Hashem. When we observe it properly, we demonstrate the tremendous os between Hashem and us. May we always merit demonstrating Hashem’s presence amongst us and in His world!!

Second Day of Rosh Hashanah

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Question #1: Second Day?!

“Is it universally accepted that everyone in Eretz Yisroel is required to observe two days of Rosh Hashanah?”

Question #2: Second Day Haftarah

“Why do we read the specific haftarah that we do on the second day of Rosh Hashanah?”

Question #3: Second Day of Judgment!?

“How can our tefillos refer to the second day of Rosh Hashanah as the ‘Day of Judgment,’ when we were already judged on the first day?”

Introduction:

The Torah describes Rosh Hashanah as a one-day holiday that falls on the first day of the seventh month, the date that is Rosh Chodesh Tishrei. Yet, as we all know, we observe two days of Rosh Hashanah.

Each of the opening three questions notes something anomalous concerning this concept of two days of Rosh Hashanah, although, as we will see, the answers to these questions are not closely related to one another. Before discussing the opening questions, I need to provide some introduction. Let us enter a time machine and bring ourselves back to the era when there was a functioning Sanhedrin.

Among the numerous and multifaceted responsibilities of the Sanhedrin, also called by its proper Hebrew name, the Beis Din Hagadol, was overseeing the Jewish calendar. In that era, the determination of whether Rosh Chodesh would be on the thirtieth or on the thirty-first day (counting from the previous Rosh Chodesh) was uncertain, until the head of the Sanhedrin, called the nasi, declared it such. The Beis Din did not declare the thirtieth day as Rosh Chodesh until two witnesses testified that they had seen the new moon. Only after the witnesses were cross-examined by the Beis Din, and their testimony was analyzed carefully, did the Beis Din declare the thirtieth day to be Rosh Chodesh.

(By the way, the Beis Din was quite certain as to when the new moon occurred, where it could be located in the sky and whether the testimony of the witnesses was accurate. Notwithstanding that the Beis Din had all this information, the Torah requires eyewitness testimony of a sighting of the new moon. The witnesses and the Beis Din are fulfilling a mitzvah min haTorah by using this system to “determine” the new moon, notwithstanding that no new technical information is gleaned from the witnesses’ testimony.)

During this era, anyone not within walking distance of the Sanhedrin would be uncertain whether Elul was 29 or 30 days long, and, therefore, would also be uncertain whether Rosh Hashanah is the 30th or the 31st day after Rosh Chodesh Elul. Because of this uncertainty, everyone observed two days of Rosh Hashanah. The only possible exception was the town in which the Beis Din Hagadol met, where they would be certain during Rosh Hashanah which day had been chosen.

Sometimes, even the town in which the Beis Din Hagadol met was required to observe two days Rosh Hashanah, not because of an uncertainty, but because of a takanas chachamim. The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 30b) explains that once, when the Beis Hamikdash still stood, the witnesses attesting to the new moon appeared in Beis Din late in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. By the time the Beis Din had declared that day to be Rosh Chodesh and Rosh Hashanah, the afternoon korban tamid had already been offered. Since this korban had been offered before any declaration that the day was Rosh Chodesh, the Levi’im accompanied the korban by singing the shirah of the weekday korban. Result: the shirah specific for Rosh Hashanah was not sung that day as accompaniment to the daily korban.

To make sure that this situation did not recur, Chazal instituted that, should witnesses arrive after the afternoon korban was offered, Beis Din would not accept them, thus automatically postponing Rosh Hashanah to the next day, so that the correct shirah would

 be sung on that day. Although once Beis Din knew that they would not accept witnesses, the first day was no longer Rosh Hashanah, Chazal required that it be kept as such (as a takanah) so that, in the future, people would not be lax in observing the assumed day of Rosh Hashanah.

What is significant about this takanah is that now there could be instances when Chazal declared two days of Rosh Hashanah. Until this time, observing two days of Rosh Hashanah had always been only a result of uncertainty, because of lack of local knowledge about the decision of the Beis Din. Henceforth, observing two days of Rosh Hashanah was sometimes a takanas chachamim.

We realize that all of these reasons made it impossible for local schools to send out annual Jewish calendars as fundraisers. But the schools in this era had a different and much more efficient method to raise necessary funds. This is a topic we will discuss at some time in the future.

Changes because of permanent calendar

Thus far, we have explained the historical background to the observance of two days of Rosh Hashanah. However, today we do not wait for the Sanhedrin to determine which day is Rosh Chodesh. Hillel Hanasi (not to be confused with his better-known and much earlier ancestor, Hillel Hazakein), realizing that the Roman persecutions of his time (the third century C. E.), would soon make it impossible for Sanhedrin to function in Eretz Yisroel, created a predetermined calendar. His incredibly accurate and vastly simplified calendar allowed someone equipped with paper, pencil and a reasonable faculty for numbers to calculate the calendar, until the Sanhedrin again exists. In other words, Hillel set the Jewish calendar on autopilot.

(This is not halachically preferable. Ideally, the decisions germane to the calendar should be based upon witnesses and the monthly input of the Sanhedrin. However, Hillel Hanasi’s system is permitted when using the Sanhedrin is not an option.)

With the implementation of the new calendar not dependent on month-by-month decisions of Beis Din, the following observation was raised: At this point in history, people in chutz la’aretz can calculate definitively which day is Yom Tov. If so, there should be no reason to observe two days of any Yom Tov anymore (Beitzah 4b).

The Gemara explains that a special takanah was instituted at this time in history. The Beis Din in Eretz Yisroel sent a message to those in chutz la’aretz to continue observing a second day of Yom Tov, which is usually called yom tov sheini shel galiyos, following their prior custom, notwithstanding that the reason for the observance no longer applies. Rashi explains that the reason for the new takanah is that persecutions might cause Jews to forget the information necessary to figure out the calendar. The likelihood of a Jew eating chometz on Pesach unwittingly, or violating other serious prohibitions, is reduced when keeping two days of Yom Tov. In other words, although keeping an extra day of Yom Tov was originally for a completely different concern, once the custom had been established, Chazal required the continuation of the observance, for a basically unrelated reason.

Two days of Rosh Hashanah

Now that we have plowed through this extensive introduction, we have yet to analyze why the holiday of Rosh Hashanah has two days even in Eretz Yisroel. When the determination of Rosh Chodesh was in the hands of the Sanhedrin, we understand the need to observe two days of Rosh Hashanah – people were uncertain which day had been established as Rosh Hashanah, and therefore they were required to observe both. However, now that our calendar can be calculated in advance, why should those who live in Eretz Yisroel be observing two days of Rosh Hashanah?

Indeed, the rishonim dispute whether there is a requirement to keep two days of Rosh Hashanah in Eretz Yisroel, once the calendar is on autopilot as a result of Hillel Hanasi’s new takanah.

The Rif rules that, in Eretz Yisroel, two days of Rosh Hashanah should be observed. The Baal Hama’or not only questions why this should be true, but contends that, prior to the Rif’s ruling, the practice in Eretz Yisroel had been to observe only one day of Rosh Hashanah. This was changed, he claims, when disciples of the Rif arrived in Eretz Yisroel in the twelfth century and began promulgating his opinions. They changed the minhag of observing only one day of Rosh Hashanah in Eretz Yisroel, which the Baal Hama’or contends is the correct practice.

Upon what is this dispute dependent? It appears that the Baal Hama’or was of the opinion that while the communities in chutz la’aretz requested — and were denied — permission to drop their observance of the second day of Yom Tov, this discussion did not affect those in Eretz Yisroel, even on the one Yom Tov when they observed two days, Rosh Hashanah.

However, there are allusions in the Gemara that Rosh Hashanah is now a two-day observance. The Rif, and those who followed his approach, concluded that, since at one point there had been a takanah to observe two days of Rosh Hashanah, this takanah remained in place.

Why is Yom Kippur different?

If those who live in chutz la’aretz are required to observe two days of Sukkos because of the uncertainty which day is the proper Yom Tov, should not Yom Kippur, also, be kept for two consecutive days?

The reason why Yom Kippur is treated differently is simple: for most people, fasting two consecutive days constitutes pikuach nefesh, a life-threatening situation. Just as we override Shabbos to provide medical care for someone who might be in a life-threatening situation, and we permit a person for whom fasting for even one day is life-threatening to eat on Yom Kippur, so do we consider two days of Yom Kippur observance as life-threatening for most people. Therefore, no community ever observed two consecutive days of Yom Kippur.

There is another reason to be lenient. Elul was virtually always a 29-day month. It could happen in any given year that Elul would have thirty days, and therefore Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos were observed as two days of Yom Tov. However, because of the obvious difficulty of fasting two consecutive days, the practice regarding Yom Kippur was to assume that Elul was 29 days, and that the day we call the tenth of Tishrei is the correct Yom Kippur.

Second Day Haftarah

At this point, let us examine the second of our opening questions: “Why do we read the specific haftarah that we do on the second day of Rosh Hashanah?”

The haftarah read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah is in the book of Yirmiyahu and begins with the words: Koh amar Hashem. There is no obvious allusion to Rosh Hashanah in this haftarah, yet there appears to have been a takanah of Chazal to read this haftarah on this day.

Before proceeding to discuss this question, we need to explain the history of why we read the haftarah, altogether. The early halachic authorities report two reasons for the establishment of the reading of the haftarah. According to one approach, during the period of the second Beis Hamikdash, at the times of the persecutions prior to the Chanukah story, the Seleucid Greek emperor Antiochos Epiphanes was bent on destroying Judaism. Strongly assisted by assimilated Jewish elements, called the misyavnim, literally, “those who made themselves into Greeks,” or Hellenized Jews, Antiochos banned virtually all shemiras hamitzvos, until the remnant of Torah-true Jews rebelled. Eventually, they drove his empire out of the Holy Land, which had not even been their objective.

During the persecutions that were the run-up to their rebellion, Antiochos had banned the reading of the Torah, kerias haTorah. As a response to his persecutions, Chazal implemented several takanos to retain Jewish practices. One of these takanos was the introduction of the reading of the haftarah, which were selections of Nevi’im. On Shabbos, Yom Tov and fast days, the haftarah was read in shul at the point in the prayers when the Torah should have been read (Avudraham; Levush; Tosafos Yom Tov, Megillah 3:4).

A very different reason for reading haftarah on Shabbos and Yom Tov is that an early practice was for Jews to gather daily after they completed the morning davening and study together Torah, prophets, and other Torah subjects for a considerable amount of time, before they went to work. As generations passed, it became increasingly difficult to devote this amount of time to studying Torah, and the custom was abandoned on weekdays, but still maintained on Shabbos and Yom Tov, when people did not go to work (Teshuvos Hage’onim #55; Sefer Hapardes, page 306; Shibolei Haleket #44).

According to either approach, at the time that the takanah of haftarah was initiated, the individual who was called upon to read the haftarah could choose any reading he preferred. It was recommended to read something that was associated with the Torah reading of the day, either the one that had been missed (according to the first approach) or that actually was read (according to the second).

On certain dates of the year, Chazal instituted that specific haftarah portions be read (Mishnah, Megillah 30b; Maseches Sofrim 17; Gemara Megillah 31a). Among these instructions, the Gemara (Megillah 31a) mentions that on the second day of Rosh Hashanah the haftarah should be Habein yakir li Efrayim, from the 31st chapter of the book of Yirmiyahu. Rashi notes that this posuk quotes the expressions zochor ezkerenu, “I will certainly remember,” and racheim arachamenu,“I will certainly have mercy,” both concepts that are very appropriate to Rosh Hashanah.

Peculiarity about this haftarah

To the best of my knowledge, all of Klal Yisroel includes the posuk Habein yakir li Efrayim in the haftarah of the second day of Rosh Hashanah, as mentioned in the Gemara; however, there are different ways to read this haftarah. Ashkenazic and most other practices begin the haftarah with the words, Koh amar Hashem motzo chein bamidbar, and close it with the posuk, Habein yakir li Efrayim. Virtually all customs — Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Edot Hamizrah, Italian, and Yemenite — follow this basic approach, although some communities begin the haftarah one posuk earlier.

However, all of these customs appear to be strange. Whenever the Mishnah or Gemara identifies a reading by its words, these are the first words that we recite as part of that reading. (On occasion, it is the second posuk, and the Mishnah or Gemara uses the word beginning the second posuk because the first posuk may be Vayedabeir Hashem el Moshe Leimor or a similar wording that does not identify clearly what we are to read.) However, in the instance of this haftarah, virtually all customs end with the reading of Habein yakir li Efrayim, as the last posuk.

The only custom I discovered that seems to follow the Gemara literally and, it would seem, more accurately, is the ancient Greek custom, called Minhag Romaniot (so called because it was the practice of the Jewish communities who lived under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire, which later came to be known as the Byzantine Empire). Unfortunately, the practices of Minhag Romaniot are virtually extinct. To the best of my knowledge, there are only three congregations anywhere in the world that still follow Romaniot practice, one in Crete, a second in Turkey, and a third in New York, and none has significant observant membership that follows Minhag Romaniot.

We are forced to explain that our common custom assumes that the Gemara is requiring simply to include the posuk of Habein yakir li Efrayim as part of the haftarah for the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and the accepted custom includes several other beautiful themes mentioned by the prophet Yirmiyahu that are appropriate to Rosh Hashanah, including the unique relationship of Hashem and the Jewish people, the promise that Hashem will return us, and the moving account of Rachel’s successful beseeching Hashem on behalf of her children. The last of these themes has a special relationship with Rosh Hashanah because of the statement of the Gemara that Rachel was one of the women remembered by Hashem on Rosh Hashanah, the other two being Sarah and Chana, who are the subjects of the first day’s Torah reading and haftarah, respectively.

Second Day of Judgment!?

At this point, let us address the last of our opening questions: “How can the second day of Rosh Hashanah be called the ‘Day of Judgment,’ when we were judged already on the first day?”

As we can well imagine, we are not the first to ask this question. Allow me to provide an introduction from Tanach that will help to explain the approach presented by the Zohar:

After Shlomoh Hamech’s lengthy prayer dedicating the Beis Hamikdash, he blessed the people by reciting the following: May these words of mine with which I beseech Hashem be close to Hashem day and night, to accomplish the justice of His servant and the justice of His people, each and every day (Melachim I 8:59).

The posuk implies that there are two different types of justice, one of Hashem’s servant, the king, and the other applied to the people, as a whole. The proof that there are two types of judgment is that the word justice is repeated in the posuk. The Zohar (Parshas Pinchas) refers to these types of justice as the “upper judgment” and the “lower judgment,” and that these are performed by two different heavenly courts. The upper judgment, which is the harsher one, is performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and the “lower judgment,” which is softer, is performed on the second day. The Zohar states that these two judgments are “correlated” or “combined,” and are both “existent,” whatever these terms mean in Kabbalistic terminology.

Rav Dessler intimates that the difference between these two types of judgment is the extent to which a person makes serving Hashem the central focus in his life. Someone who has diverted the focus of his daily life from serving Hashem must rely on his relationship with those greater than he is. This is the “lower judgment” that this person undergoes on the second day, with a greater chance of success.

Conclusion

The Torah refers to the Yomim Tovim as mo’ed. Just as the term ohel mo’ed refers to the tent in the desert which served as a meeting place between Hashem and the Jewish people, so, too, a mo’ed is a meeting time between Hashem and the Jewish people (Hirsch, Vayikra 23:3 and Horeb).

We understand well why our calendar involves use of the solar year – after all, our seasons, and the appropriate times for our holidays, are based on the sun. But why did the Torah insist that our months follow the moon and that our holidays depend, also, on the moon’s phases and rotation? It seems that we could live fine without months that are dependent on the moon’s rotation around the earth!

An answer to this question is that the waxing and waning of the moon is symbolic of our own relationship with Hashem – which also sometimes waxes and sometimes wanes. Yet, we know that just as the moon, after its waning and almost disappearing, always renews itself, so, too, we have the capacity to grow and improve, in accordance with how much we allow Hashem into our world and into our actions.

The Holey Donut

Question #1: Holey Blessings

“What brocha should I recite before eating a donut? Does it make a difference whether it is an American-style, hole-in-the-middle donut or an Israeli-style jelly donut?”

Question #1: Chanukah Donuts

“Must I separate challah from the donuts I am frying for Chanukah?”

Question #3: Non-Jewish Consumers

“I just purchased a donut shop that is quite distant from any Jewish community. Must I make sure that challah is taken?”

Introduction:

Although neither Israeli donuts nor Israeli latkes are usually made with holes in the middle, Americans envision donuts as a big zero, no doubt to remind them of the number of calories contained in the hole.

Donuts are made from dough that is deep fried, or cooked in oil (these are two ways of saying the same thing). Because they are cooked, most authorities rule that the correct brocha before consuming them is mezonos. However, our opening questions require that we study the topic in greater depth. Doing so, we will discover that although reciting mezonos before consuming donuts is the accepted approach, it is not a universally held position, and that there are many halachic ramifications to this dispute.

Analyzing this topic requires that we explain several major issues in the laws of separating challah, so that is where our discussion begins. We should note that throughout this entire article, the word challah will be used to refer to the portion removed from dough to fulfill the mitzvah of the Torah, and not to the special Shabbos bread.

The Torah and challah

The Torah describes the mitzvah of challah in the following passage:

When you enter the land to which I am bringing you, it will be that, when you eat from the bread of the land, you shall separate a terumah offering for G-d. The first dough of your kneading troughs shall be separated as challah, like the terumah of your grain shall you separate it (Bamidbar 15:18-20).

Let us make several observations about this posuk, and then proceed to discuss them.

Bread or dough?

1. There appears to be an inconsistency in the words of the Torah. First, it refers to when you eat from the bread of the land, which implies that the requirement to separate challah begins only once it becomes bread. Yet, in the very next posuk, the Torah requires challah to be taken from your kneading troughs, implying that you separate challah when it is still dough. Which is true?

Terumah or challah?

2. The Torah refers to the part separated as a “terumah offering,” and then compares it to the terumah of your grain. In what way is challah like terumah?

Consumer or manufacturer?

3. The words of the Torah, when you eat from the bread of the land, you shall separate a terumah offering, imply that the obligation to take challah falls upon the consumer who will be eating the bread. However, the next verse states, the first dough ofyour kneading troughs shall be separated as challah, implying that the obligation falls upon the manufacturer. Why do two verses imply different laws?

Bread or dough

The answer is that the words of the Torah, the first dough of your kneading troughs, teaches that there is no requirement to separate challah unless there is as much dough as the amount of manna eaten daily by each member of the Jewish people in the desert, which, in their generation, was called “your kneading trough.” Chazal explain that this amount, called ke’shiur i’sas midbar, was equal to the volume of 43.2 eggs. In contemporary measure, we usually assume that this is approximately three to five pounds of flour. (For our purposes, it will suffice to use these round figures. I encourage each reader to ask his own rav or posek for exact quantities.) When there is a definite requirement to separate challah, one recites a brocha prior to fulfilling the mitzvah.

There is another reason why the Torah refers to the mitzvah both in regard to dough and to the finished bread. Usually, one should separate challah when the dough is mixed. However, there are situations in which one cannot separate challah as dough. In these instances, the Torah is teaching that we can also separate challah when it is already bread.

Terumah or challah

I noted above thattheTorah refers to the separated dough as a “terumah offering,” and then compares it to the terumah of your grain. In what way is challah like terumah?

Terumah may be eaten only by a kohen, his wife, sons and unmarried daughters, and only when they are tahor. Since we are without the parah adumah today, we cannot achieve being fully tahor, and, therefore, we cannot eat terumah. The Torah here teaches that challah has the same laws as terumah, and therefore can be eaten only by members of the kohen’s family who are tahor.

Dough versus batter

We find much discussion in the Mishnah regarding what type of product is included in the obligation to separate challah and a fundamental dispute among the early baalei Tosafos concerning these laws. Note that in the following discussion we differentiate between “dough,” a thick mixture which Chazal call belilah avah, and “batter,” a thin mixture which Chazal call belilah rakah. According to Rabbeinu Tam, any dough owned by a Jew is obligated in challah, even if one subsequently cooks or fries it (cited by many rishonim, including Tosafos, Brochos 37b s.v. Lechem and Pesachim 37b s.v. Dekulei alma).

(Please note that some authorities who accept Rabbeinu Tam’s basic approach that any dough is obligated in challah still exempt dough manufactured for pasta, because of considerations beyond the scope of our topic (see Tosafos, Brochos 37b, s.v. Lechem,quoting Rabbeinu Yechiel), but others hold that, according to Rabbeinu Tam, any product made from dough is obligated in challah, provided the batch was large enough (as described above).

Intent

A different baal Tosafos, the Rash, disagrees with Rabbeinu Tam, contending that one is not always obligated to separate challah from dough. There is such a requirement only when the owner intended to make the dough into bread. However, if the owner intended at the time that he kneaded the dough to cook or fry it, as one does when making donuts or kreplach, there is no obligation to separate challah.

Batter up

Both Rabbeinu Tam and the Rash agree that there is no obligation to take challah from a batter (belilah rakah) unless it was subsequently baked into a bread-like food. In this instance, therefore, the obligation to separate challah does not take place until the bread is produced. Thus, according to both Rabbeinu Tam and the Rash, we can resolve why the Torah describes the mitzvah of challah sometimes in terms of bread and sometimes in terms of dough. In most instances, the obligation to separate challah is when the flour mixture becomes dough. However, there are instances, such as when preparing a batter, in which there is no obligation to separate challah until it becomes bread.

Mezonos or hamotzi?

Many authorities explain that the dispute between Rabbeinu Tam and the Rash also affects which brocha one recites on a cooked or fried dough. They contend that, according to Rabbeinu Tam, since dough is obligated in challah, the brocha recited before eating dough that was then cooked or fried is hamotzi, the brocha recited afterwards is the full bensching,and that, prior to eating a cooked or fried dough product, there is a requirement to wash netilas yadayim.

Others rule that one does not recite hamotzi unless another requirement is met – that the finished product, after the frying or cooking, has a bread-like appearance, called in Aramaic turisa denahama (Tosafos, Pesachim and Brochos 37b s.v. Lechem). The halachic basis for drawing a distinction between the mitzvah of challah and the brocha requirements is that the requirement to separate challah is established at the time the dough is mixed, whereas the halachic determination of which brocha to recite is determined by the finished product (Rabbeinu Yonah, Brochos; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 168:13).

Baking part

At this point, we will return to the laws of challah, in order to understand some of the rulings germane to the laws of brochos. A passage in the Talmud Yerushalmi teaches that someone who prepared a dough or batter with the intention of cooking or frying most of it, and leaving a small amount of the dough for baking, is obligated to separate challah from the entire dough, because of a rabbinic injunction.

The passage reads as follows:

A woman asked Rabbi Mana: ‘I want to make my dough into noodles. Is there a way for me to do so and be exempt from separating challah?’ He told her that it was possible. He then asked his father, Rabbi Yonah, who told him that she should not be exempt from separating challah, out of concern that she will use the rest as one usually processes dough (that is, into bread) (Yerushalmi, Challah 1:4). The rishonim explain that she intended to bake a small part of the dough, and therefore assumed that she is not obligated to separate challah. However, should she subsequently decide that she wanted to bake the entire dough, it would be obligated in challah min haTorah, and she might not realize that she is obligated to separate challah. In order to avoid creating this problem, Chazal required her to separate challah even when she intends to bake only a small amount (Rosh, Pesachim 2:16; Hilchos Challah #2).

Rabbeinu Tam and Rash

At this point, we must note that Rabbeinu Tam and the Rash will dispute exactly what happened in this case. According to Rabbeinu Tam, any time one mixes dough, he is obligated to separate challah. Therefore, the case described by this passage of Yerushalmi must have been where the woman was mixing a batter from which one is usually not obligated to separate challah, intending to bake a small amount, and to cook or fry the rest. Rabbi Yonah ruled that since she might decide to bake the entire batter, she is already obligated, miderabbanan, to separate challah.

According to the Rash, the passage of Yerushalmi can be discussing dough, since the intention at the time of mixing to cook or fry dough exempts it from the mitzvah of separating challah.

The Maharam Rottenberg

Approximately a century after the time of the Rash, the greatest halachic authority in Germany was the Maharam Rottenberg. The Maharam did not want to take sides in this dispute between his two great predecessors, and so he devised the following approach, which he implemented in his own household:

When preparing dough that one intends to cook or fry, the Maharam instructed that one bake a small amount of the dough. According to the Rash, although cooked or fried dough is exempt from challah, when baking some of the dough, one becomes obligated in separating challah because of the takanah established by the Yerushalmi. Therefore, this dough is obligated in challah, whether one holds like Rabbeinu Tam (because it is dough) or like the Rash (because one is baking part of it).

According to Rabbeinu Tam, one should recite a brocha prior to separating challah on dough that one intends to cook or fry, whereas according to the Rash, there is no obligation to separate challah, and this would be a brocha levatalah. To avoid taking sides in this dispute, the Maharam advised baking some of the dough, thus creating a responsibility to separate challah because of the takanas chachamim.

Which brocha when you eat?

The Tur notes that the Maharam’s suggestion of baking some dough resolves only the question of separating challah. However, there is a separate, unresolved question – which brocha does one recite prior to eating a cooked or fried dough product? Rabbeinu Tam contends that the brocha on this product is hamotzi, which also means that one must wash netilas yadayim before eating it and recite bensching afterwards. The Rash maintains that the brocha before eating this food is mezonos, and the brocha afterwards is al hamichyah, and there is no requirement to wash netilas yadayim. How does one avoid taking sides in this dispute? The Maharam’s solution is to eat these products only after one first recited hamotzi on regular bread.

Thus, one of our opening questions “What brocha should I recite before eating a donut?” was considered an unresolved conundrum by the posek of his generation, the Maharam. Since he considered it to be an unresolved halachic issue whether one should recite hamotzi or mezonos prior to eating donuts, he ate them only after first reciting hamotzi on bread. I suspect that low carbohydrate diets were not much in vogue in his day.

How do we rule?

Most authorities conclude that the correct brocha prior to eating a dough product that is cooked or fried is mezonos. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 168:13) and the Rema (ibid.) both follow the majority opinion that the correct brocha prior to eating a dough product that is cooked or fried is mezonos. However, the Shulchan Aruch also cites the minority opinion that one should recite hamotzi prior to eating a cooked dough product. He concludes that, to avoid any question, someone who is a yarei shamayim should eat a cooked dough product only after making hamotzi  on a different item that is definitely bread — what we presented above as the Maharam’s solution. The Shulchan Aruch refers to this as the way a G-d-fearing person should approach the matter. The Rema rules that accepted practice is to simply recite mezonos. Perhaps we could say that the Rema felt that a yarei shamayim can still be concerned about how many carbohydrates he eats!

How do we rule concerning challah?

According to the text accepted by most authorities, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 329:3) concludes that dough that one intends to cook or fry is exempt from the requirement to separate challah, ruling against Rabbeinu Tam. However, the Shach contends that one should separate challah without a brocha. Thus, in his opinion, someone preparing a large quantity of donuts or kreplach is obligated to separate challah, albeit without a brocha. A caterer, restaurant or hotel cooking a large quantity of kreplach for a communal Purim seudah should have challah separated from the dough.

Many later authorities rule that one should take into consideration Rabbeinu Tam’s approach and separate challah from any dough more than three pounds, even when it will be cooked or fried. However, the Shulchan Aruch Harav (Kuntrus Acharon, Orach Chayim 168:7) and the Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 329:15) rule that one does not need to be concerned about Rabbeinu Tam’s position if one is making the dough in chutz la’aretz, since the requirement of separating challah there is certainly only miderabbanan.

Non-Jewish consumers

At this point, we can address the third of our opening questions: “I just purchased a donut shop that is quite distant from any Jewish community. Must I make sure that challah is taken?”

Let me explain the background to this shaylah. A frum businessman purchased a franchised donut shop located nowhere near any Jewishcommunity. His managers and employees are all non-Jewish. To avoid issues of being open on Shabbos and Pesach, the businessman used a type of mechir Shabbos, thereby sharing ownership of his business with a gentile, a highly controversial practice that is beyond the scope of this article. He had assumed that he had no responsibility to separate challah, either because he did not know that some authorities require this, or because he assumed that, since no customers are assuming that his products are kosher, he is not obligated to separate challah. This last assumption is incorrect.

Consumer or owner

The obligation to separate challah is a positive requirement incumbent upon the owner, not simply a means of preventing a Jew from eating the finished product without challah having been separated. The requirement to separate challah depends on the ownership of the dough at the time it is mixed, not on who mixes it. In other words, if a Jew owns a bakery, he is required to separate challah, even if his workers are not Jewish. Should the owner not have separated challah, the consumer is obligated to do so before he may eat the finished product.

If a gentile does the kneading in a Jewish-owned household, nursing home or school, there is an obligation to separate challah.  On the other hand, there is no requirement to separate challah in a bakery owned by non-Jews, even if the employees are Jewish.

Conclusion

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” (Bereishis Rabbah 1:4). Thus, besides gaining us eternal reward, this easily kept mitzvah helps keep our planet turning.

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