17th of Tammuz: Who Fasts and who is Exempt

When our Sages determined the “minor” fasts, they did not oblige pregnant and nursing women, and the sick * A woman who stopped nursing – according to the majority poskim must fast, and some say that she is exempt for up to two years from birth * Weakness and a headache do not exempt one from fasting, rather, only an illness unrelated to the fast * Someone who knows the fast will make him sick – is considered ill, and is exempt * How to take medicines on minor fasts, and how to deal with the shortage of caffeine * Someone who broke the fast by accident must continue to fast * The obligation to educate children to fast applies to Yom Kippur, and there is no need to accustom them on other fasts

The Current Status of the Minor Fasts

When the prophets instituted the four fasts after the destruction of the First Temple, they modeled them after the fast of Yom Kippur, which is how the Rabbis usually enact decrees, modeling them after the Torah’s commandments.  Since Yom Kippur lasts an entire day, the prophets instituted the four fasts as full-day fasts, and since there are five prohibitions on Yom Kippur – eating and drinking, bathing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations – they prohibited the same things on the fasts commemorating the churban (destruction of the Temple). This is how the Jews observed these fasts throughout the seventy-year Babylonian exile.

When the exiles returned from Babylonia to build the Second Temple, these fasts were canceled and transformed into joyous days, as it says, Thus says the Lord of Hosts, “The fast of the fourth month (Tammuz), the fast of the fifth (the ninth of Av), the fast of the seventh (the third of Tishrei), and the fast of the tenth (the tenth of Tevet) will be to the House of Judah for joy and for gladness, and for festive days; love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).

And when the Second Temple was destroyed, the Jews went back to observing the very same fasts, keeping them throughout the difficult years following the second churban, during which Bar Kochva’s rebellion and the destruction of Beitar and Judea took place.  Thus, the status of these fasts depends on our national situation: at a time of evil decrees and persecution, we are obligated to fast, but when the Temple is standing these fasts become days of joy and gladness.

In the intermediate situation – when the Temple is destroyed, but we are not plagued with harsh decrees, as was the case during Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi’s lifetime – the status of these fasts depends on the will of the Jewish people: “If they want to fast, they do so; if they do not want to fast, they do not fast.”  This is the law regarding the tenth of Tevet, the seventeenth of Tammuz, and the Fast of Gedaliah.  Regarding Tish’a B’Av, however, the matter does not depend on the nation’s will, and everyone is obligated to fast, even in the intermediate situation, because both Temples were destroyed on that day (Rosh HaShanah 18b).

In practice, the Jewish people are accustomed to observing all the fasts, even in the intermediate situation.  Therefore all Jews are obligated to fast on these days.  This is the halakha until the Beit HaMikdash is rebuilt, speedily in our days, when the fast days will become joyous festivals.

Nursing and Pregnant Women are Exempt from Fasting

Nursing and pregnant women are exempt from the minor fast days (those which last for daytime alone), for the following reason.  According to the letter of the law, the Prophets ordained that we observe these fasts when Israel is faced with harsh decrees, but when no such decrees exist, it is up to the Jews to decide whether they want to fast or not.  And indeed, the Jews have accepted upon themselves to fast on these days until the Temple is rebuilt, speedily in our days.  However, from the very beginning, the custom has been that pregnant and nursing women do not fast on these days, because it is harder for them to fast.

In Germany (Ashkenaz), many pregnant and nursing women had a custom to act strictly and fast on the minor fast days.  Perhaps they did so because of the harsh decrees that the Jews suffered there.  In any event, the prevalent custom today, even among Ashkenazi Jews, is that pregnant and nursing women do not observe the minor fast days.

Two Years after Birth

A nursing woman is exempt from the minor fasts as long as she nurses her child.  Even if the child receives additional nourishment, the mother need not fast as long as she has yet to stop nursing her baby.  Some poskim exempt all women from fasting for 24 months after giving birth, because in their opinion the exemption does not depend on nursing but on the hardships of childbirth, from which it takes 24 months to recover.  In practice, most poskim rule strictly and require every woman who has stopped nursing her child to fast even on the minor fast days.  This is the prevalent custom, but one who wants to adopt the more lenient opinion has upon whom to rely. And a woman who feels weak, although she is not considered to be seriously ill, may act leniently (Peninei Halakha 7, 8, 11).

The Ill are Exempt

When the Prophets and Sages instituted these fasts, they did so for healthy people, not for the sick.  This is the difference between Yom Kippur and all other fasts.  On Yom Kippur, even the infirm are obligated to fast, because it is a Biblical command.  Only people whose lives may be in danger if they fast are exempt, for the preservation of human life overrides the Torah’s commandments.  Even then, if possible, one should make do with eating only a little, and eating in shiurim. But in the rest of the fasts that our Sages instituted, including Tisha B’Av, the ill are exempt, and do not have to eat or drink in shiurim, rather, they should eat and drink as usual, but not delight themselves with sumptuousness foods (ibid 7: 7).

Who is Considered Ill?

In general, people whose pain or weakness precludes them from continuing their regular routine of life, forcing them to lie down, are considered sick.  For example, those who have the flu, angina, or a high fever need not fast.

Almost everyone develops a headache and feels weak on a fast day, and most people find it easier spending the day in bed than continuing to function normally.  Sometimes, a person who is fasting even feels worse than a flu sufferer.  Nonetheless, such feelings are not considered a sickness, rather the natural effects of fasting, which will pass within a few hours after the fast is over.  Therefore, only one who needs to lie down because of an illness is exempt from fasting.  One who suffers from the fast itself, however, must continue to fast even if his weakness causes him to prefer to lie down in bed.  Only one who becomes so weak from the fast that he leaves the category of a suffering faster and enters that of the infirm may break his fast.

In addition, anyone who knows that fasting can cause him to fall ill need not fast.  For example, someone who suffers from an active ulcer or severe migraines is exempt from fasting, because it is liable to precipitate his illness.  Similarly, a weak person who knows that there is a good chance that he will become ill if he does not eat is exempt from fasting.  Diabetes sufferers who need to take insulin need not fast, and some of them are even exempt from fasting on Yom Kippur.  Those who have kidney stones are exempt from fasting, because they have to drink a lot of water.  A person with high blood pressure is not considered sick and should fast, unless his doctor instructs him otherwise.  Whenever in doubt, consult a God-fearing doctor (ibid 7:7).

Swallowing Medications

It is also important to note that sick people who need to take medicine regularly, like a person who has started a regimen of antibiotics or one who suffers from a chronic disease, must continue taking their medicine even on a fast day.  If possible, one should swallow it without water.  Realize that almost no medicine, including antibiotics, does any harm to those who take it without water.  One who cannot swallow pills without water should add something bitter to the water, until it becomes undrinkable, and use it to swallow the pill.

Caffeine for a Headache

Many are accustomed to drinking a few cups of coffee a day, and when fasting, suffer from severe headaches. In order to prevent this, it is advisable to take pills containing caffeine (Acamol and Dexamol and the like have tablets with caffeine) and swallow them on the fast without water. In this way they will be able to observe the fast without excessive pain. And if they do not have similar pills, they can swallow instant coffee grains without water, which, since it is bitter and tastes bad – no prohibition applies to eating it in order to prevent pain.

Eating before Dawn

Even though the fast starts at alot hashachar (this year at 03:50), the prohibition to eat sometimes begins the night before.  If one has in mind not to eat anymore until the beginning of the fast, it is considered as if he accepted the fast upon himself, and he may not eat.  Therefore, one who goes to sleep the night before a fast and wakes up before daybreak may not eat, for he has already taken his mind off of eating.  However, if he stipulates mentally before going to sleep that he will eat something if he wakes up before alot hashachar, he may eat, because he has not yet accepted the fast upon himself.

All this is true with regard to eating, but the poskim debate the issue of drinking.  According to the Rama, one may drink even if he did not make an explicit stipulation before going to sleep, because many people take a drink of water when they wake up, and it is therefore as if he had intention to drink if he wakes up before daybreak.  The Shulchan Aruch (564:1), however, holds that there is no difference between eating and drinking, and only one who stipulates, before going to sleep, that he will drink some water when he rises before daybreak may drink.  In practice, one who wants to drink before the fast begins should make a mental stipulation to this effect, but be’di’avad, one who wakes up before alot hashachar and is thirsty may drink, even if he failed to stipulate (see MB 564:6, KHC 10).

Rinsing One’s Mouth with Water

Ideally (le-chatchila), one should not wash one’s mouth on the minor fasts, because there is concern that one might swallow drops of water.  However, one who detects that his breath smells bad may wash out his mouth, because he has no intention to drink, only to clean his mouth.  Still, he should be very careful not to swallow any water.  One may use toothpaste in order to clean out his mouth thoroughly and remove a bad smell, if not doing so causes him distress.

Tish’a B’Av is a stricter fast, which entails a prohibition against washing oneself.  Therefore, one should act more stringently and, unless it is very necessary, not rinse his mouth.  Only someone who would be greatly distressed may wash out his mouth and brush his teeth, without toothpaste, even on Tish’a B’Av.  On Yom Kippur, however, when one must fast according to Torah law, one should not be lenient.

One who Drinks by Accident on the Fast

One who accidentally eats or drinks on a fast day must continue fasting, because these days were instituted as fast days due to the troubles that occurred on them.  Even if one eats or drinks enough to be considered as one who broke his fast, thus forfeiting the ability to say Aneinu in Shemoneh Esrei, he is still forbidden to eat or drink.  After all, one who committed one sin is not allowed to commit a second (SA 568:1).  In such a scenario, the person does not have to fast a different day to make up for the fast he broke, because we are obligated to fast specifically on the days that our Sages established for fasting.  Indeed, some people have a custom to accept upon themselves another fast to atone for the one that they broke, but one is not obligated to do so (MB 568:8).  It is better to atone for this by giving more charity and learning more Torah.

The poskim debate the halakha of one who forgets that it is a fast day, makes a blessing over a cup of water, and then remembers the fast.  Some say that the prohibition of making a blessing in vain is of Biblical origin, while drinking on a fast day is only a Rabbinic injunction.  Therefore, it is preferable to take a small drink in order to save oneself from saying a blessing in vain.  Others maintain that since most Rishonim hold that a blessing in vain is a Rabbinic prohibition, it is better not to drink at all.  In addition, it is improper to fix one sin by committing another one.  It seems to me that this is the course of action one should take.

Children under the Age of Mitzvot

Children who have yet to reach the age at which they are obligated in the mitzvot are exempt from the fasts that the Rabbis instituted.  And our Sages did not require us to train our children to fast for a few hours; they did so only in regard to Yom Kippur, which is Torah-based…  Nonetheless, many have a custom to train their children to fast a few hours, each one according to his or her strength.  But children should not fast all day long (Rama of Panow 111; see KHC 554:23).  When feeding children on a fast day, one should give them only simple foods, in order to teach them to mourn with the congregation (MB 550:5).

Soldiers, Brides and Grooms

Soldiers who are engaged in a defensive operation that is liable to be compromised if they fast should eat and drink as usual so that they can carry out their mission properly.  However, soldiers who are merely training must fast.

Brides and grooms are obligated to fast on the minor fast days.  Even though they have a mitzvah to rejoice for seven days after their wedding, and they are therefore forbidden to accept upon themselves a private fast, nonetheless, they must observe public fasts, because public mourning overrides private joy.  Although when the fast is postponed from Shabbat to Sunday, like this year, the bride and groom are allowed to break the fast after Mincha Gedolah in the afternoon (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 7:9, footnote 12).

The Aneinu Prayer

The Rabbis prescribed that we add a special blessing for the fast, called Aneinu, in our prayers.  The cantor inserts it in between the blessings of Go’el Yisrael and Refa’einu when he repeats the Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharit and Minchah.  He says it only if there are at least six people in the congregation fasting, and he has to be one of them (SA 566:5).

Individuals, however, do not say Aneinu as a separate blessing in their silent prayers.  Rather, they insert it in the middle of the blessing of Shomei’a Tefillah (Ta’anit 13b).  There are various customs as to when we say Aneinu.  Some say that one should recite Aneinu in all three prayers of the day.  And even though we do not fast at night, one should say it in Ma’ariv because the day as a whole is called a fast day.  Yemenite Jews and some Sefardic Jews follow this custom.  Most Sefardim say Aneinu only when the fast is in effect.  Therefore, on the minor fasts they say it in Shacharit and Minchah, and on Tish’a B’Av, they say it also in Ma’ariv (based on Razah, KHC 565:17).  Ashkenazi Jews are accustomed to saying Aneinu in Minchah alone, because they are concerned that perhaps someone will say it in Shacharit, become weak during the day, and break his fast.  Then, his statement “on this day of our fast” will turn out to be a lie.  Therefore, they say Aneinu only in Minchah, because one who has fasted this long will probably complete the fast (based on the Geonim and Rashi; Rama 565:3).  Everyone should continue his family custom.

One who eats less than an olive-sized portion of food or drinks less than a cheek full of liquid is considered to still be fasting and should say Aneinu.  But if one eats or drinks more than that, he has broken his fast and may not recite Aneinu.

Birkat Kohanim (the Priestly Blessings) During Mincha

Throughout the year, the kohanim (“priests”) do not lift their hands to bless the people during Mincha services, because people usually eat a meal before Mincha and we are concerned that the kohanim might bless the people when they are drunk, which is forbidden.  On fast days that have a Ne’ilah service, like Yom Kippur and the fasts that the Rabbis instituted for droughts, the kohanim bless the people during Ne’ilah, because there is no reason to fear that they will be drunk, seeing that it is a fast day.  During Mincha of those days, however, the kohanim do not bless the people for fear that they may mistakenly think that they are supposed to do so on regular days, as well.  Regarding ordinary fast days, on which we do not pray Ne’ilah, the law depends on when the congregants pray Mincha.  If they pray at the same time that Ne’ilah is usually said [i.e., shortly before sunset], the kohanim bless the people.  But if the congregation prays Mincha earlier, Birkat Kohanim is omitted, since it is not the time designated for Ne’ilah.  In such a case, the cantor, as well, omits “Elokeinu v’Elokai Avoteinu,” which is customarily said when no kohanim are present.

Therefore, it is fitting to call Mincha on fast days for a time that enables people to merit participating in the mitzvah of Birkat Kohanim.  Ideally, one should pray Mincha within half an hour of sunset, which is the best time to pray Ne’ilah.  Nevertheless, as long as the congregation prays after plag mincha, the kohanim may lift their hands and bless the people.  If they pray earlier than that, however, Birkat Kohanim is omitted.

kohen who is not fasting should not ascend the platform to bless the people.  And if there are no other kohanim, some authorities say that he still may not go up, while others maintain that he should.  The latter opinion goes as far as to say that he should go up even if there is one other kohen (Lu’ach Eretz YisraelHalichot ShlomoTefilla 10:13).  If there are less than six people fasting, no kohen should go up to bless the congregation during Mincha, even if he is fasting (see Piskei Teshuvot129:2).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Is Checking Eggs for Blood Relevant Today?

In the past, it was obligatory to check eggs when opening them, but today the situation is different: All eggs under supervision are not fertilized * If blood is found in an egg, it must be removed because of ‘marit ayin’, but l’chatchila, it is not necessary to examine eggs * In continuation to previous articles concerning Torah scholars and their authority: The Chief Rabbi of the IDF  does not have the authority of ‘mara d’atra’, since he was not chosen by God-fearing people and was not given independence * The military rabbis have tremendous importance, but their rulings do not obligate the soldiers * Recognition of the problem of the Chief Rabbi’s lack of authority will lead to the strengthening of his position

Blood in Fertilized Eggs

Q: Do eggs need to be checked for blood? And what should be done if blood is found in them? Is there a difference between regular eggs and organic eggs?

A: In order to answer, we must first explain the halakha concerning fertilized eggs, i.e., the eggs of chickens that were fertilized from a male cock, and from which a chick can develop. This was the most common type of egg in the past.

If such eggs have blood in the place from which the chick’s formation begins, it is forbidden by the prohibition of ‘dam‘ (blood), and the prohibition spreads throughout the entire egg. Some authorities say that this prohibition of blood is from the Torah, for just as the blood of a chick is forbidden from the Torah, so too the blood from which it begins to grow is forbidden from the Torah (Rashba and Rosh), while others maintain that it is forbidden ‘m’divrei Chachamim’ (Rabbinical), since in practice it is not yet the blood of a living animal (Rif, Rambam, R”ah, Sha’arei Dura).

But if the blood in the egg is not in place of the beginning of the formation of the chick, such as when the formation of the egg ruptured one of the blood vessels that enveloped it, there is no prohibition in this type of blood, because it does not belong to the formation of the chick. However, on account of ‘marit ayin’ it must be removed, and the egg is permitted. (‘Marit Ayin‘ (literally “the vision of the eye”) describes rabbinic enactments that were put into place to prevent a third-party viewing one’s actions from arriving at the incorrect conclusion that a forbidden action is permitted).

The Rishonim disagreed as to where the chick begins to take shape. Some say that it is in the yellow interior of the egg called ‘chelmon‘ (yolk) (Rif, Rambam, and S.A. 66: 3); on the other hand, there are those who say that the beginning of the formation is in the outer white part called ‘chelbon‘ (albumen) (R’ah and Rashal). Some say that as long as the blood is in place of the albumen bond, i.e., in the thread that connects the yolk to the top of the egg, only the blood is forbidden but the rest of the egg is permitted, because the formation has not yet begun; when the blood has spread to the yolk core, the formation of the yolk has begun, and the whole egg is forbidden (Rashi and Tosafot). In practice, since wherever there is blood in the egg a fear exists that it is forbidden because of the blood of formation according to one of the approaches, the custom is to prohibit the entire egg (R’ma 66:4; Bach in O.C.).

Is it Obligatory to Check Eggs?

All this, however, if the blood is visible. On the other hand, someone who wants to eat a hard-boiled egg, or make a hole in the egg and gulp it down, does not have to examine it before eating it, since the vast majority of eggs do not contain blood, and as a rule, we follow the majority. But if the eggs are opened in order to make an omelet, or to mix them in a dish or a pastry, since in any case the interior of the egg is visible, one must be strict to check if there is blood in it (B.Y., S.A., and R’ma 66:8). Since if blood is found, the entire egg is forbidden, each egg should be examined in a separate container, so that if blood is found in one of the eggs, it alone will be thrown away, and having to throw away the eggs and the dish they were mixed in with will be unnecessary.

It should be noted that in eggs whose shell is brown (a certain type of hens) there are more brown spots which sometimes also tend to be orange. These stains come from the shell, and are not forbidden, because only what is red as blood is forbidden (Darchei Teshuva 66:22). In fact, white shells causes stains in eggs as well, but since they are white, they are not as visible.

Unfertilized Eggs

If blood is found in an egg that is not fertilized, because it is from a chicken grown in non-male poultry farms, the blood in it is not prohibited – because it cannot be the beginning of the formation of a chick; rather, it is caused by the blood that was ruptured during the formation of the egg. Since this is the case, it is not obligatory to examine such eggs, since only if blood is seen in them, must it be removed (see Iggrot Moshe, Y.D., 1, 36, and Y.O. sect. 3, Y.D. 2, about blood found in eggs about sixty years ago, when the percentage of fertilized eggs in the markets was more than ten percent).

Most Eggs are Not Fertilized

In Israel today, it is forbidden to sell fertilized eggs for health reasons because they contain residues of medicines that are injected into the chickens that lay them. If they want to turn these chickens into egg-laying chickens for edible purposes, according to the law, they have to separate them from the males and wait for about two weeks for the drugs to dissipate from their bodies. The mark for eggs that are allowed for marketing is a stamp, which includes the stamp of the marketer, the date of manufacture, the size of the egg, and the expiration date.

In fact, at least 97 percent of the eggs currently marketed in the State of Israel are supervised eggs with a stamp, and the other eggs are marketed from illegally smuggled produce (from Arabs in Judea and Samaria, or poultry owners who sell eggs in cash to avoid paying taxes). The percentage of fertilized eggs is very small, originating from breeding bands that when successfully smuggled, arrive mainly for industry. Thus, even among eggs that do not have a stamp, there are almost no fertilized eggs.

“Free” and Organic Eggs

Organic eggs and “free” eggs marketed in stores are also eggs that are not fertilized. “Free” eggs are the eggs of chickens grown in ten times the area of ​​the common chicken coop, to prevent causing them grief. In Israel, “free” eggs are less than one percent of all eggs. Organic eggs are the eggs of chickens who have received organic food, have not been sterilized with chemicals, nor have they received the majority of injections.

The Practical Halakha

Since all the eggs with the stamp are not fertilized, there is no need to examine them for blood, and only if blood happens to be seen in them should it be removed because of ‘marit ayin’. Nevertheless, many people still check eggs. There are two possible reasons for this custom: one, they do not know that almost no fertilized eggs are sold anymore, and that all the eggs with the stamp are not fertilized, and if they knew, they would not have checked. The second reason, since it was customary to examine eggs for generations, they continue to check because of ‘marit ayin’, even though this is not obligatory.

Those who buy eggs without a stamp – according to the strict law, they do not have to check, since more than ninety percent of them are not fertilized, seeing as fertilized eggs are more expensive. But there is more room for stringency, since there may be fertilized eggs among them. However, for health and legal reasons it is better not to buy them.

I was assisted by R. Shalom David, a senior member of the Council of the State of Israel’s Chicken Coops

IDF Rabbis Are Not the ‘Mara D’atra’

According to the articles I wrote in recent weeks about the authority of rabbis, the position I have expressed over the years that the IDF Chief Rabbi does not have the authority of mara d’atra (the local authority of Jewish law) can further be understood for two main reasons: 1) A mara d’atra must be chosen by God-fearing people, who seek his guidance in order to strengthen the observance of Torah and mitzvot, and not as the Chief IDF Rabbi is chosen today, by the Chief of Staff. 2) The mara d’atra must have independence and teaching authority, whereas the Chief IDF Rabbi is subordinate to his commanders in matters unrelated to war and life-saving. He is forbidden to publish a halakha that has public ramifications without the explicit authorization of his commanders and the IDF Spokesperson, and if he publishes such a halakha, they will be able to dismiss, or prosecute him. In such a situation, it is clear that he does not have the authority of mara d’atra, but rather of a senior officer and adviser to the Chief of Staff on matters of religion, as outlined in IDF orders.

We can learn about the status of the Chief Rabbi of the IDF in comparison with the position of the Military Advocate General. In order to fortify the status and independence of the Military Advocate, it was determined that only from a command standpoint is he subordinate to the Chief of Staff, but in matters of law he is subject to the law as interpreted by the court. In addition, it was decided that he would be appointed by the Defense Minister on the Chief of Staff’s recommendation, as opposed to the Chief IDF Rabbi who is appointed by the Chief of Staff.

All the same, the role of the Chief IDF Rabbinate and the other military rabbis is still very important. It is incumbent on them to give expression to the spirit of Israel in the army, to assist the soldiers in observing the Torah and mitzvot, and to preserve the sanctity of the camp. From a halakhic point of view, as well, l’chatchilla (ideally), each question should be asked to the military rabbis since they are in the field, and through their response they can also solve the problem primarily by their ongoing relationship with soldiers and commanders alike. Obviously, I also do not intend to harm the personal qualities of the Chief IDF Rabbis, for whom I have great admiration as Torah scholars and men of virtue. I also had the privilege of being their personal friend.

Women’s Singing as an Example

An example of the halachic implications of the fact that the Chief IDF Rabbinate does not have the authority of mara d’atra: When the army decides to force soldiers to listen to women’s singing, and the Chief Rabbi permits this as long as the soldiers lower their view, his ruling does not have the authority of a mara d’atra. First of all, as long as he does not have the authority to order the army not to force soldiers to do so, he does not have the authority to order soldiers to obey this coercion.  Second, because the observant public did not participate in accepting him as Chief IDF Rabbi, but rather, he was appointed by the Chief of Staff.

To Rehabilitate the Authority of the Chief IDF Rabbi

There were those who claimed that my position weakened the Chief IDF Rabbi, but the truth is the opposite. Only after exposing the reality can the situation be corrected. Just recently a number of Knesset members, led by MK Betzalel Smotrich, have proposed a bill to equate the position of the Chief IDF Rabbi to the status of the Military Advocate General, so that the Chief Rabbi will also be independent in his halakhic positions, and in liaison with the Council of the Chief Rabbinate. In addition to this, the decision of his appointment will be removed from the Chief of Staff, and transferred to a committee composed of the Chief Rabbi, the former Chief IDF Rabbi, the Head of a Yeshiva, the Head of IDF Personnel, and public representatives.

In this situation as well, the position of the Chief IDF Rabbi will be considered mara d’atra only for what he was chosen, i.e., questions encountered between halakha and military reality, and not the major questions in dispute. For example, there will be meaning to his ruling in the current state of the army, if, bediavad (after the fact), an order was given to listen to women’s singing, one should rely on the opinion of those who are lenient and lower one’s eyes without leaving the place; but still, he will not have the authority to decide a principled decision that the halakha follows the lenient opinion.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Why I Supported the Kashrut of ‘Tzohar’

Jewish courts of law have always given representation to all the tribes of Israel * Today’s tribes are the different ethnic groups and circles – all of them must be represented in the world of Torah and halakha * A wide public stands behind the rabbis of Tzohar, and therefore it is fitting and even obligatory for them to have a kashrut system * The Rabbis of Tzohar are not less God-fearing than other Rabbis * When one side does not recognize the purity of intent of an opposing party, serious disagreements arise * For personal reasons, I am not a member of the Tzohar Rabbinate, but I am happy to participate in their deliberations – and in other bodies in the Torah world as well

A few months ago, I expressed my support for the Tzohar Rabbinical initiative concerning kashrut. I was asked various questions about my position, and although this is a complex issue, I will try to briefly explain it.

Torah to a Nation Composed of Tribes

The Lord our God and the God of our forefathers chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah from Moses at Sinai. “Torah tziva lanu Moshe, morasha kehillat Yaakov” (‘The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov’). Since the revelation at Mount Sinai, the Torah is the inheritance of Klal Yisrael. This means that the authority to determine halakha is given to the Sages of Israel, i.e. to the Sages who are accepted by Israel. In practice, Israel is one people made up of tribes, for indeed God’s oneness is revealed in different shades according to the various features existing in the world. Therefore, it is a mitzvah to appoint judges from all the tribes.

The Sanhedrin was established in a Representative Manner

This is what we learned at the time of the establishment of the first Sanhedrin, when God commanded Moses: “‘Assemble seventy of Israel’s elders – the ones you know to be the people’s elders and leaders… When I lower My essence and speak to you there, I will cause some of the spirit that you possess to emanate, and I will grant it to them. You will then not have to bear the responsibility all alone” (Numbers 11:16-17).

Ostensibly, Moshe Rabbenu, the greatest of the prophets, should have determined in the spirit of his holiness who the seventy elders would be according to their fear of God and their wisdom, regardless of their tribal origin; but since the Sages are ‘Sages of Israel’, it was necessary for each tribe to be represented equally. Therefore, Moses was commanded to choose “the ones you know to be the people’s elders and leaders,” – in other words, they are accepted by the people and their tribes. As Rashi explains, according to the Sages: “Those whom you know, that they were appointed as officers over them in Egypt [to oversee] the rigorous labor, and they had mercy on them, and were beaten on their account, as it says, “the officers of the children of Israel were beaten (Exod. 5:14). Now they shall be chosen in their greatness, just as they had suffered in their [Israel’s] distress” (Numbers 11:16). In other words, the most prominent representatives of the tribes should be chosen, those who sacrificed their lives for Israel, and not only great ones in fear of God and wisdom.

Moreover, given that the number seventy cannot not be divided into twelve equally, Moshe casted lots so that the appointed elders would be accepted by all. According to Rashi “But [the number was chosen] by lot, because the number [of elders] for twelve tribes came to six for each tribe, except for two tribes who would receive only five each. Moses said, “No tribe will listen to me to deduct one elder from its tribe.” What did he do? He took seventy-two slips and wrote on seventy [of them, the word] ‘elder’ and two of them he left blank. He then chose six men from each tribe, totaling seventy-two. He said to them, “Draw your slips from the urn. Whoever picked [one inscribed with] ‘elder’ was [already] sanctified. Whoever picked a blank slip, he said to him: The Omnipresent does not want you”(Rashi, Numbers 11:26).

The Mitzvah of Appointing Judges for the Tribes

Similarly, we are commanded for generations: “Appoint yourselves judges and police for your tribes in all your settlements that God your Lord is giving you, and make sure that they administer honest judgment for the people” (Deuteronomy 16:18). The Sages said in the Jerusalem Talmud: “It is a mitzvah for every tribe to judge its own tribe” (Makkot 1: 8), as well as in the Babylonian Talmud: “It is a mitzvah for a tribe to judge its own tribe” (Sanhedrin 16b).

According to Ramban (on the Torah there) it’s possible there may even have been a commandment to appoint a Beit Din Gadol (Sanhedrin) for each and every tribe with certain powers over members of that tribe: “Just as the Great Sanhedrin is appointed in charge of all the courts of all of Israel, so will one court be in charge of each and every tribe.  And if they had to resolve or decree something about their tribe, they would decree and resolve it, and it would have the same validity as that of the Great Sanhedrin for all of Israel”(see Rambam, Sanhedrin 1: 1, and commentaries there).

It should be noted that the Kohanim (priests) and the Levites received cities within the tribal lands, and apparently, as far as matters about the appointment of judges of the tribe were concerned, were considered as members of the tribe they lived in, received tithes from, and identified with (see (Sanhedrin 32a; Rambam Sanhedrin 2a).

The Tzohar Rabbinical Circle

Today, the different “shades” (tribes) of the nation are divided into ethnic groups and circles. Ethnic groups whose former place of residence in exile is shared, and societal circles whose ideological-value-based concepts unites them. Today in Israel, ideological identity is no less powerful than ethnic identity. In any event, Torah scholars of one sect or group must not disqualify the scholars of another, as long as they are loyal to the Torah and its commandments. And even if their halachic opinion is unacceptable to the majority, it is forbidden to disqualify their position regarding what they rule in their own communities, for example the authority of mara d’atra (local rabbinic authority), and their opinions must be considered and they must be included in general halakhic discussions.

The rabbis of Tzohar represent a large and important community of people from all ethnic groups who keep Torah and mitzvot, and invest their energy and wealth in building religious communities, synagogues, religious schools, yeshivot and midrashot. They strive to combine work, Torah, and science and be faithful to the tradition of the Torah while being open to modernity, out of a clear recognition that this is God’s will. They accept upon themselves rabbis of the type of Tzohar, rabbis who understand them and adhere to their ways. The rabbis of Tzohar are Torah scholars and God-fearing, no less than rabbis in the other religious and ultra-Orthodox circles.

According to the principles we have learned, it is imperative that rabbis who represent this important circle receive full expression in the entire Torah community as is customary in our times, and since almost every group has a kashrut organization, the Tzohar rabbis should also have one.

How to Manage Disagreements

As long as there is reasonable cooperation between the Torah scholars of the various circles and all of them receive expression, and there are no Torah scholars of one circle imposing their opinion on members of other circles – let alone not rejecting their Torah scholarship – one can aspire to set common positions and demarcate the boundaries of the discussion. Sometimes it does not work, just as for years a compromise was not found between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, and in such a case, both sides have to be careful to respect each other, and not to boycott one another.

But when groups and institutions try to impose their opinion on members of another circle, and abolish the status of their rabbis (and to boycott them from becoming rabbinical judges and rabbis) we are no longer speaking of a situation where the rabbis of Tzohar should also establish a kashrut organization, but rather a situation in which it is almost obligatory for them to establish one, just like other accepted rabbinic organizations, in order to give halachic and Torah expression to their part in the Torah. If they do not, then they are similar to a prophet who suppresses his prophecy, or as our Sages said: ” Yea, all her slain are a mighty host’ — this refers to a disciple who has attained the qualification to decide questions of law, and does not decide them” (Sotah 22a).

How Does a Difficult Dispute Develop?

At first, there is an argument over a focused halakhic issue. However, when an agreement is not reached, instead of agreeing to disagree and continuing to respect each other, one side thinks that the other has no authority to retain his position, because, essentially, his position is inferior, since he belongs to a liberal circle, or his position differs from that of most rabbis. Then, that same party departs from the particular halakhic issue they have debated, and moves on to a more acute arena, in which the main argument is that the rabbi against whom he is arguing with is not authorized to express a halachic position, for in any case, who appointed him to be a rabbi who can express a position at all?

Since this argument is not convincing enough, and the rabbi who is being attacked remains in his position, consequently we are now moving over to a dispute of a different magnitude – since we are no longer dealing with a person who rules on a matter without authority, but with a person who undermines the foundations of authority as a whole, and thus, it is compulsory to wage an all-out war against him…

Since this argument, too, is not accepted by the opponent, who swore he was loyal to the Torah and does not seek to undermine the foundations of the authority, then apparently the debate is no longer about the rabbis’ honor and authority, but stems from outright wickedness, seeking to uproot the Torah from Israel. In the end, one must marvel at the extent to which the “soldiers” behave with moderation in regards to the rabbis of Tzohar – only boycotting and humiliating them with words, and do not take harsher punitive measures against them…

Incidentally, this happens sometimes in the Haredi community, even against eminent rabbis, and sometimes it even reaches actual violence. Let us hope that in this matter the national-religious and Torah public will not try to emulate them.

It all begins with the failure to recognize the authority of rabbis to rule for their constituents. With God’s help, next week I will explain the source of authority for halachic ruling.

“I am a Friend to Everyone Who Worships You”

A number of times I’ve been asked if I am a member of the Tzohar rabbis’ organization. The answer is complex. First of all, it is a great honor for me to be among those who perform mitzvahs, and therefore I am happy to be identified with the rabbis of Tzohar. Not only that, but some of the leaders of Tzohar rabbis are personal friends of mine from the time we studied at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, and even before that. About ten years ago, they also suggested that I be a partner in the management of the Tzohar rabbis, and in their modesty, agreed that a decision would not be made against my opinion, since their goal is that decisions of the administration be accepted with full agreement.

However, for several reasons I could not agree. The main reason is that years ago, I decided to devote my time to clarifying halachic issues and writing them in the framework of ‘Peninei Halakha’. Consequently, I hardly ever leave the community of Har Bracha, and I cannot take upon myself another public burden. In addition, sometimes my opinion is different from theirs, and I do not want to enter into an argument, or try to prevent them from expressing their opinions which I respect because it stems from fear of Heaven and is based on serious and reasoned halakhic study.

However, I wish to be a partner in everything possible for the benefit of Klal Yisrael and the Torah. Therefore, although I cannot bear responsibility for the decisions of the Council of Rabbis of Tzohar, I am pleased that my colleagues invite me to participate in their deliberations and count me as a member.

At the same time, I identify with, and belong to, other rabbinic and religious organizations and circles, which, in their own way, work for Klal Yisrael and the Torah.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Writing of the Laws of Kashrut

The thoughts and decisions behind the new volume of ‘Peninei Halakha’ dealing with kashrut * The order in the new book differs from the order in the Shulchan Aruch: In the Land of Israel, the mitzvot dependent on the Land are once again the main laws * In exile we focused on prohibitions whose main concern was survival amongst the Gentiles, whereas the mitzvot that are dependent on the Land deal with society’s rectification, and the building of holy life * As long as most of the Jews live abroad – the mitzvot dependent on the Land are not applicable from the Torah, and the vision of overall redemption is far from realization * We are not close to a Jewish majority in Israel, because there are many Jews in the world who are not aware of their Jewishness, such as Madeline Albright and John Kerry, for example

The New Volume: Kashrut I

With the grace of God, last week, the book “Kashrut I: Vegetation and Animal” – was published as part of the ‘Peninei Halakha’ series. Since this column is personal, I thought that it would be appropriate to share the thoughts that accompanied the writing of the book (which appear for the main part, at the beginning of the book).

For years, I thought to arrange the laws of kashrut as they are arranged in the Shulchan Aruch, section Yoreh De’ah. In other words, to begin with the laws of shechita (ritual slaughter) and treifot (mortal injuries or physical defects that disqualify a member of a kosher species of mammal or bird from being kosher), the prohibition of blood, chelev (animal fat prohibited from eating), vermin, meat and milk, mixtures, cooking of Gentiles, tevilat kelim (immersion of vessels in a mikveh to make them kosher), and yayin nesech (wine poured in the service of idolatry) (S.A., Y.D. 1- 138), and afterwards, deal with the mitzvot dependent on the Land, and the laws of vegetation and animals (S.A., Y.D. 292-333). However, while studying the laws of shechita and treifot, mixtures, and meat and milk, I found that if one wishes to look at the laws of kashrut in full, one must precede the laws of vegetation to the laws of animals, since most of our food is from vegetation – grains, legumes, fruit, and vegetables. Moreover, since my plan was to preface every issue with a conceptual idea, I found that the basic ideas about kosher food are hidden in the commandments related to foods produced from plants, mainly the mitzvot dependent on the Land of Israel, because out of the sanctity of the Land, the holiness of the fruit that grows on it becomes apparent. The central expression of this is in the mitzvot of terumot and ma’aserot (tithes), challah, and matanot l’ani’im (gifts to the poor) – leket, shichichah and pe’ah, peret and ololot.

The Part Devoted to Vegetation

Therefore, I decided to begin with a clarification of the laws relating to the growing of vegetation, including the laws of chadash, orlah, kilei ilan and behama, kilei zera’im and kerem, and matanot l’ani’im (chapters 1 – 6). Afterwards, the laws of permitting vegetation to be eaten by means of the provision of separating terumot, ma’aserot, and challah (chapters 7-12). While dealing with vegetation, a chapter was devoted to the laws relating to the prohibition of “bal tashchit“, which is based on the preservation of fruit trees and foods (chapter 13). Thus, most of the book deals with the laws of vegetation (242 pages out of 375).

The Part Devoted to Animals

Afterwards, three chapters (14-16) were devoted to the basic attitude toward eating meat, and the way of raising animals, and in doing so I explained at length the laws of cruelty to animals and shiluach ha’ken. In chapter 17, the pure and impure species were detailed. Another two chapters (18-19) were devoted to the laws of ritual slaughter, the prohibition of oto v’et be’no (‘it and its son’), the covering of blood, and laws the Torah commanded to be given from animals – such as the zeroah, l’chaim, and keiva, bechorot, ma’aser behema, and reshit ha’gez. With this, I finished the first part of the laws of kashrut, which is titled ‘Ha’Tzomayach ve’Ha’Chai‘ (“Vegetation and Animals”) (some of the laws in this volume are explained briefly in ‘Peninei Halakha: Likutim’, part 1, chapters 12-13, and ‘Likutim’, part 3, chapters 9-12, and henceforth will not be printed anymore in the ‘Likutim’).

The Plan for the Upcoming Volume

In the second part, God-willing, I will explain the details of the halachot concerning the consumption of meat foods: the examination of treifot – glatt and kosher, the preparation of the meat by removing the blood, chelev and gid ha’nasheh, the laws of meat and milk and the separation between them. In addition, I will explain the laws of vermin and worms, the order of the kitchen, the preparation of vessels, and the distancing from the cooking of Gentiles, yiyin nesech, and the immersion of vessels. Therefore, the second part will be titled “Kashrut II – Food and the Kitchen.” On first thought, it seemed that the second part would be longer, but now, apparently, (most of it is already written), it will be shorter than the first, for concerning the number of mitzvot and halachot, the first part is much larger, and by far, broader. Its content relates to the majority of the Seder of Zera’im in the Mishna, which is one of the six orders that cover the entire Oral Law, and a few more chapters in Tractate Chulin; while the second part, although very practical, deals with less than two tractates in the Gemara (the majority of tractate Chulin, about half of Tractate Avodah Zarah, and a little of the tractate of Pesachim).

The Values ​​Revealed in the Laws of Kashrut

The attitude toward the food that Jews eat in the Land of Israel is one of the expressions of a faith-based life, as expressed in the commandment of the Torah to recite Birkat Hamazon after eating, the main portion being the blessing of the Land, as our Sages said: “There is no blessing more cherished than the blessing over the Land”, as is the plain meaning of the verse (Deuteronomy 8:10): ” When you eat and are satisfied, you must therefore bless God your Lord for the good land that He has given you.” (Bamidbar Rabbah 23:7; Peninei Halakha: Berachot 5: 1, 5: 4). In the Land of Israel, holiness is revealed within nature (Orot HaTikhiya 28), and therefore, food and eating in the Land are related to holiness. In the system of the mitzvot dependent on the Land, we express the totality of values ​​that are revealed in the food that Jews grow in Israel.

First of all, the mitzvoth of chadash and orlahchadash in grain, and orlah in the fruit of the tree. These two mitzvot are meant to sanctify the first crop, in grain – by the offering of the Omer to God each year, and in the fruits of the tree – by eating the fourth year’s fruit in holiness in Jerusalem. In both of these mitzvot we also learned the element of restraint. Kilayim express the uniqueness of each species, a uniqueness that expresses the unifying-faith and its revelation in the world by multiplicity of species, each with its own uniqueness. In the mitzvah of gifts to the poor, we learn how to reveal the values ​​of charity when we merit to reap the fruits of our labor. In terumot, ma’aserot, and challah, we learn how to uphold the values ​​of holiness and education in Israel, by maintaining the Kohanim (priests) and Levites dedicated to Torah and the education of Israel, and by connecting all of Israel to the Temple by eating ma’aser sheni in holiness in Jerusalem together with the poor, in joy. Thus, holiness is revealed within reality, and elevates the foods of the Land of Israel to the level of holiness, by virtue of which Israel is given the strength and vitality to reveal God’s word in the world, and thus rectify the entire universe.

In light of this, it is more understandable that it is indeed appropriate to open the laws of kashrut with the mitzvot of vegetation that grows in the Land of Israel, and with the basic laws pertaining to eating meat, which reveal the values ​​that should be revealed in food. From this we will continue to volume two, which will deal with prohibitions related to food from animals, and the separations from non-Jewish cooking. It is true that during the long exile, the central issues in the laws of kashrut were meat in milk and their mixtures, the prohibitions of yayin nesech and the cooking of non-Jews, because we dealt mainly with survival, which is halakhicly expressed in terms of caution of prohibitions and assimilation, and goes according to the order of halachot in the Shulchan Aruch – Yoreh Deah. However, now that we have been blessed with the Ingathering of the Exiles and the building of the Land, it is appropriate to return to the revised order, in which we first deal with the values ​​of holiness that are revealed in the mitzvot dependent on the Land, according to the order of the Mishna, which begins with the Order of Zera’im, beginning with Berachot Ha’Nehenim, and continuing with the mitzvot dependent on the Land.

Since most of the book deals with the mitzvot dependent on the Land, I have devoted a long chapter (chapter 12) to a review of all the mitzvot that have been dependent on the Land throughout Israel’s history – from the time of Israel’s entry into the land during the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun, through the destruction of the First Temple and the destruction of the Second Temple, and until God merited us with His great mercy to return to the Land of Israel and establish the State of Israel.

Spiritual Introductions are Unnecessary

In previous books I found the need to preface spiritual, faith-based introductions, sometimes in an entire chapter at the beginning of the book, and sometimes in the introductory sections at the beginning of the chapter. In this book, however, which opens with the mitzvot dependent on the Land, I find there is no need for this: the explanation of the mitzvah is itself the idea, and there is no need for any preamble.

There Is Room to Aspire for More

From the study of the many important mitzvot that deal with the kashrut of food grown in the Land of Israel, we can understand just how lacking our lives are: we have yet to gather all the exiles and the Temple is still destroyed, and therefore, we cannot properly observe the mitzvot dependent on the Land, and reveal holiness within all walks of life. Nevertheless, the observance of these mitzvot, according to the guidance of our Sages, gives us inspiration and guidance to reveal the values ​​of holiness within our lives, and thus, we will merit, with God’s help, to speedily fulfill them completely, and from the mitzvot related to agriculture, Torah instruction will spread to all the other areas.

When Will We Be Biblically Obligated to Fulfill the Mitzvot?

As is well known, the mitzvot of terumot, ma’aserot, and challah are binding from the Torah only when the majority of Israel live in the Land; but when most of Israel still lives abroad – the obligation to fulfill the mitzvot is only of rabbinical ordinance. Some believe that the Jewish people today numbers about thirteen million people, and if so, the majority of Jews will soon live in Israel and be obligated in these mitzvot from the Torah. But apparently, the number of people who can prove that they are Jews is at least twenty million. As an example, we can bring the case of George Osborne, who, for six years, was the British Minister of Finance; only recently, at the age of 46, did he discover that he is Jewish: his brother Theo had asked to convert properly to marry a Jewish woman named Justin Fischer, but it turned out that in fact, he was Jewish. His grandmother, the mother of his mother, was a Jewish woman, a member of a synagogue in Budapest who, because of the Holocaust, hid her Jewish roots, until recently, after a simple check, it became clear that she was Jewish. About two weeks ago, Theo married according to halakha, and his brother, the former finance minister, said that the entire family was happy to meet with its Jewish roots, and participated happily in the kosher Jewish wedding.

Professor Madeleine Albright, who served for four years as US Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, related a similar story. Her parents converted to Christianity to be saved from persecution, and only in adulthood did she learn that she was a Jew, and that her relatives were murdered in the Holocaust. This is similar to the story of John Kerry, who was a candidate for the presidency of the United States and served as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, and only at the age of sixty did he learn that his father’s family were Jews who had converted to be saved from persecution. His brother returned to his roots and converted. Therefore, we see that in spite of everything, even educated and astute people sometimes are unaware that their grandmothers and grandfathers were Jews. If we add to the account the descendants of Marranos from hundreds of years ago, we will reach more than 100 million. With God’s help, soon the words of the Torah will be fulfilled in us:” Even if your diaspora is at the ends of the heavens, God your Lord will gather you up from there and He will take you back… God will be good to you and make you flourish even more than your ancestors… God will remove the barriers from your hearts and from the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love God your Lord with all your heart and soul. Thus will you survive” (Deuteronomy 39:4-6).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.

Shavuot: Body and Soul

Shabbat is meant for holiness and rest, and it should not be used to prepare for the holiday that follows it * In order to maintain an appetite for the holiday meal, Seudat Shlishit should be held earlier on Shabbat * Dishes should not be cleaned or washed on Shabbat for the holiday, but if necessary you can take holiday dishes out of the freezer * On Shabbat one may bathe in lukewarm water, and on Chag, also in the water that was heated with permissibly * The laws of Birkat HaShachar for those who stay awake at night * Jews who live outside of Israel, but are celebrating the Chag in Israel – if they have family, an apartment, or intentions to live in Israel – are exempt from Yom Tov Sheni of the Diaspora

The Joy of Chag Shavuot – Spiritual and Physical

Chag Shavuot enjoys an exceptional status above and beyond that of other holidays; therefore, even those rabbis who are of the opinion that a person is permitted, if he desires, to spend the majority of his time on the holiday learning Torah, and minimize time spent on meals, on the holiday of Shavuot – according to all opinions – along with the study of the Torah it is obligatory to hold very substantial meals, because it is “a day in which the Torah was given” “(Pesachim 68b).

The unique virtue of the Torah is that it is designed to instruct the path of undivided emuna (faith), and continue blessing and vitality into all walks of life, both spiritual and physical. Therefore, the joy of Shavuot must be expressed both in Torah study, but also in eating and drinking. This is the complete ‘tikkun’ (perfection), which encompasses both the soul and body. At first, the revelation of Divinity through spiritual manifestations from above absorbed by the neshama (soul) which guides the body, and thus, the deep-rooted fabric of the human body and its feelings are revealed. Therefore, complete ‘d’vey’kute‘(attachment) to God encompasses both the soul and the body, as will be the case after ‘Techiyat Ha’Meytim’ (the Resurrection of the Dead), when the soul will return to the body, and Godliness will be revealed completely on all levels.

Seudat Shlishit on Shabbat

 Since this year Chag Shavuot falls out on Motzei Shabbat, ‘l’chatchila‘(ideally), it is best to eat ‘seudah shlishit’ (the third Shabbat meal) earlier, before the last three hours of the Shabbat day. Preferably, ‘seudah shlishit’ should be held a little after ‘chatzot Yom Shabbat‘(midday), i.e., at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. If one did not do so, he should nevertheless eat ‘seudah shlishit’, even during the hours close to the beginning of Yom Tov, but should try to limit his eating so as to have an appetite for the evening meal of Yom Tov.

Preparing from Shabbat to the following Yom Tov

It is forbidden to prepare anything from Shabbat to Chag, because Shabbat is intended for holiness and rest, and not for preparations made for another day, even if it is Chag (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 22:15-17).

Consequently, it is forbidden to wash dirty dishes from Shabbat to use on Yom Tov; only after Shabbat has departed (20:10) can dishes be washed in order use them on Yom Tov. It is also forbidden to clean the table on Shabbat in honor of the holiday, but the table can be cleaned so that it is tidy on Shabbat, even though this will be beneficial for the holiday.

It is forbidden to place food on a ‘platta‘ (hot plate) on Shabbat to be eaten at the evening meal of Yom Tov, but only after Shabbat is over (20:10) and one says, “Baruch ha’mavdil ben kodesh l’kodesh” (“Blessed be He who distinguishes between holy and holy”). Only then is one permitted to start organizing the needs of ‘ochel nefesh’ (food preparation allowed on Yom Tov), and to cook and heat the food.

‘B’sha’at ha’dachak’ (times of distress), on Shabbat one is permitted to perform routine actions that do not involve great effort, for the sake of the Chag. Therefore, when waiting for Shabbat to depart will cause a significant delay in the Yom Tov meal, it is permissible to take frozen food out of the freezer on Shabbat.

Candle Lighting for Chag

It is forbidden to light the holiday candles before Shabbat has departed (20:10), and one must first say, “Baruch ha’mavdil ben kodesh l’kodesh“, or recite the Havdalah within the Kiddush,

Since it is prohibited to light a new fire on Yom Tov, one must prepare before Shabbat a candle that will burn for more than twenty-four hours from which one can light the Yom Tov candles. If one did not prepare such a candle, he should transfer fire from one of his neighbor’s candles to light the Yom Tov candles.

It is permissible to push the candle forcibly into the candlestick holder, even though this causes the candle to be slightly crushed. Similarly, one may remove by knife the remaining wax in the candlestick which interferes with the placement of the new candle, and one is allowed to remove the metal disc stuck to the bottom of the glass cup in which ‘neronim‘ (candles that turn into oil) were used. It is also permitted to insert a floating wick into a floating cork.

But it is forbidden to heat a wax candle to attach it to a candlestick holder, lest one transgress the rabbinic decree of ‘ma’rey’ach‘(spreading or smearing), which is a ‘toledah‘of ‘mi’ma’chake‘(scraping/sanding a surface to achieve smoothness). It is also forbidden to cut or file the bottom of the candle to insert it into the candlestick because of the prohibition ‘mi’cha’taych‘(cutting any object to a specific size).

Bathing on Shabbat and Chag

Since Shabbat and Yom Tov are adjacent, and many people are used to showering every day, those who feel the need to shower on Shabbat afternoon are permitted to wash themselves in warm water – i.e., water in which they do not suffer from its coldness, but on the other hand, is not hot. One should not wash in hot water because of the rabbinical decree of ‘mirchatz‘. But on Chag, since bathing is ‘shavei l’kol nefesh‘(equal for all), one is allowed to wash even in hot water, provided the water was heated in a permissible way, such as by a ‘dude shemesh’ (solar heater), or by a Shabbat-timer (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:8; Moadim 5:10).

In addition, after showering one should remember not to comb or brush one’s hair, because doing so sheds hair, which is a Torah prohibition.

Those Who Remained Awake All Night

Washing hands: Even a person who remains awake all night must perform ‘nitilat yadayim‘ (washing of the hands) before morning prayers, however, the poskim were divided on whether to recite a blessing over this washing, or not. According to the Ashkenazi custom, it is best is to relieve oneself before prayer, and to touch one of the covered areas of one’s body which had become a bit sweaty since one’s last bathing, and thus, be obligated to wash one’s hands with a blessing. However, according to Sephardic custom, one does not recite a blessing over this washing of the hands in any case.

Birkat Ha’Torah: The prevalent custom is according to the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, that even one who did not sleep at all during the previous day – since he came to pray Shacharit in the morning of the new day, he must recite Birkat Ha’Torah. However, l’chatchila, whoever has not slept at all since he blessed the blessings of the Torah the previous day, in order to fulfill all opinions, he should hear the blessings from a friend, and have the intention to thus fulfill his obligation.

Birkot Ha’Shachar: Even those who remain awake all night recite ‘Birkot HaShachar’ (the Morning Blessings), because ‘Birkot HaShachar’ were fixed as prayers of gratitude for the general good in the world, and not just the self-interests of each and every individual. Therefore, even a blind person recites the blessing ‘po’kay’ach ivrim’ (‘Who gives sight to the blind’), and one who did not sleep recites the blessing ‘zokayf ke’fufim’ (‘Who straightens the bent’). However, regarding the blessings of ‘Elokei Neshama’ and ‘Ha’ma’avir Sheyna’, there are some authorities who hold that a person who did not sleep should not recite these blessings, because these blessings are recited in the singular, as individual thanks for the return of one’s soul, and the passing of sleep. Therefore, it is proper to hear them from someone who actually did sleep, and have ‘kavana’ to fulfill one’s obligation.

When there is no one to recite the blessings, according to the majority of poskim, one should recite the blessings himself, because although they are recited in the singular, they also contain thanks for the general good – that in the morning, God returns souls to those who have slept, and wakes them from their slumber. This is the custom of all Sephardim, and some Ashkenazim. There are other Ashkenazim whose custom is to be ‘machmir‘(stringent), and due to the ‘safek‘(doubt), recite the blessings without ‘Shem and Malchut’ (“Hashem Elokenu Melech Ha’olam). An Ashkenazi who does not know what his custom is, may act according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, and recite all the blessings himself.

In summary, according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, those who remain awake all night recite all ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar ’and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’. The ‘mehadrin’ (those who embellish the mitzvoth), when possible, fulfill the obligation of ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ and the blessings “Elokei Neshama” and “Ha’Ma’avir Sheyna” by hearing them from someone who slept at night.

When to Recite Birkot Ha’Shachar

According to halakha, ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’ and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ are recited close to the morning prayers. According to kabala‘Birkot Ha’Shachar‘are recited after ‘chatzot ha’layla’ (midnight), and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah‘after ‘Amud Ha’Shachar’ (dawn).

Eating Prior to the Morning Prayers

During the night, one may eat and drink without limitation. However, from half an hour before ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat a ‘seudah’ (a meal), lest one get over-involved in his meal. This includes the prohibition of eating bread or cakes whose size is equal to, or larger, than a ‘beitza‘(an egg), however, one may eat without ‘keviyut seudah’ (setting a meal) fruits and vegetables and cooked ‘mezanot‘ foods without limitations. From ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat anything or to drink coffee or juice, and even one who had started eating or drinking beforehand – should stop. One is allowed to drink only water after ‘amud ha’shachar’. (This year on Chag Shavuot, ‘amud ha’shachar‘is at 4:06 A.M.).

Second Day Yom Tov For those who Live Abroad, but are in Israel

Our Sages instituted that in Chutz La-Aretz, all the Chagim must be observed for two days; however the poskim (Jewish law arbiters) differed about the halakha concerning a Jew who lives outside of Israel, but is visiting Israel. There are those who say that when he is in Israel, his status is that of one who lives in Israel, and should hold only one day of Yom Tov (Chacham Tzvi, 167; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 496:11), but according to most halakhic authorities, since his place of residence is in Chutz La-Aretz, even when visiting Israel, he is considered a ben Chutz La-Aretz, and this is the accepted practice (Birkei Yosef, 496:7; Mishna Berura 496:13).

Even though according to the principle of the law, the halakha should have been lenient, since the second day of Yom Tov is of rabbinic ordinance, and the rule is safek d’rabanan l’kula (a rabbinic ordinance with a doubt is ruled leniently), nevertheless, the accepted minhag (custom) is to be machmir (strict), and since this is the minhag – the unique brachot for Yom Tov are even recited on Yom Tov Sheni. However, it seems that when the visitor has a deep attachment to the country, when he is in Israel, he should act according to the minhag of Eretz Yisrael.

Those Who Reside Outside of Israel but Have an Attachment to the Land

Therefore, 1) a person who comes to Israel for a year of study, his long stay in Israel turns him into ben Eretz Yisrael (a resident) for the duration of his stay. 2) One who occasionally comes to visit Eretz Yisrael, if his visits accumulate to a year, he is considered somewhat of a resident, and from that point onward, if during the Chagim he is in Eretz Yisrael, he should keep only one day.  3) Someone who comes to visit Israel and intends to immigrate when possible, even if he visits for a short period of time, and it will be many years before he can realize his plan, while he is in Israel he should act as ben ha’aretz, and keep one day. 4) A visitor who has children or parents who immigrated to Israel is considered to have an affinity to the country, and during his stay in Israel, should keep one day. 5) One who purchased an apartment in the Land of Israel in order to live there during his visits, even though his visits have not yet accumulated to a year, while he is in Israel, he is considered a ben Eretz Yisrael in the merit of his apartment. 6) A ‘yored‘ (one who has left Israel on a permanent basis) who determined his home is abroad, even if he lived there for decades, since for a significant period he lived in Israel – as long as there is any chance of his returning to Israel, when he visits Israel, he should act like b’nei Eretz Yisrael.

However, when such people are abroad, since in practice they have not yet immigrated to Israel, they are considered to be foreign citizens in every aspect, and it is their obligation to observe Yom Tov Sheni of the Diaspora (these laws are explained in ‘Peninei Halakha: Moadim’ 9: 8).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melalmed can be found at: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il

Return our Judges to the People’s Rule

The enactment of the ‘override clause’ is only the beginning – a revolutionary change is needed to restrain the power of the legal establishment * Judaism’s values are not supposed to be legislated by religious coercion, but they must be determined as Basic Laws * The composition of the Judicial Selection Committee must be changed so that it will stop strengthening the tyranny of the minority * If Netanyahu had restrained the Attorney General’s Office, he would not be suffering from their actions against him today * As long as the High Court of Justice rules out Knesset laws – it is essential for the Knesset to maintain the possibility of re-enacting them, without a majority of more than sixty-one

The Importance of Law

The status of law is of the utmost importance, because it is needed to bring the value system which society believes in, into practical actuality in the life of the individual and society. Today in Western countries law expresses a combination of values ​​of utilitarianism with certain values ​​of their cultural heritage and individual human rights. In order to express the values ​​of emunah (faith) and Torah, which are the basis of our national existence, and without which we would have no existence, we are commanded to judge according to the laws of the Torah, as it is written: “And these are the laws you must set before them” (Exodus 21: 1) – and not according to non-Jewish law (Tractate Gittin 88b). The reason for this is that law must express the idea of ​​Divine justice in the life of the people, society, and the individual.

Reform of the Legal Establishment

Over time, more people have come to realize the severe damage the legal establishment causes the vision of the Jewish state, and the actual lives of Jews living in the country. This is because the values ​​that guide it are foreign, and sometimes even contrary, to the values ​​of the Jewish people, its teachings, and its heritage. The recent campaign in the last few weeks – known as ‘hoke ha’hit’ga’brut’, or the ‘override clause’, is based on the ability of the legislative branch to overturn the High Court’s decisions. This is an important, but modest, beginning.

Action is vital in four areas: 1) Completion of Basic Laws that will express the Jewish identity of the state. 2) Changing the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee to reflect the public’s views. 3) Canceling the tyranny of the Legal Advisor’s institution. 4) Regulating the possibility of the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court in special cases to disqualify laws, and the ability of the Legislative body to re-enact the laws after their disqualification.

In all these areas, it will be necessary to conduct a stubborn struggle against a specific public which possesses status and influence, feels alienated from the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, and to a certain extent, seeks to turn it into a state of all its citizens. This public bases its beliefs and values ​​on the liberal values ​​accepted today in academic circles in the West. In point of fact, however, even within these circles a process of disillusionment exists, and an attempt to understand and redefine the religious and national values, ​​without which the liberal values ​​system remains weak and hollow in face of the challenges and pressures from within and without.

Apparently, the battle will be decided in the next generation in favor of the Jewish vision of the State of Israel. But as always, there lies two paths before us: “If you follow My laws,” the tikkun (improvement) will be done in a positive way; and if not – it will be done through trials and tribulations. The positive way is to delve deeply into the values ​​of truth and goodness according to the guidance of the Torah, until their light shines forth, and many of our adversaries will be persuaded to a great, or to at least a small extent, that these laws are right and proper. The other way is to continue suffering from the heavy-handed judicial system, which repeatedly harms the fabric of life of the Jewish nation returning to its homeland, as exemplified, for example, by the disqualification of the laws for the expulsion of infiltrators, and as a result, due to all the trouble and grief the infiltrators will cause us, we will be forced to get rid of them.

Jewish Values ​​as Basic Laws

The first area that needs to be dealt with is establishing basic laws that will express the Jewish identity of the state. This does not refer to laws of religious coercion which harms the liberty of each and every individual, but rather, laws that express Jewish values ​​in public life, and allow for deep, original, and profound Jewish creativity. It is imperative to emphasize in the most definitive manner that this does not mean religious coercion, because there is nothing more harmful to the realization of the values ​​of the Torah than the assumption that they are intended to suffocate the individual’s freedom and creativity. In the Diaspora, we were primarily concerned with safeguarding Judaism and taking cautionary actions, and therefore the coercive side was more conspicuous. However, when we want to build Jewish life in the State of Israel, we must give each individual’s freedom an extremely respectable place – as a continuation of the freedom of choice God gave to mankind. And it is essential to strive to find a balance between general Jewish identity, and the full rights of the individual.

First off, the ‘Law of Return’ must be set in a Basic Law, and its application should be defined as a person who is indeed a Jew according to halakha, or a descendant of Jews possessing a Jewish identity. Since today it is not a Basic Law, the legal establishment gnaws at it in the name of the values ​​of democracy. Also, a Basic Law determining the value of traditional Torah study as one of the most important values ​​of the spiritual revival of Shivat Tzion (Return to Zion) should also be anchored in law.

In addition, the status of Shabbat must be set in a Basic Law, according to which it must be preserved in all governmental and public frameworks. It is inconceivable that such a central value in the life of our nation can be expressed in temporary agreements, or by municipal by-laws alone. Just as the value of human dignity and liberty is set in a Basic Law and is not based on the good will of any person or community, thus Shabbat should be set in a Basic Law. The preservation of kashrut in state and public institutions must also be set in a Basic Law. The Jewish character of the IDF must also be determined in a Basic Law.

The existing laws relating to personal status in marriage and divorce, according to which family ties or their permissibility are determined by rabbinic law in rabbinical courts as the tradition of Israel, should also receive a high status of Basic Laws. Afterwards, it will be possible to find solutions to individual and personal problems in various regulations, but the personal freedom of various groups of people must not interfere with the State of Israel in anchoring the sanctity of the family in a Basic Law. Without this Basic Law, the legal establishment will continue to erode the values ​​of the Jewish family, and the status of the rabbinic courts.

The Committee Strengthens the Minority

The second area that must be dealt with is changing the composition of the committee for the selection of judges. Currently, the judges of the Supreme Court have a central position in the judges’ selection committee. Any reasonable person knows that the positions of most of the Supreme Court justices fluctuate between the extreme left, and the ordinary left. Through their excess power in the committee they replicate themselves, and thus, against the will of the public, they continue to impose their positions on it. In order to correct the injustice and the resulting legal biases, it is necessary that the Judicial Selection Committee be composed of representatives of elected officials, as is customary in all democratic countries, in varying modes. If the Meretz party receives enough votes to win a representative, it can choose a retired judge, but sitting judges will not be able to participate in the committee in any manner whatsoever – they must concentrate on the judicial profession, and refrain from political pursuits and harmful interference in the work of the legislative branch, which is also responsible for selecting judges.

Super Powers of the Attorney

The third area: the abolition of the tyranny of the Attorney General. Without any legal basis, the Attorney General and his aides exercise supreme authority over decisions, restrictions, and instructions for elected officials, who are the sole representatives of the sovereign – the people themselves. Thus, officials pretend to run the state without being elected to do so, personally fulfilling the verse “a servant who becomes a king.” They were appointed to serve the public and to be loyal to the State of Israel and its laws, and not to impose upon it their will, worldview, and values, contrary to the position of the majority, and its will.

Part of the excessive power of the office of the Attorney General derives from the inferior and corrupt connection between the role of the Attorney General and the role of the Public Prosecutor. Many public figures are confident, or at least fear, that if they dare to challenge the powers that legal advisers usurp for themselves, the legal establishment will find the way to take revenge on them – to bring them to justice, to ruin their public careers, and to harass their private lives in investigations and legal processes lasting for years. This is a method of dictatorial takeover, unparalleled in any democratic country.

Many people are used to quoting Lord Acton who said: “Power – corrupts; absolute power – corrupts absolutely.” Indeed, the legal establishment in general, and the Office of the Attorney General in particular, provide a good example of this.

Netanyahu’s Blame in the Charges against Him

Many people hoped that with the appointment of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit as Attorney General, the status of the Attorney General’s Office would be curtailed, and his position would be separated. Prime Minister Netanyahu was already about to fulfill this hope, but in the end, withdrew. Perhaps because he was afraid of the vengeful arm of the legal establishment that would haunt him by opening countless old investigations, put him and his wife on trial, and eventually throw him in jail for misdemeanors usually settled outside of court.

In practice, however, when every Attorney General knows that his job will come to a conclusion after a few years, and sets his eyes on the next honorable post – a judge in the Supreme Court – he must take into account the position of the justices on the Supreme Court. This is a structured bribe, which is very difficult to ignore. Today, in the public state of affairs that has been created, if the Attorney General still wants to remain part of the legal establishment he almost has to put Netanyahu on trial. This creates a situation in which Netanyahu himself is to blame for the situation he is in – a problem which the whole country suffers from. The only way to get us out of this mess is that his colleagues in the Likud, and coalition partners in other parties, will force him to act against the legal establishment.

It should be added that as long as the legal establishment is immersed in this deep corruption, it would also be appropriate to establish a law that does not allow an incumbent Prime Minister to be prosecuted, except in cases of particularly serious offenses.

The ‘Override Clause’ – Even by a Simple Majority

Concerning the fourth subject: The passing of the ‘Override Clause’. In all the amendments, there is, of course, also a need to determine that if the Supreme Court has the ability to invalidate laws, then the Knesset has the power to re-enact them. Today, when the Supreme Court is slanted in its positions to the left, it is forbidden to enact the ‘Override Clause’ to require more than sixty-one votes. It is possible that after the Judicial Appointments Committee changes, the composition of the judges changes, and the Basic Laws relating to the identity of the State of Israel as a Jewish state are enacted – it will be possible to establish a constitutional court, which in exceptional cases will be entitled to annul laws, and to re-enact them, a majority of seventy Knesset members would be required. Today, however, it is better not to pass any law, than to pass a law that will require more than sixty-one votes to cancel the High Court’s decision.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il

Most Important: Increase Peace

The main purpose of mourning during the days of the Omer Counting is the honoring of Torah scholars from different circles * One can take a haircut for the purpose of removing bothersome hair, for essential aesthetic needs, or for modesty * Today, shaving is not considered a festive act, and therefore, one who does not have a family custom can go according to the custom of permitting shaving, in particular before Shabbat *One can listen to calm songs at low intensity on the radio and computer * In times of need, one can be lenient and purchase new items that require the ‘Shehechiyanu’ blessing * The main custom in Ashkenazic communities abroad is not to marry at the end of Sefirat Ha’Omer, and it is proper for Ashkenazi Jews in Israel to avoid getting married during these days

Peace among Torah Scholars

During the days of Sefirat Ha’Omer (the counting of the Omer), twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva died; consequently, Jews are accustomed to observe some mourning practices during these days, for example, not to get married, not to take a haircut, and not to hold public dances unrelated to a mitzvah. Our Sages said that the disciples died “because they did not respect one another,” and as a result, the world was desolate of Torah – to the point where many believed there was no hope for Israel. Rabbi Akiva, however, did not despair, and despite the severe calamity, he once again gathered new students and taught them Torah, “and it was they who revived the Torah at that time” (Yevamot 62b).

After gathering new students, Rabbi Akiva said to them, “My sons, the first students died because of jealousy among them – make sure not to do as they did” (Bereshit Rabba 61:3). From the fact that we are accustomed to remember their deaths and its cause, we should learn that during these days in particular, we must increase honor and respect between Torah scholars from different circles.

How Long does the Mourning Last?

According to the custom of Ashkenazi Jews in the Land of Israel, the customs of avelut (mourning) continues until Lag BaOmer, and since “mikzat ha’yom k’kulo” (mourning for part of the day is considered as if one had mourned the whole day), already from the morning of Lag BaOmer it is permissible to take a haircut and get married (some authorities are lenient and permit this from the night of Lag BaOmer). According to the Sephardic custom, mourning continues until the morning of the 34th. However, even according to the Sephardic custom, during the evening of Lag BaOmer and during the day, it is also permissible to sing, to play musical instruments, and dance in honor of the hilula celebration of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, but it is still forbidden to take a haircut and marry until the morning of the thirty-fourth day of the Omer (later on the Ashkenazic custom regarding the days after Lag BaOmer will be explained).

Which Type of Haircut is Forbidden?

According to Sephardic custom, haircuts are forbidden until the morning of the thirty-fourth day of the Omer, and according to the Ashkenazi custom, until Lag BaOmer. For those who go according to the Ari HaKadosh, haircuts are forbidden until the eve of Shavuot, but this is based on kabbalah, and not because of mourning.

The haircut that is forbidden during the days of mourning is a regular haircut that has an aspect of forbidden joy, but trimming one’s mustache is permitted if it interferes with eating. Also, someone whose hair has grown to the point where it causes him a headache, or has wounds on his scalp, may take a haircut during these days.

It is also permissible for a woman to cut her hair for the needs of modesty, such as a woman whose hair pokes out of her head-covering. Also, when there is a need to remove something distasteful, women are permitted to pluck their eyebrows, and remove facial hairs.

Even young children should not be given a haircut during these days, but for a ‘tzorech gadol‘ (a great need), to prevent sorrow, it is permissible to cut their hair (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 3: 6).

Brit Milah and Rosh Chodesh

In honor of a brit milah (circumcision), the main celebrants are allowed to take a haircut. The celebrants are the father of the son, the sandak (the one who holds the baby while being circumcised), and the mohel (the one who performs the circumcision) (Mishna Berura, 493:12).

When the Rosh Chodesh Iyar falls on Shabbat, according to the Ashkenazic custom it is permissible to take a haircut in its honor (M.B. 493: 5), and according to the custom of the Sephardim, only in pressing situations are they lenient (Kaf HaChaim 493:42).

Is Shaving Forbidden?

According to numerous poskim, shaving is included in the taking of a haircut, and on all the days when it is forbidden to take a haircut, it is forbidden to shave; only if one is liable to lose his livelihood if he does not shave is permitted to shave (Kaf HaChaim, Iggrot Moshe). This is the practice of most yeshiva students, who do not shave during the days of mourning of Sefirat HaOmer.

On the other hand, some poskim believe that there is a fundamental difference between a haircut and a shave. Taking a haircut involves an aspect of festivity, as it is customary for people to take haircuts before holidays and festive events; on the other hand, today shaving is routine, performed every day or every few days, and its goal is to remove the stubble that mars the faces of those who are accustomed to shave, and the custom of not taking a haircut does not apply to such a person. According to these poskim, particularly on the eve of Shabbat it is appropriate to shave, so as not to accept Shabbat in an undignified manner. Apparently, this is the opinion of some of the eminent Gedolei Achronim, that in honor of Shabbat, it would be appropriate to shave (Magen Avraham 551:14; Biur Halakha 551:3).

In practice, it is appropriate for every person to continue his father’s custom. For those who do not have a custom – it is preferable to shave before every Shabbat, as well as before Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Independence Day). And if one wishes, he can shave every day, because the lenient opinion seems more logical (Peninei Halakha, ibid 3: 7).

Joy and Trips

During these days, public dancing or sing-a-longs should not be held, and performances by singers or orchestras should not be held. Youth trips where the participants are accustomed to sing out loud and make noise should not be held, but a regular trip is permitted. It is also permissible to go on a vacation during these days.

The Joy of a Mitzvah

It is permitted to hold a seudat mitzvah (festive meal) and to sing and dance there as is customary throughout the year. For example, it is permissible to conduct seudat brit milah, pidyon ha’ben (redeeming the first born son), and a siyum masechet (concluding a tractate of Talmud) during the days of Sefirat HaOmer. And those who are accustomed at such meals to dance and play joyful music – may do so, because this is the joy of a mitzvah.

It is permitted to insert a new Torah scroll into a synagogue with song, melodies and dancing as is customary, because these are dances and melodies for the sake of a mitzvah.

The same applies to a seudat Bar Mitzvah that takes place on the day the boy reaches Bar-Mitzvah, which is permitted to be observed as is customary throughout the year. When the Bar Mitzvah party cannot be held on the day the boy reaches Bar-Mitzvah, it is permitted to hold the meal without playing music. And if they set to finish a Tractate or an Order of the Mishnah at the beginning of the party, they can play music as they are accustomed to at every Bar Mitzvah celebration (Peninei Halakha, ibid, 3: 9).

But a wedding, although it is a joy of a mitzvah, is not held, because the joy of a wedding is exceptionally splendid.

Listening to Music on Electronic Devices

Many poskim hold that there is no difference between listening to live music and listening to music on the radio, or by way of any other electronic device; both are forbidden during Sefirah (until Lag B’Omer) (Iggrot Moshe, Y.D. 2:137, Yechaveh Da’at 6:34).
On the other hand, some authorities hold that the prohibition against listening to musical instruments during this period of mourning does not apply to listening to music on the radio or any other household, electronic device. The rationale being that listening to music this way is not as festive as is listening to it live. Furthermore, nowadays, everyone listens to music on electronic devices regularly, and since it has become so routine, the festiveness and joy associated with listening to music has disappeared. In addition, a distinction should be made between joyous songs and regular songs. Only regarding joyous songs is it logical to prohibit household devices, but one should not prohibit regular music – and certainly not sad tunes – during the mourning period of the Omer. One who wishes to act leniently may rely on this opinion and listen to regular and sad songs on a household, electronic device. He should not, however, listen to them loudly, because the force of the sound that fills the room generates a certain atmosphere of jubilation (Peninei Halakha, ibid, 3:10). According to all opinions, a driver may listen to music in order to keep himself awake.

Buying New Products

Unlike “Yamei Bein Ha’Maytzarim” (The Three Weeks) when it is customary not to recite the ‘Shehecheyanu‘ blessing, during Sefirat HaOmer it is permissible to buy a garment, a new piece of furniture, or a new fruit, and to recite the ‘Shehecheyanu‘ blessing. Indeed, there are some poskim who, l’chatchila, (from the outset) are stringent not to recite the blessing; however, in practice, when necessary, it is possible to be lenient. And someone who wishes to enhance the mitzvah should attempt to wear or use the new product and recite “Shehecheyanu” over them in times of joy, such as Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, or Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Peninei Halakha 3:11).

Between Lag BaOmer and Shavuot

As we learned according to Sephardic custom, the customs of mourning cease on the thirty-fourth day of the Omer, because the rule is that fifteen days before Shavuot, the days of mourning cease. However, according to Ashkenazic custom, the rule is that 33 days of mourning can be observed at the beginning of the Omer until Lag BaOmer, or it is possible to observe them at the end of the days of Sefirat HaOmer from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until the eve of Shavuot.

In the past, most Ashkenazic communities preferred mourning at the end of the days of the counting, because during these days there were more catastrophes in Ashkenaz.  About 1,000 years after the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students, during the Crusades that began in the fifth millennium (1096), the Christians in Ashkenaz murdered tens of thousands of Jews, and most of these disasters occurred during the days of Sefirat HaOmer. About five hundred years later, in 1648 and 1649, terrible murders again took place in Eastern Europe. Tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered, and these riots also took place mostly during the days of the Omer.

Even though the principle is that when different communities gather, each community is permitted to continue its practice, l’chatchila (ideally), it is preferable not to increase divisions. Therefore, as a result of the custom of the Sephardim, almost all the Ashkenazim in Israel are accustomed to observe the days of mourning until Lag BaOmer. However, an Ashkenazi who wishes to do so may continue the custom of his family and observe the days of mourning at the end of the Omer.

Marriage and Joy after Lag BaOmer

According to Sephardic custom, after the thirty-fourth of Omer, there is no longer any custom of mourning, and it is permitted to hold marriages and celebrations without limitation.

However, according to the custom of the Ashkenazim, since the prevalent custom in the past was to practice mourning customs at the end of the Omer period because of the calamities that occurred in them, even today, when the main mourning customs end on Lag Ba’Omer, it is customary not to hold large celebrations such as musical performances and happy dance evenings until Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Nevertheless, an aerobic dance class and the like can be held, because it is mainly for exercise. On the 28th of Iyar, the day of the Liberation of Jerusalem, it is permitted to hold large celebrations and marriages even according to the custom of Ashkenaz.

Many Ashkenazic Jews do not get married during these days, but some poskim are of the opinion that Ashkenazic Jews are also permitted to get married during the days following Lag BaOmer, and when necessary, one should consult with the local rabbi, or one’s distinct rabbi, whether to rely on the lenient opinion.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il/

A Week of Torah and Joy

The purpose of Chol Hamoed is the study of Torah out of joy * One is permitted to do laundry on Chol Hamoed only for clothes that get dirty quickly, and only if one has no other clothes left to wear * Someone who shaves every day and shaved before the holiday – according to halakha he is permitted, and it is even a mitzvah, for him to shave on Chol Hamoed * Children’s hair can be cut, and a ‘chalaka’ can be performed * Only food stores can operate on Chol Hamoed; consequently, spending time in a mall that does not sell food is prohibited, and strengthens offenders of Jewish law * A trip is considered a purpose of the Moed, but only if it is short and does not harm the main purpose of the Moed – rest from every day work, and Torah study.

The Moed is intended for Joyful Torah Learning

The holidays were given to Israel so that they could study Torah with joy. Throughout the week a person is preoccupied with his work, and it is difficult for him to devote sufficient time to Torah study. Therefore, God gave us holy days in which we could engross ourselves in Torah study. Our Sages said in the Midrash: “These are My festivals” – when you, the Jewish nation, perform the mitzvot and sanctify the festivals by gathering the people at synagogues in order to study Torah, the Holy One, blessed be He, says: These are My festivals; if not, God says: These are not My festivals, rather, they’re your festivals. This is exactly what a wicked man once alleged against Rabbi Akiva – that there is no value to Israel’s festivals, for God said to the prophet: “Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them” (Isaiah 1:14). Rabbi Akiva answered him, saying that indeed, if the holidays are only meant for the enjoyment of one’s belly, they are hated. But when the holidays are designated for the worship of God, for the study of Torah, and the joy of the holiday, they are cherished and beloved festivals (Shlah HaKadosh, Talmud Sukkah, Ner Mitzvah 31).

Prohibition of Washing Clothes during Chol Hamoed

It is a mitzvah to wash one’s clothes before Chag, and in order for people not be negligent in this matter, our Sages prohibited washing clothes during Chol HaMoed. In other words, according to the strict law, it is permissible to wash clothes on Chol HaMoed in order to wear them on the Moed, because this is considered melechet hedyot l’tzorech ha’Moed (a layman’s work, for the purpose of the Moed); nevertheless, our Sages prohibited this, so there won’t be a situation where people postpone washing their clothes until Chol HaMoed – when they are off from work – and as a result, disgrace the holiday by entering it unkempt (dirty).

Clothes that Tend to Get Dirty

Included in the prohibition are shirts, pants, dress, skirt, suit, coat, and all the like. But clothes that get dirty often, like babies’ and children’s clothes, are permitted to be washed on Chol HaMoed for the purpose of wearing them on the Moed. This holds true for socks and underwear as well, since people change them on a daily basis because of sweat; after having used all the clean ones, one is permitted to wash what he will need for the rest of the Moed. This is because the reason for the prohibition is so that people will wash clothes before the holiday, but our Sages did not make a decree on clothes that even if washed before the holiday, would have to be washed again during the Moed. And there is no need to be discreet about these garments having been laundered, because everyone knows that it is permissible to wash such clothes.

Nevertheless, all baby clothes and socks and underwear should be washed before the holiday, and only after using all the clean clothes would it be permitted to wash the clothes needed for the Moed. One should be careful not to add clothes to be washed for the weekdays after the holiday (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 11: 11-12).

Usually, children from the age of nine no longer dirty their clothes, and there is no heter (halachic permission) to wash their clothes on Chol HaMoed. However, if they are children who tend to get dirtier than normal, it is permissible to wash their clothes for the Chag, even when they are nine or ten years old (ibid.).

It is permissible to remove a stain by use of water and detergent, because the cleaning of a stain was not included in the gezeira (decree). Although there are those who act stringently in this matter, the opinion of the majority of poskim is to be lenient. However, as long as one still has a clean garment, it is better to wear it (ibid.).

A Person Who Has One Garment

A person who has only one garment and it got dirty during the Chag, our Sages permitted him to wash it on Chol HaMoed, because even if it was washed on the eve of Chag, it would probably get dirty again during the seven days of the festival, and the Sages did not want to make a gezeira that one would have to go around with a dirty garment on the Moed. Therefore, a person who has only one shirt and it gets dirty, or a woman who has only one dress and it gets dirty, they are allowed to wash it. In this case, one should make sure to wash the garment discreetly, i.e., in a household washing machine, and not to hang it outside to dry.

However, a person who has two garments, even if they get dirty and it causes him sorrow to wear them, it is forbidden for him to wash them on Moed, because two garments are supposed to be sufficient for the duration of the Chag. And even when one of the garments is not as nice looking, he is considered as having two garments. A woman who has a full dress, plus a skirt and a shirt, is considered to have two garments. And even if both of the garments got slightly dirty, it is forbidden to wash them, but must be worn as is.

A person who has one garment for Shabbat and Chag, and one for everyday use, if he is not used to wearing his everyday garment on Shabbat – he is considered as having only one garment for Shabbat and Chag, and if his Shabbat garment got dirty, it may be washed in a washing machine for Chag Sheni (second holiday).

When all of one’s clothes become so dirty that because of embarrassment, and without great need, a man or a woman would prefer to stay at home and not go out with such dirty clothes – it is permissible to wash the necessary clothes, so they will not be ashamed to leave the house.


It is permissible to iron clothes non-professionally in order to wear during the Chag, but it is forbidden to press folds in a professional manner (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 11:7).

Shaving and Haircut

It is a mitzvah to take a haircut and shave before Chag. And so that people not be negligent and enter Chag disheveled and unshaven, reasoning that during Chol HaMoed there would be plenty of time and they can then get their hair cut and take shave, our Sages forbade shaving and haircutting on Chol HaMoed. In other words, despite the fact that on Chol HaMoed, melachot designed for bodily needs are permitted, our Sages forbade the cutting of hair and shaving on Chol HaMoed, so that everyone would be careful to cut their hair and shave before Chag, and not enter Chag disheveled and unshaven, and thus disgrace the Chag (Moed Katan 14a; Peninei Halakha: Moadim 11:9).

The prohibition applies only to the hair of one’s head and beard, which, when wildly grown beyond one’s norm, causes him to look unkempt and demeans the Chag. But the rest of the hair of one’s body was not included in the gezeira of our Sages, and therefore it is permissible to remove on Chol HaMoed any hair that causes sorrow, including the hair of one’s mustache (ibid).

A Haircut for a Child

If a child’s hair is long and it bothers him it can be cut, for since he has not yet reached the age of mitzvot, he does not have the obligation to prepare for Chag, and consequently, our Sages did not decree to refrain from cutting his hair on Chol HaMoed (S.A., O.C. 531:6). Those who celebrate the first haircutting of a three-year old boy, are permitted to cut his hair on Chol HaMoed, and even his birthday falls before the Chag, they are permitted to delay his haircut till Chol HaMoed in order to increase the joy of the Moed (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 11:9).

Shaving on Chol HaMoed in Our Times

Many poskim are of the opinion that even men who are accustomed to shave every day, must not shave on Chol HaMoed. However, in practice it seems that the halakha goes according to the lenient opinion, which holds that anyone who shaved before the first Chag – is permitted to shave on Chol HaMoed, since he was not negligent in the honor of Yom Tov, and his shaving before Yom Tov is not beneficial for the entire Chag. And since it is permissible for him to shave, it is a mitzvah to shave in order to honor Chol HaMoed, and in particular, it is a mitzvah to shave in honor of Shabbat and the last Chag.

However, someone whose father is accustomed to be strict and not shave on Chol HaMoed, if the son’s shaving causes his father grief, it is proper for the son to act as his father does, and thus, merit the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 11:9, footnote 4).

Trimming Nails, and Shining Shoes

It is a mitzvah to trim one’s nails before Chag. Indeed, be-di’avad (after the fact), according to the majority of poskim, even one who did not trim his nails before Chag, it is permissible for him to trim his nails on Chol HaMoed, just as it is permissible to do anything that benefits one’s body (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 11:10). It is permissible to shine one’s shoes on Chol HaMoed (ibid, 11:7).

Commerce, Stores, and Malls

Commerce is forbidden on Chol HaMoed; only food needed for the Moed is allowed to be purchased or sold without restriction. Therefore, the only stores that are permitted to open on Chol HaMoed are food stores.

In principle, however, if a real need suddenly arises, it is permissible to purchase non-food items on Chol HaMoed, such as clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils, electrical appliances, or a book to study. But in practice, this heter is almost never implemented, and consequently, those who spend time shopping at malls desecrate the Moed, because apart from the food stores, it is forbidden to purchase things in stores there since they were opened in contradiction to halakha. There are two reasons for this:

1) Regarding things that are not food products, the heter to purchase during the Chol HaMoed is only for someone who did not know before Chag that they would need them on the Moed; but if one knew, and did not buy – it is forbidden for him to buy on the Moed, because he is leaving his everyday work to be done on the Moed.

2) Even if there is a sudden need during the Moed, it is forbidden to buy from a person who opens his shop in contradiction to halakha, so as not to assist transgressors. In practice, almost all stores that open publicly are open in contradiction to halakha. The whole heter is in order to buy from a shop of a non-Jew, or from a Jew who shuts down his shop on Moed but sells privately and discreetly to someone who asks for something he needs for the Chag (Peninei Halakha:Moadim 11:16).

Trips – Briefly, and Without Hassle

It is permitted to travel on Chol HaMoed for a trip. A trip is considered one of the needs of the Chag, and it is permitted to perform melechet hedyot (the work of a layman), such as a driving a car. However, it is forbidden to travel for purposes not connected to the Moed, such as taking driving lessons, or in order to see something on Moed for work purposes after Chag.

Someone who has to travel on Moed is permitted to perform minor car repairs that a layman knows how to perform. It is therefore permissible to change a wheel when necessary, and a small repair may be performed that does not require special tools, or the skill of a professional. But a professional repair is only allowed to avoid a major work loss.

It appears that the heter to take trips during Chol HaMoed is intended for short trips that are not draining and bothersome, but rather, blend in with the goal of Chol HaMoed – namely, to rest from every day work, enjoy festive meals, and study Torah – for one must devote approximately half the day to Torah study; consequently, room for trips is included in the second half of one’s time, in which he must also eat his meals. However, it seems that for a trip to go up to Jerusalem, the Holy City, and the City of the Holy Temple, one can take a long trip (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 1:6; 11:15).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, ands thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il/

Koshering for Pesach Made Easy

Rules for simple koshering of the kitchen for Pesach * A utensil that rarely comes into contact with fire – if it is difficult to do ‘libun’, it can be koshered according to its main use * New self-cleaning ovens that clean themselves at high temperatures do not need additional cleaning and koshering * To kosher marble countertops and sinks, it is enough to pour boiling water on them, but many people have the custom of covering them * Today’s tables do not require boiling water poured on them * The main cleaning for Pesach is in the kitchen

“Ke-bole’o Kakh Polto”

The most basic principle of koshering cooking utensils is that forbidden taste is released from the utensil in the same manner that it was absorbed: “ke-bole’o kakh polto.”  In other words, the utensil must be koshered in the same way that it was used inadvertently, or with chametz. There are two main modes of by fire, and its koshering is done by heavy libun. 2) Boiling water, and its koshering is by ‘hagala’ in boiling water.

There are differing levels in this as well: kli rishon on the flame (the utensil in which the food is cooked), a kli rishon removed from the flame, irui (liquid poured from a kli rishon) and a kli sheni. ‘Ke-bole’o kack polto’.

When are Foods Prohibited?

Le-khatchila (from the outset), one should not use a utensil that was used in a prohibited way, or with chametz, without koshering it in the same way that it was used. However, be-di’avad (after the fact), if a pot that was not koshered was accidentally used, usually, the food in which it was cooked is kosher, since the prohibited taste is undetectable. The reason is that after twenty-four hours have elapsed, the prohibited taste absorbed in it does not taste good. But if one consciously used the utensil without koshering it, our Sages fined such a person – that the food cooked in it is forbidden. The same holds true for Pesach – anyone who unintentionally used a utensil or the marble countertop without koshering – it can be used be-di’avad, but if it was done intentionally – the food is forbidden (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 7: 5, footnote 5).

A Utensil that Absorbed Chametz on Two Levels

If a utensil absorbed chametz on two levels, such as a spoon that sometimes absorbed chametz in a kli rishon on the fire, and occasionally by way of a kli sheni – it is koshered according to its more severe use – i.e., in boiling water on the fire. However, when it is difficult or likely to cause damage, we go according to its majority use. For example, a fork that is usually used as a kli rishon or sheni, whose koshering is done in boiling water, but occasionally is used to check to see if a cake or pastry in the oven is cooked on the inside, in which case its absorption is by fire – since libun is liable to damage the fork, we go according to the letter of the law, and kosher the fork according to its majority use in boiling water.

Koshering a Baking Oven

To kosher an oven, clean it thoroughly and run it at its highest setting for half an hour.

It is difficult to kosher baking trays. Given that they absorb through fire, they require heavy libun, but since heavy libun will cause them serious damage, they may not be koshered. One must therefore buy special baking trays for Pesach, while the chametz trays must be cleaned and put away like all other chametz utensils. If one does not have Pesach trays, he may use disposable trays. However, he must also kosher the racks along with the oven and cover them with aluminum foil, and only then he may place the disposable trays on the racks.

Ovens that self-clean at a temperature of 500ºC need not be cleaned before koshering because such intense heat is considered heavy libun and is sufficient to kosher the oven for Pesach.

A toaster that comes directly in contact with food placed in it, requires heavy libun, and since it is liable to be damaged in the process, it should not be koshered. If it is a small oven, it can be koshered the same way as a baking oven, and for Pesach, disposable trays should be used.

Koshering the Gas Burners

Throughout the year, people usually use the same stovetop grates for both meat and milk, because even if some meat or dairy food spills onto them, the flame incinerates and befouls whatever has spilled. However, people customarily perform light libun on such grates for Pesach, because of the seriousness of the chametz prohibition. Alternatively, one may wrap thick aluminum foil around the bars on which pots sit, so that there is a barrier between the Pesach pots and the parts of the grates that came into contact with chametzBe-di’avad, the food remains kosher even if cooked on grates that did not undergo libun (as is the case throughout the year with regard to meat and milk).

The areas of the grates that do not come into contact with the pots, the enamel cook top beneath the grates, and the burners must be cleaned well of all residual food. Since none of these parts come into contact with the pots, they need not undergo libun or be covered with foil. Generally, people turn on all the flames for half an hour.

Food that Falls On the Burners

It is also important to know that throughout the year one should be stringent and refrain from eating food that has fallen onto the enamel cook top under the grates, because meat and dairy foods spill there, and the enamel becomes not kosher. If one knows that the enamel has been cleaned thoroughly and that no meat and dairy foods have spilled on it in the past twenty-four hours, one may eat what falls there.

Electric Ranges and Ceramic Burners

Electric ranges: Clean thoroughly and run on the highest setting for half an hour.

Ceramic burners: These look like smooth and unbroken glass surfaces on which pots are placed directly. They are koshered by cleaning and then heating on the highest setting for half an hour, based on the principle of ke-bole’o kakh polto.

Marble Countertops and Sinks

Kitchen countertops are generally cold, but sometimes hot chametz foods or boiling pots from the stove are placed on them, and if some sauce spills on the countertop, it is absorbed at the level of a “kli rishon removed from the flame.”

In order to kosher a countertop, one must first clean it well, paying special attention to crevices and making sure that no food remains stuck in them.

Marble countertops should ideally be koshered by pouring boiling water over them while placing a scalding hot stone or piece of metal on them. By doing so, the water is brought to a boil and reaches a koshering level of a kli rishon removed from the flame. However, it is difficult to bring metal to such a heat in private homes, and doing so could damage the countertop. Therefore, the general practice is to suffice with pouring boiling water on the countertop. In this case, one should make sure not to use the countertop for Pesach foods until twenty-four hours have elapsed since the last time hot chametz foods were on the countertops. Instead of pouring hot water, one may also cover the countertops entirely with oilcloth or thick foil in order to separate between the countertops and the Pesach utensils.

Those who are stringent do both – they pour boiling water on the countertop and then cover it with linoleum or thick foil.

Fragile countertops, on which boiling pots are never placed, can be koshered by merely cleaning and pouring boiling water on them.

Warming Trays (Shabbat “Plata”s)

 They must be cleaned thoroughly, heated for an hour, and then covered with aluminum foil to separate the plata from the Pesach pots.


The common practice is to kosher a microwave oven in four steps: 1) cleaning it thoroughly of any residual food resulting from spillage or vaporization; 2) waiting twenty-four hours so that the absorbed taste becomes foul; 3) heating a container of water in it for three minutes (since microwave ovens absorb chametz via vapor that rises from food as it is heated); 4) placing something as a barrier between the turntable and the food that will be heated in the microwave, because chametz may have spilled onto the turntable.


The filter, where residual food often gets stuck, must be cleaned thoroughly. Then the dishwasher should be run at its hottest setting, so that any absorbed chametz is released, ke-bole’o kakh polto. Regarding the racks, le-khatchila they should undergo hagala or irui with boiling water or be replaced. If it is difficult to kosher them through hagala or to replace them, one may perform hagala by running them through the dishwasher’s longest and hottest setting.

In any event, one must wait twenty-four hours after the last load of chametz utensils before using the machine with Pesach utensils.

Some take a stringent approach to dishwashers and consider them to have the status of a kli rishon on a flame. This means that to kosher a dishwasher one must put a white-hot piece of metal in it in order to boil the water. However, those who follow the lenient approach have authorities on whom to rely.

Dining Room Table

 In the past, people would kosher their tables by pouring boiling water over them, and some took the stringent approach of pouring boiling water onto a white-hot stone on the table, so that the koshering would be at the level of kli rishon. However, today’s tables are more delicate and fragile, and would be damaged, warped, or defaced by boiling hot water.

Therefore, the mainstream approach is to clean the table well and affix nylon or paper to it, creating a set barrier between the table and Pesach utensils and foods. In addition, a tablecloth should be spread over the nylon or paper, and it is a good idea to avoid placing boiling hot pots directly on the table.


 Because they are used with cold food, the only concern is that some chametz crumbs might remain there. Therefore, cleaning them is what koshers them. In hard to reach places where chametz crumbs may have gotten stuck, one must pour soapy water or some other substance that will befoul the crumbs and render them unfit for animal consumption.

 Kitchen Cabinets

When kitchen cupboards were made of natural wood, they often had cracks that were difficult to clean completely from chametz that got stuck there, therefore people were accustomed to cover the shelves with paper or cloth. However, there is no concern that chametz remained in smooth shelves like those used today. Therefore, once they have been cleaned properly, they need not be covered with paper or cloth.

Other Utensils

 Silver goblets: It is proper, le-khatchila, to perform hagala on silver goblets used for kiddush wine and other hard drinks, because crumbs sometimes fall into the goblet along with these strong drinks, which, according to some poskim, causes their taste to be absorbed into the goblet after eighteen minutes.

Plastic baby bottles: It is better to replace them because they absorb tastes at a level of irui from a kli rishon. When necessary, one may clean them and perform hagala.

Electric water heaters, urns, samovars, and hot water kettles must undergo hagala, because chametz crumbs may have fallen into them, causing their taste to be absorbed. Hagala in this case means filling the device to the top with water, boiling it, and then pouring it out through the opening generally used to dispense the water. Before hagala, it is good to clean out the stone deposits that accumulated inside. If one puts challah loaves on the lid of the urn to warm them before the Shabbat meal, hagala should be performed on the kettle and its lid. Thermos: After cleaning it properly, hagala should be performed on it. If this is difficult, pouring boiling water into it and around its opening is sufficient.

False Teeth, Retainers, and Braces

 These should be cleaned thoroughly before the onset of the chametz prohibition. They need not undergo hagala, because people do not normally put boiling foods or liquids in their mouths; just as they are used for both meat and dairy when cleaned in between, so can they be used on Pesach.

Braces that are stuck on the teeth for a few months are like the teeth themselves, and just as one cleans his teeth well before Pesach, so too, must he clean with a toothbrush around the braces.

Cleaning the House

There is a huge difference between cleaning one’s house for Pesach, and cleaning the kitchen. In cleaning the house, the goal is not to leave a crumb of chametz the size of an olive, so that we will transgress by means of it the prohibitions of “bal yera’eh” or “bal yimatze“; whereas cleaning the kitchen and its utensils, the goal is not to leave even the smallest amount of chametz, lest it get mixed in with other Pesach food. As is known, chametz on Pesach is forbidden ‘b’kol she’hu’ (even the slightest amount). And when it comes to the utensils used to cook in, there should also be no trace of the taste of chametz stuck or absorbed in the utensils.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from English. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il/

Family is Joy

Selling chametz via the Internet is a solution in a time of need * There is no need for thick pamphlets of medicines kosher for Pesach – only flavored medicines require kashrut certification * The Ashkenazi custom to eat hard matzos is a virtue, not an obligation * Modern and post-modern approaches attack family values ​​because they espouse individual choice to the extreme, reaching the point of egoism * The family does not harm one’s capabilities, rather, empowers them * Nowadays, precisely when one is able to live alone, the family is transformed from being an existential need, to an even higher value


From the Laws of Pesach: Chametz Absorbed into Utensils

One should not sell the chametz that is absorbed into utensils. Quite a few laws relating to mekhirat chametz were introduced in order to make it clear to all that it is an actual sale, but if one writes that he is selling the chametz absorbed in his utensils, the sale will appear to be lacking seriousness, since chametz absorbed in utensils has no value and nobody is interested in buying chametz absorbed in utensils. It is therefore correct not to indicate this in the sale contract. Indeed, if there was a halakhic need for this, the sale of the chametz absorbed in utensils would have been considered a serious issue, but according to halakha it is unnecessary, for it was ruled: “Ceramic dishes that have been used for chametz the whole year, even if they were used for oats or other grains, should be wiped well such that there is no noticeable chametz left, and then it is permitted to keep them until after Passover… they should be hidden on Pesach in a hidden place where one does not normally go, lest one come to use them on Pesach” (S.A.,O.C.451:1). After Pesach, one can go back to using them for chametz. Consequently, according to halakha there is no need to sell chametz utensils, or the chametz absorbed or stuck to them, and therefore, someone who sells them makes the halakha and the sale look silly and unserious.

The Sale of Chametz Online

If necessary, one may sell chametz over the phone, or via the Internet. Usually, the person selling chametz signs and performs a kinyan (act of acquisition) in order to empower the Rabbinate as a shaliach. Nonetheless, the kinyan is not crucial, as the most important thing is the transaction between the Rabbinate and the gentile when it makes the sale between the owners of the chametz to the gentile.

Medications on Pesach

Regarding a flavored medicine, like syrup, lozenges, or chewables, one must ascertain that it is kosher for Pesach, and as long as one is not sure it is kosher for Pesach, it is forbidden to eat. Only one who is seriously ill and his medicine does not have a good substitute, is permitted to eat it, because ‘pikuach nefesh’ (preservation of human life) overrides the prohibition against eating chametz.

However, a tasteless medicine does not require kashrut certification, because even if edible chametz was previously mixed in it, since it is not fit to eat even under pressing circumstances, because even for ‘achilat kelev’ (feeding it to a dog) is not fit, it no longer is forbidden to be eaten, and it permitted to swallow for any medical need.

However, there are some who are careful not to swallow even bitter medicines that contain a mixture of chametz, because they take into consideration the opinion of a few poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who believe that since the medicine is important to us, it is not considered unfit for ‘achilat kelev’, and it is forbidden to be eaten owing to ‘Divrei Chachamim’ (rabbinical decree). However, the halakha goes according to majority of poskim, and it is permissible to swallow a medicine that is not fit for eating without examining its kashrut first.

It should be added that the chances of a medicine containing chametz are very low, and even more so today when many people are sensitive to gluten, and grain is not mixed-in freely, rather, gluten-free substitutes are used.

Therefore, the thick guides that the HMOs publish are superfluous, and they should have focused their efforts on flavored medicines. They fulfilled the general rule: “Tafasta merubeh, lo tafasta” (“If you have seized a lot, you have not seized”). Due to the preoccupation with tasteless medicines, no effort is made to clarify the composition of the flavored medicines, which are the only ones whose clarification is important, and which are often neglected.

Medicines on Shabbat

Our Sages decreed that on Shabbat a mildly sick person should not take medicine, lest he come to pulverize herbal ingredients to prepare a medication and thereby violate the Torah prohibition of Tochen (grinding). However, with respect to medicines manufactured in factories, the poskim disagree, and therefore, for those truly in pain, it is permissible to take them. But if one is not in such great pain – it is forbidden. All this is on the condition that one is not used to taking medications such as Acamol (Paracetamol) or nasal drops from time to time. But if one usually takes such medications as the majority of people do in our times, if one feels that he needs it, he is permitted to continue taking the medicine on Shabbat, since he makes sure they are prepared in advance, there is no concern he will come to pulverize herbal ingredients to prepare a medication (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 28: 5-6).

Soft Matzot for Ashkenazim

Q: Can Ashkenazim eat soft matzot?

A: By strict law, there is no halakha that says matzot must be hard, but rather, it is a ‘minhag‘ (custom) of Ashkenazim to eat hard matzot. There are two reasons for this: one is that the hard matzot are kept fresh for a long time, and therefore before Pesach, matzot can be prepared for the entire holiday of Pesach. The second reason is that from a halakhic point of view, hard matzot have two virtues: 1) when the matzot are baked before Pesach, even if chametz is mixed in, as long as it is less than one-sixtieth it is null and void, and permissible for eating on Pesach. However, if this mixture is created on Pesach, the matzot are forbidden, because on Pesach chametz is forbidden be’kol she’hu (in any amount). 2) The ability to know whether the matza has become chametz depends on the ‘threads‘ that string from the baked matza. In hard matzot, this can be detected easily, while in soft matzot, it requires more expertise.

Since this ‘minhag‘ also has halachic virtues, it should not be nullified without reason. However, when necessary, since it is not prescribed as a binding ‘minhag’, it is possible to be lenient.

Pesach, Family, and the New Book

In the past few months, I have been busy preparing books for print. In my previous column, I wrote about the new and upgraded version of “Peninei Halakha: Ha’am ve’ Ha’Aretz” (“The Nation and the Land”); now I will talk about the new and upgraded book “Likutim” which deals with family matters.

Most of my work in the recent past has been writing and preparing ‘hilchot kashrut’ (dietary laws). At present with the help of God, I am finishing preparing the first volume (out of two), in which all the laws relating to vegetation and living creatures are explained, and therefore some of the laws that appear in the ‘Likutim’ books will not appear in the coming volumes. Consequently, ‘Likutim’ Volume 3 will end up devoted entirely to family matters. Since this is the case, I have added to it other laws I have written over the years in matters of marriage, modesty, laws of mourning and their meanings, and various other laws. Thus, more than seventy pages have been added to the book.

Since most of the halachot in this book have been printed in the previous edition, and those who purchased the older edition may feel deprived, I asked the publishers to sell the new book at cost price for three months to anyone who has an old edition of ‘Likutim: Mishpacha’ Volume 3.

The Attacks on Family Values

Family values ​​are at the center of a person’s world, and in keeping with their importance and centrality, they are under attack today from various directions. In modern society, and even more so in post-modernism, man is perceived as a loner and individual; family weighs down on him, impinging on his freedom of revealing his desires without restraint. This is the case with regard to parent-child relations, with the mitzvah to honor one’s parents under attack by the accepted psychological positions, to the point where parents are accused of all the emotional complications of their children. Even more so, the marriage framework is under attack, because it ostensibly violates the freedom and rights of women and children. Thus in actuality in Western secular society, most married couples get divorced, and the majority of people live for most of their adult lives without a stable relationship.

Changing from Existential Need, to an Exalted Value

In the past, family values ​​were an existential need, for without a family, a person could not provide for his own material needs, and protect himself. Therefore, all of human society extolled the nuclear and extended family values, ​​and established rules and regulations according to which the family was governed. On a higher, more sacred level, according to Torah instruction family life is guided in such a way that all members of a family are elevated to a spiritual life of holiness, Torah, and mitzvot. Contrasted with the situation in the past, in modern society an individual adult can take care of himself, achieving his material needs and the various social activities he enjoys. Not only is he not in need of family but family is liable to burden him down, delay his professional progress, interfere with his daily and nightly enjoyment as he sees fit, consume all his money, deprive him of his freedom, oblige him to take care of his parents in their old age, to be faithful to his wife, and to devote himself to his children’s education. The value of freedom is indeed sacred, but if misused, it reinforces the egoistic position that views man as a loner, and a serves a mortal blow to family values ​​- and ultimately, even in man, because loneliness is a complicated living situation, full of sadness and pain – especially when a person is enfeebled.

We must return to and deepen family values and the mitzvoth they entail in order to fulfill these commandments for their loftiest value, both in a person’s relationship with his parents, in relation to the sacred covenant of marriage with which he becomes a whole person, and in relation to his children. According to this view which we have learned from the Torah, man is not a loner, but part of a family, and this does not harm the revealing of his vitality and freedom, rather, it empowers them. In order for this to happen, we must study these commandments in a deep manner, and fulfill them.

In this book, as in ‘Peninei Halakha’, the volume of ‘Simchat HaBayit U’Verchato’, which was published in 2011, while studying the mitzvot and halachot, one is exposed to the elements of a good and exalted family life.

Seder Night and Family Values

​​The Seder and its mitzvot are intended to establish the tradition of Jewish faith, and this mitzvah must be done with joy as we are commanded to be happy on every holiday, and especially on Seder night, for which we were commanded to drink four glasses of wine, so that the whole order of the Haggadah be said over a glass of wine, by means of freedom and joy. Nevertheless, occasionally it is difficult for some people to be happy, and instead, they pout at each other, to the point where family gatherings causes tension and arguments.

The Torah teaches us that whenever a person is happy, he should share his joy with family and make them happy. In other words, true joy depends on the fact that one must first delight his family members (see ‘Peninei Halakha: Moadim 1: 11). From this, one can come to a very deep understanding: family is the opportunity to give love and joy in an orderly and stable manner. When a person arrives at Seder night with a feeling of a mission, and his intent is make others happy, to show them a happy face and compliment them, he is guaranteed to fulfill the mitzvoth of the holiday with extra joy, and he himself will leave the family reunion full of vitality and blessing for the entire year.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il/