Praying Towards Jerusalem Or Towards The Aron

Today’s article is dedicated to the memory of Yaakov Chanoch Henech ben R’ Baruch Naftali Hertz a”h.

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. When one is praying shemoneh esrei one should always face the direction of Jerusalem (Brachos 30a and Shulchan Aruch 94).

2. It is for this reason that we always place the Aron Kodesh on the wall that is facing Jerusalem. This way we can face both Jerusalem and the Aron when we are praying (Mishnah Berurah 94:9).

3. The question arises what should one do if he is praying in a shul which (for whatever reason) placed the Aron on a different wall. Should he face Jerusalem or the Aron?

4. The Mishnah Berurah, in his commentary Biur Halacha (150), discusses this very issue and he writes that he is not sure what the hallachic ruling should be.

5. Although in his commentary Biur Halacha he does not offer a definitive ruling, in his commentary Mishnah Berurah (94:9,10) he definitively rules that one should pray in the direction of Jerusalem and not the Aron Kodesh. He writes, “Because one must face Jerusalem when he prays it is customary to place the Aron on the eastern wall. If one cannot place the Aron on the eastern wall he should place it on the southern wall. Care should be taken not to place in on the western wall since this would lead the congregants to pray with their backs to the Aron. Even if the Aron is placed on the southern or western wall one should still pray towards the east, towards Jerusalem.”

6. Harav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (10:20) writes that one should follow the definitive ruling of the Mishnah Berurah. He adds that this is also logical since the Mishnah and Gemara only mention praying towards Jerusalem. It is only customary to place the Aron on the eastern wall since that is direction of Jerusalem. Therefore, if you cannot accomplish both it would make sense to fulfill the requirement of the Mishnah and face Jerusalem.

7. The Mishnah Berurah adds that if one is praying with a congregation and the congregation is erroneously praying towards the Aron and not Jerusalem he should also pray towards the Aron. He should, however, turn his face slightly towards Jerusalem. The Aruch Hashulchan explains that although the congregation should be praying in the direction of Jerusalem, if they are praying towards the Aron he should follow along. Not because they are correct, but rather if he were to be the only person praying towards Jerusalem then when he bows he will be bowing in a different direction then everyone else and it would appear as if they are praying to two different gods (chas v’shalom).

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Printing Pesukim In Wedding Invitations

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. Many people print pesukim that are related to marriage in the invitations. The poskim point out that one may not discard an invitation if it contains within it pesukim (Shu”t Radvaz 2:45, see also Ain Yitzchak Orach Chaim 5). Therefore, one should not print a posuk or a message from chazal in the invitation because an invitation is generally discarded (Halichos Shlomo chapter 20 note 72 and Sefer Yivakshu Mipihu Shaar 4 Chapter4 ).

2. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 2:135) opposes printing pesukim in invitations and flyers, as he writes, “For my children’s wedding I refrained from printing any verses in the invitation, not even the phrase Kol Sasson V’Kol Simcha. It would be advisable for others to follow this approach.”
3. Some change the format of the posuk and write it on two different lines. They believe that because it is not read as one verse, its’ status as a verse is removed. Based on this, some poskim, including Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l (Yivakshu Mipihu ibid.) and ybc”l Harav Yisroel Belsky shlit”a (Hallachically Speaking Vol. 3 Issue 12), say that one should write the phrases of Kol Sasson – V’Kol Simcha – Kol Chosson – V’Kol Kallah on different lines. Many poskim maintain that one should not print any pesukim in the invitation even in the aforementioned manner (Hanisuin K’Hilchosom vol. 2 page 485 and Shu”t Ateres Paz Yoreh Deah 3:5).

4. Harav Binyamin Zilber zt”l (Az Nidberu 7:65:2) discusses the permissibility of discarding an invitation that contains the words Od Yeshama B’Arei Yehuda. Harav Zilber rules that we treat it as a verse of the Torah, even though it is taken from two different parts of one posuk (Yirmiyahu 33:10), and one is not allowed to discard it in the trash, unless it is wrapped in a covering beforehand. A similar prohibitive view is expressed by Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l.

5. However, Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlit”a, in a letter addressed to the author, writes that many rule leniently and print invitations that contain the words Od Yeshama etc. and Kol Sasson etc. Since these are not complete verses they are not as sacred and one need not be concerned with throwing them away. He adds that while it is beneficial to be stringent, nevertheless, those who rule leniently are permitted to do so.

6. Harav David Harfenes (Vayivarech David 1:114) maintains that the phrase Naaleh Es Yerushalayim Al Rosh Smchaseinu is not a verse because the verse is actually Aaleh Es etc. and may therefore be printed in any invitation.

7. Rav Moshe Heineman shlit”a, in an article published on the Star – K website, writes that the verse of Od Yeshoma is most often used as a melitza (common expression or figure of speech) and is not written on the invitation as a posuk. For this reason he argues that one may print invitations with the entire posuk. He continues on to say that one who receives such an invitation may throw it away.

8. Harav Betzalel Rudinsky shlit”a writes (Mishkan Betzalel on Nisuin) that for his daughter’s wedding invitation he placed a dot in between each word of the verse (for example, Kol Chosson), which is obviously not the normal way of writing pesukim. This way it is clear that the pesukim are merely being used as a melitza.

9. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l feels that printing pesukim in an invitation is not allowed even if it is printed in the shape of a rainbow or circle. A similar view is expressed by Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l.

10. One is permitted to throw away an invitation that contains the acronym bs”d (short for besiyata deshmaya- meaning “with the help of Heaven”). However one may not discard an invitation that contains the acronym b”h (short for baruch Hashem- meaning blessed be G-d, or b’chasdei Hashem- meaning with the grace of G-d). (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 2:138)

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Inviting The Departed To A Wedding

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. The poskim tell us that the souls of the departed come to the wedding of their children and grandchildren (see Zohar Pinchas, Shu”t Maharash Engel vol. 7 page 119, Yesod Veshoresh Haovodah Shaar Hakolel 15, and Sefer Minhagim Chabad 75).

2. Many have the custom that if the chosson or kallah have lost one of their parents, the engaged child goes to the cemetery before the wedding to extend an invitation to the parent who is deceased (see Shulchan Haezer vol. 2 page 137 and Shu”t Mishnah Halachos 5:247). Some write that the source for this custom is the Zohar (Minhag Yisroel Torah on Nisuin page 137).
3. It is unclear whether this custom extends to grandparents or other relatives (see Sefer Derech Sicha page 152, Yismach Lev page 55, and Sefer Shaarei Nisuin Miluim 2). The Shulchan Haezer writes that the custom is to invite “the parents and the relatives.” It would seem that he feels that this custom does extend to the grandparents. However, Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l is of the opinion that one need not invite the grandparents who are not alive (Sefer Yivakshu Mipihu page 478).

4. The concept of inviting the departed may be used to explain a very interesting custom amongst Chabad Chassidim. The custom among Chabad Chassidim is that during the kabbalas panim the chosson recites the chassidic sermon called maamer lecha dodi 5689 (Sefer Minhagim Chabad page 75).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l explains why this maamer is recited. He writes (Toras Menachem vol. 8 page 218), “At my wedding, before the previous Rebbe started saying the Maamer Lecha Dodi, he said, ‘It is well known that at a wedding souls of the fathers come from the World of Truth, going back three generations – and this applies to all Jews – however, there are occasions (by the weddings of Rabbeim) when even more than three generations of souls are present. The recitation of this maamer actually serves as an invitation for these great souls to come to the wedding. A portion of this maamer is from the Alter Rebbe, a portion from the Mittler Rebbe, a portion from the Tzemach Tzedek, and a part from the son of the Tzemach Tzedek (the Rebbe Maharash) the great grandfather of the kallah. A part from the son of the Tzemach Tzedek (Reb Baruch Sholom) the great grandfather of the chosson, and a part from the Rebbe Rashash, the grandfather of the kallah.’ Certainly in the maamer there was something from the Previous Rebbe himself, although he did not state this explicitly. Since we walk in the ways of the previous Rebbe, it is correct that at every wedding (of those who are connected to the Rebbe) that before the chuppah the chosson or another person should say the maamer lecha dodi. Which as aforementioned has a part from all the Rabbeim, and this will serve as an invitation to the souls of all the Rabbeim to participate in the wedding.”

[Following this reasoning, some wish to say the maamer lecha dodi 5714 which is a maamer of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l (and also mentions all the other Rabbeim). This way all the Rabbeim, including the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, will be invited to the wedding.]

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Chanifa- Flattery in Halacha

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

“And you shall not corrupt the land in which you live, for the blood corrupts the land, and the blood which is shed in the land cannot be atoned for except through the blood of the one who shed it”. (Masai 35:33)

The Sifra writes that the above verse is the source to prohibit flattery or appeasement (chanifa). The Sefer Yeraim (248) explains that the proper definition of chanifa is perverting the truth by “flattering” someone who is doing something hallachically wrong. Any time we choose to let a sinner think his sinful act is, for some reason, not so bad- we are guilty of chanifa. Chanifa likewise occurs when a Jewish person gives a false picture of what the Torah says. The Orchos Tzadikim lists nine forms of chanifa, one of which is bestowing honor upon a rasha.

Chanifa in the Talmud

In Sota (41a) the Mishna relates an episode that took place shortly before the destruction of the second Temple, during the reign of King Agrippas, a grandchild of King Herod. During the mitzvah of “Hakhel”, which took place once every seven years, the King read aloud from the Torah in the Temple courtyard, in the presence of all the people. When he reached the verse (Devarim 17) “You [the Jewish people] may not appoint over yourselves [as king] a foreigner”, King Agrippas began to weep (for this verse disqualifies him from being the king). Whereupon the Rabbis and the people comforted him, saying, “You are our brother, you are our brother.” The Gemara comments that at that instant the Jewish people became guilty of destruction for flattering King Agrippas.

The Gemara continues to list the severity of this prohibition, it says that any person who flatters, even the unborn curse him; any group which flatters will ultimately be exiled; whoever has in him flattery will fall to Gehennom etc.

Chanifa to save one’s life

Tosafos (Sotah 41b) writes that although chanifa is forbidden, one may do so in life threatening situations. His source is a Gemara Nedarim Daf 22. The Gemara records that Ulla, while traveling to Israel with two men, witnessed one man murder the other. The murderer then turned to Ulla and asked, “was I correct in my actions?”. Ulla, fearing for his life, responded “Yes”. When Ulla encountered Rav Yochanan he voiced his concern that perhaps he was aiding the actions of a sinner, Rav Yochanan responded that “you were allowed to do so to save your life.” Tosafos cites this Gemara as the source that chanifa is permitted to save one’s own life. A similar view was expressed by the Yeraim (248). The Mishnah Berurah (156:4) codifies this ruling as well, he writes: “If one fears for his life he is allowed to tell someone ‘you have done well’, even if that person committed a sin.”

However, Rabbeinu Yonah (in Shaarei Teshuva shaar shlishi 188) disagrees and feels that one is obligated to give up one’s life rather than commit chanifa. The Sefer Orchos Tzadikim follows the approach of the Shaarei Teshuva.

The opinion of Rabbeinu Yona is seemingly problematic, for there are only three aveirus that one is obligated to die rather than commit. Those three sins are murder, idolatry and illicit relations. And since chanifa is not one of the three sins one should perform this act rather than lose his life.

I believe the answer to this question can be found in the works of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 2:51). Rav Moshe discusses the prohibition of chanifa and its parameters. He cites the permissible view of Tosafos and his source- the Gemara Nedarim. Rav Moshe wonders why does Tosafos need to find an obscure Gemara to rule leniently, since chanifa is not one of the three grave sins (which we require one to give up his life), it should need no source or proof to allow it? Rav Moshe explains that normally one should perform chanifa in life threatening situations, this is a clear and simple fact. However, there are situations where one is not allowed to transgress that sin and that is if it entails advancing an erroneous hallachic ruling. As the Yam Shel Shlomo (Baba Kama 38) writes, one is obligated to die rather than rule incorrectly on purpose. When one does so he is questioning the validity of the Torah and the rules found therein.

Rav Moshe explains that Tosafos feels that saying to a rasha when he sins that “he acted correctly” is not considered issuing a hallachic ruling (rather he is saying that people who have your low moral compass would feel that you acted correctly) and is allowed to save his life.  Tosafos needed the Gemara in Nedarim as a source that telling someone “you have acted correctly” is not considered a hallachic ruling. However, to issue an erroneous ruling, such as “One is permitted to commit murder” is absolutely forbidden and one should die rather than issue such a ruling.

[He adds that the biblical prohibition of chanifa may only apply to one who perverts the truth by validating a sinful act, such as “you have done correctly”, however, merely bestowing honor upon a rasha may not be considered Biblical chanifa. Although bestowing honor upon a rasha may be considered a negative action and should be avoided, in great need one may rule leniently.]

Now we can perhaps understand the ruling of Rabbeinu Yona. It is possible that he was discussing whether one may tell a sinner “you have acted correctly” to save his life, to which Rabbeinu Yona rules that one is forbidden to do so. And the reason that Rabbeinu Yone feels that one is not allowed to do so is because he disagrees with Tosafos and feels that merely telling a sinner that he acted correctly is considered issuing an erroneous hallachic ruling and is not allowed even in life threatening situations.

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The Prohibition against Counting Jewish People

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

“Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by families following their fathers’ houses; a head count of every male according to the number of their names.” (Bamidbar 1:2)

The above parsha describes the detailed census of the Jews in the desert. Counting Jews directly is forbidden, as the Rambam writes (Tamid 4:4) that it is prohibited to conduct a census and to count the Jewish people. This ruling is also codified by the Magen Avraham (156:2).
Reason for the Prohibition

`What is the reason for this prohibition? Rashi (Shmos 30:12) writes that the reason we refrain from counting Jews is because one who conducts a census is in danger of afflicting a plague upon those who were counted. The Anaf Yosef (Yoma 22a) explains that counting individuals creates a possibility that they will be judged in the Heavenly court. He adds that this judgement has the potential for having devastating effects, more so than any other judgement, because usually G-d in His infinite kindness judges the Jewish people as a whole, rather than individually. This insures that even if an individual is not acting righteous, as long as the “klal” (the Jewish nation) is considered righteous, the individual will be judged as a tzaddik. However, when they are counted as individuals, Jews become “separated” and are subject to individual scrutiny.

Sources for the Prohibition

There are primarily three sources for this issur; one from the Torah and two are found in the Navi:

1) In Sefer Shmos (30:12), Moshe Rabbeinu is commanded to count the Children of Israel by collecting a half-shekel from each person in order so “there will be no plague among them when they are counted.” As explained above, Rashi writes that the rationale for the prohibition against census-taking is due to fear of the “evil eye” (Ayin Hara) and a plague. Indeed, the Gemara in Brachos (62b) writes that Hashem told David Hamelech that He will make David stumble over a matter that “school children” know, namely, that it is prohibited to count Jews. Here the Gemara declares that even “school children” are aware of the prohibition of counting the Jewish people. [The Gemara is referring to the census that Dovid Hamelech conducted which led to the death of 70,000 Jewish people (See Shmuel 2 chapter 24).]

2) The Mishna in Yoma (22a) outlines the procedures used to determine which Kohen is awarded the privilege of performing the mitzvah of separating the ash from the Alter in the Bais Hamikdash. The Mishna explains that in the event that there were too many Kohanim who wished to fulfill this mitzvah, they would race to the top of the Alter to determine who would do the avodah. If it resulted in a tie then the Temple administrator would count the kohanim by counting their fingers. The Gemara (22b) writes that the fact that the fingers are counted and not the kohanim themselves supports the teaching of R’ Yitzchak. As R’ Yitzchak taught, it is forbidden to count the children of Israel through a head count, even for the purpose of a mitzvah. For it is written (Shmuel 1, 11:8), in reference to the count that Shaul Hamelech made of his soldiers, “He counted them through the pottery shards”.

3) The Gemara continues to cite the opinion of R’ Elazar that whoever counts the people of Israel transgresses a negative commandment, as it is stated: “The Number of the Children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted”. And Rav Nachman Bar Yitzchak writes, that he transgresses two negative commandments, for it is stated in that verse “which cannot be (1) measured or (2) counted”.

Is the prohibition Biblical?

It would seem that the prohibition to conduct a census is Biblical in nature as the first source cited above is a posuk in the Torah. Rashi seems to feel this way and therefore explains that Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded to count the half-shekels and not the people themselves. The sefer Beer Sheva also states that the issur is from the Torah and therefore wonders why the Rambam, Chinuch and other Rishonim who list all the 613 mitzvos, do not count the prohibition of counting the Children of Israel as one of the negative commandments.

Contrastingly, Rav Yeruchem Fishel Perlow zt”l (Sefer Hamitzvos Lerasag vol. 2, mitzvah 264-265) explains that according to Rav Saadia Gaon and the Tashbetz the prohibition is actually Rabbinic. He explains that Moshe Rabbeinu was allowed to count the Children of Israel as long as they donate a half-shekel to protect themselves from plague. On a Biblical level there is no issur of counting Jews as long as they donate a half-shekel to the Bais Hamikdash after the count. The sole prohibition exists from Navi (Shaul Hamelech) and is Rabbinic in nature.

Conducting an unnecessary census

As cited above the Gemara in Yoma prohibits counting the Children of Israel even for the sake of the mitzvah. However, one is permitted to count them in an indirect way such as counting their fingers. Tosafos Rid (Yoma 22b) writes that it is only permitted to do so for the sake of a mitzvah. However, conducting an unnecessary census is forbidden even if the method of counting is done indirectly. A similar view is expressed by the Chida (Sefer Pesach Ainayim on Yoma).

Counting part of Klal Yisroel

Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi zt”l introduces a novel ruling. He feels that one can only transgress the prohibition by counting all of Klal Yisroel. However, it is permitted to count a part of Klal Yisroel.

The opinion of the Mizrachi is seemingly problematic. In the case of Shaul Hamelech, he did not wish to count all of the nation but rather just his soldiers, and yet he did not count them directly, rather he counted pottery shards in their place. It is thus clear that there exists a prohibition to count even a small fraction of Jews. In addition David Hamelech did not count the tribes of Binyamin and Levi and he was still punished as if he counted all of Klal Yisroel. Even more still, the Kohanim in the Bais Hamikdash were not counted directly even though they were only a margin of the Jewish population. See, however, Yabia Omer C.M. 10:2 where Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l cites many authorities who attempt to explain the opinion of the Mizrachi.

Assorted Hallachos

1) The Kaf Hachaim (13:10) writes that one is permitted to count Jewish People in one’s mind (b’machshava), as long as he does not count them audibly.

2) Chasam Sofer (cited by his son the Ksav Sofer Y.D. 106) is of the opinion that it is assur to count written names as if it were done so orally. However, the Ralbag (cited by Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l in Shu”t Yabia Omer vol. 10 C.M. 2) writes that counting written names is permissible.

3) When counting ten men for a minyan, it is customary to use a Torah verse that contains ten words instead of using numbers. The verse usually used is: “Hoshiah et amecha u’varech et nachalatecha ur’em venas’em ad ha’olam.” See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 15:3.

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Is A Kohen Who Killed Someone Allowed To Recite The Priestly Blessings? (Assorted Hallachos)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 128:35) rules that if a kohen killed someone, even by accident, he is not allowed to recite the priestly blessings. The Mishna Berura explains the reason for the disqualification is because “ain kateigor na’aseh saneigor”, it would be inappropriate for the hands that have taken a life to give a beracha.

2. The Shulchan Aruch rules that teshuva (repentance) does not help and he remains disqualified. While the Rama writes that after repentance he is permitted to recite the birchas kohanim.

3. According to the Rama a kohen who murdered someone may recite the priestly blessings if he repented. The Biur Halacha cites an interesting argument among the poskim as to the parameters of the ruling of the Rama. Some poskim feel that the lenient ruling of the Rama was stated only for accidental murder. However, if the kohen killed someone on purpose (meizid) he is disqualified even if he repented while other poskim apply his ruling to all scenarios, even purposeful murder. The Biur Halacha writes that it is difficult to know what the correct ruling is, and therefore, if the kohen ascended to recite the blessings we should not stop him.

4. Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Shu”t Yechave Daas 2:16), the leading sefardic posek, writes that if a kohen killed someone against his will “b’ones”, the example given- a kohen who is driving a car within the speed limit and a child jumps in front of the car, (the death is considered b’ones because the driver did everything within his power to prevent it), he is allowed to recite the priestly blessings if he repented.

5. The Magen Avraham (128:53) cites the opinion of Rav Levi Ben Chabib that the hallacha applies even if there are no witnesses to the murder. As long as the kohen knows that he killed someone he may not recite the birchas kohanim.

6. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:158) maintains that if the kohen is a soldier in the army and he killed someone during war time he is unequivocally allowed to recite the priestly blessings. Since the killing is in self defense he is not disqualified. As it says in the Gemara (Brachos 62b): “If someone attacks you to kill you, then you must kill him first.” A similar sentiment was expressed by Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l -who was discussing the Israeli army as opposed to Rav Moshe who was discussing the Russian army- Harav Yosef writes that these soldiers are fulfilling a mitzvah by protecting the Jewish people and the Jewish land and therefore may bless the Jewish people.

7. If the kohen is unsure whether he killed someone, the Maharlnach writes that he is not allowed to duchan. We treat a doubtful murderer as a certain murderer. However, after analysis, it becomes clear that this question is really based on a machlokes rishonim dealing with a much broader topic than the hallachos of a murderous kohen, as we shall explain.

The source that prohibits a kohen who murdered someone from reciting the priestly blessings is a verse in Isaiah. And we know that when a doubt arises in a biblical hallacha we are machmir (ex. if one is unsure that he ate matza on Pesach he must eat the matza again to be sure). However, when it comes to rabbinical laws, we are lenient in doubtful situations (if one is unsure whether he recited the blessings on food, he may continue to eat without a blessing and need not repeat the blessing). Now the question arises about what is the proper approach in halacha when a doubt arises with a law found in the Navi (Divrei Kabbala). Is it deemed like a biblical law and we should act stringently or like a rabbinical law and we should act leniently? This is actually a machlokes among the rishonim.

The Rashba (Shu”t Hamiyucheses 263 and the Rashash (Shu”t 397) both feel that when a doubt arises regarding a law learned from Navi we rule leniently as we do with rabbinic laws. The Kovno Rav, Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector zt”l (Beer Yitzchok Y.D. 1 note 6) wrote that the Ran agrees with the opinion of the Rashba. A similar view can be found in the Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 110 note 105).

However, the Netziv (Haemek Sheila Sheilta 35:2) proved that Rav Achai Gaon and the Bahag both disagree and they feel that a law which has sources in Navi has the same law as a biblical law. Similar views can be found in the Turei Even by the Shagas Aryeh (Megila 5b), Shu”t Toras Chesed (O.C. 38 note 8, this also seems to be the view of the Rambam see  Mishna Berurah O.C. 692:16).

Now our discussion (a kohen who is unsure whether he killed a person) is dependent on the opinions of the rishonim. For our case, there is a doubt involving a law (namely that a kohen who killed someone is not allowed to duchan) which has a source in the Navi and according to the Rashba (and Rashash etc.) we should be lenient and allow him to duchan, unlike the Maharlnach. However, according to the Rambam (and Bahag etc.) we should be stringent and prevent him from reciting the blessings, in agreement with the Maharlnach. Indeed the Maharsham (shu”t 5:30) cites the ruling of the Maharlnach and notes that according to the Rashba we should allow him to recite the priestly blessings. For practical halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

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Paying The Shadchan (Part 2)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Section 2: Who Is Obligated To Pay The Shadchan

1. The Avnei Nezer (Choshen Mishpat 36) writes that the obligation to pay the shadchan belongs to the chosson and kallah. However, the parents customarily pay the shadchan.

2. Some poskim feel that because the parents customarily pay, the obligation to pay the shadchan now belongs to the parents, and not to the chosson and kallah (see Erech Shai Choshen Mishpat 185).

3. Harav Yisroel Belsky shlit”a also maintains that the obligation to pay the shadchan is that of the parents. He explains that even if the children do not live at home and are financially self-sufficient, as long as the parents are involved in the shidduch process, (giving the children advice, coordinating the vort and wedding), they bear the brunt of the obligation to pay the shadchan. However, if the parents are completely removed from the shidduch process, then they are exempt from paying the shadchan and the chosson and kallah must pay (Shu”t Shulchan Halevi Chapter 27 Note 2).

4. The Sefer Erech Shai (ibid.) agrees with the aforementioned poskim, who rule that a chosson and kallah who live with their parents are not obligated to pay the shadchanus (rather the parents must pay). He then adds that even if the parents cannot afford to pay the shadchan, the chosson and kallah still remain financially exempt. Harav Belsky shlit”a (ibid.) adds that while the chosson and kallah may not be obligated to pay the shadchan, if their parents cannot afford to fulfill the obligation, they should do their best to go above and beyond the letter of the law and complete the payment themselves. (see also Shu”t Teshuvos V’hanhagos vol. 3 457:3 and Sefer Yismach Lev page 22)

5. The custom is for the kallah’s family to pay for half of the shadchanus and for the chosson’s family to pay for the other half. This is so even if the Shadchan spent more time and effort with the kallah’s family than with the chosson’s family, or vice versa. If one family cannot afford to pay the shadchan, the other family is not obligated to pay the entire bill, but rather they should pay slightly more than half the bill in order to appease the shadchan and avoid any potential arguments (see Sefer Erech Shai Even Haezer 50, Shu”t Beis Yitzchak Even Haezer 115, Shu”t Binyan David 53:3, and Sefer Hanisuin K’Hilchosom).

Section 3: When to Pay-

6. The Rama (Choshen Mishpat 185) notes that the custom varies regarding when to pay the shadchan. Some pay immediately following the engagement (or tenaim), while others pay closer to the wedding. The Aruch Hashulchan (Even Hezer 50:42) writes that the custom in his area was to pay the shadchan immediately following the tenaim. [See also Sefer Halichos Yisroel 4]

7. The poskim disagree as to when to pay if there is no prevalent custom in the area (Rama and Taz ibid.). Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l writes that if there is no prevalent custom in the area, the payment is only required before the wedding and not following the engagement (Koveitz Teshuvos 1:207).

8. As cited above, many have the custom to pay the shadchan immediately after the shidduch is completed. Even if the shidduch is broken later, the shadchan does not have to return his fee (Aruch Hashulchan ibid.). The halacha may vary if the shadchan withheld information which, upon the uncovering of said information, led to the termination of the engagement. (See Shu”t Levushei Mordechai Tenina Choshen Mishpat 15 and Sefer Halichos Yisroel 11) For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

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