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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Paying The Shadchan (Part 1)

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

There is a mitzvah for one to be involved with making shidduchin between a man and a woman. Hashem was the very first shadchan uniting Adam with Chava.

Section 1: The Obligation To Pay The Shadchan-

1. As with any other business transaction, a shadchan must be paid a fee for arranging a shidduch (see Rama Choshen Mishpat 185).

2. The poskim stress the importance of paying shadchanus (paying the shadchan). Harav Mordechai Winkler zt”lai, writes that many rabbanim, himself included, refused to orchestrate a wedding (serve as the mesader kiddushin) if the shadchan was not yet paid (Shu”t Levushei Mordechai 11).

3. Many poskim write that paying the shadchan is a segulah for having children (see Sefer Maaseh Haish vol. 1 page 215) and for shalom bayis [marital peace] (see sefer Netai Gavriel on Tenaim page 386 and Sefer Hanisuin K’Hilchosom chapter 4).

4. It makes no difference whether the shadchan was hired by one of the parties or if he volunteered his services. In either case he must be paid for his services (see Biur Hagra 185:13 and sefer Simcha Laish 10).

5. Even a non-professional shadchan must be paid for his services (Hanisuin K’Hilchosom ibid.).

6. If need be, the shadchan may petition a beis din (Jewish court) to force the parties to pay his fee (Levushei Mordechai ibid.).

7. The shadchan gets paid even if he did not exert a significant amount of work for the shidduch. Merely arranging dates/meetings over the phone is enough to warrant payment (Edus Biyehosef 2:35).

8. One is not allowed to use “maaser money” to pay for obligations and debts. Therefore, one is not allowed to pay the shadchan with “maaser money.” (see sefer Zichron Yehuda 192 and Sefer Emes L’Yaakov on the laws of Tzedaka)

9. Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a rules that if one agrees to pay the shadchan more than is the standard fair, he may use “maaser money” to pay the amount that is above the standard fair (Netai Gavriel ibid.).

10. There is no obligation to pay, if the shadchan states that he does not want to receive payment for the shidduch (Pischei Teshuva Even Haezer 50:17). Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a explains that this is only true if the shadchan explicitly says that he will not receive payment for the shidduch. Merely saying the phrase, “I do not work on shidduchim for the money” does not remove the responsibility of payment from the couple. When that statement is said, the shadchan is merely trying to relay the message that the main reason that he became a shadchan was in order to help people. He still requires payment for the shidduch (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 3 457:3).

11. If the shadchan absolves all parties from payment he may not change his mind after the engagement or wedding and then demand payment (Minchas Yechial 2:4). However, as long as the shadchan is still working on the shidduch (before the engagement or before the shadchan is “removed” as the middleman) he may change his mind and may refuse to continue working unless he will get paid if the couple marries, and at which point the families will be obligated to pay the shadchan the full fair that a shadchan normally receives.

12. Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a writes that he has heard that in many sefardic communities the custom is to not pay the shadchan (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:736).

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Rejoicing With The Chosson And Kallah

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

It is a great mitzvah to rejoice with the chosson and kallah at their wedding [simchas chosson v’kallah] (Shuchan Aruch Even Haezer 65:1. According to most authorities the mitzvah is rabbinic in nature, see Rambam Avel 14:1 and Sdei Chemed Chosson V’Kallah 13).

It is one of the outstanding demonstrations of loving-kindness. And it is included in the commandment, “And you shall love your fellow man as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18).

The Midrash (Pirkei Drebbi Eliezer 12) states that Hashem Himself rejoiced with Adam and Chava at their wedding in the Garden of Eden. Rabbeinu Yonah adds that performing this mitzvah protects one from yissurin, pain (Sharei Teshuva 4:11). It is also a segulah to have children and grandchildren (Mateh Mosh page 351).

Fulfilling The Mitzvah
1. The poskim debate how one fulfills this mitzvah. The Shulchan Aruch writes that, “There is a mitzvah to gladden the chosson and kallah and to dance before them and to say [about the kallah] kallah naeh v’chasudah.” The Sefer Beer Sheva (50), based upon the above source, writes that the main form of fulfilling this mitzvah is by speaking to the chosson and thereby enhancing his simcha (see also Shu”t Yaskil Avdi vol. 8 20:58 and Sefer Divrei Torah Edition1:8).

2. Likewise, Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a rules that in order to fulfill one’s obligation one must go over to the chosson and wish him “mazal tov.” (oral ruling cited in the Sefer Yismach Lev 251)

3. Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l rules that if one comes to a wedding when the chosson and kallah are still in the “yichud room,” he may partake from the meal and even leave before the couple exits the “yichud room.” He explains that the mere fact that he came and was another person at the wedding gladdens the chosson and kallah. The chosson and kallah want there to be a lot of people at their wedding and merely by attending the wedding he fulfills his obligation. (oral ruling cited in the Sefer Yismach Lev ibid.)

4. The Shulchan Haezer (vol. 2 page 72) writes that there are those who are not gifted in singing and dancing and are unable to gladden the chosson and kallah in the classical ways. They, therefore, give gifts in order to give simcha to the chosson and kallah.

5. The Ezer Mekodesh discusses the obligation to enhance the simcha of the chosson and kallah. He writes that, “If one serves as the mesader kiddushin or recites a blessing under the chuppah, he has surely fulfilled his obligation to gladden the chosson and kallah. The same is true if he leads the birchas hamazon, recites one of the sheva brachos following the wedding meal, or if one speaks to the chosson regarding the importance of being joyful while fulfilling a mitzvah, especially the mitzvah of getting married. In addition, a respected person fulfills this obligation by merely attending the wedding. The mere fact that he took the time to attend the wedding brings joy to the chosson and kallah. Nevertheless, it is preferred for (the respected person) to perform some act for the chosson, either handing him food or drink, dancing before him etc.”

6. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l issues a similar ruling. He rules that rabbis, dignitaries, and close friends of the chosson fulfill their obligation merely by attending the wedding. Those who do not fall in one of those categories must be joyous and dance until they feel that the chosson is made happy by their actions (Sefer Shalmei Simcha page 310).

7. The Gemara in Kesubos (17a) writes that Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak used to juggle  at weddings in order to enhance the simcha, which is a seemingly degrading act for a Rabbi of his caliber. Yet, if done for the correct reason, with the correct intention, it is not only permitted, but is a mitzvah (see Shu”t Chavos Yair 205).

8. The obligation to enhance the simcha applies whether one partook from the wedding meal or not. However, those who did eat have a greater obligation to gladden the hearts of the chosson and kallah. As the Gemara in Brachos (6b) states, “Anyone who benefits from the chosson’s meal and does not gladden the chosson transgresses five kolos (voices) with which Hashem blessed Yisrael — Kol Sasson V’Kol Simchah Kol Chassan V’Kol Kalah Kol Omrim Hodu Es Hashem Tzevakos.”(see Beis Shmuel 65:1 and Shu”t Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 2:95)

9. Some use the previously cited Gemara to explain the reason why the kallah’s side customarily pays for the food at the wedding. The Gemara states that one commits a transgression if he benefited from the “chosson’s meal” without enhancing the simcha. If, however, the kallah pays for the food it may no longer be considered the “chosson’s meal” and therefore no transgression is possible. (see Shu”t Vayivarech David on Nisuin page 254) One may argue, however, that the wedding feast itself is considered the “chosson’s meal,” whether he paid for it or not. Therefore, one could potentially transgress even today if one eats at the wedding and does not enhance the simcha.

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May One Pray For Others To Become More Observant

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

The poskim debate whether one is permitted to pray to Hashem to cause others to become more observant. On the one hand, we know that prayer is one of the cornerstones of Judaism. On the other hand, G-d allows for people to have free will and perhaps asking Hashem to help someone become more observant is a violation of the other person’s free will. [It is worthy to note that one is absolutely permitted and advised to daven for Hashem to help himself become more religious. In this instance it is not a compromise of his free will, since he wishes to become more observant (Yaaros Devash Derush 1, see however Luach Eres 22 for a possible dissenting view).]

The Gemara (Brachos 10) relates that there were a group of people who used to trouble and harass Rav Meir. Rav Meir wished to pray that they should die. However, his wife Beruryah told him that it would be preferable to pray that they stop sinning and repent. And that is exactly what Rav Meir did. He prayed to Hashem to help them repent and they repented. One can deduce from this Gemara that it is permitted to pray to Hashem to help others become more observant, as Rav Meir himself did. A similar lenient view can be found in the Zohar Hakadosh. The Zohar adds that it is actually the responsibility of the righteous to pray for those who are less observant in order to help them become more religious (Zohar Medrash Hanelam Vayerah).

However, the Maharsha (commenting on the aforementioned Gemara) questions how it was possible that Rav Meir prayed for others to repent since this seemingly denies their ability to have free will and choose to sin. The Maharsha does not offer an answer to his question. It is thus clear that according to the Maharsha one may not pray for others to become more observant.

The Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim Hashmatos 156) feels that one may ask Hashem to cause others to repent. He explains that since Hashem is only getting involved because He was asked to do so by the “davener”, using his free will, Hashem’s involvement is not contradicting the sinner’s free will. A person has permission to use his free will to affect other people’s lives and in this case he is “using” prayer and Hashem to affect someone else’s life, which in the Chazon Ish’s view is not a contradiction to free will.

Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe vol. 4 40:13) discusses this issue. He rules in accordance with the Maharsha and maintains that one may not ask Hashem to cause others to become more observant. How then did Rav Meir pray for others to repent? Harav Moshe explains that many times a person will sin, not in order to rebel against Hashem, but because of their circumstance and in their mind they feel that they have no choice. For example, if someone is very poor he may choose to steal because he mistakenly concludes that he has no choice. And if this person were to have sufficient funds he might not sin. Therefore, writes Harav Moshe, one may pray to Hashem to change someone’s circumstance which in turn may lead them to choose not to sin. This was the situation with Rav Meir. The group of people who were harassing Rav Meir were doing so primarily due to their situation in life and Rav Meir felt that if their circumstances were different they would repent on their own, and that is exactly what happened.

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Praying While Carrying A Weapon

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

“Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aaron the kohen saw this, arose from the congregation, and took a spear in his hand.” (Balak 25:7)

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 82a) cites the above verse regarding Pinchas’ courageous act and explains that it serves as a source to prohibit entering into a bais medrash while carrying a weapon.

The Yad Rama explains that the Gemara understood the aforementioned verse to be stating the following, “he arose” from the bais medrash and only then “took a spear”. As long as he was in the bais medrash he did not have any weapon readily available.

This hallacha prohibits carrying a weapon in a study house. In this article we will focus on whether one is allowed to pray and to enter a bais knesses (house of worship) while carrying a weapon and how these hallachos may affect Israeli soldiers who must carry a weapon on their person at all times.
Prayer While Carrying a Weapon

The Orchos Chaim (Bais Knesses 7) writes that it is prohibited to enter a house of prayer while carrying a weapon. He explains that prayer extends one’s life and it would be inappropriate to do so while carrying a weapon which cuts life short. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 151:6) codifies this ruling, he writes: “There are those that prohibit entering (a bais knesses) with a long knife or with an uncovered head.”
The Tzitz Eliezer (10:18) notes that although the Shulchan Aruch wrote this law in the section of laws of the beis knesses, the hallacha would apply as well for one who is praying alone at home. Meaning that one may not even pray at home while carrying a weapon. He explains that the reason for the prohibition exists when praying at home as well, for while one is praying, which extends life, one should not be carrying an item which cuts life short. He adds that one may not even enter a Synagogue while carrying a weapon. A similar view can be found in the sefer Beer Sarim (2:10).

See however Yechave Daas (5:18) who disagrees and feels that the prohibition exists only in a synagogue which has a lot of holiness. Praying at home while carrying a weapon would be permitted. It is also worthy to note that the Sefer Tzedaka Umishpat (chapter 1 note 42) feels that it is better to daven without a minian than to enter a house of prayer with a weapon.

We have thus found that there exists a prohibition of entering a shul while carrying a weapon and according to some authorities this prohibition exists even while praying in one’s home. It would seem to the reader that an Israeli soldier who must carry a weapon would never be allowed to pray, which is clearly problematic. In this article we will offer a few possible suggestions which may help avoid any hallachic problems.
Concealing the Weapon

The Torah Temimah, on this verse, cites the words of the Shulchan Aruch and he raises a question. The Shulchan Aruch writes that one should not enter a shul “with a long knife or with an uncovered head”. The simple reading of the Shulchan Aruch seems to suggest that there are two entirely different topics being discussed: firstly, one should not enter a shul with a weapon and secondly one should not enter without properly covering one’s head (yarmulka). The Torah Temimah wonders what connection there is between these two statements. What’s more the Shulchan Aruch already discussed the hallacha of praying without a head covering in siman 91, why then would he feel compelled to repeat himself?

He therefore offers an entirely different interpretation of the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch is actually discussing one topic throughout and that is weapons in the synagogue. When the Shulchan Aruch writes that one should not enter with an “uncovered head” he is actually referring to the “head” of the weapon. The prohibition exists only if the weapon is uncovered. One is allowed to pray as long as the weapon is concealed. Although the Levush seems to not agree with this novel interpretation of the words of the Shulchan Aruch, the Elya Raba seems to concur with the Torah Temimah.

Rav Avigdor Neventzhal shlit”a (Pirush Viyitzhak Yikarey on the Mishnah Berurah) feels that according to the Torah Temimah one is allowed to pray as long as the nozzle of the gun is covered. However, the Tzitz Eliezer proves from the words of the Mor U’Ktziah that in order to rule leniently, the gun must be completely covered and not be noticeable to others.

Removing the bullets

The Tzitz Eliezer feels that if the bullets are removed from the gun one can enter into shul and pray. He explains that unlike a knife, a gun without bullets is not considered at this moment a weapon and therefore the strict ruling would not apply.

The Tzitz Eliezer continues to write that a soldier or guard who must carry a weapon on his person at all times is permitted to enter a synagogue and pray while carrying his weapon. For these people removing the weapon can lead to dangerous and possibly life threatening situations and they therefore may pray while carrying a weapon. He does write that if possible one should place the gun on the floor during tefila and if that is not possible one should at least cover the weapon with his tallis.

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Praying To Angels And To The Dead: A Hallachic Analysis

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

“They (the spies) went up in, the south, and he (Calev) came to Chevron, where there were Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of the giant. Now Chevron had been built seven years before Zoan of Egypt.” (Shelach 12:22)

In the above verse we are told of the journey of the Spies as they entered Eretz Yisroel. Rashi, citing the Gemara (Sotah 34b), explains that Calev alone went to Chevron (it is for that reason that the verse writes “he” went to Chevron). He journeyed to Chevron in order to pray at the graves of the Patriarchs. He said to them: “My fathers ask for mercy upon me that I may be saved from being ensnared by the designs of the spies.”

The nature of Calev’s prayer may have hallachic ramifications and may shed some light on an age old machlokes as to whether one is allowed to pray to Angels, or to the dead, to intercede on our behalf.

The purpose of this article is not to give a clear cut ruling for the reader. Rather, to elucidate both opinions of the poskim, each person should follow his or her custom and when necessary a Rav should be consulted.

1) Idolatry

Before we begin it is important to clarify one point and that is that praying to Angels or to the dead directly so that they can help us, is unequivocally forbidden. These beings have no strength of their own and praying for them to grant a yeshua or refua is akin to idol worship. The nature of our discussion is whether one may pray and ask for them to intercede on his behalf and pray for him, but of course the prayer must be directed towards the Almighty.

2) Prayer to Angels

The Permissible View

Many poskim discuss whether one is allowed to beseech Angels to intercede on our behalf. Rashi (Sanhedrin 44b) explains that the opinion of Rav Yochanan is that: “One should always pray for the help of the administrating Angels to strengthen his power of prayer.”

Indeed, many tefillos, authored by great Tzaddikim and Rishonim, implore Angels to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people. Most notably the prayer (recited during Selichos of Aseres Yimei Teshuva) “Machnisei Rachamim hachnisu rachameinu” (those who bring in mercy bring in our plea for mercy) calls upon the angels to help take our prayers before Hashem and intercede on our behalf.

The author of the Shibolei Haleket cited the aforementioned prayer of “Machnisei Rachamim” and commented that there is no hallachic problem with its recital- this prayer is in no way connected to Idolatry. Rav Avigdor Cohen Tzedek agreed with this permissible view.

Rav Aryeh Leib Gordon zt”l, in the introduction to the Sidur Otzer Hatefillos, cited a response from Rav Shrira Gaon, who wrote the following: “When praying to Angels one must do so in Lashon Hakodesh. However, when praying directly to G-d, the prayer may be recited in any language.” It is thus evident that Rav Shrira Gaon allowed one to pray for the intercession of Angels. The Minchas Elazar (Y.D. 1:46) also rules leniently.

Those Who Rule Stringently

There were, however, many authorities who forbade any form of worship towards Angels. The Abarbanel (Sefer Rosh Amana 12) takes a stringent view as well. His source is a Talmud Yerushalmi (Brachos chapter 9), which states: “If Jews have hardships, they should not cry out to the Angels Michael or Gavriel, rather I (G-d) should receive their outcries”.

It is for this very reason that the Sefer Hameoros (Meoros Harshonim page 29) testifies that many kehilos omit the tefila of “Machnisei Rachamim”. The Maharal of Prague (Netiv Haovoda 12) objects as well to the recitation of this prayer because it appears as if we are praying to the angels and not to the Almighty. He therefore amends the text from “machnisei rachamim hachnisu rachameinu” (those who bring in mercy bring in our plea for mercy) to “machnisei rachamim yachnisu rachameinu,” (allow those who bring in mercy to bring in our plea for mercy) which is directed towards the Almighty. [See Otzer Hatefilos who cites other rabbanim (including Rav Chaim Volozhiner) who amended other tefilos in order that it not seem that we are praying to Angels.]

The Chatam Sofer, (Orach Chaim no. 166), records his personal practice to skip the aforementioned prayer. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 5 page 146), while discussing whether it is permissible to pray for Angels to intercede on our behalf, notes that his father omitted the stanza of “Barchuni L’Shalom” from the prayer Shalom Aleichem, recited on Friday nights for the same reasons cited above. The Gesher Hachaim (3:26), after quoting both opinions, writes that those who are lenient are basing their opinion on great rabbanim and therefore others should not try to correct them.

3) Praying to the dead

As previously cited, Calev prayed for the Patriarchs to please ask for mercy that he not become ensnared by the Spies. One can deduce from the actions of Calev that praying to the dead (or from Angels) for intercession is permissible. The Gesher Hachaim notes that a lenient view was expressed by the Zohar Hakadosh. The sefer Darkei Teshuva (Y.D. 179:36) lists other authorities who rule leniently as well.

However, the Chochmas Adam (24:5) was vehemently against directing prayer towards the dead, he explains that care must be taken to only pray to the Almighty. The Mishnah Berurah (O.C. 581) records the minhag of many to visit cemeteries on Erev Rosh Hashana, he warns, however, against praying to the dead directly, rather, one must be careful to pray directly to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. See Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 5 page 147), where Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l explains whether praying to the dead should be more problematic or less problematic then praying to the Angels.

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