Getting Dressed In The Morning (Assorted Hallachos)

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

1. One should cover his head before getting dressed because the head is the most important part of the body and we want to show it the proper respect (Ben Ish Chai Vayishlach 17). Indeed, it is extremely important that all men cover their heads with a yarmulka, or head covering, at all times. This head covering serves as a reminder that Hashem is always above us (See Sefer Umekareiv Biyamin 11).

2. Jewish law requires one to give precedence to his right over his left for all matters. The reason for this is because the right is given greater significance throughout the entire Torah regarding many laws, including the inauguration procedure of the levites in the Beis Hamikdash (the right thumb of the hand and foot were smeared with oil), the metzora purification procedure (the right thumb of the hand and foot were smeared with oil), and regarding the chalitza procedure (the shoe is worn on the right foot) [Shulchan Aruch Harav 2:4].

Therefore, writes the Shulchan Aruch Harav, when putting on shoes one should first place on his right shoe (without tying the laces, as will be explained) and only then wear his left shoe. Similarly, when one places on his shirt and other clothing, such as a jacket or undershirt, he is always to begin with dressing the right arm first and then the left arm. Likewise when placing on one’s pants, socks, and other clothing one first places them on his right leg. In addition, one when is bathing he should wash his right arm before his left. (The head takes precedence before both arms, as noted above.)

3. Based on the above laws, many chassidim have the custom that when buttoning a shirt or jacket they button the right side over the left side, and not vice versa. And therefore take precaution upon ordering a tailored suit and the like that the buttons are placed on the left side and the holes on the right side, and in this way the right side will be worn over the left (See Sefer Ketzos Hashulchan 3:4). The Chazon Ish was also particular that the buttons be placed on the left side and the holes on the right side (as cited in the Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 1 page 227). The Sefer Taamei Haminhagim (5 in a footnote) writes that the common custom is to place the buttons on the left side, however, on pants the buttons are placed on the right side.

4. Harav Moshe Stern zt”l, the Rav of Debreczin, rules that a left handed person is to give precedence to his right side, just like a right handed person, and therefore should dress his right side of his body before his left. He should also bathe the right side before his left (Shu”t Beer Moshe vol. 2 5:3). Similarly, the Mishnah Berurah (2:6) writes that a left handed person should place his right shoe before his left, just like a right handed person (see also Harav Yaakov Emden’s Sefer Amudei Shamayim seder Levisha 3).

5. As stated above, one places his right shoe on before his left shoe. If one’s shoes have laces then he should put on his right shoe without tying it, and then put on his left shoe. He then ties his left shoe and then his right shoe. When tying shoes we honor the left side because the tefillin are worn on the left arm (Shulchan Aruch 2:4).

6. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (oral ruling cited in Shu”t Rivevos Ephraim vol. 4 page 412) and Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l (oral ruling cited in Shu”t Avnei Yashfei 1:1) both feel that since women do not wear tefillin they do not have to be concerned with tying the left shoes first and may put on the right shoe first and tie it (see however Shu”t Rivevos Ephraim 1:5 for a dissenting view).

7. The Sefer Avnei Yashfei (ibid.) writes that a young child should put his shoes on in the same manner as an adult.

8. When removing shoes and other clothing one removes the left item first. This gives honor to the right article of clothing since it remains on the person longer (Shulchan Aruch Harav 2:4).

9. The sages (Gemara Horios 13) revealed to us that there are certain activities that one should avoid since (according to kabbalistic reasons) they are detrimental to one’s memory. According to some authorities performing these actions is biblically prohibited (opinion of Harav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l as cited in Shalmas Chaim 41, see also Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:3 and Sefer Shemiras Haguf V’Hanefesh by Rav Yitzchak Lerner shlit”a introduction chapter 18. However, others feel that there is only a rabbinic prohibition – see Sefer Chassidim 1008 [as explained by Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l in Yabia Omer 2 Y.D. 8] and Sefer Hazikaron by Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a).

9. One of the actions that one should avoid is placing two articles of clothing on at the same time (Magen Avraham 2:3 and Mishnah Berurah 2:2).

10. Many poskim maintain that one may don two shoes at the same time. Therefore, one may don shoes with galoshes (Aruch Hashulchan 2:6, Shulchan Malachim 3, Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 7:2. See also Maasef Licha Machanos 2:12).

11. According to Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo vol. 1 page 22) one may remove two articles of clothing at the same time. The prohibition only extended to donning clothing, not removing them. However, Harav Yitzchak Eisik Yehuda Yechiel Safrin zt”l of Komarno, known as the Komarno Rebbe, writes (Shulchan Hatahor 2) that removing two articles of clothing at the same time is also detrimental to one’s memory.

12. It seems that women are not restricted by the above laws and they may don and remove two articles of clothing at the same time (since according to many poskim women are permitted to perform actions that cause forgetfulness- see Mishmeres Shalom 72:2, Sefer Hazikaron chapter 2, Shu”t Yad Yitzchak vol. 2 84:17).

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Tikkun Chatzos (Assorted Halachos)

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

Tikkun chatzos is a midnight ritual which focuses on mourning over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and beseeching God to rebuild it speedily. The poskim and the mekubalim stress the importance of performing tikkun chatzos (See Magen Avraham 1:4 and Sefer Tikun Chatzos by Harav Saryah Deblitzky shlit”a). The Mishna Brurah also writes that the mekubalim emphasized the great importance of waking up at chatzos to say a certain seder of tefilos organized by the Arizal, which are printed in the siddurim.
1. Harav Saryah Deblitzki shlit”a writes that the most preferred method is to wake up and recite the tikkun chatzos and then to learn until sunrise. However, this is extremely difficult to fulfill. He continues to cite many poskim who explain that the most important aspect of this custom is to be awake at the time of chatzos. It is permitted to go to sleep after reciting tikkun chatzos (Sefer Tikun Chatzos. See also Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 1 page 13, Sefer Nimukei Orach Chaim 1, and Sefer Shulchan Hatahor).
2. The Malbim (Ortzos Hachaim 1:31) and the Mishanh Berurah (1:9) write that one should recite the tikkun chatzos a little before chatzos. However, Harav Deblitzky shlit”a explains that according to the Arizal and other kabbalists one should recite the tikkun chatzos exactly at the moment of chatzos.
3. The Ben Ish Chai writes that for kabbalistic reasons women should not recite tikkun chatzos (Ben Ish Chai Vayishlach 6 and Shu”t Rav Poalim vol. 1 Sod Yesharim 9). The Kaf Hachaim, however, rules that women may recite tikkun chatzos (1:16). For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.
4. It is the practice to say tikkun chatzos while sitting on the floor near a doorpost that has a mezuzah. Many place ashes on one’s head in the area where the tefilin shel rosh is placed. Another practice is to not to wear shoes during tikkun chatzos (see Kaf Hachaim 1:18-19).
5.The Ben Ish Chai writes that one should recite tikkun chatzos even if he does not fully comprehend what he is saying. And even if he does not cry and mourn the loss of the Temple, he should still recite tikkun chatzos (Od Yosef Chai Vayishlach). Rav Deblitzky shlit”a feels that many people refrain from reciting tikkun chatzos because they assume that this prayer and custom is reserved for great rabbis and kabbalists. He cites that Ben Ish Chai as proof that this is not so. Everyone may and should recite tikkun chatzos (See also Minhag Yosroel Torah page 40).
6. According to many authorities, including the Kaf Hachaim, Mishnah Berurah, and Rav Shalom Sherabi, chatzos at night is exactly twelve hours after hallachic midday (the mid point between sunrise and sunset), or chatzos hayom (See Sefer Tikun Chatzos, Chida Moreh Betzbah 45, and Yalkut Yosef). Harav Yitzchak Eisik Yehuda Yechiel Safrin zt”l of Komarno, known as the Komarno Rebbe, writes that tikkun chatzos should always be recited at midnight 12 o’clock (Shulchan Hatahor 1. For a dissenting view see Minchas Shlomo Vol. 2 91:16).
7. There are many calender days where one does not recite tikkun chatzos. For a complete list see Harav Diblitzsky’s Sefer Tikkun Chatzos.
8. Many people are lenient and do not recite tikkun chatzos. While there is very little hallachic basis for this, some feel that this can be explained based upon the view of Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l. Harav Emden zt”l, in Mor UKetziah (1), writes that the obligation to recite tikkun chatzos only applies to torah scholars and in Israel. However, the majority of authorities who do not make this distinction clearly maintain that the obligation to recite tikkun chatzos applies to all people in all countries.
9. If one cannot awaken before morning or before chatzos, then at the very least he should not sleep past the time that the congregation gathers for prayer. The Mishnah Berurah (1:9) advises to wake up early enough to give him enough time to get ready and prepared to pray properly.

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The Mitzvah Of Pidyon Haben: (Assorted Hallachos)

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

The mitzvah of Pidyon Haben, redeeming of the firstborn, is a rare mitzvah than can only be performed once in a lifetime and does not apply to everyone (kohanim, leviim etc.), as we shall discuss. In addition, performing this mitzvah serves as a segula to protect the child from illnesses that afflict children (Sefer Chassidim cited in Yabia Omer Y.D. 6:26). In this article we will discuss many of the relevant hallachos pertaining to the mitzvah of Pidyon Haben and its procedure.

Which Child Requires a Pidyon

  1. The mitzvah is performed once the child reaches thirty days old. The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 305:11) writes that we should perform the mitzvah immediately on the thirty first day. If that day is Shabbos the mitzvah should be pushed off until Sunday.
  2. The mitzvah applies to the “peter rechem”- first born of the mother, even if the father has children from a previous marriage (Aruch Hashulcan Y.D. 305:2).
  3. A child from a cesarean section is exempt from the mitzvah. The next child born to the parents is exempt as well, even if he was born through a natural childbirth delivery (Shulchan Aruch 305:24).
  4. If the father is a kohen or a levi, or if the mother is the daughter of a cohen or a levi, there is no mitzvah of pidyon haben (Shulchan Aruch 305:18).
  5. If a boy is born from a non-Jewish father and a bas levi, there is also no mitzvah of pidyon haben since his mother is the daughter of a levi. However, if a boy is born from a non-Jewish father and a bas kohen, a pidyon haben is performed. Since the daughter of the kohen has violated her kedusha by having relations with a gentile, she loses her hallachic status as a bas kohen (Shulchan Aruch 305:18). Similarly, if a bas yisroel has a child with a non-Jew, a pidyon haben is performed. The Aruch Hashulchan comments that in this scenario it is difficult to ascertain who is obligated to perform the pidyon haben. The father, who is not Jewish, is obviously not obligated to perform this or any mitzvah. The mother is exempt as well, as this mitzvah is never the obligation of the mother (as we shall explain). Rather, in this case the child should perform his own pidyon when he reached the age of thirteen. Other poskim disagree and feel that the beis din should perform the pidyon right away- see Igros Moshe Y.D. 195 and Sheilas Yeshurun page 140. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.
  6. We have previously explained that if a bas kohen has relations with a non-Jew she loses her rights as the daughter of a kohen. Therefore, if a yisroel married and had a child with a bas kohen who lived with a gentile before the marriage, a pidyon haben is performed. The Aruch Hashulchan comments that unlike the previous hallacha (where the child is required to perform his own pidyon when he reaches the age of bar mitzvah), we require the father to perform the pidyon after thirty days.
  7. Many Baalei Teshuva face an interesting predicament. After having their first child they wish to fulfill the mitzvah of pidyon haben. However, many of them are unaware if they are kohanim, leviim or yisraelim and are thus unsure if they are indeed obligated to perform the mitzvah at all. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 188) and Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 9 Y.D. 25), both advise that they perform pidyon haben without reciting any brachos.

Who Is Obligated To Perform the Pidyon

  1. The Gemara (Kiddushin 29) tells us that the obligation to perform the pidyon haben rests solely on the father. The mother is not obligated to perform the mitzvah. The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 305:4) writes that the Beis Din is also not required to make sure that the child has a pidyon.
  2. If the father refuses to perform this mitzvah we force him to do so.
  3. Once the child reaches bar mitzvah he is obligated to perform his own pidyon haben. If after the son reaches the age of thirteen both the father and the son both wish to perform the pidyon, the Rashba (cited in Aruch Hashulchan 305:54) rules that the father should perform the pidyon and not the son. However, the Rivash (131) disagrees, he feels that once the child reaches adulthood the mitzvah rests solely on his shoulders and we do not allow the father to do the mitzvah.
  4. The Aruch Hashulchan comments that if the father refuses to perform the pidyon or he is unable to do so we allow others to perform the mitzvah in the father’s stead. He prefers this from the alternative, which is waiting until the child reaches bar mitzvah and having him perform his own pidyon haben. He quotes, however, the opinion of the Taz that if the father dies or is unable to perform the pidyon we should wait until the child reaches bar mitzvah and he should then perform his own pidyon. What’s more, the opinion of the Maadanei Yom Tov is that if the Beis Din or others perform the pidyon they have not fulfilled any mitzvah and the child must repeat the pidyon when he reaches the age of bar mitzvah. The Chasam Sofer rules that one may perform the pidyon for the child without a bracha and when the child reaches adulthood he should reperform the pidyon without a bracha as well. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

Which Kohanim Can Receive the Pidyon

  1. The child should be redeemed from a kohen and not from a kohenes (Aruch Hashulchan 305:3).
  2. The poskim differ as to whether a kohen under the age of thirteen can receive the pidyon, (see Rav Akiva Eiger and Aruch Hashulchan 13).
  3. Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (Shevet Halevi 2:172) writes that a kohen who desecrates shabbos publicly cannot be used to redeem the first born. However, since many non-observant Jews do not have the status of public desecrators of shabbos (because they have the status of Tinuk Shenishba etc. see Umekareiv Biyamin 2) and therefore a Rav should be consulted.

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Is It Permitted To Not Attend A Wedding?

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

The Gemara in Pesachim (113b) states that there are seven types of people who are banned (excommunicated) by Heaven. After describing each type the Gemara adds, “Some say, also one who does not eat at a meal celebrating a mitzvah.” Tosafos explains that the Gemara is describing one of three cases, those who do not eat at the meal accompanying a circumcision, a wedding of a scholar or the wedding of a kohen who marries a bas kohen.

The Rama codifies this teaching in the laws of circumcision (Yoreh Deah 265:12). He writes that, “One who does not eat at a circumcision meal is as if he is excommunicated by Heaven.” The Pischei Teshuva (265:18) comments that since many people may not be able to attend it is better not to publicly invite everyone to the circumcision meal and spare them of the punishment listed in the Gemara.
One may argue that the same stringency be extended to wedding invitations and that if one is invited to a wedding he must attend. Indeed, the Sefer Chupas Chassanim (Seuda note 10), based on the above sources, advises not to invite someone who will (most likely) not attend the wedding.

However, the very widespread practice today is not to attend every wedding that one is invited to. In many cases people invite those who may not be able to attend (out of town relatives etc.). I believe that based on the words of the poskim, one can offer many defenses for the common practice of the observant community to not attend every wedding that they are invited to.

1) Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a writes that sending a wedding invitation does not necessarily mean that you are inviting them to the wedding. Many times the invitation is used to inform others about the marriage that will be taking place. The proof of this, he writes, is the fact that one sends invitations to people outside of the country who will clearly not come to the wedding. In this scenario the invitation is more of a formality than an actual request of their presence (Netai Gavriel Nisuin page 90. See also Shulchan Haezer vol.2 Page 68 and Koveitz Ohalei Shem vol. 5 Page 32).

2) Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l notes that while Tosafos writes that the excommunication (discussed in the Gemara) applies to weddings as well as circumcisions, the Rama only codifies this law in the laws of circumcisions. Therefore, writes Rav Moshe, the Rama maintains that this law does not apply to weddings (Igros Moshe O.C. 2:95). [It should be noted that Harav Moshe himself would do all that he could to attend every wedding that he was invited to, even if that meant attending numerous weddings in one night (Oral ruling of Harav David Feinstein shlit”a cited by the Sefer Shalmei Simcha page 312).] Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a also rules that the ban only applies to circumcisions and not weddings (Sefer Yismach Lev 50).

3) Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l maintains that if one is present at the chuppah he is required to remain at the wedding throughout the entire ceremony. One is not required to attend the wedding simply because he knows where and when a wedding will take place (Shalmei Simcha Ibid.). A similar notion is expressed by the Sefer Yismach Moshe (See Sefer Yismach Lev page 37).

4)Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a writes that there is only a prohibition if one does not attend a wedding because he feels that he is too honorable to attend and that it would be beneath his dignity to remain at a wedding with people “beneath” his character. If one cannot attend the wedding for other legitimate reasons, there is no prohibition or ban (Teshuvos V’Hanahagos 2:649).

5) The Kaf Hacheim, citing the Sefer Yafeh Lelev, writes that one is only obligated to attend the circumcision meal if there is less than ten men in attendance. If there are more than ten men in attendance, one may skip the meal. The same can be applied to weddings and if more than ten men are in attendance, (which is always the case), one would be allowed to not attend the wedding (Kaf Hachaim 170:71).

6) Tosafos writes that one is not obligated to attend a wedding meal if men who are unethical or improper will also be in attendance. Some poskim argue that today the average wedding is attended by people who fall under this category (improper) and thus one is never obligated to attend a wedding (See Yabia Omer Y.D. 4:19).

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The Mitzvah Of Making Aliyah (Living In Israel) Today

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

We are all aware of the terrible sin of the Meraglim (spies) and the devastating affect it had on Klal Yisroel. If ever one questions the importance and beauty of Eretz Yisroel one need not look any further then the story of the Meraglim. It is therefore necessary to analyze whether there is a mitzvah to “make aliyah”, to move to Israel, and why many great gedolim lived all of their lives outside of the Land of our fathers.

The opinion of the Ramban

The Rambam omits the obligation to move to Eretz Yisroel in his list of the 613 mitzvos. The Ramban disagrees, however, and he feels that the obligation to live in Israel is biblical in nature and applies nowadays as well. A similar view can be found in the Shu’t Rashash (1-2) and he testifies that his father, the Tashbetz, concurs that there is a biblical mitzvah to make aliyah. The Sefer Charedim (Mitzvos Aseh chapter 57 note 15) writes the following: “There is positive commandment to live in Israel…Chazal tell us that this mitzvah is as great as all the other mitzvos combined.”

The opinion of the Rambam

As we previously explained, the Rambam omitted the mitzvah of making aliyah in his list of the 613 mitzvos. Rav Yitzchak Di Lion, in his pirush Megilas Esther, explains that the reason for the omission is that the Rambam feels that the obligation to live in Israel only applied during the times of Moshe, Yehoshua and Dovid Hamelech, when the Bais Hamikdash was built and the Jews had command of the land. Once the Jews were exiled from the land the mitzvah no longer applies. Since this mitzvah does not apply nowadays it does not belong in the Rambam’s list of the 613 mitzvos. As the Rambam in shoresh 3 writes, any mitzvah that applied at some point but does not apply anymore does not get counted. It would seem that according to the understanding of the Megilas Esther, the Rambam feels that there is no obligation to live in Israel nowadays, even on a rabbinic level. A similar understanding was expressed in the sefer Mili D’Avos (vol. 5 page 498).
The Avnei Nezer (Y.D. 454) disagrees with the Megilas Esther. He feels that according to the Rambam the biblical mitzvah is applicable even in current day Israel, and he offers a different explanation (for reasons beyond the scope of this article) as to why it was not counted by the Rambam amongst the other 248 positive commandments.

The seforim offer one final alternative explanation regarding the Rambam’s view of this mitzvah. The Rashbash writes that according to the Rambam, while there does not exists a biblical mitzvah nowadays, however, there does exist a rabbinic mitzvah. A similar view was expressed by the Sefer Nishmas Kol Chai (Y.D. 48) and the Sefer Paas Hashulchan (1:14).

The opinion of Rav Chaim Kohen

Tosafos (Kesubos 110b) writes the following: “Rav Chaim Kohen was want to say that the mitzvah to live in Israel does not apply nowadays, for there are many mitzvos and prohibitions that exist only in Eretz Yisroel and it is truly difficult to diligently fulfill all those obligations.” This opinion of Rav Chaim Kohen was codified by the Knesses Hagedola (Klallei Haposkim 16). The son of the Node Biyehuda (Y.D. M.T. 206) explains that the reason that all the Baalei Tosafos lived in the Diaspora was based upon the ruling of Rav Chaim Kohen.

The Mabit unequivocally disagrees with the permissive view of Rav Chaim Kohen, he explains that the reason to live in Israel has nothing to do with the mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisroel. The reason to make aliyah is due to the fact that the land is holy and therefore one is required to live there. In which case there is no reason to assume that the mitzvah does not apply nowadays. Indeed many achronim felt that the ruling of Rav Chaim Kohen should not be cited for hallachic purposes (see ruling of Shelah Hakadosh cited in sefer Paas Hashulchan and Yosef Ometz 52).

The opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe E.H. 102) discusses whether there is a mitzvah to make aliyah and why many rabbanim have lived in the Diaspora. He writes that even according to the opinion of the Ramban, that there exists a biblical obligation, the nature of this obligation is different than many other mitzvos. He feels that this mitzvah is “kiyumis” not “chiyuvis”.

To fully appreciate this distinction, it is necessary to offer an introduction regarding different types of mitzvos. There exist two types of mitzvos: 1) “kiyumis”- A mitzvah that is not obligatory, rather if one fulfills this mitzvah one receives reward (ex. Eating in the Succah following the first night. For the following meals one does not need to eat in the Succah, if one were to choose, one can refrain from eating bread and the like and would not be in violation of any prohibition. However, if one chooses to eat bread then one must eat it in the succah. Thus this mitzvah is “optional”.) 2) “Chiyuvis”- A mitzvah that one must fulfill and is obligatory in nature. (ex. Wearing Tefillin. One must wear tefillin every day and if one neglects this mitzvah and does not wear tefillin has done something wrong. Thus this mitzvah is “obligatory”.)

Now we can understand the ruling of Rav Moshe. He explains that although there is a mitzvah to live in Israel, however, this mitzvah is “optional”. Meaning that one is not obligated to move to Israel, rather, if one lives in Israel he fulfills a mitzvah. Rav Moshe continues, that because there is no prohibition of living outside of Israel it might be preferable to do so for the reasons given by Rav Chaim Kohen (namely that there are many mitzvos and prohibitions that apply specifically to the Land of Israel and it is difficult to fulfill all of those obligations.)

Rav Yosef Dov Soleveitchick zt”l agreed with the premise of Rav Moshe Feinstein. He also felt that the mitzvah to live in Israel is a mitzvah “kiyumis” and not “chiyuvis” (oral ruling cited by Rav Herschel Shachter shlit”a sefer Peninei Harav).

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The Obligation To Wait Between Meat and Milk

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)
Introduction- Waiting after meat

There are three places where the Torah states that one should not cook meat and milk together (Shmos 23:19, 34:26 and Devarim 14:21). Chazal tell us that one verse is prohibiting cooking meat and milk together. The second verse is prohibiting eating meat and milk that was cooked together. And the final verse prohibits any enjoyment from milk and meat that was cooked together (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 87:1).

Chazal decreed that one may not eat cheese after eating meat, but may eat meat after eating cheese. The Gemara (Chullin 105a) mentions that Mar Ukvah said that he would not eat milk and meat in the same meal; however, he would eat a dairy meal following a meat meal. The Rambam and others understand that Mar Ukveh was dictating how much time one must wait between meat and milk. And that is the amount of time between the morning meal and the evening meal. This time period is six hours. [See Biur Hagra]

There are two reasons given in the Rishonim as to the need to wait 6 hours. Rashi (Chullin 105a) explains that when one swallows meat, the fat of the meat leaves a fatty residue in the throat and the mouth for that amount of time. The Rambam (Ma’achelos Assuros 9:28) explains that some meat might get stuck in between the teeth, and for 6 hours it has the hallachic significance of meat. However, after 6 hours the stuck meat is not halachically considered meat anymore and therefore even if one would then eat dairy one would not be eating meat and dairy at the same time.

We rule stringently and are concerned for both opinions and one must wait as long as either Rashi or the Rambam would require you to do so. For example if one swallows a piece of meat whole [without chewing it] he would be required to wait 6 hours. For although the opinion of the Rambam is inapplicable (because the meat was not chewed and thus none would be stuck in between the teeth), since the opinion of Rashi is still applicable (as the meat was swallowed some of the fatty residue coats the throat) one must wait. Similarly, if one merely chews on meat, even if he did not swallow it one would still be obligated to wait 6 hours because according to the opinion of the Rambam there is a concern that some meat got stuck in between his teeth. Even though Rashi would only require a waiting period if there exists a fatty residue coating the throat which occurs only when swallowing the meat.

Six full hours

The consensus of the majority of poskim is that one must wait a full six hours (Chochmas Adam 40:13, Pischai Teshuvah 87:4, and Aruch Hashulchan 87:7). This is indeed the most prevalent custom amongst Klal Yisroel. There are those that wait only 5 hours (and a little) there custom is most probably based upon the words of the Meiri (Magen Avos page 46). The Meiri, when addressing the obligation to wait in between meat and milk writes that one must wait “five or six hours”. Rav Ahron Kotler zt”l was of the opinion that one should wait five hours and thirty one minutes (custom of Lakewood see Ohr Yitzchak Y.D. 4). He felt that as long as one has waited a majority of the sixth hour one need not wait any longer.

Three Hours

Many German Jews have the custom of waiting merely three hours. Many feel that this custom can be found in the works of Rabbeinu Yeruchem (Issur V’Heter 39). Some explain that in these communities during the short winter days, they would eat their meals 3 hours apart. (Darkei Teshuva 89:6). While others explain that in those communities they used to eat 5 meals each day, and each meal was 3 hours apart. (Rabbi Yisroel Belsky shlit”a cited in Halachically Speaking vol. 5 Issue 5).

One hour

We stated earlier that Mar Ukveh required that one cannot eat dairy and meat in the same meal and one can only eat dairy in the meal following a meat meal. We cited that many Rishonim understood that to mean one must wait the amount of time one normally waits in between meals (i.e. six hours). However, Tosafos has a different interpretation of the words of Mar Ukveh. He feels that one does not need to wait a period of time; rather the milk and meat need to be served in different meals. As long as one recited a brachah achrona and cleared the table, one would be permitted to eat dairy immediately. The Taz writes that the custom of many Dutch Jews to wait one hour is based upon the ruling of Tosafos. They feel that one need not wait at all; the requirement to wait one hour is merely a stringency they placed upon themselves.

Assorted Hallachos

1. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:26) writs that one who swallows a meat vitamin (ex. A liver pill) does not need to wait six hours. He explains that the decree (to wait six hours) was never extended to meats that were not meant to be chewed. Additionally, since there were no pills during the time of Chazal, they were never included in the gezeira.

2. The Haflah writes that one who found meat in between his teeth and swallowed it [whether within the 6 hours or even after 6 hours from eating] would be required to wait 6 hours from that point. His opinion is cited by Rav Feivel Cohen shlit”a in the Sefer Badei Hashulchan (89:13 Tziyunim 22). See however the Chayei Halevi (5:60 note 5) for a permissible view.

3. One who eats a parave food that was cooked in meat pot (even if the pot had been used that day to cook meat), does not need to wait 6 hours (Rama 89:3).

4. If one merely tastes meat with his tongue (did not chew it) and then spits it out without swallowing it he does not need to wait 6 hours (Aruch Hashulchan YD 89:14). Washing out the mouth is still required if one wishes to eat dairy.

5. The Sefer Vyaas Avraham writes a truly novel hallacha. He feels that one who sleeps after eating meat is allowed to eat dairy immediately, even if six hours have not past. The Chasam Sofer originally agreed with this approach. The Chasam Sofer once placed milk near his bed in order that after his sleep he would be able to drink it, even though six hours had not past. However, while he was sleeping he knocked over the milk. The Chasam Sofer accepted that as a sign from Heaven that the hallacha does not concur with the Vyaas Avraham and one needs to wait six full hours even if he slept in between (See Tshuvos VHanhagos 1:43). It seems that the custom is to be stringent and not to rely upon the permissible view of the Vyaas Avraham.

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Praying For The Sick

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

“And Hashem will remove from you all illness, and all of the evil diseases of Egypt which you knew, He will not set upon you, but He will lay them upon all your enemies.” (Ekav 7:15)

One who prays for the sick has fulfilled the mitzvos of “Love your brother as yourself” and performing chesed. The Gemara (Brachos 12a) tells us that “anyone who is able to pray for his friend and does not is called a sinner.” It is therefore very important to become familiar with the different hallachos that may be relevant when praying for the sick.
Praying in front of the choleh

The mitzvah of bikor cholim (visiting the sick) is considered one of the great mitzvos of the Torah. The Tur (Y.D. 335), quoting the Gemara, explains that it is one of the few ways that a person can follow in the ways G-d. Just as G-d visited Avraham when he was sick so to every Jew should visit his brethren when they are sick. Praying for the sick is an extremely important part of the mitzvah of bikor chlim. The Ramban (cited by Bais Yosef and Rama) writes that one who visits the sick and does not pray for him has not fulfilled his obligation. Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach zt”l is cited as ruling that simply wishing the choleh a speedy recovery “refua shleima” is a fulfillment of this obligation (see Halichus Shlomo Tefila chapter 8 note 63). This prayer, writes the Gesher Hachaim (vol. 1 page 30), if done so in front of the choleh should be done quickly and quietly. [See Gesher Hachaim who cites which verses one should pray when visiting the sick.]
The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 335:5) rules that when one is praying in front of the choleh one may do so in any language. The Shach explains that the shechina (G-d’s presence) rests with those who are sick and therefore when one is praying in front of the choleh he is doing so directly in front of Hashem, in which case one may pray in any language. However, the shulchan aruch rules that when praying for the sick not in the presence of the choleh one must do so in Lashon Hakodesh. The reason given is that when one is praying (not in the presence of Hashem) one needs the heavenly angels to escort the tefillos in front of Hashem and since the angels are unfamiliar with any language other then Lashon Hakodesh, one must only pray in Lashon Hakodesh. [See the Taz who feels that this is actually a machlokes rishonim, for the opinion of the Rosh is that the angels understand all languages other then Aramaic.] The Maharil Diskin (Kuntres Achron 184) did advance a possibility that even in the presence of the choleh one should only pray in Lashon Hakodesh. However, as explained above, this is not the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch and the other poskim. The Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 5 Ramat Rahcel page 17) also notes  that the opinion of the Maharil Diskin is in contention of many poskim.

It is worthy to note the ruling of the Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 119:1) who writes that when praying in front of the sick person one need not mention the name of the choleh, rather one should pray that Hashem send a speedy recovery to “this sick person.” His source is from the verse which describes Moshe Rabbeinu praying for his sister Miriam Hanivea. The verse states: “Moshe cried out to the Lord, saying, “I beseech you, God, please heal her.” (Bahaloscha 12:13) He explains that Moshe Rabbeinu did not mention the name of Miriam because she was present at the time of the prayer. This opinion actually preceded the Aruch Hashulchan. The Maharil (cited by Magen Avraham 119) expressed a similar view.

Praying for a choleh, while not in his presence

The Gesher Hachaim writes that when praying for the sick not in the presence of the choleh, one should recite the following eighteen chapters of tehillim; 2,6,13,22,25,30,32,38,69,88,102,103,107,116,118,142,143,130. He adds that if one wishes to add more Tehillim he should recite the following chapters: 9,16,17,18,23,31,33,36,3,41,4,55,56,86,89,90,91,104. [See the Gesher Hachaim for more instructions when praying for the sick.]

Adding a name for the choleh

The Rama (Y.D. 335:10) writes that many have the custom of adding a name to one who is sick. He adds that “changing one’s name tears up the evil decree.” A person’s soul is “hinted” and connected to their name and therefore a change in their name is essentially a change of their being. It is thus understandable that one should not make any changes lightly and should only do so after consulting with a competent rabbinical authority.
The Gesher Hachaim notes that the changing of the name is accompanied by the recitation of Tehillim in the presence of a Minyan and various other special Tefillos, including a special Yehi Ratzon recited specifically when giving someone an additional name, as printed in many Siddurim. He continues to note that the name should be added in front of the choleh’s preexisting name. For example if his name is Moshe and they wish to add the name Rafael. His name for the future will be Rafael Moshe and not Moshe Rafael.
He continues to explain that whether or not the person will continue to be referred to by the new name will depend upon whether he recovers from the illness, and upon the nature of his recovery. If he recovers even a little bit, and is able to get up from this illness and establish himself with his new name for at least thirty days, even if he then gets sick again and dies after these thirty days, since he had established himself after having recovered from his illness for at least thirty days, that new name remains associated with him forever. It is thus written on his tombstone, and is used when a Keil Molei Rachamim is said, when Yizkor is recited, and when Mishanyos are learned in his memory, and so on. If, however, the person does not recover from the illness, meaning that he does not establish himself after having gotten up from the illness for at least thirty days with this new name, then he is referred to and remembered only by his original name, and the new name is ignored.
The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim (Kuntras Acharon to Siman 217, Inyanei Berachos Ot 7, Amud 105) quotes from the Chida (Sefer Dvash, Maareches 300:4) that there are certain other names which should not be used for this purpose, and certain names which should be used. The common practice today is to give the sick person a name which somehow symbolizes life, health, strength, or some other type of Beracha which expresses the hope that the person will recover from his illness.

Different reasons why we use the mothers name during prayers

The prevalent minhag of Klal Yisroel is that when we pray for the sick we use their mother’s name, for example if a choleh’s name is Yaakov and his fathers name is Yitzchak while his mother’s name is Rivka, we pray for the recovery of Yaakov ben Rivka and we do not pray for Yaakov ben Yitzchak. While for other rituals (writing the Kesuba, receiving an aliyah in shul etc.) we use the father’s name. This custom is based on the Gemara (Shabbos 66b) which cites the ruling of Abaya, namely that when praying for the sick we use the mother’s name. The poskim offer many reasons why this has become the custom of klal yisroel, as we shall discuss:

1) The Sefer Gvul Yehuda (O.C. 2) explains that the reason we use the mother’s name and not the father’s name is because we can never be certain that a person’s father is indeed his father. However, we are able to be one hundred percent certain that his mother is indeed his mother. A similar notion can be found in the Sefer Chochmas Shlomo by the Maharshal. This explanation was already advanced by the Zohar Hakadosh (Lech Licha). The Ben Ish Chai in his Sefer Ben Yehoyada (Brachos 55b) writes that many seforim have offered the previous explanation, however, he disagrees and feels that it is actually disrespectful to question the accuracy of the fathers paternity. Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer O.C. 2:11) wonders how it is possible that the Ben Ish Chai, a gaon who was very well versed in the writings of the Zohar, could dismiss this explanation when it is actually the opinion of the Zohar.

2) The Ben Ish Chai, himself, offers an entirely different explanation. He writes that the reason why we mention the mothers name is to invoke mercy. A woman does not transgress many of the sins that many men commit (bitul torah, hotzas zera etc.) and therefore mentioning the mothers name will help the choleh in a positive way. As apposed to mentioning the name of the father, which may remind the Heavenly court of the numerous sins that the average men transgresses.

3) A third explanation can be found in the sefer Gvul Yehuda (ibid.). He explains that we recall the mothers name so as not to embarrass the children of intermarried couples, whose father’s are not Jewish.

Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that if one does not know the name of the mother one may recall the father’s name in it’s stead. The Chazon Ish (Oral ruling cited in Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 1 page 64) adds that one may also mention his surname.
Prayer for a Rebbi or a parent

The Maver Yabok (cited by Chida in Shiurei Bracha Y.D. 335) rules that when one is praying for a parent or a rebbi one should not recall any titles (Hagaon, Chacham, etc.) for “there is no honor in the presence of G-d.” He does note that regarding people that referencing them by name is forbidden (father, rebbi) one is allowed to say “father ploni” or “rebbi ploni.” The Tzitz Eliezer (ibid.) writes the following: “The halacha is that when one is praying for the health of his father, mother, or rebbi, they should be mentioned by name. He should state the following, ‘Please heal and send a speedy recovery, to my father ploni, or my mother plonit, or to my rebbi ploni.’ No other title should be given.”

Please email  any questions or comments to avizakutinsky@gmail.com

Tevilas Keilim- Immersing New Utensils

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

The Mitzvah of tevilas keilim is alluded to in Bamidbar 31:23 where Elazar HaKohen instructs the army returning from war with Midyan regarding the booty they have captured. The verse states: “Kol davar asher yavoh ba’aish ta’averu ba’aish v’taher”. The verse begins by telling us that all utensils that have been used to cook non-kosher must be purged of the flavor they have absorbed in the manner that they were used. The verse then states “v’taher”, meaning that they are then made tahor through an added step of purification. According to the Gemara, Avodah Zara 75b this added step of purification is accomplished through immersion in a mikvah
This process is required for all utensils which are bought or otherwise acquired from a non-Jew, even if they are brand new. Just as a convert requires immersion, when transitioning from non-Jewish to Jewish, so too, utensils require immersion when being transferred from non-Jewish to Jewish ownership. To discuss the intricate details of tevilas keilim would be extremely difficult, therefore, in this article we will be focusing on which materials and items require tevilah in a mikvah.
The Obligation

Most Rishonim assume that the obligation to immerse new vessels is biblical in nature , see Sefer Tevilas Keilim page 34 for a complete list. The Piskei Harid feels that although one is required to immerse the vessels, one is allowed to use them before they were immersed. However, the majority of the poskim, including the Rama (Y.D. 120:8), feel that in addition to the obligation to immerse these utensils, there exists a prohibition not to use them before they are placed in the mikveh.
The poskim discuss the nature of this prohibition. The Ohr Zarua (Avodah Zara 293) is of the opinion that this issur is biblical in nature. Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach zt”l (cited in Tevilas Keilim page 241) deduces that the Shagas Aryeh agrees with the opinion of the Ohr Zarua. However, after analyzing the works of the achronim it seems that this prohibition is merely rabbinic in nature. This is indeed the opinions of the Yeshuos Yaakov (Y.D. 120:1), Mishnna Berurah (Biur Halacha 323:7) and Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechave Daas 4:44 Yabia Omer vol. 2 Y.D. 9,2).

A. Metals (Including Steel and Aluminum)

When describing the obligation to purify and immerse utensils that were owned and used by non-Jews the Torah mentions only six types of metals; Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron, Tin and Lead. These items need immersion on a biblical level. The poskim discuss whether metals like aluminum or steel, which were not listed explicitly in the verse, are required to be immersed and whether the obligation is biblical or rabbinic in nature. It would seem that according to the Tiferes Yisroel (Kuntres Yevakesh Daas) the obligation is biblical. The Sefer Tevilas Keilim (page 225, footnote 113) cites the oral ruling of Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a, that all types of metals, including aluminum and the like, are required to be immersed m’doraysa (biblical law).
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:22) disagrees and he feels that there is no biblical obligation to immerse any metal which was not enumerated in the verse. He explains that G-d was obviously aware of all materials that were in use and that will be in use and if He did not list it in the posuk, clearly He felt that there is no biblical obligation to immerse them in a mikvah. That being said, there is a rabbinic obligation to immerse these utensils due to it’s similarities to the metals listed in the verse (a similar ruling exists regarding glass items, as we shall discuss iy”h later on).

B. Glass

The Shulchan Aruch rules that glass utensils require tevilah. Since glass is similar to metal, in that it can be melted down and reformed, it requires tevilah. The Poskim disagree as to whether this obligation is rabbinic or biblical (most authorities feel that it is merely rabbinic, see Tevilas Keilim page 40 for full list), however, according to all authorities a blessing is recited.

C. Wood and Stone

The Chida (Shiurei Bracha Y.D. 120:2) writes that utensils made of wood or stone do not require immersion in the mikvah.

D. Plastic and Nylon

When analyzing whether plastic and nylon items require immersion one would assume at first glance that they do not, as the only items that require immersion are metals and glass. The only possibility to require immersion is based upon the following premise. On a biblical level only metals require tevilah, however, according to most authorities; the Rabbis extended this obligation to glass utensils as well. It may very well be possible that this extension can be advanced to obligate immersion for plastic and rubber utensils.
The Rav of Debritzin (Beer Moshe 2:53) writes that utensils made of plastic or nylon do not require tevilah in a mikveh. These items have no connection to metal or glass utensils  and therefore the obligation was never extended towards these materials. The Chelkas Yaakov (Y.D. 45) adds that because these materials were not in existence during the times of the Gemara when the obligation to immerse glass was instituted (according to most authorities) we are unable to create our extend the requirement to these new materials. A similar view can be found in the Sefer Tzitz Eliezer (7:37, 8:26). This is indeed the opinions of many great poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Rav Eliyahu Henkin zt”l, the Chazon Ish (all cited in Sefer Tevilas Keilim page 227) and ybc”l Rav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (cited in Chaya Halevi 4:56:3). Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer Y.D. 4:8) has a permissible view as well, he does write that if one wishes to immerse these items (without a blessing) “may he be blessed”.
It should be noted that the Minchas Yitzchak (3:76) rules that because some forms of plastic can be melted down and reformed (similar to glass) one should immerse them without a blessing. But as noted above the majority of poskim disagree with this view.

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Semichah in the Talmud and Today

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

In Parshas Pinchas we are told of Moshe Rabbeinu giving semichah to his prized student, Yehoshua [He laid his hands upon him and commanded him, in accordance with what G-d had spoken to Moshe. (Pinchas 27:23)]. Many people have a misunderstanding as to the true meaning of semichah and its hallachic ramifications. Semichah today has very few, if any, similarities to the act that Moshe performed. In this article we will describe the evolution of semichah in hallacha, and its significance today.

The Origins

Moshe Rabbeinu was the first ever to receive semichah. He received semichah directly from Hashem. Moshe in turn gave semichah to Yehoshua as was recorded in the verse cited above. In addition, he also performed semichah on the seventy elders. They in turn gave semichah to their students who gave semichah to their students etc. Thus the Rambam (Hilchos Sanhedrin chapter 4) notes that when one received semichah, even during the times of the Gemara, he entered an unbroken chain stemming back to Moshe Rabbeinu. This semichah allowed rabbanim to serve as judges on different batei denim dealing with capital or financial punishments. See the Rambam who enumerates the hallachos of semichah, such as: We do not ordain rabbis outside of Israel, the semichah must be done by three Rabbanim and one of those rabbnim must have semichah himself etc.

When the Chain of Semichah Broke

It is very clear that at some point the chain of semichah broke. The question is when that occurred. Rav Chaim Palagi, in his Sefer Chukos Hachaim (page 109), proves that semichah continued at least until the times of Abaya and Rava. The Chasam Sofer (O.C. 203) writes that Hillel the Amorah (a contemporary of Abaya and Rava, not to be confused with the Tannaim Hillel and Shamai) and his chaveirim were the last to receive semichah. Rav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l, in the Sefer Hilchos Medina vol. 1 page 104, notes that the Ramban and the Tashbetz held the same sentiments centuries before the Chasam Sofer.
The Tashbetz (Zohar Rakia 54) describes the end of the era of semichah. He writes that hallacha dictates that in order for the Rabbanim to establish Rosh Chodesh they need to have been ordained. Hillel knew that the chain of semichah was not going to continue and he was concerned that we would be unable to establish the months and subsequently we would not have Yomim Tovim. He therefore instituted a calender which establishes the roshei chadashim automatically until the times of moshiach. It is clear from the words of the Tashbetz that semichah ceased around the time of Hillel.
Reinstituting Semichah

We have explained previously that in order to perform semichah on others the Rabbi must have been himself ordained. It would thus seem that once the chain of semichah broke we can not reinstitute semichah. This would indeed be the case if not for a very interesting ruling of the Rambam. The Rambam (Pirush Hamishna Sanhedrin first perek) writes that if all the chachamim of Eretz Yisroel are in agreement they are able to grant semichah. He notes that if we are unable to reinstitute semichah how else will we have a Sanhedrin during the times of moshiach, for we are unable to appoint a Sanhedrin unless the process of semichah exists. Therefore it must be true that if all the Rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel are in agreement they are capable of granting semichah, which will lead to the rebuilding of the Sanhedrin.
The Rambam in Yad Hachazaka (Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:11) codifies this ruling, however, he seems reluctant to rule this way for normative halacha. He writes the following: “It appears to me that if all of the wise men in Eretz Yisrael agree to appoint judges and convey semichah upon them, the semichah is binding and these judges may adjudicate cases involving financial penalties and convey semichah upon others. If so, why did the Sages suffer anguish over the institution of semichah, trying to insure that the judgment of cases involving financial penalties would not be nullified among the Jewish people (as it would be when the institution of semichah ceased), because the Jewish people were dispersed, and it is impossible that all could agree (to reinstitute semichah). If, by contrast, there was a person who had received semichah from a person who had received semichah, he does not require the consent of all others. Instead, he may adjudicate cases involving financial penalties for everyone, for he received semichah from a court. The question requires resolution.”
Most meforshim explain that when the Rambam writes that this “question requires resolution” he is addressing the possibility of reinstituting semichah and he has reservations as to whether this is indeed the hallacha.
The simple explanation of the Rambam is as follows. He feels that klal yisroel as a whole have the strength and ability to appoint judges for a Sanhedrin and since the rabbanim represent the people, they in turn are capable of reinstituting semichah. Rav Elchonon Wasserman zt”l (Kovetz Shiurim vol. 2 Divrei Sophrim 2:8) wonders why is it that only the rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel are significant when it comes to appointing members for the Sanhedrin, while the rabbanim of the diaspora are not part of the equation.
The answer to that question can be found in the writings of the Rambam in Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh (5:13), who emphasizes that the determination of the calendar is solely the province of the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael. And as the Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 234) notes were there not to be any Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, heaven forbid, we would not be able to determine the calendar. Thus the Rambam is telling us that when determining mitzvos, only the Jewish nation living in Israel has the significance of Klal Yisroel. Similarly in our discussion only the Rabbis of eretz yisroel are capable of appointing members for a Sanhedrin.
The Semichah of Rav Yaakov Bei Rav

In the year 1538, the Rabbanim of Tzfat (which was the majority of the rabbanim living within Eretz Yisroel at the time) came together and wished to reinstitute semichah based upon the opinion of the Rambam. They decided to ordain the Great Rav Yaakov Bei Rav. In addition, great sages like Rav Yosef Karo, the Mabit and the Alshich Hakadosh were ordained as well. They felt that the majority of the Rabbanim would suffice in order to reestablish the Sanhedrin.
However, the Rabbanim of Yerushalayim objected to this new semichah, most notably among them was the Maharlbach, who wrote a kuntres specifically to disprove their actions. The Maharlbach and the Radvaz (on Rambam Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:11) noted some of the objections, I will list them here: 1) As noted above, it seems as though the Rambam was reluctant to rule definitively in this manner and therefore it is difficult to rely upon this ruling for normative hallacha. 2) The Rambam would require the consensus of all of the rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel. Although Tzefat contained the majority of the sages of Israel, until all the rabbanim of Israel are in agreement we are unable to reestablish the Sanhedrin. Rav Yehonasan Eibshitz zt”l (Tumim 1:2) agrees that according to the Rambam one needs the concensus of all of the rabbanim, majority would not suffice. The Meiri (Sanhedrin 14a) also writes that semichah can be conveyed if all of the rabbanim are in agreement. 3) Even if we assume that majority of rabbanim suffice, however, the minority still needs to take part in the deliberation, which did not occur. 4) To be worthy of sitting on the Sanhedrin one must be able to issue hallachic rulings on every category of Jewish law. The Maharlbach and the Radvaz had reservations whether sages of this caliber existed at the time. 5) And lastly, the Rambam was forced to issue this novel ruling because he had no other explanation as to how we will have a Sanhedrin during the times of Moshiach. The Radvaz offers the possibility that Eliyahu Hanavi will establish the Sanhedrin during those times. With that being said it is unnecessary to assume that we are indeed capable to reestablish semichah.
Rav Yechiel Tukazinsky zt”l (Ir Hakodesh V’Hamikdash vol. 4 chapter 16) writes that the semichah continued for almost one hundred years. The reason why it ceased was not due to the disagreement with the Maharlbach, as many mistakenly assumed, rather it was due to harsh living conditions in Eretz Yisroel. The Arabs at the time were forcing many Jews to pay unjust fines and this forced many of the great rabbanim, who had received semichah, to move to the Diaspora.
Semichah Today

Although the chain of Semichah was severed, the prevalent custom amongst most of klal yisroel was to grant some form of “semichah” to young men. This “semichah” was a requirement to allow those young men to serve as rabbanim or dayanim. The Tzitz Eliezer cites sources to prove that the sefardic communities never accepted this as a custom.
Semichah during the times of chazal allowed for men to serve on a bais din dealing with capital or financial punishments. The questions that needs to be answered is what is the nature of this new “semichah”, which of course cannot allow the recipient to dole out capital punishment?
The Rivash (cited by Rama Y.D. 242:14) addresses this question and he writes that the new “semichah” is a form of permission to issue rulings in the vicinity of his rebbi. As we know one is not allowed to issue hallachic rulings in the vicinity of one’s rebbi unless the rebbi grants him permission to do so. This semichah is formally granting the student permission to issue hallachic rulings. Therefore, notes the Rama, if the rebbi has passed on it is unnecessary for the student to receive semichah.
That being said, it is important to note that  historically there were many fake “rabbis” who were not learned and unfortunately took advantage of many simple Jews. These “rabbis” would give their “hechsher” to non-kosher establishments for the right price (see letters of the Ridvaz in the hakdama to his sefer). Therefore semichah was extremely necessary to help discern between the real rabbis and those who were fake. This was the main reason that one could not serve as a rabbi without this letter of recommendation. And to this day if one wishes to serve as a rabbi, in most circumstances, a letter of semicha is a prerequisite.

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Are Kohanim Allowed To Visit Kivrei Tzadikim (the graves of the Righteous)?

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

Jewish law prohibits a kohen from coming in close proximity to any dead body or to a cemetery.  In this article we will focus on the discussion amongst the poskim as to whether there is legitimate basis to allow kohanim to visit the graves of tzadikim or is this act unequivocally prohibited.

Sources which suggest a lenient ruling

1) The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 944) records an episode that occurred immediately following the brutal murder of Rav Akiva. Eliyahu Hanavi came to bury Rav Akiva. As Eliyahu carried Rav Akiva’s body on his shoulders, Rav Yehoshua, one of Rav Akiva’s main disciples, wondered how this is permitted if in fact Eliyahu was a kohen (as was indicated previously in the Midrash). Eliyahu responded: “Rav Yehoshua, my son, heaven forbid for tumah does not exist when it comes to talmidei chachamim or their sudents.” Some poskim feel that the statement of Eliyahu can serve as a source to allow kohanim to visit the graves of tzadikim.

Tosafos (Baba Metzia 114b), however, maintains that there exists a prohibition for kohanim to come in close proximity of the corpse or graves of the righteous. He addresses the Midrash and explains that Eliyahus response to Rav Yehoshua was aimed at preventing further questioning rather than expressing a true halacha. The real reason Eliyahu was permitted to bury Rav Akiva was due to the fact that Rav Akiva had the status of a “meis mitzvah” (a body without enough people for burial) which a kohen is allowed to contaminate himself for. He was considered a “meis mitzvah” because no one else would bury him out of fear of facing repercussions from the government. [The Ramban (Yevamos 61a) rejects this opinion of Tosafos on the grounds that it would seem unacceptable for  Eliyahu Hanavi to offer a false response in order to avoid further questions. One who hears that statement is likely to take him literally and may issue an erroneous hallachic ruling.] In addition the Sefer Haeshkol (vol. 2 page 174) cites the lenient ruling of the Midrash and comments that we should not base our hallachic rulings upon aggadic statements of the Midrashim unless the ruling was codified by the Gemara.

2) The second source that suggests a lenient ruling is a Gemara in Kesubos (103b). The Gemara tells us that when Rav Yehuda Hanasi died, “kedusha” (holiness) was removed from the world. Tosafos cites the opinion of Rav Chaim Kohen who explains that the “holiness” in this context is referencing the holiness of the kohanim. Meaning that kohanim took place in the burial of Harav Yehuda Hanasi. He adds that if he had been present for the funeral of Rabbeinu Tam he would have attended, even though he himself was a kohen. The Rashash feels that this too would suggest that there is no prohibition for a kohen to become tamei through touching a tzaddik’s grave.

However, it should be noted that most authorities feel that one cannot extend the comments of Tosafos to allow kohanim to visit kivrei tzadikim. It could be easily argued that there is a special leniency to allow a kohen to become tamei for a Nasi (such as Rav Yehuda Hanasi) who dies, and this dispensation does not apply to other tzadikim. In fact the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 374:10) rules that a kohen is permitted to become tamei by exposing himself to come in contact with the body of a Nasi. The logic for this ruling is that the position of the Nasi is considered to be so exalted that he is always considered to be a “meis mitzvah”, as there are never a sufficient amount if people to pay him the proper respect. [The Bais Yosef comments that Rav Chaim Kohen merely felt that this leniency may be applied to any leader of klal yisroel and therefore he would have allowed himself to attend the funeral of Rabbeinu Tam.]

What’s more, this leniency to contaminate for a Nasi is only extended to allow kohanim to attend the funeral; however, to subsequently visit the grave would be prohibited. In addition it is worthy to note that Rabbeinu Bachya (Kad Hakemach- Ahava) limits this leniency even more still. He explains that this leniency applies only to Rav Yehuda Hanasi who died with G-d’s kiss (“misas neshika”). Tumah stems from the angel of death and therefore tzadikim who were worthy of dying through G-d directly do not transmit any tumah. Other tzadikim who did not merit this form of death would indeed contaminate kohanim.

Sources which suggest a stringent ruling

1) The Gemara in Sukah (25b) states that (according to some) the people who initially approached Moshe Rabbeinu about the possibility of making up for the korban pesach that was missed due to tumah, were the men carrying the body of Yosef Hatzadik. Now it is obvious that Yosef was a tremendous tzadik, yet these men became contaminated from contacting his body. It is thus clear that the corpse of a tzadik can transmit tumah and kohanim should not be allowed to visit their gravesites. [It should be noted that the Avnei Nezer (Y.D. 166:17) wishes to reconcile the fact that Yosef Hatzadik seemingly transmitted tumah while Eliyahu buried Rav Akiva (as cited in the Midrash earlier). He explains that if the tzadik was murdered, his body will not contaminate others, however, if he died naturally then he will make others tamei. He based his opinion on the words of the Zohar Hakadosh. According to the Avnei Nezer, kohanim would be allowed to visit the grave of a tzadik who was murdered, such as Rav Akiva.]

2) The Gemara in Baba Basra (58a) tells us that Rav Binah marked off the graves of the Patriarchs in Maaras Hamachpela. The Rashbam, Tosafos and the Rif all explain that the reason that Rav Binah marked off the graves was to alert the kohanim of the presence of tumah so that they can avoid those areas entirely.

[However, Rav Yaakov Emden zt”l, in his Hagaos Yaavetz, offers an alternate explanation. He writes that the purpose of marking the locations of the graves in the Maaras Hamachpela could not have been for kohanim to avoid tumah because kivrei tzadikim do not transmit tumah. Rather, the graves were marked so that Jews in future generations would be able to daven at the graves of the Avos.

3) The Gemara in Sanhedrin (39a) records a conversation that took place between a heretic and Rav Avahu. The heretic asked how G-d purified himself after burying Moshe Rabbeinu, because the pasuk indicates that G-d is a kohen. Rav Avahu responded that instead of using water, G-d purified Himself by immersing in fire. Tosafos wonders why the heretic did not question how G-d was allowed to bury Moshe in the first place if He is in fact a kohen. Tosafos explains that because the Jews are considered children of G-d (“banim lamakom”) there is no problem with G-d contaminating Himself by coming in contact with a Jewish body, the same way a kohen is allowed to bury his own son. The Gemara seems to indicate that even though Moshe Rabbeinu was both a tzadik and a talmid chacham his body would transmit tumah.

The rulings of the poskim

While some poskim  permitted kohanim to visit the graves of tzadikim, however, the overwhelming majority of the poskim forbid any kohen to come in contact with the corpse or grave of a tzadik, I will list some of them here: Sefer Haeshkol, Maharil (150), Shu”t Batei Kehuna (1:23), Mishpitei Tzedek (76), Sdei Chemed (vol. 8 page 292), Hilchos Ketanos (177), Zais Ranan (Y.D. 2:27), Pe’as Hashulchan (2:16), Tuv Tam V’Daas (Rav Shlomo Kluger Y.D. 2:231), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (202:14), Divrei Yechezkel, Yaskil Avdi (vol. 8 page 192), Yechave Daas (Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l 4:48) and Tzitz Eliezer (15:58).

[See Tzitz Eliezer 15:58, 16:18,3 for a discussion as to whether Kever Rachel was constructed in a way to permit kohanim entry according to all authorities. Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo Sefiras Haomer chapter eleven note 86) denies the claim that kohanim can enter the kever of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai. He writes that the construction does not permit entry under any circumstance.]

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