Fish and Meat (Part 4)

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

Fish and Dairy-

1. Harav Yosef Karo zt”l in the Beis Yosef (Yoreh Deah 87), the Shulchan Aruch’s commentary on the Tur, writes that “one should not eat fish and milk together because of the danger involved, as it is explained in O.C. 173.”

2. However, many authorities, including the Rama, Prisha, Taz, Shach, Magen Avraham and Aruch Hashulchan point out that the location the Beis Yosef referenced for his halachic decision to be machmir is referring to eating fish with meat, not milk. They therefore maintain that this issue is a case of mistaken identity (misprint) and that eating fish with milk is 100% permissible. The Chida (Machzik Bracha 87:4) also feels that it is permissible to eat fish and dairy together and that there is a misprint in the Beis Yosef. He adds that if it is indeed true that fish and dairy is dangerous, Harav Yosef Karo should have written so in his Shulchan Aruch.

3. It is worth noting that although many assume that there was a misprint in the Beis Yosef, the notion of avoiding fish and dairy due to danger was already advanced hundreds of years earlier by Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 23:19). Rabbeinu Bachya writes, “The doctors feel that fish and cheese that are cooked together can cause bad health and tza’raas.

4. Indeed, there were authorities who were stringent and did not allow for fish to be eaten with dairy. They explain that they also heard from doctors that fish and dairy can be harmful to one’s health (see Darkei Teshuva 87:43 and Yechava Daas 6:48).

5. Other authorities, including the Chinuch Beis Yehuda, Pri Megadim (see Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 87) and Kaf Hachaim (87:24), differentiate between fish and milk (or cheese) which they believe to be harmful and fish and butter (or cream) which is not damaging to one’s health. The Ben Ish Chai (Year 2 Bahaloscha 15) cites these authorities and writes that one should be stringent with all forms of dairy and that in Baghdad the common custom is to refrain from even eating fish and butter.

6. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue at length and concludes that, “One should refrain from eating fish and milk or cheese due to the potential danger involved. However, those that are lenient to eat fish and butter together are permitted to continue in their approach. Ashkenazi Jews dismiss this issue entirely and eat fish with all forms of dairy and they have what to rely on.” It is based upon the ruling of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l and the Ben Ish Chai that many Sefardim avoid eating fish and dairy together (some will eat fish and butter, as cited above). However, as noted most Ashkenazic communities dismiss this issue entirely.

Drinking Water After Fish-

1. The Rama (Y.D. 115:3) writes that in between eating fish and meat one should eat and drink something.

2. Tosafos (Moed Katan 11a) writes that in his day it was considered dangerous (to one’s heart) to drink water immediately after eating fish. This teaching is cited by many authorities, including Rav Akiva Eiger zt”l (Y.D. 116:5) and the Aruch Hashulchan.(116:10)

3. According to Harav Nissam Karelitz shlit”a (Chut Shani Shabbos vol. 4 page 399) tea, coffee, soda and cola have the same status as water.

4. Harav Nissam Karelitz shlit”a writes that today one may rule leniently. He explains that Tosafos never meant to imply that this is a rabbinic prohibition, rather the doctors of his time felt that it was harmful to drink water after eating fish. Therefore, today where the doctors feel that it is no longer harmful one may rule leniently. Harav Karelitz shlit”a continues that some are stringent however, and avoid drinking water after eating fish.

5. On Shabbos, following the fish course, those who are stringent face an interesting dilemma. As noted above (halacha 1) in between fish and meat one should drink something. However, according to Tosafos one should not drink water (or soda etc.) after fish. Therefore, writes Harav Karelitz shlit”a many have the custom to drink wine or whiskey in between the fish and chicken soup courses.

6. Harav Chaim Elazar Shapiro zt”l of Munkatsh (the author of the Minchas Elazar) added another reason why many drink whiskey immediately following the fish course on Friday night. The word whiskey in Hebrew is “yayin saraf.” The first two letters being “yud” and “shin.” The first letter of the hebrew word for fish is “daled” (“dagim”). All three letters together spell out the name of Hashem “Shakay.” In order not to separate the name of Hashem one should drink the whiskey immediately after the fish (Darkei Chayim V’Shalom 396).

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at


Fish and Meat (Part 3)

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

Cooking Fish In A Meat Pot-

1. The Torah requires us to use separate utensils for meat and milk because we assume that the taste of the food becomes absorbed in the utensil and would then impart taste into future foods cooked in the pot. The poskim discuss whether one muse have separate pots for fish and meat.

2. The Tur (Yoreh Deah 116:2) writes the following, “One must be careful not to eat fish and meat together as it may cause tza’raas. Some are stringent to have separate utensils for fish.” The Sefer Shulchan Chai (1:7) also writes that one should have separate pots for fish and meat. The policy of the Star-K is also not to allow its caterers to cook fish in a meat pot (based upon an article from the Star-K website).

3. However, most poskim are not convinced that we must concern ourselves with the infusion of taste into the utensils and they allow for fish to be cooked in a clean meat pot. Indeed, this is the view of the Issur V’Heter, Maharshal, Taz, Knesses Hagedolah, Chochmas Adam, Edus B’Yehusef and Kaf Hachaim (see Yoreh Deah 116:20). The Chasam Sofer also writes that the common custom is to eat fish on meat utensils and that many great leaders also maintained that one need not have a separate set of pots for fish.

4. The Sefer Dalsei Teshuva (cited by Darkei Teshuva 27) writes that most people commonly cook fish in clean meat pots. He adds that if onions or garlic (or any other sharp foods) are being cooked with the fish, one should not cook them in the meat pot. He basis this on the fact that generally, in the laws of kashrus, sharp foods are treated more stringently. According to this opinion one should not slice an onion with a meat knife and cook those onions with fish.

However, others are lenient and permit one to slice a sharp food with a meat knife and cook it with fish. For normative halacha, a rav should be consulted. (see Shemiras Haguf V’Hanefesh page 8)

5. If the fish and meat were cooked in the same pot simultaneously, the Pischei Teshuvah (Yoreh Deah 116:3) cites Tiferet L’Moshe that the utensil must be kashered. He reasons that while mere infusion of taste is not strong enough to create a prohibition, if fish and meat were cooked together there is “poison” in the walls of the pot that needs to be removed.

6. The Divrei Malkiel (cited by Darkei Teshuva 28), however, disagrees and feels that one need not kasher the pot. Rather, one may just wait twenty four hours and continue to use the pot without concern. The Kaf Hachaim (Yoreh Deah 116:13) rules in accordance with the Divrei Malkiel.

7. Harav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (Shevet Halevi 6:111) cites the above argument and concludes, “We commonly rule in accordance with the Pischei Teshuva and require for the pots to be kashered. The Sefer Mishmeres Shalom does, however, rules leniently if the pot is made of earthenware or porcelain (which cannot become kashered).”

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at

Fish And Meat (Part 2)

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

Does This Prohibition Still Apply Today-
1. The Magen Avraham (173) writes that there are many natural phenomena mentioned in the gemara that no longer apply today. The health concern of eating meat and fish is simply another example of something that used to be a real concern, but is no longer an issue. The teaching of the Magen Avraham is cited without comment by the Mishnah Berurah and the Aruch Hashulchan.
2. The Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 101) noted that the Rambam omits the concern of fish and meat entirely from his Mishnah Torah. The Chasam Sofer suggests that the Rambam knew that nature has changed and although there once was a legitimate health threat posed by mixing fish and meat, no such threat exists today. (It is important to note that the Chasam Sofer does not recommend that we rely on the Rambam’s opinion in this area.)

וכדאי לציין למה שראיתי בשו”ת מהרש”ם ח”ד ס’ קכ”ד וז”ל: “בדגים עם בשר שהמג”א צידד דליכא בזה”ז סכנה וגם אמרתי לרו”מ בשם ס’ הקנה דאחר אלף החמישי בטלה הסכנה אבל לא ראיתיו בעצמי רק ח”א אמר לי כן

3. The vast majority of poskim disagree and the basic halachah forbids eating meat and fish together. This is surely the universal custom and should be strictly adhered to. (The poskim do, however, take the Magen Avraham’s view into consideration and allow for some leniency in certain questionable situations, as we shall discuss later on in this chapter.)

Bitul B’shishim With Fish and Meat-
4. In general if an ounce of non kosher food becomes absorbed in sixty ounces of kosher food we assume that the entire mixture is kosher. We require sixty times the forbidden food to nullify it because the taste of the forbidden food is not discernible when mixed with sixty times its volume.
5. Although halachically forbidden foods may be nullified in sixty times their volume, the poskim dispute whether this principle applies to nullifying dangerous foods. The Taz (116:2), citing the Rama, rules that dangerous foods cannot become nullified in sixty times their volume. His ruling is based on the Talmudic dictum “chamira sakanta m’issura.” This means that something that involves a severe health risk is considered more stringent than regular prohibitions. In a case of a severe health risk, halachically there is no nullification, as halacha is extremely cautious when it comes to people’s health.

The Leket Yosher (Y.D. page 7) writes that his rebbi, the author of the Terumos Hadeshen, and the Maharam Mintz also ruled that dangerous foods do not become nullified in sixty times their volume.
6. However, most authorities maintain that even dangerous foods are nullified in sixty times their volume. The Shach argues that chamira sakanta m’issura is a principle that is limited to a case of doubt, but would not extend to the laws of bittul. Indeed, Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer Y.D. 1:7) uses his encyclopedic knowledge of halacha to list all the authorities who rule leniently and he does so as well.
7. One very common practical application of the above dispute is the issue of Worcestershire sauce which is always made with fish. Many people enjoy eating their Worcestershire sauce together with meat. Some brands of Worcestershire sauce have sixty times the volume of other ingredients than fish, while others have a higher concentration of fish. The policy of the Orthodox Union Kashrut Division is to label any sauce that contains more than 1.67% fish with an OU Fish to indicate that it should not be eaten with meat. If, however, the sauce is composed of less than 1.67% fish they will not label it as containing fish indicating that it may be eaten with meat even though there is some fish in the ingredients. Harav Herschel Schacter shlit”a explains that the logic for this policy is that the Orthodox Union relies on the opinion of the Shach that foods prohibited on account of danger may be nullified. In addition, they take the Magen Avraham’s view (cited above) into consideration, that the danger of fish and meat no longer applies.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at

Fish and Meat in Halacha (Part 1)

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

1. The gemara (Pesachim 76b) states that fish that is cooked with meat may not be eaten because it is likely to lead to “davar acher.” Rashi (ibid.) understands “davar acher” to be a reference to tzara’as. The Shulchan Aruch (173) also rules that one must be careful not to eat fish and meat together because it may cause tzara’as.
2. Most authorities, including the Magen Avraham, understand the Gemara to mean that combining fish and meat can cause a physical sickness. When the Gemara says that it can lead to tzara’as, it means that the person will become physically ill. It is for this reason that the Magen Avraham writes that perhaps one may be lenient with fish and meat since the doctors today feel that there is no longer a medical concern (this will be discussed in part 2). However, there is a minority view that feels that the Gemara was referring to a “spiritual” sickness and not a physical ailment (see Tiferes Tzvi Y.D. 91 and Toras Chesed E.H. 5:5).

3. Rav Yehuda Ayas zt”l (Beis Yehuda 26) seems to feel that the prohibition of eating fish and meat together is biblical in nature. Similarly, the Shu”t Avnei Tzedek (Y.D. 49) writes that one who endangers himself by eating fish and meat together transgresses the positive commandment of “Venishmartem Meod Lenafshoseichem” and the negative commandment of “Lo Sasim Damim B’Veisecha.” The Pri Megadim (Sifsei Daas 97:3) also writes that if there is a doubt whether fish fell into a meat dish one must be stringent and discard the dish. He explains that since the prohibition of eating meat and fish together is biblical in nature one must be stringent in case of doubt (safek d’oraysa l’chumra).

4. However, other authorities, including Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook zt”l (Daas Kohen 55) and Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer Y.D. 8), rule that it is only rabbinically prohibited to eat fish and meat together.

5. This debate is, most likely, closely related to a broader debate amongst the poskim as to whether a person violates a biblical prohibition when he places himself in harms way or is it merely rabbinic in nature. This debate centers around a few seemingly contradictory rulings of the Rambam in Hilchos Rotzeach. The Rambam (Chapter 11:4) writes, “Similarly, it is a positive mitzvah to remove any obstacle that could pose a danger to life, and to be very careful regarding these matters, as Deuteronomy 4:9 states: ‘Beware for yourself; and guard your soul.’ If a person leaves a dangerous obstacle and does not remove it, he negates the observance of a positive commandment, and violates the negative commandment: ‘Do not cause blood to be spilled.’” The Rambam is quite clear that it is biblically prohibited to endanger oneself.

However, the Rambam continues (Chapter 11:5-6), “Our Sages forbade many matters because they involve a threat to life. Whenever a person transgresses these guidelines, saying, ‘I will risk my life, what does this matter to others,’ or ‘I am not careful about these things,’ he should be punished by makos merdus. They include: A person should not place his mouth over a conduit through which water flows and drink. Nor should he drink at night from rivers and lakes, lest he swallow a leech without seeing. Similarly, a person should not drink water that was left uncovered, lest a snake or other poisonous crawling animal might have drunk from them, and as a result, the person would die.” This teaching of the Rambam implies that our Sages forbade placing oneself in danger and it is not biblical in nature. Indeed the Beer Hagolah (end of Choshen Mishpat 70) questions whether the prohibition is biblical or rabbinic in nature.

6. The Sefer Tevuos Shor (Y.D. 13:2) writes that it is assur m’doraysa to enter a dangerous situation. This is also the view of the Sma, Levush (see Darkei Teshuva 115:57), Aruch Hashulchan, Marcheshes (20) and Minchas Chinuch (556).

The Sdei Chemed also cites authorities who maintain that according to the Rambam it is biblically forbidden to endanger oneself. They explain that although the Rambam writes that the “Sages” forbade these actions, he does not mean to say that it is forbidden on a rabbinic level. There are many times where the Rambam uses this terminology regarding biblical laws. His intention is that the “Sages” explained what the true definition of the verse is. In this case the meaning is that all dangerous actions are biblically forbidden. It is the Sages who define what is considered dangerous. Once they classify an action as dangerous it is considered forbidden on a biblical level. This is also the view of the Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 101).

7. The Sefer Shiva Einayim (cited by Darkei Teshuva ibid.) writes that it is only assur m’drabbanun to enter a dangerous situation. The verse cited above by the Rambam “Beware for yourself; and guard your soul” is not actually referring to guarding the physical body, rather it is requiring a Jew to protect his Torah knowledge and not to forget his learning. The Sages extended a rabbinic prohibition to protecting the physical body from danger (as the verse continues “Beware and watch yourself very well, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw”). Therefore, when the Rambam cites the verse as a source for the prohibition his intent is really that it is a rabbinic prohibition which merely finds a hint (asmachta) for it’s source in Torah.

8. The Sefer Maases Hamelech (on Rambam) also discusses the seemingly contradictory rulings of the Rambam. He explains that it is biblically prohibited to place oneself in danger and this is what the Rambam was referring to in his first ruling. However, the Sages forbade certain actions as a safeguard for one’s health even though it is unlikely that they will actually lead to mortal danger. The Sefer Divrei Malkiel also maintains that performing acts of which the Gemara warns against as being dangerous is only rabbinically forbidden.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at

Turning on an incandescent light bulb on Shabbos

1. It is accepted amongst the authorities that it is Biblically prohibited to light an incandescent light bulb on Shabbos. This view was expressed by Harav Yitzchak Schmelkes zt”l (Beis Yitzchak Y.D. 120), Harav Chaim Ozer Grodziensky zt”l (Achiezer 3:60), Harav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt”l (Haskama to Sefer Chelkas Yaakov), amongst others. The question that must be addressed is which Melocho does one transgress when turning on these light bulbs.
2. The Rambam (Shabbos chapter 12) writes, “A person who heats iron in order to strengthen it by submerging it in water is liable for [performing] a derivative [of the forbidden labor] of kindling.” Based on this teaching of the Rambam many poskim maintain that turning on incandescent light bulbs on Shabbos, which heats up a metal filament, transgresses the Melocho of Maavir (kindling). (Achiezer ibid., Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l in Meorei Eish, Keren L’David 80, Even Yikra Third Edition 168, Pnei Meivin 57, Divrei Chizkiyah vol. 2 page 89 and Yaskil Avdi 4:16)

3. The Merkeves Hamishnah feels that according to the Rambam one only transgresses the prohibition if he heated the metal for the intent to strengthen it. If he heated the metal in order to produce light the prohibition is only Rabbinic. A similar notion was expressed by the Avnei Nezer (Orach Chaim 229). However, Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l explains at great length that making metal glow red hot is considered creating a fire, according to the Rambam, it makes no difference whether he intended to do so in order to create light or in order to strengthen the metal.

4. The Maharsham (2:247) questioned whether turning on a light bulb on Shabbos involves the Melocho of Maavir since the “flame in the light bulb is not consuming.”

Following the line of reasoning of the Maharsham when the Rambam rules that heating metals is considered kindling on Shabbos he is discussing a situation where the fire consumes the metal. However, many poskim disagree with his assertion on two fronts. (A) His assertion that a fire must be consuming on Shabbos does not seem to be the same conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch Harav (495 Kuntres Achron 2) who indicates the destructive element of fire is not significant. Creating flame is all that matters, even if it is the type of flame that is not destructive by nature. (B) In addition the Tzitz Eliezer (1:20:7) points out that filaments in a light bulb are destructive by nature. If that filament would be exposed to oxygen and kindling there it would create a flame. It is normally constructed in a safe protective way, however, the filament itself absolutely is capable of creating a fire.

5. The Raaved disagrees with the Rambam and writes that heating metal is not considered kindling (Maavir) but cooking (Bishul). The Chazon Ish (50:9) therefore writes that turning on a light bulb would constitute the Biblical prohibition of cooking on Shabbos.

6. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Minchas Shlomo Kama 12 note 6) questions this ruling on the following grounds. The law is that one only transgresses Shabbos on a Biblical level if one cooks an item using fire (Eish) or an item heated in fire (Toldos Eish. The Rabbis extended this prohibition to include cooking food in a pan heated by the sun (Toldos Chama). Therefore, argues Harav Auerbach zt”l, in this case one is cooking the metal using electric currents which is neither fire or an item heated by fire and therefore one would not transgress a Biblical prohibition. (Parenthetically, the Chazon Ish himself feels that one cannot cook in an electric current for reasons beyond the scope of this article.)

7. It must be noted that the Halacha may be different regarding Led and fluorescent light bulbs and a Rav should be consulted.

Listening to multiple women sing in unison

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

1. It is forbidden for a man to hear a woman sing. This prohibition is called “Kol B’Isha Ervah.” (Brachos 24a and Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 21)

2. The Sdei Chemed (Kuf 42) cites an argument amongst the authorities whether this prohibition is Biblical or Rabbinic in nature. The Chochmas Adam (4:1), in his commentary Nishmas Adam, concludes that it is Rabbinic in nature. (See Mishnah Berurah 75:17)

3. The Beer Sheva (Beer Mayim Chayim 3) writes that this prohibition exists whether it is one woman singing or multiple women singing and whether they are singing secular songs or singing Zemiros on Shabbos. This is also the view of most authorities. However, there were those that wished to rule leniently as shall be explained.

4. The Chasan Sofer (Taharas Yadayim 14) extends a lenient ruling based on the Talmudic rule that “Trei kali Lo Mishtamay,” two voices cannot be heard simultaneously. The Gemara uses this principle to prohibit two people to read from the Torah at the same time. Therefore, argues the Chasan Sofer if multiple women are singing there should not exist a prohibition since men cannot focus on two voices simultaneously.

The Tzitz Eliezer (14:7) felt that the Chasan Sofer was not definitive in his ruling and that it is unclear whether the Chasan Sofer would permit this in normative halacha. However, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg zt”l (Sridei Eish 2:8) records that Rav Azriel Hildesheimer zt”l and Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l also ruled leniently for the same reason of the Chasan Sofer.

5. The poskim point out that there are two major issues with the permissive ruling of the Chasan Sofer:

1) The rule that two voices cannot be heard, as used in the Gemara, tells us that one cannot concentrate on the words of the speakers and therefore cannot fulfill his obligation for Krias Hatorah. One does, however, still hear the sound of the speaker. In this case, regarding Kol Isha, the major concern is that hearing a women’s voice is inappropriate and considered an Ervah. Even if he cannot make out the specific words he can definitely hear the women sing and it should still be prohibited.

2) The Gemara in Megilah (21) says that two people are allowed to read the Megilah simultaneously. The reason why the Megilah is different from Krias Hatorah is that, “Since the reading of the Megilah is dear to people, they concentrate and can hear.” The same argument can be extended to our discussion. Since the Yetzer Hara will make the man want to hear the women sing then we assume that two voices are able to be heard at the same time.

6. Harav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg zt”l was asked regarding a German Jewish organization where the boys and girls sang together. Rav Weinberg quotes the earlier heter of “two voices cannot be heard simultaneously” and writes that he does not find this explanation satisfying. Rav Weinberg instead defends the German Jewish practice by citing the Sdei Chemed who “allows for men and women to sing together.”

[However, no where does the Sdei Chemed discuss men and women singing in unison. Perhaps Rav Weinberg was referring to the Sdei Chemed who quotes the Divrei Cheifetz who asserts that the Kol Isha prohibition does not apply to women singing Zemirot, singing songs to children, and lamentations for the dead. This too is problematic since the Sdei Chemed, himself disagrees with the Divrei Chefetz and rules stringently.]

Rav Weinberg contends that when they are singing Zemiros men do not derive pleasure from the woman’s voice (this is perhaps the rationale for the view of the Divrei Chafetz). However, the poskim point out that this is not necessarily accurate and even if the woman are singing Zemiros men can still derive pleasure from their voices.]

7. In summation the overwhelming majority of poskim [including: the Beer Sheva, the Beer Yehuda on Chareidim, the Steipler Gaon zt”l (cited in Journal Ohel Moshe 1992), the Shevet Halevi (4:197), the Tzitz Eliezer, Badei Hashulchan (Nidah 199:119), Chelek Levi, Kinyan Torah (85), Avnei Yashfei (2:5), Ishei Yisroel (55:32), and Netai Gavriel (Yichud page 348)] maintain that a man may not listen to many women sing in unison, even if they are singing Zemiros.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at

Circling The Chosson Under The Chuppah

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

1. The common custom amongst ashkenazim is that the kallah and her shushbinim (those who escort her down the aisle) circle the chosson, clockwise, under the chuppah.

2. Because the chosson has the status of a king, the kallah and her attendants (her mother and mother-in-law) walk around the chosson, just as troops march around the king.(see Taamei Haminhagim 961)
3. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (147:5) writes that they circle the chosson seven times. Harav Aryeh Kaplan zt”l explains that the seven circuits allude to the seven shepherds of Israel (Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and Dovid) and the seven prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chanah, Avigayil, Chuldah and Esther). Some say that they allude to the three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs. It is the couple’s hope that in the merit of all these great ancestors, their marriage will be blessed with success.

4. Others have the custom to circle the chosson three times (Shulchan Haezer 7:4). Why three circuits are made is a matter of conjecture. The number three occurs several times in the subject of marriage, the Bible mentions betrothal (ki yikach) three times, a man may legally betroth a woman in one of three ways, and his obligations to his wife are subsumed under three general biblical requirements of food, clothing, and conjugal relations.

5. The custom of Chabad Chassidim is that the kallah and both pairs of shushbinim (male and female) all walk around the chosson. (Sefer Haminhagim page 67)

6. Sefardim do not have the custom of circling the chosson (Shulchan Haezer ibid.).

7. While the kallah is circling the chosson, the cantor chants “mi ben siach shoshan chochim ahavas kallah misos dodim hu yivarech es hechosson ves hakallah.” (May the one who speaks of the rose of thorns, the affection of the kallah, the joy of the beloved, may He bless the chosson and the kallah). (Shaar Hakollel)

Others, such as Square Chassidim, do not recite this poem (Netai Gavriel on Nisuin).

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at

Reciting A Blessing Upon Seeing A Torah Scholar

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

1. The Gemara (Brachos 58) says that upon seeing a Torah scholar one recites the blessing “Shecholak Mechochmaso Lireav” (Blessed are You…who apportioned of His wisdom to those who fear Him). This teaching was also codified by the Shulchan Aruch (224:6).

2. None of the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch indicate that this blessing is no longer relevant and therefore, it would seem that this blessing should be recited today (see Az Nidberu 11:4).

3. The Chayei Adam (63:5) also rules that the blessing is recited, even today. He proves this from a ruling of the Tur. The Tur cites the Gemara that there is a different blessing to be recited upon an exceedingly great Torah Scholar, the blessing of “Chacham Harazim.” The Tur writes that this blessing is not said anymore since there is no longer a scholar of such caliber to warrant such a blessing. Since the Tur only made such a statement regarding the blessing of “Chacham Harazim” and not regarding the blessing of “Shecholok”, one can deduce that the blessing of “Shecholok” is in fact said today. A similar line of reasoning was advanced by Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 4:16).
4. The Sefer Yosef Ometz (450), however, writes the following, “I have omitted the laws of reciting a blessing upon seeing a Torah scholar since there are very scarce Torah scholars today (that would warrant such a blessing). If one wishes to recite the blessing without reciting the name of Hashem one may do so.” (see also Chesed Lalafim Orach Chaim 224:12)

5. The Aruch Hashulchan (224:6) says that it is unclear as to what level of a Torah scholar one must be to warrant this blessing and therefore many do not recite this blessing anymore. The Ben Ish Chai (Ekev 13) also rules that one should only recite the blessing without the use of Hashem’s name. This was also the view of Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l (Tzitz Eliezer 14:36:3).

6. It should be noted that Rabbi Yitzchak Eisik Yehuda Yechiel Safrin zt”l of Komarno, known as the Komarno Rebbe, writes that the scholar must also be proficient in Kabbalah to warrant such a blessing (Shulchan Hatahor 224:3).

7. The poskim offer some examples of different Gedolim upon whom the blessings were recited:

The author was present when a prominent New York Sefardic Rav recited the blessing upon seeing Harav Yitzchak Yosef shlit”a.

Harav Ephraim Greenblatt zt”l (Rivevos Ephraim 8:128) writes that one should recite the blessing upon seeing Harav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach zt”l, Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, and (ybc”l) Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a.

Harav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (Shevet Halevi 10:13) writes that he recalls that when the Rogachover Gaon zt”l visited Vienna many recited the blessing upon seeing him.

The Minchas Elazar of Munkatch (5:7) also writes that he remembers the blessing being recited upon seeing Torah scholars (though he does not mention which Rabbi’s specifically).

It is also reported that the Chazon Ish was in favor of others reciting the blessing upon seeing the Steipler Gaon zt”l (Orchos Rabbeinu 1:109).
The Steipler Gaon zt”l told the author of the Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu (ibid, 110) that he recited this blessing upon seeing the Chofetz Chaim zt”l and Harav Meir Simcha zt”l of Dvinsk.

Harav Yisroel Taplin shlit”a (Orach Yosrael page 255) writes that he heard from Harav Yaakov Kamanetzky zt”l that Harav Baruch Ber Lebowitz zt”l recited the blessing upon meeting Harav Dovid Karliner zt”l and that Harav Dovid responded “Amen” to the blessing. Harav Yaakov zt”l also ruled that one should say this blessing upon seeing Harav Ahron Kotler zt”l.
Harav Taplin adds that he heard in the name of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l that today if one sees a Torah scholar who is proficient in all of Shas one may recite upon this scholar the blessing of “Shecholok.”

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at

How Far Must We Go To Save Another Person’s Life

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

1. The Torah commands us not to stand idly by while someone’s blood is being spilled (Lo Saamod Al Dam Re’acha). We must therefore do everything in our power to save another Jew from a life threatening situation. If one is able to save another person and does not he has transgressed this commandment. (Rambam Rotzeach 1:14)

2. However, there is also a ruling of Chayecha Kodem, which teaches that your life takes precedence and therefore one is not allowed to place one’s self in a life threatening situation to spare another from a life threatening situation.One can not commit suicide or place himself in peril in order to save another person.

3. The question that the poskim deal with is whether one is required to enter a potentially life threatening situation (Safek Sakana) in order to save another Jew from an absolute life threatening situation. For example a man is drowning and if no one jumps in to save him he will die. However, the torrent is pretty strong and it is possible that the person jumping in may be in danger himself of drowning. The question is is he allowed or required to jump in the water?
4. Harav Yosef Karo zt”l, in his Sefer Kesef Mishnah, cites the Hagahos Maimon who rules in accordance with the Yerushalmi that one is required to place himself in a Safek Sakana in order to save another Jew from an absolute life threatening situation. He explains that because the other person will definitely die and the rescuer will only potentially die, we worry about the definite and not the potential. This was also the view of the Tiferes Yisroel (Peah 1:5).

5. The Kesef Mishnah and Hagahos Maimon do not tell us where in the Yerushalmi can this ruling be found. The Netziv (Emek Sheala Shelach) explains that they are referring tot the Yerushalmi in Meseches Terumos which records that Rav Imi was captured by robbers and was in a life threatening situation. Rav Yonasan said that there is nothing we can do and we must accept his untimely fate. However, Reish Lakish said, “I am going to rescue him and either I will kill them (the captors) or they will kill me.” Reish Lakish actively placed himself in potential danger in order to save his friend and this is the source of the ruling of the Hagahos Maimon.

6. Harav Yoel Serkes zt”l, in his commentary on Shulchan Aruch (Sma Choshen Mishpat 426), noted that the Rama and Shulchan Aruch both omit this ruling from their writings. It is in no doubt due to the fact that the pillars of halacha, the Rosh, Rif, and Rambam, all omitted the ruling of the Yerushalmi. It also seems that Rabbeinu Yona, in his Sefer Issur V’Heter (59:38), disagrees with the Hagahos Maimon and rules that one is not required to enter a potentially dangerous situation in order to save a person in life threatening danger. The Mishnah Berurah (329:19) also rules that one is not required to endanger himself in order to save another.

7. The Aruch Hashulchan (429:4) explains that the reason all these Rishonim do not rule in accordance with the Yerushalmi is that the Talmud Bavli disagrees with the Yerushalmi. He does not, however, include a source from the Bavli that would imply or convey a view different from that of the Yerushalmi. See the Tzitz Eliezer (9:45) who cites potential sources from the Bavli that seem to disagree with the Yerushalmi.

8. The Radvaz (shu”t 3:626) feels that according to the vast majority of opinions, who do not require one to endanger himself in order to save another person, not only is one not required to do so, one is not allowed to do so. He writes that one who places himself in Safek Sakana in order to save his friend is a “foolishly pious individual” and the potential risk out ways the mortal danger facing his friend. One is not allowed to endanger himself in order to perform a Mitzvah or in order to avoid a sin (except idolatry, murder, and sexual relations). Therefore, it is not permitted to endanger one’s self in order to avoid performing the sin of Lo Saamod Al Dam Re’acha. This ruling was also cited by Harav Yitzchak Weiss zt”l (Minchas Yitzchak 6:103).

9. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 2:174) disagrees with the ruling of the Radvaz. He explains that although normally one may not endanger himself in order to avoid a sin, in this case one is permitted since his actions will lead to a Jewish person being saved. According to Harav Moshe zt”l the whole debate is whether one is required to enter a Safek Sakana in order to save his friend. However, everyone agrees that one is permitted to do so.

10. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 3:84) found a discrepancy in the writings of the Radvaz. In one response the Radvaz (ibid.) writes that one is not permitted to endanger himself in order to save his friend. While in another response (2:218) he writes that one is required to enter a somewhat dangerous situation in order to save someone from a life threatening situation. Harav Yosef zt”l explains that there is no contradiction. If there is a 50%, or more, chance of death one is not allowed to save his friend. It is not allowed to perform an act with such a high risk of death, even in order to save his friend. If the chance of death is less than 50% one is required to save his friend. In this case the chance of death is so small that the reward of saving a Jew out ways the potential danger. He adds that the Radvaz, himself, seems to indicate such a distinction in one of the responses.

11. The Radvaz (3:626) does add that there is no requirement to donate a limb in order to save another jew, even if donating a limb involves a small (less than 50%) risk of death. He explains that the ways of the Torah are sweet and the Torah would never require someone to become mutilated and deformed. What if donating eyes could save a life, reasons the Radvaz, you would have half of Klal Yisroel missing eyes? The Torah cannot require such a thing. Although it is praiseworthy to donate a limb, the Torah would never require organ donation.

12. A soldier in war time may not be bound by the previous discussion and it is possible that a soldier may place himself in danger in order to save others. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at

The obligation for a man to wear a yarmulka

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

[The following is a translation from the authors hebrew work Umekareiv Biyamin.]

1. The source for the requirement for a man to cover his head can be found in the Gemara Kiddushin (31a). The Gemara says that Rav Huna (the son of Rav Yehoshua) would not walk four Amos with his head uncovered, because the Divine Presence is above. Similarly, the Gemara in Shabbos (118 b) relates that Rav Huna said, “I will receive (reward- Rashi) for not going four Amos with my head exposed.”

2. Many authorities, including the Tashbetz (559), Bach (O.C. 2), Gra (O.C. 8), Chida (Birkei Yosef O.C. 2), and Maharshal (72), deduce from the above Gemara that one is not obligated to wear a yarmulka, rather it is a Minhag (custom). For if it were an obligation why would Rav Huna expect to receive reward for fulfilling his obligation. Rather, it is not obligatory and Rav Huna was going above and beyond the letter of the law. It is for this reason that Rav Huna expected reward for his actions.
3. It is unclear as to the view of Harav Yosef Karo zt”l regarding whether the head covering is obligatory or customary. In Beis Yosef (O.C. 91) he cites the view of the Tashbetz that it is customary. While in Beis Yosef (O.C. 8) seems to explicitly imply that one is forbidden to walk without a head covering. What’s more, in his Shulchan Aruch, Harav Karo zt”l writes, “It is forbidden to walk in an erect posture. And a man should not walk four Amos with an uncovered head.” The Magen Avraham points out that from the fact that the Shulchan Aruch uses the term “forbidden” regarding walking with an erect posture and not walking without a head covering, it seems that the Shulchan Aruch feels that it is not obligatory. The Chida noticed the discrepancies and cites the Ben Ish Chai that any time one finds a contradiction between the Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch we follow the Shulchan Aruch.
The Chida summarizes his view with the following statement, “It is clear from the words of the Gemara and the poskim that it is not forbidden (to walk without a head covering), rather, it is a Midas Chassidus (pious conduct) or praiseworthy to cover one’s head. I, therefore, do not understand the view of Rav Yehuda Ayas zt”l who maintained that it is forbidden to travel without a head covering. Since according to the Gemara and poskim it seems that it is merely customary etc.” (Machazik Bracha O.C. 2)

4. However, the Taz (8:2) suggests that although a headcovering was originally an act of piety, it gained the status of Torah Law, due to the custom of non-Jews to remove their caps as a sign of honor. Since the Torah prohibits Jews from “going in the ways of non-Jews,” one who does not cover his head would therefore be in transgression of a negative Commandment of the Torah. However, Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 4:2) questioned this stringent view. He explains that not every action that non-Jews perform is forbidden. It is only forbidden if they do something for religious purposes, promiscuity reasons, or an action that has no clear reason. If they, however, perform an act for valid reasons a Jew is also allowed to act accordingly. For example, a non-Jewish doctor wears “scrubs” to indicate to others that he is a doctor and in case of need he may help. Since there is a rationale for wearing “scrubs” a Jewish doctor may likewise wear “scrubs.” Therefore, argues Harav Feinstein zt”l there is a clear rationale for the actions of non-Jews. They are not covering their head for comfort reasons. It is also not a religious act since many non religious non-Jews do not cover their hair as well. Therefore the view of the Taz is no longer applicable.

[Rav Moshe (Igros Moshe 4:40:14) does admit that there is one case where the view of the Taz still applies, and that is praying without a head covering. Because the non-Jews  remove their head covering when praying, one may not pray without a head covering.]

5. It must be noted that although most authorities feel that one is not obligated to wear a yarmulka, it has become a widespread custom amongst Klal Yisroel and one must always adhere to this custom. The Baal Hatanya (2:6) added that since it is customary for a man to cover his head if he fails to do so it is a lack of Tzniyus (which requires us to cover all body parts that are customarily covered). Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 9:1) noted that wearing a yarmulka nowadays serves as a symbol of one’s affiliation with the observant Jewish community and failing to do so would lead others to believe that he is non-observant. And the halacha of Maris Ayin tells us that we are not allowed to portray ourselves as less observant than we actually are.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at