Untying Knots And Emptying Pockets

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

1. Some have the custom that before the chuppah we untie any knots that are on the clothing of the chosson and kallah (Sefer Matamim Chosson V’Kallah 78 and Shulchan Haezer vol. 2 page 31). This is also the custom of Chabad Chassidim (Sefer Haminhagim page 76).
2. The custom of Chabad Chassidim is for the chosson to untie shoelaces as well (Shaarei Halacha Uminhag Even Haezer 37), while the opinion of the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, Harav Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam zt”l, is that one need not untie the shoelaces (see Netai Gavriel Nisuin page 117).

3. Most ashkenazic and Lithuanian communities never accepted this custom of untying knots (see Hanisuin Khilchosom page 442).

4. Some, including Chabad Chassidim, have the custom that before the chuppah the chosson and kallah remove their jewelry, as well as anything that may be in their pockets.

This custom serves as an additional reminder to the couple of their mortality because one cannot take any objects or jewelry with him to the next world (Shulchan Haezer vol. 2 page 137. For a different reason for this custom see Mesorah vol. 8 page 51 from Harav Soloveitchick zt”l).

5. Many, however, do not have this custom (Hanisuin K’Hilchosom ibid.).

6. Some think that giving away one’s personal belongings, such as jewelry, to a friend before going to the chuppah is some sort of segula. In reality, there is no such segula (pashut- see also Hallachically Speaking vol. 4 issue 12).

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Placing Ashes On The Chosson’s Head

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

1, The Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer 65:3, the source is a Gemara Baba Basra 60b) writes that we must place ashes on the chosson’s head as a sign of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. The ashes are placed on the same area of the head that the chosson wears his tefillin.
2. The Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 660) notes that the custom in his area was not to place ashes on the chosson’s head (see also Orchos Chaim Tisha B’Av 13).

Harav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l (Ohr Letzion vol. 3 page 277) also notes that many sefardim do not place ashes on the head of the chosson and wonders how they can disregard this custom, which has sources in the Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch. He therefore rules that even sefardim should participate in this custom.

Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (cited in Yalkut Yosef Sovea Smachos page 86), however, rules that sefardim should continue in their practice of not placing ashes on the chosson’s head.

3. The custom of Square Chassidim is also not to place ashes on the chosson’s head (Sefer Netai Gavriel Nisuin page 117).

4. The Taz (Orach Chaim 660:4) writes that some have the custom that as the ashes are being placed on the chosson’s head, the rabbi recites the verse “Im eshkocheich Yerushalayim etc.” The chosson then repeats the verse.

5. The overwhelming majority of poskim maintain that the ashes should be placed before the chosson enters the chuppah. However, Harav Yosef Dov Soloveitchick zt”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchonon) would only place the ashes on the chosson after the birchas nisuin were recited under the chuppah. Before the chuppah ceremony the chosson is not yet considered a “chosson” in Jewish law, and there is not yet a requirement of ashes. After the chuppah ceremony he is considered a “chosson” and the ashes are then required (Journal Mesorah vol. 8 page 52). It seems that Harav Soloveitchick zt”l shared the same view of his uncle, the great Brisker Rav. As the Sefer Yismach Lev (page 76) reports, the Brisker Rav would only place the ashes after the birchas nisuin under the chuppah, for the very reason attributed to Harav Soloveitchick.

6. The Aruch Hashulchan (Even Haezer 65:4) feels that the ashes are removed immediately after their placement. However, the Shulchan Haezer (7:1:11) writes that the custom in his town was to leave the ashes on the chosson’s head. A similar view is expressed by Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Shalmei Simcha page 169 – ועיין שם דבר חדש בדף קס”ט: “ורבינו היה מורה ליתן את האפר על ראש החתן כשהוא עטוף בנייר, וזאת משום כבודו של החתן, וכשסידר את הקידושין היה הוא עצמו מניח את האפר עטוף בנייר על ראש החתן -).

7. Harav Auerbach zt”l adds that if they forgot to place the ashes before the chuppah they may do so after the chuppah.

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Blessing Children On Friday Night

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

1. It is a custom for parents to bless their children on Friday night. [Parenthetically, it is also a custom for the chosson and kallah to be blessed by their parents before they walk down the aisle (see Shulchan Haezer 7:1) ]
2. The poskim discuss how to bless the children. The Maaver Yabok (cited by Shulchan Haezer 7:1) seems to indicate that one should bless the child by resting one hand on the head of the child. The reason is that there are fifteen limbs in one hand corresponding to the fifteen words found in the birchas kohanim.

3. An additional reason given to use only one hand when blessing others (as opposed to two hands) can be found in the Torah Temimah (Naso 131). The Gemara says that it is prohibited for a non-kohen to perform the birchas kohanim (priestly blessings). Therefore, the Torah Temimah explains, blessing with two hands may be too similar to the priestly blessings, which are performed using both hands. He adds that he heard from trustworthy sources that the Vilna Gaon would only use one hand when blessing others. When asked why, the Vilna Gaon explained that, “The only time we find a blessing given with both hands is by the kohanim.” (See however introduction to Sefer Emunas Hatichia which indicates that the Vilna Gaon would bless others with two hands.)

4. However, Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Siddur friday night) rules that one should lean two hands on the child’s head when giving the blessing. The Sefer Yosef Ometz (70) writes, “Although I do not like to focus on Kabbalistic concepts, nevertheless, I believe that it is preferable to bless the children (on Friday nights) using both hands. This way the blessing will be performed using all ten fingers which is beneficial, for kabbalistic reasons. In addition, blessing with only only one hand appears as if one is being ‘stingy’ with his blessing.”

Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Shalmei Simcha 153) would use both hands when blessing others. A similar ruling is expressed by the Rav of Debreczin (Beer Moshe 4:25).

ואין להקשות לפי שיטה זו, שנוהגים לברך בב’ ידים, דא”כ יש לאסור משום זר בברכת כהנים, דעיין בביאור הלכה ריש הלכות נשיאות כפים שהביא ב’ תירוצים לבאר מנהג העולם, ותירוץ השני שם דכיון דתקינו רבנן שלא לישא כפים בלא תפלה, שוב מי שאומר פסוקים אלו של ברכת כהנים בלא תפלה בין כהן בין ישראל הוי כמכוין בפירוש שלא לקיים בזה המצות דברכת כהנים ולכן שרי. [ועיין בבית ברוך כלל ל”ב ס”ק ח’ שטוב יותר לכוון בפירוש שלא לצאת ע”ש.] וע”ע בזה בשו”ת ציץ אליעזר חי”א סימן ח’.

5. The father rests either one hand or two and says, “May G-d make you like Efraim and Menasheh” (Genesis 48:20) [“ישימך אלקים כאפרים וכמנשה”]. This is the traditional blessing given to children. He then recites the priestly blessing: [“יברכך ה’ וישמרך וכו’]. (Siddur Yaavetz)

6. Some also add the verse, “May G-d’s spirit rest on him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of G-d” (Isaiah 11:2) [“ונחה עליו רוח ה’ רוח חכמה ובינה רוח עצה וגבורה רוח דעת ויראת ה'”]. (see Maaver Yabok Sifsei Rinanos 53) Beyond this, the parent’s may add any blessing or prayer that they desire.

[Hashevaynu’s Sunday Night Madness at Dave and Buster’s will take place on December 7th, for all information please go to hashevaynu.org]

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Leaving The Wedding Before The Sheva Brachos

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)
1. After birchas hamazon is recited at a wedding, the sheva brachos are recited. Harav Yitzchak Weiss zt”l (Minchas Yitzchak 2:43) writes that one may leave a wedding before the sheva brachos. He explains that the obligation to recite sheva brachos only applies to those present at the end of the meal and is not an intrinsic obligation to all that participated in the meal. If one were not allowed to leave before the sheva brachos the Gemara would have said so, the same way that the Gemara states that one is not allowed to leave a meal early before taking part of the zimun.

2. Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l (Tzitz Eliezer 11:84) proves that this was originally advanced by Harav Shlomo Kluger zt”l. Harav Waldenberg zt”l then concurs with the view of Harav Weiss zt”l and rules that one is allowed to leave a wedding early after reciting birchas hamazon with the proper zimun.

Harav Nosson Gestetner zt”l (Lehoros Nason 11:111) likewise rules that one may leave a wedding early before the Sheva Brachos. He explains that while the obligation to recite the Sheva Brachos belongs to the entire wedding group, each individual does not need to be part of it. All one needs to do is make sure that there are ten men left at the end of the wedding to recite the blessings.

3. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 1:56) disagrees with the aforementioned poskim. He feels that everyone who eats at the wedding meal is required to recite (or hear) the sheva brachos. He sources this in the words of the Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 62:11) who rules that if many wedding groups split up and eat in different rooms, each group, even the ones without the chosson, is required to recite sheva brachos. This seems to indicate that the obligation to recite sheva brachos belongs to everyone who ate bread at the meal (see also Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:742 and Shaarei Halacha U’Minhag Lubavitch E.H. page 125).

Accordingly, one may not leave before the sheva brachos, even if he recites the birchas hamazon with the proper zimun. The Sefer Even Yisroel (8:82) proceeds to prove this point from the words of the rishonim. The Avudraham states that the obligation to recite the sheva brachos and the obligation to recite birchas hamazon are “one in the same and begins when one begins eating bread.” This leads the Even Yisroel to the same conclusion as Harav Moshe, that one may not leave the wedding before hearing the sheva brachos (see also shu”t Vayivarech David on Nisuin 89-90).

4. Harav Moshe understands that this is a very difficult obligation to fulfill, as many people cannot stay until the very end of the wedding. Harav Moshe offers a simple solution. At the beginning of the meal one should have specific intent that he does not want to be a part of the wedding meal. By having in mind that he does not want to be included in everyone else’s meal, but is rather eating alone, he will not be required to hear the sheva brachos or recite the zimun. Through this stipulation he has removed himself from the larger wedding meal and may leave whenever he wishes.

Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l would also endorse the solution of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a likewise rules that if one must leave a wedding early he should stipulate before he eats that he does not intend to be included in the larger wedding meal (see Sefer Yismach Lev vol. 4 page 209-210).

5. It is reported that Harav Yaakov Kamanetzky zt”l also feels that the obligation belongs to everyone who ate bread at the wedding. Unlike Rav Moshe, however, he maintains that a stipulation would not help. Therefore, if one knows he cannot stay the whole time, he must make sure not to wash on bread or eat enough cake that would require him to recite birchas hamazon (Emes L’Yaakov on Shulchan Aruch E.H. 62).

6. Harav Pesach Feinhandler, in his Sefer Avnei Yashfei (3:20), notes that if one follows the approach of Harav Moshe and stipulates before the meal that he does not wish to be part of the wedding meal, he is not only exempt from the zimun, but may not be included in the zimun. However, it seems that the Rav of Debreczin (Beer Moshe 3:32) did not concur with this ruling.

7. The Sefer Hanisuin K’Hilchosom (page 521) cites the previous argument and adds that, “If the guest is not required to recite birchas hamazon, such as he only ate fruit and drinks, he may leave without hearing sheva brachos according to all authorities.”

[Hashevaynu’s Sunday Night Madness at Dave and Buster’s will take place on December 7th, for all information please go to hashevaynu.org]

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

Reciting Modeh Ani In The Morning

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

1. “One should strengthen himself like a lion to get up in the morning to serve his Creator.” These are the opening words of the Shulchan Aruch, the standard code of Jewish law. A Jew should not be lazy, but rather excited to start a new day in which he can serve Hashem.
2. One should not allow himself to be persuaded by his inclination which tells him that he did not get enough sleep. The Shulchan Aruch writes that, “He should contemplate how if he were to lie in the presence of a king of flesh and blood it would be considered a capital offense and even more so here that he is lying before the King of all Kings.” He should then contemplate that due to this he should therefore immediately and speedily come out of bed to serve his lofty creator.

3. Hashem takes our soul each night while we sleep and graciously returns it the next morning (see Brachos 57a). When we wake up in the morning, we must immediately recognize and thank Hashem for the gift of life. Therefore, while still in bed, we recite the prayer “modeh ani l’fanecha Melech Chai V’Kayam shehechezarta bi nishmasi bichemla rabba emunasecha” (“I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me, with compassion. Abundant is your faithfulness”). (Mishnah Berurah 1:5. see also Igros Kodesh from the Admur of Lubavitch zt”l vol. 10 page 23)
4. Since the modeh ani prayer does not contain Hashem’s name, one is permitted to recite it before washing his hands in the morning (netilas yadaim). (Mishnah Berurah, see however Yaavetz for a dissenting view. See also Maasef Lchol Machanos 1:23)
5. Harav Aryeh Tzvi Frumer zt”l (Eretz Tzvi 1:52) questions whether one may recite the prayer in the vicinity of excrement or urine. We permit one to recite modeh ani when his hands are unclean (before netilas yadaim), but perhaps we do not permit it when the area is unclean. He concludes that it is permitted to recite modeh ani in an unclean environment.

Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a also rules that it is permitted to recite modeh ani in an unclean area (Gam Ani Odecha 2:33). However, the Minchas Aharon (1:5) writes that if one is within four amos of excrement or a bedpan he should not recite modeh ani. Rather, he should think the prayer modeh ani in his mind.
6. Women also recite modeh ani. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo chapter 2 note 17) feels that women should pronounce the word modeh with a kumatz under the letter “daled,” so that the word would be read as moduh (מודָה).
7. One is to make a slight stop between the words bichemla and rabba emunasecha. (Shaarei Teshuva 1:5)
8. The Sefer Haminhagim of Chabad, which discusses all the customs of Chabad Chassidim, writes that one is to place one hand against the other, and lower his head upon reciting modeh ani.

[Hashevaynu’s Sunday Night Madness at Dave and Buster’s will take place on December 7th, for all information please go to hashevaynu.org]

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.