Washing One’s Hands After A funeral

  1. The custom is to wash one’s hands three times, alternating between hands, after attending a funeral.(Mishnah Berurah 4:43)
  2. The Sefer Ishei Yisreol (page 28) writes that according to the Pri Megadim and Chochmas Adam one is not required to wash hands after a funeral unless he was within four Amos of the corpse. However, the custom of the Chazon Ish was to wash his hands upon attending a funeral even if one was not within four Amos of the corpse.
  3. One does not take the vessel from another person’s hand and does not hand the vessel to another person. Rather one places it down and the next person takes it. (See Gesher Hachaim ibid.) The custom is to place the vessel upside down. (See Netai Gavriel Aveilus chapter 70:2)
  4. The poskim write that the custom in Yerushalayim is that one does not dry his hands with a towel and rather lets them dry on its own. (See Gesher Hachaim page 93) The Kaf Hachaim (4:78) cites those who are lenient to use a towel during the winter when it is cold. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (cited in Ishei Yisroel) explains that one only refrains from drying his hands when leaving a funeral. However, when washing one’s hands after leaving a cemetery one may dry his hands with a towel.
  5. One is not to enter into a house until after the washing (Rama cited by Mishnah Berurah ibid.). (Some allow entering into a Beis Midrash. [Nitei Gavriel 70/5 and so is the Chabad custom])
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The clothing of the Chosson under the Chupah

1. In most communities, the chosson wears a a kittel (white robe) under the chuppah (see Shulchan Haezer page 27, Maharam Mintz 109 and Radvaz 1:693). There are many reasons given for this custom. Some explain that the white kittel is meant to remind the chosson of the white shrouds that he will wear when he dies. In addition, the color white symbolizes purity, and on their wedding day, the chosson and kallah are forgiven and pure of sins. As a sign of this spiritual purity, it is customary for them both to wear white. The chosson also wears white because white is the color of royalty, and the chosson is like a king (Taamei Haminhagim 957).

2. Many have the custom that the chosson does not put the kittel on himself, but has it put on by his attendants or parents. Because the kittel represents shrouds, the chosson does not dress himself, just as a dead person does not dress himself (Taamei Haminhagim 978). The chosson also wears white because white is the color of royalty, and the chosson is like a king. Just as a king is dressed by his attendants, so is the chosson. The custom of Vizhnitz Chassidim, however, is that the chosson dons the kittel by himself (Netai Gavriel page 113).

3. Many wear the kittel under a jacket or coat. The custom of Chabad Chassidim is that the chosson wears the kittel over a silk kapote (long coat), but under a coat (Shaarei Halacha Uminhag vol.3 page 118).

4. The Gemara in Moed Katan 22b states that when one loses a parent, he should “bare one’s shoulder.” Wearing his clothing in a way that reveals his shoulder is a form of mourning. Therefore, some have added the custom that the chosson’s left hand should not be put into the sleeve. The poskim explain that this serves as a reminder of the fact that the Temple is destroyed. By deviating from the normal way of wearing one’s jacket, the chosson is attempting to resemble the concept of “baring one’s shoulder.” However, some poskim note that because the Rama rules that nowadays, after losing a parent, we do not “bare” the shoulder, it is hard to believe that one must do so at the chuppah. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

כן טען בספר הנישואין כהלכתם פרק י”ב ס’ כ”ח בהג”ה, וז”ל: “כתב במנהגי מהריי”ו עמוד קמ”ח, שיש נוהגים שהחתן בחופתו אינו לבוש את השרוול השמאלי שבמלבושו העליון, ומקורו ממועד קטן דף כ”ד: [צ”ל כ”ב:], וש”ע יו”ד ס’ ש”מ סעי’ ט”ו, בענין חליצת הכתף לאבל, ולפי זה עושים כן לחתן, מפני אבילות ירושלים (כמו שמשימין אפר במקום התפילין ושבירת הכוס), אמנם לפי פסק הרמ”א שם סעיף י”ז, שאנו אין נוהגין בחליצת כתף לאבל, ואם כן אין שום טעם לחליצתו אצל החתן”. ועיין בקובץ מסורה ח”ח דף נ”ב אות ז’, שכתב וז”ל: “אחד מהתלמידים לבש קיטל ועל גביו מעיל (הקו”ט) שלו (כמנהג מקצת מן החסידים, שלא יראה הקיטל מבחוץ), והי’ חם לו מאוד, וחשב אולי להסיר את הזאקע”ט שלו, שלא יזיע, ואמר לו רבינו (הגרי”ד זצ”ל) שאין זה נכון לעמוד תחת החופה בלי ז’עקע”טּ, אע”פ שאינו ניכר לאחרים העומדים שם, כי חתן דינו כיו”ט [ע’ גמ’ ריש כתובות], וביו”ט צריכים ללבוש מלבושי יו”ט, אפילו אם אין שמה אחרים הרואים אותו”.

5. The custom of Chabad Chassidim is that the chosson should wear a gartel (belt for prayer) under the chuppah. (Sefer Haminhagim Chabad 76)

Endangering oneself in order to save another person from mortal danger

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. 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. The question that the poskim deal with is one 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?
Harav Yosef Karo zt”l, in his Sefer Kesef Mishnah (Rotzeach 1:14), 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). The Kesef Mishnah and Hagahos Maimon do not tell us where in the Yerushalmi can this ruling be found. The Netziv (Emek Sheila Shelach) explains that the Yerushalmi they are referring to can be found in Meseches Terumos. The Yerushalmi 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 kill them (the captors) or they kill me.” Reish Lakish actively placed himself in danger in order to save his friend and this is the source of the ruling of the Hagahos Maimon.
Harav Yoel Serkes zt”l (Sma C.M 426), in his commentary on Shulchan Aruch, 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.
The Aruch Hashulchan 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 a 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.
The Radvaz (3:627) 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).
Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:174:4) disagrees with the ruling of the Radvaz. He explains that although normally one may not endanger himslef 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 dabate 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.
Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 3:84) found a discrepancy in the writings of the Radvaz. In one response the Radvaz writes that one is not permitted to endanger himself in order to save his friend. While in another response 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. One 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.
The Radvaz 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 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, the Torah would never require organ donation.
[It should be noted that the above discussion may not apply to a war or soldiers and a rav should be consulted, see Minchas Chinuch 425, Griz on Chumash Beshalach and Shu”t Mishpat Cohen of Rav Kook zt”l 143]