Praying In Front Of Paintings And Mirrors

  1. One should avoid praying Shemoneh Esrei while facing a picture or painting as it can ruin one’s concentration. If one has no other alternative (as is common when praying in the house of a mourner), one should close his eyes closed. (Shulchan Aruch 90:23)
  2. Many shuls have images of lions or birds on their paroches on the Aron Kodesh. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l opposed this practice (for multiple reasons- See Yechava Daas 3:62) and he warns that if there is an image one cannot pray while facing it and must pray with his eyes closed. (See Yabia Omer 9:108:48) However, the Kenesses Yichezkel (cited in Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 141:6) explains that the common practice is to be lenient and that since the images are always in the Shul and the congregants are used to them there is no concern that they will ruin their concentration. A similar permissive view was expressed by Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l. (Ohr Letzion vol. 2 page 64)
  3. It is forbidden to pray Shemona Esrei in front of a mirror because it seems as if one is bowing to one’s own reflection. This is forbidden even if one is praying with his eyes closed. (Mishnah Berurah 90:71)
  4. [This is indeed one of the reasons that we cover the mirrors in the house of a mourner. Since there is a custom to pray there, the mirrors must be covered. There are other reasons as well- See Yabia Omer 4 page 326]
  5. At night a window can reflect one’s image and the question is whether it has the status of a mirror. Harav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l writes he feels that it does not since no one will think that he is bowing to himself, as it is not a mirror. It still may ruin his concentration (similar to praying while facing a painting, as we discussed yesterday), however, and therefore he must pray with his eyes closed. (Shu”t Ohr Letzion vol. 2 page 64, see also Shevet Halevi 9:21:1)


Bishul Akum and Microwaves

  1. The Mishna, Avodah Zarah, 35b, states that it is prohibited to eat food that was cooked by a non-Jew (bishul akum). This prohibition applies even if all of the ingredients are assumed to be kosher.
  2. Bishul Akum includes foods that are cooked, baked, roasted, fried or broiled by a non-Jew. The Rama (Y.D. 113:3) writes that only food cooked using “fire” is prohibited by bishul akum.
  3. In recent years, questions have been raised on the halachic status of microwave cooking. With conventional cooking, a source of existing heat is transmitted, which penetrates into the food and surrounding area by a process called convection. With microwave cooking, energy waves (i.e. microwaves) are generated that cause a molecular movement in the food substance. This movement causes friction between the molecules and in effect causes the food to heat itself. Because no form of “fire” is present in the cooking, there is reason to inquire whether microwave cooking is permitted.
  4. With regard to hilchos Shabbos, the poskim debate whether cooking with a microwave is a biblical form of cooking or is it merely rabbinic. According to Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (SS”K 1:127) microwave cooking is not biblically prohibited, while Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe 3:52) rules that since microwave cooking is a common form of cooking, it is biblically forbidden. Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlit”a (Minchas Chein vol. 1 page 177) discusses the use of microwaves with regard to bishul akum and he explains that according to Harav Moshe zt”l food cooked by a non-Jew in a microwave oven is considered bishul akum.16 A strict view was also expressed by Harav Shmuel Wosner zt”l (Shevet Halevi 8:185), Harav Shraga Feivish Schneebalg zt”l (Shraga Hameir 6:52:3) and Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l (Shvus Yitzchak vol. 6 page 61).
  5. However, there were poskim who permit food cooked by a non-Jew using a microwave. The arguments for leniency are that when one cooks with a microwave he is not cooking by fire and that microwave technology was not available at the time when Chazal promulgated the Bishul Akum decree and thus was not included in the prohibition. Moreover, most food cooked in a microwave does not taste as good as food that is prepared on the stove. A permissible view can be found in the Seforim Chelkas Binyamin (page 106), Lehoros Nasan (7:64) and Rivevos Efraim (8:111). Similarly, Harav Moshe Heinemann shlit”a, in an article on the Star-K website, writes, “Bishul akum does not apply to microwaved food. The rabbinical prohibition of bishul akum applies only to conventional cooking methods through fire (e.g., cooking, frying, roasting). Food prepared through microwaving is not included in the prohibition.”
  6. Harav Asher Weiss shlit”a (Minchas Asher Devarim) discusses this question and he concludes that one may rule leniently in case of great need. Likewise, Harav Oelbaum shlit”a discusses this issue at length and he concludes, “The poskim debate whether food cooked in a microwave is subject to the laws of bishul akum. While one should initially (l’chatchila) rule stringently, b’dieved one may be lenient.”
  7. If the food was fully cooked by a Jew, a non-Jew may re-heat it in the microwave. Once a food is cooked there is no concern of a non-Jew re-heating it.

Is It Permitted To Not Attend A Wedding?

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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