Reciting Shehechiyanu On New Purchases

1) The recital of the blessing Shehechiyanu (Blessed are You…Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season) was enacted for the festivals and other seasonal events, but it was also instituted for occasions when one feels a personal sense of joy. Therefore, one says Shehechiyanu when making significant purchases that gladden his heart. As the Mishnah in Brachos (9:1) rules, “If one built a new house or purchased new clothes, he says the blessing of Shehechiyanu”.

2) Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 3:80) writes that one should recite the bracha after purchasing a car. [If the car will be used by his wife and family then the proper bracha is Hatov Vihameitiv] However, the Kaf Hachaim (223:20) cites the custom not to make a bracha on any new object one purchases, which would include cars.

3) Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo vol. 1 page 183) testifies that the custom is to say Shehechiyanu after purchasing elegant clothing. Accordingly, if one buys a new hat one can recite the blessing as long as the hat brings him joy. He adds that no bracha is said on a pair of shoes even if they are expansive.

4) The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 22) rules that the bracha of Shehechiyanu is recited on a new talis gadol. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 3:80) adds that no bracha is said on a pair of tzitzis (talis katan), as they do not bring the (average) purchaser joy. He explains that the fact that the purchaser gets enjoyment from fulfilling the mitzvah is irrelevant in our discussion. [He adds that it the tzitzis bring immense joy to the purchases, then the bracha should be said.] Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo chapter 3 note 47) also writes that one does not recite a bracha on a talis katan or shoes since they do not bring joy.

5) The poskim explains that one should recite the blessing immediately after donning the clothing for the first time. The Baal Hatania (Birchas Hanehnin 12:4) writes that if one forgot to do so, one can continue to recite the blessing at any point during his initial wearing of the clothing. Once he takes them off he cannot recite the blessing with G-d’s name (when wearing them for the second time). The bracha should then be said without the name of Hashem. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo page 283) however, rules that one may recite the bracha even during the second time he wears it as long as it still brings him joy.

6) The Kaf Hachaim (223:30) notes that putting on the suit by the tailor (to see if it is fitted correctly) does not constitute wearing regarding the bracha of Shehechiyanu. One can still recite the bracha the next time he wears the suit.  

7) The poskim discuss whether one should recite a shehechiyanu when performing a mitzvah for the first time (such as a Bar Mitzvah boy with Tefillin or a kallah lighting candles for the first time):

A- The Rokeach (Siman 371) writes that anytime one is performing a mitzvah for the first time one should recite shehechiyanu. The Rama (Y.D. 28:2) and Toras Yekutial (60) rule in accordance with the Rokeach.

B- However, there are many poskim that disagree and rule that one should not recite the shehechiyanu when performing a mitzvah for the first time. This is the view of the Shulchan Aruch 23, Shach (Y.D. 28:5), Pri Chadash, Chida (Shiurei Brach Y.D. 200) and Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 2:31).

C-  The Pri Toar (cited by Chasam Sofer O.C. 55) feels that one should not recite a bracha after performing every mitzvah for the first time like the Rokeach. Rather, only a bar mitzvah boy should recite the bracha. Why is this so? The answer is that when one becomes bar mitzvah and puts on Tefillin in addition to wearing Tefillin for the first time, he also is entering into a new stage in his life. He is now a full member of the Jewish people, able to help Am Yisroel perform mitzvos and become closer to Hashem. Entering that stage of one’s life brings enough joy to recite shehechiyanu. Similarly, a married women recites a bracha when lighting candles for the first time since she is entering in to a new stage of her life (that of a married woman).

The Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halacha 22) advises that when performing a mitzvah for the first time, one should preferably create a situation where a shehechiyanu needs to be made for another reason, such as for a new fruit or new clothing.

8) Houses- The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 223:3) writes that one recites the blessing of Shehechiyanu after purchasing a house. Although the Mishnah in Brachos (9:1) required the blessing on a new home, he explains that “new” in this context means it is new to him; however, the house may have been used by others before him.

9) The Biur Halacha cites the Achronim who write that the proper bracha is contingent on the buyer of the house and its occupants. If a single person purchases a house for himself than one should recite Shehechiyanu. If, however, a husband or father buys a house for his family than the proper bracha is “Hatov Vihameitiv”. Which is the blessing reserved for purchases that will give joy to the purchaser and others. The Chayei Adam disagrees and rules that regarding houses one should not recite Hatov Vihameitiv, rather, one should always recite Shehechiyanu.

10) The Tzitz Eliezer (12:19) writes that the blessing should be said on the purchase of a home even if one used loans or mortgages to help cover the cost on the house. The fact that this purchase also caused him much responsibility and stress (for the future) does not diminish the sense of joy one feels upon becoming a homeowner. This is in contention with the ruling of Rav Chaim Palag’i zt”l who explains that this bracha is recited upon purchases that brings happiness. He contends that no bracha can be said when the house is bought with loans (or mortgages) for a purchase like this brings more responsibility and stress than it does joy. And at the time when he finally pays off his final mortgage, the feeling of joy is gone, rendering him unable to recite the bracha. The Tzitz Eliezer concedes that there is responsibility and anxiety with this purchase. He argues that since there is also the overwhelming feeling of joy one should indeed recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu. Rav Moshe Stern zt”l (Beer Moshe 5:68) agrees with Rav Chaim Palag’i and with this explains the custom of some not to make a blessing upon the purchase of a house. A similar custom is found in the Sefer Ben Ish Chai in Parshas Re’ah (6). The Ben Ish Chai testifies that in his area the custom was to refrain from saying Shehechiyanu when buying a house. One would instead make a festive meal, a “chanukas habayis”, as a forum to thank Hashem. He continues to observe that some wore new clothing or ate new fruit, which require a Shehechiyanu in their own right. When reciting the blessing over the clothing or fruit they would have their house in mind.  

11) Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo 23:13) is quoted as saying that the bracha should be recited right after the Mezuzos are fitted to the doorposts as it is only then that the house is considered livable. [A similar ruling was already advanced by Rabbi Akiva Eiger zt”l cited in Shaar Hatzion 223:21]. If one forgot to make the bracha at the proper time, one may do so afterwards, so long as the house still brings him a lot of joy and happiness.

12) Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo 23:13) is quoted as ruling that no blessing should be said upon renting a house. If after years of renting, one purchases said house, then Shehechiyanu should be said.

13)  The Mishnah Berurah writes that if one’s home was destroyed in a fire and was consequently rebuilt, one would be required to recite a bracha. He continues that adding an extension to one’s property also warrants a blessing.  A bracha is recited even if one does not actually add to the size of the property, rather, converts his backyard into a den or kitchen. There is a disagreement amongst the poskim as to whether a bracha is appropriate when one merely altered the dimensions of the house (ex. removing a wall thereby converting two rooms into one large room); See Sefer Halichos Shlomo 23:13 and Sefer Bitzail Hachochma 4:49.

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The Laws of Maaser Money

1) The poskim discuss the nature of the obligation to give ten percent of one’s money to charity (Maaser money) A- Tosafos (Taanis 9a) quotes the Sifri that there is an obligation to give ma’aser on all money acquired through business transactions and the like. The Sifri derives this from a verse in Devarim 22:14 “You shall tithe all the seed crops that the field gives forth, year by year”. It would seem that the Sifri holds that the obligation to give ma’aser kesafim is biblical in nature. Indeed, the Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah 232) writes that according to the Maharil the obligation is from the Torah. B- The opinion of the Bach (Yoreh Deah 331) is that ma’aser kesafim is neither biblical nor rabbinic (rather it is a custom). His son-in-law, the Ta’z, in his commentary on Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 331:32) questions his father-in-law’s opinion and he therefore holds that the obligation is rabbinic (as explained by Chavos Yair 234, see however Aruch Hashulchan Y.D. 331 for a dissenting view). The Noda B’Yehuda agrees with the Ta’z that the obligation is merely rabbinic (cited by Tzitz Eliezer 9:1) Many Authorities agree with the Bach and explain that ma’aser kesafim is simply a custom, including: Sheilas Yaavetz (1:6), Shvus Yaakov (vol. 2 Yoreh Deah 85), Shut Pnei Yehoshua (Orach Chaim 2).

2) The Chavos Yair (234) and the Teshuva Me’Ahava (1:85) both write that even according to the Bach (who contends that ma’aser kefafim is purely a custom) once one begins to give ma’aser, it is as if he made an oath to do so and is now obligated to continue. Many are of the opinion that this is true immediately after the first time one gives ma’aser. It is for this reason that the Chofetz Chayim (in his sefer Ahavas Chesed chapter 18 note 2) advises that one should stipulate – prior to the first time he gives ma’aser – that he is doing so “Bli Neder”, without the binding force of a vow. If he fails to make this stipulation, he becomes obligated to give ma’aser as if he had vowed to give a tenth of his money to tzedaka, and all the stringencies that apply when fulfilling a pure obligation command would apply to him.

3) The poskim discuss whether one may purchase seforim using Maaser money. A- Rama (Yoreh Deah 249) rules that ma’aser should be given to poor people and it is not to be spent on other mitzvos. Purchasing seforim should therefore be forbidden. A stringent view was advanced by the Aruch Hashulchan who feels that purchasing seforim is an inappropriate use of ma’aser. Rather the money should go to the poor (an almost identical ruling to that of the Rama previously cited). B- The Shach, however, permitted buying seforim from ma’aser money on the condition that one lends it out to others. The Ta’z has a similar lenient ruling and adds that one must mark in the sefer that it was bought using money from ma’aser. This will ensure that even his children will always remember that the sefer does not belong to him and is meant to be used by the public. C- The Chofetz Chayim writes that if one knows someone who cannot afford to buy seforim, one may purchase seforim using ma’aser money, and then lend it to said person. He explains that this is an acceptable form of tzedaka.  D -It is also worthy to note that based on a teaching of the Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah 231) one may stipulate – prior to the first time he gives ma’aser – that he intends to use the money for other mitzvos. This too should bypass all issues.

4) Rav Shmuel Wosner zt”l in his sefer Shevet Halevi (7:195) writes that one is allowed to purchase seforim (using ma’aser money) and donate them to a shul or yeshiva according to all authorities. He explains that the Aruch Hashulchan ruled stringently only when the person intended on owning the sefer and lending it out to others. The Aruch Hashulchan feared that over time he might forget to lend it to others and the sefer will become “one of his own”. However, donating the seforim to a shul or a yeshiva would avoid this problem.

5) Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 2:113) writes that one is not allowed to use ma’aser to pay tuition for one’s son to go to yeshiva. This restriction is based on the halachic principle that ma’aser money may not be used to pay off an earlier obligation; and since one is required to pay for a child’s education, one may not fulfill his obligation using ma’aser money.  A similar ruling is advanced by the Chafetz Chayim in his sefer Ahavas Chesed (19:2).

6) Rav Moshe extends a similar ruling regarding tuition for one’s daughter to go to “Bais Yaakov”. He explains that although one is not obligated to teach his daughter Torah, however, one is obligated to insure that his daughter is raised in a religious environment. In America one is required by law to send his children to a school, if not private than public. Therefore one is obligated to send his daughter to a religious private school if the alternative is a public school. The halacha of a girl is identical to that of the boy, that one may not fulfill his obligation to pay for a child’s education with ma’aser money.

If one finds himself having a difficult time paying tuition and feels that he needs to use some ma’aser money as aid, there are authorities who are lenient. (See Rivevos Efraim 4:204) However, a rav should be consulted before taking a lenient approach. Rav Moshe adds that one may use Maaser money for the tuition that is above the standard fare.

7) Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l in his sefer Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 4:76 no. 2) addresses the permissibility of purchasing tickets at a Chinese auction (organized by a tzedaka organization) using ma’aser money. He writes that it is permissible to do so and the winnings do not belong to ma’aser. He adds that if one wins a prize with this ticket that he should reimburse the price of the ticket to his “ma’aser funds”.

8) Rav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 3:289) agrees with Rav Moshe in principle, however, he voices his concern that people will only give ma’aser to those organizations who organized an auction, leaving many worthy causes without donators. He advises, therefore, to only spend a fifth of one’s ma’aser funds at auctions and events. It goes without saying that one should not give to a lesser cause basing his decision on the fact that they have organized an auction; rather the money should go to the most worthy cause.

9) As with any other business transaction, a shadchan must be paid a fee for arranging a shidduch (Rama C.M. 185) 

10) One is not allowed to use maaser money to pay for obligations and debts. Therefore, one is not allowed to pay the shadchan with maaser money. (Zichron Yehuda 192 and Emes L’Yaakov on Tzedaka) Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a rules that if one agrees to pay the shadchan more than is the standard fair, he may use maaser money to pay the amount that is above the standard fair. (Netai Gavriel Tenaim page 386)

Motzei Tisha B’Av This Year

1) The Gemara tells us that the Beis Hamikdash continued burning until sunset of the tenth of Av. Therefore, the restrictions of the Three Weeks and the Nine Days apply until noon of the tenth of Av. (M.B. 558:5) Therefore, one should not eat meat or drink wine until the noon after Tisha B’Av. Bathing, haircuts, washing clothes and music is also prohibit. (M.B. 2) [Regarding Havdallah, some permit drinking wine while others advise to use beer or chamar medina- for normative halacha, a rav should be consulted.]
2) Rav Shimon Eider zt”l (Halachos of the Three Weeks page 32) writes the following, “When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos and is postponed until Sunday [as is the case this year], eating meat and drinking wine is permissible Monday morning. On Sunday evening, however, it is prohibited … since the day was spent in mourning, it is not proper to assume conduct of simcha (i.e. eating meat and drinking wine) immediately after it is over. Bathing, washing clothing and haircuts are permissible Sunday evening. Music is not permitted until the morning.” Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a and Harav Herschel Schachter shlit”a, however, permit music on Sunday evening as well. (Netai Gavriel page 553)
ציון במשפט תפדה ושביה בצדקה

When Tisha B’Av Falls On Shabbos

1) The final meal before Tisha B’Av is called the seuda hamafsekes and has special requirements. The purpose of the seuda hamafsekes is to experience sorrow and mourning for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh. (M.B. 552:1) Therefore, it is prohibited to eat meat or drink wine at this meal. (Although the custom is not to eat meat or drink wine during the Nine Days, during this meal it is prohibited and not merely a custom.)  In addition, one may eat only one type of cooked food, so that the meal should not be one of honor and pleasure. (S.A. 551:1 M.B. 11, 17) The custom is for the seuda hamafsekes to consist only of bread, cold hard-boiled eggs and water (Rama 552:5, M.B. 13).
2) When Tisha B’Av occurs on Shabbos  and is postponed until Sunday (as it does this year), the seuda hamafsekes (Shalosh Seudos) does not have the restrictions cited above. One may eat meat and drink wine and his meal may consist of many cooked dishes. (S.A. 552:10) Unlike other Shabbasim, however, he must stop eating before sunset. The mood during the meal should be somber and not joyous. (M.B. 24)
3) Learning Torah on Tisha B’Av is prohibited, except for those portions and topics which are relevant to Tisha B’Av and mourning. (S.A. 554:1) (I will try to discuss this in more detail in a future halacha)
4) There is a debate amongst the poskim whether one may learn Torah on Shabbos when Tisha B’Av occurs on Shabbos (and is postponed until Sunday). Many poskim maintain that on Shabbos after noon, one may only learn these portions and topics of Torah which are permitted on Tisha B’Av. (See Rama 553:2 and Netai Gavriel page 522) According to these poskim Pirkei Avos is not said. (M.B. 9) While some poskim hold that since eating meat and drinking wine is permissible, learning Torah is also permissible. The Taz concludes that one who conducts himself according to this lenient view (even after noon) is not acting in error. (M.B. 10)
5) When Tisha B’Av occurs on Shabbos and the fast is postponed until Motzei Shabbos, one may not prepare for Tisha B’Av on Shabbos. Therefore, one may not bring copies of Eicha, Kinos or stools to Shul on Shabbos. (Netai Gavriel page 533)
6) When Tisha B’Av occurs on Shabbos, the customary Havdallah is not said on Motzei Shabbos. Rather, on Motzei Shabbos after nightfall, the bracha of borei meorei haeish is said upon seeing candlelight. The bracha should be recited after Maariv before reading Eicha. However, if he forgot to say it before Eicha, he may say it any time during the night. The bracha over besamim is not recited. (See Halachos of the Three Weeks by Rav Shimon Eider page 17) [B”h in a future email we will discuss the laws of Havdala which is said after Tisha B’Av (Sunday night)]
7) The Gemara tells us that the Beis Hamikdash continued burning until sunset of the tenth of Av. Therefore, the restrictions of the Three Weeks and the Nine Days apply until noon of the tenth of Av. (M.B. 558:5) Therefore, one should not eat meat or drink wine until the noon after Tisha B’Av. Bathing, haircuts, washing clothes and music is also prohibit. (M.B. 2) [Regarding Havdallah, some permit drinking wine while others advise to use beer or chamar medina- for normative halacha, a rav should be consulted.]
8) Rav Shimon Eider zt”l (Halachos of the Three Weeks page 32) writes the following, “When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos and is postponed until Sunday [as is the case this year], eating meat and drinking wine is permissible Monday morning. On Sunday evening, however, it is prohibited … since the day was spent in mourning, it is not proper to assume conduct of simcha (i.e. eating meat and drinking wine) immediately after it is over. Bathing, washing clothing and haircuts are permissible Sunday evening. Music is not permitted until the morning.” Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a, however, permits music on Sunday evening as well. (Netai Gavriel page 553)

The Mitzvah of Nichum Aveilim (Comforting The Mourners)

1) The mitzvah of nichum aveilim is numbered amongst the greatest of mitzvos because it is one of the methods to emulate Hashem for Hashem himself comforted Yitzchak after the loss of his father. (Gemara Sota 14a) Rabbeinu Yonah (beginning of third perek) writes that comforting mourners is a form of the biblical obligation of doing chesed. However, the Rambam (Avel chapter 14) writes that the obligation is rabbinic in nature. (For further discussion as to the opinion of the Rambam, see: Megilas Esther on Sefer Mitzvos Shoresh 1, Rav Perlow on Sefer Hamitzvos Rasag vol. 1. mitzvah 19, Shut Maharetz Cheyos 70.)

2) The Chafetz Chayim (Ahavas Chessed chapter 5) writes that the main obligation of nichum aveilim is to alleviate the pain of the mourner. A similar view was advanced by the Shlah hakadosh (cited by Sefer Netai Gavriel on hilchos Aveilus vol. 1 page 466) who wrote that, “The mitzvah (of nichum aveilim) is to speak to the mourner with comforting words, until he momentarily forgets about his pain”. Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 4:274 chapter 9) expresses a similar explanation of the mitzvah. He warns, however, against discussing mundane matters, unrelated to that of the deceased, but rather, to tell stories of the niftar and to discuss his good qualities. Upon hearing this, the mourner will (hopefully) become comforted. [Yet, it goes without saying that if telling stories of the niftar will cause the mourner pain, one should not do so. The main objective is to cause comfort and not chas v’shalom pain for the mourner, v’ten l’chocham v’yechkam od.]

3) Many seforim cite the minhag not to be menacheim during the first three days after the funeral. (See Gesher Hachaim vol. 1 page 209, Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:274 chapter 9, Sefer Chesed Shel Emes page 415, Netai Gavriel on hilchos aveilus vol. 1 chapter 86.) One of the reasons given is that since the first three days are designated for crying over the loss (see Gemara Moed Katan 14), it is difficult for the mourners to accept comfort. Therefore one should wait three days until the mourners are more readily accepting of nechama. The Gesher Hachaim writes that since this is just a minhag if there are extenuating circumstances one may go during the first three days. In addition Rav Yaakov Kamanetzky zt”l (Sefer Emes L’Yaakov footnote on page 394) testified that the minhag in Lithuania was to be menacheim even on the first day. A similar permissive view was advanced by the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l in the sefer Shaarei Halacha U’minhag (Yoreh deah 137).

4) Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 3:377, 4:274 chapter 9) extends a novel idea. He feels that the aforementioned minhag applies only to those who have specific words of comfort to tell the mourners. In that case one should wait the three days so that the mourners will be more responsive. However, the majority of people who just go to show support (and only say “Hamakom Yenachem…”) may go at any time. On the contrary, he adds, many mourners have a difficult time sitting alone for so long and the mere presence of people may ease the pain.

5) There are those who have the custom not to perform nichum aveilim at night. However, most poskim disqualify this minhag and write that one may fulfill the mitzvah even at night, see Gesher Hachaim vol. 1 page 209 and Yabia Omer (Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l) vol. 10 page 299.

6) The Rambam (Avel 14:7) says that there are two facets to mitzvas nichum aveilim: The first is to comfort the mourners who are distressed over the death of a loved one. This can be done by expressing sympathy to them and consoling them over their loss. One’s mere presence at a house of mourning is a show of respect and a source of comfort at a time of sorrow. The second part of the mitzvah is for the sake of the deceased. By visiting the home of the deceased during the Shivah period, one “elevates the soul” of the departed individual. [Based on the Talmud (Shabbos 152a) which states that ten people should sit shiva in the house of the deceased even if the deceased left no mourners behind.] Accordingly, Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim vol. 4 number 40:11) rules that while it is possible to console a mourner over the telephone, it is not possible to “elevate the soul” of the deceased unless one actually comes to the house of mourning. Nor does one show proper honor to a mourner through a mere phone call. Thus, if one can, he must be menachem avel in person. If, for some valid reason, he cannot visit the home of a mourner, he should still call him and console him and thereby fulfill at least part of the mitzvah. [He continues to explain that the mourner may come to the phone and accept a caller’s words of condolence. He may not, however, speak about other matters or ask about the welfare of the caller, even if the caller is a child or close relative.]                                                          

7) Many achronim rule in accordance with Rav Moshe; including the Rav of Debrezin in Sefer Beer Moshe (2:104, 7:2:58), Shut Divrei Shalom 4:57, Sefer Nishmas Yisroel page 117, and Harav Ovadia Yosef in Sefer Yabia Omer vol. 10 page 299. Similarly Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:587) writes that if one is unable to visit the mourner in person he may send a letter of condolence. For a dissenting view see Sefer Pachad Yitzchak (Igros U’ksavim 33).