Kneeling On Rosh Hashana And Yom Kippur

1) On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur it is customary to kneel and bow one’s head to the ground during the tefillah of Aleinu.
It is biblically forbidden to prostrate with outstretched arms and legs on a stone floor. Chazal forbade complete prostration on all types of floors (carpeted etc.) and they forbade even kneeling (without outstretched limbs) on stone floors. (M.B. 131:40)
2) Therefore, if the shul has a stone floor one must cover the surface upon which he kneels. (Tomorrow we will iy”h discuss what are must one cover) (See Shulchan Aruch 131:8 and M.B. 40) There are some opinions who maintain that it is preferable to cover the floor no matter what material it is made of. This is the why the common custom is to cover the ground even if it is carpeted. (Mateh Efraim 621:14)
3) The poskim explain that a separation is required between one’s face and the ground, not a separation between the knees and the ground. (See Avnei Yashfei 2:7:5 and Netai Gavriel R.H. page 393)
4) When kneeling during davening on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur one may use his tallis as a separation between his face and the floor. (Elya Rabba 131:14 and Shaar Hatzion 44. For further explanation see Avnei Yashfei 2:7:3)
5) Women are included in the prohibition of kneeling on the ground. Therefore, if a woman kneels on Rosh Hashana she must cover her face. (See Chinuch 349)
6) Some women have the custom to kneel and some do not. One should follow her custom. (See Rivevos Ephraim 3:421:2, Beis Avi 3:72 and Netai Gavriel Yom Kippur)

Bracha Upon Seeing Royalty

1) The Gemara (Brachos 58a) tells us that one should make an effort to see kings “and not only Jewish kings, but even gentile kings, because if he will merit, he will be able to distinguish between Jewish and non-Jewish kings”. Rashi explains that this refers to those who will see the coming ofMoshiach. They will appreciate how much greater the honor given to theMelechHa’Moshiach is than the honor given by the various nations to their leaders in this world. The Gemara adds that additionally there is an obligation to recite a special bracha when seeing a king. As was codified by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 224:8), when one sees a Jewish king, he should say “Baruch…she’cholok mikvodo li’yireiav” and if he sees a non-Jewish king he should recite the blessing “Baruch…she’noson mikvodo l’basar v’dam”.
2) Rav Chaim Palag’i zt”l (cited by the Sefer Shearim Metzuyanim B’Halacha vol. 1. 60:6) rules that one is required to recite the bracha upon seeing a king even if he is known to be an evil tyrant. He explains that this blessing is not meant as a symbol of honor or respect towards the king. Rather, the rationale for this blessing is in order to appreciate how much honor is shown to kings now, so that we will be able to appreciate how much more honor will be given to the Melech Ha’moshiach.
3) The term “king” employed by the gemara is somewhat vague. In fact, nowhere in the gemara or in its major commentaries are we told what kind of authority one must have in order to warrant a bracha. The Radvaz (cited by Magen Avraham and Mishna Berurah) explains that the bracha need not be said over a king exclusively, but rather, any official or leader who is able to execute and exercise capital punishment is deemed to have requisite power to warrant a bracha. This ruling of the Radvaz is particularly essential when evaluating whether a blessing should be said over the President of the United States, as is discussed at length by the modern day Poskim. There are primarily two views on this subject:

4) Bracha Is Recited– Rav Wosner zt”l (Shevet Halevi 1:35) reasons that the ruling of the Radvaz is only necessary regarding a governor or officer who are not the most honored and revered in their land (as they don’t hold the highest position). A person like this needs the ability to execute criminals to have the power to require a blessing. The President or king, however, who are shown the most honor require a blessing regardless of their abilities and duties.[This author was told from reliable sources that Rav Zelig Epstein Zt”l indeed recited a bracha upon    meeting President Clinton.]
5) Bracha Without The Name of Hashem– Since the President is unable to execute prisoners at will, he should not warrant a blessing. This is the opinion of Rav Moshe Stern zt”l. In his Sefer Beer Moshe 2:9, he advises that one recite the blessing while omitting the name of Hashem.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef zt”l cites a number of authorities who rule that one does not recite a beracha when he sees a king wearing normal clothing, and without the accompaniment of an entourage. These authorities reason that the blessing is recited on the “honor” granted the king. If the king is not currently displaying that honor there is no need for a beracha. Rabbi Yosef himself is unsure whether or not these authorities should be relied upon and therefore rules to recite the beracha without uttering the name of God. Therefore, since presidents do not wear “the garb of kings” one does not recite the name of Hashem.
Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:139) explains that since the criteria for this blessing is that they must be shown the honor reserved for royalty, one would not make a bracha on a president because, although he holds the highest position in the land, he only holds it for four years. He may be impeached at any time, and his approval is not necessary for all laws to be passed. For this very reason, Rav Shternbuch rules that a bracha should be recited upon seeing the monarch in modern day England.
6) The poskim rule that one does not make a bracha upon seeing a king or president on the television; see Shut B’tzel Hachochmo 2:19, Beer Moshe 2:9, Yechava Daas 2:28.
7) Rabbi Moshe Stern zt”l and his brother Rav Bezalel Stern zt”l (Be’er Moshe 2:9:4 and B’tzel Hachochmo 2:19) both explain that one need not actually see the king himself in order to make the beracha. It is sufficient to see the entourage parading the monarch through the streets.

Naming A Child After Someone Who Was Not Observant

1) Our sages (see Brachos 7b) stress that the name of a person can affect his actions for the good or  G-d forbid for the worse, [clearly one is able to overcome a bad name and cannot rely on a virtuous name alone, rather, one must strive to act in the most righteous way possible by doing mitzvos and learning Torah].
2) The Sefer Bris Avos (8:47) cites the Arizal as saying, “It is a mere misconception that a parent names a child arbitrarily. Rather, it is with Divine inspiration. For it is known before Him the purpose and (eventual) actions of the child, be it for the good or for the bad, all of which are concealed in his name. Each letter of the name reveals more and more about the person. Even if one finds an evil person with a name destined for the righteous, it is clear that contained in him is a small spark of goodness”. Rav Elimelech of Lischensk (Bamidbar) writesthat the name of a person is part of the deciding factor as to whether he will become a tzadik. He explains that it is predetermined, at the beginning of time, as to how many tzaddikim will be named Moshe or Shlomo (and the like). Therefore when a parent names a child Moshe (for example) he is tapping in to the righteousness of the original tzaddikim who shared that name, which effectively helps the child become virtuous in his own right.
3) It is currently customary to name after the child’s relatives (such as grandparents etc.) or great Tzadikkim (according to Ashkanazi tradition one should name only after the deceased, while many Sefardic Jews name after the living). The Sefer Mili D’Chasidusa (477) writes that naming after one’s parent or grandparent is a fulfillment of the obligation of kibbud av v’em, honoring one’s father and mother. A similar view was expressed by a student of Rav Nossan Adler zt”l, in the Sefer Rivam Shnaituch (Yoreh Deah 58). The reason being that (as stated above) when one names the child after a person he is connecting the child to his namesake,Therefore, by naming it after a grandfather (etc.) one is effectively saying “I wish my child would connect to the soul of my granfather and become like him”. This is obviously a great sign of honor.
4) Based upon the above teachings (that naming a child connects the child’s soul to whomever he is named after), it is quite obvious that one should not name a child after a rasha (wicked person), as this can affect the child in negative ways.

5) There are times where the only way to insure shalom bayis is by naming the baby after a relative who was not observant and the question arises as to whether this is permitted, The poskim offer possible heterim as to avoid any issue:
A- Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:50) explains that the child is only connected to his namesake regarding the mazal and middos of the deceased. The child is not connected to the actions of the departed. It seems to reason that one should be allowed to name the child after a non-observant Jew as long as he was a “good” person with excellent middos. In addition the poskim stress that most non-observant Jews cannot be classified as “wicked” because their actions are not meant to anger G-d, rather, they are due to lack of knowledge about Judaism and the Torah. They explain that these people are classified as “Tinok shenishba bein hanachrim”, a child lost amongst the nations.
B- Rav Shternbuch continues that if one alters the name of the child from that of the deceased, by adding a name, there would be no prohibition.
C- The poskim advise, that when the father says the name at the bris he should concentrate that the child is being named after the relative and after a tzaddik who shared said name. Therefore, if the name of the deceased was Yaakov, then the father should think that the child is being named after the family member and Yaakov Avinu, or any tzaddik named Yaakov (Mishneh Halachos 6:253, Yifai Nof 91, Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:501). Rabbi Moshe Weinberger Shlit”a added that if one forgot to do this during the bris one may be able to rectify this by calling the child (preferably daily or at least on Shabbos) using his full Hebrew name. And while speaking to the child he should concentrate on the tzaddik who shared this name.

The Mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos

1) The Fourth Commandment is to “Remember (Zachor) the Shabbos day”. Our Sages in the Mechilta explain that derived from this verse is the obligation of Tosefes Shabbos, starting the Shabbos early in order to incorporate a small part of the week day into Shabbos. The majority of the Rishonim maintain that the mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos is a Biblical commandment. (See Biur Halacha 261:2) One should perform this mitzvah before sunset, since Shabbos begins at sunset.

2) This Mitzvah is incumbent upon women as well as men. (Shemirash Shabbos K’Hilchoso 46:1)

3) The proper procedure, lechatchila, for this mitzvah, is to state that one is being mekabel Shabbos for the sake of the mitzvah (Tosefes Shabbos). This statement can be made in one of the following ways: by reciting the entire kabbalas Shabbos, by reciting Mizmor Shir L’yom Hashabbos, by answering Borchu, by davening the Shabbos Maariv, by lighting candles [for women],  or even by saying aloud: I am mekabel Shabbos for the sake of the mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos. If one merely thought to be mekabel Shabbos, without verbalizing anything, according to many poskim he is yotzei b’dieved. (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso 46:2) There are some poskim who say that one may fulfill the obligation by merely refraining from forbidden work (see Aruch Hashulchan 261:2 and Yabia Omer vol. 7 page 97 in the footnote) ; however, many poskim disagree. (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso ibid.)

4) The Rishonim do not clearly define the amount of time as the minimum addition required to fulfill the mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos. However, latter day poskim do define specific amounts of time to fulfill the mitzvah: The Chayei Adam (5:2), cited by the Mishna Berurah (261:22), maintains that Tosefes Shabbos together with Bein Hashmashos is one half hour long. Because Bain Hashmashos is approximately fifteen minutes, one should add an extra 15 minutes to Shabbos. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 97), implies that one need not be mekabel Shabbos more than two or three minutes early in oder to fulfill the mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos. The Mishna Berurah advises that to fulfill the mitzvah according to all the shitos, (most notably the Yeraim), one should usher in Shabbos 30 minutes early, or at least 20 minutes early. Rav Avigdor Nevenzhal shlit”a (B’Yitzchak Yikareh on Mishnah Berurah) cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l who says that the  custom is not to follow this stringent view of the Mishnah Berurah.

5) One may be mekabel Shabbos as early as plag hamincha, but not earlier. Any Kabbalas Shabbos made before plag hamincha, including lighting candles, is void and must be repeated. (Mishna Berurah 261:25)

6) A common problem which many people are unaware of is that once one answers borchu  with a minyan one has accepted upon himself Shabbos and cannot afterwards pray the weekday mincha. If this occurs, he must daven Maariv twice. (S.A. 261:16) If one is in a Shul during the summer months when there is an early minyan taking place, one should not answer to Barchu if he still wishes to daven Mincha later. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe O.C. 3:37) writes that if one answered Borchu with the specific intent not to accept Shabbos, then he may daven Mincha afterwards. If one does not have this intent it is considered as if one intended to accept Shabbos. A similar view was expressed by Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l in the Sefer Halichos Shlomo (vol. 1 page 166). Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 6:18) disagrees, and rules that even if one had the specific intent not to accept Shabbos, he may not daven Mincha afterwards. The reason for this rule is that saying Borchu is an act of accepting Shabbos with a congregation and is effective regardless of intent. Therefore, one should not answer Borchu at all.

7) The Sefer Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (46 footnote 54), adds that even if one did not answer borchu, but turned around to face the back of the Shul during Boei Beshalom, (as is customary), he has accepted Shabbos, and is therefore disqualified from praying Mincha. He would also have to daven Maariv twice. See. however. Ishei Yisroel page 372 note 12 who writes that this ruling of the Shemiras Shabbos is debatable.

8)  According to our custom, Shabbos begins at sunset. Once the sun sets it may already be night according to many opinions. Therefore, in order to perform the mitzvah of adding to the Shabbos, one must be mekabel Shabbos before sunset. (After sunset, one is not adding to the Shabbos since it is already Shabbos.) Many Shuls, especially during the winter, daven Mincha on Friday evening 10 to 15 minutes before sunset and then begin the prayer of Kabbalas Shabbos. By the time the minyan says boei beshalom (a formal way of accepting early shabbos), it may be past sunset. Therefore, many men are not fulfilling the mitzvah of tosefes Shabbos according to the opinion of many poskim. There are, however, a couple of alternatives to fulfill the mitzvah and daven Mincha in the proper time:

  1. If an individual realizes that he will not be able to finish the silent Shemoneh Esrei of Micha before sunset, he should daven alone (byichidus) before sunset, be mekabel Shabbos, and then go to shul to answer kedusha etc. (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilachasa 46:5).
  2. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l is cited (Sefer Halichos Shlomo chapter 14 note 3) as offering an alternative solution to the problem. He advises that if one will not be able to finish the silent Shemoneh Esrei before sunset, one may accept Shabbos before mincha, with the stipulation, “Even though I am accepting Shabbos upon myself, I am still able to daven mincha”. One should add the next phrase to fulfill all the  shitos by saying, “Right before sunset I accept Shabbos completely without any stipulation.” See Halichos Shlomo for further discussion on this psak.
  3. The Tzitz Eliezer wites (13:42) that if one finds himself right before sunset and is faced with the choice of davening Mincha or being mekabel Shabbos, he should be mekabel Shabbos and then daven Mincha. He reasons that the rule that one who accepts Shabbos may no longer daven Mincha is only true when one accepted Shabbos with a minyan (by answering Borchu and the like). However, one who personally accepted Shabbos without a minyan may continue to daven mincha.