New English Halacha Sefer Announcement

I am happy to announce that I recently completed an english Halacha Sefer entitled “The Gates Of Joy.” The sefer (hardcover, 400 pages) discusses all of the laws and customs of the Jewish wedding from the engagement through the Shana Rishona. It includes the customs of Ashkenazim, Chassidim, and Sephardim. The Sefer is written in English with Hebrew footnotes containing the sources. In addition, Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlit”a allowed me to print over 20 pages of his handwritten halachic rulings.  Here is a sample of the sefer (sample-gates-of-joy) and an image of the cover can be found below. To pre-order a copy of the sefer please contact me at The price of the sefer is $20 plus shipping and handling. Thank you





Drinking Wine Touched By A Non-Observant Jew

I recently received a wonderful sefer written by Harav J. David Bleich shlit”a entitled “Contemporary Halakhic Problems Vol. 7”. In this sefer Harav Bleich discusses many topics, however, one in particular is extremely relevant to those in kiruv and that is drinking the wine touched by a non-observant Jew. I urge anyone to purchase this sefer (here is a link- and learn that topics, and other topics, in depth.

The Source

Our Sages forbade all non-Jewish wine, or even wine that was touched by a non-Jew, as a precaution to avoid intermarriage (Avoda Zara 29). The Rishonim write that one may not even drink wine that was touched by Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbos (Bahag Shechita, Beis Yosef 119 citing the Rashba).

The Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 120, see also Har Tzvi Y.D. 105) wonders why the wine is prohibited if one may marry a Jew who desecrates Shabbos and there is no concern of intermarriage. He explains, based on the Gemara in Chullin (5), that if one serves Idolatry he is punished that he has the hallachic status of a non-Jew. Similarly, one who desecrates Shabbos in the presence of ten Jews has the halachic status of a non-Jew. The reason for this is that we keep Shabbos because Hashem rested on the seventh day after creating the world in the first six days. One who does not keep Shabbos is thereby questioning the fact that Hashem rested after creating the world. Therefore, one who desecrates Shabbos is akin to serving Idolatry and is therefore punished that he strictly treated as non-Jew in halacha. Since he has the status of a non-Jew his wine is forbidden, even though there is no concern of intermarriage. This same line of reasoning can be extended to prohibit the bread baked by a non-observant Jew.

Publicly Desecrating Shabbos:

However, the Poskim stress that there are many requirements that one needs to meet to be classified in hallacha as a “public” desecrater of shabbos. And if one fails to meet these requirements he is considered a “private” desecrater of shabbos and keeps his status of a Jew in hallacha. The following are some of those requirements:

The Baal Haitur (cited in Beis Yosef Y.D. 44 and Tashbeitz 3:43) writes that only one who violates shabbos through working the fields (planting, threshing etc.) is deemed a public desecrater of shabbos. One who violates shabbos in any other fashion keeps his hallachic status of a Jew. Rav Akiva Eiger zt”l (Y.D. 264 see also Daas Torah Y.D. 2:27) writes that he does not understand the reasoning of the Baal Haitur. He also notes that he no other posek shares the same view and it is therefore difficult to rely upon his opinion for a hallachic ruling.

The Chaya Adam rules that if one were to refrain from breaking Shabbos in front of a rabbi (or ones parents) he keeps the hallachic status of a Jew. It is clear that he feels a level of embarrassment for his actions and is not turning his back completely on his religion.17

כתבו הפוסקים דכל שבוש מלחלל שבת בפני אדם חשוב כגון רב וכדו’ אין דינו כמחלל שבת בפרהסיא לענין זה שחשיב כגוי. וכ”כ החיי אדם (כלל ע”ה ס”ק כ”ו): “ישראל מומר או רשע שמחלל שבת בפרהסיא, אפילו אינו מחלל אלא באיסור דרבנן, הרי הוא כנכרי וכו’ ואם מתבייש לחלל בפני אדם גדול, לא מיקרי בפרהסיא”. אולם המנחת אלעזר (ח”ג ס’ כ”ד) חולק עליו. ובספר הליכות שלמה חלק ג’ דף שכ”ה הביא מהג”ר שלמה זלמן אורבך זצ”ל וז”ל: “וה”ה כשבוש בכך בפני אביו או אמו וכדו’ ואינו מחלל שבת במחיצתם, וכהיום רבים מאלה שלצערנו אינם שומרי תומ”צ הריהם בכלל זה”. ועוד שם הביא מתלמידים וז”ל: “ומ”מ מה שנמנע מלחלל שבת בפני אחיו וכדו’ היה נראה מדברי רבינו דאין לראות זאת אלא כנימוס בעלמא ולא מפני הבושה וכו’ ואף לענין הנמנע מלחלל שבת לפני אדם חשוב, הורה רבינו דאם ניכר להדיא שהימנעותו היא אך ורק מפני הנימוס גרידא ולא מפני הבושה, אין להקל”.

Rav Akiva Eiger zt”l (ibid.) feels that one is required to violate shabbos in the presence of ten shabbos observant Jews and only then is he considered one who violated shabbos on a public level. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Y.D. 70) disagrees and explains that this hallacha applies even if one breaks shabbos in the presence of ten non-observant Jews.

The Achronim disagree if one violates shabbos through a rabbinic act (ex. Muktza) if he then has the status of a public desecrater of shabbos or does the hallacha apply only to those who desecrate shabbos on a biblical level.(see Radvaz 2:796, Rav Akiva Eiger Y.D. 2 and Yabia Omer 1 Y.D. 11:24)

Tinuk Shenishba:

Even one who desecrates Shabbos publicly according to all of the authorities may still have the status of a Jew in halacha, as we shall explain. The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (3:9), after defining minim, apikorsim, and kofrim as individuals who reject one of the many principles of Judaism, writes: “Among Israel, there are two categories of mumarim: a mumar in regard to a single mitzvah and a mumar in regard to the entire Torah. A mumar in regard to a single mitzvah is someone who has made a practice of willfully committing a particular sin [to the point where] he is accustomed to committing it… [This applies] even though [the sin] is one of the minor ones. For example, someone who has made a practice of constantly wearing sha’atnez or cutting off his sideburns so that it appears that, in regard to him, it is as if this mitzvah has been nullified entirely. Such a person is considered a mumar in regard to that matter. This applies [only] if he [commits the sin] with the intent of angering G-d. An example of a mumar in regard to the entire Torah is one who turned to the faith of the gentiles when they enact [harsh] decrees [against the Jews] and clings to them.”

In Hillchos Shechita (4:14), the Rambam writes that a Jew who serves idolatry or one who publicly desecrates shabbos is considered (in hallacha) like a non-Jew and if he slaughters, the animal is rendered a neveilah. Thus the Rambam has described people who are deficient in their observance of the mitzvos. It would thus seem that all non-observant Jews fall into one of these categories.

This would indeed be the case if not for a distinction made by the Rambam. The Rambam in hilchos Mamrim (3:3) writes the following: “To whom does this all apply? Only to a person who denied the Oral Law consciously and instead followed after his frivolous thoughts… The children of these errant people and their grandchildren whose parents led them away and they were born among these Karaities and raised according to their conception, they are considered as ‘children captured amongst the nations and raised by them’ (Tinokos Shenishbu). Such a child may not be eager to follow the path of mitzvot, for it is as if he was compelled not to. Even if later, he hears that he is Jewish and saw Jews and their faith, he is still considered as one who was compelled against observance, for he was raised according to their mistaken path… Therefore it is appropriate to motivate them to repent and draw them to the power of the Torah with words of peace.” The Rambam is thus telling us a very novel concept and that is, in order to determine the hallachic status of any Jew we must first inquire into the many different factors which have determined his development and behavior.

The Poskim have employed the opinion of the Rambam and have ruled leniently regarding many Sabbath desecrators that they remain their status of Jews. Rav Yehuda Ettlinger zt”l (Binyan Tzion 23) writes that the derogatory label of a public desecrater of shabbos, which implies brazen rejection of the belief in the Creation of the universe, cannot be attributed to many German Jews who lit candles, made Kiddush etc., yet openly violated the laws of the Shabbos. He writes: “The only reason a Sabbath violator is considered a mumar is because he who denies creation and the Creator as well. However, this person confesses his faith by prayer, Kiddush etc. Certainly the children of these people never knew and never heard of the laws of Shabbos and they are in all respects… like a tinok shenishba bein ha-akum. This is the case unless it is clear to us that a particular individual is familiar with the laws of Shabbos and brazenly desecrates Shabbos in the presence of ten men despite this knowledge. Such a person is definitely considered a mumar.”

This heter can obviously not be applied blindly to all non-observant Jews as there are many Jews who do not fall under the category of tinuk shenishba. This, like all halachos, requires discretion and the consultation of a noted posek.

It is also worthy to note the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe 1:33). Rav Moshe was asked how to determine the status of many Jews who believe that G-d Created the universe, however, due to fear of losing their livelihood are forced to work on Shabbos. He ruled leniently regarding the matter and his reasoning may be applicable to our discussion. He begins by explaining that the reason a “public” desecrater of Shabbos has the status of a non-Jew while one who desecrates shabbos privately receives no change of status, even though both acts are inherently the same. He explains that desecrating Shabbos is only considered a brazen act of kefira (heresy) if one does so to attack G-d and Judaism. If one does so for reasons of monetary gain and the like should not be classified as a non-Jew. Therefore, when one violates shabbos privately we are allowed to assume that he is doing so out of necessity and not as an act of aggression towards G-d. This leniency is not given towards a public desecration of Shabbos because the act itself is perceived by onlookers as an act of aggression and even if he is adamant that he is doing so for personal reasons we do not believe him. If that is the case, advances Rav Moshe, the argument can be made that even if one publicly desecrates Shabbos if it is clear to all the onlookers that he is doing so only for monetary reasons (which was the case at the time of Rav Moshe as many Jews would daven Vasikin, make Kiddush and then drive to work) he remains a Jew in halacha. The same argument can possibly be made regarding the vast majority of non-observant Jews. Since the average onlooker excuses their actions as being based on a lack of education of Judaism and its laws and not as an act of aggression towards G-d, we cannot classify them as non-Jews in halacha.

Practical Halacha

The poskim debate whether one may drink wine that is touched by a non-observant Jew. According to Harav Henkin zt”l (Peirushei Ibra 5:4) one may rule leniently. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l also defends those that rule leniently. This is especially true in light of the above mentioned heterim (tinuk shenishba etc.). However, many poskim, including Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l, Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l, rule stringently on the matter. For normative halacha, a rav should be consulted.


For a full discussion on this topic see Sefer Umekareiv Biyamin vol. 1 page 212 ( In addition,  I gave on the topic of drinking wine touched by a non-observant Jew, here is a link- (

Panim Chadashos

Panim Chadashos

1) The sheva brachos cannot be recited unless at least one of the adult male participants is a panim chadashos. Panim chadashos, literally translated as “new face,” means that he was not present at the wedding dinner or at a previous sheva brachos for this couple. (S.A. E.H. 62:7) If there are no panim chadashos present, only the last of the sheva brachos, “asher bara” is recited.

2) According to the Rambam, two panim chadashos are required. This ruling was codified by the Ben Ish Chai (Shoftim 15). Many sefaradim follow this view.(See Yabia Omer 3 E.H. 11)

3) A person who attended the chuppah, but did not attend the wedding meal, still may be  considered panim chadashos. (S.A. E.H. 62:7) Harav Moshe Stern zt”l writes that this is true even if he ate at a buffet before the chuppah. (Beer Moshe 2:119)

4) If he was present at the wedding meal or one of the sheva brachos meals, he can no longer be considered the panim chadashos, regardless of if he ate while he was there. (Hanisuin K’Hilchosom page 523) Therefore, if a person went to a wedding to wish mazal tov to the chosson and kallah, he can no longer serve as the panim chadashos, even if he did not eat at the wedding at all. (Yismach Lev vol. 3 page 24)

5) A woman cannot serve as the panim chadashos. (Pischei Teshuva 62:14)

6) A child cannot serve as the panim chadashos. (Pischei Teshuva ibid.)

7) The Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 62:8) writes that the panim chadashos is a person who is important enough that extra food is generally prepared in his honor and someone whose presence brings additional simcha. It seems that Rashi disagrees with this notion and feels that any person can serve as the panim chadashos. (See Shitah Mekubetzes Kesubos 7b) While this appears to be the prevalent custom, the Ben Ish Chai writes that it may be preferred to adhere to the strict ruling of the Shulchan Aruch. (See Ben Ish Chai Shoftim 16 and Hanisuin K’Hilchosom page 524) It is reported that the Chazon Ish also sought after panim chadashos who were very honorable. (Shalmei Simcha page 353)

8) The Sefer Hanisuin K’Hilchosom (page 525) cites an argument among the poskim as to whether a waiter at the restaurant where the sheva brachos are taking place can serve as the panim chadashos. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

9) There are numerous opinions among the poskim as to whether the panim chadashos must partake of the meal. The Rama (62:7) rules that the panim chadashos does not need to eat at the sheva brachos meal. This ruling is codified by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. (149:5) The Sefer China V’Chisda (vol. 1 page 111) writes that the blessings are only recited if the panim chadashos eats something at the meal. This is also recorded in the Sefer Nesivei Am (vol. 2 page 8). Harav Avraham Farasko zt”l maintains that the panim chadashos must eat bread at the meal in order for the blessings to be recited. (Birech Es Avraham 71:32)

10) The panim chadashos must be present during the recitation of the sheva brachos. If the panim chadashos leaves before the blessings were recited, the poskim debate whether the blessings are recited. If the panim chadashos leaves in middle of the recitation of the blessings, the poskim disagree whether the remaining blessings are recited. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted. (refer to Hanisuin K’Hilchosom page 526)

11) Days in which the panim chadashos are unnecessary- When sheva brachos take place at either one of the first two meals of Shabbos or Yom Tov, (see Bitzeil Hachochma 1:64) there is no need for an additional panim chadashos because the Shabbos and Yom Tov themselves are considered to be eminent “guests” who fulfill the role of panim chadashos. (Shulchan Aruch E.H. 62:8)

12) The poskim debate whether panim chadashos are required during the third Shabbos meal, known as seudas shlishis. The Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 62:5) rules that Panim Chadashos are required. The Rama M’Pano maintains that, kabbalistically the seudas shlishis is also considered a “guest” and panim chadashos are not required. (Pischei Teshuva 62:16)


Other poskim maintain that panim chadashos are required. However, if divrei Torah are delivered at the meal, the Torah is considered the “guest” of honor and the blessings are recited. (Shulchan Haezer 12:3) Preferably, the divrei Torah should be said by the chosson, (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 149:5) but if he cannot do so, any formal drashah of divrei Torah is sufficient. It should be noted that many poskim, including Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, maintain that divrei Torah can only substitute the panim chadashos during the third meal on Shabbos. If there is no panim chadashos on a weekday, one cannot recite divrei Torah and then recite the blessings. (Shalmei Simcha 352)

Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh are not considered “guests” and panim chadashos are required.

13) The Sefer Yafeh Lalev writes that one does not require panim chadashos on Chol Hamoed. (Bitzeil Hachochma 2:1) Others, including Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l, disagree. (Yabia Omer 3 O.C. 23)

14) Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules that panim chadashos are required on Purim.

The Fast of Asara B’Teves

  1. The Fast of the Tenth of Teves marks the day that Nevuzadran, the Babylonian general, laid siege to Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the first Holy Temple. The siege lasted almost three years until the city walls were breached and the Temple was destroyed. This was the beginning of a long line of disasters on the Jewish people, including the first exile, and the destruction of the second Temple. This day is commemorated by refraining from eating and drinking from sunrise to nightfall.
  2. The purpose of the fast day is to stir our hearts in order that we utilize the paths of teshuva, repentance, and to serve as a reminder to us of our own actions and those of our forefathers. These iniquities are responsible for the terrible events which befell our people. Remembering these tragedies should lead us to examine our conduct and return to Hashem. One should not mistakenly, assume that abstinence from food and drink alone fulfills the requirement and purpose of the fast day. Rather, the true purpose of a fast day must be evidenced in one’s improved deeds. (Mishnah Berurah 549:1)
  3. This year the fast begins on Suday (Jan. 8) at 5:51 a.m. and ends at 5:31 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Even though the fast begins from dawn, sometimes the prohibition against eating begins from the previous evening. For example, if, before the arrival of dawn, a person decides not to eat any more until the fast begins, he is seen as having accepted the fast upon himself, and it is now forbidden for him to eat. Therefore, if a person goes to bed in anticipation of the fast and then rises before dawn, it is forbidden for him to eat, for he diverted his thoughts from eating. If one wishes to wake up before dawn (5:51) and eat or drink, he should stipulate before going to sleep that he intends to wake up early to eat or drink and that the fast should not begin until dawn. The Shulchan Aruch (564) rules that if one did not make this stipulation he may not eat or drink. However, according the Rama he may still drink, even without making a stipulation.
  4. Both men and women must fast on Asara B’Teves. (Shulchan Aruch 550:1)
  5. The Shulchan Aruch (554:5) writes that a pregnant woman need not fast on Asara B’Teves. The Rama (550:1), however, writes that if the pregnant or nursing woman is feeling good the custom is to fast. If she feels week she need not fast. Many poskim explain that the accepted practice today, even among Ashkenazic women, is for pregnant and nursing women to refrain from observing the minor fasts. And even a woman who wishes to be stringent and to observe the fast – if she experiences difficulty during her fast, or if the fast causes her to have less milk, thus causing discomfort to the baby, it is best that she refrain from fasting. (Orchos Chaim Spinka 550:4 and Siddur Yaavetz) For normative halacha, a rav should be consulted.
  6. Nonetheless, if the woman isn’t fasting she shouldn’t eat lavish meals with meat and wine, but rather only what is necessary. (Shulchan Aruch ibid. and Mishnah Berurah 550:5)
  7. The pregnant or nursing woman who does not fast need not make up the fast on a different day. (Yechava Daas 1:35)
  8. One who is sick, even if there is no danger of dying is exempt from fasting and shouldn’t fast. Before one decides to break his fast he should first consult with a rav. If one is sick and does not fast he need not make up his fast on a different day. (Yechava Daas ibid. and Mishnah Berurah Biur Halacha 550)
  9. One need not train his children to fast, even at the age of twelve for boys or eleven for girls. Once they have reached the age of chinuch they shouldn’t eat lavish meals, but rather only what is necessary. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l and ybc”l Harav Neventzhal shlit”a write that although many boys have the custom to fast three fasts before they become bar-mitzvah, this custom has no source. (Mishnah Berurah 550:5, Halichos Shlomo vol. 3 page 398-399 and B’Yitzchak Yikare on Mishnah Berurah)
  10. The Mishnah Berurah (567:11) maintains that only if one is in pain may one rinse one’s mouth on Asara B’Teves and in such a case one should bend one’s head downward so one doesn’t swallow any water.
  11. If one has bad breath and it causes him discomfort or embarrassment, he may use mouthwash on Asara B’Teves. He may also brush his teeth with toothpaste but not with water. (Beer Moshe 8:94, Minchas Yitzchak 4:109)
  12. If one needs to take medicine on Asara B’Teves he may take them without water. If he can not swallow the pills without a little water, he may swallow a very small amount of water (just enough to get the pills down). (Opinion of Rav Debreczin zt”l cited in Nitev Gavriel Bein Hatzomos page 54)
  13. If one ate by mistake on a fast day he should nevertheless continue fasting afterwards. (Shulchan Aruch and Mishanh Berurah 568:1) The Mishna Brurah (568:3) says that even if one ate on a taanis, you can still say aneinu during the shemoneh esrei. Harav Wosner zt”l (Shevet Halevi 5:60) explains that this is only true for someone who began the fast and ate accidentally. However, one who is exempt from fasting altogether does not recite aneinu.
  14. Many have the custom to recite Avinu Malkeinu on public fast days. One can even say Avinu Malkeinu when davening without a minyan. (Ishei Yisroel 45:45)

Writing Secular Dates In Documents

1)  There is a debate regarding the best way to identify the secular months when writing invitations, documents etc.. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 3 YD 9) cites the Ramban who stresses the importance of counting months according to the Jewish calendar. When the Torah says that Nissan is the first month of the year, it is implying that one may not consider any other month to be the “first.” Therefore, Harav Ovadia concludes, when writing the secular months one should not refer to them by number, but by name. For example, one should write January, 12, 2016 and not 1/12/2016.25 A similar ruling is expressed by Harav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l. (Shalmei Simcha page 687)
2) The Tzitz Eliezer (8:8) disagrees with the ruling of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l. He writes that because the months are named after gentile gods, one may not mention the months by name, but should instead refer to them by number.

3) Harav Hershel Schachter shlit”a, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchonon, in a letter addressed to the author, writes that he feels that it is preferable to write the name of the month than to reference it by number. Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlit”a, in a letter addressed to the author, explains that it is difficult to advance a clear hallachic ruling. However, he personally adheres to the view of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l and refers to the secular months by name and not by number.