Placing Ashes On The Chosson’s Head

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1, The Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer 65:3, the source is a Gemara Baba Basra 60b) writes that we must place ashes on the chosson’s head as a sign of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. The ashes are placed on the same area of the head that the chosson wears his tefillin.
2. The Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 660) notes that the custom in his area was not to place ashes on the chosson’s head (see also Orchos Chaim Tisha B’Av 13).

Harav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l (Ohr Letzion vol. 3 page 277) also notes that many sefardim do not place ashes on the head of the chosson and wonders how they can disregard this custom, which has sources in the Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch. He therefore rules that even sefardim should participate in this custom.

Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (cited in Yalkut Yosef Sovea Smachos page 86), however, rules that sefardim should continue in their practice of not placing ashes on the chosson’s head.

3. The custom of Square Chassidim is also not to place ashes on the chosson’s head (Sefer Netai Gavriel Nisuin page 117).

4. The Taz (Orach Chaim 660:4) writes that some have the custom that as the ashes are being placed on the chosson’s head, the rabbi recites the verse “Im eshkocheich Yerushalayim etc.” The chosson then repeats the verse.

5. The overwhelming majority of poskim maintain that the ashes should be placed before the chosson enters the chuppah. However, Harav Yosef Dov Soloveitchick zt”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchonon) would only place the ashes on the chosson after the birchas nisuin were recited under the chuppah. Before the chuppah ceremony the chosson is not yet considered a “chosson” in Jewish law, and there is not yet a requirement of ashes. After the chuppah ceremony he is considered a “chosson” and the ashes are then required (Journal Mesorah vol. 8 page 52). It seems that Harav Soloveitchick zt”l shared the same view of his uncle, the great Brisker Rav. As the Sefer Yismach Lev (page 76) reports, the Brisker Rav would only place the ashes after the birchas nisuin under the chuppah, for the very reason attributed to Harav Soloveitchick.

6. The Aruch Hashulchan (Even Haezer 65:4) feels that the ashes are removed immediately after their placement. However, the Shulchan Haezer (7:1:11) writes that the custom in his town was to leave the ashes on the chosson’s head. A similar view is expressed by Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Shalmei Simcha page 169 – ועיין שם דבר חדש בדף קס”ט: “ורבינו היה מורה ליתן את האפר על ראש החתן כשהוא עטוף בנייר, וזאת משום כבודו של החתן, וכשסידר את הקידושין היה הוא עצמו מניח את האפר עטוף בנייר על ראש החתן -).

7. Harav Auerbach zt”l adds that if they forgot to place the ashes before the chuppah they may do so after the chuppah.

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Praying Towards Jerusalem Or Towards The Aron

Today’s article is dedicated to the memory of Yaakov Chanoch Henech ben R’ Baruch Naftali Hertz a”h.

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. When one is praying shemoneh esrei one should always face the direction of Jerusalem (Brachos 30a and Shulchan Aruch 94).

2. It is for this reason that we always place the Aron Kodesh on the wall that is facing Jerusalem. This way we can face both Jerusalem and the Aron when we are praying (Mishnah Berurah 94:9).

3. The question arises what should one do if he is praying in a shul which (for whatever reason) placed the Aron on a different wall. Should he face Jerusalem or the Aron?

4. The Mishnah Berurah, in his commentary Biur Halacha (150), discusses this very issue and he writes that he is not sure what the hallachic ruling should be.

5. Although in his commentary Biur Halacha he does not offer a definitive ruling, in his commentary Mishnah Berurah (94:9,10) he definitively rules that one should pray in the direction of Jerusalem and not the Aron Kodesh. He writes, “Because one must face Jerusalem when he prays it is customary to place the Aron on the eastern wall. If one cannot place the Aron on the eastern wall he should place it on the southern wall. Care should be taken not to place in on the western wall since this would lead the congregants to pray with their backs to the Aron. Even if the Aron is placed on the southern or western wall one should still pray towards the east, towards Jerusalem.”

6. Harav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (10:20) writes that one should follow the definitive ruling of the Mishnah Berurah. He adds that this is also logical since the Mishnah and Gemara only mention praying towards Jerusalem. It is only customary to place the Aron on the eastern wall since that is direction of Jerusalem. Therefore, if you cannot accomplish both it would make sense to fulfill the requirement of the Mishnah and face Jerusalem.

7. The Mishnah Berurah adds that if one is praying with a congregation and the congregation is erroneously praying towards the Aron and not Jerusalem he should also pray towards the Aron. He should, however, turn his face slightly towards Jerusalem. The Aruch Hashulchan explains that although the congregation should be praying in the direction of Jerusalem, if they are praying towards the Aron he should follow along. Not because they are correct, but rather if he were to be the only person praying towards Jerusalem then when he bows he will be bowing in a different direction then everyone else and it would appear as if they are praying to two different gods (chas v’shalom).

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Praying While Carrying A Weapon

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

“Pinchas the son of Elazar the son of Aaron the kohen saw this, arose from the congregation, and took a spear in his hand.” (Balak 25:7)

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 82a) cites the above verse regarding Pinchas’ courageous act and explains that it serves as a source to prohibit entering into a bais medrash while carrying a weapon.

The Yad Rama explains that the Gemara understood the aforementioned verse to be stating the following, “he arose” from the bais medrash and only then “took a spear”. As long as he was in the bais medrash he did not have any weapon readily available.

This hallacha prohibits carrying a weapon in a study house. In this article we will focus on whether one is allowed to pray and to enter a bais knesses (house of worship) while carrying a weapon and how these hallachos may affect Israeli soldiers who must carry a weapon on their person at all times.
Prayer While Carrying a Weapon

The Orchos Chaim (Bais Knesses 7) writes that it is prohibited to enter a house of prayer while carrying a weapon. He explains that prayer extends one’s life and it would be inappropriate to do so while carrying a weapon which cuts life short. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 151:6) codifies this ruling, he writes: “There are those that prohibit entering (a bais knesses) with a long knife or with an uncovered head.”
The Tzitz Eliezer (10:18) notes that although the Shulchan Aruch wrote this law in the section of laws of the beis knesses, the hallacha would apply as well for one who is praying alone at home. Meaning that one may not even pray at home while carrying a weapon. He explains that the reason for the prohibition exists when praying at home as well, for while one is praying, which extends life, one should not be carrying an item which cuts life short. He adds that one may not even enter a Synagogue while carrying a weapon. A similar view can be found in the sefer Beer Sarim (2:10).

See however Yechave Daas (5:18) who disagrees and feels that the prohibition exists only in a synagogue which has a lot of holiness. Praying at home while carrying a weapon would be permitted. It is also worthy to note that the Sefer Tzedaka Umishpat (chapter 1 note 42) feels that it is better to daven without a minian than to enter a house of prayer with a weapon.

We have thus found that there exists a prohibition of entering a shul while carrying a weapon and according to some authorities this prohibition exists even while praying in one’s home. It would seem to the reader that an Israeli soldier who must carry a weapon would never be allowed to pray, which is clearly problematic. In this article we will offer a few possible suggestions which may help avoid any hallachic problems.
Concealing the Weapon

The Torah Temimah, on this verse, cites the words of the Shulchan Aruch and he raises a question. The Shulchan Aruch writes that one should not enter a shul “with a long knife or with an uncovered head”. The simple reading of the Shulchan Aruch seems to suggest that there are two entirely different topics being discussed: firstly, one should not enter a shul with a weapon and secondly one should not enter without properly covering one’s head (yarmulka). The Torah Temimah wonders what connection there is between these two statements. What’s more the Shulchan Aruch already discussed the hallacha of praying without a head covering in siman 91, why then would he feel compelled to repeat himself?

He therefore offers an entirely different interpretation of the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch is actually discussing one topic throughout and that is weapons in the synagogue. When the Shulchan Aruch writes that one should not enter with an “uncovered head” he is actually referring to the “head” of the weapon. The prohibition exists only if the weapon is uncovered. One is allowed to pray as long as the weapon is concealed. Although the Levush seems to not agree with this novel interpretation of the words of the Shulchan Aruch, the Elya Raba seems to concur with the Torah Temimah.

Rav Avigdor Neventzhal shlit”a (Pirush Viyitzhak Yikarey on the Mishnah Berurah) feels that according to the Torah Temimah one is allowed to pray as long as the nozzle of the gun is covered. However, the Tzitz Eliezer proves from the words of the Mor U’Ktziah that in order to rule leniently, the gun must be completely covered and not be noticeable to others.

Removing the bullets

The Tzitz Eliezer feels that if the bullets are removed from the gun one can enter into shul and pray. He explains that unlike a knife, a gun without bullets is not considered at this moment a weapon and therefore the strict ruling would not apply.
Soldiers

The Tzitz Eliezer continues to write that a soldier or guard who must carry a weapon on his person at all times is permitted to enter a synagogue and pray while carrying his weapon. For these people removing the weapon can lead to dangerous and possibly life threatening situations and they therefore may pray while carrying a weapon. He does write that if possible one should place the gun on the floor during tefila and if that is not possible one should at least cover the weapon with his tallis.

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The Mitzvah Of Making Aliyah (Living In Israel) Today

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

We are all aware of the terrible sin of the Meraglim (spies) and the devastating affect it had on Klal Yisroel. If ever one questions the importance and beauty of Eretz Yisroel one need not look any further then the story of the Meraglim. It is therefore necessary to analyze whether there is a mitzvah to “make aliyah”, to move to Israel, and why many great gedolim lived all of their lives outside of the Land of our fathers.

The opinion of the Ramban

The Rambam omits the obligation to move to Eretz Yisroel in his list of the 613 mitzvos. The Ramban disagrees, however, and he feels that the obligation to live in Israel is biblical in nature and applies nowadays as well. A similar view can be found in the Shu’t Rashash (1-2) and he testifies that his father, the Tashbetz, concurs that there is a biblical mitzvah to make aliyah. The Sefer Charedim (Mitzvos Aseh chapter 57 note 15) writes the following: “There is positive commandment to live in Israel…Chazal tell us that this mitzvah is as great as all the other mitzvos combined.”

The opinion of the Rambam

As we previously explained, the Rambam omitted the mitzvah of making aliyah in his list of the 613 mitzvos. Rav Yitzchak Di Lion, in his pirush Megilas Esther, explains that the reason for the omission is that the Rambam feels that the obligation to live in Israel only applied during the times of Moshe, Yehoshua and Dovid Hamelech, when the Bais Hamikdash was built and the Jews had command of the land. Once the Jews were exiled from the land the mitzvah no longer applies. Since this mitzvah does not apply nowadays it does not belong in the Rambam’s list of the 613 mitzvos. As the Rambam in shoresh 3 writes, any mitzvah that applied at some point but does not apply anymore does not get counted. It would seem that according to the understanding of the Megilas Esther, the Rambam feels that there is no obligation to live in Israel nowadays, even on a rabbinic level. A similar understanding was expressed in the sefer Mili D’Avos (vol. 5 page 498).
The Avnei Nezer (Y.D. 454) disagrees with the Megilas Esther. He feels that according to the Rambam the biblical mitzvah is applicable even in current day Israel, and he offers a different explanation (for reasons beyond the scope of this article) as to why it was not counted by the Rambam amongst the other 248 positive commandments.

The seforim offer one final alternative explanation regarding the Rambam’s view of this mitzvah. The Rashbash writes that according to the Rambam, while there does not exists a biblical mitzvah nowadays, however, there does exist a rabbinic mitzvah. A similar view was expressed by the Sefer Nishmas Kol Chai (Y.D. 48) and the Sefer Paas Hashulchan (1:14).

The opinion of Rav Chaim Kohen

Tosafos (Kesubos 110b) writes the following: “Rav Chaim Kohen was want to say that the mitzvah to live in Israel does not apply nowadays, for there are many mitzvos and prohibitions that exist only in Eretz Yisroel and it is truly difficult to diligently fulfill all those obligations.” This opinion of Rav Chaim Kohen was codified by the Knesses Hagedola (Klallei Haposkim 16). The son of the Node Biyehuda (Y.D. M.T. 206) explains that the reason that all the Baalei Tosafos lived in the Diaspora was based upon the ruling of Rav Chaim Kohen.

The Mabit unequivocally disagrees with the permissive view of Rav Chaim Kohen, he explains that the reason to live in Israel has nothing to do with the mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisroel. The reason to make aliyah is due to the fact that the land is holy and therefore one is required to live there. In which case there is no reason to assume that the mitzvah does not apply nowadays. Indeed many achronim felt that the ruling of Rav Chaim Kohen should not be cited for hallachic purposes (see ruling of Shelah Hakadosh cited in sefer Paas Hashulchan and Yosef Ometz 52).

The opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe E.H. 102) discusses whether there is a mitzvah to make aliyah and why many rabbanim have lived in the Diaspora. He writes that even according to the opinion of the Ramban, that there exists a biblical obligation, the nature of this obligation is different than many other mitzvos. He feels that this mitzvah is “kiyumis” not “chiyuvis”.

To fully appreciate this distinction, it is necessary to offer an introduction regarding different types of mitzvos. There exist two types of mitzvos: 1) “kiyumis”- A mitzvah that is not obligatory, rather if one fulfills this mitzvah one receives reward (ex. Eating in the Succah following the first night. For the following meals one does not need to eat in the Succah, if one were to choose, one can refrain from eating bread and the like and would not be in violation of any prohibition. However, if one chooses to eat bread then one must eat it in the succah. Thus this mitzvah is “optional”.) 2) “Chiyuvis”- A mitzvah that one must fulfill and is obligatory in nature. (ex. Wearing Tefillin. One must wear tefillin every day and if one neglects this mitzvah and does not wear tefillin has done something wrong. Thus this mitzvah is “obligatory”.)

Now we can understand the ruling of Rav Moshe. He explains that although there is a mitzvah to live in Israel, however, this mitzvah is “optional”. Meaning that one is not obligated to move to Israel, rather, if one lives in Israel he fulfills a mitzvah. Rav Moshe continues, that because there is no prohibition of living outside of Israel it might be preferable to do so for the reasons given by Rav Chaim Kohen (namely that there are many mitzvos and prohibitions that apply specifically to the Land of Israel and it is difficult to fulfill all of those obligations.)

Rav Yosef Dov Soleveitchick zt”l agreed with the premise of Rav Moshe Feinstein. He also felt that the mitzvah to live in Israel is a mitzvah “kiyumis” and not “chiyuvis” (oral ruling cited by Rav Herschel Shachter shlit”a sefer Peninei Harav).

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