Pas Akum (Part 2)- Pas Palter

(Before reading this article please read “Pas Akum Part 1”)

Pas Palter And Pas Baal Habayis-

1. The Tur writes that when the prohibition of pas akum was originally instituted, it was not widely accepted by Klal Yisroel. The reason that the decree was not accepted was that bread is a staple food upon which people’s lives depend, and the prohibition of bread baked by a non-Jew caused hardship for many Jews who lived in an area without Jewish bakers. [According to others this decree was officially rescinded by a later beis din because of the hardships it posed to daily living. (See Ran)]

2. According to virtually all of the authorities the decree was only rescinded to allow Jews to eat pas palter, or baker’s bread. However, one may not eat bread baked by a private non-professional non-Jew, pas baal habayis. [There are extreme cases of urgency when even pas baal habayis is permitted, see Shulchan Aruch 112:8 and Aruch Hashulchan 17-18.]

3. There is a logical difference between bread baked by a non-professional (baal habayis), non-Jew and bread baked by a non-Jewish, professional baker. The prohibition of pas akum was instituted because of the possibility of closeness and eventual intermarriage. This concern is reasonable only when a non-professional non-Jew bakes bread and gives it to his Jewish neighbor. Such a relationship can cause friendliness and camaraderie. However, when a professional baker sells bread (pas palter), it is strictly a business relationship, there is no social or intimate interaction and the chance of intermarriage is greatly diminished.

Sefardic Custom:

4. The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 112:2) writes that one may only eat pas palter if there is no pas yisroel (Jewish baked bread) available. The poskim explain that according to Sefardic tradition, one may not eat pas paltar if pas yisroel can be found within one mil (this is approxamitely .72 or .6 of a mile according to the Chazon Ish and Rav Chaim Naeh, respectively). According to most authorities, this is the distance that one can walk in 18 minutes. One who is traveling may not eat pas paltar if pas Yisroel is available within four mil in the direction that he is traveling or one mil in the opposite or side direction. (Shulchan Aruch 112:16, Darkei Teshuva 95)

5. However, the Shulchan Aruch (112:5) notes that there are those (the Rashba) who rule that if the available Pat Akum is of superior quality to the available Pat Yisrael in a particular locale (or the type of bread that one wants is not available in pas yisroel), then in that locale it is considered that Pat Yisrael is not available and one may eat the pas akum. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:33) asserts that the fact that the Shulchan Aruch does not cite the dissenting opinion (the Tur) to the Rashba’s leniency indicates that the Shulchan Aruch accepts the Rashba’s leniency as normative.

6. Harav Binyamin Cohen shlit”a (Chelkas Binyamin 112:18:81) writes that according to the Shulchan Aruch one can not eat pas palter if there is pas yisroel available, even if the pas yisroel is more expensive. The aforementioned heter is only if the pas palter is of better quality. However, one may question this asssertion, as it is reasonable to contend that if the pas yisroel is more expensive then the pas palter becomes of “superior quality” in the eyes of the buyer as it is more affordable. And perhaps in this instance we can also consider it as if pas yisroel is not available. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

7. A lenient ruling was expressed by the Kenesses Hagedolah. He writes that the Shulchan Aruch only forbade pas palter if the Jewish baker can single-handedly bake enough bread for the entire Jewish community if they are only buying Jewish bread. However, if the Jewish bakers can not bake enough bread for the entire Jewish community (even though they can supply the individual who needs bread) one may purchase pas palter. This teaching is also cited by Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 5:53).

Ashkenazim Custom:

8. The Rama writes that one may eat pas palter even if pas yisroel is available. [Interestingly, the Ben Ish Chai (Shana 2 Chukas 2) cites the view of the Rama and writes that in Baghdad the common custom is to follow the lenient view of the Rama

9. The Shach (112:8) rules that even Ashkenazic Jews should follow the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch and refrain from eating pas palter when there is pat Yisroel available. The Shach adds that one may rely on the opinion of Rashba that one may eat pas palter when it is qualitatively superior to pat Yisrael. The Aruch Hashulchan (112:17) also writes that in his local the common custom is to rule stringently. Indeed, the Arizal feels that one should be very particular not to eat pas palter (Darkei Teshuva 112:18).

View Of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l:

10. Rav Menachem Genack in Mesorah 1:94 cites a ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l to Rav Nata Greenblatt shlit”a that even those who are strict regarding pas palter might be lenient regarding factory produced bread (in a manner that one could not do with household equipment). Concern for social interaction and intermarriage is entirely irrelevant when purchasing factory produced bread, as there is no contact between the baker and the purchaser. There is room, by contrast, to be strict regarding the Palter discussed in the classic sources, as there is contact between the purchaser and the Palter, so there is some concern for intermarriage. One might argue, however, that “lo plug rabbanun,” that rabbinic decrees apply even when the reasons for their enactment do not. Rav Moshe suggests that Chazal’s edict never applied when the bread is baked using industrial equipment that is not used in a home setting. Chazal’s enactment does not apply to industrial baking, since such equipment is never used for baking in a context where there is contact between the baker and purchaser (home or bakery).

11. This is also quoted in Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (5:596) where he adds that Rav Reuven Feinstein confirmed that this indeed was his father’s opinion. Harav Yitzchak Weiss zt”l (Minchas Yitzchak 3:26) accept this leniency when it is combined with other questionable situations (as a snif lehakel). The policy of the OU is to only rely on the opinion of Rav Moshe if there are also other reasons to be lenient (refer to OU Kashrus Manual Bishul Akum page 15).

12. According to this view of Rav Moshe zt”l both Ashkenazim and Sefardim may eat factory baked pas palter, even if pas yisroel is available.

13. The Chazon Ish, cited by Harav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a, however, was unconvinced, and maintained that a factory setting would not be considered any different than any other type of bakery. (Shevet Halevi 6:108:6)

Aseres Yimei Teshuva:

14. During the Aseres Yimei Teshuva (the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) even Ashkenazik Jews should eat only pas yisroel and not pas palter. (Shach 112:9)

15. The Darkei Teshuva cites poskim who maintain that during these days one should not eat pas palter even if it is of superior quality to the pas yisroel.

16. We shall explain in the next post that if a Jew participated in the baking by turning on the fire, stoaking the coals or by throwing a piece of wood into the fire (regardless of the size) the bread is pas yisroel. The Pri Megadim (Sifsei Daas 8) writes that likewise during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva one may eat the bread if a Jew participated in the baking. It seems that he feels that this is permissible even l’chatchila. However, the Mishnah Berurah (503) implies that during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva one should avoid eating this bread. As he writes that if one has no other bread then one should have the non-jew bake bread with the participation of the Jew.

Shabbos:

17. The Mishnah Berurah (242:6) cites Achronim who state that, out of honor of Shabbos and Yom Tov, one should try not to eat pas paltur on Shabbos and Yom Tov (e.g. one should therefore refrain from eating Stella Dora® cookies on Shabbos).

18. If one has no pas yisroel available, one may use pas paltur for lechem mishnah on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

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When To Cut One’s Nails According To Halacha

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

1. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 260:1) writes that it is a mitzvah to cut one’s nails on Friday in order to honor Shabbos.

2. Harav Chaim Naeh zt”l (Ketzos Hashulchan 73 Badei Hashulchan 3) writes that there is only a mitzvah to cut one’s fingernails on Friday, since they are visible to others one should cut them in order to honor Shabbos. However, there is no obligation to cut one’s toenails on Friday. Yet, it should be noted that the Arizal would customarily cut his fingernails and toenails on Friday in honor of Shabbos (Shaar Hakavanos page 62).

3. The Aruch Hashulchan (260:6), Yesod V’Shoresh Haovodah (8:1) and Sifsei Cohen (cited in Taharas Hamayim tzadi 20) explain that it is preferable to cut one’s nails after midday (chatzos) on Friday. However, the Sefer Orchos Chaim (Spinka 285:4) cites those who rule that it is better to cut one’s nails before midday. It should be noted that the Ari Hakadosh would cut his nails after Mincha (which is also after midday) on Friday. (see Shaar Hakavanos ibid.)

4. The Mishna Berurah (260:6) writes that there is a custom not to cut one’s (fingernails) nails on Thursday. The reason being that nails begin to grow three days after being cut. Therefore if one cuts them on Thursday they will begin to grow on Shabbos. And causing them to begin growing on Shabbos reduces the level of honor for Shabbos, which was achieved by cutting them in the first place.

The Aruch Hashulchan (260:6) notes that there is no prohibition with causing them to grow on Thursday and therefore if one is unable to cut them on Friday he may do so on Thursday. In this instance it is better to cut them on Thursday than Wednesday (see Sefer Chut Shani Shabbos page 62).

[Harav Nissam Karelitz shlit”a adds that it goes without saying that if one’s nails grew long and are becoming bothersome one may cut them even during the week.]

5. Many poskim cite a custom not to cut one’s fingernails and toenails on the same day. Those who observe this custom should cut their toenails on Thursday and their fingernails on Friday (see Magen Avraham and Mishnah Berurah).

6. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (260:2) explains that the rational behind this custom is that it is “dangerous” to cut them both on the same day. The Yesod V’Shoresh Haovoda adds that it can also cause forgetfulness. This writer’s assumption is that these poskim were describing a spiritual danger and not a physical one.

7. In halacha the day follows the night. Based upon this concept the Gaon of Butchetch (Mili D’Chasidusa 57) writes that one may cut his fingernails during the day and toenails later that night since they were cut on two different hallachic days.

8. The Chida, however, writes that the Arizal would cut his fingernails and toenails on the same day and he was not particular with the previous halachos. He therefore writes that one may rule leniently as well.

9. Rav Yechial Safrin zt”l, known as the Komarna Rebbe, writes, “One may cut one’s fingernails and toenails on the same day since this was the custom of the Arizal. If one wishes to be stringent one should leave a baby toenail uncut.” (Shulchan Hatahor 260:3)

10. Harav Yehuda Hachasid writes in his will that one should not cut one’s hair or nails on Rosh Chodesh as this is considered spiritually dangerous. The Mishna Berurah adds that this is true even when Rosh Chodesh falls on a Friday. [There is a much larger discussion as to whether one must adhere to the will of Rav Yehuda Hachasid.]

11. We cited above (Halacha 4) that one should refrain from cutting one’s nails on Thursday as it causes them to grow on Shabbos. However, if Rosh Chodesh falls on Friday one may cut one’s nails on Thursday (Darkei Chaim V’Shalom 353 Az Nidberu 12:4).

12. Harav Yaakov Kaminetzky zt”l (Emes L’Yaakov Shulchan Aruch) maintains that if Thursday and Friday are Rosh Chodesh one may cut one’s hair on Friday. He begins by questioning the ruling of the Mishnah Berurah who warns against getting a haircut when Rosh Chodesh falls on a Friday since the performance of the mitzvah of preparing and honoring Shabbos should protect him from any danger that Harav Yehuda Hachasid warns against. He explains that the Magen Avraham and Mishnah Berurah feel that getting a haircut on Thursday is also a fulfillment of the mitzvah of honoring Shabbos. Therefore, if Rosh Chodesh falls on a Friday one should not get the haircut on that day since one can perform the mitzvah by getting a haircut on Thursday. However, if Rosh Chodesh is on Thursday and Friday one can not perform the mitzvah unless he gets a haircut on Rosh Chodesh. Therefore one should get his haircut on Friday and he can assume that the mitzvah of honoring Shabbos will protect him. The author assumes that this leniency would extend to cutting one’s nails as well, however, for normative halacha a Rav should be consulted.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

Learning Tanach At Night (Part 1)

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

The Source-

1. Harav Chaim Vital zt”l cites the Arizal that, based upon kabbalistic reasons, one should not read the written Torah (Tanach) at night. (Shaar Hamitzvos Veschanan page 35b)

This teaching is also cited by the Chida in numerous places (Birkei Yosef 1:13, 238:2, Chaim Shaul 2:25, Yosef Ometz 54). He writes that there is basis for this custom from the Medrash. The Medrash states that when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to Heaven to receive the Torah, Hashem taught him the Written Torah during the day and the Oral Torah at night. Therefore, we do not learn the Written Torah at night just as Moshe Rabbeinu did not learn it at night.

Indeed, the Rikanti (a Rishon and Kabbalist) writes the following, “It should be known that one needs to learn the Written Torah during the day and the Oral Torah at night. Similarly, the Medrash states that during the forty days that Moshe Rabbeinu was in Heaven (receiving the Torah) he learned the Written Torah during the day and the Oral Torah at night (Yisro 45a).”

2. The Chida (cited by Ben Ish Chai Pekudei 7) maintains that this law was only stated for those that are capable of learning the oral law. However, people that are only able to learn Tanach may do so at night. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 6:30:2) cites a similar ruling from the Sefer Chemdas Yamim who writes that one who is only able to learn Tanach may do so at night. This is obviously preferred from having him sit idle by all night.

3. Similarly, a child who is unable to learn the Oral law may learn Tanach at night (Shu”t Yayin Hatov 54).

4. The Mishna Berurah (Shaar Hatzion 238) writes that even the Arizal never intended to prohibit learning Tanach at night. Rather, it is preferable to learn other things at night.

5. The Chida (cited in Ikrei Had”t 22:57) writes that one should not rebuke those that learn the Written Torah at night. Harav Chaim Medini zt”l, the author of the Sefer Sdei Chemed, writes that there are numerous Gemaros which imply that one may learn Tanach at night. It is possible, he continues, that this is a case where there is a halachic dispute between the Gemara and Kabbalah and one follows the view of the Gemara. Therefore, although one should not rule leniently one should not rebuke or prohibit the masses (amei haaretz) from learning Tanach at night. (Shu”t Ohr Li 40) [Indeed, the Pri Megadim (cited by the Shaar Hatzion) seems to maintain that one may learn Tanach at night, not in accordance with the Arizal. Perhaps he feels, like Rav Chaim Medini zt”l, that the Gemara is in disagreement with the Arizal.]

When Does This Law Apply-

6. The Sefer Mei Yehuda (22) maintains that the issue of learning Tanach at night begins after nightfall (tzeis hakochavim). One may learn during bein hashmashos, the time between shkiyas hachama and tzeis hakochavim.

7. Rav Meir ben Judah Leib Poppers zt”l, a kabbalist who lived in the mid 1600’s, writes that one only needs to refrain from learning Tanach before chatzos. Following chatzos one may learn Tanach (Ohr Tzadikim Tefila 1:11). A similar view can be found in the Sefer Mishmeres Shalom (23). This is also the view of Harav Ovadia Hadaya zt”l (Yaskil Avdi 4 K”A 2). However, it is quite clear that virtually all the authorities, including the Chida, Ben Ish Chai and Rav Shalom Sharabi zt”l, make no distinction between before chatzos and after chatzos, both are problematic for learning Tanach. (See the next blog for a discussion as to reciting Tehillim before and after chatzos)

8. Harav Chaim Vital writes that on Thursday night one may learn Tanach. Due to the proximity to Shabbos there is added rachamim (mercy) which enables one to learn Tanach without concern of any danger. (see also Vayeishev Hayam 1:6)

9. The Malbim (Ortzos Hachaim 1:36) adds that if it is permissible to learn on Thursday night, all the more so on Friday night. He thereby explains a seemingly puzzling opinion of Rashi. Rashi (explaining a Gemara Kiddushin 30) explains that one divides the week into three sections – two days Chumash, two days Mishnah and two days Gemara. The question the Malbim asks is how can one spend two days learning Chumash if one cannot learn Chumash at night. He answers that one may learn Tanach on Thursday night and Friday night. Therefore, the two days that Rashi is referring to is from Thursday night through Shabbos. The Chida also permits learning Tanach on Friday night.

10. The Malbim continues to cite the Mishna in Yoma (18b) which states that if the Kohen Gadol is able to read Tanach he should spend the night of Yom Kippur reading Scripture. The Malbim questions how this was permissible. He therefore proves that on Yom Kippur one may learn Tanach. Indeed, the Ben Ish Chai writes that one may learn Tanach on the nights of Yom Tov (Pekudei 7).

11. The Ben Ish Chai writes that there is no leniency for the night of Rosh Chodesh (Rav Poalim vol. 2 Orach Chaim 2).

12. The Sefer Zechor L’Avraham (Vol. 3 Lamed) asks how we are able to recite the prayer “Veyitein L’Cha” on Motzei Shabbos as it is comprised of verses from Tanach. He writes that as long as one has not yet eaten the melava malka meal the holiness of Shabbos is still somewhat in existence and one may learn Tanach.

13. The Gaon of Butchetch (238) writes that “perhaps it is permissible for ten men to learn Tanach together at night.” Similarly, the Avnei Tzedek (Y.D. 102) writes that one may conduct a public shiur on Tanach at night. The zechus of public learning removes any kabbalistic concerns. However, most authorities maintain that there is no difference between an individual and a group regarding this halacha.

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Fish and Meat (Part 4)

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

Fish and Dairy-

1. Harav Yosef Karo zt”l in the Beis Yosef (Yoreh Deah 87), the Shulchan Aruch’s commentary on the Tur, writes that “one should not eat fish and milk together because of the danger involved, as it is explained in O.C. 173.”

2. However, many authorities, including the Rama, Prisha, Taz, Shach, Magen Avraham and Aruch Hashulchan point out that the location the Beis Yosef referenced for his halachic decision to be machmir is referring to eating fish with meat, not milk. They therefore maintain that this issue is a case of mistaken identity (misprint) and that eating fish with milk is 100% permissible. The Chida (Machzik Bracha 87:4) also feels that it is permissible to eat fish and dairy together and that there is a misprint in the Beis Yosef. He adds that if it is indeed true that fish and dairy is dangerous, Harav Yosef Karo should have written so in his Shulchan Aruch.

3. It is worth noting that although many assume that there was a misprint in the Beis Yosef, the notion of avoiding fish and dairy due to danger was already advanced hundreds of years earlier by Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 23:19). Rabbeinu Bachya writes, “The doctors feel that fish and cheese that are cooked together can cause bad health and tza’raas.

4. Indeed, there were authorities who were stringent and did not allow for fish to be eaten with dairy. They explain that they also heard from doctors that fish and dairy can be harmful to one’s health (see Darkei Teshuva 87:43 and Yechava Daas 6:48).

5. Other authorities, including the Chinuch Beis Yehuda, Pri Megadim (see Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 87) and Kaf Hachaim (87:24), differentiate between fish and milk (or cheese) which they believe to be harmful and fish and butter (or cream) which is not damaging to one’s health. The Ben Ish Chai (Year 2 Bahaloscha 15) cites these authorities and writes that one should be stringent with all forms of dairy and that in Baghdad the common custom is to refrain from even eating fish and butter.

6. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue at length and concludes that, “One should refrain from eating fish and milk or cheese due to the potential danger involved. However, those that are lenient to eat fish and butter together are permitted to continue in their approach. Ashkenazi Jews dismiss this issue entirely and eat fish with all forms of dairy and they have what to rely on.” It is based upon the ruling of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l and the Ben Ish Chai that many Sefardim avoid eating fish and dairy together (some will eat fish and butter, as cited above). However, as noted most Ashkenazic communities dismiss this issue entirely.

Drinking Water After Fish-

1. The Rama (Y.D. 115:3) writes that in between eating fish and meat one should eat and drink something.

2. Tosafos (Moed Katan 11a) writes that in his day it was considered dangerous (to one’s heart) to drink water immediately after eating fish. This teaching is cited by many authorities, including Rav Akiva Eiger zt”l (Y.D. 116:5) and the Aruch Hashulchan.(116:10)

3. According to Harav Nissam Karelitz shlit”a (Chut Shani Shabbos vol. 4 page 399) tea, coffee, soda and cola have the same status as water.

4. Harav Nissam Karelitz shlit”a writes that today one may rule leniently. He explains that Tosafos never meant to imply that this is a rabbinic prohibition, rather the doctors of his time felt that it was harmful to drink water after eating fish. Therefore, today where the doctors feel that it is no longer harmful one may rule leniently. Harav Karelitz shlit”a continues that some are stringent however, and avoid drinking water after eating fish.

5. On Shabbos, following the fish course, those who are stringent face an interesting dilemma. As noted above (halacha 1) in between fish and meat one should drink something. However, according to Tosafos one should not drink water (or soda etc.) after fish. Therefore, writes Harav Karelitz shlit”a many have the custom to drink wine or whiskey in between the fish and chicken soup courses.

6. Harav Chaim Elazar Shapiro zt”l of Munkatsh (the author of the Minchas Elazar) added another reason why many drink whiskey immediately following the fish course on Friday night. The word whiskey in Hebrew is “yayin saraf.” The first two letters being “yud” and “shin.” The first letter of the hebrew word for fish is “daled” (“dagim”). All three letters together spell out the name of Hashem “Shakay.” In order not to separate the name of Hashem one should drink the whiskey immediately after the fish (Darkei Chayim V’Shalom 396).

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

Turning on an incandescent light bulb on Shabbos

1. It is accepted amongst the authorities that it is Biblically prohibited to light an incandescent light bulb on Shabbos. This view was expressed by Harav Yitzchak Schmelkes zt”l (Beis Yitzchak Y.D. 120), Harav Chaim Ozer Grodziensky zt”l (Achiezer 3:60), Harav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt”l (Haskama to Sefer Chelkas Yaakov), amongst others. The question that must be addressed is which Melocho does one transgress when turning on these light bulbs.
2. The Rambam (Shabbos chapter 12) writes, “A person who heats iron in order to strengthen it by submerging it in water is liable for [performing] a derivative [of the forbidden labor] of kindling.” Based on this teaching of the Rambam many poskim maintain that turning on incandescent light bulbs on Shabbos, which heats up a metal filament, transgresses the Melocho of Maavir (kindling). (Achiezer ibid., Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l in Meorei Eish, Keren L’David 80, Even Yikra Third Edition 168, Pnei Meivin 57, Divrei Chizkiyah vol. 2 page 89 and Yaskil Avdi 4:16)

3. The Merkeves Hamishnah feels that according to the Rambam one only transgresses the prohibition if he heated the metal for the intent to strengthen it. If he heated the metal in order to produce light the prohibition is only Rabbinic. A similar notion was expressed by the Avnei Nezer (Orach Chaim 229). However, Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l explains at great length that making metal glow red hot is considered creating a fire, according to the Rambam, it makes no difference whether he intended to do so in order to create light or in order to strengthen the metal.

4. The Maharsham (2:247) questioned whether turning on a light bulb on Shabbos involves the Melocho of Maavir since the “flame in the light bulb is not consuming.”

Following the line of reasoning of the Maharsham when the Rambam rules that heating metals is considered kindling on Shabbos he is discussing a situation where the fire consumes the metal. However, many poskim disagree with his assertion on two fronts. (A) His assertion that a fire must be consuming on Shabbos does not seem to be the same conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch Harav (495 Kuntres Achron 2) who indicates the destructive element of fire is not significant. Creating flame is all that matters, even if it is the type of flame that is not destructive by nature. (B) In addition the Tzitz Eliezer (1:20:7) points out that filaments in a light bulb are destructive by nature. If that filament would be exposed to oxygen and kindling there it would create a flame. It is normally constructed in a safe protective way, however, the filament itself absolutely is capable of creating a fire.

5. The Raaved disagrees with the Rambam and writes that heating metal is not considered kindling (Maavir) but cooking (Bishul). The Chazon Ish (50:9) therefore writes that turning on a light bulb would constitute the Biblical prohibition of cooking on Shabbos.

6. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Minchas Shlomo Kama 12 note 6) questions this ruling on the following grounds. The law is that one only transgresses Shabbos on a Biblical level if one cooks an item using fire (Eish) or an item heated in fire (Toldos Eish. The Rabbis extended this prohibition to include cooking food in a pan heated by the sun (Toldos Chama). Therefore, argues Harav Auerbach zt”l, in this case one is cooking the metal using electric currents which is neither fire or an item heated by fire and therefore one would not transgress a Biblical prohibition. (Parenthetically, the Chazon Ish himself feels that one cannot cook in an electric current for reasons beyond the scope of this article.)

7. It must be noted that the Halacha may be different regarding Led and fluorescent light bulbs and a Rav should be consulted.

Listening to multiple women sing in unison

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

1. It is forbidden for a man to hear a woman sing. This prohibition is called “Kol B’Isha Ervah.” (Brachos 24a and Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 21)

2. The Sdei Chemed (Kuf 42) cites an argument amongst the authorities whether this prohibition is Biblical or Rabbinic in nature. The Chochmas Adam (4:1), in his commentary Nishmas Adam, concludes that it is Rabbinic in nature. (See Mishnah Berurah 75:17)

3. The Beer Sheva (Beer Mayim Chayim 3) writes that this prohibition exists whether it is one woman singing or multiple women singing and whether they are singing secular songs or singing Zemiros on Shabbos. This is also the view of most authorities. However, there were those that wished to rule leniently as shall be explained.

4. The Chasan Sofer (Taharas Yadayim 14) extends a lenient ruling based on the Talmudic rule that “Trei kali Lo Mishtamay,” two voices cannot be heard simultaneously. The Gemara uses this principle to prohibit two people to read from the Torah at the same time. Therefore, argues the Chasan Sofer if multiple women are singing there should not exist a prohibition since men cannot focus on two voices simultaneously.

The Tzitz Eliezer (14:7) felt that the Chasan Sofer was not definitive in his ruling and that it is unclear whether the Chasan Sofer would permit this in normative halacha. However, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg zt”l (Sridei Eish 2:8) records that Rav Azriel Hildesheimer zt”l and Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l also ruled leniently for the same reason of the Chasan Sofer.

5. The poskim point out that there are two major issues with the permissive ruling of the Chasan Sofer:

1) The rule that two voices cannot be heard, as used in the Gemara, tells us that one cannot concentrate on the words of the speakers and therefore cannot fulfill his obligation for Krias Hatorah. One does, however, still hear the sound of the speaker. In this case, regarding Kol Isha, the major concern is that hearing a women’s voice is inappropriate and considered an Ervah. Even if he cannot make out the specific words he can definitely hear the women sing and it should still be prohibited.

2) The Gemara in Megilah (21) says that two people are allowed to read the Megilah simultaneously. The reason why the Megilah is different from Krias Hatorah is that, “Since the reading of the Megilah is dear to people, they concentrate and can hear.” The same argument can be extended to our discussion. Since the Yetzer Hara will make the man want to hear the women sing then we assume that two voices are able to be heard at the same time.

6. Harav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg zt”l was asked regarding a German Jewish organization where the boys and girls sang together. Rav Weinberg quotes the earlier heter of “two voices cannot be heard simultaneously” and writes that he does not find this explanation satisfying. Rav Weinberg instead defends the German Jewish practice by citing the Sdei Chemed who “allows for men and women to sing together.”

[However, no where does the Sdei Chemed discuss men and women singing in unison. Perhaps Rav Weinberg was referring to the Sdei Chemed who quotes the Divrei Cheifetz who asserts that the Kol Isha prohibition does not apply to women singing Zemirot, singing songs to children, and lamentations for the dead. This too is problematic since the Sdei Chemed, himself disagrees with the Divrei Chefetz and rules stringently.]

Rav Weinberg contends that when they are singing Zemiros men do not derive pleasure from the woman’s voice (this is perhaps the rationale for the view of the Divrei Chafetz). However, the poskim point out that this is not necessarily accurate and even if the woman are singing Zemiros men can still derive pleasure from their voices.]

7. In summation the overwhelming majority of poskim [including: the Beer Sheva, the Beer Yehuda on Chareidim, the Steipler Gaon zt”l (cited in Journal Ohel Moshe 1992), the Shevet Halevi (4:197), the Tzitz Eliezer, Badei Hashulchan (Nidah 199:119), Chelek Levi, Kinyan Torah (85), Avnei Yashfei (2:5), Ishei Yisroel (55:32), and Netai Gavriel (Yichud page 348)] maintain that a man may not listen to many women sing in unison, even if they are singing Zemiros.

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Blessing Children On Friday Night

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

1. It is a custom for parents to bless their children on Friday night. [Parenthetically, it is also a custom for the chosson and kallah to be blessed by their parents before they walk down the aisle (see Shulchan Haezer 7:1) ]
2. The poskim discuss how to bless the children. The Maaver Yabok (cited by Shulchan Haezer 7:1) seems to indicate that one should bless the child by resting one hand on the head of the child. The reason is that there are fifteen limbs in one hand corresponding to the fifteen words found in the birchas kohanim.

3. An additional reason given to use only one hand when blessing others (as opposed to two hands) can be found in the Torah Temimah (Naso 131). The Gemara says that it is prohibited for a non-kohen to perform the birchas kohanim (priestly blessings). Therefore, the Torah Temimah explains, blessing with two hands may be too similar to the priestly blessings, which are performed using both hands. He adds that he heard from trustworthy sources that the Vilna Gaon would only use one hand when blessing others. When asked why, the Vilna Gaon explained that, “The only time we find a blessing given with both hands is by the kohanim.” (See however introduction to Sefer Emunas Hatichia which indicates that the Vilna Gaon would bless others with two hands.)

4. However, Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Siddur friday night) rules that one should lean two hands on the child’s head when giving the blessing. The Sefer Yosef Ometz (70) writes, “Although I do not like to focus on Kabbalistic concepts, nevertheless, I believe that it is preferable to bless the children (on Friday nights) using both hands. This way the blessing will be performed using all ten fingers which is beneficial, for kabbalistic reasons. In addition, blessing with only only one hand appears as if one is being ‘stingy’ with his blessing.”

Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Shalmei Simcha 153) would use both hands when blessing others. A similar ruling is expressed by the Rav of Debreczin (Beer Moshe 4:25).

ואין להקשות לפי שיטה זו, שנוהגים לברך בב’ ידים, דא”כ יש לאסור משום זר בברכת כהנים, דעיין בביאור הלכה ריש הלכות נשיאות כפים שהביא ב’ תירוצים לבאר מנהג העולם, ותירוץ השני שם דכיון דתקינו רבנן שלא לישא כפים בלא תפלה, שוב מי שאומר פסוקים אלו של ברכת כהנים בלא תפלה בין כהן בין ישראל הוי כמכוין בפירוש שלא לקיים בזה המצות דברכת כהנים ולכן שרי. [ועיין בבית ברוך כלל ל”ב ס”ק ח’ שטוב יותר לכוון בפירוש שלא לצאת ע”ש.] וע”ע בזה בשו”ת ציץ אליעזר חי”א סימן ח’.

5. The father rests either one hand or two and says, “May G-d make you like Efraim and Menasheh” (Genesis 48:20) [“ישימך אלקים כאפרים וכמנשה”]. This is the traditional blessing given to children. He then recites the priestly blessing: [“יברכך ה’ וישמרך וכו’]. (Siddur Yaavetz)

6. Some also add the verse, “May G-d’s spirit rest on him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of G-d” (Isaiah 11:2) [“ונחה עליו רוח ה’ רוח חכמה ובינה רוח עצה וגבורה רוח דעת ויראת ה'”]. (see Maaver Yabok Sifsei Rinanos 53) Beyond this, the parent’s may add any blessing or prayer that they desire.

[Hashevaynu’s Sunday Night Madness at Dave and Buster’s will take place on December 7th, for all information please go to hashevaynu.org]

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.