Which Areas of Torah Qualifies For A Siyum?

  1. It is customary for all firstborn males to fast on Erev Pesach in order to recall the tenth and final plague which God inflicted upon Egypt – the death of the firstborn. Nevertheless, the Fast of the Firstborn is actually a fast which rarely takes place. This is because it has become universal custom to exempt oneself from the fast by attending a seudat mitzva, a meal celebrating the performance of a mitzva. Most commonly, a meal accompanying a siyum meseches.
  2. There is a great discussion amongst the poskim as to which areas of Torah study qualify for a siyum upon their completion. The most widespread practice is to reserve the siyum celebration for the completion of a tractate of Gemara.
  3. The Pnei Yehoshua (Brachos 17a) deduces that Rav Yochanan would make a seudas siyum when he would finish Sefer Iyuv. Similarly, Harav Meir Arik zt”l (Minchas Pitim Y.D. 246:26) writes that the meal accompanying a siyum on one of the 24 seforim of Tanach is considered a seudas mitzvah.Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe 157) likewise rules that one may make a siyum on a sefer on Tanach, however, only if one learns it in depth with a commentary of the Rishonim (such as Radak etc.) and not with modern day commentaries. Harav Shlomo Kluger zt”l is of the opinion that a siyum on a sefer of Tanach is only considered a halachic siyum if one learned it and happened to finish by Erev Pesach. However, to learn in order to finish and make a siyum on Erev Pesach would only suffice if one is doing so with a mesechta of Gemara and not with a Sefer of Tanach.
  4. As stated earlier, all agree that one may make a siyum on a tractate of Gemara. There is an interesting teaching of Rav Yosef Mashash zt”l in the Sefer Mayim Chaim (179) who writes that one can actually make a siyum on a chapter of Gemara. However, there is room to question this opinion. As the Pirush Anaf Yosef (Medrash Shir Hashirim 1:9) writes that one can only make a siyum upon completing an entire section of Torah and that as long as the section is incomplete it is not considered a seudas mitzvah to permit bechorim to eat.. According to the Anaf Yosef it is hard to beleive that upon completing merely a chapter of a mesechta one can make a siyum and permit bechorim to eat. Indeed, the majority of poskim, including Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 1:27:10), Harav Gedalya Felder zt”l (Yesodei Yeshurun vol. 6 page 44), Harav Yitzchak Weiss zt”l (Minchas Yitzchak 2:93) and Harav Betzalal Stern zt”l (Btzeil Hachachma 2:28), maintain that a siyum on one perek would not suffice to allow bechorim to eat on Erev Pesach.
  5. The Maharsham (Daas Torah 551:10) cites a view that one may make a siyum on one mesechta of Mishnayos. A similar view is attributed to Rav Yizrael of Rozin zt”l. (See Orchos Chaim 551:35) Harav Yitzchak Eisik Liebes zt”l (Beis Avi 2:52) writes that in theory one should be able to make a siyum on one mesechta of Mishnayos, however, he has never seen such a thing done practically. Indeed Harav Betzalel Stern zt”l (Btzeil Hachachma 4:99:2) writes that while learning a mesechta of Mishnayos is a big mitzvah, one cannot make a siyum on it and permit bechorim to eat on Erev Pesach. Harav Azriel Hildsheimer zt”l (Shu”t Rav Azriel Y.D. 246) and Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo Pesach page 181) also feel that one cannot make a siyum on one Mesechta Mishnayos.
  6. The Shu”t Pnei Meivin (103) writes that while one mesechta of Mishnayos would not suffice for a siyum, one seder of Mishnayos (such as Zeraim or Moed etc.) is considered a siyum. This is also the view of Harav Betzalel Stern zt”l. Harav Yaakov Kamanetzsky zt”l (Emes LYaakov page 225) also rules that one can make a siyum on a seder of Mishnayos.

The Pesach Seder (Assorted Halachos)

1) The poskim stress the importance of starting the Seder as soon as possible upon returning home from Shul after nightfall. (It should not begin before nightfall, however.) The reason that we wish to begin the Seder promptly is in order that the children should still be awake and in order to eat the Afikomen in the proper time. Indeed, it is a mitzvah to run home from Shul in order to quickly begin the Seder, even though normally one may not run on Shabbos and Yom Tov. (see Netai Gavriel Pesach 2:60)

2) It is for this reason that the Seder table (including the wine, Kiddush cups, Matzah, Marror, Charoses etc.) should be prepared before Yom Tov in order to facilitate commencing the Seder immediately upon returning home from Shul after nightfall. (S.A. 472:1) (In a later halacha we will iy”h discuss when to assemble and bring the Ka’arah to the table)

3) When feasible, all the preparations should be done by adult Jews and not by non-Jews or Jewish minors. (see M.B. end of 477) It should be noted that the Chasam Sofer would set the table himself before leaving to Shul. (Minhagei Chasam Sofer 10:11) Indeed, many tzadikim would perform the preparations themselves and not rely on others to perform the mitzvah. (See Netai Gavriel Pesach 2 page 274)

4) The Mishnah Berurah (472:6) writes, “Although during the entire year it is best to minimize use at the table of elegant vessels (i.e. exquisite silver) in order to recall the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, on the Seder nights it is a mitzvah to set the table with the finest vessels, in the manner of free men and royalty.”

5) As a sign of our freedom, when a person dines on many of the items on this night he is required to eat and drink in a reclining position (heseiba), in the manner of free men and royalty. The preferred position for reclining is that while seated near the table, he leans to the left, with a pillow or cushion to support his head. (M.B. 472:7) Therefore, pillows and cushions should be prepared by each seat before Yom Tov. (see Haggadah Shel Pesach Minchas Chein page 61) It is preferred that the pillow be prepared by someone other than the master of the house. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l Hebrew)

6) The Shulchan Aruch (472:15) writes that one should distribute candies and nuts to the children before the Seder in order to keep them awake. In the Rav Chaim Kanievsky Haggada is states that Rav Chaim would distribute the candies and nuts in adherence to the view of the Shulchan Aruch. However, many do not adhere to this Halacha. (For a justification of the common practice see Minhag Yisroel Torah)

7) There is a custom for men to wear a kittel (white robe) at the Seder. There are two primary reasons for this custom: A) The kittel resembles the ministering angels, who are clothed in pure white. According to this reason, the kittel symbolizes angel-like freedom from sin and it would generate feelings of happiness. (See Hilchos Pesach Rav Shimon Eider and Netai Gavriel Pesach 2 chapter 64)  B) The kittel resembles shrouds. Since at the Seder we conduct ourselves like free men and royalty, we are afraid that a person may tend to become haughty. Therefore, the kittel reminds him of the day of his death. (Taz 472:3)

8) The custom of Sefardim and Chabad Chassidim is not to wear a kittel at the Seder. (See Haggadah Shel Pesach Chabad and Netai Gavriel ibid.)

9) The custom is not to enter the bathroom while wearing a kittel, since it is considered a garment set aside for prayer (on Yom Kippur), entering the bathroom with the kittel is not an honorable act. Therefore, if one needs the bathroom during the Seder he should remove the kittel before entering the bathroom. (Beer Heitiv 21:3)

10) Many, including Square Chassidim, do not wear a kittel during the first year of marriage, or shana rishonah. (See Maharam Shick O.C. 28, Katzeh Hamateh on Mateh Efraim 619:11 and Netai Gavriel Pesach page 318) This is also the view of Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a. (Sefer Yismach Lev Nisuin)

11) Others maintain that it is preferred to wear the kittel during the shana rishonah. Vizhnitz, Nadvorna, Sanzer, and Munkatch Chassidim wear the kittel during the shana rishonah. (See Netai Gavriel ibid.) This is also the view of Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l and Harav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg zt”l. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Harav Shlomo Zalman and Yismach Lev)

12) We cited above two reasons to wear the Kittel (1. To symbolize angel-like freedom from sin. 2. To remind us of death so that one will not become haughty) There is a great debate amongst the authorities whether a mourner wears a kittel. The Taz (472:3) favors the second rationale for wearing a kittel (so that one will not become haughty) and therefore he writes that a mourner should wear a kittel. This is also the view of the Baal Hatania (472:4), Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Siddur), Harav Yekutiel Halbestam zt”l (Divrei Yetziv 208) and Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Haggadah).

13) However, the Magen Avraham maintains that according to both explanations of a kittel’s significance, a mourner at the Seder should not wear one. Certainly, if wearing the kittel symbolizes angel-like freedom from sin, it would generate simcha and is inappropriate for a mourner. But even if the kittel is meant to induce humility, it is unnecessary for a mourner to wear it since he is already saddened. This is also the view of the Bach. Harav David Feinstein shlit”a (Haggadah Kol Dodi) writes, “Magen Avraham’s reasoning is sound, and his ruling is therefore definitive; especially since the Gra, according to the Haggada of Rabbi Yechiel Heller, holds that the rationale for wearing a kittel is that we resemble the ministering angels.” The Mishnah Berurah writes that the custom is not to wear the kittel, however, those that choose to wear one should not be rebuked. For normative Halacha, a rav should be consulted.

14) The Ka’arah is a plate, specifically made for the Seder, which has spaces for the items that must be displayed on the Seder table: the shankbone, the roasted egg, the maror (bitter herbs), the charoses and, according to most opinions, also the karpas. (Tosafos Pesachim 115b)

15) The Ka’arah is placed before the master of the house. (S.A. 473:4) Other members of the household do not require individual Ka’aros, but will obtain there Seder foods from the master of the house. (M.B. 17) The custom of Square and Biyana Chassidim is that all men from the age of thirteen and onward obtain their own Ka’aros. (Netai Gavriel Pesach 2 page 328) Similarly, the custom of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Haggadah page 77) and the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l (Haggadah Chabad page 28) was that all the men receive their own Ka’arah. [Many have the custom that all the men have their own matzos before them, but not their own ka’aros, for reasons beyond the scope of this halacha.]

16) The custom of Chabad, Tchernobal and Leluv Chassidim is to place the Ka’arah to the left of the head of the household, with his Kiddush cup to the right. (Netai Gavriel ibid. page 330 and Darchei Chaim V’Shalom 588)

17) There are different customs as to when should the Ka’arah be assembled (when should the food be placed on the Ka’arah) and brought to the table. A) Some have the custom to assemble it and bring it to the table before Yom Tov. This is the view of the Chayei Adam (130:1), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (118:10), Mateh Moshe (cited in Likutei Maharich page 12), Shelah Hakadosh, Rav Yaakov Koppel zt”l (Tos. Chaim on Chayei Adam), the Chasam Sofer and Rav Y. Dushinsky zt”l. (Netai Gavriel Pesach 2 page 329) B) Others have the custom to assemble and bring it to the table after donning the kittel, before Kiddush. This is the view of the Pri Megadim (486:1), Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Haggadah Kol Dodi page 29), Chabad Chassidim (Haggadah Chabad page 28) and is the custom of those in Yerushalayim. C) Others have the custom to assemble and bring it after Kiddush. This seems to be the view of the Shulchan Aruch. D) While the Gra holds that one should bring the Ka’arah to the table after eating the Karpas (vegetable dipped in salt water). One should conduct himself according to his custom.

18) One is required to immerse metal and glass utensils that are purchased or otherwise acquired from a non-Jew in a mikva prior to their first use. This mitzva is referred to as Tevilas Keilim, the immersion of utensils. The Ka’arah also needs to be immersed in a Mikveh prior to its first use, since it comes in contact with the Seder food.

19) It is preferable to obtain the nicest Ka’arah possible. Many use a silver Ka’arah.

20) The view of Rav Elazar Ben Tzadok (Pesachim 114a) is that charoses constitutes a mitzvah. The Gemara presents two explanations of Rav Elazar ben Tzadok’s opinion. One explanation is that the thick texture and cloudy color of the Charoses serve to recall the mortar that the Jewish slaves used for making bricks in Egypt. A second explanation is that the Charoses serves to remind us of the “Tapuchim” in Egypt. Rashi and Rashbam explain that the Jewish women in Egypt would painlessly and quietly give birth beneath the apple trees so that the Egyptians would not discover that a Jewish male was born. We follow the view of Rav Elazar Ben Tzadok.

21) The Rishonim (Tosafos, Tur etc.) write that Charoses is made from fruits mentioned in Tanach symbolizing the Jewish people (apples, figs, dates, walnuts, almonds and pomegranates, with some adding grapes and pears). The Ari z”l would eat Charoses comprised of grapes, figs, dates, nuts, apples, pomegranates and pears. The Ari z”l did mention that the common custom amongst Ashkenazim was to make Charoses comprised of nuts, apples and pears.(See Kol Bo and Kaf Hachaim 473:99)

22) As noted above, we explained that one of the reasons that we eat charoses is that the Charoses serves to remind us of the “Tapuchim” in Egypt. Rashi and Rashbam explain that the Jewish women in Egypt would painlessly and quietly give birth beneath the apple trees so that the Egyptians would not discover that a Jewish male was born.

23) It should be noted that Tosafos (Taanis 29b) explains that the Biblical word “Tapuach” refers to a citrus fruit, like an esrog or an orange. This view of Tosafos was also cited by Harav Yosef Dov Soloveichick zt”l. (Nefesh Harav 209) It is for this reason that Rav Hershel Schachter shlit”a (in a shiur) maintains that if one wants to be accurate, he should use oranges (or other citrus fruits) for the charoses. Harav Avraham Blumenkrantz zt”l adds that in many Sefardic homes apples are not used at all for the Charoses. And that those who do use apples for the Charoses should also include some citrus fruit or juice. However, this does not seem to be the common custom.

24) The Gemara in Pesachim continues and teaches that we should add spices to the Charoses to remind us of the straw in Egypt. The Rama (473:5) writes that the custom is to add cinnamon and ginger. The Baal Hatania explains that these spices resemble straw because even after they are grated and ground they are in strandlike form, similar to straw.

25) Although the common custom is to use powdered cinnamon and ground ginger, it would seem that using powdered cinnamon and ground ginger would not be a proper fulfillment of this custom, as they are no longer strandlike. Harav David Feinstein shlit”a (Hagaddah Kol Dodi page 66) writes, “Semi-ground, long-shaped spices such as cinnamon and ginger should alos be added, since they symbolize the straw that the Israelites had to work with. As of this writing, unground cinnamon or ginger is not widely available in America, so people season the charoses with ground cinnamon. But this is needless because ground spices do not symbolize straw. I am surprised that we neglect to enhance our mitzvah performance by obtaining this ingredient. In Mishnaic times the peddlers of Jerusalem would call out, ‘Come and get your spices for the mitzvah!’ (Pesachim 116a). As of this writing, however, these spices in their unground form have become available and can be used for charoses.”

26) As cited in the previous halachos, the fruit is chopped up and ground in a thick mixture, in order to resemble the mortar that the Jewish slaves made in Egypt. However, if it were to remain thick one would not be able to dip the Marror in the Charoses. It is for that reason that we add red wine to the Charoses in order to thin it out. The red wine content of the charoses also serves to recall the first of the ten plagues – the plague of blood. (Chayei Adam 130:4)

27) The Chayei Adam and Chok Yaakov write that one should bring the Charoses to the table while it is thick and right before one is ready to dip in it the Marror one adds the wine.

28) When Pesach falls on Shabbos the wine should be added before Shabbos. If one forgot to add the wine before Shabbos, the wine may be added on Shabbos in an abnormal way. Therefore, the wine should first be placed into the vessel and then the Charoses is added. He should not mix it with a spoon or other utensil, but should mix it by using his finger or by shaking the vessel. (Chayei Adam ibid.)

29) On the eve of Pesach in the Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem, two sacrifices (Korban Pesach and Korban Chagigah) were offered and their meat roasted and eaten at the Seder meal. After the destruction of the Temple, the Sages instituted the practice of placing two kinds of cooked foods on the Seder plate, one to commemorate the meat of the Pesach offering and one to commemorate the meat of the Chagigah offering. (See Pesachim 114b)

30) The custom has developed to use a shankbone to symbolize the Korban Pesach and an egg to symbolize the Korban Chagigah. (S.A. 473:5)

31) The reason that the shankbone is used is that, aside from recalling the Korban Pesach, it also corresponds to the human arm, symbolizing the “outstreched arm” of Hashem. (M.B. 27)

32) Above we mentioned that the custom is to place a shankbone on the Seder plate to commemorate the Korban Pesach. Although the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries write that the custom is to use a shankbone, many Chassidim actually use parts of a chicken in stead. The custom of Belz Chassidim is to use the drumstick of a chicken. The custom of Ropshitz, Sanz, Amshinav, Spinka, Satmar and Sigat Chassidim it to use a chicken wing. And the custom of Chabad, Karlin and Ziditchov Chassidim is to use a chicken neck. (Netai Gavriel Pesach vol. 2 69:1) I believe that the reason that these chassidim chose to use a chicken and not the standard shankbone is in order to avoid any similarity to the korban pesach, which may not be sacrificed outside of the Beis Hamikdosh. (See Haggadah Chabad)

33) If one does not have a shankbone he should take any other meat, even not on the bone. (M.B. 27)

34) A bone without meat does not constitute as a dish. Therefore, one must make sure that there is meat on the bone. (Ran on Pesachim 114b) The custom of Chabad Chassidim is to remove most of the meat and only leave over a small amount of meat. This is again in order to avoid any similarity to the Korban Pesach.

35) The Chaya Adam (cited by M.B. 32) writes that it is not proper to throw away the shankbone, it should be eaten on the second day of Yom Tov, by day. Indeed, in the Haggadah of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a (page 19), it states “Rav Chaim makes sure that the zeroa, the roasted bone that was placed on the Seder plate, is eaten on Yom Tov, to ensure that it will not go to waste, as that would be a disgrace for this item, which was used for a mitzvah.”

36) Many people roast the shankbone before Yom Tov and use the same shankbone for both sedarim. And in many cases the shankbone, after sitting out for two days has become repulsive. Care should be taken to avoid this (by the use of refrigeration between the two sedarim). Harav David Feinstein shlit”a (Haggadah Kol Dodi) writes, “Indeed, to my mind, one does not even fulfill the mitzvah to remember the Pesach sacrifice the second night if the shankbone is not fit to eat.”

37) As noted above, the custom is to place an egg on the Seder plate in order to commemorate the Korban Chagigah. There are two reasons that we use an egg as the second cooked dish. A) The first reason is that the Aramaic word for egg (בֵיעָא) is related to the Aramaic word for desire (בָעָא)- God desired to take us out of Egypt with an outstretched arm. B) In addition, the egg is a mourners food. Therefore, an egg is used to symbolize our mourning for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh and our inability to offer the Korban Pesach and the Korban Chagigah. (S.A. 473:5 and M.B. 23)

38) The Tanaim (Pesachim 70a) disagree how the Korban Chagigah was prepared. According to the Sages the Korban can be either boiled or roasted. While according to Ben Teima the Chagigah must be roasted similar to the Korban Pesach. The Shulchan Aruch (473:4) writes that the egg, symbolizing the Korban Chagigah, can be either boiled or roasted, in accordance with the view of the Sages that both preparations were permitted for the Chagigah. This is also the view of the Ben Ish Chai (Tzav 30) and is the custom of Chabad, Karlin, Lelov, Belz and Vishnitz Chassidim. (Netai Gavriel page 340) The Rama however, notes that the common custom is to roast the egg, in order to also accommodate the view of Ben Teima. This is the common custom amongst Ashkenazim.

39) Preferably, one should not use cooked wine for the Four Cups unless this wine is superior to the other wines which are available. (M.B. 472:39)

40) Many poskim prohibit any uncooked wine that is touched by a Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbos. Therefore, if there are those at the Seder who publicly desecrate Shabbos, one should use cooked wine for the ceremony. (See Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso 47:19:91 and Umekareiv Biyamin 10 for a full discussion) The poskim debate whether pasteurized wine has the status of cooked wine in Halacha. According to Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:52) pasteurized wine is considered cooked and therefore is permitted even if it was touched by a non-Jew or a Jew who publicly desecrates Shabbos. However, according to Harav Elyashiv zt”l (Kovetz Teshuvos 1 page 112) and Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Minchas Shlomo 25) pasteurized wine is not considered cooked in halacha in regards to being touched by a non-Jew. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 8 Y.D. 15) writes that b’dieved one can rely on the opinion of Rav Moshe zt”l.

41) It is preferred to use red wine for the Four Cups. There are numerous reasons cited by the poskim: A) It says, (Mishlei 23:31) “Look not after a wine which is red”, indicating that a red wine is desirable quality is wine. B) In addition, red wine reminds us of the shedding of innocent blood which flowed when Pharaoh slaughtered the Jews. (M.B. 472:38) C) It serves as a reminder of the blood of the Korban Pesach and the blood of circumcision. (Ohr Zarua 256) D) Lastly, it serves as a reminder of the first plague of Blood. (Aishel Avraham 472:3 cited in Chazon Ovadia Pesach page 125) Tokay wine is also considered as red for this preference. (Halachos of Pesach Rav Shimon Eider page 221)

42) The Tur, Rama, Levush and Baal Hatania rule that if the white wine is of higher quality one should drink white wine. (Tur 472:11 and Kaf Hachaim) Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Haggadah Chazon Ovadia page 124) however, writes that the custom amongst the Sefardim today is to use red wine even if the white wine is of higher quality.

43) The poskim discuss whether one may use grape juice for the Four Cups. Those that oppose the use of grape juice do so for the following three reasons:

  1. A) The Gemara (Pesachim 108b) states, “Rav Yehuda says that [the wine used for the Four Cups] should have the taste and appearance of wine.” The Rashbam explains that when Rav Yehuda required that it have “the taste of wine”, he was referring to the alcoholic taste of wine. Accordingly, grape juice, which does not cause intoxication would not qualify as most preferable. B) According to some authorities, including the Mordechai and Harav Chaim Shabsai, one must drink ,”יין המשמח” wine that brings joy. The poskim explain that the property of wine that causes it to “bring joy” is the alcohol. Therefore, argues Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l one should not use grape juice for the Four Cups since it does not “bring joy”. (See Mekraei Kodesh Pesach vol. 2 page 130) C) The Gemara (Pesachim 108b) states that one who drinks wine [of the time of the Gemara] without diluting it fulfills the mitzvah of drinking wine, but does not fulfill the requirement of “חירות”, the drink of free men. The opinion of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l is that one who drinks grape juice fulfills the requirement for the Four Cups, but does not fulfill the preferred requirement of חירות. (Kol Dodi 3:4)

44) Harav Shlomo Zalman Braun zt”l, however, disagrees with the assertion of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. He writes that the common custom is to drink grape juice for the Four Cups. He adds that one demonstrates freedom by drinking the wine drink that is the most pleasant to you. If one prefers grape juice over wine, then he should drink grape juice as that is what a free man would do. On the contrary, drinking wine when it is unpleasant is, in his opinion, is not a fulfillment of the preferred requirement of חירות (Shearim Metzuyanim Behalacha 118:1)

45) Harav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l likewise believes that one who does not enjoy wine should use grape juice for the Four Cups. (Oral ruling cited by Rabbi Menachem Genack shlit”a Mesorah 12) Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Hebrew Haggadah page 96) was also of the opinion that one may use grape juice for the Four Cups. Similarly, Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:243) relates that Rav Dov Berish Weidenfeld zt”l (the Tchebiner Rav), the Brisker Rav and the Chazon Ish all used grape juice for the Four Cups. Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a (Pesach vol. 2 Chapter 71:6) also writes that according to the Tzelemer Rav, grape juice is acceptable even l’chatchilah [as a first option]. For practical Halacha, a rav should be consulted.

46) As noted above, there is a debate amongst the poskim whether one may use grape juice for the Four Cups. The question is according to those who maintain that one should not drink grape juice what is the halacha if drinking wine will cause discomfort and drinking grape juice will not.  In this case should one push himself to drink wine or may one drink grape juice. According to Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l one should drink wine (Haggadah Kol Dodi 3:8), while Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Haggadah Chazon Ovadia page 125) maintains that in this situation it is preferable to use grape juice.

47) Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum shlit”a (Haggadah Minchas Chein page 64) writes that if one is unable to drink wine without discomfort, he should mix the wine with grape juice, as long as the alcoholic taste of the wine can still be detected. This way one will be able to avoid any discomfort while still drinking the alcoholic drink of wine. However, as noted above, there were poskim who maintained that one may initially drink grape juice.

48) However, one who may become bedridden and ill from drinking wine, should not drink wine. He is, however, required to drink grape juice  or Chamar Medinah, if it would not cause him to become bedridden. (Hilchos Pesach Rav Shimon Eider page 221)

49) One should use an elegant vessel (within his means) for the cup used for the Four Cups. (S.A. 472:2)

50) Most people use a silver cup for the Four Cups since silver is a very elegant material. The Kaf Hachaim (472:11) adds that silver is also beneficial kabbalistically.

51) Harav Nosson Gestetner zt”l (4:25) was asked whether there is any potential issue with using a gold cup for the Four Cups. The person who sent him the letter mentioned that the Zohar seems to indicate that for kabbalistic reasons one should not use a gold cup. However, Harav Gestetner zt”l elaborates that for halachic purposes there is no issue with using a gold cup. On the contrary, it is commendable to use gold as it is very elegant and valuable. Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a (Netai Gavriel page 342) reports that the Rebbes’ of Square and Satmer had the custom of using gold cups.

52) The Avnei Nezer had the custom to use a glass (or crystal) cup so that the red wine is visible. This is also the custom of Sanz and Komarna Chassidim. Interestingly, in the Haggadah of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a it says, “At the Seder, Rav Chaim does not pour the wine into a silver Kiddush cup as he does the whole year. Rather, following his father’s custom, he pours the wine into a glass, which he places in a silver cup. As a result, the wine is visible, as dictated by Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 183:4).” However, as noted above the common custom is to use a silver cup.

53) The Seder ritual contains fifteen observances, or stages, which have been summarized with the following fifteen simanim (symbols):

1- Kaddesh (קדש)- Sanctify the day with the recitation of Kiddush.

2- Urchatz (ורחץ)- Wash the hands before eating Karpas.

3- Karpas (כרפס)- Eat a vegetable dipped in salt water or vinegar.

4- Yachatz (יחץ)- Break the middle Matzah. Put away the larger half for Afikomen.

5- Maggid (מגיד)- Narrate the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

6- Rachtzah (רחצה)- Wash the hands prior to the meal.

7- Motzi (מוציא)- Recite the bracha of Hamotzi Lechem Min Haaretz over the Matzah (as a food).

8- Matzah (מצה)- Recite the blessing over Matzah (as a mitzvah) and eat the Matzah.

9- Marror (מרור)- Recite the blessing and eat the bitter herbs.

10- Korech (כורך)- Eat the sandwich of Matzah and bitter herbs.

11- Shulchan Orech (שלחן עורך)- The table is prepared with the festive meal.

12- Tzafun (צפון)- Eat the Afikomen which has been hidden all during the Seder.

13- Berach (ברך)- Recite Birchas Hamazon, the blessing after the meal.

14- Hallel (הלל)- Recite the Hallel.

15- Nirtzah (נרצה)- Pray that Hashem accept our observance and speedily send the Mashiach.

These simanim are not a new invention. Rather, they can be found in the works of the Rishonim, including the Machzor Vitri (65) in the name of Rashi.

54) There are numerous reasons given for these simanim. A) The simple explanation is that these summaries were created is to help remind us of the order of the Seder and to ensure that no step is skipped. B) In addition, it is always important to prepare oneself before performing any mitzvah. For example the Mishnah in Masechet Berachot (45a) states that three who have eaten a bread meal together must perform a “Zimun” before reciting Birkat Hamazon. The Meiri writes that the reason why three individuals who ate together must perform the Zimun is in order for them to arouse themselves to recite Birkas Hamazon with the proper concentration. It is for this very reason that the fifteen simanim were created. By reciting these words and meditating on their meaning one can properly prepare himself for each important step of the Seder process. (See Seder Haaruch chapter 48 and Haggadah Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l page 92)

55) The Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah (9:6) writes that there are many mystical concepts included in these simanim. And one should therefore recite aloud each siman before performing the corresponding step in the Seder with as much concentration as one can. Before reciting kiddush one says the word “Kaddesh” and before washing his hands he recites “Urchatz” etc. Indeed, the custom of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (ibid. page 93) was to recite each siman before performing the corresponding act in accordance with the view of the Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah.

56) Some have the custom to recite all fifteen simanim before beginning the Seder and then to recite each siman before performing each stage of the Seder. This was the practice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l. All the simanim however were recited quietly.

57) Previously we mentioned that some have the custom to recite all fifteen simanim before beginning the Seder and then to recite each siman before performing each stage of the Seder. One cannot recite the simanim of “Motzi” and “Matzah” prior to their performance since one may not speak after washing his hands during Rachtzah. The proper time to recite them is prior to washing his hands. Therefore prior to washing his hands he should recite “Rachtzah Motzi Matzah.” (Seder Haaruch 75:7)

58) After Urchatz we do not recite the blessing of Al Netilas Yadayim. Yet, one should still not talk from the time that he washes his hands until after eating the Karpas. (Opinion of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l in Chazon Ovadia page 236) It is for this reason that many recite the simanim “Urchatz Karpas” before washing his hands, since he should not speak after washing his hands. (Seder Haaruch page 313)

Purim Halachos (All)

Parshas Zachor

1) There is a mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to Klal Yisrael upon leaving Egypt. This is performed by reading “Parshas Zachor”, the portion of the Torah from Parshas Ki Setzei (Devarim 25:17) where the Torah recounts briefly what Amalek did and admonishes us to remember and not forget this episode. The Torah finishes by commanding us to wipe out any vestige of Amalek. On the Shabbos before Purim, we read parshas Zachor (Deut. 25:17-19). (Shulchan Aruch 685:1)

2) The consensus of the Rishonim and poskim is that the obligation to read Parshas Zachor is biblical in nature. (Tosafos Brachos 13a, Eshkol Purim 10, Chinuch 603, Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch 685:7)

3) One is obligated to hear Parshas Zachor with a minyan of men. (See Magen Avraham, Mishnah Berurah 16 and Shaar Hatzion 5 for a discussion whether this obligation is biblical or rabbinic in nature) Therefore, it is extremely important for one to go to Shul to hear Parshas Zachor.

4) One must read Parshas Zachor from a kosher Sefer Torah. According to many this is a biblical obligation, see Magen Avraham, Mishnah Berurah. [The Minchas Chinuch 603, however, maintains that the need to read it from a Sefer Torah is only rabbinic in nature.]

5) Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains that if one read it from a chumash he has not fulfilled his obligation. (Yechava Daas 3:53) [It should be noted that according to the Minchas Chinuch ibid. he has fulfilled his obligation on a Biblical level. However, even the Minchas Chinuch will agree that using a Chumash will not fulfill the rabbinic obligation.]

6) One should ensure that he hears every word of the Parshas Zachor. Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l  (Mikraei Kodesh Purim 6) maintains that if one missed even one word he has not fulfilled his obligation. In this regard Parshas Zachor has the same halachos as hearing the Megillah, which according to most opinions one has to hear every word to fulfill his obligation (see Mishnah Berurah 690:5).This also appears to be the view of Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a  (cited in the Sefer Yismach Yisroel Purim page 8). However, according to Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo Purim page 323) even if one missed a few words one has fulfilled his obligation, as long as he heard the main message of Parshas Zachor.

7) The Minchas Elazar of Munkatch zt”l writes that one is not required to read Parshas Zachor along quietly with the Chazan, however, it is preferable to do so. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l disagrees with this view. He writes that it is preferable to listen quietly to the reading of the chazan without reading along with him. He explains that it is much better to focus on listening to the chazzan who is reading from a kosher Sefer Torah, than to place any focus on one’s own reading from a Chumash. (Yechava Daas 3:53)

8) It is well known that Sefardim and Ashkenazim differ in their pronunciation of many letters. The poskim discuss whether an Ashkenazi can hear Parshas Zachor in a Sefardic shul and vice versa. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 6 O.C. 11:6) writes that he would often tell Sefardic students who learned in Ashkenazi Yeshivos that for Parshas Zachor they should make sure to hear the Sefardic pronunciation. Similarly, Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l (Mikraei Kodesh page 88) would urge Ashkenazim to hear Parshas Zachor in Ashkenzic shuls and not in Sefardic shuls. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo page 323) explains that although l’chatchila one should hear Parshas Zachor with the pronunciation based upon his family custom, however, b’dieved one fulfills his obligation under all circumstances. It is extremely common that sefardim daven in Ashkenazic shuls and vice versa and since it is difficult to leave one’s shul even for one Shabbos, one should absolutely consult with his or her rav before davening in a different location.

9) There is a dispute among the Poskim whether or not women are obligated to hear the reading of Parashas Zachor. It would seem that women are obligated to hear Parshas Zachor since it is a positive commandment that is not time based.  However, the Sefer Ha’Chinuch maintains that women are exempt from hearing Parashat Zachor since the underlying reason for reading this portion is to remember the actions of Amalek in order to wage war against them and women do not usually take part in active combat nor are they commanded in the Mitzvah of fighting; therefore, they are not obligated to hear the reading of Parashat Zachor. Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a writes that this is also the view of the Chazon Ish (Sefer Taama Dikra 23) and Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a (Netai Gavriel page 153) writes that this was the view of the Brisker Rav.  This is also the view of Harav Shmuel Wosner zt”l (Kovetz M’Beis Levi 15 page 17). Harav David Feinstein shlit”a (Vedibarta Bam page 501) also feels that women are exempt from hearing Parshas Zachor, however, those that chose to hear the reading have performed a mitzvah.

10) The Minchas Chinush questions the assumption of the Chinuch by pointing to the fact that we are not permitted to speculate what the reasons are for certain mitzvos and apply special exemptions based on our own reasoning. Who is to say that the mitzvah of reading Parshas Zachor is at all related to the mitzvah of fighting Amalek? Perhaps even when Amalek is completely obliterated we will still be commanded to remember them. Many poskim, including Rav Nosson Adler zt”l (Binyan Tzion 8), Minchas Elazar (2:1-5), Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo Tefila page 69 footnote 68) and Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 8:54), are of the opinion that women are obligated to hear Parashas Zachor. Therefore, a woman should do her best to come to shul to hear Parshas Zachor (opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l cited in Halichas Bas Yisroel 22:1).

11) All agree that if a woman cannot go to shul, she should read Parshas Zachor herself from a chumash, since according to the Minchas Chinuch one can fulfill the biblical obligation by reading it in a chumash (Yabia Omer ibid.).

12) It is quite common for shuls to have a special reading of Parshas Zachor following shul specifically for women who could not come for davening. No blessing is recited during this reading. (Minchas Yitzchok 9:68) Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l (oral ruling cited in Halichas Bas Yisrael page 296) maintains that one must make sure that a minyan of men is present during this reading. Harav Shmuel Wosner zt”l (Kovetz M’Beis Levi 15 page 17) and others, however, opposed this entire practice of reading the Torah just for women (even if ten men are present). For practical halacha a rav should be consulted.

Taanis Esther

1) In the days of Mordechai and Esther, the Jews gathered together on the thirteenth of Adar to defend themselves against their enemies. They needed to ask mercy from G-d to assist them. When the Jews went to war, they would fast so that G-d would aid them, as Moshe did when we went to war against Amalek. Because of this, we can assume that at the time of Mordechai and Esther, they fasted on the thirteenth of Adar. This day has been accepted by the Jewish people as a communal fast called Taanis Esther, a reminder that G-d watches us and hears each person’s prayers in his time of trouble when he fasts and sincerely returns to G-d, just as He did for our ancestors in those days.

2) Pregnant and nursing do not fast if they are feeling weak. The Mishnah Berurah (686:4) cites a debate amongst the poskim whether a pregnant or nursing woman must fast in the event that she feels fine. He concludes (Shaar Hatzion 10) that each person should follow the custom of his area.  The opinion of the Aruch Hashulchan (686:4), Kaf Hachaim (686:21) and Divrei Yetziv (O.C. 2:291) and Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (oral ruling cited by Harav Nevenzhal shlit”a B’Yitzchak Yikareh) is to be lenient and all pregnant and nursing women need not fast regardless of how they feel. For normative halacha a rav should be consulted. All agree that a women who gave birth in the last month does not fast even if she feels great (Mishnah Berurah ibid.).

3) In the event that a nursing or pregnant woman is not fasting, the poskim debate whether she must make up the fast on a different day. For normative halacha, a rav must be consulted.

4) The Rama (686:2) rules that a Choleh Shein Bo Sakana (bedridden) or someone with an eye ache who is in great pain may eat on Taanis Esther but should make up the fast on another day.  The Kaf Hachaim (686:22) adds that anyone who has to eat on the doctor’s orders doesn’t have to make it up afterwards. Before one decides to break his fast he should first consult with a rav.

5) 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)

5) The fast of Taanis Esther begins at dawn. 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  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.

6) The Mishnah Berurah (567:11) maintains that only if one is in pain may one rinse one’s mouth on a public fast day (such as Taanis Esther) and in such a case one should bend one’s head downward so one doesn’t swallow any water.

7) If one has bad breath and it causes him discomfort or embarrassment, he may use mouthwash on Taanis Esther. He may also brush his teeth with toothpaste but not with water. (Beer Moshe 8:94, Minchas Yitzchak 4:109)

8) If one needs to take medicine on Taanis Esther he may take them without water. If he cannot 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)

Machatzis Hashekel

1) The practice before Purim is to donate half of the monetary unit of one’s time and place (e.g., half a dollar, half a pound, etc.) in memory of the half-shekel that was donated in Adar to purchase animals for the communal sacrifices. The custom is to give three times this half unit (e.g., $1.50) because parshas Ki Sisa uses the word “terumah” (donation) three times. (Rama 694:1)

2) The common practice is for the shul/tzedaka pushka to supply three half dollars. Each person gives $1.50 to the tzedaka in exchange for the 3 half dollars. He then lifts up the three half dollars in order to acquire them. And finally he donates the three half dollars in order to perform the mitzvah of Machatzis Hashekel. Harav Yaakov Kametzky zt”l (Emes L’Yaakov page 160) is cited as saying that one  should give a little more than $1.50 in exchange for the 3 half dollars. Since we don’t like to make exact change from tzedaka.   

3) The money of the Machatiz Hashekel is donated to charity (Shaarei Teshuva 694:2). Some specifically send it to the poor of Israel. (Yosef Ometz 1089) Harav Yitzchak Yosef shlit”a writes that one should give the money to Yeshivos that are teaching young Torah scholars. (Yalkut Yosef Kitzur Shulchan Aruch page 770)

4) The poskim offer three opinions as to when one should perform the Machatzis Hashekel. A) The Rama writes that one performs the Machatzis Hashekel before Mincha on Taanis Esther. B) Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l and the Chasam Sofer maintained that it should be performed following Mincha on Taanis Esther. (See Netai Gavriel Purim Chapter 26 and Yismach Yisrael page 28 for view of Harav Elyashiv zt”l) C) While others perform it on Purim morning (Magen Avraham 694:2). It seems the common custom is to follow the first opinion of the Rama. (Mishnah Berurah 694:4, Kaf Hachaim 694:25, Yismach Yisrael page 28 view of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a)

5) If one did not perform the Machatzis Hashekel before Purim he should perform it as soon as possible during the month of Adar. According to Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a b’dieved one should perform Machatzis Hashekel even after Adar (oral ruling cited in Yismach Yisrael page 28). Similarly, the Sefer Avnei Yashfei (1:133) writes that b’dieved if one forgot to perform the Machatzis Hashekel he can do so for 12 months after Purim (until the following Nissan).

6) One may not use Maaser money for the Machatzis Hashekel. If one chooses to give more than the required amount ($1.50), the excess may be given from Maaser money. (Yosef Ometz 1088)

7) The Rama writes that one is only obligated to give Machatzis Hashekel once one reaches the age of twenty. The Mishnah Berurah cites the view of the Tosafos Yom Tov that one is actually obligated once he reaches the age of thirteen. The Mishnah Berurah then explains that the common custom is for the father to give Machatzis Hashekel for his children even those below the age of thirteen and even for those in utero. [He adds that once his father gives on the minor’s behalf, he is obligated to continue doing so.]

8) There is a debate amongst the poskim whether women are obligated to perform Machatzis Hashekel. The common practice is that the husband performs Machatzis Hashekel for the women in his family. (Magen Avraham 694:3, Netai Gavriel 27, Halichos Shlomo Purim 18:9 and Shevet Halevi 7:183)

Mishloach Manos

1) There is a mitzvah to give Mishloach Manos, two foods to one person, on Purim day. (S.A. 695:4)

2) There are two reasons found in the poskim for this Mitzvah. A) To ensure that everyone, especially the poor, will have sufficient food for the Purim meal. (Terumas Hadeshen 111) B) To increase love and friendship between Jews, thereby dismissing Haman’s accusations that there is strife and dissention among Jews. This is an ideal opportunity to repair broken relationships by sending packages to people with whom one has ill feelings. (Manos Halevi cited by Chasam Sofer O.C. 196)

3) The Ksav Sofer (141) explains that there is a difference of halacha between these two reasons, and that is if one can fulfill the mitvah by giving Mishloach Manos anonymously. According to the first reason one would still fulfill the mitzvah since in this case the receiver will have food for the Purim meal. However, according to the second reason one who sends mishloach manos anonymously does not fulfill the mitzvah since no friendship or goodwill is generated between him and the recipient. It is  preferred to fulfill the mitzvah according to both reasons.  

4) In order to fulfill the mitzvah of Mishloach Manos one needs to send to foods to one person. However it is not necessary for the items to require two different blessings. For example, one may send two different cakes or two fruits.

5) Indeed, according to many poskim one can fulfill the mitzvah by sending two cuts of meat as long as they taste different (beef hotdog and hamburger, white and dark meat of the chicken). (See Mikraei Kodesh 38, Halichos Shlomo page 336, Tzitz Eliezer 14:65, 15:31, Yalkut Yosef Kitzur S.A. page 773, Avnei Yashfei 4:83 and Yismach Yisrael page 95) It is therefore clear that two different brachos are not required.

6) It is important to note that the aforementioned poskim were only lenient if the two foods have a different taste. However, one cannot fulfill the mitzvah by sending two items of the same food, two hotdogs etc.

7) A drink is considered a food item as well, therefore, one may send one drink item and one food item for the mishloach manos. One can even send two different drinks. However, it appears that the custom is to send at least one food item and not two drinks. (M.B. 695:20 and Yismach Yisroel page 95. See Yalkut Yosef Kitzur S.A. page 773 who writes that it is preferred to send two foods to fulfill the mitzvah and not to fulfill the mitzvah through drinks. However, the common custom is to be lenient and to fufill the mitzvah with at least one drink, such as a bottle of wine and cake.)

8) The poskim debate whether one can fulfill the mitzvah by sending spices which are not eaten on their own, such as sugar, pepper, etc. (Yismach Yisrael page 99). For normative halacha, a rav should be consulted.

9) The Mishloach Manos are given on Purim day. If one sends them in the mail before Purim and it arrives on Purim day it would seem that one fulfills his obligation since the package was received on Purim. This is indeed the view of many poskim (see Beer Heitiv 695:7, Shraga Hameir 4:31, Az Nidberu 6:80). However the Aruch Hashulchan (695:17) maintains one does not fulfill his obligation if it was shipped before Purim, even if it arrives on Purim day.

10) All agree that if the Mishloach Manos will arrive before or after Purim day that one has not fulfilled his obligation.

11) The poskim discuss whether one can fulfill his obligation by sending food to someone who for medical reasons cannot eat the food, such as sugary foods to a diabetic. According to Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l one can fulfill his mitzvah with these foods. It seems, however, that Harav Yehoshua Neubert zt”l and ybc”l Harav Yitzchak Zilberstein shlit”a maintain that one does not fulfill his obligation since this food does not bring the diabetic simcha as he cannot eat it. (See Halichos Shlomo 19:11 and Nishmas Abraham page 324) Similarly, Harav Efraim Greenblatt zt”l (Shu”t Rivevos Efraim 6:387) writes that one cannot fulfill his obligation by sending meat to a vegetarian, since it will not bring him joy.

12) The Mishnah Berurah cites the view of the Aruch Lner who suggests that one must send the Mishloach Manos through a shliach, messenger in order to fulfill the mitzvah. Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l (Tzitz Eliezer 9:33) writes that most commentaries disagree with this assumption and they maintain that one need not send it through a shliach, rather, one may deliver it by himself. In addition, he explains that the Aruch Lner himself concludes that it is unnecessary to send it through a shliach. Harav Yisroel Belsky zt”l (Piskei Harav Belsky page 122) is cited as ruling that although the majority of poskim maintain that one may deliver Mishloach Manos himself, nonetheless, one should send at least one set of Mishloach Manos with a messenger to accommodate all opinions.

Purim Halachos

1) The Rama (695:2) writes that it is preferable to wear Shabbos clothing on Purim. The Mishnah Berurah (3) explains that one should begin wearing the Shabbos clothing on Purim night (when the Megillah is read).

2) We recite Al Hanissim during Shemoneh Esrei on Purim. We begin reciting it during Maariv on Purim night. The Sefer Ishei Yisrael (page 319) writes that the gabbai may announce in Shul “Remember to say Al Hanissim” right before Shemoneh Esrei for Maariv, but not before Shemoneh Esrei of Shachris.

3) It is commonly known that many people during Shemoneh Esrei will say the words “Al Hanissim” out load in order to remind others to say it (the same is true for “Yaaleh Veyavo”), The Ishei Yisroel cites the Chazon Ish and Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l that one should not do this and that this is not “derech eretz” towards tefillah to say a few words out loud.

4) Many people wear costumes on Purim. (see Rama 696:8) There are many reasons given for this. The most common being in order to enhance the simcha on Purim. Harav Nissam Karelitz shlit”a is cited (see Yismach Yisroel page 188) as saying that one should not wear costumes that scare people.

5) Harav Shmuel Wosner zt”l was asked whether one may daven on Purim while dressed in a costume (e.g. a litvish person wearing a streimel). He maintains that as long as one prays with a high level of seriousness and does not stoop to levity, it is permitted. For practical halacha, a rav must be consulted.

6) There is a mitzvah to eat a meal (“Purim Seuda”) on Purim day. (S.A. 695:1)

7) The poskim debate whether one must eat bread at the meal to fulfill the mitzvah. (see Aruch Hashulchan 695:7 and Yismach Yisrael page 179) It seems that the common custom is to eat bread at the meal.

8) The custom is to eat hamantashen on Purim. (see Sefer Matammim Purim 3) One of the reasons given is that the word “Tash” in Hebrew means “weaken.” Therefore, the hamantash celebrates the weakening of Haman and our wish that G-d always save us by weakening our enemies. (Otzar Kol Minhagei Yeshurun page 126)

Matanos L’Evyonim

1) The mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim on Purim is to give at least one gift to two different poor people on Purim day. (S.A. 694:1)

2) There is a great discussion amongst the poskim as to the proper amount to give to each poor person. The Ritva writes that even a perutah (i.e., a minuscule amount of money) may be given to each of the two poor people in order to fulfill this mitzvah. However, others maintain that practically one should give enough money with which the poor person can purchase for himself a decent meal. (see Yismach Yisroel page 121 and Halichos Olam vol. 1 page 233) I have heard from Rabbanim that the amount of money that a poor person would need to purchase a bagel, coffee, and some other small side dish or two slices of pizza and a can of soda, definitely suffices for the minimum amount required to be given to each of the two poor people. For practical halacha, a rav should be consulted.

3) The poskim maintain that giving a check to a poor person fulfills the mitzvah of Matanos L’evyonim. (Rivevos Efraim 5:455:2 and Halichos Shlomo Purim page 342)

4) Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l explains that one can use a check even if the bank is not open on Purim. (Halichos Shlomo ibid.) This is also the view of Harav Yisroel Belsky zt”l (Piskei Harav Belsky page 124)

5) Harav Belsky zt”l (Piskei Harav Belsky ibid.) explains that the custom is not to give a post-dated check for the mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim. He then adds that some poskim opine that one should not give a check if he does not have sufficient funds to cover the check. However, if one will accrue the funds by the time the poor person cashes the check then it is permitted.

Washing One’s Hands After A funeral

  1. The custom is to wash one’s hands three times, alternating between hands, after attending a funeral.(Mishnah Berurah 4:43)
  2. The Sefer Ishei Yisreol (page 28) writes that according to the Pri Megadim and Chochmas Adam one is not required to wash hands after a funeral unless he was within four Amos of the corpse. However, the custom of the Chazon Ish was to wash his hands upon attending a funeral even if one was not within four Amos of the corpse.
  3. One does not take the vessel from another person’s hand and does not hand the vessel to another person. Rather one places it down and the next person takes it. (See Gesher Hachaim ibid.) The custom is to place the vessel upside down after the washing. (See Netai Gavriel Aveilus chapter 70:2)
  4. The poskim write that the custom in Yerushalayim is that one does not dry his hands with a towel and rather lets them dry on its own. (See Gesher Hachaim page 93) The Kaf Hachaim (4:78) cites those who are lenient to use a towel during the winter when it is cold. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (cited in Ishei Yisroel) explains that one only refrains from drying his hands when leaving a funeral. However, when washing one’s hands after leaving a cemetery one may dry his hands with a towel.
  5. One is not to enter into a house until after the washing (Rama cited by Mishnah Berurah ibid.). (Some allow entering into a Beis Midrash. [Nitei Gavriel 70/5 and so is the Chabad custom])
  6. The poskim discuss whether one may recite blessings and learn Torah before washing his hands after leaving the funeral. The poskim explain that when one is required to wash his hands because they are dirty, one may not learn Torah or recite blessings prior to the washing. When the washing is required because of ruach ra’ah or tumah, as is the case with the washing after funerals, one may learn Torah and recite blessings before the washing. However, the Zohar and the mekubalim maintain that one should not recite blessings or learn Torah before washing his hands. (M.B. 4:61) Therefore, if water is available, one should wash his hands before learning. However, if no water is available, one may rely on the poskim and learn Torah and recite blessings before washing.
  7. All agree that one may think about Torah prior to washing one’s hands. (Shulchan Aruch Harav 1:6)

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 avizakutinsky@gmail.com. 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- https://www.korenpub.com/maggid_en_usd/contemporary-halakhic-problems.html) 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 (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=51347&st=&pgnum=236&hilite=). In addition,  I gave on the topic of drinking wine touched by a non-observant Jew, here is a link- (https://www.torahanytime.com/video/wine-touched-by-a-non-observant-jew/)

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.