Free Sample Chapter from the Sefer “The Gates of Joy”

Hi, a few months ago I printed 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.  Here is a free sample chapter  from the sefer (selection (2)) and an image of the cover can be found below. To order a copy of the sefer please contact me at The price of the sefer is $18 plus shipping and handling. Thank you





The Fast of Shiva Asar B’Tamuz

  1. Five tragedies befell the Jewish people on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz (seventeenth of Tamuz). A- The first Luchos were broken when Moshe Rabbeinu descended from Har Sinai. B- The Karban Tamid (two daily sacrifices), were suspended during the time of the First Beis Hamikdash. C- The enemy penetrated the walls of Yerushalayim prior to the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdash. D- The wicked Apostumos burned the Torah. E- An idol was erected in the Beis Hamikdash. (See Taanis 26b, Rambam Taanis 5:2 and Halachos of the Three Weeks page 1) This day is commemorated by refraining from eating and drinking from sunrise to nightfall.
  2. The purpose of the fast day is to stir our hearts in order that we utilize the paths of teshuva, repentance, and to serve as a reminder to us of our own actions and those of our forefathers. These iniquities are responsible for the terrible events which befell our people. Remembering these tragedies should lead us to examine our conduct and return to Hashem. One should not mistakenly, assume that abstinence from food and drink alone fulfills the requirement and purpose of the fast day. Rather, the true purpose of a fast day must be evidenced in one’s improved deeds. (Mishnah Berurah 549:1)
  3. This year the fast begins on Tuesday  (July 11) at 3:48 a.m. and ends at 9:17 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time NY). 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.
  4. Both men and women must fast on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz. (Shulchan Aruch 550:1)
  5. The Shulchan Aruch (554:5) writes that a pregnant woman need not fast on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz. The Rama (550:1), however, writes that if the pregnant or nursing woman is feeling good the custom is to fast. If she feels week she need not fast. Many poskim explain that the accepted practice today, even among Ashkenazic women, is for pregnant and nursing women to refrain from observing the minor fasts. And even a woman who wishes to be stringent and to observe the fast – if she experiences difficulty during her fast, or if the fast causes her to have less milk, thus causing discomfort to the baby, it is best that she refrain from fasting. (Orchos Chaim Spinka 550:4 and Siddur Yaavetz) For normative halacha, a rav should be consulted.
  6. Nonetheless, if the woman isn’t fasting she shouldn’t eat lavish meals with meat and wine, but rather only what is necessary. (Shulchan Aruch ibid. and Mishnah Berurah 550:5)
  7. The pregnant or nursing woman who does not fast need not make up the fast on a different day. (Yechava Daas 1:35)
  8. One who is sick, even if there is no danger of dying is exempt from fasting and shouldn’t fast. Before one decides to break his fast he must first consult with a rav. If one is sick and does not fast he need not make up his fast on a different day. (Yechava Daas ibid. and Mishnah Berurah Biur Halacha 550)
  9. One need not train his children to fast, even at the age of twelve for boys or eleven for girls. Once they have reached the age of chinuch they shouldn’t eat lavish meals, but rather only what is necessary. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l and ybc”l Harav Neventzhal shlit”a write that although many boys have the custom to fast three fasts before they become bar-mitzvah, this custom has no source. (Mishnah Berurah 550:5, Halichos Shlomo vol. 3 page 398-399 and B’Yitzchak Yikare on Mishnah Berurah)
  10. The Mishnah Berurah (567:11) maintains that only if one is in pain may one rinse one’s mouth on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz and in such a case one should bend one’s head downward so one doesn’t swallow any water.
  11. If one has bad breath and it causes him discomfort or embarrassment, he may use mouthwash on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz. He may also brush his teeth with toothpaste but not with water. (Beer Moshe 8:94, Minchas Yitzchak 4:109)
  12. If one needs to take medicine on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz he may take them without water. If he can not swallow the pills without a little water, he may swallow a very small amount of water (just enough to get the pills down). (Opinion of Rav Debreczin zt”l cited in Nitev Gavriel Bein Hatzomos page 54)
  13. If one ate by mistake on a fast day he should nevertheless continue fasting afterwards. (Shulchan Aruch and Mishanh Berurah 568:1) The Mishna Brurah (568:3) says that even if one ate on a taanis, you can still say aneinu during the shemoneh esrei. Harav Wosner zt”l (Shevet Halevi 5:60) explains that this is only true for someone who began the fast and ate accidentally. However, one who is exempt from fasting altogether does not recite aneinu.
  14. Many have the custom to recite Avinu Malkeinu on public fast days. One can even say Avinu Malkeinu when davening without a minyan. (Ishei Yisroel 45:45)

Bowing During Barchu

1)  The common custom is that the chazan bows while reciting “Barchu” (Es Hashem Hamevorach) during davening. The congregation also bows when they respond “Baruch” (Es Hashem Hamevorach Leolam Vaed)” (Kol Bo 8, Biur Halacha 57:3)
2) The Sefer Zeh Hashulchan (3 page 34 cited by Ishei Yisroel page 160), however, writes that the custom of the Gra is not to bow. (See also Shulchan Hatahor 57:1)
3) Many Sefardim have the custom that only the chazzan bows and not the congregation. (Ohr Letzion 2:5:13)

4) A Sefardi (or one who follows the Gra) who davens in a minyan where everyone is bowing should bow as well, so as not to disconnect himself from the congregation. (Based upon the view of the Baal Hatania 109:2)
5)  While bowing for Barchu one does not fully bow (like the bowingduring Shemoneh Esrei), rather, one bows his head slightly. (Aruch Hashulchan 57:1)

6) The Chazzan bows by Barchu and raises himself to stand straight when he recites the name of Hashem. Similarly, the congregation bows their head at the word Baruch and stands straight when they say the name of Hashem. (See Shulchan Hatahor 57:1 and Ishei Yisroel page 160)
7)   While the chazzan recites Barchu Es Hashem Hamevorah and while the congregation responds Baruch Hashem Hamevorach Leolam Vaed the congregation should stand. (148 M.B. 18)
8) The congregation may sit when they finish reciting Baruch Hashem Hamevorach Leolam vaed and they need not stand while the chazzan responds Baruch Hashem Leolam Vaed. (Beer Moshe 1:2)
9) The custom amongst many Sefardim is that the congregation need not stand at all for Barchu. (Ohr Letzion 2:5:13)
10) The poskim debate whether one must bow towards mizrach (east) or make one may bow to any direction one is facing.
A- The Tehila Ledavid (90:1) writes (regarding bowing by Modim of Chazaras Hashatz) that one must bow towards mizrach so that everyone is bowing in the same direction. Similarly, the Komarna Rebbe in his Shulchan Hatahor (57:1) maintains that one should face mizrach during Barchu.
B- The Noda Biyehuda (Tinyana 13) proves that one may always bow (both for Modim and Barchu) to any direction one chooses.
C- Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l seems to differentiate between bowing by Modim of chazzaras hashatz and bowing by Barchu. He holds that since bowing by Modim during chazzaras hashatz  is cited in the Gemara one should do so towards mizrach. (See Siach Halacha cited in Ishei Yisroel 264) However, for Barchu (which is not sourced in the Gemara), Rav Shlomo Zalman himself was not particular and he would bow to any direction he was facing. (See Halichos Shlomo ch. 9 note 34)

Bracha And Childbirth

1) The custom among Ashkenazim is that both the father and mother recite the bracha of hatov v’hameitiv [ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם הטוב והמטיב] immediately upon hearing the joyous news that their child is a boy. (S.A. 223:1)
2) While some ashkenazim have adopted the custom of not reciting this bracha and there were poskim who attempted to justify this custom, (See Aruch Hashulchan and Divrei Yetziv 88) the majority of ashkenazik poskim stress that for normative halacha both the parents should recite the bracha of hatov v’hameitiv. This is especially so if the parents feel strongly that they want to express their appreciation to Hashem, they are permitted to recite the bracha. (See Igros Moshe 5:43:5, Emes L’Yaakov 223, Vsein Bracha vol. 2 page 19, Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 200)

3) The custom among Sefardim is not to recite the bracha of hatov v’hameitiv upon the birth of a boy. However, they should have in mind to praise Hashem for the birth of their son when they say the fourth bracha of birchas hamazon, the bracha of hatov v’hameitiv. (See Vzos Habracha page 170)
4) The mother should first wash her hands before reciting the bracha, since many times during childbirth her hands become dirty. (Halichos Ketanim Utenokos page 16)
5) The husband should recite the bracha while standing. It is often difficult for the new mother to stand in order to recite the bracha and therefore she may recite it while seated. (ibid.)
6) The bracha is recited upon the birth of a boy even if the couple already has a son. (Aruch Hashulchan 223:9)
7) The bracha should be recited right away after the birth. Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a writes that “The bracha should be recited after the immediate pain of labor subsides and after the child is initially checked by the doctors and the parents are assured that the child is b”h healthy. This is generally moments after labor.” (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:200)
8) If the bracha was not recited at that point one can still recite the bracha as long as one still clearly feels the joy. The poskim explain that it is unclear as to how long that is practically. (See Ketzos Hashulchan 64 Badei Hashulchan 11) A) Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Mor Uketzia 224) writes that the bracha can be said only for the first three days after birth. If three days have passed, they should have in mind to praise Hashem for the birth of their son when they say the fourth bracha of birchas hamazon, the bracha of hatov v’hameitiv. B) Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a maintains that the bracha can be recited as long as one is still telling his immediate friends and family that he just had a boy. Harav Yitzchak Fuchs shlit”a writes that generally one is still informing others of the simcha until the bris. (Halichos Ketanim Utenokos page 17)
9) The bracha of hatov v’hameitiv was instituted for the birth of a boy and not for a daughter. The Shulchan Aruch (223) also makes no mention of reciting a shehechiyanu for the birth of a daughter.
Nevertheless, the Baal Hatania (Birchas Hanehenin 2:12) and Mishnah Berurah (223:2) rules that when the father or mother sees their newborn girl for the first time they should recite shehechiyanu. This is because seeing a friend who you haven’t seen for a long time is in and of itself a reason to recite shehechiyanu. This is also the view of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. (Igros Moshe 5:47:5)

Other poskim, including Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l and the Sanz Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l, state that a bracha should not be made when they see their newborn daughter for the first time. (See Halichos Shlomo page 270 and Netai Gavriel Niddah vol. 3 page 564)
10) The Mishnah Berurah concludes that grandparents should not recite a bracha of hatov v’hameitiv, for their new grandson, or a shehechiyanu, for their new granddaughter. (See Biur Halacha 223) However, Harav Chaim Naeh zt”l maintains that if they are really happy and they wish to thank Hashem, they may recite the bracha of hatov v’hameitiv on hearing of the news that they have a grandson and they may recite shehechiyanu upon seeing the granddaughter for the first time. (Ketzos Hashulchan 64 Badei Hashulchan 11) For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

11) If parents adopt a child no bracha is recited, even if the adopted child brings them joy. (Halichos Tenokos Uketanim page 19)

Eating Before Kiddush

Eating Before Kiddush Friday Night-
1)  After sunset on Friday evening, it is forbidden to eat or drink until Kiddush is said. (S.A. 271:4) If one accepts Shabbos before sunset, the prohibition goes into effect as soon as he accepts Shabbos. (M.B. 11)
2) Therefore, women may not eat or drink after lighting the Shabbos candles until she either hears or recites kiddush, since lighting the candles generally constitutes acceptance of the Shabbos for them. (Magen Avraham 5)
3) If a woman is thirsty, she may drink water after lighting candles if it is still before sunset. In case of necessity she can even drink tea during this time. (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso 43:46)
4) If at the time of candle-lighting she has  a strong craving for food or drinks, and water or tea would not suffice, she should have in mind that by lighting the candles she is not yet accepting Shabbos upon herself. She is then allowed to eat or drink until sunset. (ibid.)
5) If a person must take medication after candle lighting and prior to kiddush (it is not always permissible to take medication on Shabbos, for details a rav should be consulted),  he may drink water with it to help swallow the pill. (ibid. 52:3)
Eating Before Kiddush Shabbos Day
1) One may not eat or drink anything, even water, before hearing or reciting kiddush on Shabbos day. (S.A. 289:1) The kiddush obligation of Shabbos morning does not take effect until after one has prayed Shachris.
2) Since before davening one is not yet obligated to make kiddush, one is permitted to drink water, tea and coffee before davening. (See Aruch Hashulchan 89:23, Halichos Shlomo 2:3, Yabia Omer vol. 9 page 237 and Shulchan Halevi 7)
[May one drink orange juice before davening? The Sefer Avnei Yashfei (5:14) writes that one should be stringent and avoid drinking all fruit and vegetable juice before davening. However, in the sefer Piskei Rav Belsky zt”l (page 31) it says in the name of Rav Belsky, “Regarding orange juice, the minhag is to be lenient, thus it is permitted before davening.” Rav Belksy is further cited, “Hot cocoa is a rich drink made with a lot of milk, and therefore it is not permitted for adults prior to davening. Children may drink hot cocoa before davening, as is a common incentive in camp. Cappucinos, and iced coffee made with a lot of milk are not permitted either.”]
3)  The poskim debate whether a weak person who must eat bread, cakes or cookies before davening shachris should recite kiddush before eating or may he eat without kiddush.
A- According to some poskim, including the Divrei Yetziv (132:3) and Harav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l (Ohr Ltzion vol. 2 page 185), the ill person may eat without reciting kiddush. They feel that it is not halachically possible to recite kiddush before shachris, therefore, he or she may eat without reciting kiddush.
B- However, according to others, including the Mishnah Berurah (see Biut Halacha 289), a weak person who must eat something before davening must first recite kiddush. Since a weak person is permitted to eat even before davening, the obligation to make kiddush has already taken effect , and he must therefore make kiddush before eating. The Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso (52:12) adds that it would be preferable for the ill person to at least recite Birchas Hatorah and the first paragraph of Shema before he eats.
C- Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe 4:101:2) agrees with the aformentioned view of the Mishnah Berurah. Yet he writes that there is a difference between an ill married woman and an ill single woman. He explains that an ill single woman must make kiddush before eating, however, a married woman who is ill may eat without kiddush as long as her husband has not yet prayed shachris. Once the husband prays shachris she must recite kiddush like everyone else. Harav Moshe reasons that since a married woman is required to eat the Shabbos meal with her husband, she does not become responsible to make Kiddush until it is time for the two of them to eat the Shabbos meal together, meaning after he has davened shachris.
D- Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Chazon Ovadia Shabbos vol. 2 page 149) discusses this issue at length and he concludes that an ill person who is eating before shachris should recite kiddush before eating and then should recite kiddush a second time following davening.

4) If the person feels ill and just needs to eat fruit before shachris, and not bread or cake, he should eat without reciting kiddush. (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso ibid.)
5)  As noted above, the obligation to recite kiddush begins after one davens shachris. The question is for women what is the definition of “shachris” in regards to the obligation to recite kiddush.
A- All authorities require a woman to daven daily, but there is a dispute whether she is required to recite the full shemoneh esrei, or whether she fulfills her requirement by reciting a simple prayer, such as the birchas hashachar. The common practice amongst women is to adhere to the stricter view and therefore they recite birchas hashachar and shemoneh esrei of Shachris. (See M.B. 106:4)

It is well known that one may not eat during the week before davening shachris. According to the first opinion that a woman is required to recite the full shemoneh esrei, she may not eat breakfast in the morning without first davening, whereas according to the second opinion that she fulfills her requirement once she has recited a simple prayer or morning berachos, she may eat breakfast during the week once she recited these tefilos. Many women follow this second view and during the week they recite brachos, eat breakfast and then recite the remainder of shachris later on.

The Sefer Tosefes Shabbos (286:4) argues that this leniency during the week actually may become a stringency on Shabbos. Some authorities rule that a woman becomes obligated to hear Kiddush as soon as she recites berachos, since she has now fulfilled her requirement to daven. According to this opinion, once she recited berachos on Shabbos morning, she may not eat or drink without first making Kiddush. This approach contends that before she recites morning berachos, she may drink water, tea or coffee, but after she recites morning berachos, she may not even drink these beverages without first reciting Kiddush.

Similarly, the Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso (52:13) rules that a woman who during the week will eat breakfast after reciting brachos (and either doesn’t pray the shemoneh esrei of shachris or does so after breakfast), must then recite kiddush on Shabbos after reciting brachos. After she recites brachos she may not drink even water without first reciting kiddush. Harav Ahron of Belz zy”a (cited in Halichos Bas Yisroel page 223) is also cited as ruling that once a woman recites birchas hatorah she cannot eat without reciting kiddush.

6) The Kaf Hachaim (286:30) contends that the above is only true if a woman intends to fulfill her obligation with brachos alone. However, a woman who plans on davening the full shachris can follow the same approach that men follow, and may drink water, tea or coffee even after she recited berachos before she has davened. He explains that if a woman does not intend to fulfill her obligation of praying with brachos alone and she intends to pray shemoneh esrei, they may still drink water and tea.

English Sefer On Weddings

Hi I am happy to announce that I recently printed 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 order a copy of the sefer please contact me at The price of the sefer is $20 plus shipping and handling. Thank you



Hallel On The Seder Night

1) In some communities the custom is to recite the complete Hallel with a bracha on the first night of Pesach in Israel and the first two nights outside of Israel. This is the custom of those that pray Nusach Eidut Mizrach, Nusach Sefard, and Nusach Hagra. (S.A. 487:4 and M.B. 9)
2) Harav Shmuel Kamanetzky shlit”a explains that even those that recite Hallel in shul on the Seder nights only do so with a minyan. Therefore, if one who davens Nusach Sefard (which recite Hallel) and he did not go to Shul on the Seder night, he should not recite Hallel when he is davening alone at home. (Koveitz Halachos Pesach page 196) However, Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 5:34) proves that many achronim (including the Chida) maintain that one can recite the Hallel without a minyan.
3) There would be a similar question regarding whether women should recite Hallel at home before beginning the Seder. According to Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 5:34) they must recite the full Hallel since they are included in the miracle of leaving Egypt. However, according to Harav Shmuel Kamanetzky shlit”a (Koveitz Halachos Pesach page 196) they would not say it since one only recites it in Shul and women generally do not go to shul on the night of the Seder.
4)  If one is in a shul where they do not recite Hallel and his personal custom is to recite Hallel, he may recite Hallel quietly in the shul. (Chida Birkei Yosef 487:8) However, according to Harav Shmuel Kamanetzky shlit”a (Koveitz Halachos Pesach page 196) it would seem that they should not recite Hallel since they are not reciting it together with the minyan and Harav Shmuel holds that one only recites Hallel in shul on Pesach night with the minyan.

5) What is the halacha if someone’s personal minhag is not to recite the Hallel, but he happens to be in a place where the Hallel is recited?  What should he do then? Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe OC Vol. II #94) writes that if someone finds himself in a shul that recites Hallel it is preferable to recite the Hallel and not act differently so as to avoid Machlokes. He adds that although, ideally he should do so without a blessing, if it will be readily apparent that he is not reciting a blessing, then he should even recite a blessing rather than appear to act differently. Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlit”a (Koveitz Halachos Pesach page 197), however, is of the opinion that it is preferable to leave the shul earlier rather than recite the Hallel earlier. Rav Kamenetsky advises that it is preferable to sneak out of shul undetected.  If this is not possible, he advises to recite Tehillim instead – also in a manner that is not detected.