Monday, August 31, 2009

Halocho #402 - In which hand do we hold the Etrog?

On Sukkoth there's a Mitzvah to shake the four species; a Lulav, 3 Haddasim, 2 Aravot and an Etrog. The Etrog is a citron; Citrus Medica. It is held in ones left hand when shaking the four species, with the stem (where it was cut off the tree) facing downwards. By nature the Etrog tree is very soft (mine buckled during a light Jerusalem snow storm), therefore it is often grafted onto other trees to make it stronger. An Etrog from a grafted tree cannot be used when shaking the four species. (Grafted fruit is Kosher to eat, despite the prohibition against grafting trees.) The Etrog needs to be whole; scratches and dents may invalidate it. The Etrog should not have dark dots on it, though it may have light scabs that are a result of leaves and thorns brushing against it while it grows. (Etrog trees have thorns that grow to about 2" long.) The "nose" of the the Etrog - from where it starts getting narrow - should be perfectly clean. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 174:2, Shulchan Aruch 648 Ktiva Vechatima Tova; wishing you happy year to come - Danny Monday, 11 Elul 5769 Please daven for Rachamim ben Charlotte Jacqueline

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Halocho #401 - Why do we shake the Lulav?

On Sukkoth there's a Mitzvah to shake the four species; a Lulav, 3 Haddasim, 2 Aravot and an Etrog. The Torah commands us to shake the four species on all 7 days of Sukkoth in the Bet Hamikdash (Holy Temple), and on the first day of Sukkoth everywhere else. After the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed, the Rabbis instituted shaking the four species during the entire Sukkoth, Zecher L'Mikdash; in memory of the Temple. One does not shake the four species on Shabbat. The Lulav is a palm branch that is still closed. Once the leaves start fanning out, it's no longer a Lulav. A Lulav has a spine from which the leaves protrude; this spine needs to be facing you when you shake the four species. The Lulav spine should be straight, a slight curvature towards you is allowed. The Lulav spine must be at least 4 Tefachim (32 cm - 13") long. This is measured from the bottom of the lowest "leaf" to the bottom of the highest "leaf". Each "leaf" is made of 2 parts that are connected (and will eventually open up into a V-shaped palm leaf). If these double-leaves start separating then the Lulav may no longer be Kosher. Special care should be taken that the highest leaves remain coupled. Source: Shulchan Aruch 645. Ktiva Vechatima Tova - Danny Sunday, 10 Elul 5769 My son is looking for a job in IT -

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Halocho #400 - Shabbat is a good time for Teshuva

During Elul one gets ready for the upcoming Days of Judgement (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) with a three-pronged approach:

  • Teshuva; repenting.
  • Tefilla; praying.
  • Tzedaka; giving charity.

Learning Torah is a prerequisite for repenting; if one isn't aware of ones obligations, one cannot repent for not doing them, or for doing them incorrectly. Every person has a Mitzva to learn Torah every day and every night. One should concentrate on learning practical Halacha, to review what ones obligations are and to discover their finer details. People who are too busy all week should learn at least one Halacha every day, and one at night. On Shabbat one should spend as much time as possible learning Torah; the less Torah one learns during the week, the more time one should spend learning Torah on Shabbat. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 27:2, 77:24 K'tiva V'chatima Tova; wishing you a year with lots of time to learn Torah, Shabbat Shalom, - Danny Thursday, 7 Elul 5769

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Halocho #399 - Understanding ones prayers

During Elul one gets ready for the upcoming Days of Judgement (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) with a three-pronged approach: - Teshuva; repenting. Improving ones Mitzva observance - Tefilla; praying. Asking Hashem for help and praising and thanking Him for being good to us. - Tzedaka; giving charity to those less fortunate than ourselves. In order to pray properly one needs to understand what one is saying. If one is not fluent in Hebrew, one should get a Siddur and Machzor with an English translation. One should remember that one is praying - talking - to the One Above. If ones thoughts wander during prayers one should pause and recollect ones thoughts. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 18: 3-4. Ktiva Vechatima Tova; with wishes for a Happy New Year, - Danny Wednesday, 6 Elul 5768

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Halocho #398 - Are your Mezuzot Kosher?

Some people have the custom to get their Tefillin and Mezuzot checked yearly during the month of Elul.

At the very least one should check ones Mezuzot twice every 7 years.

Tefillin that are used daily do not need to be checked unless they get wet. However, one should check them every few years since they do wear out eventually.

Tefillin that are only used occasionally should be checked twice every 7 years.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:3, 11:25, 10:26

Ktiva Vechatima Tova
- Danny Tuesday, 5 Elul 5769

Monday, August 24, 2009

Halocho #397 - Forty special days

Doing Teshuva - repenting - is a Mitzva mentioned in the Torah.

Even though Hashem is prepared to accept our Teshuva all year round, the days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippour are an auspicious period for improving ones ways.

This dates back to when Moshe went up to Har Sinai to receive the second set of Luchot; Moshe went up on Rosh Chodesh Elul and returned 40 days later on Yom Kippour with the second set of Luchot.

At the very least one should choose one Mitzva or Halacho to improve on during this period.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128: 1

Ktiva Vechatima Tova

- Danny Monday, 4 Elul 5769

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Halocho #396 - Seasonal greetings in Elul

When writing to friends from the beginning of the month of Elul until after Yom Kippur, one should add seasonal greetings. This can be done at the start or end of the letter. One should wish them - or bless them - with a good year; to be inscribed in the book of good life. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128: 2 Ktiva Vechatima Tova; with wishes for a year full of blessings - Danny Sunday, 3 Elul 5769

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Halocho #395 - Why do we blow the Shofar during Elul

Today - Thursday - is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Today's date is 30 Av 5769. Tomorrow - Friday - will be the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, and first day of the month of Elul. The custom is to blow the Shofar after Shacharit (the morning prayers) from tomorrow, until Thursday , 28 Elul (17 September) , as a reminder to start improving ones Torah observance and to repent for past misdeeds. On Erev Rosh Hashana the Shofar is not blown, so as to create a break between the custom of blowing Shofar in Elul and the Torah-commandment to blow Shofar on Rosh Hashana. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:1, 2 Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom - Danny Thursday, 30 Av, 1st day Rosh Chodesh Elul 5769

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Halocho #394 - Haircuts and cutting nails on Rosh Chodesh

Tonight - Wednesday night - is Rosh Chodesh Elul. Rosh Chodesh Elul will be on Thursday and Friday. Many people follow the Tzava'a (last will) of Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid and do not cut their nails nor have haircuts on Rosh Chodesh. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch follows this opinion. Those who do not cut nails nor have haircuts on Rosh Chodesh, should cut their nails and have hair cuts - today (Wednesday) in honor of Shabbat. Don't forget to add Ya'aleh Veyavo in the Amida and Birkat Hamazon on Rosh Chodesh. Chodesh Tov! Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:14 Chodesh Tov! - Danny Wednesday, 29 Av 5769

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Halocho #393 - Tomorrow is Yom Kippour Kattan

The day before Rosh Chodesh is called Yom Kippour Kattan. Mincha (the afternoon prayers) on Yom Kippour Kattan includes prayers asking for repentance, so as to begin the new month with a "clean slate". Some have the custom to fast on Yom Kippour Kattan. In anticipation of the month of Elul and the upcoming High Holidays, most communities say the Yom Kippour Kattan prayers before Rosh Chodesh Elul, in order to get into the Teshuva (repentance) mood. Tomorrow - Wednesday - is Yom Kippour Kattan. Rosh Chodesh Elul will be on Thursday and Friday. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 97:1, 128:1 Chodesh Tov! - Danny Tuesday, 28 Av 5769

Monday, August 17, 2009

Halocho #392 - Revenge!

Taking revenge is a Torah prohibition. One may not refuse to lend a person something only because that person refused to lend us something. One may not even say to them: "I'm lending you this, despite the fact that you didn't lend me something." The way to take revenge is to become a better person, your good name and sterling character will upset your enemies more than anything else. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 30:7, 8. - Danny Monday, 27 Av 5769

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Halocho #391 - Comforting mourners

It's a great Mitzva to comfort mourners - we learn (Breishis 25:11) that Hashem comforted Yitzchak Avinu when Avraham Avinu died.

When comforting mourners one should not initiate a conversation. It's up to the mourner to speak first.

If a mourner hints that the comforters should leave, they are not permitted to stay.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 207:1

- Danny Sunday, 26 Av 5769

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Halocho #390 - There's a fly in my soup!

Borer is one of the more complicated of the 39 forbidden categories of work on Shabbat. Borer refers to separating bad from the good. Separating good from the bad is less of a problem - though certain condition apply. "Good" being the item wanted now, "bad" being the item not needed / wanted at the moment. If a fly falls into a liquid, one may not remove the fly by itself. One may scoop it out along with some of the liquid; thereby separating some "good" and "bad" from the "good". Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:19 Shabbat Shalom - Danny Thursday, 23 Av 5769

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Halocho #389 - the Bracha on bad news

Upon hearing really bad news one says the Bracha of Dayan Ha'Emet - the True Judge.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
דַּיַּן הָאֱמֶת
This is the Bracha one says when a close relative dies. If the person who died isn't a close friend or relative, one says the abbreviated form:
בָּרוּךְ דַיַּן הָאֱמֶת
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 59:6 - Danny Wednesday, 22 Av 5769
Tamar bat Naama (Bamberger) - תמר בת נעמה passed away yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Halocho #388 - Facing Jerusalem during Davening

One should face Jerusalem during Davening, especially during the silent Amida.

In Jerusalem one should face the Temple Mount, and the place where the Kodesh-Kodashim (the Holies of Holies in the Bet Hamikdash) was.

If one started the Amida facing the wrong direction one may not change direction, though - if practical - one should turn ones face to the correct direction.

If there are non-Jewish religious emblems in ones line of vision, one should pray towards another direction.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 18:10

- Danny Tuesday, 21 Av 5769

Please daven for a complete recovery for Tamar bat Naama - תמר בת נעמה

Monday, August 10, 2009

Halocho #387 - A song of praise - Mizmor L'Thoda

During the week one says מִזְמוֹר לְתוֹדָה - Mizmor L'Thoda (Tehillim Ch. 100) after Hodu. One should stand up while reciting Mizmor L'Thoda. Mizmor L'Thoda should be said with joy - since it replaces the Korban Toda - the thanksgiving offering. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 14:4 Serve Hashem with gladness: come before Him with singing. (Tehillim 100:2) - Danny Monday, 20 Av 5769

Please daven for a complete recovery for Tamar bat Naama - תמר בת נעמה - a 12 year old whose cancer has spread to her lungs.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Halocho #386 - What to do with old Tzitzit

Tzitzit that were removed from a Tallis, or fell off, should not be thrown into the garbage, since they were once used for a Mitzva.

Some people use them as bookmarks.

An old Tallis - even after the Tzitzit are removed - should not be treated disrespectfully, such as being used for a cleaning rag.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 9:19

- Danny Sunday, 19 Av 5769

Please daven for a complete recovery for Tamar bat Naama - תמר בת נעמה

Friday, August 7, 2009

Halocho #385 - The day the Western Lamp was extinguished

In the Bet Hamikdash, a Cohen would light the Menorah every afternoon. Its 7 lamps would burn until morning.

Miraculously, the Ner Ma'aravi - the Western Lamp - would burn all day, even though it was identical to the other 6 lamps. One of the reasons most Shuls have a Ner-Tamid always burning, is to commemorate this miracle.

Forty years before the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash (Holy Temple), in the days of the wicked King Achaz, (father of King Hezekiah), this miracle stopped.

This happened on the 17th of Av (some say on the 18th). As a result, this day was declared as one of the tragic days in our history and is included in the list of days on which it would be appropriate to fast.

Source: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580:1-2, Yoma 39.

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny Erev Shabbat, 17 Av 5769

Please daven for a complete recovery for Tamar bat Naama - תמר בת נעמה

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Halocho #384 - Why is Tu B'Av a joyous day?

A number of joyous events happened over the years on Tu B'Av.

- It was the day the Generation-of-the-Wilderness realized that the sin of the spies had been forgiven, in the year 2488.

- It was the day that the tribes were allowed to intermarry, including orphaned daughters (as per Bemidbar 36:8) once all those who conquered the Land had passed away.

- On the same day the tribe of Binyamin were allowed to intermarry with other tribes, after the scandal of Give'ah (as per Shoftim 19 - 21), around the year 2524.

- It was the day that King Hoshea ben Elah removed the blockades that the wicked King Yerav'am ben Nevat had placed on the roads, preventing the Jews from going to Jerusalem for the Festivals about 75 years earlier, around the year 3040.

- It was the day the Romans allowed those massacred by the wicked Hadrian in Beitar to be buried, some time after he died in 138 (C.E).

- It was the day they stopped chopping wood for the altar in the Bet Hamikdash every year, as it marks the end of "summer" (as per Rashi on Breishis 8:22) and the start of the 2 months of "heat". The wood had to be worm free to be used on the altar, and had to be fully dried before the rainy season.

This gave everybody more time for learning Torah - and therefore Tu B'Av is the Joyous Day of Increased Torah Learning.

Source: The Book of our Heritage, Vol 3 page 307-313

Increase Torah learning on FaceBook; click on invite your Jewish friends to sign up to this Torah group.

- Danny Tuesday, 14 Av 5769, Erev Tu B'Av 5769

Please daven for a complete recovery of Chava Elya Rivka Bat Kayla's eyesight

Monday, August 3, 2009

Halocho #383 - Is Tu B'Av the festival of love?

One does not say Tachanun on Tu B'Av, nor at Mincha the afternoon before. The bride and groom do not fast on their wedding day if it's on Tu B'Av. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 22:8, 146:2 This Wednesday will be Tu B'Av, the day girls went to dance in the vineyards in the hope of attracting a future husband. The only other day this was done was on Yom Kippour, the day Hashem forgave the sin of the Golden Calf. The 15th of Av was the day Hashem forgave the Generation-of-the-Wilderness for the sin of the spies talking evil about the Promised Land. To quote The Book of our Heritage: "Since these 2 days were days of purification from sin, the earlier generations did not hesitate to regard them as days of festivity and dancing for the daughters of Israel... and there was no apprehension lest they breach the fence of chastity and modesty." Source: The Book of our Heritage, Vol 3 page 307 King Saul called his son Yehonathan "Ben N'avat Hamardut", son of the rebellious outgoing one, because Achinoam noticed that Saul was too shy to approach any of the girls dancing, so she approached him. Source: Rashi on Shmuel-1, 20:30 - Danny Monday, 13 Av 5769

Please daven for a complete recovery for Tamar bat Naama - תמר בת נעמה

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Halocho #382 - What is a Zecher L'Churban?

After the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash (Temple) certain types of joy were forbidden and certain acts of mourning were instituted "Zecher L'Churban" - as a reminder of the destruction. One may not plaster ones entire house; a square Ama (~50 cm x 50 cm) of wall opposite [or above] the front door should be left bare to recall the destruction. The reason many people don't do so nowadays is unclear. A woman should never wear all her jewelry at the same time. Some ashes are put on a groom's head before the Chuppa (wedding ceremony) on the spot he usually wears his Tefilin. A bride's veil should not have gold nor silver threads. A plate is broken at the engagement, and a cup under the Chuppa. All these [and more] are done Zecher L'Churban - as a reminder of the destruction. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 126:1,2 - Danny Sunday, 12 Av 5769

Please daven for a complete recovery for Bracha Elisheva bas Kayla - a young mother in urgent need of a Refu'a Sheleimah