Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Halocho #644 - Chol Hamo'ed; Chol or Mo'ed?

The intermediary days of Pessach and Sukkot are known as Chol Hamo'ed. Some types of work are permitted, others are forbidden.

Chazal (our Rabbis of blessed memory) have some harsh words for those who don't honour Chol Hamo'ed properly. Honouring Chol Hamo'ed includes eating meals and wearing clothes that are closer to Yom Tov standards than regular weekday standards.

On Chol Hamo'ed one may do all work needed to prevent a monetary loss.

Preparing food for Chol Hamo'ed or the last days of Yom Tov is allowed.

Gardening is forbidden besides for picking fruit for Chol Hamo'ed or Yom Tov, and to prevent plants dying, e.g. if they need to be irrigated. Planting is forbidden.

Cutting hair is forbidden on Chol Hamo'ed. Cutting nails is only allowed if one also cut them before Yom Tov.

Writing down information so that it won't be forgotten is allowed. Writing letters to friends and family is allowed. The custom is to write the first line at an angle as a reminder that writing is only partially permitted.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 104.

Ktiva Vechatima Tova

- Danny
Wednesday, 22 Elul 5770

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Halocho #643 - If it rains, does one sleep in the Sukkah?

Since the Mitzvah of Sukkah is to move out of the house and into the Sukkah for the duration of Sukkoth, one should really sleep in the Sukkah.

People who are meticulous about their Mitzvah observance will not even take a nap outside the Sukkah. Their entire family moves into the Sukkah; husband, wife and children.

There are numerous reasons why not to sleep in a Sukkah. However, if the Sukkah is not fit for sleeping (e.g. it's too dangerous) then the Sukkah is not Kosher even for eating in.

The slightest precipitation renders the Sukkah unfit for sleeping and one should then sleep indoors. Once one lies down inside one is exempt from returning to the Sukkah the entire night, even if the Sukkah subsequently dries.

Women are exempt from the Mitzvah of Sukkah, as it's a time-bound Mitzvah.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 135:8, 9, 10

Ktiva Vechatima Tova; wishing you a year with lots of time to learn Torah,

- Danny
Monday, 20 Elul 5770

Halocho #642 - Tell me about the Lulav

On Sukkoth there's a Mitzvah to shake the four species; a Lulav, 3 Haddasim, 2 Aravot and an Etrog.

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, 19 Elul 5770

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Halocho #641 - May one smell an Etrog?

One does not shake the four species on Shabbat.

The Lulav, Haddasim and Aravot are Muktza on Shabbat.

The Etrog is not Muktza and one may smell it on Shabbat - after making the Bracha of:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
הַנּוֹתֵן רֵיחַ טוֹב בַּפֵּרוֹת

On the other days of Sukkoth one should not smell the Etrog.

One should not smell the Haddasim during the entire 7 days of Sukkoth.

An Etrog may be returned to its wrapping on Shabbat and Yom Tov, but may not be wrapped in a new wrapper - since the wrapper will absorb the aroma of the Etrog - and one may not add aroma to materials on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 137:7

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny
Thursday, 16 Elul 5770

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Halocho #640 - Tell me about the Aravot

On Sukkoth there's a Mitzvah to shake the four species; a Lulav, 3 Haddasim, 2 Aravot and an Etrog.

The Arava comes from a known type of willow tree with long leaves, non-serrated edges, and its bough turns red when mature.

The Arava must be at least 3 Tefachim (24 cm - 10") long.

If possible one should get Aravot from a tree that grows alongside a river.

Willows dry up very quickly. A wilted Arava is not Kosher. Some say that once its leaves start drooping it is not fresh enough to be a Kosher Arava.

Many have the Minhag to get fresh Aravot every day of Chol Hamo'ed Sukkoth.

An Arava is no longer Kosher if most of its leaves have come off, or its tip is cut off.

This can happen if they are wilted, have been shaken too hard or while replacing them.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 136:5, 6, 7 and 137:6

Ktiva Vechatima Tova; wishing you a healthy, wealthy year to come,

- Danny
Wednesday, 15 Elul 5770

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Halocho #639 - Tell me about the Haddas - Myrtle?

On Sukkoth there's a Mitzvah to shake the four species; a Lulav, 3 Haddasim, 2 Aravot and an Etrog.

Each Haddas is a branch of a myrtle bush, and must be at least 3 Tefachim (24 cm - 10") long.

Myrtle leaves grow on the stem in groups of three or more. A Kosher Haddas needs to be Meshulash; with each group of leaves growing out of the branch at exactly the same height.

Preferably the Haddas should be Meshulash its entire length, though it's Kosher if only the top half is Meshulash.

The entire Haddas needs to be covered in leaves, the top of the lower leaves must reach the bottom of the higher ones.

Myrtle bushes have berries growing on them. A Haddas should not have any berries on it; berries should be removed (with their stems) before Yom Tov.

Make sure that the top of the Haddas is not cut off, it usually ends in a set of tiny leaves.

Haddasim need to be kept fresh; dried out Haddasim are not Kosher.

Source: Shulchan Aruch 646.

Ktiva Vechatima Tova; wishing you a year full of good news,

- Danny
Tuesday, 14 Elul 5770

Monday, August 23, 2010

Halocho #638 - Tell me about 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 one's 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

- Danny
Monday, 13 Elul 5770

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Halocho #637 - Understanding one's 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 one's thoughts wander during prayers one should pause and recollect one's thoughts.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 18: 3-4.

Ktiva Vechatima Tova; with wishes for a Happy New Year,

- Danny
Sunday, 12 Elul 5770

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Halocho #636 - Vinegar

Vinegar made from non-Kosher wine or grape juice is not Kosher.

Vinegar made from Kosher wine or grape juice that was not boiled, can still become non-Kosher if a non-Jew touches it, unless it's so strong that it bubbles when poured onto the ground.

On Shabbat it's forbidden to add liquids into vinegar with the intent of making more vinegar.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:56, 47:10

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny
Thursday, 9 Elul 5770

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Halocho #635 - 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
Wednesday, 8 Elul 5770

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Halocho #634 - Talking can kill you!

According to some opinions, today (7 Elul) the 10 spies died as a punishment for talking evil about the land of Israel.

Any speech that can result in a person being harmed - emotionally, financially or otherwise - even if it's true - is usually forbidden.

When there's a real need for the information to be passed on - e.g. to prevent harm to others - it is often permitted to relay the information. One needs to learn the Halachot of when this applies, since sometimes it's forbidden to withhold the information, other times it's forbidden to relay the information.

Source: Orach Chaim 580:2, Chofetz Chaim, Hil. Shmiras Halashon, Intro.

Ktiva Vechatima Tova

- Danny
Tuesday, 7 Elul 5770

Monday, August 16, 2010

Halocho #633 - Excel in one Mitzva

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, 6 Elul 5770

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Halocho #632 - Good year wishes

From the beginning of the month of Elul until after Yom Kippur, one should add seasonal greetings when writing to friends.

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, 5 Elul 5770

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Halocho #631 - Removing nails and hangnails on Shabbat

One may not cut off hangnails on Shabbat; not with an instrument, nor by hand and not even by biting it off.

(Hangnail: A small piece of dead skin at the side or the base of a fingernail that is partly detached from the rest of the skin.)

One may not cut nails on Shabbat. If a nail is partly disconnected it may not be detached on Shabbat.

If a nail is almost completely detached - and will eventually fall off - and it's causing discomfort, one can remove it by hand but not with an instrument.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:55

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny
Thursday, 2 Elul 5770

Please daven for the complete recovery of
Sara bat Hodda
who will be going for a bone marrow transplant today

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Halocho #630 - When do Selichot start?

This morning - Rosh Chodesh Elul - we started blowing the Shofar.

Starting tomorrow - Thursday - Sefardim say Selichot before Shacharit and continue doing so the entire month of Elul until Erev Yom Kippour.

This year Selichot - for Ashkenazim - start on Sunday (26 Elul / 5 September), 4 days before Rosh Hashana.

Selichot should be said before Shacharit, towards the end of the night. The end of the night is an "Et Ratzon"; an auspicious time when Hashem is more receptive to listening to ones prayers.

When arising for Selichot one should wash ones hands even if it's still night, and make the Bracha "Al Netilat Yadayim".

One should say the 2 Brachot of Birkat haTorah before saying Selichot.

After Selichot one should wash ones hands again (if the first washing was pre-dawn), but one does not repeat the Bracha.

One should preferably stand during Selichot; during the "Kel Melech Yoshev", 13 Middot and the Viddui one must stand.

The Chazzan for Selichot should preferably be a Torah Scholar, well liked and if possible married with children and over 30 years of age. However, any Jew can be a Chazzan as long as the community approves. The same applies to the Chazzan for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippour as well as the person blowing the Shofar.

Selichot are not said on Shabbat.

Source: Shulchan Aruch 581, 1

Ktiva Vechatima Tova; may all your prayers be answered,

Chodesh Tov

- Danny
Wednesday, 2nd day Rosh Chodesh Elul 5770

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Halocho #629 - Why do we blow the Shofar during Elul

Today - Tuesday - is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Today's date is 30 Av 5770.

Tomorrow - Wednesday - is the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, and first day of the month of Elul.

The next 40 days, starting tomorrow, correspond to the 40 days that Moshe spent on Har Sinai, to receive the 2nd set of Luchot (Tablets with the 10 commandments written on them).

Moshe came down with these Luchot on Yom Kippur. Ever since, these 40 days are especially auspicious for Teshuva; repenting.

The custom is to blow the Shofar after Shacharit (the morning prayers) from tomorrow, until Tuesday, 28 Elul (7 September) , as a reminder to start improving one's Torah observance and to repent for past misdeeds.

On Erev Rosh Hashana the Shofar is not blown, in order 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

- Danny
Tuesday, 1st day Rosh Chodesh Elul 5770

Monday, August 9, 2010

Halocho #628 - Erev Rosh Chodesh!

The 2 days of Rosh Chodesh Elul begins tonight - Monday night.

One needs to add Ya'a'leh VeYavo - יעלה ויבא in the 17th Bracha of the Amida - רצה.

If one forgot to do so during the Amida of Ma'ariv (evening prayers) - on either day - one does not need to make amends; since the Sanhedrin did not sanctify the month at night.

If one forgot to do so during Shachrit (morning prayers) or Mincha (afternoon prayers), then one has to return to the 17th Bracha of the Amida - רצה and make amends.

If one already finished the Amida - by saying Yihyu leRatzon - יהיו לרצון - then one needs to restart the Amida.

One also needs to add Ya'a'leh VeYavo - יעלה ויבא - in Birkat Hamazon

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 19:10

Chodesh Tov!

- Danny
Monday, 29 Menachem Av 5770

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Halocho #627 - 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 - Monday - is Yom Kippour Kattan. Rosh Chodesh Elul will be on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 97:1, 128:1

- Danny
Sunday, 28 Menachem Av 5770

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Halocho #626 - Watering meat on Shabbat

Meat has to Kashered (soaked, salted and rinsed to remove the blood) within 3 days of being slaughtered.

If this is not possible then the meat has to be hosed down every 3 days.

It is forbidden to hose down meat on Shabbat, however one may ask a non-Jew to do so, to prevent the meat from becoming forbidden.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:56

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny
Thursday, 25 Menachem Av 5770

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Halocho #625 - Wash your face daily

Upon awakening one should wash ones hands from a cup, alternating between the right and left hand until each hand is washed 3 times.

Two reasons are given:
- You are starting a new day of serving Hashem; similar to a Cohen who had to wash his hands before serving in the Bet Hamikdash.

- Part of the soul leaves the body when one sleeps, therefore sleeping is considered a mini-death which generates impurity which needs to be washed away.

One should then wash ones face in honor of one's Maker, since the Pasuk says that man was created in Hashem's image.

One should be careful to dry ones hands and face, for health reasons.

One should also rinse ones mouth, in anticipation of saying Hashem's name during prayers.

On fast-days one may not rinse ones mouth.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 2:1, 3, 121:10

- Danny
Wednesday, 24 Menachem Av 5770

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Halocho #624 - May one say Tehillim by heart?

The Torah is divided into two parts: The written-law (Tanach) and the oral-law (Mishna and Gemara).

Even if one knows parts of the written-law by heart, one should be careful not say them without a text.

The exception being those verses that everybody knows by heart, like those Tehillim said often during prayers like אשרי

If possible, one should pray from a Siddur, since Davening includes many verses that not everybody knows by heart.

Blind people are allowed to say everything by heart.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 1:6

- Danny
Tuesday, 23 Menachem Av 5770

Monday, August 2, 2010

Halocho #623 - When to get up in the morning

If possible, one should awaken at midnight and say Tikun Chatzot; lamenting the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and the resultant loss of Torah learning as well as the numerous Mitzvot we can no longer do.

If getting up at midnight is not an option, one should get up before dawn to say Tikun Chatzot.

After Tikun Chatzot one should learn some Torah; Mishna or Tehillim or Mussar.

At the very latest one needs to awaken in time to get to shul before they start morning prayers.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 1:5

- Danny
Monday, 22 Menachem Av 5770

Please daven for the complete recovery of Bracha Beila bat Miriam

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Halocho #622 - Are you bored? Do a Mitzvah!

There's a Mitzvah to be aware of Hashem's presence all the time.

Any time one thinks of Hashem and the fact that He runs the world and that He is aware of our every movement and thought, one fulfills a Mitzvah.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 1:1

- Danny
Sunday, 21 Menachem Av 5770

Please daven for the complete recovery of Shmuel Chaim ben Mirel