Sunday, March 28, 2010

Halocho #543 - Erev Pessach check-list

Tomorrow - Monday - is Erev Pessach; a busy day.

- Remember to light a 26-hour candle (or leave on a flame on the stove) so that you can light Shabbat candles on Tuesday evening, if you live outside Israel .

- For details of the Fast of the Firstborn see Halocho #540

- Prepare the Salt Water for the Seder.

- Roast the Egg and Bone.

- Open the boxes of Matza, so as not to tear writing on Yom Tov.

- Ensure the wine bottles can be opened on Yom Tov without tearing any writing; else open them beforehand.

- Ensure Challa has been separated from the Matza to be used on Yom Tov

- Make the Charoset.

One does not say מִזְמוֹר לְתוֹדָה nor לַמְנַצֵּחַ from Erev Pessach until Isru Chag.

One may not eat Chametz after 1/3 of the day - and then one needs to burn ones Chametz and say Kol Chamira declaring all Chametz one owns to be ownerless like dust.

Work that may not be done on Chol Hamo'ed may not be done on Erev Pessach after noon. See Halocho #525 and #528 for details.

One may not eat Matza on Erev Pessach.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 113: 1 - 5

Wishing everybody a meaningful and enjoyable Pessach

- Danny
Sunday, 13 Nissan 5770 - tonight is Bedikat Chametz night

The next Halocho-a-Day is scheduled for after Pessach, Wednesday, 23 Nissan

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Halocho #542 - The great Shabbat Hagadol

Today, 10 Nissan, in the year 2449, the Jews in Egypt selected lambs for their Pessach sacrifice.

Forty years later, on 10 Nissan, the prophetess Miriam - sister of Aaron and Moshe - died.

A year later on 10 Nissan, the Jews crossed the Jordan river, as recorded in Joshua 3-4.

The Jews in Egypt were commanded to take home a lamb for their pre-Exodus Seder on 10 Nissan, four days before it was going to be sacrificed.

It was a miracle that the Egyptians didn't harm the Jews when they did this, since lambs were considered sacred objects in Egypt.

Since we left Egypt on Thursday 15 Nissan, this miracle happened on a Shabbat. To commemorate this miracle, the Shabbat before Pessach is called Shabbat Hagadol - the Great Shabbat - and a special Haftara is read; the last chapter in Malachi which predicts the future redemption, may we merit it in our days.

The custom is to read the narrative section of the Haggada - from Avadim Hayinu (we were slaves) until (but not including) Rabban Gamliel's admonition to say "Pesach, Matza and Marror" - at Mincha on Shabbat Hagadol.

Source: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 430

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny
Thursday, 10 Nissan 5770

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Halocho #541 - Should one use a candle for Bedikat Chametz?

On Sunday night one may not do any work, nor eat anything, until one has checked the house for Chametz.

Before one starts searching the house for Chametz the entire house needs to be cleaned, and the Chametz that one plans to use until mid-morning on Monday morning needs to be put in a secure place.

First one says the Bracha

"אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל בִּעוּר חָמֵץ"
"… to destroy Chametz", since the point of the search is to rid the house of Chametz.

After the search is complete one says “Kol Chamira” declaring that "all Chametz one isn’t aware of " to be “ownerless and worthless like dust”.

This declaration constitutes a Halachic “destroying Chametz”, which is why one shouldn’t interrupt between the Bracha, the searching and the Kol Chamira with anything not related to the search.

One may appoint other members of the household to help with the search, as long as they are over Bar/Bat Mitzva.

The search is done using a single candle which provides the optimal light for searching. A torch (like a Havdala candle) is not allowed – as it’s a fire hazard and it gives a flickering light – and if it was used one needs to redo the search.

Search under all furniture, inside all closets, pockets of all clothes worn in the past year, schoolbags, purses, cars and anywhere else where Chametz could have been placed accidentally or purposely by adults, children or toddlers.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 111:1-10

There is no need to turn off the electric lights while searching with a candle, since with more light it’s easier to find Chametz.

After searching with a candle in those places where it’s safe and convenient to do so, one should continue with a flashlight, so that one can search safely and calmly without fear of burning down the house.

Source: Rabbi Shimon Eider zt”l, Halachos of Pessach, Vol. 1, page 86

- Danny
Wednesday, 9 Nissan 5770

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Halocho #540 - Why do the firstborns fast?

Why don't firstborns celebrate the fact that they were saved from the 10th plague - the smiting of Egyptian firstborns?

On Erev Pessach - Monday next week - all firstborns will fast in memory of them fasting in Egypt on Erev Pessach, to ensure they wouldn't be punished along with the Egyptians in the 10th plague.

The Hallel said at the Seder includes praise for their delivery.

All firstborn males fast; even if they're only a firstborn to one of their parents.

Even firstborns who are exempt from Pidyon haBen - like Cohanim, Levites or being born after a stillborn - also have to fast.

The father of a young firstborn needs to fast for him.

Whether a firstborn (or his father) may attend a Se'udat Mitzva like a Siyum, Brit or Pidyon haBen and break his fast to participate in the meal, depends on local / family custom.

After breaking his fast, he can eat the rest of the day.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 113:6, 115:2

- Danny
Tuesday, 8 Nissan 5770

Get the Ohr Sameach Pessach handbook at

Monday, March 22, 2010

Halocho #539 - Selling Chametz to a non-Jew

Since most of us don't want to start selling Chametz on Erev Pessach, one can go to most local Rabbis and appoint them as a messenger to sell our Chametz.

The Rabbi will make a legal sale of the Chametz including a legal document and a deposit. Realize that this is a bona fide sale, and that the non-Jew is entitled to come to our homes and request we hand over our Chametz, as has occasionally happened.

After Pessach the Rabbi goes to the non-Jew and asks to be paid the remainder of the debt and offers to buy back the Chametz from the non-Jew at a higher price. Since the non-Jew usually prefers to make a quick profit rather than paying for hundreds of items scattered throughout the city, he will sell the Chametz to the Rabbi.

One should only sell Chametz and not the containers it's in - especially not containers that require Tevila, like metal and glass, otherwise one would need to Toivel them in a Mikva after Pessach, since they belonged to a non-Jew during Pessach.

Chametz that has been sold (via the Rabbi) must be locked away so that one doesn't accidentally use it, which would be a double problem: Chametz on Pessach and stealing from the non-Jew.

Even if one has no intention of keeping Chametz in ones home, one should still go to a Rabbi to appoint him to sell ones Chametz. Why?

A lot of products may be Chametz contrary to popular belief - depending on the latest production methods - like medications, creams, soaps or even food which one discovers later wasn't really Kosher for Pessach.

During Pessach one may discover Chametz that one wasn't aware of, or forgot to get rid of in the last-minute pre-Pessach rush.

If one sold all ones Chametz then one didn't own any during Pessach.

Chametz that belonged to a Jew during Pessach may not be used after Pessach. This is a Rabbinical decree; a punishment for owning the Chametz.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 114

- Danny
Monday, 7 Nissan 5770

Please daven for a Refua Shelema for 3 years old Tania Mazal Tov bat Naomi

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Halocho #538 - Is burning Chametz wasteful?

The Torah forbids us to waste or destroy items that can still be used.

The Torah commands us to burn - or otherwise destroy - all Chametz in our possession on Erev Pessach morning.

Can we reconcile these 2 Halachot?

The Mitzva to destroy Chametz can be fulfilled with a bare minimum of Chametz; preferably with leftovers that nobody would be able to use. Usable Chametz can be donated to various charity organizations which will distribute it to the needy.

Alternately Chametz can be sold to a non-Jew. More about that tomorrow.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 144

- Danny
Sunday, 6 Nissan 5770

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Halocho #537 - Untying knots

Untying knots is one of the 39 forbidden categories of work forbidden on Shabbat.

Any type of knot that you may not tie on Shabbat (as we learned in Halocho #508 - Knots on Shabbat) you are not allowed to undo on Shabbat.

In case of great need/discomfort you may ask a non-Jew to untie knots.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:46

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny
Thursday, 3 Nissan 5770

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Halocho #536 - Bless the blossoms

During the month of Nissan trees start to blossom (in the Northern hemisphere).

The first time a year that one sees edible fruit trees blossoming one says:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱ-לקינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם - Blessed are you Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe,

שֶׁלֹּא חִסַּר בָּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם - for nothing is lacking in His universe,

וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת  - and He created in it good creatures and good trees,

לְהַנּוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם- to cause mankind pleasure with them.

Once the flowers have fallen off and the fruit is visible then one can no longer say this Brocho.

One makes this Bracha only once a year.

Source: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 226:1,

- Danny
Wednesday, 2 Nissan 5770

Win a $5,000 Scholarship from -

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Halocho #535 - Rosh Chodesh Nissan

Today - Tuesday - is the first day of the first month - Nissan.

Don't forget Hallel and יַעֲלֶה וְיָבא

Today - 1 Nissan - was the last of the 8 inaugural days of the Mishkan (tabernacle) and the first day that Aaron served as Cohen Gadol (high priest) and his 4 sons as Cohanim.

That same day, two of them - Nadav and Avihu - brought an offering not in accordance with Halacha and were killed by a heavenly fire.

Today the heads of the 12 tribes started bringing their inaugural sacrifices - one prince each day. Some people have the custom of reading that days sacrifice during the first 12 days of Nissan. This can be found in the Siddur as the Torah Reading for Chanuka.

One does not say Tachanun during the entire month of Nissan.

One may not fast during Nissan, with the following exceptions:

- Firstborns fast on Erev Pessach.

- Fasting for distressingly bad dreams.

- Couples getting married during Nissan. Even today - Rosh Chodesh - they fast, whereas on any other Rosh Chodesh the bride and groom do not fast.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 107:1,2

Chodesh Tov!

- Danny
Tuesday, Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5770

Please daven for a complete recovery for Yakov ben Rachel

Monday, March 15, 2010

Halocho #534 - Finding Chametz on Pessach

Chametz is Muktzah on Pessach, since it may not be used for anything.

Chametz (that was not sold to a non-Jew) found in ones possession on Pessach needs to be burned.

If one finds Chametz on Yom Tov or Shabbat during Pessach, (to ensure that one doesn't eat it accidentally), one covers it with a bowl until after Havdalah - and then one burns it.

When burning Chametz on Pessach one says the Bracha of "Al Bi'ur Chametz" if the Chametz is the size of a Kezayit (size of an olive) or larger.

Chametz found on the closing Yom Tov of Pessach, must be burned after Pessach without a Bracha.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 111:17

Chodesh Tov; tonight is Rosh Chodesh Nissan

- Danny
Monday, 29 Adar 5770

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Halocho #533 - The second day of Pessach

On the second night of Pessach we start counting the 49 days of Sefirat Ha'Omer; culminating with Shavuoth.

On the second day of Pessach one should do something at the meal to commemorate Queen Esther's second feast, which ended with the wicked Haman being hanged on that day.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 103:6

- Danny
Sunday, 28 Adar 5770

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Halocho #532 - Is January the first month?

This Shabbos we take out 2 Sifrei Torah. In the first we will read the double Parsha of Vayakel-Pekudai and in the second we will read Parshat Hachodesh (Exodus Ch. 12, Verses 1-20).

Parshat Hachodesh reminds us of the following upcoming Mitzvot:

- The month of Nissan (which begins on Tuesday) is the first month on the Jewish calendar, as the opening words of Parshat Hachodesh proclaim: "This month is for you the first month".

- The laws of Korban Pessach; sacrificed on Erev Pessach in the afternoon, it had to be roasted whole and then eaten on the first night of Pessach with Matza and Marror (bitter herbs).

- Leftovers had to be burnt on the first day of Chol Hamo'ed.

- Matza needs to be made carefully to ensure it doesn't become Chametz (leaven).

- The first and last days of Pessach are Yom Tov.

- One may not own Chometz, nor eat it, during Pessach.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 140:2

Shabbat Shalom uMevorach

- Danny
Thursday, 25 Adar 5770

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Halocho #531 - Two for the price of one

The last time the Torah Reading consisted of a double-Parsha was the week before Rosh Hashana; Shabbat Nitzavim-Vayelech.

This week we once again have a double Parsha: Vayakel-Pekudei.

This year all the "candidates" are doubled except for Chukat-Balak. (In Israel, Chukat-Balak are never joined.)

Whenever there's a double Parsha, they are joined during the 4th Aliya.

When there is a double Parsha, we usually read the Haftara of the second Parsha. This week is an exception, since it's also Shabbat Hachodesh.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 79:6

- Danny
Wednesday, 24 Adar 5770

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Halocho #530 - The Seder night menu

On Seder night there's a Mitzva in the Torah to eat a piece of Korban Pessach on Matza with Marror (bitter herbs).

Until the Bet Hamikdash (temple) is rebuilt we only have the Matza and Marror.

The minimum Torah requirement is to eat a Kezayit (an olive's worth) of Matza, which is approximately one-third of a square machine-Matza.

At a typical Seder it's customary to eat 2 Kezeitim for Motzi-Matza, a 3rd for the Hillel-sandwich and a fourth for the Afikomen.

On Seder night there's also a Rabbinic requirement to drink 4 cups of wine.

All the above - besides for the Marror - must be eaten while leaning on ones left side.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 119:4, 5, 7

May we merit to eat the Korban Pessach soon, in our lifetime.

- Danny
Tuesday, 23 Adar 5770

Monday, March 8, 2010

Halocho #529 - Storytelling is a Mitzva

At the Seder one reads the entire Haggada.

However, there's no Mitzva per se, to read the Haggada.

There's a Mitzva in the Torah to tell ones children the story of the Exodus from Egypt in Question-Answer format on Seder night.

The Haggada gives a framework so that one covers all required parts of the story, which is why it's important to understand and explain all those parts of the Haggada that recount the slavery, 10 plagues and deliverance, in a language that all participants understand.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 119:4
- Danny
Monday, 22 Adar 5770

Please daven for Barak Nachman ben Aviva, a father of 4 in critical condition

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Halocho #528 - Writing on Chol Hamo'ed

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

Writing is only allowed in cases of need:

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.

- Danny
Sunday, 21 Adar 5770

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Halocho #527 - What color is a Red Heifer?

This Shabbat a second Sefer Torah is taken out for Maftir and the laws of Para Aduma – the Red Heifer – are read. (The beginning of Parshat Chukat, Numbers 19:1-22)

There are opinions that it’s a Torah obligation to hear it being read, and people who don’t have access to a Minyan should find one this week.

A Kosher Para Aduma is a (female) cow past its second birthday that is completely ginger-brown. Even two white or black hairs near each other would invalidate it.

The cow is slaughtered and burnt and the ashes mixed with spring water and sprinkled on people who come in contact with a corpse, on the third and seventh day of their purification process.

This was a prerequisite for access to the Bet Hamikdash (Temple).

Since there’s a Mitzva to go into the Bet Hamikdash on Pessach, we read this in anticipating of being able to implement it this year, or at least Bimhera Beyomainu – soon in our lifetime.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 140:2-3, Mishna Masechet Para, Ch. 1, Rambam Hil. Para Ch. 1

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny
Thursday, 18 Adar 5770

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Halocho #526 - Can Matza be folded?

Matza is made from flour and water. Nothing else.

The water is drawn from a well or spring the night before it is used. The water for Sunday's baking is drawn on Thursday night.

The flour is ground from wheat that was harvested while still slightly green; once wheat is fully ripe it can become Chametz (leaven) even before being harvested, if it comes into contact with water.

The wheat needs to be ground into flour at least 24 hours before it is used, to give it time to cool down.

18 minutes after water is added to flour, the dough becomes Chametz. Matza baking happens in 18-minute batches after which all equipment is thoroughly cleaned to remove all traces of dough.

Matza used at the Seder needs to be made with the intention of it being used for a Mitzva; everybody involved in its production says "L'shem Mitzvat Matza" (for the purpose of the Mitzva of Matza) before all activities.

If a Matza has a fold in it, or a bubble more than a finger high (2.5 cm), then the fold or bubble are considered Chametz and need to be broken off and disposed of. The rest of the Matza can be eaten.

One is forbidden to eat Matza on Erev Pessach. Most people have the custom to stop eating Matza from Rosh Chodesh Nissan already. Some don't eat Matza an entire month before Pessach.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: 108, 109, 110

- Danny
Wednesday, 17 Adar 5770

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Halocho #525 - 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 honor Chol Hamo'ed properly. Honoring 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 other days of Chol Hamo'ed or for 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.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 104.

- Danny
Tuesday, 16 Adar 5770