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 / 25 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 "Eth Ratzon"; an auspicious time when Hashem is more receptive to listening to one's prayers.
When arising for Selichot one should wash one's 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,
Wednesday, 2nd day Rosh Chodesh Elul 5771
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Today - Tuesday - is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Today's date is 30 Av 5771
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 (27 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 division 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
Tuesday, 1st day Rosh Chodesh Elul 5771
Monday, August 29, 2011
The 2 days of Rosh Chodesh Elul begin tonight - Monday night.
One needs to add Ya'a'leh VeYavo - יעלה ויבא - into the 17th Bracha of the Amida - רצה.
If one forgets 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 forgets to do so during Shacharit (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'aleh VeYavo - יעלה ויבא - into Birkat Hamazon
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 19:10
Monday, 29 Menachem Av 5771
Sunday, August 28, 2011
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
Sunday, 28 Menachem Av 5771
Thursday, August 25, 2011
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
Thursday, 25 Menachem Av 5771
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Upon awakening one should wash one's 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 one's 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 one's hands and face, for health reasons.
One should also rinse one's mouth, in anticipation of saying Hashem's name during prayers.
On fast-days one may not rinse one's mouth.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 2:1, 3, 121:10
Wednesday, 24 Menachem Av 5771
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
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
Tuesday, 23 Menachem Av 5771
Monday, August 22, 2011
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
Monday, 22 Menachem Av 5771
Sunday, August 21, 2011
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
Sunday, 21 Menachem Av 5771
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Fresh fruit is always Kosher, however it may have an Orlo problem, as per yesterday and Sunday's Halocho.
When in doubt if the tree is less than 4 years old:
- In Israel the fruit from such a tree is forbidden. (This is one of the reasons that fruit needs Rabbinic Supervision in Israel. Other issues include Shmita, "Neta Revo'i" and the separation of Terumot and Ma'asrot.)
- Outside of Israel the fruit is allowed, as long as you don’t pick it yourself. This is the way Moshe was given the Halocho at Har Sinai.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 173:2, Mishna Orlo, 3:9
Wednesday, 17 Menachem Av 5771
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Orlo - ערלה - is the Torah prohibition of eating fruit from tress less than 3 years old, as per Sunday's Halocho.
In the 4th year the fruit is called "Neta Revo'i" - נטע רבעי - and needs to be "redeemed" by transferring its status onto a coin. The coin needs to be worth at least a "Peruta" (0.025 grams of pure silver; about 3¼ US pennies at today's rate.)
One says "I am redeeming the Neta Revo'i into this coin". The coin is then destroyed and disposed of. Instead of a coin one can use fruit worth about 4 pennies, which then needs to be destroyed.
After redeeming them, the "Neta Revo'i" (4th year fruit) can be eaten, anywhere by anybody.
Sources: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 173:2, Mishna Orlo, 3:9
Tuesday, 16 Menachem Av 5771
Monday, August 15, 2011
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 (and one does not say Tachanun on Tu B'Av.)
Source: The Book of our Heritage, Vol 3 page 307-313
Increase Torah learning on FaceBook; invite your Jewish friends to sign up to this Torah group.
Monday, ט"ו באב - 15 Menachem Av 5771
Sunday, August 14, 2011
For 3 years after planting a tree, one may not eat its fruit, nor derive any benefit from the fruit, peels or pits. This is a Torah prohibition and applies to trees planted anywhere on the planet by anybody.
How to count these 3 years:
- Trees planted until Tu B'av (tomorrow - 15th of the month of Av; 45 days before Rosh Hashana) have their first birthday on Rosh Hashana, and 2 years later they turn "three years old".
- Trees planted less than 45 days before Rosh Hashana need to count three years from their first Rosh Hashana.
The laws of Orlo apply to trees grown from shoots or pits, and sometimes to trees that have been replanted. A tree that was cut and its stump is less than 1 Tefach (about 9 cm - 3.5 inches) high becomes Orlo again.
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, 173:1,3,4
Sunday, 14 Menachem Av 5771
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Usually the Haftara is connected to the weekly Torah Reading.
During the 7 weeks following the fast of 9 B'Av we read the Seven Haftarot of Consolation from Yeshayahu.
This Shabbat is named after the opening words of the first of the Seven Haftarot of Consolation: נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ עַמִּי - Hashem instructs the prophet Yeshayahu to "Console, console My people". (Isaiah Ch. 40)
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:4, 22:8,
Thursday, 11 Menachem Av 5771
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
We mourn and fast on 9 B'Av since the Bet Hamikdash was burned to the ground. The fire was ignited on 9 B'Av in the afternoon and burned throughout the 10th of Av.
Therefore the restrictions of "the 9 days" continue until after midday on the 10th of Av (today - Wednesday).
The custom is to refrain from eating meat and wine, bathing, doing laundry, shaving and haircuts, saying Shehechiyanu and listening to music until Wednesday after noon.
One may make a Se'udat Mitzvah (like a Brit) in the morning, with meat and wine.
(When 9 B'Av is on Thursday - as will happen in 9 years time if the Bet Hamikdash is not yet rebuilt - then these Halalchot are slightly different.)
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 124:20-22
Wednesday, 10 Menachem Av 5771
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
On Tish'a B'Av it is forbidden to learn Torah, since Torah learning gladdens the heart.
One may learn Halachot related to the day itself and study stories related to the destruction of the Bet haMikdash.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 124:5
Tuesday, 9 Av 5771
Monday, August 8, 2011
On 9 B'Av (from sunset today - Monday afternoon - until nightfall on Tuesday evening) almost everybody needs to fast.
Pregnant and nursing mothers need to fast on 9 B'Av even if it causes them discomfort, unless it's dangerous to their health.
When in doubt, consult your LOR (Local Orthodox Rabbi).
During the first 7 days after childbirth, a mother is not allowed to fast.
Anybody who isn't healthy should only fast for a few hours. This includes a mother between 7 and 30 days after childbirth unless she feels up to fasting. When in doubt, consult your LOR.
Children are not allowed to fast.
Those who are not fasting should limit their food intake to the bare minimum; only bread and water if possible.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 124:6
Monday, 8 Menachem Av 5771
Thursday, August 4, 2011
One makes Havdala as usual this week using wine (and spices and a candle).
If there is a small child who can drink most of the cup of wine, then one gives it to him to drink.
If not, then the person making Havdala drinks the wine.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 122:8
Some people have the custom of using beer for Havdala this week. If one uses beer for Havdala then the first
Bracha needs to be "Shehakol" instead of "Borei Pri Hagofen".
Source: Halachos of the 3 weeks by Rav Shimon Eider zt"l page 7
My Rosh Yeshiva - Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l - always used wine for Havdala and always drank it himself.
One does not say Kiddush Levana (the monthly blessing over the new moon) until after the fast of 9 B'Av.
On Motzai Yom Kippour one can say Kiddush Levana immediately after Ma'ariv (the evening prayers). On Motzai 9 B'Av one may not say Kiddush Levana until one has broken the fast and put on shoes.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 124:19, 130:6
Thursday, 4 Menachem Av 5771
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The "Seudat Mafseket - final meal" before the fast of 9 B'Av - is eaten while seated on the floor.
The meal typically consists of only a cold hard boiled egg and bread which is dipped into ashes. (One does not have to eat the ashes.)
This meal must end before sunset.
Before this meal one may eat a regular meal.
One may wear ones leather shoes during this meal.
One does not wear leather shoes on the fast of 9 b'Av; one must remove them before sunset - next Monday afternoon this year.
One may wear shoes that have no leather in them; cloth, rubber and wood are OK.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 123:3, 5
Wednesday, 3 Menachem Av 5771
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
One may do "minor" work on the fast of 9 B'Av, such as turning on lights and driving.
Any work that takes times, as well as all business dealings, should not be done until noon, so as not to get distracted from mourning the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash - the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
While one may go to work and open ones business on 9 B'Av afternoon, it's commendable not to.
One may have a non-Jew do ones work on 9 B'Av, and one may do any work needed to prevent a monetary loss.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 124:15
Tuesday, 2 Menachem Av 5771
Monday, August 1, 2011
Unless Moshiach comes first, the fast of 9 B'Av will start next week on Monday afternoon and will last for about 25 hours until after nightfall on Tuesday.
The fast of 9 B'Av commemorates 5 tragedies that befell the Jewish people on that date:
- It was decreed that the generation which left Egypt would remain in the desert for 40 years and not enter the land of Israel, after believing the inaccurate report of 10 of the 12 spies over 3,000 years ago
- The first Bet Hamikdash (Holy Temple) was destroyed on 9 B'Av almost 2,500 years ago.
- The second Bet Hamikdash (Holy Temple) was destroyed on 9 B'Av about 1950 years ago.
- The city of Betar was captured and tens of thousands of Jews were killed about 1,800 years ago.
- The wicked Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Bet Hamikdash and its surroundings and renamed it Aelia Capitolina, about 1,800 years ago.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 121:5
Other tragedies that happened on 9 B'Av:
- 4,000 Jews were expelled from England by King Edward I in the year 5050 (18 July 1290)
- 300,000 Jews were expelled from Spain by Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in the year 5252 (2 August 1492)
- Word War 1 started in 5674 - 1 August 1914 - with Germany declaring war on Russia
Monday, Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av 5771