Thursday, February 28, 2013

Halocho #1053 - What color is a Red Heifer?

This Shabbat a second Sefer Torah is taken out for Maftir and the laws of פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה – the Red Heifer – are read. (The first 22 verses of Parshat חֻקַּת   in במדבר י"ט ) 

There are opinions that there’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 פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה 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 non-brown part of its horns and hooves need to be filed down. Its eyes, teeth and tongue do not need to be brown. 

Using the פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה for any work – even to carry something – would invalidate it. Birds and insects that land on its back do not invalidate it. 

The פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה 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 בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּש (Temple). Since there’s a Mitzva to go into the בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּש on Pessach, we read this in anticipating of being able to implement it this year, or at least בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ – soon in our lifetime. 

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

- Danny
Thursday, 18 Adar 5773

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Halocho #1052 - Working 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. 

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 for the last days of Yom Tov is allowed. 

Gardening is forbidden besides for picking fruit for Chol Hamo'ed or for Yom Tov, or 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
Wednesday, 17 Adar 5773

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Halocho #1051 - Start learning about Pessach

The laws of Pessach in Shulchan Aruch begin with: "One should start learning the laws of Pessach thirty days before Pessach". 

If you fill up a storage room that you don't plan on entering again until after Pessach, you don't have to first check it for Chametz. However, if it's within 30 days to Pessach, then you do have to check it at night with a candle. 

If you forgot to check it, you have to empty it, and check it that night for Chametz with a candle.

Source: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 429:1, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 111:13

- Danny
Tuesday, 16 Adar 5773

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Halocho #1051 - Shushan Purim is tonight

Today - Sunday - Purim is celebrated in most of the world. 

The Purim meal should begin with a Dvar-Torah. Since Purim is 30 days before Pessach, the following is an appropriate Purim-meal Dvar-Torah: 

“The laws of Pessach in Shulchan Aruch begin with: One should start learning the laws of Pessach thirty days before Pessach.” 

In Jerusalem - and other cities that were walled in the time Joshua-ben-Nun conquered the Holy Land - we celebrate Shushan-Purim a day later. 

On both Purim and Shushan-Purim Tachanun, Kel-Erach-Apaim and Lamenatze'ach are not said and fasting is not allowed. 

Don't forget to add עַל הַנִּסִּים during Amida and Birkat Hamazon. 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 141:9

- Danny who celebrates Purim tomorrow.
Sunday, 14 Adar 5773

Next Halocho-a-day on Tuesday.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Halocho #1050 - Destroy and remember

This Shabbat - the one before Purim - is Parshat Zachor.

There is an opinion that it's a Torah obligation to hear Parshat Zachor being read in shul this week, and if you don't have a Minyan near home you need to go to a town with a Minyan for this Shabbat. 

If a Minyan cannot be found, Parshat Zachor should be read even without a Minyan.
A second Sefer Torah is taken out and for Maftir we read about the obligation to annihilate the nation of Amalek and remember their wickedness. 

For the Haftara we read the story of King Saul's attempt to fulfill the Mitzva of annihilating Amalek. (Shmuel-1 Ch. 15) 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 140:2, 3

Shabbat Shalom

- Danny
Thursday, Fast of Esther, 11 Adar 5773

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Halocho #1049 - When is Ta'anit Esther - and when did Queen Esther fast?

When Purim is on Sunday - like this year - then the fast of Esther is on the Thursday before. (That's tomorrow!)

If one forgets to fast on Thursday, one fasts the next day - on Friday.

Ta'anit Esther is not as stringent as other fast days, and expecting and nursing mother do not fast, nor does anybody who is unwell. When in doubt, consult with a Rabbi.

The custom is to give 3 coins to charity after Mincha on Ta'anit Esther. Each coin should be half the local currency - half dollar, half shekel, etc.

When did Esther fast?

Over 2,300 years ago, two days before Pessach, Haman decreed that all the Jews would be destroyed on 13th Adar, eleven months later.

After consulting with her cousin Mordechai, Queen Esther declared a 3-day long fast that lasted through the first days of Pessach, after which she went – uninvited – to the king and invited him and Haman to a wine feast.

At the wine feast she invited them to a second wine feast where which she gained royal permission for the Jews to defend themselves.

Jews always fast and pray when going out to war, and so they did on Adar 13, 3406 (354 BCE). On Adar 14 they celebrated their victory.

Ta’anit Esther is the only one of the 6 fast days not mentioned in Tanach.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 141:1, 5, 8. Esther 2:7, 3:12-9:30

- Danny
Wednesday, 10 Adar 5773

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Halocho #1048 - How do we publicize the miracle of Purim?

One of the Mitzvot of Purim is hearing Megilat Esther being read at night and again in the morning.

One needs to hear every single word to fulfill this Mitzva.

The Megila should be heard in a shul if possible; the bigger the crowd the bigger the publicity of the miracle.

Everybody needs to hear the Megila including men, women and children old enough to attend without disturbing.

The reading needs to be done from a Kosher Megila; one that is handwritten by a Sofer on parchment.

The entire Megila - some 20 columns in a standard edition - is unrolled and folded like a letter before it is read.

Three Brachot are recited before the Megila is read (both in the evening and the morning) and a single one after the reading.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 141:7, 9, 10, 11

- Danny
Tuesday, 9 Adar 5773

Monday, February 18, 2013

Halocho #1047 - If you forget to say עַל הַנִּסִּים on Purim

On Purim one adds עַל הַנִּסִּים to the Birkat Hamazon during the 2nd Bracha.

If you forgot to add עַל הַנִּסִּים and you've already said 'ברוך אתה ה then you don't have to make amends.

However, if possible you should say the following during the HaRachaman's after the 4th Bracha:

הָרַחֲמָן הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה לָנוּ נִסִּים וְנִפְלָאוֹת כְּמוֹ שֶׁעָשָׂה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הַהֵם בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה בִּימֵי מרדכי
...and then continue with the rest of the עַל הַנִּסִּים.

During every Amida of Purim one adds עַל הַנִּסִּים during Modim.

If you forgot to add עַל הַנִּסִּים and you've already said 'ברוך אתה ה then you don't have to make amends.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 44:16, 139: 21

- Danny
Monday, 8 Adar 5773

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Halocho #1046 - Yahrzeit of our teacher Moses; Moshe Rabeinu

According to most opinions, 7 Adar is the Yahrzeit of our teacher Moses - Moshe Rabeinu.

Many Jewish Burial Societies [Chevra Kadisha] have their annual meeting on that day, including fasting and special prayers.

Halachot related to Moshe Rabeinu:

When babies start talking one should teach them the verse "תּוֹרָה צִוָּה-לָנוּ, משֶׁה. מוֹרָשָׁה, קְהִלַּת יַעֲקב" and Shma Yisrael...", after ensuring that they are clean while being taught.

Moshe Rabeinu went up to Har-Sinai to get the 2nd set of Luchot on a Thursday and came down on a Monday, which is why these 2 days are auspicious for praying - and we therefore add the long "Vehu Rachum" prayer before Tachanun on these 2 days.

There's a limit as to how long one may mourn a deceased - but even for a great Torah scholar one may not mourn longer than 30 days, as nobody can be greater than our teacher Moshe for whom it is stated "and they mourned Moshe for 30 days".

Sources: Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 58:2, KSA 165:10, 22:9, 215:1

- Danny
Sunday, 7 Adar 5773

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Halocho #1045 - Purim gifts for your friends

One of the Mitzvot of Purim is Mishlo’ach Manot; sending at least two food items to one fellow Jew.

These 2 food items need to be ready to eat. For example fruit, wine, cake or cooked meat.

It’s commendable to send Mishlo’ach Manot to a lot of people, but it’s even better to spend more on Matanot La'Evyonim to the poor and needy.

Both men and women need to send Mishlo’ach Manot. Men should send to men, women should send to women.

A mourner (in the 12 months for parents or 30 days for siblings, spouse or child) also needs to send Mishlo’ach Manot. One does not send Mishlo’ach Manot to a mourner unless there are no other Jews around.

One may give Matanot La'Evyonim to a needy mourner. 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:1, 2, 4, 7

- Danny
Thursday, 4 Adar 5773

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Halocho #1044 - Mourning the Beit HaMikdash in Adar

The second Beit HaMikdash was dedicated today - 3 Adar - some 2360 years ago. (Ezra 6: 15) 

After the destruction of the Temple, Chazal (the Sages of blessed memory) instituted that at all joyous occasions we remember the destruction, including: 
- At festive meals one should leave out one serving dish 
- A woman should not wear all her jewelry at the same time
- At the engagement a plate is broken - though it should be a damaged plate 
- At the wedding a glass cup is broken 
- The bride's veil shouldn't have gold or silver threads 
- The groom has ashes placed on his hair (where he places his Tefillin) before the wedding 

This way we fulfill the verse "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem...if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." (Psalms 137: 6-7) 

Source: Kitzur Shulchon Aruch 126:1-2

- Danny
Wednesday, 3 Adar 5773

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Halocho #1043 - Purim gifts for the poor

One of the 613 Mitzvot in the Torah is to obey the Torah Sages. The Sages instituted Purim and its Mitzvot.

One of the Mitzvot of Purim is Matanot La'Evyonim - to send gifts to at least two needy people. This gift is usually money.

Even somebody who lives off charity needs to fulfill this Mitzva.

One needn't hand the gifts directly to the needy; one can send them via messenger (or charity organization).

Purim is the only day of the year one does not check credentials; anybody who asks for charity on Purim is given something.

Both men and women have an obligation to give Matanot La'Evyonim. Men may send Matanot La'Evyonim to women and vice versa.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:3-4

- Danny
Tuesday, 2 Adar 5773

Monday, February 11, 2013

Halocho #1042 - Hallel on Rosh Chodesh

Today (Monday) is the second day of Rosh-Chodesh Adar.

Hallel is recited on Rosh Chodesh and Mo'adim during Shacharit between the Chazzan's repetition of the Amida and Reading the Torah. 

One needs to stand during recitation of Hallel, which preferably should be recited with a Minyan. 

If one comes to shul late, one joins the minyan in their recitation of Hallel, even if it's before one has prayed. 

If one already started Psukay D'Zimra and the Minyan begins Hallel, one joins them; however one doesn't say the Bracha before and after Hallel, relying instead on Baruch-She'amar and Yishtabach. This applies only to days like Rosh Chodesh (excluding Tevet) when one says the "half"-Hallel. 

One should not interrupt the recitation of Hallel. 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 97:4

Chodesh Tov!

- Danny
Monday, 2nd day Rosh Chodesh Adar 5773

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Halocho #1041 - Be happy! Adar is here

One increases joy when the month of Adar arrives, because Adar and (next month) Nissan historically have been full of miracles, including the redemption from Egypt and (nearly a millennium later) the miracle of Purim.

Adar is considered an auspicious month for the Jews.

Don't forget to add יַעֲלֶה וְיָבֹא to the Birkat HaMazon and the Amida.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 141:1

- Danny
Sunday, 1st day Rosh Chodesh Adar 5773

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Halocho #1040 - Rosh Chodesh is on Sunday and Monday

This Sunday and Monday will be Rosh Chodesh Adar.

When the 3rd Shabbos meal continues into the night, one still inserts רצה during Birkas Hamazon (grace after meals).

When one starts a meal on Erev Rosh Chodesh and eats a Kezayit (the size of an olive – 27 cc) of bread after dark, one inserts יַעֲלֶה וְיָבֹא during Birkas Hamazon.
What happens when both of the above happen together?

If Rosh Chodesh is on Sunday and one eats a Kezayis of bread after dark during the 3rd Shabbos meal, then one inserts both רצה and יַעֲלֶה וְיָבֹא during Birkas Hamazon.

However, some argue that mentioning both is a contradiction – since Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh aren’t on the same day.

Therefore one should be careful not to eat after dark at the 3rd Shabbos meal when Rosh Chodesh is on Sunday.

The same concept applies to Al-Hanism in 2 weeks time when Purim will be on Sunday.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 44:17

Shabbat Shalom uMevorach

- Danny
Thursday, 27 Shvat 5773

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Halocho #1039 - Shabbat Shekalim

This week is Shabbat Shekalim and 2 Torah Scrolls are taken out.

After the regular Torah Reading - Parshat Mishpatim - we say half-Kaddish and then read the beginning of Parshat כי תשא (Shemot Ch. 30, Verses 11-16) in the second Sefer Torah.

This is followed by the Haftara for Shekalim from Melachim-2 Ch.11

Shabbat Shekalim reminds us of the half-Shekel that everybody donated yearly to finance the daily sacrifices in the Bet Hamikdash, may we merit to see it rebuilt, speedily in our days.

Shabbat is also Shabbat Mevarchim of the upcoming month of Adar. Rosh Chodesh Adar will be on Sunday and Monday.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 140:1

- Danny
Wednesday, 26 Shvat 5773

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Halocho #1039 - White hair

A man may not wear clothes nor jewelry that only women wear, nor may a woman wear men-only apparel. 

Who-wears-what is defined by local custom and may change over time. 

A man may not pluck out even a single white hair (unless all his hair has turned white) nor may he dye his white hair. A woman may. 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 171:1,3

- Danny
Tuesday, 25 Shevat 5773

Monday, February 4, 2013

Halocho #1038 - Shaving

The Torah prohibits men from removing their Peiyot. 

The Peiyot-area is the hair in the triangular area from the top of the ear to the forehead to the bottom of the ear. 

According to some opinions even cutting the Peiyot very close to the skin with scissors is forbidden. 

The beard-area begins at the bottom of the ear where the Peiyot-area ends and includes the entire face. Men may not shave their beard with a razor. 

Even when using hair-removal cream on the beard-area men cannot use a blade or a knife; they should use a rounded spatula or other instrument that cannot cut. 

Women may not shave a man's beard or peiyot for him either. 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 170:1-2

- Danny
Monday, 24 Shevat 5773

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Halocho #1037 - Tattoos

The Torah explicitly forbids tattooing; coloring the skin permanently. 

Both puncturing the skin and then filling the holes with ink as well as putting ink on the skin and then injecting it are forbidden. 

However, one may put colored medication on wounds even if it will cause a permanent discoloring, since the wound will anyway leave a scar making it obvious that it's not a tattoo. 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 169:1

- Danny
Sunday, 23 Shevat 5773