Sunday, March 24, 2013

Halocho #1070 - Should one use a candle for Bedikat Chametz?

Tonight - 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 “ owner-less 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 unrelated 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

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

- Danny
Sunday, 13 Nissan 5773

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Halocho #1069 - 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 speedily 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 5773

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Halocho #1068 - May one sew on Yom Tov?

All 39 categories of "creative work" that are forbidden to do on Shabbos are also forbidden on Yom Tov, with some notable exceptions:

- In order to prepare food for Yom Tov one may knead, cook, bake and shecht (ritually slaughter).

- One may carry outside - even without an Eruv - on Yom Tov, as long as it's for some purpose, even if it's not food-related.

- One may light a flame from an existing flame on Yom Tov if it's for some useful purpose, even if it's not food-related. However, one may not light a Yahrzeit candle on YomTov.

- One may grind those spices on Yom Tov that would lose their flavor if ground before Yom Tov.

- One may sew up stuffed chicken on Yom Tov, but the needle needs to be threaded before Yom Tov. 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 98:1, 3, 15

- Danny
9 Nissan 5773

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Halocho #1067 - - 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 - this coming Monday - 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 5773

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Halocho #1066 - 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 one's 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 that one forgot to get rid of in the last-minute pre-Pessach rush.

If one sold all one's Chametz then one didn't own any during Pessach; a Torah prohibition.

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 5773

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Halocho #1065 - 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. That said, whatever Chametz is still in your possession mid-morning on Erev Pessach, needs to be burned.

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 14, 2013

Halocho #1064 - 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

Shabbat Shalom,

- Danny
Thursday, 3 Nissan 5773

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Halocho #1063 - 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 one's 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 discuss the slavery, 10 plagues and redemption, in a language that all participants understand.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 119:4

- Danny
2 Nissan 5773

Monday, March 11, 2013

Halocho #1061 - Rosh Chodesh Nissan

Tonight - Monday night - begins the first day of the first month - Nissan.

Don't forget Hallel and יַעֲלֶה וְיָבא

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.

On that day the heads of the 12 tribes started bringing their inaugural sacrifices - one prince each day. Some people have the custom of reading that day's 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 (today in 2 weeks).

- Fasting for distressingly bad dreams.

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

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 107:1,2

Chodesh Tov!

- Danny
Monday, 29 Adar 5769

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Halocho #1060 - Can Matza be folded?

Matza is made from flour and water. Nothing else.

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

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. This is know as Shmura-Matza.

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 - that's on Tuesday. Some don't eat Matza an entire month before Pessach.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: 108, 109, 110

- Danny
Sunday, 28 Adar 5773

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Halocho #1059 - A long Shabbat morning service

This week we take out two Sifrei Torah. The Torah Reading starts with a double Parsha: Vayakel-Pekudei. 

After Kaddish the second Sefer Torah is used for Maftir to read Parshat HaChodesh in anticipation of the upcoming month of Nissan. 

The Haftara is from Ezekiel 45 which discusses the dedication of the Temple starting on Rosh Chodesh Nissan as well as the Pessach sacrifice 2 weeks later. 

This week is also Shabbat Mevorchim the month of Nissan. Rosh Chodesh Nissan will be on Tuesday. 

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 140:2 

Shabbat Shalom uMevorach
- Danny

Thursday, 23 Adar 5773

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Halocho #1058 - Is January the first month?

This Shabbat for Maftir we will read Parshas HaChodesh (Exodus Ch. 12, Verses 1-20).

Parshas 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 Chametz, nor eat it, during Pessach .

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 140:2
- Danny Wednesday, 22 Adar 5773

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Halocho #1057- Kashering from meat to milk

When needed, one can Kasher utensils that are not Kosher. E.g. if one put a Milky spoon in a hot bowl of meat it cannot be used until it is Kashered.

Before Pessach one can Kasher certain Chametz utensils to make them Kosher for Pessach.

Kashering must be done under the supervision of somebody who has learned all the intricate laws of Kashering, when possible.

When utensils are Kashered, they become Kosher and Parev; neither milky nor meaty.

The custom is to refrain from Kashering Milky utensils to use them subsequently for Meaty, or Meaty utensils to use them for Milky.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 46:15, 116:18

- Danny
Tuesday, 23 Adar 5773

Monday, March 4, 2013

Halocho #1056 - The week of Chol Hamo'ed; Chol or Mo'ed?

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

In order to ensure that one does the laundry before the Mo'ed (Jewish Holiday), doing laundry is forbidden on Chol Hamo'ed, except in extenuating circumstances:

- If it was impossible to launder before the Mo'ed (e.g. one was locked up in jail) then one may launder on Chol Hamo'ed

- Baby clothes that continuously get soiled and need to be changed many times a day may be laundered on Chol Hamo'ed

When laundering on Chol Hamo'ed one must ensure it's done in private.

All medical procedures are allowed on Chol Hamo'ed.

If one has the opportunity to borrow money and there's reason to believe that after Yom Tov the money will no longer be available, then one may borrow the money on Chol Hamo'ed (even if it means writing an IOU), even if it's for a post Yom Tov business deal.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 104:13, 14, 16
- Danny Monday, 22 Adar 5773

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Halocho #1055 - 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 5773