Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

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Spirit of Purim

By Rabbi Micha Golshevsky shlit”a

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 141, 1: 1

From the onset of Adar one should magnify his joy. (Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha.) If a Jew has an alter-cation with a non-Jew he should take him to court during Adar since it is an auspicious time.
The Ohev Yisrael, zt”l, writes that the word “b’simcha” has the same numeri-cal value as the word “shana,” year.[1] The more b’simcha, joyous, one is dur-ing Adar, the more joy one will experi-ence the entire year!
The Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, states that just as we go into the illumination of Tishrei through Elul, we attain the dveikus, or intimate connection with Hashem, of Nisan through Adar. In Adar, our repentance is born of love and is stronger than the teshuva of Elul which is rooted in fear.

The Divrei Shmuel explains the deeper meaning of the preference to take a gentile to court during this month. On a deeper level, this refers to judging the non-Jew within us which is the aspect of Amalek within. One who has difficul-ty struggling with the negative inside himself (and who doesn’t in our gener-ation?) overcomes this with much greater ease during Adar.
The Chidushei HaRim writes further that Adar is a conjunction of the phrase Aleph-Dar (א – דר=אדר) . Aleph refers to Hashem, sometimes known as Alufo Shel Olam, the lofty One of the uni-verse, and dar literally means dwells.[2] This means that during the month of Adar, due to the boundless joy we ex-perience, it is easier for us to become a
dwelling place for Hashem.

Chazal say, “One who wishes to pre-serve his property should plant an Adar on it,” which could mean either planting a type of tree known as an adar, which is usually understood to be a maple, or to plant the tree during the month of Adar. As it says in Tehilim (93:4,) “Adir bamarom Hashem”—“Hashem is All Powerful on High.” But what does the verse have to do with securing one’s material wealth? The Chashva L’teshuva, zt”l, explains that the needs of every Jew are allocated from heaven. The reason why people lack is because their heavenly allot-ment is being withheld. What should one do to avoid losing out, then? “Plant an adar.” Adar refers to one who is steadfast as a mighty maple in his faith that Hashem is All Powerful!

Once, two friends met and one com-plained to the other that things were very difficult financially. He was literal-ly at the end of his rope and didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
“Well,” responded his friend, “Rebbe Nachman writes that ‘one who is al-ways happy will succeed.’ So I recom-mend that you strive a to feel happy all the time.”
“But that is one of the most difficult things to do! How can I possibly work towards such a lofty goal?” complained the disgruntled man.
“Nu, what won’t people do to make a living?” his friend answered.

[1] Both equal 355. )ב= 2 ש= 033 מ= 03
) ח= 8 ה= 5 & ש= 033 נ= 53 ה= 5
]2[ To this day an apartment in Hebrew

Spirit of the Law: Tu B’Shvat


Almond Trees in Blossom

Almond Trees in Blossom

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter (140 #26) :

“The fifteenth of Shevat is Rosh Hashana for trees…The custom is to eat many different species of fruit on this day.”

I: Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that every human being is always longing for Hashem. A Jew’s longing for connection to Hashem is even more powerful. Usually, this longing gets channeled into other areas. People mistakenly think they yearn for money, honor or physical pleasures such as food. Attaining these never satisfies in a lasting way however, since the source, the inner desire for closeness to Hashem has not been addressed, just stifled.

When the Maharil Diskin, zt”l, was asked why the gemara compares the sinners of Israel to a pomegranate, he responded “A pomegranate has a hard exterior upon which no good is noticeable. It is only if you open it up, and delve into it’s depths that one finds the many, many good seeds in the Rimon.” Even if you peel off the outer shell you see only the white insides. You only find the seeds by breaking through the bad. Similarly, every Jew is a neshama kedosha which is always yearning with a powerful longing for his source. “

On Tu B’Shvat the sap begins to rise in trees. It is partially due to this process that the tree later develops in the spring. This is why it is Rosh Hashannah for trees.

The verse states, “Man is as a tree of the field.”The “sap” of each person is the hidden inner essence of each person, their fiery longing for Hashem. Like the sap of trees, the inner essence of each person is aroused on Tu B’Shevat. Connecting to our inner longing is the prerequisite for all spiritual growth.

This is one reason we eat fruits on this holy day. We acknowledge the correlation between bearing spiritual fruits and arousing our powerful yearning for Hashem. The more we connect to our powerful inner longing for Hashem, the more spiritual fruit we will bear in the coming year. The less we connect, the more this longing will be misdirected towards the material and the less spiritual growth we will yield. It is our choice.

May Hashem help us to grow and thrive, and bear an abundance of spiritual fruit.

II: On the subject of Tu B’Shevat, the Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, shares a very powerful concept: the “new year’s” judgment of Tu B’shvat primarily determines one’s access to novel Torah concepts (chidushei Torah) for the upcoming year.

Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that there are two levels of chidushei Torah. The first is the joy and rapture of bearing and sharing the fruit of one’s Torah learning, bringing down and sharing novel Torah concepts. This is the spiritual root of the sweetness of fruit to the palate. Without this feeling of sweetness, a person has virtually no genuine connection to Torah even if he or she learns assiduously and innovates novel interpretations. The second, lower, level of chidush is accessing a feeling of renewal and connection from every bit of Torah learning, prayer, and avodah even when there is nothing objectively novel about the concepts in which one is immersed. One still feels a powerful joy and connection, and this is the ultimate fruit of Torah study, as we say in the daily blessing: “Hashem, please make Torah learning sweet in my mouth.”

courtesy of A Fire Burns in Breslov


Various Halachos relating to Tu B’Shvat

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A.  Praying for a Mehudar Etrog on Shabbos

In light of the previous weeks’ Halacha series dealing with what one is permitted to prayer for on Shabbos, it is in permissible to prayer for meriting a Mehudar Etrog for the upcoming Sukkos, following that which is written in the Sifrei Hakodesh about Tu B’Shvat being an auspicious time (Mesugal)  for praying for such an Etrog.

B.  The Bracha to be said on Dried/Sugared Etrog

“… Borei Pri Ha’aetz” when eating either the flesh or the rind of the sugared Etrog.  We do not however make a Shehechiyanu on the Etrog for numerous reasons brought by the Poskim.

Note: it is important to realize that there is in fact no specific obligation to make a Shehechiyanu on Tu B’Shvat (and therefore one should not be concerned if they cannot find a new fruit on which to make a Shehechiyanu.)

C. Blessings related to the Fruits before and during the Seudah

One who eats the fruits before the Seudah, needs to make a Bracha Achrona (after blessing) – Birchas Hamazon does not cover his obligation.  If one commences the Seuda and forgets to make a Bracha Achrona, he must make a Bracha Achrona during the Seuda and even if he forgot and made Birkas Hamazon, he is still obligated to make the Bracha Achrona afterwards.

One who eats the fruits during the Seuda, needs to make Bracha Rishona over the fruits then, but should not make a Bracha Achrona, as it will be covered by his Birkas Hamazon.

One who eats the fruits before the Seuda with the intention of eating the same fruit during the Seuda as well, should have in mind when he makes the blessing before the Seuda to cover the fruit during the Seuda as well.  That being the case, he should not make Bracha Rishona for the same fruit during the Seuda and also should not make a Bracha Achrona on the fruit that he ate before the Seuda, as it too will be covered by his Birkas Hamazon.

D.  The order of the Brachos:

One who eats various types of food, should ensure to make the blessing on the most important fruit among them, as is decreed by Chazal.  There are may laws associated with this, so we will mention only those laws relevant to Tu B’Shvat itself.

If one wishes to eat fruit from the 7 species which are in front of him, he should make the blessing on them before any other types of fruit.  However, even within the 7 species themselves, the order of precedence is as follows:

1. Olives, 2. Dates, 3. Grapes, 4. Figs, 5.Pomegranates

One should know that this order of precedence is only related to which fruit to make the blessing on first.  However, once the blessing has been made, there is then no specific order as to which of the remaining 6 fruits one has to eat.  Nor is it a requirement to eat all of the specific fruit on which one has made the blessing – rather, one only need taste a little of that  specific fruit before moving on to the other fruits.

Note: If one wishes to drink wine, its blessing takes order of precedence over the 7 species.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE:

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

The Holiness of the Schach and the Four Species, and how to dispose of them

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

1] The Schach of the Sukkah as well as the Lulav should not be treated in a disrespectful manner after the time of their Mitzvah has passed, and they should not be disposed of into a disgraceful place. Still, they do not require genizah, to be specially set away as seforim do. They should not be thrown directly into the garbage, but if they happen to get thrown out as a result of lack of genizah, there is nothing to worry about.

It is wrong for people to leave their schach after Sukkos outside, in places where people step all over them, even though they are not in the trash. One should not even use the walls of the Sukkah for inappropriate use after Sukkos. (summary of Rem”a and Mishna Berura 21:1, ibid: 6-7, and Mishna Berura 678:24)

2] We learn the following Halachos from the above:

A] It is forbidden to dispose of schach into the trash can. Even though this halachah is clearly stated, still, many people don’t realize this and throw out their schach into the garbage, without knowing that it is absolutely forbidden!

B] Similarly, it’s prohibited to place them around the area of trash cans. There are people who are careful not to put the schach directly into the garbage cans yet they place them around the cans. Seemingly they should be able to rely on the Mishna Berura which says, “If as a result of not putting them specially away they get thrown out, there is nothing to worry about.” Nevertheless, I feel that they really don’t have what to rely on, because that’s only referring to schach getting thrown out because of their not being placed into genizah, not putting them around the garbage where they will certainly be taken afterwards into the trash. Sometimes they end up sitting there for a couple of days, and end up being totally neglected.

C] One is not allowed to place the schach where people will step on them. Besides causing others who don’t know better to mistreat the schach, it is also bothering those people who know to be careful in that they have to now go around it.

D] It is forbidden to step on schach, even if the owner already transgressed the above and put them in a place where people walk.

E] As for Sukkah decorations, there are those who say that it’s fitting that they not be thrown into the garbage; nevertheless, if they are well wrapped in a bag, they can then be put into the garbage.

3] The Shulchan Aruch writes in 664:8, “There are those who say that the Hoshana (Arava) in the Lulav as well as the Arava of Hoshana, even though they have been disposed of, they should not be stepped upon. It’s Halachos are as explained above 21:1.”

The Halachos which arise from the Shulchan Aruch as well as Mishna Berurah ibid: 28-29 are as follows:

A] The Four Minim – it’s forbidden to mishandle them, and they therefore should not be placed in the garbage or stepped upon, as we explained above.

B] Hoshanos – have the same rules as the Four Minim. Therefore, it’s befitting to sweep up the floor of the shul from the Hoshana leaves immediately after their use, in order that no one comes to step on them.

The custom to throw them on top of the ‘Aron Kodesh’ has no source in the ancient works. There are those who have questioned it because of the prohibition to make use of an Aron Kodesh, of which the rules of properly respect of its sanctity are very strict. The responsibility falls on the gabbaim that care should at least be taken that they do not afterwards end up thrown in the garbage.

People cannot be expected to act otherwise, since they have already become accustomed to this.

C] The Rings and Holders- should not be treated in an inappropriate way, since they are easily recognized to have been used for a Mitzvah.

D] The Esrog box and Lulav holder – it is better not mishandle them, especially if pesukim or parts of pesukim are written on them, which would require genizah. (The words pri eitz hadar do not require genizah)

E] Keeping the Four Minim in the house – It is brought in seforim that keeping the Four Minim in a home serves as a protection for it. It is also well known that the Rebbe says that Hoshanas are a protection while travelling.

Therefore, it’s better not to dispose of them in any way, on the contrary, to keep them in the house.

Why even burn them with the chametz and lose their protection? However, in order to keep this custom, it is possible to burn the Four Minim from

last year and to keep the ones from this year.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE:

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein

in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

The Laws of Eating in a Sukkah, and the Beracha of “Leyshev BaSukkah”

By Rabbi Shimon Anshin shlit”a

In order to know when “Mezonos” must be eaten in a Sukkah, and when a blessing is required, we must differentiate between eating a bread-like food such as cake or a cooked dish whose blessing is Mezonos (for instance, kugel), as well as the amount eaten, how it is being eaten, and why, as we will explain.
[1] When eating a bread-like food such as cake in an amount more than a k‟beitza (the size of an egg), in a casual manner on Chol HaMoed, Shabbos or Yom Tov not after Kiddush:

[a] It should be eaten in a Sukkah, [and it may be that one who is lenient and eats it outside a Sukkah has on whom to rely]. Still, the blessing, “Leyshev BaSukkah” should not be recited.

[b] The designation of a “casual manner” in this context is that he is just snacking – meaning he is just enjoying a snack and not eating it to satiate his hunger. Or, even if he is hungry, if he is eating with the intention of eating a small amount in order to hold off his hunger until the mealtime, as the Rambam details in Perush HaMishnayos, Sukkah 2:5.

[c] However, if he is planning on staying in the Sukkah for a significant amount of time after eating, then he can recite the blessing, having in mind both the eating as well as the sitting in the Sukkah. This is because in actual fact, we should be reciting a blessing on just spending time in the Sukkah, as we will explain.
There are those who hold that in such a situation one should first recite “Leyshev BaSukkah” and then Mezonos.

[d] I have not yet found a clear designation of “a significant amount of time”. It would seem that it refers to both quality and quantity. This would
mean spending a slightly extended period of time in the Sukkah, as well as actually making oneself comfortable, and not being in a hurry to get out – i.e. spending the time there just in order to “fulfill the requirement” of spending time. Therefore, just a couple of minutes would not be enough. However, if one studies a little bit, or reads a book for fifteen minutes, it would seem that that is enough to be considered “spending time” in the Sukkah and would already require a bracha.

[e] All this is in one own‟s Sukkah. But when one goes to someone else‟s Sukkah, it would seem that any visit, even just for a few minutes, i.e., for a Yom Tov visit, or a Shalom Zachor, would be already considered spending time [this is in conjunction with the opinion that requires a blessing upon using someone else‟s Sukkah even when not spending time there at all.]

[2] When partaking in a proper meal, during Chol HaMoed:

[a] One is obligated to eat in a Sukkah and to recite “Leyshev BaSukkah”

[b] The designation “proper meal” is for example, to eat cake or pastry in the morning together with a cup of coffee; or without coffee, but instead of breakfast; or to eat together with other people [all these would render the meal to not be any less proper than eating a cooked item which would be considered a proper meal according to the Shulchan Aruch.]

[c] A thoroughly proper meal, which would mean to eat more than three or four beitzim, or entirely with the intention of eating a meal, would require a hamotzi, Birchas HaMazon and would require a Sukkah and a “leyshev BaSukkah.” It would seem that even in such a case, hamotzi and Birchas HaMazon would not be required, still, in regard to Sukkah, he would still be obligated in Sukkah and “leyshev BaSukkah”.

[3] Eating “Mezonos” on Shabbos and Yom Tov after Kiddush, in order to fulfill the obligation of Kiddush being in the same place where a Seudah will be:

[a] Must be eaten in a Sukkah, and a bracha (“Leyshev BaSukkah”) may be recited even if he‟s not staying there a while, and even if the amount eaten is a little bit more than a beitzah.

[b] However, if not eating for this reason, then the Halachos of Chol HaMoed apply.

[4] All this is when eating cake, but when eating a cooked dish made out of any of the 5 grains, i.e., kugel, then the halacha is as follows:

[a] More than a beitzah, in a casual fashion- should be eaten in a Sukkah, but without a Bracha “Leyshev BaSukkah”, [and even if one chooses to be lenient and not eat in the Sukkah, he has on whom to rely.]

[b] More than a beitzah, together with other people – requires a Sukkah with a beracha “Leyshev BaSukkah”.

[c] More than a beitzah, and is eating it as a proper meal – would require more research to establish whether or not a blessing is needed, especially Shabbos after Kiddush.

[d] Someone who eats a considerable amount as a proper meal – requires a Sukkah and a beracha “Leyshev BaSukkah”.

In addition, a cooked item may be eaten in large amounts without requiring HaMotzi or Birchas HaMazon, unlike “mezonos”. Kugel would be in the category of „cooked‟ even though there are those who are of the opinion that since it is also baked it falls under the category of mezonos.

TRANSLATOR‟S NOTE:
As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

Laws and Customs of the Three Weeks – Part II

A. Music

Dancing and Musical Instruments: During this period it is forbidden to dance, play musical instruments or listen to them live or pre-recorded.

Vocals-only music:  Even though such music has no musical instruments, if the music is of a joyous nature, it follows the same prohibition as listening to instrumental music. If the music however is of the type that awakens one to deveykus and is required by one specifically for this purpose, then it is permitted as long as it is listened to in private.

Recorded Cantorial music without musical instruments:  Here to, if there is a specific need it is permitted as long as it is in private.

Recordings for Children:  If the content contains both singing and music it is forbidden for children of chinuch age to listen.  However, if the content is primarily stories etc. with some musical accompaniment, there is room to permit this.  However, if the children are not of chinuch age, then it is permissible for them to listen to instrumental recordings.

Nursery schools for children at the age of chinuch:  It is forbidden to play musical instruments to children of chinuch age even if there is a fixed schedule for doing so.  One who’s livelihood depends on playing them musical instruments and stands to loose money from not doing so, should ask the opinion of a Posek.

Singing:  With regards to joyous melodies, there are those that are stringent especially when there are a group of people together.  In the context of a Seudas Mitzvah though, it is permissible to sing, however those present should be cognizant of not becoming exceedingly joyous.

The Poskim allow singing in all of the following cases:

1. On Shabbos.

2. While Learning.

3. When the melodies are of an awakening nature – whether alone or in a group of people who have joined together to strengthen themselves in Yiras Shamayim.

4. In order to keep one awake behind the wheel while driving.

Listening to music against one’s will: With regards to instrumental music that one happens to hear, be it on a bus, while on-hold on the phone or cell phone, is not prohibited on condition that one does not intend deriving enjoyment from the listening.   With regards to one’s own cell phone, it is however correct to change the ringtone to a non-musical one.

Listening to Music while exercising:  In this regard, one should consult with a Posek.

B. Shehechiyanu

One does not make a Shehechiyanu during Bein Hametzarim. According to the essential law, though it is permissible on Shabbos.  Yet according to the Arizal it is forbidden even on Shabbos.

One should not purchase a new item of clothing or a new fruit doing this period in order that one should not have to make a Shehechiyanu .  If however such items will not be available after the three weeks or specifically in regards to a child’s desire for such an item, then it is permissible to allow the purchase and to make a Shehechiyanu. However, it would be preferable if possible to postpone eating the new fruit or wearing the new item of clothing until Shabbos.

A pregnant or sick individual who needs to wear or eat a new fruit, is permitted to do so but without making a Shehechiyanu .

Bris Milah, Pidyon Haben or seeing one’s daughter for the first time:  It is permitted to say in all these cases to make a Shehechiyanu .

HaTov v’Hameitiv:  With regards to an item that requires the blessing of HaTov v’Hameitiv i.e. there are those who are partnered in the joy, such as one’s wife or children, it is permissible to purchase the item as well as make the blessing.

C.  Things that are permitted according to the essential law:

New Clothes and objects (Keilim) :  There is no prohibition in purchasing items or new clothing that do not require a Shehechiyanu during this period, however there are those that hold neither to buy nor to wear such new clothing.  There are those that are stringent only when it comes to purchasing very expensive items that bring one tremendous joy.  And so, if there are items that one does not need specifically during this time, it is correct to be stringent and not purchase them until afterwards.

Dwellings:  There is no prohibition in moving into a new apartment during this time whether rented or purchased.  But there are those that are stringent to refrain from doing so for the sake of a “good omen” (“siman tov”).

Alterations and painting:  There is no prohibition against alterations made to, or painting a dwelling during this time, however, the “Eliya Rabba” writes that is it is correct not to do so.

Outings (tiyulim):  There is no prohibition during this time to go on outings, however one should be careful not to go to places of danger.

Washing: There is no prohibition to bathe during these days in the ocean etc.  However due to the “fear of danger” during this ominous period, it is preferable to refrain from doing so unless there is a specific need.

Laws and Customs of the Three Weeks – Part I

A.  The Fast of Tammuz

a) According to the letter of the law it is permissible to wash on 17 Tammuz.  However, those who are stringent do not wash the entire body with hot water, but either wash the entire body in cold water or just the face, hands and legs with hot water.  However, on all accounts, no-one should wash for the pleasure of it alone.

b) It is permissible to launder on the 17th of Tammuz.

c) Children under Barmitzvah do not need to fast at all – not even a few hours – and can eat as per usual. However, they should prevent themselves from eating candies.

d) Pregnant and nursing women do not need to fast at all and can eat as per usual, however, they should prevent themselves from eating meat or poultry.

e) The fast starts at dawn (Alos Hashachar).  However, those who want to eat at night before dawn in order to alleviate the difficulty associated with the fast should do as follows:

i. One should make a condition (t’nai) before going to sleep that he intends to eat or drink before dawn.  Should one forgot however to make such a condition, he is permitted to drink but NOT eat.  Should one not sleep at all or sleep less than what is considered a “shanas keva” (20 minutes or more), one is not required to make such a condition before eating or drinking.

ii. Since there is a prohibition to eat before praying, the law therefore is as follows:

1. Drinking coffee or tea etc. is allowed until dawn.

2. “Tasting” bread or mezonos less than a kasayis (approx. 29 grams) is permissible until dawn.

3. With regards to eating bread or mezonos more that a kazayis, if one started to eat a half-hour before dawn or more, he can continue to eat until dawn.  However, from half an hour before dawn, it is prohibited to start eating bread or mezonos.

In certain calendars there are 2 times for dawn [based on the differing Halachic Opinions] and one should therefore finish his eating or drinking according to the earlier of the two times [90 minutes before sunrise]. With regards to not starting half an hour before dawn, one can however be lenient in an “emergency” (shaas hadechak) and use the later time of dawn.

f)  According to the Zohar HaKadosh, if one slept and woke up before dawn, he cannot eat in all accounts.  Therefore, with regards to those who follow the customs of the Kabbalists, should it be extremely difficult for them to fast without having eaten before dawn, they have on whom to rely and may eat according to the points outlined above.

B.  Laws of Bein Hametzarim from 17 Tammuz to Rosh Chodesh Av

This period of mourning (Bein Hametzarim) is named after the verse in Eicha: “all of her [Tzion’s] pursuers overcame her between the straits”, which we commemorate by diminishing our joy by refraining to perform weddings, haircuts, blessings of Shehechiyanu and music.  This period of time starts from sunset before 17 Tammuz.  However, one who has an urgent need to have a haircut at this specific time should ask a Posek.

C.  Marriages and Seudos:

Marriages – We do not perform marriages from the 17th of Tammuz until after the 9th of Av.

Engagements – It is permissible to make Shidduchim and Seudas T’naim, however without musical instruments.

Seudos Mitzvah – Barmitzvahs, Bris Milahs and the Completion of Mesechets of Talmud are permitted except without musical instruments.

D.  Haircuts:

Adults – Both men and women are prohibited from haircuts even in honor of Shabbos. [If the hair is long and one’s only intention of cutting is for Shabbos, there is room to be lenient].

Children – Adults are not permitted to cut the hair of children. However if there is a specific need to cut the hair of a child, there is room in which to be lenient.

“Baalei Bris” – Baalei Bris, a Mohel and Sandak, are according to the letter of the law allowed to cut their hair.

Barmizvah, Pidyon Haben, Chalaka (Upshirin) – One should ask a Posek if it is permissible to have a hair cut or not.

Specific Needs – with regards to Shidduchim, Modesty, Barriers (Chatzitzos), Healing, Mustaches which interfere with one’s eating, is it permissible to cut hair.

Brushing/Combing hair – is permissible.

E.  Cutting Nails – is permissible

Various Laws Pertaining to the 9 Days before Tisha B’Av

1.  Wearing laundered cloths: 

It is forbidden to wear laundered cloths, to change bedding sheets or towels during this period.  Also, changing undergarments is forbidden unless they are soiled.  It is often mistaken to think that undergarments are excluded from this prohibition. Therefore should someone wish to change them regularly during this period per the rest of the year, the Poskim advise him to prepare them before Rosh Chodesh for a short while so that they will no longer be considered “freshly” laundered.

2.  Preparing one’s clothes:

How long to wear the garments. There is no prescribed fixed length of  time for this process since it depends on the environment in which one wears them.  For example, someone sitting in an air-conditioned area requires more time than someone walking in the heat of the day in the street.

Wearing multiple garments together.  If one wears them while walking in the street, it helps to “unfreshen” all of them at the same time, however sitting at home will not help prepare the outer garments in the same way it prepares the undergarments.

Placing them on the floor.  Even though we have a heter from the Poskim to do this as a way of “unfreshening” our clothing, this is really only applicable to floors actually made of earth as was the case in previous years, unlike the tiled or carpeted clean floors we have today,   Therefore one needs to actually step on them.

3. Laundering.  It is forbidden to launder clothes either by hand or by machine.  However, spot cleaning is permitted if someone would be embarrassed by the mark on his clothes or if refraining from cleaning the spot immediately results in the clothes being permanently stained.

4. Polishing shoes.  There is a difference of opinion among the Poskim whether to permit polishing ones shoes or not.  It appears to me that if they are very dirty or someone lives in a very dusty place, there is room to be lenient.  (In practice though, one shouldn’t need to polish dusty shoes but should rather wipe then down with a cloth.)

5. Clothes which became soiled.  If someone would be embarrassed to wear such clothes or such a person is an Istanus who could not stand wearing them in such a condition, and does not have any “non-fresh” garments which were prepared before Rosh Chodesh, then he can wear laundered clothing but it would still be preferable for him to prepare the clothing during the nine days itself in the ways mentioned above before he wears them – if such a person will be able to bare such a discomfort.

6. Children.  All the heterim to change and launder children’s clothing are only applicable in cases of dirty garments, however it is prohibited to change non-soiled clothing.  Certainly not to launder garments that are not soiled.  In all cases it is not permitted to place over-garments together with undergarments that one is already washing.

The week in which T”B falls: 

Until 3 years old: it is possible to launder and change clothes as per normal.

3 to 6 years old: it is possible to change clothes on a per need basis. Also it is permitted to launder their clothes should they run out.

6 to 9 years old:  The law is per 3 to 6 years old described above, only one should be more careful not to end up in such a predicament if at all possible.

9 to Bar Mitzvah:  Preferably (l’chatchila), one should hold per the law of adults.  In reality such children normally become dirty and therefore one may be lenient and change their clothes on a per needs basis, after the fact (bedi’avad).

7. In honor of Shabbos.  It is permitted to change into laundered clothing.  But new clothing is prohibited unless one has no others. One is permitted to polish shoes.

The question arises as to is what is considered the time frame for “The Honor Of Shabbos”?  It is those times which are typically recognized as being “In Honor of Shabbos” such as on Motzei Shabbos in which case the Minhag is to extend the duration of wearing such items, however,  there are those who are stringent not to.

Sheets.  One is prohibited to change the sheets even for the “Honor of Shabbos”.  (There are many who are not aware of this prohibition).

Towels. The Mishna Brura does not address the law of towels.  The Taz brings the teachings of Harash”l together with the “Eliya Rabba” permitting changing them.  If they are already slightly soiled, then certainly one can change them were Shabbos to fall out on Rosh Chodesh.

1. General Laws of Washing (excluding issues of discomfort).

Entire Body:  Is prohibited even with cold water.

Face, Hands and feet:  Is permitted with cold water, but prohibited with hot water.  There are those however that are stringent not to wash the feet, because nowadays we do not walk bare-foot.

Washing the hair alone:  One may be lenient and wash the hair only, even with soap and hot water in cases where the hair becomes matted from dust and sweat.  This is allowed because there is no “enjoyment” derived in doing so.

Swimming in a pool or the sea:   Is prohibited.  If however it is required for healing purposes, one should ask a Posek.  People who are learning how to swim and may stand to loose money should they not attend the lessons, should also ask a Posek.

Mikveh:  If someone is used to going everyday, it is permissible to go as per usual even if one is accustomed to performing numerous “tevilos”.  However, someone who does not go regularly is not permitted to go during this period – The exception to this is someone who is meticulous about keeping “Tevilos Ezra” and may indeed go.

On all accounts it is prohibited to submerge in hot water.  Moreover,  lingering in the mikveh longer than is necessary is also forbidden – one should submerge and exit as soon as one is finished one’s tevilos.

In places where the rules of the Mikveh compel one to shower before submersion, one is permitted to shower but without soap.  If someone is accustomed to showering after the Mikveh to remove the chlorine etc., it is permitted for  this reason alone, and no more.

2. Washing not for Enjoyment:

Someone who perspires excessively and generates an unpleasant odor, or, who due to discomfort from the perspiration cannot sleep or focus, is permitted to wash.

Someone who becomes dirty is permitted to wash the dirty area alone.

For  purposes of healing, it is permitted to wash.

Pregnant and nursing mothers are permitted to wash.  However, they should diminish the degree to which they would normally do so during the year.

It is important to understand that all the heterim given in point 2. above are only as a means of reducing the amount of discomfort.  Therefore a person must diminish the amount of washing one would normally do and only wash in order to remove this discomfort.

For example, should a person be able to accomplish the same using cold water rather that hot, it not permitted to use hot water.  Or if one is able to wash without soap, it is not permissible to wash with soap.  Or, if one needs to wash only parts of the body, he is not allowed to wash the entire body.

Furthermore, it should not be done in public in case someone would mistakenly learn that it’s in fact permissible to wash regularly.

3. Children:

Babies until age 6:  It is permitted to wash them per usual.

Ages 6 to 9:  If they are used to washing everyday, it is permissible.

Ages 9 to Bar/Batmitzah: It’s best to diminish if possible per adults.

4. Washing Erev Shabbos:

According to the Mishne Brurah:  Someone who is accustomed to washing erev Shabbos is permitted to bath with hot water, but without soap, and only one’s head, face, hands and not the entire body.

Indeed, it is our practice not to wash with soap and to wash only with hot water.  However, today since we shower for the most part, and it is difficult to prevent water landing on all parts of the body together with the fact that in general the whole body becomes more sweaty, it is permissible to be lenient and wash the entire body but without soap in honor of Shabbos.  And one who needs to wash with soap should however not do so in public, such as at the Mikveh.

5. Motzei Tisha B’Av.

M’ikar Hadin, the same laws apply per the nine days.  However, one can be lenient if he does not feel good as a result of the Fast or the heat and may then wash in a manner per the rest of the year on condition that the washing is not for enjoyment.

Various Minhagim related to Sefiras HaOmer Part I

This is the period of time in which the students of Rabbi Akiva died, and therefore it is not appropriate to increase in our happiness (simcha) and in so doing, we observe an element of mourning outlined below:

1. We don’t get married.

2. We don’t have haircuts.

3. We don’t dance.

4. We don’t play musical instruments.

There are also those that don’t make a shehechiyanu, or wear new clothes.

There are a few differences in our observance of which days to implement these levels of mourning.  Today, the majority of Ashkenazim in fact observe some of these levels (for example not having haircuts) for the entire period of Pesach to Shavuos.

What is included in the levels of dance?

1. Even though the Poskim only mention dancing, the agreement of the Poskim is in fact to include the playing of, and listening to musical instruments (including recorded music) in this prohibition.

2. Specially recorded compilations of vocals-only music are also prohibited.  However, if they are not tunes that promote simcha, but rather arouse the soul, it is permissible for those who need it.

3. Listening to recorded Chazanos (Cantorial music) without musical instruments is permitted for those who need it, but not in public.

4. Singing is permissible, but there are those that prohibit singing in a group of people, however they allow singing songs that arouse the soul.  It is permissible to sing Zemiros on Shabbos and Motzei Shabbos even in a group.  It is also permissible to sing together with the children in Cheider.

5. With regards to recorded stories, shiurum etc which are sometimes accompanied by interludes of music, it is permissible to listen to them provided the intent is the content and the music is only incidental.

When and where is it permissible to play and listen to music?

1. Seudas Mitzvah (Bris Milah, Pidyon Haben, Barmitzvah day itself).

2. There is a difference of opinion amongst the Poskim as to whether or not it is permissible when completing a Tractate of the Talmud, where that is the practice.  There are those that permit it, but the stringent will be find blessing in refraining from doing so.  However, it is certainly permissible to sing in a group, even happy melodies.

3. It is not permissible to play musical instruments at an engagement party or meal.

4. With regards to a Hachnasas Sefer Torah which is accompanied by musical instruments (recorded or live), one needs to ask a Posek if it is correct or not during the Omer, as it is a public gathering and in many cases it is not specifically necessary to hold it during the Omer.

5. “On-hold” music is permissible when it is not the intent to listen but rather to speak on the phone.  It is however, appropriate for the owner of the phone or system to change the on-hold music if possible. This would also apply to those with real music ring-tones on their cell phones.

6. One who is learning to play a musical instrument, if it is for purposes of earning a living, then it is permissible.  However, for enjoyment it is prohibited.  Even only parts of a song (for example just playing the melody or just the chorus) is also not permissible.  Only with regards to small sections of such musical parts, is there room in which to be lenient.

7. Children who are learning to play a musical instrument or the teacher, should ask a Posek as the Halacha could change according to the situation.

8. Listening to music while exercising – if the lack of music will reduce the level of exercise, then it is permissible.  However if it is to increase one’s enjoyment while exercising, then it would be prohibited.

9. Listening to music in order to keep one awake behind the steering-wheel  of a car while driving – if there is no alternative means in order to keep one awake, then it would be permissible to listen to recorded music.

10. One who is accustomed to listening to music at work, and a lack of it would reduce his ability to produce, should consult with a Posek on how to act accordingly during the Omer.

11. Children of the chinuch age should be taught all the relevant laws above, however, if there is a great need, there is room in which to permit listening to recorded music temporarily, but not as usual on a regular basis.  Either way, it should never be in public.

Various Minhagim related to Sefiras HaOmer Part II

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A. Making a Shehechiyanu

From the Halachic perspective, there is nothing to prevent a person from saying a bracha of Shehechiyanu during this period, which is not comparable to the three weeks of mourning (bein Hametzarim), where one has to actively prevent himself from making a Shehechiyanu. The days of the Sefirah are only a remembrance to mourning the students of Rabi Akiva that passed away.

However, there are those that hold not to make a Shehechiyanu – i.e. not to eat a new fruit or wear new clothing.

In Practice, one who has a previous minhag not to make Shehechiyanu because of the minhag of his community, or he clarified the Halacha himself making the stringency not to say Shehechiyanu, then he should not change his minhag.  However, if the reason that a person made such a stringency is because he only thought that it was the Halacha not to make a Shehechiyanu, then it is permissible for him to change his minhag allowing him then to make a Shehechiyanu going forward.

One who in fact has no minhag whether or not to make a  Shehechiyanu, has no obligation to prevent himself from making a  Shehechiyanu.  However, in regards to a new fruit, if one can wait to make the Shehechiyanu on Shabbos, then he will find blessing.

Even according to those who hold not to make a Shehechiyanu, they do in fact hold to make a Shehechiyanu on Shabbos, Chol Hamoed Pesach and Lag B’Omer.  There are also those that permit making a Shehechiyanu from Rosh Chodesh Sivan onwards.   It would appear then, that anyone who has a specific need, can make a Shehechiyanu throughout the period of the Sefirah.

B.  New Clothing

i. There are those that hold not to wear new clothing throughout the Sefirah. This minhag is not mentioned what-so-ever in the Halachic writings.  In practice then, it would depend on one’s minhag as outlined above.

ii. Even according to those who hold not to make a Shehechiyanu on clothing, there are a few days in which to permit it. i.e on Chol Hamoed Pesach, Shabbos and Lag B’Omer itself.

  • Some permit it from Pesach until Rosh Chodesh Iyar, whereas others permit it from Rosh Chodesh Sivan until the end.
  • Clothing that is not deemed important enough on which to make a Shehechiyanu are of course allowed by those that hold this way.
  • For specials needs or times (Bris Milah, Barmitzvah etc), for reasons of discomfort or for reasons of Honor bestowed upon certain important individuals.
  • With regards to a minor below the age of Chinuch, it is obvious that they are excluded and it would appear that even for minors who are of the age of Chinuch, it would be allowed.
  • It would appear then, that those who hold not to make a Shehechiyanu would permit one to buy new clothing on condition that one would only wear it after the Sefirah.

C.  Miscellaneous other Minhagim

i.  One is allowed to buy new utensils and articles even if one would have an element of joy from this.

ii. It is permissible to move into a new apartment. However, there are those that specifically prevent themselves from doing so. One who has no pervious tradition to do this should not be stringent in this matter.

Iii. It is permissible to repair and paint one’s dwelling in these days.

Note: Those in Eretz Yisrael who travel to Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Lag B’Omer, should be careful when using or reserving public transport, not to leave immediately following Shabbos (as it falls out this year), because it could cause the driver and those working for the transport company to desecrate Shabbos, Heaven forbid (and this applies even if the Driver is a non-Jew).  i.e. There needs to be enough time that would have passed in order that the driver could have left his point of origin after Shabbos to arrive at the place of pickup.  Moreover, ones need to be careful that one should not prepare for his trip to Meiron during Shabbos itself (“Hachana”).

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