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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).

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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

“Raise your Head and be counted” ”

→ [You can download the entire Parasha Sheet by clicking here] ←

A person is searching for himself – this is perhaps how we can define the exploration that centers on the essence of our being which is many times left as the unidentifiable –“me”. A person seeks to weave an identity around his being, to see himself defined as someone. A person has many descriptive titles. Here one is a father and there a friend, in one place a worker and in another, a manager. A job, more than it serves to save from the pangs of hunger, is intended to bestow upon a person some title, that he should not G-d forbid, remain lacking a definition.

A person is searching for himself, requesting of all those who pass by: “perhaps you know who I am?”

One lifts his eyes to his fellow men hoping that someone will place him somewhere.

One will not find a business today, large or small, which does not have at least as many positions as it does employees. If ten laborers are found working around the production line, it is reasonable to assume that there are twelve different job titles amongst them. Not to mention the managerial positions where one could discover three of four titles on the business card of one single person.

Indeed, the managers, investors and owners know well how to squeeze out the best performance from each individual.

An old army saying tells that “a soldier without a uniform is not a soldier”. In truth it is hard to understand what’s so important about a unified outfit, a soldier seemingly is more in need of muscles, fitness and survival instincts. Clothing? What place do garments have with a fighter?

This policy does not end on the doorstep of prestigious professions. Today, even cleaners are defined within the pyramid of authority – Head of sanitation, second in charge, kitchen manager, department manager etc. Every task is accompanied by its label, each job has its name and each person carries his title, and sometimes more than one. This procedure does not only serve to ensure that the world functions in an orderly fashion but also brings order to a person himself, to define his place in it all. It is from this place that a person draws his strength and ability to function; if a person has a place, then he also possesses ability.
A person wonders about in Hashem’s world, his spirit bewildered and his mind even more so. His thoughts are filled with the things that necessity demands to be completed and taken care of. He trudges along with droopy shoulders and his hands lagging at his sides – his entire being is screaming: “where am I in this world?” The opportunities pass right by him yet he doesn’t bother to reach out for them, to catch a ride on one of them. He has neither the strength nor the sense; he doesn’t know where to start.

In fact, perhaps it is worthwhile to start from the very beginning…

As mentioned, the world in which we find ourselves is Hashem’s world and He created it lichvo’do (for his glory/honor). This means that the purpose of the world is that Hashem’s name be elevated, exalted and glorified through every part of mineral, vegetable, animal and human life forms. The entire universe throws itself at the feet of a Jew, beseeching and imploring that he bring it to its ultimate perfection. The Jew – is the only one out of infinite creations who is able to unify all that takes place here with the Creator, blessed be He. If his actions will cause the world to reveal Hashem’s glory, at that moment the entire creation becomes a Beis Hamikdash – a place for Hashem.

This goal is tremendously vast; it spans the expanses of time, from the sin of Adam HaRishon until the summation of the six thousand years. All the creations and formations are active partners in this assignment. However, only Am Yisroel are able to cause all of these creations to effect something meaningful for the sake of this purpose.

Every Jew has a mission, even many of them. Sometimes he stands up to the task, and sometimes not entirely. Success and failure are measured in proportion. For example, yesterday a certain portion of what I did was for the ultimate purpose, the other parts were spent sunken in my own selfness. Today I merited investing more of myself in the true goal, how wonderful!
If each Jew has his own personal mission, then Klal Yisroel as a whole are constantly fulfilling one long and complex mission. This mission we received at Mattan Torah (the giving of the Torah). At that awesome and monumental event, the mission descended in its entirety and was subdivided into fine details, each soul receiving its unique part.

The journeys of Am Yisroel in the desert were a synopsis of the thousands of journeys that they would endure in the future. Each Jew has his own journey and all of them are included in those forty two ancient journeys. This week we began the Chumash of Bamidbar, in it will unfold all that happened to us during those journeys, mainly the failures. In the next few weeks we will hear about Korach, the spies and the mey merivah (waters of strife); we will see time and again the mission slipping out from our fingers and the journey in the desert winding itself around in circles – as if the path we are traveling does not lead anywhere.
Sometimes our personal route also seems dizzying. A person walks along his life’s path asking ‘am I fulfilling any mission at all…’ This mission is something frighteningly evasive, one moment you felt it clearly in your hands, and the next, it’s gone. In general, the natural conclusion is – that’s it, I’m out, maybe I’ll wait for the next round…

Therefore, at the threshold to Chumash Bamidbar the Torah hands us something very important – a counting. Yes, before we enter the battle field we take a full census. That census, that took place in the desert, gathered all the souls into the realm of holiness. A number means that you are a part of a whole – you are not just a ‘lone wolf’, you are a piece in a gigantic puzzle. The whole brings completion to the part and the part brings completion to the whole. The counting bestows upon each person his unique place – you have something that no one else has and with this you are constantly a part of something enormous that is continuously functioning, something that is conquering and succeeding. If you dozed off for a moment or slept for an entire year, you still have not been discharged from the system. Klal Yisroel is constantly functioning, the mission is not conditional, it is a reality and you are a part of it.
This mission, with all its compartments and sections, carved in the desert sand a meaningful picture. Am Yisorel took on the form of the heavenly legions. The banners (degallim) and the camps that were arranged with such precision were an expression of a divine form. So it is taught in the Holy Books, that the order of the degallim and the camps mirrored the order of the camps of the angels. When Klal Yisroel camp or walk in the desert in a G-dly formation then the glory of Hashem is openly revealed upon them.

Generally, when we walk through the deserts of life, the sands cover over the beauty of the mission; it is not always that we have the opportunity to see clearly the heavenly Chariot of which we are a part. This is what happens to us on a regular afternoon when suddenly the desert closes in on us, isolates us and leaves us behind. It is then that it seems as if nothing ever was and that nothing will ever be. I was never anything special and I never will be.
Specifically because of this, the Sefer of Bamidbar opens with Parshas Naso. The opening words of the Pasha: “Naso es rosh” literally mean “lift the head” – this is exactly what we need. In order to gasp a fresh breath of air we must lift our heads, become uplifted and see the journey from a bird’s eye view. It is through being counted that we can take flight. The number makes us a part of the whole and nevertheless leaves us our uniqueness as a part. When the soul receives the title that is unique to it, its garment and its vessel for the light, then it is able to lift its head and see the vision of The Chariot. It can then understand that truthfully it is a part of Hashem’s legions. It is a vehicle for the revelation of Hashem in the world.

This is the power of the counting. It can infuse the power of the whole into the part. The uniforms, for example, bestow upon a single soldier the awesome strength of an entire army – with regular clothes he is just another person. The uniform transforms him into a piece of an army. For this reason everyone is so obsessed with titles. If someone asks you who you are, tell them with certainty what your task is. This is who I am, this is me.

We have come down from Har Sinai, from the sanctity of Shavu’os. Each person holds in his hands a Torah, signed and sealed. Small people look at the wrapped gift in their hands with confusion and bewilderment: ‘what is inside this gift. Is it possible that something meaningful will take place with me?’
The scorching summer that follows the sixth of Sivan is the place. It is here that our mission will take place. In this arena the wrapped gift will materialize into a reality, our own personal and unique mission is intertwined with the unique part of the Torah that we received at Har Sinai. This mission is our place in the heavenly Chariot. Through this part Hashem will be revealed this coming year.

From here forth there is no room for confusion or despair. The Torah is already in our hands; our part in the perpetual system will not be changed no matter what. Whether we want or not, we are here, on the inside. Each one of us has an exact place and number. The wheels of the Chariot of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) have begun to turn and we are already in the heat of the mission, at the very moment that we are reading these lines and right now we are wanted here. Onwards…

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”).

“The Power of Rashbi”

As long as he can remember, he has seen them standing alert and at attention, appearing to him like iron statues. He was a child and they were adults and one question filled his entire world – how do they do it? Where do they get the strength from, to stand for so many hours, to march back and forth, to run and to train. Do they never tire? It seemed as if the pangs of exhaustion had been forever banished from their eyes.

As he grew and developed into a young man, so too did his question sprout and evolve, taking on a new form and deepening its roots. Now he understood, that in truth these people have nothing else in their worlds – neither family nor friends. Their lives revolve around one thing only, it is called in their words “His Majesty”. He is a servant boy and not a minister nor a soldier. These people seem so way above his perception – how can he possibly understand them?

Then, one day it happened, he understood. No one knows how his legs found their way to the threshold of the splendid room. In any event, he was there, and even the door itself came to his aid. The small gap between the slightly open door and its frame revealed to him the entire secret. The vision lasted only a few moments, until the door was shut tightly, but for him it was enough to last the rest of his life. He will never forget the look in the eyes of those strong and usually stoic men. The king’s face he did not see, but their faces he surely did, and what he perceived in their glowing eyes had never before appeared in the thousands of pairs of eyes he had glanced at in the past.

The mystery no longer bothered him.  If such a thing exists, if his eyes too would ever perceive whatever otherworldly thing they saw, then sleep would surely never find its place in them either. Of this he has no doubt.  ■

How can it be that as we enter the heart of the scorching summer, amidst the days of the Sefirah, when we have just taken leave of the month of Nissan and set foot upon the highway that escalates all the way to the chag of Shavu’os, that suddenly we find in the torah portion – Yom Ha’Kippurim. It is quite startling to abruptly find the holiest day of the year six months after we left it behind together with the days of Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos.

If we have already begun with the topic of time periods and dates, we discover that we always, for some reason, read the parsha of Acharei Mos – Kedoshim somewhere in the vicinity of Lag B’Omer and the Hillulas Rashbi (The Yartzheit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai). Presumably there is some deeper meaning in this…

All of us, we can safely assume, count the Sefiras Ha’Omer each night. The Sefirah is not merely a bracha and short sentence said in addition to Ma’ariv, it holds a very important, even essential role, so much so that these days have even warranted their very own name and have been crowned with the title “Yimei Ha’Sfirah” (The days of the counting), meaning – days which their very chiyus (life-force) is drawn from the mitzvos of the Sefiras Ha’Omer. What is it that we say in the prayer before the counting ‘Ribboino Shel Olam… (Master of the Universe…)’ that makes every bachur with a heart scream with all his strength, ‘…May we be purified and sanctified’, yes, we are simply requesting exactly this, purity and holiness.

When we were young we also screamed out: ‘today’, maybe at the beginning, around where we say ‘one day’ or ‘two days’, but when we continue to: ‘…… which are one week’, many voices fade out. Honestly, how much can we push ourselves; and just between us, why should we scream out so intensely, what are we missing in life, what’s the big commotion about? Did something happen on Pesach that we have some urgent need to be purified? Were we not okay until now? What was, still is, a wonderful Jewish life; there is no doubt that there are things that need to be rectified, but what’s the big rush? Why does it specifically need to be “be’kedushah shel ma’alah (with heavenly holiness)”, can we not be satisfied with simple, good and flowing Judaism … as it has been until today?

It’s true that we have heard of great people who live in a different atmosphere, we have even seen them at various opportunities. We followed them with staring eyes, and a subtle desire was sparked in the depths of our hearts. ‘Ahh…this is what I would have wanted, to serve Hashem with my entire being and with such passion. It is wondrous to live with an inseparable connection to something so very alive, to invest all one’s capabilities and effort for someone whom one would sacrifice everything for. To approach tefillah without thinking about what one will be doing after he concludes “Oseh Shalom…”, to sink into the words and to forget all of existence.

But then we caught ourselves: ‘Oops, don’t get swept away, take a step back, you’re not built for that’. Since then those holy people have remained in a golden frame on the wall. They even hold an honored place in our hearts. We respect them and their ways –  perhaps in our next gilgul (reincarnation) we’ll try too…

This feeling returns when the first sentence of Parshas Kedoshim appears from amidst the torah reading: “…be holy…”. With Rashi’s explanation (that we should stay clear of sin) we can manage, but when we see the Rambam’s explanation: ‘be holy in that which is permissible to you’, things get a little more complicated. How is it even possible? I’m not there; I have a home, a family, work and a life. How could I ever do it?

One moment, someone already dealt with this, he was called Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai, yes, the one from the holy Zohar. He screamed out and exclaimed: “it (the torah) will not be forgotten from the mouths of his offspring” – the Sefer Ha’Zohar is the surety for this. By inference we understand what would happen without it, Rebbi Shimon told us something new, something that no one else could say, and the others were no simpletons, they were holy Tana’im. The Gemorah tells us about the sages who sat in a vineyard in Yavneh evaluating the situation, and they came to the conclusion that within a few generations, the Torah would become forgotten in a world without the Beis Hamikdash. Rebbi Shimon was very young at the time; he was only “a certain student”.  Yet a few years later, on a separate occasion, he declared that without that which he revealed, the Torah truly would be forgotten – but that after the Zohar had come into the world this would not happen – “for it will not be forgotten from his offspring” (in Hebrew the last letters of this verse spell ‘Yochai’, see the introduction to Likutey Moharan).

But why prophesize such a dark and gloomy future in the fist place? Why were the Tana’im in Yavneh so worried. Are we little children, can we not manage on our own? Look at what we have achieved; there was never a generation in which there were so many holy books in so many splendid editions. When in all of history were there so many learned people in Klal Yisroel. Today every child can deliver a most impressive Dvar Torah. There are even computer programs for accelerated Torah learning and one can get smichah by correspondence. What’s so bad? We’re managing just fine. We can relax.

Yes, it’s true, there is no need to worry – with regard to this no one has any problems, the holy Tana’im knew very well how smart and intelligent we would be in the future, they were not concerned that we would forget or loose information … we can even make a ‘backup’. They were alarmed about a much more dangerous situation, in which the Sefer Torah has long since disappeared and all that remains is the beautiful cover that can be embraced with the arms. They prophesized of a situation in which it is possible to preach and expound the laws of Shabbos and to completely forget that it IS Shabbos today.

They worried about a Judaism that can be intellectually explained but that is empty of fiery Emunah. They worried about a splendid Esrog that costs a fortune yet its owner has a heart that is cold and apathetic, together with a mind that is elsewhere. They knew that only a Beis Hamikdash is what can bring the soul of a Jew to dwell in his body. From there, where the Shechina (Divine Presence) dwelled in a structure made of stone, were sent forth veins of life to the heart of every Jew. It was these that fixed in their minds and hearts the living Zicharon (memory/awareness) and vitality of the Torah. Without the Beis Hamikdash where could this awareness possibly come from?

Rashbi, in his tremendous holiness and tremendously powerful soul, knew something else. He knew that there is a Tzaddik that is so great, that the very Beis Hamikdash itself draws its holiness from Him and that a Tzaddik of this caliber is able to guarantee that indeed, the Torah will not be forgotten. For he already prepared a solution to the problem, he built an ark that can save us from the flood – it is called the ‘Zohar’ and all who have even the slightest contact with it, immediately remember.

This is also what the torah reading does to us; it is not for nothing that they sent us, in the heat of the summer, a pure breeze of Yom Ha-Kippurim. When the soul is absorbed into the scent of Kedusha and Tahara (purity), when a person finds himself, even for a few moments, in the king’s chamber; when he sees, feels and tastes the sweetness of forgiveness and pardon, when he receives a smile that radiates nothing but love and closeness, then he begins to understand how it is possible to enter into a life of Kedusha. For he who sees the face of the king –  even once a year – and is therefore able to toil three hundred and sixty four days without fatigue and tiredness, to bear the ‘burden’ of the taryag (613) mitzvos and to cling constantly to the holy Emunah.

We count the days every evening and remember that I too left Mitzrayim. I am not just some unholy Jew – I am something else entirely. We also remember that the Mitzvos do have an effect on us, the Torah makes us holy, and it is not something dead but rather entirely alive.

Then, in the middle of the days of the Omer we ascend together to Meiron, to the place from where this awareness is spread across the entire globe. This celebration that casts aside even the most stringent customs of mourning, reminds us that Judaism takes form around the ‘living’ Tzaddikim. It reminds us that even in a world of forgetfulness and confusion, there is a Beis HaMikdash – a true Tzaddik who’s teachings are in our midst.

One need only open a Likutei Moharan, ‘go over’ a piece of Likutei Halachos and talk with good friends who are searching together for true guidance and advice. When one tastes even a tiny spoonful of this, one instantly understands how there can be those for whom the king is their entire lives, and that we too can be like them; even within our simple and quiet lives we can live with the king at literally every moment.

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