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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Cohen’

The Uniqueness Of Modern Orthodoxy (Part III)

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Question: What is unique about Modern Orthodoxy?

Answer: We established that Torah is the distinctive characteristic of the Jewish people. This suggests that the uniqueness of Modern Orthodoxy must lie in the character of its Torah. We suggested that Modern Orthodoxy, as opposed to other Orthodox groups, may be more inclined to side with the Aruch HaShulchan over the Mishnah Berurah.

* * * * *

It is interesting to note that our sages did not generally assume that poskim should rule stringently.

There is one instance that we do rule stringently. That instance is hekesh. The Talmud, for example, discusses how we know that women are biblically obligated to recite kiddush on Friday night. It notes that regarding Shabbat, the Chumash states “zachor – remember” and “shamor – guard.” The former refers to kiddush and the latter refers to the Shabbat prohibitions. The Talmud (Berachot 20b) rules that “whoever is included in the command to ‘guard Shabbat’ is also included in the command ‘to remember Shabbat.’ ” Therefore, since women are obliged to observe all the Shabbat prohibitions, they are also obliged to recite kiddush (even though kiddush is a time-bound mitzvah, which women are generally exempt from).

Of course the Gemara could have used the exact opposite line of reasoning. It could have stated that whoever is not obliged to ‘remember Shabbat’ is not obliged to ‘observe Shabbat.’ And since women are exempt from kiddush due it being a time-bound mitzvah, they are also exempt from Shabbat prohibitions.

The commentaries state that the Gemara did not reason in this fashion because there is a general rule that when it comes to a relationship between biblical verses – a hekesh – we interpret the relationship stringently. Rav Akiva Eiger explained that this is a rule based on mesorah and not because we are just being cautious (based on the dictum that safek d’oraisa l’chumra).

In any event, what emerges from this discussion is that the only tradition to be stringent relates to a relationship between biblical verses (a hekesh). In general, though, one may be lenient.

And yet, only Modern Orthodox poskim seem to generally rule leniently. Chassidic and yeshivish poskim do not. It should be noted, however, that sephardic poskim, especially HaRav Ovadya Yosef, also traditionally rule leniently.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has authored eight books on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Support Of Sechach

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Question: May one support kosher sechach in a sukkah by placing it on a davar she’mekabel tumah, an item that can receive impurity (i.e., metal)?

Answer: The Mishnah Berurah rules that doing so is only prohibited l’chatchilah (Orach Chayim 629:22).

What about sitting in (as opposed to building) a sukkah with sechach supported by a davar she’mekabel tumah? Can one sit in such a sukkah l’chatchilah or not? It is not clear what the ruling of the Mishnah Berurah is on this issue.

The Ba’al HaTanya, however, rules unequivocally that the prohibition of using a davar she’mekabel tumah to support kosher sechach is merely an issur l’chatchilah for the builder of the sukkah. On the other hand, people who wish to eat or sleep in a sukkah with sechach supported by a davar she’mekabel tumah may do so l’chatchilah (Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chayim 629:13).

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has authored eight books on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Standing And Sitting For Kiddush On Sukkot

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Question: Should a person recite kiddush standing or sitting on Sukkot? If he stands, should he sit down after saying the berachah of leshev ba’sukkah or remain standing?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 643:2) cites the Rambam’s ruling that kiddush on Sukkot should be recited while standing so that one can sit down immediately after the leshev ba’sukkah berachah. The Rema, however, demurs. He notes that such is not the custom; rather, “we recite kiddush while seated.”

The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 643:sk4) explains that the Rambam maintains that a person has fulfilled the mitzvah of sukkah as soon as he sits in one. Since a general halachic principle dictates that a person should recite a berachah on a mitzvah right before performing it, it only makes sense that one should sit down after making the berachah of leshev ba’sukkah.

The Rema, however, maintains that sitting in a sukkah is not a fulfillment of the mitzvah of sukkah. That only starts when one eats in a sukkah. Accordingly, there is nothing wrong with sitting down and making kiddush before saying the berachah of leshev ba’sukkah.

What should a person do if his minhag is to stand for kiddush? If he sits after saying leshev ba’sukkah, he will convey the impression that he has fulfilled the mitzvah of sukkah by sitting down. But he has not. The mitzvah of yeshivat sukkah mean dwelling in a sukkah, not sitting in it. So as not to convey an incorrect impression, perhaps a person who stands for kiddush should remain standing after concluding kiddush.

Of interest is the position of the Shulchan Aruch Harav. He writes that a person should sit after saying leshev ba’sukkah, not because he has thereby fulfilled the mitzvah of sukkah, but so as to avoid giving the impression that he is immediately leaving the sukkah. It is merely a symbolic act to project the image that he is remaining in the sukkah and not standing, ready to leave.

A means of demonstrating loyalty to both the position of the Mishnah Berurah and the theory of the Shulchan Aruch Harav would be to recite kiddush while standing and then to manifest permanency by sitting down to drink the wine.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has authored eight books on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Music During The Nine Days (Part II)

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Question: Is it prohibited to listen to music in the privacy of one’s home (or car) during the Nine Days?

Answer: We noted last week that HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Y.D. Vol. II:137) maintains that it is, indeed, forbidden. He actually maintains that Chazal banned public musical events throughout the entire year. What is prohibited specifically during the Nine Days is music in the privacy of one’s home.

The Rema (Orach Chayim 560:3) seems to argue that Chazal only prohibited music year-round for people who used to awake or retire with music (i.e. kings, and the like) and for people at a bet mishteh. Rav Feinstein, however, contends that this reading of the Rema is incorrect. Rather, according to Rav Feinstein, even the Rema prohibits public musical events throughout the year.

* * * * *

Bimchilat k’vodo, Rav Feinstein’s ruling is difficult to comprehend or follow. According to this ruling, it would be prohibited to attend any kind of musical concert throughout the year. Yet, except for perhaps g’dolei yisrael, hardly anyone makes a point of not attending concerts. It is difficult to suggest that the majority of k’lal yisrael is violating a basic halacha.

Accordingly, it seems logical that Chazal never prohibited all public musical events during the year. Rather, the prohibition is like the simple reading of the Rema and limited to people who used to awake or retire with music and for people at a bet mishteh.

Interestingly, in his Sha’ar HaTziyun (Orach Chayim 560:23), the Mishnah Berurah cites scholars who rule that the prohibition to listen to music at a bet mishteh is limited to drinking parties only. If anything other than drinks are served, there is no prohibition.

Based upon the logic of Rav Feinstein that the prohibition to listen to music during the Nine Days must be severer than the prohibition to listen to music year round, we may suggest that the extra prohibition during the Nine days covers all kinds of bet mishteh, even ones that serve more than drinks. Alternatively, the extra prohibition may cover all public musical events – regardless of whether food is served or not.

Hence, it’s possible that our sages never outlawed music in the privacy of one’s home (or car) during the Nine Days.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has written several works on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Music During The Nine Days (Part I)

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Question: Is it prohibited to listen to music in the privacy of one’s home (or car) during the Nine Days?

Answer: This issue has intrigued me for some time. HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah, II:137), rules that it is indeed prohibited.

He explains that after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, our sages enacted a number of ordinances to manifest a degree of sadness and mourning. One such decree was the prohibition to listen to music throughout the year. The Rema (Orach Chayim 560:3) contends that this prohibition applies only to people who formerly awoke in the morning and retired at night to the accompaniment of music, i.e., kings. In addition, the Rema notes that those in attendance at a beit mishteh were also included in the ban. The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 560:12) explains that this prohibition is due to the presence of wine at a beit mishteh.

All this suggests that a person who did not listen to music on a daily basis and did not attend a beit mishteh would be permitted to listen to music year-round. Rav Moshe, however, disagrees with this inference. He contends that even the Rema would prohibit Jews from attending public musical events during the year since one derives excessive simcha from such events.

If public music is thus forbidden year-round, what additional music were the rabbis prohibiting when they enacted the laws against music during the Nine Days? Perforce, they were prohibiting listening to music even in the privacy of one’s own home (or car).

(To Be Continued)

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has written several works on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

A Unique Iranian Custom

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Question: It is known that some sephardim generally arrive at a simcha a few hours subsequent to the time noted on the invitation. Is there any logic behind this custom?

Answer: Years ago, while serving as a rav in Los Angeles, I, together with my wife, went to a bat mitzvah celebration at the home of a prominent Iranian friend. The event was called for 7 p.m. We arrived shortly after 7:00 and were escorted to the backyard of the venue where there were tables and chairs for at least 500 people. Yet, to our shock and amazement, not a single person was there.

Thinking that we had come on the wrong date, I informed the person who had escorted us that I had probably made an error and that we were departing. As we were about to leave, I was told that the party was in fact taking place that evening.

Noticed my puzzlement, the host himself came forward to speak with me. He said that the satan visits every happy event in order to create an ayin hara and mar the simcha. To counter this, all invitations announce the simcha for at least an hour prior to the time when the event is really scheduled to begin. When the satan arrives at the scheduled time and sees no one there, he figures he is wasting his time – it’s a “no-show party” – and leaves. The guests, however, know in advance that the event won’t begin until at least an hour after the official time and therefore only arrive after the satan has already departed.

Not wishing to provide the satan with an opportunity to mar the simcha, my wife and I departed and returned two hours later – just in time for the beginning of the festivities.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of several works on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Tzitzit, Tefillin, And Women

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Question: Why don’t women wear tzitzit and tefillin?

Answer: In general, tradition has it that women are not obligated to observe mitzvot dependent upon a specific period of time. Thus, for example, they are exempt from hearing shofar on Rosh Hashanah and shaking lulav on Sukkot.

Yet women commonly observe the mitzvot of shofar and lulav. Why, then, can they not also observe the mitzvot of tzitzit and tefillin?

The Aruch HaShulchan discusses this issue. He explains that tzitzit is different than shofar and lulav. First, tzitzit is a constant mitzvah while shofar and lulav are restricted to a couple of minutes a year. Second, wearing tzitzit is not technically required by biblical law unless one is wearing a four-cornered garment. Men, nowadays, voluntarily wear four-cornered garments constantly so that they will be obligated to perform the mitzvah of tzitzit. Women were never granted authority to similarly volunteer and recite a berachah on this mitzvah like men. The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 17:1-3) even uses the term “ein me’nichim” – we do not allow women to wear tzitzit. (See also Mishnah Berurah, O.C. 17:5.)

As far as tefillin are concerned: This mitzvah mandates cleanliness and proper thoughts (Shabbat 49a). Men are presumed able to control themselves during tefillah and maintain the necessary level of cleanliness. Due to physiological differences, however, matters are not as simple for women, and they therefore should not wear tefillin.

The Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 38:6) notes that the Talmud (Eruvin 96a) states that King Saul’s daughter, Michal, wore tefillin and the sages did not protest. However, the Aruch HaShulchan writes, this anecdote does not contradict his conclusion. Michal was a well-known pious woman who knew how to protect and preserve the sanctity of tefillin. She was an exception and we should not extrapolate anything from her example.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of seven sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Shabbat The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/tzitzit-tefillin-and-women/2012/06/21/

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