Join Rabbi Haber's mailing list:
Home What's New Blogs Store Dedications Weekly Parshah About TorahLab Contact Us Links


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tu B’Av

The Mishna in Taanis tells us that there are no happier days for the Jewish People than Yom Kippur and the fifteenth day of Av. On those days the maidens of Jerusalem would go out to the vineyards in borrowed clothing, (so as not to embarrass the girls who didn’t own fine garments) and exclaim accolades that would shed a positive light on their particular station and situation.

Yom Kippur was an occasion for joy because on Yom Kippur G-d forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf and Moshe Rabeinu descended with the second Luchos.

The Gemara gives several reasons for the joy of the fifteenth of Av.

It was the day that the Tribes were allowed to intermarry. Until then, due to the incident of Tzelafchad’s daughters, all Jews would only marry people from their own Shevet. On the fifteenth of Av it was proclaimed that this only applied to the generation of Tzelafchad’s daughters.

After the Pilegesh B’Givah incident all the Shevatim were forbidden to marry any Benjaminites. (Shoftim 21) This decree was rescinded on Tu B’Av as well.

All the males in the desert aged twenty to sixty had been told they were going to die. Every year on Tisha B’Av all the eligible males would dig graves and go to sleep in them, and every year a number of them would die in those graves. In the fortieth year no one died. Thinking they had miscalculated, they tried again the following night. This continued until the fifteenth of the month, whereupon they saw the full moon and realized the decree had expired and they would all be entering Eretz Yisrael. They established that day as a Yom Tov. Additionally, at that time Hashem resumed speaking directly to Moshe Rabeinu, for the past 38 years he had only been speaking to him in an unclear manner.

Yeravem ben Nevat had erected roadblocks throughout Israel in an effort to stop people from being oleh regel to Jerusalem and instead redirected them to his places of idol worship. On the fifteenth of Av Hoshea ben Alah, his successor, despite being considered an evil king, removed the roadblocks thereby allowing people to once again to Jerusalem.

During the Bar Kochba revolution the Roman authorities would not allow the dead of Beitar to be buried. On the fifteenth of Av they were permitted to be buried. At that time the Sages in Yavneh composed the fourth blessing of Birkas hamazon in thanks to Hashem; miraculously the bodies had not decomposed at all.

On the fifteenth of Av they would cease chopping wood to fill the storehouses of the Beis Hamikdash. The strength of the sun would begin to weaken then and the wood wouldn’t dry properly. This was a cause for celebration for as the nights grew longer people would have more time to be able to dedicate themselves to Torah study. 

The Bnei Yissacher asks: Why is it that Tu b’Av seems to have a special significance for Shiduchim? We see the various laws regarding the intermarriage of the Shevatim were given on this day, and it is the day that the Jerusalem maidens would seek their matches. What is the special significance?

As we know, the seven day creation of the world began on the 25th of Elul and was completed on Rosh Hashanah. The Gemara tells us that forty days before the creation of a child its shiduch is decided in Heaven. So too, explains the Bnei Yissacher, forty days before the birth of the world, which was created for the benefit of Klal Yisrael, Hashem announced the ‘shiduch’ between us and Him.  This was on Tu b’Av; and forever after the day is vested with a special blessing for marriages.

[He fascinatingly points out that according to R’ Yehoshua who maintains the world was created in Nissan, there is a similar parallel to Tu B’Shvat. He also discusses the significance of Yom Kippur regarding shiduchim.]

Posted on 08/02 at 01:29 PM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Nine Days

The ‘Nine Days’, the period of time from Rosh Chodesh Av through Tisha B’Av, is a period of intense national mourning. The Gemara tells us that when Av enters we should diminish our joy. Indeed, many understand this to mean to cease all joy entirely. [The Shaar Hatzion seems to indicate that merely minimizing joy is sufficient from a Halachic standpoint.]

The Gemara says that one should not engage in a lawsuit with a non Jew during this time, as the Mazal of the Jew is ‘down’. Included in this would be elective or non vital medical tests and procedures, as they are considered a ‘din’ with Hashem. [When involved with a potentially dangerous situation we are forcing Hashem to judge us at that time].

There are five categories of items that are prohibited during the nine days:

Building and Planting for Pleasure

This is the least known, and only Talmud based prohibition. One is prohibited from building a pleasure dwelling or planting a garden. Items that are necessary, such as appliances, shelves, furniture etc. may be bought if they are needed then. If one is merely refurnishing or updating their appliances, they should not schedule that for during the Nine Days.

Extensive landscaping would be included as well. Rav Moshe writes that one should not purchase a new car for non-business purposes.

Included in this category is general business if not necessary for livelihood. Although we generally consider all business as necessary for livelihood, it would be prudent to minimize engaging in business that could be delayed until after the Nine Days.

One may engage in renovating or building a residence he is not living in if it won’t be completed or moved into before the Nine Days.  There are exceptions to this, such as a house for a child who is getting married, and should be discussed with a Rov.

Meat and Wine

Meat and Wine, although originally only forbidden for the Seudah Hamafsekes, are prohibited the entire Nine Days by the Rishonim. The Beis Yosef explains: whereas the Gemara tells us that there is no joy without meat and wine, one should not have these items during this time of mourning.  The Vilna Gaon suggests that this originated with a group of Jews who refrained entirely from meat and wine after the second Temple was destroyed, stating that if the Mizbeach isn’t able to ‘partake’ in meat an wine, how could we? Although the Gemara reports (Bava Basra 60b) that R’ Yehoshua stopped this from becoming public policy, the Minhag stuck for the Nine Days.

It is the contemporary custom to avoid all meat and wine, even in a larger dish (that is, a tavshil shel basar), but meat dishes are fine.

Grape juice is not allowed.

The Minhag is to not give small children meat as well. If however there is a health necessity (or the child won’t eat dairy) it is permitted. There may be some wiggle room with Shabbos leftovers, consult your Rav for personal guidance.

Havdala wine should be given to a child who is old enough to make and understand a Bracha but is not old enough to mourn for the Destruction of Jerusalem. This is probably between the ages of 5-10. If no child is available he should drink it himself. Rav Elyashiv writes that whereas the custom is that women do not drink Havdala wine it is better for the Mavdil to drink it then to give it to a young girl.

If one generally gives their children a meat ‘Shabbos meal’ several hours before Shabbos, he may do so on this Friday as well. (Igros Moshe OC 4:21:4)

Rav Moshe (Ibid) says that one may not eat a meat Melava Malka, there are those who permit it for one who is careful to do so every week.


It is forbidden to wash any part of your body during the entire Nine Days. That being said, I’d like to trace the etymology of this Halacha through to its practical application. (Based on Shiurei Halacha from Rabbi S. Felder).

The Rema rules: The only permitted washing is head hands and feet with cold water on Erev Shabbos. If one regularly uses hot water to wash his head some permit it.

The Mishna Berura elucidates: Soap is forbidden

The Chaye Adam permits hands and feet with hot water on erev Shabbos if one is accustomed to that.

[The Steipler says that the heter to wash feet is only for those who go barefoot. In the times of the Rema they didn’t wear shoes?]

The Aruch Hashulchan protests the opening of bath houses on Erev Shabbos Chazon.

On these shores, Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Henkin were much more lenient regarding bathing on Erev Shabbos. Rav Henkin explains that we are all istinus (finicky), and there is a heter for a istinus mourner to bathe which we can apply to Erev Shabbos. Rav Moshe explains that for Americans who bathe daily there is a greater discomfort and therefore lack of Oneg Shabbos to be unbathed. Additionally, he points out, that when we bathe for Shabbos it is clear we are doing so in honor of Shabbos, being as its not the only bath of the week.

Even according to the above, one still shouldn’t use hot water; it doesn’t have to be freezing, just not pleasurably hot.

The Shalmas Chayim says that one may use soap for cleaning purposes, just not for pleasure purposes.  It would seem the minhag is in accordance with his view.

How about during the week? All the above Poskim were only talking about in honor of Shabbos, but would seem to feel that during the week it would be prohibited.

We can (and Rabbi Felder does) make the following calculation. On Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av themselves one may wash part of his body that got dirty. One is limited, however, to the part of his body that is dirty. If he is dirty in several places and it would be difficult to wash each one individually, then he may wash his whole body at once. His intention must be to remove the dirt exclusively and not for pleasure. (We are generally machmir on this Halacha on Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur, but them’s the facts).

Therefore, if one makes the case that sweat and daily grime is halachic ‘dirt’, then they would be able to wash their entire body to remove that dirt. Indeed, the Mishna Berura (613:2) does say that a lot of sweat would be permissible to wash it off [theoretically on Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av!] but one should be machmir. During the Nine Days we could rely on this.

So if one is uncomfortably sweaty, they can be permitted to take a short, non pleasurable, not too hot shower with a minimum of soap necessary for cleansing.

According to Rav Soloveitchik’s understanding of the three weeks/ nine days/ Tisha B’Av it would appear that there is further room to be lenient regarding bathing.

Swimming is prohibited. Rav Sheinberg and Rav Yechezkel Roth both didn’t like the idea of young children swimming publicly either, although it is Halachically permitted.

Buying and Fixing Clothing

It is forbidden to buy make or repair new clothing, even if not for use during the Nine Days. Old clothing can be repaired (but not washed).

A Sheitel can be recut or repaired, but not washed.

One may buy Tisha B’Av shoes if necessary.

If there is an unusual sale one may take advantage of it.

Washing, and Wearing (Freshly Washed) Clothing

It is forbidden to wash clothes (even for later use) and to wear freshly laundered clothes. This applies to clothing, bedding, towels, hand towels and the like.

Dry cleaning and ironing is also included (Igros Moshe OC 3:79,83).

Spot cleaning and drying wet clothes is permitted.

One may not wear Shabbos Clothing during the Nine Days with the following exceptions:


The parents and grandparents at a Bris or Pidyon Haben, if they would have done so any other time.

The Mohel and Sandak at a Bris if they would have normally done so.

For a date one may wear freshly laundered and Shabbos clothes.

One cannot give their clothes into the dry cleaners during the Nine Days, but may pick up clothes that were cleaned before Rosh Chodesh.

One may wash the clothing of very small children who soil their clothing often. One can be meikel for older children as well outside of the week of Tisha B’Av. (Chaye Adam).

One should ‘prewear’ their garments before the Nine Days.  One can layer many items at once if necessary. Sheets should also not be fresh during the Nine Days, although you may give a guest fresh sheets.

If one failed to pre wear their clothing, they may change several times over Shabbos. It has to be done at a time that would be normal to change such as after a nap so as not to be considered hachana.

There is no blanket exception for undergarments. One should ideally prepare their undergarments the same way he prepares his other clothing. If they haven’t, or have a hard time doing this due to hygienic concerns, they may change during the Nine Days, but only when their clothes become uncomfortable and smelly, not routinely.

May we be zoche to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beis Hamikdash.

Posted on 07/21 at 02:37 AM • Permalink
(6) Comments

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Three Weeks

The three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av (commonly known as “The Three Weeks”) are a time of mourning for the Bnei Yisrael. We therefore refrain from various joyous practices during this period. They are split into three levels with their intensity increasing as we approach the ninth of Av. This article deals with the first of these levels from the 17th of Tammuz up until Rosh Chodesh Av.

We don’t take haircuts or shave. This is similar to Sefirah and more details can be found in this post.

We don’t listen to music. One who is professional musician as well as one who is learning how to play an instrument may continue to do so. (After Rosh Chodesh Av it is best to do so in a secluded place). For more music related laws please see the Sefirah post

We don’t get married during this time.

We do not recite Shecheyanu. Therefore one shouldn’t purchase an item that requires a Shehechyanu, such as new clothing, a new car (for personal use, not business or family use), or a new Tallis. New clothing that does not require Shecheyanu or that was bought before the 17th of Tammuz and Shecheyanu was already recited may be worn for the first time up until Rosh Chodesh Av.

Clothing that requires Shecheyanu may not be bought but may be worn on Shabbos until Rosh Chodesh.

Rav Soloveitchik had a fascinating Halachic observation: All laws of Aveilus throughout the year must be modeled after the Aveilus one has for a relative that passes away. Therefore we will treat Tisha B’Av as Shiva, the Nine Days as Shloshim, and the three weeks are analogous to the 12 months following the death of a parent. (Nefesh Harav).

Posted on 07/08 at 09:12 AM • Permalink
(1) Comments

17th of Tammuz

The 17th of Tammuz has historically been a calamity prone day. The Mishna (Tanis 4:6) lists 5 things that happened to the Jewish nation n this day:

1) The Luchos were broken when Moshe Rabeinu descended from Har Sinai and came across the Golden Calf. (40 days after the 7th of Sivan).

2) The Korban Tamid (the twice daily sacrifice that was brought in the Beis Hamikdash) ceased [either due to government edict or because of internal Hasmonean conflict c.f Bava Kama 82b].

3) The walls of Jerusalem were breached during the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash according to the Babylonian Talmud, and during both destructions according to the Jerusalem Talmud.

4) Apustamus [a Greek minister] burnt the Torah. The Tiferes Yisroel understands this to mean the Torah that Ezra had written and was used to check other Torah scrolls against. Alternatively it refers to any and every Torah he could get his hands on.

5) An idol was erected in the Beis Hamikdash. When this occurred is a dispute in the Jerusalem Talmud. Some say it refers to the idol of Menashe during the first Temple period, and some say it was erected by the aforementioned Apustamus, which was during the Second Temple period.

For laws of fast days please see the article on Fast Days

Posted on 07/08 at 09:03 AM • Permalink
(0) Comments

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dipping Your Dishes

The right way to Tovel your dishes and pots

We are obligated to immerse all metal, lead or glass dishes that were purchased or received from a non-Jew. This is inferred from Bamidbar 31:23 where the Jewish people were instructed to dip the dishes they had taken from the spoils of the war with Midyan in a Mikvah.

The Mikvah that is to be used for keilim (vessels) has to be a fully kosher Mikvah. An ocean, or any body of water that is spring fed, may also be used. If it is rain fed then it must be still (calm) waters.

The tevilah can be performed by any Jewish adult or a Jewish child being watched by a Jewish Adult. A non Jew may assist the Jew in Toveling, provided that a Jew is supervising him and is toveling simultaneously and made the blessing for both of them.

The blessing (Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosav Vtzivanu Al Tvilas Keli) should be made prior to the immersion. If one is Toveling several items he says Al Tevilas Keilim.

The Tevilah may be done anytime other than Shabbos and Yom Tov.

The dish must be fully immersed, both inside and out, including the handles and any permanently attached parts. Therefore one should let go of the item while it is underwater for a moment, hold it very loosely, or wet ones hands before immersing the vessel. Many Mikvaos provide an appropriate basket that one can put the utensils into and they will get fully covered.

Electric appliances (such as an urn) should be immersed up to the beginning of the electric housing, provided that the entire portion of the appliance that comes into contact with the food is under water. (Igros Moshe YD 1:57).

One is only obligated to immerse utensils that the owner is planning on using for food. Therefore a shopkeeper does not have to Tovel his inventory, indeed, even if he does so it won’t help for the customer. So if one is purchasing items in a store with a Mikvah, they should first purchase the item and then Tovel it.

Dishes that are rented or borrowed from a non Jew do not require Tevilah.

One who reuses bottles that were specifically designed for the product that they were sold with such as Snapple or whiskey bottles does not need to Tovel them. With metal containers, it’s recommended to immerse them without a Bracha. (Igros Moshe YD 2:40,137)

A utensil that exclusively does a preliminary act with the food, and even after being used the food will require more processing should be immersed without a Bracha. Therefore a coffee grinder should be Toveled without a bracha because the grounds need to be cooked before they become edible.

A meat thermometer does not need Tevilah

China, even when glazed does not need Tevilah. Pyrex, Duralex and the like do.

Non metallic utensils that can not be identified as having glass as a composite material do not need Tevilah. Some say that Corelle and Corning are included in this. Many recommend Toveling them without a Bracha.

Stickers labels and the like must be removed. If there is a very small amount of residue, and he wouldn’t ordinarily mind it being there, he need not be concerned.

Disposable dishes such as aluminum pans that are intended for one time use are not considered keilim and do not require Tevilah even if they are reused several times. If they are of such durability that they could be used on a permanent basis, they would require Tevilah before the first use. This would apply even if your intention is to dispose of the pan after one use because of its low cost.

A Toaster (that is used exclusively to toast bread) does not require Tevilah.  (Igros Moshe YD 3:24)

When selling one’s Chametz one should be careful not to sell their actual dishes rather they should sell the Chametz absorbed in the dishes. If he sold the actual dishes he would have to Tovel them according to many Poskim.

Many are of the opinion that a convert to Judaism must Tovel all their dishes without a blessing. 

Utensils that require koshering and Tevilah should be koshered first. 

In extenuating circumstances such as on Shabbos one may gift the utensils to a non Jew and then borrow them back to avoid the obligation to Tovel.  This should only be done with rabbinic guidance.

UPDATE 7/1/2009 See the comments for more about stores and gifts

Posted on 06/30 at 01:01 AM • Permalink
(12) Comments

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Segulahs and Other Cool Parlor Tricks

R’ Josh Waxman over at parshablog has written an excellent article articulating very clearly the most serious problem with many modern day well publicized segulahs. This applies even to reputable Gemara based segulahs. The tricks of dubious origins have the additional problems of Darkei Emori and stuff like that. Here’s the link.


Thanks to Rabbi Fink for the HT

Posted on 06/25 at 08:49 AM • Permalink
(3) Comments

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Wrap – Putting On Your Tallis

A common situation. You’re standing in Shul behind an overly exuberant new Chosson, who after checking out his reflection in his shiny new Tallis bag, zips it open, pulls out his Tallis, and proceeds to whirl it around his head like a chicken at kaparos, giving everyone in a six foot radius Tzitzis lashes in the process.

The step by step tutorial:

- Remove the Tallis from the bag and separate the Tzitzis strings from one another.
- Check to see that all the Tzitzis are kosher.
- Fully unfold the Tallis and look at the Tzitzis.
- Make the Bracha
- Immediately proceed with the atifah. (More about that soon).

The bracha that we make on a Tallis is “lehisataif ba’tzitzis” to wrap with Tzitzis. What would be considered ‘wrapping’? The Tur (OC 8) records a dispute.

The Gaonim understand this to mean an “atifas yishmaelim” an Arab style wrap. The Gemara (Moed Katan 24) explains that this requires covering ones entire head and face in addition to their body.

The Itur says that only a normal body wrap is required.

The Halacha is like the Itur, although one should also cover their head. The common Minhag, as recommended by the various Poskim is to include the Gaonim’s shita as well.

There is no one right way to do an atifah with a Tallis. Here are several, I’d love to hear about other variations as well.

The Mishna Berura way

The Mishna Berura recommends the following: Have the Tallis draped over your back and head with the top of the Tallis draping over to your mouth level. Gather all four Tzitzis and flip them over your left shoulder, all the while being careful that the Tallis is covering your shoulders. Hold for 2 full seconds and release.

The problem many have with this method is, if the Tallis is covering your eyes, then that can’t be considered an atifah. [Several of the methods below avert this problem].  Rabbi Blumenkrantz ZT”L explained that the Mishna Berura means that you cover your face loosely, in a way that you can still see out.

The Sephardic way:

The Ben Ish Chai describes the procedure as follows: Put on the Tallis like a scarf (preferably whilst covering your head). Take the two right Tzitzis and throw them over your left shoulder covering the bottom part of your face in the process. Hold for two seconds, then throw the two on the right side over the left shoulder and hold all four for two seconds. Release and immediately drape the Tallis over your back.

The Lithuanian/Yekke way

The Minhag of the Lithuanian and German Jews was to put the Tallis on normally with their head covered and pull it slightly from the sides to cover their faces.

The Gra/ Chazon Ish way

The Vilna Gaon in Maaseh Rav writes that one need not do an Atifas Yishamaelim, just put on the Tallis and cover your head in the normal manner. The Chazon Ish added that covering your eyes may constitute a hefsek in the atifah and should not be done.

The Rav Moshe Feinstein way

Rav Moshe would put on his Tallis regularly and then pull the right side over his left shoulder covering to bottom of his face.

The minhag is to always keep the top of the Tallis on top and not to use it upside down, therefore we sew an Atarah on the top of the Tallis to signify ‘this way up’. The Arizal was not careful about this, perhaps this is the reason that Chabad Talliesim don’t have an Atarah.

Many have a custom to beautify their Tallis with a silver Atarah. The Aruch Hashulchan felt that this was a fallacy because it made it seem as if the main part of the Tallis is the part that covers the head whereas in truth the focus should be on the part that covers the body.

All agree that it is of primary importance that the Tallis covers the entire body, and not have it draped over the shoulders.

It goes without saying that one should follow their own Minhag.


Posted on 06/18 at 09:00 AM • Permalink
(16) Comments

Friday, June 05, 2009

Fingernail Fun Facts

We Orthodox Jews tend to get the heebee jeebies when it comes to nails (the ones that grow on fingers and toes, not the ones that are intentionally hit with a hammer).

What is the background of this? A brief history:

The Gemara (Moed Katan 18a, Niddah 17a) says that there are three types of nail cutters – righteous, pious and evil. The righteous bury their nails, the pious burn them and the evil people just throw them down.  The Gemara goes on to explain that the problem with the nails being in a public place is that a pregnant woman may step on them.

So what’s the big deal if a pregnant woman steps on nails?  The Ran offers two explanations; her revulsion upon seeing them may cause her to miscarry, and “keshafim”, or evil spirits, are associated with nails. (We’ll get back to that).

The Pri Megadim (OC 260) offers the following:

Adam HaRishon was created covered by nail like material over his skin. After the sin it was removed, remaining only on his fingers and toes.  Since Woman is generally blamed for the original sin, there is therefore a danger for pregnant women to step on finger and toe nails.

The Gemara (Ibid) qualifies this law by saying that if the nails are moved there is no danger. Therefore in a Beis Medrash or other place where women are not common one doesn’t have to worry, even if they will be swept up and placed outside. The Elya Raba writes that perhaps they have to be moved to an entirely different room.

Based on the above it would be prudent for a pregnant woman to avoid a nail salon.

Rav Steinman writes that he asked the Chazon Ish how come we don’t see women miscarrying due to a lack of diligence and knowledge of these laws? The Chazon Ish replied that as we are living in a time of Hester Panim there is ‘static’ between us and the spiritual powers associated with these dangers and there is therefore less of a risk.

Some other rules of (thumb)nails:

  • Not to cut on Thursday because they will sprout (presumably this means noticeably) on Shabbos.

  • Not to cut finger and toe nails on the same day (Mogen Avrohom 260). (Shulchon Hatahor recommends averting this problem by leaving one toenail uncut).

  • Only cut fingernails Erev Shabbos and Yom Tov (Ibid).

  • Based on the above the Mogen Avrohom recommends cutting toenails on Thursday and fingernails on Friday.

  • Not to cut nails on Rosh Chodesh (R’ Yehuda Hachassid quoted in Ba’er Haitiv OC 260).

  • The Rema says not to cut fingernails in order. The order he gives is 42531 for the left hand and 24135 for the right. The Arizal laughed at this practice and the Maharam Miruttenberg was not particular about this. The Mogen Avrohom recommends being stringent. There are various opinions as to which hand to cut first, the Rema seems to favor the left. (See Pri Megadim and Ashel Avrohom Mibutshetsh).All this does not apply to toenails. (Chazon Ish).


The Aruch Hashulchan (OC 260:6) writes that all of the above are not halachic obligations rather one who is careful should be, and one who is not doesn’t have to start.


There is a definite preference for one to cut their fingernails on Friday in honor of Shabbos. It is a matter of dispute as to when is the correct time to do this, some say specifically in the morning, others choose the afternoon. Some say before the Mikvah, others say after.

Netilas Yadayim and Tevilah

Dirt on hands is considered a chatzitzah, or separation, for ritual hand washing and would have to be removed before washing for bread. The same applies for dirt under nails, but only on the portion of the nail that extends beyond the finger. For immersion in a Mikvah we are more stringent and require that the nail be completely clean, therefore we cut them for tevilah.


As mentioned, there are evil spirits associated with nails.  Although I have absolutely no understanding of this, it seems that the part of the nail that extends beyond the finger contains little bad guys and the part that is near the skin contains the really good guys.


The Rema (OC 298:3) quotes the Zohar that when one makes the blessing on the candles during Havdalah on Motzai Shabbos one should look at the nails of their right hand with the hand curled inward and the thumb tucked away out of sight.

The Mishna Berura explains that one has to have enough benefit from the light to differentiate between different coins. We ascertain this by differentiating between the nail and the finger which are of similar color. He adds that nails are considered a sign of blessing because they are constantly growing. I’m not sure why we avoid the thumb, if anyone knows please let me know.

Chol Hamoed

It is forbidden to cut nails on Chol Hamoed under ordinary circumstances unless they were cut on Erev Yom Tov or for a mitzvah (e.g.  Mikvah). 

Posted on 06/05 at 06:33 AM • Permalink
(14) Comments

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eating Dairy on Shavous (or Who Moved my Cheesecake)

Eating Dairy on Shavous

The Rema cites a minhag to eat a Milchig meal on the first day of Shavous. There are many reasons given for this custom, The Rema himself suggests (as explained by the Mishna Berura) that just as on Pesach we have two foods to remember the Korbanos brought on Pesach so too on Shavous in remembrance of the two loaves that were brought on Shavous we have a dairy meal immediately followed by a meat meal, each requiring its own loaf of bread.

It would seem from the Rema that:

  1. Having cheesecake at Kiddush isn’t good enough, it has to be a meal containing bread

  2. One should not have a Dairy meal in lieu of a meat meal; rather there should be an additional dairy meal.


 Aside from the Rema’s reasoning, this would seem so because one should have meat at all the meals on Yom Tov, including Shavous.

The Magen Avraham rules that one doesn’t need to say Birkas Hamazon between the milk and the meat, and can have them in one meal, but should change the tablecloth or placemats and wipe and rinse his mouth. Indeed, it is problematic to say Birkas Hamazon only in order to have meat. (YD 89 Rema).

The opinion of the Zohar as quoted by the Beis Yosef is that one should never have meat and milk in the same meal, thereby placing one in a difficult situation. He can’t bentsh and make it a separate meal just in order to have meat, but he can’t have milk and meat in the same meal. The Darkei Teshuva therefore recommends having milchig without bread at Kiddush, waiting an hour and then washing for bread. This would work according to all the other reasons to have Dairy, but not according to the Rema who requires bread. 

The Mishna Berura paskens like the Magen Avrohom that one may have the milk and then the meat in the same meal. This would definitely satisfy the Rema. The Pri Migadim (Ibid) says that according to those who require a separate meal in accordance with the Zohar, On Shavous one would be permitted to say Birkas Hamazon in order to eat dairy.

If he had ‘hard cheese’ then he would have to say Birkas Hamazon and wait six hours. (six hours for the purpose of this article is whatever one normally waits between meat and dairy). There are differing definitions as to what hard cheese is; Parmesan is a definite suspect.

UPDATE for more on cheese in halacha and what constitutes hard cheese, there is an excellent article on Hirhurim on the topic from Rabbi Gordimer of the OU

The Kol Bo quotes a minhag to have the Dairy meal in the afternoon and that one may be lenient about the waiting period after meat. The conclusion of the later Poskim is not to rely on this.  (See the Noam Elimelech, Mishpatim on Lo Sevashel gedi bchalev imo).

Indeed, the Mishna Berura, quoting the Pri Megadim writes that one should be careful on Shavous to keep all the laws of mixing milk and meat as elucidated in Yoreh Deah, and not to be ‘yotze sechara bhefsedah’, supplant  the gain (of eating dairy) with the loss (of not keeping the Halacha properly).

As noted, the Rema writes the custom is only applicable on the first day of Shavous. This is indeed the common minhag, although the Kaf Hachaim brings an opinion that it applies to the second day as well.

Obviously, many have differing minhagim as to when to eat dairy, and I am not advocating switching Minhagim.

You can, of course, order your cheesecakes in Israel from Your Man In Jerusalem


Posted on 05/26 at 10:49 AM • Permalink
(2) Comments

Friday, May 22, 2009

Staying Up to Learn on Shavous Night

This post was written on the yahrtzeit of my grandfather Matisyahu ben Chaim Rafael and is dedicated to his memory. May his neshama have an aliyah

There is a widespread custom to stay up all night on Shavous and study Torah. There is an interesting history to this Minhag. The Medrash tells us that when the Torah was given, the Jewish Nation as a whole slept in, and had to be awoken by G-d to receive the Torah. In reparation, we stay up all night and study Torah. (Magen Avrohom).

The Arizal writes that one who does not sleep at all, and spends the entire night immersed in Torah study, is promised that he will live out the year without harm. Some are careful not to speak at all (aside from words of Torah) until after davening.

We are faced with an interesting dilemma when it comes to making the morning blessings.

Netilas Yadayim – there is a dispute as to why we make a blessing upon washing our hands in the morning:

Either because we have slept and therefore may have touched somewhere that would require washing before davening (Rosh),

Or because we are newly recreated beings upon awakening in the morning after sleep, and therefore say all the morning blessings, and the process that was instituted was to begin with washing our hands and making a blessing much as the Kohen would do in the Beis Hamikdash before beginning to go about his duties. (Rashba)

Practically we would need both reasons to require making a Bracha. Therefore if one is awake all night, the Rema rules that he should wash his hands without a Bracha. The Mishna Berura suggests that one relieves oneself immediately after Amud Hashachar, at which time he can make the blessing according to everybody, The Rosh because relieving oneself requires washing before davening, and the Rashba because he is a newly recreated person.

Elokai Neshamah and Hamavir Shaina – These are blessings that are said to thank Hashem for ‘waking us up’ something not apropos for one who hasn’t slept. The recommendation of the Poskim is to hear these two Brachos from someone who has slept. The minimum required amount of sleep is ’60 breaths’. There are various opinions as to what this means ranging from about three minutes to about three hours. The commonly accepted view seems to be ½ an hour.

Tzitzis – Someone who wore their tzitzis all night does not make a new Bracha in the morning. The proper thing to do is to either put on, or be yotze with someone who puts on, a Tallis Gadol, and make the appropriate blessing on that.

Birchas HaTorah – There is a dispute among the Poskim if Birchas HaTorah should be recited by one who was awake all night. The Mishna Berura rules that Safek Berachos Lehakel and they should not be recited, rather he suggests one try to be yotze with someone who had slept, or have in mind to absolve himself with Ahavah Rabba (or Olam).

The Mishna Berura quotes Rabbi Akiva Eiger that if one slept during the preceding day (in our case Erev Shavous) then according to all opinions he can say Birchas HaTorah.

There is a custom quoted by the Shelah to go to the Mikvah immediately after Alos HaShachar before Davening.

Regarding Maariv on the first night of Shavous, In order that Sefira should be Temimos or complete, we don’t start Maariv until after Tzeis Hakochavim (certain nightfall). For the same reason, some suggest that even women who usually light candles before Yom Tov begins, should wait to light until after that time. (Luach Eretz Yisroel).

Posted on 05/22 at 11:12 AM • Permalink
(9) Comments

Thursday, May 14, 2009


As many of you know we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl this week. It’s been busy, so I present here a guest post by Rabbi Avraham Reit explaining the entire chalitza process. Rabbi Reit is the ultimate "Do It Right"er, having actually written the book(s) on the subject, namely Lekichah Tamah on how to practically buy a beautiful set of Arba Minim, and Teka BeShofar, an excellent how to guide to learn how to blow the Shofar. If anyone is interested in procuring either of these books please contact me. Enjoy!

When a man dies, and leaves a wife but no offspring the matrimonial bond is passed on to his (oldest) brother. The widow must sever this bond by means of chalitza, a process whose result is similar to divorce, before she is permitted to marry someone else. (There are also other reasons pertaining to the soul of the deceased for which chalitza is performed, but that is beyond the scope of this article.) Although the Torah provides two options for the widow, yibum, a form of marriage to the brother, or chalitza, Ashkenazi custom proscribes yibum and instead encourages that chalitza be done.

What follows is a brief overview of the chalitza ceremony. This article covers only information that would be helpful for the participants or on lookers to know in advance.  Omitted are any preparatory instructions the rabbi may give the participants in advance, or such information that is pertinent only to the rabbi.

After shiva (the seven day mourning period for the deceased husband) is concluded, the widow must contact her rabbi to initiate the chalitza process.  Usually the rabbi will refer her to a rabbi who is a chalitza specialist. It is important to use a specialist because the chalitza ceremony is a technical procedure, for which a strict protocol is prescribed.

The specialist rabbi assembles the required Bais Din/Rabbinical Court. The Rabbinic Court consists of five members, the presiding rabbi (the specialist), two primary justices and two secondary justices. Typically these positions are allotted to the rabbis’ students, local rabbis or distinguished members of the community. All decisions regarding eligibility for participation in the Rabbinical Court and all other matters pertaining to the chalitza are decided solely by the presiding rabbi. 

The presiding rabbi is the main member of the court. He directs the proceedings and makes all required decisions. The two primary judges make certain observations and declarations together with the rabbi. The secondary judges do not play an active role and are there to fulfill the Biblical injunction that the court have five members.

 The Rabbinic Court sets a date for the performance of the chalitza ceremony. The date must be not less than ninety-two days (inclusive) from the date of the late husband’s death.  From the time the date is selected the widow is called a "chalutza" (lit. extractor) and the brother is referred to as the "choletz" (lit. extractee).

The Hebrew term choletz implies active participation, though, as this article will show the choletz is a passive participant. This term was chosen to alert the choletz that he must actively participate with his intent to free the chalutza by means of the chalitza, a point the presiding rabbi will make in his preparatory remarks.

On the eve prior to the chalitza, between the Mincha and Maariv prayers, the members of the Rabbinical Court gather in the lobby of the designated shul.  The presiding rabbi declares to the other members of the court, “Come, let us designate a place for the chalitza.”  The members of the rabbinical court then proceed to the shul or other room chosen for this event. When they arrive at the designated site they seat themselves in formation, the presiding rabbi in the center, the two primary justices, one on either side of him, and the two secondary justices sitting off to the side. The presiding rabbi proclaims, “Tomorrow we will perform a chalitza here.” The area is then cordoned off with rope, tape or signs advising people to stay out of the area until the time of the chalitza ceremony. Signs are also posted announcing the chalitza ceremony.

The following morning the chalutza may not eat, drink or even rinse her mouth before the chalitza ceremony. This is a precaution necessary to assure that her mouth will be clear of any foreign matter when she prepares to spit, as will be explained below.

After the morning prayers the rabbis convene in the lobby as on the previous evening and the presiding rabbi announces, “Let us go to the place we designated yesterday.”  From this point on until the completion of the chalitza no one other than the presiding rabbi is to speak unless instructed to do so by the rabbi.  The presiding rabbi leads the way, followed by the two justices and the two secondary justices, two court assigned witnesses, a court attendant and any friends, family or members of the general congregation that are present. (It is best that there should be at least ten adult males in attendance for the ceremony.) The justices seat themselves in the same formation they did the previous day.

The rabbi then calls for the choletz and chalutza to appear before the Bais Din.  The first to enter is the chalutza, her mouth covered with a scarf. The scarf protects her from spitting to soon. If she were to inadvertently spit while addressing the court she will complicate things unnecessarily. She is followed by the choletz. They are both seated in front of the Bais Din.

The Rabbi now begins to read the script that enumerates steps of the procedure in Hebrew as found in Shulchan Oruch. He has the discretion to read softly to himself or to read out loud, to translate or not, or a combination of the above. During this reading he calls upon the witnesses to: provide details about the deceased; to positively identify the choletz and chalutza, their relationship and their eligibility to participate.

The choletz is called upon to make several legal declarations including an annulment of vows. The rabbi asks both the choletz and chalutza to participate in some responsive readings.  It is essential that the words be pronounced and grouped exactly as the rabbi dictates to them. Occasionally it may be necessary to have the participants read from the original Hebrew or a transliterated text, although it is usually avoided.

When performing the chalitza the woman must use her primary hand, the right hand for most and the left hand for lefties. The shoe must be on the man’s primary foot, usually the right but for some the left. The rabbi will now request the choletz and chalutza in turn, to demonstrate whether they are right or left handed and right footed respectively.

At this point the rabbi takes the choletz to a somewhat private location to scrutinize the choletz’s foot for any chatzitzos (foreign matter). The choletz should have previously washed his foot according to the instructions given to him in advance and it is unlikely the rabbi will find any problems. However, sometimes it may be necessary for a closer inspection, including examining between the toes. Sometimes the presiding rabbi will find it necessary to send the choletz back for another washing.  After inspecting the choletz’s foot the rabbi instructs the court attendant to fit the shoe on the choletz.

 The choletz now reappears before the Bais Din.  He is told to position himself for the chalitza ceremony. He is directed to stand erect and rest his back on a board set for the occasion. He leans on the board which is set against the wall at an angle of approximately a hundred and ten degrees.   He must hold the foot with the chalitza shoe limp so that the chalutza can work, while at the same time the heel must be pressed against the floor so he should not be assisting her. He must keep his foot in this position for the remainder of the ceremony, as this is the most comfortable and practical position. He must be careful not to assist the chalutza in any way and certainly not to lift his foot.

 The chalutza will now begin to remove his shoe. She should proceed slowly and be attentive to any directions she may receive from the presiding rabbi. She bends down and, in full view of the court proceeds to unravel the shoe’s straps, using her right hand exclusively. As she works the choletz must bear in mind that through the chalitza ceremony the chalutza is detached from him and free to marry whomever she wishes.

Once the straps have been unraveled and the buttons opened she is instructed to place her left hand partly on the shoe and partly on the choletz’s leg, and then again using exclusively her right hand, slide the shoe off the choletzs’ foot without any assistance from her left hand, the choletz, or by lifting his foot off the floor. Next she is instructed to wrap the straps around the shoe, lift it over her head and throw it some distance away from the Bais Din.

She now turns to face the Bais Din and when told to she removes the scarf covering her mouth. The rabbi now instructs her to gather saliva in her mouth. She must be careful that there is only saliva and nothing else, such as phlegm, in her mouth at this time.  When instructed, she will allow the saliva to drop on the floor in front of the rabbis and the choletz. When given the signal, all present exclaim “Bais chalutz hana’al” three times.

 The ceremony is concluded when the rabbis offer a short prayer that there should never again be a need for a chalitza.

 (Source: Seder Hachalitza as found in the back of SHulchan Oruch Even Ha’ezer.)

Posted on 05/14 at 10:02 AM • Permalink
(1) Comments

Monday, April 27, 2009

What Not To Do During Sefirah - The Real Story

What Not To Do during Sefirah – The Real Story

There seems to be a never ending stream of overly finessed minutiae as to what is or is not permitted during Sefirah. Let’s elucidate:

The Tur (OC 493) cites three things that were customarily refrained from during Sefirah:

1) getting married
2) getting a haircut
3) women abstaining from work after sundown

The Magen Avraham adds dancing to the list for a non mitzvah purpose. The Aruch Hashulchan writes that musical instruments are by nature more joy inducing than dancing and thus would be included in the Magen Avraham’s addition.

Although one can argue that the above would apply only to live music, the Poskim (Rav Moshe Feinstien, the Tzitz Eliezer, and Rav Ovadia Yosef) all extend the prohibition to recorded music as well.

The reasoning seems to be as follows: The Halacha is that music is always prohibited as it serves as a Zecher LeChurban, in mourning for the Beis Hamikdash. (There are some exceptions; I’ll save it for a future post).  Although there are certain leniencies employed, such as recorded music, during times of national mourning such as Sefirah those leniencies are suspended and we prohibit all music.

Being as the prohibition is a relatively recent one, and only a minhag, there are some leniencies considered by the contemporary halachic authorities:

• Inadvertent listening (in a store, doctor office, elevator, etc.)
• Rhythm inducing exercise music
• Cantorial singing with musical accompaniment
• Children’s tapes, toys and mobiles (for the child’s benefit)
• If one is studying to play an instrument as a paid professional (according to some even if one is studying to play for his own pleasure).

A Capella music has become the latest Sefira fad, there is intense exhaustive discussion on the matter to be found here. The upshot is that if the human voice was modified to the extent that it sounds like music then it shouldn’t be listened to. The overarching theme is that the goal we are trying to accomplish is a spiritual/emotional one – to reduce joy. So a work around is self defeating.

Haircuts were pretty much covered here.

Women not doing work doesn’t seem to have caught on. (Perhaps because the men were traditionally the ones who studied the Law smile ) The Mishna Berura says it would apply to men as well, at least until after they count Sefirah. The later Poskim discuss it and seem to concede that it’s not the Minhag and that that’s ok.

There are those who don’t make Shecheyanu or wear new clothes during Sefirah. This seems to be an idea that was borrowed (perhaps inadvertently) from the three weeks and has no solid Halachic basis.


Posted on 04/27 at 09:07 AM • Permalink
(10) Comments

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Right Way to Shave during Sefirah

Sign seen in Shul:

This Shul adheres to the tenets of Shulchon Aruch. Anyone who davens for the amud in this Shul must also adhere to Shulchon Aruch. Therefore we do not permit those who shave during Sefirah to lead the congregation in Tefillah.

Poskim (those commonly relied upon to elucidate Shulchon Aruch) permit the following to shave:

  • One who will face repercussions at work

  • A Chosson during Sheva berachos

  • Any time one would be allowed to shave during the 12 month mourning period for a parent (Rav Soloveitchik)

  • On Friday, Lekovod Shabbos, for one who regularly shaves more than once a week (Rav Henoch Leibowitz based on the Chasam Sofer).

  • A father or a Sandak on the day of the bris and the preceding afternoon

  • According to the Minhag Ashkenazi until Rosh Chodesh Iyar, on Lag B’omer, the afternoon preceding Lag B’omer and the three days before Shavous.

  • According to the minhag Sefardi after Lag B’Omer

  • On Friday when Rosh Chodesh Iyar is Shabbos according to both Minhagim such as this year

  • Women cannot get a haircut but may remove all other hair

  • For a first date (Yeshiva Staten Island)

  • A Chosson for his Aufruf (Noda BeYehudah, quoted by Shaarei Teshuvah)

  • Whenever one would be allowed on Chol Hamoed :

  • One who gets out of jail

  • One who was released from cherem

  • One who was released from a vow not to shave

  • One who arrived from certain types of trips

  • A child under bar/bas mitzvah

  • A moustache that interferes with eating

Although I am not necessarily promoting all the above sanctions, I don’t believe that this would be considered ‘going against the Shulchon Aruch.

Any more? Please comment!

UPDATE 4/28/09: Some permit shaving on Yom Hatzmaut (Israel Independence Day). see here for full discussion.

Posted on 04/23 at 08:21 AM • Permalink
(17) Comments

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Buying Chametz after Pesach

There is much ado every year as to where one can shop immediately following Pesach, how long the restrictions apply for and to what products. I hope this is found to be enlightening.

In order to properly understand the halachic implications we must first elucidate the basic supermarket structure.

The general chain supermarket model is as follows:

Manufacturer → Distributor → Supermarket Warehouse → Individual Supermarket

In terms of Halacha, Chametz that was owned by a Jew on Pesach is forbidden. ‘Chametz’, for the purpose of this exercise is a product with either a kezayis (1.1 fluid ounces) of Chametz or more than 1/60th of the final cooked product is Chametz.

Therefore, if any company in the chain is owned by a Jew, and owned the Chametz on Pesach, it would be forbidden to eat on Pesach.

Publicly held companies that have a partial Jewish ownership are the subject of Rabbinic dispute, but the commonly accepted view is that of the Zecher Yitzchak (7) that although minority shareholders are required to sell their Chametzdike shares before Pesach it does not render the Chametz forbidden after Pesach.

Now the facts:

Manufacturers obviously vary from product to product but most products found in the average supermarket are manufactured by publicly held companies.

Distributors buy tremendous amounts of food from the Manufacturers and then distribute to the national chains.

C&S Wholesale Grocers is a wholesale distributor of food and grocery store items. With headquarters in Keene, New Hampshire, C&S is the twelfth largest privately held company in the United States, as listed in 2008 by Forbes.

Israel Cohen and Abraham Siegel founded C&S Wholesale Grocers with a three-story, 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse that stocked 1,200 products. C&S serves now serves 5,000 independent supermarkets, regional and national chains, and military bases, making it the second-largest food wholesaler in the U.S. The company delivers over 53,000 food and non-food items from 70 distribution warehouses, located in 12 states and operates over 18 million square feet of storage space. Its customers include Safeway, Target, A&P, BJ’s Warehouse, Pathmark, Stop & Shop, Royal Ahold (Giant-Carlisle and Giant-Landover), Albertson’s (Shaw’s), Bi-Lo/Bruno’s,and Kroger.

Rick Cohen is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.  He is the third generation Cohen to lead the company. (and presumably owns most of it).

White Rose Food
is the largest independent food wholesaler and distributor in the New York City metropolitan area.

The White Rose story can be traced back to 1886. Two brothers, Joseph and Sigel Seeman, left their Uncle David’s company to pursue what they saw as the future of the grocery business. They predicted that the tradition of individual grocers picking up their own merchandise would fade, and a wholesaler who delivered would grow and prosper.

White Rose is now owned by Associated Wholesaler’s, Inc (AWI) which is a retailer’s co-op. This basically means that all the Supermarkets own the distributorship in order to harness their collective buying power.

So here we run into some problems. Let’s assume that Rick Cohen is Jewish, (that would assume a sad statistical improbability, seeing as the intermarriage rate over the last 3 generations in Keene, NH is presumably higher than the national average). Or perhaps a significant amount of the individual retailers involved in White Rose are Jewish. And perhaps the Chometz on your Supermarket shelf was in the distributors hands over Pesach!

Thankfully, Rabbi Tietz of Elizabeth, NJ, sells the Chametz of both of these companies. This means that even if the Chametz on the store shelf was in their possession on Pesach, it was sold to a non Jew.

The Halachic validity of a sale of Chametz to a non Jew where the Jew continues to do business with the Chametz for the duration of the sale sounds funny. Indeed Rav Soloveitchik was of the opinion that in those circumstances the sale is a sham and should not be relied upon. Rav Moshe Feinstein however ruled that the sale is a good sale, and the offending Jew is considered nothing more than a thief, doing business with merchandise that is not his. There is however a greater problem with Chametz that arrives in the store on Pesach. This Chametz wasn’t sold before Pesach, and is now owned by a Jew on Pesach. For this reason, Rav Teitz includes a stipulation in the contract of all the stores for whom he sells his Chametz that any Chametz that is purchased after the sale becomes effective is being purchased by the non Jew. Phew!

So we’ve gotten through the distributor stage. Now the merchandise moves to the Supermarket warehouse. These are usually owned by the Supermarket itself, with the notable exception of Wakefern/Shoprite.

The Wakefern Food Corp., founded in 1946 and based in Elizabeth, New Jersey (United States), is the largest co-operative group of supermarkets in the United States. The name “Wakefern” is a portmanteau of the founders’ names (W for Louis Weiss, A for Al and Sam Aidekman, K for Abe Kesselman, an E added for pronunciation, and FERN for Dave Fern), though the company adopted the name ShopRite for its stores in 1951.

Wakefern also created and operates or franchises the PriceRite limited-assortment chain of stores throughout Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and California. PriceRite is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wakefern.

The company supplies all of its members’ ShopRite stores as well as the PriceRite chain. In July, 2007, the cooperative announced that for the first time, it was offering its wholesale services to third-party supermarket operators, in Northeast and other areas of the country. Since then, Wakefern has announced deals to supply Gristedes Supermarkets in the New York City area, as well as the Heinen’s Fine Foods chain of supermarkets in Ohio.

So Wakefern is owned collectively by all ShopRite and PriceRite stores which are each individually owned. So like White Rose, there is a possibility that there are Jewishly owned Shoprites who in turn own a significant part of Wakefern.

Thankfully Rav Teitz once again comes to the rescue, and sells Wakeferns’ Chametz! So the only concern would be if your individual Shoprite is Jewishly owned and was in actual possession of the Chametz on Pesach. Rav Teitz has informed me that he sells the Chametz of the Jewishly owned Shoprites as well. So Shoprite would be in the clear.

So, if we pasken like Rav Moshe, other than individually owned Shoprites we have no cause for concern yet. Now let’s look at individual Supermarkets.

Stop & Shop was founded in 1914 in Somerville, Massachusetts by the Rabinowitz family as the Economy Grocery Stores Company. The company officially became known as Stop & Shop, Inc. in 1946.

Stop & Shop is now the largest food retailer based in New England. It operates more than 360 stores throughout New England, as well as in New York and New Jersey.

The chain was acquired by the American branch of Dutch food giant Ahold in 1995

So Stop & Shop is owned by a (presumably non- Jewish) Dutch company.

The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P, is a 447-store supermarket chain with locations in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia under several banners. It’s corporate and U.S. headquarters are located in Montvale, New Jersey.

Current Banners
• A&P Food Market (includes A&P Fresh format & “Super A&P” format)
• A&P Super Foodmart (New England division)
• Food Basics USA
• The Food Emporium
• Pathmark ("Super-Center" and “Sav-A-Center” formats)
• Super Fresh
• Waldbaum’s

In 1979, after more than a decade of decline, the Hartford family members and the John A. Hartford Foundation sold the majority of A&P shares to the Tengelmann Group of Germany. Also a family run business, founded by the forefathers of Christian Haub, Chairman, President and CEO of A&P. Tengelmann is the majority shareholder of A&P.

So A&P, Pathmark, Waldbaum’s, Food Basics USA, The Food Emporium, and Super Fresh are all owned by Christian Haub’s German investment group Tenelmann. I don’t think there is any problem there either.

Kroger was founded by Bernard Henry Kroger in 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kroger pioneered the first supermarket surrounded on all four sides by parking lots in the 1930s. In 1983, The Kroger Company acquired Dillon Companies grocery chain in Kansas along with its subsidiaries, King Soopers, City Market, Fry’s, Baker’s, Gerbes, and the convenience store chain Kwik Shop. David Dillon, in the 4th generation under J.S. Dillon, the founder of Dillon Companies, is now the CEO of Kroger.

Kroger is now a publicly traded company, and doesn’t seem to have any heavy Jewish involvement. What follows is a list of brands owned by Kroger:

• Baker’s (Nebraska)
• Cala Foods and Bell Markets (California)
• City Market (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming)
• Dillons (Kansas, Missouri)
• Food 4 Less and Foods Co. (Los Angeles, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Chicago, Illinois, Oregon)
o including hispanic format and Food 4 Less Carniceria
• Fred Meyer (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington)
o Fred Meyer Marketplace (Alaska, Oregon, Washington)
o Fred Meyer Northwest Best (Oregon, Washington)
• Fry’s Food and Drug (Arizona)
o Fry’s Marketplace (Arizona)
o Fry’s Mercado (Arizona)
o Fry’s Signatures (Arizona)
• Gerbes (Missouri)
• Hilander (Illinois)
• JayC Food Stores (Indiana)
• King Soopers (Colorado, Wyoming)
• Kroger Food and Drug (Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas)
o Kroger Marketplace (Ohio, Kentucky)
o Kroger Signature Stores (Texas)
o Fresh Fare by Kroger (Ohio, Michigan, Georgia)
• Kwik Shop (Kansas, Nebraska)
• Loaf ‘N Jug (Colorado, Nebraska)
• Owen’s Market (Indiana)
• Pay Less Food Markets (Indiana)
• Quality Food Centers (Oregon, Washington)
o QFC Fresh Fare
• Quik Stop (California, Nevada)
• Ralphs (California)
o Ralphs Marketplace
o Ralphs Fresh Fare
• Scott’s Food & Pharmacy (Indiana)
• Smith’s Food and Drug (Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming)
o Smith’s Marketplace (Utah)
• Tom Thumb (Alabama, Florida)
• Turkey Hill (Pennsylvania)

For all you Californians, it looks like Ralph’s is ok too.

Foodtown is a northeastern United States supermarket cooperative founded in 1955 by Twin County Grocers, Inc.. Their business is centered in the city and suburbs of New York (21 stores), central New Jersey (32 Stores) and eastern Pennsylvania (5 stores).
Foodtown’s corporate offices are located in Avenel, New Jersey; however, each Foodtown is independently owned and operated, either by an individual person or a company that owns several stores, making it a cooperative, much like ShopRite.

Rav Teitz sells the Chametz of Foodtown as well, and of all the individual Jewish owned stores, giving it the same status as Shoprite above.

Trader Joe’s is a privately held chain of specialty grocery stores headquartered in Monrovia, California. As of March 2009, Trader Joe’s has a total of 319 stores.[2] Its stores are located most densely in Southern California, but the grocery company has locations in 24 other states and Washington, D.C. Trader Joe’s was founded by Joe Coulombe and is currently owned by a family trust set up by German billionaire Theo Albrecht, one of the two brothers behind the German supermarket chain Aldi.

Trader Joe’s cuts costs by having its buyers go directly to the suppliers, not the middlemen. The chain does not carry common items such as bleach, detergent and general brand names of flour, sugar, and soft drinks. If TJ’s cannot price an item at a lower figure than local supermarkets, the stores won’t carry it. About 80% of the products sold in TJ’s are manufactured under private label names such as Trader Joe’s, Trader Ming, Trader Jacques, Trader Giotto and Trader Darwin.

About 20% of Trader Joe’s suppliers (co-packers) are located overseas.

Theodor Paul Albrecht (born 28 March 1922), generally known as Theo Albrecht, is a German entrepreneur, who in 2007 was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 20th richest person in the world, with a net worth of $23.5 billion. He owns and was the CEO of the Aldi Nord discount supermarket chain. In the US he owns the Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store chain.

Theo is very reclusive, but not being affected by the Holocaust, and living in Germany, is presumed to be non – Jewish. This clears Trader Joe and Aldi as well.

Harris Teeter was purchased in 1969 by holding company Ruddick Corporation of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ruddick is a publicly traded company.

Piggly Wiggly is a supermarket chain operating in the Midwestern and Southern regions of the United States, run by Piggly Wiggly, LLC, an affliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers. The current company headquarters is in Keene, New Hampshire.

So the Piggly Wiggly is owned by C&S and would be subject to their sale as well.

Walmart is a publicly traded company. Although the Walton family own a significant amount of the company, this would not be an issue seeing as they’re Presbyterian. Sam’s Club is owned by Walmart.

Costco is a publicly traded company.

In addition, the Star- K has cleared CVS, BJ’s, Wegmans, and several others in their 2009 Passover Directory.

Bottom Line

So, it would seem that according to Rav Moshe, we could buy from any of the stores listed above. But how about according to Rav Soloveitchik? And, what if our Shoprite or corner grocer is owned by Jews?

As we noted, the prohibition is Rabbinic in nature. This means, practically speaking that when there is a reasonable doubt which is difficult to clarify we can be lenient.

Although stores claim a two week turnaround time, this is almost impossible to determine on a product by product basis. Some products sit on the shelf for more than a year, some for only a day or two.

Additionally, it would be pretty much impossible to determine where each product was on Pesach. Was it in the Supermarket, the warehouse, still at the distributor or perhaps still at the manufacturer? This information is impossible to know.

It would then seem that really any Chametz would be permissible to buy anywhere it’s not easily ascertainable where it was on Pesach. For the immediate first few days after Pesach it may be wise to refrain from buying Chametz in a Jewish owned store that didn’t sell their Chametz, but afterward it would seem to be an exercise in futility to try and determine whether or not this particular item was owned by a Jew on Pesach.

Happy Shopping!!

For further study

UPDATE 4/16/09 After communicating with Rav Teitz I have updated the blog to reflect that all Individually Jewish owned Shoprites and Foodtowns sell their Chametz as well.

UPDATE 4/25/09 I have just learned that Smart & Final is Jewish owned and reportedly does not sell their Chametz. Here’s the story:

Hellman-Haas Grocery sold a wide variety of products including: flour, patent medicines, sheepherding supplies and gunpowder which were the top-selling categories when the store opened for business in 1871 in Los Angeles California. The company name was changed to Haas, Baruch & Co. in 1889, after Abraham Haas and Jacob Baruch bought out Herman Hellman. Abraham Haas later expanded into Northern California food distribution. His son Walter Haas later became president of Levi Straus.

The Santa Ana Grocery Company, which was founded in 1912, mainly supplied feed and grain to local farmers. In 1914, J.S. “Jim” Smart, a banker from Saginaw, Michigan and H.D. “Hildane” Final bought the company and changed the name to Smart & Final Wholesale Grocers.

In 1953, Smart & Final merged with Haas, Baruch & Co. The company was acquired by Apollo Management in 2007. Apollo Management L.P. is a private equity investment firm, founded in 1990 by former Drexel Burnham Lambert banker, Leon Black. Leon David Black is an American businessman and money manager, with a focus on leveraged buyouts and private equity. He is a son of Eli M. Black (1921–1975), a prominent businessman who controlled the United Brands Company.

Eli M. Black (April 9, 1921 – February 3, 1975) was a Jewish-American businessman who controlled the United Brands Company. Born Elihu Menashe Blachowitz in Poland, he came to America as a child. As a young man he trained as a rabbi serving a congregation in Woodmere, New York but after three-and-a-half years he left the pulpit to enter business and was very succesful.

That last part was unimportant, I just wanted to give some hope to all the Rabbi’s out there. In any case, his son Leon can be assumed to be Jewish and seems to own a controlling stake in Apollo which in turn owns Smart & Final, so for the few weeks following Pesach one should refrain from buying Chametz there.

Posted on 04/15 at 05:18 AM • Permalink
(4) Comments

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I Have to Eat How Much Maror?! and other Pesach Shiurim

There is a lot of confusion as to what the proper equivalents of the measurements necessary to fulfill the obligations of the Seder. I’d like to briefly run through them here.
These are based on the “Laws of the Seder” by Rabbi David Feinstein Shlit”a.

The Four Cups

The volume needed for each cup used for the four cups is a revi’is.  There are various ways of measuring this; for Biblically ordained Mitzvos we are stringent and require the volume of the cup to be 4.42 fluid ounces. For Rabbinically ordained Mitzvos it would be 2.9 fluid ounces.

One should preferably drink the entire cup, or at least the majority of it. If one has a lot of difficulty drinking wine he can drink as little as ¾ of an ounce, although it is preferable to drink at least a full ounce.

The wine should be drunk in under 2 minutes. At the very most it must be completed within 9 minutes.

One should use wine. The reason for this is that the Gemara specifically says it should have the ‘taste of wine’ which is understood by the Rishonim to mean intoxicating. Moreover, the wine symbolizes freedom which is obviously not fulfilled by non-alcoholic beverages.

Although wine and grape juice can be diluted at a ratio of 1:6 and still retain their halachic wine designation, the ‘demonstrating freedom’ concept discussed above would still be an issue if the wine is diluted to the point where it would have absolutely no intoxicating effect on the drinker. (This is obviously subjective). Additionally almost all wines are pre diluted and are already at least 20% water. Sweetened wines are further diluted, as are ‘light’ wines and grape juices. In fact reported that one should not further dilute Kedem light grape juice.

If one has difficulty drinking wine, they should use a small cup that holds just 2.9 ounces and drink a little more than half of it. If that is too difficult they should drink just 1 ounce or even a little less up to ¾ of an ounce. The least preferable option is to drink grape juice. Grape juice should be reserved for those whom wine would pose a health risk or would cause them to not be able to complete the Seder, even if they adhere to the above guidelines.

If no wine or grape juice is available at all, one may use ‘chamar medina’ which is something served to people as a token of honor, not just to quench their thirst. Thus tea and coffee would qualify. Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that milk would as well, but not soda. (Other Poskim differ in this regard).


Karpas should be a green vegetable. If no greens are available any borei pri haadama may be used. (This may be why potatoes were used in Russia, but that reason is not applicable anymore and one should use a green vegetable now).

Additionally the vegetable should be raw. The reason for this is that Karpas is supposed to stimulate the appetite. The Gemara tells us that raw vegetables increase appetite, cooked ones satisfy it. (This would be another problem with potatoes).

It would seem logical that one should recline while eating Karpas but the standard practice seems not to recline.

One should dip before making the blessing.


The leader of the Seder must eat two Kezaysim, one from each of the two top Matzos. The other participants must eat one Kezayis and could be made up from other matzos if necessary.

You get two to nine minutes from the first swallow until you finish the full kezayas. It is best to fully masticate the first bite of Matzoh and then swallow so as to minimize the time of eating.

How much is a kezayis? The calculations vary from 0.7 fluid ounces to 1.5 fluid ounces. For the first nights first kezayis of Matzoh, which is Biblically mandated, one should have the larger amount – 1.5 fluid ounces. For the two kezayis rule, which is only a stringency, the smaller shiur would suffice, so 1.5 fluid ounces would suffice for that as well. This is equal to approximately 7 x 6.25 inches.


A kezayis of Maror is required. Since it is Rabbinic we can be lenient but one must have 1.1 fluid ounces of maror within 9 minutes. If one has a difficult time with this he can go down to 0.7 fluid ounces. The horseradish must be grated according to most opinions.

If using Romaine lettuce stalks one must use enough to cover an area of 3 x 5 inches. If using the leaves one must use enough to cover 8 x10 inches.


One must have a kezayis of Maror and a kezayis of Matzoh for the Korach sandwich.
One can be lenient about the shiurim – 7x4 inches for the Matzoh and 0.7 fl. ounces for grated horseradish. If one is using lettuce he should use the full amount. (because its easy).

One may rely on the lenient 9 minute time for completion of the Korach sandwich.


In order to meet the requirement of all authorities one should eat a 7x6.25 in. piece of matzoh for the Afikoman.


Posted on 04/02 at 10:56 AM • Permalink
(10) Comments
Page 5 of 6 pages « First  <  3 4 5 6 >

Subscribe to this blog

RSS Feed

Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at