Monday, September 16, 2013

Women and Prayer

You can find an in depth explanation of my position that women are obligated in all daily, Shabbat and holiday prayers in my latest Sephardic Bet Midrash post, here:

Women And Prayer

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Differences Between Sephardim and Ashkenazim

This lecture, which I delivered at the Hillel of the University of Maryland, attempts to articulate the differences in worldview, philosophy and practice between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews. Based on the feedback I have received from many Jews of both backgrounds and all levels of learning, I believe it was a success! Please take out some time to listen to it and feel free to comment on it or to share it.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Essential Laws of Pesah 5773

                                              קיצור הלכות פסח                                                                           
                     Essential Laws of Pesah by Rabbi J. Maroof

  איסור החמץ - The Prohibition of Hametz

1. On Pesah we are not permitted to eat or to possess any hametz. This includes any food product that contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt) or one of their many derivatives, unless it has been properly supervised for Pesah use.

2. In addition to the prohibition of eating and possessing hametz, the Torah prohibits us to benefit from it in any way. Therefore, we may not sell it, present it as a gift or feed it to any animals on Pesah.

3. Containers of condiments and spreads like butter, cream cheese and fruit preserves that have been opened and used with hametz should be thrown out and new ones purchased for Pesah.

4. Since spices, oils and other additives are sometimes poured directly into a pot over the fire and may have absorbed hametz from its steam, one should purchase new, unopened ones for Pesah. However, the old ones do not need to be thrown out or sold, just put away. 

5. The prohibition of hametz also requires us to treat all of the pots, pans, utensils and other cookware that have been used with hametz as non-Kosher for Pesah use.

6. In addition to the restriction on eating actual hametz, Ashkenazim also refrain from eating kitniyot (‘legumes’, such as rice, corn, and beans) during Pesah. However, they are permitted to possess kitniyot and may utilize pots, pans, dishes and utensils that have been used with kitniyot.

7. The restriction on kitniyot only applies to foods that are primarily made up of kitniyot. Food products that contain kitniyot as an incidental ingredient and in which the kitniyot are not recognizable, like soft drinks that contain corn syrup, are permitted even for Ashkenazim on Pesah.

8. Sephardim who are accustomed not to eat kitniyot during Pesah may discontinue their custom if they so desire. Ideally, they should ‘annul’ the custom before a Jewish court (bet din).

9. Nowadays, Sephardim who eat kitniyot such as rice that are packaged commercially are not obligated to check them for traces of hametz because the companies that prepare these products have already purified them. However, if one happens to find a grain of hametz mixed in with rice, it must be removed. If one has already cooked the rice, consult a Rabbi about how to proceed (many factors are involved).

10. Sephardim are permitted to eat ‘egg matza’ on Pesah, provided that it is prepared under proper supervision. Ashkenazim only allow egg matza for the sick and elderly who cannot digest regular matza.

11. Some authorities permit both kitniyot and egg matza even for Ashkenazim on Erev Pesah.

12. Items that are not edible, such as shoe polish, aluminum foil, glue, cosmetics, toiletries, shampoos and medicines do not need to be kosher for Pesah (or in general), because they are not foods.  Pet food, however, must be kosher for Pesah, because it is considered an edible item.

13. The prohibition of eating hametz will begin on the eve of Pesah – Monday, March 25th  - in Rockville, Maryland at 11:11 AM this year. The prohibition to possess, sell or otherwise benefit from hametz will begin at 12:12 PM.


  בדיקת חמץ- The Search for Hametz

1. On the night before Pesah begins – this year, Sunday, March 24th - every Jew is required to search their property for any hametz. The search should be a genuine, serious inspection for hametz, not a ritualistic walk through the house with a feather and a candle.

2. The search for hametz should begin twenty minutes after sunset or as soon as possible thereafter.

3. Before the search, we recite the appropriate beracha (found either in the Haggada or Pesah prayerbook) and proceed to inspect all areas that we may have brought hametz into during the year. This includes our homes, cars, offices, coat pockets, etc.

4. A flashlight should be used during the search so that one can inspect all of the necessary areas with sufficient lighting.

5. There is no need for ‘spring cleaning’ during the search for hametz. One should concentrate on finding substantial pieces of hametz (like a cookie or pretzel) rather than sweeping up crumbs. If there is extra time, removing even smaller bits of hametz is an enhancement of the mitzvah.

6. After the search for hametz, one should gather all the hametz one intends to save for dinner or breakfast and keep it in one place.

7. When the search for hametz is concluded, one must say the nullification of hametz (‘bittul hametz’) formula found in the Haggada or Mahazor. The nullification statement is repeated in a slightly different form in the morning, right after one destroys or eats the last of one’s hametz.

8. If one is going away for the holiday before the night of the search but is leaving less than a month before Pesah one must conduct a proper search for hametz without a beracha on the last night that one is still home. One should recite the nighttime ‘bittul hametz’ formula immediately after the search, but should wait until erev Pesah to make the daytime “bittul” statement.



 ערב פסח - The Eve of Pesah

1. On the eve of Pesah – this year, Monday, March 25th - it is prohibited to eat matza, so that the matza eaten at the seder will be special. Egg matza is permitted for Sephardim as well as for those Ashkenazim who are lenient in this matter on Erev Pesah.

2. It is customary that every firstborn male fasts on the eve of Pesah. The fast may be broken if one attends a ‘Siyum Masechet’, a celebration held when somebody completes the study of an entire tractate of the Talmud.

3. Where possible, first born females should attend the Siyum as well, since many authorities maintain that they are also obligated to fast.

4. One is not permitted to begin work projects that are very involved after midday on Erev Pesah so that one can fully devote one’s energy to preparing for the seder.

5. Beginning about two and a half hours before sunset on Erev Pesah, one is not permitted to eat the equivalent of a meal (even of egg matza), so that he/she will be hungry enough to enjoy dining at the seder. Snacks of fruits and vegetables are permitted.


הכשר כלים -Kashering Vessels


1. Many people keep separate sets of cookware and utensils for Pesah use. If, however, one wishes to use one’s year-round kitchenware for Pesah, it must first undergo a process of ‘kashering’. In order to avoid complications, it is best to complete this process before hametz becomes prohibited (i.e., before 11:11 AM on March 25th this year).

2. Only metal, stone, wood and plastic vessels can be kashered. Items made from earthenware, such as china, cannot be kashered.

3. Sephardim do not require any kashering for glass or Pyrex vessels and are permitted to use them after a thorough cleaning. Ashkenazim treat these items like earthenware and prohibit their use for Pesah unless they have been used exclusively with cold food.

4. The method used to kasher an item is always based on the way in which the item is used. A vessel that is used for cooking liquidy substances, such as a pot, should be kashered by boiling water in it and then dropping a hot rock or hot piece of metal into it so that it boils over on all sides. Utensils such as soup ladles and carving knives that are placed directly into hot pots are kashered by completely submerging them in a pot filled with boiling water. Serving platters and strainers that have food poured onto them from hot pots are generally kashered in this way as well.

5. After kashering a vessel with boiling water, it is customary to rinse the item off with cold water.

6.  Customs differ with regard to kashering vessels that are used for eating hot food but have no direct contact with hot cookware (for example, forks, spoons, knives, etc.) Sephardim may kasher these utensils by cleaning them thoroughly and then running them through a regular cycle in a kosher-for-Pesah dishwasher. Ashkenazim require all vessels that come into contact with hot food to be kashered through placement in a pot of boiling hot water. 

7.  According to Ashkenazic practice, a vessel must be left unused for 24 hours before being purged with boiling water for Pesah use. Sephardim are only required to observe this stringency in two cases: (1) when kashering a microwave and (2) when kashering meat and dairy vessels together in the same vat. However, it is meritorious for Sephardim to follow the stringent practice in all cases if possible.      

8. Before a vessel can be kashered with boiling water, it must be totally clean. When cleaning a vessel to prepare it for kashering, one may come across food substances that adhere to it and cannot be removed. In such cases, simply apply a caustic cleaner such as bleach or detergent to the substance in order to render it inedible. 

9. A vessel upon which dry food is directly placed to cook, like a grill or baking pan, should be kashered by cleaning it carefully and then heating it until it is red hot (libun). This is the most intense form of kashering, and vessels kashered in this way do not need to be left unused for 24 hours beforehand. 

10. Vessels used for cold food only, such as goblets for Kiddush or cups used for cold drinks, need only to be rinsed with water and are permitted for Pesah use.

11. According to Sephardim, if a vessel is used in different ways at different times, the method of kashering that is applied will follow the primary usage. For example, if a pot normally used for cooking liquidy foods were used for dry cooking once or twice, it would still be kashered by boiling water inside. Similarly, if a fork normally used for eating was used to stir a pot over the fire a couple of times, it could still be kashered by a run through the dishwasher. However, if the vessel was used in a more intense way than usual during the past 24 hours, the more intense method of kashering must be applied.

12. Ashkenazim always kasher based on the most intense way that the vessel has been used with food, even if it has been used that way only once. Therefore, in the two cases mentioned in Law #11, the pot would need to be heated until red hot and the fork would need to be placed in a pot of boiling water.

13.  If one carefully cleans one’s oven racks and covers all food placed in the oven with single sheets of tin foil, there is no need to kasher the oven because there is no way for food cooked in the oven to absorb hametz from it.

14. If one does decide to kasher an oven, self-cleaning is perfectly acceptable. If one’s oven does not have a self-cleaning option, one should carefully clean the racks and walls of the oven and then - after leaving it unused for 24 hours - place the oven on its highest temperature setting for one hour.

15. For Sephardim, the grates on which pots are placed on a gas or electric stovetop need only to be spotlessly cleaned to be kosher for Pesah. As an added measure of stringency, some Sephardim also place them into a pot of boiling hot water.

16. After cleaning the grates, Ashkenazim are required to heat them to the temperature at which a tissue that touched them would ignite.

17. Sephardim may kasher dishwashers, regardless of the material they are made of, by leaving them unused for 24 hours and then running them (without dishes inside) through at least one complete cycle with detergent. Ideally, for Ashkenazim, three complete dishwasher cycles should be run (only one needs to include detergent). The racks do not need to be changed.

18. For Sephardim, sinks, countertops and tabletops require nothing more than a careful cleaning to be kosher for Pesah (however, please be sure to consult Law #20.) Some Sephardim are stringent with sinks and, in addition to cleaning them, pour boiling hot water over them

19. Ashkenazim are advised not to use their sinks, countertops or tabletops without kashering them first. They should either (1) not use these items with anything hot for 24 hours and then pour boiling water over them OR (2) simply clean and then cover them.

20. If a sink, countertop, tabletop or stove grate is known to have had contact with hot hametz during the past 24 hours, then Sephardim are required to kasher them according to the same standards as Ashkenazim.
 
21. Dish sponges and toothbrushes should be cleaned thoroughly with hot water or replaced for the holiday.

22.  A microwave can be kashered by leaving it over for 24 hours, cleaning the inside thoroughly and then heating a dish of water in the microwave until it is filled with steam.

23. Refrigerators and cabinets need only to be wiped down with water to be kosher for Pesah. Dish strainers on which clean dishes are placed to dry do not require any kashering at all.

24. If one is not planning on using a particular vessel or appliance for Pesah, it does not require any kashering. Non-Pesah vessels should be cleaned and put away, preferably in a cabinet that is taped up or locked.

 ליל הסדר - The Seder Night

1. One may not begin the Pesah Seder until at least 45 minutes after sunset.

2. Men, women and children are obligated to fulfill all the mitzvot of the night. It is especially important for children to have the Haggada explained to them.

3. The custom of Sephardim is to use red wine for the Four Cups, even if superior white wine is available. The custom of Ashkenazim is to use red wine unless a superior white wine is available.

4. The minimum amount of wine that must be contained in each of the four cups is approximately 3 fluid ounces. One must drink more than half of each cup (about 1.6 fl. oz.)  to fulfill the mitzvah.

5. Almost any vegetable may be used for karpas, provided that its blessing is bore peri ha-adama. One should make sure that any vegetables eaten at the Seder (and all year round) have been carefully inspected for bugs.

6. It is preferable to use handmade matza shemura for the Seder. However, machine-made shemura is also acceptable.

7. It is ideal to use Romaine lettuce for Maror.

8. Everyone participating in the Seder is required to lean to the left when drinking any of the four cups or eating the matza, korech, or the afikoman. If a man forgot to lean while performing one of the mitzvot he must go back and redo it. Women may be lenient and need not repeat the mitzvah.

9. Sephardim recite the beracha of Borei Pri Hagefen only on the first and third cups. Ashkenazim say a beracha on all four cups.

10. The most essential part of the Haggada is “Rabban Gamliel Haya Omer”, in which the special mitzvot of the night are explained.

11. The minimum amount of matza that must be eaten for each mitzva is a little more than one third of a medium size handmade matza. However, for motzi matza on the first night, one should eat at least half of a handmade matza. The minimum amount of maror one must eat for each mitzvah is approximately 28 grams.

12. One should make every effort to complete the entire Seder, including Hallel, before “midnight” (in Rockville this year, 1:15 AM).  If this is not possible, one should at least eat the afikoman before this time.


               

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Kosher for Passover Cereals List 5773/2013


The following cereals, and ONLY the following cereals, are permitted for Sephardim who eat kitniyot (legumes) on Passover.

Please note that some cereals come in several flavors/versions. The flavors/versions listed are the ONLY ONES that I have verified are permitted for Passover, so please read the list very carefully.

Please DO NOT extrapolate from this list to any other products without asking me specifically and do not assume that cereals you ate on Passover in the past are still OK. Many cereals have changed recipes over the years and were allowed in the past but are now prohibited. Even a small change in ingredients can make all the difference.

If further research identifies additional brands/items that are also acceptable, I will revise this post, so please check back periodically for updates.

One last general note, and please forgive me for the unsolicited advice: Breakfast cereals, particularly the sugary ones, have been shown to be terribly unhealthy for children and adults. Scientific studies have found that regular consumption of processed grains and sugars is linked to the development of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other serious and chronic medical problems. Consider substituting fruits, vegetables and nuts for cereal whenever possible.  

However, insofar as the laws of Passover are concerned....

The following cereals are permitted for Passover, and may be purchased at any time, even on Hol Ha-Moed:

1. Trix

2. Kix (Honey Flavor, Berry Berry and Regular)

3. Chex Cereal (Corn, Cinammon, Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate, Rice, and Honey Nut ONLY)

4. Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles

5. Envirokidz Organic Cereals: Leapin' Lemurs, Koala Krisp, Gorilla Munch, Lightly Frosted Amazon Flakes and Peanut Butter Panda Puffs

6. Barbara's Puffins - Honey Rice flavor ONLY

7. Rice Krispies Gluten Free ONLY. Regular Rice Krispies is NOT permitted. Only the Gluten Free version may be used.

8. Nature's Path Honey'D Corn Flakes ONLY. The other flavor of Nature's Path Corn Flakes is not kosher.

9. Nature's Path Whole Grain Brown Crispy Rice, Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise, Crunchy Maple Sunrise, and Mesa Sunrise Flakes.


The following cereals may be used on Passover, but should be purchased before the holiday:

1. Cocoa Puffs

2. Reese's Puffs

3. Cookie Crisp

In addition to being purchased before the holiday, these three products are only permitted if the warning at the bottom of the ingredient panel says MAY CONTAIN WHEAT INGREDIENTS. If the package says CONTAINS WHEAT it may not be used.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Ohr Yaaqov - Essential Laws of Hanukkah 5773

                                        אור יעקב
                                 קיצור הלכות חנוכה        
                          Essential Laws of Hanukkah
                                         by Rabbi J. Maroof

1. This year, Hanukkah begins on Saturday Evening, December 8th and ends on Sunday Evening, December 16th. The last candle lighting will be Saturday night, December 15th.


2. Lighting Hanukkah candles is one of the most beloved mitsvot of our tradition. One should be careful to light the Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukiyah, every one of the eight nights of the holiday.


3. The Sephardic custom is to have only one Hanukiyah per household, even for a very large family. Ashkenazim typically have a separate Hanukiyah for each member of the family.


4. On the first night, two candles are used. One should be placed to the far right of the Hanukiyah. The other serves as the shamash, the “helper candle”, and should be placed in the special location designated for it.


5. Each night, another candle is added to the Hanukiyah. The candles should be placed in the Hanukiyah from right to left. However, when lighting the Hanukiyah, we proceed from left to right, beginning with the candle that was most recently added.


6. On the first night of Hanukkah, three blessings are recited before lighting the candles – Asher Qiddeshanu Bemitsvotav Vetsivanu Lehadliq ner Hanukkah, She-asa nissim, and Sheheheyanu.. On the remaining nights, only two blessings are recited, because Sheheheyanu is omitted.


7. After the candles have been lit, we read the paragraph Hanerot Halalu, as well as a chapter of Tehillim that is printed in the Siddur. Some have the custom of singing Maoz Tsur as well.


8. The best time to light the Hanukkah candles is generally at nightfall, from fifteen minutes to a half hour after sundown.  If one cannot light at that time, one may do so at any point during the night, provided that members of the household are still awake at that time to view the candles.


9. One who is traveling during Hanukkah does not need to light any candles as long as one’s family will be lighting candles at home. However, a person who normally lives alone and is traveling during Hanukkah still has an obligation to light candles.  If staying in a hotel, he or she must light the Hanukiyah there. If staying with Jewish relatives or friends who are lighting candles themselves, one must “join in” with the family by contributing a quarter toward the cost of the oil or candles and thereby acquiring a share in the mitsvah.


10. One who attends a Hanukkah gathering and participates in a Hanukkah candle lighting in a synagogue, restaurant or friend’s home does not fulfill the mitzvah through this participation. One must light Hanukkah candles in one’s home or in the place one plans to sleep that night, as detailed in Law #9.


11. On Friday afternoon, Hanukkah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles. On Saturday night, the candles cannot be lit until after Shabbat ends and Havdalah is recited.


12. One cannot, under any circumstances, light Hanukkah candles once Shabbat has started. To light candles on Friday night after sundown would be a desecration of Shabbat and not a mitsvah at all.


13. Hanukkah candles should burn for a minimum of a half hour. On Friday nights, when we light them especially early, it is preferable to use larger candles that will burn for at least an hour and a half.


 14. If the candles become extinguished, even if a half hour has not yet elapsed, it is not necessary to relight them.


15. Our custom is that women should not do any household work as long as the candles are burning.


16. Throughout Hanukkah, we include a full Hallel and a special Torah reading in the morning service. Please join us for prayers during the holiday!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Doing the Daf

Please follow the new series of Daf Yomi (daily Talmud) lectures at Magen David Sephardic Congregation by visiting our official blog: Doing The Daf.

We are one of the only Sephardic synagogues in the world to maintain a Daf Yomi shiur and publish it online!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Is Conversion Possible?

Q: Hello, I am not Jewish and I had a couple questions about conversion. My question is that if Judaism believes that all Jews were present the moment that Moses presented the tablets. If Jews each have a spirit that continuously reemerges from one life to another, but always Jewish, then how can Jews accept a convert? Along the same line, if Jews are considered the chosen ones', then how can a gentile convert and suddenly become a chosen one?
   
A: Being the "chosen people"  means that the Jews were charged with special responsibilities and "selected" for a unique mission - namely, the mission of representing God and spreading the awareness of His wisdom across the world. Any human being who subscribes to the ideals of Judaism and wishes to live by its commandments and accept that mission may do so, provided he or she converts in accordance with the guidelines established by Jewish Law. There is no intrinsic difference between a Jewish and a gentile soul. What differentiates one soul from another is not genetic and cannot be transmitted biologically from one generation to the next. When the Rabbis say that all Jews were present at the giving of the Torah, this is a metaphor for the concept that the Revelation at Sinai is an event that is equally meaningful, powerful and significant for all Jews at all times and in all places, despite the fact that they were not physically present thousands of years ago. One might think that the generation that witnessed the Revelation had a special relationship to Judaism and God that no subsequent group could ever enjoy. The Rabbis assure us that although what transpired at Sinai was a singular event in history, the message of Sinai is accessible to all people in all generations, both Jews by birth and Jews by choice.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Faith in G-d vs. Faith in Yourself

  Q:  I am listening to an audio book entitled "Think and Grow Rich". In it, it is stated that in order to grow rich, one must "Clearly know what you want to accomplish, have - and here is where I wish to focus your attention for my question - faith in your ability to do it..."

I am having ideological difficulty in reconciling belief in G-d doing everything and belief in my ability to do something. I understand that I can type this email, think, write, eat, etc., yet on some level, there is this understanding that it is all G-d, not I... can you help?


A: G-d is responsible for everything, including your ability to do the things you can do. He granted you resources and the capacity to exercise free will in utilizing them. Moreover, even the best laid and executed plans are dependent upon factors outside of human control, such as weather, health, chance occurrences, etc. So there is no contradiction between taking as full of a sense of responsibility as possible for accomplishing your goals while simultaneously recognizing that your success is ultimately dependent on the grace of Hashem.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Women and Prayer

Q: I heard that according to Sephardim, women only have to daven (pray) once a day. Is this true? If so, what is the reason that they don't have to pray three times a day?

A: No, this is not true. Jewish law makes no distinction between men and women with respect to obligation in prayer. Both men and women must pray three times a day during the week, four times on Shabbat and five times on Yom Kippur. The minimum requirement for women is to recite the Birkhot Hashahar (morning blessings) and the silent Amidah prayer at Shaharit, Minha and Arvit on weekdays, as well as the Musaf Amidah on Shabbat and Holidays and the Neilah Amidah on Yom Kippur. This is the law as stated in the Mishnah, the Rambam and the Shulhan Arukh.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Finding the Messiah


Q: Please educate me ... on how the Messiah will be determined to be the "REAL" Messiah ... and not just an "imposter?" How will the Jewish people know, that in fact, it is He? When is it expected that the Messiah arrive?
 
A: It's actually extremely simple and doesn't require any arguments, proofs or other acrobatics. The Bible very clearly describes what the Messiah will accomplish - rebuilding the Holy Temple, bringing the Jewish people back to their homeland and their covenant with God, leading the entire human race to monotheism and establishing a societal order founded on justice and righteousness. Whoever succeeds in accomplishing it is the Messiah, anyone who fails is not.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Psychics

Q: I have a very interesting question to ask. There is a woman who I like and who likes me. However, there are certain issues which would make marriage difficult. Therefore, I went to a few Rabbis in Israel (some Kabbalists, others not) and I happened to put our names in the letter, without me even realizing that there is a significance to the names. When each one of them saw the names, they said that they are very good and very compatible. However, since there are problems, I wasn't sure if they meant that they "could" be good or that it is meant to be. I am a skeptic, and not a believer in psychics or anything like that, but I happen to know the famous Uri Geller and will be speaking to him over the weekend. I would be curious to hear what he says. I want to ask him either if he sees anything between me and this woman's name in the future, or maybe will just ask him to venture a guess of the name, without me telling it to him. Since I am not asking someone to "predict" the future, per say, am I allowed to speak to him?? It is different if I were to ask him "who will I marry" if I didn't have a specific name in mind, because then it is like I am asking to predict the future. But now, since I am just asking it to him to see if it confirms what I already know/think, am I allowed to speak to him?

A:  It is absolutely forbidden to consult with psychics in any way, shape or form!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Essential Laws of The Three Weeks - Revised for 2012

                                              נחמת יעקב - קיצור הלכות בין המצרים                              
                                Essential Laws of The Three Weeks and Tisha B’av
                                                        by Rabbi J. Maroof
                    מוקדש לזכר נשמת חמותי היקרה יהודית בת שמואל ע“ה  ת. נ. צ. ב. ה
                                       
שבעה עשר בתמוז - The Seventeenth of Tammuz

1. Each year we observe a period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. We begin on the Seventeenth day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz with a day of fasting and prayer. This year, the fast falls out on Sunday, July 8th, 2012.

2. The fast of the 17th of Tammuz begins at astronomical dawn and continues until nightfall. Sephardim conclude this and all other minor fasts twenty minutes after sundown, whereas Ashkenazim conclude anywhere from thirty to fifty minutes after sundown. This year, the fast will begin in Rockville on Tuesday morning at 4:39 AM and will conclude (for Sephardim) at 8:57 PM.

3. It is preferable not to launder clothing, wear freshly laundered clothing or bathe in warm water during the daytime on the Seventeenth of Tammuz. However, it is permitted to brush one’s teeth with toothpaste or use mouthwash.

4. From the Seventeenth of Tammuz through the Ninth day of the month of Av, it is customary to avoid reciting the blessing of Shehecheyanu on new fruits, clothing, etc.

5. It is the custom of Ashkenazim to avoid shaving, taking haircuts and celebrating weddings beginning with the 17th day of Tammuz. If necessary for business purposes, shaving is permitted until the first day of Av. In particularly dire circumstances, it may be permitted up through the Friday before Tisha B’av. In such cases, a competent Rabbi should be consulted. 

6. It is meritorious to avoid listening to most forms of music (with the exception of classical and some religious music) throughout the year as a sign of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. However, if one is lenient in this regard most of the time, one should try to be more careful about it during this period.


תשעת הימים ושבוע שחל בו - The Nine Days

1. The first nine days of the month of Av are known as the “Nine Days”, a period of time during which our mourning for the Temple’s destruction intensifies. Beginning with the first day of Av, Sephardim join Ashkenazim in not permitting any celebrations, such as weddings or engagement parties, until the conclusion of the mourning period. Some Ashkenazim also forbid cutting fingernails and toenails during this time.

2. It is customary to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine during the Nine Days. Sephardim do not start observing this restriction until the second day of Av (i.e., the night after Rosh Hodesh Av.) Ashkenazim abstain from meat and wine on Rosh Hodesh as well. This year, Rosh Hodesh Av falls out on Friday, July 20th.

3. Ashkenazic custom prohibits drinking wine during the Nine Days even for a mitzvah, such as reciting Havdala or Birkat Hamazon. Sephardim only apply the prohibition to drinking that is done for personal enjoyment. All agree that the restriction on meat and wine is not observed on Shabbat.
 
4. The Saturday night prior to Tisha B’av marks the beginning of a time period known as the “Week of Tisha B’av”. At this point, the mourning observances are further intensified and remain this way until the conclusion of the fast.

5. Throughout the Week of Tisha B’av,  it is prohibited to shave or take a haircut.  (As mentioned above, Ashkenazic custom is to avoid shaving, haircuts and cutting fingernails for the entire “Three Weeks” period.)

 6. One may not launder clothing (even for someone else) or wear freshly laundered clothing during the Week of Tisha B’av. This restriction extends to linens, towels, etc. During this period, a non-Jew may not be asked to launder clothing on a Jew’s behalf.

7. One is not permitted to bathe with hot water (i.e., for enjoyment) during the Week of Tisha B’av. Rinsing off with cold water or to remove actual dirt is permitted.

8. One may not produce or purchase new garments during this time period, even if one does not plan on using them until after Tisha B’av.   

9. The custom of Ashkenazim is to extend the “Week of Tisha B’av” and observe its restrictions - not laundering, wearing fresh clothing, bathing for pleasure, or making/buying new garments - for the entire “Nine Days” period.

10. This year, since Tisha B’av falls out on Sunday, Sephardim only observe the “Week of Tisha B’av” restrictions on Tisha B’av itself. However, the restrictions of the “Nine Days” - not eating meat, drinking wine, engaging in celebration, etc. - are observed as usual.



ערב תשעה באב - The Eve of the Ninth of Av

1. On the eve of Tisha B’av after midday, it is preferable only to study Torah subjects that are permitted on fast itself. However, if one cannot focus his or her mind on such topics and will end up neglecting Torah study altogether, it is better to be lenient and study the topic of one’s choice.

2. After the Mincha service on the eve of the Tisha B’av, a special meal known as the Seuda Hamafseket is held in preparation for the fast. This year, however, since Tisha B’av begins on Saturday night, the laws regarding Seuda Hamafseket are not observed. Seudah Shelisheet is eaten in the normal manner but must be concluded before sunset.

תשעה באב - Tisha B’av

1. All Jews are obligated to fast on Tisha B’av, even pregnant and nursing women. A woman who has recently (within thirty days) given birth to a child is exempt from the fast. If a person becomes ill from fasting on Tisha B’av,  he need not complete the fast. This year, since the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat and its observance is postponed to Sunday, Sephardim exempt pregnant and nursing women from the fast. 

2. This year, Tisha B’av begins on Saturday, July 28th at sundown and ends at nightfall on Sunday, July 29th. As mentioned above, depending on one’s custom, one may conclude the fast anytime from 20-50 minutes after sundown on Sunday.

3. Five pleasurable activities are prohibited on the Ninth of Av:

        (1) Eating and drinking
        (2) Anointing one’ body with oil or perfume
        (3) Washing, including brushing teeth and using mouthwash
        (4) Wearing leather shoes, and
        (5) Marital relations, including physical contact with/sleeping in the same bed as one's spouse

4. On Tisha B’av, one may only study subjects that are directly related to the destruction of the Temple or to Divine punishment, such as the Book of Eicha, the Book of Iyov, the sections of the Prophetic books and the Talmud that deal with the destruction of the Temple, or the laws of mourning.

5. One is not permitted to inquire about the well being of others on Tisha B’av. This would include greeting friends, asking them how they are doing and otherwise engaging in “small talk” about personal concerns. Answering the phone with “hello” is not considered greeting and is permitted.

6. One is prohibited to work on the night of Tisha B’av. During the day, work is permitted after the recitation of Kinnot. According to some authorities, one must wait until midday before becoming involved in any work. In any case,  working at any time on Tisha B’av is strongly discouraged and, if possible, work should be completely avoided during the fast.

7. During the recitation of Kinnot in the synagogue, it is customary to sit on the ground or on a low stool or pillow. Many people refrain from sitting on a regular chair on Tisha B’av from sundown until midday, even in their own homes.

8. Since leather shoes are not worn on Tisha B’av, the blessing of “She-asa Li Kol Tzorki” should be omitted at Shacharit.

9. One may wash one’s hands in the morning with a blessing, but the water may only be poured over the fingertips (up to the first joint of the fingers). This form of washing is also permitted - and, if one plans to pray, recite a blessing, or study Torah, it is required - after one has used the bathroom. One who has actually become dirty may wash the dirt off normally.

10. The custom of the majority of Jews is not to wear a Tallit or Tefillin during Shacharit on Tisha B’av. They are worn at Mincha instead. (However, the custom of some Sephardim in Israel is to wear the Tallit and Tefillin at Shacharit as usual.)


עשרה באב - The Tenth of Av

1. This year, since Tisha B’av begins on Saturday night, we do not recite Havdalah in the normal manner after Shabbat. Instead, the blessing on fire is recited in the synagogue during evening services, and the remainder of havdala is postponed until Sunday night. It is recited on Sunday night when the fast ends, without spices (besamim) or a candle. It is customary to recite Birkat Ha-Levana on the night following Tisha B’av.

2. One may not eat meat or drink wine the night after the fast. This year, since the 9th of Av is Shabbat and the fast is observed on the 10th of Av, everyone agrees that one can eat meat and drink wine beginning Monday morning, July 30th.

3. Upon the conclusion of the fast, Sephardim are permitted to launder clothing, shave, take haircuts, and bathe (even with hot water). Ashkenazim generally refrain from these activities until midday of the tenth of Av. This year, since the 9th of Av was Shabbat and the fast was “delayed” until Sunday, even Ashkenazim are lenient and permit all of these activities immediately after the fast.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kosher for Passover Cereals List 5772/2012

The following cereals, and ONLY the following cereals, are permitted for Sephardim who eat kitniyot (legumes) on Passover.

Please note that some cereals come in several flavors/versions. The flavors/versions listed are the ONLY ONES permitted for Passover, so please read the list very carefully.

Please DO NOT extrapolate from this list to any other products without asking me specifically and do not assume that cereals you ate on Passover in the past are still OK. Many cereals have changed recipes over the years and were allowed in the past but are now prohibited. Even a small change in ingredients can make all the difference.

If I discover additional brands/items that are also acceptable, I will revise this post, so please check back periodically for updates.


The following cereals are permitted for Passover, and may be purchased at any time, even on Hol Ha-Moed:

1. Trix


2. Kix (Honey Flavor, Berry Berry and Regular)


3. Chex Cereal (Corn, Cinammon, Rice and Honey Nut ONLY)


4. Cocoa Pebbles


5. Fruity Pebbles


6. Envirokidz Organic Cereals: Leapin' Lemurs, Koala Krisp, Gorilla Munch and Peanut Butter Panda Puffs


7. Barbara's Puffins - Honey Rice flavor ONLY


8. Rice Krispies Gluten Free ONLY. Regular Rice Krispies is not permitted. Only the Gluten Free version may be used.


9. Nature's Path Honey'D Corn Flakes ONLY. The other flavor of Nature's Path Corn Flakes is not kosher.


10. Nature's Path Whole Grain Brown Crispy Rice


The following cereals may be used on Passover, but only if purchased before the holiday:

1. Cocoa Puffs

2. Reese's Puffs

Monday, March 12, 2012

Laws of Pesah 5772 - 10th Anniversary Edition!

                                                     
Essential Laws of Pesah by Rabbi Joshua Maroof

איסור החמץ - The Prohibition of Hametz

1. On Pesah we are not permitted to eat or to possess any hametz. This includes any food product that contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt) or one of their many derivatives, unless it has been properly supervised for Pesah use.

2. In addition to the prohibition of eating and possessing hametz, the Torah prohibits us to benefit from it in any way. Therefore, we may not sell it, present it as a gift or feed it to any animals on Pesah.

3. Containers of condiments and spreads like butter, cream cheese and fruit preserves that have been opened and used with hametz should be thrown out and new ones purchased for Pesah.

4. Since spices, oils and other additives are sometimes poured directly into a pot over the fire and may have absorbed hametz from its steam, one should purchase new, unopened ones for Pesah. However, the old ones do not need to be thrown out or sold, just put away. 

5. The prohibition of hametz also requires us to treat all of the pots, pans, utensils and other cookware that have been used with hametz as non-Kosher for Pesah use.

6. In addition to the restriction on eating actual hametz, Ashkenazim also refrain from eating kitniyot (‘legumes’, such as rice, corn, and beans) during Pesah. However, they are permitted to possess kitniyot and may utilize pots, pans, dishes and utensils that have been used with kitniyot.

7. The restriction on kitniyot only applies to foods that are primarily made up of kitniyot. Food products that contain less than fifty percent kitniyot AND in which the kitniyot are not recognizable, like soft drinks that contain corn syrup, are permitted even for Ashkenazim on Pesah.

8. Sephardim who are accustomed not to eat kitniyot during Pesah may discontinue their custom if they so desire. Ideally, they should ‘annul’ the custom before a Jewish court (bet din).

9. Nowadays, Sephardim who eat kitniyot such as rice that are packaged commercially are not obligated to check them for traces of hametz because the companies that prepare these products have already purified them. However, if one happens to find a grain of hametz mixed in with rice, it must be removed. If one has already cooked the rice, consult a Rabbi about how to proceed (many factors are involved).

10. Sephardim are permitted to eat ‘egg matza’ on Pesah, provided that it is prepared under proper supervision. Ashkenazim only allow egg matza for the sick and elderly who cannot digest regular matza.

11. Some authorities permit both kitniyot and egg matza even for Ashkenazim on Erev Pesah.

12. Items that are not edible, such as shoe polish, aluminum foil, glue, cosmetics, toiletries, shampoos and medicines do not need to be kosher for Pesah (or in general), because they are not foods.  Pet food, however, must be kosher for Pesah, because it is considered an edible item.

13. The prohibition of eating hametz will begin on the eve of Pesah – Friday, April 6th  - in Rockville, Maryland at 11:02 AM this year. The prohibition to possess, sell or otherwise benefit from hametz will begin at 12:06 PM.


  בדיקת חמץ- The Search for Hametz


1. On the night before Pesah begins – this year, Thursday, April 5th - every Jew is required to search their property for any hametz. The search should be a genuine, serious inspection for hametz, not a ritualistic walk through the house with a feather and a candle.

2. The search for hametz should begin twenty minutes after sunset or as soon as possible thereafter.

3. Before the search, we recite the appropriate beracha (found either in the Haggada or Pesah prayerbook) and proceed to inspect all areas that we may have brought hametz into during the year. This includes our homes, cars, offices, coat pockets, etc.

4. A flashlight should be used during the search so that one can inspect all of the necessary areas with sufficient lighting.

5. There is no need for ‘spring cleaning’ during the search for hametz. One should concentrate on finding substantial pieces of hametz (like a cookie or pretzel) rather than sweeping up crumbs. If there is extra time, removing even smaller bits of hametz is an enhancement of the mitzvah.

6. After the search for hametz, one should gather all the hametz one intends to save for dinner or breakfast and keep it in one place.

7. When the search for hametz is concluded, one must say the nullification of hametz (‘bittul hametz’) formula found in the Haggada or Mahazor. The nullification statement is repeated in a slightly different form in the morning, right after one destroys or eats the last of one’s hametz.

8. If one is going away for the holiday before the night of the search but is leaving less than a month before Pesah one must conduct a proper search for hametz without a beracha on the last night that one is still home. One should recite the nighttime ‘bittul hametz’ formula immediately after the search, but should wait until erev Pesah to make the daytime “bittul” statement.


ערב פסח - The Eve of Pesah

1. On the eve of Pesah – this year, Friday, April 6th - it is prohibited to eat matza, so that the matza eaten at the seder will be special. Egg matza is permitted for Sephardim as well as for those Ashkenazim who are lenient in this matter on Erev Pesah.

2. It is customary that every firstborn male fasts on the eve of Pesah. The fast may be broken if one attends a ‘Siyum Masechet’, a celebration held when somebody completes the study of an entire tractate of the Talmud.

3. Where possible, first born females should attend the Siyum as well, since many authorities maintain that they are also obligated to fast.

4. One is not permitted to begin work projects that are very involved after midday on Erev Pesah so that one can fully devote one’s energy to preparing for the seder.

5. Beginning about two and a half hours before sunset on Erev Pesah, one is not permitted to eat the equivalent of a meal (even of egg matza), so that he/she will be hungry enough to enjoy dining at the seder. Snacks of fruits and vegetables are permitted.


 ערוב תבשילין - Eruv Tavshilin

1. On Yom Tov, it is prohibited to make preparations for any other day. Therefore, When Yom Tov falls on a Friday we are required to create an Eruv Tavshilin in order to permit us to prepare for Shabbat. The Eruv must be prepared before the holiday begins.

2. The Eruv Tavshilin is made by taking a cooked dish (like a hard boiled egg) and a piece of matza and then reciting the beracha and declaration written in the machzor or haggada.

3. It is preferable to recite the Eruv declaration in a language that one understands.

4. When Yom Tov falls out on a Thursday and Friday, preparations for Shabbat may only be made on Friday, despite the fact that the Eruv was created on Wednesday.

5. When preparing for Shabbat on Yom Tov, one should complete one’s preparations early in the afternoon so that it is not obvious that one is using Yom Tov to prepare for Shabbat.

6. It is customary to eat the Eruv Tavshilin at Seudah Shelishit on Shabbat.


הכשר כלים -Kashering Vessels

1. Many people keep separate sets of cookware and utensils for Pesah use. If, however, one wishes to use one’s year-round kitchenware for Pesah, it must first undergo a process of ‘kashering’. In order to avoid complications, it is best to complete this process before hametz becomes prohibited (i.e., before 11:02 AM on April 6th this year).

2. Only metal, stone, wood and plastic vessels can be kashered. Items made from earthenware, such as china, cannot be kashered.

3. Sephardim do not require any kashering for glass and Pyrex vessels and are permitted to use them after a thorough cleaning. Ashkenazim treat these items like earthenware and prohibit their use for Pesah unless they have been used exclusively with cold food.

4. The method used to kasher an item is always based on the way in which the item is used. A vessel that is used for cooking liquidy substances, such as a pot, should be kashered by boiling water in it and then dropping a hot rock or hot piece of metal into it so that it boils over on all sides. Utensils such as soup ladles and carving knives that are placed directly into hot pots are kashered by completely submerging them in a pot filled with boiling water. Serving platters and strainers that have food poured onto them from hot pots are generally kashered in this way as well.

5. After kashering a vessel with boiling water, it is customary to rinse the item off with cold water.

6.  Customs differ with regard to kashering vessels that are used for eating hot food but have no direct contact with hot cookware (for example, forks, spoons, knives, etc.) Sephardim may kasher these utensils by cleaning them thoroughly and then running them through a regular cycle in a kosher-for-Pesah dishwasher. Ashkenazim require all vessels that come into contact with hot food to be kashered through placement in a pot of boiling hot water. 

7.  According to Ashkenazic practice, a vessel must be left unused for 24 hours before being purged with boiling water for Pesah use. Sephardim are only required to observe this stringency in two cases: (1) when kashering a microwave and (2) when kashering meat and dairy vessels together in the same vat. However, it is meritorious for Sephardim to follow the stringent practice in all cases if possible.      

8. Before a vessel can be kashered with boiling water, it must be totally clean. When cleaning a vessel to prepare it for kashering, one may come across food substances that adhere to it and cannot be removed. In such cases, simply apply a caustic cleaner such as bleach or detergent to the substance in order to render it inedible. 

9. A vessel upon which dry food is directly placed to cook, like a grill or baking pan, should be kashered by cleaning it carefully and then heating it until it is red hot (libun). This is the most intense form of kashering, and vessels kashered in this way do not need to be left unused for 24 hours beforehand. 

10. Vessels used for cold food only, such as goblets for Kiddush or cups used for cold drinks, need only to be rinsed with water and are permitted for Pesah use.

11. According to Sephardim, if a vessel is used in different ways at different times, the method of kashering that is applied will follow the primary usage. For example, if a pot normally used for cooking liquidy foods were used for dry cooking once or twice, it would still be kashered by boiling water inside. Similarly, if a fork normally used for eating was used to stir a pot over the fire a couple of times, it could still be kashered by a run through the dishwasher. However, if the vessel was used in a more intense way than usual during the past 24 hours, the more intense method of kashering must be applied.

12. Ashkenazim always kasher based on the most intense way that the vessel has been used with food, even if it has been used that way only once. Therefore, in the two cases mentioned in Law #11, the pot would need to be heated until red hot and the fork would need to be placed in a pot of boiling water.

13.  If one carefully cleans one’s oven racks and covers all food placed in the oven with single sheets of tin foil, there is no need to kasher the oven because there is no way for food cooked in the oven to absorb hametz from it.

14. If one does decide to kasher an oven, self-cleaning is perfectly acceptable. If one’s oven does not have a self-cleaning option, one should carefully clean the racks and walls of the oven and then - after leaving it unused for 24 hours - place the oven on its highest temperature setting for one hour.

15. For Sephardim, the grates on which pots are placed on a gas or electric stovetop need only to be spotlessly cleaned to be kosher for Pesah. As an added measure of stringency, some Sephardim also place them into a pot of boiling hot water.

16. After cleaning the grates, Ashkenazim are required to heat them to the temperature at which a tissue that touched them would ignite.

17. Sephardim may kasher dishwashers, regardless of the material they are made of, by leaving them unused for 24 hours and then running them (without dishes inside) through at least one complete cycle with detergent. Ideally, for Ashkenazim, three complete dishwasher cycles should be run (only one needs to include detergent). The racks do not need to be changed.

18. For Sephardim, sinks, countertops and tabletops require nothing more than a careful cleaning to be kosher for Pesah (however, please be sure to consult Law #20.) Some Sephardim are stringent with sinks and, in addition to cleaning them, pour boiling hot water over them

19. Ashkenazim are advised not to use their sinks, countertops or tabletops without kashering them first. They should either (1) not use these items with anything hot for 24 hours and then pour boiling water over them OR (2) simply clean and then cover them.

20. If a sink, countertop, tabletop or stove grate is known to have had contact with hot hametz during the past 24 hours, then Sephardim are required to kasher them according to the same standards as Ashkenazim.
 
21. Dish sponges and toothbrushes should be cleaned thoroughly with hot water or replaced for the holiday.

22.  A microwave can be kashered by leaving it over for 24 hours, cleaning the inside thoroughly and then heating a dish of water in the microwave until it is filled with steam.

23. Refrigerators and cabinets need only to be wiped down with water to be kosher for Pesah. Dish strainers on which clean dishes are placed to dry do not require any kashering at all.

24. If one is not planning on using a particular vessel or appliance for Pesah, it does not require any kashering. Non-Pesah vessels should be cleaned and put away, preferably in a cabinet that is taped up or locked.

 ליל הסדר - The Seder Night

1. One may not begin the Pesah Seder until at least 45 minutes after sunset.

2. Men, women and children are obligated to fulfill all the mitzvot of the night. It is especially important for children to have the Haggada explained to them.

3. The custom of Sephardim is to use red wine for the Four Cups, even if superior white wine is available. The custom of Ashkenazim is to use red wine unless a superior white wine is available.

4. The minimum amount of wine that must be contained in each of the four cups is approximately 3 fluid ounces. One must drink more than half of each cup (about 1.6 fl. oz.)  to fulfill the mitzvah.

5. Almost any vegetable may be used for karpas, provided that its blessing is bore peri ha-adama. One should make sure that any vegetables eaten at the Seder (and all year round) have been carefully inspected for bugs.

6. It is preferable to use handmade matza shemura for the Seder. However, machine-made shemura is also acceptable.

7. It is ideal to use Romaine lettuce for Maror.

8. Everyone participating in the Seder is required to lean to the left when drinking any of the four cups or eating the matza, korech, or the afikoman. If a man forgot to lean while performing one of the mitzvot he must go back and redo it. Women may be lenient and need not repeat the mitzvah.

9. Sephardim recite the beracha of Borei Pri Hagefen only on the first and third cups. Ashkenazim say a beracha on all four cups.

10. The most essential part of the Haggada is “Rabban Gamliel Haya Omer”, in which the special mitzvot of the night are explained.

11. The minimum amount of matza that must be eaten for each mitzva is a little more than one third of a medium size handmade matza. However, for motzi matza on the first night, one should eat at least half of a handmade matza. The minimum amount of maror one must eat for each mitzvah is approximately 28 grams.

12. One should make every effort to complete the entire Seder, including Hallel, before “midnight” (in Rockville this year, 1:11 AM).  If this is not possible, one should at least eat the afikoman before this time.

              

Friday, January 13, 2012

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Monday, August 01, 2011

         Essential Laws of The Three Weeks and Tisha B’av
                         by Rabbi J. Maroof
                    
                                       
שבעה עשר בתמוז - The Seventeenth of Tammuz

1. Each year we observe a period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. We begin on the Seventeenth day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz with a day of fasting and prayer. This year, the fast falls out on Tuesday, July 19, 2011.

2. The fast of the 17th of Tammuz begins at astronomical dawn and continues until nightfall. Sephardim conclude this and all other minor fasts twenty minutes after sundown, whereas Ashkenazim conclude anywhere from thirty to fifty minutes after sundown. This year, the fast will begin in Rockville on Tuesday morning at 4:46 AM and will conclude (for Sephardim) at 8:55 PM.

3. It is preferable not to launder clothing, wear freshly laundered clothing or bathe in warm water during the daytime on the Seventeenth of Tammuz. However, it is permitted to brush one’s teeth with toothpaste or use mouthwash.

4. From the Seventeenth of Tammuz through the Ninth day of the month of Av, it is customary to avoid reciting the blessing of Shehecheyanu on new fruits, clothing, etc.

5. It is the custom of Ashkenazim to avoid shaving, taking haircuts and celebrating weddings beginning with the 17th day of Tammuz. If necessary for business purposes, shaving is permitted until the first day of Av. In particularly dire circumstances, it may be permitted up through the Friday before Tisha B’av. In such cases, a competent Rabbi should be consulted. 

6. It is meritorious to avoid listening to most forms of music (with the exception of classical and some religious music) throughout the year as a sign of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. However, if one is lenient in this regard most of the time, one should try to be more careful about it during this period.


תשעת הימים ושבוע שחל בו - The Nine Days

1. The first nine days of the month of Av are known as the “Nine Days”, a period of time during which our mourning for the Temple’s destruction intensifies. Beginning with the first day of Av, Sephardim join Ashkenazim in not permitting any celebrations, such as weddings or engagement parties, until the conclusion of the mourning period. Some Ashkenazim also forbid cutting fingernails and toenails during this time.

2. It is customary to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine during the Nine Days. Sephardim do not start observing this restriction until the second day of Av (i.e., the night after Rosh Hodesh Av.) Ashkenazim abstain from meat and wine on Rosh Hodesh as well. This year, Rosh Hodesh Av falls out on Monday, August 1st.

3. Ashkenazic custom prohibits drinking wine during the Nine Days even for a mitzvah, such as reciting Havdala or Birkat Hamazon. Sephardim only apply the prohibition to drinking that is done for personal enjoyment. All agree that the restriction on meat and wine is not observed on Shabbat.
 
4. The Saturday night prior to Tisha B’av marks the beginning of a time period known as the “Week of Tisha B’av”. At this point, the mourning observances are further intensified and remain this way until the conclusion of the fast.

5. Throughout the Week of Tisha B’av,  it is prohibited to shave or take a haircut.  (As mentioned above, Ashkenazic custom is to avoid shaving, haircuts and cutting fingernails for the entire “Three Weeks” period.)

 6. One may not launder clothing (even for someone else) or wear freshly laundered clothing during the Week of Tisha B’av. This restriction extends to linens, towels, etc. During this period, a non-Jew may not be asked to launder clothing on a Jew’s behalf.

7. One is not permitted to bathe with hot water (i.e., for enjoyment) during the Week of Tisha B’av. Rinsing off with cold water or to remove actual dirt is permitted.

8. One may not produce or purchase new garments during this time period, even if one does not plan on using them until after Tisha B’av.   

9. The custom of Ashkenazim is to extend the “Week of Tisha B’av” and observe its restrictions - not laundering, wearing fresh clothing, bathing for pleasure, or making/buying new garments - for the entire “Nine Days” period.


ערב תשעה באב - The Eve of the Ninth of Av

1. On the eve of Tisha B’av after midday, it is preferable only to study Torah subjects that are permitted on fast itself. However, if one cannot focus his or her mind on such topics and will end up neglecting Torah study altogether, it is better to be lenient and study the topic of one’s choice.

2. After the Mincha service on the eve of the Tisha B’av, a meal known as the Seuda Hamafseket is held in preparation for the fast. This meal can consist of no more than one cooked dish (not including bread) and should not be eaten in the company of friends.

3. There are no restrictions on the consumption of raw foods like fruits and vegetables at the Seuda Hamafseket. Similarly, there is no limit on the quantity of food that can be eaten.

4. It is customary to eat a hard boiled egg dipped in ashes at the Seuda Hamafseket. However, this should only be done if hard boiled eggs are the only cooked dish being consumed at the meal. Many people have the custom of eating the Seuda Hamafseket on the ground.

5. When concluding the Seuda Hamafseket, one should have the explicit intention not to begin the fast of Tisha B’av yet. This way, if one wishes to eat or drink something more after the meal (before sundown) one may do so. If one did not have this intention in mind and would like to eat some more before sundown,
a competent Rabbi should be consulted.

6. It is important that the Seuda Hamafseket really be a person’s final meal on the day before Tisha B’av. One should not consume a large meal with a variety of foods before Mincha and then eat a ritualistic Seuda Hamafseket afterward.


תשעה באב - Tisha B’av

1. All Jews are obligated to fast on Tisha B’av, even pregnant and nursing women. A woman who has recently (within thirty days) given birth to a child is exempt from the fast. If a person becomes ill from fasting on Tisha B’av,  he need not complete the fast. 

2. This year, Tisha B’av will begin on Monday, August 8th at sundown and will end at nightfall on Tuesday, August 9th. As mentioned above, depending on one’s custom, one may conclude the fast anytime from 20-50 minutes after sundown on Tuesday.

3. Five pleasurable activities are prohibited on the Ninth of Av:

        (1) Eating and drinking
        (2) Anointing one’ body with oil or perfume
        (3) Washing, including brushing teeth and using mouthwash
        (4) Wearing leather shoes, and
        (5) Engaging in marital relations.


4. On Tisha B’av, one may only study subjects that are directly related to the destruction of the Temple or to Divine punishment, such as the Book of Eicha, the Book of Iyov, the sections of the Prophetic books and the Talmud that deal with the destruction of the Temple, or the laws of mourning.

5. One is not permitted to inquire about the well being of others on Tisha B’av. This would include greeting friends, asking them how they are doing and otherwise engaging in “small talk” about personal concerns. Answering the phone with “hello” is not considered greeting and is permitted.

6. One is prohibited to work on the night of Tisha B’av. During the day, work is permitted after the recitation of Kinnot. According to some authorities, one must wait until midday before becoming involved in any work. In any case,  working at any time on Tisha B’av is strongly discouraged and, if possible, work should be completely avoided during the fast.

7. During the recitation of Kinnot in the synagogue, it is customary to sit on the ground or on a low stool or pillow. Many people refrain from sitting on a regular chair on Tisha B’av from sundown until midday, even in their own homes.

8. Since leather shoes are not worn on Tisha B’av, the blessing of “She-asa Li Kol Tzorki” should be omitted at Shacharit.

9. One may wash one’s hands in the morning with a blessing, but the water may only be poured over the fingertips (up to the first joint of the fingers). This form of washing is also permitted - and, if one plans to pray, recite a blessing, or study Torah, it is required - after one has used the bathroom.

10. One who has actually become dirty may wash the dirt off normally.

11. The custom of the majority of Jews is not to wear a Tallit or Tefillin during Shacharit on Tisha B’av. They are worn at Mincha instead. (However, the custom of some Sephardim in Israel is to wear the Tallit and Tefillin at Shacharit as usual.)


 עשרה באב - The Tenth of Av

1. It is customary to recite Birkat Ha-Levana on the night following Tisha B’av.


2. Sephardim should not consume meat or wine until the 11th day of Av (i.e., until nightfall on Wednesday, August 10th this year). Ashkenazim only observe this restriction until midday of the 10th of Av (i.e., until 1:14PM on August 10th this year).


Upon the conclusion of the fast, Sephardim are permitted to launder clothing, shave, take haircuts, and bathe (even with hot water). Ashkenazim generally refrain from these activities until midday of the tenth of Av.

Friday, July 01, 2011

New Blog - Sephardic Bet Midrash

Please take a moment to visit my new blog, "Sephardic Bet Midrash":

http://sephardicbetmidrash.blogspot.com

I will be presenting summaries of the in-depth classes in Halakha that we conduct here at Magen David Sephardic Congregation every Thursday night. Currently, we are studying the laws of Milk and Meat in the Shulhan Arukh.

It is not meant to replace this blog, just to supplement....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

קול באשה ערוה

ידוע ומפורסם לכל יושבי בית המדרש שיש מחלוקת בין גדולי הראשונים באשר לגדר איסור שמיעת קול אשה המוזכר בגמרא. יש אומרים שהאיסור שייך רק בשעת קריאת שמע, ויש מחמירים אפילו שלא בשעת ק"ש, וההלכה נפסקת בש"ע כדעה האחרונה. גם לפי שיטה זו יש חילוקי דעות ביו הפוסקים. יש אוסרים אפילו קול דיבורה של אשה ויש מתירין קול דיבור אבל אוסרים קול שירה. בזה לכ"ע נקטינן לקולא ומחמירין אך ורק בקול שירת אשה, לא בדיבורה. ואפילו כאן, יש סוברים שהאיסור אינו שייך לשמיעה דרך רדיו או דרך הקלטה, יש אוסרים בכל אופן, ויש סוברים שאם השומעים אינם יכולים לראות את האשה בעת השירה, או שאינם מכירים אותה כלל ושומעים רק את קולה דרך הרדיו, שיש להקל. בדבר הזה נחלקו גם פוסקי זמנינו עד היום.

לעומת כל זאת יש סוברים שבשירי קודש, קריאת פסוקי תנ"ך עם טעמי המקרא וכדומה, שאינם מביאים את האדם לידי הרהורי עבירה כלל, אין חשש קול אשה בשום אופן, מכיון שאנו רואים שהגמרא אומרת שאסור לנשים לקרוא בתורה מפני כבוד הציבור ולא מוזכר שם איסור קול אשה כלל, משמע שבקריאת תנ"ך עם טעמי המקרא לא שייך הרהור, וה"ה לשירי קודש וכיוצא בזה הכל תלוי בתוכן, וכן פסק השדי חמד, מרן החיד"א, בעל השרידי אש, ומרן הראש"ל עובדיה יוסף שליט"א שמפיו אנו
(הספרדים) חיים ולכן הכי נקטינן וככה אני נוהג ויהי רצון מלפני השם שהאמת יורה דרכו אמן

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Laws of Pesah 5771

קיצור הלכות פסח
Essential Laws of Pesah by Rabbi J. Maroof
(301) 770 - 6818

איסור החמץ - The Prohibition of Hametz

1. On Pesah we are not permitted to eat or to possess any hametz. This includes any food product that contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt) or one of their many derivatives, unless it has been properly supervised for Pesah use.

2. In addition to the prohibition of eating and possessing hametz, the Torah prohibits us to benefit from it in any way. Therefore, we may not sell it, present it as a gift or feed it to any animals on Pesah.

3. Containers of condiments and spreads like butter, cream cheese and fruit preserves that have been opened and used with hametz should be thrown out and new ones purchased for Pesah.

4. Since spices, oils and other additives are sometimes poured directly into a pot over the fire and may have absorbed hametz from its steam, one should purchase new, unopened ones for Pesah. However, the old ones do not need to be thrown out or sold, just put away.

5. The prohibition of hametz also requires us to treat all of the pots, pans, utensils and other cookware that have been used with hametz as non-Kosher for Pesah use.

6. In addition to the restriction on eating actual hametz, Ashkenazim also refrain from eating kitniyot (‘legumes’, such as rice, corn, and beans) during Pesah. However, they are permitted to possess kitniyot and may utilize pots, pans, dishes and utensils that have been used with kitniyot.

7. The restriction on kitniyot only applies to foods that are primarily made up of kitniyot. Food products that contain less than fifty percent kitniyot AND in which the kitniyot are not recognizable, like soft drinks that contain corn syrup, are permitted even for Ashkenazim on Pesah.

8. Sephardim who are accustomed not to eat kitniyot during Pesah may discontinue their custom if they want to. Ideally, they should ‘annul’ the custom before a Jewish court (bet din).

9. Nowadays, Sephardim who eat kitniyot such as rice that are packaged commercially are not obligated to check them for traces of hametz because the companies that prepare these products have already purified them. However, if one happens to find a grain of hametz mixed in with rice, it must be removed. If one has already cooked the rice, consult a Rabbi about how to proceed (many factors are involved).

10. Sephardim are permitted to eat ‘egg matza’ on Pesah, provided that it is prepared under proper supervision. Ashkenazim only allow egg matza for the sick and elderly who cannot digest regular matza.

11. Some authorities permit both kitniyot and egg matza even for Ashkenazim on Erev Pesah.

12. Items that are not edible, such as shoe polish, aluminum foil, glue, cosmetics, toiletries, shampoos and medicines do not need to be kosher for Pesah (or in general), because they are not foods. Pet food, however, must be kosher for Pesah, because it is considered an edible item.

13. The prohibition of eating hametz will begin on the eve of Pesah – Monday, April 18th - in Rockville, Maryland at 10:54 AM this year. The prohibition to possess, sell or otherwise benefit from hametz will begin at 12:00 PM.


בדיקת חמץ- The Search for Hametz

1. On the night before Pesah begins – this year, Sunday, April 17th - every Jew is required to search their property for any hametz. The search should be a genuine, serious inspection for hametz, not a ritualistic walk through the house with a feather and a candle.

2. The search for hametz should begin twenty minutes after sunset or as soon as possible thereafter.

3. Before the search, we recite the appropriate beracha (found either in the Haggada or Pesah prayerbook) and proceed to inspect all areas that we may have brought hametz into during the year. This includes our homes, cars, offices, coat pockets, etc.

4. A flashlight should be used during the search so that one can inspect all of the necessary areas with sufficient lighting.

5. There is no need for ‘spring cleaning’ during the search for hametz. One should concentrate on finding substantial pieces of hametz (like a cookie or pretzel) rather than sweeping up crumbs. If there is extra time, removing even smaller bits of hametz is an enhancement of the mitzvah.

6. After the search for hametz, one should gather all the hametz one intends to save for dinner or breakfast and keep it in one place.

7. When the search for hametz is concluded, one must say the nullification of hametz (‘bittul hametz’) formula found in the Haggada or Mahazor. The nullification statement is repeated in a slightly different form in the morning, right after one destroys or eats the last of one’s hametz.

8. If one is going away for the holiday before the night of the search but is leaving less than a month before Pesah one must conduct a proper search for hametz without a beracha on the last night that one is still home. One should recite the nighttime ‘bittul hametz’ formula immediately after the search, but should wait until erev Pesah to make the daytime “bittul” statement.


- ערב פסח The Eve of Pesah

1. On the eve of Pesah – this year, Monday, April 18th - it is prohibited to eat matza, so that the matza eaten at the seder will be special. Egg matza is permitted for Sephardim as well as for those Ashkenazim who are lenient in this matter on Erev Pesah.

2. It is customary that every firstborn male fasts on the eve of Pesah. The fast may be broken if one attends a ‘Siyum Masechet’, a celebration held when somebody completes the study of an entire tractate of the Talmud.

3. Where possible, first born females should attend the Siyum as well, since many authorities maintain that they are also obligated to fast.

4. One is not permitted to begin work projects that are very involved after midday on Erev Pesah so that one can fully devote one’s energy to preparing for the seder.

5. Beginning about two and a half hours before sunset on Erev Pesah, one is not permitted to eat the equivalent of a meal (even of egg matza), so that he/she will be hungry enough to enjoy dining at the seder. Snacks of fruits and vegetables are permitted.


- ערוב תבשילין Eruv Tavshilin

1. On Yom Tov, it is prohibited to make preparations for any other day. Therefore, When Yom Tov falls on a Friday we are required to create an Eruv Tavshilin in order to permit us to prepare for Shabbat. The Eruv must be prepared before the holiday begins.

2. The Eruv Tavshilin is made by taking a cooked dish (like a hard boiled egg) and a piece of matza and then reciting the beracha and declaration written in the machzor or haggada.

3. It is preferable to recite the Eruv declaration in a language that one understands.

4. When Yom Tov falls out on a Thursday and Friday, preparations for Shabbat may only be made on Friday, despite the fact that the Eruv was created on Wednesday.

5. When preparing for Shabbat on Yom Tov, one should complete one’s preparations early in the afternoon so that it is not obvious that one is using Yom Tov to prepare for Shabbat.

6. It is customary to eat the Eruv Tavshilin at Seudah Shelishit on Shabbat.



הכשר כלים - Kashering Vessels

1. Many people keep separate sets of cookware and utensils for Pesah use. If, however, one wishes to use one’s year-round kitchenware for Pesah, it must first undergo a process of ‘kashering’. In order to avoid complications, it is best to complete this process before hametz becomes prohibited (i.e., before 10:54 AM on April 18th this year).

2. Only metal, stone, wood and plastic vessels can be kashered. Items made from earthenware, such as china, cannot be kashered.

3. Sephardim do not require any kashering for glass and Pyrex vessels and are permitted to use them after a thorough cleaning. Ashkenazim treat these items like earthenware and prohibit their use for Pesah unless they have been used exclusively with cold food.

4. The method used to kasher an item is always based on the way in which the item is used. A vessel that is used for cooking liquidy substances, such as a pot, should be kashered by boiling water in it and then dropping a hot rock or hot piece of metal into it so that it boils over on all sides. Utensils such as soup ladles and carving knives that are placed directly into hot pots are kashered by completely submerging them in a pot filled with boiling water. Serving platters and strainers that have food poured onto them from hot pots are generally kashered in this way as well.

5. After kashering a vessel with boiling water, it is customary to rinse the item off with cold water.

6. Customs differ with regard to kashering vessels that are used for eating hot food but have no direct contact with hot cookware (for example, forks, spoons, knives, etc.) Sephardim may kasher these utensils by cleaning them thoroughly and then running them through a regular cycle in a kosher-for-Pesah dishwasher. Ashkenazim require all vessels that come into contact with hot food to be kashered through placement in a pot of boiling hot water.

7. According to Ashkenazic practice, a vessel must be left unused for 24 hours before being purged with boiling water for Pesah use. Sephardim are only required to observe this stringency in two cases: (1) when kashering a microwave and (2) when kashering meat and dairy vessels together in the same vat. However, it is meritorious for Sephardim to follow the stringent practice in all cases if possible.

8. Before a vessel can be kashered with boiling water, it must be totally clean. When cleaning a vessel to prepare it for kashering, one may come across food substances that adhere to it and cannot be removed. In such cases, simply apply a caustic cleaner such as bleach or detergent to the substance in order to render it inedible.

9. A vessel upon which dry food is directly placed to cook, like a grill or baking pan, should be kashered by cleaning it carefully and then heating it until it is red hot (libun). This is the most intense form of kashering, and vessels kashered in this way do not need to be left unused for 24 hours beforehand.

10. Vessels used for cold food only, such as goblets for Kiddush or cups used for cold drinks, need only to be rinsed with water and are permitted for Pesah use.

11. According to Sephardim, if a vessel is used in different ways at different times, the method of kashering that is applied will follow the primary usage. For example, if a pot normally used for cooking liquidy foods were used for dry cooking once or twice, it would still be kashered by boiling water inside. Similarly, if a fork normally used for eating was used to stir a pot over the fire a couple of times, it could still be kashered by a run through the dishwasher. However, if the vessel was used in a more intense way than usual during the past 24 hours, the more intense method of kashering must be applied.

12. Ashkenazim always kasher based on the most intense way that the vessel has been used with food, even if it has been used that way only once. Therefore, in the two cases mentioned in Law #11, the pot would need to be heated until red hot and the fork would need to be placed in a pot of boiling water.

13. If one carefully cleans one’s oven racks and covers all food placed in the oven with single sheets of tin foil, there is no need to kasher the oven because there is no way for food cooked in the oven to absorb hametz from it.

14. If one does decide to kasher an oven, self-cleaning is perfectly acceptable. If one’s oven does not have a self-cleaning option, one should carefully clean the racks and walls of the oven and then - after leaving it unused for 24 hours - place the oven on its highest temperature setting for one hour.

15. For Sephardim, the grates on which pots are placed on a gas or electric stovetop need only to be spotlessly cleaned to be kosher for Pesah. As an added measure of stringency, some Sephardim also place them into a pot of boiling hot water.

16. After cleaning the grates, Ashkenazim are required to heat them to the temperature at which a tissue that touched them would ignite.

17. Sephardim may kasher dishwashers, regardless of the material they are made of, by leaving them unused for 24 hours and then running them (without dishes inside) through at least one complete cycle with detergent. Ideally, for Ashkenazim, three complete dishwasher cycles should be run (only one needs to include detergent). The racks do not need to be changed.

18. For Sephardim, sinks, countertops and tabletops require nothing more than a careful cleaning to be kosher for Pesah (however, please be sure to consult Law #20.) Some Sephardim are stringent with sinks and, in addition to cleaning them, pour boiling hot water over them

19. Ashkenazim are advised not to use their sinks, countertops or tabletops without kashering them first. They should either (1) not use these items with anything hot for 24 hours and then pour boiling water over them OR (2) simply clean and then cover them.

20. If a sink, countertop, tabletop or stove grate is known to have had contact with hot hametz during the past 24 hours, then Sephardim are required to kasher them according to the same standards as Ashkenazim.

21. Dish sponges and toothbrushes should be cleaned thoroughly with hot water or replaced for the holiday.

22. A microwave can be kashered by leaving it over for 24 hours, cleaning the inside thoroughly and then heating a dish of water in the microwave until it is filled with steam.

23. Refrigerators and cabinets need only to be wiped down with water to be kosher for Pesah. Dish strainers on which clean dishes are placed to dry do not require any kashering at all.

24. If one is not planning on using a particular vessel or appliance for Pesah, it does not require any kashering. Non-Pesah vessels should be cleaned and put away, preferably in a cabinet that is taped up or locked.


ליל הסדרThe Seder Night

1. One may not begin the Pesah Seder until at least 45 minutes after sunset.

2. Men, women and children are obligated to fulfill all the mitzvot of the night. It is especially important for children to have the Haggada explained to them.

3. The custom of Sephardim is to use red wine for the Four Cups, even if superior white wine is available. The custom of Ashkenazim is to use red wine unless a superior white wine is available.

4. The minimum amount of wine that must be contained in each of the four cups is approximately 3 fluid ounces. One must drink more than half of each cup (about 1.6 fl. oz.) to fulfill the mitzvah.

5. Almost any vegetable may be used for karpas, provided that its blessing is bore peri ha-adama. One should make sure that any vegetables eaten at the Seder (and all year round) have been carefully inspected for bugs.

6. It is preferable to use handmade matza shemura for the Seder. However, machine-made shemura is also acceptable.

7. It is ideal to use Romaine lettuce for Maror.

8. Everyone participating in the Seder is required to lean to the left when drinking any of the four cups or eating the matza, korech, or the afikoman. If a man forgot to lean while performing one of the mitzvot he must go back and redo it. Women may be lenient and need not repeat the mitzvah.

9. Sephardim recite the beracha of Borei Pri Hagefen only on the first and third cups. Ashkenazim say a beracha on all four cups.

10. The most essential part of the Haggada is “Rabban Gamliel Haya Omer”, in which the special mitzvot of the night are explained.

11. The minimum amount of matza that must be eaten for each mitzva is a little more than one third of a medium size handmade matza. However, for motzi matza on the first night, one should eat at least half of a handmade matza. The minimum amount of maror one must eat for each mitzvah is approximately 28 grams.

12. One should make every effort to complete the entire Seder, including Hallel, before “midnight” (in Rockville this year, 1:08 AM). If this is not possible, one should at least eat the afikoman before this time.