Questions and Answers: Torah Law


Rabbi Daniel Myers



Q. (248) Is one obligated to give Zedaka to an individual who comes to one's house collecting on behalf of an Ani?
A. There are two Halachot regarding one's Mitzvah of Zedaka: 1) Maasair, which requires an individual to give between 10%-20% of one's earnings to Zedaka each year and 2) an Issur which prohibits one from turning an Ani, (indigent) away without giving him anything. (Rambam Hilchot Matnot Aniyim 7:5, S"A Yoreh Daiah 249:1, Ramah ibid., Birkai Yosaif ibid.) The Pasuk (Tehilim 74:21) states "Al Yashov Dach Nichlam" one should not turn back the oppressed in shame. The Ramah (249:4) writes that it is Assur, prohibition, to send away an Ani empty-handed, he must give him something, even a very small amount. This restriction applies even to one who has already given his Maasair for the year. One who has nothing to give an Ani should tell him that he would like to help him but unfortunately is unable to; he should try to comfort him to the best of his abilities. (S"A 249:4) According to Rav Chaim Kanievski Shlita, this Issur applies only when the Ani himself is standing before the individual, not when a representative is collecting on his behalf. (Derech Emuna Matnot Aniyim 7:48. However, see Teshuvot V'hanhagot 3:287 where he is unsure about this leniency. See also B'air Moshe 4:92 where he is Machmir when one receives an authentic request for money on behalf of the Ani.)

Q. (249) Is the Mitzvah today of Teruma and Maasair Midoraita (Biblical) or Midrabanan (Rabbinic)?
A. The Mishna in Bikkurim (2:3) states that although the Mitzvah of Bikkurim only applies when the Mikdash is standing, the Mitzvah of Terumah and Maasair is independent of the Mikdash. This would imply that Teruma is Midoraira nowadays even though the third Mikdash is not yet standing. However, the Rambam (Terumot 1:26) Paskins that the Mitzvah of Teruma and Maasair is Midoraita only when we have Biat Kulchem, when all of B'nai Yisrael is living in Eretz Yisrael. This condition existed during the Yerusha Rishona when Yehoshua led the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, but did not exist during the Yerusha Shniya, when Ezra led the Jews back from Bavel, and will exist again, Bimhaira B'yamainu, during the Yerusha Shlishit. The Raavad (ibid.) disagrees with the Rambam, maintaining that Biat Kulchem is not essential for the D'oraita Mitzva of Teruma and Maasair, and is only essential for Challah. Many Rishonim agree with the Raavad that Teruma is not dependent on Biat Kulchem, but still Paskin that Teruma is Midrabanan nowadays since they hold that the Kedushat Haaretz during the time of Ezra ceased after the Churban. (Derech Emunah Terumot 1:231) L'maaseh, we assume that Teruma is D'rabanan nowadays. (Ramah Y"D 331:2, Chazon Iish Shviit 9:18, Derech Emunah ibid.)

Q. (250) Tehila Jacobs: Is one allowed to pull out a loose tooth on Shabbat?
A. The Shulchan Aruch (340:1) writes that it is Assur for one to cut his nails, or pull out his hair on Shabbat, because of the prohibition of Gozaiz, shearing. The Mishna Berura (340:1) adds that this Issur applies to teeth as well. The Shulchan Aruch (328:31) writes that one is allowed to remove (with his hand) a hangnail if 1) Pirshu Rovan, the majority of the nail is detached and 2)he is in pain. The Mishna Berura (328:96) explains the Heiter: Since it is mostly removed already, it is considered Halachically detached, and one does not violate the Biblical Issur of Gozaiaz. Normally, it would still be Rabbinically prohibited to remove it, but the Rabbanan were lenient here, in a case of Zaar, pain, and allowed one to remove it if it is done with a Shinui, such as with one's hand instead of nail clippers. This leniency does not apply to other loose skin, such as cuticles or loose pieces of skin hanging from the lips. (M"B 328:99) Regarding loose teeth, the Piskai Teshuvot (328:24) brings down the Shibalai Haleket, who is lenient, comparing the removal of teeth to the removal of nails. According to this, one may remove a loose tooth with his hand if he is in pain. However, this leniency would apply only if bleeding is not inevitable.

Q. (251) Rabbi Ari Solar: Must one see the entire rainbow in order to say the Bracha "Zocair Habrit"?
A. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 229:1) writes that one who sees a Keshet, rainbow, should recite the Bracha "Baruch Atah.Zochair Habrit Neeman B'brito V'kayaam B'maamaro." The Biur Halacha (ibid. "Haroeh") raises the question whether one must see the entire rainbow, I.e. the bow-shape, in order to make the Bracha, or it is enough to see any part of the rainbow. He leaves the question unanswered. The Teshuvot V'hanhagot (3:76:6) concludes that since it is a Safaik, one should not say a Bracha unless he sees the complete rainbow.

Q. (252) Mr. Danny Persoff: Is there an Issur to look at a rainbow?
A. The Shulchan Aruch (229:1) writes that it is prohibited to look at a rainbow "B'yotair" for a prolonged period of time. The Gra (ibid.) writes that there is no prohibition of R'eeyah, briefly looking, for one needs to see the rainbow in order to make the Bracha; rather, the Issur is Histaklut, staring intently. (See also Machazit Hashekel ibid.) The Iyun Yaakov writes that it is a Mitzvah to see the rainbow in order to recite the Bracha. However, the Mishna Berura (229:1) quotes the Chayai Adam who maintains that one should not tell a friend that there is a rainbow in the sky.
Regarding the reason for the Issur, the Gemara (Baizah 16a) writes that the rainbow symbolizes the glory of Hashem, therefore, it is inappropriate to look at the rainbow just as it would be wrong to look at the glory of Hashem, K'veyachol. (See Shmot 24:10-11 regarding B'nai Yisrael looking at Elokai Yisrael.) The Tosfot Harid explains the comparison between a Keshet and Hashem: Just like the colors of a rainbow are indiscernible, one can not tell where one color ends and another begins, so too with regard to Hashem, we can not truly know Him, and we must symbolize that ignorance by abstaining from staring at the rainbow. (See the M'eeri Baizah16a, where he writes that the Issur is not to stare at the rainbow, rather, to delve into the mysteries of the Pesukim that deal with the rainbow in Parshat Noach.)

Q. (253) Shmuel Myers: Can one use an egg slicer on Shabbat?
A. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 321:10, M"B ibid. 36) writes that it is Assur Medin Uvdin D'chol to use a grater or any other device that that is specifically designed for grinding purposes. Therefore one can not grate any food with a grater, even those foods that are not subject to the Issur of Tochain, I.e. foods that do not grow from the ground, such as meat, fish, eggs and cheese. (M"B 321:31) Regarding an egg slicer, Rav Shlomo Zalman permits its use since it is essentially only a series of blades designed for slicing, not chopping or grinding. Therefore, it is not viewed as a grinding tool. (Shmirat Shabbatt Khilchata 6:note 12, Igroth Moshe Orach Chaim 4:74:Tochain 4)

Q. (254) Mr. Shlomo Heineman: In a Minyan consisting only of Kohanim:
1)Do they say Birkat Cohanim?
2) If yes, does someone read to them the verses and do they repeat after him or do all the Kohanim say the verses together without someone reading them off?
A. 1) The Sulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 128:25) deals with this exact case! He writes: "In a Shul where there are only Kohanim, if there are only 10 Kohanim present, they should all do Birchat Kohanim. Who is the Bracha directed to? To the people in the fields. If there are more then 10 Kohanim, then 10 Kohanim do not go to Duchan so that they could answer Amain to the Birchat kohanim, while the remaining Kohanim Duchan."
2) The Mishna Berura (128:97) writes that the Chazan should call out to the other Kohanim and should not Duchan.

Q. (255) Mr. Shlomo Heineman: In a Minyan consisting only of Kohanim, is there a special order for reading the Torah - does one Cohen get an Aliyah for Levi and Yisroel or is a different Kohain called up each time? On Shabbat when there are 7 Aliyot what is the procedure?
A. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 135:12) writes that if there are only Kohanim in the Shul, then we give each Aliya to a different Kohain. If there is one Yisrael there, he should be given the first Aliya because of Darchai Shalom, so that no Kohain is offended that he did not receive the first Aliya. The Mishna Berura (135:45) adds that this is also the procedure if there is just one Levi with all the the Kohanim.