Halachik Q&As


Rabbi Daniel Myers



Q. Halachically, what role does Vidui (confession) play in the Mitzva of Teshuva?

A. The Minchat Chinch (Mitzvah 364) maintains that the Biblical Mitzvah is actually the Vidui, confession, and not Teshuva, as seen from the Rambam’s formulation in Hilchot Teshuva (1:1), where he writes that when one does Teshuva, he is obligated to do Vidui; he does not write that one is obligated in Teshuva itself. The Rav (On Repentance p.80) argues that the Teshuva itself is a Mitzvah, since the Rambam in the Koteret (heading) to Hilchot Teshuva writes: “The Laws of Repentance, consisting of one positive precept, namely, that the sinner shall repent of his sin before the Lord and confess.” The Rambam (ibid. 7:5) also writes that all the Prophets commanded the nation to do Teshuva, which is essential for redemption. The Rav offers another reason why we must maintain that Teshuva itself is a Mitzvah; he writes: “But do we really need evidence of this sort? Can one really contemplate the possibility that confession be considered a precept while repentance is not? What would be the significance of confession without repentance? 


Q. Mr. Marc Abraham: If one spoke Lashon Hara about another individual, must he ask for Mechila, forgiveness, from the victim?

A. The Shulchan Aruch (606:1) writes that Yom Kippur atones for sins that are Bain Adam L’chavairo, between man and fellow man, only after the perpetrator asks for Mechila from the victim. The Mishna Berura (606:1) writes that this limitation also applies to one who violated Onaat Devarim, verbal abuse and insult. Regarding Lashon Hara, the Chafaiz Chaim (5:12) writes that one who spoke Lashon Hara and damaged the victim, i.e. the listeners accepted his Lashon Hara as truth, and the perpetrator must ask the victim for Mechila. However, the Moadim Uzmanin (1:54) quotes Rav Dessler in the name of Rav Yisrael Salanter who maintains that if the victim is not aware of the Lashon Hara, and will be hurt when he finds out that he was spoken about, then the sinner has no right to cause the victim pain by asking for Mechila. (See Az Nidbaru (7:66) for an analysis of the Shitot of the Chafaiz Chaim and Rav Yisrael Salanter.) Therefore, it would be best to ask for Mechila in a general way, as many do before Yom Kippur, without specifying the violation.


Q. Mr. Leanord Katz: Can a woman wear a ring with a Pasuk inscribed on it?

A. The Shulchan Aruch (Y”D 282:30) writes that one cannot walk into a bathroom with a Kamiah (jewelry containing Pesukim) unless it is covered with leather or the like. If the jewelry has Shaim Hashem (God’s name) on it, then one cannot be undressed in front of it. (Rambam Yesodai Hatorah 6:6) The Ziz Eliezer (16:30) raises the possibility that it may even be Assur to engrave a Passuk on jewelry, as the Ramah (Y”D 276:13) writes that one should not write Hashem’s name except in a Saifer, lest it be discarded. However, he writes that jewelry may be different since there is not a realistic fear that it will be discarded.


Q. Mr. Katz: How many coverings are needed on a ring with a Pasuk, or on a Saifer, before bringing it into the bathroom?

A. The Shulchan Aruch (O”C 40:2) writes that one must have a Kli Btoch Kli (a double covering) over Tefilin if they are in the room when one has Tashmish Hamita, marital relations. The Mishna Berura (40:4) writes that this restriction applies to Sefarim as well; the Sefarim must be in a Kli Btoch Kli if they are in a room during Tashmish Hamita. The Mishna Berura (40:5, Biur Halacha 40:2 “Assur”) brings down a Machloket Poskim whether one needs a Kli Btoch Kli or simply one covering when bringing a Saifer into the bathroom. (See Ginzai Hakodesh 14 note 16.) It is best to be Machmir, but one can rely on the lenient opinion if he or she needs to. Therefore, regarding a ring, one could put it into her pocket or simply cover it with a tissue. With a Saifer, the pocket of the pants may be considered a Kli Btoch Kli, since there are often two layers of material. If needed, simply putting it in a bag would suffice. 


Q. Yaakov Myers: May one use an Etrog from the previous year if it is still fresh?

A. The Ramah (648:1) writes that one cannot use an Etrog from the previous year since we assume that it is Yavaish, dried out. The Shaar Hazion (648:8) quotes the Bechorai Yaakov who writes that he saw an old Etrog that was preserved well over the year and permitted the owner to use it. Rav Moshe (O”C 1:185) is hesitant about an Etrog that was frozen since some fruits do not freeze well and may look fine on the outside but be rotten on the inside. The Az Nidbaru (13:38:5) writes that one can be Yotzai with an Etrog that was frozen, while the B’air Moshe (7:52) Paskins that theoretically it would be fine, but considers it unrealistic for the Etrog to stay fresh for a year, even if it was frozen. 


Q. Mr. Dov Frohlich: Many shirts, especially “Land’s End” type tee-shirts, have four corners. Why are they exempt from Zizith?

A. The Shulchan Aruch (10:7) writes that a garment with four corners whose sides are sown up more then Rov (more then fifty percent of the side) is exempt from Zizith. Therefore, a shirt where the two slits (which form the four corners) only go up a few centimeters is exempt from Zizith.