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Question:  How many men must eat bread together to make a zimmun (an invitation) to bentsch? to say Elokeinu? to make up a Sheva Brachot?   
Answer: A zimmun of three is required to recite the invitation. However only two of the men must have eaten an olive's worth of bread.  The third can join in as long as he has eaten an olive's worth of any food (which would require a brocha achrona - a blessing following the food) or drunk a reviis (4 oz) of any drink (other than water or seltzer).  All that is needed is a 'rubah deminkara' - a noticeable majority who have eaten bread (hence two out of three).  If ten men eat together then the zimmun is made with the addition of Elokeinu.  Once again, only a 'rubah deminkara' of bread eaters is required - so out of the ten, only seven men need to have had bread and the other three need to only eat something.  This is true for Sheva Brachot as well - only seven of the men need to have eaten bread to participate, and the other three can eat something with the group.

Question: Must I make the bracha on the Lulav and Esrog in the Sukkah? If I come late for davening should I make the bracha in the sukkah or daven? Should I make the bracha in my own sukkah at home before coming to davening?
Answer: Making the bracha in the Sukkah is a nice minhag but is not required. One should not miss any of the davening, kedusha, chazaras hashatz, leining, etc. to go and make the bracha in the Sukkah. Making the bracha in shul before Hallel is fine. In terms of making the bracha before davening in one's own home sukkah - that is fine - but one should ideally not make the bracha before sunrise (7:08 am today.) If one needs to they can make the bracha as early as Alos HaShachar (today 5:44 am).

Question: When should one remove the tefillin at the end of davening?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch says that one should not remove it until after the Kedusha section of Uva LeTzion. However the Rema says that one should wait until a Mourners Kaddish is said - which would be the one after Aleinu. The Mishna Berura quotes the Arizal that one should wait until after the second part of Aleinu to remove the Tefillin. The Vilna Gaon wrote that one should wait to say it until after the Kaddish following Uva L'tzion. So there are a plethora of opinions, however it is clear that one should not do so before Uva L'tzion. It is also inappropriate to be taking them off during the kaddish because one is supposed to be focusing on saying Yehei Shmei Rabbah with a lot of concentration. In general, if one can, it is better from a hashkafic (ethical outlook) point of view to wait until davening is completely finished so as not to give the sense that one is rushing to get away from davening or the tefillin.

Question: Soap Suds on Shabbat? I was asked if it is ok to use the liquid soaps that form a foamy discharge when pressed.
Answer: The concern here is that one is creating something new on Shabbat - which violates a rabbinic category called Nolad - which means something that is created on Shabbat anew. However many poskim (rabbinic decisors) believe that anything that is considered impermanent is not called Noald and in fact if one were concerned about foam - one could not pour beer on Shabbat either!! (Heaven forfend). There are those who are concerned about liquid soaps as well because of a concern about Mimacheik - smoothing of the liquid soap. Most poskim are not concerned about this issue either. One more issue is in regards to liquid soap is mimarayach - smearing, and therefore some rabbis feel that our thick liquid soaps should be diluted with water to make them thinner and ok for use on Shabbat. While there are valid reasons to be concerned about foam soaps and some liquid soaps on Shabbat, I would say that one can be lenient in both cases and use them on Shabbat. Bar Soap should not be used on Shabbat however.

Question: If a yahrtzeit falls out in Adar - which month should it be observed on in a leap year?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch says to observe it in Adar II and the Rema says Adar I. The Vilna Gaon says to observe it in both months. If the death occurred during a leap year, the majority opinion would seem to be to observe the yahrtzeit in the Adar it fell out in that year. I tell people that absent a family tradition - one should try to observe it in both months with the first month being the primary one for Ashkenazi Jews and the second being primary for Sephardi Jews. Rabbi Kalmar

Question: If one can have a non-Jew do something on Shabbat that is permitted to do - but it is preparation for after Shabbat.
Answer: there is a debate. According to some (Maharsham and perhaps Pri Megadim) the issue of asking a Non-Jew to do something is only problematic where a violation of Shabbat law is occurring. But not here where the preparation is not a technical violation of the Shabbat. However others (Magen Avraham and Mishna Berurah) rule that one should be strict and not ask a Non-Jew to do preparation for after Shabbat. However in the case of a great loss, there is room to be lenient. Also, if the Non-Jew decides to do this work on their own because it is beneficial to them to do it on Shabbat, one not need protest and stop them.

Question: May one use an electric or battery operated light for Shabbos Candles and may one make a bracha on them?
Answer: Although it is not ideal and only used in a situation where one cannot light a real fire, one may use electric light for Shabbos candles and even make a bracha on them. Common time when one may need to do this would be in a hospital or hotel or even turning on the light in a closet when staying as a guest at another's home.

Question: Someone asked me recently - What can I do about a stain that I get on my tablecloth or shirt on Shabbos? I've seen people pour water or seltzer on it to try to remove the stain.
Answer: Pouring any liquid onto cloth is a violation of the melacha (forbidden category of 'work') of Melabein (whitening or laundering) and cannot be done on Shabbos. One can remove pieces of dirt or stain with a napkin or such that is dry, but cannot try to remove the stain from the garment or tablecloth. If the tablecloth is made from a non-absorbent material such as plastic, one may add water to the surface and then wipe up the stain. However, one must be careful to use a large enough towel to wipe it up so that the towel does not become saturated with liquid which could lead to the melacha of sechita (squeezing our liquids).

Sabbath Mode Ovens
Question: Someone asked me about using a Sabbath Mode oven to put food in on Shabbat.
Answer: Sabbath Mode is a good thing to use to remove food that was put in before Shabbat from some ovens - because it turns off functions, like the light or an electronic indicator light. However, putting food directly into an oven on Shabbat itself is a practice that is generally not allowed - with a Sabbath Mode over or without. One of the advantages of the Sabbath Mode oven really can be found for the holidays and it really should be called the Yom Tov Mode oven. This is because according to some rabbis, (Rav Moshe Heineman of Baltimore prominent among them,) the Sabbath Mode may be used on a (non Sabbath) Yom Tov to turn the oven temperature inside the electronic display oven up and down. This is permitted because the display does not change at all and the oven begins to work on a random delay. For more on this topic please discuss with me anytime.

Using a Dish One Time
Question: May one use a metal or glass dish one time before it is tovelled in the mikvah?
Answer: No. This urban legend probably comes from the fact that a utensil that is a 'shimush chad paami' - a throwaway - according to Rav Moshe Feinstein (among others) does not require tevilah even if it is made from metal like throwaway aluminum pans. There is a big debate as to whether one needs to tovel (immerse) a throwaway pan if you plan on using it more than once. Rav Moshe allowed one to use it a few times and still call it a 'throwaway' and did not require immersion. By the way - the colanders that came in the shul shalach manot this year do require immersion in a mikvah.

Question: D.E. (Dairy Equipment) which is seen on some products.
What does it mean? How does it affect what I can eat?
Answer: What it means is that this otherwise pareve product was cooked on equipment that was used for hot dairy. Ashkenazik custom is not to eat this product with meat but one may eat this product and directly before or afterwards eat a meat product. This holds true as well for products cooked in our own homes on meat or dairy pots or pans: we may not plan to use the otherwise 'pareve' food with the opposite meat or dairy food from the pot it was cooked in. However, if the food had already been mixed by accident with the meat or dairy - one may still eat it. And if one has cooked a pareve food in a dairy pot (lets say pasta) that has not been used for more than 24 hours with dairy, and then afterwards one wants to use the pasta with meat, they may do so. This 24 hour rule holds true unless the food cooked in the pot/pan was a 'sharp' food like onion, garlic, hot peppers, lemons, pickled foods etc. The OU does not use the designation D.E. on most of its products so one needs to verify from the OU if a product that says OU-D but seems to have no dairy products in it is in fact D.E. or really does have dairy in it. This is a complicated and confusing area of halacha so feel free to ask your LOR about it more! Email Rabbi Wes Kalmar:

Sat, February 24 2024 15 Adar I 5784