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Wednesday
Sep132017

aRE STYROFOAM CUPS TREIF?

Selected Halachos from theOne Minute Halachaproject

By HaRav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Shlita
Mara D
asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights

MAY THE JANITOR MOP THE SHUL ON SHABBOS?

Question: It’s forbidden to have non-Jews do work for us on Shabbos, because amira l’nachri shvus (telling or a gentile do a forbidden act on Shabbos on behalf of a Jew, or even having them do it of their own initiative, is forbidden by rabbinic decree). How is it that many shuls have non-Jews doing work for them on Shabbos? Are they doing the wrong thing, or are there things that may be done by non-Jews?

Answer: It’s permissible for a non-Jew to perform tasks on our behalf that we are permitted to do ourselves on Shabbos.

Even tasks that are forbidden to us may be done by a non-Jew for a shul as long as it’s forbidden only mi’d’rabbanan (by Rabbinical decree); this is because they are doing it l’tzorech (for the sake of a) mitzvah or l’tzorech rabbim (for the benefit of the community).

However, they may not do work that is forbidden mi’d’Oraisa (by Biblical command).They may therefore not mop the floor, since it may be an issur (prohibition) d’Oraisa, nor should they cut plastic tablecloths on Shabbos.

There is room for permitting a non-Jew to wash the public bathroom in the shul on Shabbos, since bathrooms host many germs that may be contagious, and lead to illnesses or infections, G-d forbid; it is also not kavod ha’brios (human dignity) to have people use a bathroom that is not clean.

Non-Jewish waiters in a hotel or at a sheva brachos celebration may perform tasks that are forbidden mi’d’rabbanan, if there is a necessity.

CAN GLASS BE KASHERED?

There are three differing opinions among poskim on the subject of kashering glass, namely:

Glass doesn’t absorb, and therefore there is no need to kasher a glass utensil. It only has to be washed and wiped clean.

The opinion on the opposite end of the spectrum is that glass does absorb, and that this absorption is irreversible and cannot be kashered.

The middle-ground opinion is that glass, like most other materials, needs to be kashered if it becomes treif, and can in fact be kashered.

The Sephardic custom is to be lenient and follow the first view. Ashkenazim, although they concur with the third view in principle, are stringent in practice and do not kasher glass. Some argue that this stringency only applies to Pesach glassware—that is to say, we never rely on kashering glass to remove chametz—but others are stringent all year round.

DO GRANOLA AND GRANOLA BARS HAVE TO BE PAS YISROEL OR BISHUL YISROEL?

Pas Yisroel is the requirement that the bread we eat be baked by a Jew, bread being defined as a product of the five grains (identified as wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt) which has been converted into dough. In view of the fact that granola, is not dough and its bracha is therefore ha’adama, the requirement of pas Yisroel does not apply to it. Many brands of granola bars are also ha’adama.

Bishul Yisroel is the requirement that dishes of certain significance be cooked by a Jew. One of the defining factors is that it applies only to food which is oleh al shulchan melachim (that would be served at the meals of royalty). Thus, according to many poskim, snack foods, granola and granola bars included, are not subject to the laws of bishul Yisroel.

In fact, even those who don’t rely on this lenient approach would agree that granola doesn’t qualify in other ways: It’s not a dish that’s served with bread (i.e. as part of a meal), and furthermore, to quote the Rambam (originally in the context of roasted wheat kernels), “Ein adam mezamein chaveiro,” (one would not invite his friend over) to eat a meal consisting of granola or granola bars.

It‘s therefore safe to conclude that granola and granola bars need to be neither pas Yisroel nor bishul Yisroel. While there is a minority view that is stringent, the consensus among poskim reflects the above conclusion.

STYROFOAM CUPS USAGE

Environmentalists may seem to have the monopoly on decrying the use of Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene foam) products, but poskim debate the issue too. Many Styrofoam cups are lubricated with a chemical substance that contains zinc stearate, which is derived from tallow (animal fat), a non-kosher product. This raises the question whether Styrofoam cups may be used for hot liquids, since, according to halacha, hot food is generally said to absorb the properties of the receptacle it’s in.

However, the consensus among poskim is that it’s permissible to use Styrofoam cups, and in fact there are no grounds for being machmir (stringent). Even though some of the reasons for permitting their use might not suffice on their own, the combination of the following factors determines the cups’ kosher status:

Due to the high temperature of the purification process, the tallow is, in effect, denatured (the characteristic properties are destroyed, thereby removing it from the category of food).

The non-kosher food element is not b’ein (visible), and the quantity of the non-kosher ingredient present in the cup is so negligible that it’s battel (halachically nullified and considered as if it doesn’t exist).

Similarly, when using the cup, there is no problem of ein mvatlin issur l’chat’chilla (deliberately overwhelming something treif with a large quantity of kosher ingredients in order to nullify it), which is generally not permissible; this is considered a case of ein kavanaso l’vatel (the intention is not to nullify it).

Zeh v’zeh gorem: When something is by necessity a product of both permitted and forbidden ingredients, there is room to permit it under certain circumstances (the details of which necessitate a separate discussion). The lubricant in this case can only be produced through a combination of various ingredients, kosher and non-kosher.

It’s possible that it’s nosen ta’am lifgam (the taste added by the non-kosher ingredient is actually detrimental to the taste of the contents).

It’s not ben yomo (within 24 hours of the cup becoming treif), and therefore the remaining taste absorbed within the cup can no longer affect the taste of the drink in a positive way.

The fact that these cups are disposable and generally used only once is also grounds for leniency, for various reasons.

Since the cups are hardly used as a kli rishon (a vessel placed directly on the fire), only for irui mi’kli rishon (the liquid is poured into the cup from the urn), the amount of non – kosher ingredients in the cup is of little concern.

Due to these factors, and others, poskim are in agreement that it‘s perfectly acceptable to use Styrofoam cups for hot food.

MAY HUMAN REMAINS BE USED FOR IMPLANTS?

Dental and foot implants are often the product of human remains (allograft). This is potentially problematic on two halachic counts: issur hanaa mimeis (the prohibition of benefiting from a corpse), and the mitzvah of k’vura (burying the dead).

However, the mitzvah of k’vura applies only to Jews, and, considering that Jews are a minority among the general population, it’s safe to assume that a random implant did not originate in a Jewish body.

With regards to issur hanaa, there are several opinions which temper the severity of the prohibition:

Some authorities maintain that this prohibition as well applies only to bodies of Jews (and we can therefore make the same assumption about the non-Jewish origins of the implant).

Others argue that in the case of non-Jewish remains, it’s only an issur mi’d’rabbanan (rabbinic prohibition) and not an issur d’Oraisa (biblical prohibition).

Even if we assume that the issur hanaa applies equally to non-Jewish remains, some poskim are of the opinion that this issur doesn’t apply—or is only an issur mi’d’rabbanan — where the benefit derived is shelo k’derech hanaa (benefit not derived in the regular manner). It can be argued that using an item for medicinal purposes is considered shelo k’derech hanaa.

As a rule, when faced with a medical need, there is room for relying on minority lenient opinions. There is similarly room to be lenient when the issur is only mi’d’rabbanan. Therefore, in view of the above, if there is no other option, human implants may be used. Otherwise, it’s preferable to use bovine implants whenever possible.

DOES THE CHUPPA COUNT AS DAY ONE OF SHEVA BRACHOS?

The week of the wedding—the shivas yemei hamishteh (seven days of festivity)—is marked by special seudos (feasts) of celebration which culminate (under certain conditions) in Sheva Brachos, the recital of seven special blessings relating to marriage.

If the chuppa—which is the crucial part of the marriage ceremony—takes place by day, that day serves as the first of the seven days when Sheva Brachos may be recited, and the ensuing night is then counted as the beginning of the second day. (Due to the doubt surrounding the status of the time of bein hashmashos (twilight), between shkiah (sunset) and tzeis hakochavim (emergence of three stars), we are stringent and consider it in this regard as day.)

However, what must take place before tzeis hakochavim for the chuppa to be counted as day one is debated among poskim: some say it’s enough if the chuppa was erected before tzeis hakochavim, others say that the last bracha of the Sheva Brachos recited under the chuppa must have concluded before that time, while still others maintain that the newlywed couple must have left the yichud room by then.

The consensus appears to be the middle view, namely, that if all of the Sheva Brachos recited under the chuppa were completed while it was still day, that day counts as day one and day two begins immediately at nightfall.

A practical example: if the chuppa takes places on a Monday afternoon, and the last bracha was recited before tzeis hakochavim, the shivas yemei hamishteh begin on Monday and are celebrated until the following Sunday afternoon. Sheva Brachos would no longer be recited at a meal taking place on Sunday night following the wedding. But if the last bracha under the chuppa was recited Monday after nightfall, then Tuesday would be considered day one and Sheva Brachos may be recited until the following Monday afternoon.

However, for other matters, such as not reciting Tachnun (prayers of supplication following Shmoneh Esrei), the seven days are counted me’es l’es (as complete 24 hour periods). Therefore, the seven days come to an end a week later, at the exact time that the chuppa took place.

“One Minute Halacha” is a succinct daily presentation on practical Halacha in video, audio, and text formats, and can be accessed by phone at 718.989.9599, by email, halacha2go@gmail.com, or by WhatsApp 347.456.5665.

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