LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION” FROM A HALACHIC PERSPECTIVE
January 3, 2017
Beis Moshiach in #1051, Halacha 2 Go

Selected Halachos from the “One Minute Halacha” project
By HaRav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Shlita, Mara D’asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights

IS LISTENING TO RECORDINGS OF TORAH CLASSES CONSIDERED LEARNING TORAH? 

In order to fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah one is required to utter the words. Otherwise he does not fulfill the mitzvah of ve’limadtem osam, which is to verbalize the words of Torah. Indeed, when emphasizing the importance of studying Torah at all times, the expression used in the Torah is, “Lo yamush sefer ha’Torah hazeh mipichah,” the words of Torah should not cease from your mouth. However, when one is intent on understanding a concept in learning or a halacha in depth they need not enunciate the words, as one can’t concentrate when speaking.

If a person is attending a shiur, Torah lecture, and they are listening to the maggid shiur, lecturer, it is considered as if they are speaking themselves, as per the rule of shomei’a ke’oneh, if a person listens it is as though he is speaking, thereby fulfilling the mitzvah of ve’limadtem osam. However, the mitzvah of Talmud Torah cannot be fulfilled by listening to an audio or video recording of a Torah class, or by reading silently from a sefer, albeit they are very praiseworthy activities and increases one’s Torah knowledge, an important mitzvah in itself of yedi’as ha’Torah.

One should also be cognizant of the importance Torah ascribes to amal Torah, laboring in Torah, which is not achieved by simply listening to a recording of a shiur.

MAY GIRLS UNDER BAS MITZVAH SEPARATE CHALLAH?

On a previous occasion we discussed the halachic issues involved in challa-baking events, noting that challa may not be separated with a bracha if the dough is then divided into small portions to be taken home by the participants.

A related question which is often asked concerns bas mitzvah celebrations where the bas mitzvah girl and her friends want to bake challa together. Assuming that the problem mentioned above doesn’t apply—either because the host family is keeping all of the challa, or for some other reason—may girls under bas mitzvah separate challa?

The halacha is that children during the year preceding halachic maturity, i.e. before their bar or bas mitzvah, which for girls is eleven, are deemed a mufla ha’samuch l’ish (near maturity), and if they separate truma it’s valid—provided that they are aware Who they’re separating truma for. Likewise, challa separated by girls this age is also valid. However, l’chat’chilla (ideally), it should be done by girls who are already bas mitzvah.

“TORAH TOPICS IN THE NY TIMES!?”

In previous generations there were poskim who spoke harshly against publishing divrei Torah (words of Torah) in the newspapers. The halachic issues are many: Newspapers are eventually thrown out in the trash and the divrei Torah end up in a landfill instead of proper g’niza of sheimos (cached storage of holy material)*; newspapers are often brought into the bathroom, a place that disrespects the holy content; it is a bizayon (disgrace) for Torah to be printed alongside mundane (and sometimes nonsensical) material; and finally, non-Jews read the newspapers and it is against halacha to teach gentiles Torah.

Poskim today have defended this practice: “Eis la’asos laHashem hefeiru Torasecha.” (It is a time to do for Hashem, [even] the annulling of Torah). When Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi began transcribing the Mishna this pasuk (verse) served as a defense against the halachic prohibition of recording Torah Sheb’al Peh (the Oral Torah). He did so due to the overriding needs of his generation who were forgetting the oral teachings.

Similarly, in today’s day and age we have an unprecedented number of uninspired Jews whose only link to Hashem’s Word may be the Torah column of a secular newspaper.

Even for frum (religious) Jews, this “custom” has proven to be a source of chizuk (strengthening) in their practice of Torah and mitzvos, and a boon to their yiras Shamayim (fear of Heaven).

In terms of the disrespect for Torah that is engendered by these publications, we may say, “dilugo alai ahava” (they jump on Me, [and I express My] love), which refers to a child who jumps on a sefer (holy book) in their excitement for Torah, and Hashem responds to this impertinence with love.

Though there are some heterim (halachic dispensations) for allowing the divrei Torah to be disposed of without g’niza, it is proper to post a warning on the page about k’dushas hagilion (the holy nature of the words of Torah) printed there. In addition, we should be careful to print Hashem’s name in abbreviated form, even when written in English (i.e., G-d) and in other languages.

MUST I WASH NEGEL VASSER AFTER A NAP?

Upon awaking in the morning we wash negel vasser (ritual washing of the hands in an alternating right/left pattern) to remove the vestiges of impurity acquired while we slept. But what about napping during the day—is the washing in the morning due to a ruach ra (a harmful spirit) that may have affected us during our night-time sleep, or is any sleep, even during the daytime, cause for spiritual cleansing?

The recommended practice is to wash negel vasser even when waking from a daytime nap, though we do so without a bracha. But not all naps qualify; the measure of time that requires washing is shishim neshimos (the length of sixty breaths). The exact quantity is the subject of debate, with an array of shitos (opinions): a strict three minutes, a half hour, an hour or even three hours. The common custom follows the shita which requires washing after a half-hour nap, though there are many halachic sources that reckon shishim neshimos as a full hour.

A daytime nap, even for those who are most stringent, does not require washing near the bed, as is the established custom for morning negel vasser. 

WALK-IN CLOSET CONCERNS: HOW LARGE FOR A MEZUZAH?

A beis ha’otzar (a storage room) requires a mezuzah. According to most opinions, a bracha is recited when affixing a mezuzah on a beis ha’otzar of requisite size. A garage—where a car or other possessions are stored—falls under this category.

The requirement of a mezuzah on a beis ha’otzar is due to the sporadic visits the owner makes to the room in order to store, retrieve or view their possessions. The shiur (minimum size) for any room to require a mezuzah, according to the letter of the law, is four by four amos (arm-lengths, i.e. a total measurement of six feet by six feet.

However, there is an opinion (cited by the Chamudei Daniel) that any room that is chazu l’tashmisho (suitable for its [particular] purpose) requires a mezuzah—even if it is smaller than the regular shiur. Some qualify that this would only apply to a smaller room of significance, i.e., one that is attached to a larger room. Accordingly, there are those with the minhag (custom) to be stringent with regard to walk-in closets, and place a mezuzah even on the door of a space smaller than four by four amos—but it’s affixed without a bracha.

Even those who disagree on the designation of chazu l’tashmisho on a smaller walk-in closet, may still be of the opinion that it requires a mezuzah, since it’s an access door to the larger room, based on the p’sak (ruling) of Rav Akiva Eiger (and they affix it on the opposite side of the doorway).

On the other hand, a doorway of a closet that is too small to qualify as a walk-in closet is patur (exempt) from a mezuzah, according to most opinions. It should be noted that a closet or storage room that is a walk-through passage—of any size—is similar to a foyer, and would require a mezuzah, according to mainstream p’sak.

There are other places on a Jewish property where the owner is not required to place a mezuzah: No mezuzah is affixed on a storage space for garbage—even if kept there only until it is permanently disposed of—and even if the place is not dirty or odorous (conditions that would preclude a mezuzah otherwise).

A room in a home that holds people other than the primary residents is not considered the owner’s storage place. Therefore, affixing mezuzos to doors of rented units on our property are the responsibility of the tenants, and the room of a non-Jewish live-in worker does not need a mezuzah (unless their room is also used as storage for the Jewish owner’s personal possessions).

COLLECTING TZ’DAKA DURING DAVENING

Gabo’ei tz’daka, people who collect tz’daka in shuls, perform a very great mitzvah by providing a crucial service. They help us give tz’daka, and “Gadol hame’aseh yoser min ha’oseh,” one who causes others to do a mitzvah is greater than one who performs the mitzvah himself. However, it is inappropriate and unacceptable for them to do so during the times of Birchas Kriyas Shma, the blessings before and after the Shma, chazaras hashatz, during the chazzan’s repetition of the Amida, or during Kriyas HaTorah, the reading of the Torah.

In many shuls, there are takanos, regulations, instituted by the rabbanim, that tz’daka should be collected up to Birchas Kriyas Shma and after chazaras hashatz, but not in between, since collecting during that time would be disturbing the kavana, concentration, of the congregants at a time when kavana is crucial. There were G’dolei Yisroel, great sages, who would put down money prior to davening for the gabo’ei tz’daka to collect, thereby fulfilling the mitzvah of tz’daka without being disturbed. 

LIVING IN A TORAH ENVIRONMENT

Question: Real estate prices in frum (observant) neighborhoods have skyrocketed. I am considering moving to another area; whereas it’s not a frum environment, it’s certainly cheaper. What does halacha have to say about living outside the frum community? 

Answer: According to halacha it is crucial for a person to live in a Torah environment. Furthermore, it’s written in Pirkei Avos, “Hevei goleh l’makom Torah” (Leave your place of residence and go into exile in order to live in a Torah environment).

The Rambam brings it as a halacha that it is important for a person to live in a religious environment; “Harcheik mishachein ra” (Distance yourself from a bad neighbor) lest you learn to emulate their behavior. He writes that if a person is unable to find a positive, religious environment they should even go live in a desert, rather than live in an area that can have a negative influence on them. A person should rather be alone than be in bad company—so much so that Hashem did not speak with Avraham Avinu during the time that he was living together with Lot.

The only exception to this rule is if a person leaves their frum environment with a shlichus (mission) to be mekarev (bring close) other people to Yiddishkait, as per the saying of Chazal, “Haba l’taheir, mesayin oso”, which could be interpreted to mean that when someone goes with the shlichus of purifying others, they are helped from Shamayim.

 

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Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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