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Tuesday
Oct312017

WHO REALLY OWNS YOUR ASSETS?

Selected Halachos from the One Minute Halachaproject
By HaRav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Shlita
,
Mara Dasra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights

BECAUSE MY BOOKS AREN’T REALLY MINE

Many affluent individuals enjoy displaying their impressive library of sefarim (holy books). Some house so many books—with the shelves reaching from floor to ceiling and stretching from wall to wall—that their libraries are worth millions!

The Owner of the greatest library on earth, which includes every book ever printed, is Hashem, the Creator and Master of the World—and the Possessor of everything it contains. We acknowledge this by inscribing LaShem ha’aretz u’mloah (To Hashem is the land and all within it, T’hillim 24:1) in all of our sefarim even before marking our name. The acronym ìäå is often used instead.

While there is an issue, in general, of writing three consecutive words of a pasuk (Torah verse) in vain, the words LaShem ha’aretz u’mloah are not subject to this restriction, since the word “laShem” is only representative of the actual shem Hashem (G-d’s name) that appears in the verse.

The basis for this practice can be traced to the Talmud, which tells of Reb Chiya bar Abba’s visit to the city of Ludkia. There he witnessed how a golden table, its top adorned with silver-metalwork and laden with delicacies, spices and perfumes and set with luxurious tableware, was carried by sixteen servants before his host. When they set down the magnificent table, the servants called out, “LaShem ha’aretz u’mloah!” testifying to the fact that all one owns truly belongs to Hashem.

Another more direct source for writing this pasuk in sefarim appears in the tzava’ah (will) of Reb Yehuda HaChassid: Refrain from labelling a book as yours; instead, merely inscribe your name. This is understood as a caveat against marking a book as a private possession. Instead, we quote the pasuk, LaShem ha’aretz u’mloah, attributing ownership to Hashem.

(There are opinions that contend with this interpretation of Reb Yehuda Hachassid’s tzava’ah; some maintain that he is addressing an entirely different issue. “Refrain from labelling a book as yours” is not a directive to the owner, but rather to the author of the work, cautioning him from taking credit for his achievements. Indeed, we find a similar prohibition cited in Reb Yehuda Hachassid’s Seifer Chassidim.

Nonetheless, in current times, it has become customary for the writer to identify himself as a tool for the reader in assessing the book’s content.)

Practically, the terms mi’sifrei— (from the library of) or shayach l— ([this book] belongs to) may be used when preceded by the verse LaShem ha’aretz u’mloah, testifying to Hashem’s true ownership. Certainly, in the case of a book donation, there is no issue of writing, nidvas– (donated by…) or the like.

On the topic of sefarim ownership, honorable mention should be given to the Jewish custom of purchasing a Chumash, T’hillim, siddur, and (l’havdil) tz’daka pushka (charity box) for each child to be placed in a conspicuous place in their room. Each seifer, as well as the pushka, if possible, should bear the words LaShem ha’aretz u’mloah and the child’s name, so they may learn, daven and give tz’daka using their personalized items.

MY NEIGHBOR IS RENOVATING WITHOUT A PERMIT. MAY I INFORM THE AUTHORITIES?

Informing on a fellow Jew is called mesirah. It is forbidden to inform the authorities that a Jewish neighbor (or any Jew for that matter) is making renovations to their property without a permit, unless it poses a danger; if that is the case, a Rav should be consulted first in order to determine whether it’s permissible to report them.

If one does inform the authorities in a situation where it doesn’t pose a danger, and it results in the neighbor receiving a summons, the informer might be obligated to compensate the neighbor for any penalties incurred, even though it came about indirectly. This is based on the halachic principle of dina d’garmi (a proximate cause, in contrast to grama which is a remote cause. The result of a garmi act has greater immediacy, proximity or predictability than that of grama; one is liable for damages that are an obvious result of one’s actions, even if they occur indirectly. The precise definition of garmi is the subject of debate among poskim).

Moreover, if the one setting out to renovate consulted his neighbors prior to beginning work and received their consent, and then one of them has a change of heart and informs the authorities, it is a case of hotzi hotzaos al piv (he spent money based on his word). The informer may then be liable for the additional financial losses incurred by the neighbor due to the interrupted work—such as money paid to the contractor, etc.—since he gave the go-ahead for the renovations, and then caused them to be halted.

Since there are a number of halachic variables, a beis din would have to determine which costs the informant is liable for; sometimes the informant may be absolved on the grounds that he mistakenly thought that this mesirah was permitted—but that issue would also have to be addressed by the beis din.

MAY I USE MY MAASER MONEY FOR RAFFLE TICKETS AT A CHINESE AUCTION?

People often ask whether it’s permissible to use their maaser money (a tenth of one’s earnings donated to charity) to purchase raffle tickets, such as at a Chinese auction, where the money benefits a tz’daka (charity) organization, but the ticket holder also stands the chance to win a prize. The answer is that maaser money may be used to purchase the raffle tickets, since the money is ultimately benefitting a proper tz’daka.

However, were a ticket purchased with maaser money to win, it would be problematic to consider the prize the property of the ‘winner’. Since the maaser money already belonged to tz’daka regardless, it isn’t logical that the caretaker of the tz’daka funds should be able to profit from money which isn’t his. Although some say that the prize is simply a side benefit, and not a direct return on the maaser ‘investment’, that is not the consensus among poskim. Nor does stipulating that, in the event that the ticket actually wins a prize, the money used to purchase the ticket will no longer be deemed to have been maaser, but rather money out of pocket—fully stand up to halachic scrutiny. Rather, the prize would become the property of the tz’daka organization, and the holder of the winning ticket may claim at most a 15% to 20% commission for being instrumental in winning the prize for the organization.

A creative approach has been suggested to satisfy all opinions: one could fulfill the mitzvah of tz’daka by giving the maaser money to a poor person (such as a relative learning in kollel), and then that individual could go ahead and use what is now his money to purchase the raffle tickets with the understanding that if one of those tickets wins, the poor person will sell the prize back to us at a low price. In this manner, everyone gains something.

WE ARE SHORT OF BEDS. MAY I SLEEP IN THE BED OF THE PERSON WHO PASSED AWAY?

There may be a shortage of beds soon after a death in the family (as is wont to be the case with family staying over during shiva), but people might be reluctant to sleep in the bed of the deceased. Although some people may be uncomfortable with sleeping in that bed, there is no source for this in halacha. There had been an ancient custom in some Jewish communities to designate the bed as off limits, but it is not a commonly accepted custom.

In fact, poskim state that one may sit in the place that belonged to their deceased parent; refraining from sitting there isn’t considered a middas chassidus (pious behavior). Actually, their chair being used may constitute a sign of respect, and not the opposite. The same principle should apply to the bed of one who has passed away.

Umesaymin b’tov, let us conclude with the hope that we hear only good news.

SAYING T’FILLAS HADERECH ON A PLANE

T’fillas HaDerech should be recited if a person travels at least a parsah (approximately 2.4 miles) past iburah shel ir (the outskirts of the city). Iburah shel ir is equivalent to approximately 108 ft. after the last house of the city.

According to most poskim, this applies to travel by air as well. If the airport is beyond the limits of the city’s populated area, the t’filla should be said when traveling to the airport, after leaving city limits. If the airport is within the city limits, it should be recited on the plane; whether it can be said before takeoff—while technically still in the city—or one must wait until after takeoff is the subject of a dispute among halachic authorities.

If the t’filla wasn’t recited at the first opportunity, it may be said throughout the flight until the moment of landing. After landing, it may no longer be recited with Hashem’s name, unless the distance from the airport to the city of destination (where one will stay for the night) is at least a parsah.

USING A CROCK-POT ON SHABBOS

There are three halachic issues when using a crock-pot on Shabbos: shehiya, chazara and hatmana—and each one has a halachic solution.

Problem: Shehiya is the prohibition of leaving food on an open fire on Shabbos—due to the concern that one might turn up the fire—unless the food is at least half cooked before Shabbos. According to a stringent opinion, shehiya is only permissible if the food is completely cooked and it’s mitztamek v’ra lo (prolonging the cooking would cause the food to deteriorate, e.g. it would dry out).

Solution: Cover the heating element of the crock-pot (found either in its base or in the sides of the outer pot) with a piece of silver foil, mimicking the function of a blech. Alternatively, create a k’deira chayesa by adding a completely raw piece of meat to the crock-pot right before Shabbos. Since this meat will not be edible at the night meal even if the flame were high, there is no longer a concern that one will turn up the fire.

Problem: Hatmana is the prohibition of insulating food for warmth on Shabbos. If the insulation increases the food’s warmth, it may not even be set up before the onset of Shabbos. In models where the sides of the outer pot contain the electric coils that heat the inner pot, there could be an issue of hatmana. Most poskim say that hatmana is not a problem vis-à-vis a crock-pot since there is a gap between the inner and outer pots, among other reasons.

Solution: According to the stringent opinion, place balls of silver foil or stones beneath the inner pot so that most of it protrudes above the outer one, and is therefore no longer insulated by the outer pot.

Problem: Chazara is the prohibition of returning food to its heat source after being removed for serving (unless certain conditions are met).

Solution: Some poskim are stringent with chazara to a crock-pot. According to most poskim, however, it may be done if the inner pot is elevated as described above, and the source of heat is covered.

 

“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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