Sunday, 2 July 2017
132) THREE INTERESTING HALACHIC INTERPRETATIONS:
In this article, we are going to look at three well-known Halachic practices which many are familiar with – yet according to Peninei Halacha, they have a very different and surprising Halachic outcome.
I) CHECKING TEFILLIN TWICE IN SEVEN YEARS?
According to common perception, Tefillin must be checked by a sofer or scribe approximately every three and a half years. This is not just common perception but many people adhere strictly to this principle, and indeed are encouraged do to so.
The Peninei Halacha writes:
(Loose translation is my own:)
“One must purchase Tefillin from a G-d fearing individual, who can testify to their Kashrut...In this matter, one cannot simply rely on the length of the beard of the seller or on his external (religious) clothing...
Once Tefillin are certified as Kosher, and have been carefully monitored during the production process – there is no longer a requirement to check them again. Ever!
As long as they (haven’t been tampered with and have remained) complete, they maintain their presumption of Kashrut and one may continue to recite a blessing over them.
This is provided that the Tefillin have (not been neglected but have) been worn on a regular basis. If they were not worn for some time there is the possibility that they may have become mouldy. (Only) in such an instance (where Tefillin have been neglected) is there the requirement to check them twice in seven years, as one would with Mezuzot.
Also, if the Tefillin got wet or one notices some or other blemish on the leather, they would have to be checked immediately and until that takes place one may not recite a Blessing over them.”
Accordingly, Tefillin which are worn regularly and show no ostensible signs of damage, never need to be checked, provided they were procured from a reliable source at the outset!
In a footnote, the Peninei Halacha continues:
“As we mentioned, as long as one uses Tefillin regularly there is no need to check them.
However, some Acharonim, including the Mishna Berurah, maintain that it is best to check them every number of years because the Tefillin can be damaged as a result of perspiration.
But I have seen in Hilchot Shlomo in the name of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach that modern day Tefillin which are made with more elaboration, would no longer be subject to this ruling as our Tefillin are made out of thicker leather than in previous generations.
On the contrary, regular checking of the Tefillin can cause damage as a result of the opening and closing (of the boxes).
Similarly, R. Auerbach holds that if Mezuzot are well sealed and closed, they too would not be subject to a regimen of checking twice in seven years.”
II) TAKING THE MEZUZOT TO BE CHECKED TWICE IN SEVEN YEARS?
Unlike Tefillin, there actually is an injunction to check the Mezuzot twice every seven years. However contrary to popular perception and practice, one does not always have to take the Mezuzot to a sofer to be checked every three and a half years.
The Peninei Halacha writes (Likkutim 1, p. 235):
“There are two different types of checking (pertaining to the Mezuzah):
1) The first is the expert inspection which takes place before the Mezuzah is sold. This is why it is crucial to purchase Mezuzot from a reliable source. During this inspection, the sofer checks each letter to ascertain whether each letter has been shaped according to Halacha. He also ensures that no two letters are touching, which would render the scroll invalid.
2) The inspection which takes place twice every seven years, is a cursory inspection which any individual can do because its purpose is just to ensure that there has been no visible external damage to the scroll.
This would include checking for water damage and the visible peeling of the ink lettering which can delaminate over time. (Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 283.)”
Accordingly, one need not take the Mezuzot to a scribe every three and a half years (and pay) to have them checked! Anyone can do a basic inspection to verify that no visible damage has occurred over that period of time.
Of course if one has any doubts about the condition of the scroll it goes without saying that a qualified sofer must be consulted.
III) CUTTING PART OF THE CHALLAH BEFORE SAYING ‘HAMOTZI’ ON SHABBAT?
Many cut the challah by making a small incision with a knife over the top, especially on Shabbat, just before reciting the Blessing of haMotzi.
The Peninei Halacha writes (Berachot p. 47):
“...The blessing of haMotzi should immediately precede the eating of the bread (without any interruption. In times gone by the crust used to be much thicker and harder. This sometimes caused an unnecessary delay between the blessing and the eating).
Therefore our sages have advised that prior to the blessing (of haMotzi) one should cut a little (incision in the top) of the bread. This should (not be too deep but) were one to raise the loaf from the short side (next to the cut) the bread should not break. This would still be considered a ‘complete’ loaf (which is considered meritorious to recite a blessing over).
In this way, immediately after reciting the blessing, one could (cut or) break the bread (easily and quickly) and eat it...
However on Shabbat one should not cut the bread before reciting the blessing (of haMotzi), because on that day there is an additional injunction to say the blessing over two whole (complete and perfect) challot.
Were one to cut the bread (as one would during the week) the bread would no longer be considered whole. [See Ramah 167, 1. Many have written that one should (nevertheless) mark the place of the cutting – Bach, Rashal, Mishnah Berurah 274, 5.]”
Thus, according to the Peninei Halacha, on Shabbat one should not pass the knife over the top of the challot before reciting the blessing, as that would render the bread less complete and therefore less worthy. (He does acknowledge, however, in his parenthesis that many do in fact mark the place of the cut, but seems to imply that the main view is not to do so.)