Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Hilchos What To Do All Year 'Round From Hilchos Seder

When I first started to become frum, besides not knowing much at all about normative Orthodox Jewish practice, I also didn't know Hebrew.  (I knew the Aleph-Beit and how to pronounce Hebrew writing, but with zero comprehension.)  I therefore was excited to see there was an English translation of the Mishna Brura available.  It was (still is, I think) pricey, so I asked a rav what he thought of it.  His response: If your sophistication in Hebrew is too weak to read the Mishna Brura as is, then your sophistication in learning is too weak to learn the Mishna Brura.  There are plenty of English books on Jewish law and practice, so go learn those.  I, of course, thought "Oh yeah?!  I'll show you!"  So I went and learned Hebrew.

When I finally made siyum on Mishna Brura many years later, it was announced that I was making a siyum on the Orach Chayim section of the Shulchan Aruch with the commentary of the Mishna Brura.  At first I thought there had been a miscommunication; I'd only done Mishna Brura, after all.  Then I realized, "Oh... wait... that is what I did! Cool!"   That, in fact, is what makes learning Mishna Brura much different than learning something like Kitzur Shulchan Aruch or Shimras Shabbos k'Hilchaso, and other s'farim of that ilk that are a compendium of specific, practical psak halacha.  Learning the Mishna Brura, especially trying to understand הלכה למעשה/normative practice, does require a certain level of sophistication and breadth of understanding as a prerequisite.

One of the things I have found helpful in understanding how the Mishna Brura holds as הלכה למעשה is to see what is said concerning that topic in another context.  For example, if you want to know about what to do about bentching when you have already had a dairy sandwich and now want to continue to a flieishig s'uda (why is dairy and not milchig?  I haven't a clue).  You will be able to ascertains the appropriate conduct much easier by looking at kiddush for Shavuos morning than by looking at the section on birkas ha'mazon.

This "trick" works precisely because of the way the Mishna Brura is written.  When discussing the halacha in its main place, the Mishna Brura will be devoting time/space to first explaining the issues as hand, then what both the m'chaber and Rema is saying (i.e., pshat in their words), the point on which their machlokes turns, and often adds the other opinions.  In the midst of all that is his psak.  When in the midst of another topic, however, the Mishna Brura will refer to the topic of our interest as either "and, of course, by they way" or "which is different than the usual case in the following way".  Either way, you discover the usual case and how he comes as with הלכה למעשה.

While learning hilchos Pesach this year, I saw two things in particular that clarified for me the Mishna Brura's position on: (1) whether to sit or stand for kiddush Friday night; (2) a woman doing havdala.  I don't want to spoil the fun of discover for you, but the Mishna Brura does come out to sit for kiddush and that a woman can make havadala.  Bonus: for those who are careful that a woman not drink the havdala wine, she can certainly drink the havdala wine when it is also the first of the four cups (when Pesach falls out on motza'i Shabbos, as the second seder does this year).

The truth is, you still need to ask your rav for הלכה למעשה -- and I already had clarified those issues with my rav in the past -- but it is good to "do your homework" before calling.  It's a completely different conversation; in fact, it's a conversation and not just, "do azoi; anything else?"

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…