All summaries below are done to the best of my abilities and are for the purpose of informing and not paskening. In all cases, a posek should be consulted.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Changing the Nusach in Shul - B'Mareh HaBazak vol. 6

A note of introduction: B'Mareh HaBazak is a collection of responsa written by the scholars in Kollel Eretz Chemdah, an institution in Israel dedicated to producing high-quality Talmidei Chachamim and judges. The teshuvot are unsigned by any particular scholar.

In a teshuva wrutten in 2005, the community in Pforzheim, Germany asked whether they could change the nusach that is used for davening in their shul. As the shul was originally populated by Jews of Middle Eastern descent, the nusach used was that of Eidot HaMizrach. However, over the years the community changed in its make-up and a new building was built, and the question posed was whether they could switch to using nusach Sefarad, as per most communities in the Land of Israel.

The initial position taken in the teshuva is that the nusach of a shul should not be changed, certainly so long as original members of the shul remain. If people with a different nusach join the shul, they should daven to themselves with their own nusach, but the chazzan should use the official nusach of the shul.

However, in this case there was a desire to change the nusach not only to accomodate the newer members of the shul, but also as a way to draw more people into the shul who might otherwise not be affiliated with any shul (i.e. kiruv). As such, given those realities, plus the reality of a new building, there seems to be room to allow the change. It is recommended to also change the name of the shul, and to perhaps introduce some new by-laws, all in the name of creating a sense that this shul is a new entity and thus the change is part of a larger shift in the overall composition of the congregation.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Encouraging Chillul Shabbat - Igrot Moshe OC 1:99

In a teshuva written in 1953, Rav Moshe Feinstein responded to a question by Rav Naftali Carlebach of Detroit as to whether one could invite people to a minyan on Shabbat if it was known that they would travel by car. Rav Moshe responds that despite the kiruv aspect, it is definitely forbidden, not only because of לפני עור, but also because of a conceptual relationship to the notion of מסית. Rav Moshe then says that if the people in question live within walking distance but may drive anyway, then there is still a לפני עור problem but not necessarily one of מסית. Furthermore, if there is no explicit invitation to join the minyan, merely an informing that the minyan is going on, then it is questionable if there is any problem.

In the final paragraph, Rav Moshe deals with the question of whether or not someone should quit a shul where many people behave improperly. Rav Moshe feels that one should remain in such a shul in the hopes of being a positive influence, and should not despair. However, if the shul is actively regressing, such as by removing the mechitza, then a person should certainly refuse to be a member of such as shul.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bracha Acharona - Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 1:76-80

In this series of short teshuvot, Rav Moshe Feinstein helps to define some of the parameters of when one must say a ברכה אחרונה. He begins by noting the view of the Pri Megadim that if a person eats a כזית, but does so slowly, that person needs to make a ברכה אחרונה. This runs counter to the normative view that the כזית must be eaten within a כדי אכילת פרס (somewhere between 2.5 and 9 minutes). Thus, Rav Moshe advises against relying on this view, and instead trying at some point in one's eating to have a כזית within that prescribed time frame.

Rav Moshe next deals with a case of a person who begins eating, eats less than a כזית, leaves the room, returns to the room, and continues eating. He rules that all of the eating can combine to create one כזית for the purpose of making a ברכה אחרונה.

In the case of a whole fruit which is less than a כזית, although there is a view that its wholeness gives it a certain status and importance, Rav Moshe nevertheless feels that one should endeavor to eat at least a כזית of the fruit.

If one is tasting something while cooking, even if he swallows it Rav Moshe rules that no bracha is needed. However, if one's intention is both to taste it and to benefit from and enjoy it, then a bracha is required.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shehecheyanu during Sefira - Yechaveh Daat 1:24

Can one make a bracha of Shehecheyanu on a new article of clothing during sefirat HaOmer? On the one hand there is the temptation to say no, since we do not make this bracha between Shiva Asar B'Tamuz and Tisha B'Av as that is a period of national mourning, and Sefirat HaOmer is also a time when we mourn, specifically for the students of Rabbi Akiva. However, Rav Yosef notes that while there is an aspect of mourning to this time period, it is actually supposed to be a happy time, with Ramban even referring to it as a type of Chol HaMoed between Pesach and Shavuot. As such, there should be no issue with saying Shehecheyanu during Sefira.

However, Rav Yosef concludes that one may adopt such a stringency out of piety, although in such a case a person could choose to wear a new garment on Shabbat and make the bracha, since even during the three weeks one could make a Shehecheyanu on Shabbat.