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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Three Weeks - Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 4:112

In a brief, multi-section teshuva from 1957, Rav Moshe Feinstein quickly rules on several issues concerning the three weeks:

1) A person is allowed to sing zemirot on the Shabbat preceding Tisha B'Av (Shabbat Chazon), even if the person is not accustomed to singing zemirot on a regular Shabbat. This is due to the fact that kavod Shabbat overrides any of our customs for the three weeks. Similarly, one can eat meat during seudah shlishit on that week, even if Tisha B'Av is that night.

2) A person can shave or take a haircut on the night of the 17th of Tammuz if it is absolutely necessary (since even though the date has arrived, the fast does not begin until the morning).

3) A person can buy meat during the nine days for consumption after the nine days, and does not have to worry that someone who sees him will think that he intends to eat it now (marit ayin).

Blog Update

My apologies for not blogging for a while - I am recovering from a computer crash which set me back on most of my work over the past few weeks. Hopefully posts will begin to come regularly again.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Davening in bad places - Igrot Moshe Orach Chayim 1:31

In 1952, Rav Menachem Eichenstein, Chief Rabbi of Saint Louis, asked about a shul that wanted to daven on ימים נוראים in a place that was normally used for all sorts of abominable practices (the teshuva does not specify what they are). Rav Moshe Feinstein forbade using such a place on several grounds:

1) We have a rule that it is a good thing to daven in the place where one learns. We can thus derive that the normal usage of a location has an impact on the davening that takes place there, and thus if the place is used for sinning then it is not a good place to also daven.
2) An advantage of davening with a minyan is the presence of the שכינה. However, such a locale would neutralize that advantage.
3) The ספר יראים discusses the case of a shul where the שמש had an affair with a young girl in the building. He rules that the shul can still be used for davening, since the shul was already designated as a holy place, and thus the individual could not make forbidden that which was not his to forbid. However, if the location was intended to be used for forbidden purposes, then it would stand to reason that davening could not take place there.

Rav Feinstein concludes that if the congregation wanted to buy this place outright and convert it into a shul, then that would be permissible.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Small Kippot - Igrot Moshe Orach Chayim 1:1

In this first teshuva in Igrot Moshe, Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked if one is permitted to walk around with his head only partially covered, i.e. if he is wearing a small kippa.

Interestingly, Rav Feinstein does not attempt to define how much of the head is too much or too little (at what point in the slope downward of the head does one no longer need to cover it?). However, he cites the view of Rav Shlomo Kluger who states that one can walk fewer than four amot with the head partially covered and not at all if the head is uncovered. Rav Feinstein's analysis then demonstrates that Rav Kluger seems to have an extreme view on this point, and that the wearing of a kippa is largely a מדת חסידות, although nowadays it has been accepted by Jews as a requirement for everyone. Rav Feinstein concludes that given its near-universal acceptance, one should not even sit without wearing a kippa, as there may be a חוקות עכו"ם problem (although it is not completely clear what practice of the non-Jews this would be emulating).

Selling a Shul - Igrot Moshe Orach Chayim 3:28

In this 1966 teshuva to HaRav Gedalia Anemer zt"l (who just passed away recently), Rav Moshe Feinstein deals with the question of whether or not a community may sell a shul if most of the people in the community have left and those who remain can barely afford to keep the shul open. The question is further complicated by the fact that it is likely that any buyer will turn the shul into a church. Additionally, it seems that the neighborhood in question is a rough one, and there are local hoodlums who vandalize the shul.

[ed. - It is not clear to me which community, if any in particular, is being referred to, but this does sound like what happened in Newark and Jersey City in the 1960's and 70's]

Rav Feinstein replies that the remaining members are not obligated to spend money to keep open a shul that they cannot afford. Furthermore, they should also move the sifrei Torah, and perhaps all sifrei kodesh in the shul into a safe place so that they are not vandalized. With regard to the fear of the shul becoming a church, Rav Feinstein says that even if the proceeds from the sale are not going to be used to build a new shul, nevertheless the shul can be sold without worrying what it is going to be used for. However, it is better to go through a broker, and specifically a non-Jewish one (so as to create several layers of possible לפני עור). Furthermore, Rav Feinstein allows the members to be active in the sale in the hopes that they will help keep the price high and thus the community will maximize its profit.