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.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Watching Christian Ceremonies on TV - Rav Soloveitchik

In Nefesh HaRav, Rav Herschel Schechter reports that when Kennedy was assassinated, his funeral was held in a Catholic church (St. Matthew's in Washington, D.C.) and many people, including many Jews, watched the service on television. Rav Soloveitchik was quite upset about this, as according to Catholic doctrine, those who participate in religious rites such as this via television "fulfill their obligation" of being a part of the service and thus all of the Jews who watched the service could be considered as having taken part in this non-Jewish religious service. Rav Soloveitchik concluded that there was no difference between entering the church in person and "entering it" by bringing it into one's home.

[Hat tip to Rabbi Daniel Feldman for reminding me of this source.]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kitniyot Oil on Pesach - B'Mareh HaBazak 3

A questioner in Montevideo, Uruguay asked when it would be permissible to make use of kitniyot oils on Pesach, assuming that the kitniyot themselves are not present in their natural form in the oil?

The response from Kollel Eretz Chemdah was that while Ramo forbids kitniyot oil on Pesach, it is possible to permit such oils if the kitniyot did not come into contact with water during the processing. Even if water was involved, there would be room to be permissive if the kitniyot themselves were separated out (and thus alleviating the fear that grains that could become chametz were mixed in). This is based on the logic that we are allowed to eat wheat and other grains on Pesach so long as we make sure that they do not become chametz, and thus we certainly should be no stricter with kitniyot - as long as we can ensure that they have no concern of chametz there should be room to be permissive (Rav Kook used this exact logic in permitting sesame oil that was carefully prepared). Finally, they note that there is even more room to be permissive with soy oil. (Click on the "kitniyot" tab on the side to see other teshuvot on this topic.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Inviting Non-Jews to the Seder - B'Mareh HaBazak 3

The community in Trieste, Italy asked Kollel Eretz Chemdah about a particular issue with their community seder. They realized that a noticeable number of attendees were intermarried, and the question arose as to whether the non-Jewish spouses could be served food at such a seder, since the Shulchan Aruch rules that other than servants, non-Jews may not be invited to non-Shabbat meals on Yom Tov since one might prepare extra food for them and the allowance for cooking on Yom Tov is only to cook for Jews for that day.

The teshuva begins by noting that inviting the non-Jewish spouses could be seen as given a seal of approval to the intermarriage, and such considerations should be kept in mind.

In terms of the issue at hand, there are several ways in which a non-Jew could be allowed to partake of a meal with a Jew on Yom Tov:

1)If the Jew who was cooking did not take the non-Jew into consideration or did not know that he was coming at the time of the cooking.

2) If the cooks in the kitchen are non-Jews and the Jew in the kitchen is simply overseeing the cooking so as to avoid a problem of בישול עכו"ם.

3)If the food is prepared in advance and is merely being warmed up on Yom Tov, and thus no cooking is taking place.

Beyond those issues, the non-Jews at the seder are allowed to be served and can be treated as any other guests once they are there, although they should not be given the matzah that is used for the mitzvah, out of respect for the mitzvah.

Shortening the Seder - B'Mareh HaBazak 3

The community in Quito, Ecuador asked the Rabbis of Kollel Eretz Chemdah if they were allowed to shorten any part of the seder for the benefit of members of their community who were not familiar with Hebrew (the seder in question was to be a communal one).

The response was that the first thing to be shortened should be parts of נרצה (such as only singing the final summary paragraphs of אחד מי יודע and חד גדיא). In terms of מגיד, the advice was not to remove anything, although various parts could be recited in the local language in order to increase their interest. However, any brachot or parts of Hallel should remain in Hebrew, and any particular noteworthy segments of the seder [ed. - perhaps מה נשתנה] should be left in Hebrew so as to preserve the traditional flavor of the seder.

In terms of translating parts of the seder, in a footnote the repondents discuss three reasons why we are generally opposed to reciting davening in translation and why those reasons do not apply when it comes to the seder:

1) It is often difficult to translate davening in a way that accurately preserves the true meaning and intention of the prayer. However, by the seder we are not as concerned with the specific words as we are with telling the story. As such, discussing the story in a familiar language could actually be an improvement over reciting the written text.

2) The are various סגולות connected to the words of davening - again, this does not apply to מגיד, which is composed of various statements of חז"ל which were not originally written for the purpose of being combined into the seder.

3) The resistance to davening in a language other than Hebrew is partially rooted in a fear of emboldening reformist elements. When it comes to the seder, that fear is not so salient, as people have always read or discussed the Haggada in their own language.