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Weekly Halacha

Parshas Chayei Sarah

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


Of paramount important to Orthodox Jewry today is kiruv rechokim, bringing our fellow Jews back to religious observance. Thank G-d, the concerted efforts of many devoted individuals and organizations have borne fruit, and thousands of Jews the world over have come back to their roots and become Torah observant. We must bear in mind, however, that although kiruv rechokim is supremely important, it does not supersede Halachah. "The ends justify the means" is a philosophy utterly rejected by the Torah, and compromising halachic standards for the sake of being mekarev is forbidden.


Since kiruv veterans agree that a most effective method of kiruv is the Shabbos invitation, let us review some of the potential trouble spots so that we do not transgress the Halachah while acting upon our good intentions:

1. If the guest does not live within walking distance of our home, he should be invited for the entire Shabbos so that he does not drive home on our account. The guest should be told that according to Jewish law, it is prohibited for him to drive on Shabbos. Experienced kiruv workers maintain that when properly explained, the guest will often accede to the request.

2. In the event that the guest will come for Shabbos only if he can drive home, there are authorities who permit inviting him anyway, provided that there is a reasonable chance that the invitation will lead to kiruv(1). The guest should be informed that sleeping quarters have been arranged for him and he may change his mind at any time and decide to sleep over. Since not all authorities agree with this leniency(2) and not all cases are identical, the specific case should be presented to a rav for a final decision.

3. When possible, a guest at our table should be asked to wash his hands before eating bread(3) and to recite the proper blessing before and after food is eaten(4). If the guest cannot read the Hebrew text, he may recite the blessing in any language that he understands(5). Alternatively, the host may recite the blessings aloud while the guest listens and answers amen(6). If none of these suggestions are practical, it is permitted to serve him food, even though he will not wash his hands or recite a blessing, either before or after the meal(7).

4. A non-observant Jew may be counted towards the minimum number of people required for zimun. Preferably, however, he should not be the one to lead the zimun(8).

5. A female guest, whether single or married, must be dressed according to at least the minimum standards of tzenius(9).

6. A married woman's hair should be covered while she is sitting at our table. If it is not, there are poskim who are lenient and allow devarim sh'bekedushah to be recited in her presence(10). One may rely on these poskim when no other alternative is practical(11).

7. A female guest should be asked not to sing zemiros along with the family. If this will result in alienating a potential ba'alas teshuvah, there are some poskim who allow her to sing along with the rest of the family(12).


A sensitive issue that presents itself to just about anyone involved in kiruv is the problem of men and women shaking hands. Physical contact of this sort is a serious transgression(13) and should be studiously avoided(14). Although kiruv professionals prepare themselves to deal with this problem, those of us who are not adept at handling such potentially embarrassing situations should not put ourselves in a position where we are liable to violate the Halachah.

While teaching a non-observant Jew how to recite a blessing, it is permitted for the host to recite Hashem's name(15).

Before learning Torah with a potential ba'al teshuvah, it is proper - when possible - to have him recite Birchos ha-Torah(16). When studying with a girl or with a woman, though, one need not be particular to do so(17).


1 Minchas Shelomo 2:4-10; Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:358. Several arguments lend support to this position: 1) The guest is desecrating the Shabbos regardless of my invitation; 2) Actually, we are minimizing his chillul Shabbos for the time period he will spend at our home; 3) He will be eating kosher food; 4) Several poskim hold that "aiding a sinner" does not apply to one who deliberately sins (see explanation of this logic in Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:72 and E.H. 4:87-1 quoting the Dagul me-Revavah); 5) The purpose of the invitation is for kiruv and not to aid a sinner in committing a sin.

2 See Igros Moshe O.C. 1:98-99; 4:71, who prohibits organizing a minyan for children on Shabbos when they will surely come by car. [There are several differences, however, between the situations described in these responsa and the situation with which we are dealing.]

3 Rama O.C. 163:2.

4 O.C. 169:2.

5 O.C. 185:1.

6 Mishnah Berurah 213:9. B'dieved, even if the guest failed to say amen, his blessing is valid.

7 Harav S. Z. Auerbach (oral ruling, quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 154). See also Minchas Shelomo 1:35 where Harav Auerbach maintains that when denying a guest food will lead him to become antagonistic toward Torah and religious Jews, it is permitted to feed him. See also similar ruling quoted in the name of the Chazon Ish in Pe'er ha-Dor vol 3, pg. 195. See also Igros Moshe O.C. 5:13-9 who finds much room for leniency on this matter.

8 Harav S.Z. Auerbach and Harav C.P. Scheinberg (quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 132) based on Mishnah Berurah 199:2 and Beiur Halachah. See also Teshuvos Pnei Meivin 40.

9 Minimum requirements: Neckline must be high enough to cover the bone at the base of the neck (collarbone); sleeves must cover the elbow; skirt must cover the knees.

10 Aruch ha-Shulchan O.C. 75:7.

11 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:39,42,43; O.C. 3:23,24; E.H. 1:114.

12 See Seridei Eish 2:8 quoting Harav S.R. Hirsch and other poskim who allowed singing under similar circumstances.

13 Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuvah 3:80; 3:138); Igros Moshe O.C. 1:113; E.H. 1:56; Az Nidberu 2:73.

14 Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky quotes the Chazon Ish as maintaining that shaking hands falls into the category of yehareg ve'al ya'avor (see Teharas Am Yisrael, pg. 44). While other prominent poskim do not agree with this stringent view, it gives us an understanding of the severity of the issue.

15 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:56.

16 Oral ruling heard in the name of Harav Y.S. Elyashiv.

17 Based on the view of the Gra, quoted in Beiur Halachah 47:14.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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