QUESTION: At what age must a child-with or without his parent's
his hands properly upon rising in the morning (negel vasser)?
DISCUSSION: There are a number of opinions in the poskim as to the
when parents should make sure that a child washes netilas yadayim in the
* Some hold that the obligation begins when the child reaches the age of
chinuch,(1) which-depending on the child-is approximately 5-6 years old.(2)
* Others write that once the child is old enough to touch food, his hands
should be washed,3 since a ruach ra'ah (a spirit of impurity) adheres to
objects that are touched by hands that have not been ritually washed upon
* Harav Y. Kamenetsky is quoted as ruling that once a child is old enough
to recite a verse from the Torah or answer Amen to a berachah, the parents
should make sure that that his hands are washed properly.(5)
* Some poskim recommend that an infant's hands-even a newborn's-should be
QUESTION: Why do some people say morid ha-gashem with a kametz
gimmel while others pronounce it with a segol under the gimmel- ha-geshem?
DISCUSSION: The Hebrew word for for rain is "geshem," with a segol
the gimmel (and under the shin). Like many other words of comparable
structure-two syllables, both vocalized with a segol (e.g., eretz, kesef,
eved, etc.), the first segol is changed to a kametz when the word appears
at the end of a Biblical phrase(7) or sentence.
The correct pronunciation of the word ha-geshem or ha-gashem,
therefore, depends on its location within the second blessing of Shemoneh
Esrei. If the sentence- which began with the words ata gibor-ends with the
words mashiv ha-ruch u'morid ha-geshem, then ha-gashem is correct. If,
however, mashiv ha-ruach u'morid hagashem is part of a longer sentence
which ends with the words berachamim rabim, then the correct pronunciation
In all of the old siddurim which were published hundreds of years
ago, the word is written as ha-geshem with a segol. While more recently,
many publishers changed the vocalization and printed ha-gashem instead(8) -
and some poskim maintain that ha-gashem is the correct pronunciation(9) -
most poskim(10) hold that the correct way to pronounce the word is ha-
gehsem, and this is how most contemporary siddurim print that word.
QUESTION: If one forgot to daven Mussaf (on Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh
Tov) and only remembred to do so in the afternoon, which should he daven
first - Mussaf or Minchah?
DISCUSSION: In most cases, Mussaf should be davened first, followed
Minchah. This is because the correct order of the tefillos follows the
order of the korbanos that were brought in the Beis ha-Mikdash, and the
Korabn Mussaf was always brought before the afternoon Korban Tamid, which
was the last korban of the day.(11)
[The only exception to this halachah is the case of a person who
is required to daven Minchah at that particular time, e.g., before
partaking in a wedding or a Sheva Berachos meal. In such a case, since one
is not allowed to partake of such a meal before davening Minchah, it is
considered as if the time of Minchah has arrived and one should not daven
The halachah remains the same even if a man remembered to daven
Mussaf so late in the day that he would not have time to daven Minchah any
longer. He should daven Mussaf, and then daven Maariv twice, once for
Maariv and a second one as a tashlumin ("make up") for Minchah.(13) If
this happened to a woman, however, she should daven Minchah and omit
Mussaf, since she is obligated to daven Mincha and it is questionable
whether she is obligated to daven Mussaf altogether.(14)
QUESTION: On Shabbos, is it permitted to leave an intercom on in a
room in order to allow parents to monitor their child's welfare?
DISCUSSION: All contemporary poskim agree that it is forbidden -
various reasons - to speak into a microphone on Shabbos even if it was
turned on before Shabbos.(15) The same halachah applies to speaking into
an intercom. It is, therefore, forbidden to leave a monitor on in a baby's
room, since adults, too, will be entering the child's room and their
voices will carry over the intercom system.
In a situation where parents are justifiably hesitant to leave a
baby alone in a room overnight, e.g., the baby is ill or is having trouble
breathing, they may connect the intercom to a Shabbos clock which will
turn the intercom off in the morning. If the parents must enter the room
during the night to check or take care of the baby, they must be careful
not to speak while they are in the vicinity of the intercom.
QUESTION: May one comfort a mourner on Shabbos and Yom Tov?
DISCUSSION: Although the Halachah permits nichum aveilim on
general custom is not to do so.(16) If, however, one would not be able to
be menachem at any other time, he may do so on Shabbos.(17) Some have a
custom that on Shabbos, nichum is not more than a brief stay without any
explicit words of nechamah.(18)
QUESTION: Can one fulfill mitzvas nichum aveilim over the telephone?
DISCUSSION: The Rambam(19) says that there are two facets to
nichum aveilim: The first is to comfort the mourners who are distressed
over the death of a loved one. This can be done by expressing sympathy to
them and consoling them over their loss. One's mere presence at a house of
mourning is a show of respect and a source of comfort at a time of sorrow.
The second part of the mitzvah is for the sake of the deceased. By
visiting the home of the deceased during the Shivah period, one "elevates
the soul" of the departed individual.(21)
Accordingly, Harav M. Feinstein rules(22) that while it is
possible to console a mourner over the telephone, it is not possible
to "elevate the soul" of the deceased unless one actually comes to the
house of mourning. Nor does one show proper honor to a mourner through a
mere phone call.(23) Thus, if one can, he must be menachem avel in person.
If, for some valid reason, he cannot visit the home of a mourner, he
should still call him and console him and thereby fulfill at least part of
The mourner may come to the phone and accept a caller's words of
condolence. He may not, however, speak about other matters or ask about
the welfare of the caller, even if the caller is a child or close relative.