QUESTION: For those who began observing the sefirah restrictions on
second night of Pesach, is there any special dispensation to take a
haircut or a shave on Rosh Chodesh Iyar when it falls on a Friday [and
Shabbos] - as it does this year?
DISCUSSSION: Mishnah Berurah,(1) followed by almost all of the
rules that when Rosh Chodesh Iyar falls on a Friday, it is permitted to
take a haircut or a shave that Friday, even for those who are already in
the midst of the sefirah mourning restrictions. This exception (which is
for haircut and shaving only - not for other sefirah restrictions such as
listening to music) is permitted in honor of the double occasion of
Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh.(3)
Mishnah Berurah, however, does not clearly address whether or not
this also applies to those who follow the special restriction recorded in
the Will and Testament of Rabbi Yehudah Hachasid never to take a haircut
or a shave on any Rosh Chodesh throughout the year, even if Rosh Chodesh
falls on Friday.(4) Other poskim, however, do discuss this issue directly:
Some hold that Rosh Chodesh Iyar is an exception and permit taking a
haircut or a shave on Friday, Rosh Chodesh Iyar;(5) others maintain that
Rosh Chodesh Iyar is not an exception and is no different from any other
Rosh Chodesh;(6) while a third opinion suggests that one should take a
haircut or a shave on Thursday afternoon after chatzos.(7) One should
consult his rav as to which opinion to follow.
QUESTION: Are there any restrictions against reciting the blessing
shehecheyanu during the mourning period of Sefiras ha-Omer?
DISCUSSSION: The poskim agree that from an halachic point of view
no reason not to recite shehecheyanu during the days of sefirah.(8) It is,
therefore, permitted to eat "new" fruit in season and to buy new clothing
or dishes during this time period.(9)
Still, there are communities where shehecheyanu is not recited
during sefirah. Some communities are even stricter and refrain from buying
new clothes during sefirah altogether, even basics which do not require
the blessing of shehecheyanu. Since these restrictions have valid sources -
some can be traced as far back as to the Rishonim(10)- they should be
upheld by the communities or families whose traditions they are. But those
who do not have these customs are not required to observe them, as the
halachah makes no such stipulations.(11)
[One who was under the impression that it is halachically prohibited
to recite shehecheyanu during sefirah, but learned subsquently that this
is not the case, does not need a hataras nedarim in order to change his
custom and recite shehecheyanu during sefirah.(12)]
Moving into a new house or apartment during sefirah is another case
in point. According to the halachah, it is permitted to move during
sefirah.(13) It is also permitted to paint or decorate one's home during
sefirah.(14) But if one's family practice is to refrain from moving during
sefirah,(15) one should follow the principle of not deviating from family
custom, as is true in all matters of halachah.
Note: The above halachos apply only to the days of sefirah. During
the Three Weeks, which take place before Tishah b'Av, the halachos are
more stringent; see The Weekly Halachah Discussion, vol. 2, pg. 423-428.
QUESTION: Is there a source for the custom not to study Tanach at
Is reciting Tehilim restricted as well?
DISCUSSSION: In several Midrashim,(16) Chazal link the study of the
Written Torah to the daytime and the study of the Oral Torah to the night.
Based on these and other sources,(17) the Arizal (18) writes that only the
Oral Torah should be studied at night and that the Written Torah must be
studied by day only.
Among the latter poskim we find varying degrees of acceptance of the
Arizal's ruling. Some poskim, especially those who follow Kabbalistic
teachings, strictly adhere to it,(19) going so far as to say that it is a
sakanah to veer from it.(20) Others accept it only as a chumrah
l'chatchilah,(21) while yet others do not follow it at all.(22) As always,
one should follow his family's custom on this issue, which is not a pure
matter of halachah but of middas chassidus.
But even many of the communities who do follow the Arizal's ruling,
do so with many exceptions. Thus we find in the poskim that:
* Women, children or adults who are unable to study the Oral Torah may
study the Written Torah at night without restriction.(23)
* Only studying is restricted; pesukim which are said for the purpose of
prayer or segulos are permitted. This includes Tehillim, Tikkun Chatzos,
Viyten Lecha on Motzei Shabbos, etc.(24)
* The restriction does not apply when Tanach is learned with a tzibbur.(25)
* The koreh may prepare his Torah reading at night.(26)
* The restriction does not apply on Thursday night,(27) Friday night and
Motzei Shabbos until after Melaveh Malkah.(28) In addition, Yom Tov(29)
and Chol ha-Moed(30) nights are excluded.
* When Tanach is studied with Rashi, it is considered as if one is
studying the Oral Torah.(31)
QUESTION: Do small electric appliances that come into contact with
such as a hot-water urn or a George Foreman grill, require tevilah?
DISCUSSSION: Yes, they require tevilah and a blessing before the
Harav M. Feinstein(32) was of the opinion that only the part of the
appliance which touches the food must be immersed. The outer casing, which
houses the electrical element and does not come in contact with food, is
considered a separate "vessel" and does not require immersion at all.
Other contemporary poskim, however, do not agree with this approach and
require that the entire appliance be immersed at one time.(33) [In order
not to damage the appliance, it should be thoroughly dried (a blow drier
is most effective for getting rid of any moisture) and not used for 72
hours after immersion. Our experience has been that if these instructions
are followed, the immersion will not damage the appliances mentioned above.
Although some poskim have suggested that no electrical appliances
need to be immersed because they can operate only if plugged in, rendering
them "attached to the wall" and no longer in the category of "movable
utensils(35)," this approach was not accepted by the vast majority of
poskim and one should not rely on this leniency alone.(36)
1 O.C. 493:5.
2 A dissenting view is quoted by Kaf ha-Chayim 493:42.
3 If, for some reason, one will be unable to take a haircut or shave
on Friday, it is permitted to do so on Thursday night.
4 As quoted by Mishnah Berurah 260:7.
5 Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in L'Torah V'horahah, vol. 2, pg. 20);
Harav Y. Kamenetsky (Emes L'yaakov O.C. 260:1). Note, however, that even
according to this opinion, only those who are already observing the
sefirah restrictions may be lenient on Rosh Chodesh. Those who customairly
begin sefirah restrictions on Rosh Chodesh should do so this year as well
and take their haircut and shave on Thursday.
6 Harav Y. Y. Kanievsky (quoted in by Harav C. Kanievsky in Bein
Pesach L'shavuos, pg. 246.)
7 Kaf ha-Chayim 493:47, quoting several poskim.
8 Mishnah Berurah 493:2 and most other poskim, quoted in Bein Pesach
15 This custom is recorded in several sources; see Piskei Teshuvos 493,
16 See Pireki R' Eliezer 46, Tanchumah, Ki-Sisa 36 and Tana Dvei
17 See Targum Eichah 2:19 and Ohr ha-Chayim, Devarim 32:2.
18 Quoted in Be'er Heitev O.C. 238:2.
19 See Birkei Yosef O.C. 238:2 and Kaf ha-Chayim 237:9.
20 Yesod V'shoresh ha-Havodah 6:2.
21 Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 238:1.
22 See Peri Megadim, Mishbetzos, O.C. 238:1 (quoted by Sha'ar ha-Tziyun
238:1) and Da'as Torah O.C. 238:2. Note also that Chayei Adam, Kitzur
Shulchan Aruch and Aruch ha-Shulchan do not quote this ruling of the
Arizal at all.
33 See Tevilas Keilim, pg. 206 and Chelkas Binyamin, Tziyunim 120:300
quoting several sources.
34 Concerning a toaster, however, some people claim that immersion
ruins it even when it is thoroughly dried. Note, however, that Harav M.
Feinstein (Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:24) maintained that a toaster is exempt from
tevilah altogether. He explained that a toaster is not a utensil which is
used to prepare [or serve] food; rather it is a utensil which enhances
already prepared food. Thus it is not a klei seudah. Other poskim,
however, do not agree with this leniency; see Tevilas Keilim, pg. 208.
35 See Chelkas Yaakov 1:126 and 2:61 who relies on this approach
concerning immersion heaters but not for electric pots and pans. See also
She'arim Metzuyanim B'halachah 37:7.