Dear B’nai Shalom members, friends, and families:

With so many valuable questions sent my way, in my most recent several Wednesday night shiurim (classes), I have used the on-line class time to address and respond to those well thought out questions and have included a number of them here in this bulletin for the benefit of all bulletin readers:

There is a custom of tearing one’s clothing upon seeing the Kotel (the Western Wall) if one has not seen the Kotel in more than 30 days. Not everyone adheres to this tradition but those who do, have applied the Jewish law concerning aveilut (mourning for a family member) in which a mourner who has lost a relative of the same generation (i.e. spouse, child, parent, sibling) tears one’s clothing and wears that torn garment for the whole of the week of shiva.

The often-observed custom of NOT visiting another grave while attending a funeral, while well-motivated and filled with sensitivity and respect, is not a legitimate prohibition restricted by Jewish law. The need to drive out of the cemetery and then re-enter the cemetery is not necessary. One CAN, in fact, visit another grave when attending a funeral, prior to, or following the burial service for which one has primarily come to the cemetery.

There is a strong tradition of gentlemen tucking in their tzitziyot (the four fringes attached to a tallit katan, worn under the clothing) while present on cemetery grounds. For gentlemen who typically wear their tzitziyot INSIDE their clothing, this is not an issue. For those who wear their tzitziyot OUTSIDE their clothing, while it is NOT halacha (Jewish law), the prevailing custom IS to tuck in the tzitziyot while present on the cemetery grounds.

Saying the formula: “HaMakom…” when leaving a shiva house, while a strong and recommended custom, is NOT halacha (Jewish law). Reciting this formula provides a comfortable and viable manner by which a visitor to the shiva house can take one’s leave and express one’s heartfelt wish of comfort to the mourner while preparing to exit the shiva house. Any expression of warm sentiment that is not a typical “goodbye” (which is NOT said in a shiva house, nor “hello”), which clearly indicates the visitor is departing, is perfectly acceptable.

There is a potential problem with a person who is a professional gambler being used as a kosher witness for purposes of signing the ketubah (Jewish wedding document) at the event of a Jewish wedding. The definition of what precisely is a “professional gambler” depends on the amount and/or percentage of one’s income and the manner in which that portion of the gambler’s income comes from gaming or wagering.

Eating fleishigs (meat products) on Shabbas or Yom Tov, similar to eating apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, while being based on strong customs and prominently observed by a majority of Jews worldwide, is NOT an actual halacha (Jewish law). If one chooses to have a milchig (dairy) meal for one of the mandated meals on Shabbas or Yom Tov, this is permitted. If one chooses NOT to eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, no Jewish law has been overlooked or violated.

One may use whiskey or other forms of liquor for the kiddush said Shabbat morning or for havdalah in the place of wine or grape juice. While wine or grape juice are PREFERRED, nonetheless, for purposes of the Shabbat morning kiddush or for havdalah, these liquor choices ARE permitted with the appropriate different blessing being recited in place of “Boray pri ha-gafen” (which is said ONLY on wine or grape juice).

A person who has a cast on one’s foot or has a serious issue with standing for the approximate four minutes it takes to recite the silent weekday Amidah (as well as for ANY form of the Amidah), may do so from a sitting position. If possible while sitting, one should attempt to still maintain the posture of keeping one’s feet together even in the sitting position.

I am hopeful that my sharing the gist of the conversations we have had in the past few Wednesday night on-line shiurim (classes) will be helpful and instructive to the readers of this bulletin who may have wondered about these matters.

With Torah blessings,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin