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Daily Moroccan Halachot

Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar, author Magen Avot
Redacted by Dr. Emile Amzallag


Daily Halachot Topics

How is Kiddush recited on Friday night?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 271:1) writes that when one returns home from the synagogue on Friday night, one should immediately recite Kiddush. The Mishna Berura (M.B., O.H. 271:1) mentions that if one is not hungry when one returns, one may wait to recite Kiddush since one already sanctifies the Shabbat during Arvit. Notwithstanding, the Mishna Berura adds that for the sake of one’s wife, kids or guests, one should not delay Kiddush and the ensuing meal. Accordingly, if one sees that one’s wife or guests may be hungry, tired or the like, one may forego all the introductory portions of Kiddush, such as Shalom Alechem, Bar Yohai or Azamer Bishvahin and recite them after Kiddush.

The Rama (ibid:10) writes that it is preferable to sit down while reciting the Kiddush of Friday night, and only briefly stand up at the beginning in honor of Hashem. The Kol Bo explains that since Kiddush must be followed by a meal, it is proper for Kiddush to be recited in a way a meal is conducted, that is, sitting down. The Vilna Gaon (M.B 46) offers another explanation  that when Kiddush is recited standing up, it lends itself to those present to move around and not have the requisite concentration or decorum for this Mitzvah. Indeed, the custom in many Ashkenazic communities is to stand during the verses of “Vaychulu” but then sit for the remainder of Kiddush. Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom, based on the Arizal, is to stand for Kiddush on Friday night (c.f Peri Etz Haim Shaar Shabbat 14, and Kaf Hachaim ibid 62). It goes without saying that at synagogue or other gatherings, in which there is a tendency for people to move about and socialize, those present should stand still and listen intently to the one reciting Kiddush.

As for the actual drinking of the Kiddush, however, one should sit since the Gemara (Gittin 70a) explains that drinking while standing damages the body. (c.f Ben Ish Hai Shana II, Bereshit 29).

Summary:  One should recite Kiddush as soon as one returns from synagogue on Friday night. If necessary, one may skip the introductory portions of Kiddush. Kiddush of Friday night is recited standing. The Kiddush is drunk sitting down. 

How many Shabbat candles should one light?

Although, strictly speaking, only one candle is sufficient to light for Shabbat, the Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 263:1) says that there is a practice to light two candles, one alluding to Zachor (remembering Shabbat) and one alluding to Shamor (keeping Shabbat). The Magen Avraham (ibid:2) writes of customs to light seven candles, which allude to the days of the week, and even ten candles, to symbolize the Ten Commandments.  The Kaf Hahaim (ibid:10) also mentions the custom of lighting seven candles, but bases it on the teachings of Kaballah. Rabbi Yitzhak Palagi (Yafe Lalev, vol. II, § 3) says that Shlomo Hamelech’s Menora had ten branches, and since the root of his name is “peace”, it is appropriate to light ten Shabbat candles.

The common Moroccan custom is to light two Shabbat candles. Rabbi Mas’ud Abuhatzira, in his Piyut “Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbat,” mentions writes “Hova Shete Nerot Tadirim” (lit. “the obligation is to have to constant candles”).  According to Gematria, “Ner” has the value of 500, which equals the amount of limbs in a male (248) and the amount of limbs in a woman (252). 

The Rama (ibid.) writes that if a woman forgets to light the Shabbat candles, she must light three Shabbat candles for the rest of her life as a penalty.  Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or Lezion, ch. 18, § 12) and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Hazon Ovadia, vol. I, pg. 174) write that nowadays that there is electricity, this is no longer the case. One of the reasons that the Mitzvah of Shabbat candles was instituted was to provide light such that people to knock into each other in the dark and quarrel. Therefore, even if a woman forgets to light, there are other lights in the home that are on, which provide their own light. Furthermore, Rabbi Ovadia is lenient in imposing the penalty in cases where a woman wanted to light but was caught up in Shabbat preparations and missed the time, or in the case in which a woman eats in someone else’s home Nowadays, the penalty would only be applicable if a woman wantonly ignored the Mitzvah of Shabbat candles. 

Summary:  The Moroccan custom is to light two Shabbat candles. In most cases nowadays, a woman need not light an extra Shabbat candle as a penalty if she failed to light the candles previously. 

Can one skip Shir Hashirim?

May one study Torah in lieu of chanting Shir Hashrim?

Rabbi Israel Ya’akov Algazi (Hemdat Yamim) writes that it is a universal custom for Shir Hashirim to be recited before Shabbat. The Moroccan custom is for it to be recited between Minha and Kabbalat Shabbat. Rabbi Shalom Messas (Shemesh Umagen, vol. IV, Orah Haim, § 15:12) discusses a case in which a community prefers to have a Shir Hashirim between Minha and Kabbalat Shabbat, in which case he says that Shir Hashirim may be recited before Minha. If this is not practical, however, he writes that such a community could forego Shir Hashirim in deference to a Torah class. On the other hand, Rabbi Haim Kanievsky was asked about a similar case involving a Moroccan community, and he ruled that, because it’s spiritual loftiness, Shir Hashirim should be recited at its proper time. Rabbi Haim Binyamin Pontrimoli (Petah Hadevir, § 260:9) writes that one should not speak during Shir Hashirim, even in Hebrew, as it causes an interruption of the holy words.

Regarding the last stanza of Lecha Dodi, the Arizal (Sha’ar Hakavanot) writes that the source of turning to the west is in the Gemara (Shabbat 119a), which notes that Rabbi Hanina would go out to the fields to greet the Shabbat, which is compared to a queen. This idea is alluded to in the Piyut “Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbat” of Rabbi Mas’ud Abuhatzira when it says “Yetziat Shabbat Lehakbil Et Pene Shabbat Malketa”. Even though the custom is no longer to go out to greet Shabbat but rather to remain in the synagogue, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, vol. III, Orah Haim, § 45) based on the Pri Megadim (§ 262), writes that one should still turn to the west when reciting the last stanza of Lecha Dodi. He explains that Hashem’s Presence is to the west and therefore, even if the Hechal is not exactly to the east, one should not turn opposite the Hechal, but rather still to the west. It appears as though the original Moroccan custom was not to turn to the west during the last stanza, but over time, the universal custom has evolved to do so 

Summary: Shir Hashirim is recited between Minha and Kabbalat Shabbat, and it should not be skipped. One should turn to the west when reciting the last stanza of Lecha Dodi.

Hadlaka Osa Mitzvah: Ramifications

When is the Mitzvah of lighting accomplished?

The Gemara (Shabbat 22b) teaches the concept of “Hadlaka Osa Mitzvah”, that is, that the Mitzvah of the Hanukkah candles is accomplished during the lighting. As an example, the Rama (O.H. 671:6) rules that if one lit the Hanukkah at a height greater than twenty Amot, which normally invalidates the Mitzvah, and then subsequently lowered it to an acceptable height, one would not have fulfilled the Mitzvah of the Hanukkah candles. This is because at the time of lighting, the parameters of the Mitzvah were not all fulfilled, namely in this case, the proper height. 

Another ramification of this concept is that at the time of lighting, there needs to be sufficient oil or candle wax for the flame to burn at least thirty minutes. Therefore, if one were to light a Hanukkah that only had enough oil to burn for less than thirty minutes and then subsequently added more oil such that it could last at least thirty minutes, one would not have fulfilled the Mitzvah.  Conversely, if one were to light the Hanukkah and ensured there was enough oil to last thirty minutes, but the flames somehow extinguished prematurely, one would fulfil the Mitzvah. It should be noted that this only applies if the candles were extinguished in a way that could not have reasonably been foreseen. 

Another ramification involves the additional Mitzvah of publicizing of the miracle of Hanukkah. One example is if one were to light the Hanukkah near a window while the blinds were down and then later raised the blinds as the candles were burning. Although one would fulfill the Mitzvah of the Hanukkah candles and even publicizing the miracle for those inside the home, one would not have fulfilled the enhancement of publicizing the miracle to those on the outside. 

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvot Vehanhagot, vol. II, § 342:8) writes a novel application of Hadlaka Osa Mitzvah in which one lights a candle with an exceptionally long wick. One does not fulfill this Mitzvah in this way because at the time of lighting, only the wick is burning and there is a delay until the oil or wax starts to burn. One would need to keep the match or lighter on the wick until the flame reaches the oil or wax in order to fulfill the Mitzvah.

Summary:  In order for one to accomplish the Mitzvah of the Hanukkah candles, all parameters of the Mitzvah must be fulfilled at the time of the lighting, and not afterwards. 

Where should one place the Hanukkah?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 671:7), based on the Gemara (Shabbat 21a), rules that it is a Mitzvah to place the Hanukkah candles to the left of one’s entrance-way. In such a way, the Mezuza is on the right side of the door, the Menora is on the left and therefore when one lights, one is surrounded by Mitzvot. 
Rabbi Avraham Azoulay (gloss to Levush § 671) comments that in most years, Parashat Miketz is read during Hanukkah and that the word in the first verse “Shenatayim,” stands for “Semol Ner Tadlik Yemin Mezuza” (lit. “On the left light the candle, and to the right is the Mezuza”). Similarly, his great-grandson, the HIDA (Midbar Kedemot, Ma’arechet 8), writes that the word “Yamim”, which is also in the first verse of Miketz, alludes to “Yenichena Mitzad Yemin Hayotze” (lit. “One should place it (the Menora) to the right of one who is exiting [that is, opposite the Mezuza]”). Furthermore, the Kaf HaHaim (K.H., O.H. 671:58), quoting the Sheiltot DeRav Ahai, says that when one lights the Menora to the left of the Mezuza while donning a Tzitzit, one fulfils the verse (Kohelet 4:12), which says that a three-stranded cord is not easily broken. In this case, each Mitzvah represents one strand and together, they have great spiritual benefit. 
Nowadays, it is challenging to fulfill the Mitzvah of placing the Menora to the left of the entrance-way. For one thing, the main objective of placing the Menora at the entrance is for passersby to see it, which publicizes the miracle of Hanukkah. Since most home doors these days are not made of transparent glass, it would not accomplish this objective. As well, if one were to simply leave the door open, it would expose the Menora to wind, rain or snow, which could extinguish it. Therefore, if one cannot place the Menora at the entrance, one should place it near a window which faces the public domain so as to fulfill the Mitzvah of publicizing the miracle.  
Summary: The ideal way to fulfill the Mitzvah of the Hanukkah candles is to place the Menora to the left of the entrance’s Mezuza and that the candles will be visible to passersby outside. If this is not possible, one should place the Menora by a window which faces the public domain. 

What is considered a Hanukkah vessel?

The Gemara (Shabbat 23b) teaches that one who is careful regarding the lighting of the Hanukkah (in Morocco, the Menora/Hanukkiyah was known simply as “Hanukkah”), merits sons who will become Torah scholars. As such, the Rambam (Hilchot Hanukkah 4:12) writes that the mitzva of Hanuka is very dear and one should be exceedingly meticulous in lighting the Hanukkah. Rabbi Yitzhak Sagi-Nahor, the son of the Raavad, quoted by  Rabbi Avraham Azoulay (Hesed Le’Avraham, Ma’ayan 2, Nahar 58, sv. Besod Hadlakat Nerot Hanukkah) explain the Gemara’s statement as a quid pro quo; just as one is careful about all the details, laws and enhancements of lighting the Hanukkah, Hashem will give as a reward sons who will also be as diligent in all facets of the Torah.   

The Rama (O.H. 671:4) writes that the candles should be arranged in a row such that each light is discernible, rather than in a circular fashion in which all the candles contribute to the appearance of a bonfire. Furthermore, he says that one is permitted to use a candelabra in order to achieve this row-like appearance. The Mishna Berura (ibid:18), quoting the Elya Rabbah, specifies that each candle should be at least a fingerbreadth apart. 

Although strictly speaking one could simply melt a candle onto a surface and light it, Rabbi Avraham Azoulay (ibid.) recommends a stringency that each candle or wick should be placed in a vessel. According to Rabbi Avraham Bornstein (Avne Nezer, Orah Haim, § 500), one does not fulfil one’s obligation at all if one does not place the candles in a vessel because the Hanukkah lights should be reminiscent of the Menorah in the Bet Hamikdash, which itself was a vessel. One practical ramification of this ruling applies to the glass cups that many use to fill with oil and light.  Some cups are rounded at the bottom and are not able to stand on their own, while others have a flat surface and are able to stand on their own. In the laws of purity and impurity, something only attains that status of a vessel if it is able to stand on its own. Therefore, if one uses cups to light, one should attempt to use cups that are flat and sufficiently broad at the bottom. 

Summary: Ideally one should use a vessel, such as a Menora or individual cups, for the Mitzvah of the Hanukkah lights. If one uses cups, they should ideally be flat at the bottom such that they are able to stand on their own.

What are some ways to prepare for Shabbat?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 262:1-3), based on the Gemara (Shabbat 119a), writes that one should set one’s dining table, make the beds and prepare the home such that all will be ready when one returns from the synagogue on Friday night. Rabbi Pinhas Horovitz (Sefer Hamikna Kiddushin 41a), discusses the Gemara’s opinion (ibid) that preparing for Shabbat is actually a biblical Mitzvah, based on the verse (Shemot 16:5) “Vehechinu Et Asher Heviu”. 

Interestingly, the Arizal (Sha’ar Hakavanot, pg. 72a) was particular about setting a table that had four legs since this was the type of table used in the Bet Hamikdash. Although one should not replicate the artifacts of the Bet Hamikdash, having a four-legged table is a symbolic reminder of the Shulhan that was used there, and not a replica. 

The rush and stress to prepare for Shabbat can lend itself to conflict.The HIDA (Avodat Hakodesh) and the Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Vayera, Shana I, § 1) write that last few hours and minutes leading into Shabbat are especially prone to strife between husband and wife, or with one’s children or servants. Furthermore, Rabbi Haim Palagi (Sefer Kaf Hahaim 27:35) writes that a household which experiences strife right before Shabbat is at risk of experiencing something bad the following week. Therefore one should do all that is possible to prevent any conflict as Shabbat approaches. 

Rabbi Shalom Messas (Shemesh Umagen, vol. IV, Orah Haim, § 15:1) writes that the Moroccan custom is that Mizmor LeDavid is recited sitting down since this is not when one accepts Shabbat. Furthermore, Lecha Dodi is also recited while sitting and only during the last stanza of “Bo’i Beshalom” does one stand up. In other Sephardic communities, Mizmor LeDavid is when one accepts Shabbat and thus it is recited standing up. The Ben Ish Hai (ibid:§ 2), based on the Arizal, writes that in the last stanza of Lecha Dodi, one should turn to the west and then turn to one’s right and then to one’s left when saying “Bo’i Kallah”. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Halichot Olam, vol. III), citing Rabbi Ya’akov Emden, says that one should bow when turning to one’s right and left. Nevertheless, the source of bowing by Boi Kallah is unclear and many simply turn to all directions. 

Summary:  One should prepare one’s home and oneself for Shabbat. One should be careful to avoid strife in Erev Shabbat. The Moroccan custom is to sit for Mizmor LeDavid and for Lecha Dodi, and to stand for the stanza of “Bo’i Kallah”.

What is Tosefet Shababt?

The Gemara (Yoma 81b) learns from the laws of Yom Kippur that there is a Mitzvah to accept Shabbat upon oneself earlier than the official time and thereby “adding” to Shabbat as it were. There is a disagreement if the Mitzvah of Tosefet Shabbat (lit. “adding to Shabbat”) is biblical or Rabbinic, but in any case, the Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 261:2) writes that it is a worthy act to take on Shabbat early. Although there is no prescribed amount of time that one should begin Shabbat early, it is commendable to cease forbidden labors and accept Shabbat approximately three or more minutes before sunset. 

The Mishna Berura (M.B., O.H. 261:21) cites an opinion that maintains that one should make a verbal declaration that one is accepting Shabbat. Rabbi Shalom Messas (Shemesh Umagen, vol. IV, § 41) on the other hand, remarks that one need not declare verbally that one is accepting Shabbat, but rather the mere fact that one ceases forbidden labors is sufficient in fulfilling Tosefet Shabbat. This is also the opinion cited in the book Meged Giv’ot Olam in the name of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

Although Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or LeZion, ch. 18, § 2), based on the Ritva (Shabbat 23b), writes that ideally one should verbally declare that one is accepting Shabbat, nevertheless it is possible that the Ritva is referring to a case in which one is not reciting Kabbalat Shabbat and thus would need a firm reminder and declaration of accepting Shabbat. Nevertheless, for one who is present at synagogue, the recital of Shir Hashirim and the rest of Kabbalat Shabbat is in and of itself a declaration of accepting Shabbat. 

Summary: It is a Mitzvah to accept Shabbat early. One need not accept Shabbat verbally.

What are some customs of the night of Yom Kippur?

Rabbi Haim Palagi (Moed Lechol Hai) speaks about the great significance of holding the Sefer Torah during Kol Nidre and if one has the means should certainly attempt to buy this meritorious Mitzvah.  Nevertheless Rabbi Benzion Abba Shaul (Ner Lezion, Yom Kippur) decries those who spend excessive amounts on a Ram’s head for the night of Rosh Hashana and the Sefer Torah on Kol Nidrei but do not do the same for their Etrog, which is a Torah obligation.Rabbi Benzion Mutzafi (Kadosh Lezion) adds that one should attemt to kiss each of the Sifrei Torah seven times, as there is a great reason for this according to Kabbalah.
Certain cities in Morocco had a custom of reciting Hashkavot (prayer for the departed) for their sages right after Kol Nidre. Interestingly, the Siddur Bet Hakaporet (Dinei Hashkavot, § 4) records this custom in Gibraltar in which Hashkavot were recited for such an exhaustive list of local sages, to the point that congregants became irked by the length of the service. Nonetheless, the Siddur emphasizes the importance of reciting these Hashkavot on the night of Yom Kippur since even the departed need atonement. Rabbi Yehuda Ayash (Ze Hashulhan), Rabbi David Setbon (Ale Hadas) and Rabbi Yitzhak Alfaya (Kuntres Hayehieli) write that this was also the custom in Algeria, Tunisia and Bet El, respectively.
Another custom that is followed by the Moroccan community is that “Vehu Rahum” is recited on Yom Kippur at the beginning of Arvit, even if it falls on Shabbat. Although the Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Vayelech, § 13) rules that it should not be said when Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat, Rabbi Yaakov Algazi (Hemdat Yamim) supports this custom. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Halichot Olam) and Rabbi Amram Aburbia (Netive Am) concur.
Summary:   There is a custom to recite Hashkavot for the local sages after Kol Nidre. Vehu Rahum is recited in Arvit of Yom Kippur even when it coincides with Shabbat. 

Which comes first, the apple or the date?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 583:1), based on the Gemara (Keritut 6a), writes that one should eat certain auspicious foods on Rosh Hashana. These include Rubia (lit. black eyed peas), Karti (lit. leeks), Silka (lit. beets), Tamre (lit. dates) and Kara (lit. gourd). In Morocco, Rubia was commonly understood to mean sesame seeds When each food is eaten, a prayer is recited which invokes an idea that is phonetically or contextually related to that food. For example, when Karti is eaten, one says “May it be Your will that our enemies be destroyed.” “Destroyed” in Hebrew is “Yikartu” which sound like Karti. The Rama (ibid.) adds that there is also a custom to eat an apple dipped in honey and to recite a prayer for a sweet year, and to also eat pomegranate seeds, which signify abundant merits. The common custom, especially among Sephardim, is to have a Seder on the two nights of Rosh Hashana in which these foods are eaten.

Normally, when one eats different types of fruit, there is a prescribed order in which these foods should be eaten. Any of the seven species of the Land of Israel take precedence and should be eaten before a fruit that is not one of the seven species. As such, it would be expected that on the eve of Rosh Hashana, one would start with the dates and then go on to eat the apple. Nevertheless, the Tur (O.H. 583) writes that the custom is to start off the night with the apple. Indeed Rabbi Haim Messas (Leket Hakemach, Resh) confirms that this is the common custom. One way to reconcile this is based on the Ritva (Berachot 40b), who writes that the laws of giving preference to different foods only apply when one has no particular desire for one over the other. When one prefers or has a reason to start with one particular fruit, then that takes precedence. In Kabbalah, there is a concept known as Tapuhin Ila’in Kadishin (lit. “Lofty and holy apples”), which gives deep significance to apples. Thus, although the Ben Ish Hai, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichot Shlomo, Rosh Hashana) and Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky (Kovetz Halachot, Yamim Noraim, pg. 865) are of the opinion that dates should still precede the apples, the common custom is for the Seder to begin with apples. Furthermore, honey represents Divine judgment, and by dipping a sweet apple in the honey, it is symbolic of our desire for our judgment to be tempered. In Morocco, some had a custom to dip the apple in sugar rather than honey.

Summary:   There are several symbolic foods which should be eaten on Rosh Hashana. The custom is to eat the apple before the date.

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