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Daily Moroccan Halachot

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


Daily Halachot Topics

Juxtaposing Geula and Tefila

 May one ever make an interruption between Geula and Tefila?

The Gemara (Berachot  42a) explains that there is great importance to juxtapose “redemption” with “prayer”. What this means practically is that the blessing of “Ga’al Israel” -which discusses Hashem as Redeemer of the Jewish people- should be immediately followed by the Amida, which is the core of prayer. Furthermore, the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim, 111:1) says that because this juxtaposition is so important, no interruption is permitted between the two. Although the introductory verse (Tehilim 51:17) “Hashem Sefatai Tiftah…” would appear to be an interruption, practically speaking it is part of the Amida and is thus permitted. Not only is a verbal interruption not allowed but even a pause longer than the time it takes to greet one’s rabbi (“Shalom Alecha Rabbi”) is considered an interruption. Therefore, as soon as one recites “Ga’al Israel” one should immediately start the Amida with “Hashem Sefatai Tiftah”. 

The Rama (ibid.) posits that this uninterrupted juxtaposition is crucial specifically on weekdays and on holidays but not on Shabbat. His rationale is based on the last verse of Tehilim 19, which discusses Hashem as Redeemer, and is immediately followed by the first verse of Tehilim 20, which says that Hashem will answer those in distress. Since Shabbat is not considered a day of distress, then Redemption need not be followed by Prayer, and one would be able to reply to Kaddish, Barechu, etc. (Although Yom Tov has an element of joy, they are considered days of judgment, and thus the aforementioned verses would apply just as on weekday). The Yalkut Yosef (111:5) rules accordingly and says that if one were to hear Kaddish or Barechu, for example, in beween “Ga’al Israel” and the Amida, one would be able to respond on Shabbat. That being said, the Shulhan Aruch makes no distinction between Shabbat and other days, and the Ben Ish Hai (Year II, Parashat Toledot) says that this is the custom. The Siddur Bet Oved (Hilchot Tefila), based on the Kaf Hahaim (K.H., O.H. 111:8), says that even if one only had access to Tefilin right between “Ga’al Israel” and the Amida, one would be permitted to don them but not to recite their blessing. 

Interestingly, there is an Ashkenazic custom for the Shaliah Tzibur to lower his voice in the latter half of the blessing when saying the words “Ga’al Israel” in order to prevent anyone from accidentally responding to the blessing had they heard it out loud. The Moroccan and Sephardic custom, however, is for the Shaliah Tzibur to say it at regular volume. Indeed, there is a custom to say the first word of the Amida out loud right after the blessing (“Baruch Ata Hashem Ga’al Israel-Hashem…”) to show that no interruption is being made in between. 

Summary: One may not make any interruption between the blessing of “Ga’al Israel” and the Amida. 

Southern Hemisphere: Which Bracha?

Between Shemini Atzeret and Pesach, “Mashiv Haruah Umorid Hageshem”, which mentions Hashem’s might in causing the rain to fall, is recited in the second blessing of the Amida. Between Pesach and Shemini Atzeret, “Morid Hatal” is recited in its place, and it praises Hashem for creating dew. It should be noted that unlike the ninth blessing of the Amida (Barechenu/Barech Alenu), in which one requests rain or dew, Morid Hatal And Mashiv Haruah are not requests but rather praises.  

There are instances in which rainfall during the summer months is considered detrimental or even a curse, and therefore, the Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim, 114:4) says that if one accidentally recited “Mashiv Haruah” between Pesach and Shemini Atzeret, one would have go back to the beginning of the second blessing of the Amida. If one already recited the blessing of “Mehaye Hametim” and had accidentally said “Mashiv Haruah” in the summer months, one would have to go to the beginning of the Amida and start over. Furthermore, the Shulhan Aruch says that even if “Mashiv Haruah” was recited in a locality where rain is actually beneficial in the summer months, one would still need to go back. 
A question arises regarding the recital of Mashiv Haruah in the southern hemisphere. Although rain may be detrimental in the summer, the period between Pesach and Shemini Atzeret actually coincides with their winter, and thus the status of Mashiv Haruah may be unclear there. Rabbi Haim Shabtai (Shu’t Maharhash/Torat Haim), answering questions from the early Jewish settlers in Brazil in the sixteenth century, entertains the possibility that Mashiv Haruah is not related to a specific part of the world, but rather to the unique needs of a country. Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar (Birkat Erev, § 8) suggests that there is a distinction between Mashiv Haruah and the blessing of Barech Alenu. Mashiv Haruah is a general mention of praise for how Hashem runs the world, and since most people live in the northern hemisphere, then it is appropriate to mention the praise that befits the season inthat part of the world, Therefore, even if one is in Australia during their summer, for example, one should still recite Mashiv Haruah.  

On the other hand Barechenu and Barech Alenu are personal requests for dew and rain, respectively, and thus this is more location-dependent. Indeed, Rabbi Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi, vol. I, § 21) suggests that people living in the southern hemisphere should recite Barechenu in their summer. Nevertheless, since there is doubt in the matter, he recommends that one insert the words “Veten Tal Umatar” (lit. “send dew and rain”), which is normally said in winter, in the blessing of Shome’a Tefila. Similarly, Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or Lezion, vol. II, ch. 7) says that in such a case, one should say “Veten Tal Umatar Be’artzenu Hakedosha” (lit. “send dew and rain in our holy land”) in Shome’a Tefila to reflect that the main thrust of these mentions of praise and requests is to pray for proper weather in the Land of Israel. Furthermore, in their winter, they should recite Barechenu since it is summer in the northern hemisphere, but they should still recite “Veten Tal Umatar” in Shome’a Tefila to request rain for their own land. 

Rabbi Yosef Benaim (Noheg Behochma, pg. 225) writes about Rabbi Yisachar Bensoussan (Ibur Shanim), who witnessed in his native Fes the rabbis gathering in the city square during a drought, reading different parts from the Torah and Nevi’im and holding thirteen fasts, just as is explained in the Gemara (Ta’anit). He writes that after they did this, it began to rain and they read Hallel in gratitude of the Hashem answering their prayers. 

Summary: In the southern hemisphere, one should recite Morid Hatal and Barech Alenu in their winter. In their summer one should recite Mashiv Haruah and Barechenu, and add Veten Tal Umatar Be’artzenu Hakedosha in the blessing of Shome’a Tefila.

May one recite Piyutim during the prayer?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 112:2) rules that one may not insert liturgical poems (Piyutim) and the like into the prayer. The Rama, however, says that there are opinions which do permit their recital because there is a communal need for them. In this context, the Shulhan Aruch is referring to the central part of the prayer, that is, the blessings of the Shema and the Amida. Although the Ashkenazic rite includes several examples of Piyutim that are inserted into the prayer, it is less common among Sephardic communities and is usually only done during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Rabbi Haim Ben Attar (Hefetz Hashem, Berachot 11) says that inserting Piyutim in the prayer is a longstanding custom that predates the Shulhan Aruch and that it should be firmly upheld.  

There is a more common custom, especially among Moroccan Jews, to insert Piyutim in the Pesuke Dezimra.These Piyutim are recited not only on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but throughout the year, such as Shabbat Shira, and during life cycle events, such as a Brit Mila.The HIDA (Tov Ayin, § 18:35) questions how opponents to this custom could find any wrongdoing with it. The whole point of Pesuke Dezimra is to sing praises to Hashem and by inserting other Piyutim, it is only enhancing this praise. The famous Piyut “Mi Kamocha” by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, which is recited on Shabbat Zachor, ends off with words that are clearly connected to Nishmat, which proves that it was meant to be sung at that point. Furthermore, the prolific Paytan and scholar Rabbi David Hassin ended many of his Piyutim with the words “Nishmat Kol Hai” to indicate that their proper place was in Pesuke Dezimra. Rabbi Yehuda Toledano (Vezot L’Yhuda) confirms that this is the Moroccan custom and that anyone who opposes it violates the will of the Rishonim. Rabbi Shalom Messas (Shemesh Umagen, vol. I, § 41) and Rabbi Avraham Adadi (Vayikra Avraham, pg. 122) concur and add that not only are these Piyutim not an interruption, as some contend, but rather they enhance the awe that one should have when praying. 

 Summary:  Reciting Piyutim in Pesuke Dezimra is a legitimate custom and is not considered an interruption. 

When does one recite Tefilat Haderech?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 110:4) says that when one embarks on a journey, one should recite a special prayer, known as Tefilat Haderech. Although Tefilat Haderech ends off with a blessing, the Shulhan Aruch does not discuss it in the laws of blessings but rather in the laws of prayer. The practical implication of this is that, according to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Ishe Israel, ch. 50, note 4), since it is a prayer, one could insert a personal request. For example, one could request to be protected from a car accident while taking a road trip. On the other hand, Rabbi Haim Kanievsky says that the prayer already includes a reference to “all types of calamities” and this would therefore include car accidents and the like.

The Shulhan Aruch (ibid:7) says that Tefilat Haderech should only be recited if one’s journey is at least a Parsa in length (roughly 4 km or 2.5mi) beyond the city limits. Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or Lezion, vol. II) and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichot Shlomo, ch. 21, § 3) both add that as long as one is driving among a constant stream of cars, one is considered to still be within the city limits and one should not recite Tefilat Haderech.

Regarding whether or not to recite the blessing of Tefilat Haderech with Hashem’s Name (also referred to as Shem Umalchut) in general, there is a well established Moroccan custom not to do so. The commonly used Siddurim Tefilat HaHodesh, Bet Oved and Patah Eliayhu all have Tefilat Haderech without Shem Umalchut. The Pri Hadash says that since the Rambam did not discuss Tefilat Haderech at all, then if one wishes to recite it, it should be done without Shem Umalchut. This approach is supported by Rabbi Ovadia Hedaya (Yaskil Avdi, vol. VII, Kuntres Achran, §3), Rabbi Shem Tov Gagin (Keter Shem Tov, pg. 634) and Rabbi Matzliah Mazuz (cited in Magen Avot, Orah Haim, § 110), who all say this is the Sephardic custom.

It should be noted that some Moroccan Poskim, such as Rabbi Yehoshua Maman (Emek Yehoshua, vol. I, Orah Haim, § 40) and Rabbi Shlmo Amar (Shema Shlomo, vol. III § 5), write that the blessing at the end of Tefilat Haderech should be recited with Shem Umalchut. Even for those who follow this opinion, it would only apply to a road trip that is beyond the city limits and is in a desolate area, or on  a flight.

Summary: The common custom is to recite Tefilat Haderech without Hashem’s Name. If one has a custom to recite it with Hashem’s Name it should only be in situations with truly warrant the recital of Tefilat Haderech.

Credit for Minyan

When does one get credit for praying with a Minyan?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 109:1) says that if one enters the synagogue (or is lagging behind in the prayer) and the congregation has reached the Amida, one may begin one’s Amida if one will be able to finish in time to respond to Kedusha (in the case of Shaharit and Minha) or Kaddish Titkabal (in the case of Arvit). If one does not believe that one would be able to finish one’s own prayer in time to respond to Kedusha or Kaddish, one should wait till the Shaliah Tzibbur reaches Kedusha or Kaddish, after which, one may begin one’s own silent Amida.  Both of these scenarios ensure that one is considered to have prayed with a Minyan and gets credit, as it were, for such. Similarly, if the Minyan has already recited the Kedusha, one may begin one’s silent Amida if one will finish in time to respond to Modim. Otherwise, one should first respond to Modim and then begin one’s own Amida. If one began praying with the Minyan but prayed slowly such that one will not be able to respond to Kedusha or Kaddish, one is still considered to have prayed with a Minyan since one started on time.

Rabbi Elazar Tobo (Pekudat Elazar, § 90) writes that if one is accustomed to taking one’s time during the Amida but does not want to miss responding to Kedusha and the like, one may begin one’s silent Amida earlier than the rest of the congregation and one would still be considered to have praed with a Minyan. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer, vol. II, Orah Haim, § 7:6), citing Rabbi Avraham Gagin (Yeriot HaOhel), concurs with this approach. Similarly, Me’at Mayim (§ 21 states that as long as one starts praying at the same time as the congregation, one is considered to be praying with a Minyan.

Summary:  If one is running behind in the prayer, one should only start the Amida if one will finish in time to respond to, depending on the case, Kedusha, Modim or Kadish. One may begin one’s Amida earlier than the congregation if this will ensure that one will have the opportunity to respond to the aforementioned parts of the prayer.

Making up a Missed Prayer

When can one make up a missed prayer?

The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 108) delineates the rules regarding one who missed the Amida prayer. In the times of the Bet Hamikdash, if one failed to bring an offering, one was able to bring a compensatory offering. Similarly, if one did not recite the Amida for one of the three daily prayers, one can make it up later. The first rule is that if one missed the Amida, one can make it up by reciting an extra Amida at the next prayer. For example, if one did not recite the Amida of Shaharit, one could make it up during the next prayer service, Minha. Furthermore, one can only make it up during the prayer service that immediately follows that which one missed. Thus, if one missed Shaharit, one cannot make it up during Arvit, for example. Secondly, the prayer that one is making up for must be recited after one recites the regularly scheduled prayer first. So if one missed Shaharit, when the time for Minha would come, one would first have the intention that the first Amida would be for Minha, and then one would recite an Amida again afterwards to make up for Shaharit. One exception to this is Musaf, which, if one missed, one may not make up. Musaf may be recited up until sunset and therefore the next prayer in which one would theoretically be able to make it up would be Arvit. Nevertheless, the Tosafot explain that since Musaf has references to bringing offerings and offerings are never brought at night, it would not be proper to recite it during Arvit.

It must be noted that one can only make up a prayer that was missed unintentionally (Shogeg), not intentionally (Mezid). What constitutes Mezid and Shogeg in this context is not black and white and there are cases in which one “intentionally” misses a prayer but it may still be considered Shoged. The Shulhan Aruch (ibid:8) says that if one was busy in one’s affairs and thought that one would have enough time to pray afterwards but ended up missing the time for prayer, such a situation would be considered Shogeg and one would be able to make up the prayer. Similarly, if one missed a prayer because one was involved in a business transaction that was meant to prevent a financial loss, one would be able to make up the prayer later on.

The Biur Halacha (cf. Mihu Lechatechila), citing the Pri Megadim, specifies that if one stands to lose one fifth of one’s net worth, one could skip a prayer to prevent it and make up the prayer later. Conversely, the Mishna Berura (M.B., O.H. 104:2) says that if one is in the middle of the Amida, no type of potential monetary loss warrants one stopping in the middle of the prayer in order to resolve the financial matter, since this is a slight to the honor of the prayer.

Summary:  If one misses a prayer, one may make it up according to specific Halachic parameters.

Shavuot Halachot Archives:Dairy, Electricity, Cheese

There is a well-known custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. The Rama (Orah Haim 494:3) explains that the source of this custom is in commemoration of the Shtei HaLehem, the two loaves of bread that were specifically offered on Shavuot in the times of the Temple. Just as we have two cooked food on Passover to symbolize the Korban Pesah and the Korban Hagiga, so too on Shavuot we should have a dairy meal and a meat meal to commemorate the two loaves of bread. The Magen Avraham explains that we eat dairy foods because when Bnei Israel received the Torah and learned all the laws of Kashrut, slaughtering and of koshering utensils, they needed to time to prepare meat in a Kosher fashion and in the meantime they could only consume dairy foods. Yet another explanation is that Torah, which we received on Shavuot is compared to milk as it written in: “Devash veHalav Tahat Leshonech” (Shir HaShirim 4:11). 
Rabbi Yosef Benaim (Noheg BeHochma, pg. 202) explains that this was not a common practice in Morocco but that there were people who ate dairy foods in Morocco and other Sephardic lands. 

A culinary custom on Shavuot that was common in Morocco, however, was eating Matzah. A special dish known in Arabic as Hrabel was made of Matzah meal, sugar and mint. The HIDA (Lev David ch. 31) references the Tola’at Yaakov, who says that Shavuot is likened to Olam Haba (the World to Come) where the body and soul join in a heavenly experience. On Shavuot there was a bread offering, which is symbolic of the physical body, as well as a Minha offering, consisting of unleavened Matzah, which symbolizes the soul. Thus, on Shavuot one eats Matzah to complement the bread offering and to symbolically join the physical and the spiritual worlds.  The HIDA gives another reason based on the Zohar that in Egypt, Matzah was the bread of affliction when we were slaves to Pharaoh. On Shavuot, when we accepted Hashem’s Torah, we eat Matzah to symbolize that we are still servants, but to Hashem. 

Summary: One may partake of dairy foods on Shavuot but one should also eat meat in honor of Yom Tov. There is a special custom to eat Matzah on Shavuot. 

Must women pray?

The Gemara (Kiddushin 34a) explains that women are exempt from positive Mitzvot that are time-bound and are obligated in Mitzvot that are not time-bound. The Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 106:1) writes that prayer is not a time-bound Mitzvah and therefore women are obligated to pray. Although it is true that in its current form prayer is bound by specific times, such as Shaharit only being able to be recited at certain times, the Torah only requires one to simply pray once a day. In other words, on a Biblical level, one must only recite some sort of personal prayer sometime throughout the day and one will have fulfilled one’s obligation. The Sages eventually instituted a standardized text of prayer and the obligation to pray three times a day, at certain times. The Magen Avraham (96:2), citing the Rambam (Tefila 1:1,2), says that women would fulfill this obligation as long as they recited any sort of personal prayer at some point during the day. The Ramban, however, says that the obligation to pray is Rabbinic in origin and therefore women would be exempt.

The practical ramification of this dispute does not involve whether a woman must pray, since the Halacha follows the Rambam, but rather what prayer must be recited. Unlike the Magen Avraham, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer vol. VI, § 17) says that when a woman prays, she should specifically recite the established Amida since it incorporates praises, personal requests and thanks to Hashem. Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or Lezion, vol. II, ch. 7, § 25) and Rabbi Pesach Eliyahu Falk (Mahze Eliyahu, § 19:9) write that women may recite any type of personal prayer, but they must do so twice a day. According to this opinion, if a woman is able to recite the Amida, it should be specifically Shaharit and Minha, since Arvit is considered more of a voluntary prayer. If a woman is able to set aside time to recite two prayers a day, it is certainly praiseworthy.

Furthermore, if a woman prays Shaharit, she should ideally also recite the blessings before and after the the Shema as well as the Shema itself. Although the Shema is a time-bound Mitzvah, there is an opinion that the blessings of the Shema should not be recited with Hashem’s Name. Nevertheless, since there is also an aspect of praise in these blessings, a woman may recite them with Hashem’s Name.

Summary: Women are obligated in prayer at least once a day, but should try to pray twice a day if possible. Women should recite the established prayer rather than a personal supplication.

May one walk by someone that is praying?

Based on the Gemara (Berachot 31b), the Shulhan Aruch (O.H. 102:1-4) rules that one may not sit or pass by within four Amot (roughly 6 feet) of one who is reciting the Amida. Regarding passing by, the Elya Rabba writes that it is not permitted because such an act will distract the one who is reciting the Amida. The Haye Adam, however, says that the reason is that the Shechina-Hashem’s Presence-surrounds the one praying the Amida and walking by the Shechina would be improper. The practical difference between these two opinions involves a Halachically-valid Mehitza. A Mehitza is a partition which has implications for Shabbat, a Sukkah, etc., and measures ten Tefahim high and four Tefahim wide. (It should be noted that in the context of this Halacha, Mehitza does not refer to a partition that is used to separate men and women during prayer.) This Mehitza can be anything from a chair, to a table or the like. According to the Haye Adam, such a Mehitza will be effective to create a partition between the one praying and the Shechina, and therefore one would be able to walk by even within four Amot. According to the Eya Rabba, on the other hand, a Halachic Mehitza is not effective in preventing a passerby within four Amot from distracting the one praying and thus one would not be able to walk by. Only some sort of partition that is taller than the one praying would be satisfy both opinions. Rabbi Yaakov Hagiz (originary of Fes, who later became well known in Jerusalem in the 1600’s) in his monumental work Hilchot Ketanot, (vol. I, § 4), concurs with the Elya Rabba and says that a Halachically-valid partition is not sufficient to prevent a passerby within four Amot from distracting one who is praying.

Another practical application is in a circumstance when one prays at the entrance way of a synagogue. On one hand, one is not permitted to pass by one who is in the middle of the Amida, but on the other hand, if one cannot pass, one will not be able to enter the synagogue until the person praying finishes. Rabbi Avraham Buchach (Eshel Avraham) and Rabbi Shalom Schwadron (Da’at Torah) write that a person does not have the permission to render a public passageway off-limits to other congregants by standing there for the Amida. As such, they and others, such as Rabbi Eliezer Waldenburg (Tzitz Eliezer, vol. IX, § 8) write that in such a case, it is permissible to walk within four Amot by someone who is praying so that one can get into or around the synagogue.

Although there are circumstances when one may be lenient regarding where one prays or where whom one passes by, in general one should be careful to to afford others the proper room to pray.

Summary:  One may not sit or walk within four Amot by one who is reciting the Amida

Praying in a different language

May one pray in another language?

The Shulchan Aruch (O.H. 101:4), basing himself on the Rosh (Berachot, ch. 2), writes that one may pray in any language that one understands. Rabbi Baruch Toledano (Kitzur Shulhan Aruch, 90:6) writes that women and people that did not know Hebrew could pray in Arabic or any other language they knew. On the other hand, the Hatam Sofer (§ 84) comments that the Shulchan Aruch’s intention is that one may do so on an intermittent basis, not consistently, and that it is inappropriate to recite the entire prayer in a foreign language. Historically speaking, the Hatam Sofer’s opinion was also in response to the Reform movement, who sought to translate the prayer into German and also to remove any references to Zion.

In previous generations, the Hebrew language was understood mostly by a scholarly elite and therefore the prayer was not easily accessible to all. Nowadays, however, Hebrew reading and comprehension are immeasurably more accessible to the average person. Furthermore, there is a wealth of translated and transliterated Siddurim available such that praying in Hebrew is much easier. Siddurim nowadays are, for the most part, punctuated with Nekudot, which also makes reading even easier than non-punctuated text. Additionally, the Kaf HaHaim (K.H., O.H. 101:16) says that the Hebrew language is replete with Kabbalistic power that cannot be mimicked by another language. Thus, although permitted according to the letter of the law, it is inappropriate for one who is not yet literate in Hebrew to remain so long term and to pray in one’s native language.

That being said, there are circumstances in which one cannot at the moment pray in Hebrew, such as a convert or a Ba’al Teshuva. In such a case, one should pray in whatever language one knows rather than skip the prayer altogether. Certainly, part of such a person’s Jewish learning should include mastery of the Hebrew language.

It should be noted that this Halach applies in the strictest sense to the Amida and the established prayers that accompany it. Regarding different supplications, Piyutim and the like, the Kaf HaHaim (ibid:17) says that there is much more leniency in reciting them in different languages. Examples of these include the Bendigamos hymn before Birkat Hamazon that is recited by Spanish Jewry or En Kelokenu that is sung in Arabic by Moroccan Jews.

Summary:  Strictly speaking, one may pray in any language.  Practically speaking, however, one should only do so if circumstances necessitate it and should strive to learn and pray in Hebrew. Portions that are not central to the prayer may be recited in different languages.

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