Originally published in The Jewish Chronicle.
What type of wine may be used for Friday evening kiddush?
The details of the kinds of wine that may be used for kiddush are stated in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 272). Here it is recorded that although Nachmanides holds that white wine should not be used the ruling is that it can be used. However, some later authorities urge the use of red wine if this is available.
5 June 1970:
Is it permissible to use a candelabrum for the Sabbath lights? May one remove the candles from the table after they have gone out?
The custom is to kindle at least two candles for the Sabbath lights but there is no objection to kindling more than two and in some homes a candle is lit for each member of the family. Consequently there is no reason why a candelabrum should not be used. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 279) rules that the candles should not be removed from the table by a Jew even after they have gone out.
31 July 1970:
According to our calendar, the Sabbath never commences later than 8 p.m. in summer. I understand that this is done for convenience. Can the law be changed for the sake of convenience?
The law is not being “changed” when one begins to observe the Sabbath earlier than is strictly necessary since it is, in fact, considered meritorious to receive the Sabbath (kabbalat shabbat) before it actually begins as well as to postpone its departure on Saturday night. The observance of the Sabbath laws beyond its actual limits is called by the rabbis (Yoma 81b): “adding from the profane to the sacred,” i.e. extending the sanctity of the Sabbath so that it encroaches on the week-day portions of Friday and Saturday night.
21 August 1970:
What is the reason for using spices at the Havdala service at the termination of the Sabbath? What is the reason for the twisted candle?
The beautiful reason given in the sources for using spices at the Havdala service is that on the Sabbath every Jewish acquires an additional soul. When the Sabbath departs the additional soul departs with it, the purpose of the sweet-smelling spices being to comfort man for his loss by bringing some fragrance into his soul. According to rabbinic law at least two lights, separate but mingled, should be used to thank God for the light He provides. The custom of using a twisted candle is to facilitate the mingling of the two or more lights. Another fine idea which has been read into the ceremony is that all man’s five senses should be brought into play in praising God at the beginning of the new week. Thus he speaks the words of the blessings and he hears them, he looks at the light and smells the spices, and he lifts his hand to the light to represent the sense of touch.
27 November 1970:
Chess, yes. Poker, no. Demonstrations against car racing, but not against Sabbath football. Where do we draw the line? It is impossible for FOCUS to plot all of the course, but we “asked the rabbi” this week to take us over a few of the halachic hurdles:
The general principle with regard to sport and games on the Sabbath is that these are not forbidden in themselves but only if they involve acts prohibited on the sabbath. Some of the medieval authorities permitted ball games on a private domain (where there is no offence against “carrying” on the Sabbath (Tosafists to Betza 12a). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 338, 5) permits the playing of games, including chess, on the sabbath provided that these are not played for money.
It is also ruled there that if “women and children” do play for gain, one should not stop them since “it is better to offend unwittingly rather than intentionally.”
It follows that, according to the din motor-car racing is clearly and definitely forbidden on the Sabbath since it involves acts prohibited on that day, e.g. driving the car (combustion etc) and the payment of the gate-money by the spectators. Obviously, then, no observant Jew would participate in such an event on the Sabbath.
Whether he should seek to prevent those who do not share his beliefs from participating is, of course, another question; one tied up with more general questions of freedom in a modern State. How far the duty of “rebuking” extends, and the need for preserving the Sabbath atmosphere for the country as a whole.
As a purely personal opinion, I would limit my protest, if I were living in Israel, to verbal disapproval. Perhaps it should also be said that a good case can be made out for objecting to high-speed racing of this sort even on weekdays. The Jewish tradition has never taken kindly amusements in which there are grave risks to life.
For this reason the rabbis strongly disapproved of Jews attending gladiatorial contests. A passage in the Talmud (Shabbat 150a) states that it is permitted to attend the circus on the Sabbath for “communal purposes.” Some have understood this to mean that the populace was occasionally called upon to decide the fate of a poor gladiator by giving either the thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign and Jews, by attending, might be instrumental in saving life.
22 January 1971:
Is a Jew permitted to go to synagogue by motor-car on Saturdays and Holy-days if he is an invalid and unable to walk?
Liberal and Reform rabbis see no objection to riding in a motor-car, or driving it, in any event. Many Conservative rabbis in the United States permit riding by motor-car if the purpose is to attend synagogue. According to Orthodoxy, however, this is forbidden, and Orthodox rabbis would normally rule that it is better for the invalid to pray at home than to ride to the synagogue, although many Orthodox rabbis in this country certainly turn a blind eye to the infringement of these rules.
The question you are presumably asking is whether a heter can be found for an invalid according to the traditional law. It seems to me that such a heter can be found, namely, for the invalid to be driven to synagogue by a non-Jewish driver, who has no obligation to keep the Jewish Sabbath. Although normally Jewish law prohibits a Jew from asking a non-Jew to do on the Sabbath that which he, as a Jew, is not allowed to do, certain exceptions are made, e.g., where health is at stake or, according to some authorities, where a mitzva is involved. It is obviously a mitzva for the invalid to be able to attend services. As for riding in the car, as opposed to driving it, it is hard to see which law this opposes. But many Orthodox rabbis would disagree with this heter.
If a widower lives by himself is he obliged to kindle the Sabbath and festival lights? Does he say the blessing?
Yes, he is obliged to kindle the Sabbath and festival light and to say the blessing.
26 March 1971:
About 15 times during the year Sephardim have a different haftara from that of the Ashkenazim. Why is this?
The origins of the whole institution of the haftara are obscure but it appears that at first there were no fixed prophetic readings and that congregations selected their own readings with relevance to the portion of the Torah read on that day. Even when fixed haftarot became the norm there was a special list for certain Sabbaths of the year only. Consequently, it is not at all surprising that in connection with some sidrot there are differences in custom between Sephardim and Ashkenazim.