By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt | Series: | Level:

QUESTION: Is there any reason to have a new fruit on the table during Kiddush of the first night of Rosh Hashanah?

DISCUSSION: No, there is not. Many people mistakenly confuse the first night of Rosh Hashanah with the second night and place a new fruit on the table on both nights.(1) But there is no basis for eating a new fruit on the first night, and indeed, l’chatchilah, one should specifically remove any such fruit from the table when Kiddush is recited. This is because some poskim hold that the shehecheyanu recited during Kiddush, which is a blessing over the Yom Tov day, and the shehecheyanu that one needs to recite over a new fruit, are two different “types” of shehecheyanu blessings, and one cannot fulfill both requirements with one shehecheyanu blessing.(2) According to this opinion, even if the fruit were on the table during Kiddush, another shehecheyanu would have to be recited over the fruit when it is time to eat it. While this is not necessarily the opinion of all poskim, in order to avoid getting involved in this dispute one should remove the fruit from the table before Kiddush, and then recite shehecheyanu over it when he is ready to eat it during the meal.(3)

QUESTION: If a new fruit is not available for the second night of Rosh Hashanah, may shehecheyanu be recited during Kiddush?

DISCUSSION: Absolutely. The reason that we place a new fruit on the table during Kiddush on the second night of Rosh Hashanah is to satisfy a minority opinion which holds that no shehecheyanu is recited over the second day of Rosh Hashanah as we normally do on Yom Tov Sheini – the two days of Rosh Hashanah are halachically considered as one long day, and shehecheyanu over this long day was already recited during Kiddush on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. But the majority of the poskim disagree and hold that the two days of Rosh Hashanah are considered – in regard to this halachah – as two separate days, and a shehecheyanu must be recited over the second day as well. While l’chatchilah we look for a new fruit so that shehecheyanu could be recited according to all opinions, if for any reason a new fruit is not available,(4) we rely on the majority opinion and recite shehecheyanu over the second day of Rosh Hashanah.(5)

Indeed, it is important to remember that even when a new fruit is on the table on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, the primary reason that the shehecheyanu is recited is not because of the fruit, but because of the new day of Rosh Hashanah. Thus the proper kavanah (intent) of the person reciting Kiddush [and all those who are yotzei with him] should be as follows: Primarily, the shehecheyanu is being recited because another day of Yom Tov has arrived; and, secondly, in case this second Yom Tov day does not warrant a shehecheyanu, the blessing should be over the new fruit. (6) B’diavad, however, one does not need to repeat Kiddush if, mistakenly, his primary intent was to recite shehecheyanu over the fruit.(7)

QUESTION: Why is it prohibited to use bar soap on Shabbos and Yom Tov?

DISCUSSION: While it is universally-accepted that bar soap is not used on Shabbos, the exact reason for this is unclear. The poskim suggest several possibilities as to how this custom evolved:

* Certain types of bar soap were so abrasive that they actually uprooted hair, possibly transgressing the Shabbos Labor of Shearing.(8) This reason would no longer apply to soaps nowadays.

* Some poskim(9) compare using bar soap to crushing ice or snow into water which is prohibited(10) because of molid, transforming a solid into liquid. Similarly, when on washes with a bar of soap, a solid substance is changed into a creamy liquid. Other poskim, however, reject this comparison and maintain that using bar soap is not a violation of molid. (11)

* In the past, bar soap was not a solid, rigid bar like it is today, but rather soft and pliable with a wax-like consistency. Using it entailed smoothing and evening it out, thus possibly transgressing the Shabbos Labor of Memachek, Scraping.(12) Some poskim feel that this remains a problem even with some modern-day soaps, since the edges of the bar get rounded off and evened out when used. This is especially true when a started bar of soap has been left standing partially submerged in water, causing the bottom of the bar to become extremely soft and uneven. When this bar is used next, one inevitably smooths out the uneven surface of the partially melted bar.

* Memareiach, Smearing – a Shabbos Labor which is similar to Memachek – is also mentioned by some poskim as a reason to prohibit using bar soap. Apparently, they were referring to the smearing of the lather on the skin. (13)

Although all of the reasons stated above are arguable and may or may not not be applicable to modern-day bar soaps, it is still universally accepted that bar soap is not to be used on Shabbos. This longstanding minhag yisrael remains inviolate.(14)

QUESTION: Does the custom which prohibits using bar soap apply to liquid soap as well?

DISCUSSION: No, it does not. The majority of poskim,(15) and the prevalent custom follows their view,(16) permit the use of liquid soap on Shabbos. Since none of the previously mentioned concerns regarding bar soap apply to liquid soap, no custom was ever established to prohibit its usage.

A dissenting opinion is found in Igros Moshe.(17) Harav Feinstein wonders whether or not Smearing applies to liquid soap as well, since we can see that liquid soap becomes more runny and more “smooth” during the washing process. While he does not render a final ruling on this issue, he recommends that one be stringent, and he instructed the members of his household to be stringent in this matter.(18) In deference to Harav Feinstein’s ruling, some people dilute their liquid soap [before Shabbos] so that it is considerably watered down.(19) But, as stated earlier, the prevalent custom follows the opinion of the poskim who permit using liquid soap without first diluting it.

But not all liquid soaps are created equal. There are some liquid soaps that have a high viscosity level and pour out very slowly. These liquid soaps are more like thick oils and creamy lotions which are subject to the prohibition of Smoothing, and they may not be used on Shabbos.

Short of using a viscometer, anyone can estimate the viscosity level of a particular liquid soap by pouring some out onto a level surface. If the liquid spreads immediately, like water would, then its viscosity level is low and it may be used. If, however, it begins to pool and does not spread right out, chances are that its viscosity level is high and one should not use this product on Shabbos.(20)

QUESTION: On Chol ha-Moed, may one allow a non-Jewish contractor to do construction work on his property?

DISCUSSION: The general rule is that whatever a Jew may not do on Chol ha- Moed, he may not instruct a non-Jew to do on his behalf either.(21) It is prohibited, therefore, for a Jew to hire non-Jewish workers to do work on his behalf on Chol ha-Moed.

But in this case where one is not hiring workers who get paid by the hour, but rather, a contractor paid by the job and not by the hour or day, we do not consider it as if the work is being done on behalf of the Jew. Actually, it is being done by the non-Jew on behalf of himself – so that he may finish the job and get paid as quickly as possible.(22)

Nor are we concerned that having workers on one’s property would appear as if they are hourly workers working on behalf of the Jew – marees ayin. This is because nowadays, all construction jobs, both in the public and private sectors, are contracted by the job, not by the day or the hour. Thus it is obvious to all that the non-Jewish contractor is working on behalf of himself and not for the Jew, and marees ayin does not apply.(23)

This ruling applies only to a contractor who wishes – for his own benefit or convenience – to work on Chol ha-Moed. It is clearly forbidden, however, for one to explicitly instruct a contractor to work on Chol ha- Moed, or to deduct from the contractor’s pay if he does not work on Chol ha-Moed.

But in areas other than construction, where sometimes workers are hired and paid by the hour or the day and sometimes by the job, it would be prohibited – because of marees ayin – to allow them to work on one’s property on Chol ha-Moed, even if in actual fact they were hired for the entire job. This is because it may appear to those who are passing by that the workers are hourly workers working for the Jew on Chol ha-Moed, which is clearly prohibited.

1 Mishnah Berurah 600:5.

2 Ksav Sofer O.C. 26.

3 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchas Shelomo 1:20; Halichos Shelomo 2:1-16).

4 In the U.S.A, especially, it is most difficult to find a shehecheyanu fruit, since almost all fruits are available throughout the year.

5 O.C. 600:2 and Mishnah Berurah.

6 One who intends the shehecheyanu to be solely over the fruit is actually making an improper hefsek between Borei pri ha-gafen and the drinking of the wine, since reciting shehecheyanu over a new fruit at this point has nothing to do with the Kiddush. It is only if the shehecheyanu is recited over the Yom Tov that it would not be considered a hefsek.

7 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchas Shelomo 1:20. Halichos Shelomo 2:1-20); Teshuvos v’Hanhagos 2:272; 2:303.

8 Rashi, Shabbos 50a s.v. lo, and Ran, ibid.

9 O.C. 326:10.

10 O.C. 320:9.

11 Mishnah Berurah 326:30.

12 Tiferes Yisrael, quoted by Mishnah Berurah 326:30.

13 See Minchas Yitzchak 7:20.

14 Ketzos ha-Shulchan 146:32; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 14, note 49).

15 Aruch ha-Shulchan 326:11; Kaf ha-Chayim 326:43; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Koveitz Teshuvos 1:25).

16 Kitzur Hilchos Shabbos 32:4.

17 O.C. 1:113.

18 In a personal conversation, Harav Feinstein stressed that he is aware that his opinion is a minority opinion and that it differs from that of the other poskim who discuss this matter.

19 Az Nidberu 10:16.

20 According to the Star-K, who used a viscometer in their testing, Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap and Softsoap Anti-Bacterial Liquid Hand Soap with Light Moisturizers, for instance, have a high viscosity level and may not be used on Shabbos, while Ultra Dawn Concentrated Dish Liquid/Anti Bacterial Hand Soap, as well as most regular liquid dishwashing soaps, have a low viscosity level and are permitted to be used on Shabbos. (Kashrus Kurrents, vol. 24, no. 2)

21 O.C. 543:1.

22 Mishnah Berurah 244:7 and Beiur Halachah s.v. oh liktzor. The halachah remains the same even if the non-Jewish contractor hires non-Jewish workers and he pays them by the hour or day; ibid.

23 Igros Moshe O.C. 3:35.

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Rabbi Neustadt is Rav of Young Israel in Cleveland Heights. He may be reached at 216-321-4635 or at [email protected]