Shavuot Edition: A Little Clarity – Halachic Questions via Text Message

Q: Are you supposed to tovel (immerse) oneself in a mikvah on the day before Shavuos?  If yes, is a bracha recited?

A: There is a common and ancient minhag to tovel without a Bracha on every erev yom tov. I would advise you to hold off on it at this point – since it could throw you off spiritually if you are not prepared for it.  It could make you feel like you have gained much ground in your religiosity; the truth is that that ground cannot be gained with external rituals or practices that are not actual mitzvot ; it must happen inside your heart, little by little over time.  (If we were talking about an actual mitzvah (commandment), we would do it anyway – mitzvot must be addressed separately).

Q: Does the Torah require a Bracha for chewing gum or chewing tobacco?

A: A Bracha is said (according to Rabbinic law but not Biblical law, like all berachot on food) on chewing gum even though the gum itself is not swallowed just as the Shulchan Aruch says to make a Bracha when sucking sugar canes even though the plant itself is not ingested. I have answered before that a Bracha is not recited on chewing tobacco, with one reason being that one intends to taste but not swallow it, which would distinguish it from chewing gum.

Q: How long is the teshuvah [repentance] process?

A: Ideally, it continues as long as we still have breath in our nostrils.

Q: But… when do u move on past the “I’m kicking myself for what I did” phase and into the “I’m starting a fresh start and I won’t repeat what I did” phase?

A: As soon as the feeling of how unbelievably fortunate you have become – to have been able to be one of the rare individuals that’s been able to turn yourself around – is able to overshadow the feelings of regret and negativity.

Q: Can direct employees of mine work on Shavuot?

A. No – they are not independent contractors.  They would be doing the work for you.

Q: Are you supposed to stay up all night on Shavuot?

A: Many people stay up all night on Shavuos. If you are part of a community that does it together than it is good. If you are not then you should maximize the time you have for studying Torah whenever you think you will learn and grow spiritually the most rather than pushing yourself at night when you are tired (when the whole idea of staying up is a relatively new practice that currently happens to be in vogue.  It is not mentioned in Shulchan Aruch). The real time to stay up all night is on Pesach, after the Seder, to discuss the Exodus – this is a practice that goes all the way back to the Tannaic era (as seen in the episode recorded in the Hagadah with the sages in Bnei Brak) and is also codified as Halacha in Shulchan Aruch (481:2).

 Advanced question:

Q: Do you have to wash your hands and say al netilas yadaim when eating just a k’zayis of bread but not a k’beitzah?

A: The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 158:2) does seem to be of the opinion that a bracha of al netilas yadaim is only said when planning to eat a k’beitzah of bread; the Mishnah Berurah does not openly posken, although he does say that the majority of Acharonim agree with the S.A. but also notes that the Gra holds to make it even when eating a k’zayis (this reading is supported by Shoneh Halachot). Reb Moshe writes that while it is ideal to eat a c’veitzah to avoid this issue, halacha is nevertheless that you make al netilas even when only planning to eat a k’zayis (Igrot Moshe O.C. 4:41).

Due to the space limitations of a text message, please note that it is particularly important to read carefully, pay close attention to the context of the question, and use the answers as a springboard for further study.

If you would like my phone number to submit questions, please leave a comment and I will send it to you.

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Filed under Halachic Issues, Text Message Halacha

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