10 Commandments, 10 Halachos • A Special Shavuos Project
10 Commandments, 10 Halachos
In honor of Shavuos – Chag Matan Toroseinu,
we bring you a collection of ten Halachos related-directly or indirectly-
to the Aseres HaDibros
[from Beis Moshiach Magazine issue #1201-1202]
אָנֹכִי ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם
Faith or Knowledge of Hashem: Which is the Mitzvah?
The first of the Aseres Hadibros, “Anochi Hashem Elokecha” (I am Hashem your G-d), has been understood by many Rishonim as a mitzvah to acknowledge Hashem. This mitzvah was interpreted two different ways by Gedolei Yisrael: some said the mitzvah is l’haamin(to believe in Hashem); others maintained that the mitzvah is leida (to know Hashem).
Those who interpreted the mitzvah as leida argued that being commanded to believe in Hashem—l‘haamin—is problematic for the following reasons:
Emunah is a feeling that’s either present or isn’t; it can’t be conjured up by way of command.
Emunah in the Eibershter is a prerequisite for obeying His commands, so the mitzvah to believe paradoxically presupposes that the one being commanded already believes that there is a metzaveh (One who commands).
Emunah is limited: it isn’t powerful enough to affect a person b’pnimiyus (internally).
Therefore, they say, the mitzvah must be leida: to achieve a personal, intellectual recognition of Hashem’s existence through logical inquiries and by using our own powers of reasoning.
On the other hand, those who argue that emunah is the correct interpretation of the mitzvah make the case that emunah expresses the unvarnished truth, reflecting exactly what Torah tells us about Hashem, whereas yediah is colored by our own understanding. In fact, left to our own devices, our intellect might lead us to the wrong conclusions.
The preferred approach is to merge the two: we should achieve as much as possible with our own sechel (intellect) and allow faith to take over from there. The unique approach of Chassidus—Chassidus Chabad in particular—is to take concepts from the world of emunah and utilize the power of our mind to internalize them.
לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל פָּנָי. לֹא-תַעֲשֶׂה לְךָ פֶסֶל, וְכָל-תְּמוּנָה
Can I Draw Images of the Sun, Moon, and Stars?
Among the halachos of Avoda Zara, idol worship, the Torah tells us, “Lo saasun iti”, interpreted by Chazal to mean “d’mus shamosheihameshamshim l’fonai bamorom”, one may not make images of the sun, the moon, and any of the heavenly hosts.
This prohibition applies to any picture of the sun, moon, and stars, whether the images are “shokaas,”embedded in the text or the material, or “boletes,” protruding as a raised image, and according to many poskim, even to a partial picture.
Even if someone else, including a non-Jew, made these images for a Jew, it is prohibited to keep them in one’s house.
If there is an educational need to make such a picture, one should consult a rov to find out how to do this without violating this serious issur.
There is room for leniency when the pictures are:
- A) For education purposes, and
- B) are incomplete (better minority image), and
- C) flat pictures.
At least half of the sun/moon/star should not be drawn. Some are stringent even with an incomplete sun. Many Poskim extended this prohibition to flat images as well.
לֹא תִשָּׂא אֶת-שֵׁם-ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַשָּׁוְא
When saying “the truth” is problematic…
We are cautioned to refrain from making a vow unnecessarily. The Shitah Mekubetzes (R. Betzalel ben Abraham Ashkenazi, 16th century) states that the expression, “b’emes” (it’s the truth!), is one of the key words that would turn an otherwise innocuous statement into ash’vuah. One explanation offered to justify this position: Emes is considered to be one of Hashem’s holy names and using it to verify our words is as though making an oath in Hashem’s name. Accordingly, poskim say, people should be forewarned not to use the word b’emesin the context of affirming our actions or inducing others’ trust.
But there are many poskim who are lenient in this regard, and posit that the opinion of the Shitah Mekubetzes is a da’as yachid (singular opinion)—not a widely-accepted halachah, or that it should be considered “mishnas chassidim” (a teaching for the exceptionally pious). This is especially so if someone is simply saying the word without intending to grant their words the authority of a sh’vuah. Certainly, if the word is used in conversation with little attention to its meaning, there is no reason for concern.
Nevertheless, there is room to be machmir and refrain from using the word “b’emes” to confirm the veracity or our words.
זָכוֹר אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ
Is it OK to Delay Kiddush?
The Alter Rebbe writes (Shulchan Aruch OC 271:2) that there is a Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar that one should make Kiddush on Friday evening as close as possible to when Shabbos begins, and not to delay the time of Kiddush.
However, the Alter Rebbe mentions that if someone does not have an appetite to eat, he does not have to rush to make Kiddush. It is important to make the Shabbos Kiddush and to eat the Seudah of Shabbos LeTeiovon, with an appetite, and therefore if a person is not in the mood of eating just yet, they should rely on the fact that they already made Kiddush during Davening, which is the Min HaTorahKiddush, and that later on they can make the DeRabonon Kiddush – Kiddush on a cup of wine – when they have an appetite and wish to eat.
Similarly, there are people who would like to have a shiur after Maariv and stay in Shul a bit longer before going home. In this case, Poskim mention that of course they may have the shiur and then later come home to make Kiddush.
כַּבֵּד אֶת-אָבִיךָ וְאֶת-אִמֶּךָ
What If I Know My Father Wants to be Woken Up?
One of the halachos of honoring one’s parents, is not to wake them up. Even if a lot of money is at stake if the parent is not woken up, a child should still not wake up his parent. There is a famous story told in the Gemara about Dama ben Nesina, a non-Jew, who needed a key that was under his father’s pillow in order to sell a precious gem for a large profit, but refused to wake up his father, thereby losing a large sum of money. Hashem later rewarded him for this great mitzvah, and he was zoche to have a parah adumah, a red heifer, which had tremendous spiritual and monetary value, to be born in his herd.
However, if a person knows that it is important to their parent that they earn that money, and are certain that the parent would be upset if he did not wake them up and suffered monetary loss as a result, then one is permitted to wake them up. Still, it is preferable to ask someone else to wake them up, even in such a case.
If the parent asked their child to wake them up, it is certainly permitted. To wake them up for a mitzvah such as going to shul is also not a problem. Similarly, waking them up because the parent would otherwise lose a large sum of money is also a non-issue.
If a telephone call comes in for a parent, a child should not wake them up even if it is about an important matter, unless they know that the father or mother will be upset that they were not woken up to take the call.
May a gun be carried on Shabbos?
The question of whether it’s permissible to carry a gun on Shabbos entails two issues: muktzah and carrying in a place where there is no eiruv.
The second issue is rather clear-cut: only clothing and personal ornaments are permitted to be carried on one’s person on Shabbos, and a gun is neither. The argument that a gun can serve as a fashion accessory is belied by the prophecy that all weapons will be crushed and turned into constructive tools, such as plowshares, when Moshiach comes, indicating that the Torah does not recognize any decorative value in weaponry.
A gun’s muktzah status, however, is subject to discussion among contemporary poskim; the question is whether it’s a kli she’melachto l’issur (a tool whose primary function is forbidden on Shabbos) since it was crafted for the purpose of killing, or whether it’s a kli she’melachto l’heter (a tool whose primary function is permitted on Shabbos) since its main objective is to instill fear. Carrying a concealed weapon seems to indicate that its use is primarily l’issur, while carrying it openly could suggest that it’s l’heter.
If there’s concern about a possible threat which would justify carrying a gun on Shabbos, even if it’s muktza or there’s no eiruv, a local ravwith an understanding of the prevalent conditions must be consulted to determine whether the current threat is significant enough to justify carrying a gun on Shabbos.
Men-Women Conduct in the Workplace
Only a few times does the Shulchan Aruch use the term “me’od me’od”, very, very much. One of these times is with regard to men distancing themselves from women. “Tzorich le’hisrachek me’hanoshim me’od me’od”, a man is supposed to distance himself from women very, very much in order not to chas ve’sholom fall victim to the sin of forbidden relations. When it comes to a female secretary in the workplace, there are many halachos about how to act to ascertain that no problems should arise. “Schor schor lekarma lo sikrav”, we tell a person who is not allowed to drink wine, a nazir, to keep his distance from a vineyard.
Likewise, one has to abide by various types of restrictions so as to minimize the chance of familiarity developing between the female secretary and her male employer and vice versa. “Ein apotropos learayos”, nobody can be sure of themselves that they will not do something wrong. The employer should preferably not call the secretary by her first name, should not ask her to prepare him a cup of coffee, and not discuss personal issues with her.
In essence, there should be a general code of tzniusdik, modest, and reserved conduct limited to professional matters between a female secretary and her male employer, as well as in all male-female business relationships.
Can I let someone who forgot his card go through the turnstile with me?
In some places, such as at a men’s mikvah, there is a turnstile system in place and a prepaid card is needed in order to enter. What is the halachah if someone says he forgot his card at home and asks us to allow him to pass through with us?
The answer depends on whether the card issued is for a certain number of uses or whether it’s valid for a certain period of time. If the card allows for a certain number of visits, allowing him to go through with us would constitute stealing (and even if he expresses his intent to charge the card at a later time, it would still be considered theft—albeit with the intent of repaying later—and is therefore not permitted). However, in the latter case, where he says his card is good for an unspecified number of visits during a given time, we can believe him and allow him to go through with us, since we can assume he has chezkas kashrus (a default status of being honest).
In view of the above, if someone asks us to allow him to go through the turnstile with us, we should inquire as to which kind of card he has; if he says that he has a card for a specified length of time, we may trust him (if he strikes us as honest and trustworthy). On the other hand, if he attempts to push his way through as we are going in, but offers no explanation, it isn’t our responsibility to stop him.
[Note: Chazal teach that the commandment of לא תגנב is the prohibition of kidnapping. The prohibition of Stealing is in VaYikra 19:11]
לֹא-תַעֲנֶה בְרֵעֲךָ עֵד שָׁקֶר
Can a Person who Uses Unfiltered Internet be a Kosher Witness?
A mechalel Shabbos is pasul l’eidus (not acceptable as a witness in a Jewish court of law). Even if a person does not desecrate Shabbos b’farhesyha (publicly), if they desecrate the Shabbos knowingly they are not accepted as a witness.
However, a mechalel Shabbos b’farhesyah is pasul l’eidus even if they are tinokos shenishbu (raised without an appreciation for Yidishkeit). If a person commits a transgression on purpose for which they would incur malkus de’Oraysa, they are pasul l’eidus min haTorah If a person commits an aveirah d’Rabbanan, they are pasul l’eidus. A person who is chashud al arayos (suspect of forbidden relations)—which according to many poskim includes hugging and kissing, even if no forbidden relations took place—is pasul to be an eidus for testimony involving marriage and divorce.
Contemporary poskim address the question whether people who watch television or use unfiltered internet are acceptable eidim. If a person who is known to be a yerei Shamayim, careful with all mitzvos equally, uses unfiltered internet we may assume that they convinced themselves that it is permitted, since lo mashma lehu l’inshi isura (people don’t think it’s actually forbidden) to use unfiltered internet, and therefore their testimony would be accepted after the fact.
Nonetheless, even taking this into consideration, it would be wrong to use such a person to be an eid l’chatchillah.
Why don’t we say Kaddish in Hebrew?
Kaddish was originally written in Aramaic for a variety of reasons: so that the angels should not understand and become jealous of this special praise we give to Hashem; because it causes Hashem to remember the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and we don’t want the angels to be aware of this and use the opportunity to speak negatively; because that used to be the common language spoken; according to the Zohar we are breaking the force of evil found in the secular language and utilizing it to praise Hashem. In any event, that’s the way it remained in our davening.