| Halachah |

Elul: An End and Beginning

As women don’t have the obligation of tefillah b’tzibbur, the only reason for you to go to shul is if you will daven better, with more kavanah


Prepared for print by Faigy Peritzman

I’m inundated with tzedakah requests in Elul, and I truly appreciate the zechus. Is it better for me to give one significant sum to one place or have the merit of giving smaller sums to many beneficiaries?

Theoretically, it’s preferable to give smaller sums to several beneficiaries, as opposed to giving a significant sum to just one or two recipients. There are two explanations for this recommendation: one, it’s more “logical” to help as many people as you can as opposed to just one or two people. Two, from a spiritual perspective, each donation is counted as a separate mitzvah of tzedakah, which means that by giving smaller amounts multiple times (even to the same charity), one earns multiple mitzvos. But practically speaking, it all depends on the situation. If, for instance, the person seeking charity has no other connections or resources and can only count on you for his needs, then it’s preferable to give a large donation to him rather than splitting your donation among multiple people who have other resources.

I know people often take on extra chumros and mitzvos, like only eating pas Yisrael during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. Where does this come from? Isn’t it hypocritical?

The practice of only eating pas Yisrael during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah is an age-old custom dating back to the days of the Rishonim and codified in Shulchan Aruch. There are several reasons, all interrelated, for this halachah: a) so that we conduct ourselves with an extra measure of purity during these Days of Awe; b) to serve as a reminder of the unique status of these days; c) to beseech Hashem not to judge us stringently, just as we have adopted a practice that isn’t strictly required of us.

A coworker complained about me to my boss, a misrepresentation that resulted in him firing me. Now, she’s coming to ask for forgiveness. She’s obviously not offering to compensate me for the loss of my income. Do I have to forgive her?

You’re not required to forgive her until she compensates you for any financial loss she has caused you, directly or indirectly. But before you make that decision, remember that there are (at least) two sides to every story, and what you may assume to be a misrepresentation may not necessarily be so. The only way to know the truth is by sitting down with her (and preferably with an unbiased third party or rav) and reviewing the entire episode. You may be surprised by what you discover.

Must one ask mechilah from one’s children?

One’s children, single or married, financially supported by you or otherwise, are no different from anyone else. If you unjustifiably caused them pain in a manner that is inconsistent with proper parenting, or if there are financial claims against you that have not been resolved in beis din, then you’re obligated to pacify them and ask for their forgiveness.

I daven Shacharis before work and there’s often no time for L’Dovid Hashem. Should I add it at Minchah? Or perhaps I can say it at any time during the day?

You can, if you wish, add it to Minchah or to Maariv, or say it any time during the day, but you aren’t under any obligation to do so.

As a girl, I always tried to say Selichos in shul. Are married women obligated to recite Selichos?

Since the recitation of Selichos — even for men — isn’t an obligation, but an ancient custom that has been practiced for many centuries, we’re not obligated to do more than what custom dictates.

Customarily, married women don’t go to shul to recite Selichos (except on Motzaei Shabbos). If they wish to do so, women may go to shul to recite Selichos, or they may recite Selichos at home. But the following rules apply when reciting Selichos without a minyan (for both men and women): 1) When reciting Keil Melech, some poskim hold that the words Zechor lanu hayom Bris Shelosh Esreh are omitted. 2) The Thirteen Middos are omitted. 3) Machei u’masei (recited toward the end of the Selichos) and any other segment that is in Aramaic is omitted.

For over a decade, I’ve davened at home while watching my children. Now my youngest is old enough that I can go to shul, but I’m hesitant. I’ve become so used to my private davening, alone in my room, and I think I daven better, with more kavanah that way. Should I go to shul regardless?

As women don’t have the obligation of tefillah b’tzibbur, the only reason for you to go to shul is if you will daven better, with more kavanah, while in shul. Since you haven’t attended shul in quite a while, you don’t really know where davening will be better for you. Perhaps you should attend shul once or twice, and if after doing so you still feel that you can concentrate better at home, then continue davening at home.

This year, with the first day of Rosh Hashanah coming out on Shabbos, is there anything I need to say or do before lighting candles the second night?

Before lighting candles (or doing any other preparations) on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, you should either daven Maariv (and add Vatodi’einu during Shemoneh Esreh), or recite Baruch hamavdil bein kodesh l’kodesh.

When I say Yizkor throughout the year for my father z”l and pledge to give tzedakah, must I give it immediately after the chag? Can I save all those pledges to give one large sum before Rosh Hashanah every year instead?

Almost all siddurim and machzorim nowadays have added the words bli neder to the tzedakah pledge that is part of the Yizkor prayer. If so, then you’re not obligated to pay the pledge right after Yom Tov, and you can do so when you have the ability. But if you failed to say bli neder, then you must pay the pledge immediately after Yom Tov, unless you specifically stipulated at the time of the pledge that you’re not planning to pay until you have an opportunity to do so.

As a mother of young children, I don’t have time for a full Shacharis. Should I be saying Avinu Malkeinu if it will come at the expense of another part of daily davening?

Only recite Avinu Malkeinu if you have the time for it, and it shouldn’t come at the expense of the daily davening.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 856)

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