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Rabbi Chaim Coffman
Rabbi Coffman has helped people from all across the spectrum to prepare themselves properly for Orthodox Conversion to Judaism. His students admire his vast knowledge and appreciate his warm, personal attention and endearing sense of humor.
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Welcome to Rabbi Chaim Coffman's Blog!

I would like to thank you for visiting my blog, Beyond Orthodox Conversion to Judaism.

The conversion process can be a lengthy and daunting one to say the least and I want you to know that I am here to help you through it.

I have been teaching newcomers to Judaism for over a decade and over the last few years I have seen that conversion candidates really lack the support and knowledge they need to navigate the conversion process and successfully integrate into the Orthodox Jewish community.

I created my mentorship program in order to help make this whole experience as smooth and as painless as possible! (Can't do much about the growing pains, though ;)

Feel free to get to know me a little through the posts on my blog and visit the mentorship and syllabus page if you are interested in possible joining us.

I sincerely wish you all the best in your search for truth and spiritual growth.

Looking forward to meeting you,
Chaim Coffman

My Rebbe, Rav Moshe Sternbuch

In case you were wondering why I have all of these articles written by Rav Moshe Sternbuch, he is my Rebbe, and one of the gedolei hador (greatest Rabbis of our generation).

Rav Sternbuch fully endorses me and supports my mentorship program.

He is the address for all of my halachic or hashkafic (practical and philosophical) questions that I or my students may have.

The articles are based on his weekly talks on the Torah portion that the Rav gives in Jerusalem in his kollel. As a member of the kollel I get first dibbs on the photocopies and I type them up for my blog so you can all benefit from the Rav's erudition and insight.
Friday, February 25, 2011

Ask the Raavad: Shailos uteshuvos with Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Question: If a military conflict arises involving Israel against the Palestinians or other Arab nations, what should we daven for?

Answer: During these turbulent times, one should daven for peace in all areas, both between Jews and non-Jews and between Jews and Jews, for there is no utensil that holds Divine blessing like peace.

Question: May one wear a gold watch, or wear a plastic cover on one’s hat, in a public domain where there is no eruv?

Answer: According to the understanding of many Rishonim, most cities today have the status of a public domain, and one should be stringent. However, in a place where it is questionable if it has the status of a public domain, one may act leniently, as long as the custom is not to be stringent. In order to understand these rulings, we need to investigate the background issues behind these two questions.

Societal Change

Society is in a constant state of change. The world we live in and the way people act today is very different that it was in the times of Chazal. The poskim encapsulated this idea when they wrote, “Every question depends on the time and the place.”

Two striking examples of this concept regard the halachos of carrying on Shabbos. In the times of Chazal, it was commonplace for women to take off their jewelry and show it to their friends. Based on this, Chazal decreed that a woman should not wear jewelry, lest she come to carry it in a public domain.

Today, most women do not take off their jewelry in the middle of the street and show it to others. Such an action would probably be considered strange. Based on this factor, the Rama rules that today woman may wear jewelry in a public domain.

Some Rishonim define a public domain based on whether the streets are 16 amos wide, while others require that a public domain must also have 600,000 people (Biur Halacha 34:7). While in the times of the Gemara many of the streets were narrow, and many towns were small, today many streets are wide and the populations of cities are large. Let us try and understand how these factors affect our two questions.

Gold Watches and Bracelets

Today, many men and women wear a gold or decorative watch as a type of jewelry. Based on this, the great gaon and tzaddik, Rav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky, compares a watch to a bracelet, which is permitted to wear on one’s arm. (Shulchan Aruch 303:15). Rav Dushinsky ruled that although it is praiseworthy not to wear a watch in a public domain on Shabbos, l’halacha it is permitted.

If we take a closer look at this issue, there is a strong argument to forbid wearing a watch on Shabbos. Since the primary purpose of the watch is to know the time and not to wear as an ornament, it is not clear that we can give a watch the status of a piece of jewelry or a garment. The Biur Halacha sees this as a reason to be stringent regarding watches (301:11)

Rav Moshe Feinistein (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:111) adopted the more stringent stand and forbade wearing a watch in a public domain. Since the reason to forbid wearing a watch is because it is not solely for looks, this halachah applies to men as well as women. However, since women wear jewelry for decorative purposes, they may be more lenient in regards to wearing other items such as rings and bracelets in a public domain on Shabbos.

A Hat on a Hat

Although it is forbidden to carry anything on Shabbos, it is permitted to wear clothing that befits one’s body. Since one’s body requires these garments, they are considered subordinate to one’s body, and one is not considered to be carrying them. In this vein, the Ramam (301:36) permits one to wear a hat on top of another hat, i.e. a larger hat on top of a kipah, since the larger hat protects one’s body more than the smaller one.

While the hat cover may not be considered subordinate to one’s body, since it is made specifically for the hat, it is possible to view it as part of the garment. According to this understand, just like one is allowed to wear the hat, one could wear the cover as well. Some poskim take the more lenient understanding.

On the other hand, it is forbidden to wear a garment that is being worn for itzulei tinuf, i.e. to protect one’s clothing from dirt. Clothing such as this does not protect one’s body, and it is therefore considered carrying to wear it. A hat cover does not protect more of the body than the hat and should be considered itsulei tinuf, and both the Chazon Ish and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:108-110) adopted this stringent opinion.

The Bottom Line

Following the above discussion, we may conclude as follows. Since the poskim dispute whether one may wear a watch or hat cover, in a place where the streets are 16 amos wide, and there are not 600,000 people, one should be stringent not to wear them. However, in a place where one of these factors is not present and it is questionable if it has the status of a public domain, one may act leniently regarding these issues.

It is important to add that Chazal have told us that in a place where the minhag is to be stringent, it is forbidden to be lenient in public, and the permissibility of wearing a watch and a hat cover is affected by the custom of each place. If one lives in a community where the accepted practice is not to wear these items, then one may not do so. Since determining these guidelines is extremely complex, each person should consult with his personal rov to clarify the halachic status of the place where he lives.


Sean M. Teaford said...

It is important to remember that Hashem is in the details. It is the small acts and ways we observe the mitzvoth that the light of Hashem shines brightest. Thank you for giving us all a reminder of this fact. Shabbat Shalom!