Halacha for Wednesday 16 Sivan 5778 May 30 2018


Question: Is there any basis for the custom observed in certain communities that a woman who has recently given birth does not attend a relative’s wedding as long as she is within thirty days of giving birth?

Answer: This practice was based on a custom that was observed in certain countries where people claimed this caused an evil eye or that the woman who had recently given birth would, G-d-forbid, cause the bride not to be able to bear children by merely participating in the wedding.

This practice surely does not sit well with anyone who is intelligent and logical and these distorted customs emerged from the people of those countries who believed in all sorts of superstitions based on their minimal intelligence. Indeed, several great luminaries of the previous generation, including Hagaon Harav Mansour Ben-Shimon zt”l (one of the greatest Mekubalim of the previous generation) were asked about this custom to which they responded that this custom has no logical foundation and has no roots neither in Kabbalah (mystical section of the Torah) nor in the revealed Torah. Thus, the only thing left for us to determine is whether or not it is prohibited to follow such customs according to Halacha.

Since this custom is based on gentile practices, it would seem that it should be prohibited to follow it based on the verse, “And you shall not follow their tenets.” Nevertheless, Maran zt”l discusses this matter in several of his works and rules that according to the letter of the law, not every non-Jewish practice is prohibited and only those which are obscene or idolatrous practices are forbidden. Besides for the customs listed explicitly in the Gemara (Shabbat 67b) which our Sages have ruled that one may not follow, we may not add more non-Jewish practices on our own and say they are forbidden, as Rabbeinu Eliezer of Metz and the Rashba write. Thus, we cannot forbid walking around without a Kippa (skullcap or head-covering) according to the letter of the law. Similarly, there is no prohibition according to the letter of the law to lay a wreath of flowers on a deceased person’s grave (although it is incorrect to do so). Moreover, there is no prohibition to place tree branches in the synagogue for the Shavuot holiday in honor of the Torah although non-Jews have this custom as well (as we have discussed regarding the customs of the Shavuot holiday). Additionally, there is no prohibition to write the secular/civil date which is based on the Christian calendar, although it preferable to abstain from doing so. Based on this, it seems that regarding the prohibition of following non-Jewish practices, there is no prohibition to follow these customs although they are indeed senseless.

Nevertheless, Maran zt”l writes (in his Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 10, page 346) that anyone who is intelligent, wise, and follows Hashem’s Torah should distance himself from such foolish and nonsensical practices followed by unintelligent people, such as the custom of those who say that a woman who has given birth within forty days and attends a wedding places the bride in danger, for this is merely ignorant babble and was adapted from old wives’ tales in foreign lands. Indeed, the Rambam writes that “it is improper for the Jewish nation, which is wise and intelligent, to be drawn after the foolish practices and hallucinations (such as superstitions) of the other nations. Anyone who believes in these things in his heart and thinks that they are true and wise is mindless and foolish. Those who are wise and intelligent, on the other hand, know that these customs are not wise and are merely acts of foolishness pursued by the ignorant. Because of this, the Torah has warned us, ‘Be completely innocent with Hashem, your G-d.’” Furthermore, Hagaon Harav Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel zt”l, the late Rishon Le’Zion, writes regarding this custom of a bride and groom not entering the home of a woman who has recently given birth or vice versa, that not only are such customs foolish and senseless, but such superstitions cause much strife and contention between many Jewish families. We see countless times every day that brides and women who have given birth visit each other and no harm befalls either of them. Thus, one should not follow or believe in such superstitions and should publicize that they are merely baseless old wives’ tales. Similarly, one should distance himself from other such things that are foreign to clear, natural, and logical thinking.

Ask the Rabbi

8 Halachot Most Popular

Pausing Silently in the Middle of the Amida Prayer

The Amida prayer must be recited with continuity. One may not interrupt one’s Amida prayer for any reason. In the previous Halacha, we have written that if one begins reciting the Amida prayer and senses a foul odor emanating from a baby and the like, one must stop praying immediately, for......

Read Halacha

If One Must Rise Before a Rabbi Every Time He Enters the Room

Question: The custom in our community is to rise every time the rabbi of the synagogue enters the sanctuary. Even if the rabbi enters the synagogue several times, we rise for him every time. Recently though, one of the members of the synagogue raised issue with this and said that the more observant ......

Read Halacha

Question: What should one do if one senses a foul odor, such as from a baby and the like, while one is standing and reciting the Amida prayer?

Answer: The Torah states, “And your camp shall be holy.” We derive from this verse that one may not pray, recite a blessing, or any other words of holiness when there is something repulsive, such as excrement or a foul odor in the area. Thus, one may not pray when a child is running a......

Read Halacha

Cooking by Non-Jews in Restaurants or Hotels

Question: We have written in the past regarding a restaurant where a Jew ignites the flame in the morning that although a non-Jewish cook places the foods on the fire, it is nevertheless permissible to eat in such restaurants and this does not constitute a prohibition of foods cooked by a non-Jew. R......

Read Halacha

Prayer Texts

The various texts of the prayer found among the various communities of the Jewish nation all have strong and holy roots. Therefore, one should not deviate from the prayer text that one’s forefathers were accustomed to. Hence, a Sephardic individual should not adopt the prayer text of Ashkenazi......

Read Halacha

The Obligation to Stand While Kaddish and Barechu are Recited

Question: When the Chazzan or an individual receiving an Aliya to the Torah recites “Barechu Et Hashem Ha’Mevorach” and the congregation replies “Baruch Hashem Ha’Mevorach Le’Olam Va’ed,” must the congregation rise completely or partially or is there n......

Read Halacha

Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have established that before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, Isra......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b)......

Read Halacha