Halacha for Sunday 25 Tammuz 5779 July 28 2019

Question: Is there an obligation to leave an area in one’s home unplastered or unfinished as is the custom of some G-d-fearing individuals?

Answer: The Gemara (Baba Batra 60b) states that following the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, the Sages of that generation instituted that one may not build a house plastered and adorned like a king’s residence. Rather, when one builds a home and plasters it, one should leave an area of one square Amma (48 centimeters x 48 centimeters) completely unplastered and unfinished opposite the doorway in commemoration of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, for if our holy Temple is in ruins, how can we build ourselves a complete home? The Rif, Rambam, and Rosh quote this Gemara as Halacha. The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva writes that that in our generations, this law is treated very lightly, so much so that this Halacha has almost been forgotten, but there is indeed no room for leniency in this regard.

Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that there is indeed room for the customary leniency people attribute to this Halacha which is Maran Ha’Bet Yosef writes that according to the Rambam, this prohibition applies only when one plasters his home with plaster alone; however, if some sand or stubble is mixed into the plaster, this is not prohibited. Nowadays, all plaster has sand mixed inside and there is therefore room for leniency regarding not leaving over an unfinished area of one square Amma.

On the other hand, if one is covering the walls of the house with wallpaper as is customary in several places, one must leave over an unfinished area of one square Amma, for there is no reason for leniency regarding wallpaper.

If one purchases a home that is already completely plastered and adorned, one is not obligated to peel of an area of one square Amma of plaster if the house was purchased from a non-Jew. Nevertheless, if the home was purchased from a Jew who did so contrary to the Halacha, one is indeed obligated to peel of an area of one square Amma of plaster opposite the doorway.

Those who customarily paint this one square Amma black are incorrect in doing so, for our Sages enacted that this area be left completely bare of any plaster or paint.

An incident once occurred with the great Gaon, Harav Chaim Halberstam zt”l of Sanz, who requested from a close confidant of his to find a matter about which he was acting incorrectly and to bring it to his attention. The individual immediately replied that there was not a square Amma bare of plaster in the rabbi’s home, as per the law. The rabbi answered that since he purchased the home when it had already been completely plastered, he is not obligated to peel of the plaster of this area. Nevertheless, as an act of piety, Rav Chaim immediately climbed up a ladder and peeled off a square Amma of plaster in commemoration of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash.

8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of the Holiday of Sukkot

As per the request of many of our members and as a public service, we shall now list a synopsis of some laws which are essential for the upcoming Sukkot holiday: The Sukkah must be made of three walls and Sechach (the roof). The walls may be made of any material which can withstand a normal wi......

Read Halacha

Honoring One’s Father-in-Law and Mother-in-Law

The Yalkut Shimoni states: “David told Shaul, ‘My father, you shall surely see the corner of your coat in my hand’” (which means that David called Shaul his father). Our Sages derived from here that one is obligated to honor one’s father-in-law just as one is obligated ......

Read Halacha

Reciting Kaddish

When an individual departs from this world, his surviving children must make a concerted effort to pray with a Minyan three times a day in order to be able to recite Kaddish for their father or mother. Similarly, if one, G-d-forbid, loses a son, daughter, brother, or sister, one should recite Kaddis......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Honoring Parents After Their Passing

Just as one is obligated to honor one’s parents during their lifetime, one is likewise obligated to honor one’s parents after their passing. One may certainly not disrespect one’s parents after their death. The Baraita (Kiddushin 31b) states: “Whenever one mentions a Torah......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Rising Before One’s Father or Rabbi- Maran zt”l’s Response to his Grandson

All of the laws of honoring and revering one’s parents apply equally to both a son and daughter. When we sometimes focus on a father and son or a mother and daughter, this is meant as a mere example and illustration. When one sees one’s parents passing in front of him, one must rise b......

Read Halacha

Who Must Bear the Financial Burden of Caring for One’s Parents?

We have discussed previously that part of the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents is serving one’s parents food and drink as they wish. Included in this is that when one’s parents are elderly and can no longer care for themselves, their sons and daughters must care for their physical......

Read Halacha

A Father Who Absolves His Son from Honoring and Revering Him

The following discussion is crucial to understanding important laws regarding honoring one’s parents. In the previous Halachot, we have discussed some laws pertaining to honoring and revering one’s parents. There are certain laws that relate to a child’s obligation to honor his ......

Read Halacha

Calling One’s Father or Mother by Name

Question: May one call one’s father by his first name? Also, may one call a friend with the same name as one’s father by his first name? Answer: A child may not call his father or mother by their first name. For instance, if one’s father’s name is “Shmuel,” the......

Read Halacha