Recent Questions
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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Blessing on Sex

I know about many of the blessings recited for various events and daily occurrences, but in all my studies, I have yet to find mention of a blessing for marital intimacy. We have a blessing for using the bathroom, for washing hands, for hearing bad news, etc., but what about something so wonderful as what God has created between a husband and wife?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

This is an interesting question. Here are four answers, none of which are found in the classical rabbinic writings. So take your pick:

1) There are no blessings for mitzvahs between one person and another - e.g. giving charity, visiting the sick, etc. If the mitzvah of marital relations is to give pleasure to the partner, then it would fit into this category and have no blessing.

2) Under the chuppah, we make the blessing asking God to "gladden the beloved couple, as you gladdened [Adam and Eve] in the Garden of Eden." This description of Adam and Eve in Eden in utopia would include the physical pleasures of their marriage.

3) The blessing that we recite after going to the washroom may cover all bodily functions, including sex.

4) A blessing must be recited immediately prior to the action. For example, you hold the fruit in your hand, make the blessing, and eat it right away. Also a person's hands need to be washed, and certain parts of the body must be covered. Therefore it would highly inconvenient for a couple to recite a blessing before intercourse.

Electric Menorah

Can an electric menorah with light bulbs be used during Chanukah?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

We do not allow an electric Menorah for Chanukah, since it does not burn in the same manner as the oil-and-wick lamps that were used in the Temple.

Another problem using a Chanukah menorah is that you must have enough fuel at the time of lighting to burn for at least 30 minutes after nightfall. The problem is that when you turn on your electric Menorah, you do not actually have 30 minutes of "stored fuel" there on the spot. ("Har Tzvi" by Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank)

However, some authorities do allow an electric Menorah, and it could be used if no other option is available. You must be sure to place these lights in a way that it's recognizable that it is especially for Chanukah (i.e. not where electric bulbs are usually lit). And being that many authorities do not allow it, the blessings should not be recited. (Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - Yabia Omer 3:35:7)

Musical Toys on Shabbat

My two-year-old often gets ahold of his favorite musical toy on Shabbat and starts banging away at the keys. It certainly disturbs the serenity of Shabbat. Am I obligated to take it away from him? Am I even allowed to handle a noise-making toy myself on Shabbat? (If I can’t, it makes it much more difficult to take it away from my son.) What do you recommend?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

There are actually several relevant issues here. But clearly, the ideal choice is to hide away such noisemakers before Shabbat so your child will not find them in the first place. This is what we attempt to do in the Rosenfeld household but often forget in the pre-Shabbat rush.

Now, if the situation does occur, there are a few relevant rules.

The first question is, does one have to stop his child from playing with such a toy? In your situation, the answer is no. Why not? Because of the following distinction. It is generally forbidden to cause another person to sin, even a baby (e.g. by feeding him non-kosher baby food) (Shulchan Aruch 343:1, Mishnah Berurah 4).

Here, however, your son took the toy on his own. Do you have to stop him? It depends on his age. There is an obligation on parents to instruct their children in observing the Torah’s commandments – and to stop them from transgressing a commandment. This obligation is known as chinuch, or “training.” However, it only begins when a child is old enough to appreciate that an act is truly the wrong thing to do, not just that he’ll obey your command not to do it. This is considered to begin at about 4 years of age (Mishnah Berurah 343:3, Children In Halacha, Ch. 1 II:B).

At 2, your son is below this age. It is certainly a nice idea to train him in correct behavior younger, and no doubt it will make your Shabbat more peaceful. Technically, however, you are not obligated to stop him. Thus, if you feel it’s not worth the scene trying to get his favorite toy away from him, you are not obligated.

The second issue you raised is known as muktzah – the restriction not to handle items which are not usable on Shabbat, such as money or a pencil, for fear you’ll unwittingly use them. This law extends to musical instruments as the Sages forbade playing music or using noisemakers on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch & Rema 338:1).

If so, are you allowed to handle your child’s musical toy to take it away from him?

The answer to this is yes. The reason is because muktzah literally means “set aside” – something which is set aside on the Shabbat, not to be handled. Here, however, since your son is allowed to use his toy, it is not set aside (see Shulchan Aruch 308:52). Thus, you would be able to take it away from your child – or even better, take it away before he gets it.

One final important condition. Some musical toys cannot be lifted without inadvertently making music or noise. Such toys may not be moved on Shabbat since it is forbidden to use noisemakers on Shabbat.