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Hope and Joy during Wartime

The most reasonable solution for Gaza is encouraging the emigration of the residents outside the country’s borders * There is room for joy in private matters even during this time, as long as we continue to remember alongside this our soldiers who are fighting, and the fallen and kidnapped * A woman who marries a husband from a different ethnic community should only change her customs regarding practices that were clear in his home; for the rest of the laws, they should follow the simple halachic principles, and not adhere strictly to the ethnic community’s customs mentioned in books

In these days of war, when hearing about more holy soldiers who gave their lives to protect the nation and land, or were severely injured, a painful feeling of gloom and frustration arises. Why aren’t we managing to defeat Hamas? (They prepared for war against us much better than the security establishment estimated). Why did the IDF leaders fall asleep on guard, and why did they prefer containment, instead of a severe attack one hundredfold on any provocation? (There was a mistaken perception regarding the enemy’s intentions). Why did the political leadership fail in decisions regarding the withdrawal from Sinai, the Oslo Accords, establishing the terror authority in Judea and Samaria, the withdrawal from Lebanon, and the withdrawal from Gush Katif? (Overall weakness in fulfilling the national vision of settling the Land, and standing up to the enemy).

However, from this week’s Torah portion we can find a direction of consolation. We learned that sometimes the process lengthens, and at certain stages, it seems as if the situation is becoming worse; indeed, Pharaoh intensified the enslavement, but in the end, it turns out that this too was for the better, because as a result of this, the Egyptians received more severe plagues, and God and Israel’s honor in the world, increased.


Ultimately, the reasonable solution for the war between us and the Arabs is expulsion of the Arab enemy from the entire Land of Israel. Without this, we will need to continue fighting them again and again, killing thousands and tens of thousands, and sacrificing precious victims.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, internal and external, we have difficulty encouraging emigration of Arabs who want to destroy the State of Israel, and rewarding those who want the Jewish state’s wellbeing. The longer the war continues, the Gaza Strip will become a more difficult place to live in, and it will take many years to recover. This situation can encourage the emigration of many Arabs who have received an evil education to hate Israel, and were trained to devote the majority of their efforts to war against us. We must act so that the political and security leadership will always prefer to destroy the enemy’s houses and not endanger our soldiers, and remember that the more devastated Gaza is, the more security we will have – and not hinder this goal by hasty discussions about “the day after”. Discussions, that as long as they are not aimed at encouraging emigration of our Arab enemies, are likely to produce hasty failed “solutions”, similar to the previous “solutions”.

Small Joys during Wartime

Question from a youth: Is it proper to be happy during such a time of war and tension and worry for our soldiers? For example, I passed a driving test yesterday. Can I be happy about this, or do I need to restrain happiness in solidarity with the soldiers and mourning families?

A: Regarding questions like these our Sages said “A wise question, is half the answer”. The very posing of the question already points to the solution, for if one is happy while forgetting the soldiers and mourners, then this is indeed problematic happiness, which ignores the challenges and difficulties. But when one remembers the great challenges ahead of us, identifies with the sorrow of the mourners for the holy ones who gave their lives to protect the nation and land, and prays for the soldiers, then one can be happy.

In addition, intend that with the driver’s license you will do good deeds, help parents and grandparents, volunteer to drive those who need it, drive on straight paths, and of course, observe all safety rules.

Blessing “Shehecheyanu” for Passing a Driving Test

It is worth mentioning here that our Sages enacted blessing “Shehecheyanu” (a common Jewish blessing to celebrate special occasions) when receiving good news, and this includes one who was notified that he passed a driving test, or received a high grade on a psychometric exam or another important test – if one is very happy about this, he should bless “Shehecheyanu“. And similarly, one who was accepted to a job he wanted, and is happy about this – should bless “Shehecheyanu” (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 17: 8).

Ethnic Customs between Spouses

In a state of war, the great value of Jewish unity is revealed, and here is a question arising from the blessed process of ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’, which is the foundation of unity.

Q: “Rabbi, I will first take this opportunity to thank you for the ‘Peninei Halakha’ books that gave me an entrance to the world of halakha, and learn it in a clear and joyous manner. I will be marrying my beloved in another five months. I come from a family that immigrated from Ashkenaz, and my future bride is from Eastern ethnic communities. I wanted to know if my fiancé needs to change all of her minhagim (customs) and follow Ashkenazic halakhic rulings in an absolute manner, or are there certain things, she can remain with the customs she had at home? And if so, in which situations?

I would also appreciate knowing if there is a centralized place where I can learn all of the laws that have differences between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, according to your rulings.

I will specify questions that have arisen so far:

  1. When we are guests at their home for Passover, can I eat kitniyot (legumes), or at least can my fiancé eat them?
  2. Are we allowed to eat at her parents’ home on glass dishes, which they use for both dairy and meat?
  3. Does my fiancé need to receive bridal counseling adapted for Ashkenazi women?
  4. I saw that in ‘Peninei Halakha’ you wrote that the woman needs to change her prayer nusach (version) by the time her children reach education age. Is this a recommendation, or an obligation, to change the nusach?


In general, the differences between customs are not great, and mainly relate to nusach of prayer. And in halakha, besides the differences not being great, almost always the differences are not between all Ashkenazim, and all Sephardim, but rather, between the majority of Ashkenazim, and a minority of Sephardim, and between the majority of Sephardim, and a minority of Ashkenazim. Therefore, you will not find books that orders the differences between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, because the topic is fundamentally not orderly, and much more detailed than the general division of Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Therefore, my approach is that in customs known to all from what was seen at ones father’s home, it is proper to continue acting in accordance with that custom. And regarding what is not known unless written in books, it is proper to act according to the general halakhic principles, such as safeika d’orita le’chumra (when a person has a doubt on a Biblical command, then we are stringent) and d’Rabanan le’kula (Rabbinic law, we are lenient); halakha follows the majority opinion, and similar principles, as explained in ‘Peninei Halakha’.

Kashrut and Legumes

And from here, to the questions themselves. The Rashbatz (Responsa Tashbetz 3:179) wrote that it is obvious, without any doubt, that it is impossible for a couple to regularly eat at the same table, when some foods are permitted for one, and forbidden for the other. Therefore, a woman needs to follow her husband’s customs, since, according to halakha, ishto k’gufo (one’s wife is like his own body). And as we have learned that when a Jewish woman marries a Kohen, she has the law of a kohenet and eats terumah, and a Kohen’s daughter who married a regular Jew, has the law of a regular Jewess, forbidden from eating terumah.

According to this, a woman from Ashkenazi descendants who married a Sephardic man, eats kitniyot on Passover, and a woman from Sephardic descendants who married an Ashkenazi man, does not eat kitniyot on Passover. However, if they are at her parents’ home, and she strongly wishes to eat kitniyot with them, in the first years of their marriage, she can eat them. This is because minhag ha’makom (the local custom) also carries weight, and since she was already accustomed to doing so at their home, she can continue her previous custom of eating with them. But as their children grow older, she should refrain from doing so even at her parents’ home, so as not to confuse the children.

Glass Utensils for Meat and Dairy According to Sephardic Customs

Indeed according to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 451:26), it is permitted to use glass utensils for dairy and meat with washing in between, and many have ruled this way in practice (Prishah, Sdei Chemed, Yabi’a Omer vol. 4, Yoreh De’ah 5; Nitivei Am, Shemesh U’Magen), while the Rema was strict. However, even among Sephardic poskim, there were those who tended to be strict (Kenesset HaGedolah, Olat Zophim, Rabbi Chaim David Halevi), and apparently, in practice, they did not have the custom to be lenient about this. On the other hand, even among Ashkenazi poskim, there were those who were lenient about this (She’elat Ya’avetz, Chamudei Daniel, Yad Yehuda).

In practice, it is preferable even for Sephardim not to eat meat and dairy foods using the same glass dishes, since this kula (leniency) contradicts the other accepted separation practices among Jews. However, one whose family custom follows the lenient opinion, may of course continue their custom (see, all of this, in ‘Peninei Halakha: Kashrut’ 32:5, 4).

When Ashkenazim are guests at Sephardim who have the custom to eat meat and dairy in the same glass dishes, they can eat in their dishes without any concern, since it is absolutely clear that there is no intermixing of meat and dairy flavors. All the more, a groom should act this way when he is a guest at his wife’s parents’ home.

Bridal Counseling

Your fiancé can receive counseling from any bridal counselor, since the differences between ethnic community customs are small. The most important thing is that the counselor is good, explains the mitzvah of conjugal happiness well, and does not confuse chumrot (stringencies) with halakhot.

Regarding the letter of the law, even though you follow Ashkenazi customs, it is proper for both of you that your fiancé continue the custom of the Shulchan Aruch, who is lenient regarding waiting days, before starting the seven clean days. Incidentally, as with all disputes, this is not a dispute between Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs, since even among Sephardim, there were those poskim who were stricter than Ashkenazim; rather, there was a dispute between Shulchan Aruch, and Rema. And since Shulchan Aruch ruled according to the majority opinion of the vast majority of Rishonim (early authorities), and the stringency here undermines the mitzvah of conjugal duty, it is proper that your wife continue the custom of her family (see, ‘Peninei Halakha: Taharat Ha’Mishpacha 4:7).

Changing Prayer Nusach

A woman who marries a husband from a different ethnic community, has the law of one who moves to live in a place where everyone practices differently than what she was used to, that since she intends to live there permanently, she must nullify her previous customs, and practice according to the custom of the people of her new place (based on Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 214:2; Orach Chaim 568:4, Mishnah Berurah 14). And similarly regarding nusach of prayer, it is proper for the woman to pray and bless according to her husband’s nusach, so there will not be two different nusach’s in the same home.

However if this does not bother her husband, and it is difficult for her to switch to his nusach, regarding what she prays silently – she can continue praying in the nusach of her father’s home.

And when their children reach education age, she must educate them to pray and bless according to her husband’s nusach. Therefore, even if her husband agreed for her to continue praying and blessing in the nusach she was used to, when their children reach education age, it is good for her to switch to her husband’s nusach, so it will be easier for her to educate them in prayer and blessings (‘Peninei Halakha: Women’s Prayer 24:4). However, sometimes, for Birkat Hamazon, since it is easy to teach the children to bless using the Ashkenazi nusach tune, in many homes, the husband also agrees for them to bless using the Ashkenazi nusach.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

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