today's sheet is not intended as psak halacha, it was not
shown to R' Sternbuch, shlita
My dear brother, Rav Rafael Ostroff, spent the last week in
Lebanon fighting the war against Yishmael, whose only desire
is to obliterate the Jewish people. They were in a town in
Lebanon called Maroon Aras and spent Shabbos in a bombed out
house, which acted as some sort of shelter. Mortars and
missiles whizzed non stop all around them and amidst the
battle they set the Shabbos table. Everyone enthusiastically
joined in the Shabbos preparations, including soldiers with
non-religious backgrounds. They ALL joined in kabolas
Shabbos and davening and sang z’miros Shabbos,
accompanied by the shrieking missiles and shelling.
The day after Shabbos his unit was sent back into Israel for
one day’s leave at a border village called Avivim, in order
to shower and do some of the things we take for granted
every day. There he sat down and wrote the following
questions he and his troops had had to deal with.
To show that amidst all the havoc, Am Yisrael chai v’kayam,
we present the following.
1) We were not provided
with candles for Shabbos so we improvised.
The lid of a large tin can was bent into the shape of a
container into which we poured tuna fish oil for fuel. For
wicks we used utah (flax-like material). Our problem was
that the Mishna and halacha
says that one may not use fish oil for Shabbos candles, but
upon closer inspection we saw that the fish oil that is
prohibited is made from fish intestines.
The Mishna Berura writes
that oil extracted from fish flesh may be used and is
categorized with other oils that are permitted for Shabbos
2) We did not know whether to
accept Shabbos early or not.
The problem was that we did not have any light and eating the
Shabbos meal at the regular time would mean eating in the
dark. Our option was to accept Shabbos early, which is not
really a problem under the circumstances, only that we were
‘violating’ Shabbos for pikuach nefesh - operating
the 2-way radio and other devices.
Halacha says it is preferable to eat with light than have wine for kiddush,
which was the decisive factor for us in accepting Shabbos
For clarity sake, we davened mincha before p’lag
hamincha (an hour and a quarter before sunset) and
ma’ariv after p’lag and made kiddush right
In retrospect, I suppose we could have organized more candle
light and accept Shabbos at the regular time.
3) We were in a quandary as for
the prayer “magen avos” cited in ma’ariv.
The Shulchan Aruch says
that ‘magen avos’
is not recited in a house where people gather to celebrate a
wedding or in a house of mourning. The reason this
tefilla is recited is because in the time of the
gemora, shuls were outside town, and since davening
is brief, people might remain alone in shul and be in
danger. Chazal therefore added this brief prayer to
give time for everyone to conclude davening. Consequently
this rule only applies to permanent minyanim, not sporadic
places of prayer.
The wedding entourage is not permanent, nor is the mourner’s,
which negates the need for this extra prayer.
Our brief sojourn in Maroon Aras is B”H not permanent
either, thereby discharging us from this tefilla.
It is noteworthy that some Sephardim have the custom to
always recite this tefilla.
4) We did not posses any cups and
didn’t have a clue how to make kiddush.
Some of us suggested cutting a plastic coke bottle in half
and filling it with grape juice. Firstly, cutting it on
Shabbos probably involves a melacha d’oraisso of
making a k’li. We see that one may not make a hole in a
barrel on Shabbos, even in a semi-permanent k’li.
So obviously we would cut it before Shabbos.
The second problem is that our new container is hardly a
worthy k’li, surely one not fit l’chatchila
for making kiddush. Under the circumstances it is
also kosher, but we wanted to be stringent and do the best
possible. Rav Moshe Feinstein writes
that one should not use a disposable cup for kiddush.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was
not so adamant and says that since distinguished people use
them at important functions, one need not be too particular
if nothing else is available. Again, we tried to be
solution would have been to make kiddush on the grape
juice bottle itself, or perhaps to fill one of our water
canteens. l’chatchila the vessel needs to be fill to
the top, so we would have filled the bottle with grape juice
from another bottle. Maybe next time – should there be one.
We had a unique Shabbos table
– a door ripped from its hinges and placed on bricks. The
bare concrete floor was our throne.
We were not sure whether it is permitted to place the board
on the bricks on Shabbos. For our fantastic Shabbos meal
(consisting of fried meat loaf, instead of festive roast
chicken, corn salad instead of coleslaw) we needed a table
so the door seemed the best solution. Prying it from its
hinges on Shabbos is ossur on account of s’tira –
demolishing, so that was done before Shabbos, but we only
erected it on Shabbos and the issue of ohel – making a tent
The halacha is that one may erect a table tennis table
on Shabbos in the regular manner, i.e. positioning the legs
and placing the board on top, because one does not use the
A bed may not be made in the same fashion because one uses
the underside to store shoes.
Accordingly, the table could be erected on Shabbos.
6) The entire floor was full of
rubble and stones and we were at a loss how to move them
because of muktze.
Although we could designate large bricks (blokkim) for
the table and perhaps benches, we could not designate stones
and pebbles to make them a k’li, which without doing
so they remain muktze.
Imagine lying down on the floor in your sleeping bag and
stones are poking at your sides and head. Our option was to
move the stones with one’s foot etc. which is permitted
according to the Mishna Berura.
May Hashem answer our prayers and bring our captives
and soldiers home safely.