Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi #98

Become a Supporter Library Library

Ask the Rabbi

2 March 1996; Issue #98

  • A Pointed Question
  • 'Two Yuds' - a Second Look
  • Answer to Yiddle Riddle
  • Subscription Information
  • Back issues are indexed both by issue no. and by subject
  • Ohr Somayach Home Page

  • A Pointed Question


    Binyomin S Altman wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    There is a custom to remove a knife from the table before Birkat Hamazon (Blessing after Meals). Does this include plastic knives?

    Dear Binyomin,

    There are two main reasons for removing the knife prior to Birkat Hamazon. One is based on the following incident: A person was once reciting Birkat Hamazon when he came to the third blessing, the blessing in which we ask Hashem to rebuild Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. He became so distraught at the thought of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile, he picked up the knife and stabbed himself.

    The custom to remove the knife was patterned after this incident. Since it occurred during the week, the custom applies only during the week, but not on Shabbat. In the same vein (no pun intended), the custom wouldn't apply to plastic knives, since the incident didn't involve a plastic knife, and since plastic knives aren't 'lethal' in the classic sense.

    Another reason for removing the knife: A table is compared to the Altar in the Holy Temple. Just as it is forbidden to use any iron utensil when hewing the stones for the Altar, so too, we remove any metal knives prior to Birkat Hamazon.

    I asked Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, shlita, who concurred that you need not remove plastic knives before Birkat Hamazon.


    • Shulchan Aruch 180:5
    • Aruch Hashulchan 180:5
    • Rokeach 332

    'Two Yuds' - a Second Look


    Shelly Zeitlin wrote:

    You wrote recently about the reason for using two Yuds as a substitute for writing the Name of Hashem. I've heard (no doubt from Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss of Staten Island) the following reason: Yud is the only purely 'spiritual' letter, i.e., it is written entirely above the line. Two 'Yids' (Jews) together, side by side -- both spiritually engaged, experience the presence of Hashem. [This idea is expressed in the verse "Love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem (Leviticus 19:18)." When there is love and respect between two people, Hashem's presence can be felt. - T.R.]

    Binyamin Yaakov Schwartz wrote:

    I heard not long ago a different reason from my father in Boca Raton, Florida. He told me that the siddurim used to abbreviate Hashem's Name by putting two yuds together, with a small letter 'vav' lying horizontally on top. The reason was that the numerical value of two yuds plus one vav equals 26, which is the same as the numerical value of the Name of Hashem.


    • See Melamed Hatalmidim L'Rabeinu Yaakov Antoly, p.118

    Answer to Yiddle Riddle


    Last week we asked: Which mitzvah is done on Wednesday or Thursday only?
    (Thanks to Joel Eisenman for the question)

    Answer: Eruv Tavshilin. On Yom Tov (festival) it is permitted to cook and prepare food; but only food cooked in honor of Yom Tov itself. Preparing for the weekday is forbidden. What happens when Yom Tov falls on Friday? How are you able to prepare for Shabbat?

    The answer: Eruv Tavshilin. The Sages enacted Eruv Tavshilin as a way of beginning Shabbat preparations Thursday, thus allowing you to continue preparing on Yom Tov itself. Essentially, Eruv Tavshilin means setting aside two food items -- one baked and one boiled -- in preparation for Shabbat. When a two-day Yom Tov falls on Thursday and Friday, the Eruv Tavshilin is set aside on Wednesday.


    • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 527:1,2

    • Written by Rabbi Moshe Lazerus, Rabbi Benzion Bamberger, Rabbi Reuven Subar, Rabbi Avrohom Lefkowitz and other Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.
    • General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    • Production Design: Lev Seltzer
    • HTMIL Design: Michael Treblow

    © 1995 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.

    This publication is available via E-Mail
    Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students. The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.
    Copyright © 1995 Ohr Somayach International. Send us Feedback.
    Dedication opportunities are available for Ask The Rabbi. Please contact us for details.
    Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.