"Rabbi Alnekaveh told a story he heard once from an etrog-seller who used to bring Rav Eliyahu etrogim to check: "It is well-known that Rab Eliyahu could look at an etrog for mere seconds and immediately discern its advantages and defects..."
Who is Obliged, and Who is Exempt from Chanukah Candles
Fulfilling the Mitzvah in the following cases, according to the Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs: lighting in the Synagogue, travelers, women, single and married children living at home and away from home, Yeshiva students, soldiers, roommates, mourners, and blind persons.
If a sukkah is built so poorly that it is not possible to sleep in it, some authorities hold that it is not kosher and that one may not even eat in it. However, in practice, we do not follow this view, and such a sukkah is nonetheless kosher.
The practice of reading the weekly Torah portion twice in the original Hebrew and once in the Aramaic Targum is not mere good advice, and it is certainly more than just a remedy for good fortune. Rather, it is an obligation that applies to every Jew.
Iyar 14 is the Hilulah (death anniversary) of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes. Tradition has it that Rabbi Meir asked to be buried in an upright position so that, when the Messiah comes and the dead are resurrected, he be able to run to greet him with no delay.
The custom is to eat fruits on both the evening and day of Tu Bishvat, and people try to give preference to those fruits for which the land of Israel is famous. Furthermore, it is preferable to eat fruits that were grown in the land of Israel.
A person should always familiarize himself with an uncommon prayer before beginning to recite it. Therefore, before Maariv (the evening prayer) on 7 Marcheshvan, one should familiarize himself with the "Barech Alenu" prayer, or read it through.
The day before Rosh Hashanah is the last day of the year, and it is the last opportunity to repent before the Day of Judgment. It is a day of reflection on the year gone by, and a day of preparation for the coming year.
The first two forty-day periods of prayer were of no avail, and it was only after an additional forty days that God said to Moses "I have forgiven according to your request." Therefore, we recite selichot during this same last period of forty days.
Though God accepts the repentance of his children all year long, the forty days between Rosh Chodesh (New Month) Elul and Yom Kippur are more suited for repentance than any other period of the year, for they are days of Divine mercy and favor.
The Talmud says, “Where it is the custom to do work on the ninth of Av, one may work; where it is the custom not to do work, one may not do work.” However, whoever does work on the Ninth of Av will not see a sign of blessing from that work.
If, during the Three Weeks, a person accidentally blessed "boreh pri ha'etz" over a new fruit, some authorities hold that the fruit should not be eaten. Others hold that pronouncing God's name in vain is a greater offense than eating the new fruit.
Even a person who has many servants should try to prepare personally something for the Sabbath. R' Chisda would mince vegetables; Rabbah and R' Yosef would chop wood. Every person should make them his example, for honoring the Sabbath is a privilege.
Some people have certain prayer customs on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur which are not accurate according to Jewish law. All the same, a person should not hastily renounce a custom which has be handed down from generation to generation.
One should not use fast days for leisure or for field trips. One should even refrain from performing permissible acts such as showering or cutting one's hair. If a person spends the fast indifferently, he has not properly fulfilled his obligation.
When buying oil for Chanukah, one should not say, “This oil is for Chanukah,” for some authorities hold that by making such a statement one dedicates all of the oil for Chanukah candles alone, including that which remains in the bottle after Chanukah.
When the month of Av arrives, rejoicing should be minimized. A Jew must therefore avoid undertaking construction projects from which pleasure will be derived. Also, transactions should be minimized and one must refrain from consuming meat and wine.
The people of Bombay inquire of Ben Ish Chai as to whether or not there is a possible violation of Jewish law in the fact that non-Jewish servants bring chametz into the homes of their Jewish employees and eat there in the privacy of their own rooms.
Celebrating During the Counting of the Omer Period
Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of pupils spread out all over the country from Gevat to Antipatros and they all died during the period from Passover to Shavuot because they did not treat each other with respect and the world was desolate.