Question: How should a person perform Kiddush L’vanah when in quarantine in his house, such as in Israel when the quarantine is strictly enforced?
Short Answer: Ideally, one should perform Kiddush L’vanah on his porch if he cannot leave his house. If that is not an option, he may recite Kiddush L’vanah from inside his house, preferably by an open window or door where he can see the moon directly.
I. Under a Roof
The first issue to address is whether Kiddush L’vanah may be performed under a roof or awning, such as in a house. The Darchei Moshe (Orach Chayim 426:3) cites the Hagahos Ilfasi, who rules that one should not recite Kiddush L’vanah under a roof. The Hagahos Ilfasi adds that he does not know the reason for this rule. The Rama (Orach Chayim 426:4) codifies this rule, but also does not explain the reason for this rule.
[As an aside, Rav Chaim Kanievsky (as cited in sefer Mili D’Maalyusa, p. 110) rules that the entire rule only refers to the brachah in Kiddush L’vanah; the remainder of the t’filah may be recited anywhere. As a second aside, an article in the Journal HaMaor (61:1, 5768, p. 99) suggests that perhaps this is why we aren’t m’kadeish the l’vanah on Shabbos, because we are afraid people will carry their siddurim outside without an eiruv].
Nevertheless, numerous Acharonim suggest reasons for this rule. The Magen Avraham (14) cites the Bach, who explains that Kiddush L’vanah must be performed in a “makom tahor,” in a place free of tum’ah. Since a roof functions as an “ohel” to transmit tum’ah to those standing under it where there is a dead body underneath, as well, one may not stand under a roof (or in a house) for Kiddush L’vanah. See also Matei Moshe (537).
Notably, the Igros Moshe (Orach Chayim 1:144) is troubled by this reason. Why should Kiddush L’vanah be more stringent than other mitzvos that can be performed in a house even at the risk of tum’ah? Moreover, our houses are likely tum’ah-free, as we allow kohanim to enter buildings unless we know for sure that there is a dead body inside.
The Magen Avraham, however, also cites a second reason in the name of the Maharil. Since we are “m’kabeil p’nei Sh’chinah” (greet Hashem’s “Presence”) via Kiddush L’vanah, it is proper to go out of the house to greet it, as one greets his rebbe or a king.
The Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayim 426:21) only cites the latter reason, that we leave the house to greet the Sh’chinah. However, he adds that this rule is only a l’chatchilah; but if someone must remain in his house for whatever reason, then it is fine to perform Kiddush L’vanah from inside the house. In such a situation, the person should recite Kiddush L’vanah at the window or the doorway. The Shaar HaTziyon comments that although it is much preferable to open the window, if that is not possible, the person may even recite Kiddush L’vanah through the closed window, as long as he is able to see the shine of the moon itself, and not simply a reflection of the light.
It would thus appear that a person in quarantine and who may not leave his house may recite Kiddush L’vanah from inside his house, as long as he can view the light of the moon. This should preferably be done with the window or door open.
II. Under a Porch
The sefer Orchos Rabbeinu (Vol. 1, p. 326-27) relates that the Steipler and Chazon Ish used to recite Kiddush L’vanah from an enclosed porch (with a roof) in the later years of their lives. The author suggests that they did so based on the reason cited in the Mishnah B’rurah, that one must leave the house to greet the Sh’chinah. Since the porch area is outside of the house, the Steipler and Chazon Ish fulfilled the goal of this rule. Nevertheless, the Orchos Rabbeinu subsequently relates that Rav Chaim Kanievsky reportedly explained that his father (the Steipler) only recited Kiddush L’vanah on the porch because he was weak and elderly. Accordingly, these stories do not teach us anything regarding whether one may say Kiddush L’vanah from the porch l’chatchilah (ideally).
The Chayei HaLevi (3:38), however, does suggest that only according to the reason of tum’ah must the person actually recite Kiddush L’vanah under the open skies. According to the reason about greeting the Sh’chinah, there is no problem about reciting Kiddush L’vanah under a porch overhang, especially if there is an overflow crowd causing him to stand there (thus, showing greater honor for the Sh’chinah). He concludes though that it is better to be machmir and recite it under the open skies.
III. Under a Tree or Umbrella
The Ishei Yisrael (40:7:16) cites the Yaskil Avdi who wonders whether one may recite Kiddush L’vanah under a tree. He concludes that it is permitted, even l’chatchilah. According to the reason of greeting the Sh’chinah, it should certainly be permitted, as the person is outside. Even according to the reason about not contracting tum’ah, it is also permitted, as the possibility of a dead body being buried under the tree is remote, and even if there was such a body, such tum’ah is arguably only rabbinic in nature. Accordingly, one may also recite Kiddush L’vanah under an umbrella.
However, the Riv’vos Ephraim (Journal Noam, Vol. 12, p. 106) cites numerous contemporary g’dolim who debated this issue, mainly whether one should be concerned for tum’ah under a tree less than a house, and concludes that one should be scrupulous if possible and ideally recite Kiddush L’vanah under the open skies. He also addresses his rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein’s question (see above) why this mitzvah is unique that it requires purity. He suggests that since Kiddush L’vanah must be performed with happiness and dancing (hence, the minhag to sing Tovim M’oros and dance afterwards), it must also be performed with purity. This is similar to the idea of holding a chupah under the open skies, as a marriage is also a happy occasion demanding purity.
The Riv’vos Ephraim also suggests a novel explanation for the minhag to recite Kiddush L’vanah outside. Avraham Avinu was “yotzei ha’chutzah” (taken outside) for the Bris Bein HaB’sarim; he was removed above the world (see Rashi on the pasuk) and shown the stars, thereby separating him from earthly pleasures and restraints. So, too, for Kiddush L’vanah, we are “taken outside” and removed from earthly pleasures and restraints, and thus we go outside our houses to symbolize this transformation. This explains our minhag to subsequently recite Aleinu, which highlights that we only pray to Hashem. Since we saw the stars “up close,” we want to emphasize that we only pray to Hashem and not his celestial creations. [Indeed, the Biur Halachah (426:2) alludes to a similar reasoning.]
Next Week’s Topic: May someone who watches a wedding on Zoom or livestream count as the “panim chadashos” for an in-person sheva brachos later in the week?