Question: Why is the bracha on a banana ha’adama when in non-snowy countries it’s not seasonal but grows all year?
Answer: In Orah Hayim 203:3 we find that the mu’azish (bananas are from the the genus musa) are considered a food on which the blessing should be ha’adama because they do not grow on the types of trees that our sages recognized, trees that have permanent, wooden sections that give fruit on an annual basis.
Question: Someone said modern-day Israel or its wars can’t prove anything with regards to the geula or moshiach because moshiach has to come first, so this doesn’t count towards our redemption. Does Rambam say it has to be in the order of first the messiah, then war, then Jews in Israel, or could this be the start?
Answer: See what I wrote about this some years ago here. The short version: Maimonides (Laws of Kings and their Wars, 12:2) writes
There are some Sages who say that Elijah’s coming will precede the coming of the Messiah. All these [the War of Gog and Magog, and Elijah’s future ministry mentioned in the previous law] and similar matters cannot be definitely known by man until they occur, for these matters are undefined in the prophets’ words and even the wise men have no established tradition regarding these matters except their own interpretation of the verses. Therefore, there is a controversy among them regarding these matters.
Regardless of the debate concerning these questions, neither the order of the occurrence of these events or their precise detail are among the fundamental principles of the faith. A person should not occupy himself with the Aggadot and homiletics concerning these and similar matters, nor should he consider them as essentials, for study of them will neither bring fear or love of God.
We see that Maimonides himself did not declare that the events of the Redemption have to occur in a specific order, unlike the views of the Satmar Rebbe, R’ Shach, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and others who opposed the Zionist movement and the founding of the State of Israel precisely because they preceded the advent of the Messiah. More so, we have been made witness to the ingathering of the exiles happening first, and it could very well be that the Temple will be rebuilt before he appears. I personally do not care about the order, but pray that all come about as soon as possible.
Question: The Chassidim say the Maggid paskened they can daven after chatsot is that lechatchila or bediavad?
Answer: The halacha as brought by the R’ma in Orah Hayim 89 is that it is forbidden to pray the morning service after noon, while the unstated opinion in disagreement would feel that shaharith in the afternoon would not count as anything. See the details here. Think about it. If one prays after noon, that’s minha, not shaharith. Real hasidim pray the morning service at sunrise.
Question: Can you lechatchila daven maariv early before sunset like Shabbat then say Shema and Omer later that night?
Answer: It seems that Maimonides would only allow such on Fridays and Sabbaths, but others allow it everyday. Maimonides would point to the Talmudic teaching that sages would pray maariv early on Fridays and then recite qiddush and eat their meals, while on Sabbaths they would recite ma’ariv and havdala early (but not perform forbidden labor until nightfall), while the others would say that the novelty of those teachings is that while one can technically recite ma’ariv early every day of the week, on Fridays and Sabbaths reciting ma’ariv early allows one to then recite qiddush or havdala early. That is, one could not accept the Sabbath early and recite qiddush without first reciting his evening prayers. This latter opinion is that of the Shulhan Aruch and the Mishna B’rura, and the one that old folks and those who live in extreme latitudes rely on during the summer when they gather for evening services before sunset.