Journal

Halakha and Custom

by R. Chaim Navon As is well known, Halakha attaches great significance to custom. Many halakhic authorities regard general custom as a crucial factor when they come to decide Halakha. In this lecture, we shall investigate the source of the legal authority of custom. Why are we obligated to follow custom? Jewish customs were certainly not given at Sinai, as ...

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Non-Kosher Waiter

  by R. Daniel Mann Question: Is it permitted for a religious Jew to work (e.g., as a waiter) in a non-kosher restaurant or café where most of the food is not kosher? Answer: The question is general(/theoretical?), so we will not ask clarifying questions. The issue of providing non-kosher food for Jewish customers is beyond our scope. Most non-kosher foods ...

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Not Mourning During the Three Weeks

by R. Gidon Rothstein With the advent of the Three Weeks, we enter one of those times of the Jewish calendar where ritual outstrips emotion, where our ma’aseh hamitzvah, the actions of observance, as R. Soloveitchik, zt”l might have said, are more fully achieved than the kiyyum, the internal experience those actions intended to produce. The time between Shivah Asar ...

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The Impact of Hukkim on Religious Discourse

by R. David Silverstein Parshat Hukkat begins with a detailed description of the purification ritual known as the “parah adumah” (red heifer).  The purpose of this procedure is to purify someone who has become ritually contaminated by coming in contact with a human corpse. Among the many mysterious features of this legislation is the fact that the priest who performs the ...

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Torah Study and the Integration of Religious Values

by Nachum Klafter, MD I write a monthly essay for the Nefesh International Association of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals. This is my contribution from March 2015. When we study Torah, we internalize religious values and beliefs, primarily, through their association with our internal images of the religious leaders whose teachings are put forth in the texts we are studying. In ...

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Korach and His Following

by R. Mosheh Lichtenstein Korach’s rebellion marks the end of the chapter of Benei Yisrael’s sojourn in the wilderness that we have discussed over these last several weeks. At first glance, no connection seems to exist between Korach’s personal-ideological struggle against Moshe and the sin of the scouts. Korach wages a battle that flows from jealousy, desire and honor, which, ...

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Authority and Its Meaning

by R. Tzvi Spitz One point in the discussion of women’s ordination has been the definition of authority (serarah), which according to most halakhic authorities (with a notable exception) is forbidden to women. The definition of authority has suffered from ambiguity. Far from the heat of this topic, contemporary scholar R. Tzvi Spitz offers a clear and useful definition in ...

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Stealing by Accident?

by R. Daniel Mann Question: If one accidentally took and used a friend’s similar coat, is he considered a ganav (thief)? Is he obligated to pay kefel (double)? Must he pay the owner if something happens to it (onsin)? [The querier then presented sources he found about geneiva b’shogeg (unintentional theft).] How can there be geneiva b’shogeg considering one needs ...

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What Does the Duchan Have to do with Birkas Kohanim?

by R. Akiva Males1 A highlight of Tefilah B’Tzibur occurs when the Kohanim bless all who are present. These blessings are known as Birkas Kohanim, and their source can be found in Bamidbar 6:22-27. While congregations in Israel are blessed by their Kohanim on a regular basis, Ashkenazic Jewish communities in Chutz La’aretz only experience Birkas Kohanim in that fashion ...

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