Author Archives: Yaakov Hoffman

Yaakov Hoffman is the rabbi of Washington Heights Congregation and a member of the Kollel L’Horaah of RIETS. He has had a lifelong interest in the history of halacha and is a practicing sofer. He can be reached at [email protected]

Dueling Seudot: Purim vs. Shabbat

by R. Yaakov Hoffman When Purim falls on Friday, Purim and Shabbat are at cross purposes. On the one hand, one is supposed to have a large and festive seudah in honor of Purim. On the other hand, this meal could potentially spoil one’s appetite for the evening’s Shabbat meal. How should one balance these two considerations? Based on the ...

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Yes, the Talmud Does Suggest Drinking on Purim

by R. Yaakov Hoffman Last year, Rabbi Asher Bush lamented the fact that many in the Jewish community ignore admonitions not to get drunk on Purim. He noted, accurately, that people view such directives as merely being “[p]olitically [c]orrect” and “apologetics” rather than genuine halachic guidance. Unfortunately, Jewish leaders have not done much to counter this perception. In their admirable ...

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Mourner’s Kaddish: Quality or Quantity?

by R. Yaakov Hoffman Since reciting Kaddish is a concrete way of honoring a departed loved one, mourners are understandably anxious to do so at every possible opportunity. In most Ashkenazic congregations, mourners say Kaddish four times during Shacharit: after Korbanot, after Mizmor Shir Chanukat Ha-Bayit, after Aleinu, and after Shir Shel Yom. Many become upset if they miss even ...

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LGBT and Halakha: The Role of Intellectual Humility

By R. Yaakov Hoffman While the condemnations of Prof. Aaron Koller’s On Halakha and LGBT have correctly critiqued his theological conclusions, they have not gone far enough in demonstrating the flaws in his line of thinking.[1]See the essays of Rabbi Gil Student, Rabbi Harry Maryles, and Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer. To avoid any misimpression, I will state from the outset that ...

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Jewelry on Shabbat: Pretty or Prohibited?

by R. Yaakov Hoffman Many women would be aghast at the idea of omitting jewelry from their Shabbat wardrobe. It may thus come as a surprise that the Talmud unequivocally forbids women from wearing jewelry on Shabbat.[1]According to most authorities, it is permissible for a man to wear masculine jewelry. Some, however, recommend that a man be stringent and refrain ...

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Early Shabbat Services: Plag or 7:00?

by R. Yaakov Hoffman During the summer, many wish to eat the Shabbat evening meal well before dark. To accommodate them, many shuls offer early Friday evening services. Some daven Mincha right before plag ha-mincha (1 ¼ halachic hours before sunset) and immediately thereafter recite Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv. Others begin Mincha at a set time all summer long – ...

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Hallel in Shul on Seder Night: Is Less More?

by R. Yaakov Hoffman Some Jews just can’t get enough Hallel. Not only do they say it during the Seder; they say it beforehand as well, at the end of Maariv. Doing so, however, is not a universal practice. Many Jews recite Hallel on Pesach night only during the Seder. What is the rationale behind each of these customs? While ...

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Reconsidering the Sheitel

by R. Yaakov Hoffman Can hair serve to conceal hair? The idea has been hotly contested in Jewish legal discourse since the sixteenth century, when some married women began to use wigs as their required hair covering.[1]For a comprehensive citation of the literature, see Otzar ha-Poskim on Even Ha-‘Ezer 21:2 (notes 24:5-8). The debate has continued until the present day. ...

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When is Shabbat Over?

by R. Yaakov Hoffman Determining when Shabbat concludes has always been a weekly necessity for observant Jews. Thus, one might assume that everyone ends Shabbat at more or less the same time. In actuality, there is a great deal of variation. Some people commence weekday activities on Saturday night 40 minutes after sunset, while others wait longer—some as long as ...

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