Halachah Musings

Newspapers on Shabbos

by R. Gil Student I. Orthodox Newspapers The powerful industry of print media is crumbling under the weight of the internet but no one seems to have informed the Orthodox Jewish community. Newsweek collapsed but Mishpacha Magazine is flourishing. The New York Times is deep in the red while the Jewish Link and the Jewish Press seem to be expanding ...

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When Lashon Ha-Ra Goes Viral

by R. Gil Student I. Lashon Ha-Ra With Legs The idea that derogatory speech can go viral — a post, video or message can be forwarded thousands of times — should more than ever bring home to us the severity of our actions, just how much damage we can do with a few words. However, sometimes even this vivid illustration ...

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Spilling Wine

by R. Gil Student I. Spilling Wine Rav Moshe Isserles (Rema, 17th cen, Poland; Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 396:1) records a custom to spill Havdalah wine on the ground. He explains that the basis of this custom is the Gemara (Eruvin 65b) that any house in which wine is not spilled like water does not see blessing. We spill wine ...

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Why Do So Many People Not Sleep In A Sukkah?

by R. Gil Student Masekhes Sukkah holds a special place in my heart as it is the first tractate I completed. It is clear from this masekhta (e.g. Sukkah 20b and 26a) that men are commanded to sleep in a sukkah during the yom tov of Sukkos. And yet, so many frum Jews today do not. How are we to understand this disconnect between the texts we study and the contemporary practice ...

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Arts and Crafts on Chol Hamoed During Coronavirus

by R. Gil Student Children are off from school and the schools are warning parents to avoid risky situations. Some are in quarantine. Many of the regular Chol Hamoed attractions are closed and those that are open may not seem sufficiently safe to concerned parents. What can you do over a full five-day Chol Hamoed? One possibility is arts and ...

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When the Chazzan Shleps

by R. Gil Student I. Chazzanim Shlep Rabbinic literature is full of rabbis complaining about chazzanim (cantors) who sing too much, whether to enhance the prayers from their perspective or to show off their voices. Sometimes chazzanim sing the words at a steady pace. Other times they lengthen words in tune or sing tunes in between words. There is a ...

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Saying A Wicked Name

by R. Gil Student I. The Hungarian Apostate Are you allowed to say the name of someone wicked or should you avoid saying it? Mishlei (10:7) says, “The memory of the righteous shall be for a blessing but the name of the wicked shall rot.” Are we obligated to abandon the name to rot? The Gemara (Yoma 38b) says: “What ...

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Preaching in the Local Language

by R. Gil Student I. Preaching and Change Proponents of religious change offer many different arguments for justification, some more plausible than others. One argument that I’ve seen seems convincing until you understand the historical context. This claim refers to the ban on rabbis giving sermons in the local language, e.g. German or English. This was once denounced as forbidden ...

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Giving Ma’aser In the Modern Economy

by R. Gil Student I. How Much Charity? The Torah obligates every Jew to give charity of at least one-third of a shekel (less than $10) a year and optimally a tenth or fifth of income, but the details surrounding this obligation might have surprising consequences in the modern economy, when people regularly owe money on mortgages and school debt. ...

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Do I Have To Reply?

by R. Gil Student The days of carefully crafted letters are long gone. In this age of hyper-connectivity, people receive many emails, voicemails, WhatsApps, comments, notifications and more. Does courtesy require that we reply to every contact? In 19th century Turkey, Rav Chaim Palaggi wrote emphatically about the obligation to reply to letters. In his Tokhachas Chaim (Miketz), he says ...

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