Halachah Musings

Honoring an OTD Parent

by R. Gil Student I. Whom to Honor Is a child obligated to honor a parent who leaves Torah observance? We are speaking here of the child’s obligation and what is best for the child, not the parent’s right however that may be defined. Let’s say that a child whose parent stopped being religiously observant asks what the Torah requires ...

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Wealthy No More

by R. Gil Student A charitable pledge constitutes a vow that must be fulfilled. However, like many vows, it can be nullified if proper regret is presented to a religious court, if it is shown to have been mistaken. If a rich person pledges a large sum of money to charity and then loses his fortune, he may annul his ...

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Havdalah on Tisha B’Av

by R. Gil Student I. Havdalah Options Havdalah separates between the sanctity of Shabbos and the regular nature of the week. We must observe the prohibitions of Shabbos until we say Havdalah. Additionally, we may not eat until we recite Havdalah on a cup of wine or its equivalent. When Tisha B’Av falls or is observed on Saturday night through ...

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What is an Acceptable Ordination?

by R. Gil Student I. Five Types of Rabbinic Ordination Rabbinic ordination serves to certify someone as a rabbi qualified to serve the community formally as a rabbi. In the past, we have discussed different theories of the significance of ordination today, and the practical implications of the different theories. I would like to discuss now the relatively recent history ...

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Moshe and Modern Technology

by R. Gil Student Did Moshe know everything, including science and technology? Was he capable of building spaceships and nuclear missiles? Among Torah scholars, there seem to be two answers to those questions. We find those answers in discussions of what was once a new technology, the printing press. I. Printing on the Efod Rav David Ha-Levi Segal (17th cen., ...

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The Heretic’s Sefer

by R. Gil Student I. The Heretic’s Torah The Gemara (Gittin 45b) says that we must burn a Torah scroll written by a heretic. In contrast, if a gentile wrote a Torah, then we either bury it (put it into genizah) or burn it, depending on whether or not we assume his intentions are for idolatry or heresy. The above ...

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The Shaving of a Ba’al Teshuvah

by R. Gil Student During many eras in Jewish history, Jews converted to other religions, whether due to physical, financial or social pressure or otherwise. Many of these wayward Jews returned to the Jewish community, sometimes after escaping the country. While a Jew who sins remains Jewish (Sanhedrin 44a), he might still have to undergo a return ritual in order ...

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Do You Need A Rabbi For A Wedding?

by R. Gil Student I. What A Rabbi Does Most of us have been to enough Jewish weddings that we know how they work. We can easily officiate. Even without a big crowd, all a man has to do is give a woman a ring in front of two witnesses and say the “harei at” formula. Who needs a rabbi? ...

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Shavuos Early Shacharis

by R. Gil Student I. Learning Torah All Night It is common practice today for men to stay up all night learning Torah the first night of Shavuos. It is not clear to me when this custom originated but it began spreading broadly in the 16th century and became standard practice in the 17th century. Rav Avraham Gombiner (17th cen., ...

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Honor and Family Conflicts

by R. Gil Student Honor is best given rather than received. We are required to honor Torah scholars, older family members, and the elderly in general. However, this becomes complicated when we face conflicting priorities. When faced to choose between two or more family members, whose honor comes first? When dealing with family situations, halakhah offers guidelines although you always ...

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