Halachah Musings

Trapped By The Sermon

by R. Gil Student Many rabbis use the High Holiday sermons as an opportunity to showcase their talents and to showcase crucial ideas and themes. Considering the large crowd, rabbis may spend months preparing just the right combination of information and inspiration. In other words, it’s a big deal. Some congregants enjoy the sermon. Others flee the room. Some envy ...

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The Proper Rosh Hashanah Greeting

by R. Gil Student I. Have a Good Year Many people greet each other on Rosh Hashanah with blessings for a good year, “Shanah tovah.” Rav Ya’akov Ben Asher, the 14th century German-Spanish author of the Tur, quotes an Ashkenazic custom to greet people on Rosh Hashanah with the phrase “Tikaseiv be-shanah tovah, may you be written in a good ...

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Are Book Darts Kosher?

by R. Gil Student Book darts are bookmarkers that hold your spot in a book. They can be used to mark the page or even the specific line on a page for your future reference. Are you allowed to use them on Shabbos? In order to research this subject, I purchased the elegant “18forty: I Read This Over Shabbos” branded ...

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Walking on Graves

by R. Gil Student Graveside funerals, or visits, often generate crowds around a grave, forcing people to search for space to stand. Are you allowed to step on someone else’s grave for a service or in order to get to the right place in the cemetery? I. Magical Cure The Gemara (Sanhedrin 47b) says that people used to take dirt ...

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Is a Barbie Doll Kosher?

by R. Gil Student I. Forbidden Images With Barbie in the news, it is an opportunity to discuss the halakhic implications of Barbie dolls. From the perspective of hashkafah, there is much to discuss about the unrealistic body dimensions of Barbie dolls and their impact on the thinking of young girls and boys. Setting all that aside, the Torah might ...

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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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How Long is the Nine Days?

by R. Gil Student During a brief period leading up to Tisha B’Av, Jews observe additional mourning practices. For Ashkenazim, the initial period begins with 17 Tammuz and the intense period begins with Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the month whose mourning culminates with the ninth day, Tisha Be-Av. These nine days include customary restrictions on eating meat, ...

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The Women’s Section

by R. Gil Student In many Orthodox synagogues, women’s sections are poorly maintained. Whether it’s the lighting, the cleanliness, the availability of siddurim and tissues, air conditioning, or any other number of small and large issues. What are the halakhic implications of the state of discomfort and disrepair of a women’s section? Let’s first note that the often reluctant volunteers ...

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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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Expelling a Member from Shul

by R. Gil Student It is both a privilege and an obligation to belong to a shul. However, sometimes a community finds it necessary to expel a member. Under what conditions is it permissible to tell someone he is no longer welcome in shul? Surprisingly, even though this has been an issue for at least a thousand years (probably longer), ...

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