Halachah Musings

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 ...

Read More »

Recharging Phone: Yom Tov Sheini or Shabbos?

by R. Gil Student I. A Time to Recharge The latest issue of the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society (RJJ Journal), under new editorship, is devoted to Coronavirus questions. One article contains short, translated responsa by Rav Yisroel Reisman, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Voda’as and rabbi of the Agudah of Madison. Among his many short responsa, one addresses the ...

Read More »

Daily Birkas Kohanim: A Historical Revision

by R. Gil Student I. Ashkenazim and Birkas Kohanim Every day, kohanim, men of the priestly families, bless the congregation with the biblical blessings (Num. 6:24-26). At least in theory. In practice, Ashkenazic communities only observe this on holidays, except in Israel, where it is observed daily. I believe that the standard understanding of how Israeli Ashkenazic practice became different ...

Read More »

Private Eruvin and Emergency Keys

by R. Gil Student Many people have their own private eruvin, structures that allow them to carry on Shabbos. They do this with one or more neighbors by ensuring the area is closed, whether by gates, walls or doorway-like structures — a complicated matter that requires rabbinic oversight or approval. Additionally, they keep food for two communal meals, usually matzah, ...

Read More »

Living Halachically, And Mathematically, During This Pandemic

by R. Gil Student I usually enjoy Rabbi Chananya Weissman’s opinion pieces, whether I agree with him or not. His latest article, however – “Herd Immunity or Herd Insanity?” (The Jewish Press, January 1) – sadly misfires. Rabbi Weissman claims that if you don’t shake hands with others and kiss the Torah in an outdoors minyan, you are a paranoid hypochondriac. ...

Read More »

The Forbidden Sefer

by R. Gil Student Our thirst for Torah has limits. We treat learning as a sanctified activity and therefore restrain our activities to ensure we use appropriate sources and texts. Are there some Torah texts that we must avoid due to their ownership or the materials with which they were made? I. The Firstborn Torah In 1840, in a town ...

Read More »

Learning Is Doing

by R. Gil Student I. Special Power of Learning Torah We have not offered the Temple sacrifices in nearly 2,000 years but we continue fulfilling those mitzvos through our ongoing study of their laws. Does this special power of Torah study apply to other mitzvos as well or just sacrifices? The answer has implications for us today, during the (hopefully ...

Read More »

Follow-Up: The Mixed-Up Blessing on Chanukah Lights

by R. Joshua Waxman Editor’s note: This is a letter-to-the-editor to The Jewish Link in response to a condensed version of this essay that did not include mention of Dikdukei Sofrim (Munich Manuscript). I read Rabbi Gil Student’s illuminating article (“The Mixed-Up Blessing on Chanukah Lights,’’ December 10, 2020) about how commentators explain Rav Yosef Karo’s deviation of the form ...

Read More »

Voice Recognition in Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student I. Identifying People We use many faculties to observe the goings on about us. When one sense is unavailable, we often use others to compensate. Even if we cannot see someone, we can still identify their presence by the sound of their voice. Does this identification have bearing in Jewish law? Identification by sight can be ...

Read More »

Giving Away a Mitzvah

by R. Gil Student I. Paying for a Mitzvah We spend money on mitzvos. Some mitzvos are free, some are not, and some come with hidden costs. But whether paying yeshivah tuition or buying an esrog, we gladly spend the money G-d gave us to fulfill our religious obligations. What about giving up some of your mitzvah so someone else can fulfill his mitzvah? An obscure law about ...

Read More »