Halachah Musings

Forbidden Reading

by R. Gil Student Judaism’s flexibility becomes evident when new circumstances arise that require renewed analysis of the halakhic implications. While some may claim that halakhah is paralyzed, studies of specific cases disprove this evaluation. Even a Mishnaic prohibition can be set aside when warranted by changed circumstances. A case in point is the rabbinic prohibition to read near a ...

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Abortion and Jewish Public Policy

by R. Gil Student Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Jakobovits was the founder of the modern subject of Jewish medical ethics. His groundbreaking 1959 book, Jewish Medical Ethics, set the stage for a flourishing academic field incorporating Jewish law, contemporary medicine and ethics. His views on abortion, particularly regarding public policy, carry great weight. While he served as Chief Rabbi of Great ...

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Hearing Profanity

When someone uses profanity, he abuses the divine gift of speech, demonstrating a lack of refinement and self-control. Speaking profanity violates a biblical prohibition. There is reason to forbid not only saying profane words but even hearing them. The exact nature of this prohibition leads to practical implications. I. Close Your Ears The Gemara (Shabbos 33a) says, “Due to the ...

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The Halakhos of Shushing in Shul

by R. Gil Student I. Talking Destroys Shuls Talking in shul has been a problem since time immemorial. People who talk about idle matters during the prayer service not only show disrespect for the sanctity of the synagogue and the prayers, they disrupt the prayer experience of others. When there is talking, there is shushing — fellow congregants or synagogue ...

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Violating Extra Shabbos

by R. Gil Student I. Creating Holiness Every week, we utilize one of the greatest human powers even though it has no tangible effect. God created the world for six days and then rested on the seventh. He then blessed and sanctified the seventh day on which He rested (Gen. 2:2-3). Every week, Jews rest on Shabbos, the seventh day, ...

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Canvas Sukkahs

by R. Gil Student It used to be quite popular to use a canvas sukkah although with the recent advent of sukkahs that are easier to put together, such as the modular sukkah and the “ease lock” sukkah, they are becoming less common. However, the concept of a canvas sukkah is actually centuries old and is specifically mentioned in the ...

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Drinking During Davening

I have seen myself and heard from others that over the past few years, there has been significant growth in the number of people who drink coffee or tea during the morning prayers. They recite a blessing on the drink before the prayers and continue sipping occasionally during the initial sections (including Pesukei De-Zimra) and after their silent Amidah. This ...

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Apologizing Halakhically

by R. Gil Student I. Asking for Forgiveness In recent years, there has been much discussion about what constitutes a sufficient apology. Sometimes people apologize under pressure and do not really admit to having done anything wrong. Even genuine apologies face careful scrutiny under constantly evolving requirements for contrition. Halakhah offers some guidance on how to apologize properly. The Gemara ...

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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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