Halachah Musings

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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Funding the Police

by R. Gil Student Protesters around the country are calling to defund the police. This offers us an opportunity to discuss the halakhically required funding for police. At the beginning of the State of Israel, halakhic scholars analyzed the necessity of maintaining a police force, particularly regarding whether police officers may violate Shabbos for their work but also their necessity ...

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Yeshiva Tuition and Coronavirus

by R. Gil Student To our great sadness, the societal shutdown due to Coronavirus also closed yeshivos. The government rightly insisted that all schools cease in-class teaching. Schools transitioned to remote learning for abbreviated hours, with parents taking a greater role in watching their children and ensuring they join the class. With shorter hours and a greater parental role, many ...

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Accounting for a Minyan

by R. Gil Student Can we count for a minyan a man who has stolen from the government? I. Theft, Lying and Chillul Hashem Rav Hershel Schachter (“Dina De’malchusa Dina” in the first issue of The Journal of Contemporary Halacha and Society) expresses the majority opinion that the rule of dina d’malchusa dina—the law of the land is the law—applies ...

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The Long Seudah Shelishis

by R. Gil Student (picture above: Rav Mordechai Marcus on left, at my son’s bris in 1999. On the right is my wife’s grandfather, R’ Shalom Herman.)   I. Two Types of Rabbis Rav Mordechai Marcus zt”l was a giant of Torah and midos. He had Shas and Poskim at his fingertips, which he unfailingly accessed with an accompanying self-deprecating ...

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Singing Torah

by R. Gil Student Twenty five years ago, when my first child was born, I asked Rav Meyer Scheinberg zt”l the following question: If the baby wakes up crying in the middle of the night, and I wake up and try to calm her by singing a song that consists of Torah content, do I need to recite Birkos Ha-Torah, ...

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The Shavuos Get

by R. Gil Student On Shavuos 1831, a man in Brody, Galicia lay deathly ill. Rav Eliezer Landau, grandson of the famous Noda Bi-Yehudah and author of the Yad Ha-Melekh commentary on the Rambam, had an idea that would save this childless man’s impoverished soon-to-be widow from being unable to remarry unless she made the improbable journey to Rome in ...

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Is It Kosher To Renew Your Wedding Vows?

by R. Gil Student In the 1970s, ceremonies to renew wedding vows became popular in the US. Typically, these ceremonies are officiated by clergy and consist of a formal or informal ceremony. Some Christian denominations have a formal text with various options and Jewish versions that attempt to recreate a Jewish wedding exist, as well. Is there a way to ...

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Torah Reading and Social Distancing

by R. Gil Student As ”stay at home” restrictions begin to loosen in certain places, and within weeks will probably begin to loosen in the New York area also, we need to reimagine what shul will look like in the interim stages before we fully return to normal. The OU, Agudath Israel of America and several poskim have published on ...

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