Halachah Musings

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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Vaccine Selfies

by R. Gil Student It has become trendy to post a picture of yourself receiving a Covid vaccine. This was particularly true in Israel, where people received vaccines earlier than those in America, but continues today as more and more people receive vaccines. Some vaccine sites even have selfie stations. I do not understand this practice. Some people do it ...

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Shabbos Shoes

by R. Gil Student I. Shabbos Clothes We greet Shabbos and spend the entire day clean and proper, dressed in fine clothes. Do we also need to wear fine shoes that we have designated for Shabbos? The Gemara (Shabbos 119a) says that R. Chanina and R. Yannai would wear special clothes to greet Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 113b) quotes Naomi’s ...

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Texts: Fast of the Firstborn

by R. Gil Student Common practice today is that firstborn sons (and sometimes daughters and the fathers of young firstborn children) attend a siyum, a celebration of the completion of a program of Torah learning, in order to avoid the fast of the firstborn on erev Pesach. This is so common that last year, during the height of Coronavirus lockdown, ...

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How Much Holiday Preparation?

by R. Gil Student I. Thirty Days Before A Holiday Holidays are much like other things in life in the sense that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. We are instructed to study the laws of a holiday thirty days in advance. The Gemara (Pesachim 6a-b) learns this from Moshe, who taught the ...

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Is There a Mitzvah to Rejoice in Adar?

by R. Gil Student The Gemara (Ta’anis 29a) famously says that when Adar begins, we increase joy. While this saying is often quoted, standard codes omit it. Rambam (12th cen., Egypt) does not mention it in Mishneh Torah nor do Rav Yosef Karo (16th cen., Israel) and Rav Moshe Isserles (16th cen., Poland) in Shulchan Arukh. It is only Rav ...

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Yahrtzeit Boards and Digital Displays

by R. Gil Student When I was young, it was common for synagogues to have large boards with plaques containing the names of the deceased and small light bulbs that were turned on for the week or month of the person’s yahrtzeit, the anniversary of his passing. They still exist today, although they are becoming less common. Many synagogues have ...

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Chametz in Garbage Cans

by R. Gil Student When we prepare for Pesach, we get rid of all of our chametz, either by selling it or destroying it. However, what about chametz in your garbage can? Is that considered destroyed or do we need to sell or destroy it also? For example, if you have leftover food from the night or morning before Pesach, ...

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Of Jewish Descent

by R. Gil Student I. Whom Are You Insulting? The sharpest insults attack not their intended recipient but a loved one. I can forgive an insult to me but am prevented by my obligation to defend my friends and family from easily forgiving their offense. Who am I to allow their honor to be diminished? This is part of the ...

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