Halachah Musings

Responding to Accusations

by R. Gil Student I. Silence in the Face of Accusations Silence implies guilt. If we refuse to deny an accusation, we give it credibility. Does that mean that we are obligated to respond to every insult and accusation against us? In theory, we can easily deny a charge. However, often responding to it gives it credibility. Some mischievous people ...

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Hearing Profanity

by R. Gil Student I. Close Your Ears The Gemara in Kesubos (5a-b) says, “What does it mean: ‘And you shall have a shovel among your weapons (azenekha)’ (Deut. 23:14)? Do not read it as: ’your weapons’ but as ‘your ear’ (oznekha). If a person hears something improper (davar she-eino hagun), ⁦he should put his finger into his ears.” The ...

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Praying for the Negligent Sick

by R. Gil Student I. Taking Risks The Torah requires us to take care of our health but few people do this vigilantly. Most people take small risks, eat moderately unhealthy foods frequently, exercise too little and otherwise insufficiently care for our health. We are too busy, too stuck in our ways and too easily tempted. These are normal risks ...

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Do I Have to Listen to a Rabbi?

by R. Gil Student When you ask a rabbi a question, you are committing yourself to following his answer. But what if you didn’t ask? Do you still have to follow his ruling? Put in a different way, and a bit more broadly, should a rabbinic authority insist that his ruling be followed? Of course, we live in a free ...

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The Contested Chief Rabbi and the Acceptance of the Torah

by R. Gil Student I. The Contested Chief Rabbi of France The source of the obligation to observe the Torah’s commandments connects to an obscure medieval debate over the chief rabbinate of France. In 1385, on the death of Rav Matisyahu Treves, the chief rabbi of France, his son, Rav Yochanan Treves, was appointed in his place with the consent ...

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Solving the Problem of the 39 Shabbos Labors

by R. Gil Student It is well known that the biblical prohibitions of Shabbat can be classified into 39 labors — melakhos — that are listed in the second Mishna of the seventh chapter of Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 49b) relates an attempt to find a source in the written Torah for this ancient oral tradition. The various forms of ...

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Dreams, Social Media and Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student Dreams are a common part of daily life to which the Talmudic Sages attribute great importance. They see in dreams both danger and opportunity, and therefore created three ceremonies or opportunities to rid ourselves of bad omens in dreams. However, on a more careful look, we find conflicting thoughts about dreams in the Talmud and a ...

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The Best Charity

by R. Gil Student I. Which Charity? Many people in the Jewish community have achieved varieties of financial success, allowing them the privilege of supporting many charities. This raises questions of communal and philanthropic priorities. Others have limited charity funds but still want to allocate them effectively. The issue is a blessing but also a complex problem, with multiple angles. ...

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Rav Lichtenstein on Abortion

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have seen that Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Ya’akov Kamenetsky and Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in different contexts, have referred to abortion as “murder.” We have also seen the public policy concerns of Rav Immanuel Jakobovits and Rav Jonathan Sacks. I would like here to explore the written views of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, ...

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Merchants of Flesh

by R. Gil Student I. Parental Memorabilia What seems immoral to one generation may seem moral, even patriotic or respectful, to another. On the one hand, that makes Torah guidance even more important. On the other hand, it emphasizes the need to prioritize and compartmentalize judgments. How objectionable is an activity that the Torah rejects and general society accepts? People ...

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