Halachah Musings

Is a Barbie Doll Kosher?

by R. Gil Student I. Forbidden Images With Barbie in the news, it is an opportunity to discuss the halakhic implications of Barbie dolls. From the perspective of hashkafah, there is much to discuss about the unrealistic body dimensions of Barbie dolls and their impact on the thinking of young girls and boys. Setting all that aside, the Torah might ...

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Do You Need A Rabbi For A Wedding?

by R. Gil Student I. What A Rabbi Does Most of us have been to enough Jewish weddings that we know how they work. We can easily officiate. Even without a big crowd, all a man has to do is give a woman a ring in front of two witnesses and say the “harei at” formula. Who needs a rabbi? ...

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How Long is the Nine Days?

by R. Gil Student During a brief period leading up to Tisha B’Av, Jews observe additional mourning practices. For Ashkenazim, the initial period begins with 17 Tammuz and the intense period begins with Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the month whose mourning culminates with the ninth day, Tisha Be-Av. These nine days include customary restrictions on eating meat, ...

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The Women’s Section

by R. Gil Student In many Orthodox synagogues, women’s sections are poorly maintained. Whether it’s the lighting, the cleanliness, the availability of siddurim and tissues, air conditioning, or any other number of small and large issues. What are the halakhic implications of the state of discomfort and disrepair of a women’s section? Let’s first note that the often reluctant volunteers ...

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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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Expelling a Member from Shul

by R. Gil Student It is both a privilege and an obligation to belong to a shul. However, sometimes a community finds it necessary to expel a member. Under what conditions is it permissible to tell someone he is no longer welcome in shul? Surprisingly, even though this has been an issue for at least a thousand years (probably longer), ...

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Is an AI Posek Kosher?

by R. Gil Student I. AI as a Posek Everyone is talking about the implications of artificial intelligence (AI). While the current version of AI frequently gives laughably incorrect answers, it offers us a realistic idea of the possibility of a coherent technology that can think and reason independently. For Jews, one question this raises is whether AI can answer ...

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The Shaving of a Ba’al Teshuvah

by R. Gil Student During many eras in Jewish history, Jews converted to other religions, whether due to physical, financial or social pressure or otherwise. Many of these wayward Jews returned to the Jewish community, sometimes after escaping the country. While a Jew who sins remains Jewish (Sanhedrin 44a), he might still have to undergo a return ritual in order ...

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Is “Jewish Matchmaking” Kosher?

by R. Gil Student I. Shadchan for the Masses There is a recent Netflix series about a real shadchan, matchmaker, who sets people up to date for marriage. This raises an interesting question about matchmaking ethics and halakhah. I have not seen the show and do not intend to see it. From what I have been told, while the shadchan ...

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When to Say Malei

by R. Gil Student I. Days Without Malei The Mishnah (Mo’ed Katan 27a) discusses when we eulogize someone before burial and when refrain from doing so. On days of communal happiness, a sad eulogy evokes feelings contrary to spirit of the day. Among those days are Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Purim. Later customs developed regarding lesser practices, such as the ...

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