Halachah Musings

Kahanism and Racism

by R. Gil Student Kahanism is often portrayed as blatant racism. On a purely theoretical level, this is obviously untrue, as we shall see. On a practical level, the ideology may be translated into action in a racist way, or may accompany racism, but that is not our topic. At worst, Kahanism devalues gentiles in a broad, sweeping fashion. Since ...

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Texts: Talking Politics on Shabbos

You know what it’s like to get caught in an uncomfortable or tedious political conversation? Apparently Jews in 15th century Germany did also. Rav Yisrael Isserlein, in his Terumas Ha-Deshen (1:61), addresses whether we may discuss politics on Shabbos. He says that if you enjoy it, yes. But many people don’t enjoy it and they may be violating a prohibition.

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When In Doubt, Learn Torah

by R. Gil Student I. Don’t Disagree The mourning practices of Tisha B’Av include a prohibition on learning Torah, an activity that naturally leads to joy. Some authorities forbid learning Torah on the afternoon before Tisha B’Av, so you don’t enter the day full of the joy of Torah. Others permit it because the mourning has not yet started. Rav ...

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Revoking Ordination

by R. Gil Student What do you do when a rabbi is shown to be deficient in his behavior or incompetent in Torah matters, perhaps even adopting heretical views? We can understand if an ordaining authority revokes his ordination, but what if that person is deceased? Can someone revoke ordination given by someone else? I. One Rabbi Giveth, Another Taketh ...

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Standing Up For Judaism

by R. Gil Student How much should Judaism change to accommodate those who cannot abide its rules? When someone claims that the Torah’s laws may drive them to suicide, does this threat to life constitute piku’ach nefesh that overrides the law? These are complex questions that I do not claim competency to answer. I will offer a few sources for thought. I. ...

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Publishing Without Permission

by R. Gil Student Last week, we discussed the debate between Rav Shaul Yisraeli and Rav Shlomo Goren regarding the siege of Beirut. As mentioned, on August 6th, 1982, then Chief Rabbi of Israel Rav Shlomo Goren published an article in the newspaper Hatzofeh in which he argued that, according to Jewish law, the siege must allow terrorists to escape the city. ...

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The Siege of Beirut

by R. Gil Student In the summer of 1982, the Israeli army placed a siege on Beirut in a successful attempt to force the PLO out of Lebanon. On August 6th, then Chief Rabbi of Israel Rav Shlomo Goren published an article in the newspaper Hatzofeh in which he argued that, according to Jewish law, the siege must allow terrorists to escape the city. ...

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Kaddish For An Extended Relative

by R. Gil Student Most Jews of all backgrounds recognize the custom to recite Kaddish for a parent and attempt to observe it, even if only partially. However, the recitation of Kaddish is sometimes appropriate for a relative other than a parent. In this brief essay, we will examine the background of this practice and its practical implications. I. Kaddish ...

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Texts: A Prayer For the Sick

by R. Gil Student The Mi She–beirakh for sick people is a common feature of Shabbos morning services. In many synagogues, people line up to give names of sick people to the gabbai who recites the prayer. However, the practice is questionable. In the text below, Rav Ya’akov (Mahari) Weil (15th cen., Germany) argues that it is forbidden to pray ...

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Treifing Food

by R. Gil Student The laws of kashrus are simple to observe in general but extremely complicated in specifics. That is why you ask your rabbi when you have a question. What if someone renders your food non-kosher? You are cooking a meat meal and someone pours milk into it, rendering it completely forbidden. You must throw the food out ...

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