Halachah Musings

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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Stretching Halakhah For An Agunah

by R. Gil Student Extreme cases demand special treatment. The Sages of the Talmud recognized this and allowed otherwise invalid witnesses to testify on behalf of a classical agunah, a woman whose husband has disappeared (as opposed to today’s colloquial reference to a recalcitrant spouse). Defining the husband as deceased allows the agunah to remarry, freeing her from permanent captivity ...

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Who Pays for the Esrog?

by R. Gil Student We live in times of plenty, in a place where the basic standard of living would have been considered a mere few decades ago to be a life of wealth and luxury. However, not too long ago, individuals often struggled to obtain an esrog (or all four species). When importation was difficult due to technology or ...

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Is Kavanah Necessary?

by R. Gil Student We reach out to God with prayer. But when we say the same thing three times a day, it is hard to mean every word. For some of us, the words are foreign, just a formula we recite. Is this prayer? I. The Problem of Kavanah The Semak (11) sees kavanah (intent) as so important that ...

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Are Bar Mitzvah Invitations Kosher?

by R. Gil Student In a responsum about bas mitzvah celebrations, Rav Ovadiah Yosef quotes an authority who raises questions about bar mitzvah invitations. In Yechaveh Da’as (2:29), Rav Yosef quotes Rav Avraham Musafya who says that the practice in his community is to celebrate both a bar and bas mitzvah with a festive day and a mitzvah meal. Rav ...

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Jewish Publications in Halakhah

by R. Gil Student Jewish newspapers and magazines bring together communities in multiple ways. They may include family updates — notices of births, weddings and more. They might showcase local politicians and charity efforts. Readers learn about neighborhood businesses, bringing a face and name to a storefront. This all offers busy people more familiarity with their surroundings, fostering a neighborly ...

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A Little Bit Muktzeh

by R. Gil Student We are not allowed to move on Shabbos an object that is muktzeh, except under specific circumstances. For example, a utensil used for a forbidden purpose (like scissors) can only be moved if you are using it for a permitted purpose (like opening a bag of food) or you need to use the place it is ...

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Keeping Your Customs

by R. Gil Student In the world of increased mobility in which we live, issues of custom become more complex than in the past. The Mishnah and Gemara (Pesachim 50a-51a) speak about someone who travels from a place that has one custom to a place that has another. If he is moving, and not just visiting, then he should adopt ...

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Escape from Christian Europe

by R. Gil Student After Jews were formally expelled from Christian countries, those who remained had to convert to Christianity and maintain their Jewish identities at the risk of their lives. Many attempted to escape to Muslim countries, like Turkey, where they could live as Jews with relative freedom. One woman’s challenges in her difficult trek to freedom are catalogued in a ...

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A Sicilian Mob in Jewish Greece

by R. Gil Student I. Unity or Community? In 1546, a rabbi tried to unite the Jewish community of Patras, in western Greece and at the time part of the Ottoman Empire. Or as the opponents might have put it, he tried take control of the community. The fallout was ugly, causing great disagreement throughout the large Jewish communities on ...

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