Halachah Musings

Shoveling Snow on Shabbos

by R. Gil Student Since we recently experienced a significant snowfall, it is worthwhile to review some of the ideas of snow removal on Shabbos. First and foremost, people need to be careful. If you have trouble walking, do not go outside if you think you might fall. I. Muktzah One issue is whether snow is muktzah, something which may not ...

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Delayed Burial Redux

by R. Gil Student Moses Mendelssohn and Rav Ya’akov Emden debated privately a late eighteenth century law about burial. The conversation continued for more than a century. The full story of this extended debate has yet to be explored. I. Original Debate In 1772, Duke Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin enacted a law requiring a three-day delay to burial in order to ...

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Burial Plot Complications

by R. Gil Student I. Burial Conflict Life and death, past and future, come together in the cemetery. Families visit to respect and remember those who have gone. Burial plot placement within the cemetery can grow complicated as family life gets complicated. A frequent question arises when a spouse remarries after a death. After 120 years, should the woman be ...

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Final Rest

by R. Gil Student Death rites are widely observed in any religion, as people look to tradition for guidance in that confusing time following a loss. Judaism demands a simple burial in the ground. However, often out of ignorance, many Jews opt for cremation. This is certainly contrary to Jewish practice. The Tur (Yoreh De’ah 362) and Shulchan Arukh (ad loc., par. 1) explicitly require burial ...

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Waging War on Shabbos

by R. Gil Student The book of Maccabees (1:2:31-41) tells the story of how the Hasmoneans originally refused to wage war on Shabbos and were slaughtered. After that, Matisyahu ruled that they must fight back on Shabbos. This account is repeated by Josephus (Antiquities 12:276). Prof. Louis Feldman (Jew & Gentile in the Ancient World, pp. 160-161) lists other ancient ...

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Holiday Parties

by R. Gil Student I’ve often heard rabbis speak about office holiday parties as if they are obviously and unequivocally forbidden and it’s troubled me. I’m not quite sure what the big deal is but I’m also not certain that all rabbis understand the varying circumstances. For some people, missing a holiday has no career impact. For others, it might. ...

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Chanukah Lights: How Long?

by R. Gil Student Often, when social circumstances change significantly from the past, some people automatically assume that Jewish law must change. Others summarily dismiss the suggestion that the law will ever change. Both approaches are incorrect. Rather, these matters require careful and sensitive analysis by the leading scholars to determine the nature of the law and whether the change ...

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Women and Kiddush

by R. Gil Student Do women have to say kiddush in shul after Shabbos morning services? For a variety of reasons, often people do not hear the rabbi saying kiddush in shul. Since they are not allowed to eat until hearing kiddush, some bold individual has to take the initiative and recite kiddush. In shuls that have a separate kiddush ...

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Is The Torah Against Women’s Pictures?

by R. Gil Student The recent trend in some Orthodox media to refrain from publishing pictures of women, or even to digitally remove women from pictures, raises questions from many perspectives. Is it dishonest to offer only a partial portrayal of the community? Is it disrespectful of women to omit their images? Does this send a confusing message to our ...

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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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