Halachah Musings

Who Reads the Haggadah?

by R. Gil Student I. Three Seder Practices Generally speaking, when it comes to the Pesach Seder, people know the details of their own family’s practices but not those of many other families. From conversation, they might know what different people eat for marror but not necessarily when they stand and sit, how they engage in conversation, in what format ...

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Pesach Avoidance

by R. Gil Student I. Avoiding the Korban Pesach We know from tax law the difference between avoidance and evasion. Tax avoidance involves structuring your finances to legally minimize your taxes. In contrast, tax evasion is refusing to pay taxes that you owe. Obviously, when it comes to mitzvos, evasion — refraining from fulfilling an obligation — is sinful. Is ...

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The Quick Bedikas Chametz

by R. Gil Student I. Checking for Chametz According to Torah law, we must get rid of all of our chametz, our leavened bread, before Pesach. However, this can be accomplished either by rendering it all ownerless or by disposing of it. Rabbinic law requires us to do both — bi’ur chametz, disposing of it, and bitul chametz, rendering whatever ...

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Family and Mishlo’ach Manos

by R. Gil Student On Purim, we send gifts of food to friends, in fulfillment of the verse “U-mishlo’ach manos ish le-rei’ehu, and of sending portions a man to his fellow” (Esther 9:22). Mishlo’ach manos is one of the mitzvos of Purim. We fulfill it by sending two different food items to one person, although it is common to send ...

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Women and Mishlo’ach Manos

by R. Gil Student On Purim, we send gifts of food to friends, in fulfillment of the verse “U-mishlo’ach manos ish le-rei’ehu, and of sending portions a man to his fellow” (Esther 9:22). Mishlo’ach manos is one of the mitzvos of Purim. We fulfill it by sending two different food items to one person, although it is common to send ...

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The Shabbos Ferry

by R. Gil Student I. Ferries on Shabbos There have been times in history when Jewish communities have settled on different sides of a river. The question arose whether people could cross the river on Shabbos. Of course, if there is a bridge that you can walk across then the issue is fairly simple. As long as you don’t travel ...

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Turning A Lower East Side Church Into A Synagogue

by R. Gil Student I. Buying a Church Judaism demands that its adherents separate from other religions, both physically and spiritually. Our study of other religions, and the attention to which we pay them, is highly limited by the verse, “Do not turn to the idols” (Lev. 19:4; Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Avodah Zarah 2:2). In general, we are taught to ...

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Redeeming a Captive Caught in the Legal System

by R. Gil Student I. Important Mitzvah In Jewish law and tradition, redeeming a captive (pidyon shevuyim) is the highest form of charity. The Talmud (Bava Basra 8a) refers to it with the unusual term of “great mitzvah” and Shulchan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 252:1), the code of Jewish law, says that “there is no mitzvah as great as pidyon shevuyim.” ...

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Is a Minyan Factory Kosher?

by R. Gil Student I. One Shul, Multiple Minyanim It is now common for some synagogues to hold multiple minyanim (prayer services) at different times. The most active are open nearly 24 hours a day, holding morning services every half hour, alternating rooms so there is no overlap, and afternoon and evening services every fifteen minutes. Colloquially, they are called ...

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Can AI Do Your Homework?

by R. Gil Student I. Artificial Intelligence and School Work Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made great progress over recent years. Within the past few months, one company released two products online for the public to use. Dall-E creates graphic images based on a user’s natural language request, attempting to understand what you want and drawing it. ChatGPT holds conversations with ...

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