Halachah Musings

Solving the Problem of the 39 Shabbos Labors

by R. Gil Student It is well known that the biblical prohibitions of Shabbat can be classified into 39 labors — melakhos — that are listed in the second Mishna of the seventh chapter of Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 49b) relates an attempt to find a source in the written Torah for this ancient oral tradition. The various forms of ...

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Dreams, Social Media and Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student Dreams are a common part of daily life to which the Talmudic Sages attribute great importance. They see in dreams both danger and opportunity, and therefore created three ceremonies or opportunities to rid ourselves of bad omens in dreams. However, on a more careful look, we find conflicting thoughts about dreams in the Talmud and a ...

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The Best Charity

by R. Gil Student I. Which Charity? Many people in the Jewish community have achieved varieties of financial success, allowing them the privilege of supporting many charities. This raises questions of communal and philanthropic priorities. Others have limited charity funds but still want to allocate them effectively. The issue is a blessing but also a complex problem, with multiple angles. ...

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Rav Lichtenstein on Abortion

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have seen that Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Ya’akov Kamenetsky and Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in different contexts, have referred to abortion as “murder.” We have also seen the public policy concerns of Rav Immanuel Jakobovits and Rav Jonathan Sacks. I would like here to explore the written views of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, ...

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Merchants of Flesh

by R. Gil Student I. Parental Memorabilia What seems immoral to one generation may seem moral, even patriotic or respectful, to another. On the one hand, that makes Torah guidance even more important. On the other hand, it emphasizes the need to prioritize and compartmentalize judgments. How objectionable is an activity that the Torah rejects and general society accepts? People ...

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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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Can You Give Cryptocurrency for Matanos La-Evyonim?

by R. Gil Student Cryptocurrency has gained traction in recent years, valuing over two trillions dollars in circulation. Can you fulfill the mitzvah of giving money to poor people on Purim (matanos la-evyonim) with cryptocurrency? I have not seen any poskim address this question so I will begin the conversation with some preliminary thoughts. I. Is Cryptocurrency Considered Currency? Wikipedia ...

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Breakfast on Purim

by R. Gil Student I. Premature Breakfast On Purim morning, are we allowed to eat breakfast? The answer is not so much a matter of food but of priorities. On Purim, we observe a number of commandments. Among them are reading the megillah, giving charity to the poor, sending gifts of food to a friend and eating a festive meal. ...

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Can You Give a NFT as Mishlo’ach Manos?

by R. Gil Student One of the mitzvos of Purim is giving Mishlo’ach Manos, a gift of at least two different things to a friend. With technology constantly evolving, I wonder whether you can give a NFT (Non-Fungible Token) as Mishlo’ach Manos. A consensus seems to be emerging because all the rabbis I asked responded in the same way: “What’s ...

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What Can You Learn On Shabbos?

by R. Gil Student The question of what you can learn on Shabbos often revolves around the permissibility of reading secular material. However, it also applies to the proper Torah material for Shabbos. What and how are you allowed to learn Torah on Shabbos? I. Take It Easy On the one hand, Rav Yeshayahu Horowitz (17th cen., Germany; Shelah, Masekhes ...

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