Halachah Musings

Megillah in Spanish

by R. Gil Student A new rabbi has to navigate carefully between taking his role as a halakhic guide and respecting the community’s past. As a matter of conscience, if he finds the community engaging in a practice that he considers improper, he will want to change that practice. After all, he wants his community to observe the Torah properly. ...

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Monkeys in Talmudic Law

by R. Gil Student On odd occasions, a monkey makes an appearance in Talmudic legal discussions for a specific purpose. Monkeys are nimble enough to be able to do many actions that a human can do. However, a monkey lacks sufficient intent to classify an act as purposeful. If a monkey does it, it happens but it lacks intent. The ...

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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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Kohen Under a Tree

by R. Gil Student I. The Cemetery in Lvov A kohen is obligated to protect his sanctity from the impurity of a dead body. Part of this obligation requires him to avoid being under the same roof as a dead body. In 1620, a question arose about this fairly straightforward rule. Rav Koppel Katz, a young rabbi, had recently been ...

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When Is A Kiddush Not A Kiddush?

by R. Gil Student The common shul kiddush presents a puzzling halakhic case because it seems to contradict a basic rule. Kiddush must be part of a meal. However, the shul kiddush is generally not a meal as classically defined in Jewish law because it lacks bread/challah. A Shabbos meal should contain two challos yet most people eat no challah ...

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Nudity in Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student I. Revealing Nakedness The Torah refers to forbidden relations as revealing the nakedness of someone else (Lev. 18). However, this is a euphemism. In a literal sense, you may not reveal our own nakedness, i.e. walk around nude. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) quotes R. Yossi who said that the walls of his house never saw the ...

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The Case For Quick Davening

by R. Gil Student I. Praying Quickly We are often told that the slower we pray, the better we pray. We have more intent, more time to think about the meaning of each word. But there may be reasons to pray quickly, saying every word with focus and intent but at a quick pace and without much pausing. Rav Chaim ...

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Waking A Parent

by R. Gil Student In illustrating both the importance of honoring our parents and the extent to which we must go to honor them, the Gemara tells a story that seems difficult to comprehend. It is so extreme that the choice it presents does not conform to our sense of reality and, despite the fame of the story, does not ...

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Rabbi Sacks on Abortion

by R. Gil Student With the U.S. Supreme Court reconsidering federal law on abortion, we return to discuss the issue from another Jewish perspective, this one a bit more liberal. In the past, we have seen leading halakhists of the late 20th century who called abortion “murder.” They include Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Ya’akov Kamenetsky ...

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Should You Light Menorah Outdoors?

by R. Gil Student I. Lighting in Danger The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) says that you must light your Chanukah menorah near the doorway (opening, pesach) of your house on the outside. If you live on an upper floor, you should light it in your window. And in times of danger, you light the menorah on your table. This list of ...

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