Rav Ovadya Yosef on Whether Ethiopian Jews Need to Reconvert

by R. Gidon Rothstein Ethiopian Jewry presented a significant problem for rabbis, because their lineage was unclear and their practices weren’t quite those of regular Jews. Were they Jewish and had lost much of the tradition, or were they people who attempted to convert but never actually did? That mattered especially once they started coming to the State of Israel, ...

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Competing Rabbis

by R. Gidon Rothstein 20 Kislev: Chatam Sofer on Competing Rabbis Capitalist countries assume that competition challenges people to do their best, leading to improved products at cheaper prices. True as that is in many areas, halachah did not see it as an unmitigated good, and developed the idea of hassagat gevul, encroaching boundaries, occasions when it’s unacceptable to compete with the person already filling ...

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The Differences Between Employees and Slaves

by R. Gidon Rothstein 13 Kislev: Chatam Sofer on the Differences Between Employees and Slaves Judaism has a range of ways that one Jew can work for another.  An extreme version is an eved Ivri, which I translate as a Jewish indentured servant, where the Jew in some meaningful sense sells himself (or is sold) to an employer/master; a more ordinary arrangement is a sachir, ...

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Becoming a Firefighter

by R. Gidon Rothstein 6 Kislev: Tzitz Eliezer on Becoming a Firefighter One of the blessed challenges of a renewed Jewish presence in the Land of Israel is that it brings up questions of how an halachic Judaism can function in a full working society. Tzitz Eliezer 7;20, dated 6 Kislev 5722 (1961) takes up one such challenge. The rabbi of Pardes Channah, R. Yehoshua Zelig Diskin, ...

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Mussaf with a Minyan or Shacharit First

by R. Gidon Rothstein 28 Cheshvan: R. Moshe Feinstein on Mussaf with a Minyan or Shacharit First There may be people who have never come late to shul; for the rest of us, hard questions arise. Shu”t Iggerot Moshe Orach Chayyim 4;68, dated 28 Marcheshvan 5750 (1979), deals with a person who comes to shul when the community is already up to Mussaf, the additional prayer on Shabbat and holidays. ...

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Unsupervised Meat

by R. Gidon Rothstein 21 Cheshvan: Chacham Zvi on Meat Left Without Supervision We outsource much about kashrut, especially regarding meat. We walk into a kosher butcher, supervised by a rabbi or organization we trust, buy meat, go home and prepare and eat it. That has many advantages, since almost all the people involved in the process are more familiar with the relevant halachot than ...

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Why One Shomer Cannot Entrust an Item to Another

by R. Gidon Rothstein 14 Cheshvan: R. Uzziel on Why One Shomer Cannot Entrust an Item to Another The backbone of responsa, I perhaps don’t say often enough, is halachic process, getting at the nuts and bolts of concept. From time to time, it seems worth our while to tackle responsa about those kinds of issues, even when they do not directly translate into ...

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Can Medical Care Make an Animal a Terefah?

by R. Gidon Rothstein 7 Cheshvan: R. Ovadya Yosef on Whether Medical Care Can Make an Animal a Terefah Terefot as defined by the Gemara present a challenge Rambam already noticed. The Gemara seems to view a terefah as an animal that sustained a mortal wound (there is a Talmudic view that terefah chayah, a terefah can live, but that’s not important here), but the list of ...

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Blessings on Mitzvot

by R. Gidon Rothstein 1st Day RH Cheshvan: Chatam Sofer on Brachot on Mitzvot A long time ago, I thought about writing a PhD dissertation about R. Tzvi Hirsch Chayes (I gave it up because I wasn’t interested in learning the necessary languages, and Bruria Hutner David beat me to it as well), so I kind of perk up whenever I come across him. In Shu”t Chatam ...

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Extending Heter Mechirah

by R. Gidon Rothstein 20 Tishrei: R. Yitzchak Elchanan Extending the Heter Mechirah for Another Shemittah The heter mechirah is an halachic solution to the quandary of how to handle shemittah in times when farmers feel they cannot financially forego an entire year’s crop. Today, the issue raises religious, political, and economic questions, which are far beyond our purview here; but in 5656 (1895-96), a shemittah year, R. Yitzchak ...

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