Responsa

Releasing an Unreleasable Vow

by R. Gidon Rothstein 10 Shevat: R. Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor on Releasing an Unreleasable Vow It’s hard to react to people who break bounds of propriety, whether those codified in rules and laws or “just” as part of norms accepted in society. It’s hard to know what to do because to mete out the consequences such people deserve often brings ...

Read More »

Adopting a Jewish Girl

by R. Gidon Rothstein 3 Shevat: Tzitz Eliezer on Adopting a Jewish Girl and on Saying Kiddush By Heart When I was growing up, word on the Jewish street was that we adopted only non-Jewish babies, to avoid the halachic problems that can come with a child of unknown lineage. On 3 Shevat 5722 (1962), Tzitz Eliezer 7;40 was asked about an adoption that raises this issue ...

Read More »

How Chatam Sofer Spent 25 Tevet

by R. Gidon Rothstein How Chatam Sofer Spent 25 Tevet on Five Years of His Life (You can hear a half-hour audio version of this, thanks to ou.org) There’s no particular reason a responsum should exist for every possible calendar day, although the length of Jewish history and wealth of the responsa literature generally means I generally get to choose from more than ...

Read More »

Cornea Transplants

by R. Gidon Rothstein 18 Tevet: R. Ben–Zion Abba Shaul and R. Ovadya Yosef Debate Cornea Transplants [Click for the audio version at ou.org, which leaves R. Ovadya Yosef for the 20th of Tevet]. One of the wonders of the past hundred years has been the flowering of Torat Eretz Yisrael, Torah from the Land of Israel. In this series, where I review responsa ...

Read More »

Doing Business with Prohibited Items

by R. Gidon Rothstein 11 Tevet: R. Kook on Doing Business with Prohibited Items [Thanks to the good people at the OU, especially R. Jack Abramowitz and David Hochhauser, I have recently completed audio summaries of all the responsa in this series, even as I continue to work on written versions. Click for a half-hour shiur discussing this responsum]. Halachah defines some items as assur be-hana’ah, ...

Read More »

Employer/Employee Relations

by R. Gidon Rothstein 4 Tevet: R. Uzziel on Some Basics of Employer/Employee Relations Perennial questions of how to structure social institutions do not always have a single halachic answer, so they arise each time society changes. Shu”t Mishpetei Uzziel 4;Choshen Mishpat 42, dated 4 Tevet 5698 (1937; interestingly, while other rabbinic writers re-order the letters to avoid the possible reading tirtsach, kill or murder, R. ...

Read More »

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, ...

Read More »

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 ...

Read More »

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, ...

Read More »