Latest Essays

Smoking in Halakhah

[Thanks to Protocols, who in turn thanks The Town Crier, for bringing this to my attention.] A new book has been published, titled Hayim le-Lo Ishun Al Pi ha-Torah by R. Yehezkel Ishayek of Bnei Brak, in which the author argues that smoking is absolutely prohibited. The Jerusalem Post summarizes some of his arguments: Preserving one’s health is an important ...

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Humrah Society II

Is it permissible to be stricter than one’s parents or grandparents on halakhic matters? The Gemara in Gittin (5b) records a suggested change in the procedure of writing a get that was rejected so as not to cast aspersions on the gittin of earlier generations. Perhaps here, too, we may not be strict so as not to cast aspersions on ...

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Habad Messianism

I think by now we are all familiar with the particular form of Habad messianism that holds the deceased Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Menahem Mendel Schneerson, to be the messiah. There are some who believe that he is already the messiah and wait for his resurrection, some who even believe that he never died, some who believe that he will definitely ...

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Humrah Society

We are all familiar with the trend towards crazy humros and how some people are going out of control. However, they seem to me to be the extreme and do not represent the norm. I am not implying that the Orthodox community as a whole has not moved towards increased observance and stringency. Rather, I question whether this is a ...

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Music on Yom Ha-Atzma’ut II

There is an excerpt posted online from a book by R. Shmuel Katz, author of the more popular Kedoshim Tihyu, about the first seventy years of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The passage excerpted is regarding Yom ha-Atzma’ut and the official attitude of the Chief Rabbinate. R. Katz records that, at first, the Chief Rabbinate declared that Yom ha-Atzma’ut has ...

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Women’s Prayer Groups – R. Avi Weiss’ Position

Introduction R. Avi Weiss is a very successful pulpit rabbi and Jewish activist. He has founded the organization Amcha that tries to stand up for the Jewish people in a number of venues. His efforts on behalf of the Jewish people and individual Jews in unfortunate situations demonstrate a caring heart and an effective organizational skill. However, in the area ...

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Sephardic Attitudes to Women’s Prayer Groups

Jacob Katz asked: “Has Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, or any of the other sefardic halakhists of our time, written anything about Women’s Prayer Groups?” I found the following prohibiting sources in Rabbis Aryeh and Dov Frimer’s article Women’s Prayer Services – Theory and Practice: R. Shalom Messas, Resp. Shemesh uMagen, II, sec. 28; R. Mordechai Eliyahu in an unpublished responsum, dated ...

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Music on Yom Ha-Atzma’ut

I have heard R. Hershel Schachter say many times that R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik was opposed to suspending any of the mourning observances of sefirah for the celebration of Yom ha-Atzma’ut, Israeli Independence Day. So, when a group at Yeshiva University would arrange to celebrate Yom ha-Atzma’ut and would invite R. Schachter to speak, he would gladly speak but would ...

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Guilt by Association

The Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 3:2 writes, “A scholar is prohibited from sitting down to a court case until he knows with whom he is sitting lest he sit with men who are unfit and becomes part of a rebellious group rather than a court.” While this halakhah only technically applies to a religious court, it is important advice for ...

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Coming Up On Hirhurim

Some topics that, time permitting, I hope to discuss in the near future: 1. Kol Ishah 2. Archaeology and the Bible 3. Who is a Talmid Hakham? 4. The Ordination of Women Remember that feedback is always welcome, whether in the comments section or via e-mail.

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