Vayishlach – Rights and Wrongs of Flattery

This week’s parashah includes an interesting source concerning the prohibition of flattery: the words of conciliation spoken by Yaakov to his brother Eisav. We take the opportunity to expound on the prohibition of flattery. Concerning which people, and in which manner, is there a prohibition of flattery? Does the prohibition apply even in circumstances of potential danger or loss? Are there circumstances in which it might even be a mitzvah to flatter? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

The Rosh Hashanah Partnership

Towards Rosh Hashanah, this week we will discuss the question of the name “Rosh Hashanah.” Unlike other festivals, the title “Rosh Hashanah”, which appears in the Mishnah and writings of Chazal, is not derived from Torah verses–in which we find the names “Yom Teru’ah” and “Yom Hazikaron.” What caused Chazal to “change the name” of this day? And how does this name change reflect on our avodah of the day, on the prayer service, and on the blowing of the shofar? These questions, and more, are discussed in the article.

20/09/2014

Parshas Emor – The Meaning of Chinuch

As parents, the idea of chinuch is a concept that is always close to our hearts. We invest much thought, toil, and money in the chinuch or our children, realizing the crucial value of chinuch in molding the next generation. Of course, chinuch is not merely a technical, halachic matter. Chazal teach us that every child (and every person) is an entire world, and chinuch implies seeking to allow the world within our children to flourish and to blossom, giving him the tools to realize the tremendous potential with which each individual is endowed. However, there are also certain halachic definitions, in particular with regard to chinuch of mitzvos, which are important to know. This essay will address the basic concept of chinuch for mitzvos.

The Prohibition of Kitniyos on Pesach

The most prominent aspect of the upcoming Pesach festival is without a doubt the dietary restrictions. Throughout Pesach we replace bread with matzah and avoid all leavened products, turning our kitchen into quite something else. The lettuce leaves, horseradish, saltwater dips, and fascinating sandwiches of Seder Night also deserve a mention.

Another important culinary aspect of Pesach is the issue of kitniyos, legumes. Although there is no mention of the issue in the Torah, in the Mishnah or in the Gemara, the custom for Jews of Ashkenazi descent is to refrain from eating legumes of all kinds during Pesach. The question of what constitutes a legume for the purpose of this halachah, and how far the restriction goes, is therefore of great importance for Pesach cooking.

In the present article we will discuss the halachos pertaining to the issue of kitniyos, and seek to understand the reasons behind the custom, its halachic severity, and the extent of its application. Is quinoa included in the prohibition? Why is it permitted to eat potatoes on Pesach (Imagine life without them!)? Must separate dishes be used for those who must eat kitniyos on Pesach?

Purim: Days of Feasting and Joy

In this article we will discuss the mitzvah of the Purim feast, and the general joy of Purim: When during the day of Purim should the feast be held? Is there an obligation of eating meat during the meal, and should it begin with bread? How does the mitzvah of the feast integrate with the day’s general obligation of joy? These, and other topical questions, are discussed in the present article.

Drinking on Purim

As the days of Purim approach, we will this week discuss a mitzvah act that on the one hand gives Purim much of its unique festival character, and on the other is liable to cause us – both as performers of the mitzvah, and as parents of children who wish to perform it – no small headache.

The primary Talmudic source related to drinking on Purim is a Gemara in Megillah (7b): “Rava said: a person must get drunk on Purim until he cannot distinguish between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai’.”

The basic idea of drinking on Purim emerges moreover from the Megillah itself, which states that the days of Purim were enacted for mishteh – a word that specifically implies (by contrast with a regular se’udah) a wine-feast (as the original misheh of Achashverosh with which the tale of Esther begins).

The mitzvah of drinking to the point of inebriation raises a number of questions. What is the level of drunkenness that must be reached? Is it really possible that a Jew will be unable to distinguish between the curse of Haman and the blessing of Mordechai? When is there an obligation to drink – should one be drinking during the entire day? Must one drink wine, or can one drink any alcoholic beverage?

These questions, and more, are discussed below

Fraudulent Conveyance

Rabbi Yehonoson Dovid Hool This article was written by a dayan at Beis Din Nesevos Chaim-the Beis Din of the Institute For Dayanim and was published in Kuntris Magazine   Often when… Read more »

03/03/2014

Lechem Mishneh: The Double Bread of Shabbos

This article discusses the issue of lechem mishneh, the double-portion of bread that opens our Shabbos meals (commemorating the manna of the wilderness). Is lechem mishneh a full obligation? Are women obligated? Are complete loaves of bread required? Is lechem mishneh required even for cakes and pastries? These questions, and others, are discussed below.

Mikeitz – The Torah Outlook on Jailing and Imprisonment

In this week’s parashah (together with last week’s) we find one of the only occasions where the Torah
mentions a prison sentence. We take the opportunity to investigate the Torah’s outlook on imprisonment.
Does the Torah see jailing and imprisonment as a legitimate form of punishment? Is it permitted to keep
somebody pending trial in jail? Is it permitted to jail somebody on Shabbos. These questions, and more, are
discussed in this week’s article.

Parshas Matos – Speaking (and Writing) of Charity

The issue of nedarim (vows) crops up unexpectedly at a number of junctures along our daily routine. One such juncture is the matter of donations to charity. In the weekly article we discuss questions involved in giving charity by means of checks. Can a person retract from his check donation? Can a person change his mind after writing a check to charity, but before the check was handed over? This week’s article answers these questions, as well as addressing a number of additional points.

Chukas – Kohanim At Kivrei Tzaddikim

The question of a Kohen’s visit to burial sites of our righteous ancestors is a matter that commentaries and halachic authorities have discussed for hundreds of years. Do the burial sites of the righteous impart ritual impurity (tumas mes), and is there a halachic permit for Kohanim to visit them? This week’s article discusses the issue, from its primary sources through to practical conclusions.

The Minhag of Gebrokts

Probably the most often-asked Pesach related question is: “Do you eat gebrokts?” “Gebrokts” is the German or Yiddish term referring to something “broken apart” – in this case, matzah. (In… Read more »

02/03/2013

Brachos Said in Vain and Unnecessary Brachos

One of the Aseres Hadibros, which we will hear in this week’s parsha, is the prohibition of “lo sisa es Sheim Hashem Elokecha lashav,” “Do not recite the name of Hashem, your G-d, in vain.” The Gemara (Shavuos) explains that this mitzvah relates primarily to the issur of swearing falsely or unnecessarily, as the classical type of oath is when one invokes Hashem’s Name. This mitzvah also includes more common situations of saying Hashem’s Name without a valid reason.

Although the topic of swearing and taking oaths is an important one, it is rare to find an observant Jew swearing an oath with Hashem’s Name. Therefore, in this week’s article we will discuss some of the more common applications of this mitzvah.

25/12/2012

Shabbos Shirah

Shabbos Parshas Beshalach is called Shabbos Shirah – the Shabbos of the Song. This refers to the Shiras HaYam, the song of thanks that the Jewish nation sang to Hashem after crossing through the Red Sea on dry land and seeing their enemies drown. The name Shabbos Shirah appears in the Rishonim (Sefer HaMinhagim [Tyrnau], s.v., Shevat; Sefer Maharil, Hilchos Teves-Shevat-Adar, #7).

25/12/2012

Cleaning Up Your Act on Shabbos

The Shabbos meal is over and now it is time to get to work. The table has to be cleared and the dishes washed. What is permissible to do on Shabbos and what is not? Let us review some of the relevant halachos.

25/12/2012

Vayigash – Respect Your Grandparents – To Which Extent

In this week’s parashah we find Yaakov Avinu offering sacrifices to the G-d of his father, Yitzcak. The mention of Yitzchak, rather than Avraham, leads Rashi to comment (based on the Midrash) that a person is obligated in the honor of his father to a greater degree than that of his grandfather. We take the opportunity to discuss the concept of honoring one’s grandparents. Is there an obligation to honor one’s grandparents, and what is the extent of the obligation? Does the obligation apply even after a parent’s death? Does it apply equally to paternal and maternal grandparents? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Parshas Vayeitzei 5772

  We find that when Yaakov sleeps at Har Hamoriah 28:20 (וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב, נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר: אִם-יִהְיֶה אֱלֹקים עִמָּדִי, וּשְׁמָרַנִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ, וְנָתַן-לִי לֶחֶם לֶאֱכֹל, וּבֶגֶד לִלְבֹּשׁ). That… Read more »