parshas Vayeira – “Give Me a Break!” – Parameters of Midas Sedom

This week’s Parashah includes the terrible description of how Sodom was destroyed. The verses do not tell us much
about the deeds of Sodom’s inhabitants, yet Chazal reveal their underlying attitude: “What is mine, is mine, and what is
yours, is yours.” We dedicate this week’s article to the discussion of midas sedom, the character trait of Sodom, in both
a moral and halachic sense. What is midas sedom, and why does it constitute such a grave character flaw? What
halachic ramifications does this trait have? Does beis din enforce ethical behavior, or not? And how does this impact
our everyday lives?

parashas Lech Lecha – Self‐Injury and Cosmetic Surgery in Halachah

If Avraham Avinu performed all the mitzvos of the Torah, why did he not circumcise himself before being instructed to do so by Hashem? One answer given to this question leads us to investigate the prohibition of injuring oneself. Is there a prohibition of self-injury? What is the nature of the prohibition, and which cases are included in it? And what is the halachic status of cosmetic) plastic) surgery, which involved causing an injury to oneself? These questions ,and more, are considered in this week’s article.

The Mitzvah of Destiny

The first instruction recorded in the Torah is peru urevu, which (according to the Gemara in Gittin and Kiddushin) remains the source, even after Matan Torah, for the mitzvah of procreation. Yet, unlike other mitzvos, peru urevu appears to command something that is not entirely in our hands to fulfill–we can only try to beget children, but their actual birth is not in our hands. The essay will discuss a deeper layer of the mitzvah, and seek to explain the Divine element uniquely present in the instruction to beget children.

Nitzavim – Mutual Responsibility

One of the basic halachic principles that accompany us daily is the principle of arvus, mutual responsibility among the nation of Israel. The concept of mutual responsibility is manifest on several layers of our national life, and this week we discuss its halachic expression. What are the halachic ramifications of arvus? How does the concept of arvus influence the obligation to rebuke wrongdoers? And what about women? These, and other related issues, are discussed in this week’s article.

Purchasing the Four Species

n the present days many we are all occupied, to varying degrees, with the search for the Four Species. However, finding kosher or mehudar Species is not the end of the story. The Torah requires us to gain a full ownership of the Species–a feat not necessarily as simple as it sounds. This week we discuss the possible pitfalls in buying and paying for the Four Species, and the methods by which the full transfer of ownership can be ensured. May checks be used as payment? What about credit cards? And why is it so important to pay on time? These questions, and more, are dealt with in this week’s article.

23/09/2015

Yom Kippur: The Secret of our Viduy

This week’s article discusses the mitzvah of teshuvah, and in particular the recitation of viduy. In the halachic part of the article we will clarify how viduy is an integral and essential part of the teshuvah process. The second part of the article is dedicated to exploring why viduy is so central to teshuvah, and to finding an approach to the many (ten) orders of viduy recited over Yom Kippur.

21/09/2015

Selichos Primer

    As Rosh Hashana approaches we gradually introduce daily reminders to prepare for this Day of Judgement. Starting Rosh Chodesh Elul, the shofar’s blow resonates in our shuls and… Read more »

03/09/2015

Keeping Your Word

In this week’s parsha we are cautioned to not take lightly what we say. The Torah states: “Actualize that which emerges from your lips” (Devorim 23:24). The Torah teaches us… Read more »

27/08/2015

Shoftim – Of Signs and Lots

This week’s Parashah includes the instruction to be “tamim” with Hashem. What does this instruction involve? Does it prohibit consulting a horoscope? What about relying on omens, good or bad? And what of using various forms of goralos? These, and other related issues, are studied in this week’s article.

Shmittas Kesafim – Foregoing Loans

As the Shmittah year approaches its close, one last mitzvah awaits us. This mitzvah, unlike the rest of the laws of Shmittah, is completely independent of agriculture and produce. Rather its intention is to strengthen our character and desire to give (see Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 477). Furthermore, this mitzvah entrenches in us the awareness that everything belongs to Hashem, rendering unfit the pursuit of material wealth (Tumim 67:1). The Torah tells us, “At the end of seven years you will institute a remission [shmittah]. This is the matter of the of the remission, every creditor shall forgo his claim for what he has lent his friend, he shall not press his friend or his brother, for He has proclaimed a remission for Hashem, you may demand payment from a gentile, and that which you have with your brother, you shall relinquish” (Devorim ch. 15).

The mitzvah of shmittas kesafim, forgoing claims on loans, has many facets and halochos. Does this Mitzvah apply today? Does it obligate one who lives in chutz l’aretz? When does it take effect? If I lent someone my car, do I have to let him keep it? I borrowed tomatoes from a neighbor; do I have to give them back? What if I want to pay back my loan, is that permitted or am I in violation of the Torah’s will? Bezras Hashem we will clarify these questions and discuss other ideas related to this mitzvah.

13/08/2015

Laws of Zimun: Who Joins and Who Leads?

In this week’s article we turn our attention to questions of “who joins?” and “who leads?” the zimun ceremony. Who should be the one chosen to perform the ceremony? Who is considered the ba’al ha-bayis, and what rights does he have in selecting the mezamen? Can women and children form part of a zimun group, and what is the halachah of women eating on their own? These questions, and more, are elucidated in this week’s article.

Ekev – Love the Convert: How?

This week’s Parashah includes the mitzvah of loving the convert–a mitzvah that requires much clarification. Does the mitzvah imply an obligation to give precedence to a convert over a Jew from birth? Does it include an instruction to accept converts? And how does the love of a convert differ from the love of all Jews? These issues, and more, are discussed in the weekly article.

Devarim – Who’s Doing the Cooking?

The issue of bishul akum is a halachic topic that often crops up in connection with institutions such as old-age homes, hotels, and so on. This week’s article presents the background to the prohibition, the various heterim that are used in operating non-Jewish staff in kosher kitchens, and other commonly asked questions concerning the prohibition.

Words that Hurt: Torah Laws of Onaas Devarim

The Torah teaches: “When you sell something to your fellow, or buy from your fellow, do no wrong one man his fellow” (Vayikra 25:14). In a subsequent verse, the Torah states: “You shall not wrong one another.”

Dwelling on the two verses, the Gemara explains that the latter verse refers to onaas devarim. This means that causing somebody else emotional pain, by means of verbal, written, or any other form of communication, is a Torah prohibition. This basic prohibition is recorded by the Rambam and by the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 228:1).

The Gemara, moreover, writes that the prohibition of onaas devarim is more stringent even than the Torah transgression of monetary onaah (overcharging).

Several reasons are mentioned for this: The offense is worse since it attacks the person himself, rather than his money. Also the pasuk mentions the fear of G-d in the instruction of onaas devarim, which implies an added degree of severity. And finally, monetary wrongs can be restored by paying back, whereas anguish and grief caused, can never be recalled.

The Gemara adds that the punishment for causing suffering is executed more swiftly than that of monetary wrongs. Hashem, the Gemara explains, hears the call of one who calls Him out of pain and anguish.

In this article we will discuss the parameters and the laws of the prohibition of onaas devarim: Is the offense punishable by Beis Din? Which people does the Torah single out for special care in this context? Is it permitted to insult somebody else in retaliation for verbal assault? These questions, among others, are discussed below.

26/05/2015

Laws of the Kippa

The most easily recognized symbol of Jewish identity – for men – is doubtless the kippa or yarmulke. Orthodox men always wear a kippa, and even non-observant men are generally… Read more »

14/05/2015