Behar – A Good Deal or a Torah Proscription

I am looking for a property to buy in Jerusalem. Recently, a friend notified me of a potential bargain: an elderly person, who is clearly unaware of current market prices, is selling his apartment for a very cheap price, approximately two-thirds the market value. May I purchase the apartment for the suggested price, or must I inform the buyer that the price is too low, and make an offer that reflects current market values?

Early Bedikas Chametz

This week’s article discusses the timely obligation of bedikas chametz. True, there are still two weeks to go till Pesach, but even now, somebody leaving home might be obligated to check his house for chametz. What are the halachic details of this obligation? Is a blessing recited before checking? Does selling one’s chametz exempt one from the obligation? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Parsha Ponderings-Vayikra

DON’T PASS ON SALT FOR THIS MEAL! וכל קרבן מנחתך במלח תמלח, ולא תשבית מלח ברית אלקיך מעל מנחתך, על כל קרבנך תקריב מלח Your every meal-offering you shall salt… Read more »

14/03/2015

Purim Damages

Purim commemorates a reversal, a day of nahafoch hu, when fortunes were reversed and tables were turned. In the present article we will discuss a specific reversal that is not… Read more »

03/03/2015

Halachos of Making a Menorah

ParashasTerumah discusses making the vessels for the Mishkan – among them the Menorah.

The Gemara in three places (Rosh Hashanah 24a; Avodah 43a; Menachos 28b) establishes a prohibition of forming vessels that imitate the vessels of the Mikdash – including the Menorah. Specifically, the Gemara states that it is forbidden to form a Menorah of seven branches – but it is permitted to form a Menorah of five, six, or eight branches.

In the present article we will discuss this prohibition and its details. How is the prohibition defined and what is its severity? Is the prohibition restricted to making a seven-branched Menorah, or is it also forbidden to keep and use one? What changes can be made to permit the Menorah?

These questions, among others, are discussed below.

14/02/2015

“For Bribery Blinds the Wise” – Halachos of Bribes Today

This week’s article deals with the halachic issue of bribery – a prohibition found in this week’s Parashah, which the Torah and Chazal treat with great severity. What king of bribery is prohibited? When does bribery invalidate both judge and judgment? Moreover, does the prohibition apply only to judges, or does it extend to those holding public office? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Bo: Months and Dates in Halacha

We read this week of the first mitzvah given to Israel as a nation. This is the mitzvah of Kiddush Hachodesh. Although the actual mitzvah of setting and sanctifying the month is unfortunately not practiced today, the interpretation that Ramban gives to the text hints to a current application of the mitzvah.
What is the nature of this mitzvah? How are we to date our letters and documents? Is there a problem with using secular dates? These questions, and more, are addressed in the weekly article.

Assault in Torah Law

This article deals with the Torah prohibition against assault, an issue we meet in Parashas Shemos in the “two Hebrew men fighting” that Moshe saw. When is it forbidden to hit others, and when does the prohibition not apply? What is the rule concerning smiting the wicked, and how does this halachah match the narrative mentioned in our parashah? What are the parameters of the prohibition against raising one’s hand against another? We will discuss these questions, and more, in the present article.

Asking Forgiveness: How and for What?

In Parashas Vayechi we find that Yosef is asked by his brothers to forgive them for the offenses they committed against him.

The Torah writes (Bereishis 50:15-18): When Yosef’s brothers saw that their father had died, they said, “What if Yosef holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Yosef, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died… I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you badly.”

The Torah says that Yosef wept upon hearing the words, and then replied: “Do not be afraid – for am I in place of G-d? You intended to harm me, but G-d intended it for the good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

What remains unclear from the verses is the question of Yosef’s forgiveness: Did he actually forgive his brothers, or not?

Rabbeinu Bachya (50:17) gives the following answer: “Whoever has hurt another is not forgiven until the victim is appeased, even though he has repented. Now, even though the verses mention that Yosef comforted them and spoke to their hearts, which gives the appearance that Yosef forgave them, we nevertheless do not observe anywhere that in fact he did forgive them and put aside the wrong they had done to him. They thus died with their sin, without Yosef’s forgiveness. It is for this reason that their sin required some type of release, which occurred with the [death of the] Ten Martyrs.”

The passage teaches us the importance of procuring forgiveness from one’s fellow after harming him or causing him hurt, and in the present article we will focus of the halachic aspects pertaining to requesting forgiveness.

For which sins is there an obligation to ask forgiveness from one’s fellow? Is there a concurrent obligation to confess and to repent before Heaven? What is the nature of the request for forgiveness, and is there a need to detail the sins? These questions, among others, are discussed below

Shemos: His Name in Israel Shall be…

This week’s parashah, and with it the book of Shemos, begins with a listing of the names of the Children of Israel. Several sources indicate the importance of names in Jewish tradition, and this week’s article is dedicated to matters of naming children. Why should one avoid the names of wicked people? Is it proper to name a child by non-Jewish names? When, in naming a child after somebody, should one be wary of ‘evil omens’? When is it right to change a name? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Akin to Murder? – The Prohibition against Humiliating

In Parashas Vayeishev the Torah relates the events involving Yehuda and Tamar, which culminate in Tamar’s trial and later the birth of twins from Yehuda.

A well-known teaching is derived by the Sages from the verses narrating the trial (Bereishis 38:24-26), which tell that Yehuda was informed that his daughter-in-law had become pregnant from an illicit relationship. Yehuda pronounces judgment, and Tamar is taken out to be burned. At this point Tamar sends the signs of Yehuda’s identity (his seal, cord and staff) as proof that he is the father of Tamar’s unborn child. Yehuda justifies Tamar’s actions, and openly confesses the truth of her unspoken claim: “She is more just, than I.”

The actions of Tamar indicate how careful she was to avoid shaming Yehuda in public. The Gemara, in three instances (Berachos 43b; Bava Metzia 59a, Sotah 10b), takes note of the fact that Tamar only produced Yehuda’s possessions as a subtle indication of the identity of her child’s father, without explicitly identifying Yehuda. The Gemara understands that Tamar was prepared to be executed rather than humiliate Yehuda by explicitly identifying him as the father.

On this basis, the Gemara famously concludes: “A person should cast himself into a furnace of fire rather than publicly humiliate his fellow.”

In this week’s article we will dwell on the prohibition of humiliating one’s fellow. What is the nature and the definition of the prohibition? Is there an obligation to forfeit one’s life rather than humiliate somebody else? If not, why was Tamar prepared to give up her life for this matter?

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