Parashas Noach – Foreign Languages in Prayer

This week’s article discusses the issue of using different languages for purposes of Keriyas Shema and for prayer in general. When can English, or other languages, be used? Is it preferable to use Hebrew without understanding, or a different language that one understands? Can foreign languages be used even in places where they are not the spoken tongue? These, and other questions, are discussed in this week’s article.

Lag B’omer

Lag B’omer is a day of rejoicing (see Rama Orach Chaim 493:2). Depending on the various minhagim, the mourning customs of sefirah either conclude or are put on hold for a day, tachanun is omitted, and for those who can, being in Meiron – the burial place of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai – is an unforgettable experience. Let us now discuss some of the background and minhagim of this most interesting holiday.

25/05/2016

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

Shavuos Musings

The prevalent custom in most Jewish communities is to remain awake the entire night of Shavuos learning Torah, eagerly anticipating the upcoming acceptance of Torah on Shavuos morning. Magen Avrohom,… Read more »

28/05/2012