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

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

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

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

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

The Power of the Shofar

Although Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Ten Days of Repentence, the prayers of the day make no mention of sin, we do not recite the Thirteen Attributes of Compassion, and personal requests are few and far between. What is the nature of the day, and its unique teshuvah? Why is the entire day a Yom Teru’ah, a “Day of Sounding the Shofar,” and which inner labor does this call upon us? The article will discuss the essence of Rosh Hashanah, and strive to clarify our personal role on this great day.

The Shavuos Diet

This special article for Shavuos deals with the custom of eating dairy products on Shavuos, and their proper separation from meaty foods. What is the source for the custom of eating dairy foods on Shavuos, and how is it performed? What is the optimal way to avoid mixing dairy and meaty? And what is the ideal way in which our time over the Shavuos festival should be spent? These questions are discussed in this week’s article?

Honoring Seder Night Pledges

This week’s article discusses the contemporary question of fulfilling promises—Afikoman promises. Is there a full halachic obligation to honor one’s Afikoman promise of Seder Night? Is there a difference between young and older children? Is the duress that a parent sometimes experiences in trying to retrieve the Afikoman a factor? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Biur Chametz the Easy Way— Laws of Selling Chametz (Part II)

This week’s article continues the discussion of the Sale of Chametz. How is the rabbi, or the person responsible for the sale, appointed by the individual homeowner? When is the sale to the non-Jew actually performed? How do international sales work? And what products should be included in the sale? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Biur Chametz the Easy Way: The Sale of Chametz

This week’s article is the first of a two-part series on the sale of chametz. What is the history of the chametz sale that has become so widespread? What was it initially intended for, and what does it achieve? Does one fulfill the mitzvah of tashbisu by selling one’s chametz? What are the benefits of a collective sale, and how should the purchasing non-Jew be given access to his chametz? How, indeed, must the chametz be treated over Pesach? These questions, and more, are addressed in this week’s article.