The Prohibition of Lo Tachmod

The last of the Ten Commandments which we read in Parashas Yisro, is the commandment of Lo Tachmod: “You shall not covet your fellow’s house; you shall not covet your fellow’s wife … and all that belongs to your fellow.”

In the Commandments of Devarim we find a parallel in Lo Tis’aveh: “You shall not desire your fellow’s house … and all that belongs to your fellow.”

In this article we will address these prohibitions: The prohibition of Lo Tachmod and the prohibition of Lo Tis’aveh. What is the difference between the two prohibitions? What are the conditions for transgressing the prohibitions? Does the prohibition of Lo Tachmod apply even where the owner gives the item in question of his own choice? Does somebody who covets the wealth of his fellow transgress the prohibition?

These questions, and others, are discussed below

27/01/2016

Waiting Between Meat and Dairy

This week’s Parashah, Parashas Ki Tisa, includes the instruction of not eating meat and dairy products together.

The Torah itself mentions only the words, “You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.” Based on the threefold repetition of this instruction, Chazal understand that three distinct prohibitions are included: cooking, consuming, and benefiting from a combination of meat and milk.

Furthermore, it is rabbinically forbidden to eat meat and milk together, even if they were not cooked together.

Beyond this, Chazal also note an obligation to wait between eating meat and dairy products.

In the present article we will discuss the obligation to wait between eating meat and dairy products. How long does one have to wait? Is there an obligation to wait even after merely tasting meat? Do even children and sick people have to wait? What is the halachah in cases of doubt?

These questions, and others, are discussed below.

07/03/2015

Parashas Tetzaveh – The Halachic Status of Present-Day Kohanim

This week’s parashah deals with the inception of Kohanim for the priestly service, and with the special clothes that their service requires. Today, although we no longer have the Temple service (may it speedily return!), there remain a number of halachic duties and laws that pertain to the caste of Kohanim. In this week’s article we will discuss the status of present-day Kohanim with regard to these halachic ramifications. Are today’s Kohanim certified, “definite” Kohanim, or not? What is their status with regard to eating challah, to Pidyon Haben, to giving the Priestly Blessing, and so on? Must we give them special honors, as befitting the Kehunah? The answers to these questions, and more, are found in this week’s article.

“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.

Damage By a Car in Torah Law

Parashas Mishpatim presents us with an opportunity to discuss Torah monetary law, the basis for which is found chiefly in thus parashah. Specifically, we wish to discuss the Torah laws of damages (tort) – a central part Jewish civil law, which occupies a large part of Maseches Bava Kama.

A question, that was recently raised, will serve as the springboard for our discussion. Driving down a narrow street, Levi inadvertently brushed the side of a parked car, causing a small dent. Yaakov, the owner of the damaged car, was amicable enough, and it was agreed that the damage issues will be settled between them in Beis Din.

What are Levi’s obligations towards Yaakov? How are a damages by a car classified in Torah law? Does Jewish law recognize an obligation to pay for repairs? Does the negligence or otherwise of Levi figure in the question?

These questions, and others, are addressed below.

Abortion in Torah Law

This article discusses the Torah approach to the sensitive issues of abortions. What is the source for the prohibition against abortions, and which particular transactions are involved? When can an abortion be permitted according to Torah law? What is the status of a fetus carrying a genetic disease? These delicate questions, among others, are discussed in the present article.

Purchasing Mitzvah Items with Meshichah

The instruction to bring the Pesach offering, which occurs in Parashas Bo (Shemos 12:21), includes the directive to “draw and take for yourselves sheep.”

The Mechilta (11) mentions a number of homiletic interpretations of the verse, the last of them referring to kinyan meshichah – the method of transferring ownership by means of the buyer drawing an item to himself: “This teaches you that a small animal is purchased by means of meshichah.” The Israelites took possession of the animals by drawing them to themselves.

In the current article we will discuss this method of transfer of ownership, in particular with regard to the purchase of mitzvah items. What is the ideal method of acquiring ownership of a mitzvah item? Is meshichah sufficient? Is payment sufficient? Can the final acquisition be made on Yom Tov?

These questions, among others, are discussed below.

24/01/2015

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.

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.

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.

Using the Jewish and Secular Date

As we approach the month of Nissan, the reading on this Shabbos includes Parashas Ha-Chodesh, the reading of the New Month: “This month is for you the first of months, it is the first, for you, among the months of the year” (Shemos 12:2).

The mitzvah of sanctifying the new month was the first mitzvah given to the Jewish People as a nation, and it preceded their coming forth from Egypt.

In the initial creation of the world, a number of commentaries (including the Sefornu, the Vilna Gaon, and others) note that the creation of time is included in the very first words of the Torah: “In the beginning Elokim created.” In a similar vein, a mitzvah of time – a new time frame that had hitherto not existed – was given to the nation of Israel before its national creation.

Although the mitzvah of setting and sanctifying the month is not practiced today, the interpretation that Ramban gives to the text gives rise to a possible contemporary application of the mitzvah, and to a halachic issue that many authorities have discussed.

In the present article we will discuss the mitzvah of using the Jewish Date in documents. Is there such a mitzvah? Is there a prohibition against using the secular date? What is the significance of the Jewish months commonly used? How should letters and checks be dated? These questions, among others, are addressed below.

Parashas Pekudei – The Two Months of Adar: Which is the True Month?

As we approach the onset of the second month of Adar—Adar Sheini—we dedicate this week’s article to the oft-confusing identification of the “true” month of Adar. As we shall see, classifying the “principle” month of Adar might have ramifications that embrace a wide range of halachic issues. In which of the Adar months is a bar-mitzvah celebrated? When is a yahrzeit commemorated? Which of the two months is considered Adar for legal purposes? These issues, among others, will be discussed in this week’s article.

Remembering Amalek: Halachos of Parashas Zachor

This week’s article discusses the halachos of Parashas Zachor, which is read this week in advance of Purim. Is the reading of Zachor a Torah mitzvah, or a rabbinic enactment? Does the mitzvah require a kosher Sefer Torah, and a reading among a quorum of men? Are women obligated in the mitzvah? These questions, and more, are discussed in the present article.

Parshas Bo

Rabbi Reisman   וּבַיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם 12:16 וּבַיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם:  כָּל-מְלָאכָה, לֹא-יֵעָשֶׂה בָהֶם–אַךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל לְכָל-נֶפֶשׁ, הוּא לְבַדּוֹ יֵעָשֶׂה לָכֶם… Read more »

Parshas Va’eira 5770

8:8 & 8:26 ח. וַיֵּצֵא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה וַיִּצְעַק מֹשֶׁה אֶל יְ־רוָ־ר עַל דְּבַר הַצְפַרְדְּעִים אֲשֶׁר שָׂם לְפַרְעֹה: כו. וַיֵּצֵא מֹשֶׁה מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה וַיֶּעְתַּר אֶל יְ־רוָ־ר: Regarding the Tzefardai’a… Read more »

Parashas Vayakhel – The “Mini-Temple”—Halachos of Shuls

This week we take an in-depth look at the laws of the shul, and in particular, the laws derived from the comparison between today’s “small sanctuary” and the original Temple. Is this comparison made on a Torah level, or only on a rabbinic level? What are its ramifications concerning building or destroying a shul? Which halachos are extracted from the comparison (such as the structure of the shul, placement of the bimah, doors, the aron ha-kodesh, and so on), and which are not? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Parashas Ki Tisa – Halachos of Machatzis Ha-Shekel

Dwelling on the opening of the parashah, and in tune with the time of the year—on an ordinary year, the custom of machatzis ha-shekel would be performed this week—this week’s article discusses the laws and intricacies of the custom. What is the meaning and function of the half-shekel donation? Who must donate, and to whom is the donation given? When must the donation be made, and what must its value be? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Parshas Teruma – Halachos of the Western Wall

In this week’s parashah, Parashas Terumah, the Torah begins to define the Mishkan (Tebernacle) and its vessels, and instruct Moshe in their construction. Befitting the theme of the parashah, we dwell this week on the laws of the Western Wall. Was the Western Wall part of the Temple, or the Temple Mount? Is somebody who is ritually defile (tamei) permitted to approach the Wall? It is permitted to place one’s fingers (or a note) between the crevices of the Wall? May one derive benefit from the Wall? These questions, and more, are discussed in the weekly article.

Parshas Mishpatim – Taking the Law into Your Own Hands: Permissible or Not?

This week’s Parashah, Parashas Mishpatim, presents the natural and direct continuation from the event of receiving the Torah, of which we read last week. After the Torah was given, Moshe, under instruction from Hashem, began to teach the people the intricate laws of the Torah, and in particular, the civil law that the Torah defines. This week’s article presents a fascinating halachic discussion over whether, and to what extent, a person is permitted to take the law into his own hands. In addition, the article addresses the delicate question of whether it is permitted to hand a Jewish criminal over to the police, where he will be subject to punishments other than those sanctioned by the Torah.

Parashas Yisro – The Righteous Convert

Two aspects of this week’s parashah connect the weekly reading with the highly contemporary issue of conversion to Judaism. One is the tale of Yisro, the first person to convert to the nascent nation of Israel. The other is the giving of the Torah at Sinai, the source from which the Talmud derives the basic laws of conversion. We therefore take the opportunity to discuss the halachic aspects of conversion and, in particular, the question of mitzvah acceptance on the part of the proselyte. To what extent must the convert accept upon himself the yoke of mitzvah fulfillment? Must we address the sincerity of the proselyte, or can his words be taken at face value? Must he accept upon himself all mitzvos? How, indeed, is the acceptance defined? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Parashas Beshalach – Working and Learning

In this week’s Parashah we read the passage of the manna, which is known to be a segula fo parnasah. Yet, the segulah of reading the passage of the manna cannot be effective if one makes no effort to earn an income. The question that this week’s article discusses is how much effort should one make? What, if any, is the degree to which working for a living should be combined with the study of Torah? Is it better to entirely dedicate oneself to Torah, or is it better to combine it with working for a living? For those who do combine the two, what is the ideal way of doing so? These questions, and other details that pertain to this delicate issue, are discussed in the weekly article.

Va’eira: Changing Halachah in a Changing World?

This week’s parashah begins to chronicle the miracles in Egypt. In regular times, however, the order of nature, which Hashem directs yet does not interfere with, controls the world. Yet, There are a number of differences between the natural world of today and the phenomena described by Chazal, which present poskim with a halachic dilemma. Many halachos in Chazal and the poskim are based on the nature of the world as perceived by our Sages. Many have questioned the status of such halachos, in light of our modern understanding of the world. How should we relate to the halachic rulings of Chazal and poskim that are at odds with modern scientific findings? Are there some halachos that change, while others remain constant? What will be the ruling in case of matters that Chazal considered dangerous, yet we view as being innocuous? These questions, and others, are addressed in this week’s article.