Parashas Shemini – Halachos of Bugs in Food

In this week’s article we turn our attention to the prohibition of consuming bugs. Which insects are forbidden for consumption, and which are permitted? What are the special stringencies involved with eating bugs? What are the defining principles of the obligation to check for bugs? Must one search for bugs under the microscope or magnifying glass? These questions and more are addressed in this week’s article.

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.

Bedikas Chametz: Principles and Halachos

This week’s article discusses the mitzvah of bedikas chametz. Does searching for chametz involve a Torah mitzvah, or a rabbinic enactment? Does one have to ensure that he possesses chametz before he begins searching for it? What is the halachah concerning checking books for crumbs? We will seek to answer these questions, and others, by elucidating the matter from its primary sources.

02/04/2015

Parashas Vayikra – Coercion in Mitzvah Performance

This week’s article focuses on the principle whereby one must coerce his fellow Jew to perform mitzvos—a principle mentioned in connection with korbanos at the beginning of Vayikra. When, how, and to what extent must we enforce the performance of mitzvos? Does the obligation of coercion fall on beis din alone, or even on individuals? What value does a coerced mitzvah possess? These questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

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.

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.

Deception – “Theft of the Heart”

This week’s article deals with the prohibition of geneivas daas, deception or creating false impressions. Although many maintain that this is a full Torah prohibition, there remains little awareness of it, and it is all too easy to transgress it without even noticing. What is the definition of the prohibition? Is it related to theft, or to morality? Is there a difference between financial matters and other matters? These questions, and others, are discussed in this week’s article.

Traveling and Daytrips on Sukkos

As Sukkos is approaching, this article will address the issue of eating and sleeping outside the sukkah during trips taken during Chol Ha-Mo’ed.

Chol Ha-Mo’ed provides many with an opportunity for a family daytrip, and outings are likewise organized by youth groups and other organizations.

Can sandwiches be taken and eaten on such trips during Sukkos, even where there is no sukkah in which to eat them? If the trip extends overnight, is there an obligation to find a sukkah in which to sleep? Is it lechatchilah to arrange such trips at all?

We will seek to answer these questions by researching the subject from its first principles.

07/10/2014

Parshas Emor – The Meaning of Chinuch

As parents, the idea of chinuch is a concept that is always close to our hearts. We invest much thought, toil, and money in the chinuch or our children, realizing the crucial value of chinuch in molding the next generation. Of course, chinuch is not merely a technical, halachic matter. Chazal teach us that every child (and every person) is an entire world, and chinuch implies seeking to allow the world within our children to flourish and to blossom, giving him the tools to realize the tremendous potential with which each individual is endowed. However, there are also certain halachic definitions, in particular with regard to chinuch of mitzvos, which are important to know. This essay will address the basic concept of chinuch for mitzvos.

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.

Mikeitz – The Torah Outlook on Jailing and Imprisonment

In this week’s parashah (together with last week’s) we find one of the only occasions where the Torah
mentions a prison sentence. We take the opportunity to investigate the Torah’s outlook on imprisonment.
Does the Torah see jailing and imprisonment as a legitimate form of punishment? Is it permitted to keep
somebody pending trial in jail? Is it permitted to jail somebody on Shabbos. These questions, and more, are
discussed in this week’s article.

Parshas Matos – Speaking (and Writing) of Charity

The issue of nedarim (vows) crops up unexpectedly at a number of junctures along our daily routine. One such juncture is the matter of donations to charity. In the weekly article we discuss questions involved in giving charity by means of checks. Can a person retract from his check donation? Can a person change his mind after writing a check to charity, but before the check was handed over? This week’s article answers these questions, as well as addressing a number of additional points.

Transferring Inheritance in Halachah

In Parashas Pinchas we encounter the issue of daughters inheriting their father. In the case the Torah refers to, a person died without leaving behind any sons, and the question of whether daughters should inherit or not is addressed. The question was ultimately asked of Hashem Himself, who answered that where there are no sons, daughters inherit their father’s entire estate.

The question we wish to discuss at present is daughters’ inheritance where there are sons.

Although according to Torah law daughters do not inherit where there are sons, many parents wish their children – sons and daughters alike – to inherit their estate on an equal basis. In addition, there are sometime circumstances where a parent wishes a specific child – son or daughter – to inherit a larger portion than his or her siblings. This can be due to financial circumstances of the children (some are wealthy anyway, and do not need inheritance money to get by), or because of some other reason that a parent wishes to increase the portion of one child (or more than one) at the expense of his brothers.

In order that daughters should inherit, a tzavaah document must be written – a Torah Will giving instruction as to how a parent’s estate should be divided. In the present article we will not discuss the details of how a tzavaah document must be written. Ensuring that the tzavaah is fully binding (in Torah law) requires a significant degree of technical expertise. When writing a tzavaah it is important to consult with somebody expert in the field. Rather, we will explore the fundamental question of transferring an estate, or a part thereof, to daughters, or to anybody who is not the basic Torah beneficiary.

Is there a problem in circumventing Torah inheritance law by writing a tzavaah? What precedents do we find for doing so? Are there specific reasons for which it is permitted to transfer an inheritance from Torah inheritors? Is there a need for a legal tzavaah, or can one rely on inheritors to execute a person’s wishes after his death?

We address these questions, among others, below.

27/06/2013

Chukas – Kohanim At Kivrei Tzaddikim

The question of a Kohen’s visit to burial sites of our righteous ancestors is a matter that commentaries and halachic authorities have discussed for hundreds of years. Do the burial sites of the righteous impart ritual impurity (tumas mes), and is there a halachic permit for Kohanim to visit them? This week’s article discusses the issue, from its primary sources through to practical conclusions.

Timing of the Pidyon Ha-Ben

We read in Parashas Korach about the obligation of Pidyon Ha-Ben: “All first-born of man and animals shall be yours [the Kohen’s]. But the first born of man must be redeemed … from the age of one month. The redemption price is the value of five sanctuary shekels [of silver], each weighing twenty gerah” (Bamidbar 18:15-16).

In the present article we will discuss the timing of Pidyon Ha-Ben. The Torah states that the Pidyon must take place “from the age of one month” – but when precisely is the time to perform the Pidyon? When is the Pidyon performed when the time falls on Shabbos? Is a Pidyon performed at night? What if the first day for the Pidyon falls on a fast day? These questions, are discussed below.

07/06/2013