Pinchas – Killing in Self-Defense

This week’s article continues to deal with the laws of warfare, this time focusing on the laws pertaining to engagement with the enemy. Among other issues, the article will discuss the obligation of suing for peace, the laws of making a siege against the enemy, and the taking of war spoils and booty. Though many a century has passed from the time the Torah laws of war were recorded, we will find that the relevant halachos are no less contemporary now than they were then.

Balak – A Halachic Glance at Magic

Magic tricks and magic shows are a part of modern Western culture, and they have become a familiar part of most of our lives. We are used to over-the-counter magic tricks, to magicians at birthday parties, and to more sophisticated magic shows. But what does halachah say about this issue. The Torah writes that Balak sent envoys with “charms in their hands”–are today’s “charms” permitted. This article deals briefly with the issue of magic in the modern day.

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.


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.


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.


Parashas Korach – The Mitzvah of Techeiles

This week’s article discusses the specific mitzvah of techeiles. Recent claims to the identification of the source of techeiles have brought the halachic issue to the fore of halachic debate. What is the obligation of affixing techeiles to one’s tzitzis? What is the halachic status of “safek techeiles”? What are the laws of tying techeiles? This week’s article will deal with these questions and more, together with an introduction detailing the historical loss and claim re-discovery of techeiles.

The Halachic Ban and its Laws (Part II)

After beginning to outline the basic idea of the halachic ban, in the article of two weeks ago, we turn this week to the particular halachos of declaring a ban—and also to discuss a number of bans that were actually made over the generations, such as the ban against studying foreign languages in Jerusalem. How is a ban declared, and what are its halachos? What is the jurisdiction of those making the ban? How is a ban cancelled? We will address these issues, and others, 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 Pinchas – Inheriting the Rabbinate

When the concept of inheritance is brought up, we are far more likely to think of money and possessions than of positions of authority. Yet, poskim over many generations have expounded on the question of “rabbinic inheritance”: Does a son inherit his father’s position as rabbi of the community? This, and related issues, are the subject of the present article, which finds an important source in Parshas Pinchas.

Disinterment of Graves: A Grave Concern?

This week’s article discusses the contemporary issue of relocating graves. Although the issue has been somewhat politicized in recent years, we mustn’t forget that in principle, the question of disinterring graves is strictly halachic. What is the nature of the prohibition to exhume remains? When is it permitted to do so, and in particular, are various public needs sufficient cause for leniency? These important questions will be discussed in this week’s article.