Rosh Yeshiva Responds
Rabbi Linzer answers halakhic questions from rabbis and community members

31 01, 2021

Conducting Medical Tests on a Corpse After It Has Expired

January 31st, 2021|Death and Dying, Science and Medical Ethics, Yoreh De'ah|


New York, NY

A not yet למעשה question: New York State requires that when hospital patients die with COVID-19 or influenza as a cause of death, the hospital must provide documentation of a nasopharyngeal swab from within the previous 14 days. If no qualifying test took place and there isn’t a swab collected before the patient died that can have additional testing done, the clinical team is instructed to swab the מת. Am I remembering correctly that this presents a halakhic problem? Should the family prevent this if they are able?

7 02, 2019

Abortion in Halakha: A Study Guide

February 7th, 2019|Lifecycles, Marriage and Family, Niddah, Non-Jews and Other Religions, Science and Medical Ethics, Sex|

Guided Questions for Chavruta Learning

  1. Sources 1-7 were covered in the previous sheet.  Look at sources 8-12.  Do they indicate that a fetus has the legal status / protections of a human life or not?  Which ones indicate yes, which ones indicate no?  If one were to claim that it was a life, how would she reconcile all the sources?  How would one do so if she were to claim that it was not a life?  Is there a middle position?  How would you articulate it: quasi, potential, or something else?  What halakhic category would destroying such a
22 03, 2018

May Kohanim Become Doctors – Part 2

March 22nd, 2018|Kohanim, Science and Medical Ethics|

Two weeks ago we began to explore the question of whether kohanim may become doctors according to halakhah.   We noted that three halakhic arguments could be advanced to question the applicability of this prohibition to the case at hand: (1) Kohanim nowadays are only presumed (hazakha) to be kohanim and might only have the status of doubtful (safek) kohanim; (2) If we are all presumed to be tamei nowadays, then, according to Ra’avad, kohanim do not violate a Biblical prohibition by becoming tamei again by a corpse; (3) According to Yereim, it is not a violation for kohanim to

8 03, 2018

May a Kohen Become a Doctor?

March 8th, 2018|Kohanim, Science and Medical Ethics|

This Shabbat we read Parashat Parah to remind us of the preparations that were necessary to undergo in order to be able to bring the korban pesah.  While it is hard for us nowadays to relate to the laws of corpse-impurity detailed in the maftir section, there is one case where these details really matter.  It is the question of whether a kohen can become a doctor.

To become a doctor in the United States, medical students are required to perform a dissection on a human cadaver.  For a kohen who wishes to become a doctor, this can present a serious

20 05, 2011

Mesechet Menachot: The Taxonomy of the Gemara’s Grains

May 20th, 2011|Kashrut, Science and Medical Ethics|

The Mishna of Menachot 70a lists the five species of grain.  These species are of central importance in many halakhot.  Only bread made from these species of grains is considered bread, and gets the brakha of hamotzi.  Only matzah made from these grains is considered matzah, and can be used on the seder night.  One only takes challah from bread made from these grains and no others.   And it is only these grains which are forbidden prior to the bringing of the omer.
As the Gemara (70b)
1 04, 2011

Rabbeinu Tam’s Two Sunsets: When is it Nighttime?

April 1st, 2011|Science and Medical Ethics|

One of the key Tosafots in Shas (Menachot 20b, s.v., ini) discusses the position of Rabbeinu Tam that there are two sunsets – the visible one, and then one occurring almost an hour later, when the sun – according to Rabbinic cosmology – exists the tunnel of the opaque dome of the rakiya, sky or firmament, and begins to travel above the rakiya from West to East so it can rise again the next morning.  This informs his position that the end of the day, tzeit hakokhavim, halakhically does not occur until 72
14 01, 2011

Brain Death and Organ Donation

January 14th, 2011|Science and Medical Ethics|

What the halakhic debate around organ donation is all about?
It is unquestionably a mitzvah of pikuach nefesh, saving of life, to give organs after one’s death.  There are times where up to 8 lives can be saved with the organs from one body.  While a person does not fulfill mitzvot after death, signing an organ donor card, or a living will is a mitzvah in that it is an act that will lead to the giving of life to others.
When some rabbis come out against organ donation, it is not