11 04, 2021

Are There Limitations on an Uncircumsised Levi?

April 11th, 2021|Milah, Status, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

Philadelphia, PA

A levi wasn’t circumcised because his parents are intactivists. Does the Rosh Yeshiva allow such a person to read from the Torah? Could they have the levi aliyah? Can they wash the kohen for birkat kohanim?

ANSWER

The basic pesak is that someone who does not have a brit milah, even if he is מומר לערלות, is only considered to be a mumar for one aveirah. He does not have a larger status of pasul.  See Shulchan Arukh YD 2:7. (The one exception might be whether he can be a mohel, see Rema in Shulchan Arukh YD 264:1.) There is a […]

11 04, 2021

A Playing Field Above a Former Jewish Cemetery

April 11th, 2021|Kohanim, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

South Central, USA

A congregant who is a librarian has discovered that a big open field that is part of the library complex, which is often used for activities, was actually a Jewish cemetery until the mid-19th century, and there is no evidence of the bones there being disinterred or moved. He’s wondering if there are issues for him running activities/programs on that field (he’s not a kohen). Thanks!

ANSWER

This is a very complex question. Here are some of the relevant issues:

1. How does he know it was a Jewish cemetery? The field has a chezkat taharah, and […]

2 04, 2021

Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine on Shabbat

April 2nd, 2021|Choleh, Geirut and Geirim, Orach Chayim, Prohibitions|

QUESTION

Northwest, USA

If Shabbat is the earliest an immunocompromised congregant can receive their first dose, should I encourage them to sign up, or keep looking for an appointment not on Shabbat? They don’t drive and can arrange transportation beforehand.

ANSWER

In the case of someone immunocompromised, and assuming that they don’t have to sign anything, they can arrange for it on Shabbat, provided that they make sure that there are no דאורייתא concerns. Specifically, the internal light of the cab has to be taken care of and payment needs to be arranged before hand. They also shouldn’t carry anything if possible. If they […]

24 03, 2021

Performing Taharah on a Transgender Meit

March 24th, 2021|Death and Dying, LGBTQ, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

New York, NY

I asked the Rosh Yeshiva this question on phone, but thought people might benefit. A chevrah kadisha wanting to be sensitive to transgender issues, who do they assign for the taharah of a transgendered meit?

ANSWER

My tentative answer – and this is really a policy question more than a halakhic one – is that we have to have a chevrah of the same gender as the meit‘s identity – to do otherwise would be a tremendous pegiah in kevod HaMeit and a tremendous delegitimization and erasure of the trans community and the identity of its members. The reason for […]

14 03, 2021

Can a Geir Perform Hatafat Dam Berit On Himself?

March 14th, 2021|Geirut and Geirim, Milah, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

Chicago, IL

Hopefully this is only a theoretical question. Can a geir perform hatafat dam berit on himself?

ANSWER

No. Since he is doing it, he is either definitely not yet a geir or it is a safeik whether he is yet a geir. Therefore, the hatafah does not work.

Regarding milah for a Jewish baby, the Shulchan Arukh (YD 264:1) says that the mohel has to be Jewish, but if he was not-Jewish the baby does not need a second milah. Some commentators understand that to mean that bedieved a non-Jew can be a mohel for a Jewish baby (See Taz there), but many […]

13 02, 2021

Men and Women Counting for Minyan for HaRav et Riveinu

February 13th, 2021|Berakhot, Orach Chayim, Purim, Women|

QUESTION

Canada

Can women and men be counted together for a minyan for megillah reading for the purposes of saying הרב את ריבנו?

ANSWER

You mean would it be different than Rema (Shulchan Arukh OC 690:18) regarding the preferences for 10 where he writes – הגה: ויש להסתפק אם נשים מצטרפות לעשרה? Or are you asking whether we rule that way? I would say that the halakhot of berakhot and preference for 10 in general should definitely be the same. As to do we rule that way – one could argue ספק ברכות להקל, but also see Biur Halakha 692 ד״ה אלא בציבור who quotes shitot that you can make the berakhah even ביחיד. Given the […]

24 01, 2021

Lo Techaneim and Supporting Non-Jews in Need

January 24th, 2021|Interpersonal Ethics, Non-Jews and Other Religions, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

New York, NY

Is there a concern of lo techaneim (in the sense of giving free gifts to non-Jews) in supporting campaigns to help non-Jewish victims of terrible injustice (such as the Uyghars)?

ANSWER

Definitely not. I think first we have to make it clear that when it comes to the issur of giving praise or gifts (Avodah Zarah 20a), then as far as I am concerned, we need to totally embrace the position that this only applies to ovdei avodah zarah (Sefer HaChinukh 426, Rashba Teshuvah 1:8, Yabia Omer YD 10:41; Rav Kook […]

29 12, 2020

Use of Wine-grown Yeast in Green Coffee Bean Fermentation

December 29th, 2020|Kashrut, Non-Jews and Other Religions, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

Chicago, IL

Green coffee beans are often fermented before being rinsed, dried, and roasted. Fermentation allows naturally occurring bacteria and yeast to break down some of the sugars on the outside layer of the coffee bean, enhancing the flavor of the bean. Sometimes a foreign yeast is added to help the process along or bring out specific flavor profiles. A certain locally produced roast uses red wine yeast (fed on non-kosher red wine) to assist fermentation. Does this constitute a kashrut issue?

ANSWER

This is a great […]

22 12, 2020

Assisting in Solstice Ritual

December 22nd, 2020|Non-Jews and Other Religions, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

Detroit, MI

A non Jewish family member asks for some paper and matches from you so they can do a “solstice ritual” (which likely includes prayers to Mother Earth and the like). Are you allowed to give them the paper and matches?

ANSWER

The Gemara is clear that lifnei iveir applies to a non-Jew regarding his sheva mitzvot, of which avodah zarah is on the top of the list (Avodah Zarah 6a). However, that is limited to תרי עברי דנהר – when the non-Jew cannot get it […]

22 12, 2020

Calling Up a Kohen Married to a Divorcee to the Torah

December 22nd, 2020|Keriat HaTorah, Kohanim, Orach Chayim|

QUESTION

Northwest, USA

If there are a pair of brothers (Reuven and Shimon) who’s father is a kohen and Reuven decided to forego his kohen status to marry someone, is Reuven still called to the Torah as Reuven ben Ploni haKohen, or just Reuven ben Ploni? (Shimon is in the same kehillah and is called up as the kohen he identifies as).

ANSWER

First of all – there IS NO SUCH THING as giving up your kohen status. You can violate your kohen status, but you are still a sinning kohen, not a non-kohen. […]

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