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 […]

20 12, 2020

Bishul Akum with a Boarder

December 20th, 2020|Kashrut, Non-Jews and Other Religions, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

Riverdale, NY

A frum family has a non-Jewish young adult (post-college) who lives with them and participates in family life (more than a boarder). How do we think about בישול עכו״ם for them from things he cooks?

ANSWER

That’s a tough one, because there aren’t even the kulot of when it is of a commercial nature, etc. I’m not sure what I could advise other than – in special circumstances – NB: NOT saying this as regular pesak – we could adopt a very broad category of […]

12 12, 2020

Assisting Non-Jew in Performing a Mitzvah

December 12th, 2020|Chanukah, Non-Jews and Other Religions, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

Canada

Are there any halakhic issues with aiding a non-Jew in performing a mitzvah?

Someone who is not halakhically Jewish (father is Jewish), but identifies very much as Jewish, has asked for me to bring her Chanukah candles. Would there be an issues in giving her the candles, over which she will make a berakhah?

ANSWER

According to Rambam, if a non-Jew does a mitzvah s/he gets skhar as an אינו מצווה ועושה. Provided that this is not their own religion but they are doing it in […]

5 12, 2020

Lying to Children about Tooth Fairy

December 5th, 2020|Choshen Mishpat, Interpersonal Ethics, Non-Jews and Other Religions|

QUESTION

Midwest, USA

My daughter just lost her first tooth and I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on telling kids about the Tooth Fairy and whether it’s harmless or if it borders of issues of chukat HaGoyim or Geneivat Da’at.

ANSWER

Interesting… I don’t think it is chukat HaGoyim, unless you think that we have to stop reading stories of Peter Pan and Pinocchio, etc. I guess this is somewhat worse because you are telling her that it is a real thing. I am having a hard […]

11 11, 2020

Buddha Statues for Art

November 11th, 2020|Non-Jews and Other Religions, Yoreh De'ah|

QUESTION

Maryland, USA

I was asked about keeping on display little Buddha statues collected for fun/art by a family that has now become more traditional.

ANSWER

The only issue is chashad. Will someone suspect a person of worshipping them? If they are the type that in a frum Buddhist home, they might actually be worshipped, then it would be a concern. If they are cheap, etc., clearly something for fun, decoration, etc., then it would not be a problem at all. See Shulchan Arukh YD 141:1-3.

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 […]
25 01, 2018

Saying Kaddish for a non-Jewish Parent

January 25th, 2018|Aveilut, Kaddish, Kibbud Av Ve'Eim, Lifecycles, Non-Jews and Other Religions, Tefillah, Yoreh De'ah|

May a Jew by choice sit shivah and say kaddish for their non-Jewish parent?

To answer this question we must address two issues: (1) What is halakhah’s view of the parent-child relationship in these cases? The gemara states, “A person who converts is like a newborn infant,” (Yevamot 22a). In other words, a convert is unrelated halakhically to his biological father and mother. Should we read this statement in absolute terms or is halakhah cognizant of the biological and emotional bonds between parent and child regardless of legal definitions? (2) Do our halakhic and religious obligations direct us to mourn the […]

18 01, 2018

Praying with a Cross in the Room

January 18th, 2018|Non-Jews and Other Religions, Tefillah|

A person is a patient at Holy Cross Hospital and there is a crucifix on the wall of each room.  Can she make brakhot and daven there? A family wishes to have a bar mitzvah in the large, all-purpose hall of Catholic university, where there is a small cross affixed at the top of the east-facing wall, 20 feet off the ground. Can they have their bar mitzvah in that room?

The answer starts with a curious verse.  Usually, when Moshe leaves Pharaoh to pray on his behalf, the Torah states, as it does in this week’s parasha, that “he went […]

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