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

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

28 12, 2017

For Real This Time, What’s the Story With Christmas Gifts?

December 28th, 2017|Non-Jews and Other Religions, Yoreh De'ah|

So what is the story with Christmas gifts and office Christmas parties?

Last week we saw that the Talmud draws a number of red lines to ensure that our active involvement in the surrounding society does not lead us into religiously problematic areas. One of those red lines is around practices that relate to the religious holidays of other faiths.

The first Mishnah teaches that we may not do business with pagans on, or even three days preceding, their holidays. The underlying concern is that we should not be supporting non-Jews in their avodah zarah, a term that refers less to

21 12, 2017

The Holiday Season – What’s A Frum Jew to Do?

December 21st, 2017|Non-Jews and Other Religions|

This time of year, during the “holiday season,” many Jews struggle with how to best negotiate our interaction with the society and culture around us. Can we give Christmas or year-end gifts to our paper carrier? Can we go to our company’s holiday party if it is going to be Christmas-themed?

For millennia, from the time that we have lived as a minority people and religion in a society with a dominant, foreign culture, we have had to grapple with questions like these. How much should we engage with and integrate into the larger society, and what are our red lines?

How

26 09, 2016

So, What’s the Story With… Christianity?

September 26th, 2016|Non-Jews and Other Religions|

Last week we explored how the Torah’s prohibitions against idolatry fall into two categories: 1) the belief in and worship of foreign gods and 2) the representation or worship of God through an image or any physical concretization. These recur throughout the book of Devarim in regular warnings against the seductions of idolatry, and we find them again in Parashat Eikev:

The graven images of their gods you shall burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the Lord thy

16 12, 2011

Is Christianity Avoda Zara to Christians?

December 16th, 2011|Non-Jews and Other Religions|

As both Chanukkah and Christmas draw near, it is appropriate to discuss of the evolution of halakha’s approach to Christianity. Tosafot in Bekhorot, 2b, had said that one does not transgress by having a Christian take an oath in the name of God and a saint. For although this is an act of shituf, of “combining”, such an act is not prohibited to non-Jews. Now, the simple meaning of that statement is that non-Jews are not prohibited in taking an oath in the name of both God and something else, for example, the Christian saints. However, the concept of shituf