When should we Study Pirkei Avot and when should we Recite Barekhi Nafshi and Shirei Hama’alot on Shabbat Afternoon? Responsa in a Moment: Volume 14, Number 1

Question from Dr. Josh Greenfield, New York: In your article last May (Responsa in a Moment, Vol. 13, No. 4) you stressed the importance of studying Pirkei Avot as one of the most basic rabbinic texts. I have a follow-up question: According to many siddurim, Parashat Nitzavim (September 28, 2019) will be the last Shabbat to recite Pirkei Avot this year, and we should start reciting Barekhi Nafshi and Shirei Hama’alot (Psalms 104, 120-135) on Shabbat Bereishit (October 26, 2019). Are there specific customs for what to study on the three Shabbatot between now and then (Shabbat Shuvah-Vayeilech, Shabbat Ha’azinu, and Shabbat Hol Hamoed Sukkot)?

Moses and Herzl Responsa in a Moment: Volume 13, Number 5

Theodor Herzl died on July 3, 1904, and was buried in Vienna. He wrote in his will that he should be buried next to his father in Vienna “until the day when the Jewish people transfer my remains to Palestine”. His wish was fulfilled 70 years ago, when he was reburied on Mount Herzl on August 17, 1949. This month, in lieu of a responsum, I am republishing my article “Moses and Herzl” which originally appeared in Conservative Judaism 47/1 (Fall 1994), pp. 39-49 and in revised form in my book Insight Israel: The View from Schechter, second series, Jerusalem, 2006, pp. 151-166. Yehi zikhro barukh! May Herzl’s vision and memory continue to inspire us! DG

Is There an Obligation to Kiss the Tzitzit? Responsa in a Moment: Vol. 13, No. 3

Question from Rabbi Steve Morgen, Houston, Texas: There is a widespread custom to kiss one’s tzitzit three times during the recitation of the third paragraph of the Shema, upon pronouncing the word emet immediately after the end of Shema, and again upon pronouncing the word la’ad. On the other hand, there are renowned rabbis such as the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Prof. Saul Lieberman who did not kiss their tzitzit at all. What are the sources and approaches regarding these customs?

Is it permissible to study Biblical Criticism?

In this responsum I will show that it is permissible to study and teach biblical criticism. I will not endorse a specific school of biblical criticism, but rather the study and teaching of various types of biblical criticism, for the purpose of arriving at the peshat or simple meaning of the Bible. Due to the complexity of the subject, this responsum is divided into nine sections:

Why do Jews from Islamic lands object to sitting with crossed legs in a synagogue? Volume 12, Number 6, August 2018

This topic is not that important in and of itself, but we can derive from it a number of important things about the development of Jewish law. We shall see how one sentence written by a halakhic authority in 13th century France influenced Jews throughout the world beginning in the 17th century, thanks to the invention of printing and to the widespread circulation of the Shulhan Arukh. We shall also learn that sometimes one Jewish ethnic group adopts a specific law or custom due to the influence of a number of specific halakhic authorities.

The State of Israel and the Jews of North America: From Problems to Solutions Responsa in a Moment: Volume 12, Number 4

On April 30, 2018, The Schechter Institute and the Jewish Theological Seminary co-sponsored a very successful academic conference at The Schechter Institute in Jerusalem on the subject listed above. Speakers included Chancellor Arnold Eisen of JTS, Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Jewish Agency and winner of this year’s Israel Prize, MK Rachel Azaria, and many professors from Schechter and JTS. The following is a translation of my Hebrew lecture delivered at the conference.

How Can One Sell Hametz Which is in a Different Time Zone? Responsa in a Moment: Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2018

Question from a rabbi in Jerusalem: I am taking care of “Reuven”’s apartment in Jerusalem, but “Reuven” lives in New York. Reuven asked me to sell his hametz to a non-Jew. But Pesah in Israel ends 31 hours before it ends in New York –  a seven-hour time difference plus an additional day of Yom Tov Sheni (the additional day of the Festival in the Diaspora). In other words, the hametz will revert to his possession in Jerusalem when it is still Pesah in New York. How, then, can I sell his hametz?