Q: Under which circumstances is a person obligated to erect a fence around the roof of his house?

A: The Torah in parshas Ki-Setze states, “When you build a new house make a railing for your roof, and you shall not bring blood on your house if someone falls from there”.1 The Torah requires one to build a maakeh – a fence – around a flat roof that people walk on, so as to protect them from falling. The mitzvah applies not only to someone who builds a house but also to someone who buys, inherits or is gifted a house.2 A person who rents a house is also required to build a maakeh if the owner has not already done so.3

A maakeh has to be strong enough that a person could lean against it without falling, and it has to be ten tefachim high.4 This measurement is 40 inches according […]

Shockingly, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that about 40% of all food in the United States goes uneaten; it is either left to rot or tossed in the garbage. In fact, 7% of all food doesn’t even make it out of the farm, and a significant amount doesn’t even get picked because it doesn’t meet standards for color and shape! One industry estimate claims that an average of $2,300 of food products are discarded each day by individual grocery stores due to impending expiration dates. American families throw out between 14-25% of the food and the beverages that they purchase, and restaurant diners leave about 17% of their food uneaten.1

Of course, we know the Torah teaches us that we need to be careful and not wasteful. We also know that we are not just talking about wasting food. We are charged to appreciate every chair, book and bobby pin […]

INTRODUCTION

The Torah forbids the wearing of a garment made from tzemer (wool) and pishtim (linen) together. There are two pesukim in the Torah that refer to Shatnez. It states,1 “Ubeged kilayim shatnez lo ya’aleh alecha,” a garment composed of a mixture which is Shatnez should not be draped upon oneself. We find a different expression of this same mitzvah, “Lo silbash shatnez tzemer uphishtim yachdav2 – Do not wear shatnez, wool and linen together.” Chazal tell us that these two pesukim complement one another. In Devarim, the Torah forbids actual wearing of Shatnez – levisha, whereas the Vayikra prohibition of Shatnez includes he’elah – draping Shatnez over one’s body. The Gemara3 explains that draping is prohibited only if it is done in a way which is similar to wearing, i.e., where some benefit is derived from the Shatnez such as being covered or warmed. It is clear that one must […]

Published Spring 2017

Shiluach Hakan1 (sending away the mother bird before taking her young) is a mitzvah that is infrequently performed. Its reward is the blessing of a long life – similar to the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents. Let’s examine how, when and where to perform the mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan.
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you…young birds or eggs, and the mother is roosting…you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your days.”2

Possible Reasons for the Mitzvah

The Rabbis ruled that a person may not state that the reason for the mitzvah is compassion for the mother bird. One commentator interprets the Talmud’s prohibition as applying strictly to reciting this in one’s prayers, as if to establish compassion as the definitive, sole reason. […]

The Torah forbids discarding holy objects by throwing them into the trash. Some objects always have kedusha and must be placed in shaimos. Other objects gain kedusha once they are used for a mitzvah and need to be treated with special care.

SHAIMOS
Objects which have innate holiness, kedusha, are shaimos. This means that, when discarded, they must be wrapped in plastic and buried. The following objects are included in this category:
1. A Sefer Torah.
2. Sefer Torah covers.
3. Tefillin, tefillin bags, mezuzos, and mezuzah covers.
4. Siddurim and bentchers.
5. Seforim, whether handwritten, printed, photocopied or downloaded and printed (e.g., chumashim, siddurim, machzorim, seforim, Gemara, Shulchan Aruch, etc.).
6. A quote from tanach, chazal, Rishonim or Achronim, that has been printed or written with the intention of explaining Torah, or to teach us how to conduct ourselves according to hashkafos haTorah.
7. Invitations from organizations and individuals that […]