Dessert: A Real Bracaha!

You are at a חתונה and all of a sudden they roll in the Viennese tables full of cakes, chocolates, ice cream, melons and bread. You are not sure whether or not you should recite a ברכה ראשונה over any of these desserts. The question is equally applicable in your own home whether on Shabbos or any given day of the week: Do I or don’t I need to recite a ברכה over dessert?

The Shulchan Aruch1 states that when one eats bread, all foods which are eaten together with the bread are פטור (exempt) from a ברכה because they are secondary to the bread. Therefore, the ברכה recited over the bread covers any other food that is eaten, as well.

On the other hand, since a dessert is eaten to end the meal with a sweet taste, it is entirely different since the intention is not to eat it as an […]

A Matter of Public Interest

“Oh, you need a loan to buy a new car? Check out Penn-Atlantic Credit Union. They’re practically giving money away!”

With interest rates of less than half of what is typically offered by a conventional bank, credit unions are a practical and popular choice for many consumers. Credit unions can give these low rates because they are non-profit and cooperatively owned. In order to borrow from a credit union, you must first be a member; every member is a partial owner, with both a financial stake and a vote in how it is run. This arrangement, however, presents a serious halachic concern: ribbis, the Torah prohibition against borrowing and lending of money with interest.

In truth, there is a similar ribbis concern in many bank loans. Mutual savings banks are structured similarly to credit unions; each depositor is a partial owner. The bank essentially acts as a shadchan between the many owners […]

Navigating the Pizza Paradox: Pas or Pas Nisht

If you ask any out-of-town kiruv professional involved in outreach, “What are the two most important community ‘must-haves’ needed to attract baalei teshuvah or create growth in a particular Jewish community?”, nine times out of ten the answer you will get is 1) an eruv and 2) a kosher pizza shop! I can bear witness to this fact. At the beginning of my tenure as executive director of the Vaad Hoer of St. Louis 35 years ago, I sent out a questionnaire to the frum kehilos and the community at large asking what they think would enhance the St. Louis frum community. Believe it or not, the overwhelming response was a kosher pizza shop. Soon thereafter, a kosher pizza shop opened. Subsequently, two community eruvim were also built.

Similarly, over 40 years ago in my shul in Birmingham, Alabama, where the community was too small to support either a kosher pizza […]