All in Halacha

There is an extremely prevalent misconception that certain objects are assur to touch or use on Shabbos because they are muktzah. This has things backwards, however, as the reality is that objects are muktzah because they are assur — not the other way around. The common expression of “You’re not allowed to use that because it is muktzah” should in reality be “That is muktzah because you’re not allowed to use it.”...

As the Jewish people leave Egypt in this week's parsha, they are given the mitzvah of tefillin as a commemoration and memorial of the leaving of Egypt. It used to be that people wore tefillin all day long, but as it became more difficult to keep a clean body the whole day, the amount of time people wore tefillin was reduced to just shacharis. What is important to understand, however, is that tefillin and praying are not really connected...

Shulchan Aruch in Hilchos Chanukah (OC 677:4) cites a din from the Sheiltos that after Chanukah is over, the leftover oil from your menorah that did not completely burn needs to be gathered together and burned in one big fire. The reason, the Mechaber states, is because that leftover oil is "huktzah l'mitzvaso.” Or, since it was set aside for mitzvah use, it then becomes assur b'hanah (forbidden to benefit from), so the only thing to do with it is to burn it off. Maran then concludes with: "if that leftover Chanukah oil became mixed with regular (non-Chanukah) oil, and there isn't 60 times (shishim) the amount of regular oil to mevatel the leftover Chanukah oil, there are those who say that you cannot add the needed amount of regular oil to mevatel the Chanukah oil."...

The Torah, in Parshas Shmini, when informing us of the kashrus status of animals, lists specific types of birds that are not kosher. Ultimately, through derivation of the various “l’mineihu” words found in that section, Chazal (Chullin 63b, Rambam, Ma’achalos Assuros 1:14) identify 24 classes of birds that are not kosher, each one with many species. Any bird that is not from one of these 24 classes is kosher (Rashi, Chullin 61a d”h oaf, Shulchan Aruch YD 82:1). The problem is, however, that we can no longer identify the non-kosher birds that are mentioned...

In the quarter of davening that comes before p’sukei d’zimra, one is meant to recite several passages of sacrificial law. One such passage would seem out of place. The rest of the introductory service (“korbanos”) is understandable: the first paragraph tells the kohanim to wash their feet and hands before service, the third concerns the daily korban (which is brought before and after all the others), the fourth speaks at length about the daily incense. Others passages about various offerings from the Talmud are presented afterwards...

At the end of his introduction to Mishneh Torah, the Rambam lists all of the twenty-four sefarim that comprise his great Halachic work. He briefly discusses the content of each one and explains his rationale for each title. For example, he writes, “In the Third Book, I shall include all of the mitzvos which occur at determined times, such as Shabbos and the Holidays. I have called this book Sefer Zmanim (Book of Times).” While this classification seems eminently reasonable, the Rambam has a problematic description of the contents of Sefer Ha-mada (Book of Knowledge). He writes, “In the First Book, I shall include all of the mitzvos which pertain to the fundamentals of the Religion of our teacher Moshe, which a man must know before anything else — such as, for example, the Unity of His Name, blessed be He and the prohibition of idolatry.”...

Okay, perhaps that title is a little misleading. I’m not so much advocating for it as much as I am simply playing devil’s advocate. The goal of this post is something more along the lines of: “Why it’s not prohibited for women to wear tefillin”. Indeed, far too many people reject the entire proposition out of hand because it’s “assur”. Well, I don’t think that’s fair or accurate, and when discussing the subject, the following is the cheat-sheet, so to speak, for the “it’s not that big a deal” camp. We’ll save my opinion on the matter for another time. For this post, I’m just playing one side (the side that, unfortunately, is not well represented or known)...