Teshuvot — Jewish Legal Opinions

Teshuvah (plural teshuvot) means “response.” Traditionally, the way Jewish law is formulated is that someone asks a question, and a rabbi prepares a teshuvah, a response. Below you will find teshuvot that Rabbi Leff has written, as well as links to teshuvot written by other rabbis and to other sources in Jewish law.  Some of these have been approved by the Conservative Movement’s; others represent only Rabbi Leff’s opinion.

Rabbi Leff’s Teshuvot:
Click on a question to see the full response.

Question: Is it permissible to eat hot dairy meals in restaurants lacking rabbinic supervision?
A very high percentage of observant Conservative Jews, many Conservative rabbis among them, eat hot dairy meals in non-kosher restaurants. This teshuvah provides a halachic rationale for this custom, and provides guidance on how to eat out in non-kosher restaurants while minimizing the chances of eating something not kosher.

Question: Is it appropriate to say a blessing before or after eating food that is not kosher?
There are people who do not fully observe the laws of kashrut, but nonetheless have integrated the practice of saying blessings over food into their lives. Should they say a blessing when eating food that is not kosher?

Question:  Is it stealing to copy or download music, videos, software, or other forms of intellectual property without paying for it?  As is well known, freely making copies of software, videos, music, etc., is a violation of secular law.  Is it also a violation of halacha (Jewish law)?

Question: May a convert choose to use a name other than Ploni ben/bat Avraham Avinu v’Sarah Imanu? Especially today, when it is the custom in many congregations to call people to the Torah by both the father and mother’s name, calling someone to the Torah as Ploni ben/bat Avraham v’Sarah gives the appearance of announcing the person’s status as a convert. Many converts prefer not to be reminded of their status in such a public fashion. Also, with no disrespect towards Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imanu, some converts may find that they relate more strongly to other Jewish figures of the past.

Question: To what extent does an employee have an obligation to report wrongdoing on the part of his or her employer? A rabbi was asked about the following specific situation: an executive of a company (a vice president, but not a corporate officer) knows that his employer is failing to pay a technology licensing fee for the use of a patented technology. What are his responsibilities relative to rebuking his superior and informing others, such as his own company’s board of directors, or the management of the company whose technology is being infringed? Is there a responsibility to report the wrongdoing to law enforcement? In this particular case, neither the employer nor the company whose technology is being infringed is Jewish, and the company is headquartered in California. The CEO of the company failing to pay the royalty has said they will pay the fee when the company they owe it to comes after them for it. The two companies do not have a contractual relationship. The company infringing the technology received the technology from another source.

Question: Is it permitted to hold a Purimshpiel in the middle of the Megillah reading?
The reading of the “whole Megillah” is a rather lengthy process, and it can be difficult for children to sit through the whole thing. Furthermore, when Purim is on a school night, some families may want to come for the Purimshpiel and still get their children home at a reasonable time. Is it permitted to start the Megillah reading, perform the Purimshpiel in the middle of the Megillah reading, and then finish the Megillah reading afterwards to accommodate those for whom this is an issue?

Question: Is it permissible to recite Maariv (the evening prayers) before plag haminchah (one and a quarter halachic hours before sunset) on Friday night? In communities where in the summer months sunset comes well after 9pm , even the customary “early” time to recite Maariv, plag haminchah, will be after 7:30pm . This can be a burden for people who want to follow the traditional practice of reciting their prayers before eating the Sabbath meal, but who have children or others who would have a hard time waiting until after 8:30pm to eat dinner. On those occasions, is it possible to recite Maariv earlier than plag haminchah?

Question: Can you use a French Press to make coffee on Shabbat? My conclusion is yes, you can.

Question: Can you count nine plus a sefer Torah for a minyan? This was an existing practice at a community I served. I wasn’t comfortable with it, but I found there are precedents.

Other resources on Halacha (Jewish Law)

Recent teshuvot that have been approved by the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards can be found at http://rabbinicalassembly.org/jewish-law/cjls

Teshuvot approved by the Conservative Movement’s Vaad Halakhah in Israel can be found online at http://www.responsafortoday.com/eng_index.html

The Jewish Law web site presents a wealth of halachic information primarily from an Orthodox perspective. Their web site is http://www.jlaw.com/

The Reform movement also publishes teshuvot on line. Their approach to halakhah is very different than the Conservative movement’s. Someone who considers himself a Conservative or Orthodox Jew should not rely on one of their teshuvot without checking with his rabbi first, but the teshuvot can still be interesting to study. Teshuvot approved by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform) can be found at http://data.ccarnet.org/resp/tindex.html

2 thoughts on “Teshuvot — Jewish Legal Opinions

  • Is your article : Is it permissible to eat hot dairy meals in restaurants lacking rabbinic supervision? already assuming that foods forbidden mishum hatnut (from Masechet Avodah Zarah) are permitted under Conservative rulings. I assume from the response that this notion has been rejected by the Conservative movement. This means that the problem of eating a cheese pizza cooked in a oven which has cooked meat which is treifa is only a problem because of Taam Issur D’Oraita and overlooks that the cheese itself would obviously be assur d’rabbanan. Is this correct? Obviously this is not an issur based on Basar B’Halab.

    • Barry Leff

      Regarding cheese I follow the opinion of Rabbi Isaac Klein that even if the rennet comes from the lining of a cow’s stomach it’s a “dvar chadash” and does not create a problem for the cheese as either meat or treif. Rashi even says the same thing about actual cow stomach’s lining — it’s dried out and like a “piece of wood.” So cheese is not a assur at all. So yes, the issue is the oven and taam k’ikar; my experience has been eating cheese pizzas cooked in ovens that are used for treif pizzas they do not pick up a “flavor.” Maybe my taste buds aren’t sensitive enough!


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