Abortion is normally not permitted, except:
  • To save the mother's life, or
  • Sometimes when necessary for the health of the mother (but that can also be her mental health--consult a rabbi), or
  • When a fetus cannot be born alive.
Even Down's syndrome and other developmental or genetic problems may not be enough to justify abortion, but an expert rabbi should be consulted since this is a very complicated area.
Asking Angels for Help
You may ask angels to intercede, as is done in Shalom Aleichem, in which people ask the angels to ask God for the help that they want. But you may not ask angels to help you directly.
Bar Mitzva and Adar 2 Birthday
If a boy born in Adar 2 will be bar mitzva in a year with only one Adar, his bar mitzva is in Adar, not in Nisan. If a boy born in Adar 1 will be 13 years old in a year with two Adars, his bar mitzva will be in Adar 2.
Bedroom Light
A bedroom should have enough light to see a person if you sleep alone. Any detectable light is sufficient.
Owning Business that Violates Torah Law
Owning a business that has any violations of Torah laws is forbidden.
Examples A Jew may NOT:
  • Own a non-kosher restaurant that sells food containing meat and milk that have been cooked together. 
  • Own or operate a business that is open on Shabbat or Jewish festivals.
Note You may sell your business to a non-Jew for Shabbat and Jewish festivals, but consult a rabbi for details.
Stockholder in Business that Violates Torah Law
You may be a minority owner or shareholder in a business that violates Torah law, but not if the majority of the business is owned by Jews (even if they are not shomer Shabbat Jews). Consult a rabbi for details and exceptions.
When To Separate Challa (Hafrashat Challa)
You must separate a small portion of dough for the cohanim/priests whenever you make bread, rolls, or pizza of the Five Grains in certain quantities. This separated portion is called “challa.”
Note Since there is no Temple at present, we burn the portion of dough.
The requirement to separate challa applies to dough baked at home or commercially (such as a pizza shop), whether for eating on weekdays or for Shabbat/Jewish festivals. For more details, see Challa.
Any action that is done three times consecutively is assumed to be a promise (neder)/permanent habit unless you determine ahead of time that it should not be (you do not need to say so out loud, just think it).
Note The principle that doing something three times is considered a neder only applies to a good custom (“minhag tov”) or to a mitzva.
Contraception is generally not permitted for men (contraceptives, vasectomy, etc.); for women, consult a rabbi.
Non-Jew Must Violate Shabbat
A non-Jew is not permitted to observe Shabbat completely. He or she must do at least one violation. This is relevant for people who are in the process of converting to Judaism.
Minor Child Convert: Status
A minor child who has converted to Judaism is considered to be Jewish even though he or she is permitted to decline to stay Jewish once reaching 12 (for girls) or 13 (for boys) years old. He or she may handle uncooked wine once he/she has converted.
Minor Child: How To Convert
 A minor child is converted to Judaism the same way as an adult: immersion into a mikva and, for a boy, circumcision (which must be done before immersion in a mikva).
Note A child may not be converted against the will of the child's parent or guardian.
Bet Din
A bet din (religious Jewish men constituting a court of Jewish law) is needed for a conversion at the mikva and also for a brit mila for the purpose of conversion.
Beginning of Jewish Day
For all practical purposes, the Jewish day always starts at or near sunset (Yom Kippur starts slightly before sunset).
Halachic Day
A halachic “day” is usually from sunset of one day to nightfall of the subsequent day regarding: cutting nails; kaddish, etc.
Shalom Doormat
You should not own nor step on a doormat that says “Shalom.”
Reason This is one of God's names.
What Jews May Not Benefit From
Jews are forbidden from benefiting (asur b'hana'a) in any way from:
  • Bechor (first-born male) of a Jewish-owned goat, sheep, or cow
  • Chametz on Passover
  • Idols
  • Kilei ha'kerem
  • Mixtures of milk cooked with meat
  • Orla
  • Yayin nesech and possibly stam yeinam.
End of Bread Loaf and Forgetfulness
Eating the end of a loaf of bread is permissable and does not promote forgetfulness.
Using Clothing as Pillow and Forgetfulness
You may use clothing as a pillow even though it may cause forgetfulness.
Throwing Out Bread
Bread should never be thrown into trash or garbage. If you have leftover bread (or matza), crumble it and wash it down the sink.  This is not a halacha, it is considered to be good advice.You may also put it next to your compost pile or on top of paper on top of your compost pile.
VaYanuchu Vah
Say va'yanuchuvah” in the Shabbat amida for all three prayer services plus musaf. Some prayer books have “vah” (in her) at night, “voh” (in him) for Saturday morning, and “vam” (in them) for Saturday afternoon.
Pronounce God's name (spelled aleph, lamed, vav, heh) as Elo-ah, not Elo-ha.
The person who lifts up the Torah after it is read is called ha'magbi-ah, not ha'magbi-hah.
When returning the Torah to the ark in the synagogue, the word is hodo (His glory), not ho-DOO (praise Him).
When reading the Torah, do not pronounce the name Yissachar as it is spelled (Yissaschar).
Note Some people do read it as spelled but only the first time it appears in the Torah—that it, when he was born.
Shaving the Five Corners of the Beard
Men are forbidden from shaving the five corners of their beards with a razor blade, but since there are many opinions of what constitutes the five corners, razors may not be used at all when shaving.
Note A razor is defined as a blade that can cut without having an opposing surface against which to cut.
Women and Razor Blades
Women may shave any parts of their bodies using razor blades.
When Haircuts and Shaving Are Forbidden
Here are the times when men and women are forbidden to get haircuts and men are forbidden to shave, including their necks (from most severe restrictions to least):
Most Severe Restrictions
  • Mourner for parents (no shaving for the first 30 days and no haircut until three months after his or her previous haircut).
    Note If mourning for other relatives, you may get a haircut after 30 days.
  • From Saturday night before Tish'a B'Av until the evening after Tish'a B'Av.
  • Chol ha'moed.
Next Most-Severe Restrictions
Shiv'asar B'Tamuz (17th of Tamuz) until the evening after the Shabbat preceding Tish'a B'Av.

Least-Severe Restrictions
During 33 of the 49 days of counting the omer (sefirat ha'omer); that is, either from the second day of Passover until Lag Ba'Omer (33rd day of the omer) OR from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until the day before Shavuot, according to your custom.
Note Conditions that may allow leniency are if you might lose your job or otherwise lose a large sum of money.
Rabbis and Beards
It is traditional for rabbis to grow beards but it is not required.
Cutting Boys' Hair at Age Three
Cutting boys' hair at three years old is a custom (mainly originated through Chasidim) that some people have and is not a halacha.
Saying the Names of Gods of Other Religions
You may not speak the names of the gods of other religions, in any language that is commonly used in the country in which you are currently.
Note This only applies to gods that are still being worshiped at the present time (so this would exclude ancient Greek and Roman gods unless people are still praying to them in your country!).
Photographs of Sun or Moon
You may not take a photograph of the sun or the moon by itself and for the purpose of having an image of it, but you are not forbidden from having them in a photograph of another subject.
Photographs, Diagrams, and Worship Symbols
You may print photographs or diagrams of gods, items used for worship, or symbols used in those religions, as long as the gods are no longer worshiped (Egyptian gods, the ankh, etc.)
Introduction to Jewish Education
Introduction to Education
Jewish parents are required to give their children a Jewish education. Historically, most children learned what to do by observing their parents in their homes. Now, much Jewish education takes place in schools.
Jewish Education: Gil Chinuch
What Is Gil Chinuch
Age of Jewish education (gil chinuch) is when a child is old enough to understand the concept behind whatever halacha or observance is being taught (and not just what to say or what to do).
When Is Gil Chinuch
The age of Jewish education (gil chinuch) is more or less 6 years old but may vary with the intelligence, personality, and maturity of the child and with the particular halachic principle involved.
Who Determines Gil Chinuch
Whoever is teaching is permitted to judge what the child might understand. RMH does not approve of teaching children before they can understand. The only exception is that as soon as children start to speak, they should be taught the first sentence of the shema and “Torah tziva lanu Moshe.…”.
Personal Statement of Why Something Happened
Someone's statement of why they merited something is just their opinion and may not be the true reason.
Definition of Jewish Spirituality
"Jewish Spirituality" means an awareness of God's presence.
LAND OF ISRAEL (Eretz Yisrael)
Mitzva To Live in Eretz Yisrael
It is a mitzva to live in Eretz Yisrael but it is not required.
Non-Jews Living in Eretz Yisrael
Non-Jews are not prohibited from living in Eretz Yisrael as long they do not pray to idols.
Non-Jews Owning Land in Eretz Yisrael
A non-Jew may own land in Eretz Yisrael.  A Jew may not take the land away from the non-Jew, but a Jew may purchase land in Eretz Yisrael from a non-Jew.
Jew Selling Land in Eretz Yisrael to a Non-Jew
A Jew may not sell land in Eretz Yisrael to a non-Jew, under normal conditions.
Leaving Eretz Yisrael
If you live permanently in Eretz Yisrael, you may leave permanently in order to:
  • Get married;
  • Earn a living; or
  • Study Torah.
You may leave for vacations or for short-term trips for enjoyment.
Mari't Ayin General Rules
See Appearing To Not Uphold the Torah (Mar'it Ayin).
Eating Kosher at a Non-Kosher Event
You may eat a kosher catered meal at an otherwise non-kosher event as long as:
  • Your food is obviously different from the non-kosher food, and
  • You have kosher dishes and utensils to use.
Your food must be separate from the non-kosher food.
To avoid mar'it ayin--the appearance of doing something improper.
Riding with Non-Jewish Driver on Shabbat
See Shabbat: Riding with Non-Jewish Driver.
Purpose of Se'udat Mitzva
The purpose of a se'udat mitzva is to honor the mitzva.
TV Shows, Movies, and Three Cardinal Sins
If you want to watch TV or movies (ask a rabbi whether it is permissible at all), you may not watch TV shows or movies that portray any of the three cardinal sins:
  • Murder;
  • Idol worship;
  • Giloy arayot
Note This applies only to genuine murders, idol worship, and forbidden relationships: not to acting.
Whom To Ask for Advice
You may ask a mekubal (someone well-versed in the spiritual world) or a Torah scholar for advice.  The mekubal must be known as a genuine mekubal
Jewish or Secular Name
Whatever name(s) a person is called by is his or her name for purposes of Jewish law, even if it is a secular name. So, even if you have a Hebrew name but you are commonly called by your English (or other language) name, your English name is what is used for halachic purposes such as marriage or divorce. If you are commonly called by both your Hebrew and English names, they are both valid, but the Hebrew name takes precedence.
Taking Off Work on Other Holidays
You may take off from work on national holidays and even on non-Jewish holidays, as long as you don't celebrate the non-Jewish religious holidays.
Introduction to Non-Jewish Prayer Places
Introduction to Non-Jewish Prayer Places
It is forbidden to enter into places of idol worship, such as a Buddhist or other temple of eastern religions.
Entering a Church
Entering Church Not Dedicated to Prayer
You may enter parts of a church (meeting room, social hall, cemetery, etc.) or monastery as long as they are not dedicated for prayer.
Entering Church Sanctuary No Longer Used for Prayer
You may enter a church sanctuary that is no longer used for prayer.
Entering Dual-Use Church
If a church is used only infrequently for prayer services, a Jew may enter the church at other times but not during prayer services.
Example You may enter the Sistine Chapel, in Vatican City.
Reason The Sistine Chapel was built as a church and even though it is sometimes used as a church, it is primarily an art museum.
Standing in Church Doorway
You may stand in the doorway of a church as long as:
  • The doorway is at least 7 feet away from the sanctuary, and
  • You do not enter a sanctuary used for prayer services.
Standing in Church Shadow
You may stand in the shadow of a church.
Deriving Benefit from Church Sanctuary
You may not derive any benefit from a church sanctuary.
Buying from Church or Salvation Army
You may buy goods from a church, Salvation army, etc.
Entering a Mosque
Entering a Mosque
You may enter a mosque.
Praying in Non-Denominational Chapel
Praying in a Non-Denominational Chapel
A room that is set aside for prayer by any religion, such as those at airports, may be used by Jews for prayer as long as there are no symbols of any religion inside the room, such as a cross or statues.
Care in Donating Organ
Organ donation is, in principle, a good thing to do, but some internal organs might be removed when a person is only legally (but not halachically or clinically) dead, so great care must be used!
Owner of Organs of Dead Body
A dead body belongs to the heirs, such as regarding organ donation after death.
Forbidden Pets
No animals are forbidden as pets except animals that are dangerous and pigs (which were a special prohibition).
Pets as Waste of Money
Having a pet is not considered wasting money since you get enjoyment, protection, or other value from it.
Reason To Not Own Pets
You may own pets but it is not customary unless they are needed for protection since you might violate a Torah prohibition of eating before you have fed them.
When You May Eat Before Your Pet Eats
You must be very careful to feed your animals every day before you eat (otherwise you are violating a Torah commandment). If your animal only eats late in the day, you may eat before that.
Pet Food If Forbidden by Torah
You may not feed your pet anything that Torah law says you may not benefit from, such as food containing meat and milk that have been cooked together.
Pet Medicine on Shabbat and Jewish Festivals
Pets may be given medicine on Shabbat and Jewish festivals.
When Right Side Takes Precedence

In general, the right side is given priority in our actions. This is considered to be proper behavior and not just good advice; however, it is a custom, not a halacha.

  • A talmid chacham walks on the right of another person. (If there are two or more other people, the talmid chacham walks in the middle of the others);
  • Put on your right shirtsleeve, sock, or shoe first (but tie your left shoe before your right shoe);
  • Hold the lulav in your right hand;
  • Wash your right hand first.
Note In all cases, if you reversed these, or if it your custom to reverse them, there is no problem.
Note Left-handed men must put tefilin on their right arm. For other practices, left-handed people should consult a rabbi.

Prohibited Relationships (Giloy Arayot)
Giloy arayot does not refer just to adulterous relationships. It applies to any of the prohibited relationships listed in Leviticus/Vayikra 18:6-23.
Bal Tashchit May Override Custom
You may not destroy things in the world for no purpose. You may not waste anything (bal tashchit) that has a use, but you may use it for a purpose. Bal tashchit overrides customs and suggestions of what are good behaviors or actions.
ExampleIf you kept food under your bed when you slept, although there is a problem with ru'ach ra'a, you should eat the food, give the food to a non-Jew, or somehow use the food, but not throw it away.

Killing Creatures that Harm
You may kill any animal, bird, or other living creature that bothers, injures, or endangers people or destroys property (as long as it is legal by the laws of the local country or area). This includes animals that eat your food or produce.
Introduction to Pidyon HaBein
Introduction to Pidyon HaBein
A Jewish mother's first-born male child must be “redeemed” by giving money to a cohen if the below criteria apply. Pidyon ha'bein is a mitzva for the father of the boy. Anyone may do the actual redemption (including a woman) as long as the father appoints him or her as his emissary to do so.
Note If the father has not done the pidyon, the boy redeems himself when he reaches 13 years old.
Three Criteria for Pidyon HaBein
Three Criteria for Pidyon HaBein
There are three criteria for Pidyon HaBein:
  1. First child born of a mother must be male.
    Note If a woman miscarries a fetus that has already developed limbs, any male child born after that is not considered a first-born male (bechor) and no pidyon is done.
  2. Boy must not have been born by caesarean section.
    Note A boy who was born normally after his brother was born via caesarean section is NOT a bechor.
  3. Mother may not be the daughter of a cohen or levi (priestly family or assistants) and the father may not be a cohen or levi.
How To Do Pidyon HaBein
How To Do Pidyon HaBein
To do Pidyon Ha'Bein:
  • Pidyon ha'bein is done at least 30 days after the boy was born.
  • The boy's father gives six genuine American silver dollars to any cohen. If there is no father, consult a rabbi.
  • The boy's father says the blessing al pidyon ha'bein and she'hecheyanu.
   NoteIf the boy redeems himself, consult a rabbi about the blessing.
Remembering Amaleik
All Jews, both men and women, must fulfill the commandment to remember what Amaleik did to the Israelites. The paragraph about that episode, called Parashat Zachor (found in Parashat Ki Teitzei:  Deuteronomy/Devarim 25:17-19) is read on the Shabbat morning before Purim as a law established by Chazal (takana). The commandment is fulfilled whenever that episode in the Torah is read, even privately and at home, but there is special value in hearing it read in a synagogue on that Shabbat preceding Purim.
Sneezing Sayings
It is customary to say "God bless you" in English (or the equivalent in other languages) when someone sneezes.
Declaration of Ownerlessness for Shilu'ach HaKein
For shilu'ach ha'kein, the bird, eggs, and nest must be wild or declared ownerless (hefkeir) with three adult, Jewish, male witnesses.
Shilu'ach HaKein for Female Birds
Shilu'ach ha'kein only applies to the female birds of kosher species (so, with doves, this mitzva may only be done at night because the male doves do the nesting during the daytime).
Positive Commandments and Kareit
The only positive commandments punished by spiritual excision (kareit) are not doing a brit mila and not bringing the Passover offering.
Introduction to Using God’s Name in Vain
Introduction to Using God's Name in Vain
You may use God's correct names and not the defective version (Hashem, Adoshem, Elokim...) whenever you are teaching, even if you are only quoting a partial pasuk. This is the halacha, even though many people have the custom of using only the defective versions.
Using God's Name in Vain: Speaking
Blessings and Using God's Name in Vain
You may not use God's name unless there is a positive purpose. Anyone may say any of God's names anytime when studying Torah, even a girl or woman who is reading the Torah with cantillation/trop where she might need to repeat God's name or other words in a line/pasuk and thereby not say the entire pasuk as it is written.
It is permissible to use God's name (and not an altered name such as “Keil” or “Elokim”) in these cases:
  • When reciting a sentence or phrase from the Torah.
  • For any type of teaching of Torah, blessings, and prayers to children up to bar/bat mitzva age.
  • In Shabbat songs/zmirot.
Note When singing zmirot on Shabbat, you should use God's correct name, since zmirot are a form of prayer.
Using God's Name in Vain: Writing
Spelling God's Name Defectively
You may write God's name in any language. But you may not physically erase or throw it away, so write it defectively (for example, “G-d”) to avoid future problems.
Erasing God's Name: Physical Media
You may not erase a name of God that is written in chalk or other concrete but non-permanent substance (and certainly not if written in a permanent substance).
However, you can ask a non-Jew to erase it using a non-conventional method (shinu'i); for example, he may pour water above the name so that when the water runs across the letters, they will be dissolved.
Erasing God's Name: Photo or Photocopy
You may not throw away even a photo or photocopy of one of God's names; it must be put into sheimot. You should be especially careful with children's school papers and homework!
Erasing God's Name: Electronic Media
You may delete any non-permanent form of God's names, such as in e-mails, but you may not destroy printed versions, including printed versions of www.practicalhalacha.com, with God's names.
Tatttoos and Cemeteries
Tattoos are not permissible. However, if someone has a tattoo, it will not preclude him or her from being buried in a Jewish cemetery.
TEMPLE (Zeicher L'Churban)
Leaving Part of House Unfinished
It is no longer customary to leave part of a house unfinished (as a remembrance of the Jerusalem Temple's destruction) and it is not necessary to wreck part of a completed house.
Tearing (Kri'a) on Seeing Temple Ruins
You must tear four vertical inches at the neck of your shirt (and jacket, too, if you wear one) when seeing the ruins of the Temple in Jerusalem for the first time in more than 30 days. You do not need to be close by; do kri'a even if you see the mosques that are on top of the Temple mount.
Note A woman should not tear her garment if it would result in her being immodestly exposed in public. Don't tear your garment on Shabbat, Jewish festivals, chol ha'moed, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur. Do tear even on the afternoons before Shabbat and Jewish festivals.
Introduction to Torah Study
Studying Torah is a basic requirement for all Jews and such study is considered to be a prestigious commandment (Torah study is as important as doing all the other mitzvot: talmud Torah k'negged kulam). Setting time for Torah study (k'viat zman l'Torah) means that we show how important Torah study is by setting a specific time each day and a specific duration for such study.

But all commandments that you must do (mitzvot aseh) take precedence over studying Torah. That is, you may NOT ignore the need to do another positive commandment because you are studying!

Minimum Required Torah Study
The minimum requirements for Jews to learn:
  • Men:  All parts of the Torah plus whatever halacha is relevant for them.
    Note The most important subjects for men to study are whatever is practical for them in their lives
  • Women:  All halachot relevant for them, and hashkafa.
Studying Torah
All Jews must study Torahlishma” (studying for the sake of understanding the Torah, just because we are commanded to do so). If you are studying in order to teach, to get honor, or any other reason, it is not lishma.
Reading Weekly Torah Portion
Read the weekly Torah portion (parasha) twice each week and Targum (or commentary) once each week.


Learning Gemara
If you can memorize the gemara you are learning, you do not need to use the printed book.
Torah at Meals
Some Torah should be discussed at every meal.
Torah, Prayers, and Bad Smell
Do not say blessings or prayers or study holy subjects (limudei kodesh) if there is a bad smell.
A siyum can be held anytime a book of Torah or Talmud or any other holy book (sefer kodesh) has been studied for a long time; three months or longer is a good guideline. Simply reading through a book does not qualify; you must study it and understand it.
Note Originally, the intent was for a volume (masechta) of Talmud or a division (seder) of the Mishna.
TRAITS (Midot)
A person may reach the “gadol” level through persistence in study or through brilliance but usually it requires both.  
Twining Fingers with Spouse
You may interwine your fingers with those of your spouse, even though you there is a custom not to intertwine the fingers of both of your own hands.
Walking between Standing People
It is not recommended for a man to walk between two standing women or for a woman to walk between two standing men, but either gender may walk along with two or more people of the opposite gender if all are walking.
Note If anyone is holding a book or any intervening object, there is no problem with walking between the other people.