Above My Pay Grade - Part 2

Real questions, submitted by actual OU Torah followers, with their real answers. NOTE: For questions of practical halacha, please consult your own rabbi for guidance.

Sometimes people ask questions that require more halachic authority. Following is another sampling of questions that I forwarded to a more senior colleague, and his replies. (Don't sweat the untranslated Hebrew; I have provided a glossary at the end.)

Q. Is trading stock options mutar or is it gambling?

Rav: One of the reasons gambling is forbidden (and pasul to give testimony) is because a gambler is not involved in ישובו של עולם. If the one who buys stock options has a job, this would not apply.

The other reason has to do with stealing, which likely would not apply to a legitimate options trade (since this does have legitimate purpose and value for investors even if a particular investor misuses the system). There might also be a hashkafic issue of buying options with improper hishtadlus.


Me: I hope this finds you well. Someone wrote me asking about davening in English but using as many Hebrew words as he knows. His example:

boruch are you, ad-noy, el-haynoo, and the el-hay of our fathers, the el-hay of Avraham, the el-hay of Yitzchak and the el-hay of Yaakov, the A-yl who is great, might and awesome; the supernal Ay-l... Boruch are you, ad-noy, shield of Avraham

I advised against it because then he's davening in neither language. He replied that he's not interested in aitzos, he wants the halachic bottom line. I took a quick look and didn't find anything. Does anyone address this question?

Rav: One may not daven in two languages. שו"ת יביע אומר חלק ה - אורח חיים סימן יב


Q. Is there a law that if a married man engaged sexually with a divorced women that they can’t get married once the man is single?

Me: I would think not but maybe they imposed a k'nas that I'm not aware of?

Rav: No, there is no such k'nas.


Q. I have researched a lot about vegetables grown on media (some are also hydroponic) with growers and elsewhere and it seems that most (almost all) tomatoes, beans and peppers and also many lettuces are not grown in the ground and thus the bracha should be shehakol. I looked at USA, Mexico and Canada and also at Europe.

It seems to me that the OU and other orgs should investigate and if I am correct, they should be publicizing this because if not grown in the ground, people are saying brachot l'vatala.

Rav: It is true that they often grow vegetables in greenhouses, but if they are grown in dirt, even if it is בעציץ שאינו נקוב, they are still ha'odama even if they are not planted in the ground. It is possible to grow them in a greenhouse only in water and in that case the bracha is shehakol.

They also grow lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables in special bags of a peatmoss type mixture. Perhaps this is what he is referring to as media. This is not the same as in water only. It is like a very soft mud. We had discussed this with Rav Belsky zt"l and he held the bracha is ha'odama and one can use the lettuce for maror.


Me: I received the following question and could use an assist:

These days some people are going down on their knees or bowing to show support or submission. Is a Jew allowed to get on their knees or bow in these ways?

I looked up some sources but I'm not completely comfortable with how I might reply. I think the answer is, "not technically prohibited as long as it's not done on stone but doing so is distasteful and frowned upon." What would you say?

Agav urchei, are concrete and blacktop comparable to stone? They're both made of gravel and other ingredients.

Rav: Yes, concrete and gravel are considered stone. The Mizbeyach ha'even was made of limestone, which is one of the main components in concrete. Another main component is gravel stone. (Blacktop is made from tar which might not be stone, but I think there is often stones mixed into this as well, I am not sure).

Someone recently asked me what is wrong with nefilas apayim for Tachanun if there is no sefer Torah, what is the issur.

It is assur. Poskim write that real nefilas apayim without a sefer Torah is a sakanah and therefore, even when we do our sleeve version of nefilas apayim, we follow the rules as though we are doing nefilas apayim. Therefore, doing otherwise is viewed as putting oneself in sakanah. (If one has the minhag to do nefilas apayim with seforim, or all the time like Rav Soloveitchik, this has a source. Of course, everyone should continue to follow their family or community minhag.)

Me: Thanks so much for your speedy and helpful reply! (Blacktop is asphalt mixed with gravel.)



Mutar - permitted 

Pasul - invalid

ישובו של עולם - "settling the world," i.e., being a productive member of society

Hashkafic - philosophical

Hishtadlus - human effort

Aitzos - advice

K'nas - a penalty

Shehakol - the bracha recited over foods that do not have their own more-specific bracha

Brachot l'vatala - blessings recited in vain.

בעציץ שאינו נקוב - an unperforated pot

Ha'odama - the bracha recited over produce that grows from the ground

Agav urchei - incidentally

Mizbeyach ha'even - the stone alar (in the Temple)

Nefilas apayim - "falling on one's face," a form of bowing

Issur - prohibition

Assur - prohibited

Poskim - decisors of Jewish law

Sakanah - a situation of danger

Seforim - religious books

Rabbi Jack's latest book, Ask Rabbi Jack, is now available from Kodesh Press and on Amazon.com.