Miscellany: M-P (Marit Ayin, Names, Organ Donation, Pidyon HaBen...)


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.

Reason: To avoid mar'it ayin--the appearance of doing something improper.


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

It is forbidden to enter into places of idol worship, such as a Buddhist or other temple of eastern religions.

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

You may enter a mosque.

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.


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.

Example: If 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

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

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

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.

   Note: If the boy redeems himself, consult a rabbi about the blessing.

Copyright 2015 Richard B. Aiken. Halacha L’Maaseh appears courtesy of www.practicalhalacha.com Visit their website for more information.