Review of Amot Shel Halacha: Halachic Insights
by Rabbi Michael Stavsky
I have a confession to make. I have always found Jewish law (Halachah) to be a fascinating topic that requires much focus and attention to detail. We’re taught from an early age about the basics of Halachah – keep kosher, don’t mix meat and milk, observe Shabbat, etc. – but the intricacies of Halachah go much further.
Practical, everyday Halachah dictates how we spend our lives – from the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we close our eyes at night. But during those hours each day, we’re faced with numerous questions on how to govern ourselves in every situation. What do I do if I find a lost object? What do I do if I accidentally use a meat spoon in my yogurt?
Halachah is derived from countless opinions of the great rabbis who’ve guided our communities in the Torah’s path over the centuries. Many years of intense study is required to pasken shelot (decide Halachah in a given situation), and as such, there is no replacement for one’s rabbi. In an ideal world, everyone would have a direct line to their rabbi or posek (halachic decisor). But let’s face facts: there are times when a rabbi isn’t available and you’re suddenly faced with a halachic question that requires an immediate answer.
While there is no substitute for a psak Halachah (halachic decision from a rabbi), a better understanding of the halachic implications of a given situation and even halachic guidance can be found in Rabbi Ari Enkin’s Dalet Amot series.
In the first and second volumes (named Dalet Amot and Amot Shel Halacha respectively) of what will be a seven-part series, Rabbi Enkin has tackled many important questions that arise on a daily basis. Taking the name of his series from the halachic dictum that every person has dalet amot (four cubits) of personal space and must govern their space within halachic guidelines, Rabbi Enkin has produced two volumes that allow the layperson an insight into practical, everyday Halachah. Utilizing more than 2,000 footnotes, Rabbi Enkin’s halachic scholarship is evident and his volumes can be referenced by even the most accomplished posek.
In the first volume, Dalet Amot, Rabbi Enkin discusses many topics that are normally missing from other Halachah sfarim. Subjects such as kol isha (the prohibition for a man to hear a woman sing), a woman’s obligation to cover her hair, and the laws regarding marital intimacy are dealt with in an open and frank manner. Some of the other topics include the halachic ramifications of adoption, gambling, cosmetic surgery and even an engaging look at the Jewish viewpoints regarding Halloween.
In the foreword to the second volume, Amot Shel Halacha, Rabbi Enkin discusses the importance of studying Halachah. This is best illustrated by the statement Rabbi Enkin quotes from the Talmud, Berachot 8a, “From the day that the Holy Temple was destroyed, the Holy One blessed be He has nothing in His world except the dalet amot of Halachah.” While Amot Shel Halacha seems to mostly cover subjects found in more mainstream Halachah sfarim, they are certainly no less current nor engaging. I especially found the section titled “On Litter and the Environment” to be intriguing and very timely.
This series makes a wonderful Chanukah gift for anyone who has a passion for learning and understanding Halachah. Both volumes are available at bookstores and Judaica shops everywhere.
Chag urim samayach!
The original text of the article may be found here.