Searching for Halacha in the Real World

By: Daniel Besser
from Maayanot

Real-World Learning

Subject(s) of entry:
Gemara, Halacha

None of the Above

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Middle school, High school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Middle school, High school

Halacha projects for both Shabbat and Kashrut, demanding independent research on real life questions. The final step of each project is for the student to directly contact her Shul Rabbi and seek his psak.

Entry Narrative

After teaching halacha for a number of years, I wanted to take the material off the page and address issues and the process that the students will ask questions in the future as adults. Therefore, in both the kashrut and Shabbat classes, I assigned practical project topics with real-world questions.For each project, the final step was taking their findings to their shul Rabbi and personally seeking a definitive psak. This demystified the sh’eala asking process, established a connection between the Rabbi and some of his most difficult congregants to reach, and demonstrated to the students how different, responsible Rabbis can reach different conclusions to the same question.

Entrant Bio(s)

Rabbi Donny Besser teaches Talmud and Halakha, serves as the Judaic Studies Enrichment Coordinator, and is Mashgiach Ruchani. Rabbi Besser also serves as a dayan for the RCA Beit Din of America, and he was involved in editing the Masoret HaRav Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah machzorim and a new Birkon, whose commentaries incorporate insights of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik. Rabbi Besser joined the Ma'ayanot faculty in 2005, prior to which he practiced law for six years. He earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School and received semicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University.