From The Hashkafah Files

Minhag America and American Nationalism

by R. Gil Student In 1857, a leading reform-minded rabbi in America, Isaac Mayer Wise, published a prayer book he called Minhag America. With this publication, he attempted to unify American Jews around a single text of prayer, which of course faced immediate opposition and eventual failure. More radical reformers felt the book was too traditional and more traditional Jews ...

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How to Deal with Troubling Commentaries

by R. Gil Student God is connected to everyone who reaches out to Him, as the Midrash (Eliyahu Rabbah, 9) teaches, “I call heaven and earth to witness that whether Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or maidservant, everything is according to their actions that the divine spirit rests on them.” Every place the Torah and Talmud discuss holiness and chosenness, ...

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Translating God

by R. Gil Student A long tradition exists of criticizing translators. The nuance of one language is often difficult to discern much less to transfer to a different tongue. Commentary, conventional wisdom has it, is inherent in translation. Judaism has a quasi-official translation of the Pentateuch, and it isn’t Artscroll. It is Targum Onkelos, the ancient Aramaic translation attributed to ...

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What’s The Jewish View On Reincarnation And Past Lives?

by R. Gil Student This week’s big new big budget movie release Assassin’s Creed brings the popular action-adventure video game to the screen. In it, a man played by Michael Fassbender uses new technology to uncover his “genetic memories” of a previous life as a skillful challenger to an oppressive, evil organization. While this story is fantasy, every culture around ...

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Chanukah and Self-Doubt

by R. Gil Student What is Chanukah?, famously asks the Talmud (Shabbos 21b). What led the Sages to establish this holiday? The response has led to many essays attempting to understand what seems to be the Talmud’s wrong answer to this basic question. The Talmud tells the story of the Hasmonean rededication of the Temple, for which enough Menorah oil ...

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