The Mystery of Orechos Tzadikim


by R. Gil Student Orechos Tzadikim is an anonymous mussar sefer that has enjoyed a lasting impact on Judaism. It is surprising that the sefer was never attributed to anyone. Publishers and men of letters usually guess at the author’s name of an anonymous sefer, even if they are wrong. For example, the Sefer HaChinuch was published anonymously and its ...

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Who Really Started Jewish Education?


by R. Gil Student I. Three Educational Developments Common wisdom has it that Yehoshua Ben Gamla, in either the first century CE or the first century BCE, instituted universal Jewish education. This is probably wrong. The Gemara (Bava Basra 21a) says: Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: However, remember that man for good and Yehoshua Ben Gamla is ...

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The End and Beginning of Carrying


by R. Gil Student We recite Psalm 24 (Le-David mizmor La-Shem ha’aretz u-mlo’ah) frequently throughout the year but with particular emphasis on Rosh Hashanah. Most people wonder about the confusing repetition in the chapter. The last two verses are almost identical with the preceding two verses: Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! ...

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Biblical Defamation in Divorce and Politics


by R. Gil Student I. The Source of Defamation Unsurprisingly, one of the two sources in the Torah for defamation, hotza’as shem ra, is an ugly divorce. The Chafetz Chaim, the classic work on Jewish speech ethics by the rabbi who is now called by the book’s name, distinguishes between disparagement (true damaging statements) and defamation (false damaging statements). He ...

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Avoiding Danger


by R. Gidon Rothstein 13 Elul: R. Moshe Feinstein on the Heightened Care to Avoid Danger I confess that this is the second responsum I tried to write up for this week. Leaving names out of it, I got it into my head that I wanted to include a responsum by x authority, struggled with it when I first learned ...

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Are House Minyanim Kosher?


by R. Gil Student People arrange a minyan in their home to accommodate someone sick, elderly or otherwise unable to attend synagogue. When I was a teenager, we had a Shabbos mincha/ma’ariv in someone’s basement because the mile-plus walk uphill to the nearest shul was, for many, too long to do twice on a Shabbos. But sometimes people attend a ...

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Clemency in the Jewish Tradition


by R. Gil Student In the United States, the President has the power to pardon someone convicted of a federal crime, freeing the individual from punishment. Similarly, many governors can pardon state crimes. This ability to grant clemency is not something that is intuitively necessary. If a court convicts and sentences a criminal, why should that work be overturned by ...

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