Musings

Ivanka, Jared and the Jewish Sabbath

Ivanka, Jared and the Jewish Sabbath What Employers Need to Know by R. Gil Student The media frenzy surrounding President Trump has included reports about his daughter and son-in-law’s observance of Jewish ritual, including resting on the Jewish Sabbath. On a few occasions, the media have noted puzzling exceptions to Ivanka and Jared’s observance, exceptions that raise questions about the ...

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A Turkish Community’s Tax Revolt

by R. Gil Student We like to think that life is about spirituality and principles but there is also an element of practicality. As Maslow taught us, we have to meet our basic physical and financial needs before we address our spirituality. To the rabbis, these financial needs are spiritual. Therefore, taxation is a religious concern when it concerns those ...

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A Rabbi’s Right to Refuse

by R. Gil Student Does a rabbi have the right to refuse to answer someone seeking his guidance? If someone asks him an halakhic question, may a rabbi choose not to answer? Or is he, like a doctor, duty-bound by his special skills to serve the public that needs his services? I. The Rule The Gemara (Sotah 22a) explains Proverbs ...

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The Heresy of the Ten Commandments

by R. Gil Student I. It’s All Good What is the most important passage in the Torah? The debate over a Shavuos custom teaches that answering this question opens the door to claims that other passages are unimportant. Consider Rambam’s statement in his eighth fundamental principle, based on Sanhedrin (99b), that the entire text of the Pentateuch was written by ...

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Video Game Idolatry

by R. Gil Student I. Video Game Avodah Zarah A recently released, ground-breaking video game raises important questions for Jews, who pride themselves on their devotion to monotheism. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an open-world game, which means that the characters can roam free throughout a vast, imaginary world while attempting to achieve their missions. Throughout ...

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Officiating At A Gay Marriage

by R. Gil Student I. Is Officiating Forbidden? For a long time, I struggled to understand whether there exists any technical barrier to an Orthodox rabbi officiating at a gay wedding. As long as the ceremony is sufficiently different from a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony to avoid confusion, and no unnecessary blessings are recited, what prevents a rabbi from leading ...

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Is History Proof?

by R. Gil Student We like to think that facts will end an argument. More often than not, they only move the battlefield. History is not a science but an art of interpretation. While historical analysis begins with careful research, it continues with inference and explanation. Both are subject to debate. In the Talmud, we find mixed responses to historical ...

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Maternity Sacrifice

by R. Gil Student I. New Mothers In Temple times, childbirth included two ritual elements that some may find surprising. One is a long period (40 or 80 days) of impurity and the other is a requirement to bring a sacrifice that includes a chatas, a sin offering (Lev. 12). Why does the Torah require for childbirth, a joyous occasion, ...

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