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About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

48 comments

  1. In my experience, the problem with baguettes in Israel is the texture. The outside just doesn’t stay crusty long enough to eat it (I suspect due to the humidity).

    http://heavytable.com/the-art-of-the-perfect-baguette/

  2. I have yet to find a baguette in Israel that is worthy of the name. A young french immigrant, who is from a family of bakers, told me that Israeli flour just isn’t suitable. Go know.

    The Russians made a real impact on the bread market. Before 1990 you couldn’t find a basic rye with seeds in this town (really), now there are great dark breads of all kinds everywhere.

  3. More power to Rabbi Tendler.

  4. Whether or not one agrees with banning metzitzah bepeh, there are some major problems with RMTendler’s actions (assuming they are as reported):

    1- Inviting the gov’t to step in is dangerous. After there are no Rambams left to burn, they could leave us without any gemaros to learn from either. And asking them to help regulate metzitzah bepeh legitimizes the legal arguments of the anti-circ people.

    2- It’s not a “prefabricated lie.” It’s a shitah that well predates the current controversy, a plausible reading of the gemara (the Avnei Neizer shows the gemara could mean either) and of the Rambam (according to the MM). RSRH and RYESpektor believe metzitzah bepeh is in principle required, but consider using a tube to convey the oral suction is still MbP (but inferior).

    No one “made up” this obligation or the notion that the halakhah’s reason goes beyond the medical.

    3- Tactically, it is more productive to present ways of performing MbP (direct contact) with minimal risk. E.g. requiring testing of mohalim, use of oral germacides, having the father himself do it (rather than reusing the same mouth from baby to baby), or whatever people who actually know the topic come up with. This setting up for a battle will only further entrench the other side. Especially since he’s coming in with a strawman.

  5. Micha: The only issue I have with your post is that it is reasonable, sane and well thought out. Just wait to be called a quisling and a baby killer by some of the posters here.

  6. Tal,

    If I get my year’s allotment of embarrassment out of the way now, maybe I can enjoy the rest of it!

    GCT!

  7. R’ Micha,
    Have you heard from any MBP advocates that they would accept any government requirements? My sense was that had there been discussions of this nature with the health department in the past, the promulgation might have been different.
    Inviting the government in is classically done when we don’t have the power to enforce ourselves – hameivin yavin.
    GCT

  8. On Rabbi Tendler and bris:

    If you look at what seems to be the source of the YWN story (http://www.lohud.com/article/20120917/NEWS03/309170056/Monsey-rabbi-speaks-out-against-controversial-ritual-circumcision-), he didn’t say the government should step in (unless you consider suggestions or encouragement “stepping in”).

  9. Tendler said he understands why many religious groups bristle at the idea of government intervention.

    “Should the government be involved?” he asked. “I concur that the government should not be involved.”

    But if religious leaders don’t act to ban the practice, secular officials will have little choice, he predicted.

    Few people in favor of the practice understand the risks it poses, said Tendler, who has a degree in microbiology.

    “They don’t appreciate the fact that this exposes the child to danger,” he said. “Danger that the child is being exposed to for no reason.”

  10. If you listened to Rabbi Tendler discuss this in his shiur some years back as the controversy was just getting started, he made it clear that he was working together with Health Officials to get them involved. The shiur was posted on YU Torah which is where I listened to it. He may want to deny it now, but he spoke about it openly then and made no bones about it.

  11. Amazing how the one trying to stop people from harming their children is viewed as the criminal. Strange world you people inhabit.

  12. Yasher koach to Gil for posting the YWN article – they treat this issue with such sensitivity and journalistic integrity. Oh, and such brilliance in the comments.

    Seriously Gil?

  13. Lawrence Kaplan

    Tal: The Satmar Rebbe stated repeatedly that MBP via direct oral suction should be presented as the ONLY WAY to perform the mitzvah. Not this is our custom, not that there is a respectable body of halakhic authorities who say it is required, but this is the only way to perform milah, period. Is not this a lie?

  14. Lawrence Kaplan

    Tal: Also, to say that those who, like myself, disagree with Reb Micha’s thoughtful remarks will proceecd to call him a quisling and baby killer is really setting up a strawman.

  15. Dude — regarding the comments to the YWN article, I have seen plenty of similarly “brilliant comments” expressed here when Rabbis such as David Hartman, Yitz Greenberg or those who blog on Morethodoxy or are affiliated with YCT come up in discussion. A learning experience, perhaps.

  16. MiMedinat HaYam

    from the “getting a get” article — “A survey of RCA members in December 2009 found that 70 percent of the rabbis who responded said they were willing to use the prenup, Weissmann said.”

    70% does not a consensus make. you cant throw out a member based on such a number. (and that is “willing to use”, not require.)

    any more so than you would throw out a member based on not more than 30% who support IH’s comment of 5:44. i refer to the names (and blog writers) he cites, not the tenor of his post.

    and if this is 70% in such a “consensus” issue, i’m sure much less than 70% will tolerate (i dont mean “practice”, but at least permit) MBP in their shuls. (esp after RMT’s foolish comment, which seems to be confirmed by the yutorah article.)

  17. Nice article on the Kuzari, but I like that throwaway mention of the Talmud translation- no mention that it was motivated by anti-Semitism.

  18. -I wonder how close the Berlin Seminary’s hashkafa is to Hildesheimer’s in reality.

    -BJ has always been “on the right side of history”? Talk about unbiased reporting.

  19. MiMedinat HaYam

    paying families to relocate — i understand its not too successful a progran, generally. perhaps it is now becoming somewhat successful. ?bad economy? ?bad real estate market?

    but the article’s dating the practice to the rotschild’s $upport of aliyah is mistaken. jews throughout the ages $upported those going on aliyah; today , the closest we have is NBN (financed by outside source i dont want to get into, but alluded by others here), instead of local communities. every shul in america should give any member that goes on aliyah a nice big check, to show our support of aliyah. none do.

    also, the rotschilds and others financed relocation thoroughout parts of the US (the german jews wanted the eastern eurpoean jews out of their way.) galveston, texas and woodbine and vineland nj comes to mind.

    and the rotschilds supported existing communities in israel (though they built one or two; those were small existing communities.)

  20. Tal: The Satmar Rebbe stated repeatedly that MBP via direct oral suction should be presented as the ONLY WAY to perform the mitzvah. Not this is our custom, not that there is a respectable body of halakhic authorities who say it is required, but this is the only way to perform milah, period. Is not this a lie?

    Lawrence, I don’t really care what the Satmar Rebbe said. Everyone knows that there are two opinions on the matter. The Agudah spokesman said so explicitly in a press release. For R. Tendler to say that MBP is a “hoax” and “nothing” is over the top. He is entitled to his opinion, but again my objection is to his using secular forces to force that opinion down everyone’s throat. (He did the same thing re brain death, BTW. Told some NYS committee that Orthodox Judaism holds that brain death is death.)

    Tal: Also, to say that those who, like myself, disagree with Reb Micha’s thoughtful remarks will proceecd to call him a quisling and baby killer is really setting up a strawman

    Those comments were not directed at you.

  21. “Debunking a Ramban Myth by Rabbi Yair Hoffman”

    I know the author means well, but I never heard that bubbe maaseh about the Ramban, and suspect most haven’t. Posting an article that sets out to debunk an obscure myth probably just perpetuates and spreads it more than it debunks it.

  22. >>>The Agudah spokesman said so explicitly in a press release. For R. Tendler to say that MBP is a “hoax” and “nothing” is over the top.

    Why? He posits, and most sensible people would agree, that if chazal knew of the risks and the other ways to accomplish metizah it would be fine. It’s a completely rationale position. IMHO, the other position is not only wrong, but compltelty irresponsible in ignoring something that EVERY rationale doctor will tell you is a problem.

  23. Lawrence Kaplan

    Ral: I have already said in last week’s News and Views that R. Tendler’s language was over the top. I was just pointing out that there is gtoss and irresposible exageration from the other side as well.

  24. Lawrence Kaplan

    Tal: I already sent a comment to the 5 Town News asking R. Hoffman why he had to spend so much time and effort debunking an obscure and obviously absurd story.

  25. It was not the bubbe maaseh about the Ramban I was thinking of.

  26. “He is entitled to his opinion, but again my objection is to his using secular forces to force that opinion down everyone’s throat”

    Tal:

    Where do you see attempts at “forc[ing]” his opinions down the throats of others?

    How can you compare a formal Agudah press release to some – possibly off-the-cuff – remarks that R. Tendler made to a reporter?

    Also, is the wording of the dozens of rabbis (here: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/b.jpg) over the top?

  27. Yes, that is what bothers me. You might hold it is required. But you cannot hold “there is no danger whatsoever”. That is objectively false. There is some measure of danger.

  28. Good luck trying to get any substantive critique of the RW from those defending MBP. The best you can hope for is that the rest of us are an eilu va’eilu. Unlike in Israel, RWMO in the US has a very large chip on its shoulder.

  29. When it comes to RMDT’s strong language, it’s possible that:
    1) He believes that lives are at stake. Because of this, strong language is required.
    2) His categorization of MBP as a “prefabricated lie” and “hoax” might be in response to the recent statement distributed by Central Rabbinic Congress which stated:

    “The Orthodox Jewish community is outraged by today’s decision of the NYC Board of Health to regulate a sacred, *foundational religious practice that has been observed for over 3,000 years*.
    We believe today’s action, which is based on the *thinnest of contested anecdotal evidence,* to be plainly unconstitutional and will be aggressively litigating this shocking governmental overreach. We are very confident the 1st Amendment affording the free exercise of religion; and the freedom of speech will be upheld by the courts.
    The basis of Jewish law, the Torah, holds even a single life above all other concerns. *No practice spanning thousands of years, undertaken by thousands annually, would be allowed in Jewish law if it were life-threatening.* What the NYC Board of Health did today is an unforgivable affront.”

    This statement makes it appear that MBP was never an issue until now, which is blatantly not true. One need not get involved with Talmudic analysis or go back to the Chasam Sofer, etc, for as recently as the late 1980’s, major Poskim, such as Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, stated that MBP should not be performed due to Sfek Sefeikah (due to risk to the Mohel).

    The statement also refers to MBP as foundational, which it was never really considered outside Chasidic communities. It also does not recognize the fact that using a tube is considered by most to be the equivalent of MBP – which their own statement indicates would be required if they would only acknowledge the risks involved.

    It is possible that this is why RMDT has given such a strong response. He believes he is saving lives. The only way to do so, at this point, is to match the strength and severity of those he believes are making false claims.

  30. “Dude — regarding the comments to the YWN article, I have seen plenty of similarly “brilliant comments” expressed here when Rabbis such as David Hartman, Yitz Greenberg or those who blog on Morethodoxy or are affiliated with YCT come up in discussion. A learning experience, perhaps.”

    Whoa! Nothing of the sort. People here actually (generally) make points (e.g.: Practice or belief ______ cannot be called Orthodox because_______). Ad hominems come in ocasionally on the side. Comparing comments here to the comments in that ‘thread’ is like comparing a gay marriage to a straight one.

    GCT

  31. I set my browser to block comments on the frum news websites. Here’s how to do it with Chrome: http://www.theinternetshiur.com/how-to/how-to-block-news-comments/

  32. MiMedinat HaYam

    get war continues — mr f might have a cause of action against “ora” for using his picture and name in a commercial advertisement to further “ora”‘s mission (per ora’s website). at least in NY. damages would probably be minimal, so it might not be worthwhile. but it would turn the PR ball in his favor. and it only has to go as far as summary judgement to make his point.

    SS hollywood writer — there is a group of SS writers who have (or had a few years ago) a weekly breakfast (i think it was on fridays) to discuss .. their various issues .. networking .. bob avrech’s name comes to mind.

    MBP — curious — what is the sfardi position on MBP? (current charedi sfardim excepted.) and B: i was always curious what the satmar rebbe z”l’s position was on sfardi customs that were not to his liking?

  33. Sepharadim are nohagim to do direct MbP. This was the Sedei Chemed’s conclusion, and expected of berisim done in the Bet Medrash at 45 Rechov Hakablan, next door to R’ Ovadia Yosef.

  34. I’ve been trying to buy the old Hirsch chumash (Isaac Levy translation Dayan Grunfeld intro.) online. They don’t seem to be selling it anymore. Does anyone where I can buy it?

  35. I try to love my people, but these whiny seculars keep getting on my nerves. If that is the way they feel about Kiddushin, why even have a Jewish wedding or a wedding at all?

  36. Thanks, Rav Gil! Have to try that.

  37. I asked Teimanim about it, and they shrugged and one said how we did metzitzah in Rambam’s day does not necessarily mean it still must be done that way.

  38. “i was always curious what the satmar rebbe z”l’s position was on sfardi customs that were not to his liking”

    Well, the Satmar tend to “convert” Yemenites to their way of life…Yiddish, at least; not sure about minhagim.

    anon: I remember signs going up in Kew Gardens Hills some years back saying that R’ Elyashiv required us all to do MBP. Was that true? (Disgusting either way, I felt then- what’s it his business what goes on in Queens? R’ Schachter doesn’t even pasken for Brooklyn.)

    So three “shomer shabbat” Hollywood types make yet another TV series normalizing homosexuality. Great.

  39. Nachum-Kol Korehs always deserve to be taken with a strong dose of salt and skepticism, and left as fodder for sociologists.

  40. IH wrote:

    “I have seen plenty of similarly “brilliant comments” expressed here when Rabbis such as David Hartman, Yitz Greenberg or those who blog on Morethodoxy or are affiliated with YCT come up in discussion. A learning experience, perhaps”

    Once again, intellectual imperialism and triumphalism rears its head. Merely exercising one’s right and time writing a book or expressing an opinion never frees an author based on some liberal version or Daas Torah or the Divine right of kings from being free and exempt from critics, here and elsewhere, who view such opinions as ill founded, and raise the question as to whether such views can be in any way or fashion equated with traditional Jewish thought. The suffering martyrdom posture that has been adopted by some who don’t like their views being critiqued strikes me as an intellectually dishonest posture.

  41. “Merely exercising one’s right and time writing a book or expressing an opinion never frees an author based on some liberal version or Daas Torah or the Divine right of kings from being free and exempt from critics, here and elsewhere, who view such opinions as ill founded, and raise the question as to whether such views can be in any way or fashion equated with traditional Jewish thought. The suffering martyrdom posture that has been adopted by some who don’t like their views being critiqued strikes me as an intellectually dishonest posture.”

    Is that true for you no matter who is stating the issue involved? No matter how great the talmid chacham stating the words is?

  42. Steve — there is a salient difference between the disagreement and the words used to express it. Note how many of the Al Chayts we will say in a few days involve Peh / S’fatayim / Lashon.

  43. IH-True. Yet, one of the Al Chets is Zilzul Horim Umorim.

  44. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve B. and IH: The issue is not the al chet the OTHER person should say. It’s the one I should say.

  45. Larry Kaplan-Ain Haci Nami.

  46. Prof. Kaplan — we say it in the plural, both for us and the others. Hence “that we will say”.

  47. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: Indeed, we say the al chets in the plural. But no doubt for each one of us some resonate more srongly than others.

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