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About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor 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 currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He 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.


  1. shaul shapira

    Orthodoxy and YCT: A reflection

    “Torah min hashamyim, belief in the Divine authorship, word for word, is expected, taught and felt at YCT. It affects the very character of our learning. Fidelity to Halacha is an absolute must, even when times change and the laws are inconvenient or challenge modern sensibilities. An understanding of the mesorah, the tradition, is imprinted on our souls. The Amoraim don’t argue with the Tanaim. The Geonim and Rishonim don’t argue with the Amoraim. The Achronim don’t argue with the Tanaim. Chas v’Shalom we, so far from ma’amad har Sinai, standing at Mt. Sinai, would argue with Amoraim, or attempt to excise unpopular verses of the Torah. I can’t just “go it alone”. The mesorah pulls me back, connects me to the tradition. Orthodox rabbis don’t simply make up their minds and let the chips fall where they may.”

    I wish Pew would conduct a survey with the following question: What percentage of people who identify with OO:

    1) Completely agree
    2) Mostly Agree
    3) Agree Somewhat
    4) Completely disagree
    5) Undecided.

    I really am curious. I think it would be interesting now and for future comparisons.

  2. Joseph Kaplan

    The problem with the question is one of definition, a point we have hashed and rehashed here too many times to count. “Fidelity to Halacha is an absolute must, even when times change and the laws are inconvenient or challenge modern sensibilities. An understanding of the mesorah, the tradition, is imprinted on our souls.”

    Okay. So where was the mesorah when pruzbul, mechirat chametz and heter iska were instituted, no chalitzah (the preferred method) allowed, and to quote from David Berger’s recent interesting article in the Jewish Week, “bat mitzvah celebrations that rival bar mitzvahs. Advanced Talmudic study for women at Yeshiva University and elsewhere. Women as scholars-in-residence in synagogues. Women advocates in Israeli rabbinical courts. Trained advisers with formal, synagogue-sponsored positions in areas of family purity. A prenuptial agreement formulated by a YU rosh yeshiva and strongly supported by the Rabbinical Council of America.”

    And yes, yes, I know one response, these aren’t changes. And that, of course, is where definition comes into play. Although I don’t think it can really be argued that whatever these “changes/work-arounds/[you pick the noun] were/are, they were, at some point not part of the menorah and, indeed, against the then-mesorah and in some ways accommodations to modern realities/sensibilities.

    • I would say the problem is in thinking this is about change, rather than the how and why of change.

      Change in order to further values you absorbed because of the life current times led you to is different than furthering ones found in the Torah. Such as supporting the poor permitting a loophole in the prohibition against charging interest.

      Then there are cases where the issue isn’t a change in values, but a change in situation. Girls were always taught what was needed to grow up to become good Jewish women. In the 20th cent, that changed from knowing what to do, to knowing enough to stick with the community and doing it.

      And in both of these cases, the how differed greatly. The changes were created by or endorsed by experts in halachic determination, not implemented despite them because they advise, rather than decide.

      Bat mitzvah is a fourth kind of change. (Minyan/tefillin, heter isaq, Beis Yaacov and now bat mitzvah.) There is no halakhah involved one way or the other. No one is requiring something new, or permitting that which was prohibited, by making a girl a party to mark becoming obligated in mitzvos. (An internally derived value, anyway.)

      In, a halakhah-centered religion details matter. Broad-brushing change as a single topic is simply the wrong way to look at the topic.

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