From The Hashkafah Files

Atonement and Suffering

by R. Gil Student I. Repentance and Suffering The Talmud (Yoma 86a) lists four types of sins and their corresponding methods for attaining atonement. A sin that would otherwise be punished by execution or kares (excision) requires repentance and Yom Kippur in order to delay punishment and suffering (yissurin) to achieve full atonement. In Medieval and early Modern times, this ...

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Is Philosophy Kosher?

by R. Gil Student Many people are familiar with the long-standing debate about the propriety of a Torah Jew studying philosophy. Multiple times in the Middle Ages, rabbis debated the permissibility of studying philosophy including Rambam’s classic Moreh Nevukhim. As a compromise, in 1305 Rashba issued a ban on studying philosophy before the age of 25, implying at least some ...

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Long Biblical Lives

by R. Gil Student The biblical lists of generations include descriptions of very long lives. For example, Adam lived 930 years (Gen. 5:5), Noach 950 (9:29), and the longest — Mesushelach 969 (5:27). How do we relate to these descriptions of longevity, well beyond anything we can expect of human beings? Two approaches emerge from Medieval Jewish commentary. I. Theories ...

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Koheles and Political Struggle

by R. Gil Student Who wrote Koheles, the biblical book of Ecclesiastes? The traditional answer to the question of Koheles’ authorship is Shlomo HaMelech, King Solomon, who according to tradition wrote Shir HaShirim, Koheles and Mishlei (Koheles Rabbah 1:1), which were copied and finalized by Chizkiyahu and his counterparts (Bava Basra 15a). My question is not which person wrote Koheles, ...

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Lack of a Rabbi in the Modern Era

by R. Gil Student I. Non-Believing Jews The modern era presents unique challenges to traditional religion. Most changes are matters of a phenomenon’s extent, quantity rather than quality. However, a greatly expanded phenomenon may require a different response. The example we will discuss here is the growth of secularism in the community. While atheists and religious deniers always existed, in ...

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