From The Hashkafah Files

Does A Virus Kill?

by R. Gil Student As we contend with the ongoing impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, we pray, we learn and we grow as Jews. In the past, people saw epidemics as divine punishment. However, nowadays we know the medical causes of the disease. We can trace the virus and, to some degree, its spread. If epidemiology explains the spread of ...

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Talmudic Advice on Epidemics

by R. Gil Student While we have lived through multiple pandemics (SARS, Ebola, AIDS to name a few), most of us have not experienced it as personally and directly as we are with coronavirus. It is worthwhile to review what the Talmud teaches about living through an epidemic. We have to keep in mind that even in the times of ...

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Why Do Epidemics Happen?

by R. Gil Student Throughout history, epidemics have caused death and disruption in varying scales, some massive but most local. Why do they happen and how should we respond? As would be expected of this not uncommon experience, the Sages of the Talmud discuss this issue. In 1576, Rav Moshe of Trani (Mabit) in Israel published his philosophical work Beis ...

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Do Epidemics Kill?

by R. Gil Student I. Should You Flee? While the currently growing epidemic of Coronavirus is not dangerous for most people who are not in high risk categories, we can still ask whether any epidemic or plague poses a life-threatening danger. After all, God determines on Rosh Hashanah who will live or die in the upcoming year. Someone who is ...

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Selling Mitzvos

by R. Gil Student I. Holy Profits People are motivated to do good for many reasons, among them — but hopefully not primary — is the promise of divine reward. Can that reward be sold so that a poor, righteous person can support his family? In particular, there is a concept of a Yissachar/Zevulun partnership in which one party (Zevulun) ...

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New Ancient Perspectives on Exodus

by R. Gil Student Every generation sees the Bible in general, and the weekly Torah reading in particular, as a reflection of their own circumstances. This attitude enables the sacred text to constitute a living Torah, a guide to our own circumstances, challenges and opportunities. Too often, people forget that these are real stories that happened to real people thousands ...

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Is Daf Yomi the Answer?

by R. Gil Student Few things animate the intellectual discussions of the yeshivah world more than a debate on the best way to learn Gemara. Each yeshivah, and sometimes each shiur within a yeshivah, has its own unique method to understanding the text and commentaries, and its own approach to balancing the competing needs of breadth and depth, speed and ...

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Is the Torah Moral?

by R. Gil Student Review of: The Oral Law: The Rabbinic Contribution to Torah sheBe’al Peh Publisher: Maggid Press By Rabbi Chaim H. Schimmel Is there any value in trying to understand the origins and development of the Oral Torah? The Five Books of Moshe were dictated by G-d to Moshe and the remainder of the Bible was written by various ...

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Faith’s Middle Path

by R. Gil Student Title: Judaism Reclaimed: Philosophy and Theology in the Torah Author: Rabbi Shmuel Phillips Publisher: Mosaica Press Almost immediately upon publication, Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim yielded contradictory interpretations. Some readers, including the book’s Hebrew translator R. Shmuel Ibn Tibbon, see in Moreh Nevuchim a subversive text, a book of radical philosophy hidden underneath a Torah mask. Others, including ...

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Yosef, Slavery and Morality

by R. Gil Student Sometimes we struggle to understand specific laws or passages that do not seem to fit into the Torah’s overall picture of harmony, community and connection with God. One such issue is that of slavery, which the Torah permits and legislates. The moral approach that seems most true to me, most consistent with Torah and history, is ...

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