From The Hashkafah Files

How to Deal with Troubling Commentaries

by R. Gil Student God is connected to everyone who reaches out to Him, as the Midrash (Eliyahu Rabbah, 9) teaches, “I call heaven and earth to witness that whether Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or maidservant, everything is according to their actions that the divine spirit rests on them.” Every place the Torah and Talmud discuss holiness and chosenness, ...

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Is Anger Good?

by R. Gil Student I. Anger Is Bad Anger is a destructive force. It does not just cloud judgment, which would imply reliance on instinct. Anger overwhelms judgment, taking you in directions to which your rational mind and your other, less powerful, emotions would object if they could. A life full of anger is a life full of pain and ...

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Translating God

by R. Gil Student A long tradition exists of criticizing translators. The nuance of one language is often difficult to discern much less to transfer to a different tongue. Commentary, conventional wisdom has it, is inherent in translation. Judaism has a quasi-official translation of the Pentateuch, and it isn’t Artscroll. It is Targum Onkelos, the ancient Aramaic translation attributed to ...

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What’s The Jewish View On Reincarnation And Past Lives?

by R. Gil Student This week’s big new big budget movie release Assassin’s Creed brings the popular action-adventure video game to the screen. In it, a man played by Michael Fassbender uses new technology to uncover his “genetic memories” of a previous life as a skillful challenger to an oppressive, evil organization. While this story is fantasy, every culture around ...

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Chanukah and Self-Doubt

by R. Gil Student What is Chanukah?, famously asks the Talmud (Shabbos 21b). What led the Sages to establish this holiday? The response has led to many essays attempting to understand what seems to be the Talmud’s wrong answer to this basic question. The Talmud tells the story of the Hasmonean rededication of the Temple, for which enough Menorah oil ...

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Religious Doubt in Jewish Life

by R. Gil Student Since a religious life is one of faith, you would expect that religious doubt would be unwelcome. In an important essay, Rabbi Norman Lamm argues that doubt can play a valuable role in religious life. A Medieval philosopher adds another role for doubt in religious life that Rabbi Lamm did not explore. I. Three Kinds of ...

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The Great Religious Challenge

by R. Gil Student Too often, rabbis don’t get it. Having spent their entire lives enveloped in a welcoming Jewish environment, they do not fully grasp the challenges facing their congregants in university and the workplace. We sometimes hear platitudes that were only barely true when coined but now lack any connection to reality. For example, it may once have ...

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How Can I Believe That Jonah Was Swallowed By A Fish?

by R. Gil Student My latest article on Jew in the city The book of Jonah tells the famous story of a big fish (not whale) swallowing Jonah for three days until the prophet emerged unscathed. To someone like me with more of skeptical point-of-view, this episode is hard to swallow. Jonah had fled from the land of Israel after God ...

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All The Lonely People On Social Media

by R. Gil Student My article in this week’s The Jewish Link As a new Jewish year begins, we must take the opportunity to look for ways to improve our behavior. We are the generation that has seen the rise of the Internet and social media, and we are still experimenting with these new tools, learning what works and what ...

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Prophecy IX: Prophecy and Natural Law

by R. Gil Student I. Prophecy and Commandments Other essays in this series Our relationship to prophecy reflects on our obligation to follow the commandments. Prophecy is a revelation of God’s will, providing us a special divine message for our time and place. The Torah’s commandments are an eternal message from God. Rav Yitzchak Hutner (Pachad Yitzchak, Sefer Zikaron, quoted ...

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