From The Hashkafah Files

A Maimonidean Perspective on Biblical Criticism

by R. Gil Student I. The Challenge of Biblical Criticism Biblical Criticism has long posed a challenge to traditional Judaism, to some people insurmountable and to others less imposing. Reactions to Biblical Criticism have varied from wholesale acceptance to intentional ignorance. I believe the Rambam has something important to say on this subject. I hesitate to suggest what the Rambam ...

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Seeking Godliness

by R. Gil Student Why do we perform acts of kindness for others? On the one hand, it is basic human nature, but so are laziness and selfishness. The simple answer is that the Torah commands us to be kind. However, exactly how we should understand the Torah’s commands is a source of long-standing debate. An overlooked text offers a ...

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Were the Tosafists Philosophers? II

by R. Gil Student I’ve had a few more thoughts about this issue since I wrote the original essay on the topic. I took another look at Dr. David Berger’s book, Cultures in Collision and Conversation. Aside from a chapter that directly addresses the question, many parts of the book discuss it. This is a topic that has been recently ...

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Is Leisure Kosher?

by R. Gil Student The Jewish attitude to leisure is complex and reveals a fundamental divide over religion. The New York Times recently reported that a Chasidic camp had ceased sports activities (link). If taken at face value, the article implies that Judaism, or at least the Satmar version, forbids any leisure activity. Is this an accurate depiction of Jewish ...

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Two Paths to Martyrdom

by R. Gil Student Only an idea worth dying for is worth living for. [1]I don’t know who first said that. An idea on which we base a society, with which we shape our lives and our families, can only survive if its adherents cling to it at all costs. Otherwise, it disappears quickly, as the bullies in this world ...

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Siblings

by R. Gil Student I. Parents and Sibling There is no greater personal relationship than between a child and parent. Parents raise a child from birth, teach him to walk and talk, and celebrate the milestones of maturation. This forges a bond that is deeper than mere biology. Parents have a large hand in shaping a child’s attitudes and actions, ...

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Torah From Sinai

Questions about the laws in Deuteronomy in comparison with those in earlier biblical books assume a process of prophetic transmission at Mt. Sinai and in the Sinai Desert. However, without even minimally exploring that transmission, we can never even begin to answer those questions. Jewish tradition teaches a dual transmission–the Written and the Oral Torahs. Distinguishing between these two traditions ...

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Conversion and Theology

by R. Gil Student The annulment of a conversion is sometimes necessary, as we have discussed in the past (link). When it is necessary, it is certainly an emotionally trying situation. However, there are occasions where the nullification is an act of mercy, a surprising relief. R. Ya’akov Ariel (Be-Ohalah Shel Torah, vol. 2 no. 28) was posed the following ...

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Were The Tosafists Philosophers?

by R. Gil Student The initial response to the question of Tosafist interest in philosophy has to be negative. Much like contemporary rabbis, their focus lay Talmud and Jewish law, where texts abound and directly impact religious life. Certainly they were also interested in Bible and wrote commentaries, some on the level of derash but some, most notably but not ...

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Harry Potter and Epistemic Uncertainty

by R. Gil Student I. Harry’s Dilemma No, the subject of this essay is not the title of an ill-conceived Harry Potter sequel. Rather, I’d like to discuss a subtheme of the seventh Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) that is relevant to Jewish law and thought. In the first half of the book, rumors and details ...

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