From The Hashkafah Files

Tzelofchad’s Daughters

by R. Gil Student R. Ysoscher Katz, in an attempted rebuttal to Rav Hershel Schachter’s responsum on girls wearing tefillin, offered a number of arguments. In the past, we examined his claim that Rashi held the bar low for issuing halakhic rulings (link). Here I would like to discuss his statement that Tzelofchad’s daughters successfully requested equal inheritance rights, thereby ...

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Moshe Our Leader?

by R. Gil Student It recently struck me that there is a lot of discussion lately in our community about leadership. Aside from R. Jonathan Sacks’ year of weekly leadership lessons on the Torah portion, I have seen a few books in recent years devoted to the subject and a number of shorter discussions. I suspect that there is a ...

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Is Rain A Good Sign?

by R. Gil Student Last week Israel experienced a downpour of rain. The timing is particularly interesting, perhaps marking the difference between a blessing and a curse, and raising an interesting example of decision-making in theology. Rain is good in the right time. At the wrong time, it destroys crops and ruins the year’s harvest. I. Bad Rain Traditionally, the ...

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The Internet’s Mussar

My article in this week’s The Jewish Press (link): An associate professor of sociology at Princeton University, Janet Vertesi, recently made news when she publicized her nine-month long efforts to keep her pregnancy entirely secret from marketers. She fastidiously kept all mention off of social media and made all pregnancy-related purchases with cash rather than credit cards. In today’s age, ...

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The Circle Dance in Jewish Thought

by R. Gil Student The circle dance has become associated with Jewish culture, both Charedi and Israeli in different ways. What is more iconic than rabbis and celebrities dancing the “hora” on the Chabad Telethon? In the past, we have addressed the halakhic aspects of a circle dance that includes men and women together. [1]In this post: link. See also ...

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Does God Micromanage?

God controls the world. But how much attention, how much direct guidance, does He give to the details? Ramban provides an uncompromising statement on the subject, which requires further examination due to his own equivocation. Ramban (Ex. 13:16) writes (tr. R. Aryeh Leibowitz, Hashgachah Pratis, p. 70): From the overt major miracles man comes to a realization of the hidden miracles, which are the foundation of the Torah. For a person has no portion in the Torah of our teacher Moses unless he believes that all our matters and circumstances are miraculous, that they do not follow nature or the general course of the world–this is true regarding the nation and the individual.

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Angels and Afterlife

The Torah speaks explicitly about angels but gives little detail about these supernatural creatures. A debate about these biblical narratives reflects not only different understandings about the nature of angels but also about other crucial concepts. According to Jewish tradition, Avraham is visited by three angels (Gen. 18:1). Rambam (Moreh Nevukhim 2:42; Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Yesodei Ha-Torah 2:3-4) writes that any time the Bible speaks of people seeing angels, it occurs in a vision. Angels are incorporeal and cannot be seen. Therefore, the Torah begins by saying generally that God revealed Himself to Avraham and then gave details about the content of that prophetic vision, i.e. the three angels visiting.

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