From The Hashkafah Files

The Argument From Jewish History

by R. Gil Student I. Jewish History For his fourth and final “rational approach to God’s existence,” Rav Lawrence Kelemen, in his Permission to Believe, utilizes the argument from Jewish history. In my opinion, this is the most convincing argument for God’s existence and the most powerful, because it applies not just to some vague all-powerful being but to the ...

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The Ontological Arguments

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have discussed a number of proofs, or more accurately arguments, for God’s existence. The Ontological Argument is the most unintuitive of the arguments, but perhaps the one most potentially viable as a proof. To most people, this will sound like word games. However, the challenge lies in determining precisely why or if ...

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Intellectual Freedom

by R. Gil Student I. Limits Freedom is the cornerstone of democracy and its absence is symptomatic of a dangerously coercive society. Yet too much liberty is damaging to that very freedom. Any country that wishes to thrive must place limits on individuals’ freedoms when it infringes on those of others, such as protecting one person’s property rights from his ...

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Why Newman Matters to Religious Jews

by R. Shalom Carmy Being an Anglican clergyman, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was a respectable position, sometimes a highly prominent one, but the Anglican Church was not known for its great piety or moral fervor.  We still find amusement in the way Fielding in Tom Jones (1749) and Trollope, in his Barsetshire series a hundred years ...

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Before Reb Zusia

by R. Gil Student I. Being Measured Against Others Over a decade ago, I challenged the eighteenth century Chasidic scholar Reb Zusia of Hanipol‘s famous last words. On his deathbed, he said that he wasn’t worried that the heavenly court would ask why he wasn’t like Moshe, because he could answer that he lacked Moshe’s abilities. But he was worried ...

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More On Philosophy

by R. Gil Student I. Philosophy From Tzfas Previously, we discussed the view of Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer (19th cen., Poland) about faith and philosophical inquiry. Essentially, he permitted inquiry into fundamental areas of belief as long as they are preceded by firm faith. If you already believe, then you can examine the arguments back and forth. In the worst ...

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The Missing 160 Years

by R. Gil Student A number of years ago, my friend Mitchell First published a book, Jewish History in Conflict, describing rabbinic responses to the disagreement between rabbinic chronology in Seder Olam and that which emerges from Greek historians (and other sources). Depending on how you look at it, there are approximately 160 years missing from rabbinic history, mainly during ...

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Alternative to Suffering

by R. Gil Student Earlier, we discussed the need for suffering in order to complete the atonement for several sins (link). However, commentators suggest an alternative that bypasses the suffering. I would like to explore the mechanism for such a path of repentance. As mentioned, the Talmud (Yoma 86a) divides sins into four categories: 1) Violating a positive commandment – ...

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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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