From The Hashkafah Files

Is 929 Kosher?

by R. Gil Student I’m told that some yeshiva graduates are learning 929 without fully understanding its background. I will make a few points here why this is not the daily Tanakh study program for the traditional Orthodox Jew, even if some traditional Orthodox teachers are involved for a variety of reasons. If you want to learn Tanakh daily, please ...

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On Changing Judaism For LGBT

by R. Gil Student Anyone reading this probably knows someone gay. The explicit biblical prohibition against homosexual activity and the associated rabbinic prohibitions, including the rabbinic condemnation of gay marriage, are not abstract concepts. The heartbreak, alienation, depression and everything else that follows are the real repercussions felt by our friends and family. The theological challenge is not theoretical but ...

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Texts: Repentance From Character Traits and Heresy

Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein (d. 1908, Lithuania; Arukh Ha-Shulchan, Orach Chaim 602:4-5)) corrects the common misconception that repentance is only required for bad deeds. In fact, we must repent also for our bad character traits and for our heretical thoughts. In particular, in this time period so close to the arrival of the mashi’ach, heresy is growing. Unfortunately, the old ...

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What is Masorah?

by R. Gil Student After more than three years, I am reposting the conclusion and summary of the symposium on masorah. Jewish tradition changes but only in order to remain the same. Unlike a liberal approach to religious practice, which freely adapts the past to contemporary sensibilities, a conservative approach—which I believe Orthodox Judaism demands—strives to preserve the past by ...

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New Tools to Learn the Moreh

by R. Gil Student Reviewing: “Moreh Nevuchim” (all three parts), edited by Mordecai Plaut. Feldheim, Publishers. 2019. Hebrew. Hardcover. ISBN-13: 978-1680251005. 568 pages. “Moreh Ha-Nevuchim part 1,” edited by Yochai Makbili. Mifal Mishneh Torah Publications. 2018. 400 pages. “Moreh Ha-Nevuchim Le-Rambam,” peirush by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. Hava Books. Hebrew. Part one, volume one. 2016. 445 pages. Part one volume two, ...

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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. A few years ago, the New York Times 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 ...

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Be Normal

by R. Gil Student I. Average Often, we are rightly told to strive for greatness. But that doesn’t mean we have to act like we are better than everyone else. If anything, it means we must strive for normalcy in order to achieve greatness. Rav Ya’akov Kamenetsky used to say that it’s a mitzvah to be normal — of course, ...

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Visiting the Museum of the Bible

by R. Gil Student On Chol Hamoed Pesach (middle days of Passover) last year, I went to the Museum of the Bible with my family after receiving strong positive recommendations. Based on what I saw in my limited time there, I highly recommend it to open-minded Orthodox Jews. Due to time limitations, we went to only two large exhibits — ...

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Rav Hildesheimer’s Response to Ultra-Orthodoxy

by R. Gil Student Rabbi Dr. Azriel [1]Variant spellings on his first name include Esriel and Israel. I use Azriel, which more closely matches his Hebrew name. This article originally appeared in Hakirah 24 (Spring 2018) and is … Continue reading Hildesheimer was a Torah giant, a master of secular wisdom and a leader of Hungarian and German Jewry as it ...

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God’s Role in Earthquakes

by R. Gil Student I. Responding to Disaster When a natural disaster hits an area — destroying property, taking lives and affecting many people — people often struggle to understand the religious implications of the devastation. For some, questions such as “what sin caused this disaster?” flow naturally, even as they make many people uncomfortable. Some respond that we cannot ...

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