From The Jewish Thought Files

Must We Prove That God Exists?

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have discussed at length a number of suggested proofs, or arguments, for God’s existence. There is one more approach that I would like to explore. I. Skepticism Fails Rene Descartes started modern philosophy on its path by developing the methodology of radical skepticism. He devised a method of blank slate philosophy in ...

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Celebrating Tisha B’Av

by R. Gil Student I. The Happiness of Tisha B’Av Tisha B’Av contains contradictory themes that, when considered, completely changes our perspective about this day. The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 659:4) says that we do not recite Tachanun prayers on Tisha B’Av because the day is considered a holiday. Since Tachanun is omitted on happy days, and Tisha B’Av is ...

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What I Learned From Coronavirus

by R. Gil Student My local community magazine, The Jewish Echo, asked its writers and staff for brief comments about what they learned from the pandemic. Here is my contribution: In times of crisis, our community unites in overwhelming acts of chessed. We excel at that. We naturally respond to a crisis by looking for opportunities to help others. As beautiful as this ...

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Torah Is The Air We Breathe

by R. Gil Student Throughout the pandemic, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has singled out the Jewish community for violating “stay-at-home” orders. Now, although Jews still face severe restrictions on religious gatherings after months without access to synagogues, he has permitted protesters to gather in the thousands and break social distancing guidelines. Why do political protests deserve special ...

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Does A Virus Kill?

by R. Gil Student As we contend with the ongoing impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, we pray, we learn and we grow as Jews. In the past, people saw epidemics as divine punishment. However, nowadays we know the medical causes of the disease. We can trace the virus and, to some degree, its spread. If epidemiology explains the spread of ...

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Talmudic Advice on Epidemics

by R. Gil Student While we have lived through multiple pandemics (SARS, Ebola, AIDS to name a few), most of us have not experienced it as personally and directly as we are with coronavirus. It is worthwhile to review what the Talmud teaches about living through an epidemic. We have to keep in mind that even in the times of ...

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Why Do Epidemics Happen?

by R. Gil Student Throughout history, epidemics have caused death and disruption in varying scales, some massive but most local. Why do they happen and how should we respond? As would be expected of this not uncommon experience, the Sages of the Talmud discuss this issue. In 1576, Rav Moshe of Trani (Mabit) in Israel published his philosophical work Beis ...

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Do Epidemics Kill?

by R. Gil Student I. Should You Flee? While the currently growing epidemic of Coronavirus is not dangerous for most people who are not in high risk categories, we can still ask whether any epidemic or plague poses a life-threatening danger. After all, God determines on Rosh Hashanah who will live or die in the upcoming year. Someone who is ...

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Selling Mitzvos

by R. Gil Student I. Holy Profits People are motivated to do good for many reasons, among them — but hopefully not primary — is the promise of divine reward. Can that reward be sold so that a poor, righteous person can support his family? In particular, there is a concept of a Yissachar/Zevulun partnership in which one party (Zevulun) ...

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New Ancient Perspectives on Exodus

by R. Gil Student Every generation sees the Bible in general, and the weekly Torah reading in particular, as a reflection of their own circumstances. This attitude enables the sacred text to constitute a living Torah, a guide to our own circumstances, challenges and opportunities. Too often, people forget that these are real stories that happened to real people thousands ...

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