From The Hashkafah Files

Kahanism and Racism

by R. Gil Student Kahanism is often portrayed as blatant racism. On a purely theoretical level, this is obviously untrue, as we shall see. On a practical level, the ideology may be translated into action in a racist way, or may accompany racism, but that is not our topic. At worst, Kahanism devalues gentiles in a broad, sweeping fashion. Since ...

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Who Wants to Marry More?

by R. Gil Student Generally speaking, does a man or a woman want to get married more? While every person is an individual, they often follow similar attitudes that allow for generalizations. Conventional wisdom, which often is wrong, has it that women want to marry more. Those literate in Jewish texts are familiar with the Aramaic phrase from the Talmud: ...

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Taking Responsibility for Your Judaism

by R. Gil Student Reviewing “Tzadka Mimeni: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility,” by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky. Gefen Books. 2018. 320 pages. ISBN-13: 978-9652296498. The order of the nesi’im, the tribal princes in the desert, teaches us the single most important lesson in life. Rashi (Num. 7:11) says that Moshe was not sure whether the twelve nesi’im should offer their ...

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How Hard Is a Hardened Heart?

by R. Gil Student I. Hardened Hearts When God hardens a heart, shouldn’t that mean that the person whose heart is hardened cannot repent? While reading the beginning of the weekly Torah portion of Bo, I was struck that this does not seem true. God tells Moshe that He hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his servants: ”And the LORD ...

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How to Pray Better

by R. Gil Student The challenge of prayer is at once its tremendous power and its ubiquity, its frequency in your life. Pouring out your heart before the Creator with a fixed text three times a day quickly becomes an exercise in routine, as we all know. There is no easy solution to this problem. A fixed text allows you ...

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‘Diaspora Jewry’ Doesn’t Exist

by R. Gil Student I was recently privileged to participate in the third Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, which focused on what Israel can do for Diaspora Jewry. This impressive event, run by Israel’s Government Press Office with a line-up of big-name politicians and journalists, emphasized to me a fundamental misunderstanding about the Diaspora Jewish community – namely that a ...

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Why We Disagree

by R. Gil Student I. Tradition and Disagreement The Talmud is notoriously full of disagreements. The rabbis seem to debate every minor issue, often with little practical difference. This should not be the case. The rabbis received a tradition from Sinai, learning the laws from their teachers who served as chains in the transmission from Moshe. How did so much ...

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Tikkun Olam’s Problems

by R. Gil Student When I first began reading Jonathan Neumann’s To Heal The World? How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel, I enthusiastically endorsed it on Facebook. To my surprise, that post was excerpted as a PR blurb for the book. Since then, many thoughtful reviewers have written about the book, forcing me to rethink my original ...

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Angels and Afterlife

by R. Gil Student I. Angels and Visions 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; ...

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Long Biblical Lives

by R. Gil Student The biblical lists of generations include descriptions of very long lives. For example, Adam lived 930 years (Gen. 5:5), Noach 950 (9:29), and the longest — Mesushelach 969 (5:27). How do we relate to these descriptions of longevity, well beyond anything we can expect of human beings? Two approaches emerge from Medieval Jewish commentary. I. Theories ...

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