Musings

How Long is the Nine Days?

by R. Gil Student During a brief period leading up to Tisha B’Av, Jews observe additional mourning practices. For Ashkenazim, the initial period begins with 17 Tammuz and the intense period begins with Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the month whose mourning culminates with the ninth day, Tisha Be-Av. These nine days include customary restrictions on eating meat, ...

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When In Doubt, Learn Torah

by R. Gil Student I. Don’t Disagree The mourning practices of Tisha B’Av include a prohibition on learning Torah, an activity that naturally leads to joy. Some authorities forbid learning Torah on the afternoon before Tisha B’Av, so you don’t enter the day full of the joy of Torah. Others permit it because the mourning has not yet started. Rav ...

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Siyum, Chazak and Yashar Koach

by R. Gil Student I.Strong Finish As we finish reading Bamidbar this week, we can take the time to ask why the congregation says “Chazak, chazak ve-nischazek (alt: ve-nischazak)” after completing the reading of one of the five books of Moshe. Literally, the words mean, “Strong, strong and we will become strong.” The implication is that after we finish studying ...

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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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Breaking a Monopoly

by R. Gil Student I. Competing Bids In approximately 1547, one litigant (“Shimon”) bought a region’s liquor monopoly for three years from the local nobleman. Before the three years were done, someone else (“Reuven”) bought the monopoly for the next three years for a higher price. Shimon complained that Reuven elbowed into his territory and stole his livelihood. The two ...

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Who Can Judge Alone?

by R. Gil Student  I.The Ludmir Decision In 16th century Poland, leading rabbis debated whether a single rabbi, a Torah giant, can effectively resolve a monetary dispute. In general, a religious court requires at least three judges. However, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 5a) says that a single expert can resolve monetary cases. While the Tur (Choshen Mishpat 3) says that according ...

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Trapped By The Sermon

by R. Gil Student Many rabbis use the High Holiday sermons as an opportunity to showcase their talents and to showcase crucial ideas and themes. Considering the large crowd, rabbis may spend months preparing just the right combination of information and inspiration. In other words, it’s a big deal. Some congregants enjoy the sermon. Others flee the room. Some envy ...

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Saying Yes (And No) to Limmud

by R. Gil Student Limmud NY, a large gathering of a wide variety of Jews for studying Torah and Jewish topics, will take place next weekend and while there must be an Orthodox presence, there also needs to be an Orthodox refusal to attend. Recently (in 2014), British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis made news by attending a Limmud conference in ...

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Trapping a Pet

by R. Gil Student I. Pet Laws Pet owners face many religious laws regarding how they treat the animals in their care. On Shabbos, authorities debate whether people may carry pets or not, if the animals are considered muktzeh. Additionally, locking animals inside — trapping them — constitutes one of the 39 forbidden Shabbos labors. How do they apply to ...

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For Those Who Don’t Smell

by R. Gil Student I. No Smell After Shabbos ends, we recite havdalah on wine, a special candle and spices for smelling, each item with its own blessing plus a blessing on separation itself marking the transition from Shabbos to weekday. Technically, if you do not have sufficient flame or spices readily available, you can recite havdalah without them (Shulchan ...

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