Musings

Dreams, Social Media and Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student Dreams are a common part of daily life to which the Talmudic Sages attribute great importance. They see in dreams both danger and opportunity, and therefore created three ceremonies or opportunities to rid ourselves of bad omens in dreams. However, on a more careful look, we find conflicting thoughts about dreams in the Talmud and a ...

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The Best Charity

by R. Gil Student I. Which Charity? Many people in the Jewish community have achieved varieties of financial success, allowing them the privilege of supporting many charities. This raises questions of communal and philanthropic priorities. Others have limited charity funds but still want to allocate them effectively. The issue is a blessing but also a complex problem, with multiple angles. ...

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The Finer Things in Life and the Talmud

by R. Gil Student Is it proper to enjoy good food or should we avoid worldly pleasures and focus on spiritual success? The Talmud contains a plethora of seemingly contradictory indications on whether it is morally proper for a Torah scholar, someone striving for spiritual achievement, to eat good food. Rav Ya’akov Emden (Lechem Shamayim, Avos 6:4) attempts to resolve ...

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Rav Lichtenstein on Abortion

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have seen that Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Ya’akov Kamenetsky and Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in different contexts, have referred to abortion as “murder.” We have also seen the public policy concerns of Rav Immanuel Jakobovits and Rav Jonathan Sacks. I would like here to explore the written views of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, ...

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Who Has to Work?

by R. Gil Student One of the iconic debates of the Talmud is about how — or whether — to balance earning a living with learning Torah. However, this debate contradicts an earlier discussion. The resolution of this contradiction yields differing outcomes on the proper balance of work and study. I. Who Must Gather Crops? In Berakhos (35b), R. Yishmael ...

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What Was in the Heavenly Torah?

by R. Gil Student How and when was the Torah composed? In a footnote to an addendum to volume 23 of Torah Shelemah (p. 146), Rav Menachem Kasher writes that he has in front of him a 440-page book published in 1965 that addresses at length the rabbinic passages on this subject. Without question, he is referring to Prof. Abraham ...

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Shach’s Dayenu Pilpul

Summarized and adapted by R. Gil Student Rav Shabsi Kohen, author of the brilliant Sifsei Kohen on parts of Shulchan Aruch and commonly known as “the Shach,” lived in Vilna and Czech in the 17th century. Among the works he wrote during his short life (he died at the age of 41) is a pilpulistic commentary on the Haggadah passage ...

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Merchants of Flesh

by R. Gil Student I. Parental Memorabilia What seems immoral to one generation may seem moral, even patriotic or respectful, to another. On the one hand, that makes Torah guidance even more important. On the other hand, it emphasizes the need to prioritize and compartmentalize judgments. How objectionable is an activity that the Torah rejects and general society accepts? People ...

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Who Reads the Haggadah?

by R. Gil Student I. Three Seder Practices Generally speaking, when it comes to the Pesach Seder, people know the details of their own family’s practices but not those of many other families. From conversation, they might know what different people eat for marror but not necessarily when they stand and sit, how they engage in conversation, in what format ...

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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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