Musings

Soldiers and Tzitzis

by R. Gil Student After the horrific terrorist attacks of October 7, there was a sudden burst of interest in tzitzis. So many people, particularly soldiers, wanted to start wearing tzitzis that there was a severe shortage. Based on the sudden demand, the IDF Rabbinate needed 60,000 garments with tzitzis fringes. Volunteers joined together to wrap and tie tzitzis for ...

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Praying In a Tank

by R. Gil Student I. Where to Pray Soldiers, like all professionals, use their extensive training and experience to inform their behavior in the field but ultimately they must improvise based on real-life circumstances. Tanks offer limited room for personal movement. They do not have sleeping quarters. However, during war a soldier may not have the option to leave the ...

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Redeeming a Captive Caught in the Legal System

by R. Gil Student I. Important Mitzvah In Jewish law and tradition, redeeming a captive (pidyon shevuyim) is the highest form of charity. The Talmud (Bava Basra 8a) refers to it with the unusual term of “great mitzvah” and Shulchan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 252:1), the code of Jewish law, says that “there is no mitzvah as great as pidyon shevuyim.” ...

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Enlisting in the IDF

by R. Gil Student I. Employment and Slavery The issue of drafting Israeli yeshiva students into the IDF is a perennial political topic. I would like to discuss a related topic but without any political connection. In order to survive, a country has to be able to draft soldiers into its army. In halakhah, we call that part of mishpetei ...

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When to Invade Rafah

by R. Gil Student I. A Time for War Koheles (3:6) notwithstanding, there is never a good time for war. We hope and pray for a time when there will be no war. But when war is necessary, presumably there should be no time constraints to it. However, the halakhah is otherwise, as we will see. If the Israeli Defense ...

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Pesach Avoidance

by R. Gil Student I. Avoiding the Korban Pesach We know from tax law the difference between avoidance and evasion. Tax avoidance involves structuring your finances to legally minimize your taxes. In contrast, tax evasion is refusing to pay taxes that you owe. Obviously, when it comes to mitzvos, evasion — refraining from fulfilling an obligation — is sinful. Is ...

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Army Uniforms on Shabbos

by R. Gil Student I. Shabbos Clothes We greet Shabbos and spend the entire day clean and proper, dressed in fine clothes. What do you do if you have to wear an army uniform? The Gemara (Shabbos 119a) says that R. Chanina and R. Yannai would wear special clothes to greet Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 113b) quotes Naomi’s instruction to ...

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The Religious and the Non-Religious Soldier

by R. Gil Student In the Israeli army, it is common for fully Torah observant soldiers to serve by the side of soldiers who are not. When a soldier has to serve a shift on Shabbos, this raises the question of whether the observant soldier can or should trade days with a non-observant soldier. Sometimes, a non-observant soldier will volunteer ...

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Enlisting in the Army

by R. Gil Student When Jews are drafted into inhospitable armies in the diaspora, they are required to work on Shabbos and eat non-kosher food or face severe punishment. Effectively, they are coerced to violate Torah prohibitions. Historically, this raised many questions as young Jewish men faced a draft into a religiously hostile army. I do not know the exact ...

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Happy Twentieth Anniversary

by R. Gil Student On March 15, 2004, I started a blog that changed my life. Here we are, twenty years later. So much has happened since then and so much has changed. My son whose birth I announced here is about to graduate from high school. I only once mentioned the name of one of my other children on ...

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