Musings

Rav Hildesheimer’s Response to Ultra-Orthodoxy

by R. Gil Student Rabbi Dr. Azriel1 Hildesheimer was a Torah giant, a master of secular wisdom and a leader of Hungarian and German Jewry as it confronted modernity. His response to the pronouncements of the nascent Ultra-Orthodox/Chareidi movement offers an alternative approach to resisting deviationist trends. R. Hildesheimer was born in Halberstadt, Germany in 1820 and studied under Chacham ...

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God’s Role in Earthquakes

by R. Gil Student I. Responding to Disaster When a natural disaster hits an area — destroying property, taking lives and affecting many people — people often struggle to understand the religious implications of the devastation. For some, questions such as “what sin caused this disaster?” flow naturally, even as they make many people uncomfortable. Some respond that we cannot ...

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Reviews in Brief: Spring 2019

by R. Gil Student In the recently published Spring 2019 issue of Jewish Action, I review: Halachos of Brochos for All Seasons by R. Pinchas Bodner Setting a Table for Two: Enhancing Relationships, Achieving Intimacy by R. Avraham Peretz (Cary) Friedman Pearls From the Torah: Something Old, Something New by R. Eliyahu Safran One of the Thirty-Six Hidden Tzaddikim: HaGaon Rav ...

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Texts: Gut Shabbos

How old is the phrase “Good Shabbos”? I don’t know but as early as 1426, we know that Maharil said it on a regular Shabbos. When his wife died in that year (a year before his passing), on that Shabbos he did not bless the children in his community and did not — as he normally did — wish people ...

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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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Texts: Talking Politics on Shabbos

You know what it’s like to get caught in an uncomfortable or tedious political conversation? Apparently Jews in 15th century Germany did also. Rav Yisrael Isserlein, in his Terumas Ha-Deshen (1:61), addresses whether we may discuss politics on Shabbos. He says that if you enjoy it, yes. But many people don’t enjoy it and they may be violating a prohibition.

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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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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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