Musings

Is The Akedah Ethical?

by R. Gil Student It seems that every few years, someone argues that the message of the Akedah, the binding and near-sacrifice of Yitzchak (Gen. 22), is something other than that we should follow God’s commands no matter how hard they may be. I don’t want to speculate why people offer these suggestions and instead take them at face value. ...

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When Shabbos Is Shofar

by R. Gil Student This year, we do not blow shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashanah because it is Shabbos. To prevent people from carrying a shofar where there is no eruv — something very relevant this year when many people will be praying in homes and backyards — the entire Jewish people will refrain from blowing shofar ...

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Why Did the Holocaust Happen?

by R. Gil Student As I reviewed the weekly Torah reading for this past Shabbos, which includes the tokhechah (Deut. 28), I was taken back to my teenage years, reading it one Saturday or Sunday afternoon and seeing Jewish history in it. To a non-religious Jewish teenager in the 1980’s who grew up among survivors, the question of God in ...

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A Derashah During A Plague

by R. Gil Student The 1848 (5608-9) cholera epidemic has become famous in Jewish history because it was the moment when the 37-year old Rav Yisrael Salanter first took on a leadership role. Rav Dov Katz, in his Tenu’as Ha-Mussar (vol. 1, ch. 12), describes how Rav Yisrael mobilized a rescue effort, secured a 1,500 bed hospital and volunteer doctors ...

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Podcast on Biblical Criticism

R. Dovid Bashevkin interviewed me for his 18forty website on the subject of Biblical Criticism. The full interview is below. I don’t like speaking unprepared because I am not quick on my feet and always make mistakes on some things (like I do when I go off-script in a prepared talk). So please listen charitably. Some corrections (running list as ...

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Why Does Teshuvah Work?

by R. Gil Student As Elul arrives and Rosh Hashanah approaches, we need to start thinking about teshuvah, about how we can build positively on all the events of tumultuous past year so that we are better Jews in the upcoming year. I would like to explore two different ways to think about teshuvah and the implications that arise from ...

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Grandfathers in Halakhah

by R. Gil Student Grandparents are connections to our past. They are two steps closer to Sinai, a chain in the transmission of Torah. They help raise us and teach us. Not only did they hold us as babies but they held our parent, as well. I. Teaching Torah Grandparents fulfill a unique mitzvah by teaching their descendants Torah. The ...

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Must We Prove That God Exists?

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have discussed at length a number of suggested proofs, or arguments, for God’s existence. There is one more approach that I would like to explore. I. Skepticism Fails Rene Descartes started modern philosophy on its path by developing the methodology of radical skepticism. He devised a method of blank slate philosophy in ...

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When the Chazzan Shleps

by R. Gil Student I. Chazzanim Shlep Rabbinic literature is full of rabbis complaining about chazzanim (cantors) who sing too much, whether to enhance the prayers from their perspective or to show off their voices. Sometimes chazzanim sing the words at a steady pace. Other times they lengthen words in tune or sing tunes in between words. There is a ...

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Saying A Wicked Name

by R. Gil Student I. The Hungarian Apostate Are you allowed to say the name of someone wicked or should you avoid saying it? Mishlei (10:7) says, “The memory of the righteous shall be for a blessing but the name of the wicked shall rot.” Are we obligated to abandon the name to rot? The Gemara (Yoma 38b) says: “What ...

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