Musings

Holiday Parties

by R. Gil Student I’ve often heard rabbis speak about office holiday parties as if they are obviously and unequivocally forbidden and it’s troubled me. I’m not quite sure what the big deal is but I’m also not certain that all rabbis understand the varying circumstances. For some people, missing a holiday has no career impact. For others, it might. ...

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Chanukah Lights: How Long?

by R. Gil Student Often, when social circumstances change significantly from the past, some people automatically assume that Jewish law must change. Others summarily dismiss the suggestion that the law will ever change. Both approaches are incorrect. Rather, these matters require careful and sensitive analysis by the leading scholars to determine the nature of the law and whether the change ...

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What is the Shekhinah?

by R. Gil Student I. Divine Presence The Bible and Talmud refer frequently to the Shekhinah, God’s presence, without explaining the term. This leaves students relying on their intuition. When informed by years of study, this intuitive understanding usually fares well. However, historically, some people have reached theologically dangerous conclusions on these matters, leading important thinkers to explain this term ...

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Ya’akov’s Transparency

by R. Gil Student The story of Ya’akov’s employment with Lavan offers a surprising window into the challenging life Ya’akov faced. Repeatedly accused of dishonesty, Ya’akov’s responses show us how to argue a point effectively. In his Economics and Jewish Law (pp. 9-11), Rav Aaron Levine sees this episode as indicative of Ya’akov’s attempt to demonstrate his integrity. Ya’akov worked ...

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Personal Judaism

by R. Gil Student Personal stringencies in Jewish practice are private matters but they can also provide insight into the nature of Jewish law. In an undated responsum, Rav Moshe Feinstein answered a question about the complex topic of eruvin with a brief musing on the effect of halakhic decision-making on contemporary religious life. The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 362:10) ...

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A BT and his Father

by R. Gil Student Before leading bentching, the grace after meals, the leader typically requests permission from others more worthy to lead. The standard formula is: “With permission of our masters, our teachers and my teachers.“ Many add specifics depending on with whom they are eating. If kohanim (priests) are present, they may ask permission of “the priests.” If they ...

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Can Two People Be One?

by R. Gil Student I. Equating Personalities In the late sixteenth century, R. Azariah de Rossi shook the scholarly Jewish world by subjecting Talmudic historical statements to critical scrutiny. His questioning nearly led to his excommunication but his writings found approval by moderate traditionalists centuries later. While examining rabbinic chronology of the Persian monarchy, R. Azariah (Me’or Einayim, Imrei Binah, ...

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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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