Musings

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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Revoking Ordination

by R. Gil Student What do you do when a rabbi is shown to be deficient in his behavior or incompetent in Torah matters, perhaps even adopting heretical views? We can understand if an ordaining authority revokes his ordination, but what if that person is deceased? Can someone revoke ordination given by someone else? I. One Rabbi Giveth, Another Taketh ...

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Standing Up For Judaism

by R. Gil Student How much should Judaism change to accommodate those who cannot abide its rules? When someone claims that the Torah’s laws may drive them to suicide, does this threat to life constitute piku’ach nefesh that overrides the law? These are complex questions that I do not claim competency to answer. I will offer a few sources for thought. I. ...

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Publishing Without Permission

by R. Gil Student Last week, we discussed the debate between Rav Shaul Yisraeli and Rav Shlomo Goren regarding the siege of Beirut. As mentioned, on August 6th, 1982, then Chief Rabbi of Israel Rav Shlomo Goren published an article in the newspaper Hatzofeh in which he argued that, according to Jewish law, the siege must allow terrorists to escape the city. ...

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The Siege of Beirut

by R. Gil Student In the summer of 1982, the Israeli army placed a siege on Beirut in a successful attempt to force the PLO out of Lebanon. On August 6th, then Chief Rabbi of Israel Rav Shlomo Goren published an article in the newspaper Hatzofeh in which he argued that, according to Jewish law, the siege must allow terrorists to escape the city. ...

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How Hard Is a Hardened Heart?

by R. Gil Student I. Hardened Hearts When God hardens a heart, shouldn’t that mean that the person whose heart is hardened cannot repent? While reading the beginning of the weekly Torah portion of Bo, I was struck that this does not seem true. God tells Moshe that He hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his servants: ”And the LORD ...

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Kaddish For An Extended Relative

by R. Gil Student Most Jews of all backgrounds recognize the custom to recite Kaddish for a parent and attempt to observe it, even if only partially. However, the recitation of Kaddish is sometimes appropriate for a relative other than a parent. In this brief essay, we will examine the background of this practice and its practical implications. I. Kaddish ...

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Texts: A Prayer For the Sick

by R. Gil Student The Mi She–beirakh for sick people is a common feature of Shabbos morning services. In many synagogues, people line up to give names of sick people to the gabbai who recites the prayer. However, the practice is questionable. In the text below, Rav Ya’akov (Mahari) Weil (15th cen., Germany) argues that it is forbidden to pray ...

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