Musings

Schrodinger’s Kiddush Hashem

by R. Gil Student We like to think that a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification or glorification of God’s name, is perfectly good. It is the ultimate expression of religious virtue. In reality, this is not the case and common sense confirms that. Not only is the delineation between Kiddush Hashem and Chillul Hashem blurred, the distinction itself does not hold ...

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The Thirteen Principles of Faith: Chumra or Kula?

by R. Gil Student I. Fundamental Beliefs In today’s conversations, acceptable Jewish beliefs are generally defined by Rambam’s thirteen fundamental principles of faith that he lists in his commentary to the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1). Was that always the case? In a relatively recent book, Ani Ma’amin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith, Rabbi Prof. Joshua Berman ...

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Is There a Mitzvah to Rejoice in Adar?

by R. Gil Student The Gemara (Ta’anis 29a) famously says that when Adar begins, we increase joy. While this saying is often quoted, standard codes omit it. Rambam (12th cen., Egypt) does not mention it in Mishneh Torah nor do Rav Yosef Karo (16th cen., Israel) and Rav Moshe Isserles (16th cen., Poland) in Shulchan Arukh. It is only Rav ...

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Yahrtzeit Boards and Digital Displays

by R. Gil Student When I was young, it was common for synagogues to have large boards with plaques containing the names of the deceased and small light bulbs that were turned on for the week or month of the person’s yahrtzeit, the anniversary of his passing. They still exist today, although they are becoming less common. Many synagogues have ...

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Chametz in Garbage Cans

by R. Gil Student When we prepare for Pesach, we get rid of all of our chametz, either by selling it or destroying it. However, what about chametz in your garbage can? Is that considered destroyed or do we need to sell or destroy it also? For example, if you have leftover food from the night or morning before Pesach, ...

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Of Jewish Descent

by R. Gil Student I. Whom Are You Insulting? The sharpest insults attack not their intended recipient but a loved one. I can forgive an insult to me but am prevented by my obligation to defend my friends and family from easily forgiving their offense. Who am I to allow their honor to be diminished? This is part of the ...

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When to Say Ba-Meh Madlikin

by R. Gil Student In the recently published issue of the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society (no. 75), Rav Avraham Yeshaya Cohen writes about the impact of praying alone (during Coronavirus) on the prayer services. In a sweeping, comprehensive article, he discusses the different prayers throughout the week and throughout the year, highlighting any changes that you may or ...

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Walking on Graves

by R. Gil Student Graveside funerals, or visits, often generate crowds around a grave, forcing people to search for space to stand. Are you allowed to step on someone else’s grave for a service or in order to get to the right place in the cemetery? I. Magical Cure The Gemara (Sanhedrin 47b) says that people used to take dirt ...

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Recharging Phone: Yom Tov Sheini or Shabbos?

by R. Gil Student I. A Time to Recharge The latest issue of the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society (RJJ Journal), under new editorship, is devoted to Coronavirus questions. One article contains short, translated responsa by Rav Yisroel Reisman, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Voda’as and rabbi of the Agudah of Madison. Among his many short responsa, one addresses the ...

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Daily Birkas Kohanim: A Historical Revision

by R. Gil Student I. Ashkenazim and Birkas Kohanim Every day, kohanim, men of the priestly families, bless the congregation with the biblical blessings (Num. 6:24-26). At least in theory. In practice, Ashkenazic communities only observe this on holidays, except in Israel, where it is observed daily. I believe that the standard understanding of how Israeli Ashkenazic practice became different ...

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