Musings

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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The Forbidden Sefer

by R. Gil Student Our thirst for Torah has limits. We treat learning as a sanctified activity and therefore restrain our activities to ensure we use appropriate sources and texts. Are there some Torah texts that we must avoid due to their ownership or the materials with which they were made? I. The Firstborn Torah In 1840, in a town ...

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Learning Is Doing

by R. Gil Student I. Special Power of Learning Torah We have not offered the Temple sacrifices in nearly 2,000 years but we continue fulfilling those mitzvos through our ongoing study of their laws. Does this special power of Torah study apply to other mitzvos as well or just sacrifices? The answer has implications for us today, during the (hopefully ...

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Follow-Up: The Mixed-Up Blessing on Chanukah Lights

by R. Joshua Waxman Editor’s note: This is a letter-to-the-editor to The Jewish Link in response to a condensed version of this essay that did not include mention of Dikdukei Sofrim (Munich Manuscript). I read Rabbi Gil Student’s illuminating article (“The Mixed-Up Blessing on Chanukah Lights,’’ December 10, 2020) about how commentators explain Rav Yosef Karo’s deviation of the form ...

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Voice Recognition in Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student I. Identifying People We use many faculties to observe the goings on about us. When one sense is unavailable, we often use others to compensate. Even if we cannot see someone, we can still identify their presence by the sound of their voice. Does this identification have bearing in Jewish law? Identification by sight can be ...

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Giving Away a Mitzvah

by R. Gil Student I. Paying for a Mitzvah We spend money on mitzvos. Some mitzvos are free, some are not, and some come with hidden costs. But whether paying yeshivah tuition or buying an esrog, we gladly spend the money G-d gave us to fulfill our religious obligations. What about giving up some of your mitzvah so someone else can fulfill his mitzvah? An obscure law about ...

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A New Post-Coronavirus Era of Halachah?

by R. Gil Student The beautiful flow of Jewish life was tragically diverted by Coronavirus. The pandemic altered our experiences of communal worship, celebrations, mourning and the plethora of daily rituals that constitute a major part of Jewish life. Many people were traumatized to varying degrees by the disruptions caused by the pandemic, without even discussing the great suffering and ...

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The Mixed-Up Blessing on Chanukah Lights

by R. Gil Student I. Reasons to Deviate Rav Yosef Karo (16th cen., Israel; Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 676:1) says that the first blessing on Chanukah lights is: “le-hadlik ner Chanukah, to kindle Chanukah light.” Many have noted how puzzling this is because the Gemara (Shabbos 23a) says that the blessing is “le-hadlik ner shel Chanukah, to kindle the light of Chanukah.” ...

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Last Names in Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student I. What’s In a Surname? Last names serve to identify an individual with greater specificity. There may be many men named Yosef ben Ya’akov in the marketplace but Yosef ben Ya’akov Schwartz is much less common. Should we use last names in Jewish ritual and particularly in Jewish legal documents like a kesubah and get? Initially, ...

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