Musings

Disinterment for an Agunah

by R. Gil Student The Sages instituted many leniencies to permit the classical agunah, a woman whose husband has disappeared and cannot remarry without proof of death. How far would they go? In Kesubos (22b), Rav Assi distinguishes between a case of witnesses who testify that a woman’s husband died, which cannot be verified, and that of witnesses who testify ...

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Responding to Accusations

by R. Gil Student I. Silence in the Face of Accusations Silence implies guilt. If we refuse to deny an accusation, we give it credibility. Does that mean that we are obligated to respond to every insult and accusation against us? In theory, we can easily deny a charge. However, often responding to it gives it credibility. Some mischievous people ...

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Hearing Profanity

by R. Gil Student I. Close Your Ears The Gemara in Kesubos (5a-b) says, “What does it mean: ‘And you shall have a shovel among your weapons (azenekha)’ (Deut. 23:14)? Do not read it as: ’your weapons’ but as ‘your ear’ (oznekha). If a person hears something improper (davar she-eino hagun), ⁦he should put his finger into his ears.” The ...

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Eruvin, Archeology and the Conquest of Canaan

by R. Gil Student I. The Conquest of Canaan Many historians with a critical eye toward the Bible point out that the archeological record seems to contradict the biblical account of Yehoshua’s conquest of the land. While the archeological record shows that many areas of the land contain artifacts showing evidence of a Jewish presence at that, many places lack ...

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Shabbos Shoes

by R. Gil Student I. Shabbos Clothes We greet Shabbos and spend the entire day clean and proper, dressed in fine clothes. Do we also need to wear fine shoes that we have designated for Shabbos? The Gemara (Shabbos 119a) says that R. Chanina and R. Yannai would wear special clothes to greet Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 113b) quotes Naomi’s ...

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The Contested Chief Rabbi and the Acceptance of the Torah

by R. Gil Student I. The Contested Chief Rabbi of France The source of the obligation to observe the Torah’s commandments connects to an obscure medieval debate over the chief rabbinate of France. In 1385, on the death of Rav Matisyahu Treves, the chief rabbi of France, his son, Rav Yochanan Treves, was appointed in his place with the consent ...

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Shavuos Early Shacharis

by R. Gil Student I. Learning Torah All Night It is common practice today for men to stay up all night learning Torah the first night of Shavuos. It is not clear to me when this custom originated but it began spreading broadly in the 16th century and became standard practice in the 17th century. Rav Avraham Gombiner (17th cen., ...

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Three Brief Reviews

In the Summer 2002 issue of Jewish Action, I review the following three books: Emunei Am Segulah by R. Allan Jacob and R. Moshe Kravetz Off the Couch by Dr. Jacob L. Freedman Bedtime Reading for Briskers by R. Ephraim Meth Emunei Am Segulah Arguably, the revelation at Mount Sinai is the most important passage in the Bible. However, despite its ...

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Solving the Problem of the 39 Shabbos Labors

by R. Gil Student It is well known that the biblical prohibitions of Shabbat can be classified into 39 labors — melakhos — that are listed in the second Mishna of the seventh chapter of Shabbos. The Gemara (Shabbos 49b) relates an attempt to find a source in the written Torah for this ancient oral tradition. The various forms of ...

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Dreams, Social Media and Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student Dreams are a common part of daily life to which the Talmudic Sages attribute great importance. They see in dreams both danger and opportunity, and therefore created three ceremonies or opportunities to rid ourselves of bad omens in dreams. However, on a more careful look, we find conflicting thoughts about dreams in the Talmud and a ...

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