Musings

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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The Best Charity

by R. Gil Student I. Which Charity? Many people in the Jewish community have achieved varieties of financial success, allowing them the privilege of supporting many charities. This raises questions of communal and philanthropic priorities. Others have limited charity funds but still want to allocate them effectively. The issue is a blessing but also a complex problem, with multiple angles. ...

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The Finer Things in Life and the Talmud

by R. Gil Student Is it proper to enjoy good food or should we avoid worldly pleasures and focus on spiritual success? The Talmud contains a plethora of seemingly contradictory indications on whether it is morally proper for a Torah scholar, someone striving for spiritual achievement, to eat good food. Rav Ya’akov Emden (Lechem Shamayim, Avos 6:4) attempts to resolve ...

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Rav Lichtenstein on Abortion

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have seen that Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Ya’akov Kamenetsky and Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in different contexts, have referred to abortion as “murder.” We have also seen the public policy concerns of Rav Immanuel Jakobovits and Rav Jonathan Sacks. I would like here to explore the written views of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, ...

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