Musings

Atonement for the Deceased

by R. Gil Student Our time in this world is limited. We strive to do all the good we can and avoid doing wrong. When we sometimes misstep, we try to do teshuvah and atone for our misdeeds. The time for doing mitzvos ends with our passing, at least on a basic level. Is that also the end for our ...

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Does God Fool Us?

by R. Gil Student I. Misleading Messages One of the approaches to respond to the biblical challenge of the age of the universe is the theory that the world was created fully grown, so to speak. Light was already traveling through space, animal remains had already been encased in the earth, trees already had rings implying age, etc. “All of ...

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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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Honor and Family Conflicts

by R. Gil Student Honor is best given rather than received. We are required to honor Torah scholars, older family members, and the elderly in general. However, this becomes complicated when we face conflicting priorities. When faced to choose between two or more family members, whose honor comes first? When dealing with family situations, halakhah offers guidelines although you always ...

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Selling Mitzvos

by R. Gil Student I. Holy Profits People are motivated to do good for many reasons, among them — but hopefully not primary — is the promise of divine reward. Can that reward be sold so that a poor, righteous person can support his family? In particular, there is a concept of a Yissachar/Zevulun partnership in which one party (Zevulun) ...

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Introduction to Symposium on Jewish Ideas

Gil Student The strongest force in the world is the power of an idea. People inspired by an idea have toppled governments, invented radically new technologies and saved countless lives. Judaism is founded on the idea of monotheism, that there is a single Creator who made the universe and  whom we must serve. But that is not the only idea ...

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The Shakh’s Dayenu Pilpul, Part 3

by R. Gil Student (continued from here) There must be a different reason for the commandment of Shabbos. The Torah (Ex. 31:17) says about Shabbos, “It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever.” Shabbos distinguishes Jews from gentiles. We rest of on Shabbos and they do not. In this vein, among the five divine distinctions we ...

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The Shakh’s Dayenu Pilpul, Part 2

by R. Gil Student (continued from here) The midrash (Shemos Rabbah 21:7) says that the sea split in the merit of Avraham chopping wood with which to bring Yitzchak as a sacrifice. If so, why did the Jews cross the split sea on dry land rather than wet, muddy ground? Yalkut Shimoni (Beshalach 234) says that the angels argued with ...

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Vaccine Selfies

by R. Gil Student It has become trendy to post a picture of yourself receiving a Covid vaccine. This was particularly true in Israel, where people received vaccines earlier than those in America, but continues today as more and more people receive vaccines. Some vaccine sites even have selfie stations. I do not understand this practice. Some people do it ...

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The Shakh’s Dayenu Pilpul, Part 1

by R. Gil Student Rav Shabsi Kohen, author of the brilliant Sifsei Kohen on parts of Shulchan Arukh and commonly known as “the Shakh,” lived in Vilna and Czech in the 17th century. Among the works he wrote during his short life (he died at the age of 41) is a pilpulistic commentary on the Haggadah passage commonly known as ...

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