Musings

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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Texts: Fast of the Firstborn

by R. Gil Student Common practice today is that firstborn sons (and sometimes daughters and the fathers of young firstborn children) attend a siyum, a celebration of the completion of a program of Torah learning, in order to avoid the fast of the firstborn on erev Pesach. This is so common that last year, during the height of Coronavirus lockdown, ...

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How Much Holiday Preparation?

by R. Gil Student I. Thirty Days Before A Holiday Holidays are much like other things in life in the sense that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. We are instructed to study the laws of a holiday thirty days in advance. The Gemara (Pesachim 6a-b) learns this from Moshe, who taught the ...

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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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