Musings

What Was in the Heavenly Torah?

by R. Gil Student How and when was the Torah composed? In a footnote to an addendum to volume 23 of Torah Shelemah (p. 146), Rav Menachem Kasher writes that he has in front of him a 440-page book published in 1965 that addresses at length the rabbinic passages on this subject. Without question, he is referring to Prof. Abraham ...

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Shach’s Dayenu Pilpul

Summarized and adapted by R. Gil Student Rav Shabsi Kohen, author of the brilliant Sifsei Kohen on parts of Shulchan Aruch and commonly known as “the Shach,” 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 ...

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Merchants of Flesh

by R. Gil Student I. Parental Memorabilia What seems immoral to one generation may seem moral, even patriotic or respectful, to another. On the one hand, that makes Torah guidance even more important. On the other hand, it emphasizes the need to prioritize and compartmentalize judgments. How objectionable is an activity that the Torah rejects and general society accepts? People ...

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Who Reads the Haggadah?

by R. Gil Student I. Three Seder Practices Generally speaking, when it comes to the Pesach Seder, people know the details of their own family’s practices but not those of many other families. From conversation, they might know what different people eat for marror but not necessarily when they stand and sit, how they engage in conversation, in what format ...

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The Missing 160 Years

by R. Gil Student A number of years ago, my friend Mitchell First published a book, Jewish History in Conflict, describing rabbinic responses to the disagreement between rabbinic chronology in Seder Olam and that which emerges from Greek historians (and other sources). Depending on how you look at it, there are approximately 160 years missing from rabbinic history, mainly during ...

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Can You Give Cryptocurrency for Matanos La-Evyonim?

by R. Gil Student Cryptocurrency has gained traction in recent years, valuing over two trillions dollars in circulation. Can you fulfill the mitzvah of giving money to poor people on Purim (matanos la-evyonim) with cryptocurrency? I have not seen any poskim address this question so I will begin the conversation with some preliminary thoughts. I. Is Cryptocurrency Considered Currency? Wikipedia ...

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Breakfast on Purim

by R. Gil Student I. Premature Breakfast On Purim morning, are we allowed to eat breakfast? The answer is not so much a matter of food but of priorities. On Purim, we observe a number of commandments. Among them are reading the megillah, giving charity to the poor, sending gifts of food to a friend and eating a festive meal. ...

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Can You Give a NFT as Mishlo’ach Manos?

by R. Gil Student One of the mitzvos of Purim is giving Mishlo’ach Manos, a gift of at least two different things to a friend. With technology constantly evolving, I wonder whether you can give a NFT (Non-Fungible Token) as Mishlo’ach Manos. A consensus seems to be emerging because all the rabbis I asked responded in the same way: “What’s ...

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Four Brief Reviews

In the Spring 2022 issue of Jewish Action, I review the following four books: The 4 Sons Haggadah by R. Allen Schwartz Rupture and Reconstruction: the Transformation of Modern Orthodoxy by Prof. Haym Soloveitchik The Power of Ideas: Words of Faith and Wisdom by R. Jonathan Sacks zt”l The Snake at the Mouth of the Cave by R. Moshe Sokol ...

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What Can You Learn On Shabbos?

by R. Gil Student The question of what you can learn on Shabbos often revolves around the permissibility of reading secular material. However, it also applies to the proper Torah material for Shabbos. What and how are you allowed to learn Torah on Shabbos? I. Take It Easy On the one hand, Rav Yeshayahu Horowitz (17th cen., Germany; Shelah, Masekhes ...

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