Musings

Holy Money

by R. Gil Student I. Holy Money What could be more mundane than money? It is merely a convenient method of accomplishing everyday tasks. Yet the Torah calls it holy, implying one of two dueling concepts of sanctity. The method with which Moshe conducted the desert census was having each person contribute half a shekel and then counting the resulting ...

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The Clear Thinkers of Jerusalem

by R. Gil Student The Neki’ei Ha-Da’as of Jerusalem appear a few places in rabbinic literature, always with strict practices that seem to have become normative over time. Who were they and how binding are their stringencies? I. Who Were They? Literally, Neki’ei Ha-Da’as means those with clean or pure or clear thoughts, or perhaps pure character traits (like dei’os ...

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Fighting Fire With Fire

by R. Gil Student We believe in fighting honorably in the rare, unfortunate case in which fighting is necessary. But does that mean that we have to be at a disadvantage? If our enemy fights with sneaky tactics, do we have to be his victim? I. Moving the Boat The Gemara (Shabbos 81b) tells the story that once Rav Chisda ...

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Megillah in Spanish

by R. Gil Student A new rabbi has to navigate carefully between taking his role as a halakhic guide and respecting the community’s past. As a matter of conscience, if he finds the community engaging in a practice that he considers improper, he will want to change that practice. After all, he wants his community to observe the Torah properly. ...

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Judaism’s Balance of Its Financial Burden

On the one hand, never before have Jews been as prosperous as they are now. Both the vast majority of individuals and the community in general are currently blessed with wealth well beyond what we have experienced in history. On the other hand, never before have we felt this kind of financial burden to participate in the Jewish community. Most ...

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The Center of the Mount Sinai Narrative

by R. Gil Student What is the most important part, the key message of the Mount Sinai narrative? Contrary to our initial thoughts, it is not the Ten Commandments or other laws. It is not the gathering at the foot of the mountain to receive God. It is something more basic and more fundamental. Seven weeks after the Exodus, the ...

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Monkeys in Talmudic Law

by R. Gil Student On odd occasions, a monkey makes an appearance in Talmudic legal discussions for a specific purpose. Monkeys are nimble enough to be able to do many actions that a human can do. However, a monkey lacks sufficient intent to classify an act as purposeful. If a monkey does it, it happens but it lacks intent. The ...

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Treifing Food

by R. Gil Student The laws of kashrus are simple to observe in general but extremely complicated in specifics. That is why you ask your rabbi when you have a question. What if someone renders your food non-kosher? You are cooking a meat meal and someone pours milk into it, rendering it completely forbidden. You must throw the food out ...

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Kohen Under a Tree

by R. Gil Student I. The Cemetery in Lvov A kohen is obligated to protect his sanctity from the impurity of a dead body. Part of this obligation requires him to avoid being under the same roof as a dead body. In 1620, a question arose about this fairly straightforward rule. Rav Koppel Katz, a young rabbi, had recently been ...

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When Is A Kiddush Not A Kiddush?

by R. Gil Student The common shul kiddush presents a puzzling halakhic case because it seems to contradict a basic rule. Kiddush must be part of a meal. However, the shul kiddush is generally not a meal as classically defined in Jewish law because it lacks bread/challah. A Shabbos meal should contain two challos yet most people eat no challah ...

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