Musings

Nudity in Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student I. Revealing Nakedness The Torah refers to forbidden relations as revealing the nakedness of someone else (Lev. 18). However, this is a euphemism. In a literal sense, you may not reveal our own nakedness, i.e. walk around nude. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) quotes R. Yossi who said that the walls of his house never saw the ...

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Bringing Sacrifices Today

by R. Gil Student Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer (19th cen., Poland) famously proposed bringing sacrifices today (i.e., the 1860’s) even though there is no Temple standing. He brilliantly argues in his 1862 book, Derishas Tziyon, that there is no need for a Temple in order to bring sacrifices. He was roundly critiqued by the greatest scholars of his day, but ...

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The Case For Quick Davening

by R. Gil Student I. Praying Quickly We are often told that the slower we pray, the better we pray. We have more intent, more time to think about the meaning of each word. But there may be reasons to pray quickly, saying every word with focus and intent but at a quick pace and without much pausing. Rav Chaim ...

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Yosef and Mandatory Sentencing

by R. Gil Student I. Negotiating a Sentence The proposed punishment to the brother caught stealing Yosef’s silver cup poses an interpretational problem whose resolution can shed light on the rabbinic attitude to mandatory minimum sentences. After being accused collectively of stealing the cup of Yosef, Pharaoh’s minister, the brothers denied the charge to Yosef’s overseer. As a challenge to ...

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Waking A Parent

by R. Gil Student In illustrating both the importance of honoring our parents and the extent to which we must go to honor them, the Gemara tells a story that seems difficult to comprehend. It is so extreme that the choice it presents does not conform to our sense of reality and, despite the fame of the story, does not ...

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Rabbi Sacks on Abortion

by R. Gil Student With the U.S. Supreme Court reconsidering federal law on abortion, we return to discuss the issue from another Jewish perspective, this one a bit more liberal. In the past, we have seen leading halakhists of the late 20th century who called abortion “murder.” They include Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Ya’akov Kamenetsky ...

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Should You Light Menorah Outdoors?

by R. Gil Student I. Lighting in Danger The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) says that you must light your Chanukah menorah near the doorway (opening, pesach) of your house on the outside. If you live on an upper floor, you should light it in your window. And in times of danger, you light the menorah on your table. This list of ...

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Three Brief Reviews

by R. Gil Student In the recently published Winter 2021 issue of Jewish Action, I review the following three books: Places in the Parasha: Biblical Geography and Its Meaning by Prof. Yoel Elitzur The Making of a Mentsch: The Laws and Parameters of Interpersonal Mitzvos by R. Moshe Walter Torah IQ: The Great Torah Riddle Book by David Woolf Places in ...

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Chanukah Lights: How Long?

by R. Gil Student Often, when social circumstances change significantly from the past, some people automatically assume that Jewish law must change. Others summarily dismiss the suggestion that the law will ever change. Both approaches are incorrect. Rather, these matters require careful and sensitive analysis by the leading scholars to determine the nature of the law and whether the change ...

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Were the Patriarchs Disabled?

by R. Gil Student Over the past few decades, there has been a trend among Bible scholars to try to find flaws in the biblical heroes. There is much to say about the impetus for this trend and its methodological assumptions. I would like to explore here one aspect of this issue. Is there, within traditional Judaism, a theological problem ...

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