Musings

Rethinking Revelation

I am now able to share my article published in the book, The Revelation at Sinai: What Does “Torah from Heaven” Mean?, co-edited by me, Yoram Hazony and Alex Sztuden. The article critiques the approaches of R. Louis Jacobs, R. Abraham J. Heschel and Rav Menachem Kasher, and offers a different, Maimonidean approach. Link to file or click on the ...

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The Strange Allure of Idolatry and Moshe’s Death

by R. Gil Student Link to audio Sometimes the stories of the Bible resonate with us as they reflect our own feelings and interactions. Other times, they seem puzzling. For example, the repeated worship of idolatry — sticks and stones — baffles us. Even after all those warnings, the Jews keep returning to what seems to us as mere silliness. ...

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Meta Midrash: Shabbos Shuvah

by R. Gil Student Link to audio The Future is Full of Mitzvos The Hebrew year we have just begun is 5784, ה׳תשפ״ד. To mark the year, I will spend time studying and teaching the classic midrashic work, Parashas Derakhim, so that it will be a year of Parashas Derakhim (תהא שנת פרשת דרכים). Rav Yehudah Rosannes was the rabbi ...

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Three Brief Reviews

In the Fall 2023 issue of Jewish Action, I review the following three books: Torat Chaim: Words to Share at Life’s Meaningful Moments edited by Rabbis Wes Kalmar, Noah Cheses, Steven Miodownik and Brahm Weinberg The Golden Age of the Lithuanian Yeshivas by Ben-Tsiyon Klibansky Choshev Mishpat: Software Ethics in Halacha by Shaul Moshe Alter Torat Chaim: Words to Share at Life’s ...

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Trapped By The Sermon

by R. Gil Student Many rabbis use the High Holiday sermons as an opportunity to showcase their talents and to showcase crucial ideas and themes. Considering the large crowd, rabbis may spend months preparing just the right combination of information and inspiration. In other words, it’s a big deal. Some congregants enjoy the sermon. Others flee the room. Some envy ...

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The Proper Rosh Hashanah Greeting

by R. Gil Student I. Have a Good Year Many people greet each other on Rosh Hashanah with blessings for a good year, “Shanah tovah.” Rav Ya’akov Ben Asher, the 14th century German-Spanish author of the Tur, quotes an Ashkenazic custom to greet people on Rosh Hashanah with the phrase “Tikaseiv be-shanah tovah, may you be written in a good ...

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Are Book Darts Kosher?

by R. Gil Student Book darts are bookmarkers that hold your spot in a book. They can be used to mark the page or even the specific line on a page for your future reference. Are you allowed to use them on Shabbos? In order to research this subject, I purchased the elegant “18forty: I Read This Over Shabbos” branded ...

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Why Does Teshuvah Work?

by R. Gil Student As Elul arrives and Rosh Hashanah approaches, we need to start thinking about teshuvah, about how we can build positively on all the events of the past year so that we are better Jews in the upcoming year. I would like to explore two different ways to think about teshuvah and the implications that arise from ...

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Walking on Graves

by R. Gil Student Graveside funerals, or visits, often generate crowds around a grave, forcing people to search for space to stand. Are you allowed to step on someone else’s grave for a service or in order to get to the right place in the cemetery? I. Magical Cure The Gemara (Sanhedrin 47b) says that people used to take dirt ...

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Is a Barbie Doll Kosher?

by R. Gil Student I. Forbidden Images With Barbie in the news, it is an opportunity to discuss the halakhic implications of Barbie dolls. From the perspective of hashkafah, there is much to discuss about the unrealistic body dimensions of Barbie dolls and their impact on the thinking of young girls and boys. Setting all that aside, the Torah might ...

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