Musings

How Can I Believe That Jonah Was Swallowed By A Fish?

by R. Gil Student My latest article on Jew in the city The book of Jonah tells the famous story of a big fish (not whale) swallowing Jonah for three days until the prophet emerged unscathed. To someone like me with more of skeptical point-of-view, this episode is hard to swallow. Jonah had fled from the land of Israel after God ...

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Repentance and Negotiation Tactics

by R. Gil Student One of the principles of negotiation is to never back someone into a corner. Always give the other person a way out because if you don’t, they will either surrender or fight back with all their strength. It is with this perspective that R. Yitzchak Abarbanel (Ve-Zos Ha-Berakhah, p. 320) approaches the concept of repentance. When ...

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Sheva Berakhos In A Sukkah

by R. Gil Student I. A Chupah In A Sukkah After a couple is married, they celebrate with family and friends for a week. [1]Although interestingly, the Arukh Ha-Shulchan (Orach Chaim 640:14) writes that the custom in turn-of-the-twentieth century Belarus was not to have a meal each of the seven days of the week. See also … Continue reading Each celebratory meal ...

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All The Lonely People On Social Media

by R. Gil Student My article in this week’s The Jewish Link As a new Jewish year begins, we must take the opportunity to look for ways to improve our behavior. We are the generation that has seen the rise of the Internet and social media, and we are still experimenting with these new tools, learning what works and what ...

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The Mystery of Orechos Tzadikim

by R. Gil Student Orechos Tzadikim is an anonymous mussar sefer that has enjoyed a lasting impact on Judaism. It is surprising that the sefer was never attributed to anyone. Publishers and men of letters usually guess at the author’s name of an anonymous sefer, even if they are wrong. For example, the Sefer HaChinuch was published anonymously and its ...

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Who Really Started Jewish Education?

by R. Gil Student I. Three Educational Developments Common wisdom has it that Yehoshua Ben Gamla, in either the first century CE or the first century BCE, instituted universal Jewish education. This is probably wrong. The Gemara (Bava Basra 21a) says: Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: However, remember that man for good and Yehoshua Ben Gamla is ...

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The End and Beginning of Carrying

by R. Gil Student We recite Psalm 24 (Le-David mizmor La-Shem ha’aretz u-mlo’ah) frequently throughout the year but with particular emphasis on Rosh Hashanah. Most people wonder about the confusing repetition in the chapter. The last two verses are almost identical with the preceding two verses: Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! ...

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Biblical Defamation in Divorce and Politics

by R. Gil Student I. The Source of Defamation Unsurprisingly, one of the two sources in the Torah for defamation, hotza’as shem ra, is an ugly divorce. The Chafetz Chaim, the classic work on Jewish speech ethics by the rabbi who is now called by the book’s name, distinguishes between disparagement (true damaging statements) and defamation (false damaging statements). He ...

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Are House Minyanim Kosher?

by R. Gil Student People arrange a minyan in their home to accommodate someone sick, elderly or otherwise unable to attend synagogue. When I was a teenager, we had a Shabbos mincha/ma’ariv in someone’s basement because the mile-plus walk uphill to the nearest shul was, for many, too long to do twice on a Shabbos. But sometimes people attend a ...

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Clemency in the Jewish Tradition

by R. Gil Student In the United States, the President has the power to pardon someone convicted of a federal crime, freeing the individual from punishment. Similarly, many governors can pardon state crimes. This ability to grant clemency is not something that is intuitively necessary. If a court convicts and sentences a criminal, why should that work be overturned by ...

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