Musings

Religious Doubt in Jewish Life

by R. Gil Student Since a religious life is one of faith, you would expect that religious doubt would be unwelcome. In an important essay, Rabbi Norman Lamm argues that doubt can play a valuable role in religious life. A Medieval philosopher adds another role for doubt in religious life that Rabbi Lamm did not explore. I. Three Kinds of ...

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Eliezer the Damascene

by R. Ira Bedzow Rabbi Acha said, “The ordinary conversation of the servants of the Patriarchs is more beloved before the Omnipresent than the Torah of their sons, for the section dealing with Eliezer is repeated in the Torah, whereas many fundamentals of the Torah were given only through allusions.” This statement may seem troubling since one would think that ...

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May A Jew Register in a National Muslim Registry

by R. Gil Student With the emotional and political turmoil in the aftermath of the recent presidential election, there is talk of a national registry of Muslims. It is not clear to me whether this is seriously being considered by anyone or is just the opposition mischievously putting words in the mouth of the incoming administration. Be that as it ...

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The Meanings Behind Unintended Laughter

by R. Ira Bedzow After giving him the commandment of circumcision, God tells Avraham two things about his wife: (1) no longer will her name be Sarai; it will be changed to Sarah, and (2) that God will bless her, and she will bear Avraham a son. [1]Genesis 17:15-6.  Avraham’s immediate response to this information was to fall on his ...

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The Great Religious Challenge

by R. Gil Student Too often, rabbis don’t get it. Having spent their entire lives enveloped in a welcoming Jewish environment, they do not fully grasp the challenges facing their congregants in university and the workplace. We sometimes hear platitudes that were only barely true when coined but now lack any connection to reality. For example, it may once have ...

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Avram HaIvri

by R. Ira Bedzow After Chedorlaomer and his allies attacked Sodom and Gomorrah, capturing Lot along with the rest of the population, a fugitive came to tell Avram HaIvri what had occurred. [1]Genesis 14:13. According to Rashi, citing the midrash, the fugitive did not come out of a sense of loyalty or goodwill. Rather, he assumed that Avram would go ...

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EpiPen Pricing and Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student Public attention has recently been drawn to the skyrocketing price of EpiPens, which has risen almost 400% since being acquired in 2007 by pharmaceutical company Mylan. EpiPens quickly and easily deliver the medicine Epinephrine that can save the lives of people having an allergic reaction. Because of their easy use and immediate effect, people with strong ...

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Noah’s Generations

by R. Ira Bedzow The account of how the generations of the Flood began their institutional depravity begins, וַיְהִי כִּי-הֵחֵל הָאָדָם, לָרֹב עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, which uses similar language to the beginning of the account given for the previous generation’s fall into idolatry (אָז הוּחַל, לִקְרֹא בְּשֵׁם ה’), [1]Genesis 4:26 the beginning of the account of Nimrod’s rise to power (הוּא ...

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Noach’s Righteousness

by R. Ira Bedzow The Torah states explicitly that Noach was righteous, wholehearted, and walked with God, yet qualifies the statement to say that he was so in his generations (אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה, בְּדֹרֹתָיו: אֶת-הָאֱלֹקִים, הִתְהַלֶּךְ-נֹח). Rashi, on the phrase, “in his generations,” brings the debate between Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish as to what this qualifier means.  He ...

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Dirty Laundry on Chol Ha-Moed

by R. Gil Student Does the prohibition against washing dirty clothes on Chol Ha-Mo’ed, the intermediate days of the holiday, still apply today when doing laundry is relatively quick and easy? [1]Note that this essay benefited from input of members of a private list with whom I discussed this issue. In theory, washing laundry always should be allowed on Chol ...

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