Musings

Can You Call a Rabbi by His Name?

by R. Gil Student I. Respecting Your Torah Teacher Calling a Torah scholar by his title is a matter of showing honor to the Torah. You must show respect to your mentor, your rebbe, by, for example, rising when he enters a room (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 242:16). Among the other obligations to your mentor is refraining from calling him ...

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Who Reads the Haggadah?

by R. Gil Student I. Three Seder Practices Generally speaking, when it comes to the Pesach Seder, people know the details of their own family’s practices but not those of many other families. From conversation, they might know what different people eat for marror but not necessarily when they stand and sit, how they engage in conversation, in what format ...

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Pesach Avoidance

by R. Gil Student I. Avoiding the Korban Pesach We know from tax law the difference between avoidance and evasion. Tax avoidance involves structuring your finances to legally minimize your taxes. In contrast, tax evasion is refusing to pay taxes that you owe. Obviously, when it comes to mitzvos, evasion — refraining from fulfilling an obligation — is sinful. Is ...

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The Quick Bedikas Chametz

by R. Gil Student I. Checking for Chametz According to Torah law, we must get rid of all of our chametz, our leavened bread, before Pesach. However, this can be accomplished either by rendering it all ownerless or by disposing of it. Rabbinic law requires us to do both — bi’ur chametz, disposing of it, and bitul chametz, rendering whatever ...

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Was Esther on Social Media?

by R. Gil Student There is no greater female heroic figure in the Bible than Esther, who saved the Jewish people from destruction by inviting guests over for a small party. The question we wonder, in the playful spirit of Purim, is whether she was posting pictures of the party to her Instagram account? A selfie with Haman would have ...

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Family and Mishlo’ach Manos

by R. Gil Student On Purim, we send gifts of food to friends, in fulfillment of the verse “U-mishlo’ach manos ish le-rei’ehu, and of sending portions a man to his fellow” (Esther 9:22). Mishlo’ach manos is one of the mitzvos of Purim. We fulfill it by sending two different food items to one person, although it is common to send ...

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Women and Mishlo’ach Manos

by R. Gil Student On Purim, we send gifts of food to friends, in fulfillment of the verse “U-mishlo’ach manos ish le-rei’ehu, and of sending portions a man to his fellow” (Esther 9:22). Mishlo’ach manos is one of the mitzvos of Purim. We fulfill it by sending two different food items to one person, although it is common to send ...

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The Shabbos Ferry

by R. Gil Student I. Ferries on Shabbos There have been times in history when Jewish communities have settled on different sides of a river. The question arose whether people could cross the river on Shabbos. Of course, if there is a bridge that you can walk across then the issue is fairly simple. As long as you don’t travel ...

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The Ideal Torah Society

by R. Gil Student Why do we observe the commandments? In the past, we have discussed what motivates us. I’d like to explore one view on what the mitzvos are intended to accomplish. I. The Convert’s Summary The starting point has to be that God does not need our observance. He is perfect without any needs. The mitzvos must be ...

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Turning A Lower East Side Church Into A Synagogue

by R. Gil Student I. Buying a Church Judaism demands that its adherents separate from other religions, both physically and spiritually. Our study of other religions, and the attention to which we pay them, is highly limited by the verse, “Do not turn to the idols” (Lev. 19:4; Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Avodah Zarah 2:2). In general, we are taught to ...

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