Musings

Redeeming a Captive Caught in the Legal System

by R. Gil Student I. Important Mitzvah In Jewish law and tradition, redeeming a captive (pidyon shevuyim) is the highest form of charity. The Talmud (Bava Basra 8a) refers to it with the unusual term of “great mitzvah” and Shulchan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 252:1), the code of Jewish law, says that “there is no mitzvah as great as pidyon shevuyim.” ...

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Is a Minyan Factory Kosher?

by R. Gil Student I. One Shul, Multiple Minyanim It is now common for some synagogues to hold multiple minyanim (prayer services) at different times. The most active are open nearly 24 hours a day, holding morning services every half hour, alternating rooms so there is no overlap, and afternoon and evening services every fifteen minutes. Colloquially, they are called ...

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Can AI Do Your Homework?

by R. Gil Student I. Artificial Intelligence and School Work Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made great progress over recent years. Within the past few months, one company released two products online for the public to use. Dall-E creates graphic images based on a user’s natural language request, attempting to understand what you want and drawing it. ChatGPT holds conversations with ...

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Do Jews Go to Hell?

by R. Gil Student I. Hell in the Jewish Tradition Every once in a while, someone in the media will say that Jews do not believe in Hell. This is puzzling because related terms are mentioned in the Bible and rabbinic literature. The word “She’ol” appears 66 times in the Hebrew Bible. Rashi (Gen. 37:35) says that while She’ol means ...

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Jewish Commentaries on Christianity

by R. Gil Student In the past, we have discussed briefly the halakhic debate over how to categorize the religion of Christianity within Jewish law. Does the incorrect belief in a trinity constitute polytheism or the worship of God and other beings (shituf)? Either way, it is forbidden under the Sinaitic covenant but if it is shituf, there are some ...

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Whose Oil?

by R. Gil Student On Chanukah, we light candles or oil for eight nights. The Gemara and poskim discuss which oils and candles are more preferable than others in order to publicize the miracle God performed for us in the time of the Maccabees. An additional question arose in the nineteenth century regarding the material we light for Chanukah. I. ...

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Three Brief Reviews

In the Winter 2022 issue of Jewish Action, I review the following three books: The Power Of Shabbos: Shabbat And Electricity In The 21st Century by R. Chaim Jachter Jacob Katz On The Origins Of Orthodoxy edited by Giti Bendheim, Menachem Butler, Jay M. Harris and Uriel Katz The Book Of Jewish Knowledge: A Multifaceted Exploration Of The Teachings, Observances, ...

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Role Models: Rav Shmaryahu Shulman

by R. Gil Student My essay in the November/December 2022 issue of Moment Magazine (link): On the day I left yeshiva for a corporate job, many years ago, I went around to say goodbye to my friends. I was leaving at the age of 22 while most of my friends stayed for many more years studying Torah in an advanced setting. ...

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Voice Recognition in Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student I. Identifying People We use many faculties to observe the goings on about us. When one sense is unavailable, we often use others to compensate. Even if we cannot see someone, we can still identify their presence by the sound of their voice. Does this identification have bearing in Jewish law? Identification by sight can be ...

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Rabbi Sacks’ Religious Pluralism: A Halakhic and Hashkafic Defense

by R. Gil Student I. Revelations Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, of blessed memory, educated and inspired millions with his uplifting teachings. His writings always sparked thought but sometimes they also sparked controversy. One of his most challenging ideas, the view that launched his most difficult controversy, is that of his approach to other religions. In his award-winning book, The Dignity ...

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