Tag Archives: Hashkafah

Harry Potter and Epistemic Uncertainty

by R. Gil Student I. Harry’s Dilemma No, the subject of this essay is not the title of an ill-conceived Harry Potter sequel. Rather, I’d like to discuss a subtheme of the seventh Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) that is relevant to Jewish law and thought. In the first half of the book, rumors and details ...

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Is Rain A Good Sign?

by R. Gil Student Last week Israel experienced a downpour of rain. The timing is particularly interesting, perhaps marking the difference between a blessing and a curse, and raising an interesting example of decision-making in theology. Rain is good in the right time. At the wrong time, it destroys crops and ruins the year’s harvest. I. Bad Rain Traditionally, the ...

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Historical Revelation

The wise son of the Haggadah asks: “What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the Lord, our God, has commended you?” (Deut. 6:20). R. Zvi Kanotopsky (Rejoice In Your Festivals: Penetrating Insights Into Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, p. 62), a leading student of R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (link), explains in a 1952 sermon that this was originally ...

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How to Have Good Children

One of the recurring foci of Ran’s Derashot is the relationship between the natural and supernatural worlds. In this second part of the fifth Drasha, he points to the heart as the crucial center of the body. It links our intellects and more physical sides, playing a role in our natural and supernatural involvements. As such, what we do with ...

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The Holy Life

The Rambam is famous for adopting the negative Talmudic view of the nazir, who voluntarily abstains from some worldly pleasures. However, on closer look, the Rambam actually views such asceticism positively, neatly fitting into his understanding of holiness. I. Enjoy Life The nazir is called kadosh, holy (Num. 6:8). But on the other hand, he must bring a sin-offering at ...

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American Jewish History in Yeshiva College

Menachem Butler is running a contest for those who can answer the following question: Why should a course in American Jewish History be offered to undergraduates at Yeshiva College? The following was my answer, which won me a G-mail account. To be fair, it was inspired by an excellent speech I heard earlier this month by Richard Joel. YC graduates ...

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R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook in R. Shlomo Aviner, Gan Na’ul, pp. 32-33: Mixed swimming is the most severe example of intermingling between the sexes but coeducation also has no connection to normal Judaism. In normal, healthy, kosher Judaism, who knew of such a thing? Boys learned in a heder and girls alone in a school. When we came to Israel, ...

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Waiting for Mashiah

I wrote in a comment, regarding Mashiah: “but still believe that he can come at any time” In my haste I implied that one must belief that Mashiah can come at any time. R. Henkin e-mailed me that this is incorrect, as he explained in his book. Here is a translation of a letter of his that is posted online: ...

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The Haredization of American Orthodoxy IV

R. Shlomo Riskin adds his voice to the discussion. However, his only real point on the Haredization of Orthodoxy is that he considers the move to stronger halakhic observance to be not a Haredization but a renewal and re-invigoration of Modern Orthodoxy. (He also throws in a shtukh to Haredi women who wear wigs.) He then goes on to define ...

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The Year of the Redemption

R. Shmuel Wosner is a leading posek in Bnei Brak who has published 10 volumes of responsa, titled “Shevet ha-Levi.” I do not know why, but he will not only answer bizarre questions but will publish them along with his answers (although he never answered my letter about the status of Habad messianists). R. Wosner (vol. 10 no. 1) was ...

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