Rabbi Gil Student

Should Jonathan Pollard Bentch Gomel?

November 4, 2015, by

Jonathan Pollard is scheduled this month for release after spending thirty years in prison. He was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to spying on the United States. There are two possible responses to release after such a long sentence. One is to become bitter over the time lost, the life that could

Are Kaballah Classes Forbidden?

October 27, 2015, by

The fundamental principle of public Kabbalah and Chassidus classes is inherently self-contradictory. Esoteric teachings are intended for the intellectual elite, not the masses; otherwise they would not be esoteric. Comprehension of complex material requires a solid foundation of requisite knowledge. There is so much Torah to learn before Kabbalah, so many intriguing and important ideas,

Does History Need to Be True?

August 3, 2015, by

From the Orthodox Jewish perspective, history is a means to an end rather than a goal in itself. There is no similar concept to Torah for its own sake–history for its own sake. This translates into two different utilitarian attitudes. One sees history as a source of inspiration, a method of increasing devotion to religious

You’ve Been Saying Bli Neder All Wrong

July 14, 2015, by

I. No Vow A common feature of Orthodox speech is the phrase “Bli Neder,” a disclaimer that the speaker does not intend to vow. We are careful not to invoke a biblical oath in our promises because if we fail to fulfill the promise completely, we may violate a prohibition. While we certainly intend to

The Trilogy Ends: Superheroes in Jewish Thought and Law Part III

June 29, 2015, by

(This is the final part of a three-part series. To read the second part of Rabbi Student’s discussion of the halachas of superpowers, click here.) V. Shape Changing Some superheroes have the ability to alter their appearance, change their actual physical shape. Can someone with such power change his shape on Shabbos? One concern is

Superheroes in Jewish Thought and Law Part II

June 22, 2015, by

(This is the second part of a three-part series. To read the first part of Rabbi Student’s discussion of the halachas of superpowers, click here.) III. Super Murder As a thought experiment, I was wondering what Jewish law would say about specific super powers. For example, if a Jedi or Sith kills someone with a

Why Does God Test Us?

April 14, 2015, by

This article originally appeared on Torahmusings.com. The notion that the all-knowing God needs to test us to determine whether we will follow His command is absurd. He knows the future and therefore gains nothing from the exercise. Yet the Torah discusses in multiple places God’s tests. For example, regarding the man (manna) that fell in

Who Needs a Rabbi?

February 3, 2015, by

My wife’s grandfather, a Hasid who was trapped behind the Iron Curtain for decades before moving to Brooklyn, used to enjoy being asked who his rebbe was. After all, every good Hasid needs a rebbe. He would say that God is his rebbe, not any man. He answered to God and only God. That was

Glass Half Full Judaism

January 7, 2015, by

This post originally appeared in the Jewish Link of New Jersey. Some people see a split occurring within Modern Orthodox Judaism between those who adopt a more lenient religious interpretation and those who are stricter. I think they have it wrong. Yes, a split is happening, but it is not primarily about beliefs or stringency

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