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Rabbi Gil Student

Is Esther True?

March 21, 2016, by

Rabbi Gil Student writes in the Jewish Link of New Jersey: The holiday of Purim celebrates the story told in the biblical book of Esther. Yet, as we read the Megillah, some people ask whether the story is historically accurate. Historians have long questioned the historicity of the events described in Esther. The Megillah reads

Is the Fake Excuses App Kosher?

February 8, 2016, by

We’ve all been in uncomfortable situations in which a well-intentioned but socially awkward person will not leave us alone. Sometimes we have other pressing business. Other times we simply have given enough time to this needy person and need to move on with our day. Extracting ourselves from those situations can be tricky. A new

Is Powerball Kosher?

January 20, 2016, by

The recent frenzy over the billion dollar plus Powerball prize raises a serious question about the halachic and moral viability of lotteries. There is more to discuss than just the greed, which we addressed in the past. We must remember that until relatively recently, lotteries were illegal in most states and were instead run by

Jedis in Halacha

January 4, 2016, by

I. Jedis as Warriors As a child growing up with the original Star Wars movies, I developed an impression of Jedis as space-monks, serene individuals immersed in wisdom and trained in self-defense. While disciplined warriors, they were ideologically opposed to violence except as a last resort. However, the later prequel movies developed the Jedi perspective

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

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