17 Jan Rabbi Gil Student Q & A Discussing His New Sefer
RABBI GIL STUDENT FAST FACTS
Born: August 8, 1972
Grew up in: Teaneck, NJ
Family: wife Miriam, 4 children and 1 grandchild
Lives currently in: Marine Park
Yeshivas/Schools growing up: Solomon Schechter, Frisch, YU
Smicha from: Rav Hershel Schachter, Rav Menachem Genack and Rav Elazar Teitz
Shul you daven in currently: Khilah Marine Park led by Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson
Official Work Title(s): Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com. He writes frequently in Jewish newspapers and magazines, serving as a regular columnist for The Vues. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, on the Editorial Board of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine, and as the magazine’s Book Editor.
Previous Jobs: I have worked as an actuary and in finance. I also worked at the OU for a few years as Managing Editor of OU Press. It is part of the Kashrus department so I interacted with the rabbanim and poskim of OU Kosher.
Years torahmusings.com has been around: 13 years
Years writing a weekly column in The Vues: 2.5 years
Please tell everyone about your new book “Search Engine-Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts, Volume 1: Jewish Life”
Search Engine contains essays on timely halachic issues, written in easily accessible style. Some essays deal with current questions (e.g., Skype), some with future questions (e.g., combat exoskeletons), some with theoretical questions (e.g., superheroes), and some with questions from the past that reflect the long journey from the Talmud to today. Halachah has evolved in one sense, although not as religious radicals may wish. Questions that were once debated have been authoritatively concluded, creating new precedents with which future questions can be addressed. I find this fascinating, and include a few essays on how halachah has evolved (e.g., pocketwatches, home fires).
How long did it take you to write? This is a collection of essays written over 4 years.
Where can someone purchase the book? The book will be available in local seforim stores like Torah Treasures, Judaica Place and Eichler’s. While you can also buy it online, you can support local business by buying it in stores.
Without a doubt, the Internet offers many wonderful opportunities, but it also presents substantial dangers for young and old alike. Do you believe that the internet/social media is good for society and the torah world at large? There is no point in discussing whether the internet and social media are good or not. They are a fact. Our job is to use them responsibly, spreading Torah wherever Jews are.
At what age do you think a child/student should have access to the internet/social media? A child should have Internet access relatively young, in a safe and controlled environment at home for short periods of time. If they learn to use the Internet safely at home, they will not be tempted to use it uncontrolled elsewhere. Experts agree that children should not be on social media. They lack the maturity to know what to share and what to keep private. Those websites and apps should be blocked from children.
Do you believe having a filter on your computer prevents people from getting into trouble on the internet? A filter is not foolproof but it is a basic part of a family’s safety toolbox. Among other tools, you also have to keep internet access in a public place, like the living room, and never in a child’s room.
Do you have a filter on your own computer? Absolutely. We keep the Internet completely blocked unless a parent unblocks it with a password for, at most, an hour at a time. Even when the internet is unblocked, improper sites are still filtered out.
Please tell everyone about your web site torahmusings.com? Torah Musings is a web magazine. Every day, there is a new article on halachah or hashkafah that is relevant, in depth and easy to read. The main writers are me and R. Gidon Rothstein, with a weekly column by R. Daniel Mann of Kollel Eretz Chemdah of Jerusalem. Joel Rich provides weekly summaries of online shiurim and R. Aharon Ziegler contributes occasional halachic teachings of Rav Soloveitchik.
You call this book volume 1,so when should we be expecting volume 2? Volume 1 is about halachah that applies to everyone. Volume 2 will be about leadership, the halachah and hashkafah of rabbis and community leaders. It should be available by June. Volume 3 addresses basic issues in hashkafah, Jewish thought. It should be out by next December.
What’s next for Rabbi Gil Student? In addition to the 3 books we have been discussing, I have an article in the next issue of Hakirah on a little-known teshuvah of Rav Azriel Hildesheimer, defending modern practices against an ultra-Orthodox attempted cherem.
RANDOM FUN RABBI GIL STUDENT QUESTIONS
How many books do you read on an average week? I write a lot of book reviews so in busy times, I read a book a week. Other times, I focus on learning classical texts rather than new books.
How many articles do you write on a typical week? I write at least two articles a week, often three or four. I tend to over-commit and then struggle to fulfill all my obligations.
Favorite Peirush: Divrei Shaul by Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson, the mid-nineteenth century rav of Lvov.
Favorite rebbe while in Yeshiva: I learned for five years under Rav Mayer Twersky, Rav Soloveitchik’s grandson
When you have a shaila that you do not know an answer to, who do you usually ask? I believe in taking questions to my mara d’asra, the rav of my shul. When I have questions regarding Klal Yisrael, I take them to Rav Hershel Schachter.
How popular is your last name “Student”? It is a very rare name. We traced it back to Poland in the 1800’s but it probably originated in Germany much earlier. Unfortunately, nearly the entire Student family died in the Holocaust. Only my grandfather who fled to Russia and his brother who had made aliyah before the war survived.
Number of articles you’ve written on Torahmusings.com (as of this interview): Approximately 3-1/2 thousand articles over 13 years
Hobbies? Do I seem like someone with time for hobbies?
Favorite Author: Lately, Rav Yosef Zechariah Stern, rav of the third largest Jewish community in Lithuania during the second half of the nineteenth century. Most of his writings remain in manuscript due to his poverty. Over the past few years, some more manuscripts have been published.
Most popular article you’ve ever written: Jesus in the Talmud. I went through all the different passages and argued, based on the Ba’alei Ha-Tosafos, that none of them refer to the Christian figure.
Most popular article you’ve ever written that was published in The Vues: Why do we do mitzvos? A survey of the views on Rishonim.
Last book you read: Dr. Henry Abramson’s Torah from the Years of Wrath. An explanation of the Aish Kodesh based on the timeline of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Number of essays in your new book that were at some point in The Vues:
Out of 91 essays in the book, about a quarter appeared in The Vues, many of them shortened to fit into a single page.