General Principles and Detailed Laws

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Rav Soloveitchik taught that the details of mitzvot written throughout the Torah are as vital to Torah observances as are the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments

The Rav explained that the Rambam stresses this point in his commentary to the Torah in many places, see Vayikra 19:2, Vayikra 23:24, and Devarim 6:18. Although the Torah teaches many laws regarding our relationship with HaShem, the Torah nevertheless presents a general rule–“Kedoshim Ti’hi’yu.” Be holy. Similarly, even though the Torah contains many rules regarding monetary ethics, the Torah teaches “Ve’asita HaYashr veHatov,” that we must do the right and the good in the eyes of HaShem. The same is true for Shabbat. One has not fulfilled his obligations even if he abstains from all creative melacha activities, unless he observes Shabbat in a broader sense–he must create a “Shabbat atmosphere,” an “oneg” of Shabbat. Only then, is he in fulfillment of the Torah’s command of “Shevitat Shabbat,” to rest on Shabbat.

We must balance our attention to broad Torah principles and detailed halachot. If one fails to be cognizant of the broad principles, he can easily fail to miss the objectives of many mitzvot, and indeed, of the entire Torah. On the other hand, if one does not pay attention to details then one is not treating Torah observances seriously.

The Rav pointed out that in Parashat Yitro, the Torah presents the Aseret HaDibrot, which highlight broad fundamental principles of the Torah. In Parashat Mishpatim, the Torah presents many halachot in great detail. Parashat Mishpatim begins with a vav (and) to perhaps teach us that Parashat Mishpatim must be considered an extension of the Aseret HaDibrot in Parashat Yitro.

(Source: shiur by Rabbi H Jachter)

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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