Author Archives: Elchanan Samet

Rabbi Elchanan Samet is a lecturer at Herzog College, affiliated with Yeshivat Har Etzion. He has published three series of commentaries on the Torah as well as a number of other books on Bible and Rambam.

The Explicit and Non-Explicit Dietary Laws

by Rav Elchanan Samet A. The Sequence of Dietary Laws in Parashat Shemini Chapter 11 of Vayikra, which concludes Parashat Shemini, deals entirely with the laws of animals on two levels: which animals are forbidden or permitted for consumption, and the carcasses of which animals render one tamei (ritually impure) upon contact. I devoted my essay to Parashat Shemini in ...

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The Sacrificial Altar and the Structure of the Parasha

by Rav Elchanan Samet A. Its Location in the Parasha and in the Mishkan The command to construct the sacrificial altar (27:1-8) is not located together with the commands concerning the other vessels of the Mishkan – the Ark, the Table (for the showbread) and the Menora (all three of which are discussed in chapter 25). They are separated by ...

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The Laws of Damages: A “Declaration of Human Rights”

by R. Elchanan Samet Two Agents of Damage After opening with the laws of Israelite indentured servants, Parashat Mishpatim moves on to the laws of damages, or torts (21:12-22:5). The 31 verses regarding damages are divided into two halves of more or less equal length: A) (21:12-27) – Sixteen verses dealing with a PERSON who causes damage either intentionally or ...

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Moshe’s Deceit in his Negotiations with Pharaoh

by R. Elchanan Samet Three Instances of Deception The specter of apologetics has haunted biblical exegesis since its inception. The temptation to make the Torah conform to the values of one’s surrounding society has on many occasions led exegetes to distort the meaning of the text. The opening parshiot of Sefer Shemot (from Shemot until Beshalach) present classic instances of ...

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The Sin and Punishment of the Tower of Bavel

“And Man’s Loftiness Will be Bowed:” [1]Yeshayahu 2:17. The Sin and Punishment of the Tower of Bavel by Rav Elchanan Samet On the surface, the brief episode of the Tower of Bavel (Bereishit 11:1-9) appears to be a story of sin and its punishment. However, what is the nature of this sin, and where exactly is it described in the ...

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What is the Torah’s Ideal Political System?

by Rav Elchanan Samet A. Appointing a King: Mandatory or Optional? Does the Torah set out a particular social-political way of life for the nation of Israel dwelling in its land, or does it leave this sphere open to the people’s choice? This question may be clarified in the context of the section of this week’s parasha (17:14-20) dealing with ...

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Passing The Mantle

When Did Moshe Pass the Mantle of Leadership to Yehoshua? (27:12-23) by Rav Elchanan Samet A. Presentation of the problem (27:12) “And God said to Moshe: Ascend this Mt. Avarim and see the land that I have given to Bnei Yisrael. (13) You shall see it and [then] you, too, shall be gathered to your people, as Aharon your brother ...

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Moshe vs. the Rebels: A Challenge on Two Fronts

by Rav Elchanan Samet   A. TWO INTERWOVEN ACCOUNTS The story of the rebellion by Korach and the other rebels, narrated at the beginning of our parasha, is one of the most complex stories in all of the Torah. It is quite clear that it is not a typical biblical account. One does not have to be a discerning critic ...

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The Reasons Behind Tzara’at and Other Forms of Tum’a

by R. Elchanan Samet Chazal‘s View: Punishment Throughout the Talmud and Midrashim, Chazal view tzara’at as a punishment for various transgressions involving interpersonal misconduct, particularly the sin of lashon ha-ra (slander/gossip). Several passages to this effect appear in Masekhet Arakhin (15-16), after the mishna that outlines the laws of the motzi shem ra (slanderer). We cite here several passages relevant ...

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