To Redeem a First Born

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Bamidbar has no mitzvot in Sefer Ha-Hinuch, so She’iltot will open the door for us. Probably because this parsha has the replacement of the first-born by the Levi’im, he records the mitzvah of pidyon ha-ben, redeeming human first-born. It fits nicely with last time, when we looked at ma’aser behemah, some of whose rules were derived from verses about bechor behemah, first-born animals. Aruch Ha-Shulhan Yoreh De’ah 305;1 gives ...

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The Workings of Jewish Life, How to Earn the Good and Avoid the Bad

by R. Gidon Rothstein Natural or Supernatural Protection and Support Parshat Behukkotai has a set of blessings, should the Jews act wisely and follow the Torah, and punishments/curses, should they do the reverse. In the blessing part, 26;6, Hashem promises to remove (ve-hishbati, more literally, I will give the land respite from, the same root as Shabbat) hayyah ra’ah, vicious beasts, from ...

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Ma’aser Behemah Draws Us To Jerusalem’s Torah, If We Want It To

by R. Gidon Rothstein A Mitzvah Suspended Only oxen, goats, and sheep may be offered as sacrifices, Sefer Ha-Hinuch 309 points out. For the purposes of the mitzvah of tithing newborn animals, goats and sheep are interchangeable (they can be tithed together), since the Torah refers to either as tzon (a word translated as “sheep,” not to be confused with sheep sheep). The end ...

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Shemittah and Yovel, Shabbat and Holidays

by R. Gidon Rothstein Giving a Gift Generously When the Torah lays out the requirement to refrain from working the land of Israel every seventh (shemittah) year and to leave its produce free for all to take, it phrases the obligation as ki tavo’u el ha-aretz, when you arrive in the Land, asher ani noten, that I am giving you, ve-shaveta ha-aretz, the Land shall ...

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The Prohibition of Sefihin During a Shemittah Year

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Behar: The Prohibition of Sefihin During a Shemittah Year The Land of Israel observes shemittah this year, bringing another round of all the unfortunate battles of how best to handle its laws when Jewish agriculture has, thank God, returned to Israel. Here, I will take up just one element of shemittah, where its Torah law status is debated (there are three other mitzvot regarding shemittah in this ...

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People We Treat Differently and Why

by R. Gidon Rothstein Former and Almost Wives A kohen may not marry are a gerushah, a divorced woman, 21;7, among others. Torat Kohanim 1;9 extends the prohibition to a halutzah, a woman whose husband passed away without offspring. Such a widow might marry one of her husband’s brothers, yibum, or have halitzah, an unshoeing ceremony the Torah prescribed. If she or her brother in law opt for the latter, ...

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Kohanim Becoming Tamei for Deceased Relatives

by R. Gidon Rothstein The beginning of Parshat Emor prohibits kohanim from becoming tamei, ritually impure, by contact with those who have passed away. In the next verses, the Torah carves out an important exception, obligates every kohen to become tamei should any of his close relatives pass away, “close” defined as parents, spouse(s), siblings, or children. (Minhat Hinuch wonders whether the idea applies to others who are prohibited from ...

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Prohibited Sexual Relationships

by R. Gidon Rothstein (Editor’s note: Due to my confusion around the holiday and the disconnect between Israeli and Diaspora Torah readings, this should have been posted during Chol HaMo’ed. I am posting it now to catch up. Going forward, R. Rothstein’s articles will follow the Israeli Torah reading while my Divrei Torah and R. Safran’s articles will follow the ...

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The Reciprocity of Human Sanctity

by R. Gidon Rothstein The verse that gives the parsha its name tells us to make ourselves kadosh (a word we will get around to translating as we go along) because Gd is. Torat Kohanim Kedoshim 1;1 tells us working on our keshushah is as if we enhance Gd’s kedushah. Of course, Gd is infinite in all ways, was perfect before the world was created, so has no need of ...

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Fearing Our Parents

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Kedoshim: Fearing Our Parents Parenting styles change, and nothing I write here means to imply the Torah thought parent/child relationships should lack warmth or love. At the same time, the Torah assumes an element of the relationship many today do not recognize (or might even reject, Gd forbid). Fear or Awe? The word yir’ah usually means fear; ...

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