Warnings to Help Us Stay in the Fold of God’s Service

by R. Gidon Rothstein While reminding the Jewish people they are entering a covenant with God, Moshe Rabbenu worries there might be among them some thinking “I will be safe when I follow my willful heart,” 29;18. Admitting he is explaining derech derash, in a more homiletical way [more likely reacting to issues of his time], Meshech Hochmah starts off with Sifrei’s reading of Devarim 11;15. ...

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The Mitzvah of Hakhel

by R. Gidon Rothstein Sefer Ha-Hinuch folds Va-Yelech into Nitzavim, listing the two mitzvot in Va-Yelech as if they were in Nitzavim—he does not let on that there is such a parsha as Va-Yelech. If we remember that he thought Mishpatim was two parashiyyot, Mishpatim and Im Kessef, we see there he “gained” one, here he has “lost” one. This year, I’ll take one of those mitzvot for Nitzavim, the mitzvah of Hakhel, the other (writing a sefer Torah) for Va-Yelech. This is a good year to study Hakhel, ...

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Money Isn’t the Only Way to Happiness

by R. Gidon Rothstein Meshech Hochmah comments twice on 26;11, with no break to clarify whether he meant to connect them. To explain the Torah’s reference to you and beitecha, your household, rejoicing in all the good Hashem will give, he repeats the Gemara’s assumption the word refers to a man’s wife, the centerpiece of his household and life. He knows a ...

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Emulating Gd’s Ways

by R. Gidon Rothstein Teaser: I have more a personal stake in this mitzvah than most, for reasons I will share along the way. For now, let’s see how our usual teachers wrote about the obligation to emulate God’s Ways. For Rambam, Obligation Eight commands us le-hidamot bo yit’aleh, “to emulate Him,” more literally “to become like Him, the Exalted One.” Rambam ...

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Removing Evil, Or Not

by R. Gidon Rothstein Only When Hashem Fought For Us I find both parts of Meshech Hochmah’s comment to Devarim 21;10 worth considering, although I am not sure how they go together. The Torah introduces the idea of a yefat to’ar, a woman a Jew takes captive during war, whom he plans to have convert and then marry (against her will, ...

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The Obligation to Bury

by R. Gidon Rothstein Last week, I took on a mitzvah we find ways not to observe, this week let’s discuss a mitzvah Jewish communities work to observe in the best possible way, burying the dead. From the Criminals to the Rest of Us Rambam in Obligation 231 points out we derive a general obligation to bury those who have ...

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Labels Sometimes Help

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Shofetim hosts 17;11, lo tasur, the verse Rambam famously held established a Biblical prohibition against any violation of rabbinic law. Ramban demurred, and Meshech Hochmah—like many before him—took a shot at explaining Rambam’s position.   An Adjustable Torah Meshech Hochmah says the Torah wanted a flexibility within its system of fixed rules, a mechanism for new issues or ordinances, to ...

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Zeroa, Lehayyayim, and Kevah

by R. Gidon Rothstein A long, long time ago in a land far, far away, I was Associate Rabbi at a shul. One Shabbat morning, I floated the idea of a zero’a, lehayyayim party, a communal barbecue where we would give the kohanim in the community the parts of the animals the Torah tells us should be given them from every animal slaughtered for ...

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The Land, Worship, and Charity

by R. Gidon Rothstein Back in Parshat Shelah, we had noticed Meshech Hochmah’s idea that Moshe chose a spy from the half of the tribe of Menasheh who were going to take their share of Israel on the west side of the Jordan, in the hopes it showed a greater love for the Land. A comment in this Parshat Re’eh again gives reason ...

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The Mitzvah of Tzedakah

by R. Gidon Rothstein The word tzedakah is often translated as charity, an English word that online dictionaries tell me focuses on helping those in need. US tax laws, on the other hand, treat any giving to a certified not-for-profit as charitable, when those organizations often have very different agendas than helping those in need. Other causes are often important, too, but ...

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