The Obligation to Honor Parents: Limits and Extensions

by R. Gidon Rothstein 11 Iyyar: Tzitz Eliezer on Limits and Extensions of the Obligation to Honor Parents Among other values, halachah reminds us of the limits of human intuition, the advisability of turning to a more objective source of insight than whatever we happen to think. Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 12;59, dated 11 Iyyar (without a year), offers an enlightening example on a particularly thorny topic ...

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Nature Includes Miracles

by R. Gidon Rothstein R. Arama summarizes the fifteenth sha’ar with a proposition whose importance I have found increasingly clear in the past few years, Nature includes miracles [this is the reverse of the rationalist idea everything which looks miraculous to us is actually natural; it means Nature includes much more than the ordinary patterns we see, including things we would dismiss as ...

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Vinegar Made in Wine-Flavored Casks

by R. Gidon Rothstein 4 Iyyar: R. Moshe Feinstein on Vinegar Made in Wine-Flavored Casks [Click here for the audio version.] Shu”t Iggerot Moshe Yoreh De’ah 2;36, dated 4 Iyyar 5722 (1962) starts with vinegar, and takes us of a tour of a few general rules of kashrut.  The Assistant Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg asked about the alcohol in it, produced in utensils previously used ...

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Hashem Keeps the World Going and Sets People on Their Path

by R. Gidon Rothstein Hashem’s Reciprocity and the Rainbow Last time, we saw R. Arama argue the Flood had taught humanity a permanent lesson, Hashem has the power to punish severely. In return for people always remembering Hashem’s power to punish, and because humanity has three different offshoots, Hashem promises never to destroy them all at the same time. R. ...

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English Classes in a Yeshiva Setting

by R. Gidon Rothstein 27 Nisan: R, Ovadya Yosef on English Classes in a Yeshiva Setting [Click here for the audio version.] Jews place Torah at the center of their world, which often forces them to consider how best to confront or engage with other forms of wisdom. Shu”t Yabi’a Omer 7; Orach Chayyim 21, dated 27 Nisan 5748 (1988), takes up one instance. The Chief ...

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The Rainbow and the Flood

by R. Gidon Rothstein R. Arama starts the fourteenth sha’ar with several statements from Chaza”l about how Jews should react upon seeing a rainbow, such as the blessing Berachot 59a prescribes to recite. As is his way, he will move off to other topics and work his way back here, but I wanted us to remember where he’s headed. The Impossibility of Divine Injustice From there, ...

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The Educating Plagues

by R. Gidon Rothstein After his long introduction, R. Arama addresses the verses in order, to show how his reading fits the way the Torah tells the story. I will try to avoid repetition, share only the points which strike me as new. It does mean I will jump around, skipping repeat or more minor points. Discontinuity is my fault, ...

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Changing Mitzvah Customs

by R. Gidon Rothstein 5 Nisan: Netziv on Changing Mitzvah Customs Good deeds bring responsibilities as well as rewards. Halachah sometimes treats a person who performed a good deed more than once as if s/he swore or vowed to act that way always. Shu”t Meishiv Davar 2;48, dated 5 Nisan 5643 (1883), records the advice of Netziv (R. Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin) to a man who ...

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Plagues as Punishment and Education

by R. Gidon Rothstein R. Arama started last time with the certainty Hashem will never remove freewill nor deny a sincere repentance. It left him wondering why Hashem would harden Par’oh’s heart during the course of the plagues. We’re ready for his answer. Sentences Come Regardless of Regret Three principles ground his view. First, people who incur punishments must undergo ...

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Waiting to Marry After Having Lived with a Non-Jew

by R. Gidon Rothstein Shabbat is RH Nisan; time to start reading As If We Were There: Readings for a Transformative Passover Experience. Transformative, that’s quite a bar! 28 Adar Sheni: R. Kook on Waiting to Marry After Having Lived with a Non-Jew [Click for the audio version.] Lineage matters to halachah, which leads halachah to require a woman to wait three months between relationships. The ...

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