Bamdibar and Counting

by R. Gidon Rothstein Counting the Jewish People Bamidbar is known as Numbers because of its many censuses, starting with three right at the beginning of the book, the Jewish people twice in a row (once by tribes only, then by encampments), and then the Levi’im separately. The Torah refers to the count of the Levi’im as having been al pi Hashem, 3;16, as if Gd did ...

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Finishing Bal Tosif, Finishing De-Rabbanan

by R. Gidon Rothstein Petihah Kollelet: Finishing Bal Tosif, Finishing De-Rabbanan In this week’s installment, Peri Megadim continues to struggle with Rambam’s view of bal tosif, and the prohibition generally. To How Many Mitzvot Does It Apply? He briefly wonders why Rambam did not prescribe lashes for violating bal tosif. The reason cannot be bal tosif’s counting as a lav she-bichlalut, a general prohibition relevant to many issues, and therefore without ...

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Behar-Behukotai: One More Double Parsha Before Shavu’ot

by R. Gidon Rothstein Behar opens with discussion of the laws of shemittah, referring to it as a Shabbat la-Shem, a phrase we might casually take to mean “a Sabbath to Gd.” Shemittah a Sabbath? To Gd? Onkelos 25;2 translates the Torah’s references to the year as a shabbat, both in its verb and noun forms (ve-shavetah ha-aretz, the Land shall shavat, or Shabbat la-Shem) with a version of shamot, ...

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A First Look at Bal Tosif

by R. Gidon Rothstein Petihah Kollelet: A First Look at Bal Tosif The Torah twice prohibits adding to its laws (Devarim 4;2 and 13;1), at first glance a simple idea. Peri Megadim does not tell us why he placed this discussion here, in the middle of a list of the types of rules and regulations in the Torah. From his start with Rambam’s version ...

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Emor: A Break From the Double Parshas!

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Emor returns our focus to the kohanim. We learn about their family dynamics, where their bodies can force them to step back from sacrificial service, and from there to service in the Mishkan and Mishkan issues generally. The Close Relatives We open with a warning to the males to avoid tum’at met, ritual impurity associated with contact with the deceased, then carves ...

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Is Performing a Mitzvah a Benefit?

by R. Gidon Rothstein Petihah Kollelet: Is Performing a Mitzvah a Benefit? In paragraph 29, Peri Megadim announces he is taking a pause from listing the types of mitzvot (we might be confused, because he has been talking about makkat mardut recently; for him, that’s part of his exposition of de-rabanan, rabbinic obligations). He will return to it in a bit, after some digressions, a first one ...

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Aharei Mot-Kedoshim: Essential Steps in Becoming Better People

by R. Gidon Rothstein Superficially, Aharei Mot and Kedoshim share only their both containing a list of arayot, prohibited marital relationships. A closer look yields a basic primer on how to live the life Gd wants. Concrete Messages Are Better The first words of Aharei Mot get us started, because the Torah times Gd’s speech to Moshe as having happened aharei mot shenei benei Aharon, after the death ...

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Petihah Kollelet: More Kinds of Makkat Mardut

by R. Gidon Rothstein Rabbinic Lashes for Actionless Sins, Biblical and Rabbinic We are in the process of figuring out what kinds of violations can receive makkat mardut. For Biblical sins without actions, Rambam in Laws of Hametz and Matzah 1;3 prescribes such lashes for someone who leaves leavened grains in his/her possession (where no action occurs). Peri Megadim takes it to be an example ...

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Tazria-Metzora: Mostly Tzara’at

by R. Gidon Rothstein Although it is a double portion, Tazri’a/Metzora does us the favor of focusing much of its attention on one topic, tzara’at. We learn bodily tzara’at, commonly but incorrectly translated as leprosy, clothing tzara’at, and house tzara’at. The Spiritual Roots of Tzar’at The Torah signals tzara’at’s spiritual/metaphysical nature—as opposed to being a primarily physical matter– in many ways. Ramban notes chapter thirteen of Vayikra opens with Gd ...

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Rabbinic Lashes

by R. Gidon Rothstein Starting at paragraph twenty-three of the first part of the Petihah Kollelet, Peri Megadim takes up makkat mardut, rabbinic lashes. Deliberate violations of rabbinic laws could have incurred Biblical lashes according to Rambam, who says every violation of a rabbinic law inherently also violates the Torah’s prohibition of lo tasur. Nonetheless, Hazal chose to distinguish their laws from other Biblical ones, and this was one way, by ...

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