Hanifah Is About How We React to Evil

by R. Gidon Rothstein Seven categories of hanifah to go, then we can see why I think Rabbenu Yonah read the word as “excusing evil.” Some flattery does that, but it’s not essential to it, the reason I think we should begin to change our translations (just as I now translate avodah zarah as “worshipping powers other than Gd,” because idolatry narrows it too much. A ...

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Va-Era: Don’t Be Relaxed About Meeting Gd’s Standards

by R. Gidon Rothstein Gd makes clear about the central goal of the process of the Exodus, bringing the Egyptians (and Jews, although it was a little easier with them) to accept the full truth of Divine Providence, Gd’s existence, involvement with the world, and power to engineer any chosen result [as a personal aside, not a bad list for ...

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Does Hanifah Mean Flattery?

by R. Gidon Rothstein We commonly translate hanifah as flattery, yet Rabbenu Yonah’s nine categories of hanafim do not seem to me to fit the word. Sadly, many of Rabbenu Yonah’s categories are very much alive in our times. This week, the first two types are ones I think we unfortunately see in among many American Orthodox Jewish leaders (perhaps Israeli ones, too, I ...

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Shemot’s Main Characters

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Shemot: Gd, the Egyptians, and the Jews Taken broadly enough, the three major actors in the Exodus are named in the title to this essay (if we put Par’oh with the Egyptians, Moshe with the Jews). Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban draw our attention to aspects of each, a fitting way to start our review of ...

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Eight More Kinds of Liars

by R. Gidon Rothstein There Are a Lot of Ways to Lie The first liars did so for personal gain, as we saw last time. Rabbenu Yonah has eight more categories, the detail already signaling his concern with lying (similar to the many words for snow we are told Eskimos/Inuit have). The second kind of liars set up the targets of their lies for ...

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Va-Yehi and Building Blocks of a Good Life

by R. Gidon Rothstein The tale of the end of Ya’akov’s life, his blessing Yosef’s sons, his own sons, his passing and its aftermath, VaYehi shows us elements of how to live well. Wisdom Is Not Always Easy to Recognize Ya’akov’s dealings with Yosef and then Reuven in the parsha show us ways wisdom is not always easy to spot. Yosef presented his sons ...

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Leitzim and Liars

by R. Gidon Rothstein Finding a Definition of Leitz, Then a First Look at Liars Last time, I pointed out weaknesses in the translation of leitz as scoffer, because Rabbenu Yonah’s list of five kinds of leitzim clearly includes people who are not. Our last two kinds, the “least” bad of the five, further convince me leitzim means something else. Killing Time The fourth kind are people who ...

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VaYigash: Human Emotion on Display, and Miracles Not on Display

by R. Gidon Rothstein VaYigash ends the tension we have undergone since VaYeshev, shows us the reunion of Ya’akov and Yosef. Along the way, comments of Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban I noted in previous years seem to me to highlight the emotional elements of people’s lives more than usual. Ya’akov and Yosef’s Connection The verse describes Ya’akov’s spirit as coming alive upon ...

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Four Groups in Real Trouble

by R. Gidon Rothstein To appreciate the move Rabbenu Yonah makes at paragraph 172 of the third sha’ar of Sha’arei Teshuvah, let’s remember the structure of the sha’ar until now. Rabbenu Yonah started with Rambam’s insight the punishment of a sin tells us about its severity, guides us as to how vigorous a repentance is needed. Rabbenu Yonah therefore spent the sha’ar moving from the “least” stringent ...

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Please Don’t Think The Vaccine Can Save Us

by R. Gidon Rothstein Sadly, it needs to be said before I can get to my point. Of course, I intend to take the vaccine, with gratitude to the researchers and heath care workers who have worked diligently on producing it. I wish I could get it faster, to be able to put this time of trouble behind me, and ...

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