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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Overcoming Ourselves, With God’s Help

by R. Gidon Rothstein Torah Awakens Us To Higher Truths Meshech Hochmah points out an oddity in the first verse of the parsha (originally addressed by Akedat Yitzhak, he says). Moshe Rabbenu says Hashem will reward us in return for following the mishpatim, laws we understand, without mention of the hukkim, laws we do not (or not immediately and intuitively). While he applauds (but does not share) Akedat Yitzhak’s ...

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Loving and Not Mistreating the Convert

by R. Gidon Rothstein The mitzvah of loving the convert, found in Devarim 10;19 and recorded as Obligation 207 in Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, adds to the general obligation to love all fellow Jews. Rambam reminds his readers we/they have already seen a similar additional obligation for converts when it came to verbal or financial mistreatment, ona’ah, in Mishpatim, where the prohibitions of ona’ah towards regular Jews were stated in Behar. ...

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Paths to Focus on God

by R. Gidon Rothstein In verse fifteen of chapter four, Moshe spends a few verses warning the Jewish people against falling into worship of anything other than God, closing in verse twenty with the reminder Hashem had taken them out of Egypt to be His nation. Next verse, Moshe turns the attention on himself, Hashem was angered with him al divreichem, ...

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Not to Desire What Belongs to Others

by R. Gidon Rothstein This past Shavuot, I had the good fortune to be hosted by Ner Yisrael in London and their rabbi, Eliezer Zobin. At one point, I was discussing the Aseret Ha-Dibberot, and found myself in a vigorous disagreement over asking a fellow Jew if s/he wishes to sell some item. I said we may ask once, but no ...

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