Intellect or Supernatural Insight, and Choices in Building Societies in Parshat Miketz

by R. Gidon Rothstein Yosef is clearly the central character of Miketz; our commentators invite us to investigate the extent to which the insights that fueled his rise in Par’oh’s administration were given by Gd or came from his own intellect. The Dreams Guided Yosef Onkelos seems to come down on the side they were Gd-given. When Par’oh proposes elevating  Yosef ...

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Last of the Ways to Lose the World To Come

by R. Gidon Rothstein Errors in Social Participation That Forfeit Membership in that Society Rabbenu Yonah’s list of ways Jews might take themselves out of the World to Come has two more entries, then he moves on (spoiler alert) to the real reason I started this project, four groups of people Sotah 42a says will never greet the Divine. He deals with ...

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More Ways Jews Delete Themselves From the Blessed Future

by R. Gidon Rothstein When people today discuss core beliefs, they often point to the first Mishnah in the last chapter of Sanhedrin, a Mishnah Rabbenu Yonah brings up in paragraph 154 of the third sha’ar of Sha’arei Teshuvah. The Mishnah lists beliefs a Jew must adopt to be part of the Jewish people. [A point I may not have clarified as well as ...

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Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban to VaYishlah: The Jewish People, the World, and Angels

by R. Gidon Rothstein A Future of Tense Relations with Non-Jews Comments of Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban I looked at in my previous samplings picked up on ways VaYishlah tells us of the expected struggle of the Jewish people to make their way among other nations. Ramban, 32;4, saw much historical foreshadowing in the parsha. Ya’akov’s preparations for his meeting with Esav tell ...

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Dire Consequences for Mistreating Texts and Torah Scholars

by R. Gidon Rothstein Continuing Rabbenu Yonah’s Examples of Who Loses the World To Come Rabbenu Yonah has three concepts left to explain from last time, ways one can fall afoul of devar Hashem bazah, the word of Gd s/he denigrated. Each suffices to lose a Jew his/her share in the World to Come. The Arrogance of Dismissing the Value of Verses For ...

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Parshat Va-Yetzei: Carving Out a Life, In Gd’s Closer or Farther Presence

by R. Gidon Rothstein What Makes Life Worth Living Three times in Va-Yetzei, Rashi refers to a baraita from Nedarim 64b about four people whose are as if they were dead. Gd goes against the general prohibition on linking the divine to a living person in 28;13, identifying Himself, as it were, as the Gd of Yitzhak. Rashi explains Yitzhak’s blindness restricted him to his house, ...

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What Matters More Than We Notice

New Series: End of the Third Sha’ar of Sha’arei Teshuvah by R. Gidon Rothstein I was seventeen, scanning the shelves of the Beit Midrash of Yeshivat Har Etzion for what to study during their mussar seder, and stumbled on Rabbenu Yonah’s Sha’arei Teshuvah, Gates of Repentance. [Brief reminder: Rabbenu Yonah was a relative and younger contemporary of Ramban’s, living 1200-1263 CE.] I come back to it ...

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Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban to Toledot: Evil and Good We Do and Do Not Recognize

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Toledot opens with Yitzhak’s prayer on behalf of Rivkah, Rivkah’s difficult pregnancy, and then the challenges of having two sons take contrasting paths one good and one not. Comments of Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban draw our attention to the delicate choices to be made in building lives, and how those choices determine whom we become. Rivkah’s ...

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Final Thoughts on Akeydat Yitzhak to Bereshit

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Akeydat Yitzhak to Bereshit I Found For a long time, I find my way to ideas by taking a corpus of text, review it step by step, then stand back to see what recurred enough to seem important. It was how I drew the distinction central to my Phd thesis—I started our study of Akeydat Yitzhak with a reference to my ...

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