Nitzavim: Covenant and Continuity

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Covenant The beginning of Nitzavim speaks of the Jewish people entering a covenant with Gd, described by the verse (29;12) as le-ma’an hakim otecha ha-yom lo le-am, in order to establish you (the Jewish people) for Him (Gd) a nation. Ever alert to phrases treating Gd too much like a person, Onkelos writes kodamohi, before Him, because of course ...

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Getting Suffering to Atone for Sin

by R. Gidon Rothstein Mabit’s Sha’ar Ha-Teshuvah: Chs. 7-9: Getting Suffering to Atone for Sin Chapter Seven: Matching the Teshuvah to the Crime The categories of het, avon, and pesha reminds us we categorize transgressions by the underlying intention, unwitting, deliberate (although for the enjoyment of the sin), or malicious, a way to rebel against Gd (in one version; there are lots of nuances on these definitions, ...

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Ki Tavo: First-Fruits and the Outcomes of Obedience or Disobedience

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Ki Tavo: Bikkurim and Tochahah, First-Fruits and the Outcomes of Obedience or Disobedience Arami Oved Avi and Bikkurim The parsha opens with the bikkurim ceremony, where farmers bring their first fruits to the Beit HaMikdash. The Torah tells the person bringing them to go to the kohen “asher yiheyh ba-yamim ha-hem,” who will be in those days, 26;3. Ramban suggests the redundancy—to whom else would the Jew give the bikkurim?–was to tell Jews they ...

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The Value in, Difficulty of, Resisting Sin

by R. Gidon Rothstein Mabit’s Sha’ar Ha-Teshuvah, Chs. 4-6 The Strengths of the Righteous and the Repentant The Gemara twice (Berachot 34b and Sanhedrin 99a) contrasts a statement in the name of R. Yohanan with one in the name of R. Avahu. R. Avahu’s is the more familiar, so I will discuss it out of the Gemara’s order. R. Avahu says where penitents ...

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Ki Teitzei: Family Isn’t Simple

by R. Gidon Rothstein Ki Tetzei starts with the yefat to’ar, a woman taken captive during war. It starts us off nicely on the topic of marriage and family, the small part of the parsha I am going to address here. Yefat To’ar—Yielding to Intractable Inclination When 21;11 says the soldier may marry her, Rashi thinks it a concession to soldiers’ irresistible urges, to ...

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Regret, Retribution, Resilient Resistance

by R. Gidon Rothstein Mabit’s Sha’ar Ha-Teshuvah, Ch. Two -Three: Regret, Retribution, Resilient Resistance Regret and Resolve, the Markers of Repentance Last time, Mabit asserted the essential goal of teshuvah, finding our way to a restored relationship with Gd. This time he takes up the essential elements of teshuvah, haratah, regret, and azivat ha-het, the intention to refrain from this sin in the future. To regret what we fully intend ...

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Shofetim: Building and Defending a Just Society

by R. Gidon Rothstein From its start, Parshat Shofetim turns our attention to the steps needed to develop and sustain the kind of society Gd wants. The first words of the parsha start us off, shofetim ve-shoterim, the obligation to establish judges and enforcers. Justice in Israel and Out Ramban points out the verse, 16;18, speaks of such judges be-chol she’arecha, in all your gates. We ...

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The Purpose of Repentance

by R. Gidon Rothstein Mabit’s Sha’ar Ha-Teshuvah, Chapter One: The Purpose of Repentance Mabit is the acronym for R. Moshe b. Yosef di-Trani (1500-1580), for fifty five years the rabbi of Safed (while R. Yosef Karo, author of the Shulhan Aruch lived there; they had some well known disagreements. One was about the obligation to declare produce hefker, unowned, in a shemittah year, an issue I saw ...

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The People of Halachah

by R. Gidon Rothstein Part Two of Peri Megadim’s Petihah Kollelet: The People of Halachah I take piece by piece projects partially in the belief they bring us to a larger whole, we see a greater overall structure. In the case at hand, I think Peri Megadim’s list of those with halachic differences, each piece of which taught us much, combine to show he was looking ...

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