Deaf Mutes in Halachah, a First Look

by R. Gidon Rothstein Part Two of Peri Megadim’s Petihah Kollelet: The People of Halachah After laying out the levels and types of law in halachah, Peri Megadim moves to the people of the system, ten types of them. He starts with a heresh, who is unable to hear or speak. Halachah groups such a person with a shoteh, someone not in his/her right mind, and a katan, a minor, all three ...

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Shelah: Misplaced Fear and Ingratitude of the Jewish People

by R. Gidon Rothstein The opening incident of the parsha dominates much of the conversation around the parsha as a whole, because it is the nadir of the Jewish people in the desert, where they cross a red line and lose their right to enter Israel. Rashi and Ramban first struggle to explain how the spies came to be sent at all. Whose Idea ...

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Beyond Biblical: The Petihah Kollelet On Rabbinic Law

by R. Gidon Rothstein Biblical Fences Although I claimed to have finished my short-version re-summary of Peri Megadim’s discussion of laws with roots in Scripture last time, one of the first points he makes about Rabbinic law also takes us back to the Biblical. Hazal point to Vayikra 18;30, u-shmartem et mishmarti, guard My charge (English translations have “keep”) as what empowers them to legislate; if so, there ...

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Be-Ha’alotecha: The Generally Kind Divine

by R. Gidon Rothstein What the Moving Aron Teaches Us Just about the middle of this week’s parsha, the Torah describes how the camp would move, with the blowing of trumpets and procession of each sub-camp. Only later in the chapter, 10;35-36, does the Torah tell us about when the Aron itself (the Ark of the Covenant, for Raiders of the Lost Ark fans) would move. Moshe ...

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The Hierarchy of Halachah

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Hierarchy of Halachah in the First Part of Peri Megadim’s Petihah Kollelet Peri Megadim gives us so many legal technicalities as he makes his various points, we might lose sight of the bigger picture: he spent the first part of this Petihah showing a range of levels of obligation in halachah, with important ramifications in the differences. It is a vital point I find ...

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Naso: Sotah, Kohanim, Nazir, and Nesi’im

by R. Gidon Rothstein What a Woman Does to Become a Sotah For a sotah ceremony to happen, the woman must have been ma’alah bo ma’al, 5;12, betrayed her husband. Rashi identifies the ma’al as her affair, except the ritual comes to test if an affair occurred. Onkelos translates the phrase as le-shakara shakar, to have lied to him, although it is not clear what constitutes the lie. I think he ...

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Minhag and Derech Eretz

by R. Gidon Rothstein Minhag and Derech Eretz, the Last Two Categories of Religious Obligation for Peri Megadim Prescribed Customs The seventh level of obligation consists of minhag, for example waving aravot on Sukkot (what we today call hoshanot, where we walk around the bima as representative of the mizbe’ah, the altar, in the Temple, and on then on the seventh day of Sukkot, we walk around seven times and then bang ...

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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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