A First Look at Bal Tosif

by R. Gidon Rothstein Petihah Kollelet: A First Look at Bal Tosif The Torah twice prohibits adding to its laws (Devarim 4;2 and 13;1), at first glance a simple idea. Peri Megadim does not tell us why he placed this discussion here, in the middle of a list of the types of rules and regulations in the Torah. From his start with Rambam’s version ...

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Emor: A Break From the Double Parshas!

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Emor returns our focus to the kohanim. We learn about their family dynamics, where their bodies can force them to step back from sacrificial service, and from there to service in the Mishkan and Mishkan issues generally. The Close Relatives We open with a warning to the males to avoid tum’at met, ritual impurity associated with contact with the deceased, then carves ...

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Is Performing a Mitzvah a Benefit?

by R. Gidon Rothstein Petihah Kollelet: Is Performing a Mitzvah a Benefit? In paragraph 29, Peri Megadim announces he is taking a pause from listing the types of mitzvot (we might be confused, because he has been talking about makkat mardut recently; for him, that’s part of his exposition of de-rabanan, rabbinic obligations). He will return to it in a bit, after some digressions, a first one ...

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Aharei Mot-Kedoshim: Essential Steps in Becoming Better People

by R. Gidon Rothstein Superficially, Aharei Mot and Kedoshim share only their both containing a list of arayot, prohibited marital relationships. A closer look yields a basic primer on how to live the life Gd wants. Concrete Messages Are Better The first words of Aharei Mot get us started, because the Torah times Gd’s speech to Moshe as having happened aharei mot shenei benei Aharon, after the death ...

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Petihah Kollelet: More Kinds of Makkat Mardut

by R. Gidon Rothstein Rabbinic Lashes for Actionless Sins, Biblical and Rabbinic We are in the process of figuring out what kinds of violations can receive makkat mardut. For Biblical sins without actions, Rambam in Laws of Hametz and Matzah 1;3 prescribes such lashes for someone who leaves leavened grains in his/her possession (where no action occurs). Peri Megadim takes it to be an example ...

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Tazria-Metzora: Mostly Tzara’at

by R. Gidon Rothstein Although it is a double portion, Tazri’a/Metzora does us the favor of focusing much of its attention on one topic, tzara’at. We learn bodily tzara’at, commonly but incorrectly translated as leprosy, clothing tzara’at, and house tzara’at. The Spiritual Roots of Tzar’at The Torah signals tzara’at’s spiritual/metaphysical nature—as opposed to being a primarily physical matter– in many ways. Ramban notes chapter thirteen of Vayikra opens with Gd ...

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Rabbinic Lashes

by R. Gidon Rothstein Starting at paragraph twenty-three of the first part of the Petihah Kollelet, Peri Megadim takes up makkat mardut, rabbinic lashes. Deliberate violations of rabbinic laws could have incurred Biblical lashes according to Rambam, who says every violation of a rabbinic law inherently also violates the Torah’s prohibition of lo tasur. Nonetheless, Hazal chose to distinguish their laws from other Biblical ones, and this was one way, by ...

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Gd and People in Parshat Shemini

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Shemini gave Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban opportunities to show us a world where Gd plays a clear role while leaving room for human beings to contribute meaningfully as well. Onkelos a Kabbalist? As the Jews are dedicating the Mishkan, Moshe tells them what Gd said to do to have kevod Hashem (loosely, the Honor or Glory of Gd) ...

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Rabbinic Laws with Some Connection to Scripture

by R. Gidon Rothstein Petihah Kollelet: Rabbinic Laws with Some Connection to Scripture We all know the category of rabbinic law, in prohibitions and obligations. For prohibitions, Peri Megadim gives the examples of Hazal’s including fowl in the prohibition of basar be-halav, cooking, eating, or gaining benefit from meat cooked in milk, as well as their adding more types of relationships to those the ...

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Tzav: The Way to Understand Torah, for Sacrifices and Kohanim

by R. Gidon Rothstein Tzav is a portion most obviously about how various sacrifices work. In the comments I tracked from the parsha, I also noticed Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban telling us about how to understand the Torah as well as about the kohanim themselves, aside from their performance of the service. The Nature of Literal A couple of times, Onkelos made a comment ...

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