Every Part of the Engine Counts

by R. Gidon Rothstein A lifetime ago, in novel coronavirus terms, we were studying the rich Biblical commentary of R. Yitzhak Arama, Akeydat Yitzhak. The last entry was posted on March 10, and then the world changed, as we entered the et Tzarah whose parameters we have not yet fully learned to navigate, whose rules we have not yet accepted the necessity of following, from ...

Read More »

Ve-Zot HaBerakhah: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein The last parsha of the Torah introduces itself as the berakhah Moshe conferred upon the Jewish people before his passing. Already there, Onkelos gives us more than we expect. Blessings of a Prophet Onkelos writes asher berakh Moshe neviya, that Moshe the prophet blessed, inserting the fact of his prophecy where the text did not. Similarly, Shemot 14;31 tells us the people believed ...

Read More »

Ha’azinu: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Most of Ha’azinu is a song, a situation where Onkelos tends to stray from literal more than usual, I assume because poetry itself does not intend to be as literal as prose. Nonetheless, more than a few of his choices jumped out at me. The Comparison to Rain and Dew After calling heaven and earth to hear his ...

Read More »

Gd Can Call, We Are the Ones Who Have to Repent

by R. Gidon Rothstein The sixth of Rabbenu Yonah’s ways to hear the call to repentance reminds us we bear the final responsibility for finding our way to penitence. He writes (in my loose translation) “at all times the person should prepare him/herself for the encounter with the Creator, because no one knows when his/her life will end.” Knowing there ...

Read More »

Say Your Sins, Say Your Truth

by R. Gidon Rothstein Speech Can Be Hard Because Speech Can Be Powerful One of the many valuable insights I have retained from reading Soloveitchik On Repentance has been the Rav’s explanation for the necessity of vidui, of saying one’s sins out loud, as part of the penitential process. Aside from its value for guiding our teshuvah, I suggest it ...

Read More »

Rabbenu Yonah’s Calls to Repentance

by R. Gidon Rothstein (previous post on this subject: here) The Call of Torah Scholars In all times, the Jewish people have had leaders who try to point out to them places they are going wrong. Rabbenu Yonah urges readers to be open to their messages, recognize and accept where they hit home, and repent accordingly. Just doing so takes ...

Read More »

Rabbenu Yonah’s Six Spurs To Repentance

by R. Gidon Rothstein Rabbenu Yonah’s Six Spurs To Repentance: Spurs One and Two Almost anything can become rote, even repentance. Observant Jews’ habituation to the High Holiday season—the tunes of the first night of selihot, the first Barkhua of Rosh HaShanah, U-netaneh Tokef, Kol Nidrei, and so on, might impede sincere repentance, make it rote rather than real. Rabbenu Yonah was already alert to ...

Read More »

Nitzavim-VaYelekh: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos: Nitzavim Nitzavim-Vayelekh are, together, still a very short parsha (and the last one before Rosh HaShanah). In the name of completeness, I wanted five comments of Okelos on each, so it was catch as catch can. Once More on Anthropomorphism Early on in our journey through Onkelos, I pointed out his determined rejection of the literal meaning ...

Read More »

Nidui Punishes—What?

by R. Gidon Rothstein This is the last essay in the current series on nidui, a follow-up to the series of ideas about the novel coronavirus back when it was novel. As Rosh HaShanah approaches, the end of our study of siman 334 of Yoreh De’ah leaves us with three weeks for issues of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur—this year, I hope to study the ...

Read More »

Ki Tavo: Lessons of NonLiteral Onkelos

by R. Gidon Rothstein No Wandering Aramean Here An early part of Parashat Ki Tavo is more familiar than many parts of the Torah, because we also say it on Seder night. When the Mishnah sought a place where the Torah itself summarizes the Exodus for us to delve into Seder night, it noticed the Torah requires us to include such a summary in ...

Read More »