Magazine

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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A Kohen Serving Others

by R. Daniel Mann Question: I am a kohen who likes to fit in with others. When I lend a helping hand, occasionally someone tells me that I need not or should not because I am a kohen. Should I listen to them?   Answer: The Torah (Vayikra 21:8) writes about a kohen “v’kidashto” (you shall sanctify him), from which Chazal ...

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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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Before Reb Zusia

by R. Gil Student I. Being Measured Against Others Over a decade ago, I challenged the eighteenth century Chasidic scholar Reb Zusia of Hanipol‘s famous last words. On his deathbed, he said that he wasn’t worried that the heavenly court would ask why he wasn’t like Moshe, because he could answer that he lacked Moshe’s abilities. But he was worried that ...

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Toldos: Second Aliyah

by R. Daniel Z. Feldman Commentary and insights into the second portion of Parashas Toldos (Gen. 26:6-12) If you cannot see anything below, click on this link. See here for past weeks: here

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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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Tefillin Prepared by Children under Bar Mitzva

by R. Daniel Mann Question: Several years ago, when I was 11, my (Orthodox) shul brought in a person who makes tefillin batim (boxes) and guided several friends and me to more or less make our own tefillin. Someone questioned me as to whether the tefillin are kosher because I was not yet bar mitzva. I would rather not ask my rabbi, who ...

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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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Recycling Sheimos

by R. Gil Student What do you do with sacred books (sheimos) that become worn out or otherwise unneeded? Technology has given the question more weight. With so many newspapers, handouts and printouts, the question is more urgent now than ever. We recently discussed the custom in some place to respectfully burn them. This practice was forbidden by most authorities, ...

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Are Ba’alei Teshuvah Really That Great?

by R. Gil Student I. Who Is Greater? Someone who overcomes sin and returns to full observance, a ba’al teshuvah, has utilized for good the greatest human trait — choice, free will. The Gemara (Berakhos 34b) praises a ba’al teshuvah as being even greater than a tzadik. Yet, this statement seems like too much praise. Can a tzadik, someone who ...

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