Derashos HaRan

The Derashot haRan Essays We Deserve and the Ones We Got

by R. Gidon Rothstein The title of each installment entrances you, induces you to click or scroll, hooks you into following through to the end. The language floats you from word to word as the ideas infiltrate your being. When each piece ends, you wait impatiently for the next one, anxious for the new vision that will inform and infuse ...

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Prophecy, Soothsaying, and the Line Between Them

by R. Gidon Rothstein Drasha 12, part 3 Ran sees prophecy as the antidote to sorcery, as its replacement. He references here his earlier comments in the fifth Drasha, that Hashem chose Egypt as the site of the slavery so that Moshe’s prophecies would happen in the center of world sorcery. Defeating their sorcerers demonstrated that prophecy is a superior, ...

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Sages Over Prophets

by R. Gidon Rothstein Drasha 12, part 2 The Talmudic sage Amemar makes a daring comment in Baba Batra 12a that Ran struggles to explain. Scholars, Amemar states, are greater than prophets. Ran explains that prophets have one power only, to communicate what they were told; we’re obliged to listen, even if that command temporarily contravenes Torah law, other than ...

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Three Types of Rabbinic Authority

by R. Gidon Rothstein Drasha 12, part 1 What gives rabbis, or even the Gemara, authority in halachic issues? In this drasha, Ran reviews the sources of rabbinic authority, whom he had set up as the source of ultimate justice, and his view of why the Gemara isn’t open to later disagreement. Preventing Divisive Controversy Prior essays in this series ...

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It’s Important to Be Insecure

by R. Gidon Rothstein Drasha 11, part 3 Ran’s view of batei din, halachic courts, turned them into an institution whose work could have been performed by a prophet. Since, in his view, courts articulate ultimate justice, he wonders why Hashem didn’t leave that to prophets, who could tell us Hashem’s will exactly. They’re Not Steady, They’re Sources of Faith ...

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Making Sure It Isn’t Too Good to be King

by R. Gidon Rothstein Drasha 11, part 2 Kings are there to make society work, according to Ran, because courts aren’t there for that purpose.  Instead of seeing the courts as a competing social institution to the king, Ran saw them as fulfilling a different function entirely. The Jewish king was largely the same as non-Jewish ones, which is why the ...

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Courts Aren’t To Keep Society Running

by R. Gidon Rothstein Drasha 11, part 1 Most of us think the purpose of courts is to adjudicate citizens’ disputes and punish evildoers. Devarim 16:18 tells us to appoint people who will judge משפט צדק, righteous judgment. Ran points out that the next verse prohibits perverting justice, so “righteous judgment” must mean something else. For Rashi, it’s selecting judges ...

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The Sad Truth That Troubles Focus Us Better

by R. Gidon Rothstein Drasha 10 Part 3 Moshe Rabbenu sparked Ran’s interest by referring to fear of Hashem as if it is easy to achieve. Ran’s first step in explaining that is to show that we all have a thoughtful side, which sees the world as it should, recognizes that we should aim to what’s ultimately true, Hashem and ...

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Why It’s Easy to Fear Hashem; And Why It’s Hard

by R. Gidon Rothstein Drasha 10 Part 2 Fear of God, Devarim 10:12 implies, is simple. Forget that we find it hard. Ran adduces verses (such as Bereshit 8:21, כי יצר לב האדם רע מנעוריו, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from its youth) and Talmudic texts (such as Kiddushin 30b, that a person’s baser inclinations renew ...

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