Purim Will Never Cease

by R. Gidon Rothstein Purim Will Never Cease: Rambam, Aggadah, and the Eternal Purim Last time, we concluded a series on Rambam’s inclusions of aggadah in his Mishneh Torah. As I finished, I realized that my plan was to start Aruch HaShulchan’s drashot for Shabbat HaGadol, which seemed odd to do before Purim (next Monday will, at least, be Shushan ...

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Context and the Insufficiency of Law

by R. Gidon Rothstein Summarizing Rambam’s Aggadic Insertions: Context and the Insufficiency of Law Almost ten years ago, a business consultant named Steven Spear introduced me to the concept of a personal ideas map. The concept is that every time a person speaks or writes, s/he should jot down the basic ideas expressed. By periodically reviewing those abstracts, each of ...

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The Importance of Hebrew

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Importance of Praying in Hebrew and the Push Towards Fixed Prayer This is the last of our random sample of places Rambam inserts aggadic material into Mishneh Torah. Next time, I hope to review them briefly, to see if any themes or ideas characterize them all. Here, let’s look at his understanding of how fixed ...

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Moshe Leaves His Wife and the Nature of Prophecy

by R. Gidon Rothstein I started this series with no real end point in mind. I had noticed a few passages in Mishneh Torah, and figured I’d work from there (I had a few mishaps along the way, searches in my Bar-Ilan I closed too soon and then lost). Now we have only three weeks left, because I need five ...

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Mitzvot to the World and the Jewish People

by R. Gidon Rothstein Introducing Mitzvot to the World and the Jewish People Laws of Kings includes the obligation for the king to wage war against certain populations. In a passage that seems to me too-little remarked, Rambam advances the theory that any non-Jew who agrees to observe the Noahide laws need not be put to death. There’s more to ...

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The Important Part of Welcoming Guests

by R. Gidon Rothstein Avraham’s Hachnasat Orchim: The Important Part of Welcoming Guests Avraham’s welcoming of guests stands out for many people today even more than his adamant propagation of monotheism (a characteristic of his we discussed previously). It’s interesting to me, therefore, that Rambam mentions it only once in theMishneh Torah, a bit buried at the end of Laws ...

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Rambam’s View of Sacrifices and Place of Mizbei’ach

by R. Gidon Rothstein The History of the Place of the Mizbeach, and Rambam’s View of Sacrifices As the Jewish people return to Israel and rebuild Jewish life there, enthusiasts periodically raise the idea of restoring the sacrificial service, because halachah allows at least some sacrifices to be offered even if the Beit HaMikdash has not yet been rebuilt. For ...

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Ya’akov’s Deathbed and How We Say Shema

by R. Gidon Rothstein The selection of Rambam we’re going to see this time is the one that first brought me to want to study these kinds of passages in the Mishneh Torah, where I sat back and said, “wow, why would Rambam include that ?” To appreciate it fully, let’s start with the Gemara, and then see what Rambam ...

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Fighting for Faith: Avraham Spreads the Word

by R. Gidon Rothstein Last time, we had space to discuss Rambam’s reconstruction of how and when Avraham found his way to understanding Hashem’s role in the world. Once that happened, Rambam tells us in the section we’re reviewing this week, he began to argue with those around him (Rambam’s phrase is “made responses to… and litigated with them, to ...

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Avraham Finding Hashem and Spreading the Word

by R. Gidon Rothstein Aggada Becomes Halachah: Avraham Finding Hashem and Spreading the Word As I mentioned last time, this series examines places where Rambam lets Aggadah or Midrash—meaning, sections of Talmudic literature not obviously meant as prescriptive or focused on halachah—nonetheless shape his presentation of Torah law. Because I am not nearly the expert in Rambam I would wish, ...

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