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Calling Out to God

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Ve-Zot HaBerakha: Arukh HaShulchan Invokes Ki Shem Hashem Ekra For our last discussion of a mitzvah connected to that week’s parsha, I am failing you doubly. First, as last week I took a mitzvah She’iltot discussed in Ve-Zot Ha-Brakha, this week, I’m taking material from Ha’azinu. Second, it’s not a specific Biblical mitzvah; instead, I want to look at some of the halakhic applications of a ...

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Fasting on Yom Kippur

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Ha’azinu We’re in the homestretch of the year, running out of mitzvot in the parsha itself (one reason I will switch tracks next year, start a new project that I’ll describe after Simchat Torah). Usually, She’iltot helps us out, except for Ha’azinu, he doesn’t have anything I could work with. However, for Ve-Zot HaBerakhah, he had the mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur, a ...

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The Mitzvah to Blow Shofar

by R. Gidon Rothstein Special for Rosh HaShanah I am bringing this project to a close after Sukkot of this year, moving on to see how the Arukh HaShulchan presents and blends de-oraita with de-rabbanan, Torah law with rabbinic law, custom, and everything in between. Until then, because Rosh HaShanah is on Shabbat, we have the opportunity to consider an extra mitzvah, one I had not discussed ...

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It’s Not In Heaven

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Nitzavim/VaYelekh Ok, I broke this week. Normally, with a double parsha, I try to find a mitzvah from each. To my chagrin, Nitzavim/Vayelekh is very short (the two together are still in the twentieth percentile of parashiyyot by length). In addition, last year, I covered both mitzvot found in the two. Instead of a mitzvah de-oraita, then, I will investigate the halakhic application of Devarim 30;12, lo ...

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Not To Eat Ma’aser Sheni While an Onen

by R. Gidon Rothstein Our mitzvah might seem ho-hum, because we have not eaten ma’aser sheni in many centuries.  Still, the aspect of aninut sheds light on two realms, mourning and the experience of sanctity. Ma’aser Sheni and Aninut: Getting Our Terms Straight Rambam’s Prohibition 151 starts with the basics, Jews may not eat ma’aser sheni while in aninut. Pause to define terms, the easy then the ...

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Ma’akeh and Preventing Danger

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Ki Tetzei The Torah requires us to place a ma’akeh, a fence or girding, around rooftops of our homes, Devarim 22;8. Rambam’s Obligation 184 understands the Torah more broadly, thinks it commands us to protect against all dangers, to the extent possible. In his view, the barrier we put around our rooves, wells, ditches, and backyard pools are ...

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To Listen to Prophets

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Shofetim I return to this mitzvah often, perhaps because it most starkly confronts us with the question of our readiness to bow to authority imposed without our choice, whose commands we often do not understand. S/he Can Tell Us What? Rambam’s Obligation 172 records the necessity to obey all a prophet commands, even should it be ...

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Not to Add to the Torah

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Re’eh Apparent simplicity lulls us to undue complacency. Devarim 13; 1 says not to add to the Torah, a phrase rishonim took varyingly. Rambam’s Prohibition 313 renders it most simply, not to add to the Torah, neither the Written nor the received tradition of what it means. But not to add what? Therein lies a tale. Add Within ...

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To Fear God

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Ekev Last week, I made reference to whether halakha can cover all of what it means to serve God, and this week’s mitzvah gives a good test case. Rambam’s Obligation Four says we are commanded le-ha’amin yir’ato yit’aleh, to believe in His fear, He should be exalted, and to fear Him, not to be like ...

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The Mitzvah of Talmud Torah

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat VaEtchanan Despite its centrality to a man’s Jewish life, I believe many of us do not know basics of the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, commonly translated as Torah study. (It is, increasingly, also important or central to many women’s religious lives; why women were not obligated in this mitzvah, the derivation of the idea, what the Gemara ...

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