Kiddush Or Hillul Ha-Shem

by R. Gidon Rothstein Growing up in New York City, teachers would often warn us our actions in public places, such as the subway, would create a kiddush or hillul Hashem, sanctify God’s Name or—God forbid—lead to its desecration. They were not wrong, but they left out a much larger picture of these two mitzvot I have chosen this week to look into a bit. ...

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Not Ignoring the Impoverished

by R. Gidon Rothstein Soon enough, not long after Parshat Shemot, the Torah will give us mitzvot in the parsha itself. While we’re waiting, She’iltot points us in the direction of caring about fellow Jews of straitened financial circumstances, I think because Moshe Rabbenu’s choice to leave the palace to check on his brothers’ welfare, risking his status to defend a fellow Jew from the Egyptian ...

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Proper Weights and Measures

by R. Gidon Rothstein Continuing last week’s theme, let’s see a mitzvah related to pricing markets properly, ensuring our weights and measures are accurate. I could imagine the Torah grouping all of this under one obligation to measure correctly, yet Rambam—with no argument from Ramban– has three Biblical rules on the issue, an obligation and two prohibitions. Calibrating Our Measuring Apparatus Well ...

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Halachic Markets

by R. Gidon Rothstein I’m feeling my oats, a bit, because we are going to study an issue She’iltot raises for Parshat Va-Yigash that is not a specific Biblical mitzvah, although Rambam and Aruch Ha-Shulhan give it a de-oraita framework. Aside from my preference to be guided by She’iltot, the topic appeals to me for its challenge to our capitalistic assumptions of the value of free pricing of ...

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Breaking a Calf’s Neck (Maybe Beheading It)

by R. Gidon Rothstein Let’s get this out of the way: I chose this mitzvah for Parshat Mikeitz by mistake. I remembered Rashi 45;27 says Yosef sent agalot, wagons, to his father to remind him of their last topic of Torah discussion before he left to see his brothers (and was sold to Egypt), egla arufah, the requirement of a calf neck ceremony should ...

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To Not Hate Fellow Jews, In Secret and In Our Hearts

by R. Gidon Rothstein One of the two options She’iltot offered for mitzvot to study on Parshat Vayeshev is the ban on hating fellow Jews. That’s how he says it, but when we look at Sefer Ha-Mitzvot Prohibition 302, Rambam adds a significant caveat. While he agrees the Torah warned against hating other Jews, with the verse She’iltot did, Vayikra 19;17, Rambam then quotes Sifra, only a hatred held within, unrevealed to ...

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Gid Ha-Nasheh

by R. Gidon Rothstein The prohibition of gid ha-nasheh, the last of the mitzvot laid out in Bereshit, ostensibly comes because of the story in this week’s parsha, Ya’akov wrestling with an angel and being wounded in his hip (according to Sefaria, the hip being taken out of its socket). Sefaria also translates gid ha-nasheh to mean “thigh muscle,” where I grew up hearing it called the sciatic nerve. Let’s ...

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The Mitzvot of Shomrim

by R. Gidon Rothstein Ya’akov spends enough of Parshat VaYetzei watching Lavan’s flocks to spur She’iltot to discuss shomrim, the laws of who is responsible when matters go wrong while one Jew is in charge of another’s property. In Rambam’s presentation, we find two immediate surprises: he divides shomrim into three separate mitzvot ‘aseh, and batei din, courts, are the ones implicated in those mitzvot. [My point is: there ...

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The Mitzvah of Talmud Torah, Torah Study

by R. Gidon Rothstein In my experience, many Jews treat the obligation to study Torah as if the commandment is to perform an action—we eat matzah Pesah night, we (ideally) study some Torah daily. I think traditional sources consider it primarily an issue of acquiring a certain body of knowledge, although the acquisition does require daily involvement. Let’s look at ...

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The Mitzvah of Kiddushin

by R. Gidon Rothstein As we continue through the largely mitzvah-less Bereshit, I borrow from She’iltot on Parshat Hayye Sarah the idea to discuss kiddushin, a mitzvah whose surprising nature I am not sure we realize. Perhaps because non-Jews borrowed from us, a ring ceremony in marriage seems natural, where halachah portrays it as distinctly unnatural. Step out of our usual practice and look at ...

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