Carrying the Aron on Our Shoulders

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Bamidbar Rambam and Ramban debate the nature of our mitzvah, forcing Sefer HaChinukh to take sides (Ramban was his direct teacher, while he built his whole book on Rambam’s count, as we have seen). Rambam’s Mitzvah—Kohanim Carry the Ark Rambam says Obligation 34 requires kohanim to carry the Aron, the Ark of the Covenant, on their shoulders, whenever there is need to ...

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To Count Seven Shabbatot of Years

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Behar Parshat Behar opens with the obligation of shemitta, seven of which produce a yovel, a jubilee year. Rambam includes in the six hundred thirteen mitzvot one to count the years of each shemitta and of the seven shemitot to reach the yovel, much as we are currently counting the days and weeks from the Omer up until Shavuot. The Great Sanhedrin are the ones obligated, he ...

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A Kohen May Not Marry a Divorcee

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Emor When I lived on the West Side of Manhattan, one of the rabbis remarked on the attraction divorcees had for kohanim, how often he was confronted with a couple where the woman had been divorced and the man was a kohen. A pairing the Torah prohibits in this week’s parsha. This is one of those mitzvot we certainly don’t understand ...

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To Cover the Blood of Birds and Chayyot

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Acharei Mot As we race through VaYikra with double parashiyyot (three in four weeks!), I am trying to cover mitzvot well and yet briefly enough to read two on those weeks. For Acharei Mot, let’s look at the obligation to cover the blood of birds and chayyot (kosher non-domesticated animals, like deer). Rambam’s Obligation 147 makes it fairly simple, VaYikra 17;13 says we must cover the ...

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The Tum’ah of a New Mother

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Tazria Rambam, Obligation 100, gives short shrift to the mitzvah of a new mother being teme’ah; since this is a double parsha, I hope to as well. [I pause to note my newfound dislike of the misleading English translation of the word tamei, impure or “ritually” impure. Tamei appears in many contexts in the Torah, and while all have some ...

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The Mitzvah to Check for Signs of Kashrut

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Shemini Based in Parshat Shemini, Rambam has four mitzvot aseh, obligatory mitzvot, related to kosher food, nos. 149-152, to check for signs of a kosher animal (chews its cud and has split hooves), bird, insect (grasshopper, has jointed legs above their feet ), and fish (fins and scales). Rambam cites a Sifra for the inference that zot ha-chaya asher tokhelu, these are the ...

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Not to Eat Blood

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Tzav We’re not allowed to eat blood, we all know that, but do we? Rambam expresses the prohibition categorically in Lo Ta’aseh 184, we are warned against eating blood, based on verses in last week’s parsha and this, 7;26, kol dam lo tokhelu. A verse in Acharei Mot, he points out, establishes karet, excision, to be the punishment for deliberate eating, an unwitting sinner ...

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To Bear Witness, But Not From Evildoers

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat VaYikra This week’s parsha has the mitzvah to bear witness, 5;1, expressed obliquely in the Torah’s establishing a sacrifice to atone for the failure to give testimony one has or knows. The need to atone shows either a violation or a failure to fulfill an obligation. (Arukh HaShulchan Choshen Mishpat 28;4 adds that it also violates lo ta’amod al ...

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Setting the Calendar

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Vayakhel/Pekudei 5783: Also Parshat Ha-Chodesh! In my parsha series, I can’t dodge the parsha, and when it’s a double, I have to do both. Here, the calendar offers me another mitzvah to discuss, because this week is also Parshat HaChodesh, the fourth of the special readings around Purim and Nissan. In the reading for HaChodesh, we have the verse Rashi called the ...

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Not Benefitting from Tikrovet Avodah Zarah

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Ki Tissa Avodah zarah, the worship of any power other than God, hides today, fooling many of us into thinking there isn’t really AZ out there, in turn making it harder to resonate with the many obligations and prohibitions the Torah set up to protect us from getting caught up in it. Given my belief there is more avodah ...

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