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Not to Take the Choshen Off the Ephod or Tear the Collar of the Me’il

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Tetzaveh Last time, I expressed some surprise about the Torah’s choice to devote one of its 613 mitzvot to the prohibition on removing the poles from the Aron. This week again, we have a mitzvah I could have imagined folding into others. Prohibition 87 in the Mitzvot Lo Ta’aseh of Sefer Ha-Mitzvot bans removing the choshen, the stone-laden breastplate of the Kohen Gadol, from ...

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Permanent Poles of the Aron

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Terumah Remember, there are “only” 613 Biblical mitzvot, according to the widely followed tradition recorded by R. Samlai in Makkot. I usually mention the fact when drawing attention to how many mitzvot the Torah chose to devote to a particular topic (the Exodus from Egypt, how we watch items for others, for two examples). Here, I note it because ...

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Lending to the Poor

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Mishpatim It’s been a long time since I first learned about Rambam’s eight levels of tzedakah, the highest form of which was making sure the poor person had a job, and/or lending a person money to start a business and be able to support him/herself. Only some time after, when I went through Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, did ...

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Kibbud Av Va-Em Doesn’t Mean Honoring Parents

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Yitro Is Honor the Right Word? Everyone knows we are required to honor our parents, but as Mark Twain supposedly said, “it ain’t what we don’t know that gets us in trouble, it’s what we know that just ain’t so.” Rambam’s Obligation 210 of Sefer Ha-Mitzvot records the verse from the Aseret Ha-Dibberot (the Ten Pronouncements, I prefer to ...

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The Obligation of Tehumin

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat BeShalah, Year Two Part of my interest in this mitzvah is that it might not belong here at all, since rishonim debate whether there is any Biblical prohibition related to how far we travel on Shabbat. The Early Rambam In Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, Prohibition 321, Rambam writes that we have been warned not to travel outside our Shabbat limits, based on Shemot 16; 29, ...

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Not Giving of the Korban Pesah to a Meshumad

by R. Gidon Rothstein Let’s start with an oddity in Parshat Bo we can work our way towards solving: I was not able to find anything in Aruch Ha-Shulhan about the mitzvah we will study today. Rambam counts it, with no demurral from Ramban, it’s in Sefer Ha-Hinuch and Minhat Hinuch, and there’s nothing about it in Aruch Ha-Shulhan. Explanation needed! A Pesah Sacrifice Minefield I found that ...

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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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