Zeroa, Lehayyayim, and Kevah

by R. Gidon Rothstein A long, long time ago in a land far, far away, I was Associate Rabbi at a shul. One Shabbat morning, I floated the idea of a zero’a, lehayyayim party, a communal barbecue where we would give the kohanim in the community the parts of the animals the Torah tells us should be given them from every animal slaughtered for ...

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The Mitzvah of Tzedakah

by R. Gidon Rothstein The word tzedakah is often translated as charity, an English word that online dictionaries tell me focuses on helping those in need. US tax laws, on the other hand, treat any giving to a certified not-for-profit as charitable, when those organizations often have very different agendas than helping those in need. Other causes are often important, too, but ...

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Loving and Not Mistreating the Convert

by R. Gidon Rothstein The mitzvah of loving the convert, found in Devarim 10;19 and recorded as Obligation 207 in Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, adds to the general obligation to love all fellow Jews. Rambam reminds his readers we/they have already seen a similar additional obligation for converts when it came to verbal or financial mistreatment, ona’ah, in Mishpatim, where the prohibitions of ona’ah towards regular Jews were stated in Behar. ...

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Not to Desire What Belongs to Others

by R. Gidon Rothstein This past Shavuot, I had the good fortune to be hosted by Ner Yisrael in London and their rabbi, Eliezer Zobin. At one point, I was discussing the Aseret Ha-Dibberot, and found myself in a vigorous disagreement over asking a fellow Jew if s/he wishes to sell some item. I said we may ask once, but no ...

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To Appoint Only Torah-Knowledgeable Judges

by R. Gidon Rothstein Lo takiru panim ba-mishpat, says Devarim 1;17 commands, a phrase I would have taken as the English does, judges must not favor one litigant [especially in the context of the passage, where the previous verse has Moshe ordering judges to handle their cases well, the rest of this verse also referring to ways to ensure fairness within a ...

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Courts Cannot Take Payment to Absolve Murderers

by R. Gidon Rothstein I am surprised when the Torah defines as a separate mitzvah a matter I would have thought already subsumed under some other mitzvah, and am self-centered enough to think you will share my surprise, making it worth our while to consider two mitzvot from Parshat Mas’ei, mitzvot which both could have been included in another one and/or could have been ...

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Nullifying Oaths

by R. Gidon Rothstein The early books of Nevi’im give examples of how unyielding Jews thought oaths. When the people of Giv’on trick Yehoshu’a into making a covenant with them, rather than disregard it as obtained under false pretenses, the Jews honor the oath. The haftarah of Hukkat has Yiftach vow to offer to God whoever greets him first upon his return, only to [after the ...

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The Obligation of Inheritance and the Ease of Avoiding It

by R. Gidon Rothstein Counting a rule as part of an existing mitzvah or a mitzvah of its own does have some halachic ramifications, although it takes some work to find them. Those details always seem less compelling than the underlying question of whether a part of a mitzvah might be significant enough to count on its own. For our current example, ...

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The Prohibition of Intermarriage

by R. Gidon Rothstein Intermarriage Betrays God The end of Parshat Balak gives us a first example of a large segment of the Jewish people choosing to marry (or fornicate) with non-Jews. We also see how what starts out as “only” promiscuity or emotional attachment progresses to religion, the Jews coming to worship the Moabite god. (In my other column this week, Meshech ...

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Making a Parah Adumah

by R. Gidon Rothstein Hechsher mitzvah, necessary preparations for a mitzvah (cutting a lulav off a palm tree, let’s say, or making tefillin), is not usually its own mitzvah, we just know we need to do whatever it is to then be able to fulfill the mitzvah. Parah Adumah offers an exception; slaughtering the red heifer, burning its carcass to ash to have available for removing tum’at ...

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