Kohanim and Levi’im, Staying in Their Lanes

by R. Gidon Rothstein A question I suggest sit in the background as we study this mitzvah, to return to once we are done: what is a mitzvah? What criterion did Hashem use in deciding what would make it into the 613? I ask it here because the mitzvah we are about to discuss might seem nitpicking, and I believe any time ...

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Not to Stray After Our Minds and Hearts

by R. Gidon Rothstein I built my book, We’re Missing the Point, on the idea significance to Judaism depends on how often we are involved in a certain element of service of Hashem. I think I first encountered the idea in college, when I came across a field called content analysis, which analyzes what we say most often to find out ...

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The Mitzvah of Pesah Sheni

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Be-Ha’alotecha: Second chances, an opportunity to make up for what we missed. In many cases, halachah quotes Kohelet 1;15, a twisted thing cannot be made straight, what’s done is done. The Pesah sacrifice was one occasion where that is not true, where God commanded us to take advantage of another chance. The Relationship Between the Two Pesahs Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, Obligation 57, says God ...

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Vidui on Sins

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Naso: Repentance Precedes Vidui Rambam does not count a mitzvah to repent, only to say vidui when one repents. Sefer Ha-Hinuch, Mitzvah 364, includes regret in “repents,” and stresses vidui can come only after the person has made any needed restitution; better not to state the sin and commit to refrain from it in the future, the definition of vidui, as we will see, than to ...

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To Redeem a First Born

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Bamidbar has no mitzvot in Sefer Ha-Hinuch, so She’iltot will open the door for us. Probably because this parsha has the replacement of the first-born by the Levi’im, he records the mitzvah of pidyon ha-ben, redeeming human first-born. It fits nicely with last time, when we looked at ma’aser behemah, some of whose rules were derived from verses about bechor behemah, first-born animals. Aruch Ha-Shulhan Yoreh De’ah 305;1 gives ...

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Ma’aser Behemah Draws Us To Jerusalem’s Torah, If We Want It To

by R. Gidon Rothstein A Mitzvah Suspended Only oxen, goats, and sheep may be offered as sacrifices, Sefer Ha-Hinuch 309 points out. For the purposes of the mitzvah of tithing newborn animals, goats and sheep are interchangeable (they can be tithed together), since the Torah refers to either as tzon (a word translated as “sheep,” not to be confused with sheep sheep). The end ...

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The Prohibition of Sefihin During a Shemittah Year

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Behar: The Prohibition of Sefihin During a Shemittah Year The Land of Israel observes shemittah this year, bringing another round of all the unfortunate battles of how best to handle its laws when Jewish agriculture has, thank God, returned to Israel. Here, I will take up just one element of shemittah, where its Torah law status is debated (there are three other mitzvot regarding shemittah in this ...

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Kohanim Becoming Tamei for Deceased Relatives

by R. Gidon Rothstein The beginning of Parshat Emor prohibits kohanim from becoming tamei, ritually impure, by contact with those who have passed away. In the next verses, the Torah carves out an important exception, obligates every kohen to become tamei should any of his close relatives pass away, “close” defined as parents, spouse(s), siblings, or children. (Minhat Hinuch wonders whether the idea applies to others who are prohibited from ...

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Prohibited Sexual Relationships

by R. Gidon Rothstein (Editor’s note: Due to my confusion around the holiday and the disconnect between Israeli and Diaspora Torah readings, this should have been posted during Chol HaMo’ed. I am posting it now to catch up. Going forward, R. Rothstein’s articles will follow the Israeli Torah reading while my Divrei Torah and R. Safran’s articles will follow the ...

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Fearing Our Parents

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Kedoshim: Fearing Our Parents Parenting styles change, and nothing I write here means to imply the Torah thought parent/child relationships should lack warmth or love. At the same time, the Torah assumes an element of the relationship many today do not recognize (or might even reject, Gd forbid). Fear or Awe? The word yir’ah usually means fear; ...

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