The Mitzvah of Kiddush/Zachor on Shabbat

by R. Gidon Rothstein She’ilta 166 sets us on our course for a mitzvah for Ve-Zot Ha-Berachah, where he lays out the obligation to welcome Shabbat over a cup of wine. Kiddush, Maybe Havdallah Sefer Ha-Mitzvot 155 agrees there is a Biblical mitzvah to sanctify Shabbat by declaring its entry and adds the mitzvah includes noting its departure as well. Because the verse says zachor, ...

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Yeyn Nesech, Wine Libated to a Power Other than God

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Ha’azinu has no specific mitzvot of its own, so we turn to R. Ahai Gaon, whose She’ilta 162 reminds us it is prohibited for Jews (he writes beit Yisra’el, the House of Israel) to drink yeyn nesech, wine libated [poured or even just turned over; I have heard Prof. Haym Soloveitchik point out the Gemara assumed it could happen in an instant, because ...

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The Obligation to Write a Sefer Torah

by R. Gidon Rothstein This week is a two for one, because just before the mitzvah from this week’s parsha, that every male Jew own/write a Torah, Rambam records the obligation for a king to write one. I hope that looking at them together will give us productive comparisons and contrasts. The Two Mitzvot Obligation 17 in Sefer Ha-Mitzvot records the command for each ...

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The Mitzvah of Hakhel

by R. Gidon Rothstein Sefer Ha-Hinuch folds Va-Yelech into Nitzavim, listing the two mitzvot in Va-Yelech as if they were in Nitzavim—he does not let on that there is such a parsha as Va-Yelech. If we remember that he thought Mishpatim was two parashiyyot, Mishpatim and Im Kessef, we see there he “gained” one, here he has “lost” one. This year, I’ll take one of those mitzvot for Nitzavim, the mitzvah of Hakhel, the other (writing a sefer Torah) for Va-Yelech. This is a good year to study Hakhel, ...

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Emulating Gd’s Ways

by R. Gidon Rothstein Teaser: I have more a personal stake in this mitzvah than most, for reasons I will share along the way. For now, let’s see how our usual teachers wrote about the obligation to emulate God’s Ways. For Rambam, Obligation Eight commands us le-hidamot bo yit’aleh, “to emulate Him,” more literally “to become like Him, the Exalted One.” Rambam ...

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The Obligation to Bury

by R. Gidon Rothstein Last week, I took on a mitzvah we find ways not to observe, this week let’s discuss a mitzvah Jewish communities work to observe in the best possible way, burying the dead. From the Criminals to the Rest of Us Rambam in Obligation 231 points out we derive a general obligation to bury those who have ...

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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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