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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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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