Some Dangers of Thinking Wrongly

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Tzav: Some Dangers of Thinking Wrongly The Looming Threat of Heresy Chapter six of Va-Yikra speaks of olot, burnt offerings, menahot, flour offerings, and later in the chapter gets to hatat, the sin offering. Only some of the flour of menahot goes on the altar, 6;9 says Aharon and his sons will eat the rest. For the hatat, verse nineteen, the Torah instead says ...

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The Prohibition Against Eating Helev

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Tzav: The Prohibition Against Eating Helev Not Eating Helev, The Basic Prohibition Three consecutive verses discuss the prohibition of helev, certain fats. 7;23 articulates the prohibition of eating such fats from oxen, sheep, or goats. (Both Minhat Hinuch and Aruch Ha-Shulhan note this really means all kosher behemot, because there are no other types.) Verse 24 tells us we may use but not eat the helev of any of ...

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The Mitzvah to Testify

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Va-Yikra: The Mitzvah to Testify The 613 mitzvot are more symbolic than practical, as the count depends on technical rules Rambam lays out, with many Biblical obligations not meeting the criteria despite being fully Biblical. Still, there are only 613 of those; even add the ones other authors added (such as Ramban or Semag), we don’t hit ...

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Responding to Times of Trouble as a Biblical Commandment

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Pekudei: Responding to Times of Trouble as a Biblical Commandment Sefer Ha-Hinuch has no mitzvot for Parshat Pekudei, so we rely on R. Ahai Gaon’s She’iltot, because he has at least one per parsha. She’ilta 66 says the Jewish people are obligated to hold a fast day and be me’aneh their souls in times of trouble (the phrase comes from the Torah’s rules for Yom Kippur—we ...

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Not Putting Criminals to Death on Shabbat

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Va-Yakhel: Not Putting Criminals to Death on Shabbat Sefer Ha-Hinuch has only one mitzvah for Parshat Va-Yakhel, a prohibition against a court carrying out the death penalty on Shabbat. The Torah’s “wasting” one of the 613 on such a specific detail suggests this prohibition has an important message, although I avoid delving into such theological issues in this venue [in brief, I think whatever ...

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Meat and Milk, Cooking and Benefitting

by R. Gidon Rothstein Ki Tissa: Meat and Milk, Cooking and Benefitting The Torah’s prohibition of meat and milk shapes our experience of kashrut—it led to Jews’ two sets of dishes (and, recently, dishwashers, and even ovens or microwaves), separate restaurants for dairy or meat, and the concern (a near-phobia in my family) with “being fleishig,” getting oneself into a state of ...

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Clothing of the Kohanim

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Tetzaveh: Clothing of the Kohanim This is the second week in a row we have a mitzvah related to the Mishkan/Mikdash structures and elements of a religious life that are unfortunately distant from our lived experience of Judaism. I note them because at least for this first run through the Torah, I hope to find mitzvot connected to the parsha. In addition, ...

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Building a Bet Ha-Mikdash

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Terumah: Building a Bet Ha-Mikdash Parshat Terumah opens with Gd commanding the Jewish people to gather funds and materials to build a Mikdash, where Gd will be shochen among them, loosely translated to reside or invest the Divine Presence. Sefer Ha-Mitzvot Obligation 20 defines it as a commandment to build a Beit Avodah, a House of Service, to offer sacrifices, where a fire ...

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The Court Must Judge Monetary Claims

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Mishpatim: Courts’ Obligation to Judge Monetary Claims Sometimes a mitzvah calls on the Jewish people to act in a certain way, and in some of those cases, the courts are the ones who represent the nation. For these kinds of mitzvot, there are details understood to be Biblical as well, but it is the overall obligation ...

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Not Believing In or Worshipping Powers Other Than Gd

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Yitro: Not Believing in or Worshipping Other Powers Than Gd Parshat Yitro of course hosts the Aseret Ha-Dibberot, the Ten Pronouncements Gd made to the entire Jewish people, one of which is the prohibition against “having” other gods. When Sefer ha-Hinuch records a mitzvah, I don’t intend to consult She’iltot, but his formulation here seemed particularly apposite. He says Jews may ...

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