Meshech Chochmah

Building the Mishkan, Before and After the Calf

by R. Gidon Rothstein Death By Human and Heavenly Courts An early verse in the parsha, 35;2, warns of death for any Jew who performs melachah, creative labor, on Shabbat. Meshech Hochmah addresses the verse’s use of the passive form, yumat, will be put to death, where the Torah usually signals a court-administered death penalty with the words mot yumat, a doubled verb to signal active penalty. ...

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When We Matter and When We Don’t

by R. Gidon Rothstein People Are More Important Than Shabbat Meshech Hochmah points out two inconsistencies in Shemot 31;14. The verse obligates Jews to observe Shabbat, “ki kodesh hi lachem, it is sanctified for you,” which sounds like Shabbat is for the Jewish people. The next words assign the death penalty to anyone who treats Shabbat mundanely, justifying it because “for anyone who ...

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Some Roles of the Clothing of the Kohanim

by R. Gidon Rothstein I once visited the Temple Institute (Machon HaMikdash) in the Old City of Jerusalem. They were selling packets labeled stones of the Hoshen, twelve stones in each, arranged like the Kohen Gadol’s breastplate. I was excited to have the actual stones of the Hoshen, see how it really looked. Luckily, before I blew the two dollars they wanted, ...

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Clarifying Roles, for People and Items of the Beit Ha-Mikdash

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Urim ve-Tumim at the Dedication Ceremony for the Beit Ha-Mikdash The process of sanctifying a Mishkan or a Beit Ha-Mikdash has many parts; among them Shevu’ot 14a says it requires both a prophet and the Urim ve-Tumim, the mechanism within the Hoshen Mishpat–the breastplate the Kohen Gadol wore—by which the High Priest received answers to questions the Jewish people asked of Gd. If they both serve ...

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Unnoticed Elements of Avdut, Kohanim, and Shemittah

by R. Gidon Rothstein Are There Jewish Slaves? We usually translate eved as slave, but for Jewish avadim I think a better term is indentured servitude, since it is carefully delineated in time and in the owner’s limited rights. Meshech Hochmah finds an indication there is an underlying slavery to it as well. He points out the Torah says an eved who chooses to remain with his master ...

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Bringing Jews to Believe

by R. Gidon Rothstein Installing Permanent Faith in Moshe The Torah links the Jews’ leaving Refidim to their arrival at Sinai. Rashi says it was to contrast their leaving, when they were a disunified crowd, signaled with the plural va-yis’u, they traveled, and arrived at Sinai as a nation, with the singular va-yihan, and he [meaning, the nation, but as a unified group] ...

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Where People Are Supposed to Take Control

by R. Gidon Rothstein Gd Will Always Help, Sometimes We Have to Start In two consecutive verses, Meshech Hochmah seems to take opposing stances on how actively humans should try to shape their future. When the people complain out of fear of the approaching Egyptians, 14;14, Moshe tells them Gd will fight for them, and they should be quiet. Meshech Hochmah says Moshe meant ...

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Jews Who Leave, and the Way Back

by R. Gidon Rothstein Calendar, Eyewitnesses or Fixed The first mitzvah given the Jewish people comes in 12;1, Gd tells Moshe this month shall be the first month of the year. Rambam thought the obligation included fixing the calendar according to eyewitness testimony. If no one saw the new moon on the night of the thirtieth (or those who did, ...

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The Exceptional and the Ordinary

by R. Gidon Rothstein Maybe the Few Outstanding Are Worth It All Some educational institutions focus on the excellent students, put most of their energies into those expected to go on to great things, giving desultory attention to the more average or ordinary students. While I think most of us find the extreme version of such a view upsettingly intolerable, Meshech ...

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