Ve-Zot Ha-Berachah: Metaphysics as a Marker of the Jewish People

by R. Gidon Rothstein More than most Torah portions, our three commentators brought up issues in Ve-Zot Ha-Berachah we would not see as purely natural. Their view of the Torah’s final description of Moshe Rabbenu, and of the nation the Jewish people were going to form, suggest it is more than coincidental, we are being reminded, as the Torah closes, of the ...

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Haazinu: Words to Ring In Our Ears

by R. Gidon Rothstein Hearing Moshe’s Words Moshe opens the song of Ha’azinu, the song Hashem had told him to teach the Jewish people as a permanent witness of how history would treat them, with a call for his words to come down like rain, descend or settle like dew, 32;2. The idea of his words falling like rain or dew most ...

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Nitzavim: Covenant and Continuity

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Covenant The beginning of Nitzavim speaks of the Jewish people entering a covenant with Gd, described by the verse (29;12) as le-ma’an hakim otecha ha-yom lo le-am, in order to establish you (the Jewish people) for Him (Gd) a nation. Ever alert to phrases treating Gd too much like a person, Onkelos writes kodamohi, before Him, because of course ...

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Ki Tavo: First-Fruits and the Outcomes of Obedience or Disobedience

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Ki Tavo: Bikkurim and Tochahah, First-Fruits and the Outcomes of Obedience or Disobedience Arami Oved Avi and Bikkurim The parsha opens with the bikkurim ceremony, where farmers bring their first fruits to the Beit HaMikdash. The Torah tells the person bringing them to go to the kohen “asher yiheyh ba-yamim ha-hem,” who will be in those days, 26;3. Ramban suggests the redundancy—to whom else would the Jew give the bikkurim?–was to tell Jews they ...

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Ki Teitzei: Family Isn’t Simple

by R. Gidon Rothstein Ki Tetzei starts with the yefat to’ar, a woman taken captive during war. It starts us off nicely on the topic of marriage and family, the small part of the parsha I am going to address here. Yefat To’ar—Yielding to Intractable Inclination When 21;11 says the soldier may marry her, Rashi thinks it a concession to soldiers’ irresistible urges, to ...

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Shofetim: Building and Defending a Just Society

by R. Gidon Rothstein From its start, Parshat Shofetim turns our attention to the steps needed to develop and sustain the kind of society Gd wants. The first words of the parsha start us off, shofetim ve-shoterim, the obligation to establish judges and enforcers. Justice in Israel and Out Ramban points out the verse, 16;18, speaks of such judges be-chol she’arecha, in all your gates. We ...

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Ekev: Gd, People, and Land

by R. Gidon Rothstein First Step of a Relationship with Gd: No Others One clear undercurrent of the parsha reminds the Jewish people to build a good relationship with Gd. It starts with rejecting any other forms of worship. Onkelos emphasizes the point, naming false gods differently than the Torah itself, 7;16. The Torah calls them eloheihem, their gods, using the same word ...

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Va-Ethanan: The Road to Service of Gd

by R. Gidon Rothstein Punishment Comes, Although We Can Hope It Does Not Late in the parsha, 7;9, the Torah says Gd pays His enemies to their faces, to destroy them. Onkelos adds tavan di inun avdin, the good they have done, before destroying them. For evildoers, reward comes in this world, because Gd never fails to give all deserved reward. It contrasts ...

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