Ramban Shemot

Varieties of the Supervisory Experience

by R. Gidon Rothstein Ramban to Pekudei: Varieties of the Supervisory Experience Betzalel’s Hands-On Supervision The beginning of Pekudei tells us Betzalel did all that Hashem commanded Moshe. The next verse names others he had with him, but this verse sounds like he did it all. Ramban explains that he was the one who taught the various artisans what they should do. That ...

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The Roles of Fire and Money

by R. Gidon Rothstein Ramban to Vayakhel: The Roles of Fire and Money Rounding Out a Prohibition At the beginning of Vayakhel, Moshe gathers the people to remind them of proper Shabbat observance. In 35;2, he says not to perform melachah, creative labor, on Shabbat, and verse three adds that they may not burn fires. Ramban records two ways Chazal explained why fire was singled out ...

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Coins, Craftsmanship, and Calf

by R. Gidon Rothstein The beginning of Ki Tissa might be more familiar than most sections of the Torah, because it’s also the special reading for Parashat Shekalim (which, this year, was three weeks ago). Hashem tells Moshe to collect a half shekel “of the shekel hakodesh, the sanctified shekel.” Ramban makes two thought-provoking claims. Coinage Marks a Nation First, he says Moshe established this as ...

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In Which We Meet the Kohanim

by R. Gidon Rothstein In Shemot 28;1, Hashem lays out the process for inducting Aharon and his sons to the priesthood. Ramban points out that the sons had to be in this ceremony, that Aharon’s investiture did not turn all his living descendants into priests. A baby born to a kohen father is a kohen (barring certain disqualifications), but having a kohen father does not do it. That distinction mattered only for that ...

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The Beginnings of the Mishkan

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Mishkan Started at Sinai Parshat Terumah opens with Hashem telling Moshe to collect donations for the building of a Mishkan (referred to in 25;8 as a Mikdash, a sanctified place, as the later structure in Yerushalayim would be called). The verse’s reason for building it is so that Hashem will reside in their midst. Ramban to 25;2 expands that basic idea, ...

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Versions of Limited Autonomy

by R. Gidon Rothstein Shemot 21;3 tells us about when a master sends free his eved Ivri, that his wife goes with him. The term “eved Ivri” is commonly translated as a Hebrew “slave,” but this parshain particular reminds us that multiple versions of servitude qualify as “eved”; translating it as slave weights it with the experience of African-Americans in the United States, even ...

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Let’s Talk a Bit About Hashem

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Yitro records the events of Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah, including the Aseret HaDibberot (which should properly be known as the Ten Sayings, Pronouncements, Utterances or some such, since dibberot does not mean commandments). For all that I usually try to spread my choice of comments throughout the parsha, I got caught up in the first few Dibberot, since they expand our ...

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Meeting the Supernatural in Different Contexts

by R. Gidon Rothstein A Future Full of Compassion The Jewish people left Egypt visibly accompanied by Hashem, a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. When 13;21 describes that, it says “and Hashem (the Hebrew adds a vav on to the four-letter Name of Hashem).” Bereshit Rabbah 51;2 says that a vav added to the Name indicates the Heavenly Court. To Ramban, that ...

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Changing History, By Redemption and By Sin

by R. Gidon Rothstein Nisan as the First Month The first mitzvah commanded to the Jewish people as a nation was to make the month in which we left Egypt the first month of our year. Ramban to 12;2 says that it’s supposed to be similar to Shabbat, in that we are always counting to that day—what we call Sunday ...

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