Loving the Convert

  In Parashas Eikev the verse instructs us to “love the ger” (Devarim 10:19). This is understood as reference to the convert to Judaism: Beyond the general instruction to love… Read more »


The Prohibition of Lo Tachmod

The last of the Ten Commandments which we read in Parashas Yisro, is the commandment of Lo Tachmod: “You shall not covet your fellow’s house; you shall not covet your fellow’s wife … and all that belongs to your fellow.”

In the Commandments of Devarim we find a parallel in Lo Tis’aveh: “You shall not desire your fellow’s house … and all that belongs to your fellow.”

In this article we will address these prohibitions: The prohibition of Lo Tachmod and the prohibition of Lo Tis’aveh. What is the difference between the two prohibitions? What are the conditions for transgressing the prohibitions? Does the prohibition of Lo Tachmod apply even where the owner gives the item in question of his own choice? Does somebody who covets the wealth of his fellow transgress the prohibition?

These questions, and others, are discussed below


Vayechi – The Yissachar – Zevulun Arrangement: Charity or Contract?

This week’s parashah quotes the blessings that Yaakov gave to his sons. Rashi, commenting on
the blessing to Zevulun, mentions the unique relationship between Yissachar and Zevulun. We take
the opportunity to discuss the Yissachar-Zevulun partnership. What is the nature of this partnership,
whereby Yissachar takes a portion of Zevulun’s income, and Zevulun takes a portion of Yissachar’s
Torah? How, indeed, is this portion taken? Does the agreement cause Yissachar to lose some of
his eternal reward? Which of the two partners is considered the “greater” of the two? These
questions, and more, are discussed in this week’s article.

Vayeishev – A Halachic Perspective on Modern-Day Ransoms: Too High a Price?

One of the most tragic and delicate halahcic questions of the modern day, which must be addressed both by halachic decisors and by political leaders of the State of Israel, is the question of redeeming soldiers or civilians that are taken hostage by terrorist groups. Invariably, the demands of terrorists include the release of imprisoned terrorists, who generally await their return to their former profession. What does halachah have to say on this matter? Can the monetary ransom demanded by conventional captors be compared with the modern-day requests for release of terrorists? Indeed, how would the demand for monetary payment be seen in today’s halachic eye. Inspired by this week’s parashah, which chronicles the most famous case of ‘kidnapping’ in the history of the world–the sale of Yosef to Egypt–we seek to address these issues in this week’s article.

The Maariv Prayer: Obligation or Optional

In Parashas Vayeitzei we find Yaakov Avinu making his way to Charan, to the house of Lavan, where he was destined to dwell for many years and to establish the future Jewish nation.

En route from Be’er Sheva to Charan, Yaakov stops at Beit-El, as the Torah states (Bereishis 28:11): “he came upon [va-yifga] a certain place.” A well-known Gemara (Berachos 26a) comments that the word “va-yifga” refers to prayer, and thus, this verse informs us that Yaakov Avinu enacted the evening prayer service, Arvis or Maariv.

In spite of this enactment, the Maariv prayer has a special status among the three daily prayers. In contrast with the Shachris (morning) and Mincha (afternoon) prayers, Chazal debate whether the night prayer is obligatory or optional, and (as will be seen later) this debate leads to a number of halachic ramifications.

What is the obligation (or otherwise) of the Arvis prayer? Why is there no Chazaras Ha-Shatz in the Maariv prayer? What is the difference between the Shacharis and Maariv prayers concerning the halachah of juxtaposing redemption and prayer? These questions, and others, are discussed below.

Bar Mitzvah: Maturity of Body or Mind

We all know the importance of the age of thirteen for a boy and the age of twelve for a girl. These are the times when a boy or girl comes of age, and becomes responsible for his or her own actions and obligated in the mitzvos of the Torah.

Yet, although the ages are well-known, the sources that reveal their importance is less familiar. One of the sources for the significance of the age thirteen in a boy’s coming of age – in fact, the only Biblical source for the concept – is found in Parashas Vayishlach, as mentioned by Rashi (Nazir 29b) and the Ra’av (Avos 5:21).

When Shimon and Levi came assailed the city of Shechem, the pasuk states (Bereishis 34:25): “The two sons of Yaakov, Shimon and Levi, took each man his sword.” Levi was exactly thirteen years old at the time, and we thus learn that a thirteen-year-old is called a man.

In the current article we will discuss the concept of a child’s “coming of age.” What defines a child’s entering the obligation of mitzvos – age or physical maturity? Is there halachic significance to each of these independently? Are there differences between different mitzvos and halachic concepts, or is halachic maturity uniform for all matters?

Torah Study for Women

In Parashas Toldos we find Rivkah going to “seek out [the word of] Hashem” concerning the twins that agitated in her womb (Bereishis 25:22). The verse does not reveal where she went, but Rashi (based on Chazal) explains that she visited the beis midrash of Shem.

Different passages of the Midrash teach us that Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef and Yehudah all studied at different periods in the study halls of Shem and Eiver. Although Rivkah went there to receive Divine counsel, neither she, nor any other woman, is recorded as having taken part in the actual study of the renowned study hall. The field of Torah study (even before the Torah was given) was reserved for the Fathers of the nation; the Mothers were not involved in it.

In the present article we will discuss the issue of Torah study for women. Is there a prohibition against Torah study for women? Is it permitted for a woman to study Torah on her own? Is there a difference between different parts of Torah? Is there room to distinguish in this matter between past generations and our own?