The opening of Parashas Vayishlach speaks about the envoys Yaakov Avinu sent to his brother Eisav. Opinions differ as to whether these were human or angelic envoys, and the… Read more »
Category: Dvar Torah
The Torah in Parashas Toldos presents Esav as a hunter: “Esav was a hunter, a man of the field” (Bereishis 25:27). This is in contrast to Yaakov, who is described… Read more »
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?
Parashas Vayeitzei brings us to the story of Yaakov, the third and last of the three Avos. Specifically, it chronicles the years Yaakov spent in the house of Lavan,… Read more »
Parashas Toldos opens with one of the most renowned transactions of all time: The sale of the birthright from Eisav to Yaakov. Commentaries write at length about this sale,… Read more »
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?
If Avraham Avinu performed all the mitzvos of the Torah, why did he not circumcise himself before being instructed to do so by Hashem? One answer given to this question leads us to investigate the prohibition of injuring oneself. Is there a prohibition of self-injury? What is the nature of the prohibition, and which cases are included in it? And what is the halachic status of cosmetic) plastic) surgery, which involved causing an injury to oneself? These questions ,and more, are considered in this week’s article.
The admonitions we read in Parashas Ki Savo include the curse of blindness: “Hashem will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart” (Devarim 28:28). Even… Read more »
Weights and measures have always played a central role in the world of commerce. Because of their fundamental importance, we are able to trace a history spanning thousands of years… Read more »
This week’s Parashah includes the instruction to be “tamim” with Hashem. What does this instruction involve? Does it prohibit consulting a horoscope? What about relying on omens, good or bad? And what of using various forms of goralos? These, and other related issues, are studied in this week’s article.
As the Shmittah year approaches its close, one last mitzvah awaits us. This mitzvah, unlike the rest of the laws of Shmittah, is completely independent of agriculture and produce. Rather its intention is to strengthen our character and desire to give (see Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 477). Furthermore, this mitzvah entrenches in us the awareness that everything belongs to Hashem, rendering unfit the pursuit of material wealth (Tumim 67:1). The Torah tells us, “At the end of seven years you will institute a remission [shmittah]. This is the matter of the of the remission, every creditor shall forgo his claim for what he has lent his friend, he shall not press his friend or his brother, for He has proclaimed a remission for Hashem, you may demand payment from a gentile, and that which you have with your brother, you shall relinquish” (Devorim ch. 15).
The mitzvah of shmittas kesafim, forgoing claims on loans, has many facets and halochos. Does this Mitzvah apply today? Does it obligate one who lives in chutz l’aretz? When does it take effect? If I lent someone my car, do I have to let him keep it? I borrowed tomatoes from a neighbor; do I have to give them back? What if I want to pay back my loan, is that permitted or am I in violation of the Torah’s will? Bezras Hashem we will clarify these questions and discuss other ideas related to this mitzvah.
This week’s Parashah includes the mitzvah of loving the convert–a mitzvah that requires much clarification. Does the mitzvah imply an obligation to give precedence to a convert over a Jew from birth? Does it include an instruction to accept converts? And how does the love of a convert differ from the love of all Jews? These issues, and more, are discussed in the weekly article.
Doing the Good and the Just This week’s parashah includes a Pasuk whose instruction has profound ramifications in Torah monetary law: “You shall do the just and the good” (6:18)…. Read more »
לא תוסיפו על הדבר אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם ולא תגרעו ממנו You shall not add to that which I command you, nor shall you subtract from it In a perplexing… Read more »
ויאמר ד’ אלי לאמר: רב לכם סב את ההר הזה, פנו לכם צפונה: And God spoke to me [Moshe] saying: Enough of your circling around this mountain [Mt. Sa’ir], turn… Read more »
The prohibition against leaving the Land of Israel is well known and it is based upon several sources. However, the details of the prohibition, and the circumstances in which it… Read more »
The Torah instruction to recall the deed of Miriam (Devarim 24:9), who was punished by tsora’as after speaking lashon hara about her brother Moshe, is interpreted as a call to… Read more »
The Torah teaches: “When you sell something to your fellow, or buy from your fellow, do no wrong one man his fellow” (Vayikra 25:14). In a subsequent verse, the Torah states: “You shall not wrong one another.”
Dwelling on the two verses, the Gemara explains that the latter verse refers to onaas devarim. This means that causing somebody else emotional pain, by means of verbal, written, or any other form of communication, is a Torah prohibition. This basic prohibition is recorded by the Rambam and by the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 228:1).
The Gemara, moreover, writes that the prohibition of onaas devarim is more stringent even than the Torah transgression of monetary onaah (overcharging).
Several reasons are mentioned for this: The offense is worse since it attacks the person himself, rather than his money. Also the pasuk mentions the fear of G-d in the instruction of onaas devarim, which implies an added degree of severity. And finally, monetary wrongs can be restored by paying back, whereas anguish and grief caused, can never be recalled.
The Gemara adds that the punishment for causing suffering is executed more swiftly than that of monetary wrongs. Hashem, the Gemara explains, hears the call of one who calls Him out of pain and anguish.
In this article we will discuss the parameters and the laws of the prohibition of onaas devarim: Is the offense punishable by Beis Din? Which people does the Torah single out for special care in this context? Is it permitted to insult somebody else in retaliation for verbal assault? These questions, among others, are discussed below.
I am looking for a property to buy in Jerusalem. Recently, a friend notified me of a potential bargain: an elderly person, who is clearly unaware of current market prices, is selling his apartment for a very cheap price, approximately two-thirds the market value. May I purchase the apartment for the suggested price, or must I inform the buyer that the price is too low, and make an offer that reflects current market values?