One of the Pesukim listing the children of Yaakov who descended with him to Egypt mentions the sons of Asher, and adds “their sister Serach” (46:17). Although this verse doesn’t… Read more »
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 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 »
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?
This week’s Parashah includes the terrible description of how Sodom was destroyed. The verses do not tell us much
about the deeds of Sodom’s inhabitants, yet Chazal reveal their underlying attitude: “What is mine, is mine, and what is
yours, is yours.” We dedicate this week’s article to the discussion of midas sedom, the character trait of Sodom, in both
a moral and halachic sense. What is midas sedom, and why does it constitute such a grave character flaw? What
halachic ramifications does this trait have? Does beis din enforce ethical behavior, or not? And how does this impact
our everyday lives?
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 first instruction recorded in the Torah is peru urevu, which (according to the Gemara in Gittin and Kiddushin) remains the source, even after Matan Torah, for the mitzvah of procreation. Yet, unlike other mitzvos, peru urevu appears to command something that is not entirely in our hands to fulfill–we can only try to beget children, but their actual birth is not in our hands. The essay will discuss a deeper layer of the mitzvah, and seek to explain the Divine element uniquely present in the instruction to beget children.
One of the basic halachic principles that accompany us daily is the principle of arvus, mutual responsibility among the nation of Israel. The concept of mutual responsibility is manifest on several layers of our national life, and this week we discuss its halachic expression. What are the halachic ramifications of arvus? How does the concept of arvus influence the obligation to rebuke wrongdoers? And what about women? These, and other related issues, are discussed in this week’s article.
n the present days many we are all occupied, to varying degrees, with the search for the Four Species. However, finding kosher or mehudar Species is not the end of the story. The Torah requires us to gain a full ownership of the Species–a feat not necessarily as simple as it sounds. This week we discuss the possible pitfalls in buying and paying for the Four Species, and the methods by which the full transfer of ownership can be ensured. May checks be used as payment? What about credit cards? And why is it so important to pay on time? These questions, and more, are dealt with in this week’s article.
This week’s article discusses the mitzvah of teshuvah, and in particular the recitation of viduy. In the halachic part of the article we will clarify how viduy is an integral and essential part of the teshuvah process. The second part of the article is dedicated to exploring why viduy is so central to teshuvah, and to finding an approach to the many (ten) orders of viduy recited over Yom Kippur.
R’ Yisrael’s Small Acceptances Reading through the letters of R’ Yisrael Salanter, it is remarkable to note the importance their great author affords the matter of making a “small acceptance”… Read more »
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.
In this week’s article we turn our attention to questions of “who joins?” and “who leads?” the zimun ceremony. Who should be the one chosen to perform the ceremony? Who is considered the ba’al ha-bayis, and what rights does he have in selecting the mezamen? Can women and children form part of a zimun group, and what is the halachah of women eating on their own? These questions, and more, are elucidated in this week’s article.
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 »
The issue of bishul akum is a halachic topic that often crops up in connection with institutions such as old-age homes, hotels, and so on. This week’s article presents the background to the prohibition, the various heterim that are used in operating non-Jewish staff in kosher kitchens, and other commonly asked questions concerning the prohibition.
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 »