Lag B’omer

Lag B’omer is a day of rejoicing (see Rama Orach Chaim 493:2). Depending on the various minhagim, the mourning customs of sefirah either conclude or are put on hold for a day, tachanun is omitted, and for those who can, being in Meiron – the burial place of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai – is an unforgettable experience. Let us now discuss some of the background and minhagim of this most interesting holiday.

25/05/2016

The Purim Feast

Of all the mitzvos of the day of Purim, the mitzvah that perhaps occupies us the most is the mitzvah of se’udaspurim, the Purim feast. This is not to say that this is necessarily the… Read more »

20/03/2016

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.

Dealing with Bad Dreams

  Parashas Vayeishev discusses some important dreams. Yaakov Avinu “kept the matter” of Yosef’s dreams, anticipating their future fulfillment. Ultimately the dreams were indeed realized when Yaakov and his sons… Read more »

04/12/2015

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.

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?

09/11/2015