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

parshas Vayeira – “Give Me a Break!” – Parameters of Midas Sedom

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?

parashas Lech Lecha – Self‐Injury and Cosmetic Surgery in Halachah

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 Mitzvah of Destiny

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.

Nitzavim – Mutual Responsibility

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.

Purchasing the Four Species

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.

23/09/2015

Yom Kippur: The Secret of our Viduy

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.

21/09/2015

Selichos Primer

    As Rosh Hashana approaches we gradually introduce daily reminders to prepare for this Day of Judgement. Starting Rosh Chodesh Elul, the shofar’s blow resonates in our shuls and… Read more »

03/09/2015

Keeping Your Word

In this week’s parsha we are cautioned to not take lightly what we say. The Torah states: “Actualize that which emerges from your lips” (Devorim 23:24). The Torah teaches us… Read more »

27/08/2015

Shoftim – Of Signs and Lots

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.

Shmittas Kesafim – Foregoing Loans

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.

13/08/2015