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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Category: Middot

Chametz and Matzah: The Risks and Rewards of Engaging the World

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on April 22, 2011

The Torah calls Passover the “Feast of Matzot” and it commands us both to eat matzot on the first night and to not eat chametz, or leavened bread, for the entire 7 day holiday. The Torah’s prohibitions regarding chametz seem inordinately severe: the punishment for eating it is greater than for eating most prohibited foods.…

Zevachim and Personal and Communal Obligations

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on February 18, 2011

The end of Zevachim addresses the issue of personal versus collective responsibility.  On 97b, the Gemara asks why a Kohen cannot eat the meat of a sacrifice that has absorbed the juices of an invalid sacrifice.  While it is prohibited to eat an invalid sacrifice, i.e., the absorbed juices, shouldn’t the mitzvah of eating the kosher sacrifice override, based on the principle of aseh dokhe lo ta’aseh, a positive mitzvah overrides a negative one? …

Character, Fate, and Free Will

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on December 17, 2010

In previous few parshiyot we have been exploring the character of the different protagonists in Breishit – Yaakov, Reuven, Yosef, and Yehuda. In this week’s parsha, VaYechi, which brings a close to the Yosef story and to the book of Breishit, we have an opportunity to explore the interplay between character, fate, and free will.…

“No Longer Shall Your Name be Yaakov, but Yisrael” – Personal Transformation while Living with our Past

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on November 18, 2010

Yaakov Aveinu is a challenging character – one who is traditionally associated with the quality of emet – titen emet li’Yaakov – but who often seems to more be a person of trickery or deceit.  From purchasing the birthright, to stealing the blessing, to using the staves with Lavan’s sheep, he, like his name, works around the truth to get to the desired end result. …

Staying the Course, but Not Repeating Past Mistakes

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on November 5, 2010

Another year, we explored the theme of Yitzchak’s life as a continuation and institutionalization of Avraham’s vision: Yitzchak could not go out of Canaan – he could not explore new vistas. He had to stay in Canaan and invest all of his energies in building, in establishing, in redigging the wells.…

“Rather to my land and to my birthplace you shall go” – A Religion based on Family

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on October 29, 2010

Avraham, at the end of his life, is worried that Yitzchak find a proper wife, and sends his servant back to his homeland to find a wife from his country and his relatives.   Thus, Parshat Chayei Sarah is, in a way, a reverse lekh lekha. …

“Walk with Me and become perfect” – Being Perfect or Becoming Perfect?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on October 15, 2010

Avraham bursts onto the scene in the opening of Parshat Lekh Lekha.  He follows God’s command, goes to the Land of Canaan, and everywhere is calling out in the name of God, and bringing monotheism to the world. Late in the parsha, God appears to Avraham and commands him in the brit milah. …

How to Encounter God? Build a House.

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on February 19, 2010

Parshat Terumah begins the second half of the book of Shemot, and from here on in the book of Shemot has one focus: the building of the mishkan:“And they shall make me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8).…

The Interdependence of Actions

by Rabbi Avi Weiss
Posted on January 23, 2010

In this week’s portion, the Torah begins to present commandments given to the Jewish people. One wonders why so many commandments are proscribed in such detail. The Sefer Ha-Hinukh (13th century) offers a comment that reveals a basic message about the purpose of commandments.…

God’s Hand and Our Responsibility

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on December 18, 2009

The story of Yosef and his brothers continues in Mikeitz when Yosef is taken from the dungeon and raised to be the viceroy of Egypt. It is then that his dreams begin to become reality, as his brothers come to Egypt and bow down to Yosef, eventually bringing their youngest brother, Binyamin, with them.…

Yaakov, Striving and the Miracle of Chanukah

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on December 11, 2009

In parshat Veyeishev, Yaakov, having finally endured the hardship and travails in the house of Lavan, and having finally returned to his homeland, the land of Canaan, and having reconciled with his brother Esav who (implicitly) agreed to relinquish his claim to the land, is now able to finally settle in the land of his fathers and to put all his troubles behind him: “And Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan.” However, as soon as this point is reached, the narrative turns to Yosef and his brothers, and Yaakov completely fades into the background: “These are the generations of Yaakov – Yosef was seventeen years…” Perhaps responding to this shift in the narrative, Chazal – as Rashi reminds us – comment on the first pasuk, “Vayeshev Yaakov – bikesh Yaakov lashevet bishalva” – Yaakov wanted to dwell in tranquility, but God would not allow it because “there is enough tranquility for the righteous in the World-to-Come.” What is the meaning of this midrash?…

Yitzchak: The Father of Continuity

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on November 20, 2009

Yitzchak’s story is one of the major themes of parshat Toldot. Until now, the stories involving Yitzchak have really been stories of other people – Avraham offering up Yitzchak at the akeida, and Avraham’s servant finding a wife for Yitzchak. Now, finally, it is Yitzchak’s turn to write his own story, to have his own narrative.…