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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Category: Machshava/Jewish Thought

Mixed Blessings?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on September 2, 2015

In the middle of the extended section on the calamities and curses that will befall the Israelites if they fail to observe the mitzvot, we find a curious set of verses: Because you served not the Lord your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shall you serve your enemies which the Lord shall send against you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things (Devarim, 28:47-48).…

When Does Less Become More?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on August 12, 2015

Twice in the book of Devarim, Moshe warns the people to keep the totality of the Torah, not adding to or detracting from it. In Parashat Re’eh we read, “Whatsoever I command you, that thing you shall observe to do; you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it” (13:1), echoing a parallel prohibition in Parashat Va’Etchanan (Devarim, 4:2).…

The Ger, Inclusion, and True Religiosity

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on August 5, 2015

Recent events in Israel force us all to question what true religiosity means. Is it measured by the degree to which we separate ourselves from larger society, by the stringencies we adopt, or by how fervently we pray? Or does how we treat other human beings, how we relate to those at the margins, play a large part in how we measure it?…

When Does the Oral Torah Begin?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on July 22, 2015

What happens when we repeat a story or lesson in our own words? Does it improve with the retelling, or does it worsen? Is the message lost, or is it made more relevant? What is the point of retelling? Why not repeat things verbatim?…

Looking Back to Move Forward

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on July 15, 2015

After forty years of wandering through the wilderness, the Children of Israel arrive at the Plains of Moab. The Promised Land is so close they can almost taste it, and most of Parashat Masei is devoted to what awaits them on the other side of the Jordan.…

Truth in the Way of Peace

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on July 8, 2015

Parashat Pinchas has much to say about zealotry and peace, and the messages certainly remain worthy of examination today. Consider the following situation: A religious zealot witnesses a person flagrantly violating religious standards of behavior and, acting in the name of God, picks up the nearest available weapon and violently slays the sinner. …

Believing is Seeing

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on July 1, 2015

The Rabbis tell us in Pirkei Avot (5:22) “Whoever has….an ayin tova, a good eye….is a student of Avraham; whoever has an ayin ra’ah, a bad eye….is a student of Balaam.” Avraham sees well, whereas Balaam sees poorly. How so? On the face of it, the stories of Avraham and Balaam are parallel.…

Leadership for Self-Reliance

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on June 25, 2015

Transitions are hard. As the period of wandering in the desert begins to draw to a close, Bnei Yisrael encounter many changes and they anticipate many more. Their leaders begin to die: Miriam and Aharon both die in this week’s parasha, and Moshe will pass away a few months hence.…

Truth AND Peace

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on June 17, 2015

Parashat Korach is not just about rebels; it also affords us a look at different models of leadership. Both Moshe and Aharon are attacked. The latter remains markedly silent during the confrontation while Moshe defends both his position and his brother’s.…

A Leadership of Faith, Not Fear

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on June 11, 2015

Parashat Shelach is as much a story of leaders as of the people. It is a story of leaders both poor and good. The poor leaders-ten of the twelve spies-saw the challenges that confronted them in the land of Canaan and ran: “We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Bamidbar, 13:31).…

Giving Torah Meaning

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on June 4, 2015

After the camps are arranged around the Mishkan in Parashiyot Bamidbar and Nasso, the camp moves forward, beginning its trek through the desert in Parashat Behaalotecha. At the onset of the journey, two verses are set off from the rest of the text: “va’yehi binsoa ha’aron,” “And it was when the Ark would journey…,” and “u’vinukho yomar,” “And when it rested, he said…” (Bamidbar, 10:35-36). These two verses, which we repeat every time we take and return the Torah to and from the aron in shul, are set off from the Torah by two inverted Hebrew letters, two nuns.…

Selfish and Selfless Kedusha

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on May 28, 2015

The book of Bamidbar begins with the organizing of the Israelite camp with the mishkan at its center. In Parashat Naso, the Torah now turns to what it means to be outside the mishkan, to be in the camp, and to continue to orient oneself to God’s presence.…