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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Category: Machshava/Jewish Thought

Chosenness with a Universalist Impulse, Universalism with a Focus on Family

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on November 4, 2011

After two failed attempts at directing humanity to a life of holiness and goodness, God, in Lekh Lekha, begins the grand experiment that will be the narrative of the entire Torah and the story of the People of Israel.   With the generations of Adam, God stepped back to see if human beings, having chosen to “know good and evil,” to think and choose for themselves, could choose for themselves a life of holiness. …

The Price of Freeing Captives

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on October 28, 2011

The following piece was written shortly after the release of Gilad Shalit in 2011.   Many people found themselves asking whether Gilad’s release was worth the cost of freeing of over one thousand terrorists.  Many newspaper articles and opinion pieces were written on this topic as well, with the large majority of them coming down in favor of this decision.  …

How Humankind Became Adults: The Challenges of Knowing Good and Evil

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on October 28, 2011

It is just a few hundred years since the world has been created, and everything has gone to pot. When the world was freshly minted and created, we heard the refrain with each act of creation, “And God saw that it was good,” and that the world as a whole was “exceedingly good.” Now, humans have come and made a mess of everything, and a different refrain is heard: “And God saw that “massive was the evil of man on the earth, and all the thoughts of his heart were only evil the entire day.” (Breishit 6:5).…

Cleaning the Temple, Cleaning our World

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on October 6, 2011

This is an emended piece that I wrote on Yom Kippur and the Temple Service which was originally published in the Jerusalem Post Magazine, on Sept 28, 2008. “For on this day he shall atone for you to purify you; that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” (Lev.…

Teshuva or Sacrifices – How to Repair our Relationship with God

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on September 23, 2011

Parshat Nitzavim always falls immediately before Rosh HaShana, and appropriately so. For it is in this parasha that the Torah speaks at great length about the power of teshuva: “And you will return to the Lord your God and obey God’s voice… you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul” (Devarim 30:2).…

What Makes Rabbinic Legislation Binding?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on September 16, 2011

The entire chapter of HaSholeach (the fourth chapter of Gittin) is devoted to Rabbinic legislation and institutions enacted for the sake of tikkun ha’olam, “fixing the world.”   It is thus worth considering the basis for the rabbinic power to legislate.  What makes rabbinic legislation binding? …

To Declare and To Confess

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on September 16, 2011

Ki Tavo opens with two rituals: the bringing of the first fruit, the bikkurim, where one declares his gratitude for God’s goodness, and the dispensing of the tithes at the end of three years where one states that he has dispensed these tithes according to the law.…

Mitzvot and their Interpretation: The Role of Values and Narrative

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on September 12, 2011

Ki Teitze is a parsha densely packed with mitzvot. A new mitzvah appears almost every few verses, and sometimes even more frequently. It is, in a way, the parshat Mishpatim or the parshat Kedoshim of Devarim. Now, of course, just because there are all these laws does not mean that it is always clear what their parameters are or how they are to be implemented.…

Selfish Kedusha and Selfless Kedusha

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on June 2, 2011

After the organizing of the camp  with the mishkan at its center – the focus on parshat Bamidbar, this parsha focuses on what it means to be outside the mishkan, to be in the camp, and to continue to orient oneself to God’s presence.…

Behar – A Society Based on Kedusha

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on May 15, 2011

How can kedusha be created outside of the Temple?  This is, in many ways, the concern of the second half of the book of Vayikra, and is in particular the concern of parshat Behar.   The goal of the Mikdash was not for God to “dwell” in the Temple, but for God to dwell among us: v’asu li mikdash, vi’shakhanti bi’tokham, “You shall make for me a Temple and I will dwell in their – the people’s – midst.” (Shemot 25:8).  …

The Universality of the Mitzvah of Kedusha

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on April 29, 2011

The portion of Kedoshim opens with an all-embracing imperative: “Holy shall you be, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2). The command to be holy is all-embracing in two senses: it applies to all people and it applies in all situations.…

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.…