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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Category: Machshava/Jewish Thought

Mesechet Zevachim: Intent and Sacrifices

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on March 18, 2011

One of the major themes of Zevachim – and the one that opens mesekhet Menachot as well- is that of intent.  The concepts of shelo li’shma, intending the wrong sacrifice, and pigul, intending to eat it at the wrong time, factor very heavily throughout the mesekhet. …

Mesechet Zevachim: Torah in the Bathroom

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on February 25, 2011

The Gemara Zevachim (102b) ends its discussion of the Kohanim who are not entitled to a portion of the daily sacrifices with an analysis of R. Elazar ben R. Shimon.   We had learned that a Kohen who was tamei, and thus not able to do the avoda that day (or, according to another formulation, not able to eat the korbanot that day), was not entitled to a portion of the korbanot that evening. …

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? …

The Sanctity of Space

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on February 4, 2011

This week’s parsha – Terumah – and the many parshiyot that follow focus on creating a Mishkan, a Sanctuary, a sanctified space, a dwelling place for God. The idea that a space can not only be sanctified, but even contain – as it were – the Divine presence, is beyond our ability to comprehend.…

Sanctity of Space and Sanctity of Time

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on January 28, 2011

There is barely a pause which separates the theophany of the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, in parshat Yitro, to the myriad of laws and the nuts-and-bolts mitzvot of parshat Mishpatim. How are we to understand this sudden transition? Where is the kedusha, the holiness, the human-divine encounter, that follows Sinai, that can be considered a continuation of the Revelation?…

Defined by Ourselves or Defined by Others?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on December 30, 2010

If the book of Breishit is about family, then the book of Shemot is about nationhood. While it opens with re-enumerating the children of Yaakov, the narrative immediately turns to the birth and the history of the Israelite nation. The very phrase bnei Yisrael undergoes a metamorphosis in the first verses.…

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.…

Faith in God and Personal Responsibility

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on December 10, 2010

We saw previously that Yehudah and Reuven, while both taking initiative to deal with crisis situations, exhibited very different leadership styles. While Reuven was rash and impetuous, Yehudah thought things through carefully, and when he took on a responsibility, his word was his bond, and he would see the situation through to its resolution.…

“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. …

Mesekhet Avoda Zara and Jewish Identity

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on October 29, 2010

The last dapim of mesekhet Avoda Zara which address central issues in Kashrut and end with a discussion of kashering and toveling vessels.  This is a somewhat unusual way to end a mesekhet that is devoted to discussing the world of idolatry and its dangers. …