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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Category: Machshava/Jewish Thought

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.…

Magical Mezuzahs? Not so Much

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on April 14, 2011

In Masechet Menachot, there is a very rich section that deals with the laws of tefillin and mezuzah.   A particular theme of interest, especially in the context of the korban Pesach, is that of the mezuzah as an object that protects the house.  …

Pesach – How to Transform the World without Losing Yourself in the Process

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on April 8, 2011

I would like to share my reflections on a profound Sfat Emet on the topic of Pesach and personal identity.   I found this piece to be particularly meaningful in the context of my comments on parshat Metzorah.  Here is the text:כי זכירה היא נקודה פנימית שאין בה שכתה.…

The Person with Tzara’at and Objectification of the Other

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on April 1, 2011

In parshat Shmini, after the Mishkan was dedicated, the Kohanim were given the charge to “distinguish between the holy and the profane, and between the ritually impure and the pure” (Vayikra 10:11).  That is, they must protect the Mishkan from those who are ritually impure and thus they must know all the laws the pertain to ritual purity and impurity.…

Tzav – Two Perspectives on Korbanot

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on March 22, 2011

The beginning of parashat Tzav seems like almost an exact repeat of the beginning of parashat Vayikra.  Each parasha deals with the details and rituals of the different korbanot, and Tzav winds up seeming like merely a repeat of Vayikra. However, closer examination shows that while they deal with the same topics, they approach them from different perspectives. …

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 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.…