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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Category: Machshava/Jewish Thought

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.…

Kiddushin: Acquisition or Partnership?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on January 22, 2010

When studying kiddushei kesef – kiddushin through the giving of an object of value – one must ask: is kiddushin is an actual kinyan, act of acquisition, or not? The two sides of this question can be seen in the development of the practice of giving a ring.…

Leading the Jewish People with a Commitment to Justice

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on January 8, 2010

“And it was during those days that Moshe grew up and he went out to his brothers, and he saw in their travails.” Thus begins Moshe’s emergence from the house of Pharaoh and his setting himself on the path that would lead to becoming the leader of the Jewish People, our Lawgiver and Teacher.…

Understanding Kedusha Through Hilkhot Chanukah

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on December 18, 2009

When studying Chanukah, we often study the classic sugyot from Mesekhet Shabbat (21b-23a). However, a more obscure sugya – “The violators (pritzim) came and profaned it” in Avoda Zara, 52B – provides important insights as well. Based on this verse from Ezekiel 7:22, the Gemara states that when the Beit HaMikdash was violated in the time of the Hasmoneans, the altar lost its sanctity and, when the Hasmoneans were victorious, they needed to dismantle and bury the now desacralized altar.…

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.…

Symmetry in Marital Sex

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on December 11, 2009

The mitzvah of onah, the mitzvah of marital sex, raises the issue of the symmetry or asymmetry of the halakhically-defined sexual relationship. The Gemara discusses at length the husband’s obligation to have sex with his wife (at regular intervals or when she indicates that she is interested) based on the Biblical obligation of onah.…

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?…

“And He Was Limping on his Thigh” – Paying the Cost of Integrity

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on December 4, 2009

Parshat VaYishlach opens with Yaakov preparing to confront Esav on his return to the Land of Canaan. We, as the reader, are eager to find out not only whether Yaakov will emerge unscathed, but how Yaakov will achieve this goal. Will this encounter differ in character from his last one with Esav, twenty years ago?…

Two Approaches to Marital Sex

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on December 4, 2009

The mitzvah onah, the mitzvah of marital sex, is defined in the mishna in Ketuvot as fixed, regular times that a husband must have sex with his wife. However, another definition emerges from other Talmudic passages – that the husband must have sex with his wife when he sees that she desires it, and this is referred to as lisameyach et ishto bi’dvar mitzvah, to give pleasure to his wife with this mitzvah act.…

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.…

Hilkoht Niddah: Welcoming Mikvehs

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on November 20, 2009

The source of tvilah, immersion, is complex. Interestingly, the Torah never states explicitly that a niddah, zavah, or a woman who has given birth has to immerse in order to become tahor, ritually pure, although it is assumed throughout the Talmud that this requirement exists and that it is Biblical.…

“Will the Judge of the Earth not deal justly?!” – Arguing Ethics with God

by Rabbi Dov Linzer Posted on November 6, 2009

Parshat Va’Yera has many powerful stories and images, but perhaps the two most powerful are the story of Avraham arguing with God to save Sodom and Amora, and the story that is climax of the parsha, Avraham offering Yitzchak up as a sacrifice.…