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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Category: Machshava/Jewish Thought

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. …

“Walk with Me and become perfect” – Being Perfect or Becoming Perfect?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on October 15, 2010

Avraham bursts onto the scene in the opening of Parshat Lekh Lekha.  He follows God’s command, goes to the Land of Canaan, and everywhere is calling out in the name of God, and bringing monotheism to the world. Late in the parsha, God appears to Avraham and commands him in the brit milah. …

The Problem with Perfection

by Rabbanit Devorah Zlochower
Posted on April 30, 2010

When my son Netanel was a preschooler, he informed me that he was a member of a persecuted minority: he is left-handed. Discrimination is rampant, according to Netanel. In addition to the obvious—scissors, golf clubs, spiral notebooks—Netanel noticed something that had escaped his left-handed mother, his left-handed father, and his left-handed older brother.…

Rabbi Eliezer vs. Rabbi Akiva: Two Models of Torah

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on April 23, 2010

The seventh chapter of Sanhedrin ends with a powerful aggadata: When R. Eliezer fell sick, R. Akiva and his companions went to visit him… The Sages, seeing that his mind was clear, entered his chamber and sat down at a distance of four cubits.…

What Is Most Dear to Us that We Bring to God?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on March 19, 2010

Parshat Vayikra introduces us into the world of korbanot. The institution of sacrifices is a very difficult concept for many today. How do we understand why God would want or need sacrifices? And even if they are for us, as a way to connect to God, the acts involved in bringing sacrifices – slaughtering, sprinkling the blood, burning of the fats – seem much too bloody, gory, and smelly to constitute an elevated religious experience.…

Korban Pesach Nowadays

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on March 5, 2010

Parshat Parah, a special maftir read before pesach, is read to remind us of the period of purification that preceded the bringing of the korban Pesach on the 14th of Nissan. While for most of us, this is a reminder of a thousands-year-old practice that became obsolete with the destruction of the Temple, this is not true for all.…

How to Encounter God? Build a House.

by Rabbi Dov Linzer
Posted on February 19, 2010

Parshat Terumah begins the second half of the book of Shemot, and from here on in the book of Shemot has one focus: the building of the mishkan:“And they shall make me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8).…