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Showing posts from September, 2019

Another Good Reason to Give Tzedakah - Parashat Ki Savo 5779, September 13, 2019

This week’s parasha, Ki Tavo, describes the blessings and curses that Hashem will visit upon b'nei Yisrael in response to our adherence to or disobedience of the mitzvot. One blessing that the Torah assures us of is, “Hashem will command the blessing with you in your barns, and in all that you put your hand into; and He will bless you in the land which Hashem your God is giving you.” In essence, Hashem promises that we will be blessed when we keep the Torah.
While the Torah assures us that we will be blessed, it does not tell us the mechanism through which we will receive the blessing. A fascinating article recently published in the Chicago Tribune helps shed light on one of the many ways in which Hashem blesses us for keeping one very important mitzva – tzedakah or charity. “Generosity May Be a ‘Magic Pill’ for Happiness and Longevity” describes recent studies that demonstrate a correlation between generous behavior and happiness. Studies also show that charitable behavior tends t…

The Power of Action - Parashat Ki Seitzei 5779, September 13, 2019

In this week’s parasha, Ki Tetze, the Torah outlines the mitzvah of shiluach haken – sending away the mother bird before taking its chicks or eggs from the nest. The Torah writes, “When you will happen upon a bird’s nest on the way in any tree or on the ground – with chicks or eggs – and the mother is sitting on the chicks or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the children. Surely send away the mother and the children you can take for yourself – in order that it will be good for you and (that) you will lengthen your days.”  (Devarim 22:6-7)
While the Torah does outline the reward for keeping this mitzvah, it does not provide its reason. Ramban – Nachmanides – suggests two possible objectives of this mitzvah. His first explanation is that the mitzvah promotes sensitivity. Cruelty is a harmful character trait that should be discouraged even when animals are the target. Therefore, we are prohibited from taking eggs or chicks right in front of the mother. His second explanation is th…

Practice, Practice, Practice - Parashat Shoftim 5779, September 6, 2019

This week’s parasha, Parashat Shoftim, opens with the mitzvah to appoint judges and officers upon the entry of the Jewish People into the Land of Israel. The Torah instructs us to institute courts of varying sizes in different locales. In Yerushalayim, we are to appoint a Sanhedrin – a court of seventy judges and a head of the court – the av beit din. In big cities, we are to appoint courts of twenty-three judges; in smaller cities, courts of three.

The author of the Sefer HaChinuch discusses the root or benefit of this commandment. He explains that these courts, and the officers who support the courts, help acclimate the people to follow the law by instilling a fear of punishment or consequences. Building on this foundation of being accustomed to do that which is good, the people will “teach their natures to do justice and righteousness out of love and out of recognition of the true path”. In other words, promoting society to keep the law is a two-step process: first, the people must…

Hashem's Perfect Torah - Parashat Re'eh 5779, August 30, 2019

Parashat Re’eh continues Moshe Rabbenu’s final message to the Jewish People. In this section, Moshe discusses the mitzvot of bal tosif and bal tigra – to not add or subtract from the mitzvot of the Torah. Our sages teach us that the Torah is comprised of taryag – there are 613 mitzvot in the Torah. Rashi explains that an individual Jew is not permitted to add a new part to a mitzvah – for example, taking five species on Sukkot instead of four. Furthermore, an individual Jew is not permitted to subtract from a mitzvah – for example, taking three species on Sukkot instead of four. The GR”A, Rabbenu Eliyahu Mi’Vilna, explains further that a Jewish Court is not permitted to add a new mitzvah or subtract one of the 613 mitzvot.

Rabbenu Ovadiah Seforno gives some context tothese two commandments. Concerning the prohibition of adding to the Torah, he explains that this mitzvah is designed to prevent a person from adding something which is detestable to Hashem, even something that may seem li…