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Chanuka Lights and the Sukka
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In prior columns we have discussed many parallels between Chanuka and the holiday of Sukkot. Among the many similarities: 1. Both are holidays of eight days; the book of Maccabees states explicitly that the eight days of the holiday are a “make-up” for the eight days of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret that the fighters were […]
Chanuka
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In one of the most dramatic passages in the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam tells the story of Chanukah: how we suffered persecution spiritually and religiously (prohibition of Torah and mitzvot), materially (seizing property) and personally (outrages of modesty); and how with God’s help we overcame militarily (the Chashmonaim saved Israel), nationally (they established the kingdom) […]
Universal Principles of Justice
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Our parsha is filled with incidents which help instruct us how to relate to our non-Jewish neighbors. One particularly interesting question the Rishonim discussed is the status of non-Jewish courts, which are one of the seven mitzvot of bnei Noach. The subject arises because of the mistreatment of Dina – an obvious breach of civilized […]
The “Danger” of Tzedaka
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The Shulchan Arukh (YD 247:2), citing Rambam (Matanot Aniim 10:2), states that “A person will never become impoverished from giving tzedaka, and no evil or damage comes because of tzedaka”. It is understandable why a person might think that he would become poor from giving charity (even if he gives no more than the twenty […]
Disinheriting
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Special Divine guidance oversaw the transference of Yitzchak’s blessing from Esav, Yitzchak’s intended recipient, to Yaakov. But in general our tradition warns against disinheriting children. (According to Torah law such disinheritance can be accomplished by giving large deathbed gifts.) It is improper for a sick person to give so much to charity that the children […]
Having Children
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As Rivka departs to join her betrothed, Yitzchak, her family sends her off with the blessing, “Our sister, may you be mother to thousands of myriads”. (Bereshit 24:60.) This blessing echoes the blessing to Avraham that his offspring should be as numerous as the dust of the earth (13:16), or as the stars of the […]
Visiting the Sick
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At the beginning of our parsha we learn that HaShem appeared to Avraham (Bereshit 18:1). Rashi explains that He came to visit the sick. Visiting the sick is considered one of the greatest acts of human kindness, and, partially based on our parsha, one of the ways in which humans can cleave to the ways […]
Tefillat HaDerekh
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The Midrash (Bereshit Rabba) relates that Avram was reluctant to travel to Canaan before the events of our parsha, as he was concerned about neglecting his obligation to serve his father. Rather, he awaited G-d’s command, “Lech lecha”. The halakha likewise instructs us, the descendants of Avraham, to “consult with our Maker” before going on […]
Spaying Animals
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The spaying of animals, in order to prevent undesired reproduction or in order to make them more docile, is an ancient custom of animal husbandry, but it is one which is forbidden by the Torah. The Torah teaches this prohibition in two different places, each one with its message. In the blessing given to Noach […]
Self-Sufficiency
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Originally, Adam and Chava did not have to toil in Gan Eden for their livelihood. They only had a symbolic responsibility to “work and guard” the Gan (Bereshit 2:15). However, after their sin, HaShem decreed that “by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread” (Bereshit 3:19). This verse is on the one hand […]