Bechorot 34: Here Comes A Cow
When a kosher animal gives birth to a bechor, a firstborn male, there is an inherent conflict of interest that arises. The Torah instructs that one is to give the animal—potentially worth thousands of dollars—to the kohen, who then offers it as a korban. Furthermore, the owner must watch over this animal for a period of between 30 days and three months, during which time he may not work the animal or...Continue Reading »
Shavuot: A Forced Torah?
Our attitude towards Torah is a most fickle one. On the one hand, the Jewish people demonstrated great faith in following Moshe into a barren desert and it is this we recount as we plead for G-d's mercy on Rosh Hashanah. On the other hand, these same people complained at every turn in that same desert. We jumped at the opportunity to accept the Torah, instinctively declaring "na'aseh v'nishma"—yet...Continue Reading »
Bamidbar: What's in a Name?
Sefer Bamidbar opens with names and numbers, a theme that continues throughout the book; hence its name, Chumash Pekudim, the book of counting. Apparently, names are much more than mere identifiers. A name represents the essence of a person. "In the merit of not changing our names were we redeemed from Egypt", claims the Midrash. At first glance, it seems quite strange and remarkable that the keeping of our...Continue Reading »
Bechorot 30: Kosher Style
It is highly unlikely that one would give repeat business to a supposedly kosher butcher who sold you non-kosher meat, or to one who misled you regarding a particular product. But what about a butcher who tells you that, while he does not keep kosher himself, he only sells kosher meat? Or the butcher who you know keeps strictly kosher in some areas but not in others? And when, if and under what conditions should we give a cheat a second...Continue Reading »
Bechukotai: Casual Relationships
Twice a year, before Shavuot and Rosh Hashana, we read the tochecha, the list of dire consequences that will, G-d forbid, befall the Jewish people if they do not follow the chukim and mitzvot of the Torah. Panic, economic ruin, cannibalism, death, destruction and exile are spelled out in vivid detail. While we are told that we must, in general, follow the chukim and mitzvot, surprisingly, the...Continue Reading »