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Sefer Hamitzvot Hayom 1 Affirmative Mitzvot

The Online Edition of Sefer Hamitzvot Hayom "Modern Book of MItzvot", a commentary on and trabslation of Sefer Hamitzvot Ha'qatzar "Book of Concise MItzvot" by R Israel Kagan.

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Sefer Hamitzvot Hayom 1 Affirmative Mitzvot

  1. 1. :mFid zFvnd xtq mdA eigeZ ` wlg zFiyr zFvn The Sefer Hamitzvot Ha’Yom: Part 1. “And you shall live among them” Mitzvot Asi’ot A Commentary on the Sefer Hamitzvot Ha’qatzar by Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, “Chafetz Chaim”, of sainted, blessed, and righteous memory With a New English Interpretation of the Hebrew & An Original Commentary on the Mitzvot today applicable according to the opinion of the Chafetz Chaim By Rabbi Arie Chark JURIS DICTION PRESS © 2004 Rabbi Arie Chark
  2. 2. And you shall live among them mdA eige Introduction `FAn Liberals do not do enough mitzvot. This little book is a commentary on another little book, the last book written by R’ Israel Meir Kagan, a giant of Torah scholarship and very possibly the greatest single rabbi of the 20th century. R’ Kagan is most-oft called “Chafetz Chaim” after the title of his most enduring book. His last book, written in 1933 before he died, is a small work: the Sefer Hamitzvot Ha’qatzar “Concise Book of Mitzvot” (SHQ). The Chafetz Chaim saw Polish Jewry changing. Even his Orthodox constituency was modernising. He wrote SHQ to keep his followers committed. He chose mitzvot to cover based on two factors: 1. The mitzvot were listed in the Sefer Hamitzvot of Rambam 2. The mitzvot were applicable today. Rambam’s list was eternal. Put another way, Chafetz Chaim was concerned with relevance. Respect for elders; paying your workers on time; helping people in need; these are always relevant. These mitzvot form the backbone of SHQ.
  3. 3. And you shall live among them mdA eige Introduction `FAn Shabbat observance, nida, holy observances – these also form a core within the SHQ. You may be critical of this. What is your resistance about? Is this an issue of practicality? I would say not. Liberals need to become adept at spiritual consideration. This little book is a place to start. The Sefer Hamitzvot Hayom “Modern Book of Mitzvot” is written as a commentary. Chafetz Chaim has done all the work. I am merely commenting on his monumental erudition. My comments reflect a liberal perspective and challenge liberal Jews to practice mitzvot with intent. I believe you may take what you like and leave the rest behind. Observance is a continuum and woe betide the Jewish religious leader who thinks otherwise. Rabbi Arie Chark Ottawa, Ontario Monday, December 28, 2009 r"yz ,zaha `"i ,ipy mei
  4. 4. And you shall live among them mdA eige 1. Not to believe in God, 1. It is imperative to only that God Exists. believe God Exists. Sh 2. This restates the 20, 2 Shma: God as I understand God is not the 2. It is imperative to chief god, such as Zeus or Odin; neither is God accept the indivisible manifest in tangible reality unity of God; as a human being; nor furthermore, to believe does God rely on a duality with complete faith that in which goodness is God God Is One, without any and evil is some other partner or associate. Dv force, such as Satan or 6, 4 Lucifer or Ahriman. Most certainly God Does not rely 3. It is imperative to on me — as we see in the brakhot elsewhere love God ver 6, 5 described X 3. God is a noun in English; in Ivrit a verb; but I teach my students that God is an abbreviation: G"O"D. Why wouldn't you believe in G"O"D? Surely you crave Good Orderly Direction no less than anyone else? Or Getting Over Depression. I have also heard Grow Or Die. 4
  5. 5. And you shall live among them mdA eige 4. The Ivrit root “to fear” also animates the verbs “to 4. It is imperative to see” and “to revere”; it also be in awe of God. Dv 6, names “awe” and 13 “reverence”. Fear is often mistaken for reverence. 5. It is imperative to Knowing the difference biblically perform Godly basically defines the Acts. Vy 22, 32 distinction between the 6. It is imperative to religious and the spiritual. walk on the Sacred The truly spiritual know Highway to the best of fear is an abbreviation – your ability. Dv 28, 9 of Face Everything And his grammatical proof is Recover. near the end of he article, 5. And if you do not page 724.) believe in God? Behave as if you do. The religious know. The spiritual behave. X 6. The Sacred Highway is translated in the SHQ as “the ways of the blessed God”. Not precisely: who is the source of blessing, us or God? Jacob Emden (1697-1776), one of the great rabbis of Ashkenaz, proved in his grammar that “Barukh” jExA is a noun naming God,not a verbal adjective describing God. (See EJ 6:721-24; the discussion 5
  6. 6. And you shall live among them mdA eige 7. To pray is to speak to 7. It is imperative to God. To meditate is to listen to God. To confess is pray daily and seek God’s to pray and meditate. Blessing. Dv 7, 13 Confess now. 8. It is imperative to connect tefilin to your 8. Why the hand? The hand is the only part of the hand. Dv 7, 8 body which can link what 9. It is imperative to is above to what is below: rest tefilin upon your It extends from above the head. Dv 7, 8 head to below the belt. What if one is not religious? This question will apply often to the mitzvot. Tefilin is a spiritual tool. It may be used religiously. It most often is, but need not be, and so for all other X spiritual tools. 9. Why the head? So the head may see the feet. This tefila has two long straps which hang down on either side of the trunk. It tangibly links the sefirot of keter, tiferet, yesod and malkhut. These are the four medial sefirot. The Adam Qadmon has keter as the head and malkhut as the feet. As for the hand tefila? It points to the heart. When extended upward it merges tiferet (in which the heart is located) with bina and hochma and extends into keter. See Part 3 Asafa: Sefirot. 6
  7. 7. And you shall live among them mdA eige 10. It is imperative to 10. It is a pious act to make tzitzit for the wear a four cornered corners of garments. Bm garment so as to attach 15, 35 tzitzit. One does not 11. It is imperative to normally wear a four cornered garment today. recite qriat shma morning The pious go out of their and evening. Dv 6, 7 way to to wear one. I do. 12. It is imperative to Many now also include the attach mezuza to the tekhélet thread. I do. This portals of your house. Dv is praiseworthy. Mordechai 6, 9 wore tekhélet as he left the presence of King X Ahash’verosh; how much more so should we wear it in the presence of our employers? Tekhélet fell into disuse when Gamaliel VI was deposed as Nasi. I admire the efforts of Ptil Tekhélet to teach us how to tie tzitzit with tekhélet, etc., but the kashrut of tekhélet is compromised by animal cruelty and does not meet my definition of greenkosher to permit its use. Any colourfast blue thread is fine. Our brothers and sisters among the Qaraites also wear tekhélet; for them a simple blue thread suffices, as it should for us. 11. And if you’re are not religious? Shma is not about religion – it is about listening, for shma means "listen". Religion is about doing – do this, do that. 12. The mezuza is a parchment on which is written the first two paragraphs of Shma. We already see our houses; how many of us hear them? There is much to hear in a house. How many times have you heard someone say “If only these walls could talk”? They can. 7
  8. 8. And you shall live among them mdA eige But can you listen? Can you hear your child crying him- or herself to sleep at night? Can you hear your spouse storing his or her resentment for a matter you think is trivial? Can you hear the fear in your pet when you distractedly brush past without thought to its needs for affection? The Rebbe Elimelekh of Lizhensk did t’shuva with every member of his household on erev Shabbat because could hear his walls. 13. It is imperative to receive blessing from God for our sustenance at mealtimes. Dv 8, 10 14. It is imperative to teach Torah and to learn it. Dv 6, 7 13. And if you are not 15. It is imperative to religious? This is about ensure that every Jew mindfulness and writes for themselves a gratitude, not religion. Is sefer Torah. Dv 31, 19 eating about religion? Is satisfaction? Blessing? Perhaps. Rather, I think it is about connecting to what is beyond yourself, to Good Orderly Direction. 14. The Torah is the foundational culture of X western civilisation. Jews belie that identity when ignorant of Torah. This is not Ignorance of religion. A young rabbi knew an elder whose library was filled with learned Jewish books and was scarcely observant. R’ Riskin could not understand how the owner of such a wonderful library could be not observant. "Rabbi", he replied, "I am an epikoros, not an ignoramus." An epikoros is a free-thinker. We need more free-thinkers and fewer ignoramuses. 8
  9. 9. And you shall live among them mdA eige 15. A supremely religious act? Only if "Love your neighbour as yourself" is a religious act. "Love your neighbour as yourself" the entire Torah, according to our sage Hillel, and the rest is commentary. Go learn the commentary. 16. It is imperative to cleave to the Sages and their disciples. Dv 10, 20 17. It is imperative to 16. Rabban Gamaliel value seniority; one must taught: Provide yourself arise before the aged, and with a teacher, avoid also the learned elder. Vy uncertainty, and do not estimate your obligations 19, 32 X in assisting society. And Hillel: If I am not for me, who will be? Yet if I care only for me, what am I? If not now, when? Avtal’yon: “Sages! Be cautious with your words! You may be liable to banishment...” for heresy may follow. Find teachers with eternal, positive, Jewish and life-affirming values; and use the brain God Gave you to think for yourself. See PA 1:11, 14, 16. This is simply respectful. Nor is it confined to Torah scholars, rabbis, etc. Were this so there would be not be discrete brakhot for Torah scholars, general scholars, not to mention monarchs, presidents of nations, and such. Note that the mitzva does not assert we say a brakha,merely that we stand in the presence of these people. Chafetz Chaim combines respect for elders with respect for religious leaders; this is the approved conduct recommended also in Pirqé Avot –Rebbe Meir taught: "Do not look at the flask but what it contains". See PA 4:27, compare with 4:25, 26. 9
  10. 10. And you shall live among them mdA eige 18. It being so I do not understand why the 18. It is imperative to Gemara on Masekhta revere holy places. Vy Brakhot is far less studied 19, 30 than Talmud Naziqin nor 19. It is imperative to why Hullin is the basis of Kashrut instead of the sanctify Shabbat in all remark in Br "For you this that we do. Sh 20, 8 shall be food" (Br 1, 29). Nor do I regard any synagogue as sanctified. Impressive. Inspirational. X But not holy. 19. A supremely religious act! Yet I often wonder: How? Is visiting friends religious? Refraining from mundane acts? Perhaps synagogue attendance is "religious". Shabbat is much more the synagogue attendance. The SHQ translates this in English as "Declare the Sabbath holy, with words". It was the custom of Ramban to declare each day before Shabbat, i.e., "today is the first day before Shabbat on Sunday; today is the second day on Monday, etc. Chafetz Chaim makes plain his meaning when he goes on to say that we sanctify the arrival of Sh with Qidush, we sanctify the departure with Havdala; to this I would add that we add-on to the Birkat Hamazon, and some have the custom of saying grace before dessert in order to make more blessings, for we then make separate Brakhot on the dessert foods and say the corresponding Brakha ahrona over each one. 10
  11. 11. And you shall live among them mdA eige Yet there is more to this; the verb devar means also; thing thus one must sanctify Shabbat in actions as well as words. It was the habit of Elimelekh of Lizhensk, one of the lights of the second Hasidic generation, to seek his entire household every erev Shabbat and beg their forgiveness for whatever sins he had inflicted on them. This is the essence of sanctifying Shabbat in all that we do. 20. It is imperative to cease work on Shabbat. Sh 23, 12 21. It is imperative to be joyful on festivals. Dv 16, 14 22. It is 20. I have reversed the order of this imperative to mitzva with the last. It seems to me cease using more orderly to that we first deal hametz on the with the delights of Shabbat before the rituals. Sanctify Shabbat with 14th day of words (dvarim, which also means Nisan. Sh 12, 16 “things”)? Perhaps I have not really 23. It is reversed anything; the delights of imperative to eat Shabbat are words – song lyrics, matza at the conversation,laughter – yes, but Passover seder. also considerable things such as Sh 12, 18 rest, rejuvenation, personal 24. It is learning, time with friends. The same root for Shabbat gives us imperative to to also yoshev, yishuv, yeshiva, etc. retell our –situate, settle, college. Clearly, departure from rest is more than cessation of work, Egypt at the it is a settlement of the mind, the Passover seder. spirit, the body, and the soul. Sh 13, 8 Shabbat is fundamental to the well-being of the entire person. 11
  12. 12. And you shall live among them mdA eige 21. Pesah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The other festive times? Chanuka, Purim, and Lag B’omér are all festive but not festivals for they were innovations of either the Macabees (Chanuka) or the Sages (Lag B’omér). Purim describes events in a foreign country (Persia) so even though it is based on the Tenakh (Megillat Ester) it is merely like a festival, but is not a festival. Because it is like a festival the Sages mandate a festive meal, the "Purim seuda". 22. ung is a clever word-play. It is mg (hot) and uin (essence). Read backwards? gnv (growth). Pesah is a planned annual attempt to discard the intense pressure we put on ourselves. We need to reverse course and simply grow. And the more urban we become the more essential it is we attend to these agricultural perspectives; this reality grounds our Jewish past and is essential to our Jewish present. 23. Three pieces of matza are used at the seder. The plural of matza is matzot, and this is the same as the plural mitzvot – only the pronunciation differs. 24. Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzra'im. This literally means "between extremes" but also "the essence (mitz) of evils (ra'im)." The yetzirat Mitzraim (Exodus) story is a universal story of overcoming the stark difficulties which often confront us. It is imperative to to retell our departure from Egypt at the Passover seders. The mitzva is actually worded "on the eve of 15th Nisan". It is only a mitzva at the First Seder. Halakha mandates the observance of two festive days outside Israel. The retelling of our history is imperative on both days. There are those who reject the second day; we will discuss this more fully below, so I will confine my thoughts to 12
  13. 13. And you shall live among them mdA eige Passover alone. Many are now accustomed to a women’s seder and I believe the second day is an ideal time for such commemoration. There are also other alternative observances which may suggest a third or even a fourth seder, and why not? The final two days are also festive days on the Jewish calendar. I see no reason why they cannot mark an observance, even if it be seen as "politically correct" by some. Political correctness is essential, temporarily, to redress previous political incorrectness. Tradition is the memory of a community, and woe betide the community which remembers everything, for then it accomplishes nothing. 25. It is imperative to cease work on the first day of Passover. Vy 23, 7 26. It is imperative: count 49 days from the day the omér was brought 25. The three Festivals are all like to the Temple. Vy Shabbat with respect to work. 23, 15 These comments on Pesah apply equally to Shavuot and Sukkot. Rest is a religious obligation. More so is it essential to the personal dramas of daily life. These dramas are essential to Pesah, to Shavuot, and to Sukkot. Our Festivals are each, in their own way, about food security, about having our basic needs for nutrition and sustenance met. Rest is also a metaphor. Rest is the pause in our personal story – a comma, a semi-colon, a period. Work also stops on the second day of each of the Three Festivals observed outside Israel; Reform and Reconstructionist trends deny the validity of the second day and they are very much mistaken in this attitude. The assertion that there is no historical reason for the second day since the the calendar intercalation almost 1600 years ago is correct; but these trends fail 13
  14. 14. And you shall live among them mdA eige to consider that the second day can be modernised: what is to stop the observance of a civic memory in these religious contexts? Victoria Day in Canada or U.S. Memorial Day are close to Shavuot; Canada’s Thanksgiving Day is very close to Shavuot. Should not the efforts of a great hero like Martin Luther King uniquely qualify for commemoration during Passover (or Shavuot, which given the dietary restrictions of Passover might be more practical)? The second day of Sukkot is an excellent opportunity to commemorate the Fair Trade movement or acknowledge the concept of greenkosher. Reform, with its singular attachment to social actions and ethics, should lead the charge in this matter. 26. A collection of seven days is shavu'a. A collection of seven weeks is shavu'ot. The omer was brought from the second day of Passover,and links the Passover and Shavuot festivals; essentially, it is a single agricultural festival representing first planting (Passover) and first reaping (Shavuot). In modern times a spiritual practice has evolved wherein the daily counting of the omer is linked to the seven emotional mystical concepts called “sefirot”. The spirituality of emotion? It is linked to the spirituality of the land. In our largely urban age the relationship of anger, jealousy, sadness, love, and other emotional attributes to our separation from the land cannot be ignored. The Torah observances are also linked. Passover marks our Independence Day, Shavuot marks the day we received our Constitution. The Torah text plainly mandates counting from the Shabbat of Pesah. Samaritans and Qaraites both count 50 days from the Shabbat after Passover; there is thus a fixed day of observance for Shavuot in these traditions – Sunday – but no fixed date. The Rabbinic innovation (it must be seen this way, since the plain meaning of the text is apparent) created a fixed date, Sivan 6. 14
  15. 15. And you shall live among them mdA eige 27. Passover and Sukkot are each seven days. The 27. It is imperative seventh day is the same as the to cease work on the first with respect to work. the day of Passover. 28. Shavuot is unique among the Festivals because it Vy 23, 8 is a single day. 28. It is imperative 29. Rosh Hashana marks to cease work on the another 50 day period. It is 50 first day of Shavuot. days after Tish B'Av (9th Av), Vy 23, 21 the only major fast day in the Jewish calendar other than 29. It is imperative Yom Kippur, and like Yom to cease work on the Kippur it is kept for 25 hours. first day of Tishré, 30. What is a shofar? What which is Rosh is a shofar's sound? A shofar is Hashana. Vy 23, 24 the horn of any kosher animal, most commonly a ram but the 30. It is imperative horns of cows, sheep, and to hear the shofar on other kosher animals are all the first day of Rosh acceptable. A shofar is a Hashana. Bm 29, 1 tangible, natural connection to 31. It is imperative the land. Its sound? A single to cease work on tone. What does it sound like? It sounds like the voice of Yom Ha’kipurim. Vy Heaven. Even those not moved 23, 32 by religion fail to be moved by X the sound of the shofar. 31. Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, ORBM, was particular to use the designation Yom Ha’kipurim, not “Yom Kippur”. He felt that it was indeed a day (“Yom”) like (“ki-”) a lottery (“purim”). 15
  16. 16. And you shall live among them mdA eige 32. It is imperative to fast on Yom Ha’kipurim. Vy 22, 27 33. It is imperative 32. This is the only Holy Day to repent! Sinners! which is a fast. Yet this is not Turn back from sin; clear from the Torah text, which states "afflict your souls" confess before God. but does not state in what Bm 5, 6-7 manner to do so. Whether Jewish, Samaritan or Qaraite, the universal understanding is X to fast. 33. Who is a sinner? One who scoffs at God. This is not as the person who rejects God. We are taught in Talmud Brakhot "All is in the hands of Heaven but for belief in the hands of Heaven". Scoffing is not rejection. It is malice. Some equate sin with crime. This confuses the barn with the cow. If more people avoided sin crime would be almost redundant. It always astounds me: The first words on waking up each morning are... Modeh ani lefanekha... Most assume the first word is modeh "grateful" (from todah, gratitude); in fact, it is m'vahdeh (from hit'vahdeh, personal confession). See YD 338:1, where it clear that Mehaber is not suggesting gratitude (!) over an impending death. And so in this short prayer. Gratitude is also an appropriate feeling. There is thus a strong connection between gratitude and confession, well beyond the scope of our comments here, but nevertheless worth exploring very briefly. Appropriate confession is a type of meditation which focuses me on overcoming my personal and inter-personal limitations; this, in turn, is a reason for gratitude, for should I not be grateful I am ever able to achieve and improve? 16
  17. 17. And you shall live among them mdA eige 34. It is imperative to rest from work the first day of Sukkot. Vy 23, 35 35. It is imperative to 34. And so for our other settle in a sukkah during holy days. Even though I the seven days of believe the second days Sukkot.. Vy 23, 42 have value, I question if 36. It is imperative to they should be treated as wave the arba minim the first day with respect to during Sukkot. Vy 23, 40 work. 35. The spirituality of a sukkah? It is physically insecure. It has no foundation. It encourages spiritual reliance. It is imperative to settle in a sukkah during the seven days of Sukkot. What means "settle?" Many interpret it to mean actually dwell in the sukkah. This works for Vancouver, Los Angeles or Miami but not often for Montreal, Winnipeg or Boston, especially if Sukkot is in October. I can personally attest that living in a sukkah in Montreal in October can result in pneumonia. One fulfills the mitzva merely by eating a meal in the hut. If it is unseasonably cold, I suggest sitting in the hut long enough to make a Brakha on fruit, eat it, and then a Brakha ahrona; then eat the main meal, with appropriate Brakhot, indoors. 36. The four species of lulav, hadass, arava and etrog represent the human organs: the spine, eyes, mouth and heart — these are understanding, steadfastness, wisdom, and confession. This midrashic hypostasis informs us that we sanctify by being sanctified. X 17
  18. 18. And you shall live among them mdA eige 37. It is imperative to cease work on Shmini Atzeret. Vy 23, 36 37. This holy day fascinates: it is a festival but is not among the Shalosh Regalim, the only such holy day, and unique again:it immediately follows another holy day. Shavu’ot is separated from Pesah by 50 days and Sukkot is separated from Shavu’ot by 127 days; there is no separation from Sukkot to Shmini Atzeret. Two or three days in a row (the final day of Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret, which is two days hutz le’aretz) are non-working days. Shmini Atzeret is a liturgical festival for agriculture and for Torah — we pray for rain and we also begin reading the Torah from Bréshit. The cycle for agriculture concludes with the prayer for rain (which is the last thing we want while gathering the harvest) and the cycle for Torah concludes with the Ve’zot Ha’Brakha in Dvarim. Rabbi Shefa Gold has a wonderful insight: Moshe Rabénu’s grave is unknown and “the message becomes, Don’t look to Moses, it is not really about him: The Torah is about YOU.” This insight applies to the harvest also: Don’t look to where you plant, look to where you grow. Rosh Ha’Shana, Yom Ha’kipurim, Sukkot are all about planting. Shmini Atzeret is about growing. 38. Tzedaqa is not charity: a mitzva is an obligation and tzedaqa is a mitzva; charity is voluntary. Rambam organised eight levels of tzedaqa: [a] Giving begrudgingly without joy; [b] Giving cheerfully, but less than one can afford or do; [c] Giving only when one directly asks; [d] Giving without request directly to the recipient: both know from where the help came; [e] Giving without knowing who has received the benefit: 18
  19. 19. And you shall live among them mdA eige 38. The recipient knows the donor but the donor does not know the recipient’s identity; [f] Giving anonymously: The donor knows the beneficiary but the recipient does not the donor’s identity; [g] Giving in such a way that neither donor nor recipient know each other; [h] Preventing poverty. 39. Have you done everything you said you 38. It is imperative to would? I always say provide tzedaqa to the something like “I will do that, bli neder”. In work Jewish poor. Dv 26, 8 situations where such 39. It is imperative to language would be stand by your word and inappropriate? “I can fulfil your promises and probably accomplish it by... vows. Dv 23, 24. but can’t promise a due 40. It is imperative to date at the moment.” In provide religious and such situations much spiritual direction in depends on the urgency nullifying promises and attached to the project by your supervisor. vows. Bm 30, 3 40. No amount of legal intervention will nullify a vow, oath, or promise unless the party to whom you are obligated releases you of your promise. This requires spiritual direction. Two advanced, spiritual people will both approach the Bet Din: one to seek release, the other to testify that the release has been granted; the court will then merely provide a remedial solution. It becomes more complex if one of the parties is uncooperative or has died. In such circumstances it is the Bet Din which provides the spiritual direction. Release from vows, oaths, or promises is never just a legal, administrative matter. 19
  20. 20. And you shall live among them mdA eige 41. This mitzva must 41. It is imperative to surely challenge some! A respect your father and fundamental reason for mother. Sh 20, 12 spiritual direction is to 42. It is imperative to intuitively know how to revere your mother and handle situations which father. Vy 19, 3 used to baffle us; surely 43. It is imperative to respecting one not worthy marry and procreate. Br of respect follows from this 1, 28 new-found skill? It is not a mitzva to love or like your parents. 42. This mitzva must surely add to the challenge of some; yet I note that is follows the mitzva of respect. It seems to me that the respect which flows from spiritual direction might soon become an innate understanding that a deeply flawed parent influenced your effects of character no less than any other part of you; that is worthy of reverence. 43. The mitzva is procreation, not marriage, this concept being absent from the pasuq. Some cannot and others will not conceive; are we to condemn them as sinners? Yet another challenge. There may be very different attitudes to sex between the spouses. It is imperative, rather, that two people who mutually respect each other attain joy through this most intimate of acts and never let it become a weapon. 20
  21. 21. And you shall live among them mdA eige 44. It is imperative to marry by way of 44. This is the sacral act of qidushin. Dv 24, 1 marriage; the municipal act is 45. It is imperative nesu’in and involves the negotiation of the ketuba. Thus to marry the widow the ketuba’s final clause, which of your brother if the establishes the marriage as an marriage was act according to the law of childless. Dv 25, 5 Moses (qidushin) and Israel 46. It is imperative (nesu’in). This imperative does to perform halitza not limit the possibility of “civil with the yevama. Dv union” as opposed to marriage 25, 7-9 in civil law. 45. The Rabanut in Israel have issued taqanot against the procedure of Levirate Marriage. 46. This is required by the taqanot of the Rabanut and the yevama may be jailed for not complying. 47. This is so unless the son is, God Forbid, jaundiced or unwell. In such instances the circumcision is postponed until the child is well enough to undergo the procedure. We must also be sensitive to the needs of blended faith families who enquire if circumcision is correct or appropriate. It is always so if the child will be raised in affiliation, even if not Jewish al pi halakha. 21
  22. 22. And you shall live among them mdA eige 48. The proper rendering of 47. It is imperative game or livestock requires to circumcise baby sensitivity to animal welfare boys on the eight day and the imposition of after they are born. supervision to ensure animal Br 17, 12 welfare occurs. The animal 48. It is imperative may not be stunned prior to to properly render slaughter. Neither may fowl be livestock, game, or gassed prior to slaughter. The shokhet says a brakha prior to fowl, if you wish to rendering, from which the consume meat. Dv popular imagination assumes 12, 21 that Kosher meat is “blessed” 49. It is imperative as opposed to slaughtered in to cover the blood of accordance with the zoning regulations imposed by the slaughtered rabbinic convention. animal. Vy 17, 13 49. It is more imperative to ensure the welfare of the livestock prior to rendering. 22
  23. 23. And you shall live among them mdA eige 50. It is imperative to 50. It is imperative to honour the Kohén. Vy 21, honour leaders; these need 8 not be Kohanim. 51. It is imperative to 51. How is one to do this provide the Kohén with in an urbanised society the foreleg, cheeks, and thoroughly removed from maw of a Kosher animal. the land? Rather you Dv 18, 3 should determine the 52. It is imperative to relative value of the provide the Kohén with foreleg, cheeks and maw the first shearing of the and the equivalent in cash wool. Dv 18, 4 should be donated to Mazon: A Jewish 53. It is imperative to Response to Hunger or a consecrate a first born reputable food bank. male if he is your first 52. It is imperative to child. Sh 13, 2 purchase warm bedding X and coats and donate them to the nearest shelter. 53. Many now consecrate first born daughters. This is to be encouraged. 54. Pidyon Ha’Ben does not apply to Levi’im, who are members of a Tribe permanently in service to G!d; the redemption fee is traditionally $5, payable to a Kohén, who then donates it to tzedaqa. A similar ritual for baby girls is encouraged. 23
  24. 24. And you shall live among them mdA eige 54. It is 55. The donkey is a gentle imperative to creature, suited for guard duty, naturally aggressive with dogs; ransom your first Torah does not permit it, nor any born male, if he is equine species, for livestock. See your first child and EJ 3:16 (bottom). The donkey born to a Jewish was not banned; if it must be woman. Bm 18, 15 redeemed, it was obviously born 55. It is on a ranch subject to Torah law. imperative to The lamb is also a gentle redeem a first born creature; it must be guarded and donkey for a lamb. is naturally shy of dogs. Sh 34, 20 56. An unransomed donkey 56. It is puts kosher livestock in pasture imperative to break at risk: Donkeys on grazing lands tend to overeat, competing with the neck of a the sheep and cattle for food. donkey not redeemed. Sh 34, 57. This applies to bread and cake made from the five species 20 of grain: barley, oats, rye, spelt, 57. It is and wheat. The modern custom imperative to of burning the hala must be separate hala by discouraged; in the majority of pinching it away homes which purchase from a X bakery or supermarket, I suggest that hala entails, instead, purchasing a non-perishable for immediate donation to a food bank. As to bakers? I suggest the separation of hala in your case be the donation of 1% of your monthly output to soup kitchens or similar missions. 58. It is imperative that Israel bless its leadership,both paid and voluntary. 24
  25. 25. And you shall live among them mdA eige from the dough and offer it to a Kohén. Bm 15, 2 58. It is imperative 59. There is a mistaken that Kohanim bless Israel. impression that Kohanim Vy 21, 2-3 may not enter a cemetery 59. It is imperative even to bury their close kin; that Kohanim bury their untrue. Furthermore, it is close kin. Vy 21, 2-3 unclear whether such ritual 60. It is imperative to even pertains,when no love all Jews as you love Temple stands, and I yourself. Vy 19, 18 advise you who are Kohanim to make your own decision in this matter. 60. This mitzva is not particular, as will be evident by Mitzva 61 below. The love two Jews show for each other is by its nature different because they share cultural values – some language (even if not fluent), gestures, religious traditions, and so on. While it is so that most Jews by far are secular, they nevertheless share much, though it is perhaps true that secular Jews and religious Jews are separated by quite a chasm. It is my own experience, having known both secular and religious Judaisms, that secular Jews tend to do the separating; religious Jews owe it to their secular friends, neighbours, and relatives to merely be a stable presence, a source of wisdom when necessary, but never to preach or teach. No one likes a know-it-all. 25
  26. 26. And you shall live among them mdA eige X 61. It is imperative to love the gér. Dv 10, 19 62. It is imperative to lend money to poor Jews. Sh 22, 24 63. It is imperative to return a pledged item back to its owner when required. Dv 24, 13 61. The translator of SHQ into English lists “stranger” ,“convert” and “proselyte” as three ways of expressing gér. We will leave the last aside, for it is used primarily in Christian theology, though it seems close in meaning to how Torah uses gér; see the Catholic Encyclopedia website. Both “stranger” and “convert”” apply to gér. In Torah one could live among Israel but not be of it – a gér toshev “resident alien”. One who accepted Torah and joined the People Israel, not merely one who lived among them, was called gér tzedeq “righteous convert”. In our time, when so many of all creeds are actually of none, it is honourable to treat all who are not of Judaism as in Israel. Interfaith and multicultural activities, ministry to blended faith couples, extending the obligation of tzedaqa to those who are not Jewish, all these are appropriate expressions of loving the gér. 62. Chafetz Chaim suggests one is more obligated to this mitzva than to tzedaqa. The mitzva is great if the recipient will be able to start a business, or learn skills for business or vocation. The mitzva is greater still if you can provide the recipient also with business acumen, or assist in the preparation of a business plan, and so forth. 63. This includes tools or anything required for an individual to make a living. This mitzva would put the modern pawnbroker out of business and well it should, and so also for the so-called pay-day loan industry. 26
  27. 27. And you shall live among them mdA eige 64. It is imperative to release debts in the 64. This is a spiritual obligation; by the taqana of shmitta year. Dv 15, 2 Hillel Ha’Zaqén called 65. It is imperative to prozbul a loan due in the permit farm laborers to shmitta year remains eat of the produce the payable. pick. Dv 23, 25 65. But a labourer is 66. It is imperative to prohibited to eat produce provide a laborer his or while working in the fields. her wage the same day it It must be consumed on a is earned. Dv 24, 15 scheduled break from labour or after the work is completed, unless the owner or the management does not object to eating in the field, but it must be X explicitly stated. 66. This does not mean you need pay for work not performed; after the work is complete the rate is payable immediately. 67. The mitzva is for Jewish judges to resolve such disputes. Many think Jewish law cannot or does not apply in modern commerce. It is a mitzva not only to settle commercial disputes at a Bet Din but it is your obligation as a citizen: you release the Bet Shofet to resolve other disputes. 27
  28. 28. And you shall live among them mdA eige 67. It is imperative to judge commercial disputes. Vy 25, 14 68. It is imperative to return that which has been stolen. Vy 5, 23 69. It is imperative to return whatever has been lost by a Jew. Dv 22, 1 68. The mitzva is for Jewish judges to resolve such disputes. Many think Jewish law cannot or does not apply in modern commerce. It is a mitzva not only to settle commercial disputes at a Bet Din but it is your obligation as a citizen: you release the Bet Shofet to resolve other disputes. 69. The mitzva does not use “Ysraél”, which we understand to mean “Jew”, it uses the word “brother”. I refuse to believe Chafetz Chaim, who goes out of his way to ensure that the mitzva of loving strangers is well known, would for an instant counsel someone not to return a lost item to someone who is not Jewish. Chafetz Chaim was a merchant. He closed his financial books monthly, and was known to close his spiritual books the same way. We must not do less. 70. Whom do you know with a beast of burden? Better you should await an opportunity to assist someone with his or her groceries, or any similar burden, even a flat tire or dead battery, especially if infirm or elderly or frail. Even if you do not like this person, so long as he or she is willing to accept your help. 28
  29. 29. And you shall live among them mdA eige 70. It is imperative to assist in unloading the burden under which a domestic animally struggles. Sh 23, 5 71. It is imperative to assist someone load the burden. Dv 22, 4 72. It is imperative to rebuke a sinner. Vy 19, 17 71. Even if you do not like this person, so long as he or she is willing to accept your help. We are obligated to love, which is how we tangibly show our love for God. We are not obligated to like people. 72. There is a skill to this not many possess. My strongest suggestion is to ignore someone else’s sins and concentrate on your own. The best rebuke you can offer a sinner is your friendship and your leadership by example. Actions speak louder than words. 73. As with commercial disputes; see above, 67. And more so – it is easier to find the spirituality in a property dispute, most especially in one which involves such emotional and mental anguish. Of course, not everyone wants a spiritual solution. That's why God Invented a judicial system. Sahara is no less required here. But, in my opinion, you are not obligated to judge, arbitrate, or mediate in an atmosphere of tension or intimidation; see especially HM 12, 13, 17, 22; more generally Chapters 7-10, 26, 27. 29
  30. 30. And you shall live among them mdA eige 73. It is imperative to judge inheritance property disputes. Bm 27, 8. 74. It is imperative to send away from the nest. Dv 22, 7. 75. It is imperative to make a parapet and to remove household hazards. Dv 22, 8 76. It is imperative to remember what Amaleq did Dv 25, 17 77. It is imperative to destroy Amaleq and its descendants. Dv 25, 19 74. Have you ever tried to distract a bird from its brood? If you value your personal safety, don’t try. This mitzva is directed at human greed – the individual who stumbles upon something she or her clearly believes can be had for nothing. You can pay the Devil or you can pay the Lord, but you have to pay somebody. 75. This is a classic zoning bylaw in any modern town or city and a tangible example that mitzvot have current applicability as “municipal law”, e.g., the law of good governance. 76. They attacked from the rear. 77. We do not know who Amaleq is. It is less important to identify Amaleq than to identify the behaviours of Amaleq. Know what behaviours to avoid: that destroys Amaleq’s descendants. 30
  31. 31. And you shall live among them mdA eige Thus the the mitzvot now applicable, enumerated as 77, which in the Holy Language is known to be mda eige “And by this they shall live” Here is my commentary on the mitzvot enumerated by Chafetz Chaim as now applicable. And the number 77 is mdA dcEdi A Jew among them 31