Eikev 5767-2007

"Swearing in G-d's name"

It's intriguing to see how the commentators dispute what seems to be a simple verse in parashat Eikev, Deuteronomy 10:20, that states "and by His name shall you swear." Maimonides sees it as a positive mitzvah, Nachmanides sees it as a negative mitzvah prohibiting the use of G-d's name. The commentators struggle to explain the differences between these two great authorities and the subtle implications of swearing or not swearing in G-d's name.

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Matot-Masei 5764-2004

"The Mitzvah of Living in the Land of Israel"

In parashat Masei, G-d commands the Jewish people that when they enter the land of Canaan they are to drive out all the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, for G-d has given the land to the People of Israel to possess it. The ancient tradition holds that there are 613 mitzvot in the Torah. However, there is no definitive listing of those 613 mitzvot. Consequently, the question arises of whether there is an explicit Torah mitzvah to settle in the land of Israel or not. This question was an issue of great dispute between Maimonides and Nachmanides.

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Shoftim 5763-2003

"Astrology, Witchcraft and Spiritualism in Judaism"

In parashat Shoftim, the Torah tells us that when the Jewish people enter the land of Israel they must not follow the abominable practices of the nations that reside there. It is strictly prohibited to cause a son or a daughter to pass through fire, to practice divination or astrology, or to visit one who reads omens. Patronizing a sorcerer, an animal charmer, inquiring of the Ov or Yidoni, or consulting the dead is forbidden. The Jews are supposed to be wholehearted with G-d and not support the magic or spirituality of the ancients. The questions remains, is there any efficacy to witchcraft or to the magic of the ancients?

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