ALHATORAH

ALHATORAH

By ALHATORAH.ORG
Torahcasts brought to you by http://ALHATORAH.ORG
Purpose of Shemittah – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
The institution of Shemittah, the Sabbatical year, is perhaps one of the most difficult mitzvot to properly observe in the entire Torah, and its violation is singled out as the root cause of the nation's ultimate exile.  Why, though, is the commandment so central?  What is the goal of the various mitzvot associated with the year, the refraining from agricultural labor, relinquishing of the land's produce for all to share, and the cancellation of debts?  Are these laws about our relationship with Hashem or with our fellow man? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see https://alhatorah.org/Purpose_of_Shemittah.
13:56
May 16, 2019
MiMachorat HaShabbat – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
One of the most heated debates between various sects within Judaism and assorted commentators concerns the dating of the bringing of the Omer offering and the meaning of the term "MiMachorat haShabbat", translated literally as "the morrow of the Sabbath".  To what day does this phrase refer?  What is the meaning of "Shabbat" in this context, and why does the Torah refer to the date of the bringing of the Omer in this manner specifically?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see: https://alhatorah.org/MiMachorat_HaShabbat.
15:01
May 10, 2019
Prohibition of Ov and Yidoni and the Story of Shaul and Ba'alat Ha'Ov – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
The Torah prohibits necromancy and other magical practices, but does it believe in their efficacy? What light might the story of Shaul and the Ba'alat Ha'Ov shed on this question? Did the sorceress really revive Shemuel or did she merely trick Shaul into thinking that she did? Finally, if magic does exist, what does this suggest about the line between Divine and human capabilities?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see https://alhatorah.org/Did_Shemuel_Come_Back_to_Life.
14:16
May 2, 2019
What Was the Purpose of the Slavery in Egypt? – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Seder Preparation:  The Festival of Pesach was instituted to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt and thank Hashem for freeing us from bondage. But why, to begin with, did Hashem ordain that we be exiled and enslaved?  Was it perhaps a punishment for sin, or was it, alternatively, a means to inculcate values and instill faith?  Was there, in fact, a sin that was egregious enough to warrant such a punishment?  Or was there a lesson which could not have been learned without so much suffering?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see: http://alhatorah.org/Purposes_of_the_Egyptian_Bondage.
13:59
April 11, 2019
Tzara'at – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Tzara'at is one of the more enigmatic afflictions mentioned in Tanakh.  Though it is discussed at length in Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora, the nature of the condition is unclear.  Is it a natural disease that anyone can contract, or is it a Divinely sent, supernatural phenomenon? How do tzara'at of the house, clothing, and body relate to each other?  Finally, what about the condition causes its accompanying impurity?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see https://alhatorah.org/Tzara'at.
12:35
April 4, 2019
The Deaths of Nadav and Avihu – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
The story of Nadav and Avihu's deaths has captivated readers for centuries, as it omits almost as much as it reveals.  The Torah tells us that they died for having brought a "foreign fire which was not commanded".  What, though, was the nature of this fire and why was it problematic?  The text also appears to refer to them as "those who are close to God", suggesting that even in death they were holy and desired by Hashem. If so, why did they deserve capital punishment? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see https://alhatorah.org/Why_Were_Nadav_and_Avihu_Killed
13:56
March 28, 2019
Relationship Between Vayikra 1-5 and 6-7 – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Both Parashat Vayikra and Parashat Tzav speak at length about each of the five categories of sacrifices.  What is the relationship between these two sets of chapters?  Why are some laws included in one unit, others in the second, and yet others in both? Why is there a need for two distinct discussions at all; could not the Torah have combined all the laws into one unit? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see https://alhatorah.org/Relationship_Between_Vayikra_1-5_and_6-7.
15:50
March 21, 2019
Sacrificing for God – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Why Did Hashem choose sacrifices as His preferred mode of worship?  How does animal sacrifice help one connect to the Divine or attain forgiveness for sin?  Does this system have any advantages over that of prayer?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see https://alhatorah.org/Purpose_of_the_Sacrifices.
16:02
March 14, 2019
Achashverosh: Fickle Fool or Machiavellian Monarch – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
When Esther reveals herself and Haman's plot to Achashverosh, he reacts with shock and fury, demanding to know who would dare conceive of such a plot.  But considering that the king had approved of Haman's plan just a few days earlier, why was he so surprised?  How could he be unaware of Haman's role?  What does this story reveal about Achashverosh's character?  Does it prove that he really was just a fickle fool, or might there be more than meets the eye?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see http://alhatorah.org/Achashverosh%27s_Shock_and_Fury.
15:17
March 7, 2019
Parashat Shekalim – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Parashat Shekalim speaks of the initial command to donate half shekels during the nation's first year in the Wilderness. What was the purpose of this directive?  The verses speak of both the need to avert plague when counting and also that these contributions were designated to be utilized in service of the Tabernacle.  How do these goals relate to each other and which was paramount?  Finally, how does this initial command relate to the annual half shekel donations given ever since?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see https://alhatorah.org/Half_Shekels_%E2%80%93_For_Census_or_Tabernacle.
13:28
February 28, 2019
Sin of the Golden Calf – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
The story of the Sin of the Golden Calf raises two main questions. First, what was the nature of the people's sin, and how could they betray Hashem so soon after the revelation at Mount Sinai? Second, how are we to understand Aharon's role in the incident? Is it possible that he was actually involved in an idolatrous rite, or is it blasphemous to even consider such a possibility?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see: https://alhatorah.org/Sin_of_the_Golden_Calf
15:40
February 21, 2019
Warning Bells and Preventing Priestly Fatalities – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
One of the occupational hazards of being a priest was the potential for death for inappropriate service.  Parashat Tetzaveh speaks of one such instance, sharing that when Aharon enters the "Kodesh" wearing his robe, the bells will sound so that he will not die.  This verse is obscure, leaving both the reason for potential death and the means to avert it unclear. This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, will compare various approaches to the issue and what the verses teach about the necessary prerequisites to properly serve God.  For further analysis and source material, visit: https://alhatorah.org/Warning Bells – "וְנִשְׁמַע קוֹלוֹ... וְלֹא יָמוּת".
14:24
February 14, 2019
Purpose of the Mishkan – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
The second half of Sefer Shemot revolves around the building of the Tabernacle.  Why, though, does Hashem want a house? Assuming that He is an incorporeal being and cannot be contained within a physical framework, and that he has no need of food or drink, of what utility is the Mishkan and sacrificial service?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  For primary sources and analysis, see: http://alhatorah.org/Purpose_of_the_Mishkan. 
13:49
February 7, 2019
An Eye for an Eye – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
As the penalty for certain forms of physical assault, the Torah puts forth a principle of "measure for measure" punishment, declaring that one give an "eye for an eye, tooth for tooth". The overwhelming majority of Talmudic sages, however, rule that the guilty party pays restitution rather than being mutilated. Is this, though, what the Biblical verses really imply? How can the Rabbinic interpretation be reconciled with the simple sense of Scripture? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores this issue and more.  For sources and analysis, see http://alhatorah.org
14:55
January 31, 2019
Did Moshe Need Yitro's Advice? – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Shemot 18 describes how the Israelites wait from morning to night to hear judgment from Moshe.  Yitro, recognizing that the situation is untenable, advises Moshe that he should delegate responsibility and appoint judges to share in the burden. Given the somewhat obvious nature of this advice, it is perplexing that Moshe could not figure it out on his own.  Why did Moshe, the greatest of all prophets, need Yitro to state the obvious? Is it possible that Yitro's suggestion includes more than meets the eye?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores this issue and more.  For sources and analysis, see https://alhatorah.org/Did_Moshe_Need_Yitro%27s_Advice.
12:26
January 24, 2019
Miracles, Mitzvot, and Messages at Marah – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Marah is the nation's first stop in the Wilderness after being freed from Egyptian bondage. The nation arrives there with meager provisions, no legal code and a theological vacuum.  Which of these needs does Hashem think it most necessary to address at this juncture and how is this expressed in the story?  This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.  See also:  https://alhatorah.org/Miracles_and_Mitzvot_at_Marah
13:37
January 17, 2019
Purpose of the Pesach Rite – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Shemot 12 discusses the very first commandment given to the nation, the Pesach ritual, highlighting how Hashem directed the Israelites to slaughter a lamb and apply its blood to their doorposts.  What was the purpose of this ritual? (http://alhatorah.org/Purpose_of_the_Pesach) Though, at first glance, it appears to be a protective rite, aimed at saving the Israelites from the Plague of Firstborns, why would Hashem need a sign to distinguish Israelite and Egyptian? How else can the ceremony be understood? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.
15:55
January 10, 2019
Paroh's Hardened Heart – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
One of the recurring motifs in the opening chapters of Sefer Shemot is the hardening of Paroh's heart (http://alhatorah.org/Hardened_Hearts). The verses suggest that Hashem made Paroh intransigent, forcing him to refuse to free the Israelites. How, though, can this be reconciled with the assumption that everyone always has free will?  Are there circumstances in which Hashem overrides this principle?  Is it possible that Hashem would ever prevent someone from repenting and changing his ways? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.
14:54
January 3, 2019
Moshe's Killing of the Egyptian – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Should Moshe's killing of the Egyptian taskmaster ( http://alhatorah.org/Moshe%27s_Killing_of_the_Egyptian ) be understood as a righteous championing of the oppressed or an overly harsh act of vigilante justice?  Did the Egyptian really deserve to die simply for smiting the Hebrew slave under his command?  And if he did, why did Moshe not have him punished through regular judicial procedures?  In general, what circumstances allow for, or perhaps even mandate, taking the law into one's own hands? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.
14:54
December 27, 2018
Yaakov's Parting Words to Shimon and Levi – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Yaakov's parting words to Shimon and Levi ( http://alhatorah.org/Yaakov's_Parting_Words_to_Shimon_and_Levi ) focus on the brothers' fiery temperament. What events provide the backdrop for Yaakov's words? How does he view this trait of the brothers? Is anger inherently a negative quality, or can it, too, be a positive force? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.
15:59
December 20, 2018
Yosef – Economic Wizard or Cruel Dictator – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Why does the Torah expound at such length about Yosef's economic policies during the years of famine ( http://alhatorah.org/Yosef%27s_Economic_Policies ). How are they relevant to the history of the Nation of Israel? Moreover, what can we learn about Yosef through the episode? Does the story portray him in a positive or negative light? Were his policies evidence of economic genius or of exploitation? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.
15:59
December 13, 2018
Miracles – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
What are miracles ( http://alhatorah.org/Philosophy:Miracles ) and how do they work? Are miracles part of the natural world? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more through Tanakh, its commentators, and the miracles of Chanukkah.
16:26
December 7, 2018
Yehuda and Tamar – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
What is the Torah's purpose in sharing the story of Yehuda and Tamar ( http://alhatorah.org/Purpose_of_the_Yehuda_and_Tamar_Story ), and why have it interrupt the drama of Yosef's sale? What light does the story shed on Yehuda's character? Does it portray him positively, negatively, or neutrally? How does the portrait drawn of Yehuda affect our understanding not only of this story but of the broader Yosef narrative which surrounds it? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.
18:32
November 29, 2018
Wrestling With Angels and Men – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH ORG
One of the highlights of Parashat Vayishlach is Yaakov's nocturnal wrestling match with an unknown assailant ( http://alhatorah.org/Wrestling_With_Angels_and_Men ). Who is the mysterious figure with whom Yaakov struggles until dawn? Why is he confronting Yaakov? What message did the incident convey to Yaakov and what meaning does it have for us today? This Torahcast, brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky, explores these questions and more.
16:28
November 22, 2018
Miraculous Births and Precocious Tweens – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
Reading Tanakh stories in strict chronological order can sometimes lead to somewhat implausible scenarios: twelve births in six years, tweens capable of decimating a city, and successive generations of eight year old fathers. Listen to this Torahcast brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky exploring the births of Yaakov's first twelve children ( http://alhatorah.org/The_Births_and_Relative_Ages_of_Yaakov%27s_Children ) and how three different approaches to the unfolding of these events shape our understanding of stories in both Parashat Vayetze itself as well as the continuation of Sefer Bereshit.
13:20
November 15, 2018
Sale of the Birthright – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
A Torahcast brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky exploring the story of the Sale of the Birthright ( http://alhatorah.org/Sale_of_the_Birthright_%E2%80%93_A_Fair_Deal ). How are we to understand Yaakov's apparent exploitation of his brother's hunger? Was he not guilty of extortion when buying the birthright for a meager pot of lentils? This Torahcast will survey how various commentators read the story and attempt to justify Yaakov's actions.
18:14
November 8, 2018
Wanted A Wife for Yitzchak – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
A Torahcast brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky discussing Avraham and his servant's search for a wife for Yitzchak (alhatorah.org/Wanted:_A_Wife_for_Yitzchak). What was the most important criterion Avraham was looking for in a potential daughter-in-law? Was it family lineage, good character, or proper beliefs?
15:50
November 5, 2018
Avraham's Plea for Sedom – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
A Torahcast brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky exploring Avraham's plea for Sedom ( alhatorah.org/Avraham%27s_Prayer_for_Sedom ) and the issues of collective punishment and collective salvation. How do these models of Divine judgment compare? Was Avraham praying for justice, mercy or both?
14:18
November 5, 2018
Avram and Sarai in Egypt – Neima Novetsky - ALHATORAH.ORG
A Torahcast brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky exploring the story of Avraham's endangering of Sarah in Egypt ( alhatorah.org/Endangering_Sarai_in_Egypt ). This Torah lesson analyzes various commentators' views on whether it is legitimate to criticize our ancestors' actions, or whether it is preferable to view them as impeccable role models, reinterpreting any story which might suggest otherwise. For source material and more detailed analysis, visit: alhatorah.org/Endangering_Sarai_in_Egypt
14:42
November 5, 2018
Migdal Bavel – Neima Novetsky - ALHATORAH.ORG
A Torahcast brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky examining the story of the Tower of Babel ( alhatorah.org/Deconstructing_Migdal_Bavel ) and its implications for us. For source material and more detailed analysis, see: alhatorah.org/Deconstructing_Migdal_Bavel
17:29
November 5, 2018
Kayin and Hevel – Neima Novetsky – ALHATORAH.ORG
A short Torahcast brought to you by ALHATORAH.ORG, featuring Neima Novetsky exploring the tragic episode of Kayin and Hevel ( alhatorah.org/Kayin%27s_Sacrifice_Rejected ), why Hashem rejected Kayin's sacrifice, and what we can learn from this story. For more detailed analysis and to view the various sources inside, see: alhatorah.org/Kayin%27s_Sacrifice_Rejected
16:21
November 5, 2018
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