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Rambam for Thursday, 22 Tishrei, 5778 - October 12, 2017

Rambam - Sefer HaMitzvos
As Divided for The Daily Learning Schedule

Negative Mitzvot 35, 38, 36, 37, 34, 43, 44, 40, 39, 41, 45, 171

21 Tishrei, 5778 - October 11, 201723 Tishrei, 5778 - October 13, 2017


Introduction to Mitzvot 31-38:

Prohibitions against Superstition

These Negative Mitzvot concern superstition, and the forbidden use of sorcery, Astrology and other methods to predict the future.

Many people believe that there are other powers besides G-d that rule our fate. The Torah forbids us to try to tell the future with those methods, knowing that HaShem alone decides our future.

A great Rabbi was once traveling with his students in a horse- drawn carriage. The Rabbi suddenly pointed to a leaf falling from a tree.

"Watch that leaf carefully," he advised his students.

The students followed the leaf as it fell gracefully to the ground. A slight breeze stirred it, causing the leaf to turn over and over on the road. It finally came to a stop a few yards away from the carriage.

The Rabbi ordered the driver to stop and told one of his students: "Go to the leaf and gently lift it up. Then tell us what you find beneath it."

The curious student followed his Rabbi's instructions.

After a moment he returned to the carriage and told his fellow students: "Under the leaf, is a tiny worm who had just begun to nibble at it."

"You see, how wondrous HaShem's ways are!", exclaimed the Rabbi happily. "That leaf fell from the tree at just the right time and precisely to the exact spot that it was needed! G-d cares for every creature and provides for its needs. He plans and guides every action."

As HaShem cares for the needs of a tiny worm, so too, He cares for all creation. Nothing in this world is accidental. There is no just plain luck or chance. No other forces determine what was, what is and what will be other than HaShem.

In these Mitzvot the Torah cautions us against practicing witchcraft or black magic to try to make things happen or to predict the future.

However, we can effect the future. We must always remember that our deeds can and do make a difference. When we keep the Mitzvot of the Torah, we bring upon ourselves many blessings from HaShem.


Negative Mitzvah 35: You shall not use incantations
Deuteronomy 18:10-11 "There shall not be found among you... a charmer"

A "charmer" is someone who recites chants that can, supposedly, control different situations. We are forbidden to recite these chants.


Negative Mitzvah 38: You shall not try to communicate with or seek information from the dead.
Deuteronomy 18:11 "There shall not be found among you... a necromancer"

HaShem is the Master of all life.

A skilled scientist may be able to reconstruct the body of a small fly, but he is still unable to give it life.

The Torah draws a clear line between the living and the dead, and does not wish us to try to contact those that are not alive.

We can, read about and learn from the deeds of people who have passed away. We have many books about the lives of our great Rabbis from previous generations. Your parents can surely tell you stories about members of your own families who lived many years before you were born.

There are some people who mistakenly think they can communicate with the dead through seances or meditation.

A "necromancer" is someone who claims that he can contact the dead. The Torah forbids the use of such methods.

This Mitzvah forbids us from trying to contact or seek information from those who are already dead.


Negative Mitzvah 36: You shall not consult those who practice "Ov" worship.
Deuteronomy 18:10-11 "There shall not be found among you... a medium"

Negative Mitzvah 8 cautions us against practicing the art of the Ov, which consists of imaginary contact with the dead.

This Negative Mitzvah forbids us to consult with any person who believes in the "Ov" worship, or ask him for advice or information.


Negative Mitzvah 37: You shall not consult those who practice "Yidde'oni" worship.
Deuteronomy 18:11 "There shall not be found among you... a oracle"

Negative Mitzvah 9 cautions us against practicing the art of the "Yidde'oni" which consists of a type of imaginary prophecy.

This Negative Mitzvah forbids us to consult anyone who believes in the "Yidde'oni" worship, or seek information from him.


Negative Mitzvah 34: You shall not practice witchcraft
Deuteronomy 18:10 "There shall not be found among you... a witch (sorcerer)"

We are forbidden to practice any sort of witchcraft.


Introduction to Mitzvot 43-44:

Prohibitions in regard to Shaving.

These two prohibitions place a limit upon what areas of the face and head that a Jewish male is allowed to cut or shave.

These Negative Mitzvot emphasize that the appearance of the Jewish man is unique and must, in no way, resemble the appearance of someone who worships idols.

It was (and still is) common practice for members of other religions to either totally shave off their sideburns, their beards, or all the hair upon their heads, as part of a religious custom.

The Torah prohibits this type of shaving.

While the Torah sets basic limitations in regard to shaving, there exist various customs and traditions among different Jewish communities in regard to what type of shaving is forbidden.


Negative Mitzvah 43: You shall not cut your sideburns so that they no longer appear
Leviticus 19:27 "You shall not round the corners of your heads"

This Negative Mitzvah prohibits shaving sideburns to a point where they no longer can be seen.

(The Talmud tells us that this is called "rounding," because removing the hair of the sideburns rounds off the shape of the head.)


Negative Mitzvah 44: You shall not shave your beard with a razor
Leviticus 19:27 "Neither shall you mar the corners of your beard"

As with the above Negative Mitzvah, Jewish men are cautioned against shaving their beards. This commandment applies to the use of a razor (or a utensil that is like a razor) in order to shave off the beard.


Negative Mitzvah 40: Men should not wear women's clothing or adornments
Deuteronomy 22:5 "Neither shall a man put on a woman's garment"

As in the Negative Mitzvah 39, the Torah tells the Jewish man to maintain his own unique qualities.

He is not allowed to wear any garments or jewelry that are for women.


Negative Mitzvah 39: Women should not wear men's clothing or adornments
Deuteronomy 22:5 "A woman shall not wear that which pertains to a man"

Can you imagine the clouds suddenly bursting into a storm showering sand instead of rain? Or rocks blooming into beautiful flowers?

When HaShem created the world, He established the laws of nature and set rules for each of the creations.

Everything has its function and manner of being.

Man and Woman are the most important of all the creations and HaShem gave each one their own nature and unique qualities.

Women are special in a different way than Men are.

The Torah wants each creation to express its own special nature in its own special way. There are many Mitzvot that apply to all Jews, however, there are some commandments given specifically to men, while others were given only to women.

This Negative Mitzvah encourages a Jewish woman to preserve her own unique qualities in the way that she dresses. She is not allowed to wear clothes or articles that are considered to be men's garments.


Negative Mitzvah 41: You shall not tattoo or mark your own skin
Leviticus 19:28 "Nor print any marks upon you"

There are many Mitzvot encouraging us not to look or act like idol-worshipers. Many people have traditional customs which the Torah does not want us to practice. One common custom is marking the skin with tattoos, in which the person carves a picture into the skin. The Torah forbids us to make tattoos upon our skin.


Negative Mitzvah 45: You shall not scar yourself as a symbol of mourning
Deuteronomy 14:1 "You shall not cut yourselves"

Idol-worshipers used to scar themselves when mourning for their dead.

The Torah forbids us to follow their example.

We must never scar ourselves as an act of mourning.

The Hebrew, Titgodedu (is used in the Torah with regard to this Negative Mitzvah. The word Aggudah comes from the same root-word and means "group."

Therefore, our Sages explained that included in this Negative Mitzvah is the prohibition against separating into groups and the creation of division among our people.


Negative Mitzvah 171: It is prohibited to tear out hair as a sign of mourning
Deuteronomy 14:1 "Nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead"

When a person close to us passes away, we feel a great deal of sorrow and grief.

The Torah has given us specific laws in regard to mourning and what is permitted and forbidden to the person who is mourning.

For instance, we tear our garments and remain in our houses, sitting "Shivah" during the first seven days.

However, other nations have different customs of mourning.

The Torah cautions us not to adopt or use these customs.

One such custom among other nations as a sign of mourning, was that the mourner would rip out hair from the top of his head, making a bald patch.

This Negative Mitzvah cautions us not to make a bald patch on our heads as a sign of mourning.


There are three ways to bring unity between two opposites: The first is by introducing a power that transcends both of them and to which they both utterly surrender their entire being. They are then at peace with each other because they are both under the influence of the same force. But their being is not at peace -- their being is simply ignored.

The second way is by finding a middle ground where the two beings meet. The two are at peace where they meet on that middle ground -- but the rest of their territory remains apart and distant.

The third way is to reveal that the essence of every aspect of the two beings is one and the same. This is the way of Torah. Torah makes peace between the spiritual and the material by revealing that the true substance of all things is the Oneness of their Creator.

From: Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Tzvi Freeman - tzvif@aol.com



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