Shabbat Chol HaMoed: Let's Skip This Year
"Keep the harvest festival as the year changes" (Shemot 34:22). This (half) verse is the only reference to Sukkoth (or more precisely Chag Ha'aseif, the harvest festival) in the Torah reading that our Sages have ordained for Shabbat Chol Hamoed. It seems like a rather weak reason for this reading. Actually, the Torah reading chosen for Sukkoth seems much more appropriate for Yom Kippur. Its main focus is the aftermath of...Continue Reading »
Sukkot: Fear and Joy
The Jewish year begins with the aseret yemei teshuva, the ten days of repentance. They begin with the strict justice of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Hadin; and culminate on Yom Kippur, with its unique opportunity for forgiveness. The intensity of these days is reflected in our liturgy, our special customs, and in Jewish law, where certain stringencies are recommended only during these ten days. The unique nature of the “High Holy...Continue Reading »
Hazeinu: Straight Talk
“The deeds of the Mighty One are perfect, for all his ways are just. He is a faithful judge; never unfair, righteous and straight is He" (Devarim 32:4). This statement is recited at every funeral as the mourners, though perhaps feeling distant from G-d, accept the decision of the ultimate Judge. Undoubtedly, this acknowledgement of G-d as the perfect judge is difficult for us to see in this often imperfect, unfaithful, immoral...Continue Reading »
Yom Kippur and Baseball!
“There are those who acquire their world in one moment” (Avodah Zara 18a). One action can define a life. While some people have to work their entire lives to be worthy of entering the World to Come others can acquire their eternal reward in one moment. Such a moment occurred, it seems to me, when Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, announced that he would not pitch the opening game of the 1965 World...Continue Reading »
Yom Kippur: Where are You?
“On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.” No two holidays are as thematically connected as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. So much so that we view them almost as one, the bookends of the Yamim Noraim, the days of awe, which begin on Rosh Hashanah and conclude ten days later on Yom Kippur. And yet there seems little to connect them – at least from a biblical perspective. Unlike Pesach and Shavuot there is...Continue Reading »