Rabbi Jay Kelman's blog

Ki-Tavo: Speak Up

One of the key aspects of our being created in the Divine image is the gift of speech. As the world was created with ten Divine utterances (Avot 5:1), our tzelem elokim, divine image, allows us to create, or G-d forbid, destroy, many little “human” worlds through our speech. Yet strangely—perhaps brilliantly is a more apt description—there is very little a Jew must actually say. 

Keritot 25: When in Doubt

One brings a korban for one of two reasons: either because one wants to or because one has to. One may offer a korban as a way of saying thank you for the blessings of life. Instead of, or perhaps in addition to inviting some friends over to celebrate, one transforms the feast into a seudat mitzvah by celebrating in Jerusalem, publicly offering thanksgiving to G-d and sharing their bounty with others[1].

Shoftim: Nothing to Fear

The basic duty of every government is to provide security and protect its citizens from both internal criminal activity and external enemies. Parshat Shoftim, which contains the mitzvah to appoint a king, thus also contains the mitzvot of appointing a police force and the laws relating to a Jewish army. Our inability to have a Jewish army for close to two thousand years served to highlight our national degradation. During the battles for Jewish emancipation in the 18th and 19th centuries, Jews fought hard for the right to join the armies of their host countries.

Keritot 8: The Rabbinic Market

The most basic rule of economics is that of supply and demand. The interaction between these two forces is the key—often the only—factor in determining the price of an object or service. In order to maximize economic efficiency, providing consumers with the goods they want at the lowest possible price, market forces must not be tampered with.

Re'eh: Conflicting Emotions

It is difficult to feel two contradictory emotions at the same time. Conflicting, if not contradictory, emotions such as joy and sadness, love and hate, fear and comfort, do not easily co-exist. As human beings constantly struggle with conflicting emotions, Judaism, wanting to give each its proper time for expression, separates differing emotions into separate days.  

An Introduction to Masechet Keritot

“One should be as careful with a light mitzvah as with heavy mitzvah” (Avot 2:1). Contrary to what is often taught, not all mitzvot are created equal. Some are more important, some less so. The mitzvah to accept upon oneself to observe the commandments (done through the recital of the shema) is clearly of greater importance than, say, ensuring we put salt on all our sacrifices[1].

Eikev: A Long Journey

"According to the days that you spent exploring the land, forty days, a year for a day, you shall carry your sin and you will know My actions" (Bamidbar 14:34). The sin of rejecting the land of Israel was not easily forgiven and forty days would turn into forty long years, enough time for an entire generation to die. This is well known and seemingly indisputable. 

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