Rabbi Jay Kelman's blog

Tazria: Birth and Death

There is no greater joy than having a child. From a religious perspective, bringing new life into this world is the most tangible way of demonstrating that we were created in G-d’s image. The initial biblical portrayal of G-d is that of a Creator. And the first mitzvah given to man is to be fruitful and multiply and to conquer the earth, mandating us to imitate and partner with G-d in the continuing process of creation. The Torah describes the great joy, and the subsequent party, when Yitzchak was born. A primary theme of sefer Breisheet is the yearning for children.

Shmini: Comforting Cousins

At times of crisis, true leaders often emerge, be they political, military or religious. Their ability to effectively provide inspiration, motivation, hope, and comfort when needed sows seeds of evolutionary growth in the life of a nation. This is equally true on a personal level, especially when a sudden tragedy strikes. It is in these situations that great people reach for strength and ability they did not even know they possessed. 

Shabbat 25: Who is Wealthy

“Who is wealthy? One who is happy with his lot!” (Avot 4:1). This teaching of Ben Zoma is undoubtedly one of the best known, most difficult and least-observed teachings in rabbinic literature. Man, by his very nature, is never satisfied with his lot. “One who has one hundred, wants two hundred, and one who has two hundred wants four hundred” (Kohelet Rabba 1:13). 

Shabbat 17: Murder in the Beit Midrash

The Talmud quotes some 316 debates between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. “Since both these and those are the words of the living God”, the Talmud (Eiruvin 13b) asks, “why was the law established in accordance with Beit Hillel?” The answer of the Talmud is not because they were smarter—the Talmud actually says the students of Shammai were sharper—but rather, it was because “they were agreeable and forbearing, they would teach both their own statements and the statements of Beit Shammai.

Shabbat 13: Fasting or Feasting

When it was still forbidden to write down the Oral Law, one of the very few written texts was that of Megillat Taanit, the scroll of fast days. This Megillah lists 35 days on which it was forbidden to fast, as they were days commemorating joyous events in Jewish history. Of the 35 days listed, only two remain applicable today, that of Purim and Chanukah. The others lost all meaning with the destruction of the Temple. 

Vayikra: A Book of Love

Perhaps Man’s greatest fear is his ultimate irrelevance, that we really don’t make a difference and that in the greater scheme of things, our lives are for naught. This is why people yearn to leave a legacy, and it is often for this reason that people have children. The historical tendency to value male babies over females is due to the fact that it was (is?) the male who would carry on the family name and legacy. Upon marriage, females were typically absorbed into the family of the husband.

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