Rabbi Jay Kelman's blog

Shabbat 10: A Special Gift

“Rava bar Machsseya said in the name of Rav Chama bar Gurya in the name of Rav: One who gives a gift to another must inform him” (Shabbat 10b). 

As the Tosafists (Shabbat 10b, s.v. hanoten) note, this law applies only if the gift is given as a demonstration of friendship and love. To anonymously give such a gift would be counterproductive, preventing greater closeness between people. However, a gift that is liable to cause embarrassment, such as charity funds, should be given anonymously.  

Pekudei: Time and Space

“And it was on first month of the second year on the first of the month that the Tabernacle was erected” (Shemot 40:17). The first of Nissan is a most special time in Jewish history. It was on this date that Moshe and Aharon began preparing the people for their exodus from Egypt. It is thereby "the head of the months", marking the beginning of national Jewish history.

Shabbat 4: Praying Alone

One of the hardest mitzvot to properly fulfil is that of rebuke, “hocheiach tocheech et amitecha” (Vayikra 19:17). We are commanded, when necessary, to “prove” to our fellow Jews that what they are about to do is wrong and thus, they must desist. We must do so in a manner that does not cause embarrassment—hence, the continuation of the verse, “You shall not bear a sin because of him”, to which Rashi comments, “Do not whiten his face in public”.

Ki-Tissa: The Golden Garden

"And the people saw ki boshesh Moshe, that Moshe delayed in coming down from the mountain" (Shemot 32:1). As a young nation coming from a hedonistic society that had many gods, the transition to a monotheistic people living a disciplined life was not (and is not) an easy one. They needed lots of 'hand-holding' as they matured as a people, and were paralyzed with their leader away.

Shabbat 2: From Place to Place

“The carrying out on Shabbat are two that are four [for one] inside [a home] and two that are four [for one] outside [the home]” (Shabbat 2a). The Mishna discusses who violates Shabbat, and under what circumstances, when an object is passed from a private, “inside”, to a public, “outside”, domain. It is with these laws of carrying that we begin masechet Shabbat, the opening tractate of Seder Moed, detailing the laws relating to the special occasions, moadot, of the year. 

Purim: Time for a Change

Purim marks a transition point in Jewish history. It ushers in the time period of hester panim, the transition from G-d's obvious and active role in history to a period when G-d's role in history is difficult to discern. Esther, whose very name is an allusion to this concept of hiding, is the last of the prophets. No longer would the word of G-d be directly revealed to man. There would be difficult choices to make, and man would have to work hard to try to determine the best course of action devoid of direct Divine guidance.

Brachot 55: People Power

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. A leader, by definition, must make decisions that are going to hurt people. That does not mean the decisions are incorrect, but rather is a result of the fact that it is impossible for every decision to benefit all. If, for example, one allocates more money towards healthcare, there is less for education; if more for security, less for research and development. If one goes to war to defeat terrorists, one may help many, but put many others in harm’s way. And so it is with almost all decisions impacting the public.

Tezaveh: Consistently Excited

For many, when the Torah reading reaches the parshiot of Terumah and Tezaveh interest in the parsha wanes just a bit (or maybe more). It is hard to compare the technical details of these parshiot with the excitement of, say, the Yosef story. Add to that the inapplicability of these parshiot for the past 2,000 years and we can understand the diminished attention paid to them.

Terumah: Child's Play

Judaism sees the sparks of the Divine within the most mundane of activities. Revelation at Sinai is followed by a series of laws dealing with such topics as slavery, property damage, assault and battery, lost objects, and court procedures. While all societies have civil codes, Judaism sees these laws as rooted in the Divine system of justice. Their observance embodies the essence of Judaism no less—in fact, more—than the “rituals” of Judaism.

Brachot 48: Pumpkin, Pumpkin Look to the Sky

I imagine that many of us had elementary school classmates whom we knew were going to reach great heights. Their intelligence and drive to succeed was obvious, and their success was easily foretold. While some are late bloomers, many, likely most, who attain greatness in fields ranging from athletics to zoology and everything in between, show their talents at a young age. 

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