Holiday Thoughts

Chanukah: Looking Backward and Forward

December 13, 2017 By: rabbi jay kelman
The holiday of Chanukah is a most beloved one. Lighting the candles is the only mitzvah that has, built into its performance, a three-tiered system: what we may call good, better and best. We begin with the basic mitzvah of one candle per household on each of the eight nights of Chanukah. We may opt for the more beautified version, mehadrin, where we light candles according to the number of people in the home on each night. Finally,...
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Sukkot: All in One

October 04, 2017 By: rabbi jay kelman
Sukkot marks the beginning of the end of the holiday season. As the fall season commences, and as the days get progressively shorter and colder, festivities become more difficult. Travelling to Jerusalem for inspiration is no longer feasible and we must rely on the spiritual renewal gained during the previous six months of holidays. Our sages noted that in reality, Sukkot should be celebrated in the spring. After all, the Torah tells us that...
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Yom Kippur: Bedtime Stories

September 29, 2017 By: rabbi jay kelman
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 619:6) quotes a custom to remain in shul through the night of Yom Kippur, singing songs of praise to G-d. While some question the wisdom of this custom, cogently arguing that to do so would make concentration in prayer on the day of Yom Kippur most difficult (see Mishna Berura 616:14), the custom reflects the deep yearning of the Jewish people to feel the presence of G-d on the day of the year when He is...
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Rosh Hashanah: Time for Prayer

September 20, 2017 By: rabbi jay kelman
Rosh Hashanah is first and foremost a day of prayer. Prayer, as Rav Soloveitchik often noted, is rooted in asking G-d to fulfil our needs. One who is fully satisfied with his life has no need to pray. As the Yom haDin, the Day of Judgment, approaches, our needs and thus, the amount of time spent in prayer grows—such that on Yom Kippur, when our fate is sealed, the entire day is spent in prayer. The Torah readings on Rosh...
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Shavuot: Messianic Origins

May 30, 2017 By: rabbi jay kelman
“And these are the generations of Peretz…. Shalmon begot Boaz…and Yishai begot David" (Rut 4:18-22). So ends the Book of Rut, read on Shavuot, detailing the link from Peretz to David, the forerunner of the Mashiach. The birth of Peretz himself is described in sefer Breisheet, and what an unholy birth it was. Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Yehudah, who lost two husbands and found herself in limbo waiting for a third, “took off her widow’s garb and...
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