Holiday Thoughts

Purim: Ignoring G-d

March 20, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Purim celebrates the eternity of the Jewish people. Despite exile and dispersion, genocidal enemies and those willing to turn a blind eye to such, the Jewish people are here forever. When Esther sent a letter to the Sages, “kitvuni ledorot,” write me down for the generations (Megillah 7a), she was proclaiming that the story of the Megillah is the story of the Jewish people for all time. Its inclusion in the Biblical...
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Vayikra-Zachor: Remembering Sacrifices

March 15, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of the fiercest debates amongst Biblical commentators of the medieval period was to what extent, if at all, parts of the Torah may be seen as allegorical. No less a personage than the Rambam claimed that stories such as the three angels visiting Avraham, or Yaakov’s struggle with an angel, were prophetic visions that did not actually occur. As one can imagine, views such as these—and more radical ones, which allegorized such ...
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Chanukah: A Special Nation

December 03, 2018 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of the painful realities of Jewish life is that the Jewish people are often judged by a double standard. What in other cultures is done with impunity often causes an uproar when it is the State of Israel doing the exact same thing. While frustrating and unfair, it is a burden we should be most proud of.  The nations of the world have an innate ability to grasp the uniqueness of the Jew. How else to explain the fixation of the...
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Shabbat Chol HaMoed: Context is Key

September 28, 2018 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
When studying literature we must study not only its content, but also its form. This is especially true in the study of poetry, where the words themselves offer only a limited understanding of the text. Our Torah, in addition to being a description of the Divine, is a work of profound literature and poetry[1], and our understanding of it is greatly enhanced when we apply literary analysis to its study. The Torah presents the holidays in a...
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Sukkoth: The Beauty of the Etrog

September 23, 2018 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Judaism is not oblivious to the power and even importance of physical beauty. Phrases such as yefat tohar v’yefot ma’areh, loosely translated as very attractive, is one we find in the Torah to describe such heroines as Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Esther. The Beit HaMikdash—and, by extension, our shuls—had to physically reflect the fact that it is the dwelling place of G-d. Beauty is to be obvious to all who enter...
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