Holiday Thoughts

Aseret Yemi Teshuva: The Freedom to Choose

September 23, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“In a place where ba’alei teshuva stand there, not even the fully righteous can stand” (Brachot 34b). This teaching is generally understood to mean that penitents are on a higher level than the fully righteous. The underlying premise of this teaching is that sinning is enjoyable—if it were not so, then why sin?—and it is much harder to give up something that one has already enjoyed than to refrain from...
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Rosh Hashanah: Time for Change

September 18, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Man has a tremendous capacity for self-deception. We easily see faults in others; somehow, we miss them in ourselves. Teshuva, repentance, can begin only when we are honest with ourselves and admit that we have made mistakes. While we often can admit to certain "minor" errors, like being late or failing to say “good morning” to somebody, we have tremendous difficulty admitting to mistakes that can only be...
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Some Thoughts on This Year's Yamim Noraim

September 16, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The Yamim Noraim of the year 70 must have been quite traumatic. The Temple had been destroyed less than two months earlier and thousands lay dead, with many others exiled. Never in anyone’s lifetime had there been such a disruption to the normal routine of life. Could Judaism survive, and if so, in what form? “The house of prayer for all nations” lay in ruins, and surely there was no way to observe Yom Kippur. How...
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Tu B'Av: Breaking the Glass

August 05, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of the best-known wedding customs is the breaking of a glass during the chuppah. The common explanation given for this custom is that it serves as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple. Our breaking of the glass is meant as a fulfilment of the verse, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten; let my tongue stick to my palate if I do not mention you, if I do not raise Jerusalem above my highest joy...
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Tisha B'Av: Back to School

July 29, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
If someone gives you ten answers to a question, the one thing you can be assured of is that none of the answers is a very a good one. If one has a good answer to a question, one has no need for an additional answer, which may actually serve to weaken one’s arguments.  One of the most common expressions of the Gemara, v’tzreecha, “it is needed”, is used where the Gemara is forced to explain why it...
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