Rosh Hashanah: Do I Need to Pray?
"On Rosh Hashanah, we read 'on the seventh month on the first day', and the maftir reads, 'is not Ephraim my precious son'; and some say we read 'and G-d remembered Sarah', and the maftir with Chana (Shmuel 1,Chapter 1-2). And now that we have two days, on the first day, we do like 'some say', and on the morrow, 'and G-d tested Abraham'; and the...Continue Reading »
Tisha B'Av: The Joy of Jerusalem
"Whoever mourns for Jerusalem will merit seeing its joy" (Ta'anit 30b). Our Sages seem to be offering words of comfort to those pious Jews over the millennium, who faithfully internalized the suffering of the Jewish people. Though they would not merit seeing the rebuilding of Jerusalem in their own lifetime—that is a blessing reserved for our generation—they would merit seeing the joy of Jerusalem after they were...Continue Reading »
Shavuot: Why Were We Chosen?
"It was taught in the name of Rabbi Meir: Why was the Torah given to the Jewish people?" (Beitzah 25a). The simple answer—made famous by a Midrash that is taught at a very young age in all Jewish schools—is that we wanted to. "The Lord came from Sinai and rose from Seir unto them, He shined forth from Mount Paran (Devarim 33:2)...Rav Yochanan says: This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, offered the Torah to...Continue Reading »
Yom Yerushalayim Thoughts
"Ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the Beit Hamikdash...and no one ever said to his fellow, 'the place is too cramped for me to sleep in Jerusalem'" (Avot 5:7). Jerusalem was a very small city, populated primarily by priests working in the Temple, rabbis sitting on the Sanhedrin, and civil servants taking care of the administrative functions of a capital city. Yet, three times a year, Jerusalem was filled with...Continue Reading »
Lag BaOmer Thoughts
Lag BaOmer is a mysterious holiday. There is no mention of it in the Gemara, a fact that led the Chatam Sofer to object to the many practices of the day that had come into vogue. The two standard explanations for this holiday are that it is the day that the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying, and that it is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (or perhaps the day in which the decree of the Romans to kill him was...Continue Reading »