Holiday Thoughts

The Fast of the Eighth of Tevet: Lost in Translation

December 30, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"I recall with distress that which befell me; with three blows He struck me this month...He surrounded me on the eighth day with darkness, left and right. Behold, all these three [days] are established as a fast, for the Greek king forced me to write in the Greek religion" (Opening of Selichot for the tenth of Tevet). Perhaps the greatest transformation of Torah learning in recent generations is the massive availability of Torah...
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Mai Chanukah

December 21, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"Mai Chanukah? What is Chanukah?" (Shabbat 21b). To this rather strange question, the Gemara answers, "Our Rabbis taught: From the twenty-fifth of Kislev the days of Chanukah are eight on which eulogies and fasting are forbidden" (Shabbat 21b). The Gemara continues by describing the basic outline of the story: how the Greeks defiled the Temple, the Hasmoneans defeated them and upon entering the Temple, found only...
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Hoshana Rabbah: Water Falls

October 15, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"On the Yom Tov of the last day, we read 'Kol Habechor, every first born'" (Devarim 15:19, Megillah 31a). Finding an appropriate Torah reading for Shmini Azeret is no easy task. The holiday is mentioned only twice in Chumash: once as a passing reference in Parshat Emor, where the Torah instructs us to keep Sukkot for seven days and "the eighth day shall be a holy convocation" (Vayikra 23:36), and once in...
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Sukkot: The Twin Pillars

October 08, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Pesach and Sukkot are the twin pillars of the Jewish year. They are exactly six months apart, each on the fifteenth day of the first month of their respective years. Pesach marks the apex of the lunar year that begins in Nissan, and Sukkot does the same for Tishrei, the beginning of the solar year. That both these holidays begin on the 15th of the month is no coincidence, as it on the 15th that the moon is full. Like the moon, the...
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Chagigah 14: Acher, Please Return

September 29, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of the hallmarks of the Western world is its inclusiveness. Great attempts are made to make all feel included, no matter their ability or their lifestyle. This is a most beautiful sentiment. Society has become more sensitive to the needs of people who not so long ago were shunned. Yet at the same time, being welcoming and inclusive does not mean that we are to accept any and every lifestyle choice as proper. We must learn to separate the...
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