Holiday Thoughts

Yom Kippur: Just a Minute

September 18, 2010 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The death of the righteous atones, our Sages teach, and it is for this reason that during Mussaf of Yom Kippur, just after recounting the special service done in the Temple, we read of the deaths of the “ten martyrs” so cruelly murdered by the Romans."They [the Romans] ordered the Rabbi Chananya ben Tradeyon be brought from his study hall, and they burned his body with bundles of branches. They placed saturated wool sponges on his chest to delay...
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Rosh Hashanah: The Right Focus

September 09, 2010 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“On Rosh Hashanah, it is written; and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed, who shall live and who shall die…” (Machzor). It is doubtful that there is a more powerful, emotional or poignant part of the davening on the yamim noraim than the recital of Unetaneh Tokef. The haunting tune sets the mood of the day, while the stark words highlight the fragility of life. If we are successful in taking its words to heart, we will be...
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Acharei Mot: Preparing for Yom Kippur

April 23, 2010 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“And G-d spoke to Moshe after the death of the two children of Aharon when they came close before G-d and they died” (16:1). The Torah then proceeds with the elaborate details of the special Yom Kippur service.What is most unclear is why the Torah mentions the death of the Nadav and Avihu as the prelude to the Yom Kippur service. Mention of their deaths at this point is especially strange as their death took place more than six months...
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Tisha B'Av: Evading Responsibility

July 24, 2007 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“But the Second Temple, that they were involved in Torah and Mitzvoth and Gemilot Chasadim (loving kindness), why was it destroyed? Because it contained sinnat chinam" (Yoma 9b). While the cause of the loss of the Temple is quite clearly identified here, its definition is not. Had our Sages said the Temple was destroyed because of sinnah (hatred) amongst Jews, we would have understood. A society full of hatred cannot endure—internal strife is...
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Yom Yerushalayim: Sason and Simcha

June 05, 2007 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Numbers play a significant, if usually symbolic, role in Jewish thought. Perhaps the most symbolic number is seven, representing completeness; the most obvious example is Shabbat, the highlight that completes the week. Even our new year, Rosh Hashanah, takes place in the seventh month, and the holidays of Pesach and Sukkot are meant to be seven days long. Shavuot, the culmination of the exodus, is celebrated after seven weeks of seven days. The...
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