Holiday Thoughts

Purim: For the People

March 12, 2017 By: rabbi jay kelman
What should one do when the needs of the Jewish people conflict with the needs of Judaism? When the only way to keep our people Jewishly involved is to bend (or perhaps break) the norms of a traditional way of life? The Jewish people have been debating this question since the Enlightenment. With the ghetto walls crumbling, most Jews sought out new ways to express their Jewishness, unwilling and perhaps unable to maintain traditional frames of...
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Parshat Zachor: Defeating Evil

March 10, 2017 By: rabbi jay kelman
"He shall surely be put to death".  "They shall be pelted with stones and thus stoned to death".  "He shall be burned with fire".  "His soul shall be cut off from the community of Israel ".  "Both shall bear their guilt and die without children".  "Have him flogged with lashes".  These direct quotes—and there are many more examples from which to choose—have their source in our Torah. Sounds...
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Chanukah: 70 Bulls and 8 Lights

December 25, 2016 By: rabbi jay kelman
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing Jewishly conscious people in the modern world is figuring out the proper relationship we are to have vis a vis the outside world. Should it be one of rejection, integration or compromise? The above models have all been tried and have all met with varying degrees of success. As the challenges of the outside world are constantly changing, so must our approach; what works in one generation may be a disaster for...
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Shabbat Chol HaMoed: Let's Skip This Year

October 21, 2016 By: rabbi jay kelman
"Keep the harvest festival as the year changes" (Shemot 34:22). This (half) verse is the only reference to Sukkoth (or more precisely Chag Ha'aseif, the harvest festival) in the Torah reading that our Sages have ordained for Shabbat Chol Hamoed. It seems like a rather weak reason for this reading. Actually, the Torah reading chosen for Sukkoth seems much more appropriate for Yom Kippur. Its main focus is the aftermath of...
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Sukkot: Fear and Joy

October 16, 2016 By: rabbi jay kelman
The Jewish year begins with the aseret yemei teshuva, the ten days of repentance. They begin with the strict justice of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Hadin; and culminate on Yom Kippur, with its unique opportunity for forgiveness. The intensity of these days is reflected in our liturgy, our special customs, and in Jewish law, where certain stringencies are recommended only during these ten days. The unique nature of the “High Holy...
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