Holiday Thoughts

Shushan Purim: From Purim to Pesach

March 25, 2016 By: rabbi jay kelman
“When Adar enters, we increase our joy” (Taanit 29a). Presumably, the increased joy is due to the upcoming Purim festivities, the most joyous of Jewish holidays. Yet somewhat surprisingly, Rashi explains that our increased joy is due not only to the miracles of Purim, but to those of Pesach as well. It is because we want to link Purim and Pesach that we celebrate Purim in Adar II (Megillah 6b). By all rights we should have...
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Purim: One Is More Than Many

March 23, 2016 By: rabbi jay kelman
  "It was contemptible in his eyes to harm Mordechai alone; for they identified for him the people of Mordechai; Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Achashverosh, the people of Mordechai" (Esther 3:6).   The above sounds like what we would call today classic anti-Semitism. Blame all Jews for the actions of one, and take out that hatred on all. To anti-Semites of the world,...
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Vayikra-Zachor: Remembering Sacrifices

March 18, 2016 By: rabbi jay kelman
One of the fiercest debates amongst Biblical commentators of the medieval period was to what extent, if at all, parts of the Torah may be seen as allegorical. No less a personage than the Rambam claimed that stories such as the three angels visiting Avraham, or Yaakov’s struggle with an angel, were prophetic visions that did not actually occur. As one can imagine, views such as these—and more radical ones, which allegorized such...
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Adar Sheni: Two Redemptions

March 11, 2016 By: rabbi jay kelman
Imagine if every few years the Gregorian calendar had two Decembers. When would people shop? We of course are faced with a similar dilemma seven out of every nineteen years, as our calendar has two Adars. While we celebrate Purim in Adar II, this was actually the subject of rabbinic debate.   The Talmud instinctively understood that we should celebrate Purim in Adar I; we should never pass up an opportunity to perform a mitzvah....
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Chanukah: The Dark Days of Winter

December 11, 2015 By: rabbi jay kelman
Of all our holidays, only that of Chanukah begins in the second half of the month. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Shavuot occur towards the beginning of the month, when the moon is growing stronger. Pesach, Sukkot, Purim (at least in Jerusalem), Tu b'Av, and Tu b'Shvat are all celebrated on the 15th of the month, when the moon is full. Even Tisha b'Av falls during the first half of the month. Our Sages saw within destruction the...
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