Shabbat Chol HaMoed: Let's Skip This Year
"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...Continue Reading »
Sukkot: Fear and Joy
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...Continue Reading »
Yom Kippur: Play Ball!
“There are those who acquire their world in one moment” (Avodah Zara 18a). One action can define a life. While some people have to work their entire lives to be worthy of entering the World to Come, others can acquire their eternal reward with one powerful act. Such a moment occurred, it seems to me, when Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, announced that he would not pitch the opening game of the 1965...Continue Reading »
Yom Kippur: Where Are You?
“On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.” No two holidays are as thematically connected as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. So much so that we view them almost as one, the bookends of the Yamim Noraim, the days of awe, which begin on Rosh Hashanah and conclude ten days later on Yom Kippur. And yet there seems little to connect them – at least from a biblical perspective. Unlike Pesach and Shavuot there is...Continue Reading »
Rosh Hashanah: A Redemptive Moment
One of the strengths of the Jewish people is our ability to focus on the future. What we do tomorrow is more important than we did yesterday. The entire notion of teshuva is dependent on our ability to move beyond the past, to say that I can do better tomorrow than yesterday. We are people who exude hope for the future no matter what may have transpired in the past. Only such a people could possibly build one of the most successful countries on...Continue Reading »