Shabbat 49a: The Wrong Reason

November 27, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The Talmud teaches that everything is dependent on mazal, “even the Sefer Torah in the ark”. Some sifrei Torah are used week in and week out, while others only see the light of day on Simchat Torah. So, too, certain mitzvoth “get lucky” and are widely observed, whereas others are somehow neglected. And mitzvoth that enjoy widespread observance in one generation may be less fortunate in another.“Tefillin require a clean body like Elisha, the...
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Shabbat 33: Let's Talk

November 21, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of the differences between Talmudic rabbis and those of the post-Talmudic era is the “ability” of the former to link “crime and punishment”, or more specifically, sin and consequence. This is something we find distasteful, even blasphemous (and if we don't, we should), as we, unlike prophets, do not know the working of the Divine. Thus Rav Soloveitchik, for example, considered it a desecration of G-d’s name to attribute the Holocaust to sin...
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Shabbat 31b: One-Foot Judaism

November 12, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of the most famous Talmudic stories is that of the potential convert who conditioned his conversion on whether or not he could be taught the Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai, bothered by the chutzpah of this non-Jew (imagine going to a nuclear physicist and asking to learn all of physics while standing on one foot!), “pushed him with the construction board in his hand”. Hillel, non-plussed by this ludicrous request,...
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Shabbat 31: No Need to Cram

November 08, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Having the questions of an exam in advance would seem to be a big advantage. Yet often, such advantages are frittered away as we are apt to work a little less hard-thinking that, with questions in hand, it will be easy to do well. “Rava said, at the hour that man is brought in for [final] judgment, we say to him: Did you conduct your business affairs faithfully? Did you establish set times for the study of Torah? Were you involved in...
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The Joy of Mitzvoth: Shabbat 30

November 06, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Rav Moshe Feinstein noted that one of the tragedies of American Jewish life was the common notion that it is difficult to be a Jew. Children saw their parents struggling, and even if they meant it as a display of dedication, such affirmations of the difficulty of being Jewish were a big turn-off to children, most of whom left observant Jewish life.“The Divine Presence rests neither through gloom, nor through laziness, nor through frivolity, nor...
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