The Sukkah of Yom Kippur

September 30, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Holiday Thoughts
As important (if not more so) as what one says is how it is said, when it is said, and what is not said. This is equally true regarding both our interactions with other people and our religious texts. Form is as important as substance. So much of Jewish law is derived by looking at form over substance, the 39 forbidden activities of Shabbat being just one of many examples[1]. When it comes to our sacred texts, there is no one more adept at...
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Yom Kippur: Long Term Planning

September 27, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Holiday Thoughts
“We work and get reward and they work and do not get reward?” This statement, said when one completes a Talmudic tractate, articulates a fundamental difference between a “religious” approach to life and a “secular” one. In the world at large one is rewarded based on results. It is the bottom line that matters, and few are interested in why, what or how you accomplished – or did not accomplish –...
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Haazinu: The Joy of Sinning

September 25, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Sinning is meant to be enjoyable. If not, there would be no point to it. How ironic, then, when a person sins and does not derive any pleasure. A person experiments with non-kosher food and does not like the taste. Or, one decides that in order to get ahead financially, one must work on Shabbat. And, lo and behold, one is passed over for a promotion, which instead goes to your Shabbat-observant colleague.  This, Rav Soloveitchik explains,...
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Aseret Yemi Teshuva: The Freedom to Choose

September 23, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Holiday Thoughts
“In a place where ba’alei teshuva stand there, not even the fully righteous can stand” (Brachot 34b). This teaching is generally understood to mean that penitents are on a higher level than the fully righteous. The underlying premise of this teaching is that sinning is enjoyable—if it were not so, then why sin?—and it is much harder to give up something that one has already enjoyed than to refrain from...
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Rosh Hashanah: Time for Change

September 18, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Holiday Thoughts
Man has a tremendous capacity for self-deception. We easily see faults in others; somehow, we miss them in ourselves. Teshuva, repentance, can begin only when we are honest with ourselves and admit that we have made mistakes. While we often can admit to certain "minor" errors, like being late or failing to say “good morning” to somebody, we have tremendous difficulty admitting to mistakes that can only be...
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