Emor: The Setting Sun

The major theme of sefer Vayikra is, arguably, that of tumah and taharah, purity and impurity. When one reads the Torah, one senses what seems almost an obsession with this topic. If one happens to violate the special sanctity of the Temple, or of sacrifices, or even of the camp of Israel, the penalties are severe and harsh. While tumah and taharah appear in many contexts throughout the Torah, the...
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Bechorot 13: All Mitzvot Are Not Created Equal

May 15, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
It is not uncommon to hear people define a mitzvah as a “good deed”. And there is little doubt that many mitzvot are, in fact, very good deeds. Yet as the Hebrew word indicates, a mitzvah means “a command”. Yet like all translations, the word “command” does not quite capture the definition of a mitzvah. Whereas a command implies something we must do, there are many mitzvot that are obligatory...
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Kedoshim: No Mercy Here

Commenting on the Torah's charge "to be holy, since I the Lord your G-d am holy" (Vayikra, 19:2) the Ramban explains that it is not enough to keep the laws of the Torah. One can do so meticulously and still be a "scoundrel with the permission of the Torah". Torah law gives us a framework for life, but one who so desires can technically stay within that framework while nonetheless violating the basic goals of the...
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Yom Haatzmaut: Thoughts at Seventy-One

May 09, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Holiday Thoughts
The period of sefirat haomer has undergone great transformation over the ages. In the Torah itself, it links the korban haomer brought on the second day of Pesach with the korban shtei halechem brought on Shavuot, thereby connecting the barley and wheat harvests. Each day of the grain harvest season was an opportunity to express gratitude to our Creator.  Sometime during...
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Acharei-Mot, Or Is It Kedoshim?

For those who write divrei Torah, the next few months will be a bit challenging and will demonstrate our geographical frame of reference. That is because for the next three months, until parshiot Mattot and Massei are read in the Diaspora on the 9th of Av, 5779—or, if you prefer, August 10, 2019—we Jews who live outside of Israel will be one parsha behind our Israeli...
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