“Rav Yossi said: It would have been appropriate had the Torah been given through Ezra, but Moshe preceded him… and even though the Torah was not given by him [Ezra], it was changed by him” (Sanhedrin 21b). The Talmud explains that this change relates to the “font” of the Torah, which was changed from ketav Ivri, the initial font in which the Torah was given, to ketav Ashurit, the “font” we have today in our Torah scrolls.
The holiday of Chanukah is a most beloved one. Lighting the candles is the only mitzvah that has, built into its performance, a three-tiered system: what we may call good, better and best. We begin with the basic mitzvah of one candle per household on each of the eight nights of Chanukah. We may opt for the more beautified version, mehadrin, where we light candles according to the number of people in the home on each night.
The 14th-century legal code, the Arba Turim, the Four Rows, begins the laws of Sukkot by noting that when one sits in a sukkah, one must be cognizant of the fact that our sukkot commemorate the clouds of glory that guided and protected us during our sojourn in the desert.
The history of our nation is linked with Pesach. Many of our mitzvoth—mezuzah, tefillin, Shabbat, honest weights, the prohibition of charging interest—are directly related to our Egyptian experience. There is an obligation to recall the Exodus on a daily basis and to relive that event once a year at the Seder. Sukkot seems like a minor festival in comparison.
“Seek out G-d when He can be found, call upon Him when He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Our Sages interpret this verse as referring to the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the ten days of repentance, which begin on Rosh Hashanah and end with the conclusion of Yom Kippur. This is the season when G-d is closer to us and thus our prayers stand a “better chance” of success.
Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding the upcoming High Holidays. You want to know why it is that people who have palpably little Jewish involvement for the other 362 days of the calendar bother to attend synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On the other hand you are puzzled by Jewish tradition, which places so much emphasis on these three days, as though God is unavailable on a cold despairing midnight in March. Sir, your questions are good ones.
This d’var Torah is sponsored with the wish for a Shana Tova for our parents, Howie & Hilda Libman, Leon & Ethel Bookman, our Rabbi Jay, Ilana, & family, and the entire community, from David, Karen, & Beca Bookman, Toronto.
Rosh Hashanah, Day of Judgment, Book of Life and Death, flocks of sheep passing before the Creator. But the kids are saying, "Do we really have to go to synagogue? To sit for hours and be bored? To watch the parade of new fashions? To mumble prayers that we don't understand? What for?"
Our lives do not follow a straight line. They turn and then turn again. This re-turn (known in Jewish tradition as teshuvah, also translated as repentance) plays out ritually and halakhically in Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
“Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: There were no days more joyous than the 15th of Av (Tu b'Av) and Yom Kippur, for on those days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed white clothing, in order not to embarrass those who did not have...and the daughters of Jerusalem would dance in the vineyards.” (Mishna Ta’anit 4:8).