High Holidays

Shavuot: An Evolving Torah

“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.

Chanukah: Looking Backward and Forward

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.

Sukkot: A Look Ahead

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. 

Preparing to Die, Learning to Live

  Dear Sir,

    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.   

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