Jay Kelman

Chanukah: Down Memory Lane

We tend to assume that, with the recital of the shir shel yom (the daily psalm—or Aleinu if you daven nusach sefarad), Shacharit is over. Yet a quick glance at the siddur demonstrates that this is not necessarily so. While not widely observed today, there is a custom to recite the shesh zechirot, six remembrances, printed at the end of Shacharit in all standard siddurim.

Vayishlach: Two is a Crowd

It is for good reason that co-wives are described as tzarot, literally, problems. Competing as they inevitably must for the same man, their relationship is destined to be one of jealousy, bickering and even hatred. Jewish law, recognizing this sad situation, disqualifies the testimony of one of the tzarot regarding the other—we are afraid that they will simply lie.

Sukkot: Seeing Double

This week’s d’var Torah is sponsored by Gershon and Leah Vandenbrink with best wishes for a joyous Sukkot.

In rabbinic literature, Sukkot is known simply as “Chag,” (the holiday), implying that it is the holiday par excellence. It is the most joyous of holidays both thematically and experientially. It is our z’man simchateinu, the time of our happiness.  

Yom Kippur: Just a Minute

The death of the righteous atones, our Sages teach, and it is for this reason that during Mussaf of Yom Kippur, just after recounting the special service done in the Temple, we read of the deaths of the “ten martyrs” so cruelly murdered by the Romans.

"They [the Romans] ordered the Rabbi Chananya ben Tradeyon be brought from his study hall, and they burned his body with bundles of branches. They placed saturated wool sponges on his chest to delay his death and, as soon as they were removed, he was burned together with his Torah scroll” (Machzor).

Rosh Hashanah: The Right Focus

“On Rosh Hashanah, it is written; and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed, who shall live and who shall die…” (Machzor). It is doubtful that there is a more powerful, emotional or poignant part of the davening on the yamim noraim than the recital of Unetaneh Tokef. The haunting tune sets the mood of the day, while the stark words highlight the fragility of life. If we are successful in taking its words to heart, we will be inspired to heed the concluding sentence that “prayer, repentance and charity can annul the evil decree”.

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