Jewish unity

Some Opening Thoughts on Masechet Megillah

Masechet Ta'anit ends with a description of how, on the 15th of Av and on Yom Kippur, "the maidens of Jerusalem" would dance in the fields, providing a wonderful opportunity to meet a potential spouse. In order to 'level the playing field' between the different strata of society, "all of Israel would borrow [clothes], one from another, so as not to embarrass those who did not have" (Ta'anit 31a).

Lag BaOmer Thoughts

Lag BaOmer is a mysterious holiday. There is no mention of it in the Gemara, a fact that led the Chatam Sofer to object to the many practices of the day that had come into vogue. The two standard explanations for this holiday are that it is the day that the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying, and that it is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (or perhaps the day in which the decree of the Romans to kill him was rescinded). 
 

Yom Ha'atzmaut: The Most Important Mitzvah

One of the Rambam's principles of faith is the eternity of the Torah. While historical circumstances may prevent the performance of certain mitzvoth, the mitzvah of Talmud Torah encompasses these "theoretical" mitzvoth as we hope that these mitzvoth will soon move from the theoretical realm to the practical.

After close to 2,000 years in exile, mitzvoth that were once dormant have come back to life. The Torah is no longer just a guide for individual living--it is the template for a nation back in its homeland.

Sukkot: No Pain, No Gain

The Talmud classifies sukkah as a mitzvah kalla, a light and easy mitzvah. Where one must be almost deathly ill before one is permitted to eat on Yom Kippur or to violate many other Torah prohibitions, such is not the case with the sukkah. Here, a little discomfort—some rain, very hot weather, a few bees—and one may leave the sukkah; "mitztaer patur misukah", one who is uncomfortable is exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah.

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