Shavuot: Eating Out

How should one celebrate the receiving of the Torah? The Talmud (Pesachim 68b) quotes a seemingly strange argument as to how to properly celebrate Yom Tov in general, and Shavuot in particular. "Rav Eliezer says, a person on Yom Tov either eats and drinks or sits and learns". One may choose how to celebrate, but that choice must be performed with full dedication. Apparently, he felt that trying to celebrate Yom Tov in two different ways gives neither its proper due.

Purim: Inadvertent Leaders

Rare is the person who has the opportunity to knowingly shape the course of Jewish history. Most are happy to be relieved of that responsibility. From Moshe to Yonah, Yirmiyahu to Esther, few are willing to carry such awesome responsibility on their shoulders. And even—or, shall we say, especially—when taken on willingly, the burden can be too much to handle. How can one be confident in a decision made today, the impact of which will reverberate for hundreds or even thousands of years?

Vayakhel-Pekudei: What's In a Name?

"Moshe said to the Jewish people: See that G-d called in the name of Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Judah" (35:30). As is well known, Biblical names are much more than a way to call somebody. We often associate names with particular events: Yakov getting his name because he held on to the eikev, heel, of Eisav; Reuven and Shimon because G-d saw and heard Leah's pain; Moshe because he was drawn from the water (m'sheetuhu).

Shushan Purim: United People, Divided Holiday

“And Haman said to King Achashverosh: There is a certain nation scattered and divided amongst the nations” (3:8). Haman was well aware of the Achilles heel of the Jewish nation, the divisiveness that so often characterizes our community. As a small nation, lacking (at that time) a homeland, such unity is much more crucial for our survival than for that of other nations. When we are divided, we are weak; and when we are weak, we are vulnerable. Haman could thus request that, “if it pleases the king, let it be written to destroy them”.

Zachor: History Revisited

“Remember what Amalek did to you...do not forget.” Such memory is more than a biblical command, it is a historical reality. While the Torah may have been written 3,500 years ago, it is—almost by definition—a book of current events. Our Sages note that only 55 of the thousands of prophets who spoke the word of G-d had their words recorded for posterity, as only these 55 spoke words that are relevant for all time. While the names, dates and places may change, the fundamental issues—be they of a moral, communal or personal nature—never truly change.

Yom Ha'atzmaut: Redemption and Return

Rav Soloveitchik was asked why our generation was the one to merit witnessing the creation of the State of Israel. After all, there were so many generations much more pious than ours, so much more worthy than us. The Rav answered, simply, that our generation needed it. Previous generations were able to flourish in their Judaism even without the benefit of a state. But after the horrors of the Holocaust, Jewish life simply could not continue, physically or spiritually, without a homeland.

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