Breisheet: Purposeful Ambiguity

"G-d said: What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is screaming to Me from the ground" (Breisheet 4:10).

G-d approached Cain after the murder of Hevel with a question, hoping that Cain would do teshuva for the murder of his brother. Did he? The text is unclear: "And Cain said to G-d: gadol avoni mi'n'so, [Is?]my sin is too great to bear" (Breisheet 4:13). Whether this is a question or statement of fact is unclear; without hearing the tone of voice that Cain used, we are left in the dark.

Yevamot 21: The Limits of Teshuva

On Yom Kippur afternoon, the Torah reading focuses on the Jewish sexual ethic. The Torah has a relatively long list of relatives with whom intimacy would be considered incest. If one were to "marry" one of these people--say, one's aunt--such a union would be of no standing. There is a second group of prohibited marriages, issur kedusha[1], where one may not marry someone; but such a forbidden marriage, while a violation of the sanctity of marriage, would be recognized as valid.

Some Concluding Thoughts on Masechet Yoma

Masechet Yoma deals almost exclusively with mitzvoth between man and G-d. Most of the tractate painstakingly records the intricate details of the special Temple service carried out on Yom Kippur. The few pages that are left focus primarily on the parameters of the mitzvah to "afflict our souls". Only at the very last Mishnah in Yoma  do we finally hear anything about the power of teshuva and the importance of mitzvoth between man and man.

Yoma 36: What Sin Comes First?

The kohen gadol performed vidui, confession, three times on Yom Kippur. The first two were done using his own personal bull offering, asking for forgiveness for the sins of his family and for his fellow kohanim. The third vidui, for the sins of the people of Israel, was done with the shair hamistalech, the "scapegoat" that would then be led off to the desert and hurled off a mountain.

Rosh Hashanah: Time to Remember

David, Karen, and Beca Bookman wish their parents, families, friends, and the Or Chaim Minyan a Happy and Healthy Shana Tova, and a Shana Tova to Rabbi Jay & Ilana Kelman and their family. "Blow the shofar at the [beginning] of the month, when the day of our holiday is covered". Rosh Hashanah is the only one of our holidays celebrated on the first of the month, and thus, unlike other holidays where the moon is clearly visible, on Rosh Hashanah the moon is almost completely concealed.

The Morning After

The High Holiday period is one (we hope!) filled with introspection, reflection and a commitment to try to become a better person. Our religious antennae are at their highest point as we spend the day in prayer and fasting. For many, it is the only time of the year that any significant amount of time is spent in communal prayer. It is a day in which we focus on the fragility of life, remembering those who are no longer and pleading that we be spared from their fate.

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