“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.
The Jewish nation waited for close to 1,900 years to regain sovereignty over G-d’s chosen land. It took an additional 19 years until sovereignty was established “in the place that I will choose to place My name.” The famous words of Brigade Commander Motta Gur, “Har haBayit b’yadeinu, the Temple Mount is in our hands,” marked one of the momentous events of Jewish history; the presence of G-d was closer that it had been for almost 2,000 years.
“Shimon ben Azzai said: I have received a tradition from the seventy-two elders on the day when they appointed Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah head of the academy, that all sacrifices which are eaten, though slaughtered shelo lishma, without proper intent, are valid except that their owners have not fulfilled their obligation, except the Paschal lamb and the chatat, the sin offering” (Mishna Zevachim 1:3).
Seemingly, one of the more depressing debates in rabbinic literature is one that the houses of Hillel and Shammai argued about for two-and-half years: "These say: It would have been preferable had man not been created than to have been created.
Much ink has been spilled and much discussion ensued in trying to analyze the difference between the question of the chacham and the rasha. On the basis of the question alone, there appears to be little reason to identify one as wicked and the other as wise.
Purim marks a transition point in Jewish history. It ushers in the time period of hester panim, the transition from G-d's obvious and active role in history to a period when G-d's role in history is difficult to discern. Esther, whose very name is an allusion to this concept of hiding, is the last of the prophets. No longer would the word of G-d be directly revealed to man. There would be difficult choices to make, and man would have to work hard to try to determine the best course of action devoid of direct Divine guidance.
Before there were clocks and standard time, time was determined in relation to the position of the sun—hence, the importance of the sundial. As a rule our Sages followed this course, teaching, for example, that one may daven mincha until sunset, may recite the morning shema until a quarter of the day has passed, or that the earliest time to do a brit milah is at sunrise.
One of the painful realties of Jewish life is that the Jewish people are often judged by a double standard. What in other cultures is done with impunity often causes an uproar when it is the State of Israel doing the exact same thing. While frustrating and unfair, this is a burden of which we should be most proud.
Tomorrow is Shmini Atzeret. It is also Election Day in Canada. While that is no doubt unfortunate for (observant) Jews, these days, Election Day is a bit of a misnomer. People have been able to vote for weeks, and some 4.7 million voters, or 1/6 of all eligible voters, have already voted. And when one considers that in the past nine elections turnout has been under 70%, some 25% of all votes have likely already been cast.
Sukkot is a holiday full of contradictions. At the time we celebrate our harvest, we are bidden to leave the comfort of our home and expose ourselves to the elements of nature. Even the two reasons given for sitting in the sukkah are contradictory. According to Rabbi Akiva, the sukkah is meant to replicate the sukkot that the Jews actually resided in as they sojourned in the desert: flimsy huts representing the temporary nature of life on earth.