Holiday Thoughts

Shmini Atzeret: Election Day

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. 

Shabbat Chol Hamoed: Opposites Attract

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.

Sukkot: Time to Teach

Holidays are a most opportune time to instill in our children the values and character traits that personify a Jewish lifestyle. At first glance Pesach, more than any other holiday, seems to embody the critical importance of teaching our children. The entire seder is focused on children of all types and stripes; the intense preparation for the holiday and the excitement of the seder make it a most memorable one for children. The Torah's description of Pesach centers on such imperatives as, "and when your children ask", &qu

Aseret Yemi Teshuva: I Confess

Integral to the teshuva process is the act of vidui, confession. One can intellectually know one has done something wrong; one can even feel terrible about it. But unless and until one verbalizes that one has sinned—and for sins against our fellow man, vidui should be done publicly (Hilchot Teshuva, 2:5)—teshuva cannot be complete. It is precisely because it is so hard to admit a wrong, specifically stating what one did wrong with no ifs, ands, or buts, that it is so necessary.

Rosh Hashanah: Early, Late or Just Right

"And on the seventh month on the first day of the month, it shall be a day of rest. It is a sacred day for remembrance and blowing" (Vayikra 23:24). What the Torah calls a day of blowing (of the ram's horn) is more commonly known as Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. Yet the seventh month seems an odd time to be celebrating the start of a new year. We are apparently six months late…or perhaps it is six months early. 

Tu BAv: Coming Together

One of the lessons Nehama Leibowitz, z”l, drilled into us during the time I was fortunate to study with her was that if Rashi has two explanations for a pasuk, it means he was not fully satisfied with either. Had he been, he would have given only that one explanation.

If such is true regarding just two explanations, what can we say about something that has six explanations? 

Shavuot: A Forced Torah?

Our attitude towards Torah is a most fickle one. On the one hand, we demonstrated great faith in following Moshe into a barren desert; it's a story we recount as we plead for G-d's mercy on Rosh Hashanah. On the other hand, we complained at every turn in that same desert. We jumped at the opportunity to accept the Torah, instinctively declaring "Na'aseh v'nishma," yet 40 days later, we were dancing around a golden calf.

Yom Haatzmaut: Thoughts at Seventy-One

The period of sefirat haomer has undergone great transformation over the ages. In the Torah itself, it links the korban haomer brought on the second day of Pesach with the korban shtei halechem brought on Shavuot, thereby connecting the barley and wheat harvests. Each day of the grain harvest season was an opportunity to express gratitude to our Creator. 

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