Category: Holidays

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Things to Thank the Maccabees For

Over the years that I’ve been blogging, I noticed a number of ways in which Jewish and Hellenic thought differ. Not just difference of philosophy — differences even more fundamental than philosophy. Ideas that conflicting schools of thought that belong to the same culture rarely argue. The things people raised in each culture take for granted. I thought in honor...

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A Sukkah in the Sun

R. Hanina b. Papa, and according to others, R. Simlai, lectured: In the future to come, HaQadosh barukh Hu (HQBH) will take the seifer Torah and rest it on His “Chest” and say, “Whomever was occupied in it, let them come and take their reward!” Immediately, all the nations will gather and come in a mixed chaos… But HQBH said...

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תשעה באב

אמא! אמא! Memories of a more recent churban… Last year, Nariman House was a way-station in Mumbai for lost Israelis searching India for spirituality, and a place where a Jew in a strange place on business could feel at home. A center for reconnecting with one’s heritage for people who were so far from Jewish centers. Last year, the building...

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Kehunah and Unity

Back on Chanukah I wrote: Chomos migdalei, the walls of my citadel [mentioned in the poem “Ma’oz Tzur“], were not the mighty walls around the Temple Mount or the walls of a fortress. They were a see-through mechitzah, the realization that the Jew, as one of the Mamleches Kohanim, has a higher calling. One possible reaction to assimilation is to...

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Small Jugs

In the beginning, or a few days later, Hashem created the sun and the moon. In Bereishis (1:16) the Torah says: “And G-d made the two large luminaries – the large luminary to rule the day and the small luminary to rule the night – and the stars.” A famous gemara (Chullin 60b), quoted by Rashi, points out an inconsistency...

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Chanukah: Never Give Up

Chanukah tells us to never give up, no matter how formidable the challenge. When the Hasmonian family realized that they had no choice other than to confront the Greeks and attempt the impossible, they linked up with a force beyond themselves and achieved the impossible. They reached for what beyond their grasp and were thus privileged to initiate events that...

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Mitzvos of Sukkos

(Copied from Sukkos 5766. -micha) There are many mitzvos that are specific to Succos. Aside from the mitzvos we can observe today, Succah, Hakafos, and the Four Species, there are also a number that can only be kept in the Beis HaMikdosh, including the 70 Musaph cows, and Nisuch Hamayim followed by Simchas Beis HaShoevah. The Yom Tov has several...

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Simchas Beis haSho’eivah

(Copied from Sukkos 5764. -micha) I There are many mitzvos that are specific to Succos. Aside from the mitzvos we can observe today, Succah, Hakafos, and the Four Species, there are also a number that can only be kept in the Beis HaMikdosh, including the 70 Musaph cows, and Nisuch Hamayim followed by Simchas Beis HaShoevah. The Yom Tov has...

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Coronating G-d

(Significantly enlarged from the 2005 version. -micha) I Melukhah (kingship) is a major theme, if not the major theme of Rosh haShanah. Aside from the ubiquity of the word in our liturgy for Rosh haShanah and the Ten Days of Teshuvah, we find another indication in the Amidah for Rosh haShanah‘s Mussaf. Three blessings are inserted to the middle of...

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Mourning During the Omer, part II

As I wrote in the previous post, there are two events that we are commemorating by mourning during the omer, and they seem to have happened on different dates. Rabbi Aqiva’s students died in the first part of the omer, while the Crusaders reached Ashkenaz in late Iyar. Depending upon which is event you consider primary, I could see justifying...

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Mourning During the Omer

א: אלו הימים שבין פסח לעצרת, מוחזק אצל כל ישראל זה שנות מאות רבות לימי דין וימי אבל, מפני שבזמן הקצר הזה מתו שנים עשר אלף זוגות תלמידי חכמים תלמידי רבי עקיבא, כדאיתא ביבמות (סב:), וכולם מתו במיתת אסכרא (שם).ועוד: ראינו שעיקרי ימי הגזירות בשנות מאות שעברו בצרפת ואשכנז הוו בימים אלו, כמבואר מהפיוטים שעשו קדמונינו על שבתות אלו שבין...

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Ge’ulah and Accepting Hashem as King

(Significantly expanded May 6th.) When someone hears bad news, such as a death, the gemara (Pesachim 50a) tells them to say the berakhah of “Dayan haEmes“. This phrase is often translated “the True Judge” as though it were a noun-adjective pair. But that would have a hei hayedi’ah (a leading “ha-” prefix meaning “the”) on both words. If “emes” were...

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Defining Ge’ulah

R. Shimon said: When the Holy One, blessed be He [– HQBH], came to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties. Some said, “Let him be created,” while others urged, “Let him not be created.” Thus it is written, ” חֶֽסֶד־וֶאֱמֶ֥ת נִפְגָּ֑שׁוּ, צֶ֖דֶק וְשָׁל֣וֹם נָשָֽׁקוּ׃ — Love and Truth fought together, Righteousness and Peace kissed each...

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Sipur

There are three words for counting that factor prominently in the Torah. Parashas Pequdei gets its name from Moshe Rabbeinu’s accounting of all the material collected for the mishkan. The root \פקד\ has three meanings altogether: To count out inventory To remember, “veHashem padas es Sarah ka’asher amar — and Hashem remembered Sarah [so that she could conceive Yitzchaq, as...

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Hagaddah

A couple of years ago I collected some of my own thoughts and others from around the web into a commentary on the Haggadah shel Pesach. I took special care to give the seider a definite structure, as in this blog entry, in accordance with the meaning of the word seider, order. Blogged Divrei Torah about Pesach are all available...

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Tam, what does he say?

The text of our Haggadah for identifying the third son is somewhat ambiguous. The word “tam” means “simple”. It could refer to someone who is simple minded. And this is the interpretation assumed in most translations of the Haggadah — “The simple son”. And then there is the frequently repeated thought on the words “At pisach lo — you shall...

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Purim and Permanence

One of the questions that have pried on my conscience is exactly how we managed to let life return to normal in the past 6 years. 9/11 was supposed to make everything different, but no longer to we see all that much of the friendliness and helpfulness that was our culture for those first months. And now, just two weeks...

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Recognizing Your Friend in the Dark

Rav Hutner, in the Pachad Yitzchaq for Purim, addresses the famous medrash (on Mishlei 9) which says that after moshiach comes, all the holidays will cease except Purim. This is derived from the verse (Esther 9:28) “the memory of Purim will never cease from among their descendants.” The notion that all the holidays in the Torah are not permanent is...

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Simchah and Oneg

Simchah is related to wanting and having, because Ben Zoma defines the wealthy person as “sameiach bechelqo — happy with his lot”. The Tanya speaks about how each aspect of the soul lives in tension between “ratzon – desire/will” and ta’anug. Thus we see that “oneg” too is related to wanting and having. However, the mitzvah on Yom Tov is...

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The Last Tish’ah be’Av

I recall one year I had just started a new camp. I was davening in the evening, at the very beginning of Tish’ah be’Av, and I heard a shofar blow. After a moment, I realized it was the PA system, that this was the camp’s “siren” marking the beginning of the fast. I have no idea how deep my belief...

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Hilkhos Mashiach

On Avodah, Saul Newman gave the following summary of halakhos related to bi’as hamashiach from an article in the Yated. I found that the pragmatic halachic discussion gave some mamashus (tangibility) to the idea. In conclusion, we may recite a total of eight special brachos when Moshiach arrives, in the following order: When we first hear from a reliable source...

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Hashem is Righteous

Eli Turkel summarized some thoughts from the 100 pages introduction to the sefer “The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways”, from the notes of R’ JB Soloveitchikzt”l. The format isn’t the usual for this blog, being more like his notes, but then, it wasn’t written for this blog either. Questions: Many things are missing from the Tisha Ba’av tefila:...

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Like the Laws of Pesach

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ אֱ-לֹקֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם? וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמָר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן. The wise son of the Hagaddah asks, “What are the laws of testimony, the metarational laws, and the more intuitive laws which Hashem our G-d has commanded you?” The wise son already knows much about the...

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A Seder Thought

From this month’s Yashar (The Mussar Institute‘s newsletter), “How Mussar Affected My Life — Student Profile” by By Dorit Golan Cullen. (I wrote the majority of this entry in an email to The Mussar Institute’s list. It therefore was designed for people with less Jewish education but more commitment to a Mussar personal orientation than this blog’s usual target audience.)...