Elul: A Time for New Beginnings

Elul is a time for new beginnings: a new zman, a new year at Yeshiva, and opportunities to rethink and restart the way we conduct our lives. But beginnings are not simple. As the midrash tells us (Midrash Sechel Tov, Shemot): “kol hatchalot kashot” – “all beginnings all ... Read more →

Out of the Blessing and the Curse

Parashat Nitzavim talks to us in a very specific way: “When these things shall come upon you – the blessing and the curse – which I have placed before you, repent with your hearts, amongst all the nations where Hashem, your G-d, has sent you.” Our generation has lived with the ... Read more →

Va’asisem Olah: Self-Sacrifice in the Rosh Hashanah Davening

Rav Chaim Volozhiner makes a startling, yet basic observation regarding the Rosh Hashanah davening.  In Nefesh Chaim Sha’ar Beis, Perek Yud Aleph, Rav Chaim points out that the text of the Amidah for Rosh Hashanah makes no mention of our personal desires for the new year. Instead, the Rosh ... Read more →

Repentance: A Change We Can Believe In?

As we approach the Yamim Nora’im and the ten days of repentance, we tend to feel a déjà vu; we feel a déjà vu that is not necessarily always a positive one. As we reflect, introspect, and examine what it is that we have done wrong this year, as we wonder “what is it that [...]

The Charity of Dignity

The Talmud (Kesubos 68a) writes that, under certain circumstances, poor people must sell their silverware, dishes, etc. before accepting charity. Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam argue  when this is necessary. Rashi explains that poor people already receiving charity who inherit fancy silverware or ... Read more →

Kavod HaTorah as Part of Kabalat HaTorah

Ramban (Vayikra 23,36) writes that sefirat haOmer was meant to be like a long holiday, like a chol haMoed between Pesach and Shavuos. Yet, because R. Akiva’s students died during this period, because they did not properly respect one another, it turned into a time of mourning. Why did this ... Read more →

Reflections on Rus

The Talmud (Bava Basra 91b) juxtaposes three episodes – 1) Yehoshua and the Givonim, 2) Machlon, Kilyon, and Rus, 3) Yonadav b. Reichav and his descendants – because all three share the theme of faithfulness and betrayal. Yeshoshua honored his oath to the Givonim even though the Givonim ... Read more →

Muktza Sidetracked: Indirect handling of Muktza

On Shabbos 141a, Rav Ada bar Abba says in the name of the school of Rav that “tiltul min hatzad,” literally “moving” a muktzah item “from the side,” is permitted on Shabbos. Rav Ada bar Abba’s ruling is based on the Mishna on 141a which says that one can use one’s body to move ... Read more →

Speaking in a Bathhouse

The Gemara in Shabbos (40b) informs us of an occasion with Rav Yitzchak bar Avdimi who once went to bathe behind Rebbi.  Rav Yitzchak wanted to warm oil in the water and anoint himself with it, Rebbi told him to first put the flask of oil into a kli sheni (since the bath is a [...]

To Share or Not to Share? That is the Question

One for the great social revolutions that have marked the beginning of the 21st Century is the shift in the parameters of privacy. Alongside the great benefits that mass data and communications we have also seen a revolution in the field of privacy to the extent that some believe that “even ... Read more →