An Introduction to the Rosh Hashanah Prayers

An Introduction to the Rosh Hashanah Prayers – The Rosh Hashanah prayers are divided into three main sections, each focusing on one of the primary themes of the day.  As we progress through the prayers, these meditations help us achieve a mental and spiritual state conducive to real change and self-improvement.  One of the central themes of the Rosh Hashanah prayers is the emphasis on recognizing God as the King.  ...

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Is Repentance a Torah Commandment?

“For this mitzvah is not far from you; it is not in heaven that you shall say ‘Who will ascend for us to the heavens...’” (Deuteronomy 30:11) Nachmanides states in his commentary that this verse refers to the positive commandment of repentance. He cites two verses as sources for this mitzvah: Deuteronomy 4:30 “...you shall return to the L-rd your G-d...”, and Deuteronomy 30:1, “And you shall return to your ...

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A Brief History of Time

According to Jewish tradition, before God created the first human being, a debate took place in the heavenly court. When the Holy One blessed Be He came to create man, the ministering angels formed into groups, some saying that man should be created, some saying that he should not be created… Kindness voted to create man, because people would perform acts of kindness, Peace voted not to create man, because people ...

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To Be or Not to Be

  We will begin the month of Ellul this coming week, the month of preparation for the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShana and also for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  It is customary for Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin)  to blow the shofar every day of the month of Ellul at synagogue after the morning service.  Sephardic Jews (of Middle Eastern and North African origin) begin special prayers known as Selichot, at the ...

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Blessings

Observant Jews recite blessings over virtually everything.  Before and after we eat and drink, upon waking in the morning, after using the bathroom, when lighting Shabbat candles, and so on. What is a blessing and what is its purpose? The standard format of the blessing, baruch atah Hashem - blessed are you G-d, Elokainu, our G-d, melech haolam, King of the Universe, followed by specific details of the occasion or circumstance ...

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Statutory Laws – Chukim

This week’s Torah portion, Chukat, deals with an example of a category of Jewish laws  known as chukim, Divine statutes that the human mind cannot completely comprehend.  The purpose of the chukim is to teach us that human understanding is not a prerequisite for doing that which is right, and the criteria for determining good and evil are not within the province of the human being. In Judaism, absolute good ...

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The Spark of Humanity

I recently read an article about the late, Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, who at tremendous risk to herself organised the rescue of about 2500 Jewish children from the Nazis. She worked in the Warsaw Welfare Department during the Second World War, and she and her team of 20 used to go to the Warsaw Ghetto under the pretext of doing inspections of sanitary conditions.  She and her assistants ...

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Taking Israel for Granted

The Talmud in Tractate Chulin says something quite astonishing. It states that “idolaters outside of Israel are not really idolaters, they are just following the customs of their ancestors.” In other words, authentic idolatry only exists in Israel! Now that is a shocking statement, because it appears that Israel, the holy land, the land of prophecy, the land where all the commandments apply, the land where almost all the prophets ...

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Oil Changes

I just returned from taking my car for an oil change and safety inspection.  We do not only regularly inspect our cars, but, as someone who flies a lot, I happen to know (and am very happy that) the FAA inspects every plane on a regular basis. We do inspections all the time; cars, airplanes, fire detectors and computers. All our transportation methods and many other complex technologies get inspected ...

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The Grand Finale

The Omer is counted for the final time on the 49th night. The following evening, the festival of Shavuot begins at sundown.  Shavuot is the anniversary of the Revelation on Mount Sinai, when God communicated the Torah to the entire Jewish people and in so doing, revealed to them their national mission and purpose.  In our prayers Shavuot is referred to as Zman Matan Torateinu, the Time of Giving of ...

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