Archive for category Holidays
Published at Aish.com
Will Rogers couldn’t have said it better: “No nation has ever had more, yet no nation has ever had less.” And it’s easy to understand why the two go together.
The Talmud describes a person obsessed by the dream of becoming rich. If only he had a million dollars, he would be happy. So he labors tirelessly, clawing and scratching to amass his fortune, until what happens? The moment he finally makes his million, he immediately sets his sights on two million.
Human nature dictates that the more we have, the more we want. And the more we believe that we are entitled to have whatever we want, the less inclined we are either to be grateful for what we have or to recognize our obligations to others.
It’s somewhat heartening, therefore, that Thanksgiving has retained so prominent a place in American culture, even if most of us rarely give a passing thought to the Puritan ideals that gave birth to the holiday.
Aharon shall place lots upon the two goats: one lot “for God” and one lot “for Azazel.” Aharon shall bring close the goat designated by lot for God and make it a sin-offering. And the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be stood alive before God, to provide atonement though it, to send it to Azazel into the wilderness.
One of the most puzzling and disturbing rituals in Jewish practice is the goat “for Azazel.” During the afternoon of Yom Kippur, two goats are brought before the Kohein Gadol, the High Priest. By lot, one is chosen to be placed upon the altar as a sin-offering, while the other is taken out into the desert and thrown alive over the edge of a sheer cliff. What purpose could such a practice possibly serve? In truth, the symbolism of this ritual is astonishingly simple and frighteningly relevant. The two goats, identical in every way, symbolize the two possible futures that stretch out before every single human being. Like these goats – which appear indistinguishable from one another – many of the paths open to us in our youth seem equally attractive and filled with opportunity. Every child demonstrates both qualities of virtue and qualities of selfishness. Whether our higher or lower nature will win out in the end can never be reliably predicted.
To read the whole essay, click here.
Try to imagine the standard of ritual purity and cleanliness held by the Kohein Gadol, the High Priest, the spiritual envoy of the Jewish people to the Almighty whose role demanded that he never come in contact with a dead body, prohibiting him from escorting even his own parents, spouse, siblings, or children to their final resting places.
Nevertheless, if the Kohein Gadol encountered a meis mitzvah — the unattended corpse of an unidentified stranger — while on his way to perform the service in the Beis HaMikdash, the Torah obligated him to provide a proper and immediate burial, even if that meant an underling would have to assume his duties in the Temple. The honor of his fellow Jew and respect for the divinity that resides within every member of his nation had to take precedence over virtually any other concern.
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaKohein Kagan, applies this precept in an unexpected direction.
Read the whole article here on Block Yeshiva’s new blog.
Please take a look back at past essays, popular and scholarly, that explore the profound contemporary relevance of Chanukah and how the cultural battle against Hellenism remains the defining condition of the Jewish people.
Suspended between Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur, some reflections on our relationship with the Almighty and with others.
Seemingly small actions can produce dramatic results in the spiritual world as well as the physical world. A timely wind can win or lose a revolution, a volcano eruption can prevent a famine or save a life, and the musings of our hearts can destroy our world or redeem us from exile.
Today, the 17th of Tammuz, we fast primarily in commemoration of the events surrounding the destruction of the First Temple. The origins of the day, however, and of all our suffering, can be traced back to one of the most troubling events in Jewish history: the sin of the Golden Calf.
Understanding the natural and spiritual causes of the destruction of the Second Temple. Excerpted from my book, Dawn to Destiny.
How could the Jews fall from the pinnacle of spiritual greatness to the depths of idolatry in a mere 40 days?
The compelling answer in an excerpt from my new book.