One Day More

One Day More

Oct 9, 2020 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Shemini Atzeret

Of all of the holidays in the month of Tishrei, Shemini Atzeret is the most puzzling. Rosh Hashanah celebrates the new year for the world, Yom Kippur focuses on atonement and forgiveness, Sukkot is about joy and vulnerability. Even Simhat Torah, which is not mentioned in the Bible, has a clear purpose and clear rituals. But if asked to explain the purpose of Shemini Atzeret, beyond having the opportunity to pray for rain for the coming season, most people would be hard pressed to articulate what, exactly, this eighth day does for us, for God, or for the world.

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We are All Sukkah-Dwellers

We are All Sukkah-Dwellers

Oct 2, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Sukkot

Since the accidental discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895 and the subsequent creation of X-ray machines, we have been able to view our bodies through two different lenses. The first is what we see in the mirror—a body of flesh, which takes various forms and distinguishes one individual from another. The second is not visible to the naked eye; it is the skeletal structure that supports the flesh and organs that surround it. Though both are necessary constituent elements of our physical being, we are generally much more conscious of our outer being than our inner one. And yet, our bones are more durable than our flesh. Long after we die and our flesh has wasted away, our skeletal structure continues to exist.

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Tip the Scales

Tip the Scales

Sep 18, 2020 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

“—who will live and who will die . . . who will come to an untimely end . . . . who by plague . . . who will be brought low, and who will be raised up?” (U-netaneh Tokef, from the High Holiday liturgy)

In my earliest memory of this prayer, I am a young girl standing between my mother and grandmother in synagogue amidst hundreds of others. Both women are sobbing uncontrollably, as they recited these words. I was puzzled by their outward display of anguish but knew enough not to interrupt them to ask what caused it. They grasped in a way I had yet to comprehend just how tenuous life is; they understood that this one prayer more than any other captures the fragility of human life that the Days of Awe magnify.

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The Wholeness of a Broken Tablet

The Wholeness of a Broken Tablet

Jul 31, 2020 By Naomi Kalish | Commentary | Va'et-hannan | Tishah Be'av

Parashat Va’et-hannan (Deut. 3–7) is always read on Shabbat Nahamu—the “Shabbat of Comfort”—which falls immediately after Tishah Be’av, the day when we commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples. It receives its name from the opening line of the Haftarah: “Comfort, comfort, my people” (Isaiah 40:1).

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Faith, Forgiveness and Prayer: Finding Meaning in the Days of Awe

Faith, Forgiveness and Prayer: Finding Meaning in the Days of Awe

Aug 31, 2020 By Jan Uhrbach | Public Event video | Video Lecture | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

A series of online classes with JTS faculty and staff

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The Ten Commandments in 20/20

The Ten Commandments in 20/20

May 26, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Public Event video | Video Lecture | Shavuot

The Ten Commandments, read on the first day of Shavuot, are a foundational text of Judaism. But their prominence is also a puzzle. Why were these statements singled out from all other mitzvot to be publicly proclaimed to all Israel? What gives these brief pronouncements their distinctive significance?

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Ruth’s Torah Matters Now

Ruth’s Torah Matters Now

May 28, 2020 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Shavuot

Like every Jewish holiday, Shavuot has seasonal and historical components. It celebrates the gifts of Torah and of the spring harvest. Both bounties manifest God’s glory, sustain Israel, and are captured masterfully by our liturgy. 

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Counting the Omer, Counting our Blessings

Counting the Omer, Counting our Blessings

Apr 23, 2020 By Matthew Berkowitz | Shavuot

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Counting the Omer, Counting our Blessings

Counting the Omer, Counting our Blessings

Apr 23, 2020 By Matthew Berkowitz | Shavuot

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JTS Seder Supplement for the COVID-19 Pandemic

JTS Seder Supplement for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Apr 6, 2020 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Collected Resources | Pesah

Selected thoughts on the Haggadah in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

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