Issue No. 24 – October 12, 2006
A Minyan with Arba Minim does Hakafot (circuits) around a Sefer Torah while
saying the Hoshanot prayers at the Kotel on the 2nd day of Chol haMoed.
The Season of Our Rejoicing
Thoughts & Images of Sukkot 2006
A Shuvoo Update from Ashirah Yosefah
Holy Days are also called Moadim l’Simcha
… Times for Rejoicing. Three times a
year, all Jewish males are commanded to come up to
tell us that Pesach is the time for
consider a few events of the past to see if we can find some answers. The Torah tells us that Hashem delivered the
Children of Israel out of slavery in Mitzrayim with a “mighty right arm”. The initiative was from On High.
After the giving of the Eser Dibrot (the Ten Words/Commandments) Moshe went up into the
cloud atop Har Sinai, into Hashem’s Presence, to receive the rest of the Torah.
While he was receiving the Torah, the Children of Israel grew anxious,
fearful that something had happened to their leader, and they built and
worshipped the golden calf. On the 1st
day of Elul, Moshe was sent down the mountain by Hashem to rebuke the wayward
worshippers. In doing so, Moshe threw
the stone tablets inscribed by the Finger of G-d onto the ground and they
broke. The clouds of glory that indicated
Hashem’s Presence and protection over them departed. The Children of Israel realized their error,
did teshuvah, and Moshe returned to the mountain to plead for Hashem’s mercy
and to inscribe a second set of tablets.
He returned tablets in hand, forty days later on Yom Kippur. His return with the tablets signified
Hashem’s forgiveness of their sin. The
Torah then tells us that Moshe gave over the instructions for the Mishkan and
that the people freely brought such an abundance of gold, silver, copper,
linens, skins, etc., that Moshe had to tell them to stop. Five days after his return, Moshe and the
Children of Israel commenced the work of building the Mishkan, the Dwelling
Place for Hashem in their midst, his “Sukkah” in the
desert, so to speak. On that day, the
clouds of glory returned, signifying the restoration of the special
relationship between Hashem and
The month of Elul is an intense time of introspection and self-examination, of confessing our sins and seeking forgiveness from one another, then we stand before Hashem haMelech on Rosh Hashanah and are judged. Our past actions are judged and the “sentence” for the year to come is determined. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur give us more time to work on our rectification in hopes of sweetening the judgment of Rosh Hashanah. We afflict ourselves with fasting and cry out collectively and individually on Yom Kippur that Hashem should remember the rachmanis (mercy) He has long bestowed on the Jewish people and His long-suffering patience towards this ailing world. We plead that He should seal our names in the Book of Life. We feel a sense of purity and elation at the end of Yom Kippur prayers, but the past forty days have been intense – too intense for real feelings of closeness and intimacy to be renewed in our relationship with G-d. After all, we’ve just spend over a month realizing how short of the mark we’ve fallen! The Sefat Emet in “The Days of Awe” explains:
So, after five days scurrying about readying “Hashem’s home” next to our homes, we are ready to enter the sukkah, symbolizing both the House of Hashem and the marriage chuppah, and to rejoice with one another and our Maker remembering His mercy, goodness and forgiveness.
at the end of Sukkot, we have another festival, Shemini Atzeret, which is
combined with Simchat Torah here in
The festival of Sukkot is filled with positive mitzvot: Building a sukkah, the Arba Minim, Hachnasat Orchim (hospitality to guests) in the sukkah. Shira Smiles describes the mitzvot as “invitations to relationship”. She said the “simcha” in doing a mitzvah is the simcha of relationship. Hashem gives us His commandments as invitations to spend time with Him, do things for Him, get to know Him, build relationship with Him. Thinking of the mitzvot in this light puts a fresh perspective on Torah observance!
On Monday evening I attended a shiur given by Dr. Rabbi Avraham Twerski, pictured at right talking to people attending the lecture. Dr. Twerski is famous for his many wonderful books and wise counsel. The topic of the shiur was “The Essence of Spirituality”. That “Essence”, Dr. Twerski explained, is the mitzvah that we are to serve Hashem at all times with “simcha”. Normally, people immediately think that simcha is joy and we wonder how can we possibly be joyful at all times?! The truth is that we cannot and we should not. Shlomo haMelech, the author of Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), wrote the famous words, “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the heavens.” In his enumeration of times and seasons, Koheleth lists dying, weeping, wailing, shunning embraces, losing, ripping, hating, war … surely these are not joyous times! Rabbi Twerski gave over numerous sources from Rashi and other Sages that clearly show that simcha means several things. While it can refer to joy, it also implies progress, growth and expansion … progressive development, if you will. Most of all, Rabbi Twerski said, simcha means serving Hashem with a “lev shalaim” – a whole heart. A heart of flesh and not of stone.
It happens that Koheleth is the megilla that we read during Sukkot. In Koheleth 7:29, Shlomo haMelech wrote: “But, see, this I did find: G-d made men plain (Hebrew: yashar – straight), but they have engaged in too much reasoning.” What a succinct and telling mouthful! This problem has been man’s downfall since Adam haRishon. In Gan Eden, Adam and Chavah tried to figure things out on their own, to create their own way to serve G-d as opposed to following the guidelines Hashem had given them. At Sinai, the sin of the golden calf was basically caused by men thinking they knew how to serve G-d over and above the Torah. G-d gave mankind, of all the creatures He made, the innate ability to change, improve, challenge. Instead of using these unique skills to develop positively the potential G-d gives us in all aspects of life, we have made ourselves “crooked” instead of “straight”. We were meant to do G-d’s Will on His terms, not our own. His terms are clearly spelled out in Torah.
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav was a man who excelled at serving Hashem with simcha. His teachings on serving Hashem with simplicity are among my favorites. He advised his students to strive for simplicity in Torah observance, not to become overwhelmed and confused, trying to do everything at once. We are to approach our Avodat Hashem (Service of Hashem) step by step, one level after the next. Rabbi Nachman stressed that the important things are to learn a lot, pray a lot, to do good deeds, and to pour one’s heart out before G-d. He taught that one does not have to be overstrict with oneself. One simply does what one can. (Source: Sichot Haran, no. 235)
The 18th of
Tishrei (the 3rd day of Sukkot) is the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Nachman.
Rabbi Richman’s teaching and parts of the seudah were filmed for internet television on www.universaltorah.com Go online and enjoy a half-hour of sukkah rejoicing and learning with the October 12th broadcast by Rabbi Richman. You will find many other programs to watch and learn from as well.
discussed Sukkot being a time to rejoice, there is another matter worthy of
celebration. Israel National News
reported that the annual Sukkot Birkat haCohanim (Public Priestly Blessing) at the Kotel on Monday
had the largest attendance since the end of the Six Day War, the war which
The Kotel on the 2nd day of Chol haMoed Sukkot just after the
The picture at left shows but half of the men’s court alone … now double
this and add the women’s court, the rest of
(All photos © Ashirah Yosefah 2006)