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Tishrei 22

On the eighth day there shall be an assembly for you(Numbers 29:35).

Shemini Atzeres marks the close of the holiday season of the month of Tishrei. (Simchas Torah is merely an extension of Shemini Atzeres observed in the diaspora. In Israel, Simchas Torah is celebrated as Shemini Atzeres.) The literal meaning of atzeres is "restraint," and various interpretations have been given for the use of this term to designate the eighth day of the festival.

Perhaps the idea of restraint in this context refers to holding on to the spiritual joy and holiness experienced during this month, beginning with the repentance of the awesome days of Rosh Hashanah and culminating in the joy and love of Torah and mitzvos manifested during Succos. There is a great risk that once the holidays are behind us and we return to the daily life of work and business transactions, we may become so absorbed in those activities that we may dissipate all the spiritual wealth we had acquired during the month of festivals.

Just as one tightly seals a bottle of fine wine so that it does not lose its bouquet, so we should make this last day of the festival an atzeres, a tight seal that will retain all that we have harvested during Tishrei. Just as it is foolish to earn and not to conserve, so it would be foolish to achieve spirituality and not retain it.

Today I shall...

concentrate on how I can continue the self-improvement of the Days of Awe and the joy of the festive days throughout the entire year.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

May 21, 2009

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