GOOD MORNING! We just commemorated the anniversary of the tragedies on September 11, 2001. What particularly intrigued me were two small articles I read the next day in the newspaper. The first reported that the Standard and Poor's Index closed at ... 911 points. The second article made note that the NY Lottery winning number came up as ... 911. As has been said, "To a believer no evidence is necessary; to a disbeliever, no evidence will make a difference."
Many people say that they believe in God, yet that belief has no impact on how they lead their lives, their ethics, their relationships and their family. Then there are those who say that they are agnostics - that they don't have enough information to decide. Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb, former professor of Mathematical Logic at Johns Hopkins University and author of Living Up to The Truth makes an interesting point. If you tell someone that you heard rumors that there was poison in the city water supply and he responds, "Who says? I don't have enough information to decide" and then goes and takes a drink of water from the tap - he is really saying that he doesn't believe it is true. Otherwise, he would take precautions and not drink the tap water until he knew for sure that the water was OK.
The Almighty commands us to fulfill the Mitzvot of the Torah. He tells us of the reward for doing the commandments and the consequences for not observing them. We even have historical evidence that He is serious and fulfills His word. In Deuteronomy 28-30, He tells us that if we do not observe the Torah, we will suffer conquest, exile, scattering across the face of the earth, yet we'll survive, never be completely destroyed and ultimately we will return to the Land of Israel. Does it make sense to take precautions? To at least make a serious search to find out if our heritage which half the world believes in - that the Almighty spoke to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai and gave us the Torah to fulfill -is true?
You might want to browse a Jewish book store to see what interests you. There are so many fascinating books on every aspect of life: Is there a God? Permission to Believe by Kelemen. Did God give the Torah? Permission to Receive by Kelemen. How do I live as a Jew? To Be a Jew by Donin. Troubled by questions about Judaism? The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Prager. Feeling on the offensive? Judaism on Trial by Cardozo. Want something warm and fulfilling? This is My God by Herman Wouk. If you can't get to a Jewish bookstore, then call toll-free 877-758-3242 (you can also order the Arba Minim - see below - for Succot!)
Q & A: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF SUCCOT AND HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
Succot starts this Friday evening, September 20th. Succot means "booths." During the 40 years of wandering in the desert we lived in Succot. We are commanded (see Leviticus 23:33-44) on this holiday to make our Succah our main dwelling place - to eat, sleep, learn Torah and spend our time there. If one would suffer from being in a Succah - i.e., from rain or snow - he is freed from the obligation to dwell there. Depending on climatic conditions, people try to at least eat in the Succah. We are also commanded to wave the Arbah Minim, the Four Species, which have many deep and mystical meanings -that the Almighty controls the whole world, the winds, the forces and everything everywhere; that all Jews are bound together as one people, be they saints or sinners, knowledgeable or ignorant.
The Mitzvah of dwelling in the Succah teaches us trust in God. We tend to think that our possessions, our money, our homes, our intelligence will protect us. Here we are exposed to the elements in a temporary hut. Living in a Succah puts life into perspective. Our history has borne this out. No matter how well-established, wealthy and "secure" we have become in a host country, in the end it too has been a temporary dwelling. Our trust must be in God.
Succot is called zman simchateinu, the time of our joy. Joy is distinct from happiness. Happiness is taking pleasure in what you have. Joy is the pleasure of anticipating a future good. If we trust in God and know that everything that the Almighty does for us is for our good, then we will know great joy in our lives!
Succot is one of the Shelosh Regalim, Three Festivals (the other two are Pesach and Shavuot), where the Torah commands everyone living in Israel to leave their homes to come to Jerusalem to celebrate at the Temple. For the last 2,000 years since the destruction of the Temple, we've been unable to fulfill this Mitzvah.
This Shabbat we read a Special Torah Reading for Succot (which is also read on the second day of Succot), Leviticus 22:26 - 23:44 which begins with laws pertaining to the Temple offerings, korbonot. It then gives an overview of the Jewish mo'adim, appointed festivals: Shabbat, Pesach and the Omer offering of barley on the second day of Pesach, the counting of the days until Shavuot, the offerings on Shavuot, not to gather the gleanings of the harvest (they are left for the poor), Rosh Hashana and blowing the shofar, Yom Kippur, Succot and its offerings, and the commandment to wave the Arba Minim (the lulav, etrog, hadasim and aravot).
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE ARBAH MINIM?
One of the special commandments for Succot is to take the Arbah Minim, the Four Species (etrog, lulav, hadassim, and aravot), and to wave them in the four directions of the compass as well as up and down. The meaning of the waving is that God is everywhere. However, why are these four species designated for the Mitzvah?
Our rabbis teach that these four species are symbolic of four types of Jews: the etrog (citron) which has a fragrance and a taste represents those Jews who have both Torah wisdom and good deeds; the lulav (date palm branch) which has a taste (from the dates), but no fragrance represents those Jews who have Torah wisdom, but no good deeds; the hadassim (myrtle branches) have a fragrance, but no taste representing those Jews who have good deeds, but no Torah wisdom; and lastly, the aravot (willow branches) have neither a taste nor a smell representing those Jews who are lacking in Torah wisdom and good deeds.
What do we do on Succot? We symbolically bind together and recognize every Jew as an integral and important part of the Jewish people. If even one is missing, the Mitzvah is incomplete. Our people are one; we must do all we can to bind together the Jewish people and work to strengthen the Jewish future!
PIRKEI AVOT 2:2
"All who work for the community should work for the sake of Heaven, for then the merit of their forefathers will help them and their righteousness will endure forever."
-- Rabban Gamliel
CANDLE LIGHTING - September 20:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:42 Hong Kong 6:04 Honolulu 6:12
J'Burg 5:44 London 6:46 Los Angeles 6:35
Melbourne 5:56 Miami 7:02 Moscow 6:17
New York 6:39 Singapore 6:44
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Those who laugh ...
In Loving Memory of
May you and your family have a joyous Succot!