The Torah Portion for Saturday, October 11 is that of Sukkot.
Parshat V'Zot HaBracha will be read on Simchat Torah, which is on Sunday, October 19 outside of Israel, and Saturday, October 18 in Israel.
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GOOD MORNING! Judaism has something for everyone. If you like to drink, we have Purim. If you like asceticism or self-denial we have Yom Kippur. If you like to play with fire, we have Lag B'Omer (celebrated with bonfires!) If you like to dance, we have Simchat Torah, and ... if you like the great outdoors, we have Sukkot!
Sukkot starts this Friday evening, October 10th. Sukkot means "booths." During the 40 years of wandering in the desert we lived in Sukkot. We are commanded (see Leviticus 23:33-44) on this holiday to make our Sukkah our main dwelling place - to eat, sleep, learn Torah and spend our time there. If one would suffer from being in a Sukkah - i.e. from rain or snow - or from heat and humidity, he is freed from the obligation to dwell there. Depending on climatic conditions, people try to at least eat in the Sukkah.
We are also commanded to wave the arbah minim, the Four Species:
"And you shall take for yourselves on the first day (of the Festival) the fruit of the citron tree (esrog/etrog), an unopened frond of the date palms, myrtle branches and willows (that grow near) the brook." (Numbers 23:40).
There are many deep and mystical meanings for waving these four species together, including - 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 (see the Dvar Torah for more on this!).
The Torah tells us:
"...On the fifteenth of the seventh month (counting from the Hebrew month of Nissan when the Jews left Egypt) shall be the holiday of Sukkot, seven days (of celebration) for the Almighty. The first day shall be a holy convocation; all manners of work (creative acts as defined by the Torah) you shall not do; it is an eternal decree in all of your dwelling places for all generations." (Leviticus 23:34-35)
Deuteronomy 16:13-15 adds:
"The festival of Sukkot shall be to you for seven days when you gather from your threshing floors and your wine cellar. You shall rejoice in your festival ... for the Almighty will bless you in all of your produce and in all of the work of your hand and you shall be completely joyous."
Sukkot is called "zman simchaseinu" (or the Sephardic pronunciation: "zeman simchateinu"). There are two aspects to simcha: happiness and joy. Happiness is taking pleasure in what you have. Joy is the pleasure of anticipating a future good.
What is the cause of our simcha? Trust in God. If we trust in God - and know that everything that the Almighty does for us is for our good and all that will happen in the future will be for our good - then we have simcha!
It is fitting that Sukkot is a harvest festival. People who work the earth are amongst the most religious of people, trusting in the Almighty (followed perhaps by fundraisers). They take a perfectly good seed that could be eaten and they stick it in the ground not knowing whether there will be rain or drought or floods or pestilence. They put forth hard work not knowing the outcome.
We all trust in something - our intelligence, our wealth, our society, our education, our connections; however, deep down we know that we are trusting in something that can't ultimately help us. As King David wrote in Psalms 20:8:
"There are those who trust in chariots and those who trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Almighty."
Only the Almighty is the Creator of the world, the Master of history, our personal and caring God Who can be relied upon to help us.
The Mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah 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 Sukkah 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.
While we had our two Temples in Jerusalem, during the Festival of Sukkot 70 offerings were made for the nations of the world - so that the Almighty would provide rain for their crops. The Talmud tells us that if the nations of the world understood the value of what the Jewish people provided them, they would have sent their armies to defend our Temple in Jerusalem to keep it from being destroyed.
The word "geshem" means rain. "Gashmiut" (from the word "geshem") means "material needs." Ultimately, all of our material needs come from rain which is needed for the crops to grow and from that extends commerce. The word for war in Hebrew is "milchamah" from the word "lechem" (bread). Perhaps if the nations of the world have sufficient rain and thus sufficient bread, they will be satisfied and not seek to war upon others and to conquer.
Sukkot 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 Sukkot (which is also read on the second day of Sukkot), 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, Sukkot 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 Sukkot 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 Sukkot? 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 4:3
"Don't be scornful of any person,
and don't be disdainful of anything;
For there is no person who does not have his hour
and there is no thing that does not have its place."
-- Ben Azzai
CANDLE LIGHTING - October 10:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:26 Hong Kong 5:45 Honolulu 5:51
J'Burg 5:53 London 6:00 Los Angeles 6:06
Melbourne 6:10 Miami 6:40 Moscow 5:26
New York 6:06 Singapore 6:37
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You cannot fill a spiritual void
with material things.
Happy Birthday to