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GOOD MORNING! This coming Shabbat we read a special Torah portion for Shabbat during Chol Hamoed (pronounced something like "hole hah-moe-aid") Sukkot. What is Chol Hamoed? The Torah states:
"On the fifteenth day of this seventh month, when you gather the crop in the land, you shall celebrate the Almighty's holiday seven days. The first day shall be a day of rest and the eighth day shall be a day of rest." (Leviticus 23:39)
The days between the first and last days of the Festival are called Chol Hamoed, the Intermediate Days of the Festival.
As mentioned above, the Torah tells us to celebrate the first and the eighth days as full festival days, yet outside the land of Israel we celebrate the first two days as full Festival days and the eighth and ninth days as full Festival days. Why?
First, a little background about the Jewish calendar. The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, periodically adjusted to keep in synch with the solar year. Why? The Torah tells us that the holiday of Pesach, occurring in the Hebrew month of Nissan, is to be celebrated in the spring. If one did not adjust the calendar, the month of Nissan would rotate through the season since the lunar year is 354 days and the solar year is 365 days. Therefore, an additional month is inserted into the calendar approximately every three years. This also is the reason why when people look at the Gregorian calendar (the one that they sell in stationery stores or that funeral homes give away) they say, "Rosh Hashana or Pesach comes out early - or late - this year."
In the days when the Jewish people lived in the Land of Israel and had the Sanhedrin (the High Court) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the beginning of the month was declared by the Sanhedrin after investigating witnesses testifying that they saw the new moon. Messengers were then sent throughout Israel and surrounding lands so that everyone would know when to celebrate the holidays. After the end of the exile to Babylonia, many Jews did not return to live in the Land of Israel. Fires were set from mountain top to mountain top from Jerusalem to Babylonia to signal the start of the new month. However, our enemies - can you believe it? - would start their own signal fires just to cause confusion and trouble for the Jews.
What did the Sanhedrin do? They decreed that all who live outside of the Land of Israel would celebrate two days of the holiday to make sure that they celebrated the holiday properly on the right day. The sage Hillel set up a perpetual calendar for the Jewish people's journey through history and exile. Without the Sanhedrin to declare the new month, we keep each holiday (except Yom Kippur) for two days outside the Land of Israel. That is why Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret are both celebrated on the eighth day in Israel, but outside of the Land of Israel we celebrate Shemini Atzeret on the eighth day and Simchat Torah on the ninth day.
Q & A: WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF SHEMINI ATZERET AND SIMCHAT TORAH?
Shemini Atzeret begins Wednesday evening, October 6th. Shemini Atzeret is actually a separate festival adjacent to Sukkot. Rashi, the great Biblical commentator, explains that "atzeret" is an expression of affection, as would be used by a father to children who are departing from him. The father would say, "Your departure is difficult for me, tarry yet another day." The Jewish people prayed and brought offerings all the days of Sukkot so that the 70 nations of the world would have rain in the coming year. The Torah and the Almighty keep us one more day for a special holiday to make requests just for ourselves. That's Shemini Atzeret.
Yizkor, the memorial service for parents and relatives - and Jews who have been killed because they were Jewish or in defending the Jewish people and Israel - is Thursday morning, October 7th.
Thursday evening begins Simchat Torah (outside of Israel), the celebration of completing the yearly cycle of Torah reading and beginning it again. The evening and again the next morning are filled with dance and songs rejoicing in the Torah and thanking God for our being Jewish and that the Almighty gave us the Torah! We read the last Torah portion in Deuteronomy, V'Zot HaBracha and then begin immediately with Bereishit, starting the book of Genesis. If you take your kids to synagogue twice a year - one time should be Simchat Torah!
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And this is the blessing, wherewith Moshe, the man of God, blessed the Children of Israel before his death." (Deuteronomy 33:1)
Why is Moshe called "the man of God" in this verse?
The Midrash Psikta D'Rav Kahane answers that, "Moshe was not called 'the man of God' until he spoke in defense of the Jewish people." Moshe pointed out the loyalty of the Jewish people to God in verses 33:3-4 - that the Jewish people cleave to the Almighty even in times of adversity and are loyal to the teachings of the Torah, transmitting them to our children. The Midrash informs us, "Whoever speaks out in defense of the Jewish people is elevated.
Anyone can find fault with others. True greatness is to see the good points of others.
JUST BECAUSE: I have been waiting until I had some room to share the following piece with you. I find it amusing ... and after all, Sukkot IS the holiday of joy! Hopefully, you'll enjoy it.
Eye halve a spelling chequer. It came with my pea sea.
It plainly marques four my revue miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word and weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write. It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid, it nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite. Its rarely ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it, I am shore your pleased two no.
Its letter perfect in it's weigh. My chequer tolled me sew.
-- Sauce Unknown
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CANDLE LIGHTING - October 1:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:32 Hong Kong 5:52 Honolulu 5:59
J'Burg 5:50 London 6:18 Los Angeles 6:18
Melbourne 6:02 Miami 6:48 Moscow 5:47
New York 6:19 Singapore 6:40
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Joy can be real only if
people look upon their life as a service,
and have a definite object in life
outside themselves and their personal happiness.
-- Leo Tolstoy
In Honor of the Birth of Our Son