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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 seventh days as full festival days, yet outside the land of Israel we celebrate the first two days as full Festival days and the seventh and eighth day 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 sync 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, the Sanhedrin (the High Court) was located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In fulfillment of a Torah commandment, the beginning of the month was declared by the Sanhedrin after investigating witnesses who testified that they had seen 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 for two days outside the Land of Israel (except for Yom Kippur because of the danger to life in fasting for two days). 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 Tuesday evening, October 24th. 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 keeps 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 Wednesday morning, October 25th.
Tuesday evening begins Simchat Torah, 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 Bereishis, starting the book of Genesis. If you take your kids to synagogue twice a year - one time should be Simchat Torah!
For more on "Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot
Exodus Ki Sisa 33:12-34:26
Moshe pleads to the Almighty to "make known to me Your ways." The Almighty commands Moshe to carve two stone tablets to replace the Tablets that Moshe destroyed bearing the 10 Commandments. Moshe carves them and ascends Mt. Sinai. The Almighty descends in a cloud and reveals to Moshe the "13 Attributes of Divine Mercy" which are constantly repeated in the Yom Kippur prayers. Moshe asks the Almighty to "forgive our transgressions and make us Your Heritage."
The Almighty responds that He shall seal a covenant with us. The Almighty then warns the Jewish people against idol worship (idolatry is believing that anything other than the Almighty has power). The reading ends with the Almighty commanding us to keep the Festivals - Pesach, Shavuous and Sukkot.
Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot Maftir
(3rd Day of Chol HaMoed), Numbers 29:23-31
This reading details the offerings that were brought up in the Temple in Jerusalem on the fourth, fifth and sixth day of the Sukkot holiday.
Simchat Torah (October 26th)
We read V'zot Habracha (Deuteronomy 33:1 -34:12) to complete the Book of Deuteronomy and thus the whole Torah. This Torah portion begins with the blessing of Moshe, right before he dies, for the Jewish people and each tribe. Then Moshe ascends Mt. Nebo where the Almighty shows him all of the land the Jewish people are about to inherit. He dies, is buried in the valley in an unknown spot, the Jewish people mourn for 30 days. The Torah then concludes with the words:
"Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Almighty had known face to face ..."
And then we start again the yearly cycle of reading the Torah with the reading of Bereishis, Genesis!
What is The Meaning of the Arbah Minim?
One of the special commandments for Sukkot is to take the arbah minim,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 is one; we must do all we can to bind together the Jewish people and work to strengthen the Jewish future!
CANDLE LIGHTING - October 21:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Chicago 5:41 Guatemala 5:19 Hong Kong 5:35
Honolulu 5:42 J'Burg 6:00 London 5:36
Los Angeles 5:52 Melbourne 6:21 Mexico City 5:54
Miami 6:29 Moscow 4:58 New York 5:48
Singapore 6:35 Toronto 5:05
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Joy is not in things;
it is in us.
-- Richard Wagner
In Honor of our Mother