GOOD MORNING! Wednesday evening, September 18th, begins Sukkot (or Sukkos in the Ashkenazi pronunciation). Next week comes Shemini Atzeret (Wednesday evening, September 25th) and Simchat Torah (starting Thursday evening, September 26th)! In Israel, Simchat Torah is observed concurrently with Shemini Atzeres since they celebrate only one day of Yom Tov. However, outside of Israel we celebrate two days of Yom Tov -- and they are celebrated on separate days.
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.
Simchat Torah is 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, Vezot Habracha and then begin immediately with Bereshit, starting the book of Genesis. If you take your kids to synagogue twice a year -- one time should be Simchat Torah!
The Torah portion we read on Simchat Torah is Vezot Habracha. It begins with the blessings that Moshe gives to the Jewish people and each tribe right before he dies. 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 ..."
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 observed Thursday morning, September 26th.
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, Shavuot and Sukkot.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And this is to Yehudah, and he (Moshe) said, 'Listen Almighty to the voice of Yehudah" (Deut 33:7).
What does this verse refer to?
Rashi teaches us that Moshe is referring to the prayers of the kings of Yehudah: David, Asa, Yehoshofot and Chizkiyah.
The Midrash elaborates: There were four kings and each one asked the Almighty for different things. King David asked that he should be able to pursue his enemies and vanquish them. King Asa said, "I don't have the ability to kill my enemies. Rather, I will pursue them and You Almighty should vanquish them." King Yehoshofot stood up and said, "I don't have the ability to vanquish my enemies or even to pursue them. Rather, I will pray and You Almighty should vanquish them." Chizkiyah stood up and said, "I do not have the ability to vanquish, to pursue or to pray. Rather, I will stay home and sleep and You Almighty should vanquish my enemies."
What is the meaning of not being able to pursue or pray? Why should anyone find this difficult since the Almighty will be involved? Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz used to explain: Regardless of what we ourselves do to be successful in any area, we must be aware that ultimately it is the Almighty Who causes the victory. Everything is dependent on His will, but we must do our share.
Therefore, King David said that even when he pursues his enemies and vanquishes them, he still realizes that it is the Almighty Who has made the victory possible. King Asa, however, felt that he was not on King David's spiritual level. If he would finish off the job, he would feel he was the cause of the victory and therefore he asked that his pursuing his enemies should be sufficient. Since the Almighty would complete the process without any effort on his part, he would realize that it was all from the Almighty.
Yehoshofot was one step below this. He felt that if he would take action and pursue his enemies, he would find it difficult to see the Almighty's hand in the victory. When all he would do was pray without any other action, he would see that the victory was from the Almighty.
However, Chizkiyah felt that even if he would pray, he would consider it his victory. Only if the Almighty would bring about the victory when he was asleep without any action on his part at all would he be able to recognize that the entire victory was from the Almighty.
The message here is that regardless of what we do to succeed, we should always realize that everything is totally up to the Almighty!
CANDLE LIGHTING - September 21
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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