SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 63 NUMBER 1
September 28, 2012
12 Tishrei, 5773
PARSHAS HAAZINU/ SUCCOS EDITION
Candle-lighting Time: 6:27 PM
The Holiday of Succos begins this Sunday night with two days of Yom Tov, and intermediary days of Chol Hamoed until the following Sunday night, which marks the beginning of Shemini Atzeres, followed by Simchas Torah Monday night and Tuesday.
Save the Date for special guest Rabbi Ken Spiro, Wednesday Oct. 17th
Holidays, Holidays, and More Holidays
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
Here we go again – Succos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah – another week in Tishrei and more Holidays. When we next have a full week at the office we’ll have forgotten what to do with it.
There is actually a Medrish that says that the holidays of the three last months of the year got pushed back into the month of Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succos all ended up in Tishrei. Without explaining the deeper significance of the idea, suffice it to say, there are a lot of holidays in a short span of time. Ask anyone who has been cooking for them.
And right at the end – Simchas Torah. Of all things to have after all of these holidays. Besides – didn’t we celebrate Shavuos this past summer? That’s the holiday of the Torah, the day we received it on Mount Sinai. What do I need a holiday about the Torah for now?
At the culmination of the eight days of Succos, known as ‘Zman Simchaseinu,’ (the time of our joy) comes Simchas Torah. Some people are driven to tears by another round of holidays, but surely they’re tears of joy. What’re the joy and the day all about, anyway?
On Rosh Hashanah, as the new year got underway, we realized that we have what to work on. Our character, our relationships, our sanctity. By the time the last shofar was sounded, every one of us was hopefully inspired to improve and to grow.
By Yom Kippur, we were forgiven. A neshama (soul) that was once stained and poorly kept was dry-cleaned by the same-day-service cleaner in the heavens above. Nothing gets out the deep spiritual stains like a Yom Kippur.
Afterwards, it’s simcha time! Put up the little party-house with disco-blinking grape lights and take your clean new neshama out for a whirl. Explain our seforim hakedoshim (holy writings), when a person has gone through a process of return and purification like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, then they are ready to feel the joy of closeness with their Creator.
So why top it all of with Simchas Torah?
When we close out the old year and begin the new, we take a long look at what the ledger shows. We make a few new year’s resolutions and swear up and down that this year is going to be different. No more squabbling with the spouse, no more loshon hara (gossip), a little more tzedaka.
And how, exactly, do we propose to pull that off? There’s only one tool that can help us achieve lasting spiritual growth – the Torah. Refinement of character and the appreciation of honesty, dignity and holiness are what the Torah is all about. When you know what you want to do, and then you realize you have just the right tool for the job, you feel happiness. That’s Simchas Torah. As the new year begins, and we have our work cut out for us, we need to start the cycle of our Torah learning again. Through dedicated Torah study we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves these past High Holidays.
Let’s pick up the tools and get to work. Together with our Torah and our simcha, we’re ready to tackle the new year. Assuming, of course, we live through all these holidays first.
ARE WE OUT OF SYNC?
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Everyone knows that we leftEgyptin the springtime during the month of Nissan. In fact, that’s why Nissan is considered the first of the months, due to its distinction as the month of our redemption from bondage. Why don’t we celebrate Succos during that month to commemorate and re-experience that our forefathers traveled through the desert in small huts with thatched roofs such as ours? This question has been posed and answered in many different ways. I will offer the approach of the Tur who compiled the first codified book of Jewish law.
The Tur provides an amazingly simple yet extremely profound answer. He explains that if we were to go out to our succos in the springtime, it would not be discernable that we were performing a mitzvah. Rather, it would appear that we were enjoying the beautiful weather in our exquisitely designed gazebos. Therefore, the Torah commanded us to perform this mitzvah at the approach of the colder, less inviting climate in order to clearly demonstrate that our intent is to fulfill the Torah mitzvah of Succah.
Certainly this response resolves the matter with extreme clarity. However, I believe that the Tur is actually alluding to a much more insightful and elemental principle of the Torah. As we know, mitzvos contain nuggets of wisdom and guidance by which we build and design our lives. The Succah is a prime example. Many mitzvos are performed in the privacy of one’s home far from the eyes of neighbors. Even the mitzvos fulfilled in public like at shul often afford us a kind of anonymous semi-privacy. This is not so when it comes to the mitzvah of Succah. When we erect our temporary home for the week of Succos in plain sight of all those around us, we are publicly proclaiming that we are servants of Hashem and we are proud to make it known to the world at large.
This attitude not only gives us pride in what we do, it is an opportunity to educate and instill in those around us the appreciation that we have for the Torah of Hashem and its hundreds of mitzvos. This mitzvos is an avenue through which we can develop our sensitivities with the correct focus. We need not conceal from others, either Jew or gentile, our involvement in the Torah. On the contrary, we need to broadcast to all those within audible range the beauty of our heritage and the depth of our souls.
Given this understanding, we can perhaps go further and suggest that Succos follows on the heels of Rosh Hashanah because this is truly its theme. We plead with Hashem to proclaim His majesty and sovereignty throughout the world so that all mankind will recognize His Heavenly kingdom and accept Him as their king. We conclude the Ten Days of Penitence with Yom Kippur. At that point we have hopefully purified our souls and charged ourselves with the duty and privilege of becoming ambassadors for our people in every country. It is at that point that we begin to celebrate the Yom Tov of Succos and regale in the glitter of the Succah. The entire world focuses upon us and our tiny vestiges of Torah and mitzvos and we are overwhelmed with the honor and distinction that we never surrender to the forces of corruption and distortion.
Byte For Succos
Succos is called the time of our happiness and joy. Once we have purified ourselves with the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we have straightened the twisted nature of our hearts. Only then we can proceed to Succos elated that we can again serve God properly.
Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from www.partersintorah.org.
The Torah commands the Jews to assemble in Jerusalem once in seven years to hear the king read from the Torah on the Temple Mount (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). This assembly is known as Hakhel, which means “you must gather or assemble.” With the establishment of the State of Israel and the presence of large numbers of Jews in Israel, the question arose as to whether it was appropriate to create an assembly in memory of Hakhel. The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Herzog, supported the idea and believed that not only would such a gathering fulfill the obligation to remember the Temple, but it would also inspire people to study and keep the Torah and raise the honor and prestige of Torah in the world. He noted that there was an old custom in Jerusalem for the students of the famous Eitz Chaim Cheder (elementary school) to go the Western Wall on Sukkot and read the sections of the Torah that the king would read at Hakhel (Responsa Heichal Yitzchak, Orach Chaim 58).
GOOD SHABBOS AND YOM TOV!