Searching for the Eighth Day

Tishrei 14, 5783
October 9, 2022
Candlelighting Time 6:11 PM

            We don’t leave Yom Kippur but we incorporate its theme into the following Yom Tov of Succos. Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur are termed the Days of Awe and Fear since we are fixated on elevating our level of fear of Heaven. Then we enter into the Days of Simcha, Succos. In the Beis Hamikdash they held special celebrations and they danced and approached Hashem at the precipice of simcha. The Talmud states that the level of simcha during this time in the Beis Hamikdash was unparalleled. And then comes Shemini Atseres immediately following the seven days of Succos, the eighth day. Although it is not officially a part of Succos, it is intrinsically connected to Succos. In fact, the Talmud expounds and defines the elevated nature of this Yom Tov that we are specifically commanded to rejoice. What is so special about Shemini Atseres more so than the joyous time of Succos itself?

            S’fas Emes points out a starting contrast between Succos and Shemini Atseres. One point to ponder is that we bring 70 sacrifices during the Succos holiday corresponding to the 70 nations of the world. It is interesting to note that we show concern for them to the extent that we bring offerings to promote their welfare. Furthermore, the mitzvos that we perform on Succos relate to the very physicality of this world. The essence of the Succah that we sit in is the covering, the schach. It must be natural having grown from the ground and we dwell beneath it remembering our delivery from our Egyptian bondage and our trek through the desert for forty years. The different plants that we use together with the lulav, the esrog, and the myrtle and willow branches are all, of course, natural. It seems as though the entire Yom Tov is extremely preoccupied with items that associate with this world! After we ascended to such exalted plateaus of proximity to Hashem during the Days of Awe, should our concerns involve the triviality of this world and its environs?

            Of course, the answer is that we are utilizing the very matter of this world to serve Hashem and not only elevate ourselves while doing so, but the entire world! Ramchal in his seminal sefer the “Path of the Just” writes about this extensively in the beginning. We enter into Succos prepared to fulfill our obligations at a new heightened awareness of our relationship with Hashem. Last year’s standards no longer apply after surmounting the challenges during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

            And then, comes Shemini Atseres, the apex of this holiday season. We do not need the Succah any longer, the four kinds of plants that we used have accomplished their objective. We enter into a dimension otherwise unknown to us. The world of pure spirituality, where the physical has been transformed into a vessel of sanctification and our sights are set upon creating a connection between us and Hashem in a way that, until now, was not accessible! The eighth day is a new link to Hashem that transcends this world and allows us to enter into a space that our mindset is only focused on reaching novel concepts and inspirations that will propel us into the new year with tremendous motivation. Our thoughts and actions are based upon new and exciting principles and perceptions that recreate and enhance our affiliation with Hashem. And, or course, this all culminates with the simcha of Simchas Torah when dance with the Torah, holding it tight and realizing the treasure that it is.


The Midrash compares the four species that we take together with the lulav as a banner of victory over the enemy. After we merited forgiveness on Yom Kippur, the next four days we are busy acquiring the four species and building our Succah, therefore we are saved from sinning. Therefore, the first day of our new accounting begins only with the first day of Succos.                    CHASAM SOFER