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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Shemini Atzeret’

Showers Expected Day after Prayers for Rain

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

The first rains of the winter season are expected on Tuesday, one day after Jews around the world begin adding to daily prayers that God “brings the wind and rain.”

The change is made during the prayers on Shemini Azereth, the same day that Simchat Torah is celebrated in Israel. In the Diaspora, the two holidays are marked on separate days, ending Tuesday night.

In Israel, a special request for rain is added to prayers two weeks later, while Jews in Diaspora make the change on December 4.

Precipitation is expected to begin after noon in the north and center of the country on Tuesday and spread to the Negev at night and on Wednesday. The heaviest rainfall is predicted for the Galilee area, in the north.

Weather models indicate another warming trend at the end of the week, but is may be followed by a longer respite from the long hot summer, one of the hottest on record.

Temperatures will rise on Friday through next Sunday, according to longer term indications, but cooler weather is possible from next Monday through the entire week.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Q & A: Shemini Atzeret

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Question: I seem to see a lack of uniformity regarding the mitzvah of sukkah on Shemini Atzeret. What is the proper procedure to follow?

Menachem
Via e-mail

Answer: The question revolves around the festival status of Shemini Atzeret. This is not to say that there is a question as to whether Shemini Atzeret is a festival. Rather, is Shemini Atzeret, which immediately follows the last day of the festival of Sukkot [Hoshana Rabbah], part and parcel of that festival, or is it a separate festival to itself? We find three references to Shemini Atzeret in the Torah: two explicit ones and one hinted at that we derive by way of exegesis. The first reference is in Parashat Emor (Leviticus 23:36): “…bayom ha’shemini mikra kodesh yi’h’yeh lachem…– …on the eighth day there shall be a holy convocation for you….” The second reference is in Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 29:35): “Bayom haShemini Atzeret tihyeh lachem kol melechet avodah lo ta’asu – The eighth day shall be a restriction for you; you shall not do any laborious work.” The third reference is by way of a hint in Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 16:15): “Shiv’at yamim tachog la’Shem Elokecha …ve’hayita ach sameach – A seven day period shall you celebrate before the L-rd your G-d …and you will be completely joyous.” Rashi cites the gemara (Sukkah 48a) that this is a reference to Shemini Atzeret. This last verse seems to single out Shemini Atzeret as a separate festival in that it clearly states, “seven days shall you celebrate” – meaning that if there is any celebration on the eighth day, it should be deemed a separate festival.

Yet the very following verse (Deuteronomy 16:16) seems to be saying otherwise: “Shalosh pa’amim ba’shanah ye’ra’eh kol zechurecha et penei Hashem Elokecha ba’makom asher yivchar, b’chag hamatzot, u’b’chag ha’shavuot u’bchag ha’sukkot… – Three times a year shall all your males appear before the L-rd, your G-d, in the place that He will choose [Jerusalem]: on the festival of Matzot, the festival of Shavuot and the festival of Sukkot….” Note that there are only three times a year to appear – the three festivals enumerated in this passage. Obviously, then, it would seem that Shemini Atzeret is part and parcel of Sukkot.

Now, regarding the mitzvah of sitting in the sukkah, the Torah clearly tells us in Parashat Emor (Leviticus 23:42): “Basukkot teshvu shiv’at yamim kol ha’ezrach b’yisrael yeshvu ba’sukkot – You shall dwell in sukkot for a seven day period, every native in Israel [to include both a Jew from birth and a convert] shall dwell in sukkot.” The Torah then goes on to give us the basic reason for the commandment to sit – or rather, to dwell – in the sukkah. As stated (Ibid. 23:43), it is “Lema’an yed’u doroteichem ki vasukkot hoshavti et Bnei Yisrael be’hotzi’i otam me’eretz Mitzrayim, Ani Hashem Elokeichem – So that your [future] generations will know that I made the Children of Israel dwell in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt, I am the L-rd, your G-d.”

We thus see that the command to dwell in the sukkah excludes this last day. Yet we, in the Diaspora, should view Sukkot and this last day no different from Pesach and its last day, where it is clear that due to safek yom [the doubtful day] we abstain from all melachah [prohibited labor] and abstain from eating chametz as well [even though it is doubtful whether this day is even Yom Tov at all].

The answer lies in the one difference: Pesach and its last day, Shemini safek shevii (the eighth day which may be the seventh day), both have the same name – Chag HaMatzot, the Biblical name for Pesach. But Sukkot and its last day, Shemini Atzeret, each have a different name.

This is basically the discussion of the gemara (Sukkah 46b-47a): though the eighth day is doubtful and may be the seventh day, since it flies in the face of all the verses that relate to this last of the three festivals – Sukkot / Shemini Atzeret – our sages instituted that we indeed dwell in the sukkah, however we do not recite its blessing. The minhag is to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret, but that the last meal in the sukkah is the seudat shacharit [i.e.,the daytime meal] and then to depart the sukkah. Thereafter, any food one wishes to eat for the remainder of the day, one eats in the house. Others have a minhag not to eat in the sukkah at night – the eve of Shemini Atzeret – but make Kiddush in the sukkah in the morning, and then continue their meal inside the house. However, on the following day, Simchat Torah, which shares the same “name” Shemini Atzeret, as the previous day, we surely do not eat in the sukkah since it is teshi’i safek shemini – the ninth [day] which may be the eighth [day].

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Tishrei’s Universal Message

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The start of the Jewish New Year, the month of Tishrei, is filled with holy days, among them four foundational celebrations: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah-Shemini Atzeret.

They are quite different from one another. Yet we may also think of all four holidays as two pairs of two. The first two – the day of memory and accounting and the day of atonement – are awe-inspiring and grave compared with the last two festivals, which are days of joy.

At the same time, the first three holidays do have a common denominator: As much as they are Jewish holidays, they carry a universal message. Embedded within them are three of humanity’s cardinal touchstones: accounting and judgment; mercy and atonement; and the joy of life.

These attributes and qualities are essential to the lives of every human being. We mark the New Year by commemorating creation on the one hand and celebrating the Kingship of the Lord on the other. Both creation and God’s sovereignty pertain to all humankind and are not specifically Jewish.

The Day of Atonement, too, is relevant to every human being. Life is full of mistakes and transgressions. Without atonement it would be unbearable to go on living with the unresolved and painful pieces of our past.

Sukkot at first glance seems to be far more connected with Jewish history. Yet at its essence, the holiday is actually a festival of thanksgiving for what we have. We acknowledge the tranquility in our lives and express our gratitude for Divine gifts.

Moreover, our sages teach us that during Sukkot in the days of the Holy Temple, seventy bulls were offered to God in the name of the seventy nations of the world. As the prophet Zachariah foretells, in the days to come it is on Sukkot that all the peoples of the world will come as pilgrims to the Temple in Jerusalem.

This combination of the particular and the universal is not just one more interesting point; it is the key for understanding the meaning of these three holidays. In all our other celebrations, and perhaps in Jewish religious life in general, we stress the specificity of Jewish existence. Most of our holidays and memorial days are deeply connected with our own history.

In Tishrei, however, we focus on our fundamental humanity, on the fact that we are human beings with great problems. In this context, humanity is not defined as a group of human beings. Here we speak of our basic humanity – humanity as a quality.

The very touchstones that we mark in Tishrei are what make us human. The essence of the universality of these holidays, then, is not in the point of sharing with others, it is in delving into ourselves in order to reveal and find some of the fundamentals of our existence. We explore and acknowledge what is universal to all humankind within our own selves.

The fourth and last of the holidays of Tishrei, Shemini Atzeret (and with it Simchat Torah), stands in clear contrast to the first three. As beautifully depicted by our sages, the king made a great banquet to which he invited all the citizens of his realm. At the end of these feasts, he called his most beloved friend and said now that all these big events are over, let us have a small banquet just for the two of us (tractate Sukkah 55b).

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is a world-renowned scholar who has authored more than 60 books and hundreds of articles on Torah.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

In The Past We See Our Future

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The past is never dead. It’s not even past. – William Faulkner

We Jews are a people of memories. Our past defines who we are. The past infuses our religious lives with context, purpose and meaning. How could we be if not for knowing how we were?

Our festivals and Yomim Tovim speak to our relationship with our past in unique and powerful ways. However, even in this uniqueness, Shavuot stands out.

Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev offered three explanations as to why Shavuot is also referred to as Atzeret, even though the Torah only uses the term Atzeret in association with the festival of Shemini Atzeret, not Shavuot. First, while labor is forbidden on all Yomim Tovim, festivals have specific practical mitzvah observances associated with their celebration. On Pesach, we eat matzah and drink four cups of wine. On Sukkot, we dwell in the sukkah and take the daled minim. But on Shavuot only the cessation of work is commanded. Thus, Shavuot is known as Atzeret, signifying its only form of Yom Tov.

The Kedushat Levi further explained that the names of all Yomim Tovim reflect a specific historical event to be commemorated in subsequent generations in a religious sense. Shavuot, however, is not a name reflecting any historical event. It is an identifier of time, the completion of the mitzvah of counting Sefirat Ha’Omer. Celebrating a “conclusion” seems at odds with Jewish practice. We celebrate in anticipation of coming celebrations, of the mitzvot to be fulfilled more than those already fulfilled. Our joyous anticipation is the reason for reciting the Shehecheyanu prior to observing a mitzvah rather than at its conclusion.

Even so, Judaism teaches that joy and religious ecstasy are derived from accomplishment and fulfillment. For the religious and learned Jew, there is no greater joy than the joy found in celebrating a siyum – celebrating the privilege and opportunity in having completed a significant part of Torah. The siyum is not unbridled celebration, however. Although it marks completed accomplishment, it does so with full awareness of the anxieties of finality.

We fear completion as much as we celebrate it. Imagine the overwhelming joy of the soon to be celebrated Siyum HaShas – completing of all Shas once in seven years, while simultaneously anxious whether seven years hence I will be able to rejoice yet again. Seven years is a long time. For this reason the committed student of Torah proclaims “Hadran halach” – “I shall return to you.”

The genuine Jew wants not only to celebrate the joys of yesterday, but even more to anticipate the hopes of tomorrow.

This, then, is the essence of the Shavuot Atzeret experience. Rashi comments that it is Shemini Atzeret that focuses on our need to linger, to continue the joys of celebration rather than allow them to come to an abrupt ending – shekashe alai peridatchem. Shavuot marks the completion of the mitzvah of counting the Omer. Atzeret induces us to continue the effect of the goals toward which we counted.

The Kedushat Levi, in concluding that when a Jew experiences a religious awakening and reaches a spiritual elevation he embraces an inner urge to translate the love, ecstasy, and yearning into practical application, is in accord with the Ramban.

The Ramban interprets the verse in the Song of Songs “Mah tairu umah teoreru et ha’ahavah ad shetechpatz” – “That you awaken not, nor stir up love, until it pleases” – to mean that free and unfettered love is mere “sound and fury” unless it finds a mode of practical expression. In the same way, one cannot love or worship God in theory. Religious inspiration and exultation demand ad shetechpatz. Such a religious fervor calls for the creation of chefetz, keli, a vessel through which to express and manifest these innermost feelings and emotions.

The Jews at Sinai obviously reached these highest levels of religious exultation and fervor, but did not as yet possess any practical means of expression other than the fulfillment of the negative command to hold back and refrain from “touching the mountain.” Thus the Yom Tov is known as Atzeret, recalling the one and only commandment, the only “vessel” now available to translate their deep religious feelings.

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

Q & A: The Arba Parshiyot (Part I)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Question: Why do we read four special Torah sections between Purim and Pesach. Also, why do we call each of the four Shabbatot on which we read these sections by a special name – such as Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor etc.?

Celia Gluck
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The four sections you refer to – the arba parshiyot – are read starting from the Shabbat preceding the first of Adar through the Shabbat preceding the first of Nissan. This year, the 25th of Shevat, Shabbat Parshat Mishpatim, was Shabbat Shekalim; Shabbat Parshat Tetzaveh on the 9th of Adar was Shabbat Zachor; the 23rd of Adar, Shabbat Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei, was Shabbat Parah; and Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Shabbat Parshat Vayikra, will be Shabbat HaChodesh.

There are additional Shabbatot referred to by special names, such as Shabbat Nachamu after Tisha B’Av; Shabbat Shuva (also known as Shabbat Teshuvah) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; Shabbat Shira, the name given to the Shabbat on which we read Parshat Beshalach; and Shabbat Hagadol, which is always the Shabbat preceding Pesach.

On these Shabbatot we do not read a special Torah section in addition to the parshat ha’shavua, but their names denote a significant factor distinguishing them from a “regular” Shabbat. For example, Shabbat Shira is named such because it the Shabbat on which we read the Shirat Hayam – the songs of praise sung at the Red Sea by the Jewish people led by Moses and Miriam.

And now to the arba parshiyot. The gaon, Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, zt”l, writes as follows in his HaMoadim BaHalacha (Jerusalem, 1956, p. 188): “The unique importance of these parshiyot is found in rabbinic literature. Even before the parshiyot of the Torah were divided among the Shabbatot of the year, the requirement [to read] the arba parshiyot was already noted [Megillah 29a]. However, in both the Mishnah and the Tosefta we find no mention of the names of the weekly parshiyot [nor the requirement to read parshat ha’shavua].

“The requirement to read the Torah every Shabbat (in a congregation of ten) actually dates back to the time of Moses [Bava Kamma 82a].”

This Gemara enumerates 10 enactments of the prophet Ezra. Among them is that the Torah be read publicly every Shabbat at Mincha, as well as on Monday and Thursday. The Gemara questions this list of 10, arguing that the enactment to read the Torah on Shabbat, Monday, and Thursday dates back to Moses.

The Gemara proves (or roots) its point based on two verses. Exodus 15:22 states, “Moses brought the Children of Israel from the Red Sea and they went out toward the Desert of Shur; they traveled three days in the desert without finding water.” And Isaiah 55:1 states “Everyone who is thirsty, go for water.” “Water” is often used metaphorically to refer to Torah. The verse makes evident that going for three days without water is not desirable and, hence, we learn that we should read the Torah, i.e. “water,” thrice weekly so that three days never pass without Torah.

In light of this point, the Gemara backtracks and clarifies that reading from the Torah began with Moses and states that Ezra’s enactment was merely an “upgrade” – Moses required that three verses be read while Ezra enacted that we must read 10 verses and call up three people to the Torah, a kohen, a levi, and yisrael.

Rabbi Zevin continues: “Dividing the Torah reading into 54 [weekly] parshiyot came at a much later time [than Ezra]. We find (in Megillah 29b) that the bnei ma’arava in Eretz Yisrael, [as opposed to the Jews in Babylonia] used to conclude reading the entire Torah every three years.”

The Mechaber (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 669:1) clearly states that on the second day of Shemini Atzeret, we in the Diaspora read Vezot HaBeracha, the last parshah of the Torah, until its conclusion and then begin reading Parshat Bereishit until “asher bara Elokim la’asot.” (We then read, for maftir, “Bayom hashemini atzeret.”)

Since the Gemara states that the bnei ma’arava would complete the Torah once every three years, we might infer that the Jews in exile in Babylonia completed the Torah every year. The Gemara does not state this specifically, but we can derive it from two statements in the Gemara. First, R. Yirmiyah (Megillah 30b) rules that the four parshiyot’s Torah readings only cause a change in the haftarah; on the succeeding Shabbat we resume reading the usual weekly haftarah (see Rashi sv. “l’seder haftarot…”). Second, the Gemara (ibid., 31a) states that on the last day of Shemini Atzeret (Simchat Torah in the diaspora) congregations would read Vezot HaBeracha.

Thus we have answered your second question first. The arba parshiyot and the times we read them are clearly mentioned in the Mishnah (Megillah 29a) by name. Therefore the Shabbatot on which one of them is read are referred to by its name.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Journey Of An Academic Pariah

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

In the good old days, Forest Hills, New York – where I grew up between 1939 and 1951 – was a shtetl for assimilated American Jews. Like my parents, all our neighbors were American-born offspring of Eastern European immigrants. A generation removed from their identity conflicts, we children knew that Forest Hills, liberated from Judaism, was our promised land.

My father and mother rejected the Romanian Orthodoxy and Bund Socialism of their immigrant parents for the security of American Judaism. My Jewish boyhood was spent on the secular side of the shared living-room wall that separated our apartment from our neighbors, Cantor Gorsky and his wife. Through that wall, every Friday evening, I heard him recite Kiddush and the Birkat Hamazon.

On weekday afternoons he taught neighborhood boys the haftarah for their bar mitzvah. Long before it was my turn to join them, I had memorized the blessings that floated into our apartment. To make sure, I was required to attend after-school Hebrew school at the nearby Forest Hills Jewish Center. It provided some of the more vivid miseries of my childhood. My bar mitzvah was mandatory, but there was a tacit understanding with my father that it would mark my exit from Judaism. And so it did.

Yet some Jewish culture and history penetrated. My older relatives spoke Yiddish when they did not want children to understand. (But we became reasonably adept translators.) At the end of World War II Life magazine photographs brought the Holocaust, which had never been mentioned, into our home – though it was not a matter for discussion.

 

I also discovered that Hank Greenberg, the baseball star so beloved by American Jews for his perfect fusion of identities – hitting home runs on Rosh Hashanah and going to shul on Yom Kippur – was our cousin. His sister’s family hosted interminable Passover Seders, which invariably drove my cousins and me from the table after the Fourth Question.

I knew about Israel, born just after my twelfth birthday, because letters to my father began arriving from his Romanian relatives who had survived the war to make aliyah. I was intrigued by the foreign postage stamps and secretly proud of his generosity to our previously unknown cousins. But Israel never was a topic of family conversation.

My high-school years (at Horace Mann in Riverdale) were shared with other non-Jewish Jewish boys whose parents, like mine, wanted their sons to be free of Jewish encumbrances. I first encountered Christian America in Oberlin, Ohio, my college hometown. Before Sunday lunch, my classmates spontaneously sang the Doxology, praising “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Then we were served ham or pork chops. Christmas trees sparkled in every dormitory living room.

* * * * * Eventually armed with my doctorate, I arrived at Brandeis in 1965 to teach American history. Brandeis aspired to become the Jewish – but not too Jewish – Harvard. It proudly displayed its Protestant, Catholic and Jewish chapels, but I never saw anyone enter or leave this ecumenical enclave at the campus edge. Yet it canceled classes on Shemini Atzeret, a holiday totally unknown to me.

After five years of late-1960s campus turbulence I relinquished Jewish zaniness for the Christian decorum of Wellesley College, dedicated since 1875 to the education of young women. Like its ivy-covered Big Brothers and most other Seven Sister colleges, Wellesley had entrenched admission quotas designed to perpetuate an Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite.

Genteel anti-Semitism was the pervasive Wellesley norm. By the time I arrived, Jewish students were no longer segregated within their dormitories. But just a few years earlier an Orthodox student who requested postponement of exams scheduled on the High Holy Days was incarcerated in the infirmary for the duration, without access to books or friends, and served treif food she could not eat – to ensure that she would not cheat. In the Religion Department, the unofficial custodian of Christian culture at the college, no Jew had ever received tenure nor was a Jew permitted to teach the required New Testament course.

Jerold S. Auerbach

A Night Of Joy

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Judaism is meticulous about the manner in which it celebrates Festivals.

We eat matzah on Pesach because it recalls the suddenness of the Exodus that happened so quickly there was no time for the dough to rise. On Sukkot, we leave our homes and establish residence in a sukkah to remember, “In sukkot did I house the children of Israel when I took them out of Egypt.”

A question can be raised with regard to Simchat Torah – the holiday of rejoicing with the Torah. The purpose of the day is to give expression to the profound feelings of joy in the study and observance of Torah. The timing of this holiday, however, seems strange. We observe it on Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of Sukkot.

It would seem that Simchat Torah ought to be connected to Shavuot; the theme of this holiday, after all, is the giving of the Torah. The purpose of the Exodus was to fashion a unique nation that would govern its private and public affairs according to the commandments and philosophy of the Torah. Our love of Torah is so great that we anticipate the day of Revelation by counting the forty-nine days from Pesach to Shavuot. Why, then, don’t we sing and dance and rejoice with the Torah on Shavuot?

Judaism insists on honesty and frowns on displays of shallow emotionalism. How often do we feel so happy we just want to burst out in song and dance? We need something personal and compelling, like a major simcha, to arouse powerful feelings of joy.

Is it reasonable to expect us to get so excited over a book containing commandments, prohibitions and exhortations that we want to sing and dance with it for hours and hours? Indeed it is – but these emotions must be cultivated over a long period of time.

The goal of Torah observance is not mere obedience but joyful exuberance with the lifestyle of kedushah (holiness). The Rambam says (Laws of Lulav 8:18), “The rejoicing one experiences in the performance of mitzvot and love of God who commanded them is a great service. Whoever holds himself back from this simcha is fit to be punished as the Torah says, “Because they failed to serve Hashem with joy and a good heart .”

The joy of which the Rambam speaks does not come quickly or easily. It requires effort, devotion and the ability to withdraw from superficial pleasures. You must put your heart and soul into the study of Torah in order to appreciate its great beauty and fall in love with it.

Shavuot marks the beginning of our relationship with Torah. This is the time when our ancestors demonstrated their faithfulness by saying, “We will do and we will listen.” We knew Torah is the greatest treasure. But it does not magically transform us. It takes a great deal of dedicated effort to achieve the emotional joy and satisfaction the Torah promises.

On Shavuot we renew that commitment. Many observe the beautiful custom of learning through the night to demonstrate their willingness to part with the pleasure of sleep in order to gain more Torah knowledge.

Let’s consider the deeper significance of this practice. The mitzvah of Talmud Torah is not bound by time or place. We read in the Shema, “And you shall teach them to your children and discuss them when you sit in your house and when you travel on the road, when you lie down and when you arise.” Although there is never a time when one is exempt from study, the night assumes a special significance in the performance of this mitzvah.

The Rambam says (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:13): “Even though it is a mitzvah to learn by day and by night a person only learns the bulk of his wisdom by night. Therefore, one who seeks to merit the Crown of Torah should guard all his nights and not waste any one of them with sleep, eating and drinking, talking and the like, but only with the study of Torah and matters of wisdom.”

But if study is properly done, what difference does it make when it takes place? I would suggest an explanation for this tantalizing Rambam. The daytime hours are universally regarded as the time for “work.” One naturally feels a responsibility to be engaged in some gainful employment during the day. Night, however, is the time people associate with self-gratification. You’ve put in a long day and now it’s time to unwind and have fun.

Rabbi Reuven Mann

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-night-of-joy/2010/05/18/

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