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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Sukkah’

Women Wearing Tefillin Is Really Not Such a Big Deal

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

I wouldn’t quite call it a trend, but a growing number of women and girls in the Orthodox Jewish community are interested in wearing tefillin publicly. Two Modern Orthodox schools have made public statements that indicate they will allow, not encourage or discourage, their students to wear tefillin.

This has generated a lot of discussion, mostly negative, from within the Orthodox Jewish community. Some of the JewsNews sites have reported this bit of news in a very negative way. Some, to the very liberal side of Orthodox Judaism have embraced the decision.

The halachic background is not overly complex. Technically, tefillin should fall into the same category as all other time bound mitzvos. Lulav, Shofar, Sukkah, and daily prayer are also time bound mitzvos and are voluntary for women. The conclusion in the Talmud exempts women from tefillin. Some rishonim explicitly permit tefillin for women. Some explicitly prohibit it. The Rema famously discourages it. That is, he does not prohibit it, he just advises against it. Some of the Achronim explain why it would be prohibited or advised against.

Some people are assuming their intentions are less than perfect. That’s complete conjecture and not something worth discussing. But I think the halachic arguments are important. I also think that working out whether it’s permitted or prohibited is vital. But I think it’s misplaced in the context of the current issue. The discussion right now should not be whether it’s good policy or against our best interests to allow women to wear tefillin.

Instead, the discussion should be whether we tolerate women who want to wear tefillin in Orthodox Judaism. In other words, even if I disagree with their decision, is this something worth the cost of declarations and opinions that cast these women and these institutions in a negative light?

We already disagree on plenty of things and we can get along just fine. Some eat kitniyos on Pesach, others do not. Some use the eruv, some do not. Some open soda cans on Shabbos, others do not. Some visit rebbes and ask for blessings, others do not. Some go to Uman, others do not. Some say Kabbalas Shabbos, others do not. Some do Yom Kippur Katan, others do not. Some do every segula, some do none. There are literally hundreds of things that already divide us in practice. Yet we are capable of carrying on as a group. I don’t see why a few women putting on tefillin should be such a drastic decision that it means more than eating in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres vs. not eating in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres.

In other words, what are the stakes here? And why are they being presented as so great? What is going to happen if a few women wear tefillin? What’s the dire consequence that we must avoid at all costs?

I don’t see it. I think those who don’t want women to wear tefillin should just not wear tefillin or even teach their daughters that they don’t think they should wear tefillin. But I don’t see how doing a mitzvah can make someone unorthodox.

If an opponent of women wearing tefillin found out his daughter started wearing tefillin, would the daughter be disowned? I can’t imagine. So why are we disowning other daughters?

The opposition must identify something objectively wrong that will happen if we tolerate a few women wearing tefillin. Or even if we tolerate many women wearing tefillin. Until they’ve done so, I don’t think we can allow this difference to divide us. We’ve been able to avoid completely breaking apart over a million other things. I don’t accept that this particular issue is so vital that it must break us up now.

New York, Pennsylvania Sukkahs Top ‘Sukkathon’ Competition

Sunday, September 29th, 2013
Sukkah in Queensbury, New York assisted living facility shares top ranking in 'Sukkathon'

Sukkah in Queensbury, New York assisted living facility shares top ranking in ‘Sukkathon’

Three sukkahs, two in the United States and one in Israel, will share the title of “Number One Sukkah” as the winners of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s first Sukkathon competition.

The three winners are the sukkah at Terrace at the Glen, an assisted living facility in Queensbury, New York; the Schachter family sukkah in Pennsylvania; and the sukkah of the Jewish Agency’s Ye’elim Immigrant Absorption Center in Be’er Sheva, Israel.

“We are starting a New Year and these olim (immigrant) children represent the real hope in this country,” said competition judge Betina Schnaid, an artist who made aliyah from Brazil. “I wish for them to be happy in Israel for many years, and that each one give the best of themselves to improve this country and that the ceiling gets higher over the time and that they will have their own families in Israel. The sky is the limit for these beautiful olim!”

 

Jewish Agency Seeks ‘Number One Sukkah in the World’

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

The Jewish Agency for Israel has launched a competition to find the Number One Sukkah in the World.

The competition, dubbed “Sukkathon 2013,” invites Jewish individuals and communities around the world to submit photos of their sukkahs for consideration by a panel of judges. The judges include the South African-Israeli architect Pam Davidson, British art critic and art history lecturer Julia Weiner, and artist Betina Schneid, a recent immigrant to Israel from Brazil, who has participated in The Jewish Agency’s Ulpan Etzion program in Jerusalem.

Photo submissions will be welcomed until Monday, September 23, and the winner will be announced on the Hoshana Rabba festival da, the last day of Sukkot, this, Wednesday.

As part of the Sukkathon, children from the Jewish Agency’s Ye’elim Immigrant Absorption Center in Be’er Sheva have submitted a photo of themselves (above) in the absorption center sukkah, which they helped build and decorate.  Hundreds of new immigrants living in the absorption center are preparing to celebrate their first Sukkot in Israel, as are thousands of other immigrants at Jewish Agency absorption centers around Israel.  Some 350 individuals reside in Ye’elim, including some 130 children.

First Rains of the Season Hit Israel

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Slightly early this year, Israel had its first major rain storm, called in Hebrew, the Yoreh  rain. The rain and wind were so strong in some areas that Sukkahs were knocked down and even blown away.

Only on Thursday, during the Shmini Atzeret (Simchat Torah) holiday, does Israel begin to add the prayers for rain into the daily prayers.

 

For Better or for Worse

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

It’s time to move out of our homes and into our holy humble sukkahs. Now is the time when we renew our relationship with God, who has chosen us to form an inseparable eternal union – a marriage between the children of Yisrael and the Master of the Universe.

The Torah portion of Nitzavim, which is read just before the New Year, reveals to us that Hashem is our personal “husband,” for better or for worse. Rashi explains (Devarim 29:12) that we were presented with a covenant and a curse: “Since we are forever bound together, let Me teach you how to make Me happy.”

Nitzavim goes on to prophesize everything that has transpired during these thousands of years. This is highlighted by non-Jews gasping and stating, “Why has God caused this land to become desolate? Because they have forsaken God’s covenant.” Thus, on Rosh Hashanah we think of our past year’s sins. The sound of the shofar awakens our emotions. Then ten days of introspection and repentance bring on the great and awesome day of Kippur, of Atonement.

Consider: our God is perfect, and we are anything but. We may have been envious or lustful, or worshipped money, status or a host of other vices. Now we humbly return home to our Love. If we repent out of fear, our sins are forgiven. But if we repent because we truly love our Maker, he gives us an amazing reward – our sins become mitzvahs!

Hashem simply goes beyond the letter of the law in His love for us.

The Holy Ben Ish Chai points out that if you go beyond the four letters of the Hebrew word hadin (the judgment), you get to the Hebrew word sukkah. (The four Hebrew letters that come after the letters in hadin are the letters in the word sukkah). The sukkah is where we arrive after Yom Kippur, free of sins, under the wings of God’s Holy Presence.

Note that the first time sukkah is mentioned in the Torah, it is referring to the stalls our forefather Yaakov built for his animals. Why? Because when Yaakov arrived in Shechem with his family, he built a beis medrash for himself for Torah learning, but for his animals, his “wealth,” he built simple huts.

Yaakov took his children to the window and said, “Look at how I treat my wealth, dear children. Wealth is temporary; like the sukkah, it doesn’t go with you to the next world. But here in this house of Torah, we accumulate the mitzvahs that stay with us – which are eternal.”

We have now received our “new heads” for the coming year, as implied by the words Rosh Hashanah, head for the year, and Yom Hazikaron, a day of resetting our memory apparatus. We are cleansed of our sins on Yom Kippur, after which we enter, with our entire body, into our sukkah. We enter this mitzvah where we achieve oneness with our Lover – Hashem, Blessed be He.

What is it about the Nation of Israel that attracts the love of the One God Who rules the universe?

I came upon an answer on Rosh Chodesh Elul as I prayed the silent benedictions. We bless the day in the following way: “Mikadesh Yisrael v’roshei chodoshim – He sanctifies Israel and the first day of all months.” But it can literally mean “He sanctifies Yisrael and “brand new heads.”

Our nation is forever ready to admit our mistakes and begin all over. With the coming of each new moon, we are aware that we may start afresh.

This is also evident in our morning declaration of Modeh Ani, the origin of which is in the book of Eichah (3:23) which states, “Hashems kindness is new every morning – great is Your belief [in us, to improve in the coming day]. One of the reasons Hashem loves His people is that they are always willing to start over.

Two small examples that are actually big were related to me by Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, shlita, head of the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, where I am currently studying.

The first: A man survived hell in a concentration camp only to discover that his entire family had perished – parents, siblings, wife and children. Everyone.

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].

Absolute Joy

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

There is a special mitzvah on Sukkot to be ach samaoch.” Only joyous. It is a happiness not dependent on anything external, beyond definition and words. Just to be absolutely joyous in one’s love and worship of G-d. Rabbi Kook describes the sukkah as a whirlpool of joyous energy which is constantly changing each second, reaching ever-higher levels of joy and attachment to G-d.

Chag samaoch!

 

 

 

First-Ever Solar Sukkah in Kfar Saba

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

This Sukkot, the residents of the city of Kfar Saba are not only communing with nature by sitting in the biblically-assigned booths present throughout the rest of Israel, but by doing so in a green-friendly way.

The city’s municipality is featuring a first-of-its-kind Solar Sukkah which will operate exclusively on solar power.

A series of solar panels near the sukkah at the Kfar Saba municipal park will soak of the rays during the day, and power LED lights inside the large structure by night.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/first-ever-solar-sukkah-in-kfar-saba/2012/10/02/

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