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Let’s keep unified and refrain from going back to dissension and pettiness.

Although Shemini Atzeret concludes the holiday of Sukkot, it is, in fact, considered an independent holiday. During Sukkot, sacrifices are brought in the merit of the nations of the world, but on Shemini Atzeret, the sacrifices are exclusively on behalf of the Jewish people.


The midrash compares Shemini Atzeret to a King who hosts all of his children for a party for several days and when the last day comes, he pleads, please stay with me one more day because “your separation is difficult for Me.” This is the classic understanding.

However, there is another phenomenal interpretation. What bothers God is not our parting from Him; He will come with us. What bothers Him is the fact that we are separating – that for the last month and a half we have been united, spent quality time together, worked together, celebrated together, and focused on our sense of community with a shared destiny, together. And now, the holidays will be behind us and we will go back to the usual divides, focusing on our differences instead of our commonalities, resuming the usual blame, finger-pointing, name-calling, and hyper-criticism.

We will go back to our own interests, instead of focusing on community, go back to judging others based on what is on or not on their heads instead of what is in their hearts, go back to worrying about is the community going too far to the right or swinging to the left.

The unity and joy exhibited during the High Holidays and Sukkot were so refreshing, God is our divisiveness; it’s difficult for Him. It is as if He is saying to us, “Please spend one more day unified and together, transcending these differences and pettiness.”

How do spend this one last day, this independent holiday of Shemini Atzeret? We grab hands and dance in a circle, a circle that has no beginning and no end, no hierarchy or tier system, no head of the table or dais, no lead position, just everyone dancing equally in a circle, united, together.  There is not one circle for shtreimels, one for black hats, one for kippot serugot, and one for those bare-headed. There isn’t a circle for the old and one for the young or a circle for the republicans and a circle for the democrats.

One circle, one people, one community, one history and one destiny. That is the enduring image of this Jewish holiday, that is the message we take with us into the dead of winter and beyond.

Don’t stop dancing even when Simchat Torah ends.  Don’t go back to the usual separation. Don’t stop holding the hands of the person on your left and your right literally, and metaphorically.

Don’t let go of the hands of your family, friends, and members of the community. Don’t let go of the hands of those who are here, and don’t let go of those who are gone. We have felt the presence of our ancestors, our parents, and our grandparents over these holidays. Our homes have been filled with the aroma and taste of their recipes, we have heard the tunes they sang. They have lived with us these last few weeks and we must not let them go.

Seeing separation and division is hard for God and it should be hard for you. Don’t let go of those who are gone and don’t stop holding the hands of those who are still here.

{Reposted from the Rabbi’s website}


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Rabbi Efrem Goldberg is the Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), a rapidly-growing congregation of over 950 families and over 1,000 children in Boca Raton, Florida. BRS is the largest Orthodox Synagogue in the Southeast United States. Rabbi Goldberg’s warm and welcoming personality has helped attract people of diverse backgrounds and ages to feel part of the BRS community, reinforcing the BRS credo of “Valuing Diversity and Celebrating Unity.” For more information, please visit