Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shemini Atzaret and Simcha Tora

The day after the seventh day of Sukkot (also known as hoshana rabba) we have another Holiday: Shemini Atzeret which, technically, is a different holiday,independent from sukkot.

During Shemini Atzeret we do not have anymore the Mitzva of Lulab and Etrog.

As for the sukka, in Israel, during shemini atzeret the sukka should not be used. The meals should take place at home (lo tosif!). In the Diaspora, because of the ancient calendar system, we still use the sukka for the first day of Shemini Atzeret, but without reciting any blessing.

As any other holiday (Yom Tob), outside of Israel, Shemini Atzeret is celebrated during two days. The special thing about this Holiday's second day, known as Simchat Tora, is that it celebrates the end of the annual cycle of Tora reading and the uninterrupted beginning the new reading cycle, from bereshit.

We sing and dance around the Tora, expressing our joy for being part of the people chosen by God to follow His Tora.

Although, during the rest of the year we train ourselves to attain happiness independently of what we posses ("Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get") during Yom Tob, happiness should be given in addition a material expression. Yom Tob's happiness is expressed by wearing special clothing in honor of the Holiday (each one according to what he or she can afford) and by having a good meal (wine and meat, are a must in any Yom Tob's menu). It is also the obligation of the husband to ensure his wife's simcha of Yom Tob, buying her a new dress, jewelry, etc. (as for the husband's happiness, the rabbis explained, it is naturally ensured by seeing his wife's happiness. "Happy wife, happy life")

Chag Sameach!

Candle lighting in NYC: 5:51 PM


A class I gave last night on Gilad Shalit and the Talmudic sources of Pidyon Shebuyim (releasing a Jewish captive).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hoshana Rabba in the Temple of Jerusalem

Tonight and tomorrow is Hoshanna Rabba.

The days of Sukkot were days of a special happiness in the Bet haMikdash (Temple of Jerusalem).

In addition to the Biblical commandment of taking the four species, there weretwo other Mitzvot fulfilled in the Temple to celebrate Sukkot. These two practices are included in what is called halakha leMoshe miSinai (religious traditions taught to Moses at Mount Sinai, with no Scriptural source). One of them wasmitzvat 'araba: The 'commandment of the willow' (the second Mitzva was nisukh hamayim). (The commandment of the willow should not be confused with the two arabot, the willow branches that are included in the four species, tied together with the lulab and hadas).

There was a place in the outskirts of Jerusalem called Motza (which exists to this day). Each day of Sukkot, the people would descend there and cut down large willow branches (18-20 feet tall). The willows would be placed along the foundation of the altar, with their heads bent over the top" (Sukkah 4, 5).

Since the altar itself was 15 feet high, the branches would hang over the top of the altar on all four sides. Each day of Sukkot, the priests would march one time around the altar, making a circle with their lulabim in hand, praying to the Almighty "We beseech You, O Lord, please save us! We beseech You, O L-rd, please grant us success!" (ana haShem hoshi'a na; ana haShem hatzlicha na). On the seventh and last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabba, they would circle the altar seven times (remember the conquest of Jericho?).

Today, in our Synagogues we circuit the 'bima' every day of sukkot (hakafot) with our lulab and etrog, and on the seventh day, Hoshana rabba, we do seven circuits, in remembrance of the Bet haMikdash.

Following a Kabbalistic custom, it is also customary to stay awake all night on Hoshana Rabba studying Torah.



Israel welcomes Gilad Shalit home , by INN

Gil'ad Shalit and the price for his release, by Sherri Mandel (mother of Koby Mandel z'l)

What did Israelis do wrong?

Debka comments of Gilad Shalit returning home

Monday, October 17, 2011

Living in the Sukka

"During seven days you must live in huts (sukkot), all Israelites must live in thatched huts. This is so that your future generations will know that I 'accommodated/hosted' the children of Israel in huts when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God." (Vayikra 23:44).

The rabbis explained that to fulfill this Mitzva we should leave our residences and settle in the Sukka. They said in Masekhet Sukka (2,9) "All seven days of the festival, each one should turn the sukka into his permanent residence, and his house into the temporary one"

'Living' in the sukka means that, regular activities we do at home, should take place in the sukka.

We should have all our meals in the sukka. According to Jewish Law, all formal meals, which are defined by the recitation of hamotzi and birkat hamazon, musttake place in the sukka. That is why, when having a formal meal we recite the berakha: ....asher kiddeshanu bemitzvotav vetztivanu leesheb basukka.

Pastries, cakes, cookies, etc. (mezonot) should be eaten inside the sukka.

A snack (a fruit, a salad, a soda) could be eaten outside the sukka. The rabbis, however, praised those pious Jews who during the festival of Sukkot, would not eat or drink anything outside the sukka.

Sleeping in the sukka is an essential part of the Mitzva of settle ourselves in the sukka. However, the fulfillment of this Mitzva depends on two factors: weather conditions (cold and obviously rain) and the physical condition (health, sensitivity to cold, age, etc.) of each individual.

Other regular activities that we normally do at home, like studying, reading, etc. should be done in the sukka as well.


Gilad Shalit is coming home, by OU.

Should Israel Have Agreed to Exchange Terrorists for a Kidnapped Soldier? by Alan Dershowitz

After Release, Gilad Shalit Faces Struggle

Prisoner exchange in Jewish Law