15th of Tishrei, 5779 | September 24, 2018
Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik
Rabbi Eliezer Abish The Welcomed Visitor
For one fellow visiting an elderly lady who had lived a long life, he asked her, “What was the happiest day of your life?” The visitor figured that she would give the often-heard answer, “Right now,” but it was nothing of the sort.
“It was the day the Nazis ym”s came to our town and took everyone away.” “No, no,” interjected the visitor, “I am not referring to the day which sticks out in your mind the most, but the happiest day of your life.” The woman was confused. She had heard what the visitor said before. “Yes, the happiest day of my life was when the Nazis invaded our town and began taking people away.” Now the visitor was confused. “How can that be?”
“I’ll tell you. I had a number of older siblings and younger siblings. My parents, aside from making a living, were very busy raising us all and attending to all our needs. I felt, with the older children being guided by my parents as it related to their future, their career and marriage and younger kids, who needed just about constant attention, that I got lost in the middle. I sometimes wondered if I would even be noticed if I would walk away and not come back. It probably wasn’t true, but that was how I felt.
“Until that one day when the Nazis showed up. They started grabbing people and shoving them this way and that way. Then, suddenly, a Nazi guard grabbed me and started dragging me off. My mother started screaming and sobbing, ‘Don’t take my daughter! Don’t take my daughter! If you take her, my life is over! She is my life!’
“My entire family was eventually taken to Auschwitz, where everyone was killed. I was the only one to survive.
“But I will never, ever forget those words my mother uttered – ‘Don’t take my daughter! Don’t take my daughter! If you take her, my life is over! She is my life!’ I tear every time I think of that moment of my life. They are tears of sorrow, but tears of the greatest joy in my life. Because, at that moment, I heard my mother say that my life was important and precious and valuable. I was someone she loved and someone who mattered. And that gave me the strength to continue on in life, with her memory and courage carrying me on all along the way.”
When someone goes to visit a friend of theirs, you tend to wonder, how long is too long to be there? You don’t want to overstay your visit and be an imposition. But seldom does such a dilemma arise when you are in your parent’s home. You may be there for a day, a week or even five weeks, yet despite it all, they always would love for you to stay a little longer.
Having gone through an entire month of Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Aseres Yemei Teshuva and Yom Kippur, we now arrive at Sukkos. We’ve been with Hashem for a month and a half in extreme closeness and affection, and continue on with Sukkos for another week. But what happens at the end of Sukkos? Even after nearly two months of “visiting with Hashem,” He tells us that He wants to spend one more day with us, just us alone, on Shemini Atzeres. We’ve spent a long time together with Hashem, and yet He still doesn’t want us to leave. And why is that? Because He is our Father, and when it comes to a parent, they just don’t want you to leave.
Such is what these days of Sukkos offer us. Days of ever-increasing closeness, celebration and comfort in the arms of our Father. It is a time when such words ring in our ears, “Don’t take my daughter! Don’t take my daughter! If you take her, my life is over! She is my life!” The Jewish people are Hashem’s most precious children in this world. He loves us and will always love us.
Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter Seeing Through the Clouds
In the opinion of R’ Eliezer in the Gemara (Sukkah 11b), the mitzvah of Sukkah commemorates the Annanei HaKavod, Clouds of Glory, which surrounded the Jewish people on all four sides of their travel through the desert. Upon consideration, however, it is interesting to note that specifically this miracle is that which we commemorate over all others. There are many miraculous incidents and aspects which we could have created a Yom Tov around, such as the Manna which fell for the Jews daily and the Be’er Miriam, which provided them with water. Why specifically do we commemorate the Annanei HaKavod?
The answer to this will as well resolve another noteworthy oddity. Chazal tells us that the Clouds of Glory surrounded the Jewish people on all four sides. At the same time, though, halacha permits a Sukkah to have as little as two walls and a tefach (handbreadth). But if the Annanei HaKavod, from which the mitzvah of Sukkah is derived, enclosed the Jews on all four sides, why is it permitted to have any less than four walls for a Sukkah? That should be required, and no other wall configuration should be acceptable.
In truth, though, a Yom Tov could have theoretically been made in relation to the many other miracles which occurred at that time. Such miracles which point at Hashem running the world and extending beyond the confines of nature all ingrain ever-important foundations of belief of Hashem within us. However, the miracles of the Clouds of Glory provide us with a unique window of insight into Hashem’s involvement in our lives.
As the Jews traveled through the desert, due to the miraculous effects of the Annanei HaKavod, they were impervious to any potential harm that could have been caused by the unsafe desert conditions. The challenge was to understand the miracle and appreciate the fact that despite the reality that the desert temperatures were scorching hot and wind was howling, the Jews remained comfortably safe and sound. The Jewish people realized that just beyond the Clouds of Glory protecting them was a merciless and dangerous desert which could easily break and demoralize them. Anyone who would spend just a few moments inspecting, analyzing and thinking about their predicament would come to this conclusion. If the Jews could, so to speak, look through the Annanei HaKavod and see what would otherwise be awaiting just outside, they would be endlessly appreciative and rejoice at their goodness within the Clouds.
For this same reason, halacha allows for the walls of the Sukkah to not necessarily enclose us completely. Sitting in a Sukkah which contains openings allows one to look outside and realize what the conditions are out there and how much better and pleasant it is to be protected and sheltered by the Sukkah. The partial lack of enclosure affords one such an opportunity and sends back to him or her the same message the Jews received when traveling with the Clouds of Glory.
Our level of appreciation for all that Hashem does for us in our daily lives immensely grows when such an attitude is realized. When we gain a glimpse into the conditions we would otherwise be subject to and then consider our current sheltered protection with the Clouds of Glory or Sukkah, our degree of hakaras ha’tovfor the many seeming mundane or given things we have in life changes. We become different people, and more appreciative, and from there, grow and grow with new purpose and perspective.
Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser Highest Bidder, All Winners
The Gemara (Sukkah 41b) relates the following incident:
It once happened that Rabban Gamliel, R’ Yehoshua, R’ Elazar ben Azaryah and R’ Akiva were traveling together on a boat [during Sukkos]. There was only one Lulav among them, which belonged to Rabban Gamliel and had been purchased for 1,000 zuz. Rabban Gamliel first fulfilled the mitzvah of waving the Lulav, after which he gave it to R’ Yehoshua who did the same, who then passed it on to R’ Elazar ben Azarayah, and then to R’ Akiva who also fulfilled the mitzvah. After that, R’ Akiva finally handed it back to Rabban Gamliel, the original owner.
The Gemara continues:
Why must we know that Rabban Gamliel purchased the Lulav for 1,000 zuz? To tell us how dear and precious the fulfillment of mitzvos was to all of them.
A simple reading of the closing line of this Gemara, notes the Aruch La’Ner, is puzzling. Why does the Gemara say that Rabban Gamliel’s purchase of the Lulav for such a high price demonstrates the endearment of mitzvos to all of the Sages? It should only be said in relation to Rabban Gamliel. He is the one who spent the money and clearly cherished the mitzvah.
The Aruch La’Ner explains that the Gemara means to convey that there was more to the story than may ostensibly seem. In those days, it wasn’t easy to come across a Lulav and Esrog. In this case, all the Sages were bidding for the Lulav and so deeply wished to have the opportunity to fulfill the special mitzvah. This was bid 50 zuz, the next one bid 100, then 200 and on and on, until Rabban Gamliel finally outbid everyone and was left with the Lulav for 1,000 zuz.
Yet, despite Rabban Gamliel being the highest bidder and thereby entitled to the Lulav, all the Sages are said to have endeared mitzvos because such was clearly demonstrated by their desire to obtain the Lulav for the greatest price they could afford. The mitzvah was thus precious to all the Sages, as the Gemara precisely states, for such was the truth.
The Vilna Gaon once remarked, “If the reward for doing mitzvos was to go to Gehinnom (purgatory) and the reward for doing sins was to go to Gan Eden, I would still choose to do mitzvos.” The value and preciousness of a mitzvah, independent and inconsequential of its reward, is so ever dear.
On one occasion, the son-in-law of the Imrei Chaim mentioned that he needed to immediately travel to Klausenberg to attend to his uncle, the Vizhiner Rebbe. And so, without delay, the Imrei Chaim and his son-in-law set out to the nearest bus stop to make their way to the hospital.
But, after arriving at the bus stop, the son-in-law said that it might be better to simply walk to the hospital, which was only two stops away. The Imrei Chaim countered otherwise though. “For a mitzvah, a person must be willing to pay. We will wait for the bus and pay our way there.”
Soon enough, the bus arrived and the two of them stepped on. Yet only one stop in, the Imrei Chaim motioned to his son-in-law to get off the bus. “But why?” asked the son-in-law. “We have one more stop until the hospital!” “For a mitzvah,” replied the Imrei Chaim, “a person must be willing to exert themselves and put in the physical effort to do all that he can.”
Every mitzvah, whether it be between man and Hashem or man and man, is so dear. Love them, cherish them and value them. There is nothing greater.
Rabbi Ari Neuwirth Dancing with our Father
Every Jewish holiday serves its own, unique purpose and contains particular, special mitzvos pertaining to it. On Rosh Hashanah, we blow the Shofar; on Sukkos we sit in the Sukkah and shake the Lulav and Esrog; on Pesach, we eat Matzah, and so on. Shavuos, as the Gemara (Shabbos 88b) tells us, commemorates the day we received the Torah.
But this leads us to the curious question of what purpose Simchas Torah serves. When we dance and sing with the Torah, aren’t we celebrating the fact that we were given such a special Torah and have the incredible privilege to learn it? But then again, isn’t that what Shavuos is about? What then differentiates these two holidays?
Rav Simcha Zissel Broide zt”l, late Chevron Rosh Yeshiva, unravels this dilemma with an analogy of a gift. There are two types of gifts a person can receive, he explains. On the one hand, a gift can be luxurious and rare. A piece of jewelry or diamond ring, for example, are intrinsically valuable no matter who gives it to you.
On the other hand, there is another type of gift that is relatively inexpensive and not rare, and yet it is very valuable. Why would that be so? Because the person who gave it to you is someone you admire and respect.
Consider a couple of examples.
Imagine you attend a baseball game. Before the game, the baseballs which are tossed around on the field are worth a few dollars. But how much would the ball inflate in price were it to be autographed by one of the players, let alone the best player? Quite significantly.
In another example, beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it has been customary for presidents to use multiple pens when signing major pieces of government legislation. To date, President Lyndon Johnson holds the record for using the most pens – 72 – to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The moment these pens leave the president’s hand, they became valuable souvenirs and are typically distributed among political allies and friends. In one instance, a pen used by President Johnson to sign a water bill in 1965 was marketed at $499.
But why are such pens so treasured? Because once they touch the president’s hand and become a monumental part of history, they turn into gold.
This, explains Rav Simcha Zissel Brodie, is what distinguishes the holidays of Shavuos and Simchas Torah. We are celebrating two different types of gifts during each of them. On Shavuos, we focus our attention on the gift which we received, namely the Torah, which unto itself is extremely precious and valuable. On Simchas Torah, however, we revel in the Giver – Hashem – and dance with Him. The focus is on Who gave us the Torah and the shared relationship we have.
Before we embark on our journey beyond the month of Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos, we spend one day dancing with Hashem, the One with whom we have developed a very close relationship. We take the time to appreciate the grandeur and greatness of Hashem, Who has given us so much. It is only after such inspiring and impactful days that we are in position to fully grasp how privileged we are as Jews and how much we ought to cherish and value our connection to Hashem. And that is why we break out in unbridled dancing and singing. We are dancing with none other than our Father in Heaven.
And so, this Simchas Torah, a special opportunity awaits us. It’s the time we’ve been looking forward to for so long. Let us dance, sing and rejoice with Hashem. He’s also been looking forward to dancing with us for so long.
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