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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
Reb Pinchas of Koritz was beloved by all the inhabitants of his city. People would seek out his sage counsel on a variety of matters, involve him in their family affairs, and look to him for guidance in their Divine service. As a result, Reb Pinchas' schedule became overburdened. He no longer had the time to study and pray as he desired.
Turning to G-d in prayer, he petitioned: "Make people hate me. Let them flee my company so I will have time to pray and study."
Reb Pinchas' prayer was accepted and people began to shun him. They would not speak to him or do favors for him. Reb Pinchas, however, was happy. He was able to focus on his Divine service without distraction.
Then came Sukot. Reb Pinchas wanted to invite guests, but no one desired to come to his house. He was displeased, for on the festival it is a mitzva (commandment) to have guests grace one's table. Ultimately, however, he accepted the fact. It was better to lack guests for the holiday than to be disturbed the entire year.
On Sukot, our Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, together with Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and King David, visit the sukot of the Jewish people. As Reb Pinchas was about to enter his suka, he saw our father Abraham waiting outside.
"Welcome to my suka," Reb Pinchas told him.
"Sorry, I will not enter," Abraham replied.
"Well, if none of my descendants feel at home as guests here, I don't think I will either."
That was enough for Reb Pinchas. He prayed for his original good graces to be restored and for him to find favor in people's eyes again.
The Torah commands: "For seven days you shall dwell in sukot." In defining this mitzva, our Sages explain that for the duration of the Sukot holiday, these small huts with roofs of branches and leaves must be considered as our homes. All of our daily routines should be carried out within them. As our Sages explain: "A person should eat, drink, relax... and study in the suka."
Proverbs tells us to "Know Him in all your ways"; and our Sages comment, "This is a short verse upon which all the fundamentals of the Torah depend."
For G-dliness is present not merely in the synagogue or in the house of study, but in every dimension and corner of our lives. This concept becomes manifest through dwelling in a suka. The sukkah teaches us that every aspect of our conduct can serve as a means to relate to Him and become linked with His oneness.
The unity established by this mitzva resolves the differences that exist between spirituality and material existence. Usually, we see the two as opposite. Spirituality, we often think, is otherworldly in contrast to physicality which is tangible and real. From G-d's perspective, however, both the material and the spiritual are expressions of Himself and can be fused harmoniously. Living in a suka helps us adopt this mind frame and attune ourselves to this inner unity.
From Keeping in Touch, published by Sichos in English: sichosinenglish.org
Of all the holidays of the month of Tishrei, it is perhaps the very last, Shemini Atzeret, which best expresses G-d's love for the Jewish people. The name itself, "Atzeret," comes from the Hebrew word "to stop" or "delay." G-d detains us, as it were, for one more day before we return to our regular lives.
The Midrash likens this to a king who holds a seven-day celebration for his sons. On the eighth day, when it comes time for them to leave, he is reluctant to see them go and asks them to remain for one more day of festivities.
A question is asked: How can one more day of celebration make the inevitable departure less painful? What is gained by pushing it off? We must therefore conclude that there is something about this special holiday, Shemini Atzeret, that actually prevents the departure from taking place at all.
This concept is reflected in the precise language of the Midrash. "Your departure is difficult," the king tells his sons, not "our departure."
This alludes to the fact that G-d never abandons the Jewish people; His love for us is constant and eternal. "Your departure is difficult," G-d tells us. G-d doesn't want us to abandon Him; He therefore requests that we celebrate one more holiday together which will serve to strengthen our bond.
The key to maintaining a close connection with G-d is achdut - unity.
When Jews are united with one another our relationship with G-d is strong. When, however, there is strife and division, it forms a wedge between the Jewish people and our Father in heaven.
The entire theme of Sukot is Jewish unity; indeed, the mitzva of the Four Kinds represents the four types of Jews coming together to be bound into one entity. Nonetheless, after Sukot is over and its positive effect has dissipated, the possibility still exists that the individual elements will revert to their previous separateness and dissociation.
In order to prevent this from happening, G-d asks us to remain with Him a while longer, to celebrate a holiday which will secure our unity in an everlasting manner.
On Shemini Atzeret, a single sacrifice is brought in the Holy Temple, expressing the idea of the indivisible nature of the Jewish people. Furthermore, this concept is also reflected in the way the holiday is celebrated: great scholars and simple people alike dancing with the Torah scroll, without distinction between them.
The absolute unity with which we conclude the holidays of Tishrei thus guarantees that these feelings will carry over into the rest of the year, effectively preventing that we will ever "depart" from holiness, G-d forbid.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe Vol. 2
Sukot In Israel
by Matisyahu Granovetter
It wasn't until we moved to Israel that I realized how precious the holiday of Sukot is to the Jewish people.
Back in the States, where my wife Sara and I had become "Baalei Tshuva" (newly Torah observant), it was my impression that only very religious Jews had sukot, and even then it was something small, often behind their kitchen in the backyard where no one on the street could see. Our first suka had been built on our backyard porch - it was easy to construct, since the main wall was in place.
During that first year in Netanya, however, we rented an apartment on the fifth floor of a high-rise, overlooking the Mediterranean. Scenic, but where in the world would our suka go? There was no porch and we high up.
During Rosh Hashana we met Elon, a handyman who fixed sinks and appliances, but most relevant to us, offered to build a suka for us! Elon knew the right suka size and specifications, and his little truck helped him bring wood, nails, curtains and "Schach" branches for our suka roof. And Elon was not even religious!
It was very windy in our parking lot near the ocean, where our suka was to be built, so Elon made it extra strong and secure. He numbered the corners of each piece of wood (like those jigsaw puzzles we did as kids, where each piece is numbered underneath). "I made it so you can put it together yourself next year, Matisyahu." I looked at him in wonderment. "Thanks a lot, I'll just make sure I still have your phone number."
But before we could finish connecting the suka walls, Elon suddenly had to leave. He left the suka panels for me to assemble. What should I do? I ran upstairs and phoned my rabbi in panic.
"Don't worry," said Rabbi Tzvi Wilhelm, the Chabad emissary in Netanya. "Connecting the walls isn't difficult." He came right over with some rope, wire, and a tool to cut the wire. "A rabbi must be a carpenter, too," he said, when he saw my astonishment. "We must do everything to repair the world, even cut wire."
"But Rabbi, this will take forever!"
"Don't worry. It's a mitzva."
By the end of the day, my hands were sore, red and swollen. But the smiles on my children's faces were worth it all. We now had our very own little suka in the parking lot!
Now that the suka was up, we needed basics like a table, chairs, and a light bulb.
I went to the local appliance store. "Suka needs bulb," I tried to say in my best Hebrew.
"No problem," the man responded in his best English. "Here's bulb, here's wire here's extension, here's switch, how many meters?"
In moments he had cut cut the wires, wound them together, tested a new bulb on his voltage machine and priced it at 18 shekels. A real bargain!
We strung the wire from our apartment on the fifth floor all the way down to the parking lot. And it worked!
I told the rabbi about my triumph. He said, "Nice, but did you get your arba minim already?"
"The four species. It's a mitzva to hold the lulav, etrog, myrtle and willow branches together and to make a blessing on them during Sukot. You have to go shopping!"
"Shopping? In America the rabbi just orders them for everyone. Can't you just buy it for me, Rabbi, please?"
"Getting there is half the fun."
So we visited the "shuk" - several streets lined with makeshift booths and tables selling the four species and suka decorations.
Rabbi Wilhelm helped me find a good etrog. He took the citron fruit out of its protective wrapping and carefully examined it. He put it back. He took another fruit, turned it up, down and sideways and then someone with a long black coat came over, and examined it with a magnifying glass.
No, no, not good enough. We went on to the next table. At each table people quoted prices for their wares. This etrog was 30 shekels, that one was 90 shekels, and so forth.
To me all etrogs looked the same. We finally secured a lovely yellowish-green one for a bargain: only 110 shekels.
Now for the lulav! The rabbi picked up each lulav and examined it by pointing it outward from his left eye to the sky, while his right eye stayed closed, trying to see if it was straight enough. I wondered if he ever shot pool. After a number of tries, we secured a lulav as well. As for the myrtle and willows, they could wait until the morning before the holiday, so they would be fresh.
By the time Sukot rolled around, our suka walls were secure, the card tables were covered with tablecloths, the candles were placed in the least windy corner, and my kiddush cup was standing and waiting for the wine and a blessing.
My wife, the children and I brought in the food (five floors down, five floors up, lots of exercise) and off we went to shul for the evening services.
Walking home, we were surprised. We noticed sukot everywhere! Through the walls we could see shadows of people making kiddush, eating and singing. Sukot was not just a holiday for the religious in Israel, it was for everyone. Later we saw people staying up late, studying in the suka, talking in the suka, even sleeping in the suka.
Years later, we still had Elon's suka frame. I still got sore, red hands every year. We would build the suka ourselves, matching the numbers in the corners, although one time we messed up and built the suka upside-down!
But it doesn't matter. Sukot is the best time of the year in Israel, when all Jews join as one family. May we all join together as one family this year on Sukot, with the Rebbe!
If you work in Manhattan you can visit one of the Lubavitch Youth Organization's large public Sukot during the intermediate days of the holiday. They will be open Sept 30 - October 3. The Sukot are located at three key points in NYC: the International Suka in Ralph Bunch Park near the Isaiah Wall at the United Nations; the Garment Center Suka across from Macy's at Greeley Square; the Wall Street Suka in Battery Park near the Netherlands flagpole. For more info call (718) 778-6000. To find out about public sukot in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
This issue of L'Chaim is for 14/21 Tishrei, 5768 - Oct. 6/14, 2006. The next issue (#990) is for 30 Tishrei /Oct. 12, the Torah portion of Noach.
Freely translated and excerpted
Between Yom Kippur and Succos, 5741 
These are the days when, having been blessed on Yom Kippur with a good and sweet year, we are preparing for the Festival of Succos - "the Season of Our Rejoicing." At this time some reflection is in order:
True, we are living in exile, a time when G-dly revelation is not as prevalent. This diminished light of Torah has its effect in the world in its relations with the Jewish people and, in some Jews, in their relationship to Judaism.
(It should be stated that these two are interconnected. It is only when Jews, individually or collectively, proudly and openly adhere to their Jewishness that they earn the respect of the world around them.
Furthermore, by adhering to a Torah life-style, which means actually learning Torah and doing Mitzvos [command-ments], we not only diminish but eventually completely eliminate the only cause of the exile (as we clearly say in our prayer - "Because of our sins we were exiled from our land") and the exile is shortened and eventually ended by the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach.)
Nevertheless, the fact that we are still in exile must not, and does not, dampen the joyful preparations for Succos, much less the actual joy of Yom Tov [the holiday], particularly the Festival of Succos (including Chol HaMo'ed [the intermediate days], Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah) which has been singled out and designated as "The Season of Our Rejoicing."
An additional factor, which is also one of our fundamental beliefs and basic principles of our Torah, is Bitochon [trust] in G-d. This means true and absolute trust in the Master of all the universe, whose Divine Providence extends to each and everyone individually, and specifically, and in detail.
This trust includes, first of all, that He surely granted that everyone be favorably sealed in everything and in every detail, including and especially the fulfillment in our own very days of the hope, heartfelt yearning, and most fervent daily expectation of Moshiach "for whose coming I wait every day."
The basis of this trust is the simple belief of every single Jew. For Jews are "believers the sons of believers," this intrinsic belief having been inherited from our Father Abraham. This belief unites and unifies all Jews and, furthermore, it is perfectly equal in all Jews though they be unlike each other in many other aspects.
It is this trust that makes a spiritual uniting of the Jewish people a reality, unifying all Jews into one entity. For their common simple belief also pervades and encompasses everything in which they differ, including their understanding, and level of study and observance of the Torah.
This unity is also reflected in Yom Kippur, the unique and only day in the year, which of all the festivals ordained in the Torah, is celebrated for one day only, both in and outside of the Holy Land.
Yom Kippur is the day on which all Jews conclude on the same culminating "resume" and proclaim with profound inspiration and in a loud voice: Shema Yisroel - Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One; Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever; Hashem He is G-d!"
This same unifying principle is reflected also in the Festival of Succos, in combining together the "Four Kinds" (Esrog [citron], Lulav [palm], Myrtle, and Willow), symbolizing all different types of Jews, into one Mitzvah, which is created by virtue of a Jew unifying them.
And also in the Succah itself, concerning which the Torah says: "It is possible for all Jews to sit in one Succah."
May G-d grant that just as on Yom Kippur, after the many prayers and the culminating resume, one long shofar blast is sounded, according to custom, followed by the loud proclamation: Next year in Jerusalem!
So may every Jew in the midst of the entire Jewish people, may every Jewish man and woman, very soon indeed hear the sound of G-d's Great Shofar announcing our liberation, followed immediately by - "Bring us... to Jerusalem Your Holy House with everlasting joy."
What is Simchat Beit HaShoeiva?
In the times of the Holy Temple, festivities were held every night of Sukot in celebration of a special water-drawing ceremony that took place each day during the holiday. The dancing and singing were known as "Simchat Beit HaShoeiva," rejoicing at the place of the Water-drawing. Today, in many communities throughout the world, in central locations such as synagogues, yeshivot or community centers, Simchat Beit HaShoeiva is celebrated and commemorated with live music and dancing. To find a location near you call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The holiday of Sukot begins this Wednesday evening at sundown. It is celebrated for seven days. The eighth day is known as "Shemini Atzeret" and the ninth day is Simchat Torah. (In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are both celebrated on the eighth day.) These holidays are referred to in the Torah as "the Festival of our Rejoicing." They are unique in that we are specifically commanded to be happy.
But does G-d really expect us to turn our emotions on and off like a faucet? How is it possible to be happy, just because the Torah tells us to?
We can answer this in the same way as we resolve the question of how the Torah commands us to love - both love of G-d and love of our fellow. The Torah commands us think those thoughts and do those things which will arouse the feelings of love.
There are two ways to arouse a feeling of joy: through the head, and through the feet. We can sit and meditate on things that make us happy, or we can get up and start to dance. But whatever our approach - cerebral or with outward manifestations of joy - the heart will follow.
In truth, every Jew has what to be joyful about. Just thinking about the enormous love G-d has for every Jew, or the great merit each of us has in possessing a Jewish soul, can make us appreciative and thankful.
When a Jew is happy, it expresses his trust and faith in G-d that whatever happens is for the best. Serving G-d with joy reveals the good that is hidden in everything.
The holiday of Sukot is a time to recharge our batteries, to "stock up" on an abundance of joy for the coming year. According to Chasidut, all of the spiritual goals we were trying to reach on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur by fasting and praying are attainable on Sukot and Simchat Torah - simply by being joyful and dancing!
So have a happy Sukot and Simchat Torah, and may G-d grant us the ultimate joy of Moshiach's arrival immediately.
In the beginning G-d created (Gen. 1:1)
The final letters of the Hebrew words "G-d created" - "bara elokim et" - are alef, mem, and tav, and spell the word "emet" - truth. Truth is the foundation upon which the whole world stands, and without which the entire creation would be unable to exist.
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of G-d hovered over the surface of the waters (Gen. 1:2)
What kind of spirit? "The spirit of King Moshiach" answers the Midrash. From this we learn an important lesson in our faith. Our longing for Moshiach must include a yearning for both the first and second stages of Redemption. During the first stage of the Messianic Era, the "yoke of the nations" will be removed from Israel's neck, although the world will continue to exist according to natural law. The second stage will be marked by open manifestations of G-dliness, such as the resurrection of the dead and other miracles that will be commonplace. G-d's objective in creating the world, mentioned in the Torah before the creation of man, is the Messianic Era. Our yearning must therefore be for the complete fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the realization of Divine plan.
(Sichat Parshat Acharei 5746)
And G-d created man (Gen. 1:27)
Why doesn't the Torah state after the creation of man, "and it was good," as it does after all the other things created during the six days? Every other creature was created complete, with its nature and instincts ready to be applied to the world. Man, however, was created incomplete, and it is his purpose in life to perfect himself. Human beings are given free will and the responsibility for their own development and improvement. That is why it doesn't immediately state, "and it was good" - we must wait and see how man behaves before passing judgement.
Reb Yisrael lived for his Rebbe. That is to say, his Rebbe's words inspired everything he did in life. Not only did he live according to his Rebbe's teachings, but he spread his holy words wherever he went.
Although it wasn't easy, Reb Yisrael traveled to his Rebbe twice a year. A trip to the Rebbe, however, wasn't like a trip to the market. Certainly not. Reb Yisrael began his preparations months in advance, with daily immersions, constant stud y of Chasidut, fervent prayer and a course of general self-improvement. Even his children were caught up in the excitement of the impending trip, emulating their father by increasing their own good deeds and Torah study.
Suddenly, with no warning, in the midst of all this flurry of preparation, Reb Yisrael's youngest son, Yaakov, fell desperately ill. A stream of doctors attended his bedside, but nothing could cure the illness that was sapping the child's life away.
In desperation, Reb Yisrael hurriedly packed his bags. He would go to the Rebbe and ask for his holy blessing. After all, now it was the month of Elul, the month when the King of Kings was most accessible, the month of mercy and forgiveness. The long journey passed in a fog. Hours merged into one another, as the distraught father recited the Book of Psalms. As the houses of the town emerged in the distance, Reb Yisrael began to feel a flutter of hope in his heart. As he entered the study hall, he barely returned the enthusiastic greetings of his fellow chasidim. All his thoughts centered on his beloved Rebbe and the audience he would soon have.
Meanwhile, Reb Yisrael prepared himself for the holy day of Rosh Hashana. When the day arrived, Reb Yisrael barely lifted his eyes from his prayer book, for he never stopped beseeching the Almighty to spare his son. By Yom Kippur, Reb Yisrael was even more desperate, his prayers even more intense. Now, added to his pleas for the life of his son was another prayer: that when he entered the Rebbe's room, his note would be accepted. It was a known custom that a chasid would place a note containing his requests on a table, and if the Rebbe took the note, it was assured that the requests would be fulfilled. If the Rebbe did not take the note...
As the day of his audience approached, Reb Yisrael became more and more anxious. He stopped sleeping and couldn't eat. Finally his turn came and there he was, standing in the Rebbe's room. He placed the tear-stained note on the table and waited for the Rebbe to take it. What seemed like hours passed, and it became apparent there would be no salvation -- the Rebbe did not take the note. Somehow, the dazed Reb Yisrael made his way out of the room. His worst fears had come to pass; perhaps his dear son had already left this world.
He wandered until he came to the edge of town, and there, under a tree, Reb Yisrael fell fast asleep. When he awoke, the sun was high in the sky, and he realized that it would soon be Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Tears poured from his eyes as he thought, "What is my life?"
Back in town, everyone was rushing to and fro in a tornado of preparation for the festival. But he, like an automaton, proceeded to the synagogue where he sank into a corner, oblivious to the joy which surrounded him.
What caused him to lift his eyes is not clear, but Reb Yisrael looked up for a moment and his eyes locked onto the dancing figure of Reb Mula, the town beggar. Reb Mula was old, with no home, no family, no past and no future. During the week, he could barely put one foot in front of the other. Yet tonight, he was dancing and leaping like a young stag. The town beggar was whirling with a strength that he did not ordinarily possess, his face gleaming with holy joy.
As he watched in fascination, Reb Yisrael felt a great yearning well up inside himself. And he thought, "Today, all of creation is joyful. And what of me? When all the angels and all the worlds are rejoicing, should I remain alone in my own private sorrow?"
Reb Yisrael rose from his corner and joined the circle of dancers. Forgetting everything in this world, he whirled and spun and leapt and jumped. He stamped and turned and never stopped until his joy merged with the joy of the universe and he no longer remembered his son, his pain, or even his own name. His entire being was only rejoicing.
Reb Yisrael entered the Rebbe's room for a blessing on his departure. He had decided not to ask about his son. The Rebbe blessed him and then spoke, "When you came and asked my blessing for your son's recovery, I saw that Heaven had decreed his death, and so I left your note on the table. But on Simchat Torah, when you annulled your own pain and rejoiced in the Torah in pure joy, the Heavenly decree was also annulled. Your son will live."
The birth of a Jewish child brings joy not only to his parents and extended family but to the entire Jewish people, for it signifies a step closer to the coming of Moshiach. The Talmud states that Moshiach will not arrive until "all the souls in guf" (the storehouse in which they await their descent into the physical world) have been born. The birth of a Jewish baby therefore hastens the Redemption and brings closer the blessings of the Messianic Era.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 25 Iyar, 5743 - 1983)