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It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
by Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, was for a time, a disciple of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.
One year on Simchat Torah, before hakafot (the circular procession for which the holiday of Simchat Torah is renowned), the entire synagogue was waiting for Rabbi Menachem Mendel to begin reciting the verse Atah Hareita (You have been shown). After a long unexplained silence, Rabbi Menachem Mendel approached Rabbi Shneur Zalman and said: "I perceive a hundred different ways to interpret this passage, but I cannot translate them into practice. I would hence prefer to refrain from reciting it."
Rabbi Shneur Zalman protested: "A person can never stand at the place his eyes behold; for when he reaches that point he will see even farther. This is the order of things. So Rebbe, when you have realized these hundred ideas in practice, you will perceive yet more ideas and insights, and there will be no end to the matter."
Rabbi Menachem Mendel was quite pleased with this answer, and proceeded to recite "Atah Hareita"
The month of Tishrei encompasses the entire spectrum of the human experience. As the month steadily progresses, we move from the introspection of Rosh Hashana to the emotion of Yom Kippur to the action associated with the holiday of Sukkot. This action includes building sukkot/booths as well as the binding and bringing together of the four species: lulav, etrog, willow and myrtle.
Sukkot is also associated with a unique circular rhythm. This phenomenon is introduced slowly in the synagogue with one circle around the bima each day of Sukkot while holding the lulav and etrog. The one circle soon increases to seven on Hoshana Rabba - the last day of Sukkot. It then erupts into dancing, round and round, on Simchat Torah.
What is it about the circular motion that seems to define this season? Shouldn't the New Year be symbolized by forward motion rather than circles?
Not only do we move in circles on Simchat Torah, we seem to read in circles as well. Upon concluding the dancing with the Torah on the day of Simchat Torah, we open the Torah scroll and read the final portion, thus completing the yearly cycle of weekly Torah readings. Then in true circular fashion we start all over again, as we read from the beginning of the Torah.
Reading the last portion of the Torah and then the first portion symbolizes the eternal cycle of Torah which has neither beginning nor end.
Without beginning or end should be our attitude regarding our accomplishments in the month of Tishrei, as well. Having prayed on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, with intense passion and fervor, we feel accomplished - we know that our prayers have been accepted and that we have been inscribed and sealed in the book of life and blessings.
For this we are truly thrilled and grateful. But the latter does not mean that we stop to gloat or even take a break to reflect on our extraordinary achievements. For, as Rabbi Shneur Zalman explained to Rabbi Menachem Mendel, now that we have reached this place, we can see even farther. What we have accomplished today obliges us to accomplish more tomorrow.
True, we do move in circular motions, but we are continually moving upward - higher and higher towards our infinite Divine source.
So, this Simchat Torah, as you dance in circles with the Torah scroll in hand, close your eyes and feel yourself ascend the eternal spiritual spiral.
Rabbi Kahanov is the director of Chabad of Northeast Florida
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 Sukkot is Jewish unity; indeed, the mitzva (commandment) of the Four Kinds represents the four types of Jews coming together to be bound into one entity. Nonetheless, after Sukkot 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
Miracle on Mironova
by Leah Lipszyc
Rabbi Yitzchok Meir (Itchie) and Leah Lipsyzc have been the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries in Crimea since 1992.
Our sukka was built between the wall around our house and the street. It was constructed from long thin strips of wood covered by a lively multi-colored striped fabric, topped by whatever branches and foliage we could find. We hired Sasha, our secretary's husband, to guard it throughout the holiday.
The holiday was quite uplifting, with 40 guests at each meal. The men sang and danced in the sukka, while the women sang and danced with tambourines, under the stars in the courtyard. We even made a second mini-version of our sukka which was mounted on a "pretzyept" or trailer. We took it to Yalta, Yevpatoria, and Sevastopol.
The holiday season was topped off with an extra joyous Simchat Torah in our shul in Simferopol. After really spirited hakafot (dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah), we went home to enjoy our festive holiday meal amidst lively singing and dancing. I'd barely slept for several nights, having been up cooking for the holiday. After our guests left, I wearily put my head down on the table to rest a few minutes. Itchie, also exhausted, fell asleep instantly in our room.
At 1:15 a.m. I awoke to what sounded like one of our sons crying in the courtyard. Still half asleep, I ran to the door. The moment I opened the door, three masked men with guns rushed into the house. One shoved Sasha (our "guard") into the dining room. They pushed me into a chair, where I remained for the next four hours of our ordeal.
The three gunmen methodically began searching the apartment for our "treasure." By American standards, which we haven't yet totally forgotten, we live in almost as much poverty as our neighbors. Yet, these crazed youths insisted that they had reliable information that we had a million dollars in cash hidden in the house.
I was scared to death. They could easily kill us all. They told us that they were professional thieves and not Mafia, though we should know that two Mafia groups are also watching us. They had been observing us for several months and knew that we bought 12 bottles of Coke every Friday, proof that we were rich!
I knew I had to trust in G-d. It was Simchat Torah and I had to be b'simcha (happy). Why were we living here in Simferopol anyway? We are emissaries of the Rebbe. We came here to help other Jews find their way back to the heritage which they'd been denied under Communism. I looked across the room at the picture of the Rebbe. "Rebbe," I thought. "I know you help people in difficult situations. I think this fits the criteria. Please intercede for us now. And please do it quickly, before one of these guys snaps."
Suddenly, we heard a loud cracking sound. Sasha and I looked at each other in fright. They kept assuring me that my husband and children were fine, and would continue to be so, if only I would cooperate and give them the money.
They brought in my jewelry box. Inside were 21 dollars we had received from the Rebbe on various occasions. As soon as the leader picked up the Rebbe's dollars, he dropped them. This happened again as the second thief tried to pick up the blessed dollars. When the third thief tried to take them, the chief shouted at him "Don't! There's something the matter with them!"
Finally, to my immense relief, Itchie was brought into the dining room. Time was passing and the three were becoming increasingly desperate to find the money.
They decided they would take one of our sons hostage until we came up with the money. Itchie started speaking. "Don't you wonder why both my wife and I are sitting here, seemingly calmly, despite the fact that you are threatening us? We are believing Jews. We're in this situation, not because you decided to rob us, but because G-d wants us to be in this situation. If G-d has decided that, Heaven forbid, I am going to die tonight, then even if you don't pull the trigger, I'll die tonight. On the other hand, if G-d has decided that I'm going to live, than even if you pull the trigger, I'm going to live. But, if you try to take my son hostage, the Torah demands of me to stop you. I will fight you. You will try to kill me. With all the noise, you will have to flee without continuing the search, and you will have accomplished nothing!"
Itchie started telling the chief about the Seven Laws of Noach, stressing that there is an all- seeing G-d presiding over the world, Who said not to kill and not to steal. "It's a good time for you to start implementing these laws." The leader admitted that he used to believe in G-d but due to circumstance he had turned to a life of crime. So Itchie said, "If this is any indication of your success in criminal activities, I recommend you turn back to G-d. You'll be better off!"
"Do you mean," asked the leader, "that if I come back without my mask, and tell you that I am the guy who did this, you will help me?"
"I already told you," responded Itchie, "you are an irrelevant player in tonight's proceedings. If I have a problem with what is happening here, I have to work it out with G-d. You have your own problems with G-d. If you are asking me to help you patch up your relationship with G-d, then if you promise to keep the Seven Laws of Noah, I agree to act as your advocate with Him."
Suddenly the leader said, "I would just leave. But my partners are frustrated. So give me something for them. Give me your diamond ring, and I'm also taking the computer and the camcorder. And give me your word that you won't move for the next half hour, so that we can escape." Itchie promised.
It was 5:10 am when they left, and we sat until 5:40. Then Sasha and I began to clear through the debris and Itchie sat down to prepare for the holiday services, as the roosters next door announced the dawning of a glorious Simchat Torah day.
To read more visit chabadcrimea.org
If you're in Manhattan, visit one of the Lubavitch Youth Organization's public Sukkot during the intermediate days of the holiday. They will be open Oct. 5 through Oct. 8, 10 am - 6 pm, and on Friday Oct. 9, 10 am - 1 pm. The Sukkot are: the International Sukka in Ralph Bunch Park, First Ave. and 42nd St. at the UN; the Garment Center Sukka in Greely Square at Broadway and 33rd St.; the Wall Street Sukka in Battery Park at Battery Place and State St. For more info call (718) 778-6000. To find out about public sukkot in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
This issue of L'Chaim is for 14/28 Tishrei, 5770 - Oct. 2/9, 2009. The next issue (1091) is for 28 Tishrei /Oct. 16, the Torah portion of Bereishit.
7 Cheshvan, 5715 
Sholom uBrocho [Peace and Blessing]:
Rabbi... conveyed to me your question as to why it is not the custom of Chabad Chasidim to decorate the Succah, as well as to sleep in the Succah.
This question calls for a lengthier explanation than this letter would permit. However, I trust the following points may suffice:
- Re Decorations:
- Generally, a Mitzvah [commandment] must be observed on its Divine authority (with Kabolos Ohl) and not on rational grounds, i.e. for any reason or explanation which we may find in it. An exception, to some extent, is the case where the significance of the Mitzvah is indicated in the Torah, and our Sages have connected its fulfillment with it. At any rate, only a qualified person can interpret it more fully.
- We have a rule that a Mitzvah should be performed to the best of one's ability, and as the Rambam [Maimonides] explains (at the end of Hilechoth Issurei HaMizbeach). This applies especially to the object of the Mitzvah itself, e.g., a Talis should be the best one can afford, an offering should be the most generous, etc.
- Unlike the Sechach [branches covering the top of the Succah] and walls of the Succah, decorations are not an essential part of the Succah, but an external adornment which adds to the enjoyment of the person sitting inside the Succah; they are, as the name clearly indicates, supplementary objects which decorate and beautify the external appearance of the Succah.
- The attitude of Chabad Chassidim in this connection, as taught by generations of Chabad leaders and teachers, is that the Succah is to imbue us with certain essential lessons, which are explained in Chassidic literature and Talmudic literature in general. It is expected of Chabad Chassidim that they should be impressed by the essential character of the Succah without recourse to "artificial" make-up; that the frail covering of the Succah and its bare walls, not adorned by external ornaments, rugs or hangings, should more forcibly and directly impress upon the Jew the lessons it is meant to convey.
- Re Sleeping in the Succah
- In order to safeguard and inspire a greater feeling toward the Succah, sleeping in it is not practiced by us. The basis for this is two-fold: First, we have a rule that Hamitztaer putter min HaSuccah (suffering exempts one from dwelling in the Succah). Secondly, during sleep a person is not in control of himself, and, furthermore, the very act of undressing and dressing, etc. inevitably creates a common-place attitude towards the place which serves as a bedroom. Such a depreciation of attitude toward the Succah (by sleeping in it, as explained above), from what his attitude should properly be towards the Mitzvoth of G-d whereby He has sanctified all Jews, would be deeply felt by the Chabad Chassid by virtue of his Chassidic teachings and upbringing, and would cause him profound spiritual suffering. The combination of these two considerations, therefore, led to the custom not to sleep in the Succah.
However, if a Jew feels absolutely certain that his sleeping in the Succah will not in the slightest affect his attitude toward the sanctity of the Succah, and is consequently free from any mental pain that might be caused thereby, he is duty-bound to sleep in it, in accordance with the fullest meaning of Taishvu K'ain taduru, to make his Succah his dwelling place to the utmost.
I hope the above will provide an adequate answer to your question, but should you desire further clarification, do not hesitate to write to me.
In the times of the Holy Temple, special festivities were held each night of Sukkot, in celebration of a special water-drawing ceremony. Commemorating these festivities, Chabad-Lubavitch Centers throughout the world will be featuring evenings of dancing, singing and joyous gatherings. Join a celebration or organize one for yourself and friends. And, as the Rebbe suggests, make it a family affair by having the entire family participate.
In memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg and the other kedoshim of Mumbai
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week we are celebrating the holiday of Sukkot. It is special in many ways, teeming with mitzvot and customs with far-reaching spiritual implications.
We were commanded by G-d to celebrate Sukkot as a reminder of the sukkot--booths--in which we dwelled while in the Sinai desert. According to some opinions, the sukka commemorates the actual booths and temporary dwellings the Jews lived in. However, other opinions consider these sukkot as a reminder of the Clouds of Glory with which G-d surrounded and protected us during the sojourn in the desert. Obviously, the sukka itself is a major aspect of the holiday.
It is not surprising, then, that our upcoming holiday is known almost exclusively by the name Sukkot.
There are other mitzvot that we perform every day or most days of the festival, though, such as blessing the lulav and etrog, and saying the special "Hoshana" prayers. Why, one might ask, is the festival known specifically for the mitzva of dwelling in the sukka?
The answer lies in the unique nature of the mitzva of sukka. Every other mitzva a person performs involves a particular limb or part of the body: tefillin, for instance, are wrapped around the head and arm; Shabbat candles are lit using the hand; Prayers are said with the mouth.
The sukka, however, is different. It surrounds and encompasses the entire person from head to toe. It envelops the person who sits within its temporary walls with the holiness of the mitzva.
May the Jewish people merit to witness what we read in the "Grace After Meals" on Sukkot, "May the Merciful One Restore for us the fallen Sukka of David" and may we celebrate all together this year in Jerusalem with Moshiach.
Exalted Guests - the Ushpizin
When the people of Israel leave their homes and enter the sukka for the sake of G-d's Name, they achieve the merit there of welcoming the Divine Presence and all the seven faithful shepherds descend from the Garden of Eden, and come to the sukka as their guests.
Waving the Four Kinds
One waves the Four Kinds [palm, citron, willow and myrtle] to and fro to Him who owns the four directions; up and down to Him who owns heaven and earth. That is to say: the four kinds are an allusion to G-d's having created all of existence, and that there is naught besides Him.
(Tractate Suka 37)
And the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in your labors out of the field. (Ex. 23:16)
After you have gathered in the bounty of the land, and your homes are filled with all manners of goodness - corn, new wine and pure oil - you shall dwell in sukkot, in order to remember that for forty years I sustained you in the desert. With this in mind you shall give thanks for your inheritance and for your houses full of plenty; do not say in your heart, "My power and the might of my hands have wrought this strength."
And you shall rejoice in your festival... and be happy - ach sameach (Deut. 16:14-15)
Without certain boundaries, unrestrained rejoicing can lead to levity and frivolousness. By using the word "ach" (literally, "but"), the Torah cautions that even while we rejoice, we must always be conscious of the reason for our rejoicing.
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 study of Chasidism, 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 Shmuel. Reb Shmuel, who during the entire week could barely put one foot in front of the other, was dancing and leaping like a young stag. The town beggar was whirling with a strength that he never before possessed, 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 etrog is a unique fruit in that it remains on the tree for an entire year, thriving precisely on the changes in climate of the different seasons. For this reason the etrog is symbolic of the Jew, the eternal wanderer who must endure all kinds of trials and tribulations as he suffers in exile. Yet like the etrog, the Jew will thrive even in the most adverse conditions and emerge triumphant with the coming of Moshiach.