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The world is shaken by events in Egypt and Syria. Everyone is nervous about the shake-up in the world economy. One can always read about major restructuring shake-ups in this or that business. And every now and then one reads of shake-downs where people have lost their life-savings to unscrupulous business practices. And what are we Jews doing about all this?
We're shaking! Right, left, front, up, down, back. For six of the seven days of the Sukkot holiday we'll be shaking the lulav and etrog in the four compass directions and toward the heavens and the earth.
The lulav (palm), etrog (citron), hadas (myrtle), and aravot (willows) are joined together, and a blessing is made over them. Then they are shaken. This occurs during all the days of Sukkot, except Shabbat.
According to the Midrash these plants are symbolic of the different types of Jews who make up our nation. The etrog has an appealing taste and beautiful scent and is likened to a Jew who has a solid Jewish education and performs many mitzvot (commandments). The dates which grow from the lulav/palm have a taste but no aroma; they are like our brethren who have a solid Jewish education but don't necessarily excel in their performance of mitzvot.
The myrtle has a scent but no fruit; this is like Jews who are constantly doing mitzvot and good deeds, but lack Jewish knowledge.
Lastly, the willow has neither scent nor taste; it represents those of us who neither immerse ourselves in Jewish studies nor occupy ourselves constantly with mitzvot.
What message do we Jews give the world - even during these shaky political times - by reciting the blessing over the lulav and etrog and then shaking it and the myrtle and willow in all six directions?
We say, "We Jews are united. We are one. We are bound to one another like the lulav, myrtle and willow are bound to each other.
"Each and every Jew is important and essential regardless of affiliation, knowledge, or observance, just as each of the four plants is an intrinsic part of the mitzva, without which the blessing cannot be recited."
When all Jews participate in the mitzva of lulav, we make a further statement to the world, one which could literally shake the world to its very foundations. For the Talmud tells us that the reward for blessing the lulav and etrog on the first day of Sukkot is the name of Moshiach.
So shake the lulav starting on the first day of Sukkot, Thursday, September 19. But don't just shake it once. Each day is a new mitzva. If you miss the first day, shake it the next day, or any other day except Shabbat. If you don't have one, call your local Chabad-Lubavitch center and they'll be happy to help you out.
According to the Talmud, the sin of the Tree of Knowledge and Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden occurred on the very same day they were created - Friday, the sixth day of Creation.
In this context, G-d's declaration in the Torah portion of Bereishit, is therefore surprising: "G-d saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good." How can it be that G-d considers sin and punishment not only good, but "very good"?
The comments of our Sages on these words only add to our perplexity. " 'Good'- this refers to the Good Inclination. 'Very' - this refers to the Evil Inclination." " 'Good' is the Angel of Life; 'very' is the Angel of Death."
What were our Rabbis trying to tell us? To understand, we need to look at why G-d, the epitome of good, created evil in the first place.
As the Evil Inclination, the Angel of Death, and the Serpent were all created by G-d, we must therefore conclude that the inner essence of these creations is also good, even though their external appearance seems otherwise.
And what exactly is this inner good? In essence, it is the power of teshuva - the ability to return to G-d in repentance. For without evil, the phenomenon of teshuva could not exist. Without an Evil Inclination inciting us to disobey, we could never achieve the higher spiritual heights that are attained through teshuva, a process by which even our "deliberate sins are transformed into merits."
This, then, is the meaning of G-d's pronouncement on that first Friday: everything that He created is part of the Divine plan for the world to attain fulfillment. Endowing man with an Evil Inclination allows him to achieve an even higher level of perfection than that with which he was created.
Of course, sin itself is wicked, for it is contradictory to G-d's will. But after a person has sinned and done teshuva, he is on a higher level than a righteous person who has never transgressed! This concept is known as the "advantage of the light" that comes from the very depths of the darkness.
This principle contains an eternal message for us in our daily lives: If a person should claim that he is not responsible for his misdeeds, G-d having created him with an inborn inclination and propensity for sin, he should remember that the sole reason for the creation of the Evil Inclination is that it lead us to a higher rung in our service of G-d!
Thus it is through the temporary descent into sin and our subsequent teshuva that we reach the level of "very good" - the objective of all of Creation, and its ultimate perfection which will take place in the Messianic Era, speedily in our day.
Adapted from Sefer HaSichot of the Rebbe, 5749 Vol. I
Thanks to a Lulav and Kiddush
Miracles During the Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur 1973. An army jeep came to a halt in front of the synagogue in Kfar Chabad, Israel. Lubavitcher Chasidim, like Jews the world-over, were pouring out their hearts to the Creator of the Universe. An army officer opened the door of the synagogue and called out the name of Rabbi Meir Freiman, as well as the names of a few other Chasidim. Before long, they had joined the growing troops of soldiers on their way to the front.
On the holiest day of the Jewish year, Egypt and Syria had attacked Israel. Though Israel had been warned that a major offensive was in the works, the Israeli government had given permission to most of the soldiers on active duty to go home for Yom Kippur. This allowed the enemy to attack and break through undermanned defense lines.
For three days Egypt advanced virtually unopposed. Thousands of Jewish soldiers were killed.
If Egypt would continue at their current pace, they would claim total victory. But they didn't. On the third day, the Egyptian army inexplicably stopped!
Some say it was because their progress was so fast and easy that they thought it was an Israeli maneuver to surround them so they stopped to gather intelligence. Others say that their tanks forged so far in such a short amount of time that they had to stop to allow their infantry to catch up.
Whatever it was, it was a miracle. In fact, at that time, the Lubavitcher Rebbe declared that it was a miracle even greater than those of the Bible. This huge miracle gave the Israeli army the time it needed to go on the offensive.
But there were "smaller" miracles that took place during the Yom Kippur War as well. And two of those were facilitated by Meir Freiman.
A few hours after Meir had been picked up in Kfar Chabad on Yom Kippur he was sitting behind the wheel of a tank and driving towards the south.
There were many losses. Many friends fell. The first days of the war were a nightmare with no day or night. Morale was low, but when Sukkot arrived, Meir's sole concern was to get a lulav and etrog. He was unable to get them in time for the first day of Sukkot. They arrived at the front the next day. He leaped off the tank and grabbed them excitedly, reciting the two blessings with great feeling.
The words, "who has granted us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion," took on new meaning under the circumstances. Meir was among the armored forces that crossed the Suez Canal. Now they were parked opposite the city of Ismailia exposed to the shelling of the Egyptians. During breaks between shelling, his thoughts were on his home and family. He also thought of the mitzva (commandment) of dwelling in a sukka that he was unable to observe that year.
When he finished with the lulav and etrog, he suggested to his tank crew members that they do the mitzva too. They knew him already and had gotten used to his style, and they willingly agreed. Then he decided to branch out and enable other soldiers to do the mitzva. He left the lulav and etrog on his tank and went over to the next tank that was 200 meters away. "Happy Sukkot," he called out to the commander of the tank. The commander eyed the "weird religious guy" and said, "Happy what?"
Meir knew that the commander was from a virulent anti-religious kibbutz. But it was Sukkot, and surely doing a mitzva would help the soldiers' morale. "Chag sameiach," he called out again. "It's Sukkot today and we just got a lulav and etrog. Come, you and your men, and say the blessing on them."
The tank commander didn't shoo him off. After all, they were brothers in arms and it was hard to refuse, but his self-respect and kibbutz education did not allow him to give in easily.
"Do you see what's going on here? While you are standing and talking to me, you can get killed!"
Meir just smiled and said, "Come, I'm telling you, and call the other guys too. Don't be so negative. It's Sukkot today, after all ..."
After more back and forth, the commander acceded to Meir's request. He called the rest of the tank crew to come to Meir's tank and say the blessing on the four minim. The commander said the bracha first. He had just taken the lulav when an explosion could be heard nearby. The soldiers who had crowded around Meir could not believe their eyes. A pillar of smoke rose from their tank, which had sustained a direct hit. They had just been sitting in it! The tank was engulfed in flames and from inside they could hear the sound of their ammunition exploding.
The tank commander recovered from the shock first "Thanks to you! Thanks to your lulav!" he shouted, and he fell on Meir and kissed him. When they had calmed down a bit, the commander told Meir that until the end of Sukkot he would keep the etrog in his pocket. "It saved my life. Whoever wants to say the blessing will borrow it from me."
Shabbat found Meir and his buddies entrenched in bunkers they had dug in the sand. Meir had somehow gotten hold of some wine for Kiddush. Friday night, during one of the respites, he suggested that they leave their bunker "in order to stretch our weary bones and make Kiddush."
Some of the guys liked the idea and, despite the danger, went out. The remaining soldiers were feeling down and refused to join. After some pleading, however, they agreed to come hear Kiddush.
They went over to a nearby tank. Meir put a cup down, poured some wine, lifted the cup and began to recite the Kiddush. Seconds after Meir finished the blessing and all present had answered "amen," the area shook from an explosion. This time it was very close. Once again it was a direct hit from an Egyptian shell; it had fallen right into the bunker they had just left!
"You saved our lives! Twice!" exclaimed the soldiers. Meir smiled. "It wasn't me. It's the mitzva!" he said modestly.
Adapted from M. Zeigelbaum's article in Beis Moshiach and T. Bolton's article at www.OhrTmimim.org.
If you're in Manhattan, visit one of the Lubavitch Youth Organization's public sukkas during the intermediate days of the holiday. They will be open: Sunday, September 22, 10 am - 1 pm; Monday, Septmeber 16 and Tuesday, September 17, 10 am - 6 pm; Wednesday, September 18, 10 am - 1:30 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 16/23 Tishrei and Sept. 20/27. Our next issue, #1290, will be for 30 Tishrei, Oct. 4.
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:
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.
The great Sage Yehoshua ben Chanina lived at the end of the Second Temple era. A Levite, he described celebrations in the Temple on Sukkot: "During the days of the water libation ceremony, we barely got to sleep at all. The first hour of the day saw us attending to the daily offering; following this we were engaged in prayer - afterwards, the additional offering. Then we ate, and it already became time to attend to the afternoon service. And this was followed by the celebration of the festival of the water libation, which lasted the entire night, and we would begin again"
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week, from the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 18 through Wenesday Sept 25, we celebrate 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.
Pilgrimage to Jerusalem
Many miracles that occurred when the Jews made their required pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. Among them, when they stood shoulder to shoulder inside the Holy Temple it was so overcrowded one could barely move, yet when they prostrated themselves on the ground before G-d there was plenty of room for everyone. The revelation of G-dliness was not only apparent when they bowed down, however. The Jews' standing together in complete unity and harmony was unparalleled anywhere else, yet when it came time for each individual to prostrate himself and serve G-d in his own unique way, there was plenty of room for each person's individuality.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
In the same way that the sukka is our temporary dwelling during Sukkot, so too should a person view his sojourn in this world as only temporary. For in truth, the soul's descent into a physical body is only for a specified, limited time. "In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days" alludes to the seven midot (emotions or character traits) that must be refined and purified in the course of our "70-year" life-span.
(Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntresim)
On Simchat Torah, all the advocating angels rush to the defense of the Jewish people and berate the Satan. "How can you accuse such a wonderful nation as the Jews of any wrongdoing!" they cry. "Just look at them - men, women and children, going to their synagogues to rejoice with the holy Torah!" Hour after hour the angels describe the joyful dancing and the love even the smallest Jewish children show for the Torah as they kiss the scrolls with their tiny mouths, until the Satan slinks away in shame...
(Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch)
The holiday of Sukkot was approaching, and there was not a single etrog (citron) to be seen in the whole town of Berditchev. Rebbe Levi Yitzchak sent out some of his followers to see if they might meet someone who would have an etrog. At the crossroads, they met a traveler with a beautiful etrog. They asked him to come to their Rebbe to see if they could work something out with him.
The stranger came to Reb Levi Yitzchak but insisted that he had to return home before Yom Tov. Reb Levi Yitzchak promised the traveler blessings of wealth and children, but to no avail. "Thank G-d," he said, "I have wealth and children. I am in need of nothing."
Then Reb Levi Yitzchak thought of something else. "If you will agree to stay here with your etrog, I promise you that you will share my lot in the World to Come." The traveler immediately agreed to Reb Levi Yitzchak's offer and everyone was happy with their part of the deal.
On the first night of the festival, the guest returned home from the synagogue to his rented room. He found everything there prepared for the holiday meal. But, certainly the householder knew that on the holiday of Sukkot he expected to eat in the sukka!
The guest went out into the yard and found the host and his whole family eating in the sukka. He asked to come in but was refused! From house to house the stranger went and in each sukka the answer was the same. He just could not understand. Finally, it came out that Reb Levi Yitzchak was behind all of this.
Off to Reb Levi Yitzchak's house the guest ran. "What is the reason for this?" he demanded. "Why will no one admit me into their sukka?"
"If you will give up the share of my portion in the World to Come which I promised you, I will give the order that you be admitted into someone's sukka," declared Reb Levi Yitzchak.
The guest was bewildered and a bit angry. But what could he do? All his life he had eaten in a sukka. Should this year be different? All Jews were eating in their sukkas tonight. Should he eat inside? He had no choice.
"I release you from your promise," the guest told the Rebbe. Then off he went to quietly eat his festive meal in someone's sukka.
As soon as the festival was over, Reb Levi Yitzchak sent for the guest. "I hereby return my promise to you that you will share my portion in the World to Come," the Rebbe told him. "I wanted to show you that you cannot pick up a portion in the World to Come easily, through bartering and trading," he explained. "You have demonstrated self-sacrifice for the sake of fulfilling the mitzva of eating in a sukka. You truly deserve to share my portion."
Once there was a king with a daughter of marriageable age. There was one strange fact about her, though. No one had ever seen the princess! For many years she had been sealed in a high tower which appeared to have no entrances. The tower was surrounded by walls without gates.
The king issued a decree throughout the world that for three days suitors would be permitted to try to find the princess. The one who succeeded would have her hand.
Young men streamed to the king's capital. Some feared that she was hidden because she was ugly or bad-tempered, but they were nevertheless willing to try. Some became quickly discouraged upon seeing the walls and tower. Many attempted to cross the walls without success. Those who came over the walls could find no way of entering or scaling the tower. They began to leave as quickly as they had come. By the third day, only a few remained.
One prince, feeling along the wall at the bottom of the tower, felt a stone move from the pressure of his hand to reveal a doorway which slid open revealing steps. He climbed the steps and opened doors and gates as he continued climbing. He reached the top and a final locked door faced him. When he called to the princess to help him open the door, she passed a trinket through the small opening and told him to give it to her father as a sign that he was to be her husband.
All the wedding preparations were made and there was much rejoicing. However, the groom was quite apprehensive. Although he felt the king was benevolent and he himself was eager to be part of such a royal family, he was afraid to see his bride or learn first-hand of a cruel character. His fear increased as it came time to unveil her and see her for the first time. With trembling hands he lifted her veil before the wedding ceremony. She was beautiful! What a shock! Still afraid of some trick, though, he went through the wedding ceremony with much on his mind.
During the royal celebrations she seemed kind and pleasant. He was amazed that he could find no fault with her. After several months he became supremely happy and decided to have a tremendous celebration to make it known to all the great happiness he had found with his wonderful wife.
This story is a parable. The king is G-d, our King. The princess is the Torah which G-d gave to us at Mount Sinai on the holiday of Shavuot. At that time we accepted it; we had no foreknowledge of its content or its nature. We simply knew that to be close to the King, to be part of His family was of ultimate value. Now, on Simchat Torah, like the prince, we have had the Torah with us for several months. We have gotten to know "her," to love her, to see her beauty and depth. Our rejoicing now is beyond all bounds at the greatness of the gift that we have received.
In the hymn that we recite after dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah day, we mention that Moshiach ("Tzemach") will arrive on Simchat Torah. This does not mean Moshiach cannot come at another time; it merely underscores the conceptual and spiritual relationship between Moshiach and Simchat Torah. One of Moshiach's contributions will be that he will reveal heretofore hidden dimensions of Torah. Moshiach's personality is a Simchat Torah personality. And Moshiach's soul will radiate new light and depth to the Torah. Moshiach, though, will not keep this Simchat Torah mindset for himself; he will share it with us. One way to prepare for the perpetual Simchat Torah of the future is to truly rejoice with the Torah now.
(Torah for the Times, Rabbi H. Greenberg)