Rabbi Binyomin Adler – The Spiritual Ingathering Of Sukkos

Introduction

This week is Parashas Haazinu and will be followed next week by Sukkos. What is interesting about the association between Haazinu and Sukkos is that Haazinu is basically the end of the Torah, where Moshe informs the Jewish people of what will occur when they do not follow the Torah. In a sense Haazinu is the depiction of the End of Days and the Ultimate Redemption. Sukkos is referred to in the Torah as the Chag Haasif, and the Haftorah that we read on the first day of Sukkos is from Zechariah, where the prophet foretells the arrival of Moshiach and of the celebration of the Sukkos festival. Thus, Sukkos is a time of ingathering, and there are various aspects of ingathering that are reflected in Sukkos. One aspect of ingathering is that Sukkos is the time of the year when the farmers gather in the produce of the harvest, and this is a cause for joy. There is another ingathering, however, and this is the spiritual ingathering that occurs at this time of the year. It is said (Shemos 34:22) vichag Shavuos taaseh lecho bikurei kitzir chitim vichag haasif tekufas hashanah, you shall make the Festival of Weeks with the first offering of the wheat harvest; and the Festival of the Harvest shall be at the changing of the year.

Shemini Atzeres and Yosef

The Sfas Emes (Sukkos) writes that the word tekufas can be interpreted as strength, as Sukkos is the strength of the year. The Sfas Emes writes that Sukkos is the sustenance of the entire year. Let us gain a better understanding of this idea. There are several words that the Torah uses for ingathering. One word is asifah and another word is atzeres. After the seven days of Sukkos we have Shemini Atzeres. The Sfas Emes writes that Shemini Atzeres corresponds to Yosef. It is said (Tehillim 96:12) yaaloz sadai vichol asher bo az yiraneinu kol atzei yaar, the field and everything in it will exult; then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy. The Medrash (Tanchumah Emor § 16) interprets this verse to be alluding to the Four Species that are taken on Sukkos. There is an interesting hint contained within the word atzei. The word atzei is an acrostic for the words tzaddik yesod olam, the righteous one is the foundation of the world. The Sefarim write that Yosef is referred to as tzaddik yesod olam, because Yosef resisted temptation from the wife of Potiphar. Thus, we see a direct association between Yosef and Sukkos. Furthermore, we find that when Yosef was born, his mother Rachel declared (Bereishis 30:23) asaf Elokim es cherpasi, G-d has taken away my disgrace. We find a parallel to this wording when Yehoshua, who was from the tribe of Yosef, circumcised the Jewish People upon entering Eretz Yisroel. It is said (Yehoshua 5:9) vayomer HaShem el Yehoshua hayom galosi es cherpas Mitzrayim meialeichem vayikra shem hamakom hahu Gilgal ad hayom hazeh, HaShem said to Yehoshua, “Today I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from upon you.” He named that place Gilgal [Rolling], to this day. Regarding that incident of circumcision, the prophet also uses the term rolling away, which is similar to asifah in the sense that something is being removed or concealed. Thus, we can suggest that Rachel was hinting to the fact that in the future a descendant of Yosef would remove the shame of being uncircumcised from the Jewish People. It can be said that Yosef represents shemiras habris, the guarding of the covenant, and Sukkos is a time of strength that sustains us throughout the year. It is known that shemiras habris is what sustains the Jewish People, and will even be the herald of the Final Redemption.

The Shabbos Connection

In a similar vein, Shabbos is also an ingathering, as according to the Zohar, the blessing of the Shabbos sustains the whole week. Additionally, the Gemara (Shabbos 12a) states that if one visits someone who is ill on Shabbos, he should say Shabbos hi milizok urefuah kerovah lavo, though the Shabbos prohibits us from crying out, may a recovery come speedily. The Meor Anayim (Likuttim) offers a fascinating homiletic interpretation to this statement. He writes that normally one has to gather various herbs to create a medicine. Shabbos, however, is referred to as Shabbos Kallah and incorporates everything. Thus, on Shabbos one does not need to gather herbs from all over, and it is for this reason that the healing comes speedily. In conclusion, we see that Haazinu is the ingathering of the parshiyos of the Torah, Sukkos is the spiritual ingathering that is reflected through shemiras habris, and Shabbos is the time of ingathering that incorporates the week and the entire world within it.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

דְּעֵה חָכְמָה לְנַפְשֶׁךָ. וְהִיא כֶתֶר לְרֹאשֶׁךָ, let your soul know Torah, then it will be a crown on  your head. As we approach Sukkos, we can interpret this passage to mean that when one “knows” Torah, i.e. he becomes one with the Torah, as דעת means intimate connection, then the Torah that he studied will be a crown on his head on Simchas Torah.

Shabbos Stories

A Sukkah from the Cemetery

There was once a Karliner chassid who lived in a small town in a small broken down house. This chassid did not have much of anything, but nonetheless he was happy with his lot. Every year when the festival of Sukkos arrived, the chassid would wait until everyone else had built their Sukkos, and he would then go around and ask for whatever they had left over. People would offer him a rotted board or a rusted nail, and it was from these leftovers that he would build his Sukkah. For seven days the chassid would sit in his Sukkah and sing with great joy. Across the field from the chassid lived a very wealthy man. This wealthy man owned the local factory and employed most of the town. The magnate’s house was large, and he did not lack anything in the way of materialism. The wealthy man had everything he could imagine, but he was not happy. In fact, he was more than just not happy. He was really sad and downright miserable. The Sukkah that the wealthy man had built every year was a wonder. The Sukkah was the size of a football field, with an oak table, candelabras and running water. The Sukkah had within it everything one could imagine. Nonetheless, every year the wealthy man sat in his Sukkah, and when he would hear the Karliner chassid singing from across the field, it drove him absolutely crazy. There is nothing that makes a sad person so sad as to meet a happy person, and there is nothing that makes a sad person happier than to meet another sad person. One year as the festival of Sukkos approached, the wealthy man was struck by an idea. The wealthy man approached everyone in his town and told them, “When the Karliner chassid comes around asking for a rotted board or a rusted nail, do not give it to him.” Now when the wealthy man issued such a directive, what was anyone to do? After all, the wealthy man did own the town. Thus, when the chassid requested from the townspeople if they could spare a leftover piece from their Sukkah, the people would just shrug their shoulders, turn their palms up, and shake their heads. “I am sorry,” they would say, “but this year I cannot even spare a rusty nail.” The chassid was rejected by every single person in town and was about to despair of building a Sukkah that year, when suddenly he had a brainstorm. In the town’s cemetery, the people would place wooden planks to serve as tombstones instead of the standard marble or stone tombstones. On the wooden planks was inscribed the words “Here lies..” The chassid knew that there were many wooden planks in the cemetery, so he thought to himself: “certainly there will not be hundreds of people who die in this town over Sukkos. Thus, why would anyone care if I were to borrow a few planks and return them after the holiday?” The day before Sukkos arrived and the wealthy man looked across the field and smiled. This year there was no Sukkah outside the house of the Karliner chassid. Sukkos arrived and the wealthy rich man sat at his oak table in his Sukkah, with his candelabras and everything he could imagine. The wealthy man recited Kiddush in peace and blissful quiet. He then began to eat his fish, still in peace and blissful quiet. Suddenly, from across the field, he heard singing! The wealthy man quickly jumped up! “How can it be?” he wondered aloud. He looked outside and lo and behold, across the field, a shabby Sukkah was propped against the Karliner chassid’s house. The wealthy man ran across the field and burst in on the chassid. “Where did you get the wood for this Sukkah?” the wealthy man exclaimed. The Karliner chassid received the wealthy man with a glowing face. “Shalom Aleichem! Come in! Sit down!” Still standing, the rich man repeated his question, “Where did you get this wood from?” “I will be glad to tell you,” the chassid said, “just come in and sit down.” The wealthy man’s eyes darted to and fro, first gazing at the chassid, and then at the Sukkah, the door, and then back to the chassid. Frowning, the wealthy man at himself on the half broken chair across from the chassid. The Karliner chassid then said to the wealthy man, “please, allow me to tell you a story. Yesterday, I was looking around town for some way to build a Sukkah, and I asked people if they could spare a board or a nail. It was the strangest thing that ever happened to me, as I could not find anything. It seemed like everyone had used up their materials and there was nothing left over. It was already getting late in the afternoon and I was still walking around town without even the first board to use for a Sukkah. Who do you think I should then run into? None other than the Angel of Death!” Upon meeting him, I said, ‘Angel of Death! Shalom Alechem!’ and he said, ‘Alechem Shalom.’ I said, ‘what brings you to town?’ The Angel of Death responded, ‘I just have one more pick up before the holiday comes in.’ I said to the angel of Death, ‘one more pickup, huh? Would you mind if I ask you who it is?’” “Now, you will not believe this,” the Karliner Chassid continued, leaning forward, staring right at the rich man, “but the Angel of Death mentioned your name!” I then said to the Angel of Death, ‘That guy? You came to get that guy? You do not have to bother.’ The Angel of Death asked, ‘I do not have to bother? Why is that?’ I said to the Angel of Death, ‘You do not have to bother, because that guy is so sad, it is like he is already dead.’ The Angel of Death said, ‘He is that sad?’ ‘Yes,’ I responded, he is that sad.’ ‘Well,’ said the Angel of Death, ‘if he is that sad, I guess I do not even have to bother. Thanks for saving me the work!’” “Now,” said the Karliner chassid, “as the Angel of Death was about to leave, I asked him for a little favor. I said to the Angel of Death, ‘Listen, I helped you out, so maybe you can help me out?’ The Angel of Death responded, ‘Sure, what can I do for you?’ I said to the Angel of Death, ‘I really need a Sukkah for the holiday.’ The Angel of Death paused, and then he said, ‘You know, I am not scheduled to return here until after the festival. In the burial society, they have the wooden stakes that they put in a new grave before they put up the headstone. Those are the wooden stakes that say ‘Here Lies… at the top. I am not planning to return here, so you can use those stakes to build your Sukkah.’” “That is exactly what I did,” the chassid said. “In fact, if you look up there, you can see that on each board, it says ‘Here Lies….’” With that, the Karliner chassid burst into a joyous song. The Chassid’s words pierced the wealthy man’s heart like arrows. He began to cry from the depths of his heart. Finally, the wealthy man asked the chassid, “What can I do? I cannot remove the sadness from my heart. Tell me, I have everything, but no joy. And you, who have nothing – from where do you get all this joy?” The chassid responded: “If you want to be joyous, you must go to the holy Karliner Rebbe. There you can learn what true simcha is.” The wealthy man went to Karlin, and where in the past he had been full of anger and sadness, he was transformed into a person full of joy and happiness, and became one of the greatest Karliner Chassidim. All that he needed was for someone to ignite the spark that was hidden deep within him.

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

 Two melachos that pertain to washing dishes and cleaning spills on Shabbos are סחיטה; wringing, and כיבוס: laundering. Previously we discussed sechita as it applies to extracting juice from fruits. Here we will discuss the halachos of wringing liquid from an absorbent fabric. We will also briefly discuss the laws of laundering as applied to common situations.

  1. Activities Affected by These Prohibitions

 Washing Dishes

One is prohibited to use a sponge, washcloth paper towel or other absorbent item to wash dishes because water will inevitably be wrung from them while washing. One is also prohibited to use synthetic scouring pads and steelwool pads that trap waters between their fibers.

However, one is permitted to use a synthetic pad whose fibers are widely spaced and cannot trap water. One is also permitted to use a nylon bottle brush.

Aleeza Ben Shalom – Dating Sukkot-Style

During the holiday season we have time to reflect and think deeply about our lives. I’m sure you’ve put thought into your new year’s resolutions. But with Rosh Hashanah, a time of reflection, behind us, now we move into Sukkot. Sukkot is a time of vulnerability, a time we remember that God rules the universe. Now is the time to put our full trust in God.

How do we do that? We use the sukkah as our guide and the lulav and etrog as our tools for success.

Sukkah

On Sukkot we leave the stability of our homes to dwell in a temporary hut. This reminds us that the One Above runs the world and that we can count on his protection. The sukkah represents our vulnerability to the elements and our relationship to God.

What stabilizes you in your dating life? Who and what do you count on to protect you? Our homes represent protection, but the truth is that our real protection lies in God. The week of Sukkot is the perfect time to focus on strengthening your trust in God.

Practically speaking, you can make a minor change that will help you make a major shift in your thinking. Instead of hopelessly wondering, “Where is my soul mate?”, replace that question with a prayer: “Please, God, help me to recognize my soul mate when we meet.” By including God in your thoughts about your soul mate, you are reminding yourself that all things happen according to divine plan – in the right order and for the highest good.

You’re also allowing yourself to be vulnerable. You are acknowledging that you need divine assistance to gain clarity and recognize your soul mate.

The Four Species

The four species also help us to recognize that our faith and trust belong with God. We shake the four species in six different directions to show that we are completely surrounded and protected by Him alone. Each part of the four species represents a different part of the body, and each has a lesson for us.

Lulav represents spine

Our spine balances our entire body. No matter what comes our way, it’s flexible enough to handle it, yet strong enough to bear the challenge. How flexible are you when it comes to dating? Are you strong – able to handle the dating ups and downs? Are you over-flexible – uncomfortable speaking up for what you want? You may be smart, funny and a good person, yet not have confidence in your dating life. It is important to identify whether you more closely relate to strength or flexibility. The answer to this question isn’t what matters; rather, understanding where you are now will help you become who you want to be. Wherever you are on the spectrum, it’s best to shake yourself towards the middle and bring your life into balance.

Myrtle represents eyes

There’s always another way of looking at things. For example, if someone suggests you date the “boy” or “girl” next door, someone you already know, you might be interested. You may give it a date or two, but maybe not more than that. But consider this: If you already know someone, then you have to go out five times. Yes, commit to five dates. Why? Your brain needs enough time to catch up to your eyes. And your eyes need time to adjust. About five dates will allow your vision to become clear. (As a matchmaker, I have sometimes only agreed to set someone up if both parties agreed to five dates.)

By committing to this number of dates from the outset, both sides are open to waiting to see what happens and giving the potential relationship enough time to grow. Plus who needs the pressure of trying to figure out if this is your sou lmate on the first date?

Willow represents lips

Often on first dates, my clients do such a good job of being on their best behavior that they aren’t being themselves. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t guard your tongue; you most certainly should! However, remember to speak in a way that represents who you are, allowing your potential mate to see more than your polite manners. We are sometimes afraid to let ourselves shine, especially on a first date. But if you don’t let yourself shine on a first date you may not get to a second date. Also, remember to use your lips and smile. First-date jitters usually affect the face and make it quite obvious what you are feeling. A smile will lift both you and your date, shifting the experience from a chore to a joy.

Etrog represents heart

Ever had a broken heart? Most of us have. Have you healed from it? My father taught me to inspect what I expect. You’re expecting a life with your soul mate. First, let’s make sure you have room inside to allow someone else in. Before planning your next date, take a few minutes this week to see if you’ve healed from your past. Identify where you may still have pain and allow yourself time to heal. There is no prescribed amount of time for healing, as each heart is unique. Listen to your intuition to know when you are ready to move on. When you do move on, remember that words from the heart enter the heart. Although you were hurt in the past, it’s still important to speak from your heart. Your vulnerability and openness will best attract your sou lmate.

Dating Sukkot-style means embracing your vulnerability and trusting that God has your best interest in mind. May you blessed with flexibility and inner strength, may you speak openly from your heart and may you have clarity when you see your soul mate!

Originally published at Aish.com.

 

Divine Providence

It says in the Chumash, “And God called to Moshe, and spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying…”(Leviticus 1:1). The Baal HaTurim understands the small aleph at the end of the word “Vayikra” to symbolize the humility of Moshe.

Another message can be extrapolated from the Torah’s phraseology. It is in the “small” things that we often see G-d. Aleph stands for “One” – G-d, Himself who often exhibits humility in the Torah. Everything is orchestrated by the “Aleph” though we want to brush it off as coincidence. One must treasure when a certain phone call comes in at an auspicious time or an appointment opened up exactly when needed or the train was delayed just long enough to catch it. In these small happenings lies Divine Providence.

Rabbi Binyomin Adler – Repentance Is A State Of Joy

Introduction

This week is referred to as Shabbos Shuva, Shabbos of Repentance. What is the association between Shabbos and repentance? It is said that the word Shabbos is derived from the word shav, return. Thus, on Shabbos, everything returns to its source. Yet, one must wonder, how this idea is connected to repentance?

Prohibition of reciting Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos

The halacha is that we do not recite the prayer of Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos. The Pinei Menachem cites one reason for this prohibition is that on Shabbos we do not supplicate HaShem for mundane matters such as sustenance. The difficulty with this interpretation is that on Shabbos we recite the supplication of bisefer chaim, where we request from HaShem to be inscribed in the Book of Repentance. For this reason the Levush writes that the text of Avinu Malkeinu is based on the middle blessings of Shemone Esrei which are related to mundane matters. Thus, when one of the Ten Days of Repentance occurs on Shabbos and we only recite seven blessings, we do not recite Avinu Malkeinu. The Pinei Menachem finds a difficulty with this interpretation as the halacha is that we do not recite Avinu Malkeinu in the Friday Mincha Shemone Esrei, and in that Shemone Esrei we recite even the blessings that pertain to mundane matters. The Pinei Menachem suggests an esoteric answer which is beyond the scope of this essay.

Crying on Shabbos for the purpose of Teshuva

Perhaps we can suggest an answer to this question based on an incident regarding the Chiddushei HaRim. A person was once crying on Shabbos and the Chiddushei HaRrim remarked that it is permitted for one to cry on Shabbos for the purpose of repentance. The Chiddushei HaRim cited as proof to this halacha that we find that removing the covering of the heart is referred to as milah, circumcision, and the mitzvah of milah, circumcising a male child on the eighth day overrides the prohibitions of Shabbos. Thus, removing the covering of the heart, i.e. repentance, is also permitted on Shabbos.

The distinction between crying and reciting Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos

The permit to cry on Shabbos would seem to be in direct contradiction to the Halacha that we do not recite Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos. Yet, upon further examination, we can see a distinction between the two halachos. One is normally forbidden to cry on Shabbos because this makes a person despondent, and on Shabbos one is required to be joyous. Thus, when the crying is for the purpose of repentance, it is understood that it is permitted because one who repents from his sins feels elated. The requests of Avinu Malkeinu, however, contain a sense of despondence. Examples of this are the requests to remember those who were martyred for the Name of HaShem and the request that HaShem favor us as we are lacking merits. The Halacha mandates that one should not feel despondent on Shabbos, and for that reason one is prohibited to recite Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos.

The Shabbos connection

Bases on this distinction between the permit to cry on Shabbos for the purpose of Teshuva and the prohibition to recite Avinu Malkeinu, we can better understand why this Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Shuva. On Shabbos one should be joyful when he is cognizant of HaShem’s Kingship. One who cries and is inspired to Teshuva will feel the requisite joy. Shabbos Shuva is essentially synonymous with Shabbos Simcha, a Shabbos of joy. HaShem should allow us to be inspired to true repentance and we, together with the entire Jewish People, should merit a Gmar Chasima Tova, to be sealed in HaShem’s Book of Life.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

וְנַרְחִיב פֶּה וּנְמַלְּאֶנָה. לְשׁוֹנֵנוּ לְךָ רִנָּה, may we open our mouth and fill it, our tongue sing Your joyful song. It is noteworthy that the words לְשׁוֹנֵנוּ הרִנָּה, our tongue [the] joy, equals in gematria the word שבת, as Shabbos is an ideal time to praise HaShem with song.

Shabbos Stories

There’s more to Yom Kippur than earning a livelihood

Rabbi Yissachar Frand writes: The Shemen HaTov tells of the following incident, which involved the grandfather of the present Belzer Rebbe. It was Yom Kippur in Belz. They had finished the Mincha prayer early, and the Chassidim went to take a rest or a walk before they began the Neilah prayer, the final prayer of Yom Kippur. Everyone left the Beis HaMedrash [Study Hall]. Like many others, one of the honorable and wealthy Chassidim left his Shtreimel [fur hat worn by Chassidim] at his seat. When he returned before Neilah, the Shtreimel was missing. Someone stole a Shtreimel from the Beis HaMedrash in Belz on Yom Kippur!

There was a great commotion. Who could do such a thing?! The Rebbe (unaware of what had happened) went to begin Neilah as scheduled. After Yom Kippur the Rebbe called over the Chassidim and asked them, “What was the big commotion before Neilah?” They told him, “Someone stole a Shtreimel.” The Rebbe told them to all to go and break their fast. Later, the Rebbe asked to see a certain chassid.

The chassid came to the Rebbe and the Rebbe told him, “You stole the Shtreimel.” The fellow denied it. The Rebbe persisted in the charge until finally the chassid broke down and confessed.

The next day in Belz, “For the Jews there was Light” [Esther 8:16]. Everyone proclaimed a miracle: “the Rebbe has Ruach HaKodesh [Divine Spirit].” However, the Rebbe explained that “It was not Ruach HaKodesh. The way that I knew who stole the Shtreimel was as follows. Before Yom Kippur, all of my Chassidim gave me a kvittel (a small written note with their prayer requests). Everyone had needs. This one asked to see nachas from his children, this one asked to marry off a daughter, all sorts of requests. One Chassid, however, asked only for Parnassah (livelihood). A Jew who can only think of Parnassah before Yom Kippur is the type of person who would steal a Shtreimel on Yom Kippur.” That is how the Rebbe knew.

If this is what Judaism is all about, I wish to be a part of it

Rabbi Frand tells a story that he heard from a Rabbi in Dallas, Texas.

One day a man walked into the office of his orthodox shul in Dallas. The man was obviously not an observant Jew. In fact, the Rabbi never saw him in the synagogue before.

“Rabbi,” he said, “I’d like to make a contribution.” He proceeded to hand over a check for ten thousand dollars.

The rabbi was flabbergasted. He did not know this man, nor had the man ever seen the Rabbi. Yet, he just handed over a tremendous gift to the synagogue. “Please,” said the rabbi. “There must be a reason. After all, you are giving this donation to a rabbi whom you do not know and to a shul in which you do not participate. Please tell me the reason.”

The man answered very simply. “Not long ago I was in Israel. I went to the Wall. There I saw a man. He was obviously a very observant Jew. He was praying with such fervor, with unparalleled enthusiasm and feeling. I just stood there and listened. I heard his pleas and supplications, I saw him sway with all his might, I saw his outpouring of faith, love, and devotion all harmoniously blending as an offering to G-d. From the day I saw that man pray, I could not get him out of my mind. If this is Judaism, I want to be part of it. I want to help perpetuate it.” (www.Torah.org)

These are G-d’s children, let them rejoice

A story is told about Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. It was Kol Nidrei night and the people of Berditchev had gathered together to daven. Behind them was a year of hunger, privation, and torture. The Maggid of the city was invited to preach. This Maggid, as was the custom in those days, lashed out at the congregants, yelling at them for their sins and telling them the terrible punishments that they were going to be given.

As you can imagine, the people started crying and wailing. At that moment, R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev ascended the pulpit in anger, pushed aside the Maggid, called for silence, and shouted: “Stop your scolding. These are God’s holy children. This is a time for rejoicing.” He then ordered the Torahs to be taken from the Ark and he and his Hasidim danced with joy.

Shabbos and Yom Kippur even more so

Rebbe Shalom of Belz used to say the following on the eve of Yom Kippur: The Talmud says, (Shabbos 34a) “Three things a person must ask in his house the eve before Shabbos as it begins to get dark. 1. Asartem, did you take tithes? 2. Aravtem, did you make an Eruv? 3. hidlaktem as haNeros, did you light the Shabbos lights? If it is true that we should do this on the eve of Shabbos, then even more so on the eve of the Shabbos of Shabbasos [a reference to Yom Kippur] that we should say these three things.

Therefore, continued the Belzer Rebbe, ‘asartem?’ in a short amount of time the 10, eser, days of repentance will have passed. Aravtem? also the eve, erev, of Yom Kippur is ending. Hidlaktem, did you light the Shabbos lights? The lights of Yom Kippur are already lit, and still we have not returned, done teshuvah before HaShem.

The Rebbe used to add before Kol Nidrei in the big shul in Belz in a loud voice. ‘Oy, we have erred, we have wronged, and we have sinned.’ When the people heard this, they were all struck with fear and they started to become inspired to teshuvah. (Sefer Yerach HaAysanim, teachings of the Rebbes of Belz page 61)

Mother and Child

One Yom Kippur eve, when Chassidic master Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel of Kriminitz was granting the traditional blessing to his children, he noticed that one of his daughters, overcome by the emotion of the moment, was weeping softly. The young child in her arms was also crying.

“Why are you crying, my child,” asked the Rebbe of the tot.

“My mother is crying,” answered the child, “so I am also crying.”

In the synagogue that evening, the Rebbe ascended the podium and related what his young grandchild had said to him. Bursting into tears, he then said:

“A child who sees his mother weeping, weeps as well, even if he cannot comprehend the reason for her tears. Our mother, too, is weeping. Our sages tell us that the Shechinah ‘keens like a dove and cries: “Woe is to My children, that because of their sins I have destroyed My home, set fire to My sanctuary, and have exiled them among the nations.”’ “So even if we ourselves have become inured to the pain of the exile,” wept Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel, “at least we should cry because our mother is crying.”

Prayer by Example

In a small village in the backwoods of Eastern Europe, many hours’ journey from the nearest Jewish community, lived a Jewish family. Once a year, for the holy day of Yom Kippur, they would make the long trip to town in order to pray together with their fellow Jews.

One year, the villager woke bright and early on the day before Yom Kippur and readied himself for the journey. His sons, however, not quite as industrious as he, had slept in. Impatient to get on his way, he said to his family: “Listen, I’m going to set out on foot while you get yourselves together. I’ll wait for you at the large oak at the crossroads.”

Walking swiftly, the villager soon reached the tree and lay down in its shade to wait for the family wagon. Exhausted from several days of backbreaking labor, he fell asleep. Meanwhile, his family loaded up the wagon and set out. But in the excitement of the journey, they forgot all about their old father and drove right by the sleeping figure at the crossroads.

When the villager woke, evening had already fallen. Many miles away, the Kol Nidrei prayers were getting underway in the town’s synagogue. Lifting his eyes to the heavens, the old man cried:

“Master of the Universe! My children have forgotten me. But they are my children, so I forgive them. You, too, should do the same for those of Your children who have abandoned You….”

“He’s Already There”

Those who arrived early at the village synagogue on Yom Kippur eve could not but notice the man sleeping in a corner. His soiled clothes, and the strong scent of alcohol that hovered about him, attested to the cause of his slumber at this early hour. A Jew drunk on the eve of the Holy Day? Several of the congregants even suggested that the man be expelled from the synagogue.

Soon the room filled to overflowing, mercifully concealing the sleeping drunk from all but those who stood in his immediate vicinity. As the sun made to dip below the horizon, a hush descended upon the crowd: the Rebbe entered the room and made his way to his place at the eastern wall. At a signal from the Rebbe, the ark was opened, and the gabbai began taking out the Torah scrolls in preparation for the Kol Nidrei service.

This was the moment that the drunk chose to rise from his slumber, climb the steps to the raised reading platform in the center of the room, pound on the reading table, and announce: “Ne’um attah horeissa!” The scene—the crowded room, Torah scrolls being carried out of the open ark—seen through a drunken haze, appeared to the man as the beginning of hakkafos on Simchas Torah! The drunk was confusing the most solemn and awesome moment of the year with its most joyous and high-spirited occasion.

The scandalized crowd was about to eject the man from the room when the Rebbe turned from the wall and said: “Let him be. For him, it’s already time for hakkafot. He’s there already.”

********************************

On the following evening, as the Rebbe sat with his chassidim at the festive meal that follows the fast, he related to them the story of Reb Shmuel, the Kol Nidrei drunk.

On the morning of the eve of the Holy Day, Reb Shmuel had heard of a Jew who, together with his wife and six small children, had been imprisoned for failing to pay the rent on the establishment he held on lease from the local nobleman. Reb Shmuel went to the nobleman to plead for their release, but the nobleman was adamant in his refusal. “Until I see every penny that is owed to me,” he swore, “the Jew and his family stay where they are. Now get out of here before I unleash my dogs on you.”

“I cannot allow a Jewish family to languish in a dungeon on Yom Kippur,” resolved Reb Shmuel and set out to raise the required sum, determined to achieve their release before sunset.

All day, he went from door to door. People gave generously to a fellow Jew in need, but by late afternoon Reb Shmuel was still 300 rubles short of the required sum. Where would he find such a large sum of money at this late hour? Then he passed a tavern and saw a group of well-dressed young men sitting and drinking. A card-game was underway, and a sizable pile of banknotes and gold and silver coins had already accumulated on the table.

At first he hesitated to approach them at all: what could one expect from Jews who spend the eve of the Holy Day drinking and gambling in a tavern? But realizing that they were his only hope, he approached their table and told them of the plight of the imprisoned family.

They were about to send him off empty-handed, when one of them had a jolly idea: wouldn’t it be great fun to get a pious Jew drunk on Yom Kippur? Signaling to a waiter, the man ordered a large glass of vodka. “Drink this down in one gulp,” he said to the Reb Shmuel, “and I’ll give you 100 rubles.”

Reb Shmuel looked from the glass that had been set before him to the sheaf of banknotes that the man held under his nose. Other than a sip of l’chayim on Shabbos and at weddings, Reb Shmuel drank only twice a year—on Purim and Simchas Torah, when every chassid fuels the holy joy of these days with generous helpings of inebriating drink so that the body should rejoice along with the soul. And the amount of vodka in this glass—actually, it more resembled a pitcher than a glass—was more than he would consume on both those occasions combined. Reb Shmuel lifted the glass and drank down its contents.

“Bravo!” cried the man, and handed him the 100 rubles. “But this is not enough,” said Reb Shmuel, his head already reeling from the strong drink. “I need another 200 rubles to get the poor family out of prison!”

“A deal’s a deal!” cried the merrymakers. “One hundred rubles per glass! Waiter! Please refill this glass for our drinking buddy!”

Two liters and two hundred rubles later, Reb Shmuel staggered out of the tavern. His alcohol-fogged mind was oblivious to all—the stares of his fellow villagers rushing about in their final preparations for the Holy Day, the ferocious barking of the nobleman’s dogs, the joyous tears and profusions of gratitude of the ransomed family—except to the task of handing over the money to the nobleman and finding his way to the synagogue. For he knew that if he first went home for something to eat before the fast, he would never make it to shul for Kol Nidrei.

“On Rosh HaShanah,” the Rebbe concluded his story, “we submitted to the sovereignty of Heaven and proclaimed G-d king of the universe. Today, we fasted, prayed and repented, laboring to translate our commitment to G-d into a refined past and an improved future. Now we are heading towards Sukkos, in which we actualize and rejoice over the attainments of the ‘Days of Awe’ through the special mitzvos of the festival—a joy that reaches its climax in the hakkafos of Simchas Torah. But Reb Shmuel is already there. When he announced the beginning of hakkafos at Kol Nidrei last night, this was no ‘mistake.’ For us, Yom Kippur was just beginning; for him, it was already Simchas Torah….”

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

 Two melachos that pertain to washing dishes and cleaning spills on Shabbos are סחיטה; wringing, and כיבוס: laundering. Previously we discussed sechita as it applies to extracting juice from fruits. Here we will discuss the halachos of wringing liquid from an absorbent fabric. We will also briefly discuss the laws of laundering as applied to common situations.

  1. Wringing Liquid from a Fabric

 Saturating a Fabric

 The Sages forbade saturating any fabric that one might be inclined to wring out, i.e. a sponge, a mop or a garment. This decree does not apply to rags and similar articles, i.e. paper towels, which people generally do not wring out.

Additionally, the Decree only applies to truly absorbent materials that are subject to the Torah Prohibition of sechitah. Materials that merely trap water, though subject to sechitahby Rabbinic Decree, were not included in the decree against saturating.

Summary

 It is forbidden to wring out any absorbent material, whether to save the liquid, to cleanse the fabric, or for no specific purpose. The prohibition applies to natural, truly absorbent materials and to materials that tarp water between their fibers.

Additionally, one is prohibited from saturating and truly absorbent fabric that one may be inclined to wring out.

Moshe Stempel – Being Eliyahu

The book of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) is a love story between G-d and the Jewish people. It uses the metaphor of a man’s love for his wife to describe G-d’s love for the Jewish people. This analogy is significant, since it explains why G-d continues to love the Jewish people even when they sin against Him. The underlying love between a man and his wife restores harmony to the union even when they have a dispute. Similarly, G-d’s deep-rooted love for the Jewish people maintains His relationship with them even when they rebel against Him.

Our Sages teach us that for several millennium, there has been a fundamental disagreement between G-d and the Jewish people regarding the process of teshuvah (repentance). The Jewish people proclaim, “Return us to You Hashem, and then we will return to You.” In other words, we tell G-d to take the first step. G-d responds to the Jewish people, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” The Jewish people have to initiate the process of repentance.

The Gemara in Mesechta Berachos elaborates on the perspective of the Jewish people. It explains that the Jewish people really want to do G-d’s Will. However, the evil inclination and the subjugation of the gentile nations of the world prevent them from doing so. Therefore, unless G-d brings the Moshiach, they will be unable to repent.

The prophet Michah foretold that G-d will send Elijah the Prophet to us before the great and awesome day of the Moshiach arrives. On that day, children will bring their wayward parents close to G-d, and parents will do the same for their wayward children.

This prophecy can be better understood in the context of the following story: A rebbe once instructed his chassid (follower) to find Elijah the Prophet in a certain dilapidated hut. The chassid followed his rebbe’s instructions and found a poor widow living there with seven children. It was Shabbos eve at the time, and the chassid asked the widow whether he could spend Shabbos there. The widow invited him, but she disclosed to him that she couldn’t afford to feed him. The chassid realized that the family had nothing to eat, so he took the initiative to buy groceries for them. For the first time in their lives, the family enjoyed a proper Shabbos meal. The spiritual atmosphere in the home that Shabbos made a profound impression on everyone who was there.

After Shabbos was over, the chassid returned to the rebbe and reported to him that he did not find Elijah in the house that he visited. The rebbe just smiled and sent him back to the same house on the following week. As the chassid approached the house, he heard the children complaining to their mother that they couldn’t bear another Shabbos with nothing to eat. The mother replied to them that they have to pray for Elijah the Prophet to visit them again. Only then would their situation improve. At that moment the chassid realized that the rebbe was right all along. The rebbe was trying to tell him that he himself had the capacity to become like Elijah the Prophet.

In a similar vein, we all have to become like Elijah the Prophet. It is not sufficient to merely wait for the Moshiach to arrive. We have to actively bring it closer. We have to take the initiative to bring others and ourselves closer to G-d.

R’ Yisroel Salanter once declared that in his youth he believed that he could change the whole world. As he got older, he realized that changing the world was too difficult for him to accomplish. Therefore, he focused his attention on changing his own country. However, that too proved to be beyond his capabilities. Instead he decided that he would change his own city. Once again, he failed to achieve his goal. Still later he attempted to change his own family, which also met without success. Finally, he realized that the only person that he had the power to change was himself. He worked on correcting his own character deficiencies, and when he did so he realized that the whole world changed along with him.

The purpose of this story is to demonstrate that teshuvah (repentance) is not about trying to change others. Rather, it is about changing ourselves through self-introspection. When we change ourselves, the whole world changes with us.