The high holidays had a different meaning at different stages of my life. As a child, the high holidays was fun and greatly anticipated, because many more children would come to shul since their parents felt it was an important time of year. The best way to explain it, for example, is to envision yourself in a crowded movie theater or packed stadium, watching a great film or an important ball game. The buzz of excitement was apparent. The best chazanim would come from Israel. As a young adult, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur began to differ a bit. On Rosh Hashanah, it was fun; we all had a chance to show off our dapper don new suits which we bought in honor of the holiday, from the fancy shmancy boutiques on Austin St in Forest hills. However, the anxiety of fasting on Yom Kippur was a bit more of a hardship. As we got older, we started to realize the seriousness of and the potential impact of Yom Kippur. There’s an elderly tall gentleman in the Sephardic shul in Forest Hills, Mr. Moradi, who would not speak and would cry throughout the entire Yom Kippur services; he got us all in a repentant mood. However, Rosh Hashanah, with the fancy suits and delicious special foods (dushperreh-mantu – meat dumplings) was more majestic and a special time.
If one realizes, though, there is not one reference to slicha – please forgive me – on Rosh Hashanah; there’s not one banging on the heart; no tears are shed. If there is no reference to forgiveness, then what’s Rosh Hashanah all about? What’s the purpose?
The answer lies in what we read every Sunday morning ME ZE MELECH HAKAVOD – who is the King who gets the honor – G-d. This is one of the themes of Rosh Hashanah. The King is enwrapped in royalty; He gets the kavod. We pronounce through the Rosh Hashanah prayers, MELECH – King – because Rosh Hashanah is designed to be royalty. However, if a king has no followers, his kingship is weakened. His people are the ones that raise the volume and strengthen his kingship. If that’s not accomplished, then the people are not needed. In essence, the people have the illustrious responsibility to honor G-d all year round and especially on Rosh Hashanah. Fine new clothes have to be worn; delicacies have to be eaten; one has to feel good about himself; one has to feel like royalty. But he has to have the intention that the clothing, the food, the feeling, is not for your KAVOD – honor – but for G-d’s. Everything is dedicated to G-d. The same concept applies for Shabbat, if one eats well on Shabbat. For the sake of Shabbat, he’ll have a bracha the up and coming week; if he buys food with the intention of it being for Shabbat, then there would be a bracha attached to it.
There is a true story which happened in Israel. It definitely has an Israeli flavor to it. One religious Jew wanted to sell his car to another religious Jew. “There’s one stipulation,” the seller demanded “it should not be driven on Shabbat.” “This car follows Shabbat laws and has never been driven on Shabbat.” The buyer was taken aback, “How can he say that to me? I’m an observant Jew 100%.” Regardless of the comments, he agreed, and the sale was completed. A number of years later, the buyer decides to sell this very car and found someone who is interested. However as he’s about to finish the transaction, he’s reminded of the first seller’s words, about not driving it on Shabbat. The new buyer had a ponytail and an earring. The seller said, “Oh I don’t know how to say this, but this car should not be driven on Shabbat. It’s an observant car and it never violated the holy Sabbath. You have to promise me you’ll never drive it on Shabbat.” After realizing the seller was not joking, the buyer had a puzzled look on his face and thought he was a little crazy. “Yea, yea, sure, sure, whatever you say, I won’t drive it on Shabbat.” So he’s driving the car and everything is fine. When Friday night arrives, the car doesn’t start. After an hour or so he gives up and decides to call a tow truck on Sunday. Sunday morning arrives and lo and behold, the car starts. He has it checked out by the mechanic every way, but nothing was found. The next Friday night however, the car doesn’t start again.
A few years have passed and the last seller of the car was stopped one day on the street by a Chassidic looking man. “Hey, you don’t recognize me, do you? I’m the guy with the pony tail who you sold the shomer Shabbat car to.” “This is a pleasant but drastic change; what happened?” said the seller. The buyer replied, “I said if you people are so careful about cars, about Shabbat, about G-d, it must be something to explore, and I did.
People designate special suits for Shabbat. They save items for KAVOD – G-d – because honoring G-d is the biggest attachment one can achieve. We say during the ten days of repentance which includes Rosh Hashanah, LE MA A NACH – for Your sake, for Your kavod. This is the biggest repentance one can make – honoring the King.
Archive for July 2013
* A very interesting observation has been brought up by a good friend, David Isaacoff, who quotes Rabbi Dovid Cohen on the topic of Aikev – heel. In terms of the generations, society, we are on the heel, the last stop, before the Mashiach arrives. It’s called Pirud at ikvessi hamashiach – which is intended to prevent the final Jewish souls from being born. This is the reason, in today’s times, there’s a tremendous difficulty to get married and for that matter, stay married. It’s astonishing that we have a large community of singles and a high rate of divorce.Second Portion
* We continue with a topic which we began at the end of the first portion. It says that after one eats and gets satisfied, he should bless G-d right away. Human nature is such that after being satisfied, he tends to feel more confident in himself; that it was his own expertise that led to his success without divine intervention. That’s what a good pastrami sandwich can do to a person. Man tends to rebel against G-d only when he is satisfied and prosperous. If we bless G-d soon after we eat, it would infiltrate the psyche and instill a sense of awareness of G-d’s significance. According to Jewish law, one is not allowed to eat before praying because of this reason. When a person is a little hungry, he is more humbled; this is the ideal frame of mind one should have when praying.Third Portion
* Moshe tells the Israelites, “Don’t think it’s because of your merit that you inherited the land, but rather the promise G-d made to your ancestors Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov. We learn from here the significance of our ancestors. When we pray, we can ask G-d to grant us our request through their merits. It’s a powerful tool to use in order to get our requests granted. One should think of the incidences in which our forefathers persevered, and with that find favor in the eyes of G-d and mention to Him proudly that these are my ancestors. It wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few of your recently deceased relatives who were righteous and what they have done. Using our ancestors is a powerful method of prayer.
* The Jews were instructed to create a temporary temple that is portable. Symbolically, that’s life; we’re here on a temporary basis. In fact, that’s one of the lessons of Succot. We build our huts which lasts us for eight days. In some sense, that’s how we should feel about life, our property, and our physical body. We’re not here that long, therefore we should make the best of this existence.
* The basic components of believing in G-d is love and fear. Each one, love and fear, has different levels. One of the basic questions one can ask, how one can love or fear G-d? Well, this is discussed among the commentaries throughout the Torah.
* Vehaya im shamoah, “and it will come to pass” is the second paragraph of the Shema, the most famous of our prayers. It is connected to the first paragraph of Ve-ahavta because they both have the commandment of “reading it in the morning and night”. Unlike the first paragraph of Shema, ve-ahavta, though, specifies the duty to perform my commandments and teaches when the nation is righteous it will be rewarded with success and prosperity. When they sin, however, they must expect poverty and exile. Another connection between the two paragraphs is that it both talks about the acceptance of G-d’s sovereignty.
* The Parsha concludes with a warning to be careful to keep the commandments. It also repeats that the Israelites should expel all the nations from their midst. The current inhabitants will not make good neighbors.
Sampson was a Jew – therefore not a fool. The Jews have the best average brain of any people in the world. The Jews are the only race who work wholly with their brains and never with their hands. There are no Jewish beggars, no Jewish tramps, no Jewish ditch diggers, hod-carriers, day laborers or followers of toilsome, mechanical trades. They are peculiarly and conspicuously the world’s intellectual aristocracy
|“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”|
Food has magical powers! One would be surprised what a plate of spaghetti or a plate of Osh-palov can do. Food could change a person’s attitude 180 degrees from pussycat to tiger within minutes. My mother mentions that when my father z’l would come home from work a bit agitated, she would quickly feed him dinner, and then and only then engage in conversation. ‘That’s how you tame the lion”, she says. It just so happens, my father z’l would say ‘always eat something light before coming home to your wife for dinner; it can avoid many unpleasant confrontations.’
This prayer has four paragraphs. The first, composed by Moshe, concerns the fact that G-d provides food for the whole world. The Jewish people wandering in the desert recited it after eating the mann which fell from heaven. The Israelites showed great appreciation reciting “Hazan”. G-d blessed them where there was no poor; everybody received food. There was no worry for Jews to scrounge around for nourishment.
The third paragraph, composed by David and Shlomo, concerns the sacred city of Jerusalem. It also speaks of the Davidic line of kings and of the Temple. This paragraph ends with a plea to G-d to rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem with the coming of the Messiah.
The final paragraph of Grace after Meals was composed by the Sages some 1,870 years ago. It is a general expression of gratitude to G-d: He is “the King who is good and who does good to all.”
In fact, this last paragraph was written after the terrible tragedy of the Jewish revolt which got crushed by the Romans in 135 CE. Huge numbers of Jews were massacred. The praise to G-d could be seen as gratitude that we survived to bring living Judaism to the next generation.
It seems that the fourth blessing, which is a Rabbinical enactment, is out of sequence with the first three.
Only through Hollywood does this fantasy play out.
Ever wonder why, the highest Hollywood grossing box-office film series, the spaghetti western, starring Clint Eastwood, the hero, who kills out all of the most sinister evil bad guys, is never given a name. Its either Blondie (the character has blonde hair) or “who are you”. Hollywood want us to fill in the blanks. Because they know we would like to put our name there.
In the early part of the twentieth century, when going to the theater to see a silent film was a curious new fad, a Rabbi was asked what he thought of his experimental journey to the theater. He said it’s a lot like life. When the theater gets darker, the curtain comes up and the film starts and when the film ends the lights go back on. Life is the same; when life gets dark and depressing than one begins to fantasize. When the imagination ends, though, the lights go back on and man has a grip on life and reality again.
It seemed like the Jews had a savior; Bar Kochva. To be more accurate, his name was Shimon (or Simon) bar Kosiba.
What we do know about him is that he was a person of tremendous physical strength. He was able to uproot a tree while riding a horse. He was able to hold back a Roman catapult. His feats of personal valor were legendary, which all attributed to the superhuman aura about him.
The Talmud says that anyone who wanted to join his army had to be willing to cut off their little finger. However, the rabbis objected to such an act of self-mutilation, and therefore he resorted to the test of “simply” uprooting trees. In the writings of Dio Cassius it says that he had an army of 200,000, each soldier was strong enough to uproot a tree. By any measure, it was a large and fearsome Jewish army.
Bar Kochva was a very charismatic, intelligent person, as well as a religiously observant and pious Jew. He had great and sincere faith. This, in combination with his charismatic personality produced a natural leader that captured the heart and soul of the Jewish people.
He said that the only way that the Jews would get anything from the Romans would be to take it by force. He, therefore, organized this very large army and began the rebellion against Rome, which lasted almost six years. During four of those years there was an independent Jewish state.
Bar Kochba followed the same strategy that the Jews had followed in the first rebellion against Rome. He first re-conquered the Galilee to cut the Romans off from the sea. Then he surrounded Jerusalem and forced them out.
He had active support from most of the rabbis – in contradiction to the first two revolts against Rome. In those instances the rabbis were at best neutral. In this war, Akiva ben Joseph, the most influential rabbi lent his name to the cause.
It was Rabi (Rabbi) Akiva who ascribed to Shimon bar Kochba the famous messianic verse: “A star will shoot forth from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). That is how he got the name “Kochba,” which means “star.” In essence, Rabi Akiva crowned him the Messiah. Rabi Akiva was so widely respected among the people that if he saw in Shimon messianic qualities then the people immediately elevated him to the level of the Messiah. This helps us understand very well why the Christians would take no part in the war; it would have made one messiah too many.
Shimon bar Kochba’s reputation became so great that, according to the records of the times, many non-Jews came to fight in his army. They saw it as a real chance to bring down the Roman Empire. Many people were not very happy with the Romans and their ways.
All told, Bar Kochba eventually mustered an army of almost 350,000. In the ancient world that was an enormous army, greater in number than the entire Roman army.
The Romans were so hard pressed that Hadrian brought his best general and all of his troops from England, Gaul, Germany and all of the provinces scattered throughout the Roman world. The reason was simple: Rome felt itself threatened as no other time. It was total war.
Many details of the war are unclear to us. We know that at one point Bar Kochba took back Jerusalem and proclaimed that he was going to rebuild the Temple, which was one of the steps the Messiah was supposed to do according to prophecy and tradition. However, due to Roman pressure and internal dissention he apparently never got to actually rebuilding it. By the third year of his reign there were already signs of disenchantment.
This happened while he commanded a very large force at the city Beitar, which was the key to Jerusalem. Today there are a number of archaeological sites that could be Beitar, which was the location of the last great battle of this war, but the exact site is not known conclusively.
In either event, the Jews were so well-fortified and supplied they could have held out at Beitar indefinitely. Had they done so, the Romans, who were constantly harassed by guerilla warfare and marauding Jewish soldiers, would have retreated.
Beitar fell to the Romans on Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, in 135 CE, adding it to the calamitous national tragedies of the Jewish people. Bar Kochba was eventually killed in battle. According to Dio Cassius and Jewish sources, at least a half a million Jews were killed. It was a tremendous blood bath…..And they didn’t allow us to bury our dead.
| By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel
Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:
Back to school? Now you’ll surely be able to answer all the questions. You’re already in the thinking mode!
This week’s parsha, Parshat Ki Tavo, speaks about one who will own a field in the land of Israel. When his fruit will be ripe, he will bring some of his fruit to the Kohen (priest) in the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple) to give thanks to Hashem for providing him with such delicious produce.
We must thank Hashem for all that he does for us. We say blessings before we eat, so that we can properly show gratitude to Hashem for giving us sustenance. We pray each day and thank Hashem for all he has done and continues to do.
We learn from here that we must show Hakorat Hatov, gratitude, to one that does us a favor. We see examples where one even thanks inanimate objects.
Moshe Rabbeinu was careful to thank the water for saving his life. When Moshe Rabbeinu was a baby, his mother put him in a basket in the river since Pharaoh commanded that all Jewish baby boys be killed. Moshe Rabbeinu had Hakorat Hatov to the water for this and did not hit the water when performing the first three Makot, plagues, on the Egyptians. He had his brother Aharon perform them, since it warranted hitting the water.
Reb Moshe Feinstein was known to thank everyone that did even the slightest favor for him. Even when he was the passenger in a car, he made sure to lean over and call out to the man at the toll booth to thank him for his service.
Reb Eliyahu Lopian was meticulous in this virtue. He stated that one must have Hakorat Hatov and thank someone even if you paid for their service. Such as: a grocer, bus driver, shoemaker etc. Even if you paid him money you must make sure to thank him properly.
Reb Eliyahu Lopian was seen cleaning the bench in his Yeshiva. Many disciples ran over and offered to clean it for him. “No thank you. I want to clean this bench myself, since I owe the bench Hakorat Hatov. Each morning this bench helps me fold my Talit. It makes sure that my Talit does not drag on the floor while I am folding it.”
Two nations, Amon and Moav, are not allowed to convert to Judaism. Avraham Avinu saved the life of their grandfather, Lot and they did not show Hakorat Hatov. When the Jews were traveling through the desert on their way to Israel, Amon and Moav did not allow them to pass through their land. They should have given the Jews bread and water but instead they came out to fight against them. One that does not have the midah of Hakorat Hatov cannot be part of the Jewish nation.
Sometimes we don’t notice the good that we have until we are missing it. When one breaks his leg, it is only then that he realizes the greatness of being able to walk each day with ease.
Reb Avigdor Miller waited under water for an extra few seconds so that he can be grateful for every breath. We take these things for granted.
Miss Braun, a 6th grade teacher came in one day. “Girls today we will begin a special contest. I will hand out notebooks to each girl and I want you to write at least one thing each day that you are thankful for.”
Sara immediately started jotting down a list of four things that she was thankful for. Linda on the other hand was stumped. “What are you writing? I can’t think of a thing.” “There’s tons! I am thankful for having great friends. I am thankful for being able to see. I am thankful for walking and of course for the best teacher, Miss Braun. I could go on and on, but I’ll save some for other days.”
Now even Linda got the hang of it. The girls jotted down a few examples every day for months and slowly filled up their notebooks. The girls were surprised that up on till then they had not realized how much they had to appreciate.
At the end of the school year each girl had a treasured book, filled with Hakorat Hatov.
In the middle of 7th grade Linda came down with a dreadful disease that left her hospitalized. All those that came to visit her were surprised with her upbeat attitude. “I’ll let you in on a secret. Last year Miss Braun taught us to have Hakorat Hatov. She requested that we write down things that we are thankful for. Each morning, here in the hospital, I read through my notebook and see how many things I still have to be grateful for. It gives me strength and a good mind-set to conquer the day.”
Thank G-d, Linda overcame her illness and is married with a family today. She makes sure to cherish this notebook and is certain to publicize what she calls a miracle. “This is what kept me going!”
What have we learned today?
What is Hakorat Hatov?
A Jew must always be thankful to Hashem. He must be sure to thank anyone that does an act of kindness even if he paid him for his service.
What are some examples that we can thank Hashem for?
We can say thanks to Hashem throughout the day even when we are not praying. We can thank Hashem for giving us good friends. We must be grateful for our functional limbs, our feet that walk, our hands that move and write. We can thank Hashem that we can speak and hear and for the brain that allows us to think. We should be thankful for our wonderful parents who provide us with what we need.
Boys and girls, who can come up with a notebook-full of Hakorat Hatov? Try it. I’m sure you’ll fill it up in no time.
I’d like to take this opportunity to show my Hakorat Hatov to Rabbi Matmon for allowing me to share some thoughts and ideas with all my fantastic readers. I would also like to show gratitude to all my readers who have sent in words of encouragement and suggestions. I am looking forward to hearing more comments and suggestions.
| In this week’s Parsha, G-d commanded that the Israelites inscribe the Torah on twelve gigantic stones. Some say it was written in seventy languages; some say only the commandments were written. What’s the purpose of this commandment which was placed in Gilgal, at the entrance to Eretz Yisrael?
One answer is the stones signified that one was about to enter the land of Torah. Just as a Jewish home is distinguished by the mezuzah at the doorpost; so a huge monument at the border of Eretz Yisrael reminds the traveler that the purpose living there is to keep the Torah.
We have 613 commandments in the Torah, do’s and don’ts. There are only two mitzvot where one gets severely punished if one does not do a “do it”….and that is brit milah and korban Pesach (sacrifice). Seemingly, these two commandments are very important and it’s the first two commandments we had. The brit – Avraham was commanded to do on himself and his children. The korban Pesach was mitzvah number two. G-d said whoever did not perform circumcision cannot participate in the korban Pesach. Therefore, that night, many Jews, who were lax in this area, circumcised themselves. Then they were instructed to put the blood of the brit milah and korban Pesach on the doorpost which protected them from death of the first born. G-d skipped over the doorposts with the blood.
G-d said, because you did these two mitzvot you will be redeemed.
The RAMBAM writes, by walking in and out of our houses we kiss the mezuzah to remind us of the fundamental principles of our religion. We are reminded of going out of Egypt. The brit mila is also a declaration acknowledging G-d and the korban Pesach – a declaration to do the commandments. These declarations which consists of the Shema and VEHAYA IM SHAMOAH is found in the parchment in the Mezuzah.
After I spoke at an event, I was approached by someone who asked me how he can take away the hurt that was inflicted by a young lady friend of his. After revealing some of the things the young lady did, I said “Well, she’s not a friend anymore.” In actuality, after hearing the story, I don’t think she should have ever been his friend. He tells me he doesn’t know why he desired her so much. That reminded me of what Rabbi Isaak Olbaum said a number of weeks ago on the subject of desire. He said the Torah is very selective in how it uses the various versions of the word “desire.” For example, when a soldier goes to war and sees a beautiful captive enemy “and he desires her”. The word the Torah uses is VE CHASHAKTA BA and he desires her, and you want to take her for a wife. Later after the soldier returns from the emotional state of war to a more familiar and calmer environment, the scripture continues. “And after you took her for a wife and then you don’t desire her…”. Here the Torah uses another word for desire, CHAFAXTA. What’s the difference? CHASHAKTA means desire without logic. There is no real reason why he desires her other than a certain illogical attraction. CHAFAXTA on the other hand is wanting it because…… There is a logical reason for the “desire.” Here, he is making a rational decision.
We find something similar when the Torah tells us of Shechem who raped Yaakov’s daughter, Dina. CHASHAKTA NAFSHO BE BIETCHEM – his soul desired your daughter. Then the scripture writes that he desired her because she was Yaacov’s daughter. Here it uses the word CHAFAXTA. At first, Shechem desired her just for attraction purposes. Apparently the Torah describes this attraction as “an attraction with no legs to stand on.” Meaning, it’s not going to last. However, after finding out who she is, Shechem desired her; he had a reason for his desire. She was Yaakov’s daughter.
There are many occasions in which people are attracted to people; however this attraction has no legs to stand on. At the end, many of us get hurt; sometimes really hurt. Emotions are hard to overcome. If one has a measly fighting chance, it would be trying to use “logic” and to ask themselves “why am I attracted to this person?” Is it CHASHAKTA or CHAFAXTA? However, it’s not always so simple, even when one knows this person is not right for them, they may still have a strong, emotional, illogical desire. It’s scary to admit; it’s scary to think that desire is uncontrollable. We have to make it our business to fight it with logic.
If someone wants to do something very wicked, but for some turn of events, it never came into fruition, will he get punished for the thought? In this week’s Parsha, we recall Lavan, the father in law of our fore-father Yaakov. We all heard some nasty stories about in-laws; however, Lavan is by far the front runner of the biggest nightmare an in-law can possibly be.
The pasuk recants how Lavan tried to kill Yaakov and his family. Rashi, the mainstream commentary on the Torah, oddly seems to write although the plan didn’t materialize, however it’s as if he did do it; that he actually caused harm. The thought translates to action. But wait! Contrary to popular teachings, haven’t we learned because of the mercy of G-d, that good thoughts equal to brownie points even though it doesn’t work out at the end. Consequently, if someone has the intention of sinning and last minute he misses his train and is unable to go through with it, the bad thought doesn’t count. So why is Lavan endeited for a crime that never happened?
We read in the most important prayer in our three daily services, the Amida, “The G-d of Avraham, G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Yaakov.” It’s in their merit that will help us, G-d willing, in putting us in the book of life. However, it’s not just their merit that will get us in. Perhaps, it’s the character traits that we inherited from them. We are from the genealogy of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and a lot of their fine characters in which put them over the top is passed down through the generations to us. So presumably, the bad thoughts which some of us have will not amount to anything because our forefathers would never do those things. A mitzvah which we intended to do but didn’t happen, we will get credit for because its safely assumed that our ancestors would have done it, so therefore, our character will, most likely, perform the good deed; its ingrained in us. Lavan had some cruel blood in him; so its assumed he would sin. In his situation, a bad thought will go against him.
I remember, many years ago when I was in the jewelry business, a business that relies heavily on trust, someone called asking for an expensive stone. We never did business with him before, so I was a bit hesitant. My father z’l said to give it to him. I said to my father “Pop, don’t you want to do a credit check first?” He said to me, “I don’t need to do a credit check, I know his father; he was an honest good man.” He said, “If you want to know a person, you look at his family roots.” Our family roots goes through some fine characters leading to the nucleus, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. This is the reason G-d gives us, the Jews, the benefit of the doubt.
When we pray, we have to emphasize the greatness of our Jewish people, the greatness of our ancestors. We should reiterate in our prayers that we will live up to the standards of our forefathers because we have it in us; it’s in our genes. G-d should give us the benefit of the doubt even more than He usually does and we hope to get written in the book of life. Our nation has to live up to a different standard, a standard of excellence.
By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel
Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:
Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot!! What a busy time of year and it’s exciting too. There’s so much happening around us.
The new year begins with the month of Tishrei. The first day of the new year is called Rosh Hashana. On Rosh Hashana, Hashem judges all the Jews.
On Rosh Hashana we blow the shofar (horn of a ram) and we pray that we have a good year. We are very close to Hashem on this holy day. We refer to Hashem as our father. Just like you ask your father for what you need, so too you can ask Hashem for all your requests. And just like your father knows what’s best for you, so too Hashem knows what is best.
A prince decided to leave the palace and explore the outside world. He came to his father, the king and told him of his plans. The king pleaded with his son to stay, but the prince had his mind set. Before he departed the king gave his son the key to the entrance of the palace and said, “Whenever you feel like returning use this key to reenter the palace. I will be waiting for you.”
The prince went on his way. It took him time to get used to life outside of the royal palace. Things were very different than he was used to. But slowly, with time, the prince blended into the outside world. Many years passed and the prince vaguely remembered his royal upbringing. One night he had a dream that he was back in the palace spending time with his beloved father, the king. He awoke with a strong yearning to return home.
The prince immediately set out. When he arrived at the palace he took out the key that his father had given him upon his departure. He inserted it into the lock but the key would not turn. He tried numerous times but the key had become very rusty over the past few years. The prince burst into tears. His tears fell on the key and washed away the rust. The prince was finally able to enter the palace and reunite with his father whom he missed and loved so much.
All year we may stray from our Father in heaven, but Rosh Hashana we are awakened and we yearn to be reunited with our Father, the king. All our keys have become rusty. But the key of repentance is cleansed with our heartfelt prayers. Our Father, our king, Hashem, is waiting for us to return.
The days between Rosh Hashana, the first day of Tishrei and Yom Kippur, the tenth day of Tishrei, are called “Aseret Yimei Teshuva” – “Ten Days of Repentance”. These days are designated for repentance and it is easier to do Teshuva at this time.
We spend the day of Yom Kippur fasting and praying. This is a form of “Yirah” – fear. However, on Succot we are told to be “B’Simcha” to be happy and rejoice. It’s a mitzvah to be joyous on Succot. There are two ways to serve Hashem – through fear and through happiness. Both are important and there has to be a mixture of both, to fully do Hashem’s will. Everyone knows that we should love Hashem, but in order to do his will we must also be fearful of Him.
On succot we take 4 things, the Etrog, the Lulav, Aravot, and Hadassim and we put them all together. Look at these objects and you will see that the shape of each is similar to that of one’s body. The Etrog looks like the heart, the Lulav is compared to the spine; the Aravot are the lips and the Hadassim are the eyes. When we make a Beracha and shake them it cleanses them all.
Why do we shake the Lulav all six ways – up, down, right, left, front and back? We are chasing away the Yetzer Hara, the bad inclination. We want him to stay far away.
On Simchat Torah, the last day of Succot, we dance and sing with the Torah and our flags. We have completed the whole Torah throughout the year and the first Shabbat after, we begin again with Parshat Bereishit.
What have we learned today?
What are two forms of Avodat Hashem – serving Hashem?
One must serve Hashem and do his will with both, Yirah – fear and Simcha – happiness. When we do a Mitzvah we should do it B’Simcha so that the Mitzvah will be complete. Build your Sukkah with joy, purchase a beautiful Etrog with happiness and these Mitzvot will be worth their fullest. If you help your mother clear off the table but you keep saying “Why do I have to do it? I wish I could go out to play” you lose part of the mitzvah. Do it with a smile!
What are important Mitzvot for us young boys and girls can do during these special holidays?
On Rosh Hashana we go to Shul (synagogue) to hear the Shofar. We must make sure to be extra quiet and not disturb. On Yom Kippur we must be on our best behavior. Our parents are fasting and they need us to help out and allow them to pray. There is a lot of preparation that goes into the Yom Tov of Succot. We can help with the building of the Sukkah or help to decorate and beautify the Sukkah. We can offer to help with the cooking or to take care and entertain the younger siblings. On Succot we shake the Lulav and Etrog each day.
Throughout these days, we collect and fill our “bags” with blessings that we use throughout the year.
May we all have a year of Simcha and good health.