Sukkot, 5758

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Your Sukkot - Simchat Torah Guide
Tishrei 14-23, 5758
October 15-24, 1997


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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12


Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe


We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.


In this issue we focus on the laws of the upcoming festive holidays of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, "Your Sukkot - Simchat Torah Guide,"

Therefore, we present here "Your Sukkot - Simchat Torah Guide,"* and other related material.


The Jewish year that has just begun is the year 5758 since Creation. The Hebrew letters are Hei-Taf-Shin-Nun-Ches. Over a decade ago, in the year 5742, the Rebbe stated that the Hebrew letters for that year were an acronym for "This should be the year of the coming of Moshiach."

Since that time, the Rebbe has publicized a phrase describing the year according to the acronym of its Hebrew letters. This year has been designated by the Rebbe's followers as "Hoyo Tihei Shnas Niflaos Cheiruseinu" meaning "It surely will be a year of wondrous miracles liberating us (from the material and spiritual problems of our exile)."


We take this opportunity to wish you and yours a happy holiday.


It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!

Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind

6 Tishrei, 5758
Brooklyn, New York


*. Published by Prestige Litho.

Based on the Works of the Rebbe


Joy, our Sages tell us, breaks through all boundaries. In times of happiness, we are transformed--to the extent that even a person who is, by nature, miserly and ill-tempered, can suddenly, on a happy occasion such as a wedding day, become generous and kind to all.

Ordinarily, to change a habitual pattern of behavior is a long and arduous task. It is even more difficult to alter an innate trait of personality. Yet joy has the remarkable capacity to affect a basic, instantaneous change in a person's nature. This is because joy can awaken the very essence of the soul.

The Simchah (Joy) of a Mitzvah

Of course, if one's happiness is dependent upon some fleeting circumstance, the changes it brings about will be temporary, at best. The more profound one's joy, the more powerfully and permanently it can affect one's life.

Pure, unconditional simchah--the joy that emerges from deep within the soul--can move mountains. Such is the joy we can experience in doing a mitzvah, if we truly appreciate its significance. For the mitzvahs are more than just the "good deeds" we do--they are expressions of G-d's joyful purpose in creating the world.

Levels of Joy

Throughout the cycle of Tishrei holidays, we have been "climbing" to ever-higher levels of simchah. Sukkot, the "Season of our Rejoicing" is rich with the mitzvahs of the sukkah and the Four Species.

In the time of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (may it be immediately rebuilt!) the Sages of Israel used to dance and sing and play music long into the night, each of the intermediate nights of Sukkot. They would even perform acrobatic feats and juggle with fire--all in celebration of G-d's commandment to rejoice on our Festival. And on Simchat Torah we rise to an even higher and purer joy.

Ultimate Victory

The transforming power of joy extends not just to the individual, but to society at large. Pure simchah can change the world. This, the happiest time of the Jewish year, is an opportunity for us to vanquish all the negativity of the world around us, by rejoicing together.

The pure joy we experience on Sukkot and Simchat Torah will continue to inspire us to serve G-d with joy throughout the year.

May the cumulative effect of our mitzvahs and our simchah bring about the ultimate transformation--when we rejoice together with Moshiach, in the true and complete Redemption.


The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his way!"

The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of goodness and kindness.

Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.


Tuesday, Tishrei 13 (Oct. 14), is the yahrtzeit of the fourth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Shmuel, known as the Rebbe Maharash.

There is a well-known adage that characterized the service of the Rebbe Maharash, "LeChatchila Ariber":

"The world says, 'If you can't crawl under, try to climb over,' but I say, 'At the outset, one should climb over.'"

Since the Rebbe Maharash was a leader of the Jewish people, the Moses of his generation, all the qualities he possessed are relevant to everyone. Thus, the Rebbe Maharash's approach and motto of "LeChatchila Ariber" can and should be actualized by every Jew in his daily conduct.

This most certainly applies to the mission entrusted to each one of us to do everything within one's ability, and even that which transcends one's ability, to bring Moshiach immediately.

Suggestions by the Rebbe as to how this mission can be accomplished include the study of matters concerning Moshiach and the Redemption, additional mitzvah observance, and sharing this information with others.

Especially appropriate at this time is the mitzvah of blessing the lulav and etrog and helping others fulfill this mitzvah and organizing or attending special Sukkot celebrations.

As is befitting this season of rejoicing--the Sukkot and Simchat Torah holidays that are quickly approaching--our fulfillment of this mission should be infused with joy.

And, as the Rebbe explained, "That joy should be enhanced by the knowledge that in the immediate future, Moshiach will come. For the imminence of Moshiach's coming is already an established fact, and one's exuberant celebrations should reflect one's awareness of this."

May we be immediately successful in our "LeChatchila Ariber" approach to bringing Moshiach now.

* * *

Once, the Rebbe Maharash was speaking with one of his chasidim, a simple businessman who was neither a great scholar nor one who meditated at length when praying. The Rebbe said to this chasid, "Elye, I envy you. You travel to various fairs; you meet many people. Sometimes, in the middle of a business transaction, you get into a warm discussion about something Jewish and you awaken the other fellow's interest in studying more about Judaism. This causes joy On High and G-d rewards such 'trade' with the blessings of children, health and sustenance; the larger the fair, the more work there is and the greater is the livelihood earned."

The Rebbe was not spouting platitudes, nor being patronizing. He truly envied this simple Jew who, through injecting Judaism into his business affairs, transcended the mundane.

The Rebbe Maharash's comment was not addressed to a Torah scholar, or a person who was well known for his contemplation during his G-dly service. No, the Rebbe Maharash was speaking with a simple Jew. The lesson of his words, therefore, are even more powerful, for they apply to each and every Jew, from the simplest to the greatest.

We should continually increase our Jewish knowledge, day by day. But, we needn't wait until we are great Torah scholars before we imbue our lives and each activity within our day with a higher purpose. For, we can arouse the envy of even the greatest tzadikim by just happening to get into a warm discussion about Jewish matters even in the middle of a business transaction!

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Although we do many mitzvot on Sukkot besides sitting in the sukkah, the festival is called "Sukkot," after the temporary booths we dwell in during the holiday. Why doesn't the Torah call the festival "Lulav" or "Etrog," or any other of the four species, or choose a name for the holiday after another mitzvah connected to our celebration of Sukkot?

The mitzvah of sukkah has a virtue not shared by any other mitzvah of the holiday. The obligation to sit in the sukkah begins immediately when it gets dark on the very first night of Sukkot, whereas the mitzvah of the Four Species--taking an etrog, lulav, myrtle and willow branches and making a blessing over them--is not done until the following morning.

Another characteristic of the sukkah is that it must be prepared ahead of time. The walls of the sukkah must be built with the specific intent to perform the mitzvah, and the sukkah may not be erected once the holiday itself has begun. In fact, building the sukkah is considered to be part of the mitzvah as well. The Four Species, on the other hand, can be readied on the holiday itself and their procurement is not part of the mitzvah.

Another advantage the mitzvah of sukkah has over the Four Species is the fact that one can perform it at any time of the day or night, and its obligation continues even after one has sat in it. Unlike the taking of the lulav and etrog, a person can never say that he has already performed the mitzvah of sukkah, and he needn't enter once again that day! The sukkah is considered our temporary dwelling for the entirety of the festival, and we eat, drink, learn and relax in it just as we would our own home.

But perhaps the most salient characteristic of the mitzvah of sukkah is the fact that it is unlike any other in its encompassing nature. Other mitzvot are performed with a particular limb of the body pertaining to that mitzvah, such as tefillin, which are placed on the arm and head. The mitzvah of sukkah, however, totally envelops the person and is done with the entire body. The very same activities that were done in the house a week previously are elevated when done in the sukkah.

Our Sages said that a person who has no home "is not a person"; that is, he is not complete and whole without a place to live. The home affects the person not only when he is in it, but also when he is out in the marketplace and doing business as well. During the holiday of Sukkot, our home is the sukkah, and it is through the performance of the mitzvah that we reach our wholeness and perfection. Therefore, even when we are not physically inside the sukkah we remain connected to it once we have declared it to be our primary dwelling for the duration of the festival.


Imagine your dream location. Far from civilization, surrounded by the sights, smells, and sounds of paradise. Oblivious to the hustle and bustle of your daily life, the serenity and beauty of the setting carries you to another world.

In a spiritual sense, the mitzvah of sukkah, after which the approaching holiday is named, is just such a mitzvah.

It is a mitzvah that literally encompasses you. It surrounds you. It commemorates the way that the Clouds of Glory surrounded the Jews on all sides as they traveled through the desert, insulated from the harsh terrain and all types of predators. Unlike other mitzvot where only a part of our being is involved in the mitzvah, when it comes to the sukkah, we actually go into the mitzvah and allow it to encompass every part of us.

Another unique aspect of the mitzvah is found in chasidic teachings. Being within the four walls of the sukkah serves to elevate anything, even the most mundane act, that you do in the sukkah.

You can just let your feet do the walking into a sukkah, have a bite to eat with the appropriate blessing and sit. And you're doing a mitzvah! If you want, you can have a nice chat, or listen to some music. And these acts are elevated to a higher spiritual plane since they are being done as part of dwelling in the sukkah. You can meditate or you can read. You can shake a lulav and etrog in the sukkah. You can sit down or stand up. You can even take a nap in a sukkah and it can be considered a mitzvah!

Finding a sukkah is really not as difficult as you may think. Many Chabad-Lubavitch centers have a sukkah-building service and even offer pre-fabricated models. If you don't have one of your own, you can visit your local Chabad-Lubavitch House, which will have one open to the public. They might even have a mobile sukkah on a flat-bed truck.

Then sit down, relax with a cup of coffee (or spring water) and a piece of cake, say the blessings (see below) and eat.

The mitzvah is to "dwell" in the sukkah as we would normally live in our homes. To fulfill this mitzvah, we should have a meal there or, at the very least, eat food made from one of the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt). One should first recite the regular blessing (Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom Bo-ray Mi-nay Me-zo-not) and then say the special sukkah blessing (see Blessing #4).

So now that you are a sukkah maven and you know how easy and uplifting it is to do the mitzvah of sukkah, why not give it a try?


Wednesday night, Oct. 15, will begin the holiday of Sukkot. One of the mitzvot of the holiday is the lulav and etrog--which consist of four different kinds of plants. The etrog (citron) has a taste and scent, the myrtle and date-palm each have either taste or scent and the willow has neither taste nor scent.

We are told that these four characteristics, are similar to four types of Jews. There are Jews with "taste" (Torah knowledge) and "scent" (good deeds). There are Jews with one or the other. And, like the willow, there are Jews with neither taste nor scent.

When we perform the mitzvah of blessing the "four kinds" not one of these four kinds may be missing. If even one is missing, we have not fulfilled the mitzvah of lulav and etrog. We cannot perform the mitzvah partially; either we fulfill it with all four kinds or we don't fulfill it at all. And even when we have all four kinds, they have to be united, bound together. Only then can we make the blessing and fulfill the mitzvah.

That which is true of the "four kinds" is true of the Jewish people as well. For the Jewish people to be complete and not partial, we must all be welcome and represented as well and united and bound together.

May we experience the true uniting of all Jews and celebrate the holiday of Sukkot together in the third and eternal Holy Temple with our righteous King Moshiach.

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

We are commanded to rejoice during the festivals. The rejoicing during the holiday of Sukkot reached its peak, in the times of the Holy Temple, in the unbounded joy of the water-drawing celebrations (Simchat Beit HaShoeivah).

During the year, many offerings on the altar were accompanied by a special pouring or libation of wine. On Sukkot, in addition to the regular wine-offering, there was also a unique pouring of water. At that time the assembled crowds broke into limitless, profound, ecstatic rejoicing, which continued for three days, and of which the Sages said, "Whoever has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing has never in his life seen true joy!"

The Sages chose their words with care. They are not merely telling a story, but giving a valuable lesson--that if one has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing, although he may think he has at times participated in unbounded rejoicing, he is in error. His joyous experience was in fact a superficial one. For, since he has never witnessed the water-drawing, he is incapable of experiencing true joy. This is the full significance of the above statement.

What does true joy entail? It entails breaking one's own bounds and inhibitions, exceeding one's own limitations. At the wedding of an only child, a normally reticent and taciturn father may become a voluble and loquacious speaker. If a person has a rational, intelligent reason to be happy, then his happiness is limited by the extent of his understanding. But when he receives a reward or a gift that is "beyond his wildest dreams," that his intelligence could not possibly have foreseen--when he is moved by a cause that stems not merely from his understanding, but from his very essence and being--then the resultant joy is similarly boundless.

In Temple times, wine was used as a libation. It was water, though, that was the main ingredient of the water-drawing ceremony. Wine has a taste, a flavor; water has no intrinsic flavor. Wine and water have their equivalents in spiritual life. When one is motivated to serve G-d by intelligent reasoning and logic, such service is termed "wine"; one savors the "taste" or "reason" for doing the mitzvah. Service impelled by a feeling of pure submissiveness to G-d is called "water"; one cannot relish the "flavor" of rationality in such service.

Truly limitless joy cannot come as a result of one's understanding and intelligence--for they are limited. But when a person realizes that he himself is limited, finite, he nullifies himself, he neutralizes his ego. In a spirit of total submissiveness he becomes one with limitless G-d through the union of the mitzvah. Then he transcends his limitations and can serve G-d with truly boundless joy.

Whoever has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing has never in his life seen true joy. Because the libation of water, as opposed to wine, symbolizes the quality of submissiveness as opposed to the intellect and rationality of wine.


Some History

One of the most joyful celebrations in Israel was the Drawing of the Water during Sukkot. The Sages noted that "Whoever didn't witness the Simchat Beit HaShoeivah has never in his life seen true joy." They have left us wonderful descriptions of the scenes that inspire us with longing to witness it once again.

How was the ceremony conducted? A golden container was filled with water drawn from the pools at Siloam in Jerusalem. When the water carriers reached the Water Gate, they blew three notes on the shofar. On the right side of the ramp leading to the altar, there were two silver bowls, each with a hole shaped like a narrow spout, one wider than the other. One bowl stood to the east and the other to the west. The shapes of the bowls allowed them to be emptied simultaneously. (The wider-spouted bowl held wine, which flows more slowly than water).

As the evenings of the festival approached, the people made their way down to the Court of the Women. There were golden candlesticks, fifty cubits high, with four gold bowls atop them. Four ladders led to the top of each candlestick, and four young kohanim mounted the ladders, holding in their hands large jars of oil which they poured into the golden bowls. Wicks to light the oil were made from worn-out clothing of the kohanim, and when the candlesticks were lit, the light glowed throughout the entire city of Jerusalem.

The greatest Sages and tzadikim would participate joyfully in the celebration, performing the most extraordinary feats. Some of them would bear burning torches in their hands while singing Psalms and other praises of G-d. The Levites would play many various musical instruments, including harps, lyres, cymbals, and trumpets as they stood on the fifteen steps that led down from the Court of Women in the Holy Temple.

Two kohanim were stationed at the Upper Gate of the Temple, holding trumpets in their hands. As the roosters crowed the first light of dawn, they blasted their trumpets, and as they ascended the steps, they blew two additional rounds of tekiahs. They continued walking until they reached the gate that led to the east, whereupon they turned to face the west and uttered the words: "We belong to G-d and our eyes are turned to G-d."

The Sages relate that when the great Sage, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, rejoiced at the water festival, he would juggle with eight lighted torches, tossing them into the air, catching one and then throwing another, so that they never touched each other. He would also prostrate himself on the ground, bend down, doing a head-stand, kiss the ground and draw himself up again, a feat that no one else could do.

The Talmud relates many of these displays of prowess that the Sages performed at the Simchat Beit HaShoeivah. They record that Reb Levi used to juggle in the presence of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi with eight knives. Shmuel would do the same with eight glasses of wine, without spilling any of their contents. Rabbi Abaye would juggle before Rabbi Rabba with eight (or some say, four) eggs.

It is written in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanania, "When we used to rejoice at the place of the water-drawing, our eyes saw no sleep." It is explained that the entire day was occupied with holy activities, so that the participants in the simchah were busy from day to night.

In the morning the sacrifice was brought, followed by prayers, and then an additional sacrifice. Then they would study Torah and eat breakfast. Afternoon prayer was followed by the evening sacrifice and then the water-drawing festivities commenced. The celebration of the Simchat Beit HaShoeivah continued throughout the entire night, lighting up the city so brilliantly that there was no courtyard in Jerusalem that didn't reflect the light of the great candlesticks illumining the Festival of the Water-Drawing.


The holidays of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which, happily, are approaching, are referred to as "the time of our rejoicing."

As such, let's take a look at some of the words of our Sages and chasidic teachings about the importance of joy and happiness in our lives.

King David in Psalms advises us, "Serve G-d with joy, come before Him with jubilation." The power of joy is unlimited, for, as stated in the Talmud, "Joy breaks all boundaries."

In addition, G-d attaches a great deal of importance to joy, for "The Divine Presence rests only upon one who performs a mitzvah in a joyous spirit" (Talmud). In fact, it is said about the famous 16th century Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, that he merited Divine inspiration and even to meet Elijah the Prophet, because he infused his mitzvot with so much joy.

Simchah (joy), is one of the most essential elements of the chasidic way of life. In fact, in the early stages of the chasidic movement, before the name "chasidim" was coined, Chasidim were often referred to in Yiddish as "di freilicha," meaning, "the happy ones."

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidus, would say that sometimes, when the Yetzer Hora (the evil impulse) tries to persuade a person to commit a sin, it does not care whether or not the person will actually sin. What it is looking for is that after sinning, the person will become depressed and overcome with sadness. In other words, the depression that follows the sin can cause more spiritual damage than the actual sin itself.

Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin taught that depression is considered the threshold of all evil. He said that although the 365 negative commandments do not include a commandment not to be depressed, the damage that sadness and depression can cause is worse than the damage that any sin can cause.

The Rebbe explained that if the Jewish people already begin now to rejoice in the Redemption, out of our absolute trust that G-d will speedily send us Moshiach, this joy in itself will (as it were), compel G-d to fulfill His children's wish and to redeem them from exile.

In the Tanya, the basic work of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, used the example of two wrestlers to describe the importance of joy:

"With a victory over a physical obstacle, such as in the case of two individuals who are wrestling with each other, each striving to throw the other--if one is lazy and sluggish he will easily be defeated and thrown, even though he be stronger than the other, exactly so it is in the conquest of one's evil nature; it is impossible to conquer it with laziness and heaviness, which originates in sadness and in a heart that is dulled like a stone, but rather with alacrity, which derives from joy and from a heart that is free and cleansed from any trace of worry and sadness. This is a cardinal principle."

A chasid once wrote to the third Chabad Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, that he found it difficult to be happy. The Tzemach Tzedek advised him:

"Thought, speech and action are within one's control. A person must guard his thoughts and think only thoughts that bring joy; he should be cautious not to speak about sad or depressing matters; and he should behave as if he were very joyous, even if he doesn't feel especially happy. In the end, he will ultimately be joyous."

What can you do to help a friend out of a slump if he isn't too happy? Tell him some good news, as our Sages advised, for good news gladdens the heart and good tidings expand the mind.

Happy holidays!

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Of all the holidays of the month of Tishrei, it is perhaps the very last, Shemini Atzeret, which best expresses G-d's love for the Jewish people. The name itself, "Atzeret," comes from the Hebrew word "to stop" or "delay." G-d detains us, as it were, for one more day before we return to our regular lives.

The Midrash likens this to a king who holds a seven-day celebration for his sons. On the eighth day, when it comes time for them to leave, he is reluctant to see them go and asks them to remain for one more day of festivities.

A question is asked: How can one more day of celebration make the inevitable departure less painful? What is gained by pushing it off? We must therefore conclude that there is something about this special holiday, Shemini Atzeret, which actually prevents the departure from taking place at all.

This concept is reflected in the precise language of the Midrash. "Your departure is difficult," the king tells his sons, not "our departure." This alludes to the fact that G-d never abandons the Jewish people; His love for us is constant and eternal. "Your departure is difficult," G-d tells us. G-d doesn't want us to abandon Him; He therefore requests that we celebrate one more holiday together that will serve to strengthen our bond.

The key to maintaining a close connection with G-d is achdut--unity. When Jews are united with one another our relationship with G-d is strong. When, however, there is strife and division, it forms a wedge between the Jewish people and our Father in heaven.

The entire theme of Sukkot is Jewish unity; indeed, the mitzvah of the Four Species represents the four types of Jews coming together to be bound into one entity. Nonetheless, after Sukkot is over and its positive effect has dissipated, the possibility still exists that the individual elements will revert to their previous separateness and dissociation.

In order to prevent this from happening, G-d asks us to remain with Him a while longer, to celebrate a holiday that will secure our unity in an everlasting manner.

On Shemini Atzeret, a single sacrifice is brought in the Holy Temple, expressing the idea of the indivisible nature of the Jewish people. Furthermore, this concept is also reflected in the way the holiday is celebrated: great scholars and simple people alike dancing with the Torah scroll, without distinction between them.

The absolute unity with which we conclude the holidays of Tishrei thus guarantees that these feelings will carry over into the rest of the year, effectively preventing that we will ever "depart" from holiness, G-d forbid.

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

The last day of the festival of Sukkot is Simchat Torah, the Rejoicing of the Torah. On this day we conclude the yearly cycle of the Torah reading by finishing the last portion of the Book of Deuteronomy and begin again with the first chapter of Genesis. But why was this particular day chosen to celebrate our joy in the Torah?

The answer lies in Simchat Torah's close relationship with Yom Kippur, which precedes Sukkot by five days. One explanation of why this holiday is observed as a celebration of Torah has to do with the tablets of the Ten Commandments. On Shavuot, when the Torah was revealed, G-d gave Moses the first set of tablets. These Moses broke after seeing the Golden Calf that the Jews had fashioned. Moses ascended Mount Sinai for a second forty-day period, begging G-d's forgiveness for the Jewish people. After a third forty-day period, Moses descended with the second set of tablets. These second tablets were, in certain respects, superior to the first, and are called "a double portion of blessing."

Another reason we rejoice on this day is because of the basic difference between Shavuot--the holiday which commemorates the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai--and Simchat Torah. On Shavuot, the Torah was presented to mankind as a gift, whereas on Simchat Torah the joy we feel comes, to a certain extent, from the toil and effort we invested in living and learning Torah during the previous year.

Human nature is such that it is impossible to feel pure and unadulterated joy over something that is received without having expended any effort. Food that a person receives as a charitable donation is called the "bread of shame," and brings with it only incomplete satisfaction. A person is truly happy only when his success and wealth are achieved as the fruits of his own labor. This is why, on Shavuot, our rejoicing in the Torah is not complete, for on that day G-d gave us His gift without any effort on our part. Our unlimited joy in G-d's Torah is reserved for Simchat Torah, the culmination of an entire year's learning and study.

Unlike the first set of tablets of the Ten Commandments, the second set were fashioned by Moses and not by G-d, although the letters were again written by the Divine hand. This underscores the power man has been given to become an active and willing partner in G-d's plan for the universe.

Furthermore, when the Ten Commandments were given to the Jews for the first time, they were all considered to be tzadikim, righteous people. They stood at Mount Sinai in unprecedented unity, and were free of sin. The second time around, on Yom Kippur, the Jewish people had already committed the sin of the Golden Calf, and were now baalei teshuvah--they had returned to the right path after their transgression. Their joy in G-d's Torah on that day was even greater than on Shavuot, because a person who has sinned and does teshuvah is on an even higher level than one who has never sinned, and the closeness to G-d that comes after one has temporarily strayed is therefore that much more precious.


Every year, when Jews go forth to dance on Simchat Torah, Torah scrolls cradled in their arms, they are expressing the fiery bond of the Jewish people to the Torah and to G-d.

Viewing this dancing--hakafot--in the light of Chasidus, some puzzling questions arise about the manner in which we celebrate Simchat Torah. The Torah belongs to the sphere of the intellect (Torah from the root hora'a--teaching), and it is our obligation to study Torah and to understand it. Would it not be more appropriate then to celebrate Torah in an intellectual manner, by intensifying its study, delving into it in greater depth and rejoicing in the growth of our knowledge and understanding?

We seem to do exactly the opposite. Instead of studying the Torah, we take it in our arms, rolled up and clothed in its cover in a manner that makes it impossible to read from it, and instead of serving the Torah with our heads, we serve it with our feet--by dancing!

But strange as it may seem, it is through the dancing of hakafot that we can best express our true and inner relationship to Torah. Torah is the wisdom of G-d, as it is written: "He has chosen us from among the nations and given us His Torah." As such, the true meaning of Torah is concealed from us, beyond all human understanding. The scholar can grasp its true essence no better than a small child. The Torah speaks not to our limited human intellect, but to the soul itself, for the soul, too, is "part of G-d Above." When we study Torah--whether it is the Torah learning of a great scholar, or the breath of a small child reciting a verse--we are connecting the essence of G-d found in the Torah with the essence of our soul.

The Torah as we see it at hakafot, enclosed in its cover, symbolizes the aspect of Torah that is hidden from our intellect. All Jews, regardless of their level of scholarship, can dance with the Torah. For Torah, as G-d's gift, is the inheritance of all the Jewish people (and an heir inherits absolutely, regardless of age or personal qualities).

The previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, explained that the Torah wishes to go around the reading table. But since the Torah has no feet, the Jewish people become the feet of the Torah, and carry it around the bimah.

What does it mean to become the feet of the Torah? Feet have no will of their own, but obey the dictates of the head unquestioningly and automatically. By dancing with the Torah, becoming its "feet," we express our resolve to obey the mitzvot of the Torah with simple faith and total devotion. The joyous dedication of the Jewish people to Torah causes the Torah itself to be elevated, just as the head is borne along by the feet to the place it wishes to go. This is why Simchat Torah is called, "the season of our rejoicing," when the Jewish people rejoice in the Torah, and the Torah, too, rejoices in the Jewish people, both benefiting each other.

This, then, is the message of hakafot. The true foundation of all Torah learning and the service of G-d throughout the year must be based on the recognition of the holiness of Torah as a gift of the One Above, and on a pure and simple faith leading to devotion and obedience.

But all this is only the foundation. G-d gave us powers of intellect, talents and abilities, and these, too, must be put to the service of Torah. We must not remain with simple faith alone, but must struggle to understand as much of the Torah as we are able, by means of our intellect. Only then will we serve G-d with our entire being.

Even as we dance hakafot with our rolled-up Torah scrolls, it is the reading table we are encircling, reminding us of the duty to study the Torah. And before each hakafah we recite verses from the Torah. For only when simple faith and devotion are combined with study and understanding are hakafot the way they are supposed to be.

Tishrei 14-23, 5758
October 15-24, 1997


Clouds of Glory

Immediately following the awesome days of Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur, we prepare for the joyous exuberance of Sukkot--the "Season of our Rejoicing."

After leaving Egypt, during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the Jewish people were surrounded by protective "clouds of glory."

In commemoration, and to enhance our awareness of G-d's all-embracing love and protection, we are commanded, "In sukkahs (booths) you shall dwell seven days" (Leviticus 23:42).

A Unique Mitzvah

Eating festive meals and spending time in the outdoor sukkah is a delightful and unique religious experience.

Some have the custom of decorating the sukkah with elaborate ornaments; others prefer to preserve its unadorned simplicity.

But whatever one's style, the sukkah is the only mitzvah in which we are completely surrounded, from head to toe, by the mitzvah itself--enveloped, as it were, in the divine presence.

For Universal Peace

When the Jewish people rejoice, our hearts go out to the whole world.

In the days of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the Sukkot Festival offerings included seventy oxen, corresponding to the seventy nations--in prayer for their well-being, and for peace and harmony among the nations of the world.


Ordinarily, we are permitted on Yom Tov to prepare only the foods necessary for that same day. This year, however, the second & ninth day of Yom Tov falls on Friday, and the Shabbat meals must, as always, be prepared before Shabbat. Therefore, special action is required so that we may prepare the Shabbat meals on Friday. The Eruv Tavshillin ceremony, performed on Wednesday, Oct. 15, and also on Wednesday, Oct. 22, until sundown, renders this permissible.

How To Make An Eruv Tavshillin

On Wednesday, Oct. 15, and also on Wednesday, Oct. 22, by day (until sundown), the head of the household takes a Challah that was prepared for Shabbat, and well over one ounce of some cooked food, such as fish, meat, or hard-boiled eggs.

He hands this to another adult, through whom he grants a share [of this Eruv] to the entire community.

The one who makes the Eruv says:

I hereby grant a share in this Eruv to anyone who
wishes to participate in it and to depend upon it.

The one holding the food then raises it up 4 inches and gives it back to the head of the household, who recites this blessing:

Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom
A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu
Al Mitz-vat Ei-ruv.


Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who has sanctified us with His commandments,
and commanded us concerning the Mitzvah of Eruv.

He then also says:

Through this it shall be permissible for us to bake,
to cook, to put away [a dish to preserve its heat], to kindle
a light, and to prepare and do on the Festival all that is
necessary for the Shabbat -- for us and for all Israelites
who dwell in this city.

The food from the Eruv should be put aside to be eaten on Shabbat. The best time to eat it is on Shabbat afternoon, at the "Third Seudah (meal)."


The Sukkah

During the entire seven days of the Festival, from Wednesday night, Oct. 15, until Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 22, all meals are eaten in the sukkah, unless it rains.

When partaking of a meal containing at least two ounces of bread or cake, we say the blessing "Le-shev Ba-su-kah." (see Blessing #4).

Ask a competent rabbi how to build a proper sukkah or where to purchase one.

The Ushpizin

According to the Kabbalah, the ushpizin are spiritual guests who visit the sukkah each evening.

In the chasidic custom, which follows the Zohar and the Ari, the order of these spiritual guests is: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David.

The Ashkenazic custom, also based on the Zohar, is: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David.

According to Chabad custom, in addition to the biblical guests, we also enjoy the spiritual company of the founders of Chasidus and previous Chabad Rebbes.

The Four Kinds

Another special mitzvah of Sukkot is the shaking together of the "Four Species"--the etrog (citron), lulav (palm branch), three hadassim (myrtle branches), and two arovot (willow branches).

Each day of Sukkot (except the Sabbath), from Thursday, Oct. 16, through Wednesday, Oct. 22, we shake the "four kinds" during the daytime after saying the appropriate blessing(s).

Why Four Kinds?

One explanation, among many, is that each of the four kinds represents a different type of Jew.

The fact that the mitzvah requires all four kinds symbolizes our oneness as a people: we all need one another. And the four species are waved in all four directions, and up and down, signifying that G-d is everywhere.


In the times of the Holy Temple, special festivities were held each night of Sukkot, in celebration of a special water-drawing ceremony.

Commemorating these festivities, Chabad-Lubavitch Centers throughout the world will be featuring evenings of dancing, singing and joyous gatherings.

Join a celebration or organize one for yourself and friends. And, as the Rebbe suggests, make it a family affair by having the entire family participate.


Chol HaMoed

The third through the seventh days of Sukkot, from Friday night, Oct. 17, through Wednesday, Oct. 22, are called Chol Hamoed --the intermediate days.

We do not recite Kiddush or light candles, except for Shabbat. However, only very necessary work should be done.

Throughout the seven days of the Festival, we continue our celebration in the sukkah, in ever-increasing exhilaration.

Just as the seven solemn days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur serve to make amends for each week of the previous year, so the seven joyous days of Sukkot will bring us happiness in all the weeks of the year to come.

Hoshanah Rabbah

The seventh day of Sukkot, Wednesday, Oct. 22, is called Hoshanah Rabbah.

It is customary to stay awake the night before and recite portions of Torah and the Book of Psalms.

In the morning, we circle the Bimah (platform) seven times, lulav and etrog in hand. Then we recite special prayers, called "Hoshanah."

In an ancient rite of profound mystical significance, we beat on the floor five willow branches that are bound together, symbolically "sweetening" G-d's judgment.


See above, "The Eruv Tavshillin Ceremony"


A Transcendent Joy

Simchat Torah is the culmination of a month filled with uplifting experiences.

We have stood in awe before the King of the Universe; we have been forgiven and cleansed by His mercy; and we have experienced the joy of uniting with G-dliness through His beautiful commandments.

Now, we rejoice with His Torah.

We take the sacred scrolls in our arms and dance together, scholar and novice alike.

During the dancing, the scroll remains in its cover, for this is not a time for study.

The joy of Simchat Torah is far greater than any delight we may derive from intellectual understanding. Here again, we emphasize that sublime level of the Jewish soul where we are all one.

As the Circle Turns

On the evening of Simchat Torah, Thursday, Oct. 23 (and in some communities, on the previous evening of Shemini Atzeret, Wednesday evening, Oct. 22, as well), we make seven "hakafot" (circlings) around the bimah, singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls.

On the morning of Simchat Torah, Friday, Oct. 24, the final portion of the Torah is read, completing the yearly cycle. Then we immediately start reading the beginning. Thus, we continue to nourish ourselves from the infinite wisdom of G-d's Torah--the eternal force that has bound us together and sustained us for more than 3,300 years.

Children Dancing with Flags

In an army parade, each regiment carries its colors. So, too, on Simchat Torah, when all of the Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark and danced with, the children carry flags, like soldiers, to impress upon them that we are all in G-d's army.

The Festive Meals

On the eighth day, Thursday, Oct. 23, which is Shemini Atzeret, which commences on Wednesday night, we continue to eat meals in the sukkah, but without reciting the blessing "Le-shev Ba-su-kah."

On Simchat Torah, Friday, Oct. 24, the ninth day, which commences on Thursday night, we resume eating meals indoors.


Jewish Women and Girls Light Yom Tov & Shabbat candles

For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
or: http://www.havienu.org/resrcs/hebcal.html

For a free candle lighting kit:
contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

For a listing of the Centers in your area:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).

Times shown are for Metro NY - NJ

Wednesday, Oct. 15, Erev Sukkot:

Thursday, Oct. 16, First day of Sukkot:

Friday, Oct. 17, Second day of Sukkot:

Saturday, Oct. 18, Shabbat Chol Hamoed:

Wednesday, Oct. 22, Erev Shemini Atzeret:

Thursday, Oct. 23, Shemini Atzeret:

Friday, Oct. 24, Simchat Torah:

Saturday, Oct. 25, Shabbat Parshat Bereishis:


1. See above, "The Eruv Tavshillin Ceremony."

2. If lighting after sunset, light only from a preexisting flame.

A preexisting flame is a flame burning continuously since the onset of Yom Tov, such as a pilot light, gas or candle flame.

3. Do not light before the times indicated. Light only from a preexisting flame.

4. Do not light after sunset. Light only from a preexisting flame.

The Shabbat candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset. It is prohibited and is a desecration of the Shabbat to light the candles after sunset.

5. See footnote #1.

6. See footnote #2.

7. See footnote #3.

8. See footnote #4.

9. Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan is on Friday, October 31, and Saturday, November 1.


After lighting the candles, recite:


Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom
A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu
Le-had-lik Ner Shel Yom Tov.


Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who has sanctified us with His commandments,
and commanded us to kindle the Yom Tov light.


Bo-ruch A-to Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom
She-heche-yo-nu Ve-ki-ye-mo-nu Ve-higi-o-nu
Liz-man Ha-zeh.


Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to
reach this occasion.


Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom
A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu Le-had-lik
Ner Shel Sha-bos Ko-desh.


Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who has sanctified us with His commandments,
and commanded us to kindle the light of the holy Shabbat.


Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom
A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu Le-shev


Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who has sanctified us with His commandments,
and commanded us to dwell in the Sukkah.


Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom
A-sher Ki-de-sho-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu Al
Ne-tee-las Lu-lov.


Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe,
who has sanctified us with His commandments,
and commanded us concerning the taking of the lulav.

Please note:
At the first shaking of the "four kinds"
(lulav, etrog, etc.), say also blessing #2.

Laws of Shabbat Candle Lighting for the Blind

Shabbat Candle Lighting Blessing

"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.

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