Shabbat to Share

Food For the Soul

Simchat Torah

Following the seven joyous days of Sukkot, we come to the happy holiday of Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. In the diaspora, the first day is known by its biblical name, Shemini Atzeret. We still dwell in the sukkah, but without a blessing. Yizkor, the memorial for the departed, is also said on this day.

The second day is known as Simchat Torah, during which we complete and immediately begin the annual Torah reading cycle. This joyous milestone is marked with dancing as the Torah scrolls are held aloft. Both days are celebrated by nightly candle lighting, festive meals at both night and day, and desisting from work. In Israel, the entire holiday is compacted into one heady 24-hour period.

Note: With covid restrictions in place, Simchat Torah celebrations may be significantly truncated, socially distanced, taken outdoors, or canceled entirely. We pray for the day when this joyous day will be restored to its robust joy. At the same time, even if we celebrate in small groups, far from each other, or even at home, we will do our utmost to infuse it with the same zest and joy as in previous years, if not more!

Candle Lighting Times

Friday, October 9: 6: 01 pm

Saturday, October 10: after 7:01 from a pre-existing flame

Sunday, October 11: holiday ends 6:59 pm

Chabad.org


Shabbat Shalom

Grace under fire

The joyous climax of Simchat Torah is the dancing of hakafot(lit. “circles”), during which we dance and sing with the Torah scrolls. This Shabbat marks the fateful day in 1977 when the Lubavitcher Rebbe suffered a massive heart attack while celebrating the hakafot with thousands of chassidim in the central Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Brooklyn, NY. In spite of tremendous pain, the Rebbe remained calm and insisted on continuing the hakafot, and only after they concluded did he depart the synagogue.

On the following day, the Rebbe requested that the chassidim celebrate the Simchat Torah festivities with the same joy and fervor as all other years, and so it was. After the holiday ended, the Rebbe addressed and reassured the anxious chassidim from his office (which was hastily converted into a cutting-edge cardiac unit) via a public address system. The Rebbe remained in his office in Lubavitch World Headquarters under medical supervision for several weeks. He returned home  five weeks later on the 1st of Kislev, a day designated by chassidim for celebration and thanksgiving.


Mind Over Matter

Pursuing the impossible

We are here to achieve the impossible. To teach the world tricks it feigns it cannot do. To fill it with light it does not know. To make the blind see, the deaf hear, the bitter sweet, the darkness shine. To make everyday business into mystic union. To rip away the façade of the world and to bring it to confess its secret oneness with the Divine.

When they tell you, “You can’t go on that path, it’s beyond you!”—grab that path as your destiny.

From an article by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Moshiach Thoughts

Simchah

The concept of simchah (joyfulness) is central in Judaism, and especially in the teachings of Chassidism. Chassidism explains its significance in terms of the maxim that “simchah breaks through barriers.” By means of simchah one is able to transcend all kinds of barriers and obstacles to attain sublime goals, especially in spiritual matters.

We can draw an analogy between this maxim and the fact that Moshiach, too, is referred to as “The one who breaks through” (Michah 2:13). This comes to teach us that simchah has the power to break through the walls-the barriers and obstacles-of the galut and hasten the coming of Moshiach! 

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I got a Story

Did G-d work on Shabbat?

I received a call from a set of new parents trying to schedule their son’s brit milah (circumcision). The boy had been born late in the afternoon, slightly before nightfall, exactly a week before the festival of Rosh Hashanah. Ideally a brit is performed on the eighth day from birth, even on Shabbat or Yomtov (a Jewish festival such as Rosh Hashanah or Passover). However, if for any reason the brit is delayed, we do not carry out the procedure on Shabbat or Yomtov but reschedule it for the first available weekday.

Were the baby to have been born while it was still daytime, the brit would have been the following week, on the day before the festival. Conversely, were the new arrival to have made his first appearance at night, then we could have safely called the brit for the following week, and done the job on the festival.

We live, however, in an imprecise world. The exact moment when one day ends and another begins is almost impossible to define with any degree of accuracy. Halachists have responded to this concern by creating a twilight zone: a time-period known as bein hashmashot. Neither full day, nor complete night, it is impossible to definitively define the birthdate of a child born during this time.

We couldn’t risk holding the brit on the day before festival, which might, after all, have been only the seventh day from birth. Conversely, to hold the brit on the festival ran the risk of desecrating the festival by performing an action that, by rights, should have been completed the day before. In the end, halachah (Torah law) dictated that we do neither and the whole ceremony was pushed off until the day after the festival.

Shabbat observers make weekly allowance for this ambiguity in ascertaining the onset of Shabbat by bringing in Shabbat slightly earlier than strictly necessary. The candle lighting times you find in your local Jewish calendar introduce Shabbat earlier than may otherwise be necessary in order to protect the sanctity of Shabbat and to protect against its inadvertent desecration.

Interestingly, however, G‑d did not submit to this precaution. We will read next week in Bereishit (Genesis 2:2) that “G‑d finished creating on the seventh day” which could potentially mislead one to believe that G‑d was still creating the universe into the seventh day, pausing to rest only once Shabbat had begun. However, all traditional commentators interpret the verse to mean that G‑d continued creating until the precise moment when the sixth day finished and Shabbat began.

G‑d creates reality. Time is a function of His will. G‑d has no need to add to the holiness of Shabbat “just in case” because He invented that holiness and He knows the precise moment when He ushers it onto the world. The remarkable lesson from the six days of creation is not only that G‑d chose to create a universe, but that He continued to create up until the last possible instant.

The temptation is always there to do a lot and then stop. To satisfy oneself with one’s past achievements and to coast to the finish line. The life-lesson we learn from G‑d’s act of creation is that every moment is precious, every second a new opportunity to work, to strive, to produce, to achieve. We must not and we dare not miss our opportunity to partner with G‑d in the act of creation.

From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum

Food For the Soul

Sukkot

This year, the holiday of Sukkot begins at sunset on October 2 and lasts until nightfall October 9.  For the first 2 days work is forbidden, candles are lit in the evening, and festive meals are preceded by Kiddush and include challah dipped in honey.

The seven days of Sukkot are celebrated by eating, praying and socializing in a covered hut (sukkah). This commemorates G‑d’s sheltering our ancestors as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land. Being outdoors, with plenty of fresh air, the Sukkah may offer a welcome place to congregate if we follow the Coronavirus safeguards recommended by health authorities. Coming after the solemn High Holidays, Sukkot is a time of joy and happiness. It is followed by another happy holiday: Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah.

The Four Kinds

Every day of Sukkot (except Shabbat) we take the arba minim, a.k.a. “Four Kinds.” These are a palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), a minimum of three myrtles (hadassim) and one citron (etrog). The four kinds symbolize four types of Jews, with differing levels of Torah knowledge and observance. Bringing them together represents our unity as a nation—despite our external differences. So in this spirit of unity, be sure to share your arba minim with your Jewish friends and neighbors, by Zoom if necessary!

Adapted from information on Chabad.org


Shabbat Shalom

Customs and prayers

At least one k’zayit (approx. 1 oz.) of bread should be eaten in the sukkah on the first evening of the festival, between nightfall and midnight. A special blessing, Leishiv BaSukkah, is recited. For the rest of the festival, all meals must be eaten in the sukkah (see the Code of Jewish Law or consult a Halachic authority as to what constitutes a “meal”). Chabad custom is to refrain from eating or drinking anything outside of the sukkah, even a glass of water.

On October 3/15 Tishrei, we light candles after 7:14 pm.

The Torah readings for this day (conducted in the Sukkah) are:

Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44

Numbers 29:12-16

Zachariah 14: 1-21


Mind Over Matter

The ultimate progression?

When the Torah commands us to live in temporary huts to commemorate our experience in the wilderness, it seems to suggest that we recreate that existence. Yet dwelling in those huts was not a destination, but merely a temporary situation, on our way to the Holy Land. So why re-enact it? Perhaps the holiday of Sukkot is not about returning to “simpler, more primitive times.” Maybe Sukkot is in fact the ultimate progression, a leap forward to somewhere one otherwise would never have reached. When we stay right where we are, in the groove of a (healthy) routine we face the danger of stagnation. The Sukkah compels us to move on, to get off the hammock and onto the journey of making this world a more G‑dly place. Bereft of the security of our homes we are faced with our responsibility to accomplish more.

From an article by Rabbi Baruch Epstein


Moshiach Thoughts

Fulfillment of the prophesies

The four species [effects] the fulfillment of the prophecies that “all shall call upon the Name of G‑d to serve Him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9), and “G‑d shall be King over the entire earth: in that day G‑d shall be One and His Name One” (Zechariah 14:9), which shall come about with the speedy redemption by Moshiach.

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I got a Story

Hitting the streets on Sukkot

What makes Sukkot memorable for me is something I have loved to do ever since I first got my own set of the Four Kinds. We are commanded to shake the Four Kinds every morning of the seven-day holiday (excluding Shabbat), and the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, taught us to take our lulav and etrog and pass it around to whomever else would be willing to recite the blessing and do a “shake.”

The four species are often correlated with particular body parts. The etrog (citron) is likened to the human heart, the lulav (palm frond) is related to the spine, the aravot (willows) represent the mouth, and the hadasim (myrtles) are likened to the eyes.

So, as I approached my twenties, I was determined to overcome my shyness and have the chutpah and backbone (lulav) to approach people heart to heart (etrog), address them with my speech (aravot) and look them straight in the eye (hadasim) to ask if they would like to say a blessing on the Four Kinds, which the sages say bring unity to the Jewish people.

At first, the outright “no”s intimidated me, as did those who explained that they were too busy, or too lacking in knowledge to say a blessing in Hebrew. My favorite haunts used to be hospitals and nursing homes, before they got so strict that they would not let a stranger walk into a room or even read the name on the door to see if the resident might be Jewish.

At first I limited my visits to people I knew, or people who were recommended by others. Then I gradually began to include neighbors and residents of adjacent rooms. After a while, I even gathered the courage to approach the doctors and nurses in the elevators. On one occasion I met a doctor in an elevator and followed him to the top floor of the building, because it took a while to convince him to do the blessing and shake!

Then came the miracles. Once I walked into a room where a relative sat with an obviously ill patient. I made my pitch and the woman said, “Don’t bother, he hasn’t spoken for a year.” I responded, “That’s okay, I’ll just place it in his hands.” I placed the lulav and etrog properly in his hands. The man recited the blessing on his own. The jaws of those around him, including mine, dropped wide open and the woman began to sob. I tiptoed out, still in a daze.

Then there were the more humorous moments. In one nursing home, I approached an elderly woman sitting in a rocking chair. I gently placed the lulav and etrog in her hands. Her eyes lit up as she brought the etrog closer to them. I thought she wanted to examine it for flaws. Instead, she proceeded to try and take a bite out of the etrog. Fortunately, my hand was quicker than hers! Oh well, win some, lose some.

Actually, from a heavenly perspective, it’s always a win-win situation. The Rebbe told of a discouraged  rabbinical student who travelled to bring Judaism to a small city in the Midwest. Upon his return, he told the Rebbe that he hadn’t found even one Jew.

The Rebbe informed the young man that he had received a letter from a woman in the very city he had visited. The letter-writer had been watching the young man from an upper story window. So inspired was she to see the student walking the streets proudly displaying his head covering (kippah) and white ritual fringes (tzitzit) that her soul was awoken at that moment, initiating a process that would eventually lead her back to the path of Judaism.

Perhaps the strange sight of a young woman strolling down a hospital corridor waving a palm branch and a yellow-green citron was enough to activate some Jewish genes. Even if there were no takers on that particular day, my Jewish soul was singing, and the music must have been heard somewhere.

From an article by Yehudis Fishman.

Food For the Soul

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a 26-hour fast from before sundown on Sunday, Sept 27, to nightfall on Monday, Sept. 28.

Normally we would spend our day in the synagogue but in these times many of us will be at home, observing by ourselves or with family. Either way, we abstain from eating, drinking, washing or anointing the body, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations.

On Yom Kippur we pray five prayers, corresponding to the five levels of the soul including “Yechida” which is the soul of Moshiach.

Prior to Yom Kippur it is customary to ask for and receive honey cake and to give charity. It is a mitzvah to eat and drink on the eve of Yom Kippur. Two meals are eaten, one in the morning, and one just prior to the onset of Yom Kippur. One should eat only light foods (such as plain cooked chicken and chicken soup) as the second meal. The holiday is ushered in by lighting candles (married women light at least two, and single girls light one). If you are sheltering in place in a male-only household, one of the guys should light candles for everyone.

On Yom Kippur, we not only make amends to G-d, we say “Sorry” to each other in the hopes of repairing relationships that were sidetracked or derailed by superficialities. Perhaps some people see apologies as an admission of weakness or defeat, but they’re actually the opposite. An apology is a sign of strength and love.

Adapted from the booklet “Experience the High Holidays” by the Chabad Lubavitch Youth Organization with information from Chabad.org


Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Shuvah

The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, “Shabbat of Return.” The name derives from the Haftarah for this Shabbat, which opens with the words (Hosea 14:2), “Return O Israel unto the L-rd your G-d…” Occurring in the “Ten Days of Repentance” (see “Laws & Customs” for Tishrei 3), it is a most auspicious time to rectify the failings and missed opportunities of the past and positively influence the coming year. The master Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (“Ari”) taught that the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which will always include one Sunday, one Monday, etc.) correspond to the seven days of the week. The Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur includes within itself all Sundays of the year; the Monday embodies all Mondays, and so on. Shabbat Shuvah is thus the juncture in time at which we are empowered to influence every Shabbat of our year.

Chabad.org


Mind Over Matter

You are a soul

“I know of no magic way to make the fast easy,” writes Rabbi Aron Moss. “But fasting can certainly be a spiritual experience. Rather than trying to ignore the body’s hunger, you can actually use it to bring you closer to your soul.

When the sounds from your stomach start to drown out the Yom Kippur prayers, try this meditation:

Is a plate of food all that I amount to? The answer is: if your body is all there is, then yes, you are what you eat. But in truth, your body is not all there is to you. You are not just a body. You are a soul. On Yom Kippur, become an observer of the body from the point of view of your soul. Watch your body hunger, pity it for its weakness and resolve that in the year to come, you will not make your body and its temporal pleasures the be-all-and-end-all of your life. Rather, you will care for your body so it can serve as a vehicle of goodness, to achieve the mission that your soul was sent to this world to fulfill.”


Moshiach Thoughts

The Third Holy Temple

If Moshiach should appear during the Ten Days of Penitence, it is conceivable that people should eat and drink on Yom Kippur, if it falls during the seven days’ dedication of the Third Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple). This was the case with the First Beis HaMikdash, and the people of that time ate and drank on Yom Kippur. How much more would this be the case with the Third Beis HaMikdash, to which the Zohar relates the verse, “The glory of this latter House shall be greater than that of the first.” It is reasonable to assume that its greater glory will be apparent not only (as with the Second Beis HaMikdash ) in its structure and its duration, but also in its dedication — which at the very least would equal that of the First Beis HaMikdash. Chabad.org


Have I got a Story

Zaidy’s Yom Kippur

I stand in shul, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, trying to ignore the groans of my unhappy stomach. I flip through the machzor to see how many pages remain until the end of the service. My mind begins to wander; I am transported back to another Yom Kippur, years ago.

In my daydream I am a child again, and my grandparents have come to spend the High Holidays with my family. My grandfather is in his early seventies, although with his long white beard and bushy black eyebrows, to me he looks at least a hundred years old. That Yom Kippur I tried hard to stay in shul instead of running outside to play with my friends. I sit in my seat listening intently and trying to follow along. Suddenly, my ears perk up to the sound of a familiar voice ringing out—it is an old voice, but powerful and steady. It is my zaidy (grandfather); he is saying the mourner’s kaddish for his father, whose yahrtzeit (date of passing) is on Yom Kippur.

My thoughts shift to another Yom Kippur in Communist Russia. Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kaplan has just arranged a minyan in a private house in Ch’ili, after being exiled there for the illegal activities of spreading Jewish teaching and observance in his hometown of Kiev. The ever-watchful KGB, infuriated at Aryeh Leib’s persistence in his “crimes” even in his place of exile, send a goon squad to beat him up on his way home from the clandestine Yom Kippur prayer group. Aryeh Leib’s friend is beaten to unconsciousness, and Aryeh Leib just manages to drag himself to the nearest Jewish family to tell them about his injured friend before he collapses and dies. He leaves a young widow and four orphans. One of them is Zaidy.

Yet another Yom Kippur flashes through my mind. There’s a picture of Zaidy, but he’s young and strong. He is surrounded by ruthless criminals in a dingy prison cell, locked up like his father for the heinous crime of practicing Judaism in Communist Russia. In prison, each inmate receives one piece of daily bread. Zaidy knows that he must save that bread for after the fast, or he will die of starvation. However, if the bread isn’t stuffed into his mouth the moment it is handed to him, it will be grabbed by one of many greedy hands. Zaidy approaches “The Chief” of the cell—a hardened criminal whom all of the other inmates fear and respect. Zaidy presents his dilemma, and miraculously The Chief decides to help. The Chief puts the bread on a high ledge, and warns the inmates that he’ll kill anyone who touches it. Many hungry eyes stare at the bread, but no one touches it.

Later, Zaidy needs to know when the fast is over, but there is only one small window high up on the wall of the cell, and there is no way to tell the time. Zaidy approaches The Chief again and explains his dilemma: he needs to know when it is completely dark in order to break his fast. The Chief gives orders, and a human pyramid is formed—one criminal on the shoulders of another, until they reach the window. The inmates repeat this pyramid every couple of minutes, reporting on what they see, until Zaidy confirms that the fast is over.

The voice of the cantor breaks through my reverie and brings me back to my open machzor. As I resume my prayer, I once more think of Zaidy and my great-grandfather. I feel them smiling down on me.

Zaidy, Moshe Binyamin Kaplan, of blessed memory, passed away on the 13th of Tammuz 5765 (2005), at the age of 87. The story of his Yom Kippur in prison is just one of many of his heroic acts in order to keep Judaism in Communist Russia.

By Devora Leah Riesenberg

Food For the Soul

Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the universe, the day G‑d created Adam and Eve, and it’s celebrated as the head of the Jewish year. The Kabbalists teach that the continued existence of the universe depends on G‑d’s desire for a world, a desire that is renewed when we accept His kingship anew each year on Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on the eve of Tishrei (Sept. 18, 2020) and ends after nightfall on Tishrei 2 (Sept. 20, 2020). The central observance is blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) on both mornings of the holiday (except on Shabbat), which is normally done in synagogue as part of the day’s services but may be done elsewhere for those who cannot attend.

Rosh Hashanah feasts traditionally include round challah bread (studded with raisins) and apples dipped in honey, as well as other foods that symbolize our wishes for a sweet year. Many people eat parts of the head of a fish or a ram, expressing the wish that “we be a head and not a tail.”

Other Rosh Hashanah observances include candle lighting in the evenings and desisting from creative work.

Together with Yom Kippur (which follows 10 days later), it is part of the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe, or High Holidays). Read more about Rosh Hashana on www.chabad.org.


Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat and Holiday candle lighting

Girls and all women who are in the house (or if there isn’t a woman in the house, the head of the household), light candles to usher in each night of the holiday. Writes Rabbi Menachem Posner: “Before the onset of the holiday on Friday afternoon and once again after night has fallen on Saturday night (from a pre-existing flame), we light festive candles to usher in the holiday. Whether they will be overlooking a grand ballroom, or sitting on a table set for one, our holiday candles bring sacred light and a festive glow to our holiday dinners.”

On Friday, September 18 light Shabbat/Holiday candles at 6:41 pm

On Saturday, September 19 light Holiday candles after 7:41 pm from a pre-existing flame

On Sunday, September 20 Holiday ends at 7: 39 pm


Mind Over Matter

Don’t’ be your own lawyer

As thinking human beings, we have an unlimited capacity to find excuses, to discover ingenious and innovative ways to distance the perpetrator from the act. We can blame it on youth, on old age, on parents, on children, on financial hardships, daily environs, psychological state. We can easily discharge anybody of any responsibility for any negative deeds that stain their hands.

We can all be wonderful advocates and lawyers for one another—and the Merciful One Above surely enjoys hearing such things.

But if you want to get ahead in life, don’t be your own lawyer.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Moshiach Thoughts

Who will be the Moshiach?

The following are the criteria for identifying the Moshiach, as written by Maimonides: If we see a Jewish leader who (a) toils in the study of Torah and is meticulous about the observance of the mitzvot, (b) influences the Jews to follow the ways of the Torah and (c) wages the “battles of G‑d”—such a person is the “presumptive Moshiach.” If the person succeeded in all these endeavors, and then rebuilds the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and facilitates the ingathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel—then we are certain that he is the Moshiach.


Have I got a Story

Celebrating Rosh Hashana alone

I’m an older woman, living alone, with health issues, and for those like me, this year will be unlike any before. I’ll be observing the holidays at home, by myself.

I’m used to davening at my local Chabad center, listening as the chazzan (cantor) does the “heavy lifting” of reciting the prayers, allowing my mind to wander at will, letting the rabbi make the service meaningful with his commentary, listening as the shofar is blown.

During services, I was more like a passenger than a driver. I got to look out the window and enjoy the scenery because I didn’t have to drive the car. This year everything will be different. But does different have to mean bad? Can’t something be different and good?

So, I decided to look for new ways to make this year fresh and exciting. And truly, shouldn’t we be doing this every year? Each year we stand before G‑d, asking Him to forgive our shortcomings, asking Him to view us favorably, asking Him to give us another year to grow and improve. Should this ever be done on autopilot?

It’s true, we are living in difficult times. But Chassidic tradition teaches that all experiences – even the difficult ones – are opportunities to reveal the goodness that exists within everything. G‑d put goodness in all His creations, but we have to choose to look for it. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard, but it’s always our choice.

This year I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone by circumstances I can’t control. Even if I wanted to, I can’t go on autopilot. But being the driver means that I’ll be in control of the journey. And that, I believe, is where the goodness lies within this very different holiday season. I will control the journey, and I am choosing to take the scenic route.

I’m looking forward to going at my own pace and taking time to think about what I’m reading. I’ve also started listening to musical renditions of the prayers we sing (you can find excellent ones on Chabad.org) to learn the melodies. I’ve called my local Judaica store and bought a shofar. My very own shofar!

It will be hard not being with my friends during the festive meals, and nothing can replace that, but I’ll make sure I have good company in the form of uplifting Jewish books. I’ve collected many excellent ones over the years, and my bookcases make me feel like the greatest Jewish minds in history are in the room with me, ready to teach and converse.

Yes, this year will be different. I’ve been given my driver’s license and handed the car keys. I can’t wait to get out on the road, open the windows, and enjoy the ride. May your own journey this season be healthy, smooth, and meaningful.

Condensed from an article by Karen Kaplan