Food For the Soul
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
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
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