Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 7   No. 52

This section is sponsored in loving memory of
Binyomin Boruch ben Avraham
and Chayah bas Berel Dov z"l
by their children and grandchildren


Hosha'ana Rabah
(Adapted from the Seifer Yalkut Yitzchok) A Unique Day

Hashem said to Avrohom 'I am unique, and you are unique. I will give your descendants a unique day in the year to atone for their sins, and that is Hosha'ana Rabah'.

'My Name is "Ehekeh", whose numerical value is 21 (aleph, hey, yud, hey),' Hashem was saying. 'Avrohom was the 21st generation after Odom, and Hosha'ana Rabah is the 21st of Tishri'. 21 x 21 = 441, emes, which explains why G-d chose Hosha'ana Rabah as the final day of judgement - otherwise known as 'Yom ha'Chitum' (the day of the seal), for Hashem's seal is emes.

Moreover, Yom Kipur takes place on the 10th of the month, 5 days later is Succos and 6 days after that, Hosha'ana Rabah, totaling 21. In addition, they form the three basic letters of Hashem's four-letter Name (the fourth letter is merely a repetition of the 'hey').


Water is Life

On the last day of Succos (Hosha'ana Rabah), Hashem finally seals the world for life - and for water, because life and water go hand in hand. Likewise in the spiritual sense, life and Torah (which is compared to water) go hand in hand.

The enormous significance of water on Hosha'ana Rabah is connected with the arovos - also known as 'hosha'anos' - which we take on this day and which require large amounts of water for their growth. Perhaps it is also connected with teshuvah, which is often compared to water too. And the posuk in Eichah (2:19) "Pour out your heart like water before Hashem" has connotations of teshuvah and of humility, which belong in the same mold. Indeed, it also has connotations of tefilah, which Chazal describe as Avodoh she'ba'lev (service of the heart). Here too, the association with Hosha'ana Rabah is no mere coincidence, since a major aspect of the day is tefilah. This is evident from the Shabbos and Yom-tov tefilos that we add (the only day of chol in the entire year that we do so), and from the fact that the Chazan wears a kittel, like he does on Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kipur. In addition of course, there are the unique tefilos that we say during the seven hakofos and following them.

Clearly, it is no mere coincidence that the arovoh is shaped like a mouth. And this analogy is even more strriking when we bear in mind that the numerical value of 'peh' is equivalent to that of 'Elokim' (G-d of Judgement), since Hosha'ana Rabah is the final day of judgement, as we wrote earlier.


Korbonos and Rain

There was no day in the year on which so many sacrifices were brought as Hosha'ana Rabah. This is because it was the last day before one stood to transgress the la'av of 'bal te'acher' (delaying one's sacrifices after three Yomim-tovim). So one can assume that many people took the opportunity to fulfil their obligation at this eleventh hour.

Chazal have also taught us that it is as a result of the violation of one's oaths, that G-d witholds rain. Consequently, the timing of our prayers for rain is perfect - immediately after everyone has fulfilled their oaths and brought the sacrifices that they promised to bring (Incidently, this also explains why the Parshah of Nedorim follows that of Succos in the Torah).

Yisroel kept their word and brought their sacrifices, Hashem will send them rain, measure for measure, because we find pesukim which compare words to rain. And this is hinted in the posuk in Tehilim (29:3) "the voice of Hashem is on the water". And here again, the resemblance of an arovoh to a mouth is striking. And it is equally striking according to those who equate the conclusion of judgement on Hosha'ano Raboh with loshon ho'ra, which is the prime cause for having to stand before the Divine Throne in judgement.

Maybe the lengthy tefilos during the Yomim-Noro'im and on Hosha'ana Rabah are necessary to counter the numerous occasions on which we speak all manner of evil speech.



The reason that this day is called Hosha'ana Rabah is because of the term 'Hosha'a no' that we have been saying throughout Succos during the Hakofos, and which we repeat sevenfold (plus) today. So we call it 'Hosha'ano Rabah'.

Another connotation of 'Hosha'ano' lies in the acronym 'Hosha no' - 'Save fifty-one', hinting at the fifty-one days that began on Rosh Chodesh Elul (the beginning of the days of goodwill) and terminate on Hosha'ano Rabah.


Early to Rise

There are five days in the year that one davens early, and they are all hinted in the word 'Avrohom' (by whom it is written "And Avrohom arose early in the morning").

Aleph - Tish'oh be'Av
Veis - B'ri'as ho'olom - Rosh Hashonoh (on which the world was created)
Reish - Rabah - Tzom Rabah (Yom Kipur)
Hey - Hosha'ano Rabah
Mem - Purim.


Alternatively, the hints all lie at the ends of the words:

Hosha'ano (A-leph)
Tish'oh be'Av (V-eis)
Yom Kipur (R-eish)
Rosh Hashonoh (H-ey)
Purim (M-em)


(Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchok)

Succos, Succos, Chag ha'Succos

Seeing as we only sit in one Succah, why is the Yom-tov referred to as 'Succos' (in the plural), the commentaries ask?

The B'nei Yisoschor explains it according to Chazal, who say that someone who performs the mitzvah of Succah will merit to sit in the Succah made of the Leviathan in the World to Come. This concept is mentioned in the 'Yehi rotzon' that we recite at the end of Succos, before taking leave of the Succoh).

The B'nei Yisoschor may well have stopped there and ascribed the plural form of Succos to the two Succos, one in this world and one in the World to Come. But he continues -


Chazal say furthermore that no two tzadikim will sit in the same Succoh, because the merits of each tzadik differ according to his level. And they say furthermore that each tzadik will be burnt by the Chupah (the Succah) of his friend. In other words, even as he reaps the benefits of the levels that he did attain, he will envy the levels, attained by other tzadikim, levels that he too could have attained.

Regarding this world, Chazal have said that potentially all of Yisroel could sit in one Succah. But in the World to Come that will not be feasible, as we have just explained. That is why the Torah calls it "Chag ha'Succos", a hint to the many Succos that will exist there.


In addition, the B'nei Yisoschor adds, we learn the number of walls of the Succah, as well as the S'chach, from the three times that the word "Succos" occurs in Parshas Emor (once with a 'vov', twice without it). And it is as a reminder that the entire structure of the Succoh is derived from the word "Succos", that the Torah calls the Yom-tov "Chag ha'Succos".


Now We Recite a B'rochoh, Now We Don't

The Kolbo deals with the kashya as to why we recite a b'rochoh each time we enter the Succah throughout the seven days of Succos, yet we do not recite the b'rochoh of 'al achilas matzoh' whenever we eat matzos during the seven days of Pesach.

He explains that, whereas on Succos, one is bound to sleep during the Yom-tov, (since a person cannot go for even three days without sleeping, let alone seven), there is no obligation to eat matzos during Pesach, seeing as one can eat other foods. Consequently, the mitzvah of living in a Succah (which includes sleeping), extends to the other days of Succos, whereas the mitzvah of eating matzoh is confined to the Seider night.

The Kolbo clearly assumes that someone who eats matzoh throughout Pesach, fulfills a mitzvah (though the mitzvah is not obligatory).

Rebbi Shmuel Sh'kilo however disagrees with this. In his opinion, there is no mitzvah whatsoever to eat matzah during Pesach (only to avoid eating Chometz). Consequently, the sole reason for eating matzoh during Pesach is to still one's hunger, since one is forbidden to eat bread.

On the other hand, there is no prohibition per se of living in a house. Consequently, when one sits in a Succah throughout Succos, it is in order to fulfill the mitzvah, and a b'rochoh is therefore required.


Shaking the 'Lulav'

One recites Hallel throughout the seven days of Succos and shakes the 'lulav' eighteen times by 'Hodu' at the beginning and at the end, and eighteen times by 'Ono Hashem hoshi'o no', as the Zohar writes in Pinchos. 'The Lulav represents 'tzadik' (Yosef), inasmuch as it resembles a spinal cord (symbolising the Midoh of Yesod, the midoh of Yosef - see following paragraph), which contains eighteen vertibrae. This corresponds in turn, to the eighteen b'rochos of the Amidah and the eighteen times that Hashem's Name appears in the Shema and in Kapitel 29 in Tehillim ("Hovu la'Hashem B'nei Eilim").

Eighteen of course, is the numerical value of 'chai', and the hint to the posuk in Hallel "Lo ha'Meisim yehallelu-koh" (from which we also learn that a dry Lulav is posul) is vivid. The shaking is performed in all six directions, three times in each direction. And here again the total comes to eighteen.


In the right hand, one holds the lulav, comprising six pieces - (one lulav, three hadasim and two arovos). These in turn, represent the six midos: Chesed, G'vurah and Tif'eres (the three hadasim - which also resemble the eyes with its three colours); Netzach and Hod (the two arovos - which resemble the two lips); whereas the lulav which resembles the spinal cord, which holds the body together, signifies Yesod.

And the esrog which signifies Malchus, resembles the heart, from which one's thoughts emanate. And it is with these in mind that Dovid ha'Melech wrote "All my bones will praise Hashem ... "


Seventy-two Times

All in all, we shake the lulav seventy-two times, says the Zohar - eighteen times when we recite the b'rochoh over it, eighteen times on both of the occasions that we say 'Hodu', and when we recite 'Ono Hashem Hoshi'o no'. (This is not a minhag that is generally practised. However, according to one prominent minhag, we do shake seventy-two times in Hallel: twice at 'Hodu' (36), and twice at 'Ono Hashem Hoshi'o no' (36).)

Similarly, the numerical value of 'lulav' is sixty-eight, plus (the four letters or) the four species, totaling seventy-two. This is the identical numerical value of 'chesed', which is the Midoh most prominently hinted in the pesukim at whose mention we shake. In addition, not only does the Great Name of Hashem consist of seventy-two letters, but the numerical value of the four letter Name of Hashem, when spelt out fully ('yud, vov, daled; hey, yud; vov, yud, vov; hey yud') adds up to seventy-two.


History of the World
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)
(Part 66)


Todoh the sorcerer claims he is a prophet. He convinces many Jews to grab money wherever they can and to follow him to the banks of the Jordan River, which he promises to split, enabling them to cross to the other side on foot.

However, a Roman officer sends a legion after them. Many Jews are killed, including Todoh, whose head is brought to the officer.


Claudius is appointed Emperor of Rome with the assistance of Agripa. He is kind to the Jews and holds King Agripa in high esteem.



Agripa dies during the reign of Claudius, and, according to the Seifer ha'Yuchsin, his brother Herod the second rules in his place for three years.

Agripa the second, the son of Agripa the first, is the fifth King in the lineage of Herod the first. (The Rishonim dispute whether his mother is Jewish or not.) Initially, he is a good and popular king, until he falls into the hands of the zealots. He is a man of great learning who is fluent in many languages. He will rule for twenty-one years. Chanani the Tzedoki serves as Cohen Godol.

For twenty years there will be constant fighting between Yisroel and Rome.


Munbaz, King of Adibanah (near Medes) and Queen Helen live at this time. They are children of Ptolomy King of Egypt. Some maintain that they are converts. They have two sons, Munbaz and Yuzatish, both of whom are righteous.

Helen vows to go to Yerusholayim and to live there for a few years. When she arrives there together with her oldest son Munbaz, they find the city suffering from a famine. The people are starving, so they open the royal treasury and send their wealth to Egypt to purchase provisions, which they divide among the poor of Yisrael. Helen's younger son, the righteous Yuzatish (who had b'ris milah, and who succeeded his father Munbaz as king of Adibanah) opens his treasury and sends gifts to the poor of Yerusholayim.

Helen is a Nazir for seven years. She makes a Menorah of gold, which she places at the entrance of the Heichal, and a tableau on which she writes the Parshah of Sotah. Her son Munbaz makes the handles of the vessels in the Beis ha'Mikdosh of gold. Her grandchildren will assist Yisroel greatly at the time of the Churban.

After the death of Yuzatish, his brother Munbaz ascends the throne of Adibanah. When, a short while later, his mother Queen Helen dies, he sends her bones together with the bones of his brother Yuzatish to Weretz Yisrael, and they are buried with great honour in the grave that she prepared for herself some eight miles from Yerusholayim.



Raban Shimon the second (one of the ten martyrs), son of Raban Gamliel the elder, becomes Nosi, eighteen years before the Churban. He is the tenth generation of Tana'im, the thirty-sixth in the chain from Sinai, and a colleague of Raban Yochonon ben Zakai.

A Roman soldier exposes himself in front of the Courtyard of the Beis ha'Mikdosh. The angry Jews set upon him and kill him, but the Romans avenge his death by killing thirty thousand Jews.



The Emperor Claudius dies. Nero is crowned Emperor of Rome. He is a cruel man, who kills his own mother, his tutor and his brother. He sets Rome ablaze and rejoices as it burns. Nero sends his general Pilo to Yerusholayim. He and his men go on a rampage, murdering, stealing and raping, until Elozor ben Anoni, a leader of the Zealots, and his followers stage a counter-attack and put them to the sword.


Vol. 7   No. 52

This section is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Yitel bas Aba
with love from her family

Ve'Zos Ha'Brochoh

Moshe's Blessing

The parshah begins with the words "And this is the blessing that Moshe ... conferred upon Klal Yisroel ... ".

Commenting on the 'vov' in "Ve'Zos ha'Brochoh" (which always connects with something that was said before), Rabeinu Bachye explains that it refers to the blessings of Bil'om. Bil'om blessed Yisroel three times, as Bolok reminded him (Bolok 24:10), instead of the seven times that he should have blessed them, (corresponding to the seven altars that he built).

'Rosho', Hashem reprimanded him: 'You are reluctant to bless Yisroel! I will not let you conclude the b'rochos. Let Moshe, who is generous with his blessings, come and complete the task that you began'. That is why we find Moshe blessing Yisroel four times: 1. When they finished donating the raw materials for the Mishkon (Sh'mos 39:43); 2. Together with Aharon, on the eighth day of the Mishkon's consecration (Vayikro 9:23); 3. When he rebuked them (Devorim 1:11); 4. Here, on the day of his death.


The Or ha'Chayim too, discusses the 'vov' in "ve'Zos ha'brochoh". According to him, it is a continuation from the end of the previous parshah, where Hashem reminds Moshe that he will not enter Eretz Yisroel, but will only see it from a distance, before dying outside Eretz Yisroel. Bearing in mind that it was Klal Yisroel who, despite all the efforts that he expended on their behalf, were responsible for his death (as the Medrash Tanchuma explains), the Torah is coming here to praise Moshe, not only for not bearing a grudge against them, but for actually going out of his way to bless them. And this is particularly striking since the blessings took place even as the very death, for which they were responsible, loomed large in front of him.


The Or ha'Chayim continues to elaborate on each and every phrase in this opening posuk: "which Moshe blessed" - we already know of Moshe's uniqueness from Hashem's praise of him when Miriam and Aharon spoke against him (in Beha'aloscho).


"a man of G-d" implying kevayochol, that Moshe was the master of Hashem (like in the phrase "ish Naomi") - in short, Moshe possessed the power to issue decrees, which G-d would then carry out.


"the B'nei Yisroel" - a vessel that is ready to receive b'rochos', for they are the only nation on whom the Shechinah would ever rest.v


"before his death" - however great Moshe was in his lifetime, he reached greater heights still just before his death, like all tzadikim, whose spiritual level rises as their physicality declines.


"the man of G-d" - were G-d (Midas Elokim) to sit in judgement with Avrohom, Yitzchok and Ya'akov, they would be unable to stand before Him (for it is only when the Midas ho'Rachamim works in conjunvtion with the Midas ha'Din that man can survive). But Moshe was different. He alone, of all human-beings, was able to stand up to the Midas ha'Din.

In addition, the posuk is teaching us that all of Moshe's superlative midos were not part of his makeup, but the result of his fear of G-d. In striking contrast, Chazal have said about King Shaul that his single sin caused him to lose the kingdom, whereas Dovid ha'Melech's two sins did not - because Shaul was born with an exceptionally refined character, which left him with the relatively easy tasks of overcoming his yeitzer ho'Ra and attaining perfection. Had he possessed the 'wild' midos of Dovid ha'Melech, he would have sinned ten times more than him (says the Or ha'Chayim).

Moshe Rabeinu's phenominal humility, as well as his other outstanding characteristics, on the other hand, were due entirely to his fear of G-d. ("Ish" - his personality was the result of "ho'Elokim" - his fear of G-d). They were not natural, but the result of constant hard work. And "Ish ho'Elokim" also hints at the extent of Moshe's uniqueness. He is "the man of G-d". There has never been a man like him, nor will there ever be.


Moshe's final act in this world was to bless Yisroel with all his heart. The Torah is also teaching us here, says the Or ha'Chayim, that it was only after this display of superlative Midos (as we explained in the opening paragraph), that he earned the title 'The man of G-d'.


Parshah Pearls
Ve'Zos ha'Brochoh

Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro
Yisroel's Innocence

"And he said: Hashem came from Sinai, and He shone on them from Se'ir (Eisov); He revealed Himself from Har Poron (Yishmoel) ... a law of fire for them" (33:2)

From this posuk, Chazal derive that G-d first offered the Torah to the nations of the world (half of whom are grouped with Eisov and half, with Yishmoel).


The Gemoro in Shabbos (88a) tells of that Tzedoki who told Rovo that Yisroel was a hasty nation, who hurried to say "Na'aseh" (first) and then "nishma!", before they had made the effort to discover whether the Torah was not too difficult and beyond their capabilities. To this Rava replied 'About us, who went with Hashem innocently, and who relied on Him, it is written (in Mishlei 11:3) "The innocence of those who are straight leads them". About you (r ancestors), who went with Him with treachery, it is written (there) "And the crookedness of those who are treacherous will cast them down" '.


The Medrash writes that when G-d wanted to give the Torah to the B'nei Eisov and they asked what was written in it, He replied "Do not murder", to which they retorted 'But our father Eisov blessed us with the words "You will live by the sword!" '

And when, in similar fashion, B'nei Yishmoel were quoted the posuk "Do not steal!", they referred to the blessing of the Angel to their mother Hogor "And his hand will be against everyone".

The question arises why G-d did not quote other mitzvos, such as that of enjoying the Shabbos or similar mitzvos, which, under the circumstances, may have proven to be more attractive to the natuions of the world.

However, this can be compared to a merchant who is approached by various customers who want to see his merchandise. When the merchant feels that a certain customer is not really serious about buying, he shows him his inferior goods. But for his serious customers, he lays out his better quality merchandise.

In the same way, G-d knew that, when the nations of the world asked Him what was written in the Torah, they were not seriously interested in accepting it. He knew that, even if He would have given it to them, they would not have kept even the more attractive mitzvos, such as Shabbos), so he showed them mitzvos that were (to them) less appealing, in order to put them off.


Yisroel on the other hand, were such serious customers, that they accepted everything that Hashem had to offer, without even asking for samples.

That is why Rovo answered the Tzedoki 'about us, who go with innocence - relying on Hashem that the Torah is good, the posuk writes "The innocence of those who are straight leads them" (when the Torah becomes seemingly difficult to keep, they receive Divine assistance); whereas you, who go with treachery ... are are led by that treachery (Hashem put them off by phrasing His answer in a way that made Torah look unattractive)'.


The Magic of Ya'akov's Hands

" ... And they are the tens of thousands of Ephrayim (whom he killed in battle) and they are the thousands of Menasheh" (33:17).

Why does the Torah make this distinction between the two brothers?


When Ya'akov blessed Ephrayim and Menasheh, he switched his hands, placing his right hand on the head of Ephrayim (who was on his left side) and his left hand on the head of Menasheh (who was on his right).

Based on the posuk in Tehillim (91:7) "One thousand will fall from your (left) side, and ten thousand from your right", the Torah's distinction between the two brothers becomes self-evident.


And Moshe Never Died

"And Moshe died there" (34:5).

The Gemoro in Sotah (13b) cites an opinion that Moshe did not really die at all. The Torah writes here "And he died there," and it writes in Ki Sisso "And he was there with Hashem". Just as over there Moshe was standing and serving Hashem (i.e. learning Torah), also here, he continued to stand and serve Hashem.


The acronym of "Vayomos" (and he died) is "ve'hu yoshev meshamesh tomid", from which, it appears, Moshe remained sitting and serving Hashem, and not standing.

The reason therefore, that the Gemoro says 'standing' is in keeping with the Gemoro in Megilah, which explains that for the easy Gemoros he stood, and for the difficult ones, he sat. What the Gemoro therefore means is that, just as Moshe served Hashem there, so too did he continue to serve Him here, though there he stood (for the easier Gemoros), whilst here he sat. Presumably, that is because in the world of truth, Moshe is involved in learning the more difficult sugyos, for which one needs to sit, or perhaps because the rules differ in that world, and everyone studies Torah seated.


Thirty Days for Thirty Years

"And the B'nei Yisroel wept for Moshe ... thirty days" (34:8).

Chazal have said that Moshe and Aharon too, died on account of their sin. The Torah writes "Because you did not have faith in Me ... ", implying that if they would have had faith in Hashem, their time to die would not yet have arrived (Shabbos 55b).


Moshe was the 'Terumah' of the world (i.e. he was designated to be holy). The average terumah is one-fiftieth.

The world will exist for six thousand years, of which one-fiftieth is a hundred and twenty - the years that Moshe lived. Had Moshe not sinned at the Water of Merivah, he would have been treated as Terumah that is given generously - one- fortieth. Now one-fortieth of six thousand is a hundred and fifty. In other words, because of his sin, Moshe lost thirty years of his life (the difference between a hundred and fifty and a hundred and twenty).

That is why Yisroel cried for him for thirty days, a day for a year.


(Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchok and the Ta'amei ha'Minhogim)
Simchas Torah

The reason that we rejoice with the Torah on Shemini Atzeres is based on the Zohar, which explains that 'Atzeres' is an expression of gathering. It is the day that Ya'akov Ovinu leads the rejoicing, and all the other Ushpizin (Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon and Dovid) rejoice with him.

That is why we read in the parshah (ve'Zos ha'Brochoh), "How praiseworthy are you Yisroel,! Who is like you?" and it is written "You are My servant Yisroel, and in you I will be glorified". Now the Midoh of Ya'akov is Emes ("You gave Emes to Ya'akov") which is a description of the Torah, and the Gemoro in Shabbos says 'Blessed be the Merciful One who gave a Torah in three parts ...' (and Ya'akov was the third of the Ovos). This explains why we rejoice on this day with the Torah and why the day is also called Simchas Torah - because Ya'akov and Torah are synonymous.


The Triumvirate

Chazal have also said that Hakodosh Boruch Hu, Yisroel and Torah are one. They form a unique triumvirate, based on the Divine character of Torah, which is G-d's wisdom, and Yisroel, by virtue of the Ovos having chosen to go in G-d's ways, and by G-d having subsequently chosen us as His people. This explains why we are so very different than all the other nations. And it explains why gentiles are forbidden to study Torah. It also explains what we say in the Amidah on Shabbos - 'You are one, and Your Name (Torah, which comprises the Names of Hashem) is one, and who is like your people Yisroel, a unique people in the land?'


The Medrash teaches us that throughout the seven days of Succos, Yisroel brought seventy bulls for the Korban Musaf, thirteen on the first day, twelve on the second, and so on. But when it came to Shemini Atzeres, they brought just one bull, corresponding to Klal Yisroel. It can be compared to a king whose servants arranged in his honour a feast that lasted many days. When the last day arrived, the king asked his friend to make him a small party so that he (the king) could enjoy his company exclusively. (Rebbi Yochanon commented on this, how foolish are the nations of the world. They do not know what they lost with the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh. Because as long as it stood, it atoned for their sins. Now that it is no longer standing, there is nothing to atone for them.)


In any event, we see that if Succos represents the nations of the world, Shemini Atzeres represents Klal Yisroel exclusively. On it, we bring one bull, because Yisroel, like Hashem, is one (unique). But did we not say earlier that we are three partners, not two? How can we rejoice with one of our partners and not the other? So we bring in the third partner, the Torah, and the three of us rejoice together.


600,000 Souls, 600,000 Letters

It is customary to call up everyone to the Torah on Simchas Torah. One reason for this is because on it we conclude the Torah, whose last words are 'le'einei kol Yisroel", and "Yisroel" make up the first letters of 'Yesh shishim ribu osi'os la'Torah' (there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah). Seeing as that is the basic number of Neshomos that comprise Yisroel, this means that each and every Jew (Neshomoh) has one letter in the Torah. So, in order to demonstrate this, everyone is called up to the Torah.

And one of the reasons that we begin the Torah again as soon as we finish it, is to connect the end of the Torah to the beginning. This is in fact, a demonstration that the Torah has no end and that, rather being seen as a straight line, it should be envisaged as a circle.

It seems to me that this is also the deeper meaning of the number eight. Seven constitutes something that has a beginning and an end, whereas eight constitutes a recurring cycle of seven (the number that represents nature - and eight transends nature). That is what the commentaries mean when they refer to the number eight as being supernatural. It is in essence, equivalent to the fiftieth day on which the Torah was given. Because it follows the seven times seven weeks of Sefiras ho'Omer and the Yovel year that follows the seven times seven Sh'mitos (because the number fifty that follows seven times seven, has the same connotations as the number eight that follows seven), as the commentaries point out.

In any event, whereas seven denotes the end of a cycle, eight denotes continuity and eternity. And this concept is repeated in the realm of music where the scale consists of eight notes and the eighth note, which is the same as the first, serves at one and the same time, as the last note of the one octave and the first one of the next.


Wot, No Lulav!

In Chutz lo'Oretz, where they observe an extra day of Yom-tov, because Shemini Atzeres is a Safek seventh-day Yom-tov, it is customary to sit in the Succah on Shemini Atzeres, but not to shake Lulav. We will discuss the former halochoh shortly, but what is the reason for the latter one?

The Avudraham ascribes this to the fact that, whereas the basic mitzvah of Succah nowadays, remains mi'd'Oraysa - that of Lulav after the first day is only mi'de'Rabbonon. We take the Lulav nowadays to commemorate the Beis ha'Mikdosh, where they would "rejoice with the Lulav (before Hashem) for seven days" (outside the Beis Hamikdosh they took it only on the first day). Consequently, the Chachomim did not extend their enactment to the eighth day, which is after all, no more than a 'sfeika de'Yoma'.


The Mogein Avrohom explains that sitting in a Succah on Shemini Atzeres does not entail the contravention of any Isur. Taking a Lulav on the other hand, entails handling Muktzah, since, when it does not involve a mitzvah (like on Shabbos) a Lulav is Muktzah. So Chazal decided not to waive the Isur for the sake of a s'feika de'Yoma, in which case it remains Muktzah.


Wot, no B'rochoh!

Many in Chutz lo'Oretz have the minhag to sit in the Succah the whole day, but do not recite a b'rochoh, in keeping with the literal interpretation of the Gemoro which states 'We (the people of Bovel) sit in the Succah but do not recite a b'rochoh'.

Since it is a sofek, explains the Rosh, we go to the strict side both ways: we sit in the Succah le'chumra, but refrain from reciting a b'rochoh le'chumra.

The Maharil goes one step further. He explains that we are only permited to sit in the Succah by virtue of the fact that we do not recite a b'rochoh, demonstrating clearly that we are only sitting in the Succah because it may be the seventh day of Succos. And this demonstration prevents us from being guilty of treating Shemini Atzeres with contempt. Consequently, one does not sleep in the Succah (since sleeping in the Succah, even on Succos, does not generally require a b'rochoh). By the same token, one should take care to eat at least a ke'beitzah of bread or cake each time that one enters a new Succah on Shemini Atzeres (since less than a ke'beitzah does not require a b'rochoh ['leishev ba'Succoh] either).

Other minhogim are:

1. That of the Gro, to sleep in the Succah too on Shemini Atzeres, because it is a s'feika de'yoma;

2. To eat in the Succah during the day but not at night, since that would clash with the b'rochoh of 'Shehechiyonu' that one recites then over the new Yom-tov;

3. To recite Kidush in the Succah in the day and to eat a little, before moving into the house. This is because on Shemini Atzeres, we daven for rain, and eating in the Succah would prevent us from davening with full kavonoh.

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