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Vol. 16 No. 50
Glassman, Schwartz and Chernick Families
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Zahavah bas Chayim Yosef Luria z"l
Aspects of Simchah
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
Simchah & B'rachah
The Torah mentions both 'Simchah' and 'B'rachah' with regard to both Shavu'os ("*ve'somachto* lifnei Hashem Elokecho" & "ka'asher *yevorech'cho* Hashem Elokecho") and Succos ("*ve'somachto* be'Chgecho" & "ki *yevorech'cho* Hashem Elokecho"). In the Parshah of Pesach, R. Bachye observes, it mentions neither.
The reason for this, he explains, is because on Shavu'os and Succos, first the crops and then the fruit as well has already been harvested and is ready to eat. This enables the people to provide the 'four guests' - the Levi'im, the Ger, the yasom and the almanah (as prescribed by the Torah in Parshas Re'ei [16:14]), which in turn, creates a general feeling of Simchah all round and serves as a catalyst for G-d's blessings.
Pesach, on the other hand, takes place prior to the harvest season. Consequently, seeing as the new crops have not yet been picked and the old crops have already been eaten, the Torah, foreseeing the improbability of the people undertaking to feed the 'four guests', omits both Simchah and B'rachah from the text.
In a second explanation, to explain why the Torah fails to mention Simchah even once on Pesach, once on Shavu'os and three times on Succos, the author cites a Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah. The Mishnah lists the four occasions each year when the world is judged - 'Pesach, on the crops; Shavu'os, on the fruit of the tree; Rosh Hashanah, when every human being passes before G-d like sheep to be judged, and Succos, on the water supply.
On Pesach, he explains, the Torah omits Simchah because all three judgements still lie ahead, and who knows whether they will be favorable; On Shavu'os, when the judgement on produce has already passed, the Torah mentions Simchah once, wheras on Succos, when three of the judgements are already behind us (the produce, the fruit and the judgement of the world), it mentions it three times. Interestingly, it is the relief that the judgement is over that gives rise to the Simchah, not the result of the judgements, irrespective of the result of the judgement. This is similar to Chazal's mantra 'There is no Simchah like that of the dispelling of doubts' (notwithstanding the fact that sometimes the results are negative).
The Simchah Stops Here!
Commenting on the word "Ach" in the Pasuk "Vehoyiso ach somei'ach", R. Bachye cites the Chazal that the words 'Ach' and 'Rak' always come to exclude something'. Here, he explains, the word "Rak" comes to exclude the pursuit of happiness in this world. We fulfilled the Mitzvah of Simchah on Pesach, when we celebrated the Omer harvest and on Shavu'os, when we celebrated the harvest of wheat. Came Succos, and we celebrated the ingathering of the crops and the fruit, 'the wool, the flax, the oil and drinks'; the hard work over, the Simchah is double, and so the Torah doubled the Mitzvah of Simchah. Now, as the cycle draws to a close, and the period of calm and tranquility set in, the Torah instructs us to minimise our rejoicing. It is teaching us that Simchah is not something to be pursued relentlessly, but enjoyed in moderation.
I thought at first, that R. Bachye was referring, not to the Simchah shel Mitzvah that should accompany the performance of all Mitzvos. This after all, is a Mitzvah in itself, and is not subject to limitations. This sort of Simchah is not an end, but a tool which enhances one's performance of Mitzvos, and as R. Bachye himself explains, is a Mitzvah in itself. I thought that he was referring to the pursuit of happiness as an end in itself, as many people spend most of their lives doing. And there is no doubt that he is indeed referring mainly to this sort of Simchah, as his words suggest.
However, the author himself, citing the Gemara in Succah, adds that even when performing a Mitzvah, one should remember the Pasuk in Yeshayah (9:2) " … and rejoice with trepidation".
One needs to be wary of Simchah, the author concludes, since it is something that the Yeitzer-ha'Ra makes attractive in the eyes of his potential victims, encouraging them to partake of it in large quantities. The real Simchah, he concludes, is in Olam ha'Ba, where one sees the Face of the Shechinah, because that is when we will experience unbridled spiritual pleasure. This is reminiscent of a statement of Resh Lakish in B'rachos (31a), who declares that it is forbidden to 'burst into full laughter in this world'.
(see also 'article Vehoyiso Ach Somei'ach', for an alternative explanation of the word "Ach").
* * *
All About Succos
(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)
Why We shake the Lulav
To explain the Mitzvah of shaking the Lulav, the Medrash compare is to a king who has just vanquished his enemies, and as was customary in those days, he took his sword, on which was hanging a symbol of his kingship, and climbed to the top of a prominent tower, where he began to wave it in all directions to proclaim his victory to the world.
We too, wave our Lulavim, to declare that we have vanquished all the prosecuting angels.
Eating & Drinking before Taking the Lulav
The S'dei Chemed writes that it is befitting for a G-d-fearing person to endear the Mitzvos, and not to eat before performing them. Somebody who feels weak however, and who has difficulty in fasting until the end of Davenning, nor is it possible to Daven at home before having recited Hallel, may drink and even eat a little - though he is not permitted to eat bread.
The Rokei'ach too, writes that the early Chasidim used to fast before Mitzvos that were particularly precious, such as that of Lulav and the like. And his words imply that he is speaking even if one has already Davened, but has not yet manage to shake Lulav. The correct thing to do, he maintains, is not to eat anything until one has performed the Mitzvah on hand.
Why We Do Not Shake the Lulav
by 'Ono Hashem Hatzlichoh No'
One of the reasons that we do not shake the Lulav when saying "Ono Hashem Hatzlicho-no" is because it is written in the same Pasuk as "Ono Hashem hoshi'o no", and we do not shake twice in the same Pasuk.
Giving One's Lulav to a Child
The Minhagim writes that on both of the first days of Succos (when one is obliged to shake one's own Lulav, and not a borrowed one), one should not give one's Lulav to a child to shake on his own, This is because a child can acquire, but others cannot acquire from him. Consequently, when one gives the Lulav to the child on the first two days, he acquires it, but the owner cannot acquire it back from him (this is not problematic on the second day, if the father has already fulfilled the Mitzvah before giving it to his son to shake). To solve the problem, it is best to hold the Lulav together with the child, so that it never really leaves one' own domain. (This is difficult to understand however, since 'Mah Nafshach', if the child acquires it, then holding it together with him hasn't achieved anything; whereas if he doesn't, then the child has not fulfilled the Mitzvah properly, and one may as well simply lend it to him).
Only One Seifer-Torah
The Avudraham points out that we do not take out two Sefarim on Chol ha'Mo'ed Succos, like we do on Chol ha'Mo'ed Pesach. The reason for this, he explains, is because, unlike Chol ha'Mo'ed Pesach, when there many appropriate Parshiyos connected with the Pesach scattered throughout the Chumash, on Chol-ha'Mo'ed Succos, there are no Parshiyos other than that of the Korban Musaf to choose from (except for those that we Lein on Yom-Tov and Shabbos).
The Order of the Hosha'anos
On whichever day of Succos Shabbos falls, we say 'Om Netzorah', since it deals exclusively with Shabbos, and so this year, that is what we will say on the first day. Otherwise, due to the fact that 'Hashem's seal is 'Emes', we normally begin with 'Le'ma'an Amitach', followed by 'Even Shesiyah', since it deals exclusively with the different names of the Beis-Hamikdash. This year however, 'Le'ma'an Amitach' is postponed till the second day, and on the third, instead of 'Even Shesiyah', we recite 'E'eroch Shu'i'. This is in order to recite it as close as possible to Yom Kipur (because it contains the phrase 'I revealed my transgression on the Fast (of Yom Kipur). It transpires that we always say 'E'eroch Shu'i' on the third day of Succos. The reason that we do not recite it on Shabbos or Yom-Tov is because it resembles a supplication, which we avoid saying on Shabbos or Yom-Tov.
On the fifth day we say either 'Keil le'Mosho'os' or 'Om Ani Chomah'.
We always say 'Adon ha'Moshi'a' on the sixth day of Succos, not earlier, because it speaks about rain (which we do not want on Succos), so we postpone it till the last possible moment - the day before Hosha'ana Rabah. The only exception is when Succos falls on Monday, so that the sixth day falls on Shabbos. Since Sunday then turns out to be Hosha'na Rabah, we are forced to omit 'Adon ha'Moshi'a altogether.
It is not clear as to why 'E'eroch Shu'i' does not precede 'Even Shesiyah' even when the first day of Succos does not fall on Shabbos. In Chutz la'Aretz this is probably due to the fact that the second day is the second day of Yom-Tov, and 'Even 'Shesiyah' is more suited to Yom-Tov, as we explained earlier. But in Eretz Yisrael, where there is only one day of Yom-Tov, there seems to be no reason as to why 'E'eroch Shu'i' should not always precede 'Even Shesiyah'?
In any event, here is the order of the Hosha'anos this year, when the first day of Succos falls on Shabbos …
1. 'Om Netzora'.
2. 'Lema'an Amitach'
3. 'E'eroch Shu'i'
4. 'Even Shesiyah'
5. 'Keil le'Mosho'os'
6. 'Adon ha'Moshi'a'
Highlights from the Ba'al ha'Turim
(from Parshas Emor)
" … P'ri Eitz Hadar, Kapos temorim va'anaf eitz ovos … " (23:40).
The Gematriyah of "P'ri Eitz Hadar", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is equivalent to that of 'esrogim'; the word "ovos" is missing a 'Vav', hinting at the six things that render a Hadas Pasul - dry, stolen, from an asheirah-tree (i.e. one that has been worshipped), Ir ha'nidachas (where the entire town worshipped Avodah-Zarah), the top is lopped off, and one that belongs to Avodah-Zarah (even though it has not yet been worshipped).
"Kapos temorim" refers to Lulav, whose Gematriyah equals 'chayim', which (based on the Pasuk in Hallel "The dead do not praise G-d), explains why a dry lulav is Pasul.
"You shall dwell in Succos for seven days" (23:42).
The seven days correspond to the seven Clouds of Glory that the Succah comes to commemorate, and the seven 'Chuppos' which Yisrael will merit as a reward for the Mitzvah of Succah - "Onon (Cloud), Oshon (Smoke), Nogah (Shine), Eish (Fire), Lehavah (Flame), Kovod Shechinah (the Glory of the Shechinah), & Succas Livyoson (the Succah of the Livyasan)".
"So that your generations shall know that I settled B'nei Yisrael in Succos Huts/Clouds of Glory) … " (23"43).
The Crowns on the 'Kaf' of "ba'Succos", the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, hint to the twenty Amos, which is the maximum height of the Succah. Above that height, the Gemara in Succah teaches us, one is not aware that one is sitting in a Succah.
* * *
Vehoyiso Ach Somei'ach
The Torah inserts the word "Ach", says R. Bachye, to teach us that Simchah is not something that we should experience on the odd occasion during Succos, but rather one that should accompany us throughout the seven days. For the Gematriyah of "Ach" is twenty-one, and it is as if the Torah had written that one should rejoice until the twenty-first of Tishri has passed.
See also main article 'The Simchah Stops Here'!
* * *
There is None Besides
Hashem Our G-d
(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)
On each day of Succos, after Hallel, the Hosha'anos and the Hakafos, we conclude the Mitzvah of Lulav and Esrog with the words " … so that all the people of the land shall know that Hashem is G-d, and there is none beside Him!"
To explain why we do this, the B'nei Yisaschar cites the Pasuk in Shoftim (in connection with somebody who sets out to worship Avodah-Zarah) " and he goes and he serves other gods … the sun or the moon or the Hosts of the Heaven, which I did not command".
The words "which I did not command", at first sight, are difficult to understand. Not only that, but they leave an opening for the Apikorsim to extrapolate truly blasphemous thoughts!
First of all, says the author, we need to understand why the Torah forbids the honour and the worship of the stars of the Heaven and their hosts? Surely, honouring the servants of the king is akin to honouring the king himself? Indeed, Chazal have said that 'the servant of the king is like the king himself'.
That may well be true anywhere else, he explains; but not in the royal palace! Somebody who stands in the presence of a king may pay homage to the king alone, and not to anybody else. That is why Uriyah ha'Chiti received the death-sentence for referring to his commander-in-chief Yo'av as 'my master Yo'av' before David ha'Melech. And since Hakodosh-Baruch-Hu is everywhere ('leis asar panuy mineih'), honouring and worshipping any other being is a slight to His honour and is never permitted.
As a matter of fact, the Maharit explains, this was the mistake that the generation of Enosh (Adam ha'Rishon's grandson) made, in that they began worshipping the Heavenly bodies, in the belief that the greatness of the servant reflects the greatness of the master. When in reality, to acknowledge the greatness of the servant in the presence of the master, constitutes a total denial of the greatness of the master, as we explained.
On what basis, asks the B'nei Yisaschar, do we then honour the Mitzvos, by showing our respect and love to objects of Mitzvah, even as we stand 'before the King in His Palace'?
The answer, he explains, lies in the fact that the Mitzvos, commandments of G-d, are the embodiment of G-d's will. He commanded, and we fulfill His will. Consequently, treating these objects with love and respect is akin to loving and respecting the will of G-d. This reasoning does not apply to paying homage to G-d's servants, and that is why the Torah adds the words "which I did not command", to explain the difference between the Mitzvos and the Heavenly Hosts.
And to avoid any thought that perhaps our love and respect for the Mitzvos is intrinsic, and not a love and respect for the will of G-d that envelops the Mitzvah that we are performing, we wait until we have concluded the Mitzvah of Lulav and Esrog, and proclaim ' … so that all the people of the land shall know that Hashem is G-d, and there is none beside Him!', declaring publicly that we have no other motive for cherishing them.
Virtually the same idea is expressed by the Rokei'ach on the Pasuk in Tehilim (148:13) that we recite after Leining "They shall praise the |Name of Hashem, for His Name alone is exalted". Because when reciting the B'rachah over the Torah we bow down in honour of the Torah, he explains. And it is to stress that we pay homage, not to the Seifer-Torah itself (as if we considered it a deity in its own right - Chas ve'Shalom), but to the Names of G-d that it contains, that we declare immediately afterwards that it is His Name alone that we worship and not the Seifer-Torah.
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This issue is sponsored
Yital bas Aba a"h
with love from her family
Vol. 16 No. 51
Parshas Ve'Zos ha'B'rachah
The Four Things that are
Unique to Yisrael
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
The reason that the Torah mentions specifically Ya'akov (33:28) in connection with Eretz Yisrael, R. Bachye explains, is to make it abundantly clear that Eretz Yisrael belongs to the B'nei Yisrael alone, and not to the children of Avraham and Yitzchak, to preclude Yishmael and Eisav from laying any claim to it.
Indeed, he says, there are four things which Yisrael exclusively have merited, and in which the gentiles have no portion - prophecy, Torah, Eretz Yisrael and Techi'as ha'Meisim (unless that is, they convert, an option that is always open to them, provided they do so with sincerity).
And the author goes on to present the source for each of those four things in Pesukim in the Torah - each of which contains (directly or indirectly) a reference to "Ya'akov".
Prophecy - in the Pasuk in Shoftim (18:26), where the Torah writes "A prophet from your midst, from your brethren just like me (komoni - who is a descendent of Ya'akov')". The Pasuk there, the author adds, had to write "komoni"; otherwise we would have learned from "me'Achecha" that the B'nei Eisav, who also fall under the category of 'brothers' (See Rashi, Parshas Chukas 20:14) are also included.
But how about Bil'am, you may well ask? Was he not a gentile prophet? The truth of the matter is, he answers, that Bil'am was a sorcerer (see the author's explanation there 24:4), and it was only in honour of Yisrael that he was temporarily elevated to the level of a Navi. He also quotes the Chazal cited by Rashi there (22:5) that he was only appointed as a prophet, so that the gentiles should not claim that if they had had prophets like Yisrael, they would have done Teshuvah. So G-d gave them a prophet (for long enough to prove the falseness of their claim).
Torah - in the Pasuk in this chapter (Pasuk 4), where it writes "Moshe commanded us Torah, a heritage for the community of Ya'akov" (but not for the nations of the world).
Eretz Yisrael - in the Pasuk currently under discussion (33:28), as we explained earlier. And so we find that from the time that Yisrael was sent into exile, no other nation ever settled the land, nor will they do so in the future (see also what the author writes in Bechukosai, 26:32). Remarkably, it was only after Yisrael began to return to Eretz Yisrael that the Arabs began to claim ownership of the land.
Techiyas ha'Meisim - is in this Pasuk too, which concludes "also his Heavens shall drip with dew". "his Heavens" refers back to "Ya'akov" mentioned earlier, and, with reference to the Heaven called 'Arvos' (in Pasuk 26, as the author explained there), the Heaven that contains the stores of dew that G-d will use to revive the dead. Consequently, the Pasuk is teaching us that the descendants of Ya'akov will come back to life at Techi'as ha'Meisim, but not the rest of the world.
And as a further hint, following the word "tal" (dew), the Pasuk continues "How fortunate are you Yisrael!"
One of the various proofs cited by R. Bachye that it is only Yisrael who will get up at Techi'as ha'Meisim is the Pasuk writes Daniel (12:2) " … and many (ve'rabim) of those sleeping in the dust will wake up". The word "and many", he explains, refers to Yisrael, like we find in Megilas Esther (5:17) " … 'and many' of the people of the land converted (to Judaism)."
* * *
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
Better Moshe than Bil'am
"And this is the B'rachah with which Moshe blessed the B'nei Yisrael before his death" (33:1).
R. Bachye cites a Medrash, which explains that Bil'am, who built seven Alters, ought really to have blessed Yisrael seven times. But he didn't. He only blessed them three times (as stated by Balak in the Parshah bearing his name [24:10]).
'Rasha!', G-d said to him. 'You are too miserly to bless them! I will prevent you from completing the blessings that you are conferring upon Yisrael. Let Moshe, who is generous with his blessings, come and confer upon them four blessings.' And indeed, the Torah records four occasions on which Moshe blessed K'lal Yisrael.
1. " … Moshe saw all the work and behold they had completed it, just as G-d had commanded … ; then Moshe blessed them" (Sh'mos 29:43).
2. "And Moshe and Aharon came to the Ohel Mo'ed and they left, and they blessed the people" (Vayikra 9:43).
3. "Hashem, the G-d of your forefathers will add on to you a thousand-fold like you are now, and He will bless you … : (Devarim, 1:11).
4. "And this is the B'rachah with which Moshe blessed the B'nei Yisrael … " (33:1).
And He was King in Yeshurun
"And He was King in Yeshurun, when the heads of the people gathered together the tribes of Yisrael" (33:5).
This is written with reference to Har Sinai, where Yisrael saw the Shechinah eye to eye (which is why the Torah refers to them as "Yeshurun", whose root meaning is 'to see'), and where the heads of the tribes gathered together to accept upon them His Divine leadership and His Sovereignty.
According to the Medrash however, the Pasuk refers to Moshe, who led Yisrael in the Desert like a king. In addition, the leaders of Yisrael gathered together in order to learn Torah from him, as the Torah writes (31:25) "Gather to me all the heads of your tribes".
Who Wrote That?
"And Moshe ascended from the Plains of Mo'av on to Mount N'vo … " (34:1).
The I'bn Ezra points out that, once Moshe ascended Har N'vo, he never returned. That being the case, it is impossible for him to have written these final Pesukim. It must therefore have been Yehoshua who wrote them. And to prove this further, he points to the Torah's use of the third person, when it writes "And G-d showed him … ", "And G-d said to him … ", and "And He buried him", indicating that it was a third person who was writing it.
R. Bachye however, categorically disagrees. He explains that Moshe wrote the final Pesukim as if he was copying it from a book. What's more, he says, it was common for the prophets to write of things that were yet to happen in the past, as if they had already occurred. Why, Moshe himself did so, when he wrote in Ha'azinu (32:19) "And G-d saw and was provoked by the anger of His sons and daughters" (as we explained there).
The correct explanation, he insists, is that of R. Meir (see footnote), who, based on the Pasuk in Vayeilech (31:26)"Take this Seifer-Torah … " maintains that it is impossible for Moshe's Seifer-Torah to have lacked a single letter.
Consequently, he says, Moshe wrote the entire Torah, as dictated to him by G-d, from "Bereishis" to "Yisrael". Only, as the Gemara explains, the last eight Pesukim he wrote with tears.
* * *
HIGHLIGHTS FROM ...
... TARGUM YONASAN
'And Moshe the prophet of Hashem blessed the Tribe of Asher and he said "Asher is blessed more than the (other) sons of Ya'akov; He will sustain his brothers and provide them with food in the Sh'mitah-year, and his borders will produce an abundance of oil-producing olives, sufficient (even) to wash their feet in it" ' (33:24).
'And Moshe ascended Mount N'vo from the Plains of Mo'av, to the summit of the cliff overlooking Yericho, and G-d showed him all the strong men of the land; The mighty deeds that Yiftach from Gil'ad was destined to perform and the victories of Shimshon the son of Mano'ach from the tribe of Dan' (34:1).
'The Prince Sarchon (?) from the House of Naftali, who would join with Barak, the kings whom Yehoshua bin Nun from the Tribe of Efrayim was destined to kill, the mighty deeds of Gid'on, the son of Yo'ash from the Tribe of Menasheh and all the Kings of Yisrael and the Kingdom of the House of Yehudah, who was destined to rule over the land until the destruction of the latter Beis-Hamikdash' (34:2).
'Blessed be the Name of the Master of the Universe who taught us His ways; He taught us to clothe the naked, when He dressed Adam and Chavah; He taught us to make Shiduchim, when he brought them together; He taught us to visit the sick, when, following Avraham's B'ris Milah, when he was ill, His Shechinah appeared to him; He taught us to comfort the mourners, when He revealed Himself to Ya'akov, after he returned from Padan Aram in the location of his mother's death; He taught us to sustain the poor, when He brought down bread from Heaven to feed the B'nei Yisrael, and He taught us to bury the dead, when He revealed Himself to Moshe with a group of Administering Angels.
'Micha'el and Gavri'el made the bed that was set with 'yorchin, sandalchin and burlin' (names of valuable stones), arranged with precious silks, and purple and white sheets; Matatron, Yofi'el, Uri'el and Yofifyah (celestial) masters of Chochmah, lay him on it, and at His word, they said four words (?) in the valley opposite Ba'al Pe'or, so that, whenever Pe'or arises to mention Yisrael's sins, it looks (directly) at Moshe's burial place and lies down again; and no man knows the whereabouts of his grave up to this day' (34:6).
' … the B'nei Yisrael wept for Moshe in the Plains of Mo'av for thirty days (from the seventh of Adar|); and the days of weeping over Moshe's mourning came to an end on the eighth of Nisan. On the ninth of Nisan, the B'nei Yisrael prepared their vessels and adorned their animals, on the tenth of Nisan they crossed the River Yarden, and on the sixteenth … the Manna stopped falling. It transpires that they ate the Manna on the merit of Moshe for a further thirty-seven days after his death' (34:8).
... THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
" … and Burned-Offerings (ve'cholil) on your Altar" (33:10).
The same word (ve'cholil) appears in a Pasuk in Tehilim (51:21) :Then You will desire offerings of righteousness (zivchei tzedek) … and the Burned-Offering (ve'cholil) … ".
Even though a Zar (a non-Kohen) is eligible to sacrifice on a Bamah (an altar that can be built anywhere), the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, it is only those offerings that are brought on the Mizbei'ach by the Kohanim that fall under the category of 'Zivchei Tzedek'.
"Rejoice (S'mach) Zevulun when you go out (to do business)" 33:18).
We find the same word in Koheles (11:9) "S'mach bachur … ".
It is because Zevulun used to travel (walk) constantly on business that they were youthful and vigorous (Ba'al ha'Turim).
"Regarding all the strong hand (ha'yad ha'chazakah) and awesome power (ha'yad ha'chazakah) … " (34:12).
The Gematriyah of "ha'yad ha'chazakah", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, equals that of 'af ve'cheimah (the two angels - anger and fury) whom Moshe quashed, and that of …
… "ha'yad ha'chazakah" equals that of "pi ha'Aretz" (the Mouth of the Earth- regarding the incident with Korach - one of the greatest miracles with which Moshe was involved).
The first letters of the Torah's forty-four Parshiyos of the Torah come to 791, which is the Gematriyah of 'u'D'var Hashem be'ficho emes' (and Hashem's word in your mouth is Emes'.
The 290 open Parshiyos are equivalent to the Gematriyah of the Pasuk "al-Pi Hashem Yachanu", whereas the total number of both open and closed Parshiyos, 669 is equivalent ot that of 'Gematriyos'.
* * *
Shemini Atzeres & Succos
(Based on the No'am ha'Mitzvos)
To grasp the essence of Succos and Shemini Atzeres, and to understand the fundamental difference between them, one has only to note that Succos lasts seven days, and Shemini Atzeres, only one.
We know that the physical world is based largely on the number seven, whereas the spiritual world is based solely on the number one (just like G-d, who 'is One and whose Name is one'). The No'am ha'Mitzvos explains that the former comprises many parts, whereas the latter is based on its unity. And this is further contained in the Chazal, which states that whereas this world was created with a 'Hey' (which has three sides and one side open (like the sun, which traverses three sides in the sky, leaving one side 'open'), the World to Come was created with a 'Yud', which comprises one 'pintele' (point), personifying total unity, which does not comprise parts, and is therefore unbreakable).
Taking this concept a little further, the seven days of Succos, the commentaries explain, correspond to the seven decades that man lives in this world (as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "our lifespan in this world is seventy years"), whereas the one day of Shemini Atzeres, symbolizes the 'one long day' of Shabbos, as the Chachamim refer to Olom ha'Ba.
And it is for the same reason that on the one hand, we celebrate Succos with physical objects that grow in this world, whilst Shemini Atzeres is associated with Torah, which is spiritual, and not with any material commodity.
This explanation is further reinforced by the Zohar, which ascribes Shemini Atzeres to Ya'akov Avinu, who, as we know, is the symbol of Torah.
And it is by the same token that the seventy bulls on Succos corresponds to the seventy nations, and the one bull on Shemini Atzeres, to Yisrael alone (as stated in the well-known Medrash cited by Rashi in Emor (23:36) - of the king who made a party, and who asked his son to stay behind one more day, because he found it difficult to part from him). And if we celebrate this day as Simchas Torah, it is because it is Torah which elevates us to a level which is inaccessible to the gentiles. It is Torah which binds us with our Creator, as Chazal have said 'Yisrael, Torah and Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu are one'. The nations of the world have no part in it.
There are two ways of attaining spirituality and getting closer to G-d; the one is through nature, the other is through Torah (which embodies nature). The former, which remains open to gentiles too, is what we celebrate on Succos (by virtue of getting closer to G-d with Simchah via a better understanding of nature), and that explains as to why the gentiles can participate in it as well; whereas the latter, we celebrate via Torah, and that is something to which they have no access.
The Three Friends
Reuven, Shimon and Levi were three good friends. Perhaps that is an understatement. They were an inseparable triumvirate, to the point that there was nothing that one or two of them would do without the remaining friends participation. They worked together, they played together, they went to Shul together, and went on holiday together. Then one day, Reuven made a Simchah to which he invited Shimon. How about Levi, the latter wanted to know? How could Reuven and Shimon possibly celebrate without Levi!
And so it is with the Torah on Shemini Atzarfes. When Hashem invites Yisrael to stay behind after Succos, so that they can enjoy each other's company, Yisrael, remembering the mantra 'Yisrael, Torah and G-d are One', want to know what about the third member of the close-knit triumvirate, the Torah!
Indeed, so important is the third member, that without it, our close contact with G-d ceases to exist. Consequently, we find it impossible to celebrate with G-d alone, without including our third friend, the Torah. And that explains how Shemini Atzeres became Simchas Torah!
An Independent 'Regel'
The Gemara in Succah (48a) describes Shemini Atzeres as an independent Yom-Tov in six different respects (which it presents in acronym form as 'Pezer Keshev'). The 'Reish' represents 'Regel', which Rashi and Tosfos (Ibid.) define in different ways. Rabeinu Bachye, in Parshas Pinchas, following in the footsteps of Rabeinu Chananel (cited in Tosfos) explains it with reference to 'Aveilus' (mourning).
Someone who buries his deceased relative on Erev Succos, need keep only another nine days of Sheloshim after Yom-Tov, following which he is permitted to have a haircut.
Why is that?
Provided the Aveil sat Shiv'ah for a short while, his Shiv'ah terminates with the advent of Yom-Tov. Yom-Tov counts as seven days, and Shemini Atzeres, as another seven - a total of twenty-one.