This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 12 No. 56
Yitel bas Aba a.h.
with love from her family
Parshas Ve'Zos ha'Brachah
Moshe's Greatest Deed
"For all the signs and the wonders which G-d sent him to do in the land of Egypt ... and for all the strong hand and the great fearful deeds which Moshe performed before the eyes of all Yisrael" (34:11/12).
" ... before the eyes of Yisrael", comments Rashi, citing the Gemara in Shabbos (87a) - that Moshe's heart prompted him to smash the Luchos in the presence of Yisrael, as the Pasuk states in Eikev (9:17) "and I smashed them before your eyes", and G-d corroborated this, as the Pasuk writes in ki-Sisa (34:1) "asher shibarto", from which Chazal learn 'yeyasher kochacho she'shibarto' (thank you for breaking them).
Why did Chazal see fit to restrict the final words "before the eyes of all Yisrael" to the breaking of the Luchos (the phrase which immediately preceded it), to the exclusion of "and all the signs and wonders ... ", mentioned in the earlier Pasuk? Surely, the 'questionable' act of breaking the Luchos cannot have been of greater significance than all the miracles of Egypt?
Yet Chazal evidently saw in it something that Yisrael could learn from that surpassed the lesson of the miracle of Egypt, says the Chochmas Chayim. In fact, Moshe Rabeinu instigated a principle that no-one other than him would have dared suggest. The miracles of Egypt paved the way for Matan Torah, obligated us to keep the Torah in all its glorious detail; but Moshe's breaking of the Luchos taught us that there are times when we need to break Torah in order to preserve it ('Bitulo Zehu Kiyumo' [Breaking it is in fact upholding it]).
Just as Moshe preferred to break the Luchos than to accept a compromise, a Torah which accepts dancing before a Golden Calf, irrespective of the degree of devotion that accompanied it, so too did the Torah giants throughout the ages reject outright all efforts to make compromises which people tried to implement for the sake of ostensibly strengthening the Torah community.
Like we find in our recent history, when efforts were made to 'preserve the Yeshivos' by introducing into the curriculum the teaching of secular subjects, the Gedolim took their cue from Moshe Rabeinu, who decided that dancing before the Eigel ha'Zahav and the Luchos ha'B'ris do not belong in the same camp, and if they chose the former then the latter would have to go, and what's more, he enjoyed the Divine stamp of approval. And he deliberately performed the act of smashing them before the very eyes of the people, to teach them that at all costs, the camp of Yisrael must remain one hundred per cent pure, without compromise.
Perhaps the best-known example of this in modern times is the closure of the famous Volozhin Yeshivah following orders from the Russian minister of education (prompted by the Reform leaders) to introduce secular subjects taught in Russian. There were Ge'onim who maintained that one should choose the lesser of two evils, to salvage whatever was possible, and allow the Bochrim at least to learn Torah most of the day. But the Netziv, citing the breaking of the Luchos as precedent, insisted that Torah may not be compromised, and that if the format of the Yeshivah would be thus affected, then it was better to close down the Yeshivah altogether. His view was finally accepted and the Yeshivah (comprising a thousand Bochrim), closed down for good.
Following this decision, efforts on the part of the Reform to introduce the teaching of secular subjects into the Yeshivos, ceased. In effect, it was thanks to the firm decision of the Netziv that the Yeshivah world of Europe emerged intact and continued to go from strength to strength until their destruction during the Second World War. Thus was the great Netziv (whose decision seemed to many at the time, incomprehensible) proved one hundred per cent correct.
I once heard that the same suggestion was discussed (I seem to recall) by the Mo'etzes Gedolei ha'Torah of America, when it looked as if Torah-learning in America would not take root, and threatened to die out completely. Perhaps, some Rabbanim suggested, one ought to make a compromise and allow the study of secular subjects in the Yeshivos, in order to attract local students.
On that occasion, it was R. Aharon Kotler who stood up, banged his fist on the table, and citing the Netziv as an example, gave an adamant 'No' for an answer. There too, it did not take long for the Ga'on's decision to be vindicated, and the Yeshivos in America began to flourish - without the insertion of secular subjects in the curriculum.
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The Ten Thousands
of Efrayim ...
"And they are the ten thousands of Efrayim and they are the thousands of Menasheh" (33:17).
On what basis does the Pasuk ascribe ten thousands to Efrayim and only thousands to Menasheh, asks the Meshech Chochmah?
G-d runs the world in one of two ways, either employing the laws of nature, or by means of the supernatural. The latter is called 'the right hand', whereas the former is known as 'the left hand'. When Ya'akov blessed Yosef's sons, he placed his right hand on the head of Efrayim, placing him under the guidance of the supernatural Hashgachah, and his left hand on the head of Menasheh, which meant that the Hashgachah that he would merit would be a natural one.
No wonder then, that ten thousand of the enemy fell when they fought against Efrayim and only one thousand against Menasheh.
In the same context, the G'ra cites the Pasuk in Tehilim "a thousand will fall on your left side, and ten thousand on your right".
The Best Proof
"This is the land which I swore to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Ya'akov saying, 'I will give it to your children. I have shown it to you … " (34:4).
Hashem showed it to Moshe, Rashi explains, so that he would now be able to go to the Avos and tell them that He had fulfilled the oath that He swore to them.
But how could he possibly say that, when K'lal Yisrael were still in Arvos Mo'av and it would be more than a month until they actually crossed the Yarden and G-d's oath would finally be fulfilled?
Granted, Yisrael had not yet crossed the Yarden, and who could know that something would not happen to interfere with G-d's plans, just like the episode with the Meraglim had done forty years earlier? One thing however, would guarantee their crossing, and that was the death of Moshe Rabeinu, who only died because Hashem had sworn that he would not enter Eretz Yisrael. There can be not the slightest shadow of doubt that if there had been even a slim chance that Yisrael would not cross the Yarden, then G-d would not have taken Moshe's life. After his death therefore, G-d instructed him to go and inform the Avos that he had already given them Eretz Yisrael, and proof of this lay in the fact that Moshe was there in person with the information. Because if Moshe was no longer in the land of the living, Yisrael's crossing the Yarden was no longer in doubt, and it was as if G-d had already fulfilled His promise.
Anything for a Mitzvah
G-d saw, says the Apter Rav, how Moshe pleaded with Him to be able to continue living, so knowing that Moshe would go to any lengths to fulfill a Mitzvah, He charged him with a Mitzvah that he could only fulfill after his death, namely to take a message to the Avos who were no longer alive. And He knew that Moshe would gladly forfeit his life, if that was the only way to carry out the errand.
In similar vein, the Siduro shel Shabbos explains that when Hashem instructed Moshe to write the last eight Pesukim of the Torah, starting with "And Moshe ... died", Moshe would be pleased to die, so that the holy Torah should be completed.
And it seems to me that one can say the same about Hashem's command at the end of Ha'azinu (32:50) "and die on the mountain which you are ascending … ". The Seforno explains the words "and die" to mean that Moshe should accept his death as an atonement for his sin of striking the rock.
Perhaps there too, G-d placed on him this Mitzvah, to induce him to galdly accept the fact that he had to die, seeing as Moshe was not one to forego the opportunity of performing a Mitzvah, even if it entailed dying in order to do so.
Two Kinds of Endings
"And the days of crying for Moshe came to an end" (34:5).
By Ya'akov Avinu, the Torah writes in Vayechi (50:4) "And the days of crying for Ya'akov passed".
The reason for this difference is because, following Moshe's death, there were no immediate Tzaros, and the days of crying and mourning really did terminate; whereas Ya'akov's death sparked off the slavery in Egypt, so that they actually passed from one Tzoroh to another.
No Navi Like Moshe -
Except for Bil'am!
"And no Navi arose in Yisrael like Moshe" (34:10).
"There did not arise in Yisrael", the Sifri extrapolates, but there did arise among the nations of the world. And who was that? Bilam!
It goes without saying that this Medrash cannot be understood literally, says the P'ninei Torah.
The Mechilta therefore explains that just as Moshe was unique in Kedushah, so too was Bil'am unique in Tum'ah.
Whilst Abarbanel explains that just as Moshe was the greatest person in Yisrael, so too was Bil'am the greatest among the gentiles.
The most original explanation of all however, is that of the K'sav ve'ha'Kabalah, who (translating "Lo Kam ke'Moshe" as nobody arose to compare himself to Moshe Rabeinu) explains the Pasuk to mean that although nobody ever arose in Yisrael to measure himself against Moshe and to place himself on a par with him, among the gentiles there was someone who did, and what's more he acted on that presumption too. And that was Bil'am.
Every Word is True
"And nobody has known the location of his grave until this day" (34:6).
What is the point of telling us this, asks the Kehilas Yitzchak?
Surely the fact that his burial place has never been found speaks for itself?
And he answers that it is to teach us the truth of every word in the Torah. Imagine he says, if a gentile who had performed miracles all his life, and whose body showed not one sign of old age at the time of his death, then prophesied prior to his death that his grave would never be found. Be rest assured that in no time at all, rumours would begin to circulate that he did not die, but that he ascended to heaven alive, and the people would turn him into a god.
Had Moshe had the slightest tendency to lie, then surely here was a golden opportunity to become a deity by being silent, and allowing the people to jump to the same conclusion concerning him.
But he did nothing of the sort! He wrote categorically in the Torah that he died (just like everybody else).
R. Yonasan Eibeshitz once brought the same proof in answer to the question posed to him by a certain minister, as to how we can be certain that what Moshe wrote about himself that at Har Sinai, he did not eat for forty days, was actually true.
After all, nobody was there at the time, and anyone can write such things about himself?
The Ga'on replied that if Moshe had wanted to sing false praises about himself, then what better opportunity did he have than here at the end of the Torah, as we explained.
Perhaps one can also answer that Moshe was leaving us here with a tangible proof of his supreme level of prophecy. By issuing us with a challenge, so to speak, a challenge which remains in effect for all generations and which he knew we would never win, he eternalized his supremacy, rendering it impossible for any future prophet to challenge the Torah's teachings.
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(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)
Note, that although all the Minhagim discussed here are official Minhagim, they do not necessarily conform with the ruling of the Mishnah B'rurah.
Please check the Mishnah B'rurah or with a competent Rav before adopting any new Minhag.
The reason that the final day of Sukos is called by this name is because of the many times that we mention the word 'Hosha'ano' during the course of the Davening; and that in turn
Na' ( "Nun Aleph' equals fifty-one), which means 'save us, to turn to our cries, on the fifty-one days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Hosha'na Raba'; or better still, 'Save us ... on this fifty-first day'. For Hosha'ana Raba is the day on which the notes are sealed (hopefully) for the good, for mercy, for life and for peace, and for a complete redemption for the whole of K'lal Yisrael, Omein (B'nei Yisaschar).
Alternatively, it is called by this name, says the Hagahos Minhagim, based on the Medrash - that G-d said to Avraham Avinu 'I am unique and you are unique. I will give your children a unique day in the year to atone for their sins ... and that day is Hosha'ana Rabah'.
Hosha'ana Rabah Night
The Minhag to stay awake on Hosha'ana Rabah night and recite Tehilim, the Machazeh Avraham explains, is based on the fact that the Ushpiza on Hosha'ana Rabah is none other than David Hamelech, who used to stay up virtually all night, singing songs of praise to Hashem, as the Gemara in B'rachos says. So we evoke his Midah on his night.
We also say in P'sukei de'Zimra the Mizmorim of Shabbos, the Levush explains, because it is more holy than other weekdays (even than Chol ha'Mo'ed). We do not say 'Nishmas' though, because the Neshamah does not strain to rejoice on this day to the extent that it does on Yom-Tov.
One does however, say 'Mizmor Shir le'yom ha'Shabbos' and 'Hashem Melech' before 'Baruch she'Amar' [according to Nusach Ari]), and after 'Baruch she'Amar, 'Mizmor le'Sodah'.
Some have the Minhag to say 'Nishmas'. There are also places which have the Minhag to insert 'le'Eila le'Eila' in all the Kadeishim on this holy day.
When the Seifer Torah is taken out, one recites 'Hashem Hashem ... ' followed by 'Ribono shel Olam', like one does on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur. Others say the text of Yom-Tov.
The Orchos Chayim cites ... the Maharam from Rottenberg, who used to say 'ha'Melech ha'Kodosh and ha'Melech ha'Mishpat' on Hosha'ana Rabah.
The reason for adding 'Mizmor Shir le'Yom ha'Shabbos' is based on a Medrash. The Medrash relates how Kayin informed his father, Adam ha'Rishon that he had done Teshuvah for his sin, and that his Teshuvah had been accepted. At which Adam was so impressed by the power of Teshuvah, that he recited it too.
Wearing a Kittel
It is customary for the Chazan to wear a Kittel on Hoshana Raba, R. Shalom mi'Belz explains (like he does on Rosh Hashanah) because it is on Hoshana Rabah that we are judged for water.
According to the Arizal, on Hosha'ana Raba one takes five Aravah twigs, which should under no circumstances be joined to the Lulav, as some Amei ha'Aretz do. One does not take these in one's hand until after Kadish Tiskabeil (the prevalent Minhag is to take them when one arrives at 'Ta'aneh Emunim'), after having put the Lulav down.
One then takes them in one's hand and bangs them five times on the floor (not on a chair ... ).
Removing the Rings
The Minhag to remove the rings from the Lulav on Hosha'ana Rabah, says the Levush, is hinted in the word "Kapos (Temarim)", which is written without a 'Vav', a hint that the Lulav should only be bound ('kofus') for six days, not seven
More importantly, it is to increase the Simchah, as shaking a loose Lulav does tend to evoke more joy than shaking a tied one.
And it is for the same reason, says the Levush, that we bang the Hosha'anos 'on the ground or on a vessel two or three times' after the conclusion of the Mitzvah.
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That Remarkable Esrog
Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak
Although the Halachic ramifications of 'Hadar' (beautiful) extend to all four species, it is interesting to note that it is written exclusively with regard to the Esrog.
The Ropshitze Rebbe attributes this to the fact that the Esrog resembles the heart, and the heart, which governs a person's thoughts and actions, is the most prominent of all man's limbs. Proof of this lies in its location in the centre of the body. Furthermore, Chazal have said 'Rachmana liba ba'i' (G-d wants the heart), a clear indication that its importance extends to its spiritual connotations, over and above its physical ones. So it is hardly surprising that in Pirkei Avos (2:13), Raban Yochanan ben Zakai corroborates the opinion of his Talmid, Rebbi Elazar ben Arach, who extols the virtues of a good heart over and above that of a good eye, a good friend, a good neighbour, and the ability to foresee the outcome of one's deeds, because 'a good heart incorporates them all'.
And it is presumably for the same reason that the Esrog is the only one of the four species that tastes good (representing its physical qualities) and smells good (representing its spiritual ones), a fact which we will explain from a different angle shortly.
According to what we just said, it is easy to understand why the numerical value of 'Esrog' is equivalent to that of Torah (minus one) and 'Taryag' (if one adds the three species).
This in turn, fits beautifully with the well-known comment that the Torah, which serves as our guide and teacher, ends with a 'Lamed', and begins with a 'Beis', because however important it is to serve G-d with our eyes, with our mouth and with our spine, it is most important of all to serve Him with our hearts, which as we just explained, incorporates them all.
Other commentaries compare the four species with the four categories of people. The Aravah they explain, which possesses neither a good taste nor a good smell, represents the simple people, who have neither an abundance of Torah nor of Mitzvos to their credit; the Hadas, which has a nice smell but not a nice taste, and the Lulav, (i.e. the fruit of the date-palm) which has a nice taste but not a nice smell, represent the people who learn much Torah but who have few Mitzvos to their credit and those who perform many Mitzvos, but who do not learn much Torah, respectively; whereas the Esrog represents the Tzadikim, who both learn a lot of Torah and perform many Mitzvos. Here again, the Esrog excels, and is rated above the other three species, and it is precisely because it is a cut above the other species that it is not tied together with them, just as Talmidei-Chachamim, on account of their superiority, must keep their distance from the Amei-ha'Aretz.
Another indication of the importance of the Esrog and its uniqueness, appears in the Medrash Talpi'os, which writes that according to the opinion that the Tree of Knowledge in Gan Eden was an Esrog-tree, the Esrog that we take on Sukos comes to atone for the sin of Adam and Chavah eating it even after having been commanded not to.
However, according to those Tana'im who ascribe Adam and Chavah's sin to wheat, the vine and the fig-tree, the Medrash explains, it is Matzah, the wine of Kidush and Havdalah and Bikurim, respectively, which atone.
What the Esrog has in common with the other three species, says the Eitz Chayim, is the fact that it needs a lot of water in order to grow successfully. And that explains why the Torah commands us to take these four species on Sukos, when we are judged for rain. We take them and beseech Hashem to grant us a year of good rains, even if we do not perhaps deserve it. He has after all, sworn never again to destroy the land and its produce on account of man's sins, so our prayers have a good chance of succeeding.
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Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim
The Holy Sukah
Last year, we cited the Gemara in Sukah (9a) which describes how the Name of Heaven rests on the Sukah, which explains why one may derive no physical benefit from its individual components throughout Sukos.
The She'eiris Yisrael adds that it is therefore befitting to treat the Sukah with the appropriate respect throughout the year, and to fix times to learn or to Daven there. In any event, he says, it is downright disrespectful, the moment Sukos is over, to transfer the Sukah into a stable for animals. Likewise, says the Hagahos Minhagim, after Sukos one should not walk on the Arba Miynim that one used for the Mitzvah, even though they have no intrinsic sanctity and may be thrown away.
The reason that we refer to specifically Sukos as 'Z'man Simchoseinu', the Levush explains, is because a. the Torah writes Simchah in connection with it, and b. it coincides with the ingathering of the harvest from the field to the house, which creates a natural happiness in people's hearts. Granted, the Torah writes 'Simchah' in connection with Shavu'os too, but that is only once, whereas by Sukos, it writes it twice. And besides, in the Parshah of Shavu'os, the Torah adds "before Hashem your G-d", implying that the Simchah is confined to the Beis-Hamikdash (though this has no Halachic ramifications), whereas by Sukos, these words are omitted.
Sukah and Matzah
We recite a Brachah over the Sukah whenever we enter it (and eat a meal) throughout the seven days of Sukos, but not whenever we eat Matzah throughout the seven days of Pesach, says the Magein Avraham, because whereas there is no Mitzvah to eat Matzah during the seven days of Pesach, there is a Mitzvah to eat in the Sukah during the seven days of Sukos.
The Avudraham queries this argument however. The Mitzvah to eat a meal in the Sukah, he claims, like the Mitzvah of eating Matzah, is confined to the first night. During the rest of Sukos, when it is forbidden to fast, one may eat any food (other than bread and cake), which do not require a Sukah.
He therefore answers that it is only eating that is confined to the first night, but not living in the Sukah, and people inevitably spend some time in the Sukah during Sukos (or as others explain, it is forbidden to sleep outside the Sukah, and it is impossible to go seven days without sleeping). Consequently (bearing in mind that the text of the B'rachah is 'Leishev ba'Sukah' [and not Le'echol ba'Sukah]), with a slight amendment, the Magein Avraham's answer remains intact.
The Maharil maintains that someone who enters the Sukah for a snack (consisting of a k'Beitzah of cake ['pas ha'bo'oh be'kisnin]) with the intention of leaving the Sukah immediately, should not recite the B'rachah of 'Leishev ba'Sukah'. This is because he is neither sitting (staying) in the Sukah, nor is he eating a proper meal there.
Should he do the same thing on Shabbos and Yom-Tov, however, when it is customary to make Kidush, and then to go and visit one's Rav (or one's friend), then he does recite 'Leishev ba'Sukah', seeing as one then eats it in the form of a meal that requires Kidush.
The Four Species
The Seifer ha'Manhig citing the Medrash, explains why the Torah prescribes in particular, the four species that we take.
We take ...
the Esrog, he says, which is shaped like a heart, to atone for the evil thoughts of our heart;
the Hadas, which is shaped like an eye, to atone for the sinful glances that we made with our eyes;
the Aravah, which resembles a mouth, to atone for the sinful things that we said with our mouths.
the Lulav, to announce that just as a date-palm has only one heart, so too, do Yisrael have only one heart - for their Father in Heaven.
I do not know why the Medrash does not conclude that we take the Lulav, which resembles a spine (the central stem of the body [as the commentaries explain]), to atone for the sins that we performed with our bodies (particularly in the area of immoral acts with which the spinal cord is associated, as the commentaries explain).
How appropriate it therefore is that the Mitzvah of Arba Miynim comes in the wake of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur, when we have just done Teshuvah for our sins!
A Special Privelege
Another reason for the Torah's choice of these four species, says the Heichlei Shein, is based on the fact that they are the only four species over which G-d retains full jurisdiction, as opposed to other species, which He places under the jurisdiction of their respective angels. Strictly speaking therefore, Yisrael ought not to be allowed to use them, since it is akin to using the king's scepter. Only as the Torah testifies, Yisrael are called G-d's Children, and a father has the right to forego his honour vis-a`-vis his children. Indeed, says the Chida, the very fact that we are permitted to use the four species proves that, besides being His subjects, we are also His children. If we were not, we would be forbidden to use the four species, as we explained, because a King does not have the authority to forego his honour.
And with this the Heichlei Shein explains the words of the Piyut (that is said in some places on the first day of Sukos) 'and these four He desired to praise Him like a Father', which is otherwise difficult to understand.
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Shemini Atzeres Supplement
Shavu'os and Shemini Atzeres
To explain why we celebrate Simchas Torah on Shemini Atzeres (when the Torah was given on Shavu'os), the Dubner Magid cites the Mashal of a commoner who married the king's daughter without having seen her previously. Naturally, he participated in the wedding festivities, yet some six months later, he threw a big party for his family and friends to celebrate his marriage to the princess. When asked why he did this, he explained that he had married the princess on account of her status, but without knowing first-hand what she was really like, whether all the wonderful things that he had heard about her were actually true. But now that half a year had passed, and he had got to know her well, he had discovered that she was as wise as she was beautiful, and that her capabilities matched her wisdom, not to mention her superlative Midos. Now that six months had elapsed, he felt that he truly appreciated what a wonderful gem he had acquired, and the time had arrived to demonstrate that appreciation with a new round of celebrations.
And so it is with us.
On Shavu'os, we announced 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma', because it was Hashem who was offering us the Torah, and we knew that it had to be good. But now that a few months have elapsed, we are able to testify first-hand, what a wonderful acquisition we made when we received the Torah. So now is the time to celebrate over our wonderful acquisition.
Alternatively, one might correlate Simchas Torah with Shavu'os, based on an Or ha'Chayim in Parshas Ki Savo. The Or ha'Chayim asks why the Pasuk (26:17) inserts "and to listen to His Voice" (which he interprets as Torah-study), after referring to Yisrael having accepted Hashem as G-d, and undertaken to go in His ways, and to keep His statutes, Mitzvos and judgements? Surely, he asks, it would have been more appropriate to invert the order and to put Torah-study first.
And he explains that the Torah is teaching us here that even though the basic objective of learning Torah is in order to fulfill it, a person who has learned all the Mitzvos and is already observing them should not for one moment think that he is exempt from studying Torah further. Not at all! The obligation to study Torah remains incumbent on every Jew until the day he dies, no matter what. Because the Mitzvah of Talmud-Torah for its own sake is a Mitzvah in itself, independent of fulfilling the Mitzvos that it contains.
With this we can understand the double expression that we say every day in the B'rachah of Ahavah Rabah (or Ahavas Olam). We begin by saying 'Our Father ... have compassion on us, and place in our hearts (the means) to understand, to succeed, to hear, to learn and to teach, to keep, to perform, and to uphold all the words of the Talmud of your Torah with love'. And we then continue 'And enlighten our eyes with your Torah, and let our hearts cleave to your Mitzvos, and unify our heart to love and to fear Your Name ...'
The G'ro I believe, attributes the first phrase to the revealed Torah and the second, to the hidden Torah. It is also possible to ascribe the first phrase to the average Balabos, and the second, to the Talmid-Chacham.
But according to the Or ha'Chayim, it may well be that the first phrase refers to Torah-study in order to fulfill the Mitzvos (as the very words suggest), whereas the second phrase refers to Torah-study for its own sake (to someone who already keeps the entire Torah to its fullest extent), for this is truly what is meant by 'Limud Torah li'Sh'mah'.
What is to be gained by such a Torah-study, you may well ask? If Torah-study does not lead to observing the Mitzvos, then what is the point of it? The answer lies in the very words of the B'rachah, which speak of enlightenment, cleaving to the Mitzvos (D'veikus) and unifying one's heart in the love and fear of Hashem. Can one imagine a more noble and meaningful objective than that?
Perhaps this will also explain the difference between Shavu'os and Simchas Torah, Shavu'os represents the giving of the Torah, whose basic aim is to teach us how to fulfill its precepts. Simchas Torah, on the other hand, represents the Torah as our entr? to G-d, to attain levels of enlightenment, Deveikus, and unifying our hearts to serve our G-d in love and fear. And that is surely the greatest source of joy that one can conceive, and will amply explains the unique celebrations of this day, the day on which we celebrate Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Torah and Yisrael becoming One.
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AND THEIR MEANING
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch
Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article
reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch
and are not necessarily Halachah.
To Desist from Working
on Shemini Atzeres
It is a Mitzvah to desist from work that is not for the needs of Ochel Nefesh on the eighth day of Sukos (the twenty-second of Tishri), as the Torah writes in Emor (23:36) "and on the eighth day it shall be for you a holy calling".
The author already discussed a reason for the Mitzvah in the Mitzvah of desisting from work on the seventh day of Pesach, (Mitzvah 301), and he will add to that in the prohibition of working on Shemini Atzeres (Mitzvah 323).
This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to both men and women, despite the fact that it is a Mitzvas Asei that is governed by time. This is because not working on Yom-Tov also incorporates a Lo Sa'aseh, and there women are Chayav just like men, as the Torah writes (Noso 5:5) "a man or a woman who transgresses any of the Mitzvos of Hashem ... ", which teaches us that as far as La'avin is concerned, women are no different than men. Consequently, they are Chayav for the Asei too, as we will explain later. Someone who negates the La'av by performing a Melachah on Yom-Tov, has nullified an Asei, besides having transgressed a La'av.
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All About Shemini Atzeres
A Last Chance
Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak
In explaining the importance of Shemini Atzeres, the P'sikta gives a parable to a king who made a Simchah that lasted seven days. Throughout the festivities, the 'Matron' stood outside the palace gates and announced that the guests should not forget to take advantage of the king's good mood, and to ask him for their needs.
When the matron saw that the seven days had passed and that the people had failed to take her words to heart, she arranged an additional day of feasting, to give them one last chance to place their requests with the king.
So too, it is with us. The Matron (the Torah) hints to us broadly (in Parshas Pinchas, in the form of the extra 'Mem', 'Yud' and 'Mem' in "ve'niskeihem", "u'nesochehoh" and 'ke'mishpotom" (respectively [the source for the Nisuch ha'Mayim that took place in the Beis-Hamikdash]) to take the opportunity of Hashem's 'good mood' (Kevayachol) on Yom-Tov, and to pray for (to mention) rain, before the forthcoming rain season begins. And when she sees that we have not availed ourselves of the opportunity (maybe because rain on Sukos is a sign of a curse [see following piece]), she announces another day, Shemini Atzeres', on which to pray for rain.
Rain in Eretz Yisrael
(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)
Shemini Atzeres begins the rain season (in Eretz Yisrael). This is because from Pesach until Sukos, one does not expect to see a single drop of rain. However, during the night, an abundance of dew falls, and it is that which causes the fruit and vegetables to grow.
In the event that it does rain on Sukos, it is considered a wonder, though not a positive one. In fact, not only is it a bad sign per se, but it is also a sign that rains will come late that year ... for Chazal have compared it to a servant who is diluting a cup of wine for his master, when the latter takes the cup and throws the jar of water in his face.
The first rains (the 'Yoreh') generally begins to fall on the seventh of Mar-Cheshvan, and that is when we actually begin to ask for rain, and to say 've'sein tal u'motor li'verachah al p'nei ho'adomoh'.
If the seventh of Mar-Cheshvan passes, and the rain has not begun to fall, the Beis-Din announce a fast day (with all the Dinim of a fast as detailed in Ta'anis [10 and 12]), because in Eretz Yisrael rain (or the lack thereof) is a matter of life and death, both as regards the fields and vineyards, which have dried up in the course of the summer months (and which are now thirsting for rain), and as regards the water-pits, which provided water throughout the summer, since there are not many springs there, and the rain-water is good and very sweet for drinking and cooking. Every courtyard contains an underground cemented pit, into which the rain-water flows from the rooftops via drain-pipes. No matter how long the water remains in the pits, it remains fresh and wonderfully cold - even when one draws from it in the summer.
(Today, the method may have changed slightly, but nothing else has).
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