The Teshuva Journey: Hashem Has a Sense of Humor

By Michael Gros

Throughout Adele and Jack Kaufman’s life, they have repeatedly felt Hashem’s hand guiding them towards Jewish growth and observance. However the ways He has chosen to do so have been comical: their teshuva journey began at a Christian Marriage Encounter weekend, and a major turning point in their life was influenced by an inspirational button.

Adele was raised in a Modern Orthodox home. Her parents attended a local Young Israel synagogue, but she felt that she could not receive satisfying answers to her many questions on Judaism.

“I never received answers,” Adele said. “Now I know I didn’t get answers because they themselves didn’t know.”

Adele grew up, married Jack, and the couple settled on Long Island. They joined a Conservative synagogue and raised a family. They felt like their life was perfect.

“It was a wonderful life. We were very happy. If anyone would have told me we would become Baalei Teshuva, I would have laughed at it,” Adele said.

Though they had a successful marriage, the Kaufmans accepted a friend’s offer to attend a Christian Marriage Encounter Weekend. The weekends, organized by a church, tried to teach couples better communication techniques and other strategies to help them improve their marriages.

The weekend concluded with a Mass service. The Kaufmans and the few other Jewish couples sat in the back of the room and watched the service, feeling greatly out of place.

A few weeks later, a friend suggested they start a Jewish Marriage Encounter weekend. A few couples got together and started one. Adele and Jack went on the Jewish Marriage Enecounter weekend and learned how holy a Jewish marriage is, consisting of husband, wife and Hashem.

Also attending the weekend was a local Chabad couple, who wanted to find out what it was about. Afterwards the Chabad couple offered to start monthly Jewish groups in local homes. Adele and Jack decided to host the groups in their house. In addition to marriage, the classes covered Kashrut, Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Adele was finally getting answers to her questions.

One week the Chabad Rebbetzin asked Adele if she lit candles on Friday night.

“I said no, since I work all week and we go out to eat on Friday night,” Adele said. “The Rebbetzin explained that the mitzvah of lighting candles is not erased by going out to eat. ‘Try lighting candles, and don’t tell me what you do afterwards. Bring in the light and beauty of Shabbat.’”

Adele took her up on her offer and began lighting candles at home. After a few months, she decided to start making Shabbat dinners at home each week.

“I said to my husband, ‘Why go out? Let’s make a Shabbat meal so we can enjoy the beautiful Shabbat candles.”

From there, Adele and Jack began bringing other small observances into their home. For the first time they decided to kasher their home for Passover. Adele made a full-blown Passover Seder in their newly kosher home.

One day, Adele decided that it was time for her husband to start putting on Tefillin each morning. He owned a pair, but did not put them on regularly. So Adele began dropping subtle hints and suggestions to get him to start using them, but she soon saw that it wasn’t working.

“What does a wife do when she wants her husband to do something? She nags. I asked him to put on Tefillin again and again,” Adele said. “Finally he told me to stop nagging. I decided my marriage was more important and so did not mention it anymore.”

Hashem had different plans.

A few days later, a friend called Adele. She had visited Crown Heights for the day, and in a store window saw a sign that read “Buy One Bag Of Buttons, Get The Second Bag Free.” So her friend bought two bags, and was calling to ask Adele if she wanted one.

“I didn’t want to hurt her. I’m not a button person, but I said ‘sure, come over.’”

Adele was in for a surprise when she opened the bag.

“The first button I saw when I opened my bag read ‘Have You Put On Tefillin Today?’”

Adele dropped the button in shock. She could not believe the wording on the button, but now had a dilemma: She had promised her husband that she would no longer nag him, so what to do with the button?

“I said, ‘Hashem what should I do?’ I decided if it doesn’t come out of my mouth, it’s ok,” Adele said. “I decided to put it in his underwear drawer so he would notice it when he showered. I was very nervous. He would either laugh or get upset.

“I was sitting in the kitchen. He went upstairs to shower. The next thing I knew, I heard him laughing so hard.”

The following morning Adele came downstairs for breakfast, and there was her husband, praying and wearing Tefillin. For him it was a major step, one of many more that have come since.

Michael Gros is the former Chief Operating Officer of the outreach organization The Atlanta Scholars Kollel. He writes from Jerusalem. The Teshuva Journey column chronicles uplifting teshuva journeys and inspiring kiruv tales. Send comments to To receive the column via email or see back issues, visit

Dealing with a Rebbe’s Comments about Dinosaurs

My son, a normal, dinosaur-loving six year old, just came home from Yeshiva to inform me that “dinosaurs never lived – the earth wasn’t created back then – what, did they float around in nothing?” And “no one’s seen a dinosaur, their bones were just put into the ground”.

I do not want to contradict his rebbe. At some undetermined point in the future, however, I feel it’s important for him to know about the different views of our sages regarding this matter. For now, I just nodded my head, smiled and said, “that’s correct, no one has ever seen a dinosaur”.

How would you have handle it?

What if the boy was 12 instead of 6?


Get An Early Start on Parsha Lech Lecha

What sets us apart as Torah Observant Jews is our honor, respect and love of Torah and to continue this relationship we must consistently learn and delve deeper into the Chumash itself.

However, many of us leave the Parsha review for Shabbos itself leaving a huge amount of material to adequately cover. So why not get a jump and start on your review of the Parsha today. After looking at the overview below, pull out a Chumash with Rashi, Ramban or an Art Scroll and start delving. If you have any insights, links or questions that you would like to share, please post them in the comments below.

Rabbi Rietti has be kind enough to allow us to post the outline here, but you can purchase the entire outline of the Chumash for the low price of $14 for yourself and your family. Or check out Rabbi Rietti’s other offerings here.

Lech Lecha
#12 “Go!”
#13 Lot Leaves Avram
#14 5 Kings Battle 4 Kings – Avram Goes to War
#15 Contract at Beyn HaBetarim
#16 Hagar Expelled
#17 Circumcision

#12 “Go!”
* ‘Leave your homeland’
* ‘I Will make you a great nation’
* ‘I will bless you’
* Avram was 75 when he left Charan
* HaShem promised land of Canaan to Avram’s seed
* Avram built an altar
* Avram moved to Bet El and built another altar, called it ‘Shem.’
* Moved south (Negev)
* Famine
* Descends to Egypt
* ‘Say you’re my sister’
* Pharaoh lavishes gifts upon Avram
* Pharaoh takes Sarai
* Pharaoh stricken
* ‘Take her and go!’
* Pharaoh sends royal escort with Avram and Sarai

#13 Lot Leaves Avram
* Avram returns to Negev and finally Bet El
* Conflict between Lot and Avrams’ shepherds
* Avram offers Lot to leave but will remain loyal as brother
* Lot goes to Sdom
* HaShem promises the land of Cana’an to Avram’s seed forever
* HaShem promises Avram his seed will be like the dust of the earth
* Avram walked the entire land of Cana’an to acquire it
* Avram moves to Chevron and builds an altar

#14 5 Kings Battle 4 Kings – Avram Goes to War
* Battle of 5 kings against 4 kings
* Avram saves Lot
* Malki Tsedek blesses Avram

#15 Contract at Beyn HaBetarim
* Divine Vision
* ‘Fear not, your reward is very great!’
* ‘But I’m still childless?!’
* ‘Count the stars!’
* ‘How will I know I will inherit the land?’
* bring 3 calves, 3 goats, 3 rams, 1 dove and 1 pigeon
* Split them in half
* Deep trance, prophecy of 400 year slavery
* ‘You will die very old’
* 4th generation will return to the Promised Land

#16 Hagar Expelled
* Co-wife Hagar
* Hagar expelled, three angels appear to her:
#1 Angel tells her to return to Sarai in submission;
#2 Angel promises Hagar will give birth to a large nation;
#3 Angel names her future child ‘Yishmael’, ‘he will be a wild rebel’
* Yishmael born, Avraham is 86

#17 Circumcision
* 99 years old, ‘Walk before be in simplicity’
* HaShem adds the letter Heh to Avram – Avraham
* HaShem promises to be an Eternal Omnipotent G-d to his seed forever
* HaShem promises Eretz Yisrael will be an eternal heritage to us, forever.
* Avraham commanded in circumcision
* HaShem adds the letter Heh to Sarai – Sarah
* Avraham laughed
* “If only Yishmael would live before you!”
* HaShem promises Avraham that Sarah will mother the Jewish nation
* ‘But I will bless Yishmael as you requested’
* Avraham 99, circumcised entire household, Yishmael was 13

Kibud Av Vaem and Hakaras HaTov

I try to speak to my mother, may she have a long life, at least once a week.When a Yarhtzeit and any day that includes the saying of Yizkor approaches, we speak and there is a perceptible sigh in our voices as we remind each other about either the Yahrtzeit of my father ZL and saying Yizkor.Such a feeling brings back numerous memories.

I may have written about this before but my parents were very instrumental in my pre teen years in making Kiddush Friday nights, sending me to Talmud Torah, seeing that I had a Bar Mitzvah, stayed out of school on those Yamim Tovim that were not school holidays, being in shul for the Yamim Noraim , sending me to and paying for my being active in NCSY, and being patient, albeit not without some “discussions”, with my ups and downs as a BT for many years as they waited to see if my interest in observance was genuine or just a teen age fad during the late 1960s and early 1970s where many teens were engaged in far more rebellious acts and life styles. When they found out that NCSY had a special banquet at its National Convention for which I was a co chair, in their innocence, they wanted to attend, despite the fact that the banquet was an all night event with a huge emotional component for anyone who attended.Somehow, I managed to assure them that their presence was not necessary.

My father ZL was always active in his shul without being an officer. When an issue arose as to the financial well being of the shul, my father was asked to review the books and did so in a way that helped place the shul in a far better financial setting.

My father ZL was an accountant and a partner in a local accounting firm. Among his many clients was the local Hebrew Day School and its principal who he never charged for his services ( which was his practice for many indigent clients). He was very close with its principal. Other Torah observant clients were one of the few Torah observant families in a nearby town. My parents went to all of their simchas for their children, many of whom are prominent Mchanchim whose names I recognize in the Yated and elsewhere. When a prominent yeshivah gdolah opened in the area, my father ZL was one of the few people in the area who became active in its early years.

There were times when I called upon rabbanim affiliated with NCSY or a rebbe in YU to speak to my father about key issues. My father ZL was always respectful of and favorably impressed with their suggestions.

Recently was my father’s Yarhtzeit on the cusp of both our anniversary as well as the departure for a year of learning in Eretz Yisrael for our daughter, son in law and our adorable grandaughter. Our younger daughter , who was an educational coordinator for one of NCSY’s summer programs, will be graduating Stern this winter . The memories of the past , the present and the future are passing in an amazingly quick manner. I suspect that many of us have either albums or pictures that we don’t look at because many people in the albums are in the Olam HaEmes. Even without looking or glancing at the album, I will always remember how much my father ZL and my mother, may she be blessed with many more years of an active life, enjoyed our chasunah , which for many of their friends, was the first Torah observant chasunah they went to, as opposed to a wedding.

Anyone who has gone through many aspects of Halacha and Hashkafa will see that Hakaras HaTov is a major aspect of being a Torah observant Jew which has no real end.From a lawyer’s perspective, it is akin to a cause of action that has no statute of limitations. After all, we relive the Exodus, the receiving of the Torah and living in a precarious existence in the desert every year and in many ways throughout the year as we fulfill Mitzvos Bein Adam LaMakom. Yet, Kibud VaEm, honoring and respecting one’s parents is a crucial means of Hakaras HaTov on the Bein Adam LChavero level.

I realize that for many BTs, the relationship with one’s family of origin is one of the most sensitive and frustrating issues in their growth as Bnei and Bnos Torah and that one can very well maintain that the issue is largely dependent on how one relates to one’s family before one became a BT, as opposed to strictly halachic and hashkafic components. Yet, as we walked our daughter down to the chupah, enjoy our granddaughter and live our lives as Torah observant Jews, I see and hear my father with us. Yehi Zicro Baruh

The Challenges of Raising a Daughter in Public School

Hi everyone,

I’m a fairly new Baalat Teshuva and raising a daughter who is in elementary school.
My daughter, who seems committed to Judaism, goes to public school at this time. Here are several challenges that we have had in the short time since school started. For those of you who sent your kids or are sending your kids to public school, please share your experiences and what you have done in similar situations. Of course, these problems would be solved if she could attend a Jewish school or if we lived in an area highly populated by orthodox Jews, where there are lots of after-school activities for Frum kids, but in our particular situation, at this time, we don’t have those options. Perhaps we can help each other through these challenges, to raise Frum children despite their need to be in decidedly non-Jewish environments.

1) Some children have made fun of my daughter for dressing modestly- why does she wear long skirts? Because she is not American and other negative remarks.

2) The teacher wants my daughter to read secular material from a school list for her personal reading at home so that she can earn points and participate in “celebrations”.

This has three challenges- the reading material may not be appropriate by frum standards, secular reading at home takes away from the small window of opportunity to provide my daughter with opportunities for Jewish study (even fun Jewish reading) AND the celebrations are mixed-gender parties, social activities of a non-frum/non-Jewish nature, and outings. There will also be events at various times throughout the year to mark occasions and (non-Jewish holidays).

3) The class will also regularly receive rewards in the form of movies, which also may not be appropriate for a frum child (or possibly any young child).

4) If I ask that my daughter be allowed to not participate in activities and movies, how can I help her to not feel left out and different in a school setting where there are no other orthodox Jewish children or perhaps not even any other Jewish kids? I am concerned that that being Jewish and observant will not seem worth it to her after a while and she will just want to blend in. (We do go to shul in another city and she is able to go to Hebrew school and camp, B’ezrat Hashem, and have some friends there, but the distance prohibits much involvement during the week).

5) The boys and girls in the class must play sports together- such as dodge ball. Sitting together in class, working together, and spending the whole day together would seem to breed a familiarity between the boys and the girls that does not seem appropriate for a frum girl. How can I help her keep frum values in this situation and not go down the path taken by many girls in public school to get involved with boyfriends at a young age.

6) There is also the issue of absences for yomim tovim when the other kids go to school and then needing to make up massive amounts of work (mostly completing lots of worksheets).

7) The teacher is very focused on all children being included in all activities so that children will feel a part of the group, however, being a part of this group may not be beneficial from the point of view of raising a frum child and planning for a good shidduch and Torah life as an adult.

8) How can I help the teacher understand that, in all these issues, I am trying to raise my daughter in a very positive way and not trying make her seem different or separate her from the larger group and activities for negative reasons?

Thanks for any suggestions others may have. May all of our children have wonderful years at school and bring us lots of nachas in the years to come.


Vaccinating Our Children Against Prayer

I am writing this column on the train – the one AFTER the one I was supposed to catch, as I experienced that forlorn feeling when I rushed as fast as my legs would carry me, my briefcase, coat, umbrella, and take-home kosher pizza for the kids from my business meeting in Manhattan to the train that would carry me home to my Highland Park, NJ home. As I strode confidently on to the platform, relieved that I had “just made it”, I saw the doors close before me, sudden and sure, with me on the outside of the door. I missed my planned train by something like 5 seconds, and I wasn’t happy as I mentally calculated the impact on my schedule of needing to wait for the next one.

It’s a dangerous thing, giving a writer time to sit in a train station to contemplate. I couldn’t get the image out of my head – that of the train door slamming in my face, and the sheer permanence of it. No amount of begging, waving at the conductor, crying, would have helped. I was simply on the other side of the door; the lucky ones were inside, and I was outside.

My mind flashed to my business meeting earlier in the day, which began when a man in the meeting made what was seemingly a friendly gesture – he offered half of his tuna fish sandwich to another man in the room. The other man smiled widely at the generosity but immediately declined the offer. “Let me tell you why I NEVER eat tunafish,” he said. He then proceeded to explain that when he was a child – many years ago – he had become carsick on a family trip when he reached into a bag looking for a yummy treat and instead, came up with tunafish coating his hands, and sending a wrenching smell up to his nose which led him to lose the contents of his stomach. From that moment, tunafish was a four-letter word – just the thought of it, (and especially the sight or smell of it), made him feel queasy.

Essentially, this man had become vaccinated against any lifelong enjoyment of tunafish, in one quick moment. And this, my fellow readers, is the best way I can describe how I felt, and feel every year, during the High Holiday davening that we have all recently experienced. At the ripe old age of 50, I can tell you that I was vaccinated against meaningful prayer when I was about 10, and 40 years later, I still feel that I am standing on the wrong side of the door – the one where people hold a siddur and look like they are praying, but they are disconnected, tired of standing, confused, and sad, because they don’t know how to daven, and they can’t seem to “get there” no matter how hard they try.

I was raised with the typical secular introduction to prayer – none. There was no mention of G-d in my childhood home, no Hebrew school, no role models of people who ever prayed, no understanding of the Hebrew language – and the best vaccination of all – I was forced to go to synagogue two days a year, for “Happy New Year” and Yom Kippur, where all I remember about those experiences is counting the ceiling titles, the pages left to go in the siddur, and the hours to go.

I do not blame my childhood upbringing for being “vaccinated” against meaningful prayer. I am an intelligent adult who has read hundreds of inspirational articles, books, and magazines, attended shiurum, conversed with partners in Torah, and relied upon my trusty transliterated siddur to help me manage the Hebrew in the service. I understand that prayer is an avodah and I know that working at it is a lifelong ambition.

I also know that, just like the man who to this day can’t stomach tunafish because of his childhood negative association, it is taking a lifetime of work to try to undo the entrenched negative association I have embedded in me from unhappy childhood connections – or disconnections as it were – with synagogue.

I may not ever get it right in this lifetime. For me, it might be too late, but at least my children know what it’s like to live in a house where people pray, they are learning how to pray, and more importantly why to pray at school and at home, and they go to synagogue every week, not twice a year. Even if they sometimes find prayer boring, and synagogue too long ( don’t we all), of one thing I am confident. They have a better shot at it than I do, because they were never vaccinated against it.

My time of sitting in the train – and thus the luxury of contemplation – is coming to an end. I leave you for now with one last thought that gives me pause. Some childhood experiences are so visceral and deeply felt, they enter into our children and lodge permanently somewhere in their psyche, never to be entirely shaken loose. As I am still in a contemplative mood from recent Yom Kippur introspection, I ask myself now, are my children at all vaccinated against something for which I would hope they would not have a negative association? Did it come from me?

I pray not.

Whew, I do know how to pray after all.

Syndicated newspaper advice columnist and author of twelve books, Azriela Jaffe is an international expert on entrepreneurial couples, business partnerships, handling rejection and criticism, balancing work and family, breadwinner wife and dual career issues, creating more luck and prosperity in your life, and resolving marital conflict. Her mission: “To be a catalyst for spiritual growth and comfort.”
Visit her web site here.

My “Berdichever Moments” – The Legacy of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

By Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz

Two hundred years after his passing in 1809, the influence of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev on chassidim and non-chassidim alike shines stronger than ever. His magnum opus “Kedushat Levi” is now available in English translation and continues to grip the hearts and imaginations of those who drink from it. Study groups to plumb the depths of this accessible yet enigmatic chassidic classic have proliferated worldwide. Wherein lies the secret to his ever increasing popularity?

It took a high school English literature course to provide an important clue. Several years ago my daughter took a survey course in English literature. At first she was enthralled with the literary tapestries woven by such greats as Hemingway, London, Faulkner and others. Yet when she discovered the sordid details which punctuated many of their lives – the abuse, the misogyny, alcoholism and even suicide – her ardor rapidly waned as she grappled unsuccessfully with the dissonance between their lives and their art.

It is not surprising that his legacy is perpetuated and transmitted via the many uplifting stories about his life She slowly came to the realization that the true hallmark of personal greatness is an ability to inspire as much by what one does as by what one says or teaches. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s life personifies such a seamless synthesis of thought, speech, action and appearance. Accordingly, it is not surprising that his legacy is perpetuated and transmitted via the many uplifting stories about his life and his tenacious advocacy on behalf of the Jewish people as well as through his Torah teachings.

He was known to take G‑d to task, a veritable enfant terrible, alternately begging, cajoling, pleading and demanding mercy and blessings for the Jewish people; knowing full well the extent of his relationship with his Father in Heaven yet asking nothing for himself, only for his beloved flock, much like Moses before him who famously declared: “If You don’t forgive the Jewish people, write me out of the script!”

Popular Themes

The founder of the chassidic movement, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), and his successor Rabbi Dov Ber (“The Great Maggid”) of Mezritch (d. 1773), did not leave much of a written legacy detailing their newly revealed path to the service of G‑d. Rather, it was several of the Maggid’s closest disciples who began to put to writing the spiritual infrastructure of the nascent movement. Rabbi Elimelech from Lyszansk authored a work entitled Noam Elimelech, “The Pleasantness of Elimelech,” and several decades later Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, affectionately known as “the Berditchever,” composed the essays which were to become the Kedushat Levi, “The Holiness of Levi.” Similarly, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad chassidism, drafted a series of pamphlets that collectively became known as the Tanya (named after the words with which the book begins).

Whereas the Tanya is directed at the beinoni (“intermediate,” or average individual), the former two works are apparently veritable how-to manuals for the tzaddik (organically righteous soul). Still, one gets the feeling that the level of tzaddik described in the Kedushat Levi is eminently reachable – with much effort to be sure – but that the Berditchever characteristically set the bar ever-so-slightly higher so as to offer a built-in defense to the heavens on behalf of those whose aspirations exceed their actions.

A Higher Reality

Where others saw visions, analogies and similes, the Berditchever saw only realityRabbi Levi Yitzchak was a true spiritual visionary of the highest order. One of his seminal teachings involves Shabbat Chazon (literally “the Shabbat of Vision”)—the Shabbat preceding the Ninth of Av, the date upon which the destruction of the first and second Temples is commemorated. Ostensibly, the name is derived from the first words of the day’s haftorah portion, “Chazon Yishayahu”—”the vision of Isaiah.” The Berditchever, however, taught that on Shabbat Chazon, every Jew is vouchsafed a vision of the third Temple. To Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, this “vision” was not merely a paranormal projection, hallucination or hologram; it was a glimpse of the actual Temple in koach (a state of potential), waiting for us only to bring it to a state of “poal” (concrete actualization).

Similarly, in his Likkutim – a series of passionate vignettes homiletically analyzing various biblical verses – he explains a seeming redundancy in the book of Joel (2:26), which employs the words “and you shall eat” twice. He explains rather cryptically that the first use refers to the fabled “Feast of the Leviathan” which according to him the Jewish people have already eaten in the guise of Shabbat and Festival meals, while welcoming guests and partaking in other meals associated with the performance of a mitzvah. To him, the double phrase suggests that in messianic times, the Jews will again be rewarded with the feast of the Leviathan as they have already eaten it! Where others saw visions, analogies and similes, the Berditchever saw only reality.

The “Other” Good Eye

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s teachings reflect the idea that every human being has two eyes. First there is “the good eye.” And then there is “the other good eye” (reminiscent of the magician at the children’s party who asked a volunteer for his right hand. When the child proffered his left one, the magician quickly said, “No, your other right hand”). Concededly, it was the “other” eye, but Rabbi Levi Yitzchak – ever true to the teachings of the Maggid and the Baal Shem Tov – emphasized repeatedly that even in that state of “other,” good could be found.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s starting point was his ability to see life through “the good eye,” a default position if you will. If he saw a Jew wearing tefillin while ignominiously greasing the axles of his wagon, he would smile, look up to the heavens and proudly proclaim to G‑d the greatness of the Jewish people who even when engaged in mundane worldly pursuits such as greasing their axles, nevertheless called out to G‑d in prayer. Similarly, stories of the Berditchever find him wandering through the market place on the eve of Passover readily finding contraband but unable to find a Jew in possession of chametz (leavened products), allowing him again to extol the virtues of the Jewish people who are fearless of the armed policemen in the market but who would never think of harboring chametz.

Even in that state of “other,” good could be foundBut it was with the “other good eye” that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s love for his fellow Jew, resourcefulness and originality shine. In a classic example, he explains the biblical requirement of taking up the four species (palm, willow, myrtle and citron) on the “first day” – although in actuality the holiday of Sukkot when the mitzvah is performed falls on the 15th of the month – as referring to the first day after Yom Kippur when teshuvah (repentance) is no longer sought from fear of penalty, given the gravity and solemnity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but rather:

. . .And after Yom Kippur, when engaged in the mitzvot of sukkah, lulav, the four species, and charity as if from the very hand of the benevolent G‑d – graciously and with love – to engage in the service of G‑d with joy and full-hearted happiness, then this type of teshuvah is considered “teshuvah prompted by love.”

He then cites the Talmudic maxim stated in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish (himself no stranger to the vicissitudes of return and repentance) that one who comes to teshuvah from fear of retribution has his deliberate sins converted to inadvertent ones, while one who comes to teshuvah out of love, merits having his sins transformed into merits! He concludes the thought as follows:

. . . And the Holy One, blessed be He, in His infinite mercy and kindness, who desires the rectification of those who return before him with truth and love, who desires not the death of the sinner but rather the return from his sins, during this holiday [Sukkot] within which we come to seek refuge in the shade of the Almighty by virtue of the mitzvot and other good deeds borne of love for G‑d, may He be praised, enumerates then the transgressions in order to know how many mitzvot will arise from these transformed transgressions. Unlike the period preceding Sukkot where teshuvah is motivated by fear and thus the transgressions are not counted at all as they are [effectively nullified and] considered inadvertent transgressions; however by Sukkot which is motivated by the love of G‑d, then G‑d Himself counts and enumerates the transgressions so that they be transformed into merits and that they should then serve as worthy intercessors on behalf of Israel.

This lesson is immortalized in the famous story in which the Berditchever was walking on the street when he encountered a banker who had strayed far from the path of his ancestors. The Berditchever stopped and exclaimed, “I envy you—you possess such vast potential spiritual riches. When you come to teshuvah, the stains on your soul will become brilliant sources of light with which you will illuminate the world.” Indeed it was in the realm of the “other good eye” with its potential for untold spiritual wealth that the Berditchever truly found his voice.

“Berditchever Moments”

The holy Baal Shem Tov urged us to consider the teachings of the Torah not as “once upon a time” stories from days gone by, but rather to internalize its lessons and stories as part of a living continuum predating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

I can almost feel the Berditchever cupping his hand over my “other good eye,” my “good eye” welling up with tears…I’ve had several memorable “Berditchever moments” over the years. In 1976 I traveled to Israel for the first time. Upon arriving in Tel Aviv, I somehow ended up in a local hotel for a breakfast buffet. When the waiter brought the milk for my coffee, I accidentally spilled the milk into the coffee cup, causing it to rise over the rim of the cup. The waiter, a non-observant Israeli, began to berate my carelessness. “Mah, ata oseh kiddush?”—”What are you doing, making kiddush?” I recall thinking at that moment just how wonderful it was that even while berating me, his point of reference was kiddush!

Similarly, for the past several years I have had the pleasure of serving as rabbi in a small Orthodox synagogue in rural Connecticut founded over 100 years ago by Jewish farmers. Several of the remaining congregants still farm as did their parents and grandparents before them. Candidly, there was a point in my life when I would have been extremely put off by their coming to synagogue on Yom Kippur in overalls and soiled t-shirts. Yet, as these simple Jews file in to the synagogue on Kol Nidre eve, coming directly from the fields in their work clothes, I can almost feel the Berditchever cupping his hand over my “other good eye,” my “good eye” welling up with tears and allowing me to see nothing but the pure hearts of these simple Jews who lovingly tread in the footsteps of their ancestors before them.

So as we enter a new year and especially the 200th anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, let’s try to focus on seeing life through the “good eye.” And if for any reason we have difficulties accessing the “good eye,” well then, there is always the “other good eye” to fall back on.

Posted in memory of Yitzchak Eliezer b’r Shmuel Chaim Shalom whose Yahrzeit was on 27 Tishrei.

Originally published at

Bereshis Outline

The new Parsha cycle is upon us and with it is a great opportunity to increase our commitment to learn. A great tool I have found is the Chumash Outline and Parsha Summaries created by Rabbi Jonathan Rietti. When you review the outline before hand, it makes it much easier to learn the parsha.

Rabbi Rietti was kind enough to allow us to post the outline here, but do yourself a favor and purchase the entire outline of the Chumash for the incredibly low price of $14 for yourself and your family.

#1 Creation of the Universe
#2 Creation of Man
#3 The Snake
#4 Cain Kills Hevel
#5 Ten Generations of Adam
#6 Warning of Global Destruction

#1 Creation of the Universe
1st Day: Heaven-Earth – Light-Darkness
2nd Day: Rakia is split
3rd Day: Land-Sea & Vegetation
4th Day: Sun-Moon & Stars
5th Day: Fish-Birds-Creepies – Blessing to Multiply
6th Day: Animals – Man-Dominate-Tzelem-Blessing to Multiply.

#2 Creation of Man
* Shabbat – Heavens and Earth complete
* Rain-Man
* Creation of Adam & Chava
* Located in Gan Eden
* Tree of Life & Tree of Knowledge of Good and Negative
* Four Rivers: 1) Pishon; 2) Gihon; 3) Hidekel (Tigris); 4) Euphrates
* One Command: “Don’t eat from Tree of Knowledge or you will die!”
* Not Good To Be Alone
* No Companion – Adam Names all the animals
* Sleep
* Chava Created
* Naked

#3 The Snake
* Snake was Cunning
* Chava Ate
* Adam Ate
* Eyes opened-Clothes
* “Where Are You?”
* Adam blames Wife – G-d
* Chava blames snake
* The Snake’s Curse: Most cursed, Legless, Eat dust, Hated, Slide.
* Woman’s Curse: Pain in Pregnancy, Childbirth, Child-Raising, Husband will Dominate.
* Man’s Curse: Ground is cursed, Sweat from toil, Death-return to dust
* Man names his wife ‘Chava’
* Expulsion from Gan Eden

#4 Cain Kills Hevel
* Hevel’s offering
* HaShem rejects Cain’s offering
* “Why are you depressed? Pick yourself up and start again!”
* Cain kills Hevel
* Cain is cursed – Wanderer
* Cain’s children: Chanoch & Lemech-City named Chanoch
* Chanoch – Irad – M’huyael – Metusha’el – Lamech marries Adda & Tzilah.
* Adda mothers Yaval & Yuval (Yaval is first nomad, Yuval makes musical instruments).
* Tzilah mothers Tuval Cain – (he invents weapons and metal works)
* Tzilah mothers Naama
* Adam reunites with Chava – Shet

#5 Ten Generations of Adam
1st Gen. Adam 930
2nd Gen. Shet 912
3rd Gen. Enosh 905
4th Gen. Keinan 910
5th Gen. Mehalalel 895
6th Gen. Yered 962
7th Gen. Chanoch 365
8th Gen. Metushelach 969
9th Gen. Lemech 777
10th Gen. Noach-Shem-Cham-Yafet

#6 Warning of Global Destruction
* Population explosion
* Fallen Angels take women
* 120 year life limit
* Titans
* Man’s entire agenda was wickedness all day!
* Decree to destroy entire world except Noach

Getting Deeper Into Torah Without Going Off the Deep End – Part 1

This classic BT guide was written by Friedman the Tutor and was originally targeted at BTs learning in Yeshiva’s but the advice is appropriate for any BT, so we’ll be excerpting it from time to time here.

Go Slow
If you take on too much, too quickly, you can cause an inner backlash. You could wake up one day sick of Torah, sick of yourself, or just physically sick. Or all three.

Find a Mentor
One human connection is worth more than ten perfect institutions. Torah is inherited through personal relationships more than class curriculum. You’ll need your yeshiva classes to provide a balanced range of information, but the melody behind all those details comes through human bonding. Look for a teacher who has what you want, or whose teaching is inspiring or, in an intuitive sense, familiar. If you find more than one person, use them all, but find at least one mentor. Then be brave and ask for times to talk and invitations for Shabbos.

Don’t Abandon Your Old Identity

Don’t get so excited over your new script that you destroy all your old props and scenery. Don’t suddenly give away your old books or throw out your favorite music. (Please use earphones if you live with others.) Keep contact with your old friends. Continue to use your own name. Don’t hurry to declare that you are too religious now for your library, your family, your profession, your artistic life, or your old hobbies. Such radical changes will only become appropriate for you to consider several years down the line. Racing into those decisions now won’t help you purify your soul more quickly. Instead, such changes could unravel you by removing all your familiar coordinates. Amputating your past undermines your creativity and authenticity. It could leave you spiritually limp instead of spiritually more vigorous. It’s great that you want to explore who you might become, but don’t do it by losing touch with who you are.

The entire guide is available here.

Get Your Post Yom Tov Off to a Good Start

To help get your post Yom Tov season off to a good start here are some simple questions to ask yourself each day.

Questions to ask yourself at the beginning of each day:

1) What are your goals for today?
2) What are your plans for preventing wasted time?
3) What acts of kindness can you do today?

Questions to ask yourself at the end of each day:

1) Did you accomplish some of your goals?
2) Did you use your time mostly productively?
3) What acts of kindness did you do?

Inspired by Gateway to Self-Knowledge By Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Bringing the Sukkah Inside

By Marsha Smagley

I have trouble leaving the Jewish holidays. It is especially hard for me to leave the sukkah; this year was no exception. This past Sukkos, as Hoshana Rabbah was approaching, I felt a sadness that soon I would have to leave the sukkah, aware that the darkness of winter was near with many days remaining before the lights of Chanukah would shine.

Not having been raised with Torah, I was most familiar with the holidays of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Pesach. I had no idea that as Jews we were given so many beautiful holidays, each bringing its own unique opportunity for growth and closeness to G-d. But it is in the sukkah, when we are asked to leave the comfort and physical security of our permanent home for the impermanent dwelling of the sukkah, that I have experienced the true security of dwelling with G-d.

WE LIVE in a predominantly secular Jewish community and are one of the few families to have a sukkah on our street. Each year a man named Tzachi comes from Israel to Chicago, where I live, and puts up our sukkah. I like to think of him as Tzachi the Sukkah Man. My family and I look forward to his call each year just before Yom Kippur, announcing he has arrived from Israel and is ready to take our sukkah parts out of storage and bring it back to life.

Tzachi has many sukkahs in many neighborhoods to put up. He works as a construction engineer in Israel, but I believe his seasonal job of putting up sukkahs is his “holiest” of constructions. I recall a touching memory of Tzachi davening minchah just before putting up our sukkah. He stood on our front lawn facing east reciting the prayers by heart, tzitzis flowing as he bowed in supplication to Hashem. Seeing a person praying on the front lawn is an unusual sight on our street. I felt that our sukkah was being assembled with blessing.

I do not like when Tzachi calls after Simchas Torah to arrange a time to put away our sukkah for the year. I know that he has to go home to Israel and that the sukkah at that point is but an empty shell; still, I do not like to see it go.

This year, when Tzachi came to take it apart, something unusual happened.Tzachi dismantled the sukkah but could not put its parts away because the sechach and sukkah fabric walls were soaked. Its many parts needed to be spread out in our backyard to dry.

As I peered out the window into our yard, I no longer saw the familiar sight of our beautiful sukkah. Instead I saw its remnants, some covered in fallen autumn leaves, draped on many chairs in our backyard to dry. It was a strange and disconcerting sight.

I could not help but see Hashem’s hand in this experience. Although it is hard to know all His messages, I wondered if G-d was delaying the return of our sukkah to help me to reflect on what I had learned from these preceding awesome days, to help me to reassemble, piece by piece, each last precious memory of dwelling in His sukkah.

OUR FIRST sukkah was made of wood, built by my husband and two yeshivah boys. We could barely squeeze our family into it, but I loved it. The following year, my husband bought a shul-sized sukkah from The Sukkah Depot. Each year I try to fill our huge sukkah with many guests. I love to invite my children’s friends and families, especially those who would not otherwise have an opportunity to be in a sukkah or wave the four species.

As I usher guests into our sukkah, I think of Sarah Imeinu when she and Avraham Avinu welcomed guests in their tent. I, of course, cannot compare myself to Sarah, but I like to think of her anyway. It gives me chizuk, inspiration. In addition to our invited guests, my daughter and I knock on many of our neighbors’ doors, inviting them to eat in our sukkah and, if they wish, to wave the four species.

THIS PAST Sukkos began with beautiful warm autumn weather. Then it snowed. This was a record even for Chicago; it had never snowed in October before. I remember getting up and looking out our upstairs window as I did each morning during the holiday to gaze at the sukkah below, only to see its roof blanketed in snow. I was shocked. I never saw snow on a sukkah before. I felt like Tzachi the Sukkah Man had been replaced with Frosty the Snowman.

My nine-year-old daughter’s friend was coming over along with her mother, who was expecting, and two younger siblings to eat lunch in our sukkah on that snowy day. I ran out to the yard and slowly unzipped the sukkah door to check the weather conditions inside. I hoped that the snow had just stayed on the roof and that if we dressed warmly we could still have lunch in the sukkah. I hoped the expectant mother would not mind.

The snow had melted and dripped down through the sechach, creating fresh puddles of water on the tables and chairs. As I assessed the feasibility of eating in the sukkah and with optimism began to wipe the water from the tables and chairs, more water dripped down on my head. Later in the afternoon we did bravely manage to recite a berachah in the sukkah over dessert. But we immediately went inside afterward for cover.

Although it did not snow again the rest of the week, it was wet and cold. I began to feel robbed of my precious time in the sukkah. As Shemini Atzeres approached, which this year fell on Shabbos, I hoped that it would warm up and stay dry enough to enjoy this very last day in our sukkah. It was difficult for me to say farewell to the sukkah under any circumstance — it was especially hard after having lost those last few days.

ON THAT Shabbos morning of Shemini Atzeres, wrapped in warm clothing, I was the first one to enter our sukkah. It was cold, but the rain had stopped and the sun shown brilliantly in the morning sky, warming the inside of our sukkah. Although I sat alone in the sukkah, I knew I was not alone. I felt His Presence; I felt the true security which comes from being enveloped in the loving embrace of HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

I gazed in awe at the inner beauty of this most precious of dwellings. There were other sukkahs that were far more elaborately decorated, but to me our sukkah reflected the beauty which comes from a family desiring to make a warm and loving home for Hashem to dwell.

Our sukkah was illuminated with beautiful white shimmering lights from above; my family’s favorite lights were the grape light ornaments, with each cluster of red and green grapes taking turns lighting up. There were many pictures hanging on each wall. My nine-year-old daughter had drawn them over the past few years. There was a picture of the Kosel and another of a boy waving the four species in front of the holy ark in shul. My favorite picture was of a family eating in the sukkah, but instead of sitting on chairs they were happily flying up to the ceiling.

On our sukkah’s eastern wall hung a poster of a sea of men davening at the Kosel while waving the four species. The blessings for ushering in the ushpizin, the honored guests, too, hung on this wall. My fifteen-year-old son recited this prayer for us each night. Plastic cutouts of each of the seven species of Eretz Yisrael were hung throughout the sukkah, along with the Star of David hanging down from the ceiling in its center, held by a sparkling blue pipe cleaner.

My daughter has described our sukkah as lively and colorful. She said it was a holy place which gave her the chills and a good feeling inside. I had to agree.

Although it was a bit cold, I asked my family to please eat this last meal in our sukkah, and with spirit and determination we spent a good part of Shabbos afternoon dwelling in the sukkah. My parents, too, joined us. I warmly recall the image of my fifteen-year-old son holding on to my mother, who needed to use a walker, to escort her through our yard into the sukkah. My mother had commented that the food was good, and that although it was a bit cold outside, it was cozy inside and she enjoyed the warmth of everyone there. Since I was the first Torah-observant person my mother really knew, I especially appreciated her efforts to sit with us in a cold sukkah.

As the time came to say farewell to the sukkah, I thanked Hashem for giving us this last beautiful day to dwell in it. I still was not ready to leave. After my family said their goodbyes and went inside, I remained alone in the sukkah, this last time, and cried out to HaKadosh Baruch Hu from the depths of my heart that I did not want to leave His home; I did not want to leave Him. Tears filled my eyes, the tears of a soul that wanted to keep dwelling in the loving embrace of the Shechinah forever.

IT IS NOW more than two weeks after Sukkos ended, and the rain has finally slowed down. My husband and son were able to put the sukkah parts back in their boxes — that is, all the parts except the bamboo sechach which still needed more drying time. When my husband and I returned from a chasunah the other night, and as I was about to go inside through the back door, I saw the sechach still leaning on chairs in our yard. I checked to see if it was finally dry and it was.

I suddenly heard a loud crackling of thunder in the dark night sky, and with the threat of more rain, I could not bear that the sechach would have to be left out even more days to dry. At that moment, I realized that what I truly could not bear was to see any of Hashem’s holy abode continuing to be left in fragments in our yard; it was time to put the sukkah away. It was time to say goodbye.

Still dressed in my wedding clothes, I tried to lift the bundle of sechach, but it was too heavy. Determined that it would not get rained on again, I prayed to Hashem to give me the strength to put this last remnant of our sukkah away. He answered my prayers. I held tightly on to the sechach to avoid dropping it and managed to get it into the garage.

As I held on to the sechach, I was comforted by the thought that although the last remnant of our sukkah was finally gone, it did not mean that Hashem was leaving me. At that moment, I was given the true clarity that my challenge was to bring the lesson of the sukkah “inside” — into my home and into my life. I needed to strive to bring down Hashem’s light into every aspect of my life and to build a permanent place within my home and within my soul for Him to dwell.

I recalled a favorite verse in Tehillim which I recite each day: “One thing I request of Hashem that shall I seek: that I may dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Hashem, and to meditate in His Sanctuary. For He will hide me in His sukkah on the day of distress, and he will conceal in the shelter of His tent; upon a rock He will lift me” (Tehillim 27:4–5).

I thank HaKadosh Baruch Hu for giving us a chance to create new beginnings, to bring inside all that we have learned from dwelling in His sukkah. I pray that Hashem will continue to envelop me in His sukkah, to take my hand and lead me through the darkness of winter and this long and bitter galus, until the lights of Chanukah shine forth.

This article originally appeared in Horizon’s magazine and is dedicated for a refuah shleimah of Shayna bas Madelyn.

The Joy of Building Our First Sukkah

As I’ve become more observant and more familiar with mitzvot and halacha and various minhagim, I’ve been struck by the almost absurdity of the Yom Kippur-Sukkot transition. It seems odd to me that, hours after experiencing the most Awesome day of the Jewish calendar, after going through a grueling and soul-wrenching fast accompanied by walks to shul, much standing, and seemingly endless praying, one would immediately go out and begin building the sukkah in anticipation of Sukkot. Sukkot – zman simchatenu – the holiday of happiness – seems to be in stark contrast to Yom Kippur with all of its solemnity.

On top of the huge spectrum of emotions that seems to occur in hours, there are only 4 days to prepare. 4 days to build a hut, acquire a lulav and etrog (and one can spend hours selecting the best), and plan and cook meals. FOUR DAYS! Isn’t that a bit of a time crunch? Why did Hashem give us no lead time? There are 40 days from Rosh Hodesh Elul to Yom Kippur…many start preparing for Pesach weeks in advance…why this huge rush for Sukkot? Essentially, why is Hashem practically punishing us with this crazy schedule?? And why is this sukkah – this little hut – of such importance if, lets face it, not everyone is gifted with carpentry skills? Why all these challenges?

And then it hit me as my husband gleefully put together our first sukkah this week.

On Yom Kippur, vidduy lists all of our sins. We are faced with everything that we could have possibly done wrong over the last year. In our prayers we say that we are dust, that we are barely worthy, that we have failed – and that we hope to improve and do better next year. We pray for life so that we can be granted the opportunity to do better. During davening or during quiet introspection on Yom Kippur we mentally think of how we can do better: this year I will take on this new mitzvah; this year I will put into practice this halacha that I learned; this year I resolve to speak less lashon hara…we become creative and hopeful. Perhaps it is possible to change; I think I can! I want to do better! And by the time ne’ilah rolls around, we daven so hard saying, “Yes – I can do it – just give me the chance – I know I can!”

And then the shofar is blown, we wolf down food – and what do we do next? Run – don’t walk – to do the first mitzvah that we can. And run we have to because we only have 4 days. And the 4 days is significant because it is not a lot of time! There is no time to waste! If there were more time, such as more than 10 days, then there is greater opportunity for a person to waver in their convictions or for the schedule to become too busy to build a sukkah. It is the time crunch that drives a person to fulfill the mitzva, and if we were given more time, how many of us would opt out for the sake of convenience?

The look on my husband’s face is priceless as he shows off our sukkah. Knowing that he accomplished this huge mitzva, despite the many trips to Home Depot, despite the errors that delayed construction, I can read several emotions in his face: pride in what he built with his hands, satisfaction in fulfilling the mitzva for the first time, giddiness in all of the decorations and lights. But perhaps the most significant emotion is the feeling of “I did it!” – and it’s despite the odds, despite having no time between work and nightfall, despite the construction snafus, despite the bugs (it is Houston, after all). This mitzva is done! And possibly, if I can do this mitzva, then I can do others…

And isn’t that a great feeling to start off a new year?

First published on Oct 1, 2007

Happy Days are Here Again

Rav Nachman Breslover coined the phrase “It is a great Mitzvah to be joyous constantly”. We know that, in particular, there is a Mitzvah of Simchas HaChag (being cheerful during a Holiday). Still Sukkos is known as THE Time of Our Joy. I’d like to share two thoughts that lend insight into why Sukkos is identified with joy and that also speak to Ba’alei T’shuva in particular.


The S’fas Emes explains that the Sukkah, as a Diras Arai (an insubstantial non-permanent dwelling place) is a home that is not a home, a place that is not a place. A sincere Ba’al T’shuva often feels so devastated by his sin that he feel as though he have no place in the world. The more homeless and misfit-ed a Ba’al T’shuva feels the more Divine Compassion is aroused and the more G-d creates an abode for the emotionally/spiritually homeless. Immediately after Yom Kippur the entire Jewish People are Ba’alei T’shuva. The Sukkah is G-d’s “homeless shelter” for all of K’lal Yisrael. The holy ambience of the Sukkah is that of a place that is in this world but not of it, an abode and a welcoming sanctuary for those who despaired of ever finding a place in their world again. If it had a sense of permanence about it then the Sukkah could never be a comfortable place – a natural habitat for the relentlessly ill at ease Ba’al T’shuva. But, insubstantial as a cloud, it restores to the Ba’al T’shuva his lost glory. Having “come home” after despairing of ever finding a home again we are ecstatic.


It’s been said that the opposite of love is not hate but apathy. Most of us have had emotional “absolute value” moments when our feelings turned on a dime from one extreme to another. e.g. (to borrow a sports clich) going from the agony of defeat to the ecstasy of victory or, G-d forbid, vice versa.

If we find a hole in our pockets and discover that we’ve lost a five dollar bill most of us will be upset for a few moments and then move on. But if we discover that a 20 million dollar winning lottery ticket slipped out through the same pocket hole we will be devastated. If, miraculously, a serendipitous win blows our lost ticket back into our hands then our joy will be indescribable.

Rabenu Yonah says that our festive feasting on Yom Kippur Eve prior to the actual Yom Kippur fast is a litmus test for the sincerity and depth of our T’shuva. Much like the hole-in-the-pocket lotto winner perceiving that the scrap of paper flying back towards him is his lost and deeply lamented ticket, the Ba’al T’shuva is elated to see his/her winning ticket i.e. recovering their ruptured relationship with G-d, about to be restored. The truest testimony to a Ba’alei T’shuva’s remorse and sense of loss of a relationship with the Divine is the joy with which he anticipates its imminent restoration.

Rav Hutner z”l concludes that the unique joy of Sukkos is the realization of the dream of Erev Yom Kippur. After all… as happy as the lotto winner is as he sees the winning ticket floating back to within his grasp, he is even happier when he, once again, grasps it in his hand.

Originally Posted on Oct 5, 2006

Sukkos Thoughts

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Every Shabbos Chol Hamoed Succos we read the Haftorah (Yechezkel, Chapter 38) about the final confrontation at the end of days between Gog and the nation of Israel. How does Succos connect with Gog, Magog and the end of days? It is ironic to note that after the exodus from Egypt, while travelling in the desert, a place that offers absolutely no natural security or protection, the Jewish people experienced their greatest sense of true security, protected from their enemies and entirely provided for by G-d. Every year, when theJew leaves his home for a week to eat, sleep and live in a succah; an often flimsy structure with a roof made of bits of wood, reed, bamboo, etc., he actualizes this idea that ultimate care and protection come only from G-d. By virtue of the closeness to G-d he has achieved during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, he can now experience a sense of true security. The word “Gog” in Hebrew means roof. Modern man, divorced from a belief in G-d, deeply believes that a good job, a big bank account, a solid economy, a high tech army, in short, a strong solid “roof over his head,” is the source of true security. These two world views cannot co-exist forever. We are told by the prophets that armageddon is inevitable, a final confrontation that will witness the destruction of mankind’s false faith. Succos teaches us that our apparently flimsy roofs will ultimately be triumphant over modern man’s misguided sense of security.

Rabbi Chaim Salenger from Ohr Somayach

Hidden and Revealed

The essence of Rosh Hashanah is our crowning of G-d as our “king.” A coronation, explain the Chassidic masters, is effected by two things — unity and joy: a people joyously unite to select, accept and submit to an exalted figure who embodies their collective identity and innermost strivings (if the coronation lacks either joy or unity, chassidic teaching explains, it results not in a true king, but merely in a “ruler”). But there is also a third element without which the coronation could not happen — awe. And the nature of awe is that it eclipses and mutes the joy. Sukkot, then, is simply the revelation of Rosh Hashanah. The joy and unity that are the essence of our commitment to G-d, and which were “concealed” by the awe that characterizes the first days of Tishrei, erupt on the 15th of the month in the form of the festival of Sukkot.

In the words of the Psalmist, “Sound the shofar on the new moon, in concealment to the day of our festival.” Our crowning G-d king with the sounding of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei (“the new moon”) remains in concealment until “the day of our festival,” the full moon of Sukkot, when it manifests itself in a seven-day feast of joy.

Yanki Tauber of

Reality Therapy

The holiday of Sukkot is an exercise in faith. True faith is not the belief that because God runs the world, everything will turn out the way we would like it to. True faith is the belief that because God runs the world, however things turn out is an expression of His love for us and is for our ultimate good.

When we leave our houses to dwell in the sukkah, we leave behind the illusion of security fostered by our cozy homes. After all, our houses may be invulnerable to rain, but they are vulnerable to the bank’s foreclosure. All physical security is an illusion. In this sense, Sukkot is a week of reality therapy.

Instead, the sukkah offers the comfort (and joy) of dwelling within the Divine Presence. The mystical Clouds of Glory surround the sukkah, creating a place of Divine immanence. The nature of spiritual reality is that it is eternal, imperishable, and invincible.

Sara Yoheved Rigler at