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

Chag Someach to All

Have a wonderful joyful Succos.

From Derech Emes

Directions of Lulav Waivings

Rashi: left, right, front, back, up, down

Tur: front, left, right, back, up, down

Beth Yosef and Rema: front, right, back, left, up, down

Levush: front, right, left, up, down, back

Ari: right, left, front, up, down, back


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Between Yom Kippur and Sukkos – Actions to Match Up to Our Prayers

From Days of Majesty – By Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis

On Yom Kippur, the Jewish people were forgiven for the sin of the golden calf and were given the second set of luchos. Yet even after this tremendous act of pardon, we still did not know if we had found favor in Hashem’s eyes. During the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, the Jewish people gave away much of the wealth that they had taked from Egypt, for the sake of building the Mishkan, the tabernacle in the dessert. On Sukkos Hashem responded by showing His intense love for us when He returned the Clouds of Glory (commentary of the Vilna Gaon on Shir HaShirim 1:4)

Every year from Elul until Yom Kippur, we toil to repair our relationship with our Creator. When Yom Kippur ends, although we are cleansed of our aveiros, our job is not complete. Between Yom Kippur and Sukkos we engage ourselves completely in mitzvos in order to encourage Hashem to show His deep love for us. Perhaps these four days are the most critical in the entire Jewish calendar, for they determine the true extent of our devotion to HaShem. The intense love that is meant to exist between us cannot return until our actions match up to our prayers.

In the merit of our serving HaShem with devotion, may he show His true love to us, His children, and bring us all back to His Home quickly.

Do Teshuva Out of Love This Yom Kippur

Advantages of Doing Teshuva out of Love
In the Aryeh Kaplan Reader article titled Yom Kippur Thoughts – A Good Day for Repentance, Rabbi Kaplan points out the tremendous advantages of doing teshuva out of love versus out of fear:
1) Your sins become merits
2) You require no further atonement even though we can’t bring a Korban these days
3) You are immediately forgiven for all your sins, even those involving Koreis or Chillul Hashem

Teshuva out of Love is Very Possible in Our Generation
Rabbi Kaplan refutes the claim that many make that it is hard to reach this level with all the distraction we face these days. He believes that people today are more equipped to have a love of G-d than previous generations especially in our close-to-Moshiach times.

He points out that most Baalei Teshuva didn’t return because they had visions of Gehinnom before their eyes, but rather because they have a special love for Judaism and G-d.

Ideas on How to Do Teshuva out of Love
1) Set aside 15 minutes at the beginning of Yom Kippur and think about all G-d has done for us and the greatness of G-d’s deeds and works.
2) Recite the Shomoneh Esrai with strong kavanah on Yom Kippur, especially the first brocha which serves as a method of defining G-d to ourselves

The brocha use terms like “the great, might, awesome G-d”, If we say this brocha and all its words with concentration, carefully, slowly and thinking about the meaning of every word, will at the moment come to tremendous love for G-d.

He will think that “I love G-d so much. I want to be so close to Him. How could I have possibly sinned?” This will inevitable bring a person to Teshuva with love.

Go for It
The little skeptic inside us might be saying, “you can’t do Teshuva out of love”, but let’s use the power of the day of Yom Kippur to focus in the first brocha and to recognize G-d’s greatness which will lead to teshuva from love. We can do it and it really is what Hashem wants.

Taking Back Last Year’s Neilah

One Yom Kippur, in his drashah right before the Neilah prayer, our rav gave a short but powerful speech. He started off with a tragic narrative of a family that lo aleinu lost a child in a fire. Then he spoke about “taking back last year’s Neilah.” If someone had been through a painful year, he/she might wish with all of his/her heart the power to take back last year’s Neilah and really daven with extra special kavanah, The rav said, “Next year we might regret doing only lip service for this year’s Neilah. So make this year’s Neilah really count. Daven with extra kavanah so that next year you won’t want to take back this year’s Neilah.”

I have tremendous respect for my shul’s Rav, a brilliant man, totally frum Jew and eloquent speaker. Yet I find the concept of “taking back last year’s Neilah” more than a little bit chilling.

I haven’t read Joan Didion’s memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, about the horrible year when she lost her husband (and later her only child). From the reviews and comments that I have read, magical thinking or wishful thinking is a kind of self-delusion that one somehow has the power to influence events through unconnected actions, sort of along the line of, “If I wear my Jets jersey to every home game, the Jets will win the Super Bowl,” or more importantly, “If I pray and give charity, then my close relative will recover from his/her terminal illness.”

Of course, an Orthodox Jew does engage in some of this thinking, it’s part of our Emunah. We’ve all heard the saying, “Tzedakah tatzil Maves,” charity saves from death; also the famous line from the Yoraim Noraim tefillos about how “Teshuva, Tefillah, Tzedakah” can cancel the evil decrees against us. But as a noted rebbetzin once said, “G-d is not a waiter to whom we can give orders.” A beloved rabbi, the rebbetzin’s husband, was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer. Despite the outpouring of sincere prayers and tzedakah given on his behalf, the rabbi was niftar only weeks later. Should that shake our Emunah? We continue to pray and give charity when someone is ill, but don’t we already realize that sometimes we will not get the answer we want?

There is a story in the Agadita of the Gemara of two men who were about to die by hanging. (Sorry, I don’t remember the masechta and daf: if someone else can supply it, I would be grateful). Both men, about to die, offered up a prayer. One man’s prayer was granted (the rope snapped and he was saved) and the other man died. There is a machlokes as to whether the man who died offered up a “sincere” prayer, but then what is a “sincere” prayer? The Gemara seems to indicate that the man who lived had true Bitachon that his prayer would be successful. That only leads to more questions – the man who died lacked Bitachon? What does “faith in Gd” and “trust in Gd” really mean, especially to someone facing illness or death? Does he really need to believe that everything will be turn out to be Bseder and OK and wonderful?

I find the concept of “taking back last year’s Neilah” ironic because bli ayin harah, I had a very good year this past year 5770 in many important ways, yet I don’t remember having davened such a special Neilah last Yom Kippur. Maybe I should say to Gd, in a more august and respectful manner of course, “Let’s have another one just like the other one,” if only I knew how. Then those of you who had sadly not such a great past year might protest, “I davened such a meaningful Neilah last year, why did G-d give me those painful difficulties in 5770?”

In reality, there is no way to “take back last year’s Neilah,” any more than we can take back a car accident or stop a disastrous past choice. Perhaps the Rav was referring to having foresight almost as keen as our 20/20 hindsight, to be able to daven this year’s Neilah with as much Kavanah as if we really did (and do) have the power to prevent bad things from happening in our lives.

Join the Clean Team. Al Cheit 2010

Today I did something I’d like to delete from my supernal report card. I googled the name of someone I dislike just to take him down. Yes, I’m jealous. X is an uneducated boor, crass, ostentatious, but blessed, it seems with a talent for earning easy money.

What my search turned up wasn’t the stuff of the Yom Kippur afternoon Torah reading, just some potential securities fraud, tax swindles and other practices that could fall under the general heading “sketchy.”

“Ha Ha”, I thought, “Unless X’s lawyers are really sharp he’ll soon be wearing orange. I bet he’s even got that color in his wardrobe already. Won’t that save the Feds a bundle.”

Later on though , my higher self kicked in. X’s affairs were not my business. I had no justification for my inquiry, no Toeles. Plus I was guilty of a full fledged violation of the laws of Loshon Hara, seventeen negative commandments and 14 positive ones according to the Hafetz Haim.

Why did I even go there?. Was it worth upsetting Hashem for the momentary thrill of taking X down? I could almost feel the slime droplets dripping off my soul. How would I shower myself clean? One day, I’d bring an animal to the temple but for now there was teshuva, repentence, especially now when Hashem is in our corner rooting for us.

So I’m klopping al cheit over googling sins conducted resolving not to do it again..

But that isn’t enough. For my teshuva to be good, I need to think well of X, disbelieve all that I read, and see him in a good light and that isn’t just to be nice.. Since Hashem judges me as I judge others if I come down on X , Hashem will come down on me.

Switching mental gears isn’t easy. I’m scrawling X’s name on a post it note stuck into my siddur at shema koleinu, the place for personal request so that I can ask Hashem to let me see him with “good” generous eyes.

The best way to develop those generous eyes is by counting my own blessings, realizing that Hashem isn’t just kind of X, He’s more than kind to me.

Here’s a short list of things I can thank Hashem for-not in any particular order. My eyes, my ears, my mouth, my teeth, my fillings (imagine life without dentistry) my ability to use a computer, my kids, my husband, my car, my air conditioner, regular trash collection, the food I have in my fridge (even the left over meatballs no one wants to eat) my home, even when it’s messy. And that is only a start. Since I’ve got plenty, can’t X have plenty too?

In one of her final conversations, the victims of the tragic Israeli train track van collision said that people need to rise up above their own pettiness. She said that our own small mindedness actually prevents the final redemption. With terrorism returning the New York Times reporting that the Palestinian State is on it’s way, we Jews need Moshiach badly. If cleaning up my own personal relationships will help Moshiach to come, then consider me a member of the clean team.

A Must Read for Rosh Hashana

I think this is one of the most important articles to read in preparation for Rosh Hashana: Why Judgement – By Rabbi Noson Weisz

An excerpt:


The very first point that must be emphasized is that contrary to popular belief, Rosh Hashana is not about reward and punishment. The Talmud informs us that mitzvot cannot be rewarded in this world (Kiddushin 39b). The commentators explain that the physical world simply does not have the resources to deliver the amount of joy required to compensate the performance of even a single Mitzvah.

Only people who do not have the merit to make it to the World to Come are written into the Book of Life to compensate them for their past good deeds; we certainly hope that none of us are in this position, The conclusion: when we stand before God and pray for a good life in the coming year, we are not asking Him to provide it fo rus as a reward.

But if the judgment we face on Rosh Hashana does not concern reward, what exactly is being weighed? According to Rabbi Dessler, the model we should study as an aid to understanding the deliberations of the Heavenly Court on Rosh Hashana is an economic investment model; the judgments of Rosh Hashana are the heavenly equivalents of earthly investment policy decisions. On Rosh Hashana it is decided how much Divine energy God will invest in the world in general and in our own lives in particular in the course of the coming year.

Please read the whole thing.

Prepare for Rosh Hoshana With These Great Shiurim

Rabbi Welcher on Tekios on Rosh Hoshana 2010 – mp3 can be download here.

Rabbi Oelbaum on Teshuva 2010 – mp3 can be download here.

Rabbi Yonason Sacks on Teshuva – mp3 can be download here.

Rabbi Welcher on Selichos night from 2007 can be downloaded here.

Rabbi Welcher on Halachos of Blowing Shofar from 2007 can be downloaded here.

R’ Dovid Schwartz on Rabbi Yonah of Gerona – Guilt is Good can be download here.

R’ Moshe Schwerd on Rosh Hoshana – Why Change is Possible can be downloaded here.

R’ Moshe Schwerd on Din V’Cheshbon can be downloaded- here.

R’ Daniel Stein on Hilchos Teshuva – Chapter 2 can be downloaded here.

R’ Yechezkel Rosenberg on How Loud Can You Daven on Yomim Noraim and Other Times can be downloaded here.

R’ Yakov Haber on Rosh Hoshana davening can be downloaded here.

R’ Yakov Haber on Rosh Hoshana and Hirhur Teshuva according to Rav Soloveitchik can be downloaded here.

Some Random Thoughts on My Daughter and Son-in-law’s Upcoming Chasanah

Tonight’s the big night and we are grateful to Hashem for this joyous occasion. Here are some random thoughts:

– It is possible to go from engagement to Wedding date in under 10 weeks

– Getting your response cards in early is really appreciated

– Sending a check with the response card, if you’re planning on giving a gift is a great idea

– Just like there is a wonderful change in family configuration on the birth of a newborn, so to there is a wonderful change with the addition of a son-in-law

– Focusing on the tremendous simcha makes the occasion even more enjoyable and many people have advised us that is even more important on the night of the Chasanah

– Every marriage is part of the continuing chain of the Jewish People, so it is a simcha everybody can share

– The time, energy and effort going into the Chasanah is a wonderful celebration of the beginning of a new couple’s dedicated service to Hashem

– Extending the family with great Machatunim is a wonderful feeling