Friday, October 2, 2009

The Workers' Sukka

The Sukkah that the Rabbi had built for himself every year was a sight to see. The walls were of the thickest and best wood. Even the greenery that he used to cover the top of the Sukkah was thick and fresh.

One year, everyone in that village decided that they too wanted a beautiful Sukkah like their Rabbi. But most of them were not very good carpenters. So the villagers who knew how to work with their hands, joined together to be the "Sukkah -builders" for the community and went from house to house building new Sukkot for everyone. As they finished the last Sukkah, they realized that they had been so busy working for everyone else that they had no Sukkah in their own courtyards. And so since there wasn't enough time for each one to go home and build his own Sukkah, they took the leftover wood and build one big Sukkah for all of them.

They then quickly prepared for the holiday and rushed to Shul.

When the evening prayers were over, everyone wished each other well and were about to go home when they saw it had began to rain...and pour. The rain got stronger and stronger. With torrential rains and winds smashing things in the street.

When the rain finally ceased, all were looking forward to eating the holiday meal in their Sukkah. But they were in for a surprise!

All their Sukkot had been destroyed in the storm!

"Let's go to the Rabbi. Surely his Sukkah is still standing!" suggested one man.
But the Rabbi's Sukkah was destroyed like everyone else's.

From far away some festive singing was heard. It was coming from The Workers' Sukkah!

Their Sukkah was still standing!!

"I know why their Sukkah remained standing", declared the Rabbi, "because our Sukkot were built each person for his own self and his own family. But they built their Sukkah with unity.

And when there is unity between Jews, all the storms and the hurricanes in the world can't break it!"

Friday night, candle lighting time for L.A. is 6:18 p.m.

Saturday night, candle lighting time is (from a pre-existing flame) after 7:15 p.m.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Succos - Simcha

The holiday of Sukot begins this Friday evening at sundown. Described as "the Festival of our Rejoicing," it is unique in that we are specifically commanded to be happy.

There are two ways to arouse a feeling of joy: through the head, and through the feet. We can sit and meditate on things that make us happy, or we can get up and start to dance. But whatever our approach - cerebral or with outward manifestations of joy - the heart will follow.

In truth, every Jew has what to be joyful about. Just thinking about the enormous love G-d has for every Jew, or the great merit each of us has in possessing a Jewish soul, can make us appreciative and thankful.

When a Jew is happy, it expresses his trust and faith in G-d that whatever happens is for the best. Serving G-d with joy reveals the good that is hidden in everything.

The holiday of Sukot is a time to recharge our batteries, to "stock up" on an abundance of joy for the coming year. According to Chasidut, all of the spiritual goals we were trying to reach on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur by fasting and praying are attainable on Sukot and Simchat Torah - simply by being joyful and dancing!

So have a happy Sukot, and may G-d grant us the ultimate joy of Moshiach's arrival immediately.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Succos - 4 minim - UNITY

The festival of Sukkot, which follows Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, marks the beginning of the days of rejoicing of this month, coming as it does after the solemnity of the High Holidays.

One of the themes of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is that of the unity of the Jewish People. But it is on Sukkot that this motif finds its highest expression.

On Rosh Hashona, we all stand as equals before G-d in prayer, accepting His sovereignty and crowning Him King over us all. And on Yom Kippur we are equally aroused to do teshuva (repent) and return to G-d.

Our unity during the High Holidays is a unity based on the common denominator inherent in every Jew. On Sukkot however, we reach an even higher level of unity than before.

One of the most important mitzvot of Sukkot is the taking of the 'Four Kinds'. These four species symbolize the four different types of people which exist within the Jewish nation. The etrog symbolizes one who possesses Torah learning and also does good deeds; the lulav stands for one who possesses only Torah learning. The hadas (myrtle) symbolizes one who performs commandments and does good deeds, but does not have Torah learning, and the arava (willow) symbolizes the Jew who possesses neither Torah nor learning.

On Sukkot we take these four different species and bring them together to perform a mitzva. Despite all our differences we are all bound together. And this is the highest degree of unity we can achieve.

Thus on Sukkot we verify and confirm the unity which was achieved during the High Holidays. This realization sustains us throughout the year and gives us the strength to live in harmony and solidarity with one another.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tzedoko -Erev Yom Kippur

In many synagogues,shuls on the day before Yom Kippur, plates and containers are put out for various charities. As people enter and leave the synagogue, they drop a few coins into the containers. The busier the shul, the more noise is made by the clanging and jingling of the coins as they are dropped in. And, of course, during these solemn days, more charity than usual is given.

In the Baal Shem Tov's shul, there was constant noise from the rattling of coins, so much so that some of the people found their prayers sorely disturbed. One person approached the Baal Shem Tov and asked him if it might not be possible to abandon this disruptive custom.

"Heaven forbid," cried the Baal Shem Tov in horror. "It is this very jingling and clanging of the coins that is our deliverance during these awesome days. It confuses the Adversary on High who is spending his time trying to convince the Alm-ghty that we are not worthy of being forgiven."

On Yom Kippur, we solemnly intone the ancient words: "Repentance, prayer and charity, annul the harmful decree." It is not only the noise made by the charity, then, as the Baal Shem Tov mentioned, but the actual giving of the charity that is so important. Let us all remember this in these days before Yom Kippur.

My best wishes that all of you, be sealed for a good and sweet year, and that we all celebrate Yom Kippur together in true joy and happiness in the Holy Temple together with Moshiach.

Kohen Gadol -Yom Kippur - Clothing/Gold/White

One of the unique points about Yom Kippur is the special service of the Kohein Gadol--the High Priest, who performed the Yom Kippur service on that day.

For part of the High Priest's service he wore gold clothing. The part of the service performed inside the Holy of Holies, however, was performed in plain white clothing.

Although the physical Holy Temple was destroyed -- and we eagerly await its rebuilding -- the spiritual Sanctuary within every Jew -- his Holy of Holies -- remains totally intact. Thus, each individual Jew is personally responsible to perform the special service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur.

The High Priest wore gold clothing for a large part of his special service to remind us that we should use the most precious and beautiful materials available in serving G-d; we should perform mitzvot in a beautiful and enhanced manner.

The white clothing of the High Priest, worn in the Holy of Holies, is a reminder that mitzvot that are purely spiritual in nature, such as prayer and Torah study, must also be performed.

At the end of his service, the High Priest said a short prayer that the year should be a good year materially for himself, his tribe and all the Jewish people throughout the entire world.

This, too, is part of the service of every single Jew on the holiest day of the year and in the Holy of Holies of his heart. Each Jew on Yom Kippur should also pray for a good year not only for himself and his family, but for the entire Jewish people.