Overview of the Weekly
Habracha, (Sukkot, Shimini Atzeret, Simchat Torah)
To be read on 22 Tishrei 5763 (Sept.28)
Torah: Deut. 33:1-34:12
Stats:VeZot Habracha contains 0 positive mitzvot
and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
VaZot Habracha ranks 52 out of 54 in number of verses,
54 in number of words, and 54 in number of letters;
it is written on n lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 54
in overall length.
Vezot Habracha consists mostly of the blessings
which Moshe blessed the twelve tribes before he passed away. the final
part of the entire Torah depicts the death of Moshe and recounts his
greatness. "Chazak, Chazak v'Nitchazek"
FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:02-63VeZot
"Iron and copper are your door-bolts, and your energy shall increase
each day." [Deut. 33:25] Rashi: "Like your youth
will be your old age."
When a person locks the gates to his youthful strength with bolts of
iron and copper, and does not waste himself in improper desires and goals,
then his might will be preserved all through his old age; this verse will
be fulfilled in him.
Chidushei HaRim (translated from Sichat HaShavuah #303)
This world is a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, only a "vestibule"
to the next world. A person must recognize that earthly matters in and
of themselves are only temporary. However, when worldly matters are not
granted importance and a person uses them only for the sake of Heaven,
he makes his sukkah an abode for Divinity. The world and everything
in it is converted to a "permanent dwelling" for G-d.
Likutei Sichot (quoted in Days of Awe, Days of Joy)
Shmini Atzeret, Simchat Torah
"You have been shown to know, that the L-rd is G-d, there is none
else aside from Him." (from the verses recited on Simchat Torah)
The entire month of Elul, Rosh Hashana, the blowing of the shofar, the
Ten Days of Repentance, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, the Four Kinds and Hoshana
Rabba are only preparations for the "You have shown to make it known"
of Simchat Torah.
(Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin)
FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALAH (O:02-63/VeZot
permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the
Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated
by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco,
on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of
Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was
on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker,
hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only
to his Torah commentary.
"But you yourself will not cross there." (34:4)
Perhaps the reason this is repeated at this point is that G-d wanted
to tell Moses that he did not need to enter the gate to heaven by first
having set foot in the land of Israel. The Zohar 1:81 says that all the
souls ascend to heaven by way of the Land of Israel. Seeing that Moses'
soul was being gathered up by G-d personally, and that G-d immediately
deposited it in the Celestial Regions, there was no need for his soul
to travel via the Land of Israel in order to achieve its objective. The
words "and Moses died there" mean that when Moses died his soul
ascended to heaven immediately.
(adapted from Torat Moshe - 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech
of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version
of Eliyahu Munk)
By taking the 4 species, (which according to the Zohar represent the
four letters in the holy name of G-d) we express our joy in His joy, His
celebration. In Vayikra Rabba 30, we find a similar interpretation of
the meaning of the 4 species.
The meaning of this is, that since, according to tradition the 15th of
Tishrey is the first day on which our sins are recorded again after the
Day of Atonement, we arm ourselves with symbols of the holy name of G-d,
to appeal to His mercy and kindness, to help us resist our evil urge.
Shimini Atzeret, Simchat Torah
Selected from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary
of Rebbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding
pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple
of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have
been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.
"On the eight day shall be a solemn assembly for you."
The word atzeret is a term describing the Knesset Yisrael,
the spiritual concept known as 'Israel." Were it not for the concept
represented by the Jewish people, the whole universe would lack meaning
and purpose. It is also an expression denoting malchut, authority,
dominion. For the above-mentioned reasons Shemini Atzeret is a festival
all by itself. Among the four species, it corresponds to the etrog
which represents the Jewish people and which is held separately, in a
different hand than the other three. The Shemini Atzeret festival is related
to the festival of the giving of the Torah, meaning the festival of Shavuot,
which the Talmud always refers to as atzeret. We find the name
atzeret also applied by the Torah to the Seventh day of Passover
(Deut. 16:6), although that day is an integral part of the festival. Thus,
the term appears in connection with all three pilgrimage holidays.
What does all this mean? Just as the word Shabbat is applied by the Torah
to the various festivals on various occasions to show that the Knesset
Yisrael is the "bride" of the Shabbat, so the word atzeret
when used in connection with the festival conveys the idea that the Jewish
people, spiritually speaking, are the purpose of all these festivals.
In kabbalistic terms, they are the yesod [borrowed from the emanation
by that name], the "foundation," without which the entire legislation
of the festivals would lack meaning.
essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter
This coming Shabbos begins the holiday of Sukkot. On Sukkot, we have two
specific, different commandments: 1) dwelling in a sukka (hut),
and 2) taking of the four species (palm frond-lulav, citron-esrog,
myrtle branch-hadas, and willow branch-arava). Nevertheless,
the holiday is named Sukkot, and not the holiday of the four species or
some other general name. The reason is the special characteristics of
the sukka, which the mitzvah of the four species does not
have. First, the mitzvah of sukka begins as soon as the
holiday begins, whereas we perform the mitzvah of the four species
only the following morning (and this year, as we are forbidden to perform
it on Shabbos until Sunday morning). Secondly, the sukka itself
must be built before the holiday begins, while the four species can be
tied together on the holiday itself. Thirdly, each time we eat in the
sukka we make the blessing, "
You have sanctified us
with Your commandments, and commanded us to sit in the sukka."
If we leave the sukka for anything other than a short time, and
we want to eat there, we are obligated to make the blessing again. We
fulfill the commandment of sitting in the sukka many times a day,
yet having performed the mitzvah of the four species once, we cannot
do so again until the next day. Last but not least, we fulfill the commandment
of sukka with our entire body being located in the sukka,
as opposed to the four species which we hold only with our hands.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that from the commandment of sukka,
we learn that everything a Jewish person does (not just learning Torah
or fulfilling the commandments), even our everyday, mundane affairs, must
be connected to the Holy One Blessed Be He. Sukkot is soon after Yom Kippur.
The word for the service of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom
Kippur is Avodah. This is the same word used to describe the daily
work that each of us does to make a living: avodah. We should regard
our every day activities as potentially holy as the actions of the High
Priest in the Holy of Holies. The mitzvah of sukka embodies
this concept. Whether sitting, eating, sleeping, etc., in a sukka,
a Jew is entirely enveloped by the mitzvah. Everything, even answering
a cell call, in the sukka becomes part of the mitzvah! The
mundane reaches its potential in becoming holy! Another aspect of being
surrounded by the mitzvah of sukka is that it is compared
to being hugged by G-d. When hugging someone, you accept even the person's
back. People wear jewelry, a tie, etc. on the front side of their body,
because the front is usually the focus of attention, not the back. The
back is the part of themselves they do not usually share with others.
But it is hugging, which also involves the back, that expresses a level
of total and unconditional love. Through G-d accepting even all our seemingly
insignificant and physical actions in the sukka, as most holy, He is a
spiritually 'hugging' us.
Sukkot follows Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of T'shuva, and Yom
Kippur. During these preceding days we are not just being judged for our
actions of the past year, we are also checking to see if we have met our
expectations for the new year. It is appropriate that immediately following
the High Holidays should come the holiday of Sukkot, when we dedicate
all of our actions, unconditionally and without exception, to the Holy
One Blessed Be He for the entire coming year.
When we sit in a sukka, our entire body and all of its actions
become sanctified. When we make every mundane action in our lives into
an act of holiness, we are making the entire world into a sukka,
a dwelling place for the Almighty, uniting every part of the creation
in the service of G-d. It is easy to be happy while fulfilling a mitzvah
when you know even your small individual action is accomplishing something
very, very big.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameah, Shaul Leiter