Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Eat in Sukkah (7 days) The festival of Sukkot, commemorating G-d's enveloping protection of the Children of Israel during their 40-year journey through the desert (1313-1273 BCE), is celebrated for seven days, beginning from the eve of Tishrei 15. During this time, we are commanded to "dwell" in a sukkah -- a hut of temporary construction, with a roof covering of raw, unfinished vegetable matter (branches, reeds, bamboo, etc.) -- signifying the temporality and fragily of human habitation and man-made shelter and our utter dependence upon G-d's protection and providence. "How [does one fulfill] the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah? One should eat, drink, and live in the sukkah, both day and night, as one lives in one's house on the other days of the year: for seven days a person should make his home his temporary dwelling, and his sukkah his permanent dwelling" (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 639:1). At least one k'zayit (approx. 1 oz.) of bread should be eaten in the sukkah on the first evening of the festival, between nightfall and midnight. A special blessing, Leishiv BaSukkah, is recited. For the rest of the festival, all meals must be eaten in the sukkah (see the Code of Jewish Law or consult a Halachic authority as to what constitutes a "meal"). Chabad custom is to refrain from eating or drinking anything outside of the sukkah, even a glass of water. Also see: the Ushpizin Links: The Big Sukkah; The Temporary Dwelling; The Easy Mitzvah • "Water Drawing" Celebrations (7 nights) When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, one of the special Sukkot observances was to pour water on the Altar. The drawing of water for this purpose was preceded by all-night celebrations in the Temple courtyard; on the 15 steps leading to the azarah (inner courtyard) stood Levites while playing a variety of musical instruments, sages danced and juggled burning torches, and huge oil-burning lamps illuminated the entire city. The singing and dancing went on until daybreak, when a procession would make its way to the Shiloach Spring which flowed in a valley below the Temple to "draw water with joy." "One who did not see the joy of the water-drawing celebrations," declared the sages of the Talmud, "has not seen joy in his life." While water was poured each day of the fetival, the special celebrations were held only on Chol Hamoed since many of the elements of the celebration (e.g., the playing of musical instruments) are forbidden on Yom Tov. Today, we commemorate these joyous celebrations by holding Simchat Beit HaShoeivah ("joy of the water drawing") events in the streets, with music and dancing. The Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated the custom of holding such celebrations on Shabbat and Yom Tov as well -- without musical instruments of course. The fact that we cannot celebrate as we did in the Temple, said the Rebbe, means that we are free to celebrate the joy of Sukkot with singing and dancing every day of the festival.
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2618/jewish/The-Unpopular-Tzaddik.htm The "Four Kinds" (6 days) "And you shall take for yourself on the first day," instructs the Torah in Leviticus "the splendid fruit of a tree, fronds of dates, the branch of the thick-leafed tree and aravot of the river." Torah SheBaal Peh (the oral tradition given to Moses at Sinai and handed threough the generations, and later documented in the Mishnah and Talmud) identifies the four kinds as the etrog (citron), lulav (unopened palm branch), hadass (myrtle twig, of which three are taken) and aravah (willow, two twigs). The palm branch, three myrtle twigs and two willow twigs are bound together (with rings made from palm leaves). Each day of Sukkot -- except Shabbat -- we take the lulav in hand, recite a blessing over it, take hold of the etrog, hold the "Four Kinds" together, and move them back and forth in all directions (right, left, forward, up, down and back). An additional blessing, shehecheyanu, is recited the first time that the Four Kinds are taken during the festival. We also hold the Four Kinds during the Hallel prayer (moving them as above in specified places in the text) and the Hoshaanot prayers (during which we march around the reading table in the synagogue) which are included in the daily service each day of Sukkot. Chassidic Stories The Unpopular Tzaddik The Unpopular TzaddikBy Yerachmiel Tilles PrintE-mail Discuss (18) Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz was a spiritual giant in his generation. At first, his greatness was mostly unknown to his contemporaries, but he had no regrets; indeed, it suited him just fine. He spent his days and nights in Torah-study, prayer and meditation. Rarely was he interrupted. But then, the word began to spread, perhaps from fellow disciples of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, that Rabbi Pinchas was very, very special. People began to visit him on a regular basis, seeking his guidance, requesting his support, asking for his prayers and beseeching his blessing. The more he helped them, the more they came. The trickle to his door became a stream and the stream became a daily flood of personal stories and requests for help. Rabbi Pinchas was overwhelmed. He felt he was no longer serving G-d properly, because he no longer had sufficient time to study, pray and meditate as he should. He didn't know what to do. He needed more privacy and less distraction, but how could he turn away dozens and even hundreds of people who genuinely felt that he could help them? How could he convince them to go elsewhere, to others more willing and qualified than he? Then he had an idea. He would pray for heavenly help in the matter. Let G-d arrange it that people not be attracted to seek him out! Let G-d make him be despicable in the eyes of his fellows! "A tzaddik decrees and Heaven agrees," they say. Rabbi Pinchas prayed and so it became. No longer did people visit him. Not only that, on those occasions when he went to town, he was met with averted heads and a chilly atmosphere. Rabbi Pinchas didn't mind at all. Indeed, he was delighted. The old pattern was restored; rarely was he interrupted. Then the "Days of Awe" of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur passed, and there remained only four brief busy days to prepare for the Sukkot festival. In previous years, there had always been some yeshiva students or local townspeople who were only too glad to help the pious rabbi construct his sukkah-hut. But this time, not a single soul arrived. No one liked him, and no one even thought to help him. Not being handy in these matters, the rabbi didn't know what to do. Finally, having no choice, he was forced to hire a non-Jew to build his sukkah for him. But the hired man did not possess the tools that were needed, and Rabbi Pinchas could not get a single Jew in the neighborhood to lend him tools because they disliked him so much. In the end, his wife had to go to borrow them, and even that was difficult to accomplish due to the prevailing attitude towards her husband. With just a few hours remaining till the onset of the festival, they finally managed to complete a flimsy minimal structure. As the sun slid between the forest branches and the Rebbetzin lit the festive candles, Rabbi Pinchas hurried off to shul. Despite his solitary ways, he always made a point to attend the congregational prayers on the holidays; besides he didn't want to miss the opportunity to acquire a guest for the festival meal, something so integral to the essence of the holiday. In those days in Europe, people desiring an invitation to a meal would stand in the back of the shul upon the completion of the prayers. The householders would then invite them upon their way out, happy to so easily accomplish the mitzvah of hospitality. Rabbi Pinchas, unfortunately, did not find it so simple. Even those without a place to eat and desperate for an invitation to a sukkah in which to enjoy the festival meal, turned him down without a second thought. Eventually, everyone who needed a place and everyone who wanted a guest were satisfied, except for the tzaddik, Rabbi Pinchas. He trudged home alone, saddened and a bit shaken up at the realization that he might never have another guest, not even for the special festive meal of the First Night of Sukkos. Alas, that too was part of the price of his freedom.... It was worth it, wasn't it? Pausing just inside the entrance to his sukkah, Rabbi Pinchas began to chant the traditional invitation to the Ushpizin, the seven heavenly guests who visit every Jewish sukkah. Although not many are privileged to actually see these exalted visitors, Rabbi Pinchas was definitely one of the select few who had this experience on an annual basis. This year, he raised his eyes and saw the Patriarch Abraham--the first of the Ushpizin and therefore the honored guest for the first night of the festival--standing outside the door of the sukkah, keeping his distance. Rabbi Pinchas cried out to him in anguish: "Father Abraham! Why do you not enter my sukkah? What is my sin?" Replied the patriarch: "I am the embodiment of Chessed, serving G-d through deeds of loving-kindness. Hospitality was my specialty. I will not join a table where there are no guests." The crestfallen Rabbi Pinchas quickly re-ordered his priorities. He prayed that everything be restored to as it had been, and that he should find favor in the eyes of his fellows exactly as before. Again his prayer was answered. Within a short time, throngs of people were again finding their way to his door; seeking his guidance, asking his support, requesting his prayers, and beseeching his blessing. No longer could he devote all or even most of his time to his Torah-study, his prayer, and to his meditation. But thanks to his holy Sukkot guest, this was no longer seen as a problem. Biographical Note: Rabbi Pinchas Shapiro of Koretz (1726-1791) was considered to be one of the two most pre-eminent followers of the Chassidism's founder, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (along with Rabbi Israel's successor the Maggid of Mezritch).
http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/3106/jewish/ The Ushpizin According to Kabbalistic tradition, we are visited in the sukkah by seven supernal ushpizin ("guests") -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. On each of the seven days of the festival, another of the seven ushpizin (in the above order) leads the group. (The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950) spoke of seven "chassidic ushpizin" as well: the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid (Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch), and the first five rebbes of Chabad: Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (the "Tzemach Tzeddek"), Rabbi Shmuel, and Rabbi Sholom DovBer. The Lubavitcher Rebbe would speak each night of Sukkot on the special characteristics of both the biblical and the chassidic ushpizin of the day and their connection to each other and their specific day of the festival.) The-Four-Mysteries-of-King-Solomon.htm The Four Mysteries of King Solomon Despite all the wisdom granted to [King] Solomon . . . he was mystified by the Four Kinds. As it is written: “Three things are wondrous to me”—these are the Passover offering, matzah and maror [eaten at the Passover seder]; “and four I do not know”—these are the Four Kinds [taken on Sukkot].2 On Sukkot, the Torah commands us to take the “Four Kinds”—the etrog (citron), lulav (an unopened frond of a date palm), hadas (myrtle twig) and aravah (willow twig). As is often the case with the Torah’s commandments, the “Written Torah” (the Pentateuch or “Five Books of Moses”) conveys this mitzvah in a few cryptic words, leaving it to the “Oral Torah” (the traditional interpretation of the Written Torah taught by Moses and handed down through the generations) to decipher their meaning. In the Written Torah, the verse regarding the Four Kinds reads: And you shall take for yourselves . . . the splendid fruit of a tree, fronds of dates, the branch of the thick-leafed tree and aravot of the river . . .3 King Solomon, the Midrash tells us, was mystified by this verse. “Who says that ‘the splendid fruit of a tree’ is the etrog?” he queried. “All fruit trees produce splendid fruit! [As for] ‘fronds of dates,’ the Torah tells us to take fronds, in the plural . . . yet we take a lulav, the unopened heart of the palm. And who says that ‘the branch of the thick-leafed tree’ is the myrtle? . . . And concerning the ‘aravot of the river’—all trees tend to grow near water.” How, indeed, do we know that “the splendid fruit of a tree, fronds of dates, the branch of the thick-leafed tree and aravot of the river” are the etrog, lulav, myrtle and willow? The Talmud, which summarizes forty generations of the oral tradition of Torah interpretation, identifies the Four Kinds through a series of homiletic exegeses of the Hebrew words employed by the verse. The clue to the identity of “the splendid fruit of a tree” lies in the word hadar (“splendid”), which can also be read as ha-dar—“that which dwells.” The etrog is unique in that, while other fruits each have a particular season in which they grow, the etrog “dwells in its tree all year round,” continuing to grow and develop under a variety of climatic conditions.4 As for the lulav, the Torah indeed writes, “fronds of dates,” but the word kapot (“fronds of”) is spelled without the letter vav, meaning that it can also be read kapat, “the frond of,” in the singular. In addition, the word kapot also means “bound,” implying that we are to take a closed frond (“the heart of the palm”). By these means, the Oral Torah identifies the second of the Four Kinds as the lulav.5 There are many “thick-leafed trees” in whose branches “the leaves completely cover the stem”; but the Hebrew word avot (“thick”) also means “plaited” and “rope-like.” Hence the “branch of the thick-leafed tree” (anaf eitz avot) is identified as the myrtle twig, whose overlapping leaves grow in knots of three, giving it the appearance of a plaited rope. There is another plant that meets this description—the hirduf (oleander, Nerium oleander)—but the Talmud rejects that possibility as inconsistent with the rule the “[the Torah’s] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its pathways are peace” (since the hirduf is a thorny and poisonous plant).6 The aravot of the verse are identified as willow branches, because of the willow’s tendency to grow near water, and the elongated shape of its leaves (like a river).7 Another identifying mark of the aravah is that willow bushes tend to grow in close-knit groups (aravah is related to the word achavah, “brotherhood”). So what was it about the identity of the Four Kinds that so mystified King Solomon? Surely “the wisest of men” was as proficient in the ways of Torah exegesis as the Talmudic sages whose analysis is summarized above. In any case, there are many cryptic passages in the Torah where laws are derived from double meanings and variant spellings of its words. Solomon’s dramatic declaration regarding the etrog, lulav, myrtle and willow—“[Three are wondrous to me] and four I do not know”—must bode a deeper meaning, a meaning that relates to the inner significance of the Four Kinds taken on Sukkot. Four Species of Man The Four Kinds, says the Midrash, represent four types of people. Man’s mission in life consists of two basic challenges, learning and doing; or, as these relate to Jewish life, Torah and mitzvot. The Torah is the vehicle by which we gain knowledge of our Creator and insight into the essence of life; the mitzvot, the divine commandments, are the means by which we build a better and holier world, developing the physical creation into a “dwelling for G‑d.” These two endeavors define the four personalities represented in the Four Kinds. >The etrog, which has both a delicious taste and a delightful aroma, represents the perfect individual who both learns and achieves. The lulav, being the branch of the date palm, produces fruit that has a taste but no aroma; this is the prototype of the reclusive scholar who grows in wisdom but shuns the world of action. The fragrant but tasteless myrtle is the activist whose profusion of good deeds consumes all his time and energies. Finally, the tasteless, scentless willow represents the person who neither learns nor does, actualizing neither his intellectual potential nor his capacity to improve the world. On Sukkot, concludes the Midrash, these “Four Kinds” are “all bound together in one bundle,” each an integral part of the community of G‑d.8 The Tormented Fruit In light of this, we can understand the four things that mystified the wisest of men. If the “splendid fruit” in the Four Kinds represents the harmony of learning and accomplishment, why is this the fruit that “dwells in its tree all year round”? One would expect such perfection from a fruit maturing in tranquility, in a climate that is singularly attuned to its nature and needs—not from one whose development is agitated by ever-shifting conditions. And yet, time and again we indeed find that the greatest lives are those beset by travail and challenge; that the most balanced personalities are forged by the need to deal with changing circumstances and to constantly adapt to new climates and environments. This, to King Solomon, was one of the great mysteries of life. How does vacillation fuel growth? Why is it that the individual who enjoys a tranquil existence is never as “fragrant” and “delectable” as the one who is battered by the vicissitudes of life? Pressed Leaves The lulav, too, perplexed the great mind of Solomon. Is not the very nature of intellectual discourse that it produces varied opinions and conclusions? In the words of the Talmud, “Torah scholars sit in numerous groups and study the Torah. One group deems a thing impure, and another deems it pure; one group forbids a deed, and another permits it; one group disqualifies something, and another renders it fit.”9 So when the verse speaks of “fronds of dates,” we are inclined to understand these words in their literal, plural sense. For if the second of the Four Kinds connotes the Torah scholar—the human mind enfranchised to assimilate the divine wisdom—should it not consist of two palm branches, in keeping with the plural nature of the intellect? Should not their leaves be opened and spread, pointing to the various directions that the rational examination of a concept will take when embarked on by the mind of man? And yet, the lulav commanded by the Torah is a single, closed frond, its leaves fused to a single rod pointing in a single direction. As the above-quoted Talmudic passage concludes: “Should a person then ask: How, then, might I study Torah? But all was received from a single Shepherd.” This was the second of the two mysteries pondered by King Solomon. How do the flock of opinions and perspectives of Torah relate to their “single Shepherd”? How can the divine wisdom be funneled through the multifarious world of human reason and remain the singular truth of a singular G‑d? The Plaited Twig The myrtle in the Four Kinds represents the “deed” aspect of life—the manner in which we fulfill the purpose of creation with the physical actions of the mitzvot, thereby constructing a “dwelling for G‑d in the physical world.” Thus, the Torah identifies the myrtle by alluding to its “plaited” appearance, given it by the way that its leaves grow in clumps of three: the number “three” represents the realm of action, which is the third of the soul’s three “garments” or vehicles of expression (thought, speech and deed). Here lies what is perhaps the most profound mystery of all. How can the finite and mundane physical deed “house” the divine essence? Indeed, the plaited twig that comes to mind when thinking of the physical world is not the fragrant myrtle, but the barbed and poisonous hirduf! Yet it is the material world where G‑d elected to make His home. It is the physical deed to which He imparted the ability to serve as man’s highest form of communion with Him. Why? To the wisest of men, this was one of the four phenomena to which he could only say: “I do not know it.” A Brotherhood of Trees The fourth of Solomon’s mysteries concerns the willow, a plant with neither fragrance nor taste, devoid of learning as well as deeds. Why is this species counted among the Four Kinds? The verse itself answers that question by referring to the fourth kind as “aravot of the river.” The willow might not exhibit any positive qualities, but its roots are embedded in the banks of its ancestral river and nourished by the waters of its heritage. It, too, is a child of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; in its veins, too, course the love and awe of G‑d that they bequeathed to all their descendants. Another hallmark of the willow is that “it grows in brotherhood.” This alludes to a unique feature of the human “willow.” Taken alone, he might exhibit not a single positive trait or achievement; but when gathered in a community, the aura of holiness that suffuses each individual soul suddenly comes to light. Thus our sages tell us that the divine presence rests upon a gathering of ten individuals (the number that comprises a “community”) even if they are not engaged in the study of Torah or the performance of a mitzvah. This is also the significance of the minyan (the quorum of ten required to recite certain prayers): ten individuals gathered together represent a quantum leap in holiness. Ten ignorant boors make a minyan, while nine pious scholars do not. This is what mystified King Solomon about the willow. How does ten times nothing add up to something? If each on his own possesses no visible expression of his innate holiness, how does that change when ten of them come together? All trees grow on water, mused the wisest of men; what sets the willows apart, earning them a place among the Four Kinds? Simply the fact that they grow close together? Impossible Truths If we think of these mysteries, they are as enigmatic and elusive as when King Solomon pondered them thirty centuries ago. But we usually don’t think of them at all, so deeply are they ingrained in our reality. Despite their logical incomprehensibility, these are obvious and ever-present truths in our lives. Why do vacillation and hardship fuel growth? How can contradictory ideas embody a singular truth? Why does a simple physical deed elevate us to levels of holiness and G‑dliness unequaled by the most transcendent spiritual experience? How are a number of ordinary human beings magically transformed when knit into a community, greatly surpassing the sum of their individual parts? King Solomon couldn’t explain these mysteries; certainly, we cannot. But we recognize these as axiomatic to our lives, as four cornerstones to our existence that bear the stamp of a Creator within whose infinite being opposites merge and paradoxical truths harmoniously reside.10 FOOTNOTES 1. Proverbs 30:18. 2. Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 30:14. 3. Leviticus 23:40. 4. Talmud, Sukkah 35a. 5. Ibid. 32a. 6. Ibid. 32b. 7. Ibid. 33b. 8. Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 30:11. 9. Talmud, Chagigah 3b. 10. Based on an entry in the Rebbe’s journal dated Sukkot 5702 (1941); Reshimot #62, pp. 16–20.