Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Shabbos Chol HaMoed-Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah 5776

Shabbos Chol HaMoed-Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah 5776

New Stories Shabbos Chol HaMoed-Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shabbos Chol HaMoed-Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah 5776

Sukkos and the World to Come


Sukkos is coming to an end, but just as we bid farewell to the Sukkah, we welcome in the festival known as Shemini Atzeres. What is the significance of Shemini Atzeres and how does this special day connect to Sukkos? The Gemara (Sukkah 55b; see Rashi Bamidbar 29:35 and 36) states that Shemini Atzeres is akin to a king whose servants make the king festive meals for seven days. When the festivities come to an end, the king requests from his friend to stay as his departure is too much to bear. The king then requests that the man should make a small feast so that the king can benefit from him. Let us understand the message contained in this Gemara. The Gemara is stating that following the seven days of Sukkos, we wish to depart and HaShem begs us to stay. Thus, HaShem gave us the day of Shemini Atzeres so that we could spend more time with Him, so to speak. How do we understand the concept that HaShem desires that we stay with Him an extra day? Why did HaShem not instruct us to celebrate the festival of Sukkos for eight days and then there would not have been a need to remain another day?

Shemini Atzeres stands on its own

It is told that the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l was experiencing pain in his feet on Sukkos. Yet, to the surprise of his followers, when Simchas Torah arrived, the Rebbe was dancing energetically. A Chasid queried the Rebbe as to this transformation, and the Rebbe replied, “Shemini Atzeres (and Simchas Torah) regel bifnei atzmo, Shemini Atzeres is a festival of its own. The Rebbe was making a play on the word regel, which literarily means foot. This incident sheds light on what is occurring on Shemini Atzeres. Sukkos is a time of joy, but after seven days of basking in HaShem’s Presence, we are eager to get back to the regular way of living. HaShem therefore requests of us that we do not depart so hastily and we spend another day with Him.

The last day of Sukkos and Shavuos are referred to as Atzeres

It is fascinating to note that the last day of Sukkos is referred to as Shemini Atzeres and the festival of Shavuos is referred to as Atzeres. What is the association between these two seemingly unrelated holidays? It is said (Devarim 33:3) af choveiv amim kol kedoshav biyadecha viheim tuku liraglecha yisa midabrosecha, indeed, You loved the tribes greatly, all its holy ones were in Your hands; for they planted themselves at Your feet, bearing [the yoke] of Your utterances. Regarding the words viheim tuku liraglecha, Rashi writes: they are pushing and gathering under Your shade. The Targum renders the translation of these words to be: and they are guided under your clouds. These explanations clearly allude to the idea that HaShem led the Jewish people in the Wilderness under the protection of the Clouds of Glory. It is precisely this miracle that we commemorate by sitting in the Sukkah for seven days. [It is noteworthy that the words viheim tuku liraglecha equal in gematria the word Atzeres (760, as Shemini Atzeres is a regel by itself]. Subsequent to receiving the Torah, it is said (Bamidbar 10:33) vayisu meihar HaShem derech sheloshes yamim, they journeyed from the Mountain of HaShem a three-day journey. Tosfos (Shabbos 16a s.v. puranus) quotes the Medrash that states that this verse teaches us that the Jewish People ran away from HaShem like a child running away from school. This, then, is the clear association between Shavuos and Shemini Atzeres. We can suggest that Shavuos is referred to as Atzeres because Atzeres means restrain. The message of Shavuos is that it is not sufficient to just receive the Torah. A Jew must remain connected to the Torah and not seek to flee from the acceptance of Torah and mitzvos. Similarly, following the seven days of Sukkos, we need to restrain ourselves from fleeing, so to speak, from HaShem’s Presence. It is for this reason that HaShem supplicates the Jewish People to remain one more day in His Presence.

Shemini Atzeres is for our benefit

We can now understand why HaShem did not merely instruct us to dwell in the Sukkah for eight days. Rather, HaShem instructed us to dwell in the Sukkah for seven days. When we begin to feel like it is too much for us, HaShem requests that we stay on another day. This extra day is for our good. In this way we will be cognizant of the fact that basking in HaShem’s Present is the will of HaShem and is for our good.

The Shabbos connection

The Gemara (Avoda Zara 3a) states that in the future the gentiles will seek to accept the Torah and HaShem will offer them to perform the mitzvah of Sukkah. The gentiles will then build their Sukkahs and HaShem will create an intense heat. This heat will cause the gentiles to kick their Sukkahs and reject the mitzvah. The Gemara finds proof for this in a verse that states (Tehillim 2:3) ninatka es mosroseimo vinashlicha mimenu avoseimo, let us cut their cords and let us cast off their ropes from ourselves. It is noteworthy that the word mosroseimo equals in gematria the word Atzeres and 8 (768), as the gentiles will demonstrate that they cannot tolerate being in HaShem’s Presence for the extra day which is reflected in Shemini Atzeres. Indeed, the Sfas Emes writs that Shemini Atzeres is akin to the World to Come. Furthermore, HaShem chose us as His beloved nation, and every Shabbos HaShem affords us a glimpse of the World to Come. HaShem should allow us to merit basking in His Presence, and we should embrace this opportunity at every possible moment.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

אָנָּא עֶלְיוֹן נוֹרָא, הַבִּיטָה עֲנֵינוּ, פְדֵנוּ בִמְהֵרָה, O please Exalted Awesome One, see our suffering, redeem us soon. We constantly beseech HaShem to see our suffering. Does Hashem, so to speak, hide His eyes from us? The answer to this question is that it is said (Bamidbar 14:14) אֲשֶׁר עַיִן בְּעַיִן נִרְאָה אַתָּה יְ-הֹ-וָ-ה, that You, HaShem, appeared eye to eye. The commentators write that this means that HaShem, so to speak, is eye to eye, or, face to face to face with us. Naturally, if we look away from HaShem, He is still there but we are no longer eye to eye with Him. We therefore ask HaShem to look at us, i.e. to allow us to return to Him so we will once again be facing Him and benefiting from His Countenance.

Shabbos Stories

The Unpopular Tzaddik

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.

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Practical Applications
  1. Egg or Tuna Salad (with Mayonnaise)

One may combine chopped egg or tuna with mayonnaise in the normal fashion. However, one must mix the combination with crisscross strokes (or with the bare hand). One is forbidden to mix with a knife or with the handle of a utensil. The same idea applies regarding adding egg or tuna, or when mixing vegetable bits into a complete salad. The new pieces may be mixed only in crisscross fashion (or with the bare hand).

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Shabbos Chol HaMoed-Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah 5776

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New Stories Shabbos Chol HaMoed-Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah 5776

A Taste of Better Times to Come

A feast of rotten potatoes in Leipzig.

by Faigy Schonfeld

She is hungry. An emptiness has gnawed at her stomach for months. Now it claws at her ribs. She is so hungry.

They are to leave their barrack soon for another day of endless movement of hands, quick, circular motions and fastening and screwing, and remaining far from the whip.

She wants to howl. She doesn’t.

She is part of a team, constructing airplanes for the war effort. She is twelve years old.

The 27 girls in her block struggle out of the rotten planks they call bed. She is dressed and ready at the door. She stares out at the sky, a brilliant blue face of Germany.

She crumples at the sight of the sky’s royal color. For a moment, she thinks about life and color and elusive joy. Then hunger slams back into her, leaving her breathless. She turns to look at the girls behind her, squares her shoulders, and steps out.

“Zeldah!” her sister Sheindel wails from behind her. In a flash, Sheindel has left the barrack and catches Zeldah’s arm, to drag her back inside. Cold fear gleams in Sheindel’s eyes. “Zeldah, what are you going to do this time?”

“I’m going to find food.” She smiles as she says it, as if it is the most natural thing to do on a hungry morning, as if they aren’t in a hateful place in a hateful country, with home but a silky dream, a whiff of a fragrance long gone.

Sheindel blinks.

Zeldah shrugs, angry. If there is one thing the Germans cannot steal from her, it is her fire. Her spunk, her feisty sense of humor. “Breakfast!”

Sheindel starts to cry. “Please, Zeldah, don’t be so childish! They’ll catch you!” she cries hoarsely. At eighteen, she feels responsible for her little sister who is tottering dangerously at the edge of the miracle wings she is treading on. She should be unnoticeable, obedient. Zeldah is so young; it is absurd that she has survived until now. And now, again, she is doing something crazy.

Zeldah says nothing. What can she say? Sheindel is probably right, but she is too hungry to care.

Sheindel gazes steadily at her sister, silently imploring her, and she fancies that the wind, too, is shrieking…just stay, just stay…

She purses her lips and looks beyond Zeldah and her eyes suddenly fill with the tender memories of her heart. She sees the gentle crinkles around her mother’s soft eyes, hears brothers splashing in the lake behind the house. Gleeful eyes, dimpled grins, and wet peyos. She listens to the silence. The faintest strains of her father’s voice tickle her ear like a feather; echoes of the last song he sang on the last Shabbos before he was taken away. From nowhere, the heady aroma of home thickens in the cold air, that achingly wonderful scent of baking bread and love and she inhales. But she smells smoke and tastes death, and the tips of magic memory shiver cruelly before her, just out of reach. Her heart lurches up to her throat. She cries harder, “Zeldah, how can you be so stupid? Please, just stay here!”

Zeldah smiles painfully. “Don’t worry. I’ll bring you back some food.” She strides off, feigning confidence.

A Potato in Leipzig

For a few moments, Zeldah loses herself. The sky is bright above her, the air crisp in her throat. She is Zeldah, after all, and the Germans cannot snatch away her spark. Will she let herself be starved like that? She knows she is allowed out at this time and there are no guards around. Minutes roll by and she quickly covers ground until she finds what she is looking for, the garbage dumpster.

For a minute she just looks, afraid to admit to the revulsion curdling in her throat. She thinks of Mamme for a moment, neat and sweet-smelling and shining like a queen, before snapping her fingers smartly, to chase away the thought. Mamme would want her to eat.

She swallows. Ignoring the smell and the dirt, she digs.

She is rewarded. Potatoes. She stuffs her goods into the lining of her coat; rotten potatoes, peels, crumbs, whatever she can find. She is a well-bred girl, brought up with Mamme’s golden chicken soup and fluffy babkes, but right now her heart sings at the sight of her goods.

She turns to leave, a new joy fluttering happily in her chest. She will bring food for her sister and she will calm the hunger tearing through her stomach.

Thump-clack, thump-clack, thu-

Her heart becomes a ball of frozen terror in her chest, breath turning to ice in her lungs. A tall, hateful woman in green appears, blinking suspiciously at the sight of a slip of a girl, standing meekly next to the dumpsters, eyes large and lost.

“What are you doing here?” her voice is jagged ice and hissing fire.

“N-n-nothing,” Zeldah whispers, white to the lips.

I’m going to die, a voice says in her mind as panic boils on her tongue.

The green-clad witch glares at Zeldah, then runs her hands along the child’s coat.

It is stuffed with potatoes, bulging out at the bottom. The woman takes a step back, and God must have blinded her, because the woman does not see.


Zeldah flees, potatoes knocking into her feet, heart hammering through her teeth. Tears slip down her cheeks as the wind escapes her lungs, and still she runs, crying soundlessly into the cold.

And then suddenly she’s back, and Sheindel is hugging her, and they both just stand and cry.

There is still time before they have to leave for work. There’s an oven in her barrack and as she slips her moldy potatoes into its embracing heat, the girls stare in wonder and joy. A potato! In Leipzig!

The potatoes are hot and soft, velvet on her tongue. Her sister sits beside her as they indulge in this glorious feast. Zeldah feels warm inside, snug, cozy, and for a minute she lets herself forget that she is in a labor camp in Leipzig, Germany. She is home, sitting next to the red brick fireplace, her hands warming on a mug filled with Mamme’s sugary, lemony tea. The scent of fresh bread lingers vaguely in her nostrils. A rich smell wafts in from the spice growing on the field out back.

Tatteh is learning and Mamme is singing at the stove. Mamme loves to sing. Her big brothers are debating something again and the usual flash of annoyance doesn’t come. Instead, she hears their cheerful bantering and the occasional thump on a shoulder and it seems to her to be the most beautiful sound in all the world. Sheindel is concentrating on the mending, humming and rocking in her usual placid way. Little Ahrele runs over to her, peyos swinging, his dark eyes crinkling. Home.

Zeldah swallows the last of her potato, swallows the warmth along with it. She gets up shakily to follow the girls out to work.

At the door, she stops. Her stomach sighs with a sudden and deep sense of comfort, a breathtaking feeling of full. For this day, just for this day, she is no longer hungry. She is no more the windblown orphan, the wretched shadow of a once beautiful, happy girl. God has saved her today. He has saved her many times before. He will watch over her and protect her in the dark days to come.

For this moment, just for this moment, she is filled with the taste of better times to come. (

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