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Devarim Deutronomy

   638: Rosh Hashana

639: Ha'Azinu

640: Succos

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Devarim Deutronomy

October 13, 2000 - 14 Tishrei, 5761

640: Succos

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

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  639: Ha'Azinu641: Bereshis  

Why Be Happy?  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Why Be Happy?

From the time they are very young, children are enjoined to be happy (or at least to look the part). "Don't forget to bring your smile tomorrow," the kindergarten teacher tells her new charges as she bids them farewell on the first day of class.

And what about those "smiley face" stickers that we thought went out with peace symbols and words like "mod" and "groovy." They're back on reward charts, at theme parties and anywhere else they can unashamedly promote happy faces.

As we mature (or at least get older) the belief that we can, must, ought to be happy has made the pursuit of happiness a life-long goal for some.

In Judaism, too, we are enjoined to be happy - for a purpose. "Serve G-d with simcha - joy." "Rejoice in your holidays and be completely joyful." "Be joyous before G-d."

Whereas on Jewish holidays in general we have a special mitzva to rejoice and be happy, concerning the festival of Sukkot the Torah mentions rejoicing three times. (Three, in mystical Jewish teachings, is a very powerful number, connoting permanence and strength.)

Our Sukkot rejoicing begins even before the holiday commences. It actually starts the night immediately following Yom Kippur when we are certain that G-d has judged us all favorably. The joy and festive atmosphere continues throughout the eight-day Sukkot holiday and especially in the evenings when, in Jewish communities large and small, people gather together to commemorate and celebrate Simchat Beit HaShoeiva, the ancient water-drawer ceremony of Temple times.

But our happiness culminates on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah when the actual "mitzvah of the day," the "house special" so to speak, is rejoicing.

How is it possible to command someone to rejoice? How can you legislate an emotion? A similar question is asked concerning the mitzva of loving G-d - "And you shall love the L-rd, your G-d." The explanation that Maimonides gives for this question is that the command is to meditate on things that evoke love.

What evokes joy? Singing and dancing, which is exactly what we do on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Chasidic philosophy explains that the joy that one infuses into mitzvot for the entire year is generated by the joy one creates and experiences on Simchat Torah! So powerful is the mitzva to rejoice on Simchat Torah that the Previous Rebbe said "the intense rejoicing of Simchat Torah is a vessel for the provision of one's physical needs for the whole year."

Rejoicing, being really happy on Simchat Torah, is not as tough as it might seem. True, we have just come from the High Holidays, where the "job" of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur - shaking oneself out of spiritual complacency - is an extremely difficult one. However, Jewish mystical teachings state unequivocally that the rejoicing of Simchat Torah is within every Jew's grasp, great and humble alike.

There's a saying that we "halve" our misery when we share it with a friend. Surely if that is true then it is just as correct to say that we double our joy when we share it with a friend. Shlepp along a friend to celebrate the four "S's" - Sukkot, Simchat Beit HaShoeiva, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

To find out about holiday celebrations in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or find them at

Living with the Rebbe

In the times of the Holy Temple, the rejoicing of Sukkot reached its culmination in the water-drawing celebration known as Simchat Beit Hasho'eiva. On the second night of the holiday, spring water was poured upon the altar, as the prophet Isaiah says, "You shall draw water with joy from the springs of salvation."

Our Sages declared: "Whoever has not seen the rejoicing of the water-drawing has never seen true joy." Conversely, the opposite is also true: Anyone who witnessed and participated in Simchat Beit Hasho'eiva merited to experience true joy.

Furthermore, as alluded to in the above statement of our Sages, by participating in the water-drawing festivities, a person merits that this happiness will continue throughout his lifetime.

"Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: 'Why is it called Simchat Beit Hasho'eiva, the joy of the water-drawing? Because Ruach Hakodesh [Divine inspiration] was drawn from it. This teaches that Divine inspiration only rests on a person whose heart is glad.' "

As the Maggid of Mezeritch (Rabbi Dov Ber, the successor to the Baal Shem Tov) explained, everyone who participated in the water-drawing festivities derived this Divine inspiration. This included even young children and babies whose parents had brought them to the Holy Temple to witness the event.

This is an astounding fact. How can it be that even the tiniest babies experienced Ruach Hakodesh? Surely they were too young to understand what was being celebrated, not to mention the very concept of Divine inspiration.

The answer is that intellectual understanding or comprehension was not required. When Moses came down from Sinai with the Tablets of the Law, his face was radiant with a special light. Yet the Torah tells us that "Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone." Moses was unaware of this extraordinary phenomenon!

If a person of the stature of Moses could not perceive this marvel, how much more so is it possible for tiny babies to have merited Divine inspiration during the water-drawing celebration, yet not be aware of it!

The same principle applies to the "revelation of Elijah the Prophet." It sometimes happens that Elijah will reveal himself to a Jew, yet the person to whom he is revealed is unaware of it.

From this we learn how important it is for every Jew to participate in the Simchat Beit Hasho'eiva on Sukkot.

Adapted from Maayanei Hayeshua

A Slice of Life


Rabbi Vogel in the Chabad of Delaware sukka
By Steve Hyatt

As a child growing up in Waterford, Connecticut, my family went to shul for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and celebrated Chanuka and Purim with childlike zeal. In fact many people still feel that I was the best seven-year-old Mordechai they'd ever seen in the annual Ahaveth Chesed synagogue's Purim play!

But in all my years I had never seen, let alone set foot in, a sukka. So one of the more extraordinary experiences of my adult life was helping build the Chabad Community Sukka in Wilmington, Delaware.

I can vividly remember building that sukka. About a week before the start of the holiday, Rabbi Vogel asked for volunteers to help erect the shul's community sukka. I had enjoyed a lot of firsts since discovering Chabad of Delaware so I figured, why not.

Later that day, six of us gathered at the Rabbi's home and began constructing the sukka. Despite the fact that our ancestors had been building these temporary structures for over 3300 years, this was the first time I had ever joined the construction crew. Together, our team hoisted large wooden panels into place, bolted them together and created a four-walled free standing temporary dwelling.

Since I am 6'3" tall, I was placed on s'chach duty. What is s'chach you ask? Hey, I couldn't pronounce it either. Rabbi Vogel informed me that s'chach are the fresh branches that help form the roof of the sukka. I had the honor of placing the s'chach on the bamboo poles that served as the roof support structure.

It only took about twenty minutes to place the entire load of s'chach on the sukka roof but it has taken me four years to even come close to pronouncing the word properly. No matter how I try, I can't get the word out of my mouth!

After all the time and effort we put into building the sukka I couldn't wait for the holiday of Sukkot to arrive. I could almost smell the Shabbat meal we were going to enjoy within the cozy confines of our temporary dwelling. There promised to be lots of the Rebbetzin's world-famous kugel and the best matzo ball soup this side of Jerusalem.

That Shabbat I arrived at the Vogel's, wearing my best Shabbat clothes, and proclaimed for all to hear that I was ready to eat in the sukka. After we said the evening prayers, everyone moved to the sukka and the Rabbi said the Kiddush blessing over the wine. Half- way through Kiddush I heard the distinctive sound of rain. I looked at the Rabbi, the Rebbetzin and the Vogel kids and no one appeared to pay the slightest bit of attention to the rain. I figured they were confident the s'chach would form an impenetrable barrier and keep us dry throughout the night's festivities.

Moments later, the Rabbi completed Kiddush and we all went to ritually wash our hands before saying the Hamotzi blessing over the challa. When we returned, a powerful storm was raging just outside the confines of our cozy temporary dwelling. Rabbi Vogel handed me a piece of challa and I said the blessing and took a bite. I had barely put the challa in my mouth when an enormous drop of water hit me right on the bridge of my nose. A few moments went by and more and more drops began to fall from the roof. I looked around the table and no one was paying any attention to the rivers of water freely falling from the "ceiling."

The Rebbetzin served the soup and suddenly a little piece of fresh s'chach plopped right down into the middle of my bowl. To my chagrin, the downpour in the sukka began to increase in intensity. My clothes were soaked, but worst of all my challa was a bloated mass of soggy mush! Holding the limp slice out to the Rabbi I asked if it might not be time to take the "party" inside where it was warm, dry and comfortable.

Rabbi Vogel picked up a slice of waterlogged challa, and pointing it in my general direction said, "Shloma Yakov, no one ever said a mitzva had to be easy. For 3311 years your ancestors have been performing the mitzva of 'dwelling' in a sukka. In Alaska right now it's ten degrees below zero and 'the frozen chosen,' as Alaska's Chabad Rabbi Yosef Greenberg calls his congregation, are celebrating Shabbat in the sukka with joy and vigor. Take your mind off the rain and concentrate on the joy of fulfilling G-d's mitzva of eating in the sukka and honoring the memory of your ancestors who lived in dwellings just like these for forty years." He waited a moment for his words to sink in and then added, "But... if the rain really bothers you, feel free to go inside."

I was contemplating his words when another big, fat drop defiantly deposited itself on the tip of my nose, daring me to go in the house with the faint of heart. Seated next to me was the Rabbi's youngest son Sholom. He was oblivious to the rain as he happily played with his soggy challa and kugel. Finally I came to the conclusion that if a five year old could take it, so could I. I stayed.

Despite the fact that the rain continued to beat a steady drum on the s'chach, we went on with the festive meal. The Rabbi and I shared a little "l'chaim," we ate some more water-logged kugel, sang more than a few songs and thoroughly enjoyed the evening together. The rain never did stop that night and when I went home I was drenched to the bone. But once I stopped thinking about the rain and focused on the joy and delight of the mitzva, the moment and the holiday, the discomfort quickly gave way to a warm feeling of joy and contentment.

Once again I thanked G-d for bringing me to Chabad, where lessons are learned in a hundred different ways. Sometimes we learn from studying Torah. Sometimes we learn at a farbregen (Chasidic gathering) and sometimes we learn by eating a soggy piece of kugel in the middle of a leaky sukka. Oh yeah, I also learned that even a soggy piece of kugel is better than no kugel at all!

What's New


The Lubavitch Youth Organi-zation provides public sukkot in three key locations in New York City: The International Sukka at the U.N.-First Ave. and 43rd St.; the Garment Center Sukka in Herald Square across from Macy's; The Wall Street Area Sukka in Battery Park - at State St. and Battery Pl. These sukkot will be open during the intermediary days of the holiday; for hours call (212) 736-8400. To find out about public sukkot in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


This issue of L'Chaim is for 14 Tishrei/Oct. 13 - Sukkot and 21 Tishrei/Oct. 20 - Simchat Torah. The next issue (#641) is for 28 Tishrei /Oct. 27 - the Torah portion of Bereshit.

The Rebbe Writes

Free Translation from letters of the Rebbe written before the passing of the Previous Rebbe
13 Tishrei, 5704 [1943]
Greetings and blessings,

...As our Sages comment in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah, ch. 30), the festival of Sukkos is the first day of the reckoning between the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Jewish people after the atonement granted on Yom Kippur. On that day, we are commanded (Lev. 23:40): "You shall take for yourselves the fruit of a beautiful tree (the esrog - citron), palm branches, a bough of a thick-leaved tree (the myrtle), and willows of the brook."

Our Sages comment in the Midrash:

These are the Jewish people. The esrog alludes to people who possess the advantages of both Torah study and good deeds. The lulav - palm alludes to people who possess the advantages of Torah study, but not those of good deeds. The myrtle alludes to people who possess the advantages of good deeds, but not those of Torah study. The willow alludes to people who possess neither the advantages of Torah study, nor good deeds. The Holy One, blessed be He, says: "Bind them together as a single collective. At that moment, I am upraised."

Fortunate is the man who is named Shlomo[1] - for that name reflects the concept of Shalom, "peace" - who can establish peace among the four categories of individuals within the Jewish people mentioned above. And when they are all joined together as one, they will be granted, as we request in the blessing Sim Shalom - "blessing, mercy, and life."

With wishes for a happy holiday and [with the blessing,] "Immediately to teshuvah [repentance], immediately to Redemption,"

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee



  1. (Back to text) This letter was addressed to Shlomo Palmer

Erev Shabbos Kodesh, Parshas Lech Lecha, 5704 [1943]

I asked... my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe shlita, and he responded as follows:

"Banging the willow [during the special 'Hoshana' prayers recited on the last day of Sukkot, known as 'Hoshana Rabba'] draws down attributes of severity that have been sweetened. Attributes of severity that have been sweetened reflect G-d's abundant kindness as it descends in overtly apparent goodness."

With regard to the above, it is possible to explain:

  1. The association of attributes of severity that have been sweetened with G-d's abundant kindness can be understood on the basis of the explanation in Likkutei Torah....

  2. On the basis of the Alter Rebbe's [Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidim] statements in Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 10 and the first maamar in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Behaalos'cha, we can appreciate the difference between an ordinary expression of kindness and abundant kindness in our Divine service. Likkutei Torah, loc. cit., also explains that "abundant kindness" is related to Aharon the priest.

  3. Based on the statements in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Korach, the maamar entitled Vihenei Porach, we can appreciate that:

    1. Through G-d's abundant kindness, overtly apparent goodness is drawn down to this material realm.

    2. This influence is drawn down by "Aaron and his descendants, the priests who raise their hands and bless the people with the Priestly Blessing."

These letters are from I Will Write It In Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger and published by Sichos In English

Rambam this week

15 Tishrei 5761

Prohibtion 245: committing robbery

By this prohibition we are forbidden to commit robbery: to take by open force and violence anything to which we have no right. It is contained in the Torah's words (Lev. 19:13): "Nor shall you rob him."

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

Everyone dances on Simchat Torah, the greatest scholar and the simplest Jew. Everyone is equal; no one can tell who is the Torah sage and who has never even studied. All Jews are on the same level.

A person dances with his feet, not with his head. The feet are responsible for transporting the whole body, including the head. If people danced with their "heads" on Simchat Torah, their rejoicing would be limited, each person being only as joyful as his intellectual capacities allow. The Jew who studied more would be happier and would dance more intensely; the Jew who studied less would be less happy and take only a few steps.

The joy of Simchat Torah, however, is unlimited and knows no bounds. By dancing with our feet, we express a higher level of joy that transcends all intellectual understanding.

Everyone dances on Simchat Torah: the Jew who has never heard of G-d, and the Jew who has never had an opportunity to study Torah, who only knows that the Torah is something very precious. This knowledge alone causes him such happiness that he begins to dance, and his joy is so intense that it is immeasurable.

It is for this reason that Simchat Torah is not celebrated by sitting down and studying, for our happiness is not derived from how much Torah we understand. On the contrary, we dance with a completely rolled-up Torah scroll! Encased in its mantle, no one can even see what is written in it.

On Simchat Torah, everyone dances: the Jew who has studied much and the Jew who is just starting out on the journey, the learned scholar and the one who has no idea what Torah is all about. For on Simchat Torah all Jews are equal, rejoicing in the Torah with an infinite joy.

Thoughts that Count

The Baal Shem Tov's sukka

The sukka of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, was very plain and unadorned. He used to say: The beauty of my sukka is the simple Jews who come to it. Their acceptance of the yoke of Heaven and joy in fulfilling the Torah's commandments makes G-d very happy, for it is derived from pure faith.

For seven days you shall dwell in sukkot (Lev. 23:42)

Commented our Sages: "This means that one should dwell in the sukka in the same way one dwells in his home." In other words, during the Festival of Sukkot, the sukka should be considered one's main dwelling, while one's house should be viewed as only a temporary abode. If a person owns fine vessels and furnishings, he should bring them into the sukka; he should take his meals there, spend his leisure time within its walls, study Torah there, etc.

(The Talmud, Sukka 28d)

Temporary residence

In the same way that the sukka is only a temporary abode, so too should a person view his entire sojourn on earth as a transitory experience, for the soul only descends from the higher realms to be invested in a physical body for a specific and limited time. The verse "For seven days you shall dwell in sukkot" alludes to the seven middot (character attributes) a person must work on refining and purifying throughout his lifetime.

(Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim)

Enough joy for a whole year

The Maggid of Trisk used to say that during the High Holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, he would prepare enough awe of G-d to last the whole year, whereas on Sukkot, a holiday rich in mitzvot performed with love, he would work on preparing his entire year's measure of love of G-d.

It Once Happened

Every year, immediately after Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel Shapira of Mogelnitz sought a trusty messenger for a special mission. He would give him a large sum of money, send him out to purchase an etrog for the entire community and instruct him not to spare any effort to acquire the best one available. (An etrog is a citron fruit, one of the "Four Species" upon which a blessing is recited during the Sukkot holiday. The Torah describes the etrog as "the fruit of a beautiful tree" and it has long been customary to seek out a beautiful, unblemished etrog with which to enhance the mitzva.)

In those days in Europe, good-quality etrogim were very difficult to come by. In many towns and villages, as in Mogelnitz, there would be just one etrog for the entire Jewish populace.

One year it was extremely difficult to find a beautiful etrog; they were all blemished. The agent went from place to place, but was unable to find anything remotely suitable. He recognized right away that none satisfied the rabbi's requirements.

As the Sukkot festival approached, he became increasingly anxious. He realized that he would have to turn back towards home if he were to arrive on time for Sukkot. He would have to buy the first etrog he came across, even if it was plain.

Late in the day he arrived at a certain village and went into a small shul to pray mincha, the afternoon service. He overheard two men talking. "Did you hear about Mr. Almoni? This year he managed to buy the most beautiful etrog imaginable."

The agent inquired as to Mr. Almoni's address and hurried there. Mouthing a silent prayer, he reached up to knock on the door of the magnificent house. A servant admitted him, and showed him into the rich man's study.

The agent hesitated. How could he convince this stranger to part with the etrog? Certainly a man like that wasn't going to be interested in money! All he could do was express his feelings. He explained about Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel Shapira, that he was a great tzadik, an exalted person for whom performing every mitzva in an enhanced manner was an integral, indispensable aspect of life. "Please," he cried, "have mercy on this holy Jew and you will have a share in his great merit."

Mr. Almoni turned him down but the agent continued to plead. Suddenly, the wealthy householder's face softened slightly. He sat silently for a few minutes, thinking deeply. Then he spoke.

"You say your rabbi is a big tzadik?"

A ray of hope sparked in the agent's heart. "Yes! Yes," he exclaimed. "It's true."

"If so, perhaps we can do business," said the rich man. "Money is not the issue here. I paid a handsome sum for this glorious etrog. Thank G-d, I can afford it. But there is one thing I cannot buy. All these years, my wife and I have no children.

"I am prepared," he continued, "to 'sell' you my incomparable etrog. My non-negotiable price is that your holy rabbi should bless us to have a child, and that his blessing should come true within a reasonable period of time. If it comes to be, then the etrog is my gift to him. But if not, then retroactively your great rabbi and your entire community will not have fulfilled the mitzva (as one only fulfill this mitzva on an etrog that belongs to him)."

The rich man looked the rebbe's representative in the eye. "Do we have a deal?"

Silence permeated the room as the stunned agent considered how to respond. Finally he decided that he had no choice and accepted the proposal after which the agent set off straight for home.

Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel opened the box. Before him was one of the most splendid, perfect etrogim he had ever beheld. His joy knew no bounds, until the agent told him the conditions of the "transaction." He slowly re-wrapped the etrog.

For a long time Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel sat still, engulfed in his lofty thoughts. When at last he stood up from his chair, his face was pale, but a twinkle could be detected in his eyes.

"All right," he stated softly but firmly. "I accept upon myself this difficult condition. I will do that which I am able and bless Mr. Almoni that he and his wife should have a child. Now it is up to the Al-mighty to do His part."

A year later, on the eve of Rosh Hashana, a small package arrived for Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel. Inside was an etrog of superior quality, along with a note from Mr. Almoni announcing that a son had been born to him and his wife a few weeks before, and thanking the Rabbi for his blessing that had come to fruition.

Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel was overjoyed at the news. For him it was a two-fold celebration. Not only had the long-suffering couple been blessed with a child, finally he could fully rejoice over his mitzva of the Four Species of the previous Sukkot, which now no longer had a shadow of doubt cast over it.

Every year, the rabbi would receive a beautiful etrog from the grateful Almonis. One year, the messenger who delivered the etrog was a young yeshiva student.

"I have the etrog which my father requested that I deliver to the honorable Rabbi," said the young fellow, bashfully.

Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel stared at the youth. Tears welled up in his eyes. He extended one hand to receive the etrog and placed the other on the boy's head. "Not only are you the bearer of an etrog," he said, "you are the son of an etrog!"

Translated-adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles for the Ascent Weekly,

Moshiach Matters

In every sukka a glimmer shines of the sukka of the Messianic era.

(The Previous Rebbe quoted in Sefer Hasichot 5705)

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