Shemini Atzeres 5773
Rabbi Dovid Saks
Shemini Atzeres 5773
One of the more amusing moments I experienced was during the intermediate days of Succos. I was at the Jewish Community Center equipped with my Lulav and Esrog offering the attendees to make a blessing on the special Mitzvah. After instructing the participants many times how to hold the Lulav and Esrog and how to recite the blessing(s) and to wave the species, I instructed one of the participants to ‘shake.’ She took my instructions literally, and at once, began to shake and sway her body – rather than the Lulav and Esrog. Needless to say, we all had a good laugh.
King David in the Book of Psalms states, “All my bones say, ‘G-d, who is like you?” This verse is the source of the practice of swaying while we pray or study Torah.
Interestingly, the Medrash refers to this verse in connection to waving the Lulav and the species. The shape of the Lulav is similar to a spine, the Esrog is shaped like a heart, the Hadasim are shaped like eyes, and Arovos are shaped like a mouth. Essentially, we hold these four Mitzvah items and wave them in six directions – serving as representatives of our body organs – as a display of our wish to do the will of the Almighty.
There is a point over the holiday when we actually engage our entire body in movement and that is on the last day of the holiday - Simchas Torah, when we dance, sway and engage our entire body in the spirit and excitement of completing the weekly cycle of Torah readings.
Our Sages teach us that on the Holiday of Succos we are judged concerning the amount of rain that will fall during the coming year. This judgment is particularly important to the Land of Israel, which is very dependent upon rainfall for their water supply.
On Shemini Atzeres we begin saying the statement “Who makes the wind blow and makes the rain descend,” in the second blessing of the Shemona Esrei – the daily Eighteen Blessing Amidah prayer. The blessing in which we include the statement for rain, speaks of G-d’s mighty powers of resuscitating the dead.
What does rain have to do with G-d’s might and the resurrection? Through the blessing of rainfall we see the concept of resurrection. When a seed is planted in the ground it disintegrates. Only then with the help of nutrients in the ground together with water – rain, is it resurrected and amazingly, a new blossom comes to life.
This same concept applies to human beings as well. One’s death and subsequent burial in the ground is not a complete ending. We are guaranteed that if we believe in G-d and resurrection, our souls will merit the eternal benefits of Techiyas Hamaisim – the resurrection of the dead.
The last portion of the Torah is called V’zos Habrocha. This Parsha contains Moshe’s blessing of the Tribes and describes Moshe’s death and place of his burial.
Moshe did not merit entry into the Land of Israel. G-d allowed him to view the land from the mountain Nevo, east of the Jordan. Moshe was buried in the parcel of land allotted to the tribe of Gad.
The great commentator Rashi associates the name Gad with Mazal Tov – good luck. In a sense, Gad had the Mazal that Moshe, the greatest prophet ever to live, was buried in their midst.
The Chasam Sofer o.b.m. offers a keen insight to the source of Gad’s good Mazal, and how good Mazal can enter into each of our lives
The Talmud analyzes the specific format of the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. The first two letters Alef / Bais, stands for, Aluf Binah - learn understanding. The next two letters, Gimmel / Daled, stands for, Gemol Dalim - be kind to the poor.
In the construction of the letter Gimmel, its foot is stretched out to towards the next letter Daled (the poor), because it is proper for those who do kindness to run after opportunities to help the needy. The Daled’s face is turned away from the Gimmel because the assistance should be given to him discreetly in order that he not be shamed.
The name of Gad is comprised of the two letters Gimmel and Daled. Thus, says the Chasam Sofer the source of one’s good Mazal - fortune is intimately associated and linked to the kindnesses he affords to those who are in need.
In fact, Moshe is considered one of kindest people to have lived, for he freely shared, taught and imparted all the knowledge of Torah with the Jewish people.
Wishing you a most enjoyable and festive Holiday!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family