Ve’zot Haberacha/Simchat Torah
Dedicated Le’ilui Nishmat Selim Anteby A’H by Max Anteby and Family
Ve’zot Haberacha/Simchat Torah
Torah Is Our Life
At the end of last week’s parashat Haazinu Moshe is speaking to B'nei Yisrael before he dies, saying, “Apply your hearts to all the words that I testify against you today, which you are to instruct your children, which you are to be careful to perform all the words of this Torah, for it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life and through this matter shall you prolong your days (32:46-47).” Ramban says that this encompasses all Jewish history, because as Jews, our purpose in this world is to have children and to teach them the ways of the Torah. Education of our young children has always been the key to our survival as a Jewish nation.
Rashi says that the Torah is our life, and if someone finds it to be unsatisfying, then the feeling must stem from that person’s learning because the Torah is not lacking. If the Torah doesn't intrigue and challenge that person, then they must have not applied themselves properly. We pray every morning “Vehaarev na Hashem elokenu et divre toratecha bephenu- Sweeten for us Hashem our G-D the words of your Torah in our mouth.” This prayer should encourage us to learn more, and learn properly, so we may achieve that sweetness from learning Torah. Our attitude plays a critical role in the success of acquiring Torah. The study of Torah will ultimately be the most rewarding thing in one’s life.
It says, “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob (33:4).” Rabbi Twersky comments on this, saying “Torah is like an inheritance and it’s the parents’ responsibility to see that their child's inheritance does not fall into despair as a result of neglect. The failure to preserve a child's Torah inheritance for him is a serious dereliction.” This carelessness will not only affect that child but all the generations that will ultimately come from him! When we deprive a child today of his Torah education for any reason, financial or otherwise, we must be very sensitive to what we are doing. By deciding for this one child, we're setting off a ripple effect that will have a negative impact on all the future generations that will succeed him.
It is so important to lead the next generation with wisdom according to the Torah. There is a story told over by Rabbi YY Jacobson about a young man who went over to a familiar rabbi at a wedding. He said, “Hi Rabbi, do you remember me?” The rabbi looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t place you. Can you please remind me who you are?” The young man introduced himself and mentioned he was the Rav’s student. “You were my teacher in third grade, and I am actually a teacher myself now.” The rabbi looked at him, pleasantly surprised and said, “Really? Just like me. That’s exciting, what made you choose that path?” The man said, “You did! I saw what an impact you had on me, and I wanted to have to do the same for more children, so I went into education.” The rabbi, still without recollection asked, “What kind of impact did I have on you?” The man said, “I’ll remind you, but I’m sure you remember the story.”
“One day, one of the boys came to class with a new watch that his parents got for him. I had never gotten such a nice present, and I decided I wanted it. So when he wasn’t looking, I slipped it off and I stole it. He quickly went to the rabbi to tell him someone took his watch. You made an announcement that all the boys should line up against the wall, and that you will search all the pockets to see who took the watch. I thought to myself that this would be the most embarrassing and shameful experience of my life. As we lined up, you stopped and told all the boys to close their eyes while you looked. All eyes were shut tight. You went from pocket to pocket looking for the watch, and then you got to mine, and you found the watch and took it out. Then you kept going all the way to the end of the line and searched all the pockets. After you returned the watch to the boy, you didn’t say a word to me about it the whole year. I received the message and you saved my dignity, and I thought: this is what a real teacher is.”
The rabbi said, “Wow, I’m so happy I inspired you. That’s an amazing story!” The young man said, “But Rabbi, you didn’t recognize me! Wasn’t that story memorable? How could you forget my face, knowing I was the boy who stole his friend’s brand-new watch?” The rabbi said to him, “Because, young man, I had my eyes closed too.”
This rabbi approached chinuch and taught love for Torah and mitzvot not through words, but through actions. He set an example with his special midot that had an everlasting effect on this student, and therefore to all students that this young man now teaches, and so on!
Vehayita Ach Sameach
How appropriate that this parasha also ends the cycle of reading the Torah, bringing us to the end of Sukkot and the very joyful holiday of Simchat Torah. Men, women, and children of all ages celebrate the love of Torah by dancing and singing, while holding the very gift Hashem gave to the Jewish people at Har Sinai. This gift of Torah is not something to take lightly, and each one of us has an obligation to continue the legacy of the Jewish people by learning every day. We must keep the words of our Torah close to our hearts, so that we can live by them and benefit, and have it enrich our children and grandchildren's lives.
We all know that the main theme of these hagim of Sukkot and Simchat Torah is simcha, as it is called z’man simchatenu – the time of our joyfulness. We had been commanded, “Vehayita ach sameach – And you should be solely in a state of happiness (Devarim 16:15).”
The question asked, is that being besimcha is an all-year-round mitzvah, so why do we have a specific commandment to be in a state of simcha during Sukkot more than any other time of the year? Seemingly bothered by this question, the Rambam wrote that though there is a mitzvah to be joyous during every Yom Tov, during Sukkot we find that in the Bet Hamikdash there was an exceptional amount of great joy and happiness (Hilchot Lulav 8:12). But the question remains, what is so special and unique about Hag HaSukkot?
The answer is that Sukkot is actually the simcha-source of the entire year! The Baal Hatanya explains it, saying the simcha of Sukkot can be likened to a concentrate; just as using a little concentrated juice will enable a person to make an entire bottle of a drink, so too, the simcha we can draw from the simcha of Sukkot will flavor all the days of the year with happiness and joy. In fact, the talmidim of the holy Arizal write that one who will be in a state of simcha, happy-hearted without any distress during this holy hag, is guaranteed to have a good year, and will be incessantly happy!
But being happy during this holiday is more than just a segulah. Whereas during the course of the year there are times when our happiness is to be limited or even restrained, such as when we repent and say vidduy as we are pained by our sins, during Sukkot and Simchat Torah we are not allowed to have even a slight lack of simcha—not even for a moment! We are commanded to be happy and have only joy – ach sameach.
The simcha on Sukkot is so crucial that even if someone, chas veshalom, stumbled and transgressed the most serious and terrible of sins after Yom Kippur, and he wants to do teshuvah, he is not allowed to pour his heart out in repentance by saying vidduy and being pained! He must not let anything get in the way of his being besimcha! Rather, he must constrain his ill-feelings until after the holiday, when the time comes that he will be allowed to say vidduy and offer his supplications.
Rabbi Elimelech Biderman says in his Sukkot booklet Torah Wellsprings that the Chatam Sofer teaches that Shemini Atzeret is even greater than Yom Kippur, because during Yom Kippur we love Hashem through affliction, and on Simchat Torah we are to love Hashem through joy. He says we see this because Shemini Atzeret has no special mitzvah. Rosh Hashanah has shofar, Yom Kippur has fasting, Sukkot has the Sukkah and the four minim, but what does Shemini Atzeret have? The mitzvah and the holiness of the holiday specifically comes from the joy of the Jewish people. The Ramban states “Eno tzarich ki hu atzmo hadar – one does not have to [take the four minim on this day] because the essence [of Shemini Atzeret] is gloriful.”
May we merit to always be able to learn Torah. May we be zocheh to teach our children and grandchildren according to the sweet ways of the Torah, enabling subsequent generations to do the same. May we truly feel the simcha of these holidays until we see the arrival of Mashiach in our days! Amen!
Shabbat Shalom and Tizku Leshanim Rabot!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
Are we applying ourselves properly to be intrigued and satisfied from learning Torah? Do we spread that love of Torah to our children, and therefore future generations?
Do we feel true, genuine joy on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret?
Eliyahu Ben Rachel
Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah
Esther Bat Sarah
Avraham Ben Mazal
Shulamit Bat Helaina
Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rahamim Ben Mazal
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther
Rafael Ben Miriam
Ovadia Ben Esther
Rav Haim Ben Rivka
Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Yael
Yitzchak Ben Adele
Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa
Chanah Bat Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel
Malka Bat Garaz
Moshe Ben Garaz
Avraham Ben Kami
Yaakov Ben Leah
Mordechai Ben Rachel
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
Saadia Ben Miriam
Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon
Margalit Bat Mazal
Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky
Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama
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