Dedicated in Honor of My Wife Jennifer by Jacob Antebi
The Power of Prayer
In the end of Parashat Haazinu Hashem told Moshe “Be'etzem hayom hazeh—in the middle of this day” he will ascend the mountain and die. Rashi tells us that the Torah uses the words, “be'etzem hayom hazeh” on three instances with similar circumstances. When Noach entered the tevah, during Yetziat Mitzrayim, and here.
Rashi explains that when Noach was to enter the ark, the people of his generation were opposed and threatened to stop him. Hashem declared that Noach would enter the tevah in broad daylight, showing that no one could stop him. Rashi goes on to say the next occasion was when the Jews were miraculously taken out of Egypt. The Egyptians wanted to prevent B’nei Yisrael from leaving. So then, too, Hashem had it happen at high noon to make clear that no one could stand in the way of this act of G-d.
In Haazinu, Rashi says the use of the phrase signifies that the Jews thought that they could somehow stand in the way of Moshe’s passing. The people did not want to let go of their beloved leader. He had done so much for them, and they couldn’t imagine continuing without Moshe being alive. Unlike the previous nations who wanted to stop an act of Hashem, with Noach’s generation wanting to stop him physically and the Egyptians wanting to stop Yetziat Mitzrayim with physical force, the Jewish nation in fact could have stopped Moshe’s death. But how?
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt"l, answers with a tremendous yesod in Judaism. If B’nei Yisrael were able to pray, it could have stopped even the death of Moshe. But Hashem said it was time for them to let him go, and therefore, only this time, their prayers would not work. So He said “be'etzem hayom hazeh,” it will be in the middle of the day, and they won’t be able to stop the Will of Hashem.
We learn an amazing lesson from this. Although prayers were unable to work in this specific situation, Hashem reminded B’nei Yisrael that the power of prayer is so incredibly strong, it has the potential to stop any other gezerah—decree from Hashem. Yom Kippur has just ended, but Hoshanah Rabah is approaching. The seventh day of Sukkot is when the Books of Life are officially sealed. We must take advantage of this time and use our incredible power of prayer to ask Hashem for a happy, healthy, and successful year ahead of us! Amen!
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.
Our Children Will Benefit
After World War II, there was a Jew who arrived in New York with just the shirt on his back. He came across a man who owned a couple of buildings and explained his circumstances. He said, “I came from overseas with nothing; I survived the Holocaust and I have no family. I’m looking for a job, and I’ll pay rent as soon as I start to earn money.” The wealthy man agreed and gave the Jew an apartment in one of his buildings free-of-charge until he’d get back on his feet.
Later, the Jew’s friend was rescued and was reunited with his old friend. The newcomer arrived with nothing and asked his friend if he knew of a unit that he could live in until he started working. His friend told him about this man who helped him, and maybe he would be willing to make the same arrangements for him. The wealthy man gladly gave the friend a unit to live in until he started working and was able to pay rent.
Time passed, and Passover was around the corner. The two friends went to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and asked him for a favor. They told the Rebbe about this man and if he could call him and ask if the man could help the survivors buy provisions for Passover. The Rebbe, after hearing of this man’s generosity to these Jews who were just rescued, agreed to make the call. The man was shocked to receive a call from the Rebbe himself, and said, “These Jewish men could buy whatever they need, and I will cover all costs.”
Months later, the two friends longed to hear prayers on the high holidays, because the last few were spent in concentration camps. The friends approached the Rebbe again and enquired if he would ask the man if he could arrange for them to have services in New York. The Rebbe told the friends this request was too big for a phone call, so he invited the man to dinner. The Rebbe made the request. The man replied, “Not only will I arrange for them to have services here, but I will build them a beautiful synagogue to pray in for years to come.”
That man went on to build a beautiful shul on Avenue Z in Brooklyn and continued to support countless needy Jewish families for many years. He was generous and spiritual, and although he wasn’t Jewish, he was very much a revered member of the Jewish community in Brooklyn. That man was Fred Trump. His son, Donald, became president of the United States. On election night back in 2016, Ivanka Trump was at the Ohel, the Rebbe’s gravesite. When we lead by example, and show our children that we are kindhearted, generous people, our children will benefit. Our mitzvot never go unrewarded. Hashem gave the Trump family a legacy that will last forever.
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 understand the power we hold with prayer. 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?
Although prayers were unable to work in the specific situation of preventing Moshe’s death, Hashem reminded B’nei Yisrael that the power of prayer is so incredibly strong, it has the potential to stop any other gezerah—decree from Hashem.
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.
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.
When we lead by example, and show our children that we are kindhearted, generous people, our children will benefit. Our mitzvot never go unrewarded.
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).”
Sukkot is 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!
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.
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
Esther Bat Menucha
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