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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Shemini Atzeret
Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

While celebrating the joyous holiday hakafot with thousands of chassidim in the central Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Brooklyn, NY, the Rebbe suffered a massive heart attack. In spite of the tremendous pain, the Rebbe remained calm and insisted on continuing the hakafot, and only after they concluded did he depart the synagogue.

On the following day, the Rebbe requested that the chassidim celebrate the Simchat Torah festivities with the same joy and fervor as all other years, and so it was.

After the holiday ended, the Rebbe addressed and reassured the anxious chassidim from his office (which was hastily converted into a cutting-edge cardiac unit) via a public address system.

The Rebbe remained in his office in Lubavitch World Headquarters under medical supervision for several weeks. He returned home five weeks later on the 1st of Kislev, a day designated by chassidim for celebration and thanksgiving.

Laws and Customs

It is the practice of many communities -- and such is the Chabad custom -- to conduct "hakafot" and dance with the Torah scrolls also on the eve of Shemini Atzeret. (See entry for tomorrow, "Simchat Torah".)

In today's musaf prayer we begin to insert the phrase mashiv haruach umorid hageshem ("who makes the wind blow and brings down the rain") in our daily prayers (as we'll continue to do through the winter, until the 1st day of Passover). Special hymns on rain and water are added to musaf in honor of the occasion.

Link: Souls in the Rain

Yizkor, the remembrance prayer for departed parents, is recited today after the morning reading of the Torah.

The Yizkor Prayer
Honor Due to Parents
On Breavement and Mourning

The festival of Sukkot, commemorating G-d's enveloping protection of the Children of Israel during their 40-year journey through the desert (1313-1273 BCE), is celebrated for seven days, beginning from the eve of Tishrei 15. During this time, we are commanded to "dwell" in a sukkah -- a hut of temporary construction, with a roof covering of raw, unfinished vegetable matter (branches, reeds, bamboo, etc.) -- signifying the temporality and fragily of human habitation and man-made shelter and our utter dependence upon G-d's protection and providence.

Outside of Israel, we eat in the sukkah an additional day, on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (see Why are holidays celebrated an extra day in the Diaspora?) The special blessing recitied when eating in the sukkah is not recited today.

Note: In certain communities it is customary to eat some or all of this day's meals out of the sukkah.

Links: The Big Sukkah; The Temporary Dwelling; The Easy Mitzvah

Today is the last day when we eat in the sukkah (although the blessing on the sukkah, recited before eating a meal, is not recited today). Shortly before sunset, many have the custom to enjoy a last snack in the sukkah, thus "bidding the sukkah farewell" until the following year.

Note: In certain communities it is customary to eat some or all of this day's meals out of the sukkah.

Daily Thought

On Simchat Torah we dance with our feet, not with our heads.

We are celebrating the Torah, and the Torah is something we study with our heads. But we dance with our feet, not with our heads.

If we would dance with our heads, each one would dance a different dance, each in a different space, some with friends but not with others, some as lonesome souls.

One head is higher, one is lower, one is here on earth, the other in the clouds or beyond, and some minds know only their own space that no one else can know.

But we dance with our feet, and all our feet are here on the same earth—none higher and none lower. So now we can all dance as one, with one heart, as a single being.

Now there is no loneliness, only joy.

Likkutei Sichot, vol. 20, p. 370.