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Friday, September 17, 2021

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

The day after Moses’ descent from Mount Sinai on Yom Kippur, his father-in-law Jethro encountered him attempting to singlehandedly judge the Jewish nation. This prompted him to offer advice:

You will surely wear yourself out…for the matter is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me [and] I will advise you…You shall select from the entire nation men of valor…and you shall appoint over [Israel] leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens. They shall judge the nation at all times, and it shall be that any major matter they shall bring to you, and every minor matter they shall judge themselves. This will make it easier for you, and they shall bear [the burden] with you (Exodus 18:18–22. Rashi to ibid. 18:13).

Links: Jethro: Father-in-Law of Moses; Jethro’s Plan

The day after Moses’ descent from Mount Sinai on Yom Kippur, he gathered the nation of Israel and instructed them to construct a Mishkan so that G‑d’s presence would dwell among them. The Jews eagerly brought all of the necessary materials, exceeding what was needed for the task (Exodus ch. 35. Rashi to ibid. 35:1).

Link: What Was the Mishkan (Tabernacle)?

Laws and Customs

Tachnun (confession of sins) and similar prayers are omitted.

It is customary to begin working on -- or at least planning -- the construction of the sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur. Indeed, The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 30:7) describes the four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot as a time when the Jewish people are "preoccupied with mitzvot... this one is occupied with his sukkah, this one is occupied with his lulav..."

According to an old Chassidic tradition -- mentioned in the writings of the Baal Shem Tov -- the day after Yom Kippur is referred to as "G-d's Name." (The Baal Shem Tov explains that each of the various divine names describe G-d's involvement in a specific "world" or realm of reality, but the designation "G-d's Name" -- without reference to any particular name -- connotes a divine effluence that transcends all realms and particulars. On Yom Kippur, we access and reveal the very essence of our soul, which is one with the very essence of G-d; thus the day after Yom Kippur carries the designation "G-d's Name.")

Daily Thought

Abraham circumcised Isaac, his son, when he was eight days old. (Genesis 21:4)

We are not Jews by any rational choice.

We are born into a life mission we did not choose.

A male’s entry into the Jewish community is by circumcision—before he has a mind to be reasoned with.

A Jewish woman enters the covenant eight days earlier—as soon as she emerges from the womb.

As for those who join our people, they do so because something mysterious propels them from inside. The reasons and rationalization emerge only later, out of some deep and unknowable place.

And is it not in our capacity to leave. Even concerning a convert, the rabbis rule, “Even should he sin, once a Jew, always a Jew.” (Talmud Sanhedrin 44a)

And that is why it is so precious to be a Jew.

If we were Jews by the choice of our own minds and hearts, then our Judaism would take us only as far as our minds and hearts can know.

We would remain limited by our own conceptions—the futile imaginations of tiny, finite creatures grasping upward into the sky for their infinite Creator.

But our minds and hearts have no choice. It is He who reaches down, chooses us, and flicks a switch at our very core.

And it is a divine and eternal G‑d-point within us that reciprocates to choose Him. For no reason whatsoever.

So that our bond transcends reason and time, our journey is on eagle’s wings and our destiny beyond the stars.

We are His and He is ours, and nothing—not even our own minds and hearts—can come between us.

Likutei Sichot vol. 25, p. 86.

(Revised October 2021)