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Shabbat, October 15, 2022

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Sukkot (Chol Hamoed)
Jewish History

R. Heshel was a Polish scholar known for his sharpness and depth of knowledge. Although most of his writings are not extant, his influence is greatly felt until today, as many of the classic Halachists of his day were his students, such as R. Shabtai Katz (the Shach) and R. David HaLevi (the Taz). Many stories are told about his quick-wittedness even as a young child.

Laws and Customs

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. "How [does one fulfill] the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah? One should eat, drink, and live in the sukkah, both day and night, as one lives in one's house on the other days of the year: for seven days a person should make his home his temporary dwelling, and his sukkah his permanent dwelling" (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 639:1).

At least one k'zayit (approx. 1 oz.) of bread should be eaten in the sukkah on the first evening of the festival, between nightfall and midnight. A special blessing, Leishiv BaSukkah, is recited. For the rest of the festival, all meals must be eaten in the sukkah (see the Code of Jewish Law or consult a Halachic authority as to what constitutes a "meal"). Chabad custom is to refrain from eating or drinking anything outside of the sukkah, even a glass of water.

Also see: the Ushpizin

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

When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, one of the special Sukkot observances was to pour water on the Altar. The drawing of water for this purpose was preceded by all-night celebrations in the Temple courtyard; on the 15 steps leading to the azarah (inner courtyard) stood Levites while playing a variety of musical instruments, sages danced and juggled burning torches, and huge oil-burning lamps illuminated the entire city. The singing and dancing went on until daybreak, when a procession would make its way to the Shiloach Spring which flowed in a valley below the Temple to "draw water with joy." "One who did not see the joy of the water-drawing celebrations," declared the sages of the Talmud, "has not seen joy in his life."

While water was poured each day of the fetival, the special celebrations were held only on Chol Hamoed since many of the elements of the celebration (e.g., the playing of musical instruments) are forbidden on Yom Tov.

Today, we commemorate these joyous celebrations by holding Simchat Beit HaShoeivah ("joy of the water drawing") events in the streets, with music and dancing. The Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated the custom of holding such celebrations on Shabbat and Yom Tov as well -- without musical instruments of course. The fact that we cannot celebrate as we did in the Temple, said the Rebbe, means that we are free to celebrate the joy of Sukkot with singing and dancing every day of the festival.

Link: The Taste of Water

Daily Thought

Look deeply within each person you encounter, no matter how brilliant or dull, refined or crude, righteous or wicked you judge this person to be.

Beyond their clothes, beyond their skin, beyond their behavior, beyond their words.

Beyond the emotions they show, the personality in which they dress, past whatever masks they don to conceal their inner woes.

Look deeply and see the vicious war each one fights inside, the battle to remain human in a maddening world—a world you will never know, for no two of us are placed in the same world and no two of us confront the same challenges—

—the sickness at knowing one’s own failures and deficiencies, the yearning to be more, the disappointment at not being that, the struggle to fight every sorrow, every pain, every plummeting, disastrous trauma of life…

True, perhaps not everyone fights every battle. Some have long surrendered.

But the very fact that this person was assigned this battle tells us more than can be spoken, for the One who created him knows he has the power to prevail and win.

That alone is enough to admire, and to be humbled, asking yourself, “Do I fight a battle nearly as fierce as the one I expect this person to win? In what way am I any better?”

Tanya, Chapter 30.