On Shmini Atzeret in the diaspora, we read in the the haftarah how the First Holy Temple was dedicated by King Solomon. It was a two-week festival which included Yom Kippur (that year, they didn't fast on Yom Kippur because King Solomon, who was a prophet, commanded them not to. A prophet cannot cancel a mitzvah, but can suspend a mitzvah as a one-time exception.)

The haftarah tells us the beautiful blessing that King Solomon gave the Jewish people. It describes how thousands of sacrifices were brought at that time. The altar wasn't big enough for so many sacrifices, forcing King Solomon to consecrate the entire area in front of the Heichal (the area around the altar) to offer the sacrifices.

Why do we read this haftarah on Shmini Atzeret?

One reason is that the haftarah says, “On the eighth day he sent the nation.” Shmini Atzeret is the eighth day of Sukkot.

Another reason, based on the Zohar, is that every day of Sukkot we are visited by the Ushpizin, special spiritual guests. The first day Abraham comes to visit, then Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and King David. It would follow that on Shmini Atzeret, the Ushpiz would be King Solomon, and therefore we read of his crowning achievement, the completion of the Holy Temple.

The verse continues: “They blessed the king and went to their tents happy and good-hearted over all the good G‑d did for His servant David and his nation Israel.” Shemini Atzeret is the last of a series of holidays. It is when we take all the blessings from all the holidays and actualize it. We take the energy from the holidays and apply it to the year. This is yet another message in the haftarah, and perhaps the most important and practical idea found therein. After you build the Holy Temple, take it home with you, allow the holiness to be part of your daily life.After you build the Holy Temple, take it home with you, allow the holiness to be part of your daily life.

May G‑d give us the ultimate blessing, the third and final Holy Temple, and may we stand together with all the Ushpizin to dedicate it. May it happen soon.


Dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Mendel Brickman, a friend who was a source of strength and inspiration to me. He was regal like a king and holy like a Holy Temple. May his family be consoled, and may his memory go on. He will be missed by all.