Shabat Chol Hamoed Sukot

October 15th, 2022

20th of Tishri 5783


Sitting in the Sukkah Merits Us with Eternal Life

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

"You shall rejoice on your festival… and you will be completely joyous" (Devarim 16:14).

In the Sukkot prayers we refer to the chag as z'man simchateinu, the time of our gladness. It is actually a mitzvah to rejoice on this festival. Why is this so, on Sukkot especially?

During the month of Elul, the month of mercy and forgiveness, man begins journeying towards Hashem, returning to Him, drawing closer to Him and spending more time in His Presence, as the verse says (Yeshaya 55:6), "Seek Hashem when He can be found, call upon Him when He is close." This refers to Elul.

Yet how can a person truly draw close to the Almighty and feel His Presence? There are three stages a person must go through. First of all, he must use the month of Elul to prepare himself well, in particular by rectifying his ways and undertaking positive commitments for the future.

But we must not stop there. Rather, during the Ten Days of Repentance, which includes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we must strive to reach the second stage. This should be a time of constant progress, day after day, in our journey towards Hashem. Our awe of Hashem's glorious Presence, and our reverence for His sublime exaltation and the sovereignty of His kingdom, should intensify daily.

Each day we should feel that bit closer to Hashem, and concentrate on how Hashem is right here with us, just like a king who leaves his palace and spends time in the fields with his people. And we must know as well that just as we wish to draw closer to Hashem, measure for measure Hashem wants to draw closer to us! He descends from the heavens and is right here among us! This feeling intensifies until Yom Kippur, when we pray to merit the greatest closeness, as it says, "For on this day He shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you… before Hashem shall you be cleansed" (Vayikra 16:30).

And only after that, after these two stages, do we reach the final stage – Sukkot. During Sukkot Hashem spreads His holy Names over His people, and then all the Jewish people connect and cleave to Him. The verse says (Vayikra 23:42), "בסוכות תשבו שבעת ימים, You shall dwell in booths for a seven-day period." Re-arranged, the last letters of these words spell מותת, a reference to the verse (Tehillim 34:22), "תמותת רשע רעה, You will kill the wicked for the evil [they did]." Meaning, through sitting in the sukkah we can eradicate all the impure klippot (referred to as "death"), thereby attaining eternal life.

And finally, after the great rejoicing during the festival of Sukkot, when we sit in the shelter of Hashem, delighting in His Shechina and spending time with the holy Ushpizin, the eighth day of the festival arrives: Shemini Atzeret, the day that is above nature. Hashem asks us to remain with Him just one more day and celebrate together. In addition, the sanctity of this day is extremely great, to the extent that it impacts the holiness of the entire year. From the spiritual abundance available on this day it is possible to draw fountains of holiness for the entire year to come.

Indeed it is most fitting that Sukkot is called z'man simchateinu, and most fitting to rejoice excessively on this chag. For after utilizing all the stages and attaining new levels, beginning with the month of Elul until Rosh Hashanah, and then during the Ten Days of Repentance and on Yom Kippur, we reach the final stage on Sukkot when we sit in the shelter of faith, surrounded by Hashem's Holy Names. The sukkah then becomes a kind of World to Come, which is entirely Shabbat and malchut.

It is a time we sanctify and purify ourselves, withdrawing from This World by exchanging our permanent homes which are full of materialism, for the delight of basking in Hashem's shade. In this way a person further shows his desire to form a close relationship with Hashem and His Holy Names. To the extent that after these holy days when Hashem is so delighted with us, He says, Please don't leave Me; remain in My presence for one more day and together we will rejoice on a day that is entirely spirituality, "Azeret – an assembly to Hashem, your G-d."

This day is then followed by Simchat Torah*, in which we rejoice both with the Torah and with all the great and holy achievements we attained during the chag. That is why this day is called Yom Hashemini, the Eighth Day, because the number eight symbolizes transcending nature. Our joy on this day intensifies and reaches the peak of joy with Hashem and His Torah. 

*In Eretz Yisrael Shemini Azeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated on the same day.

Walking in Their Ways

The Yetzer Hara Exchanges Good for Bad

I was given the opportunity to see the extent to which the Yetzer Hara blinds people's eyes, when I spent time in Miami on Chanukah 5772. I was invited to visit the home of one of the local dignitaries, and when I entered his magnificent lounge, it was impossible to ignore the splendor and opulence calling out from every corner. I had never seen such a luxurious, well-appointed home – it was a true palace… The best of This World screamed out from every detail. In addition, there were a number of luxury cars in his driveway.

As I left his home, the owner accompanied me together with a group of people. They were surprised to hear me sighing in sorrow...

"Why is the honorable Rabbi sighing?" they asked in astonishment. I answered, "I am sighing for the enormous investment in the World of Untruth... Does man take anything of all his vast possessions with him to the grave? Of course not. So why choose to invest so much in a world that is fleeting and transient? Why put so much effort and trouble into an ephemeral world? Does anybody imagine he is going to live forever?!

"This is one of the tactics of the Yetzer Hara. He does not give a person time or allow him to stop and think about his end. He transforms falsehood into truth, exchanges good for bad, blinding a person's eyes and causing him to consider the bitter as sweet."

After my passionate speech, my host's attendants offered to drive me home in one of the luxury, gleaming cars standing in the driveway, each worth over two-hundred thousand dollars! I told them firmly, "I'm not prepared to get into such a car, no matter what." I felt incapable of approaching such exaggerated worldly pleasures. I explained that the very act of traveling in such a vehicle contradicts my entire lifestyle and beliefs, and could possibly harm the spiritual achievements I strive to attain. The Torah way is to be satisfied with little and distance oneself from worldly pleasures. "Drive me in a simple car!" I requested resolutely.

They were very surprised at my wish. "Why does the honorable rabbi despise the pleasures of This World to such an extent?" I turned to them and explained, "We are told (Avot 4:22), 'Better one hour of spiritual bliss in the World to Come than the entire life of This World.' This is surprising. Is it possible to say there is no pleasure in This World? Are there no people who enjoy and delight right here in This World? Why then do Chazal negate all these pleasures in contrast to one hour of spiritual bliss in the Next World?

"The answer is because we are living in a world of falsehood. Up there is the World of Truth, the Eternal World. When a person enjoys himself here in This World, his pleasure will never be complete, because deep inside he knows it is a fleeting and temporary world, so automatically his pleasure here is also momentary and transient, for a limited time only.

"Whereas the pleasure of the Next World is a consistent pleasure, a pleasure that will never fade or pass. As the Mesillat Yesharim tells us (Ch. 1), '… to delight in Hashem and find pleasure in His Presence is the truest pleasure and greatest form of delight, greater than all the pleasures found in This World. Therefore, there is no value or comparison to the pleasure and delight of the Next World, and all the pleasures of This World are nothing compared to one moment of bliss in the Next World.'"

It was evident that my words penetrated their hearts and opened a window for them to begin to contemplate the purpose of man in This World.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

The Privileged Take Shelter Under Hashem's Wings

It is told that the Admor, the holy Rabbi Shalom of Belz zy"a, would say that he breathes in the very air of Yom Kippur, because the air itself is holy and sanctifies the body, and helps it reach true purification.

I would like to add that not only does the air we breathe on Yom Kippur purify the body on this Holy Day, but it also continues to affect the person with abundance of blessings and success the entire year. Especially when we sit afterwards in the sukkah, in the shadow of Hashem, surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, elevating ourselves in the shade of Hashem's Holy Names, and then spending the final day in His Presence, on Shemini Atzeret.

It is important to realize that the intensity and essence and joy of Sukkot is holy and pure and belongs only to the Jewish people; it is well known that the non-Jews are not at all interested in the mitzvah of sukkah. Chazal say (Avodah Zara 3a), when Hashem will want to test the non-Jews, He will tell them to make a sukkah on their roofs. He will then shine the sun very strongly, causing the non-Jews to kick at their sukkah and leave because they can't bear the terrible heat. This shows us that the holiness and joy of Sukkot belongs only to the Jewish people, since we lovingly keep the mitzvah even in the burning heat or extreme cold (in Chutz L'aretz), for Hashem's mitzvot are so dear to us.

This should be the essence of our joy on Sukkot. Meaning, we must rejoice because we are Jews and this joy is our lot alone; it belongs only to us. So if we repent during the Days of Awe and prepare ourselves well for the chag, then we can draw upon the holiness and strengthen our faith, truly feeling that the sukkah is Hashem's House, for His Holy Names are called upon it.

We must therefore thank Hashem and declare wholeheartedly, "How fortunate and good is our lot, and how pleasant is our portion!" We are Jews and have the ability to prepare as we should during the month of mercy and forgiveness and the Days of Awe, leading up to the festival of Sukkot. Sukkot should be a time of true joy, since it is only us, Hashem's Chosen Nation, who take shelter under His Wings.

A Day of Delight

The Morning Kiddush

1 One should set the table  which should be covered with a tablecloth  and then make kiddush over wine before beginning the meal. One should recite the hagafen blessing and then drink the wine. The morning kiddush is called "Kiddusha Rabba" (the great kiddush).

2. This title seems puzzling, as the morning kiddush is shorter than the kiddush recited at night, but there are four reasons why it is called Kiddusha Rabba.

a. To maintain its dignity, as when one calls a blind person "sagi nahor" (much light).

b. Due to the great power of the hagafen blessing, the first blessing to be recited whenever one recites a series of blessings over a cup of wine, such as at a marriage ceremony, brit milah, etc.

c. For hidden reasons.

d. The Shabbat day meal corresponds to the attribute of Yesod, called Shabbat Hagadol, so the daytime kiddush is also called Kiddush Gadol.

3. Chazal established the Shabbat morning kiddush even though we already made kiddush Friday night, to make a distinction between the Shabbat meal and an ordinary weekday meal. Every day after Shacharit a person returns home and washes his hands for bread. If we would do this on Shabbat too, it would not be evident that we are dining especially in honor of Shabbat. Making kiddush on wine elevates the status of the meal.

4. If one does not have wine for the morning kiddush, one may use a revi'it (81 grams) of chamar medina; an alcoholic drink widely drunk in one's country, for example, beer, arak, liquor etc. He should recite the verses of kiddush (Im tashiv mishabbat raglecha…), recite the shehakol blessing and drink most of a revi'it (41 grams) at once. If he does not have chamar medina, he should make kiddush over a significant drink, such as natural juice or a light drink, even if it is not alcoholic. If this too is not available, he should make kiddush over bread. He should wash his hands with a blessing, say the verses of kiddush, recite the hamotzi blessing and then eat the bread.

5. One should not eat before kiddush. If a woman finds it difficult to wait until her husband comes home from the beit knesset, she should make kiddush herself and may use grape juice. She should then eat at least a k'zayit of cake or drink a revi'it of the grape juice, so it is considered making kiddush b'makom se'uda (in the place one will eat). But if she finds it difficult to make kiddush, she may eat without doing so.

The reason we are lenient with women is because the woman's obligation to make kiddush in the morning is not a unanimous ruling. According to some of the Rishonim, women are completely exempt from the morning kiddush. In addition, some hold it is permissible for them to eat before the morning kiddush. It follows that eating before kiddush for women involves two doubts. But men are certainly forbidden to eat before kiddush, as the Shulchan Aruch writes (siman 289:1), the morning kiddush is obligatory and one may not eat beforehand.

For any questions in practical application of these halachot, please consult a rabbinical authority.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

Hagaon Rabbi Moshe Yaakov HaKohen Ravikov, "The Shoemaker"

Rabbi Moshe Yaakov HaKohen Ravikov zt"l, known as "The Shoemaker of Tel Aviv", was born in Uzuri, Lithuania. His father, who was about seventy years old when his son was born, was a tailor and hidden tzaddik who engaged in the secrets of Torah day and night. Until his death at the age of 98, he managed to teach his son the secrets of Torah he studied, as well as the art of shoemaking.

The personal example of love of Torah Rabbi Moshe Yaakov imbibed from his parents led him to cleave to this path even as an adult. He used to study Torah seven hours every day before going to work as a shoemaker.

In 5670 he immigrated to Eretz Yisrael and settled in Kfar Oriya. When the Rav of Jaffe, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, learned of his arrival, he realized this hidden tzaddik was more suited to live among a large concentration of Jews, and not in some remote village! Rabbi Kook sent for Rabbi Yaakov Ravikov and ordered him to open a store in Jaffa for the purpose of making a living.

Rabbi Yaakov rented a shop on Shabzai Street, on the border of Jaffa. He bought the required tools and leathers and hung up a sign: "Shoemaker." He settled somewhere nearby, and in a short time his house became a gathering place for Torah, with many flocking to hear his wisdom.

In his youth, he would go around to the bakeries in the area every Thursday, collecting challot which he distributed to widows and orphans. When asked how he knew which families required help, he would reply with a smile: "I know..."

The gaon Rabbi A. D. Friedman shlit"a from London who had the privilege of visiting Rabbi Yaakov's home, said he was famous for two things: "His face shone with a precious, other-worldly light, and his special ahavat Yisrael and shmirat halashon was evident. When I visited him, he showed me the sefer Shemirat Halashon he had bought from Chafetz Chaim himself. He guarded his speech meticulously throughout his life."

He would get up every night at midnight and begin reciting Tikkun Chatzot. Immediately after that he had a fixed study session in the revealed and hidden parts of Torah, for seven hours straight, until the first rays of light appeared. He would then pray Shacharit and again study diligently for several hours. Only then would he open his store and begin repairing shoes.

His close friend, Rabbi Hominer, said that one of Rabbi Yaakov's neighbors in Tel Aviv testified that the electricity in the shoemaker's house did not go off all night. When asked why he was up so late at night, Rabbi Yaakov replied: "I fix shoes for children who need to get up the next morning to learn Torah..."

Since he wasn’t satisfied with this answer, in the middle of night the neighbor approached the shoemaker's window, and lo and behold, he was amazed to see him surrounded by a group of notably distinguished appearing people. They sat in a circle around the shoemaker, together studying the secrets of Torah.

The holy shoemaker fled from publicity and pretended to be a simple shoemaker innocently making a living. But the tzaddikim of the generation discovered and revealed his identity, informing their students that a holy tzaddik, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Ravikov, had come to dwell among them.

Every Shabbat "The Shoemaker" used to give a public discourse at Seuda Shlishit, at the Heichal Hatalmud yeshiva in Tel Aviv. Notes of these Torah discourses were later recorded, and his son, Rabbi Yosef zt"l, published several copies for his acquaintances. Later on these many booklets were compiled into a sefer called Likutei Rabbi Moshe Yaakov.

Just as the way he conducted his life was miraculous, so too did his death occur in a miraculous manner. On Simchat Torah, when he felt his time had come, he asked his son to recite with him the 146th chapter of Tehillim. When they reached the words "When his spirit departs he returns to his earth, on that day his plans will all perish," his son recoiled, realizing his father intended to take leave of This World for the World of Truth, and refused to continue reciting the chapter with him.

But "The Shoemaker" stood at the door of his home and asked a Jewish passer-by to come inside and say the chapter with him. The Jew did as requested, and when Rabbi Yaakov finished the chapter he kissed the mezuzah and lay down in his bed, and while reciting unifications of Hashem's Name, his pure soul ascended to the Heavens.


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