Do It Yourself | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | All Together | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
Do-It-Yourself mega-stores abound throughout the country. Some stores even stay open 24-hours, and people who have been there and done that testify that shoppers are buying at all hours!
YouTube videos show step-by-step and time-lapsed instructions on how to do anything from building your own deck to kitchen hacks.
With all of this interest in being Mr. or Ms. Fixit, why not "do it yourself" a sukka?
Hold on there, you might be thinking. We didn't have a sukka when we were growing up. Neither did my parents and maybe even my grandparents didn't have one when they were growing up. If having a sukka is so important (even before the fix-it-fad) why wasn't "a sukka in every driveway" part of the Great American Dream?
A little background information would undoubtedly be helpful to understand the dearth of sukkot in the suburbs.
There was a time (long before multi-culturalism and ethnic pride) when Jewish "thinkers" were encouraging Jews to "Be a Jew in your home and a 'mentsch' in the street." Simply stated, this meant that it was fine to practice one's religion, culture and traditions at home, but on the street, i.e., in the "outside" world, one should blend in with the masses.
Then came religion in the suburbs, when huge neighborhoods replaced small communities and sprawling synagogues replaced heimishe shuls. According to the logic of those days, the policy was, "Be a Jew in the synagogue and a 'mentsch' in the street." An additional clause to this directive was, "Don't worry about being a Jew in your home. Bring your children to the synagogue and we will teach them to be Jews."
This move away from being "Jewish" in one's home, as well as the attempt to make Judaism "easy" (in an attempt to overcome the old saying from shtetle days "Es iz shver tzu zine a Yid - it is difficult to be a Jew"), brought about the almost total neglect of certain mitzvot, particularly those which were not synagogue oriented or were deemed "difficult." Thus, a mitzva such as building and dwelling in a sukka was relegated to helping decorate a massive structure at the local synagogue a nd maybe visiting it once during the Sukkot holiday.
But today, thank G-d, it's not difficult to be a Jew. In fact, it's easy. We are not threatened by pogroms perpetrated by anti-Semitic peasants and our livelihoods are not influenced by the whim of despotic rulers. Hundreds of thousands of kosher supervised products can be found in every supermarket and grocery store throughout the United States. Religious articles are readily available world-wide, and even in Russia you don't have to smuggle in mezuzas and tefilin anymore. Mikvas are decorated with the discriminating "customer" in mind.
To make matters even simpler, Do-It-Yourself is in vogue.
A sukka can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. A hammer and nails, a few yards of strong plastic sheeting, some two-by-fours, and foliage for the top can be constructed into a sukka. Or maybe you prefer the sukka of your dreams, with real wood paneling and bamboo mats for the roof. Either way, you have fulfilled the mitzva of sukka. And though a sukka is most certainly built outside of one's home, when you build a sukka, you are bringing Judaism into your home and into your heart.
On the upcoming holiday of Shmini Atzeret
, outside of the Land of Israel, we read the Haftora from the first book of Kings. This selection tells us how the First Holy Temple was dedicated by King Solomon. It was a two week festival that included Yom Kippur (That year, they didn't fast on Yom Kippur, King Solomon being a prophet, commanded them not to. A prophet cannot cancel a commandment, but can suspend a mitzva as a one time occasion.)
The Haftora tells us the beautiful blessing that King Solomon gave the Jewish people. Thousands of sacrifices were brought, the altar wasn't big enough, so King Solomon consecrated the entire area around the altar to offer the sacrifices.
Why do we read this Haftora on Shmini Atzeret?
One reason, is that the Haftora ends by telling us, "On the eighth day he dismissed the people..." Shmini Atzeret is the eighth day of the festival that begins with Sukkot.
Another reason, the Zohar tells us, that every day of the Sukkot holiday, we are visited by the Ushpizin, special heavenly spiritual guests. The first day Abraham, then Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Josef and David. It would follow that on Shmini Atzeres, the Ushpiz would be Solomon, therefore we read of his crowning achievement, the completion of the Holy Temple.
The above verse continues, "and they blessed the King and went to their homes, rejoicing and delighted of heart for all the goodness that the L-rd had wrought for David His servant and for Israel His people."
Shmini Atzeret is the end of the holidays, it is when we take all the blessings from all the holidays and bring it home. We take the energy and inspiration from the holidays and apply it to the year. This is yet another message in the Haftora, and perhaps the most important and practical ideas found there in. After you build the holy Temple, take it home with you, allow the holiness to be part of your daily lives.
May G-d give us the ultimate blessing, the third and final Holy Temple, at which time we will stand together with all the Ushpizin to dedicate it. May it happen soon.
- (Back to text) Sukkot is followed by the independent holiday of Shmini Atzeret. In Israel, this is a one-day holiday; in the Diaspora it is a two-day holiday, and the second day is known as Simchat Torah.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
by Rabbi Mendy Katz
Denied twice, racing against time, last year Aleph Institute still managed to provide Jewish inmates in Florida with Sukkot to celebrate the holiday.
The Aleph Institute donated and shipped 15 sukkas to prisons all over Florida last year. The Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections had already allowed Jewish inmates to have sukkas in every prison in Florida. However, one ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement ) detention center was a tougher nut to crack.
About a month before the Sukkot holiday, I became aware that there were a few Israelis housed in the Krome Detention Center in Miami. I sent a written request to the chaplain of the facility requesting permission to donate and set up a sukka, explaining that the sukka would enable the inmates in Krome to fulfill the commandment of eating in a sukka.
The chaplain said that the request was denied by the administration due to security concerns and because they had never done it before.
With Yom Kippur quickly approaching we became busy with arranging volunteer rabbis to lead Yom Kippur services at facilities throughout the state. As well, we were purchasing and sending out over 300 lulav and etrog sets to incarcerated Jews. With the whirlwind of activity, the sukka slipped my mind.
Ten days before Sukkot, I reminded myself and decided to give the Krome Detention Center another shot.
I sent an email to the Assistant Field office Director for Immigration Customs Enforcement in Miami. I included the memo authorizing the sukka in the Federal Prisons and the Florida Prisons and a picture of the Fold and Go Sukkas that we were proposing to send. The sukkas contain no metal or wood and - I therefore, I assured him - posed no security issues.
After a few hours of back and forth calls and emails, the request was denied again. I gave up, consoling myself that I had tried my best.
After Shabbat, my colleague at Aleph, Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, sent me a text asking me if I had seen the weekly video of the Rebbe from Living Torah.
I immediately clicked on the Living Torah App on my phone and watched a clip of the Aleph Institute's founder Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar and Sholom Moshe Sheridan talking to the Rebbe about inmates celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Rebbe asked, "Are the inmates going to have a sukka for Sukkos?"
I knew that this was a direct message to me not to give up on the sukka for the four or five Jewish detainees at Krome.
I was about to take off from Miami to New York City. Before take off, I sent out a few emails with an urgent call to pull out all the stops to try and get this done. Rabbi Weiss and Rabbi Zvi Boyarski along with Zach Segal, got on the job and started to reach out to all their contacts at ICE in Washington.
Emails were going back and forth Saturday night and Sunday morning. At 11:45 am as I was on a subway on the way to Manhattan I got a message from the chaplain at Krome that the sukka was approved.
When riding the New York City subways, cell phones work when stopped at the subway station (most of the time), but there is usually no service when the train is actually moving. I reached the chaplain as soon as I had service and told him that I was working on arranging for a sukka to be brought to the facility.
How do I find a Fold and Go Sukka that has no metal and wood, six hours before the holiday begins in Miami while on a subway train in Manhattan with no service on my cell phone? G-d answered immediately.
The train stayed in the station for a longer period of time and I had service. I sent out messages to every WhatsApp group I was on looking for a sukka. I also called the closest Chabad Rabbi to the facility, Rabbi Levi Friedman, who told me he might have a Pop Up Sukka but that he was not home and would only be returning home in a half hour.
Suddenly there was an announcement that the train would be stuck at the station for a while as there was a major issue at the 96 Street station. The passengers were urged to take another train. But I had phone service! And I realized that this was G-d telling me to stay put and work on the sukka.
The chaplain called me back to tell me that there were responsibilities he had to attend to at his church so he would be leaving soon; the sukka needed to get to Krome ASAP. I called Rabbi Friedman and asked if there was someone at his home who could confirm that the sukka is there. He told me there was and he would get right back to me.
I opened my Lyft App and got it ready to go. Rabbi Friedman confirmed that he had the sukka, texted me his address and his wife's phone number. I ordered a Lyft to his house and called his wife Rebbetzin Sashie and asked her to bring the sukka out to the driver.
Mrs. Friedman, in the middle of her pre-holiday preparations dropped everything and made sure the sukka made it into the Lyft.
As soon as all was arranged and the Lyft was in route to Rabbi Friedman's house, the train started moving again. The sukka arrived at the detention facility and the chaplain, with the help of the Jewish detainees, was able to put the sukka.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe loves and cares about every Jew wherever they may find themselves. On that day last year, the Rebbe had a sukka delivered to the Jewish Detainees at Krome Detention Center in Miami.
Rabbi Mendy Katz is the director of Military and Prison Outreach at The Aleph Institute, www.aleph-institute.org
If you're in Manhattan, visit one of the Lubavitch Youth Organization's public sukkas during the intermediate days of the holiday. They will be open: Sunday, October 8 - Tuesday, October 10, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm; Wednesday, October 11, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. The Sukkas are: The City Hall Sukka at Foley Square, near Worth Street; the International Sukka in Ralph Bunch Park, First Ave. and 42nd St. at the UN; the Wall Street Sukka in Battery Park at Battery Place and State Street. For more information call (718) 778-6000. To find out about public sukkot in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
New in Bethlemhem
Bethlehem Chabad in Delmar, New York, recently had a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The community celebrated the completion of renovations of the Adams Inn, purchased last year. Chabad of Bethlehem offers a Hebrew school, senior connections, Shabbat in a Bag, a nondenominational Food Pantry, holidays programming, classes and more.
This "free translation" of a letter, dated 25th of Elul, 5750 (1990) continues on the previous letter of that year concerning the fact that the two days of Rosh Hashana go directly into Shabbat, creating "a chazaka [strength] of three consecutive days filled with holiness":
It is worth noting how this point relates somehow differently in the Holy Land vis-a-vis outside of it.
In the diaspora, the said chazaka of three consecutive holy days recurs three times (in the month of Tishrei); with the first days of Sukkot, hence also the last days, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, likewise occurring on Thursday and Friday, Shabbat eve. Thus there is an additional chazaka, reinforcing the original chazaka - i.e., a three fold chazaka of three consecutive holy days.
In Israel, however, there is only the one chazaka in conjunction with Rosh Hashana, inasmuch as also in Israel Rosh Hashana is celebrated for two days; but not so in the case of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret.
To understand more deeply the significance of the said threefold chazaka that is found only in the diaspora, it is necessary to reflect on one of the specific differences between the Holy Land and the diaspora:
There is a well-known dictum of our Rebbes-Nesiim reflecting the enormous effects of a Jew's serving G-d: "Make Israel here (in the diaspora)." This means that it behooves a Jew to achieve the spiritual preeminence and excellence of Israel in the diaspora. Hence it is certain that one can accomplish it, and with joy and gladness of heart.
A basic difference between Israel and the diaspora is as follows:
Of course, "Hashem's Glory (Presence) fills the world." But in the world at large, the G-dly holiness abides in a manner that does not permeate the physical soil; therefore, no such mitzvot as Trumot and Maasrot, [tithes on produce of the earth] etc.- of manifest G-dliness - are pertinent in the diaspora. However, the holiness of Israel does pervade the physical matter of the land, making the very ground of Israel the "holy land." Hence, the holiness of the land imposes obligatory laws on the land (and on its produce).
This concept may be better understood by means of an illustration from the soul animating the body. There are soul-influences whose effects remain concealed in the inner being of the individual, with no visible bodily signs (e.g. facial expressions and the like). But the soul may also exert its influence in a way that brings forth also bodily reactions, plainly visible on the surface, in the movement of the limbs, or other parts of the body. So it is in regard to the holiness ("soul") of Israel - it finds expression in the profound spiritual nature of the land, which thoroughly permeates also its external part, the "body" of Israel, the physical matter of the land.
The above perception calls for further explanation. It may be asked, what preeminence is gained by holiness manifesting itself also in the realm of the material and superficial? Isn't the inner spiritual quality of a thing the core of its true existence?
But in truth it is not so. The real preeminence of holiness is found precisely when the inner spiritual quality permeates also the physical aspects of the surrounding world.
This truism is underscored in the practice of Torah and mitzvot: The essence of a mitzva is not (so much) in its spiritual profundity, namely, in its spiritual content, but specifically in its physical performance - in the actual, concrete performance of mitzvot.
This principle is clearly enunciated in Jewish law: The rule is that however sublime and important kavana (intent, meditation, etc.) is in the performance of mitzvot - so much so, that it has been stated that "a mitzva (performed) without kavana is like a body without a soul" - nevertheless, if a person should meditate on all the kavanot of a mitzva, but does not actually perform it in deed, he is considered as not having fulfilled the mitzva (not even in part), whereas when one actually performs the mitzva, without any kavana, one is considered to have performed the mitzva ex post facto (bdi'eved).
The reason for the said rule is explained by Rabbi Shneur Zalman in the holy Tanya. It is based on the Midrashic saying, "The Holy One, blessed be He, desired to have an abode in the lowermost world." This abode for the Shechina [Divine Presence] is made through the mitzvot which Jews perform in this physical world through the use of material objects (leather for tefilin, wool for tzitzit, etc.), thus spiritualizing the physical world. Indeed, this is the ultimate purpose of performing G-d's mitzvot. Performing them by means of precisely material objects, accomplishes the Divine purpose of the Creation of the world, namely, that physical matter becomes a fitting abode for the Creator.
Continued in next issue
Why do children march around and dance with flags on Simchat Torah?
On Simchat Torah, when all of the Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark and danced with, the children carry flags. Like soldiers In an army parade, each regiment carrying its colors, the flags impress upon the children that they too, are in G-d's army. According to some they are reminiscent of the tribal flags under which the Jewish people marched in the desert. Another custom is to put an apple on top of the flag, or an apple with a hole carved out for a lighted candle, to evoke images of Torah as light.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Everyone dances on Simchat Torah (this year beginning Friday night October 13), the greatest scholar and the simplest Jew. Everyone is equal; no one can tell who is the Torah sage and who has never even studied. All Jews are on the same level.
A person dances with his feet, not with his head. The feet are responsible for transporting the whole body, including the head. If people danced with their "heads" on Simchat Torah, their rejoicing would be limited, each person being only as joyful as his intellectual capacities allow. The Jew who studied more would be happier and would dance more intensely; the Jew who studied less would be less happy and take only a few steps.
The joy of Simchat Torah, however, is unlimited and knows no bounds. By dancing with our feet, we express a higher level of joy that transcends all intellectual understanding.
Everyone dances on Simchat Torah: the Jew who has never heard of G-d, and the Jew who has never had an opportunity to study Torah, who only knows that the Torah is something very precious. This knowledge alone causes him such happiness that he begins to dance, and his joy is so intense that it is immeasurable.
It is for this reason that Simchat Torah is not celebrated by sitting down and studying, for our happiness is not derived from how much Torah we understand. On the contrary, we dance with a completely rolled-up Torah scroll! Encased in its mantle, no one can even see what is written in it.
On Simchat Torah, everyone dances: the Jew who has studied much and the Jew who is just starting out on the journey, the learned scholar and the one who has no idea what Torah is all about. For on Simchat Torah all Jews are equal, rejoicing in the Torah with an infinite joy.
Although a sukka is only a temporary dwelling, in certain respects we treat it as if it were our regular home - eating, drinking, and studying in it. This is how we should treat the world at large. We should not regard the world as an end unto itself, but rather as a means of furthering our spiritual development and refinement; by properly utilizing the physical world, we bring G-dliness into our surroundings, transforming the temporary into something lasting and eternal.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
You shall draw water with joy (Isaiah 12:3)
Water is tasteless; wine has flavor. Water symbolizes our performance of mitzvot (commandments) purely because G-d has so commanded us. Wine symbolizes the pleasure that is derived from a rational comprehension of Torah and mitzvot. "You shall draw water with joy," the mitzva to pour water upon the altar, thus alludes to a Jew's unconditional obedience to G-d. At the same time, our total submissiveness to G-d engenders a feeling of joy and gratitude in being able to carry out His will. When a Jew rejoices in a mitzva, he merits that his "water," his non-intellectual acceptance of G-d's will, is transformed into the "springs of salvation." For just as a spring is perpetually connected to its source, so too does the Jew become perpetually bound to G-d, meriting deliverance in all his endeavors.
(Likutei Sichot, vol 2)
Once during the dancing on Simchat Torah, the Baal Shem Tov cried out: "Israel, you holy people. What is the cause of your great joy? It is our holy Torah! Do other nations rejoice while holding their sacred books? And where do they go in the time of their rejoicing - into their drinking houses! And we, the Jewish people, where do you find us in the season of our rejoicing? Inside the synagogues. And why are we dancing and singing? In honor of the holy Torah. When are we united, as one person with one heart? On Simchat Torah! Therefore, I say to you, Israel, my holy people! This day is a triple joy - the joy of the Torah, the joy of the Jewish people, and the joy of the Holy One Blessed Be He."
Henryk was very young in 1945, when the War ended and solitary survivors tried frantically to trace their relatives. He had spent what seemed to be most of his life with his nanny, who had hidden him away from the Nazis at his father's request. There was great personal risk involved, but the woman had readily taken it, as she loved the boy.
All the Jews were being killed, and Henryk's nanny did not think for a moment that the father, Joseph Fuksman, would survive the infamous destruction of the Vilna Ghetto. He would surely have been transferred to Auschwitz - and everyone knew that nobody ever came back from Auschwitz. She therefore had no scruples about adopting the boy, having him baptized into the Catholic Church and taught catechism by the local priest. The nanny saved his life - but also taught him to spit on the ground when a Jew walked by.
In mid-1945, Henryk was reunited with his parents. Mr. Fuksman waited four months before he brought him to the synagogue. It was the holiday of Simchat Torah. On the way, he told his son that he was a Jew and that his name was Avraham. Years later, Avraham shared, "It was very smart of him to wait until Simchat Torah because it is a fun holiday for children."
Avraham remembers walking by a church and making the sign of the cross. They passed a priest and Avraham dropped his father's hand to kiss the priest's hand.
They entered the Great Synagogue, a remnant of a past, vibrant era. There they found some Jewish survivors who had made their way back to Vilna and were now rebuilding their lives and their Jewish spirits. Amid the stark reality of their suffering and terrible loss, in much diminished numbers, they were singing and dancing with real joy while celebrating Simchat Torah.
Avraham stared wide-eyed around him. Something deep inside of him responded to the atmosphere, and he was happy to be there with the father he barely knew. He held back, though, from joining the dancing.
For Leo, who had been wounded twice as a soldier, and lost his parents to the Nazis, the return to the Great Synagogue in Vilna that day was also momentous. Still in his Soviet officer's uniform, when he saw little Avraham, he asked Mr. Fuksman, "Is the boy Jewish?"
When the father nodded yes, Leo said, "I have traveled thousands of kilometers without seeing a Jewish child." Then he stooped down and lifted the boy. With tears now coursing down his cheeks and a heart full of real joy, the soldier joined in the dancing.
Raising the child aloft in his arms, he cried: "This is my Torah scroll," he cried.
For 65 years, the boy and the soldier carried that moment in their heads and hearts. Unknown to each other, they told the story to family and friends.
The Jewish composer Abie Rotenberg, having heard the story from the soldier's perspective, composed a song in 2003 called, "The Man From Vilna." The song tells of how Rotenberg met a man on an airplane in Chicago, traveling home from a wedding. The man related how right after the war, he had returned to Vilna and had danced on Simchat Torah, holding a little Jewish boy in the place of a Torah scroll. In the song credits, Rotenberg credited Rabbi Leo Goldman, who had told him this personal story.
Also in 2003, Abraham Foxman published his book "Never Again?" In his book, subtitled, "The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism," Foxman told his personal story of visiting the Great Synagogue of Vilna as a child in 1945 with his father after the war on Simchat Torah, and being lifted into the air by a Soviet Jewish soldier and danced with like a Torah scroll.
In 2007, Abraham Foxman, at the time executive director of the ADL, told his story at a Birthright tour of Yad Vashem. Someone there, taken with the story, decided to research it. Eventually, she found the song, inspired by Goldman's story, and the rabbi's name in the credits.
A year passed, and finally, in 2008, Mr. Abraham Foxman and Rabbi Leo Goldman of Oak Park, Michigan, met after more than 60 years. Neither man had ever forgotten that day, that celebration of religion and survival under extraordinary circumstance.
The two men hugged, talked and recited the blessing of "Shecheyanu vekeymanu veheganu lizman hazeh - Who has kept us alive and sustained us and enabled us to reach this time."
Mr. Foxman shared that that Simchat Torah night "was a memory, a bittersweet memory." The soldier - a stranger - had embraced him in public, in a synagogue. He had carried him like a trophy around the synagogue. "That was for me the first time anyone took pride in me," says Foxman, who as "a hidden child didn't know who or what I was."
For both men, the memory was frozen in time, unattached to any living person. One of Rabbi Goldman's daughters had believed that the story was a kind of legend. "I always believed it in my heart, but on another level, I wondered, did that really happen?"
"It shows us that any gesture, any mitzva or good deed, can have an impact," she said.
Rabbi Leo Goldman passed away at the age of 94 in 2012. He was the rabbi at the congregation he built for Russian immigrants, Shaarey Shomayim, served as a mohel for 40 years, was an esteemed member of the Board of Orthodox Rabbis, on the city's Vaad HaChinuch, and was a chaplain at Providence Hospital in Southfield and Royal Oak-based Beaumont Hospital until he retired in February 2010.
Complied from articles by Ruth Benjamin in Spirit Magazine, Laura Berman in the Detroit Jewish News and Jaonne Palmer in The Times of Israel.
Many miracles that occurred when the Jews made their required pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. Among them, when they stood shoulder to shoulder inside the Holy Temple it was so crowded one could barely move, yet when they prostrated themselves on the ground before G-d there was plenty of room. The revelation of G-dliness was not only apparent when they bowed down, however. The Jews' standing together in complete unity and harmony was unparalleled anywhere else, yet when it came time for each individual to prostrate himself and serve G-d in his own unique way, there was plenty of room for each person's individuality.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)