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Pre-Sukkot

Thursday, 10 October, 2019 - 6:13 pm

The four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot are considered a minor holiday.  In fact, the daily prayers during this time are holiday style.  There is a part of the daily prayer – viduy and tachnun (confession and supplication) that we don’t say on festive days, and we skip it during this period.  We all know about the upcoming Sukkot holiday, but why call these four days a holiday too? 

 

Let’s talk first about Sukkot.  Sukkot is called “Zman Simchateinu – the Time of our Joy.”  It is a holiday filled with Mitzvot, Sukkah, the Four Species of Etrog, Lulav, Hadassim (myrtle) and Aravot (willow), days of celebration with special prayers of thanks to Hashem, special meals and drinks, and dancing and singing throughout the holiday.  When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, there was a nightly celebration that lasted literally all night every night.  The joy was so great that the Talmud state that whoever did not see that joy has never seen joy in his or her life!  The dancing and singing, accompanied by musical instruments, was enhanced by the greatest sages juggling and leading the festivities.  There were tall posts with torches on top of them that cast so much light that the Talmud says that any person in Jerusalem could check wheat kernels at night by its light!  The celebration was called Simchat Beit Hashoeva – the joy of the water drawing.  Every day in the Temple there were animal and flour offerings.  Along with the daily offerings, there was a ceremony of pouring wine into a funnel on the altar leading to a pipe that went down deep into the ground.  On Sukkot, in addition to the wine, water was poured into a second funnel that was there for this purpose.  The water for this libation was drawn from the Shiloach spring below the Temple Mount (you can visit it now in Jerusalem) and was carried with great joy and celebration up to the Temple.  Chassidus and Kabbalah explain the significance of the pouring of the wine and the water, and why the water pouring created so much incredible joy.  You can read more about it here. 

 

Nowadays, when we don’t have the Holy Temple and the offerings on the altar, we still celebrate the holiday in every other way.  It is customary to gather in the Sukkah every night of the holiday to say L’chaim and celebrate.  In Crown Heights in Brooklyn the main street – Kingston Avenue – is closed and there is live music and dancing all night every night.  (On the first two nights and Shabbat there is no music played, of course.)

 

Now back to the four days before Sukkot. We have completed the service of the Ten Days of Teshuva and successfully completed the Yom Kippur atonement, and now we move into the spirit of the upcoming holiday, when we are celebrating the new Divine light and blessings that we have received during the Days of Awe.  Everyone is now busy preparing for all the observances and special Mitzvot of the holiday, building Sukkot, choosing a nice etrog and lulav set, preparing food for the holiday and studying the las and customs relating to it.  The mood is festive and the anticipation of the holiday lifts us up to a higher plane.  We begin to feel the energy of the holiday. 

 

Here at Chabad it is an especially busy time, one of my favorite times of the year.  Approximately 150 people will come to my office to choose their lulav and etrog, along with the freshest hadassim and aravot anywhere.  Here it is a personal experience, where everyone gets to personally choose a lulav and etrog that “speaks to them.”  We always order many more than have been reserved, so if you have not yet ordered one, you can still do so at www.chabadgsb.com/etrog.

 

I wish you a joyous holiday.  If you need any more information, please do not hesitate to contact me by replying to this email or at 650-424-9800.  May we merit the coming of Moshiach in the next day or two, and then we will be able to once again the enjoy the full joy of Simchat Beit Hashoeva in the third Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  

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