Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach ob"m left this world a month after Succot, 21 years ago in 5755. Here is a vintage clip of him during the last Hoshana Raba service of his life. Enjoy it, and may we all be signed and sealed for a wonderful New Year 5776. Chag Sameach!
Image above: Lazer's neighborhood in one of the Chassidic sections of Ashdod on the morning before Succoth
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev has some very special things to say about Succoth and its related mitzvoth, for on Succoth, a person merits Divine abundance of all kinds. For example, by way of the mitzvah of the Succah, a person merits a pure heart, which enables him to outpour his speech to Hashem, to the extent where he merits new utterings that are on a level of a spirit of holiness. Read more here, in Rebbe Nachman on Succoth, in this week's festive issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.
Rav Shalom Arush writes that since the "Clouds of Glory", the Divine Presence envelops a person's Succa, sitting in the Succa is most conducive for prayer, especially personal prayer. Read all about it in A House of Prayer.
No Succoth table is complete with a story for the family and guests. Here's a good one from Babylon (pre-Iraq) that took place some 150 years ago: Baghdad was suffering from a terrible drought. The Sultan told the Jews that if they didn't bring rain in three days, it would mean exile or death. Here's the story, about The Tomato Vendor of Baghdad.
Succoth is a manufacturer’s required exit from the comfort zone that teaches us to focus on the spiritual and eternal, and not on the material and finite. The Annual Telegram will explain.
This week, we learn the final Torah portion of the year, V'Zot Habracha. If a person borrows $100 from a friend, then he must repay him exactly $100, not a cent more or a cent less. In other words, a material favor such as a loan must be repaid in the exact amount to the person who did that favor for us. In contrast, a spiritual favor is different, for it cannot be estimated in monetary value; therefore, one can never know if he is returning the favor adequately. So what do you do? See the answer in Pass it On.
Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean suffering. There’s quite a bit we can do to alleviate the bodily and mental stress that normally accompanies a fast. Today, the day before the fast, follow the following guidelines:
1. Cut down your caffeine intake to minimize headaches. That means stop drinking coffee, tea, and cola at least eight hours before the fast, and preferably twenty-four hours before the fast.
2. Avoid salty, spicey, and fried foods on the day before the fast.
3. Avoid white sugar, white flour, and white rice. Eat whole-grained foods such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread or challa.
4. Drink a lot of water all day long.
5. Eat a good breakfast that includes fruits, veggies, eggs or sardines, and whole grains.
6. The pre-Yom Kippur meal (se'uda mafseket) should include baked or broiled fish, a veggy salad, consomme, a small portion of chicken or turkey, and a side dish of complex carbohydrates. Substitute sweet deserts with watermelon or other water-retaining fresh fruit, and a cup of herb tea with a whole-grain cookie.
On Yom Kippur:
7. The more you immerse yourself in prayer, the less you'll think about food.
8. Rest between prayers. Don’t run around outside, especially in the hot sun. Save your voice for prayers. Idle talking will make you thirstier, and will detract from the holiness of the day.
After the fast:
9. Drink two glasses of water, and then eat solids gradually, so as not to shock the digestive system. Begin with fruit, like plums or grapes. The worst thing people do is to consume pastries and soft drinks, or “lekach un bronfan” (cake and liquor) right after the fast (these are unhealthy anytime, all the more so right after the fast when they give your body a shock of glucose).
10. Forty-five minutes to an hour afterwards, one can eat a balanced meal with protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. After eating, relax for an hour with your favorite book (preferably Gemara of the laws of Succoth from Shulchan Oruch) and your favorite beverage, then begin constructing your Succa.
Attention diabetics, heart patients, folks with high blood pressure, and people whose health depends on regular medication - you must be especially careful to ask your doctor if you are capable of fasting, and then consult with your local rabbi, giving him the doctor's exact opinion. For many such people, it is a mitzva not to fast on Yom Kippur.
The Israel Cancer Association recommends that cancer patients not fast without approval from their physicians. Fasting could cause considerable discomfort in cancer patients, who need a lot of liquids to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy. Again, first consult the doctor and then the rabbi. Give the rabbi all the details that you received from the doctor.
This past Tisha B'Av, I policed my synagogue looking for sick people who were fasting without authorization. It's no mitzva to get yourself rushed in an ambulance to the emergency ward because you were fasting without authorization.
Don't let children (boys under the age of 12 or girls under the age of 11) be overzealous. Make sure they eat on time.
With G-d's blessing and the above guidelines, you'll have an easy fast. May all of us be signed and sealed in the Book of Long and Happy Lives for the best year ever, amen!
Would you like to hear the voice of an angel? Here's Shulem Lemmer with the Shira Choir singing "Avinu Malkenu," a prayer we say twice daily during the ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. This is an exquisite rendition that I'm delighted to share with you; enjoy it and have a lovely new week!
The Talmud makes an apparently surprising statement when it says (tractate Taanit, 26b), "There were never such wonderful days for Israel as the 15th of Av (Tu B'Av) and Yom Kippur." The 15th of Av is nicknamed "Love Day" in Israel, for it's the day when matches were traditionally made, as described in the above-cited Gemora. Several questions arise: First, what does Yom Kippur have to do with "Love Day"? Second, many people dread the fast and the ax of judgment hovering over their necks on Yom Kippur, so why would it be described as one of the two most wonderful days for Israel?
Our Talmudic sages reveal their divinely-instilled wisdom by juxtaposing Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is also a "love day", when Hashem demonstrates his limitless love for His chosen people. For the mere price of a 25-hour fast and saying we're sorry, Hashem forgives us of all of our wrongdoings against Him. Important - Yom Kippur does not atone for the sins of man against fellow man!!
Imagine that your national government declared a retroactive annual moratorium on all tax violations and unpaid debts once a year, as long as you appear in federal court, apologize in public, and fast for the day. What a deal! A wild dream? In Judaism, it's a reality. When we fast, beg Hashem's forgiveness, and promise to try our best this coming year, Hashem wipes our debt slates clean! A wonderful day, or not?