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Wednesday, September 26, 2018 17 Tishrei 5779




Rosh Hashana

What is Rosh Hashana?
Rosh Hashana is the day on which G-d completed the creation of this world, by creating Adam, the original man. Adam's very first act was to proclaim the Almighty as King of the Universe. He called upon all creatures: "Come, let us worship, bow down, and kneel before G-d, our maker." 
Each Rosh Hashana, we too proclaim the Kingship of G-d, and reaffirm our commitment to serve Him well. 
Just as on the original Rosh Hashana, G-d created the world for the first time, so each Rosh Hashana He reconsiders and re-evaluates the quality of our relationship with Him, and creates our world anew. 
The Book of Life
On the first evening of Rosh Hashana, after services, we exchange the traditional blessing, "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." 
Our sages explain that on Rosh Hashana, we all stand in judgment before G-d -- "like a flock of sheep before the shepherd." If we are worthy, we are "inscribed" in the "Book of Life." Ten days later, on Yom Kippur, the Book is sealed. 
Through repentance, prayer, and charity, we can sweeten the decree, and merit G-d's blessings for health, wellbeing, and prosperity for the coming year.

* * *

Yom Kippur
What is Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur starts on Tuesday, Tishrei 9, September 18 evening before nightfall.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, a day of fasting, purification, forgiveness and uniting with G-d.
Yom Kippur is on the 10th of Tishrei, and its source is in the Torah (Vayikra 16:29-30): “in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, you shall afflict yourselves... Before the Lord, you shall be cleansed from all your sins.
Fasting is the main mitzvah of Yom Kippur. The fast begins at sunset on the eve of Yom Kippur and concludes at nightfall the following day.
This is the day that our judgment is sealed for the year to come. Yom Kippur is the only day on which we pray five prayers: Evening, morning, mussaf, afternoon prayer, and ne’ilah (closing of the gates). 
On this day, Moses descended from Mount Sinai after 40 additional days of prayer to atone for the sin of the golden calf. On this day G-d said, “I have forgiven them as you have said.”
This is the only day of the year that the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple.
Eve of Yom Kippur
For sins we have committed against other people, it is not enough to pray in the synagogue. We must approach the person we wronged and ask forgiveness. If we have caused someone financial loss, we must repay it. On the other hand, sins against G-d can be atoned through regret, prayer and fasting.
Early in the morning on the eve of Yom Kippur, Jews perform the Kapparot ritual. Usually a live chicken is taken.  In prison one can use money (stamps) to be given to charity rather than a chicken.  It can also be done earlier, a day or two before Yom Kippur.
It is customary to give extra tzedakah before Yom Kippur, because “tzedakah saves from death” and arouses G-d’s compassion.
It is a mitzvah to eat and drink the day before Yom Kippur, so as not to enter the fast hungry.
Seudah Hamafsekes
Shortly before the fast begins we eat a festive meal. From there on we may not eat until the following night. We finish this meal shortly before candle lighting.
Candle Lighting must be before the holiday begins, and not after it is dark. 
On Yom Kippur all work is forbidden, just like on Shabbos.
Soul searching
On Yom Kippur we should reflect on our deeds and express our regret for any improper actions, and make good resolutions to correct them for the coming year. It is preferable not to suffice with a general resolution to be better, but to make specific commitments.
The Confession
When a person seeks to do teshuvah, two steps are required: sincere regret for the past and a confession of past sins. Our sages have composed the  “Al Chet,” a long list of all possible sins.
On Yom Kippur we confess our sins (to G-d, not to our fellow man), accept upon ourselves not to sin again, and ask G-d for forgiveness.
Though these Days of Awe, as they are often called, are solemn, they are not sad. In fact, Yom Kippur is, in a subtle way, one of the happiest days of the year. 
For on Yom Kippur we receive what is perhaps G-d's most sublime gift: His forgiveness. When one person forgives another, it is because of a deep sense of friendship and love that overrides the effect of whatever wrong was done. Similarly, G-d's forgiveness is an expression of His eternal, unconditional love. 
Though we may have transgressed His will, our essence - our soul remains G-dly, and pure. Yom Kippur is the one day each year when G-d reveals most clearly that our essence and His essence are one. Moreover, on the level of the soul, the Jewish people are all truly equal and indivisible. 
The more fully we demonstrate our essential unity by acting with love and friendship amongst ourselves, the more fully G-d's love will be revealed to us.

* * *

Immediately following the awesome days of Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur, we prepare for the joyous exuberance of Sukkot - the "Season of our Rejoicing." 
After leaving Egypt, during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the Jewish people were surrounded by protective "clouds of glory." 
In commemoration, and to enhance our awareness of G-d's all-embracing love and protection, we are commanded, "In Sukkahs (booths) you shall dwell, seven days" (Leviticus 23:42). 
A Unique Mitzvah
Eating festive meals and spending time in the outdoor Sukkah is a delightful and unique religious experience. 
Some have the custom of decorating the Sukkah with elaborate ornaments; others prefer to preserve its unadorned simplicity. 
But whatever one's style, the Sukkah is the only Mitzvah in which we are completely surrounded, from head to toe, by the Mitzvah itself -- enveloped, as it were, in the divine presence.

* * *

Sukkah: What is the meaning?
We dwell in huts to commemorate our exodus from Egypt – which took place in the spring-when G-d protected us from the elements with His clouds of glory.  But, if we were to dwell in the sukkah during balmy weather, it would look like we were doing it for our own pleasure.  When we go out into the sukkah in rainy or frigid weather – it is clear that we are doing it to fulfill G-d’s commandment.
The All-Embracing Sukkah
The teachings of Chassidus give us a deeper understanding of the mitzvah of sukkah. Other mitzvos are done with a specific limb of the body. The mitzvah of tefillin, for example, is on the arm and head. The Shema prayer is said with the lips, and so on. The mitzvah of sukkah, in contrast, envelops the entire person. When we sit in the sukkah we are completely surrounded by the mitzvah and all limbs of our body participate in it.  Not only this, the mitzvah of sukkah includes also our clothing, our table and chairs, our dishes, our cutlery. Every item that we use for the sukkah becomes part of the mitzvah.
Sitting in the sukkah is like getting a big hug from our Father in heaven. This is how Chassidic teachings interpret the verse in Song of Songs: “His right arm is under my head, His left arm embraces me.” The left arm represents judgment and awe. These are the Days of Awe, with which we begin Tishrei. Then we reach the stage of being embraced with the right arm—which represents G-d’s closeness and love. This warm embrace is the sukkah.
Building a Sukkah:
Anyone can build a sukkah. Stll, check with your rabbi to ensure that your sukkah is kosher. 
Start building your sukkah as soon as Yom Kippur ends.
The sukkah must be built directly under the heavens, not under a roof, porch or tree branch.
How big?
The sukkah must have two and a half walls, at minimum. The walls of the house can be included as part of the sukkah.
Out of what?
The sukkah can be built out of any material, as long as it is strong and stable. The covering (schach) of the sukkah must be from plant matter (wood or branches) that has never been used for any other purpose.


* * *

A Jew’s Physical Life
On Sukkot G-d hugs us close to Him with a loving embrace. He says to us: My children, I love you not only in the synagogue, not only when you pray and study Torah. I love you even when you are eating and drinking, celebrating, hosting friends. Sit in My sukkah, enjoy, celebrate, and every moment that you spend in the sukkah is another mitzvah, which binds you to Me!
This is the amazing lesson we take from the mitzvah of sukkah. This mitzvah gives us the power to sanctify and elevate our mundane lives throughout the year. Our physical life is important too! When we eat or drink, work for a living or attend to our physical needs, we are connected to G-d and are performing a mitzvah, no less than when we pray and study. 
This is the power of sukkah, and that is why this mitzvah is so precious and gives us a wealth of happiness and satisfaction—“And you shall rejoice on your holiday.”
What Do We Do?
Eve of Sukkot - Sunday, Tishrei 14, September 23
Preparing the Four Species. On the day before Sukkot it is customary to go into the sukkah to bind together the lulav with the three hadassim (at minimum) and two

* * *

Simchat Torah
Simchat Torah is the culmination of a month filled with uplifting experiences. 
We have stood in awe before the King of the Universe; we have been forgiven and cleansed by His mercy; and we have experienced the joy of uniting with G-dliness through His beautiful commandments. 
This Is Your Holiday!
This is not the holiday of your brother, the scholar. Each of us rejoice on Simchat Torah regardless of our level of knowlege in Torah. We celebrate the vary fact that we are Jews who have the Torah.
Now, we rejoice with His Torah. 
We take the sacred scrolls in our arms and dance together, scholar and novice alike. 
During the dancing, the scroll remains in its cover, for this is not a time for study. 
The joy of Simchat Torah is far greater than any delight we may derive from intellectual understanding. Here again, we emphasize that sublime level of the Jewish soul where we are all one. 
As the Circle Turns
On the evening of Simchat Torah, (and, as the Chabad Custom, in many communities, on the previous evening of Shemini Atzeret, we make seven "hakafot" (circling's) around the bimah, singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls. 
On the morning of Simchat Torah, the final portion of the Torah is read, completing the annual cycle. Then we immediately start reading the beginning. Thus, we continue to nourish ourselves from the infinite wisdom of G-d's Torah - the eternal force that has bound us together and sustained us for more than 3,300 years.

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