Rabbi Levin's Blog

Car For Sale

Sometimes it seems as if people try to connect things that have no connection, just because they are there. Our Sages teach that the Sukkah is connected to the blowing of the Shofar in many ways. An example: On Rosh Hashana we blow 100 sounds on the Shofar. Sixty Tekiyot (the straight sound), 20 Shevarim and 20 Teruot. This fits the numerical values of the letters of the Hebrew word for the covering of the Sukkah – Sechach - samech, chaf, chaf, is 100. Samech 60, chaf 20, chaf 20. So it all fits nicely together. Or does it? Reminds me of a person who calls the newspaper to put in a free event announcement. The clerk tells him he has 90 words, so he dictates a message. The clerk says: that is 87 words, you have three more. The guy says: ok, add “car for sale.” But there are, in fact, many real connections, and I want to share one that I read recently. On Rosh Hashana we were all inspired by the powerful experience of hearing the Shofar, and this inspiration continued on Yom Kippur. The question is, how do we bring that inspiration with us into the rest of the year? They tell the story of Yitzchak the thief, who surprised the rabbi with a visit on the morning after Yom Kippur, carrying a large sack. Yitzchak tells the rabbi that he was so moved by his words on Yom Kippur that he has decided to do Teshuva. In the sack were items he had stolen from several community members, each one labeled with the name of the victim. He asked the Rabbi if he would be kind enough to facilitate his Teshuva and return the items to their owners, since he was embarrassed. The rabbi enthusiastically embraced the idea and spent a few hours happily returning the items. When the rabbi returned to his office, he saw that the place had been ransacked, and all the money that people had donated for the poor over the holidays had been stolen, along with the rabbi’s gold watch. The rabbi goes running to Yitzchak and asked him: What did you do? What kind of Teshuva is that? Yitzchak answered: Rabbi, Teshuva is Teshuva and inspiration is inspiration, but business is business. The Sukkah is the answer to keeping the inspiration alive and growing. Instead of just “feeling” the inspiration in our hearts, after the high holidays we do something practical and physical. We build a building. We are physical beings and are impressed and motivated by physical acts. So immediately after Yom Kippur we get busy and create a physical structure that is chick full of Mitzvot. There are halachic guidelines of how the walls should be built and what kind of covering it should have. What dimensions are acceptable and even what may and may not be brought into the Sukkah. Then we spend a week (eight days outside Israel) in the Sukkah, making blessings, eating and drinking, studying and celebrating the holiday. We say blessings over the Lulav and Etrog, myrtle and willow, contemplating the various meanings and the spiritual significance of these Mitzvot. We do it with great joy, and in many communities,dance through the night. All of this joyous activity cements the feelings we experienced as we were listening to the Shofar and helps us have an inspired year. And of course the culmination of the holiday, the truly joyous and uplifting holiday of Simchat Torah, helps carry all this holy joy over throughout the year. May we celebrate this year in the rebuilt holy city of Jerusalem with Moschiach.

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