Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah
- [Kohelet 1:14] “I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun and they are all emptiness…” Our tradition tells us that the deeds done under the sun are emptiness, but those done above the sun are meaningful. What deeds are done under the sun and what deeds are done above the sun? Is the metaphor of “under” the sun and “above” the sun a good metaphor?
- [Pirkay Avot 2:4 or 5] Hillel said,”…don’t say something that cannot be understood, hoping that in the end it will be understood”. Does this statement leave no room for poetry? Why are the books of Kohelet and Shir Hashirim included in the Scriptures? How should we understand this statement of Hillel’s?
- [Hallel] On this festival, we say the Hallel after the Amidah, as a prayer of praise to God. “Hallel”comes from the book of Psalms. In the Hallel, it says, “The stone that the builders disliked, has become the main cornerstone”. What does that mean?
- [Devarim 33:6] “Let Reuven live…” One of the last things that Moshe does in this world, is that he blesses each tribe of Israel separately. Since the Torah values unity and togetherness so much, why does Moshe emphasize the individual nature of each tribe rather than the unity of the people of Israel?
- [V’zot habracha] All year round, we have a full week to be involved with the parsha of the week. The parsha of “V’zot habracha, however, is different. Most years, we have less than a week and sometimes only a few days. What is gained educationally by starting Breishit immediately after finishing ‘V’zot habracha” on Simchat Torah, even if Simchat Torah is at the beginning of the week?
We say in our prayers, “Spread over us the sukkah of peace”. The sukkah is special to us even though it may be missing parts—it may have only two walls and a small part of the third wall; the wall may not reach totally down to the ground, and so on. The matter of peace is similar. Peace is precious and positive even if it is not perfect. One should try to achieve peace even in a partial way—between people, between the individual and the community, or between nations. We pray for peace, even if it’s only like a sukkah (which is not totally perfect). That’s how great peace is.
–R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava—Eli Zucker