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Parsha Page by Fred Toczek

A survey of parsha thoughts from Gedolei Yisroel compiled by Fred Toczek. Perfect for printing and use at your Shabbos tisch.

NEXT:  BEHAR

EMOR 5757 & 5762


I. Summary

A. Rules respecting Koheinim. Because of his privileged status, the Kohein had to maintain a particularly high standard of purity and perfection. He was forbidden to attend the funeral of anyone but his nearest relatives, for contact with the dead defiled him and prevented him from performing his holy duties. In addition, he could not marry an unchaste or divorced woman. Even more rigid rules applied to the Kohein Gadol (High Priest), who was not even to attend the funeral of his closest relatives, and who could marry only a virgin. Any physical defect disqualified the Kohein from officiating in the Mishkon, although he was still entitled to his share of the sacrifices.

B. Rules respecting sacrifices. Sacrifices, too, had to free of blemishes. An animal could only be offered after it was eight days old. A mother and its young could not be killed on the same day.

C. Yom Tov. During the year, a number of days were to be proclaimed as holy convocations, when the people were to be called together so that they could worship at the Mishkon. These holy days, on which no work is permitted, were proclaimed in the following order:

  1. Shabbos. The seventh day of the week.
  2. The first and last days of Pesach (The "Feast of Unleavened Bread"). This Festival is to be observed from the 15th-21st of Nissan. Once the Israelites had taken possession of the land of Canaan, they were to present an offering from the barley harvest on the 16th day of the month. This was to be waived on the altar as an expression of gratitude towards Hashem, and was referred to as the "Omer".
  3. Shavuos (The "Feast of Weeks"). This was observed on the 6th of Sivan, the 50th day from the beginning of the Omer. Seven weeks were to be counted from the second day of Pesach, and then a meal offering of two loaves made from the new wheat harvest was to be brought on the altar. The Israelites were reminded of their duty to leave the gleanings of the harvest for the poor.
  4. Rosh Hashonah (Holiday of the New Year). This holiday occurs on the first day of Tishrei, and is special because of (among other reasons) the blowing of the shofar.
  5. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). This day, which occurs on the 10th of Tishrei, is the day on which the populace is told to fast and pray for atonement of their sins.
  6. Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). This was to be observed from the 15th-21st of Tishrei with great rejoicing. The people are to carry four species (esrog, lulav, hadassim and arovos) as a symbol of thanksgiving, and live in huts to recall the wandering in the wilderness.
  7. Shemini Atzeret. The 22nd day of Tishrei, is also be observed as a day of solemn rest.

D. The Mishkon. The people were reminded of their duty to provide pure olive oil for the lamps of the Holy Temple, which were to be kept burning continuously by the Koheinim. The show bread was to be made of twelve loaves of fine flour, arranged in two loaves.

II.  Divrei Torah

A. LilMode U'lilamed (Rabbi Mordechai Katz)

1. Shabbos For Hashem. "These are the appointed seasons of the L-rd," proclaims the Torah when laying down the laws of Shabbos and the Yomim Tovim (Festivals). "Of the L-rd," are the key words here. They show that these hallowed days are not meant as mere vacations for our pleasure. Rather, they must allow us to become more spiritually inclined and move closer to Hashem. G-d designed these days to allow the Jewish people to achieve holiness.

2. Yomim Tovim. Like Shabbos, the Yomim Tovim serve to commemorate important historical events. They remind us of how the Jewish people were forged into a unified nation and saved from extinction by Hashem. To enhance the Yom Tov, Jews utilize symbolic objects: the sukkah, esrog and lulav on Sukkot; the shofar on Rosh Hashonah; the matzah on Pesach, etc. However, when observing a Yom Tov, one shouldn't consider it a quaint custom, having no relationship to the present. When we sit in a sukkah, eat matzah, etc., we should realize that the conditions of the past are still with us today. These items should remind us, for example, that Jews are still oppressed and wandering in our times, and at the same time remind us of the many miracles that have help preserve the Jewish people to this day. These lessons from "yesterday" can help us cope with the world of today. Literally, the word "Yom Tov" means good day. The Yom Tov is usually a joyous occasion for it celebrates the survival of the Jews. Therefore, the Torah tells us to mark these days (with the exception of Yom Kippur) with rejoicing and feasts. We gather with our family and friends, partake of festive meals, and sing and revel in our Jewishness. However, the joy we feel on these days is not an end in itself; rather, it is a means to better appreciate our Jewish life and Hashem's benevolence.

B. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)

1. Look forward to studying Torah. The Torah gives us the mitzvah of counting the days from the second day of Pesach until Shavuos. The root of this commandment, wrote the Chinuch, is that the essence of the Jewish people is the Torah, and for the Torah the entire world and Israel were created. The Jews were redeemed from Egypt in order to accept the Torah at Sinai and in order to fulfill it. The counting of the Omer is an expression of the importance of the Torah to the Jewish people. Just as a person who is enslaved and will be liberated on a certain day will count each day until he is released, so too we count the days until we receive the Torah.

2. Our normal mood should be one of happiness. Rabbi Hirsch noted that Rosh Hashonah in Torah law is only one day (Rabbinical law renders it two days), and that Yom Kippur is only one day. On the other hand, Sukkot is seven days. Rosh Hashonah is a day of shaking us out of ways displeasing to Hashem, and Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and awareness of our faults and mistakes. Sukkot, however, sets us up afresh to obtain the highest earthly possession: joy and happiness before Hashem. There is only day each for the mood of Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur, yet seven days -- a complete cycle of days -- for the joyful building of our huts and our appreciation of rejoicing before Hashem. This is characteristic of Torah law -- it teaches that the normal mood of one's life should be not a broken feeling, but one of joy and happiness before Hashem.

3. To live a joyful life avoid quarreling. True joy is only attainable when there is peace among people. Quarrels -- on both the communal and personal level -- cause so many difficulties and problems that true joy is impossible when they are present. This is symbolized by the four species we take in our hand on Sukkot, and which symbolize the various types of peoples who make up the Jewish people. Holding them together is a sign of true peace and unity. Only when there is togetherness can true joy before Hashem be fulfilled.

4. Sukkot and guests are both reminders of our temporary status. The Chofetz Chaim said that the mitzvah of being hospitable to guests benefits the host in a spiritual way. The guests remind the host that every person is only a guest in this world. The holiday of Sukkot is also a reminder that we are only in this world temporarily. This awareness should be a constant reminder to make the best use of the time we have in this world to accomplish as much good and mitzvos as we can.

C. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)

1. The Festivals: A Call to Closeness. The Festivals offer a means whereby one can achieve a closer relationship with Hashem. The Festivals also intensify the bonds of brotherhood among Jews, as people congregate to join in prayer and celebration, and are aroused to pay particular attention to the needs of the underprivileged. As Rabbi Twerski states, "when attending Friday night services at the Kotel (Western Wall) together with people from all four corners of the world, I often encounter people who I have not seen for many years. I can only imagine what an experience it must have been in the days of the Temple, when Jews from all over gathered in Jerusalem for the Festivals. How many embraces among friends must have been exchanged; how many renewals of relationships between people that had been separated by long distances! What joy there must have been sharing the festive meals with so many friends. The feelings of spirit of harmony and brotherhood that existed during the Festivals certainly elicited a Divine blessing of kedushah (holiness)." The Baal Shem Tov said, Love of one's fellow man is the method to achieve the love of G-d.' The Festivals thus increase the love between man and G-d, and between man and man. This holiness and love should not be limited to the Festivals, but should continue to influence one's lifestyle all year round. Thus, the Festivals provide the means for true "simcha" (happiness) by bringing people closer to one another and to G-d.

2. Living Each Day. In counting the Omer, we begin by saying "today is the first day of the Omer," and adding the calculation of the weeks when we arrive at the seventh day. "Today is the seventh day, which is one week of the Omer," and so on until the 50th day. When we think of the wondrous miracles of the Exodus, we may overlook the greatest miracle of all -- the people who had been brutally enslaved and oppressed for so many years were within a few weeks later able to stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai and witness the revealed Glory of Hashem and proclaim, "we shall obey and we shall listen," thus achieving a level of spirituality never again reached throughout history. How does such a miraculous transformation take place? The answer is in the mitzvah of the counting of the Omer, whereby one develops spirituality by improving one's character one day at a time. The Torah teaches us that no challenge is so great that it cannot be successfully overcome if it is broken down into manageable morsels. In commanding this mitzvah, the Torah stipulates that it is a mitzvah for all generations, because no less than for the emancipated slaves at the time of the Exodus the formula for the triumph over the challenges that confront us is to take them one day at a time. The evil inclination tries to prevent us from achieving spirituality by magnifying the obstacles we must overcome. The answer to the evil inclination is that we will achieve all that we can today and that our achievements today will give us the capacity to achieve even more tomorrow. Eventually, we will accumulate the means to reach our ultimate goal.

D. Kol Dodi on the Torah (Rabbi David Feinstein)

Attending to the needs of the poor. In between the description of the Festivals, the Torah instructs us to leave the corners of our field, as well as the gleanings of our harvest, for the poor. Why is this instruction sandwiched between the description of the Festivals, and what connection is there between these concepts? The Torah wants to stress to us that one cannot receive the Torah, which is called "the Torah of Kindness" without accepting upon oneself the obligation to attend to the needs of the poor.

E. Peninim on the Torah (Rabbi A.L. Scheinbaum)

Counting the days of our lives. HaRav S.Y. Zevin offers a novel homiletic exposition of the verse respecting counting of the Omer. When one counts something, he indicates his esteem for that particular object. The days and years of one's life should likewise be important in one's eyes. One should value every moment of life and appreciate its true meaning, so that we "do not struggle in vain nor produce for futility" (Isaiah 65:23). Those moments which had passed are no longer accessible to us. Therefore, every moments should be reckoned and cherished.

F. A Lesson From Pirke Avos

"He [R' Tarfon] used to say: You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it . . . " (Pirke Avos 2:21). Hashem does not engage man in His service with the expectation that he can complete the task, and He does not penalize him for being unable to finish. On the other hand, man is obligated to commit his best efforts to the service of Hashem -- the work is not optional; it is a burden which must be borne. (Rav and R'Yonah). The Lubavitcher Rebbe, z'tl commented that one should not despair at the realization of the enormity of the task, for a person is never required to do more than he can. On the contrary, G-d gives each person a mission which he can fulfill without having to face challenges which he is unable to overcome.

G. Soul of The Torah: Insights of the Chassidic Masters on theWeekly Torah Portions (Victor Cohen)

Repentance Out of Love. "You shall take for yourselves on the first day.  " The Chidushei Harim said that if we consider the fact that during the High Holy Days we repent out of fear, then when the festival of Sukkot arrives and we become enthusiastic to fulfill the mitzvot of the festival for Hashem's sake, we notice that our repentance is now out of love. Chazal tell us that repenting out of love makes all previous transgressions revert to meritorious acts.

H. Torah Gems (Rabbi Aharon Yaakov Greenberg).

1. Never Resting On Our Laurels. "Speak to the priests the son of Aaron and say to them. . . " The sanctity of the priests derives from the fact that they are the descendants of Aaron. But simply being Aaron's descendants is not enough - they must have their own merits as well. The Torah therefore says, "speak to the priests the son of Aaron," that they should not remain content with being the sons of Aaron, but "say to them" - tell them that I am addressing them personally and they must do everything possible to ascend in holiness on their own. (R' Leibush Harif).

2. Being Honest About Our Faults. "Speak to the priests the son of Aaron, and say to them. . ." "Speak" and "say" - from the redundancy we learn: to admonish the big ones about the little ones (Rashi). This is to admonish the great and righteous people to look after the small, seemingly insignificant commandments. When a person is dressed completely in white, even the smallest stain stands out. A person who is truly discerning is aware of his faults even when they are minor. (Yismah Yisrael, quoting R' Elimelekh of Lizhensk).

3. Educating Our Youth. On the above verse, Likutim takes Rashi's explanation to remind us that the most important concern of the leaders of our people - and each of us - must be that of the "little ones" (the children), ensuring that they are given a proper education.

4. Thanksgiving Offering. "And when you offer sacrifice of thanksgiving to the L-rd, offer it at your own will. . ." If a person survives danger, he must bring a thanksgiving offering to G-d for saving him, even though he would have preferred not having faced the danger in the first place. The truth, though, is that a person should rejoice if he undergoes suffering, for it must be a punishment for sins committed. Had he not been punished in this world for his sins, he would have to atone for them in the World-To-Come, where the punishments are infinitely greater. Therefore, if we suffer, we should be joyful and thank G-d for punishing us in this world and enabling us to atone for our sins. Thus, "when you will offer a thanksgiving to the Lord," accept greatly and joyfully whatever you have experienced, so that you will "offer it of your own free will." (Ketav Sofer).

5. True Emunah. "On the same day it will be eaten; you will leave none of it until the morrow; I am the L-rd. . ." Generally, when the Torah uses the statement "I am the L-rd" after a commandment, Chazel expand on the meaning of this statement in its context. One can interpret the statement here in accordance with what we are told in the Talmud (Sotah 48) that whoever has food for the present and says "what will I eat tomorrow?" is of little faith. Therefore, on the same day it will be eaten; you will leave none of it until the morrow." Do not worry about tomorrow, because "I am the L-rd,"and I can be trusted to keep My promise. (Yismah Mosheh).

I. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski).

1. Sensitivity To Others' Feelings. "Speak unto the priests, the Children of Aaron, and say unto them that one must not be impure amongst his people." This verse prohibits the Kohen from coming into contact with a dead body. Why was Moshe instructed to convey this commandment only to Aaron's children, and not Aaron himself? The Talmud states that if one has repented for a prior wrongdoing, another is not permitted to say "remember what you once did" (Bava Metzia 58b). Aaron was involved in the sin of the Golden Calf, and even though he had good intentions he nevertheless continued to bear guilt and was hesitant to assume the position of High Priest. Since the mitzvah for a Kohen is to refrain from contact with the dead because of tumah (impurity) was a consequence of the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d instructed Moshe to relate this mitzvah to Aaron's children and not directly to Aaron himself; to do so might arouse his feelings of shame and guilt for his actions (for which he already attoned with sincere teshuvah (repentance)). We thus learn how careful we must be to avoid offending someone who is particularly sensitive. This can be extended to teach us how far we must go with respect to the sensitivity of others.

2. The Essence Of A Jew. "I will be sanctified amidst the Children of Israel." This verse is the basis for requiring a minyan (quorum of ten men) in order to recite certain prayers. The verse in the Torah from which the Talmud learns out this commandment relates to the twelve spies which scouted the Land of Canaan, of whom only two (Joshua and Caleb) spoke favorably about the land. The remaining ten, who discouraged the Israelites from entering the Promised Land, were responsible for the calamity of the entire generation of the Exodus perishing the desert. Why, then, is the requirement of a minyan derived from a group that the Torah describes as wicked? The Torah is teaching us that a Jew never loses his/her kedushah (holiness), even if he/she sins. Nine righteous men do not constitute a minyan, but ten sinners do. The essence of a Jew is not altered even if he deviates, and the Divine Presence rests where ten Jews congregate, even if they are sinful. While a sin may be a blemish, it does not destroy. While teshuvah is required to restore us to our full beauty, a Jew with blemishes is a Jew nonetheless, and his essential sanctity remains in tact even if he has sinned.

J. Something to Say (Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser)

Sanctifying G-d Name. "You shall not desecrate My Holy Name, rather I should be sanctified." The Chasam Sofer explains that in not desecrating G-d name, it is considered as if we are actively sanctifying His Name. As the Gemara (Kedushin) teaches, if the opportunity to sin presents itself and we refrain from the violation, we are rewarded as though we had actually performed a mitzvah.

K. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)

A Person Who Studies Torah Must Strive to Interact with Others on an Elevated Level. "And you shall observe My commandments and do them, I am the Almightly. And you shall not desecrate My Holy Name and I will be sanctified among the Children of Israel, I am the Almightly who sancfifies you." The Chasam Sofer commented that the first verse is actually an introduction to the second verse. Rashi states that "you shall observe my commandments" refers to studying Torah. Therefore, the Torah immediately warns those who study Torah against committing a chilul Hashem, desecration of G-d's name. The behavior of anyone who studies Torah should be on such a level that it will be an expression of the sanctity of G-d.

L. Reflections On The Sedra (Rabbi Zalman I. Posner)

The Connection Between Passover and Shavuos. The period between Passover and Shavuos, the festivals of liberation and the giving of the Torah, respectively, is marked by the counting of the Omer. In a sense, Shavuos is the fulfillment of Passover. Torah gives our lives purpose, a pattern which gives significance to everything commonplace. Mitzvot impart spiritual importance even to the ordinary events of our lives, making us ever conscious of our Creator. Freedom for the Jew is release from oppression but not from self-control. Freedom becomes real only when it is given direction, when the Torah shows us what we can become.

M. Rabbi Frand On The Parsha (Rabbi Yissocher Frand)

Teach The Children. "Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron, to say to them." Hashem told Moshe to "speak to the Kohanim" and "say to them" to avoid contact with the dead. These two phrases seem redundant; what is the purpose of these additional words? The Talmud (Yevamos 114a) infers that it comes to "caution the adults regarding the children." There is a special obligation on adult Kohanim to train the young Kohanim to maintain the purity of their persons. Accordingly, the verses stating, "speak to the Kohanim," meaning the adults, that they should say to them, the minors, that a Kohanim must avoid contact with the dead. This interpretation does not, however, seem to fit into the words. The Beis Av suggests that the Torah is indeed talking only to the adults, once for themselves and the second time for the benefit of the children. We all know how to teach children to do mitzvot. This is relatively simple. We can condition our children to do mitzvot, but how can we inspire them to do so. How can we instill in them true yiras shamayim (true awe of living in the presence of G-d)? The only way this can be accomplished is if the children see the love of mitzvot and yiras shamayim in their parents. Only then will these ideals become a reality to them. Now, we can understand the seemingly redundant words of the Torah. First, Hashem told Moshe to "speak to the Koheinim" and inform them of the mitzvah. Then he told Moshe to "say it to them again," to impress upon them that it is not enough simply to fulfill it; a higher level was required to carry it forward to the next generation.

N. Pirkei Torah (Rabbi Mordechai Gifter)

1. Mitzvot Elevate Us. "Hashem said to Moshe: say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: each of you shall not allow himself to become contaminated by a dead person among his people." As noted above, why is this verse redundant? We tend to consider Kohanim as being commanded to keep the same mitzvot as other Jews, with a few more added on. This is, however, not the case. Each mitzvah elevates its performer, and understandably the more mitzvot one performs, the more elevated he becomes.  Furthermore, when an individual's higher spiritual standing fulfills a mitzvah, it is a far different mitzvah then when the simple layperson fulfills it. Accordingly, the Kohanim who had more mitzvot to fulfill, were more elevated than the rest of the nation. Hence, even when they performed those mitzvot that all Jews were commanded to do, due to their higher spiritual standing, they were different mitzvot than when the rest of the nation fulfilled them! This concept was not restricted to Kohanim. Every time we fulfill G-d's will, we change both our general essence and our relationship with mitzvot. We are not simply performing yet another mitzvah, but instead a mitzvah on an entirely new level. For instance, one who has learned for half an hour has not simply added thirty minutes of learning to his/her repertoire, but has changed his/her entire being! For now on, his/her relationship with mitzvot will be on a totally new level. Any increase in mitzvah observance, regardless of how seemingly insignificant or small, does not simply add to our essence, but changes that essence completely!

2. Joy And Sadness. "Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: Hashem's appointed festivals that you are to designate as holy convocations - these are My appointed festivals." The term "moed" is commonly translated as "festival" ; however, we find a law that seems to contradict this rendition. Tur (Orach Chaim 559) rules that on Tisha B'Av we do not say Tachanun, noting that Tisha B'Av is referred to by Yirmiyahu as a moed, and we do not recite Tachanun on a moed. Tisha B'Av is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, a day on which countless tragedies befell our people. How can it then be called a moed - a festival? The Telshe Rav explains that the word moed is derived from the word vaad (meeting). The aim of a moed is to reach a clear recognition of G-d, to the extent that it can be considered meeting with Him. This recognition can be reached through various perspectives. As the Talmud teaches (Taanis 19a): "Rav Yehudah, the son of Rav Shmuel, the son of Shilas, said in the name of Rav: just as when Av enters we decrease in joy, so to when Adar enters we increase in joy." The term "just as" denotes a comparison. What is the similiarity between the decrease of joy in Av and its increase in Adar?  Just as when Av enters we decrease in joy in order to meet with G-d, likewise when Adar enters we increase in joy to encounter G-d through another perspective. Both means are simply different expressions of the same goal - meeting with G-d.

O. LilMode U'lilamed (Rabbi Mordechai Katz)

1. Shabbos For Hashem. "These are the appointed seasons of the L-rd," proclaims the Torah when laying down the laws of Shabbos and the Yomim Tovim (Festivals). "Of the L-rd," are the key words here. They show that these hallowed days are not meant as mere vacations for our pleasure. Rather, they must allow us to become more spiritually inclined and move closer to Hashem. G-d designed these days to allow the Jewish people to achieve holiness.

2. Yomim Tovim. Like Shabbos, the Yomim Tovim serve to commemorate important historical events. They remind us of how the Jewish people were forged into a unified nation and saved from extinction by Hashem. To enhance the Yom Tov, Jews utilize symbolic objects: the sukkah, esrog and lulav on Sukkot; the shofar on Rosh Hashonah; the matzah on Pesach, etc. However, when observing a Yom Tov, one shouldn't consider it a quaint custom, having no relationship to the present. When we sit in a sukkah, eat matzah, etc., we should realize that the conditions of the past are still with us today. These items should remind us, for example, that Jews are still oppressed and wandering in our times, and at the same time remind us of the many miracles that have help preserve the Jewish people to this day. These lessons from "yesterday" can help us cope with the world of today. Literally, the word "Yom Tov" means good day. The Yom Tov is usually a joyous occasion for it celebrates the survival of the Jews. Therefore, the Torah tells us to mark these days (with the exception of Yom Kippur) with  rejoicing and feasts. We gather with our family and friends, partake of  festive meals, and sing and revel in our Jewishness. However, the joy we  feel on these days is not an end in itself; rather, it is a means to better appreciate our Jewish life and Hashem's benevolence.

P. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)

1. Look forward to studying Torah. The Torah gives us the mitzvah of counting the days from the second day of Pesach until Shavuos. The root of this commandment, wrote the Chinuch, is that the essence of the Jewish people is the Torah, and for the Torah the entire world and Israel were created. The Jews were redeemed from Egypt in order to accept the Torah at Sinai and in order to fulfill it. The counting of the Omer is an expression of the importance of the Torah to the Jewish people. Just as a person who is enslaved and will be liberated on a certain day will count each day until he is released, so too we count the days until we receive the Torah.

2. Our normal mood should be one of happiness. Rabbi Hirsch noted that Rosh Hashonah in Torah law is only one day (Rabbinical law renders it two days), and that Yom Kippur is only one day. On the other hand, Sukkot is seven days. Rosh Hashonah is a day of shaking us out of ways displeasing to Hashem, and Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and awareness of our faults and mistakes. Sukkot, however, sets us up afresh to obtain the highest earthly possession: joy and happiness before Hashem. There is only day each for the mood of Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur, yet seven days -- a complete cycle of days -- for the joyful building of our huts and our appreciation of rejoicing before Hashem. This is characteristic of Torah law -- it teaches that the normal mood of one's life should be not a broken feeling, but one of joy and happiness before Hashem.

3. To live a joyful life avoid quarreling. True joy is only attainable when there is peace among people. Quarrels -- on both the communal and personal level -- cause so many difficulties and problems that true joy is impossible when they are present. This is symbolized by the four species we take in our hand on Sukkot, and which symbolize the various types of peoples who make up the Jewish people. Holding them together is a sign of true peace and unity. Only when there is togetherness can true joy before Hashem be fulfilled.

4. Sukkot and guests are both reminders of our temporary status. The Chofetz Chaim said that the mitzvah of being hospitable to guests benefits the host in a spiritual way. The guests remind the host that every person is only a guest in this world. The holiday of Sukkot is also a reminder that we are only in this world temporarily. This awareness should be a constant reminder to make the best use of the time we have in this world to accomplish as much good and mitzvos as we can.

Q. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)

The Festivals: A Call to Closeness. The Festivals offer a means whereby one can achieve a closer relationship with Hashem. The Festivals also intensify the bonds of brotherhood among Jews, as people congregate to join in prayer and celebration, and are aroused to pay particular attention to the needs of the underprivileged. As Rabbi Twerski states, "when attending Friday night services at the Kotel (Western Wall) together with people from all four corners of the world, I often encounter people who I have not seen for many years. I can only imagine what an experience it must have been in the days of the Temple, when Jews from all over gathered in Jerusalem for the Festivals. How many embraces among friends must have been exchanged; how many renewals of relationships between people that had been separated by long distances! What joy there must have been sharing the festive meals with so many friends. The feelings of spirit of harmony and brotherhood that existed during the Festivals certainly elicited a Divine blessing of kedushah (holiness)." The Baal Shem Tov said, 'Love of one's fellow man is the method to achieve the love of G-d.' The Festivals thus increase the love between man and G-d, and between man and man. This holiness and love should not be limited to the Festivals, but should continue to influence one's lifestyle all year round. Thus, the Festivals provide the means for true "simcha" (happiness) by bringing people closer to one another and to G-d.

R. Living Each Day (Rabbi Abraham Twerski).

 In counting the Omer, we begin by saying "today is the first day of the Omer," and adding the calculation of the weeks when we arrive at the seventh day. "Today is the seventh day, which is one week of the Omer," and so on until the 50th day. When we think of the wondrous miracles of the Exodus, we may overlook the greatest miracle of all -- the people who had been brutally enslaved and oppressed for so many years were within a few weeks later able to stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai and witness the revealed Glory of Hashem and proclaim, "we shall obey and we shall listen," thus achieving a level of spirituality never again reached throughout history. How does such a miraculous transformation take place? The answer is in the mitzvah of the counting of the Omer, whereby one develops spirituality by improving one's character one day at a time. The Torah teaches us that no challenge is so great that it cannot be successfully overcome if it is broken down into manageable morsels. In commanding this mitzvah, the Torah stipulates that it is a mitzvah for all generations, because no less than for the emancipated slaves at the time of the Exodus the formula for the triumph over the challenges that confront us is to take them one day at a time. The evil inclination tries to prevent us from achieving spirituality by magnifying the obstacles we must overcome. The answer to the evil inclination is that we will achieve all that we can today and that our achievements today will give us the capacity to achieve even more tomorrow. Eventually, we will accumulate the means to reach our ultimate goal.

S. Kol Dodi on the Torah (Rabbi David Feinstein)

Attending to the needs of the poor. In between the description of the Festivals, the Torah instructs us to leave the corners of our field, as well as the gleanings of our harvest, for the poor. Why is this instruction sandwiched between the description of the Festivals, and what connection is there between these concepts? The Torah wants to stress to us that one cannot receive the Torah, which is called "the Torah of Kindness" without accepting upon oneself the obligation to attend to the needs of the poor.

T. Peninim on the Torah (Rabbi A.L. Scheinbaum)

Counting the days of our lives. HaRav S.Y. Zevin offers a novel homiletic exposition of the verse respecting counting of the Omer. When one counts something, he indicates his esteem for that particular object. The days and years of one's life should likewise be important in one's eyes. One should value every moment of life and appreciate its true meaning, so that we "do not struggle in vain nor produce for futility" (Isaiah 65:23). Those moments which had passed are no longer accessible to us. Therefore, every moments should be reckoned and cherished.

NEXT:  BEHAR

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