New Year, Yom Kippur and Succot
By Gil Locks
Milk and Honey
A few weeks ago a neighbor from the Old City stopped me on the street. He had just started a tiny homemade sheep cheese business in his apartment and was looking for customers. The guy obviously didn't have any money, so I wanted to give him some business if I could. I told him that I make lasagna on Friday nights and that I couldn't find any kosher Parmesan cheese for it. If he could make one, I could use some every week. A couple of days ago he told me that he had something for me to try and he was going to stop by the apartment in the morning. He didn't show up.
I went to the Kotel late that afternoon as usual, and the nice guy who manages the tefillin booth said that he had something for me. He pulled out a gorgeous bottle of natural honey. It was gift-wrapped in a tiny decorated straw basket. It is a custom to dip our bread in honey during the upcoming holidays and this was his way of saying thank you for all of the help that I give him at the tefillin booth. It was really nice of him.
After I finished helping at the booth and was about to go daven, the guy with the cheese business came up to me. He had a bag with several slices of smelly cheese in it. He wanted me to taste it there at the Kotel and maybe buy a piece.
"This is weird," I said to myself. When was the last time I ate a piece of cheese at the Kotel? I didn't want to do it, but I saw how disappointed he was, so I took a small piece and walked out of the prayer area to taste it. Hey, it was pretty good. I bought enough for two lasagnas, but he didn't have a bag to put it in. It was wrapped in a small piece of clear, thin plastic wrap. "Oh, boy, here I am again in a weird situation." I was sitting by the Kotel about to pray, holding a nice-sized piece of smelly sheep cheese in one hand and a bottle of honey in the other.
Then it hit me. I smiled warmly at God's kindness (and good humor). I had written this week about how God has given us a Land of Milk and Honey, and there I was, sitting by the Kotel with cheese in one hand and honey in the other. Ok, so according to the sages, the actual honey He was talking about was date-honey and not bee honey, and Parmesan sheep cheese is a bit of a stretch from milk, but so what. I got the message.
It is so nice to be here. Thank You.
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By the way. There is room for you here, too.
Have a wonderful, sweet, healthy, happy and prosperous New Year,
Have a Happy Yom Kippur
The Day of Atonement is certainly the most serious day of the entire year. In fact, it is called the Day of Awe. On this day we come before the Judge of all creation and ask Him to cover over our transgressions, to forgive us for the errors we have committed.
Many times during the day we call out to God, saying, "God, God . . .." Why do we call out using this most unusual doubling of His Name? The Torah never adds a letter, let alone an entire word that is unnecessary, so this must have been done for a good reason.
Our sages explain that we repeat His name to emphasize that just as "He was God before we committed those sins, so is He God after we committed those sins." But this understanding is learned merely by a remez, a hint that the sages must explain for us. There is, however, a clearer, more literal meaning. We can learn the simple meaning of this unusual doubling of a name from God Himself when He did the same thing. When God called out to Avraham, our forefather, he called, "Avraham, Avraham . . .." It is well known that this was done as a sign of endearment. By repeating Avraham's name, God was expressing His love for Avraham.
So must it be with us when we call out to God on Yom Kippur. We call out, doubling His name to express our love for Him. What could be more loving than to forgive someone for their transgressions? How much must we love the One Who is forgiving us! What day could be happier than the day when the King of the Universe says, "You are forgiven"?
Have a Happy Yom Kippur.
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Be Happy - It's the Commandment
Which is the greater sin: to drink water on Yom Kippur or to not be happy on Succot?
It is mid-afternoon on a hot Yom Kippur. You are waiting for the noon services to finally begin, and you are very thirsty. Someone walks up to you and offers you a glass of ice-cold water. What do you say? You would probably say, "Are you nuts? Drink on Yom Kippur? No way!" Even if he offered you $100 to drink it, still you would not do so.
But you know, there is a time when you are allowed to drink on Yom Kippur. That is when you are sick, or if you drink just a tiny bit. But still, you are not sick and you are going to fulfill this most important mitzvah. So you do not drink.
But how do we know that it is forbidden to drink at all on Yom Kippur? The Torah only tells us to "afflict" ourselves on this day. Perhaps afflict means to hit ourselves with straps, or to lie down on cactus plants? No, the sages explain that "to afflict ourselves" means that on this day we should abstain from eating, drinking, bathing and so on.
We learn that it is forbidden to drink on Yom Kippur from the rabbis and not directly from the Torah. Still we would never even dream of drinking on Yom Kippur.
And how do we know not to be sad during the seven days of Succot? The Torah itself says, "And you shall rejoice for (these) seven days." And there is never an excuse when you are allowed to be sad on Succot, not even the tiniest bit.
Clearly we see that as important is it not to drink on Yom Kippur, it is even more crucial not to be sad on Succot!
Have a happy holiday-it's the mitzvah.
Gil Locks lives in the Old City of Jerusalem. You can visit Gil online at www.thereisone.com and purchase one of his great books!
from the September-October 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine