Kenneth Cohen

Changes in Emotion

In Israel, the holidays of שמיני עצרת and שמחת תורה, are combined into one day.
It is an emotionally charged day, as we go from dancing enthusiastically with the Torah, to remembering our loved ones in the Yizkor prayer. We must also be very solemn when we recite תפילת גשם, the prayer for rain, in the Mussaf service.

This change of emotion is seen later in the year, when Yom Hazikaron, the day we remember our fallen soldiers, is immediately followed by Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. There is great celebration as we commemorate the miracle of the State of Israel.

Our history has taught us that we have experienced many highs and lows. Our exile was mostly a “low,” as we were torn away from our beloved homeland. The saddest part of this exile, is that most Jews are unaware of how unnatural and painful it is, to be scattered among the nations. The high we experienced was having all Jews living peacefully in their land, according to the dictates of the Torah. Those were the most glorious times in our history.

As we are about to conclude the holiday season, and go back to our normal routines, we must pause and reflect as to where we are. We must begin by showing gratitude for all that we have, and take nothing for granted.

Rabbi Berel Wein often has described the scene in Chicago on May 16th 1948. A huge crowd came to Chicago Stadium to celebrate the declaration of the State of Israel. All of the rabbis of all philosophies, attended that rally. And when the Israeli flag was raised to the rafters, everyone wept for ten minutes straight.

Great men like Rav Aryeh Levin expressed concern that people would one day take this miracle for granted. We must not take anything for granted, even if it involves dramatic changes in our emotions.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at